Oooo! Ooo-ooo! Oooo! Welcome Back Kotter #1

 

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Welcome Back Kotter #1. November 1976.

Cover: Bob Oksner. Editor: Joe Orlando

“So Long, Kotter!”

Writer: Elliot S. Maggin, Penciler: Jack Sparling, Inker: Bob Oksner

Kotter’s kitchen ceiling starts to collapse when the building next door gets demolished. Putting up with the drunken superintendent/janitor almost makes him late for school. Kotter literally runs into the mailman downstairs. Among the letters flying through the air into Kotter’s hands is one from the City Board of Education approving his transfer to a better school.

The Sweathogs notice Kottter is in a strange mood and see him poring over the letter. When they find out he has scheduled a physical (required for the transfer), they assume he is sick. The TV show would have milked this for the bulk of the show, but Kotter and Vice-Principal Woodman tell the Sweathogs that Kotter is leaving them – to allow his wife to live someplace safer.

The Sweathogs help Mrs. Kotter clean the apartment and shop for groceries to convince her to be happy where she is. She realizes what the students are trying to do and comes up with a better plan. She calls Mr. Pevey, the Social Studies teacher when Kotter was one of the original Sweathogs.

They meet and reminisce. That and Epstein’s practical joke convinces Kotter to stay. He tears up the letter.

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The text page asks for letters from the readers giving their “ratings” of the comic and contains a biography of Gabe Kaplan.

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Humor very much reflects the show – you can hear Gabe Kaplan’s voice delivering his Groucho-like Kotter lines.

The art was spot on – all the characters looked like the actors that portrayed them.

Much like the show it began and ended in Kotter’s kitchen. The last panel even had the lyrics to the song played over the closing credits. Truly a DC-TV comic.

house ad Kotter and Superfriends

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About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

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A Big Black Dot in the Sky

The Big Black Dot in the Sky

An eclipse happens on the earth every 18 months, but it has been around a century since the last total eclipse passed across America. For the past week, social media has been filled with pictures and comments.

My turn.

Where I live there was 99.97% totality. Pretty good. But my father, a scant 50 miles away, would see 100% totality. Well, that solves that. Unfortunately, my wife had to work and help with the local library’s eclipse program – they had almost 200 kids that day!

So my daughter and I headed to grandpa’s house. Her cousins headed further south with their mom and dad but my other sister drove down from Indiana to see the eclipse. So we would have a nice visit with her and grandpa.

My father said he remembers a partial eclipse in the late 1960s or very early 1970s because we were in the old house (we moved in 1972 and my father still lives there) and remembers telling my sister and I not to look directly at the sun. I do not remember that.

I DO remember the partial eclipse in 1978 or 1979: there was snow on the ground (unusual for where I live) and I made my own cardboard box/viewer. I watched the eclipse through the viewer, drew the stages of the “bite” taken out of the sun and as the shadow swung around the sun’s lower half, and wrote up a report about it for my high school science class.

The next eclipse (all of these partial) happened when I was a lawyer working in Belleville – 1993 – 1995. I was driving from court on the interstate and saw the cows in the fields herd together as if it were nighttime.

But this was my FIRST total eclipse.

The family was outside at 10:30. It was very hot and humid and we spent most of the time under the old tree at my dad’s house. My daughter wanted to go inside frequently to cool off and get some drinks. I joined her.

We waited and waited for 11:12am.

You could barely see a “dent” in the sun in the upper right – if it were a clock it would be near the one.  My sister and father relaxed in lounge chairs and watched. I played basketball and softball with my daughter and waited.

By 11:15 the “bite” in the sun was noticeable. My daughter was excited – much more excited than she had been sweating it out – literally – a few minutes before. I loved the look on her face.

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Now it was easier: we’d play a little bit but then she would grab her glasses and watch the “bite” of the sun get bigger and bigger. She grew more and more excited and wanted to keep watching it. I said it was like looking at a clock – it was slow but you could see it move if you were patient.

It was down to a crescent, then it was as thin as a fingernail.

Of course, I had to peak at it without my glasses once in a while, but the sun was still too bright to see the shadow upon it.

I know, I know, I wasn’t supposed to do that. But I am only human. A dumb, blind human; but a human nonetheless.

At first, I was surprised (and disappointed) that I could not see the moon. I couldn’t even spot it at 8:00 that morning when we left. Even the hour before and after I couldn’t spot it – the sun was too bright.

And we were very lucky to have a perfectly clear sky that day!

While waiting outside under that old tree (under which I played with my bucket of soldiers and, later, taught myself to play guitar) we enjoyed listening to the crickets – even at 10:30 before it started getting dark … well, less light. My daughter listened to her first owl hoot! This was a disappointing part of the eclipse – my wife told me at work they heard crickets start chirping and birds calling … but we heard crickets before anything happened!

Finally, the sun was a tiny sliver – the size of a child’s fingernail clipped away and laying on the bathroom floor. Then an even smaller orange dot.

Then totality.

It was amazing, truly. Pictures do not do it justice. It was as if someone painted a dark black dot in the middle of the sky. A bright halo surrounded it – but not so bright you had to avert the eyes.

It looked like those science fiction shows about black holes.

I was expecting night time – but the sky was still the blue of pre-dawn and after dusk – just before the sun pops up or disappears on the horizon for the day. We could see Venus, but no other stars.

It was darker on the ground, but again no darker than it is first thing in the morning.  I took a photo of my daughter during totality – it shows how “dark” it was outside (note the sun was still casting shadows) …

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No wonder the pagans of aulden days panicked! Where the sun once was hung a dark, round … thing. A thing that ate the sun!

I was stunned. Even my dad thought it was amazing – and that morning he said he did not care too much about it. My daughter was “wowing” through the entire thing.

I was still looking at totality when it ended.  I literally said, “I wonder what happens when AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!” I looked down quickly as the sun popped out from behind the moon on the upper right side, but it really hurt my eyes. The sun appeared on the opposite side of where it disappeared – as if someone flipped the film and ran it backwards.

No snakes. My cousin told me that sometimes an eclipse causes waves of light to flutter on the ground – as if it were the writhing of snakes. Reading social media posts over the next few days gave no sign of anyone seeing snakes.

My sister told me about crescent shadows. THOSE we saw. I even managed to get some good pictures.

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But no pics of the totality – my poor camera was not good enough.  This is as good as I could get:

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It was a once in a lifetime event – until 2024 when the line of totality crosses North America again! Next time the line of totality will go right over our house, so we can stay home without fighting the traffic. Travelling wasn’t as scary as I expected going there and back – I took the blacktops driven in my wilder youth – although the interstates and major state and US highways had long lines of cars. I had to wait some time for a large enough gap for me to roar through to the other side!

Friends who camped out in state parks met people from Japan, Australia, and the east coast who all came to view the totality – wandering the world like Deadheads following their dark star. I don’t blame them.

I can’t wait to see it again!

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Photos and text copyright 2017 Michael G Curry

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About the author:

Michael is the author of Abby’s Road … the Long and Winding Road to Adoption; and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2015 New York Book Festival!

WINNER: Honorable Mention, 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival!

WINNER: 2015 Reader’s Favorite Book Award Finalist, Non-Fiction Humor!

Abby’s Road leads a couple through their days of infertility treatments and adoption. It is told with gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) humor from the perspective of a nerdy father and his loving and understanding wife.  Join Mike and Esther as they go through IUIs and IFVs, as they search for an adoption agency, are selected by a birth mother, prepare their house, prepare their family, prepare themselves and then wait for their daughter to be born a thousand miles from home.

Barnes & Noble:  http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/abbys-road-the-long-and-winding-road-to-adoption-and-how-facebook-aquaman-and-theodore-roosevelt-helped-michael-curry/1119971924?ean=2940045637930

I-Tunes:   https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/abbys-road-long-winding-road/id900104260?mt=11

Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/457270

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Abbys-Road-Long-Winding-Adoption/dp/0692221530/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406426653&sr=1-6&keywords=abby%27s+road

 

Oh Mighty Isis #1: DC-TV

Isis #1. November 1976.
Cover by: Kurt Schaffenberger
“Scarab – the Man Who Would Destroy!”
Story/Editor: Denny O’Neil; Art: Ric Estrada and Wally Wood

Logo Isis
From DC Wikia:
An ancient Egyptian pyramid is being erected in the town square, as Andrea, Cindy, Rick and Doctor Joshua Barnes, the High School Principal, watch. From the pyramid emerges Scarab, an evil sorcerer who was imprisoned inside. As he uses his magic to capture the others, Andrea transforms herself into The Mighty Isis and saves her friends. Scarab then attacks Isis with a lightning bolt and she deflects it with one of her spells. Scarab takes to the air to get away and Isis follows him. To distract her, Scarab causes an airplane to disintegrate while airborne and Isis has to rescue the passengers. Scarab gets away and Isis returns to the high school to become Andrea.
She is met by Cindy, who asks Andrea about the time she helped in finding a pyramid. Andrea’s mind then wanders back to the time she found the amulet that gave her the powers of Isis. As Andrea looks through magic books to find a way to defeat Scarab, he roams the streets. He uses his telepathy to locate Isis but finds Andrea instead. He uses her to set a trap for Isis by creating a magic aura around her that destroys anyone with magical powers. He sets fire to Andrea’s house, then flies to the White House to capture the President. Meanwhile, Andrea’s pet bird, a crow named Tut, unties the gag in her mouth. Andrea quickly says, “Mighty Isis!” As she is transformed into the Goddess, the aura that surrounded her is destroyed instantly. She commands the fire to go out, then takes to the sky to go after Scarab. On the way to the White House, Isis uses her powers to transport the pyramid to the White House grounds. She creates oak trees to camouflage it. Isis challenges Scarab to face her. As Scarab attacks Isis, she lowers the pyramid and traps him inside. Afterward, Andrea explains to her friends that when Scarab was forced to reenter the pyramid, he would be imprisoned there forever.

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The text page provides a brief history of the goddess.

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This comic was on the shelves in July 1976. By this time the TV show Isis was completed her first season. In September, season two, comprising seven new shows, would debut.
A great beginning. The art is wonderful – Wally Wood’s inks dominates Estradas’ pencils – who is himself a great artist – with a very clean and (otherwise) identifiable style.
The story was NOT aimed at children. Adult comic book fans would find the story and art enjoyable, too. Like the TV show, there was a lesson, of sorts, at the end; but it was in the context of character conversation as opposed to Isis speaking directly into the screen (as was done in her first appearance in Shazam #25).
Isis’ incantations are wordy, but never annoying (compared to, say, Zatanna, where one needs a pocket mirror to read her spells). At one point in their battle Scarab calls her “noisome”, which means smelly, not noisy.
I’d bet she smells nice … more flowery and earthy than perfume-y … I don’t know why …

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About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped. Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

DC’s version of the Prince of Power!

Behold!

Bronze age

Hercules Unbound #1, November 1975

“Hercules Unbound!”

Cover: José Luis García-López, Editor: Joe Orlando

Writer: Gerry Conway; Penciler: José Luis García-López; Inker: Wally Wood

Hercules awakes four weeks after World War III. He broke free of his enchanted bonds to rescue a blind teenager, Kevin, and his dog Basil, who were being terrorized by an enraged sea creature.

Kevin tells Hercules about the nuclear devastation of Greece, the death of his brother and his and Basil’s escape in their family sloop. Hercules decides to accompany Kevin to Rome to find Kevin’s father.

Ares, meanwhile, looks upon the fighting in Rome and laughs. He then commands the military forces back into a hopeless battle.

Hercules and Kevin make it to Rome. Hercules recounts his capture and imprisonment by Ares in aulden days. They fight off minotaur-like demons and battle-crazed citizens. He spots Ares and challenges him to battle. Ares responds by siccing the red-hued Smasher on Herc. Kevin and Basil help Hercules defeat the monster that Ares created.

After the battle – Kevin recognized Smasher as his own father.

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The letter column gives a brief origin to the classical Hercules and introduces us to Gerry Conway, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez and Wally Wood. It also hypes Claw the Unconquered #4 and Stalker #3.

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An interesting beginning leaving many questions – which entices us to keep reading obviously… So far we see only a bit of Hercules’ famed strength and not much of his personality (by this time his Marvel doppelganger’s braggadocio is legend). Perhaps DC is avoiding the obvious comparison by pulling back the man-god’s traditional vanity. His shock at being in the modern world is non-existent – perhaps the post-apocalyptic world is more familiar to him.

The mystery of Kevin’s powers is canny for comics of the time (not meant as a criticism). He brings us the only real emotion of the comic – it’s only been a month since nukes flew and destroyed everything! Plus his brother was killed and he discovered his father was made into a nuclear monster! He MUST have great inner strength to handle this!

The art is fabulous – but even Lopez’ art is nearly swallowed by Wally Wood’s stylish inks. Regardless, every page is beautiful.

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About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

 

 

Shazam #25: Saturday Mornings on CBS

 

Shazam #25. October 1976.

Cover: Kurt Shaffenberger

Isis: “Isis … as in Crisis”

Writer: Denny O’Neil, Art: Dick Giordano, Editor: Julie Schwartz

An old school building is being demolished. Student Cindy Lee is trapped in the rubble as a huge chunk of wall is about to crush her! Andrea Thomas changes to Isis and magically saves her. Captain Marvel swoops down to introduce himself – he was going to save Cindy until Isis intervened. Cindy was tracking two suspicious characters when she became trapped.

We get a brief origin of Isis: while on an Egyptian expedition, Andrea finds a scroll and amulet once owned by Queen Hatshepsut –  the only female pharaoh. She is compelled to put on the amulet and read the scroll. “With this, you shall have the power of the goddess Isis…”. Andrea calls out the name “Isis” and transforms for the first time.

Cindy spots the crooks again – they were retrieving stolen gold coins they had buried on the demolition site. The crooks catch Cindy after a car chase. They put Cindy back in her car and send it careening down a cliff!

Isis rescues Cindy and captures the gold coin thieves.

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Captain Marvel: “The Bicentennial Villain”

Story: E. Nelsen Bridwell, Art: Kurt Shaffenberger, Editor: Joe Orlando

Through a riddle, the old wizard Shazam warns Captain Marvel about great danger to the country: Listen for a laugh that can bring tears to millions!

Someone is sabotaging Billy’s documentary of young people’s contributions to history. He hears a sinister laugh aboard a sailing ship and runs afoul of Dr. Sivana! Sivana gags Billy and scuttles the ship. Billy works off the gag and says the magic word to turn into Captain Marvel. Marvel saves the ship from sinking, but Sivana gets away.

Sivana leaves a note saying he is going to destroy America city by city! How can Cap stop him when he (Billy Batson) has to work in New York? To be continued!

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 Letters comment on Shazam #23 (by then a quarterly reprint) and explains the new direction of the comic including a change in editors.

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Thus began the DC-TV line of comics. It was published June 29, 1976, with a cover date October 1976. By June the show had been on for 22 months and was about to start its third season as the Shazam/Isis Hour with only six new Shazam episodes (in addition to repeating Season One’s 15 shows and Season Two’s 7 episodes).

The Captain Marvel tale is a lead-in to eventually change its format to more closely reflect the show. So far there is no big camper or mentor, but it is implied they are coming in the next issue.

The Isis story fits snugly into the television show style. She even gives us a “lesson” at the end of the story as per the TV show – seeking danger to impress someone is just as dangerous: “We should each do what we can as well as we can.”

Plus the art on both stories are wonderful. Shaffenberger has always been a favorite – clean, solid art and very accessible to the young reader.

Giordano’s art on Isis is beautiful – he really brings the characters to life.

The DC-TV imprint is off to a good start!

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About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

Metal Men #45, May 1976: Welcome Back!

Behold!

Bronze age

Metal Men #45, May 1976

“Evil is in the Eye of the Beholder”

Cover: Dick Giordano; Editor: Gerry Conway

Writer: Steve Skeates; Penciler/Inker/Colorist: Walt Simonson

The Metal Men tour the country’s colleges displaying their powers. This allows new readers some exposition as to who the Metal Men are. Doc Magnus, meanwhile, is held for mental examination after being rescued from Karnia.

To aid in his recuperation, the Feds allow Doc time and equipment to make another Metal Man. He creates Plutonium Man. PM escapes and leaves a trail of mayhem behind. A Karnian spy is exposed among Magnus’ keepers. Magnus and the surviving military hunt down Plutonium Man.

But the Metal Men get their first. Despite all their efforts, nothing works and member after member meet their doom … until Platinum wraps herself around Plutonium Man to cause a mini-China Syndrome, destroying them both.

Magnus, seemingly all better, vows to rebuild the Metal Men.

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Metal Men’s history by this point is very strange, stranger than you expect from this group: even Gerry Conway admitted so in the letter column. And if the man who brought you Conway’s Corner’s stable of comic books thinks something is strange …

In brief: by 1968 the original Metal Men creative team moved on to other things and the new team made the Metal Men fugitives from justice and hunted by the law. The robots created secret human identities and fought supernatural enemies. Doc Magnus was kidnapped by the dictator of Karnia and brainwashed to evil and hatred as to his creations. The comic ended with a cliffhanger, of sorts, with #42, January 1970.

Three reprint issues in 1973 failed to gain traction. The magazine was revived again in 1976 with this issue.

Rather than start anew, this new creative team wrapped up the storyline from six years before. Perhaps they should have restarted the comic and pretend 1968 – 1970 never happened! If only because it gives the series an awkward grittiness.

But if this comics’ creators insist on grittiness, it picked the perfect team. Walt Simonson’s art (his first DC work since Manhunter) fits in perfectly. His workman-like style is instantly recognizable even at this “early on” stage. It fits well.

And Gerry Conway’s obvious love for the characters is evident. He does a Red Adair-like job of putting out the continuity fires and inevitable clean-up!

Welcome back, guys!

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About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!

DC-TV: Saturday Morning comics…

DC-TV

When most people think of DC television … well … nothing pops into mind.

When most fans of DC comics think of DC television, their minds go to the live-action shows such as Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow, Gotham, or the upcoming Black Lightning.

Some comics fans may think of excellent animated series like Batman: TAS, Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited.

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But for some of us the phrase “DC-TV” takes us back to 1976 and 1977 and four comic books published by DC but put under a different banner (now we would call it an “imprint”): the DC-TV Series of comics!

Logo Superfriends

Superfriends originally aired in 1973 and 1974, lasting only one season. It was revived as a mid-season replacement in 1976 and one version or the other continue to air into the mid-1980s. The comic Superfriends (TV shows are italicized, comics underlined) was published starting November 1976 until August of 1981, lasting 47 issues. The Saturday morning cartoon still being popular, the comic used the DC-TV logo through its entire run.

Logo Shazam

Shazam (Captain Marvel) debuted in September 1974 for two seasons with a third as part of the Shazam/Isis Hour in late 1976 – coinciding with the DC/TV comic books debut. The comic book published its first DC issue in 1973 and was suspended in early 1976 – despite the still-popular TV show. It was revived as a DC-TV comic and lasted for 11 more issues (until June 1978), the last two issues without the DC-TV logo. The comic book lasted longer than the TV show, but to be fair it started before the show as well …

Logo Isis

Isis debuted in September 1975 and lasted for 2 years and 22 episodes. She was never actually given her own program, but linked with Captain Marvel in the Shazam/Isis Hour. Her comic lasted 8 issues until January 1978, lasting longer than the television show – athough the character appeared in animated form in other Filmation shows (such as Freedom Force in 1980).

Logo Kotter

Welcome Back Kotter also debuted in September 1975 and lasted until May of 1979. Its comic lasted ten issues until May 1978. An unpublished story and other features were printed in a tabloid-size special edition.

Rumors abound of negotiations of a MASH comic book. If true, it did not go far.

Shazam #25, with an October 1976 cover date, introduced us not only to Isis, but the DC-TV series. The other three comic books debuted in November 1976, but available on the newsstands (as per the house ad) June, July and August of 1976.

For only the second time in its history, National/DC changed its logo to accommodate this special series of comics. The first issues had a simple DC-TV logo attached to a console television showing us the star of the magazine. This was during their “cigar-band” logo period. When the publisher went back to the logo in the upper-left corner, it added a square-shaped “TV” to its circular starred “DC”.

I’ll review most of the DC-TV line-up in this blog. I’ll stop with Super Friends #13 (July 1978) when it became the last title of the line.

I hope you enjoy the blog series and I look forward to your comments.

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About the author: Michael Curry is the author of the Brave & Bold: From Silent Knight to Dark Knight, The Day John F Kennedy Met the Beatles and the award-winning Abby’s Road, the Long and Winding Road to Adoption and How Facebook, Aquaman and Theodore Roosevelt Helped.  Check his website for more releases! Thanks for reading!