It's more than a blog; it's my blog.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Giddy Up

A lot of the JLI members complained about their boss riding them all the time...

but clearly, Captain Atom got the worst of it.

(See Max Lord ride bitch on Captain Atom in the Invasion! crossover from 1988, Captain Atom #24.)

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Complain About Spider-man 3 and Superman Returns All You Want...

...because when it comes right down to it, this hemisphere gets the best when it comes to licensing deals.


Bonus question: Is it better than Ghost Rider?

(HT: GeekPress)

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Great Moments in Mounties: Less-Than-Model Behaviour From the Men in Red (Captain Canuck, Vol. 1 #3)

Yeah, alright, I'm up, I'm up. What day is it? Sunday? Oh, good, I didn't sleep through the weekend - wait, what? Next Sunday? Aw, crap.

So, yes, I may have overslept a tad, and neglected this fine blog for almost a week now, but you should have realized that I would never give up trying to achieve immortality via the internet so abruptly - not without a well-reasoned excuse, anyway.

The last time we looked into the proud tradition of Mounties in Comic Books, we saw Batman and Rob battling evil Quebecois in service of an apparent summer camp for RCMP personnel. Tonight, we'll learn that there's no guarantee that the Men of the Mounted will be portrayed authentically even when the comic comes from the northern side of the border - Captain Canuck #3 is our principal piece of evidence in making that case. I previously published a week-long-ish tribute to the Captain (and his many wacky merchandising schemes) that you can look over here.

Let's recap a little: in 1975, Richard Comely and Ron Leishman would sense a hole in the market where a patriotic Canadian superhero should have been, and so they set about self-publishing Captain Canuck, a comic book series following the adventures of Canada's top C.I.S.O. agent as he foils plans by Commies and other new-world-order-types to usurp Canada's true place as a natural-resource-fueled super-power. Despite solid popularity, costs for such an independent book were high, and the company could not continue publishing Canuck at a price that was competitive with imported American superheroes, and only 14 issues could be released sporadically from 1975 to 1982 until Captain Canuck ultimately folded. He would return three more times (or more, depending on where you happened to live) between 1993 and 2005, but the general decline in comic book sales, coupled with poor distribution and the constantly shifting creative directions of Captain Canuck's copyright holder (the views expressed in his 1982 magazine, Star Rider and the Peace Machine, are not exactly what we would call "marketable") would defeat the Captain in every one of his attempts.

So, that's Captain Canuck.

Now, meet Captain Canuck in his formative years.

As Captain Canuck #3 opens, the oddly-inked eponymous hero is working with his fellow C.I.S.O. officers, the super duo known as "Redcoat and Kebec" (Redcoat is in red, Kebec is stuck with the colours of the flag of his namesake), as the crack security organization moves in to arrest a "crooked MP," Rosechuk. This issue never reveals exactly what Rosechuk - or "Rosey," as his criminal buddies like to call him - is up to, but one thing is certain: the Canada of alternate-1993 (the "future" portrayed in the series) must have one hell of a penalty for corruption, since he escapes the clutches of C.I.S.O. using this:

a skyscraper cum missile silo.

Although Captain Canuck is the second-greatest Canadian bad-ass - pulling just ahead of William Shatner, but slightly behind that Prime Minister who held conversations with his dead dog - he is, in fact, vulnerable to a rocket's flaming exhaust, and must be transported to a hospital to be treated. This is where we have our first glimpse at the Mounties of the Future (TM), who are dressed more sensibly, if not more Judge-Dreddy. That's where any dignity the Mounties might have been given in this comic stays, though, because we're barely given six pages until eeeevil Mounties show up in full Musical-Ride regalia.

The dark RCMP officers are there to kidnap the Cap'n, because their boss, crooked MP Rosey, wants to make sure that C.I.S.O. doesn't have any information on his source of funding... and... uh... is that a pitcher of urine next to the Captain's bed?

Huh. Strange thing to keep there.

Bodily fluids aside, another villain has gotten word that Captain Canuck is in the hospital, and he's dispatched his own people - another kidnapping squad, determined to find out who Captain Canuck really is, and then to hold him hostage for the mysterious Mr. Gold. The two abductors, one a doctor turned informant named Borden, the other a professional named Wilby, get into the hospital room by posing as doctors. As they're preparing the Captain, the two faux-RCMP officers arrive with orders to move Captain Canuck to another hospital - "for security reasons." Captain Canuck asks his maker for a little strength, but it's really the collision of two thugs' greed that allows him to take advantage and kick some fake Mountie ass.

With a little unexpected help from "Dr." Wilby, the Captain is perfectly fine. But the thug in the scrubs has apparently come prepared, because he whips out what appears to be RCMP identification. Oy vey, another false Mountie! Is anyone in the RCMP really who they claim to be?

As the story comes to a close, the Captain and the pretty nurse who was so intent on getting him naked are herded into an ambulance the evil "Dr. Wilby," where the good doctor immediately degenerates into a third-rate Dick Tracy villain, throwing out enough "sweethearts," condescending adjectives, and demented laughs to fill a graphic novel written by Frank Miller.

Oh boy! I wonder how the Captain will get out of this one! I'm a little kid in 1975, and I'm overwrought with anticipation! I just can't wait to look for Captain Canuck #4 on the news-stands next month! But I do wait. And I wait. And I wait some more. Because this is when Captain Canuck dies for the first time. Captain Canuck fans had to wait until 1979 to get the ending to this story. What the crap, Canada? First you give me stereotypical Mounties, and then you make me wait 4 years to read the ending of Captain Canuck #3? Egad. If that happened today, I don't know how anyone would be able to stand for it.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cyberdyne Systems Presents

...Caring for your infant harbinger of death.

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Friday, April 18, 2008


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Friday Night Fights: Classic Edition

It's been too long, Bahlactus - the crowd is restless - they hunger for blood...

It's just too bad that the only black & white comics I have access to right now are in this old Sam & Max book. Oh well - violence is violence. RING THE DAMN BELL!

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Top Five Reasons Why "All New Atom" Should Not Be Canceled

1 - Gail Simone's not dead. She could still come back and write it - if we asked nicely enough.

2 - Head Have Not Have Conquered English Into Submission.

3 - What else are the "Lighter Than Air Society" going to do with their time?

4 - This comic used to be pure, concentrated fun. Where am I supposed to get that now that Rogers is leaving Blue Beetle? Wonder Woman?

5 - It hasn't even been around long enough to lose the "All New" part of its name.

Don't get the references? Then pick up the All-New Atom TPB's, and show DC how greatly we all want more Head.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Great Moments in Mounties: Batman #223

The Mountie: a red-coated, steel-willed, horse-riding, Stetson-wearing hero who can track a man across a thousand miles of untamed wilderness, only stopping to wrestle the occasional Grizzly bear, and inform you politely that your tail-light is out, but he’ll let you off with a warning for now if you promise to have it fixed before you return to Canada on your next trip. At least, that’s the image that Hollywood has given the great Canadian police officer for much of the past hundred years.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or the North-west Mounted Police as they were known when they were originally founded, were formed in the 19th century to establish order in the wild and untamed north-west territories of Canada. The Mounties were famous for, allegedly, never having to draw their guns in order to do their jobs. Today, the RCMP is the largest police force in Canada, functioning much like the FBI/ATF does in America, but also performing front-line police work in the smaller or more remote communities that don't have police forces of their own.

Hollywood seemed obsessed with the Mounties at one point. The movies portrayed them as stalwart trackers, relentless in their pursuit of justice. In Pierre Burton's Hollywood's Canada, he describes the American view of our red-clad police force as "supermen, free of normal human appetites when on the trail of their man." This even contributed to the common error that the motto of the force is "We always get our man:" in actuality, the motto is "Defending the Right," which, to me at least, sounds a hell of a lot cooler.

Of course, Hollywood got it all wrong. For one, their mounties wore ridiculous-looking fur hats sometimes, and they could never really get the look of the Stetson right. More egregious errors included Mounties shooting first and not bothering to ask any questions, and a scene in McKenna of the Mounted (a lot of movies were called "-- of the Mounted") where an officer is discharged from the service and ceremonially whipped as a result.

And today, Mounties are still portrayed as ceaseless do-gooders who always wear their red dress uniforms, even though they're equipped pretty much like your average police officer - that means no funny hat (for the most part), and a bullet-proof vest on occasion.

This poor characterization isn't limited to movies, naturally. Comic books, those purveyors of only the highest quality entertainment, have contributed their fair share of misconceptions about the RCMP. I hope to have this as a regular feature, but like my other "features," "Comics That Have Pissed Me Off" and "The Continuing Adventures of Ronald Reagan," installments may be sporadic at best - especially considering that Mounties haven't been especially popular in pop culture for a few decades now, showing up only to be lampooned in media like Dudley Do Right and Due South. I've already got enough for at least two posts, so I think I'm ahead of the curve as it is.

One comic that has not helped the RCMP to shake their mythical reputation was Batman #223, a "Giant Batman." Don't get too excited; it's just an over-sized issue of the book, it doesn't contain any of those fantastic appearances of an actual giant Batman. I like to call this issue "Multinational Batman," because it features the fascinating gimmick of "Batman and Robin Face Danger Around the World!"

Although there are other stories of stereotypical hilarity within this tome, we're only interested in the wintry scene from the cover: Crime in Canada, a concept so shocking that Batman himself had to investigate.

The story is really titled - any guesses? - "Batman of the Mounties." And right from the get-go, I'm somewhat less than optimistic that this story will be free of the misconceptions and bad generalizations that have plagued the movies:

Sigh. Well, let's get on with it.

"Batman of the Mounties" follows the caped crusader as he ventures into the frozen north (strong and free, dontcha know) to capture the wicked LeClerc brothers, another bad trope of bad Mountie movies. Didn't you know that French-Canadians were evil?

Anyway, we open on an idyllic scene: the Mounties are apparently attending summer camp up in the Northwest, and they can barely contain their excitement when they see the fabled Batplane fly overhead. Boy, is there gonna be an awkward moment when Robin realizes this particular RCMP detachment (which seems to include slightly over 6000 officers) actually intended for someone else to accompany the Caped Crusader:

I mean, they already had a red tunic sized for Rob. Now what are they gonna do with it?

Aw, that's okay, guys. They already brought formal wear anyway. They also took along their "trees and rocks" uniform just in case they were to get stranded in Vancouver, and their leather uniforms just in case they... well, you know.

The Dynamic Duo have arranged to teach the Mounties their previously chronicled unique crime-fighting methods as a part of "National Law Enforcement Week," which is when we up in the Great White get off our asses and actually attempt to enforce a few laws for seven days - well, it's more like six because we don't open on Sundays.

Unfortunately, just as Batman & Rob begin to demonstrate how to apprehend rambunctious squirrels...

... one of the Mounties sets off in his ceremonial best - riding a horse because Canucks have yet to master the art of paving - in order to capture those dastardly Quebecois, the LeClerc brothers! The bros. have broken out of prison (but we just call it Quebec), and are headed the Mounties' way! Why, surely they could just wait for the idiots to pass by the massive encampent of police officers, right? Or maybe let Batman handle it? Nope, it's a much better idea to send "Bob" (actual Mountie name) off, on his own, with only a horse and the RCMP tradition not to ever draw his gun, to try to capture two armed and dangerous francophones. Bob Kane, or whoever really wrote "Batman of the Mounties," has apparently never heard of the Montreal Mafia.

Sadly, Bob's mission meets a sticky end, having to wheeze out a staccato speech to Batman and Robin as they find him dying in the snow. I don't think the way he's speaking his due to any distress, he might just not have learned how to use articles. Or he could have brain damage, I guess, because he insists on making Batman a deputy Mountie:

And forgive me for being presumptuous enough to question a "master crime-fighter," but in which universe does that make even one iota of sense, Batman? Robin isn't even old enough to drive a car, and you're letting him fly a goddamn super-sonic plane? And where would that thing even land out in the wilderness? There's too many trees to build a runway. And why would you have to become a Mountie in order to catch some bad guys? You've been doing it freelance for years, you crazy loon.

Well, questionable actions aside, Batman - who doesn't don the Stetson, so I wouldn't call him a real Mountie, anyway - sets off across the frozen wastes of Canada, following the trail of the most devious French killers around. And he gets to show off some of those "unique crime-fighting methods" again, this time wasting resources and putting distance between him and the LeClercs because, hey, walking sucks:

I don't want to get into posting every panel of this obvious masterpiece, but some of this crap is just too absurd to leave uncommented upon. The very next panel after "wind-surfer Batman..."

...sees the great detective not even considering that he may unknowingly following the path of, I don't know, a bear, instead of the criminals. Thanks to his little ice-surfing escapade, anything could have ripped the needles off of that tree while the LeClercs were half-way to Regina.

Then, the Mounties have the balls to say this to Robin when he comes back with the half-corpse of Mountie Bob:

O RLY? You, the genius who sent one guy and a horse after the LeClercs not five pages ago has suddenly decreed that they're too dangerous For even Batman to handle alone? I must say, our men in red aren't being given a good shake in this story.

Personally, I hope this is what he had in mind when he talked about sending "men" with them, though:

Yeah, we've got 'em up here.

The men of the Mounted Bear Patrol , unfortunately, can't waste their time tracking down the LeClercs because of a disaster in what I assume has to be a nearby town, so it's up to Robin (!) to catch up (!!) with Batman and take the evil Frenchmen down without help.

But I mean,really - when you've got a man who wastes as much time as Batman does building surf boards and changing clothes, manages to catch up with the bad guys, and then stops when he's being shot at to make a set of fuckin' skis (nevermind why his "snow" suit didn't come with snowshoes), you don't really need all that much help anyway, I reckon.

After what is ridiculously called "one of the weirdest fights ever," which involved balancing on logs cut down by an invisible logging company and floating in the river, Batman and Robin have finally apprehended the LeClerc brothers! But it's not quite time for a round of whiskey and vodka, as the LeClercs have a few tricks up their sleeves:

Which must lead to an exercise in Criminal Logic (TM):

thus preserving the status quo - provided that the status quo includes guys who've managed to foil the plans of psychotic clowns being duped by two backwoods thugs who could probably find a way to rationalize robbing a bank without taking any money. "No, mon frere! The money would make us a target! We will take zees artificial potted plants, instead! Zen we get away scot free! And grab zome pens while you're over zer!"

Don't worry - Batman and Robin "always get their man," even if it involves the unlikely scenario of Batman pulling the RCMP insignia that Constable Bob gave him out of his utility belt.

You know, the utility belt that the criminals made sure to remove so he couldn't come up with any tricks. That's okay, Bob - I know this story had a lot of twists to keep track of. Sometimes Batman comics are so complicated that you just can't remember what happened a scant two panels ago, especially if doing so would mean that Batman pulled that insignia right out of his ass. I would have just ended this comic after the fight on the floating logs, but then again, I've never been paid by the page.

So there ya go: Batman of the Mounties, our first look at Mounties in the comics. They might not have come out looking quite so good in this one, but not even Batman could manage that.

Fun Mountie Trivia: when Michael Moore made Canadian Bacon in 1995, he avoided paying the brave men and women of one of our finest institutions licensing fees for the use of "Royal Canadian Mounted Police" by calling his Mounties "Royal Mounted Canadian Police." Dude wasn't even trying.

The makers of Dudley Do-Right similarly avoided helping out the force when they purposely gave the titular hero the wrong uniform insignia - of course, that could always be rationalized by saying that they didn't want to denigrate the RCMP with their portrayal of the bumbling officer, but how many people actually know what RCMP signage is supposed to look like anyway? Certainly Bob Kane can't be counted among them.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Showcase Presents: The Essential Filler Post

It's been a sparse week from me on the blogging front, but hey - a man's gotta eat, and I'm sure you're all well aware of how well blogging pays.

On that acknowledgment, today's not going to be a big break from the past week's lack of presence, because I just wanted to make a list of all the trade paperbacks of comics that I (hint, hint, Big Two) would kill to see on store shelves (or at least hidden away in some darkened corner of the warehouse). I was spurred to do this after noticing that there were enough "d-list" series and characters getting trades that seem to indicate that it's becoming decreasingly unlikely that we would ever see my favorite obscurities in a compact book-shelf worthy tome. For example, was there really all that much of a clamoring for the Phantom Stranger/Ronald Reagan epic from 1987, Heart of a Stranger? I mean, besides from this corner of the internet?

And hey, after I'm done, why don't you drop me a comment and tell me what your dream trades are?

DC Comics:
Shade, The Changing Man, Volume 1 [including Shade#1-8 (1977), plus the missing story from "Cancelled Comics Calvacade"]
Showcase Presents: Blue Beetle, Volume 1 [the original DC debut of Ted Kord from 1986]
Showcase Presents: Blue Devil
Showcase Presents: Captain Atom
Showcase Presents: The Creeper
The Hawk and the Dove, Volume 1 [featuring Showcase #75 and The Hawk and the Dove #1-6 from 1968]
Showcase Presents: The Best of Ronald Reagan

Marvel Comics:
The Essential Alpha Flight [yeah, I know they've got smaller trades coming out, but a big, cheap collection of around 30 issues at a time would be mighty more convenient than waiting a year for another eight]
The Essential Great Lakes Avengers
The Essential New Warriors
The Essential Speedball [bet you didn't see that coming, did you?]
The Awesome Slapstick![including The Awesome Slapstick! #1-4 and "Smells Like Teen Spirit," from Marvel Comics Presents #159-163]

Captain Canuck, Volume 1

So, what do you want to see?

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A Tale of Two Invasions (An INFINITY WAR Crossover!)

With all the recent hubbub (bub) over Marvel's Secret Invasion crossover event this spring/summer, wherein the characters (as it's hard to call them all heroes in this age of cynicism, isn't it?) of the Marvel Universe may or may not have been replaced by shape-shifting Skrulls, you might remember the last time something secret-y and invasion-y happened in a Marvel crossover: 1992's Infinity War event.

Infinity War concerned a villain named Magus and his machinations involving exact duplicates of some of Marvel's greatest heroes, including, oddly enough, Tony Stark and Reed Richards. The story wasn't anything remarkable, certainly nothing on the level of Secret Invasion - although, I was only 4 years old at the time of Infinity War, so fuck if I know if there was much hype on USENET or whatever.

I haven't actually read Infinity War, but I certainly have the gall to call it one of the greatest pieces of sequential art in the history of mankind, even ahead of those cave paintings in France. Why? Because it gave us this:

Evil Speedball.



Yeesh. he's a real looker, ain't he? And dig that caption on the cover: You didn't demand it, but you got it anyway--. Considering how some people feel about ol' Robbie Baldwin around here, that's a line I may just make my official blog motto.

New Warriors #27 is one of the essential stories in the Speedball canon. While the B-plot involves Speedy's buddy, Rage, having a crisis of conscience after slamming some punk's head through a windshield, the Speedball-centric issue sees the Masked Marvel return home to Springdale, Connecticut, only to find his old stomping grounds devastated, and the police finger him as the culprit! And, since it was the early nineties, we get this sight-gag courtesy of the sophisticated humor of penciller Darick Robertson.

I'll let you figure that one out.

The police are led by Robbie Baldwin's father, a notorious anti-super-hero crusader who's just been looking for an excuse to pump some lead into the bouncing hero - thus logically explaining why the police would subscribe to the "shoot first, ask questions never" philosophy, and why Speedball can't just surrender himself to them. Although how the police can mistake the two, given their very different appearances, must be entirely an effect of comic book logic.

Speedball escapes the sights of the police by using his kinetic field ("Speedball Effect") to sap all of the momentum out of their bullets, and heads over to the family home, fearing that his "evil twin" might be longing for some homecooking. Evil Speedball's already there and accosting his mother, looking to replace Robbie because - well, he feels like it, I guess. That's all the reason he needs, apparently.

Scattered amongst the fight is some faux-losophizing about having to become like your evil twin in order to defeat him, as well as the usual "I'm everything you don't like about yourself" bullshit, which doesn't make sense (unless this means that Evil Speeds is the living embodiment of Robbie Baldwin's malice towards woodland creatures) because Speedball certainly hasn't shown the urge to destroy things simply for the sake of destruction. Also, I really don't see how you could fight evil like crooks, gangsters, and super-villains (and, uh, giant birds) unless you had a hatred of evil. It's like that Star Wars bullshit about fear and anger and hate being the source of all evil in the universe - never made any fucking sense to me. It's a ham-fisted effort to make New Warriors "deep" through force, instead of natural flow.

So anyway, Speedball kicks the crap out of "Blackball" (the impromptu nickname he gives Evil Speedball, which is sorely deficient in my opinion because it totally omits the word "evil"), and the double dissolves into a pile of dust. By sheer contrivance, this drains all of the strength from Speedy, forcing him to de-power into Robbie Baldwin so that his father can discover his secret identity.

See? I told you this was an essential Speedball story. His mother had known for months that he was a superhero, but his father's attitude toward "vigilantes" forced Robbie to hide it from him. This development would have Robbie moving to New York to stay with the New Warriors permanently, which would, in turn, lead to the origin of "Hindsight Lad," which then led to much of the hatred against the New Warriors during and after Civil War when Hindsight set up, which exposed the heroes' true identities.

So, way to go, Evil Speedball. You helped to totally screw over one of my favorite characters. I hope you're happy.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Smells Like Seen Spirit

At the risk of being an accomplice to film industry espionage - and the continuing risk that I run of turning this place into some kind of, I don't know, second-hand Ain't It Cool News - I've tracked down a site which had the foresight to save those pictures from the set of Frank Miller's Sin City 2 adaptation of Will Eisner's The Spirit. Click here if you missed 'em the first time around, but be quick - who knows how many monkeys Lionsgate has trolling the 'net for this stuff?

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Friday, April 04, 2008


In case you missed it over at the Newsarama blog...

an incarnation of the Blue Beetle will finally be showing up on your TV screens, in the latest Batman cartoon, Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

While characters running the gamut from The Creeper and Booster Gold to Aztek and B'wana Beast managed to get themselves cameos in the DCU in media other than comics, we have been denied any appearances of any of the Blue Beetles - neither Garrett, nor Kord, nor Reyes - in any form, whether it be Justice League Unlimited, or even Teen Titans. Why? Well, apparently Fox Feature Syndicate, the company that created and owned the blue bug in the forties until they went kaput and sold the rights to Charlton, had short-sightedly signed away the broadcasting rights to the character in order to produce a radio program. While I can only speculate, it would seem that they concluded that comic books were a fad, and were due for a crash sooner rather than later. It was, therefore, better to get their money now, and if that meant losing out on holding the rights to a worthless asset in a few years, than so be it.

That license finally expired in 2006, but by then it was too late to feature him in JLU - the cartoon had been canceled. Luckily for us Blue Beetle fans, though, no matter how many such shows are shit-canned, there will always be room for more Batman on our Saturday mornings.

The case of Blue Beetle is pretty enlightening, actually. I used to believe that if you tried hard enough, and maybe wrote a few letters, you could get a cartoon or toy based on any character you wanted. After searching for information about the Blue Beetle rights, though, I came across this post on the boards at Action Figure Insider, and was thoroughly humbled. I wasn't really disappointed, though - I felt more informed, and less like DC had something explicitly some of my favorite characters. It was calming to find out that, sometimes, no matter how popular a character, or how much money you could make out of it, you just can't use something - even if you own the character! Who knew making action figures, or cartoons, could be so complicated?

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

"Unique Crime Fighting Methods"

At ten the next morning...

And that's why there are no DC superheroes in Canada. Any more questions?

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