As described by Roman historian Cicero, this unique torture device was invented c. 570 BC by bronze worker Perillos of Athens as a painful form of execution for criminals. Presented to Phalaris, tyrannical ruler of Acragas in Sicily, the device was designed to not only cruelly dispose of the ruler’s enemies and other criminals, but to provide a twisted sort of entertainment for his dinner guests. The hollow bull (a symbol of strength in ancient Rome) included a door which could be locked from the outside. Once a victim was locked inside, a fire was set underneath the metal chamber, and the person inside was slowly roasted to death. On top of that, brass tubing led from the inner chamber to the mouth of the bull, and the screams of the victim were transformed into the roars of the bull for the enjoyment of the ruler’s guests. Ironically, according to Cicero, the torture instrument’s first victim was Perillos himself, who climbed inside the bull on request, to show Phalaris how the device worked. The ruler then locked the inventor inside to get his first true demonstration of the device’s “music.” Perillos’ fate is unclear, however, since some historians say he perished inside the bull, while others claim he was pulled out prior to dying, only to be thrown off a cliff.
Brent, John Christopher
As portrayed by James Franciscus in the 1970 motion picture sequel Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Brent is an American astronaut, sent on a mission into space to track the voyage of and locate missing fellow astronaut George Taylor (played by Charlton Heston in both the original 1968 film Planet of the Apes as well as this first sequel). Brent experiences the same time slip as Taylor did, crash landing on an Earth-like planet in the year 3955. During Brent’s search for Taylor, he finds that the planet is run by a barbaric race of talking apes, on a mission is in part to annihilate the human race. As well as primitive humans on the planet’s surface, Brent eventually locates more humans in a subterranean society, the intellectual members of which communicate telepathically and struggle to preserve their way of life against the encroaching apes.
Bronze Age of Comics, The (c.1970 – ????)
Known for goofy, lighthearted and rather fantastic plots, black-and-white morality, and a general absence of mature themes, sources differ on when The Silver Age of Comics ended and made way for the advent of The Bronze Age. The most inclusive definition is that it started in 1970, when Jack Kirby left Marvel to work for DC Comics, bringing with him the characterization-based style that had become Marvel’s trademark, creating his ambitious, if short-lived, Fourth World titles. The same year saw the retirement of Mort Weisinger, Silver Age editor of the Superman titles. Amazing Spider-Man #96 and #97 were the first to abandon The Comics Code Authority entirely; these issues ran a U.S. Government-requested story with a strong anti-drug message, but the Code at the time didn’t allow any references to drugs at all. Considering who asked for the story, Stan Lee decided to defy the censors, and had the story published anyway. The issues sold well even with the controversy, and the gates were opened. The Comics Code gradually loosened, letting morally ambiguous stories appear more often. Character conflict as a plot device became the rule, and horror comics reappeared on the shelves. Some comics dispensed with the stamp of the Code altogether, and the Comics Code itself went through a revision in 1971, loosening its rigid standards considerably.
After this, comics were free to address more mature issues. For instance, Captain America went up against the Secret Empire, a conspiracy to take over the United States government whose leader was finally unmasked as a thinly veiled version of then-President Richard Nixon, who then committed suicide in front of the superhero. This shook Cap so badly that he temporarily abandoned his hero identity, taking on the name Nomad. Eventually, though, Cap realized he could champion the ideals of America without necessarily always supporting the government, and returned to the red-white-and-blue.
The Bronze Age is thus known for the first attempts to bring realism and adult issues to superhero comic books, themes which would later overtake the genre entirely in The Dark Age of Comic Books. Overt sexuality appeared; necklines came down and hemlines came up.
Non-white superheroes finally started to appear some writers managed to transcend racial clichés, bringing the first hints of true diversity to the genre. Prominent African-American characters such as Storm of the X-Men, Cyborg of the Teen Titans, and Green Lantern John Stewart were all created with this honest effort in mind. Similarly, more superheroines began to show up on the scene, and established female superheroes became more confident, assertive and independent, taking a more active and prominent role in stories than they had in the Silver Age. At Marvel, The Invisible Girl realized she’d been holding herself back, renamed herself The Invisible Woman, and became more aggressive and resourceful about using her powers, taking over as leader of the Fantastic Four; meanwhile at DC, Hawkgirl similarly became Hawkwoman and finally joined the Justice League of America. Perhaps this new emphasis on diversity explains why the X-Men, who had been around but relatively unsuccessful in the Silver Age, rocketed to prominence under writer Chris Claremont and artists Dave Cockrum and John Byrne. The core group underwent a revival as a multinational team, and the books used the theme of anti-mutant prejudice to drive plotlines, allowing it to serve as a convenient metaphor for contemporary issues like racism and homophobia.
With contemporary relevance a major priority, existing characters experienced major changes as writers tried to “update” them for the times. Superman briefly lost his vulnerability to Kryptonite and quit his job at the Daily Planet to work as a TV reporter. Wonder Woman was infamously stripped of her powers and made to learn karate. Meanwhile, Captain Marvel, the top superhero of the Golden Age, returned under the imprint of DC, the very rival who laid him low in the courts, even though it had to bow to trademark reality and be titled under the hero’s magic word, Shazam! While many of these changes were later undone, some, such as Batman becoming more gothic in tone, remain in place to this day.
Possibly most significantly, The Bronze Age saw Spider-Man’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy killed, an unprecedented move that sent shockwaves throughout the industry. It was the first time a superhero had failed in the attempt to save the life of his own love interest, and as with the Phoenix Saga, characters who had known Gwen grieved over the course of multiple issues, rather than immediately moving on. Perhaps more than any other single event, Gwen’s death was a big red sign that the innocence of the Silver Age was over.
The first “graphic novels” showed up, complete book-sized stories in a single volume, which the great Will Eisner set to work popularizing after he left the US Army after decades of doing instructional comics. Black-and-white, non-Code-approved magazines. At DC, this meant a boom of new titles, and larger comics with more pages dedicated to story, in what was called the “DC Explosion.” Over 50 new titles were created. Unfortunately, most of these were later canceled in the infamous “DC Implosion” of 1978. With that debacle, the new management of DC picked up the pieces with more sensible moves like the “limited series” publishing concept, which allowed comics that could tell stories in deliberately short runs that don’t have to trap the talent into unsustainable indefinite runs. In addition, the magazine Heavy Metal introduced North American readers to translated continental European fantasy comics, which had an alluring content freedom and narrative daring undreamed of for native talents.
Like its beginning, the Bronze Age’s precise end is debated, including those who feel that it hasn’t ended at all. One suggested turning point is 1986, when DC’s Crisis on Infinite Earths concluded and ushered in a wholesale revision of the DC Universe, making the company a legitimate challenger to Marvel once again. In addition, the company published the seminal and highly influential miniseries Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, which introduced a new and darker take on the superhero genre.
- A slang term for the side that fought against the Angle-Sino Alliance (known simply as “the Alliance”) in the television series Firefly. The term is derived from the long brown coats worn by the Independents as part of their uniform.
- A slang term for fans of the series Firefly.
A 2002 cult classic film based on the Bram Stoker Award-nominated short story by Joe R. Lansdale, it tells the “true” story of two retirement facility residents: one who claims to be Elvis Presley (who switched places with an Elvis impersonator to escape the limelight) and one who says he is President John F. Kennedy, forced to live as a black man after his staged assassination. The odd duo ends up battling an evil Egyptian entity who is feeding on the souls of their fellow residents.
Drawing just about every character at both Marvel Comics and DC Comics, often as a cover artist, Richard F. “Rich” Buckler was best known for this work on Marvel’s The Fantastic Four in the mid-1970s, and with writer Dough Moench, for co-creating the Marvel character Deathlok. Born February 6, 1949 in Detroit, Buckler broke into the comic book industry at age 18 with his work on Flash Gordon #10, published in November 1967. He worked for a short time on the Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man line in the mid-1980s, and then collaborated on a highly acclaimed Black Panther series. Buckler was the author of two industry books, How to Become a Comic Book Artist and How to Draw Superheroes. He passed away on May 19, 2017.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (film)
1992 film written by Joss Whedon (creator of TV’s Firefly) and directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui, in which a high school girl learns that she is destined to be her generation’s protective force against creatures of the night. The cast included Kristy Swanson, Luke Perry, Donald Sutherland and Paul (“Pee-Wee Herman”) Reubens. It inspired the 1997-2003 television series of the same name. The film inspired the TV series Buffy the Vamipre Slayer.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (TV series)
1997-2003 television series based on the 1992 film of the same name, and created by the screenwriter of the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer film Joss Whedon. The series, which starred Sarah Michelle Gellar in the title role, followed the adventures of a young girl after she learns that she is destined to slay vampires, demons and other dark creatures, with the help of her friends.
See Maid café.
Given wide exposure on the big and small screens in 1982, Butrick appeared first as Capt. James T. Kirk’s son David Marcus in the big-screen adventure Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which debuted on June 4,1982, then three months later, he appeared as the new-wave trendsetter Johnny “Slash” Ulasewicz on television’s “Square Pegs.” Receiving critical acclaim for both performances, Butrick appeared in numerous TV movie and series (including an appearance back in the Trek universe in a 1988 episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation) throughout the 1980s, until his untimely death in 1989 at the age of 29.
Byron, Lord George Gordon
Described by one contemporary as “mad, bad and dangerous to know,” the great poet was born George Gordon Byron on January 22, 1788. In 1798, at age 10, George became the sixth Baron Byron when he inherited the title of his great-uncle, William Byron, as well as the ghostly halls and spacious ruins of Newstead Abbey, which had been presented to the Byrons by Henry VIII. In 1803, Byron fell deeply in love with his distant cousin Mary Chaworth, and this unrequited passion found expression in several of his poems, including “Hills of Annesley” and “The Adieu.” From 1805 to 1808, Byron attended Trinity College intermittently, where he immersed himself in debauchery and debt. Despite this, Byron’s first published volume of poetry, Hours of Idleness, appeared in 1807. A sarcastic critique of the book in The Edinburgh Review provoked his retaliation in 1809 with a satirical poem entitled “English Bards and Scotch Reviewers,” in which he attacked the contemporary literary scene. This work gained him his first recognition.
In that same year, Byron took his seat in the House of Lords upon turning 21. A year later, while touring the Mediterranean area and visiting Portugal, Spain, Malta, Albania, Greece and Turkey, he began writing the epic poem “Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage,” a poem of a young man’s reflections on travel in foreign lands. He returned to London in July 1811, but he could not make it to his mother’s side before her death, and this plunged him into a deep mourning that only high praise by London society and a series of love affairs brought him out. At the beginning of March 1812, the first two cantos of “Childe Harold” were published by John Murray, and Byron “woke to find himself famous.” During the summer of 1813, Byron is likely to have entered into an intimate relationship with his married half-sister, Augusta, as it seems evident in the guilty overtones of a series of dark and repentant poems: “The Giaour,” “The Bride of Abydos” and “The Corsair.” Likely seeking to escape the pressures of his amorous entanglements, Byron proposed to the educated and intellectual Anne Isabella Milbanke (also known as Annabella Milbanke) in September 1814. They married in January 1815, and in December of that year, Byron’s only legitimate daughter, Augusta Ada (better known as Ada Lovelace) was born. However, the ill-fated union crumbled immediately thereafter, and Annabella left Byron amid his drinking, increased debt, and rumors of his bisexuality and relations with his half-sister. He was never to see his wife or daughter again. After taking a string of lovers, he married Anne Isabella (“Annabella”) Milbanke in January 1815. Lady Byron gave birth in December to a daughter, Byron’s only legitimate child, Augusta Ada. However, in January 1816, amid swirling rumors centering on her husband’s relations with Augusta Leigh and his bisexuality, Annabella left Byron.
In April 1816, Byron left England, never to return. He traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, where he befriended Percy Bysshe Shelley, his wife Mary, and her stepsister Claire Clairmont. While in Geneva, Byron wrote the third canto to “Childe Harold,” depicting his travels from Belgium up the Rhine to Switzerland. On a trip to the Bernese Oberland, Byron was inspired to write the poetic Faustian drama Manfred. By the end of that summer the Shelleys departed for England, where Claire gave birth to Byron’s daughter Allegra in January 1817.
In October 1816, Byron and John Hobhouse sailed for Italy. Along the way, he continued his lustful ways with several women and portrayed these experiences in his witty and satirical never-finished epic poem Don Juan. In 1818, at the age of 30, Byron met 19-year-old married countess Teresa Guiccioli. The pair were immediately attracted to each other and carried on an unconsummated relationship until she separated from her husband. Byron went abroad in April 1816, never to return to England. He sailed up the Rhine River into Switzerland and settled at Geneva, near Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Godwin, who had eloped, and Godwin’s stepdaughter by a second marriage, Claire Clairmont, with whom Byron had begun an affair in England. In Geneva, he wrote the third canto of Childe Harold (1816). (This was also the summer that Mary Godwin – also known as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley – got the idea for her greatest novel, Frankenstein, and Dr. John Polidori came up with the idea for The Vampyre, a precursor by 78 years to Bram Stoker’s Dracula.) A visit to the Bernese Oberland provided the scenery for the Faustian poetic drama Manfred (1817), whose protagonist reflects Byron’s own brooding sense of guilt. The poet began the first two cantos of Don Juan in 1818 and published in July 1819. He completed 16 cantos and had begun the 17th at the time of his own illness and death, but Don Juan remains unfinished.
In 1823, Byron agreed to act as agent of the London Committee, which had been formed to aid the Greeks in their struggle for independence from the Turks. That July, Byron left Genoa for Cephalonia. Using his own money to prepare the Greek fleet for sea service, he then sailed for Missolonghi on December 29 to join Prince Aléxandros Mavrokordátos, leader of the forces in western Greece. Byron made efforts to unite the various Greek factions and took personal command of a brigade of Souliot soldiers, reputedly the bravest of the Greeks. He fell ill in February 1824. Doctors bled him, which weakened his condition further and likely gave him an infection. The revered poet died on April 19, 1824, at the age of 36. Deeply mourned, he was deeply mourned in England and became a hero in Greece. His body was brought back to England, and thought it was the custom for individuals of great stature, the clergy refused to bury him at Westminster Abbey. He was buried instead in the family vault near Newstead. In 1969, 145 years after his passing, a memorial to Byron was finally placed on the floor of Westminster Abbey.
Considered a single unit of memory size, a byte is a group of eight bits operated on as a unit.