Chad and Vern’s Stupid Movie Podcast

Chad and Vern’s Stupid Movie Podcast

Is the movie stupid? Is the podcast stupid?…or is it just us?

Remember your childhood trips to the video store? All the cheesy sci-fi, horror and action flicks that your parents would never let you rent? Or the ones that would make you ask yourself “who would watch that stupid movie?” Well, we watched and loved most of those movies.
We will be doing a bi-monthly podcast to where we are going to be reviewing some of the classic and some of the not so classic. Some new, some old. So come along and take a ride on the Porkchop Express with Chad & Vern’s Stupid Movie Podcast, guaranteed to make you laugh, cry or cringe for one reason or another

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Gknow Gnit Gnicely Gnails It

Who am I?

It’s such a simple question, yet it has haunted some individuals for the entirety of their lives.  The search for self is a profound quest and this is the plot of the dramedy, Gnit, an impressive jewel of a play currently playing at the Blue Barn Theatre.

Will Eno’s modern day mistelling of Henrik Ibsen’s Peer Gynt is at times funny, heartbreaking, and deeply insightful.  The play, itself, is very stream of consciousness.  Events seem to happen for no rhyme or reason.  Yet it all, somehow, holds together and provides for a most illuminating night of theatre.  Credit for this goes to the ensemble cast, each of whom is universally up to the challenge of this esoteric and arduous play and the superlative directing of Susan Clement-Toberer.

Matthew Pyle gives a virtuoso performance as Peter Gnit.  Gnit is a thoroughly and utterly worthless human being obsessed with discovering his true and real self.  He is selfish, arrogant, manipulative, clueless, and a coward.  Despite the fact that you should hate this guy, Pyle imbues Gnit with a certain likability that makes you hope that he finally gets it, especially at the moments where Gnit shows his humanity.  Pyle’s delivery is beautifully simple and straightforward which serves to make Gnit so very real.  He could be any one of us and this is most telling towards the end of the play when Pyle’s Gnit tells the audience that he hates us.  Is it because we get it or because we’re not so different from him?

The other performers all play multiple roles, but each has a featured character that really stands out.

For Stacie Lamb, it is her performance as Gnit’s mother.  She’s elderly, sick, crotchety as all get out, and doesn’t trust her son as far as she could throw him.  She quite clearly loves him in spite of the fact that Gnit is a constant source of trouble for her, resulting in her having to pay for his sins.  Act I’s closing scene between Lamb’s mother and Pyle’s Gnit is guaranteed to make you shed a tear.

Jonathan Purcell is incredibly amusing as Town.  Yes, Purcell literally plays an entire town, effortlessly, and schizophrenically, jumping from character to character with every sentence.  A role like this could so easily be played over the top, yet Purcell always manages to play the reality of the situation which permits him to maximize this unique character’s potential and garner innumerable laughs.

Sarah Carlson-Brown plays Solvay, the love of Gnit’s life, and, quite possibly, the key to Gnit’s discovery of his true and real self.  Carlson-Brown brings a confident sweetness to this character.  Her Solvay isn’t waiting around pining for Gnit.  Assuredly believing that Gnit will one day return to her, she is busy living her life in the interim through giving.  Caring for the house Gnit built and creating a bird sanctuary.

Bill Grennan demonstrates his incredible versatility once more with a comedic turn as The Middle/The Sphinx and a more dramatic turn as the Pale Man.  The Middle/The Sphinx is a (mostly) unseen character.  Serving as a conscience of sorts to Gnit, Grennan, using nothing more than the power of his voice, crafts a smartly humorous character determined to point Gnit in the right direction, but is frustrated by Gnit’s obliviousness.

As the Pale Man, Grennan provides a darkly mysterious character out to test Gnit’s “lack of integrity”.  Once his true identity is revealed, you begin to understand the real internal strength of this persona.

Katlynn Yost’s characters are routinely victimized by Gnit.  From a bride being kidnapped and deflowered by Gnit on her wedding day, to playing some groupies snubbed by Gnit, to transforming into an odd, witchlike, “realtoress” impregnated by Gnit, Yost deftly creates one unique characterization after another.  However, it is also implied that her “realtoress” ultimately gets the best of Gnit by cursing him to never find his true self.

“Who’s next?” challenges Gnit at the end of the play.  “Is it you?  You?  Or you?”  Do we know who we are?  Do we even know what it means to live?  And in that pursuit of self, are we merely takers or givers?  How you view Gnit after the play ends will go a long way towards answering those questions.

Gnit continues at the Blue Barn Theatre until March 16.  Performances are Thurs-Sat at 7:30 and Sundays at 2pm.  An additional 6pm showing will be shown on Sunday, March 16.  There are no performances on Feb 23 and Mar 13-15.  Tickets are $25 for general admission and $20 for students, Seniors (65+), and TAG members.  For reservations, call 402-345-1576.  The Blue Barn is located at 614 S 11th St in Omaha, NE.

Overcoming Rejection (Now with Bonus Material)

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  For those of you wondering how my audition went, I am sorry to report that I did not get cast in Boeing, Boeing.  A year ago, I would have really taken this defeat to heart, but thanks to Leaving Iowa, that is no longer the case.  My only real regret is that I missed out on my final chance to work with Carl Beck.  But I would like to take a moment to thank him for the opportunities he gave me in my early days when I was. . .less than good ;).  I wrote the following article shortly before my casting in Leaving Iowa about a year ago and thought it would be good for any actors who read my blog who may be having their own struggles with theatre.

Auditions.  I think that word has the same effect on actors the way crosses affect vampires.  Yet all performers must endure them in order to be able to do a show.

Personally, I don’t mind auditions as I view it as the one brief moment where I can showcase my craft.  It’s the aftermath of the audition that can be depressing when I meet the dreaded beast known as REJECTION.

What is so peculiar about the audition process is that an actor actually has very little control over it.  The only control an actor has is over his or her acting, singing, and dancing and that actually counts for very little in getting cast.  Uncontrollable factors such as weight, sound, look, chemistry, director’s vision,  and other items play a much greater role in getting cast.  It will NEVER be purely about talent.

I learned that lesson in the most brutal way imaginable.  A short time into my career, my dream show, The Elephant Man, was going to be produced.  I prepared like I had never prepared before.  By the time I walked into the audition, I was thinking, speaking, and being John Merrick.  And it was a fabulous audition.  In fact, I rank my read as Merrick, as my absolute finest.  Three weeks later I received notification that I was not cast in the show and to say I was crushed would be the understatement of a lifetime.  I was CRRRRUSHHHEDDDD!!!!!!  Imagine how flabbergasted I was to later discover that the reason I wasn’t cast was because the director thought I had worked too hard on the role.  That was how I learned about the power of uncontrollable factors.

I have been in this business for nearly 18 years and after all this time I still get terribly disappointed when I do not get cast in a show.  As actors, we put ourselves on the line and lay bare our souls for judgment in the hopes that our talent, in conjunction with those uncontrollable factors, is enough to land roles.  If I didn’t feel bad about not getting cast, I would think I wasn’t caring enough.

There are only 2 types of auditions that do not bother me when I don’t get cast.  The first is if I simply didn’t do a good job.  If I had a poor audition, I have nothing to feel bad about because I know I didn’t present myself in my best light.  I have a “Darn it!” moment and move on to the next audition.  The other type is if I know I was simply outclassed on that particular audition.  Nearly two years ago, I auditioned for a show called Becky’s New Car and I had a really great audition.  I was proud of it.  But there was another gent there whose audition was clearly superior to mine.  When he was done reading, I wanted to stand up and say, “We have a winner!!  Give him the role.”

After many years of hard work, I have evolved into a decent actor so those types of auditions occur very infrequently today.  Most of my defeats in recent years have occurred simply because of factors outside of my control.  And it is very humbling to know you have done good work and to not have that work rewarded.  The only blow more difficult is to know you did not have a chance to show your absolute best and that blow is downright devastating.

With very rare exceptions, I go into every audition thoroughly prepared.  By that I mean, I’ve read the play, selected the characters I’ve liked, and put some practice into those roles so I can be seen in the best possible light.  Back in 2008, I auditioned for Twelve Angry Men and I dutifully prepared the role of Juror 8 (played by Henry Fonda in the film version).  I was in the first group called up and I was asked to read the role of Juror 2 (played by John Fiedler in the film) for that scene.  Juror 2 had 3 very short sentences in that scene, so all I could really do was listen to the others as a very nervous man would.  After several more rounds with other actors, the director said she would start dismissing people and I was the first person eliminated.  I was stunned, but refused to go down without a fight.  I asked if I could read for Juror 8 and the director thought for a moment before looking at me and saying, “I don’t see you as Juror 8.”  I felt like I had just been punched in the gut with a gauntlet.  Losing is one thing, but to lose without being able to go down swinging is another.

I share these anecdotes with you so you know that rejection happens to every actor.  It’s a guarantee. It’s also OK to feel bad about being rejected.  It’s natural.  It’s understandable.  Just remember to keep it in perspective.

Remember that being rejected is not personal.  A director never feels good about making an actor feel bad and he or she does not WANT to make an actor feel bad.  Heck, the directors in my first and third anecdotes went out of their way to console me after I swallowed the bitter pills.  Neither one was saying I was a bad actor.  All they were really saying was that I just didn’t suit their vision of the characters.  A director sees the whole of a show and makes casting decisions to ensure the artistic integrity of the project.  Those decisions are impersonal and you should never take a rejection as a slight on your talent.  One rejection or a string of rejections does not mean you are not a well rounded performer.  All a rejection means is that you didn’t suit the particular needs of that particular director for that particular project.  And remember casting is very, very hard.  I just assisted with the biggest audition in Omaha history.  350 people showed up to audition for Les Miserables.  Regrettably, 300+ talented people aren’t going to make it in and that will not be a reflection on their abilities.

Recently, I read a wonderful article on handling audition rejection and that is what inspired me to write this article.  The author pointed out that after a bad audition experience, NEVER DWELL ON THE NEGATIVES.  Consider them in terms of improvement for the next audition, but do not DWELL on them.  Instead, FOCUS on the things that went well for you and remember them in terms of good solid audition technique as well as the strengths you possess as a performer.

Most importantly, NEVER DEFINE YOURSELF BY THE AUDITION.  Just because your unique styles and strengths weren’t needed for this particular project doesn’t mean they won’t be vital for the next project.

ALWAYS BELIEVE IN YOUR TALENT.  Talent cannot be stopped.  Eventually, it does prove itself whether it takes 8 auditions or 800 auditions.

COMING SOON:  I will be returning to Las Vegas for another series of stories in March.  I will also be reviewing the Prairie Creek Bed and Breakfast in a little under two weeks.  In the meantime, if you need a fix of traveling stories, please visit my brother’s travel blog at http://thatoneguywhotravels.wordpress.com.

It No Longer Matters

I’ve just come home from my first audition in nearly a year and I can safely say that a new era in theatre has begun for it no longer matters.

Mind you, that’s not a negative statement.  This has actually been the moment I’ve been fighting to reach for years.  The moment where I could enjoy theatre in its fullest.  The moment where getting cast was no longer a dire necessity.  The moment where winning and losing no longer matter.

Don’t get me wrong.  I still hope to do as much theatre as I can handle, but I’m no longer going to be devastated if I don’t get cast.  The Miracle Show aka Leaving Iowa has forever transformed my outlook on theatre.

I auditioned for the Omaha Playhouse’s production of Boeing, Boeing under the direction of Carl Beck in his final solo directing project.  (He’ll co-direct Young Frankenstein:  The Musical with Susie Baer-Collins as their swan song as both are retiring at the end of the season).  The thrust of the play focuses on Bernard, an American architect living in Paris and his old friend, Robert.  Bernard is engaged to 3 airline hostesses who all fly different airlines and routes which is how he’s able to juggle the three relationships.  Robert’s arrival to visit Bernard coincides with the airlines beginning to use the much faster Boeing airplane which now means that all of Bernard’s fiancées are going to be at his home at the same time and hilarity ensues.

It was a fairly good crowd with 17 people showing up to audition.  It was certainly a fine “Welcome Back” to the theatre world as I found myself facing some very heavy hitters on the community theatre circuit.  Among them were:

Nick Zadina, a versatile performer who can handle comedy and drama with equal aplomb

Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek, a top notch comedic actor who is highly experienced in farce

Monty Eich, a talented funnyman and a founding member of the Weisenheimers, an Omaha improv troupe

I was honored to be able to test myself against these guys and I’m proud to say that I was more than up to the task of holding my own with them.  It became quite clear early on, that the 4 of us were the frontrunners along with another young man whom I’d never seen before.  He was a little slow getting out of the gate, but once he got going, he gave a pretty impressive audition and I hope to see him continue in theatre.

The five of us were the only people who were called up to read multiple times and none of us were able to really gain an advantage on the others.  At one point or another we all shined, so it’s really going to boil down to who comes to the second round tomorrow and the uncontrollable factors that Carl needs for these characters.  Although, he hasn’t done it the last few times I’ve auditioned for him, there is a possibility that callbacks may be needed.  I really wish there was more flexibility in the casting because all of us would fill the roles nicely.

I was particularly pleased with my two takes as I made Bernard slightly prickish and I made Robert a timid, Nervous Nelly.  I felt good, relaxed, and at peace and I believe those qualities communicated themselves.  More importantly, I didn’t treat the audition like a competition.  I was able to sit back and really appreciate the work the other performers were doing. 

Honestly, I felt a bit like a director myself, as I started piecing together who might work well where and with whom.  It was interesting seeing the whole for the first time and trying to put the puzzle pieces together to come up with the ideal cast.  It truly is a difficult process.

For the first time in years, I’m going to sleep peacefully without concerns of whether I get cast or not.  If I do, great, I look forward to the adventure.  If not, it isn’t the end of the world.  There will always be another show.  I now know who I am as an actor and the peace of mind that comes with that is a far greater prize than all the future roles I’ll earn.  And that is why. . .

It no longer matters.

 

 

Whispering Pines Bed & Breakfast: The Oasis of Nebraska City

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After a long week, I was ready for a little escape.  Fortunately, my researches showed that there was a bed and breakfast just an hour away from Omaha in the town of Nebraska City called the Whispering Pines.  Perfect!!  It sounded like just the place for an overnight getaway.

Let me assure you that I would stay here again in a heartbeat.  The Whispering Pines is located on a six acre piece of land in Nebraska City, making it the most spacious property I have stayed in to date.

Upon my arrival, I was warmly greeted by its proprietor, Jeanna Stavas, who promptly offered me homemade chocolate chip cookies and tea, coffee, or cocoa.  I declined the drink, but helped myself to a couple of cookies which were the pinnacle of cookiedom.  Nestle Tollhouse, eat your heart out because you’ve got nothing on these cookies.

For the second time in a row, I was the sole guest of the night at a bed and breakfast, but that was okay because Jeanna was quite friendly, an excellent hostess, and a great conversationalist.  She led me to my room, Victoria’s Suite, which is the smallest room of the inn, but, in my estimation, the neatest.

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That fireplace sure felt good.

That fireplace sure felt good.

 

These tiles were heated.

These tiles were heated.

 

 

As you can see from the photos, this room actually felt more like a little house than it did a room.  I relaxed for nearly an hour and then went up to the dining room for my supper.

Unlike many bed and breakfasts, the Whispering Pines also operates as a restaurant.  All I can say is if you have a chance to eat lunch or supper here, do so.  I had Beef Wellington with a side of toasted potatoes and roasted carrots with lemonade to drink.  The presentation was magnificent.  And the taste was even better.  I don’t get to use the word, savor, very often, but I spent 45 minutes savoring every exquisite mouthful of this meal.

After supper, I wandered around the house and snapped a few photos and had a little conversation with Jeanna and her friend.  Afterwards, I retired to my room, where I enjoyed a hot bath, did a little work on my laptop, and ended the evening by watching the classic film, Stalag 17, and then falling into Dreamland as I watched the soft glow of my electric fireplace.

The next morning, I actually allowed myself to sleep in a little before I headed upstairs for some breakfast.  This meal now ranks as one of my two favorite breakfasts that I’ve ever had at a B & B.  Jeanna started the meal with a few slices of banana nut bread, a small dish of fruit with homemade yogurt with agave nectar and homemade granola, and a wine glass of orange juice.

Then came the main entrée of eggs benedict with the eggs done over medium, mixed with cheddar cheese and ham and served on a bed of cinnamon raisin toast.  Just like the previous night, I lingered over my meal for about 40 minutes as I enjoyed each and every delightful bite.

The only disappointment about my stay is that I found out they’re holding a murder mystery dinner tonight which I would have loved to be a part.  One day, I hope to get back and attend one of their mystery events.

If you live close to Nebraska City or find yourself passing through, spend a night at the Whispering Pines.  I guarantee it will be a night to remember.

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The Coming of the First

Author’s Note:  And now for something completely different.  As you may have noticed from my piece of metafiction, The Arizona Chronicles, I sometimes dabble in fiction writing.  Today I’d like to share with you a short story I’ve written based off the TV series, The Incredible Hulk.  For those not familiar with the show, click here.

This tale was inspired by the classic episode “The First”.  In this story, David Banner traveled to the town of Vissaria where he hoped the research of Dr. Jeffrey Clive could help him find a cure for his condition.  At the library, he learned that another Hulk had haunted the town thirty years prior.  Eventually David meets Dell Frye, Clive’s former lab assistant, and learns he had been the creature, but Clive had cured him.

What David didn’t know was that Dell Frye was an angry, vengeful man who sought to regain the power to transform or The Strength, as he called it.  The episode did a wonderful job mentioning what had happened in Vissaria all those years ago without going into too much detail, so I decided to supply the back story.

This is written purely for fun and I claim no ownership of The Incredible Hulk or its characters.

Enjoy

The Coming of the First

By Christopher Elston

“Sit down, Dell,” said Dr. Jeffrey Clive.

“It’s bad, isn’t it,” replied Dell.

“Dell, I’m not much for beating around the bush.  You’re dying.  You’ve got a blood disease and it has no cure,” stated Dr. Clive.

That was it then.  Although, he didn’t consider the scientist a friend, Dell Frye did acknowledge that Clive had treated him better than most.  He’d given him a steady job and even respect.  At 38 years old, Frye felt closer to 88.  His health had never been too good.  He’d been weak and frail as far back as he could remember.  This made him a popular target for the bullies of Vissaria.  Even today, Dell was constantly needled and he longed to be strong enough to fight back with his fists.  Brad Wheeler, Frank Townsend.  Oh, how he hoped he could just once put them in the hospital.  Make them feel the way he always felt.  Broken down and battered.  And now he was dying.

Angrily, Frye pounded on Clive’s desk before burying his head in his hands.

Clive came from around his desk and placed his hand on his assistant’s shoulder.

“Dell, there might be one chance,” said Clive.

Frye’s head snapped up and he looked at his employer curiously.

“I’ve long believed that radiation could be used to treat illnesses.  If you’re willing, I’d like to use you in an experiment.  I must warn you that the test could kill you.”

“Doctor, I’ve got nothing to live for anyway.  It’s worth the risk,” replied Dell.

“All right, we can try it immediately.”

Soon, Dell found himself strapped to the table in Clive’s laboratory.  Clive was pushing down the lever that was connected to the panels that Dell had helped him install on the roof.

“Putting it simply, Dell.  I’m going to give you a dose of concentrated radiation from the sun.  If it works as I hope, it may stop your sickness.  It won’t hurt,” said Clive.

Dell nodded curtly as Clive activated the machine.  For about a minute, Dell was bathed in the invisible radiation.  Then Clive shut everything off.  He unstrapped Dell and helped him to sit up.

“How do you feel?” asked Clive.

“The same as I always do.  Weak!!  Damn it!  It didn’t work!!!” yelled Frye.

“It’s a new treatment, Dell.  It may take some time before the effects are felt.  Just give it a chance,” Clive gently replied.

24 hours later. . .

Dell grabbed the heavy piece of equipment and tried to drag it across the floor.  He managed to move it a few inches and then he felt his back go out.

“Auughh!” cried Dell as he clutched his back.  He felt his anger rise as pain pulsed through his back.

“DAMN IT!!!!” thundered Dell as his rage reached a fevered pitch.

Suddenly he felt strange.  Dell’s body seemed to simmer with power.

“Doctor!!!” shouted Dell, his voice strangely harsh and grating.

“Dell?” a concerned Clive said as he entered the lab.

The sight which met the scientist’s eyes staggered him.  The irises of Dell’s eyes had turned a strange whitish green.  Dr. Clive stood there, amazed, as Dell’s skin also changed color.  Deepening in hue to a dark forest green.  Then he began to grow.  Dell had been of slightly below average height.  Now he seemed to grow nearly a foot in a matter of moments.  His thin, frail frame seemed to expand, bursting the buttons on his work shirt and tearing out his shoes and socks.  His hair grew into a thick mane.  His face shifted and reshaped itself.

Within a matter of moments, Dell Frye had been replaced by some sort of creature.  The Creature looked at the piece of equipment and promptly picked it up as if it were a feather.  It had to weigh 200lbs!!  It dashed the machinery to the ground where it shattered from the force of the impact.  An unholy roar erupted from its throat.

“Dell?” asked Dr. Clive.

The Creature whirled around, his eyes fixating on Clive while a toothy sneer distorted its face.  A flicker of recognition seemed to pass through the beast’s eyes.  With another guttural roar, the Creature brushed past Clive and burst through the heavy oaken front door of the house as if it were paper.  The Creature was quite fleet and rapidly disappeared into the woods.

Clive grabbed a blanket and began to pursue his transformed assistant.

The Creature bolted through the woods feeling alive and strong.  It seemed to delight in the terror it was bringing to the forest animals which scurried out of the beast’s way.  With one sweep of its mighty arm, the Creature managed to break a thick tree in half.  Sitting on the now fallen tree, the Creature rested for a moment, its act of destruction calming it slightly.

Dr. Clive quietly came upon the Creature, careful not to draw its attention and he watched as the Creature seemed to shrink and deflate.  Muscle vanished and forest green skin faded back to normal pink hues.  Within moments, Dell Frye had returned.  He blinked his eyes as though waking from a dream, tried to assess his whereabouts, and noticed Dr. Clive.

“Doctor?” asked Frye.  “What happened?”

“Something impossible,” replied Clive as he draped the blanket around Dell’s shoulders.  “How do you feel?”

“I’m OK,” said Dell and then he paused.  “Actually I feel good.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t feel as sick as I usually do.”

“Let’s get you back to the lab.  I want to take some blood samples,” said Clive.

Clive explained to Dell what had happened to him.  But the blood samples revealed something even more amazing.  Dell was getting better.  Within a week, his blood disease had completely vanished without a trace.  Even more, the myriad health problems that had plagued Frye all of his life had disappeared.

Dell couldn’t believe the first day he woke up and actually felt strong and healthy.  For the first time in his miserable life, he actually felt happy.  Dell went to Clive’s lab and whistled a jaunty tune.  The work was now easier since his body had the endurance and energy to handle it.  Clive seemed to be working harder than ever.  He was constantly getting blood samples from Dell, mixing chemicals, and forever writing in that journal of his.

Clive had repeatedly apologized to Dell for what had happened and said he would help him.  Dell couldn’t figure out why Clive thought he needed help.  The experiment had worked.  Clive had called the thing Dell had transformed into a monster, but Dell had another word for it. . .The Strength.  He could still remember that delicious feeling of immense power that surged through him when the change started and wished he could make it happen again.

The following week. . .

Dell was feeling so upbeat after work on Friday that he decided to stop at the local tavern for a beer.  As he stepped inside, he saw Frank Townsend and Brad Wheeler.  Townsend was a burly, barrel chested man with a thick blond beard and a full head of hair.  Wheeler was more powerfully built with a black, bushy moustache and a balding head.  The two of them turned to face the door as they heard it open.

“Well, well, well,” said Townsend.  “Look who it is, Brad.  It’s our old friend, Delly.”

Wheeler snickered in response.  Dell kept a grim look on his face, even though inside he was smirking.  “It’s going to be different this time,” thought Dell.  He stepped to the far end of the bar and ordered a beer.

“Delly, don’t be so unsociable,” said Townsend.  He walked over to Dell and put an arm around his shoulder.

“You know, Frank, there’s something I’ve wanted to tell you for years,” said Dell.

“What’s that, Delly?”

“This,” said Dell, punching Townsend in the mouth.

Townsend fell back a couple feet and looked at Dell with his eyebrows raised in surprise.

“Why, Delly, I didn’t know you got in to that type of fun,” said Townsend.

Dell threw another punch, hoping his now healthy body would allow him to take on the bigger man.  Townsend was ready and blocked the punch and responded with a heavy blow to Dell’s jaw.  Dell fell backwards into the arms of Brad Wheeler who held Dell’s arms behind his back.  Townsend then buried three hard punches in Dell’s stomach.

With each blow, Dell felt himself grow angrier and angrier.  “I’m still not strong enough!” cursed Dell silently.

Townsend grabbed Dell by the back of his neck and placed his other hand on the waistband of his pants.  “This ought to take care of you,” said Townsend, tossing Dell out the back door and into the alley.  Dell crashed into some garbage cans and lay on the ground.  Townsend laughed heartily as the door shut.

Dell’s anger had escalated to manic frenzy and then it happened again.  He felt the wonderful feeling of The Strength come upon him and he began to chuckle.

“Didn’t think that wimp had it in him,” said Townsend.

“Hey, he threw the first punch, Frank,” said Wheeler.  “I’m sure he’s fine.  Come on.  Let me buy you a beer.”

As the two men headed back towards the bar, an inhuman roar echoed through the night.  The two men looked towards the back door which was suddenly ripped off its hinges by the Creature.  Wheeler and Townsend literally shook at the sight of this horrible thing.  The Creature smiled wickedly as it stalked closer to the two men.  The rest of the bar patrons cleared out.

Wheeler and Townsend attempted to keep the pool table between them and the Creature, but it grabbed the table and effortlessly threw it across the bar and into the wall.  Wheeler grabbed a pool stick from the rack behind him and swung with all his might.  The cue broke over the Creature, but it’s only reaction was to glare evilly at Wheeler.

The Creature grabbed the front of Wheeler’s shirt and threw him to the other side of the bar where he landed on the pool table and was knocked unconscious.  Then it turned its attention to its real target.

By now, Townsend had regained his wits enough to try to escape from the bar.  As he tried to run, the Creature grabbed him, just as he had grabbed Dell only minutes earlier, and it threw him over the bar counter, shattering numerous bottles.  Townsend was badly hurt from the impact and the shards of glass that had cut him.  He could hear the Creature walking towards the bar, softly growling with each step.

Panicking, Townsend’s eyes fell upon the shotgun that the barkeeper sometimes used to scare off unruly patrons.  He grabbed the gun and rolled over to his back just as the Creature rounded the counter.

Cocking the shotgun, Townsend fired at the Creature and managed to catch the thing in the shoulder.  The Creature howled in pain as it grabbed its shoulder.  Desperately, Townsend tried to reload the shotgun, but the Creature was upon him.  It yanked the shotgun from his grasp and snapped it in two.  Then the Creature picked up Townsend and held him over his head.  It looked Townsend dead in the eye before driving him, head first, into the bar counter.  The Creature unleashed a hideous growl of triumph as it wandered to the center of the bar.

The sounds of police sirens wailed.  Deputy Carl Decker ran into the bar, gun drawn.  His jaw dropped at the sight of the Creature as well as the carnage of the bar.  Before he could fire a shot, the Creature ran out the back and down the alley.

The next day. . .

Dell had gone back to Dr. Clive’s that night after The Strength had worn off.  Dr. Clive marveled that the bullet wound in Dell’s shoulder had nearly healed.  By the next morning, it was as if it had never been there.

The next afternoon, Elizabeth Collins, Dr. Clive’s fiancée, had come to Clive’s home and related the news that Townsend had been pronounced dead at the scene and Brad Wheeler was in the hospital.  Clive couldn’t help but notice that his assistant seemed almost pleased with himself when he shared the news with him.

“So Townsend’s dead, huh?” asked Dell with a smile.

“Dell,” began Dr. Clive.  “I don’t think you understand the seriousness of the situation.  That creature. . .you. . .killed a man.”

“Doctor, I’m not responsible for that.  I can’t control that thing.  I don’t even know what happened.”

“Dell, aren’t you sorry that Townsend is dead?”

“No, I’m not, Doctor.  Townsend was a bully and he got what he had coming to him.”

Dr. Clive was stunned speechless for a moment.  He knew Dell was an unhappy and bitter man.  But he was now beginning to see that Dell was also very vengeful and remorseless.

“Dell,” said Clive after a moment.  “What was the last thing you remember?”

“Townsend had just thrown me into the alley.  And I was really mad.”

“And were you really mad right before you changed the first time?”

“Yes,” said Dell slowly.  “I was really riled after I hurt my back.”

“So anger seems to be the trigger for your transformations,” said Clive.  “Interesting.  Dell, I’d like to get an x-ray.”

Minutes later, the two were in the lab and Dell was strapped to the table.  Dr. Clive activated his machine, once more bathing Dell’s body in radiation.  Then he cleaned a spot on Dell’s arm with alcohol.  Dr. Clive then picked up a syringe with some sort of serum in it.

“Dell, this is barium.  It will help the x-ray stand out a bit better.”

Dr. Clive injected the serum into Dell’s arm.  Within a few minutes, Dell was unconscious.  After a minute, Clive shut down the machine and sat down to write in his research journal.

The experiment has led to brief, periodic metamorphoses of the test subject.  Triggered, it seems, by either anger or frustration.  The test subject becomes, what appears to be, a primitive double with incredible strength.  This creature could be particularly dangerous, I fear, due to the test subject’s inherent personality.  It is my hope that by subjecting the test subject to the same level of radiation, I can make him susceptible to this cellular growth suppressant that I have synthesized from pituitary extract.

Although the suppressant has properties that will incapacitate the subject for about 48 hours, I foresee no permanent ill effects.

With a little bit of effort and the aid of a wheelchair, Dr. Clive managed to move Dell onto a cot that he set up inside the secret exit in the lab.

“I should really write up my notes about the suppressant soon,” thought Clive as he twisted a knob on the fireplace in the lab to close the wall paneling that covered the exit.

That was never to happen.

The next night

“Jeffrey, you seem so distracted tonight,” said Elizabeth.

Elizabeth Collins, a petite 24 year old brunette, clasped the hand of her fiancée. She had been a shy, somewhat aloof, young woman who enjoyed reading in the park. She had known of the reputation of Dr. Clive. He was considered the town’s resident mad scientist. An inveterate workaholic, Clive rarely came into town unless absolutely necessary.   He had met Elizabeth in the park on a rare day he had taken for himself. They had fallen into discussion about the book she was reading. Elizabeth found Jeffrey quite charming and they soon fell in love.

“I’m sorry, my love,” said Clive.

“Is it your work?” asked Elizabeth.

“In a way,” said Clive slowly. “You know I’ve always been dedicated to healing. I’ve given my life to it.”

“Your compassion is one of the traits that made me fall in love with you.”

“I know the people of Vissaria think I’m a crackpot. Maybe I could be more sociable, but the work is so important. If I could find the key to curing all illnesses, I could leave a great gift to the world,” said Clive as he suddenly began pacing around the room. “A short time ago I thought I was on the cusp of a breakthrough.”

“What happened?”

“My work led to something terrible, Elizabeth. Something awful.”

“What, Jeffrey?”

“It’s better you don’t know. But you have my assurance that I have been able to cure it. I think I may even be able to use what I’ve learned to lead me down the right path in the near future.”

Suddenly a loud pounding was heard at the front door of the house. Clive and Elizabeth shared a concerned look.

“Clive!! Open up. Me and some of the other folks want to have a word with you!”

“Jeffrey, don’t answer the door.”

“It’s all right, Elizabeth. They’re reasonable people,” said Clive.

The next day

Dell’s eyes slowly opened. He felt so weary. He looked slowly around as his bleary vision came into focus and he realized that he was in the lab’s secret exit.

“What the hell am I doing here?” wondered Dell.

Dell let himself out and heard the sounds of a woman crying. Walking into the living room, he saw Elizabeth cradling a picture of Clive and weeping.

“Elizabeth?” called Dell.

“Oh, Dell!” cried Elizabeth as she fell into Dell’s arms. “Where have you been?”

“Oh, uh, Clive sent me out of town to get some equipment. What happened?  What’s wrong?” asked Dell.

“Some people came to talk to Jeffrey last night. They accused him of having something to do with that creature that killed Frank Townsend. There was an accident. Jeffrey fell down the stairs. Oh, Dell, he’s dead!!” wailed Elizabeth as she sobbed into Dell’s shoulder.

Dell felt his anger begin to rise.  Not because of Clive’s death.  Sure, he felt a little sympathy for him.  But he had long loved Elizabeth Collins and took the job with Clive simply because it gave him a chance to be near her.  And now the worthless scum of this town had hurt this dear woman and he would make them pay.

Dell’s anger continued to grow and he almost salivated at the thought of The Strength coming upon him once more.  And. . .nothing.

Dell didn’t feel the telltale sensation of power.  Then he remembered the needle Clive had dug into him and he realized what had happened.

“No!  No!  Damn it, no!!” shouted Dell as he ran away from Elizabeth and out of the house.

“Dell, wait!!” cried Elizabeth.

Dell ran into the wounds, tears streaming down his cheeks.  Clive had taken The Strength away from him.  The greatest gift in his mockery of a life and now it was gone.

“DAMN YOU, CLIVE!!!!” Dell bellowed to the heavens.

Dell fell to his knees and wept until a thought occurred to him.  Maybe there was still hope.

Dell returned to the lab and carefully examined it.  He found a jar of the substance Clive said was barium, but had, in fact, been the cure.  He also removed Clive’s journals covering 1950 and 1951 which would have contained notes on the experiment Dell had undergone.  He knew he wasn’t smart enough to read them, but maybe, one day, he would find someone who could.

He locked these items in a trunk which he kept inside the secret exit in the lab.  Clive had willed the house to Elizabeth who kept Dell on as caretaker which meant he could keep the machines in pristine condition until he could find a way to release the raging spirit that dwelled within him once more.

Decades passed.

Without The Strength, Dell’s body once again began to succumb to the infirmities and illnesses he had always suffered from.  Although the blood disease never returned, he developed a severe case of arthritis deformens in his hands as he aged.

Dell grew increasingly bitter as he aged and he constantly wished that each day was the day he would regain The Strength.

Nearly thirty years later, Dr. David Banner had been reading some articles on Dr. Jeffrey Clive and his work in radiation and thought Clive’s research may hold the key to his cure.  Luckily, he had enough funds scraped together to afford a bus ticket to Vissaria.

To find out the rest of the story, watch the 2 part episode “The First” of The Incredible Hulk