Thursday, March 26, 2009

You Are Now In the Power of Stardust

This is a horror story.

Beginning in 1938 with the debut of Superman, the world of comic-books experienced a superhero population explosion, a period called the Golden Age by comic historians. There were hundreds of them, and while the art and story quality varied from comic to comic, the majority were interchangeable, disposable children's fare. By the time WWII came to an end, interest in the superhero waned considerably. Dr. Frederick Wertham, a frenzied psychologist convinced that comic books were corrupting the children of America, delivered the finishing blow through his book The Seduction of the Innocent. By the fifties, the only notable characters still being published were the big guns like Superman, Batman, and Wonder-Woman. The others weren't so lucky. While some Golden Age superheroes would be resurrected in later decades, for the most part obscurity claimed innovator and imitator alike. Many diamonds in the rough met oblivion with their cruder cousins. One nightmarish gem was Stardust the Super Wizard, created by Fletcher Hanks.

First appearing in 1939's Fantastic Comics #1, Stardust was lost for years until his re-discovery in the early eighties by artists involved in the "underground comics" scene. Along with other Fletcher Hanks comics, Stardust had long since passed into public domain, allowing for the Stardust to be reprinted with comparative ease. The comics drew the attention and praise of renowned cartoonists such Jules Feiffer and R. Crumb, as well as novelist Kurt Vonnegut. They were truly unlike anything else.

On one level Stardust comics are simply cartoonish. The plots always follow the same formula (bad guy commits crime, hero punishes bad guy); the dialogue is consistently bold and flat. On another level, they're as bizarre and frightening as a fever-dream. Produced in an era rife with superheroes, Stardust stands out as the creation of a vivid, warped imagination.

As a character, Stardust is supremely powerful, totally righteous, and completely alien. He was from another planet, and after apparently abolishing crime on several worlds, he earned a reputation so legendary that he was well-known on Earth before his arrival. Even by today's standards, with most superheroes having ascended to casual immortality, Stardust was depicted as a true god from the get-go. His mastery of extraterrestrial science afforded him complete omnipotence. He could monitor the entire planet, travel anywhere instantaneously, and all matter could be molded to his freakish will.
In one story, he permanently shrinks an evil scientist to doll size. Subsequently, he decides to merge a group of racketeers into a single man and hurls the confused composite being into outer space (this coming after reducing their leader to a disembodied, screaming head). Comparatively, these guys got off easy. Other foes are rendered immortal and paralyzed on a distant planet of gold, eternally unable to reap the riches they crave. Another is left frozen in interstellar prison, trapped to contemplate his crimes until the end of time.

The artwork in these stories is highly eccentric. The villains all have contorted, simian scowls; bulging eyes lurking beneath cavernous brows. Stardust has a tiny head and massive jaw, his expression always one of bemused nobility. Everything is awash with hallucinogenic color. Yet within these loud, bombastic stories are scenes of intricacy and compelling detail. They're somber and hyperactive at the same moment.

When the Stardust was originally published, there were no rules to superhero stories and consequently no restraints. Fletcher Hanks apparently sought to make them as wild as possible and the results were startling. Some even went so far as to call the man a genius. One such Hanks fan, artist and writer Paul Karasik, was editing a book of Fletcher Hanks stories. He was determined to track down the obscure creator of Stardust and his investigation led him to Hanks' son, a WWII veteran named Fletcher Jr. A disturbing picture developed, as Fletcher Jr. recalled his father's alcoholism and cruel ways. A wife-beater and abusive father, Fletcher Hanks Sr. could be every bit as monstrous as the villains that his creation Stardust fought against. He later abandoned his family, after stealing money his son.

He was discovered by police in 1977, frozen to death on a New York City park bench.

Super hero comics are largely commercial and innocuous things, but sometimes they gain a strange potency when the stories behind the four-color world emerge. On the surface, Stardust is an oddity. When one considers the violent life of Fletcher Hanks (and what that implies about his artwork) Stardust becomes deeply unsettling.

If you're interested in reading Stardust comics, seek out I Shall Destroy All The Civilized Planets, edited by Paul Karasik. It needs to be seen to be believed. For more information and examples of Fletcher Hanks artwork, you can visit his website.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Attack of the Vampire Squids from Hell

Yesterday, the sun and moon were side-by-side, hanging low in a blood-red sky. Earlier, a two-headed calf was born in Swanton. It rained frogs in Bradford for a full hour. These omens can only indicate one thing. It is time once again for the Monster of the Month! For those of you who are new to the Hyper Kitchen (and god bless you, sirs and madams!), every month we serve up a new monster for your approval. This March, we descend into the dark realm of teuthology to bring you the infamous Vampire Squid from Hell. For fans marine biology or H.P. Lovecraft, this little oceanic freak ought to be a interesting find.

The Vampire Squid from Hell (known by the scientific name of "vampyroteuthis infernalis") is a deep-sea cephalod first discovered in 1903 by a German biologist named Carl Chun. Chun was undoubtedly inspired by the squid's black flesh and red eyes when selecting a name. Additionally, the squid's tentacles are connected by webbed membrane, visually similar to the membrane of a bat's wing.

The Vampire Squid from Hell dwells in some of deepest parts of the ocean, an ebony environment referred to as the Oxygen Minimum Layer. Though it is called a squid, it is actually a relative of both octopi and squids, belonging to its own distinct order called
Vampyromorpha. They utilize ear-like fins to propel themselves through the water, and attract their pray with bioluminescent strands.

Unfortunately, the Vampire Squid from Hell falls somewhat short of its undeniably fearsome name. It does not drain blood, nor convert other cephalopods into Vampire Squids from Hell. They only grow to be around a foot long, so they could never wrap their tentacles around some unfortunate submarine. The eerie jet black skintone of some specimens is not even the norm, and others have been observed to be a pinkish-orange.

Still... you wouldn't want to encounter one on some dark evening.

What to learn the full biological specifications of the Vampire Squid from Hell?
Look no further.

Friday, March 20, 2009

How Things Work

Pictured: one Kaled mutant and accompanying travel machine (top), and one fire-breathing monster turtle (bottom)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Into Thin Air

On August 2nd, 1947, a British South American Airways airliner called "Star Dust" took off from Buenos Aires, Argentina, on a flight to Santiago, Chile. The plane (a civilian version of an RAF bomber) was just under two years old and in perfect condition. The crew were former RAF pilots, all veterans of World War II, and all highly experienced. Among the passengers were a Palestinian businessman carrying a diamond sewn into his suit, a German woman (suspected of having been a Nazi) transporting her husband's ashes, a Swiss millionaire playboy, and a British diplomat intending to deliver important documents to the British embassy in Chile.

Star Dust traveled at high altitude to avoid poor weather. The pilots did not observe any on-board mechanical problems. As they approached their destination, Star Dust radioed the airport in Santiago to say "ETA SANTIAGO 17.45." After a period of silence, Star Dust radioed again, this time with a Morse-code signal:


Star Dust never landed in Santiago.

An extensive search was made of the nearby Andes Mountains to look for wreckage and possible survivors. Nothing was found. There was no indication that anything had gone wrong during the flight, and the pilots made no mention of anything abnormal in their radio transmissions to Santiago. They hadn't even issued an SOS, which would've been standard operation procedure had they encountered trouble. Instead, there was only STENDEC, an enigmatic final message that no one could decipher. It didn't belong in conventional aviation shorthand and wasn't a recognized acronym.

Rumors of sabotage floated about, the focus of the blame shifting from one eccentric passenger to another. These notions were later eclipsed by an even more outlandish idea. The disappearance of Star Dust was a year before the famous Roswell incident launched flying saucers into the collective consciousness, and it wasn't long before people began building associations between the vanished aircraft and extraterrestrial visitors. In one of the first books published about the flying saucer phenomenon, Flying Saucers on the Moon, author Harold T. Wilkins postulated that Star Dust was abducted by some "vast interplanetary craft."

Naturally, no evidence was offered to support this fantastic claim, but aviation experts and researchers were having difficulty putting forward more serious theories. The nonsensical Morse-code message was baffling, and the apparent lack of wreckage made any sort of forensic examination impossible. They found themselves as unable to substantiate their theories as Wilkins. As years past, it became generally accepted that the mystery would never be solved. Star Dust had become somewhat like the aviation world's Mary Celeste. In the 70's, STENDEC would be used as the title of a Spanish UFO-enthusiast magazine. Later a truly awful experimental musician would start calling himself "Stendek," after the Star Dust incident. However, by and large, the event faded into obscurity.

Then, in 1998, some mountain climbers were astonished to discover a massive Rolls-Royce airplane engine half-covered in the snows of Tupungato, one of the highest mountains in the Andes. The site was over fifty miles away from Star Dust's destination of Santiago. Adverse conditions made it impossible to assemble a proper expedition team until 2000, when the Argentinian military dispatched a group to determine if the area was the resting place of Star Dust. Facing inclement weather and a treacherous climb, they ascended to the glacial top of Tupungato after four days travel. In the subsequent investigation, they discovered a second engine and a propeller. They authenticated the wreckage as belonging to Star Dust. The further discovery of severed hands and fractured torsos, fifty-three years frozen in the mountain ice, confirmed this.

The information gathered by the expedition suggests that Star Dust had crashed closer to the peak of the mountain, becoming covered in snow and eventually being frozen into the glacier itself. As the glacier gradually melted, the wreckage slid down the mountain and more parts became exposed. Still, the wreckage itself offered no clear cause for the crash. Experts hypothesized that Star Dust had been flying at a high enough altitude to enter the jet-stream (largely unknown in 1947), and had been blown off course by the high speed winds. Even with their experience, it's entirely possible that the pilots were unable to recognize how dramatically Star Dust had been blown off course, and attempted to make their landing without knowing that beneath them laid the Andes Mountains and not Santiago. However, if this was the case, then why did they never send out a radio transmission indicating that they were close to landing?

The last piece of the puzzle also has yet to be put into place.
What did STENDEC mean and why was it transmitted? Barring any new discoveries, the answer will probably remain shrouded in mystery.

-You can read a BBC article detailing the discovery of the wreckage
-You can buy Harold T. Wilkin's crazy UFO book here.
-You can read a summary of the various theories as to what STENDEC might have meant right here

Friday, March 13, 2009

Monument to Mystery

For as long as mankind has known the ocean, we have been discovering strange things on the beaches; enigmatic gifts from the waves. Sometimes it's some piece of a sunken ship and other times its a hunk of foul-smelling ambergris.

And then things get really, really weird.
On August 7th, 2007, beachgoers from Zandvoort, Amsterdam, were amazed to find a partially submerged eight foot tall lego man. Snackbar workers carefully hauled the thing up onto the beach and stood it upright, revealing the words "NO REAL THAN YOU ARE" on its chest. The Lego Group were as surprised as anyone, and denied involvement in its manufacture. The giant lego man was set next to the beach's drink-stand and has understandably become a tourist attraction oddity.

If this wasn't peculiar enough, on the morning of Halloween of 2008, a second lego man was discovered on the Brighton Beach of the UK. This lego man sported a green sleeveless shirt, but it was emblazoned with the same, grammatically incorrect statement. Unlike the people of Zandvoort, who embraced their strange visitor from the sea, the council-people of Brighton announced that their lego man had "been taken away."

But beneath their bright smiles, these giant lego men clearly conceal dark secrets. What are they, really? Where do they come from?

Are they some irritating "guerrilla marketing" scheme?

Do they originate from an enormous Lego vessel somewhere in the Atlantic?

Are they product of an elaborate terrorist plot to test the resolve of reality itself?

Perhaps some remarkable form of sea-life, washed onto the shore like a beached whale or long-dead squid?

Or are they artifacts from some macroverse above our own, swept down a colossal drain into this world?

Unfortunately, the true of creator of the giant lego men was outed, revealed to the world as one "Ego Leonard," a very eccentric and extremely Dutch artist who has chosen giant lego men as his particular medium. Nevertheless, the Hyper Kitchen serves this story as only further evidence that the planet is far stranger than you may think.

Read about the original Dutch giant lego man here
See the sad story of the Brighton lego man here
Speak Dutch? Then take a gander at Mr. Leonard's website. If not, the pictures are kind've neat.

Suggested Reading/Plug for a Book I Like:
Does this story strike a chord that you never knew existed? Then you may enjoy Gahan Wilson's "The Cleft and Other Odd Tales." Get it from your local library! If they don't have it, demand it! Or you could buy it here and get that ol' economy going.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Another Prodigy of Strength!

Hugo Hercules was an early-Twentieth Century comic-strip character appearing in the Chicago Tribune. Debuting in 1902, the strip never garnered much interest and evaporated after one year. Hugo's illustrator, William Koerner, left the world of commercial art to take up a career in painting.

Like his mythological namesake, Hugo Hercules possessed incredible strength. This has lead some comic historians to dub Hugo the first superhero, predating the proto-superhero Doc Savage by thirty-one years and the immortal Superman by thirty-six. However, his lack of costume and secret-identity seems to establish this character as being a possible superhero antecedent, but not the genuine article.

Regardless, the comics are very amusing and an interesting historical artifact as well.

You can read the entire run of the strip here.

Because We Care

What you're about to watch is a nightmare. It is not meant to be prophetic; it need not happen. It's the fervent and urgent prayer of all men of goodwill that it never shall happen. But in this place, in this moment, it does happen.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Earth's Mightiest Thank You!

The Burlington based weekly newspaper Seven Days has nicely added the Hyper Kitchen to their blog directory, and the chefs and sauciers all agree that thanks are in order. We salute this fine, Vermont publication in gratitude for their assistance to the Kitchen.

Meet the Creeper

Rondo Hatton was the star of several b-movies from the thirties and forties. He was known for his great stature and disfigured face, however things weren't always like that for him. Originally he was quite handsome and had a developing career in sports-journalism, but then he was sent to France to fight in World War One. Exposure to mustard gas not only severely damaged his lungs but also wreaked havoc on his pituitary gland. After returning, Rondo noticed that he was growing taller and his face was elongating. He was eventually diagnosed with acromegaly, a variety of gigantism.

Struggling with his career in reporting, he was discovered by a Hollywood director and, after some coaxing, headed to California to become a movie star. Producers were eager to get Hatton to play villains as his fearsome looks allowed them to cut costs on make-up effects. Gradually Hatton began playing a standard stock character, called "The Creeper," for which he (clad in a black cloak and fedora) would skulk about the in shadows and commit murder until his inevitable slaying by the police.

His movie career was pretty prolific given the quick, cheap nature of the movies he appeared in, and he landed roles in twenty-seven films over the following years. Unfortunately his performances were usually left uncredited. In 1946, Hatton died of a heart-attack brought on by his progressively worsening acromegaly. His strange appearance has gone on to become sort've iconic in circles of b-movie enthusiasts and in recent years the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Award was named in this honor, given yearly to horror movies of outstanding merit and other horror-themed works.

See Rondo Hatton's filmography
Visit the homepage of the famous Rondo awards
Read Rondo Hatton's biography featured on the unparalleled Human Marvels page


Here's something pretty wild.

There exists a re-occurring notion throughout all human cultures and spanning our entire history that concepts can be physically manifested. From the homunculi, to the Tibetan tulpas, to the Greek all boils down to this idea that we can bring something into reality simply through the act of believing in it enough. It's utter garbage, but nevertheless it seems to permeate a lot of human thought and influence our behavior to a sort've alarming degree.
Anyway, one of the countless iterations of this concept is the Thoughtform, which is basically the Turn-Of-The-Century pseudo-science version. The term was created by C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant, two garden-variety academic dabblers in metaphysics. According to them, a thinker could manifest their thoughts either as an intangible radiation-like force or as a physical object or entity. Any idea at all, from profound to profane, could be materialized. Leadbeater and Besant supposedly listened to classical music and produced a dazzling display of light. This, to me, smacks of synesthesia, but the accompanying illustration is both beautiful and bizarre.

Curious about Leadbeater and Besant? Then, why not buy their book?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Time was, there was enough salmon in that river to walk clear across on their backs

Given the esoteric nature of the Hyper Kitchen's projects, acquiring adequate research material can be difficult.

This, combined with the day-to-day stresses of the crumbling economy and the great distraction of comic-books, has hindered the release of the long-awaited "space-spy" and "robot doomsday" pieces, but we expect they'll be posted for your reading pleasure sometime over the weekend.

In the meantime, we'll be putting up some quick posts as appetizers. Watch this spot!...ernnh...continue to watch this spot!