Tuesday, September 09, 2003

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BSBdGs go out today to Penny pretty herself, Angela Cartwright, 51 today. Dear God, I feel old. Anywho, Angela is best known as Penny Robinson on Lost in Space, hence the above pun. Click on her name to go to her official website, which features a ton of photos of Angela present and past. She also was one of the singing Von Trapp family in The Sound of Music, and the little kid on The Danny Thomas Show.

Here's a cool picture of Angela meeting the Beatles.
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Been thinking about Nick Drake this morning, which caused me to put on his glum masterpiece Pink Moon. While I won't go into a long discussion of the record, I'd like to note that I believe that the piano break in the title song is one of the loveliest things I've ever heard. Didn't really care to hear it used in a VW commercial, though, although it did make a lot of folks aware of Nick's music that wouldn't have been ordinarily.

This in turn led me to realize that I still haven't seen the documentary A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake, which I need to add to my list of films I want to see before I die.

I also love Robyn Hitchcock's song "I Saw Nick Drake". Typically odd Hitchcock lyrics, but a haunting melody.

The above portrait of Mr. Drake was done a couple of years ago by a struggling artist, whom I've become quite close to over the years and has a terrible self-confidence problem. He is quite capable of much better if his head and heart would only allow it.
Random stuff from hither and yon:

Thanks to Tampa Bay's alarmingly easy win over Philly last night (it will get better, Theresa, trust me), I finished week one at 10-4. More fearless predictions on Saturday.

The amazing Vera Brosgol has got her new version of her Tourniquet website online now. Go check it out, especially the "art" section. I envy those young ladies (and that Bill Mudron fella, too) of the Pants Press so much. They are good.

Speaking of Pants Press, if you've got three bucks to spend 50¢ (unless you're already a Bitpass subscriber), then you can read their group effort Wary Tales online. I'm still deciding whether or not to drop three dollars. I'm sure it would be worth it...

Looking at the Diamond shipping list for tomorrow, I spy with my little eye that I'll have the following waiting for my shrinking dollar:

JLA #86
JSA #52
1602 #2

I also see where HAWAIIAN DICK VOL 1: BYRD OF PARADISE, the collected Hawaiian Dick mini-series, is coming out. A great chance for all of you who didn't pick this up several months ago to get in on a great, fun book.

One thing that's been troubling me- I don't think there are any comics shops anywhere near Sidney, Nebraska! I can't frigging drive to Denver or Omaha or Lincoln or Cheyenne every week for my comics! I'm considering a subscriber service, like Mile High...but only if I can get my books weekly, so I can continue to read and review them in timely fashion. Of course, I'm still waiting for the call from Cabela's HR secretary to let me know when they can fly me out. I don't know about you, but I hate to wait for the phone to ring.

I have got a huge stack of LPs sitting on the speaker, which means I'm overdue in writing a Vinyl-O. I'll try to get that done this week sometime. I know I said that the next one would be a special solo Beatles edition, but that will have to wait. Many of the records in the pile are from the all-day Zevon marathon tribute I had yesterday.

Went to see Horse Cave Theatre's version of Les Liasons Dangereuses last week, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. Very witty script, and the actors pulled it off nicely. None of my kids were in it, but one of my daughter's buddies had a small part. Got my ticket courtesy of my baby girl, who is House Manager right now. My son has just been named Master Carpenter, after the firing of the first MC who apparently was a real asshole. I'm a proud papa. Back to Les Liasons, seeing this has caused me to want to see one of the recent filmed versions...I'm aware of Dangerous Liasons, and Valmont, so it will be one of those.

OK, that's all the rambling I'll do for now. Maybe more later.
More on Warren Zevon:

A nice obit by Louisville Courier-Journal music writer Jeffrey Lee Puckett.

Rolling Stone chips in with a group of past interviews and articles.

Also, I caught David Letterman's tribute on his show last night, and it was nice. Paul's band played Zevon songs before and after commercial breaks, and then at the end they reran his last performance from his October 2002 appearance, in which he sang "Mutineer", one of my fave WZ songs. I'll tell ya, I got a little misty there at the end.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Hooray for the Louisville Courier-Journal; they carried yesterday's notorious Doonesbury strip, and even wrote an editorial about it.
Oh, a note to Neilalien:

Thanks for the info on the Wand of Watoomb! I read that indeed-classic Spidey/Doc Strange team up oh so many years ago when I was a squirt, but had forgotten about it. I was thinking that particular object (one of the JLA/Avengers quest items) was Tiboro's wand.

One of my favorite late-60s comics was the Thomas/Colan issue of Doc in which he battled Tiboro. Colan was just out of his mind drawing that stuff!
A personal note:

The job hunt has gotten interesting. I finally got my call from Cabela's on Saturday afternoon (!), and it looks like they're going to be flying me out either the weekend of the 18th or the 25th for an interview and an opportunity to get the lay of the land, so to speak.

Wow. Nebraska. I don't suppose any of you out there are from the Cornhusker State, are you? I hope they have cable and DSL out there, that's all I know.
Going into tonight's action, I'm 9-4 in my NFL predictions. I should have known that Buffalo would be looking to kick some ass, and I should have known better than to pick Cincinnati, but all in all, not bad.

I thought the Cleveland Browns looked pretty good in their orange pants, and Atlanta's new unis don't look all that bad, but geez Louise- who the heck decided that the Bengals should wear all black on a 80 plus degree day? I'm not saying that's why they lost, but it couldn't have helped.

Warren Zevon has passed on. Knowing it was inevitable doesn't make it any easier to accept.

I was actually kinda late to pick up on Zevon; I was aware that he was a singer/songwriter out of L.A., one of the people in Jackson Browne's orbit, and I was not a Browne fan. I thought "Werewolves of London" was kinda neat, I liked his should-have-been-bigger single "A Certain Girl", and I liked the songs that Linda Ronstadt covered, but for some reason I was disinclined to buy until Creem magazine and Robert Christgau praised the heck out of his 1980 live set Stand in the Fire. A raucous, sloppy, fun concert LP, it made me a Zevon fan. I went out and picked up Excitable Boy, Bad Luck Streak in Dancing School (with "A Certain Girl"), and not long after, his next release The Envoy. Touring on that album, I caught him in concert at the Louisville Palace, and remember it as a great, energetic show. Still into his self-destructive rockstar period, he was loose but certainly gave the crowd its money's worth. After a five year hiatus in which stopped drinking for good, he returned with some excellent records, beginning with Sentimental Hygeine and later Mr. Bad Example, Mutineer, and Life'll Kill Ya, with only the muddled 1989 William Gibson-influenced concept record Transverse City failing to be consistently interesting.

Favorite Zevon album: Actually, I like them all (except City) more or less equally. I tend to listen a lot to the 1996 anthology I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, which has most of the highlights of WZ's career covered, except, inexplicably, "A Certain Girl".

Most underrated: 1995's spare Mutineer, which uses its odd instrumentation and naked, openhearted sentiment to good effect on some of WZ's strongest post 1970s songs.

Requiescat in pace, Mr. Zevon. That's all she wrote.

Photography by Mark Silver.
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Let's get the BSBdG party started today for Miss Alecia Moore, aka Pink, all of 24 today. Her M!ssundaztood CD was one of the more pleasant surprises of 2001-02.

Also, today would have been the 71st birthday of Virginia Patterson Hensley, better known to the world as the great Patsy Cline. Further evidence that great musicians should not fly in small planes.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Not having a good day, prediction-wise, and a slightly better day fantasy football-wise...and my Falcons can't seem to get out of their own way against the Tunaboys. Sigh.

But THIS picked up my spirits a bit! Found at Antipopper.

Chris, you should read this. If you don't already know.
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Saw a movie last night that was the best film I've seen in many a moon: 1974's The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, starring Walter Matthau (in a startling yellow necktie) and Robert Shaw and shown in wonderful widescreen on TCM last night.

Everything about this film is razor sharp, from the direction to the script to the excellent performances by all the leads. The music score, by David Shire, is all early 70s jazz-funk dissonance and grabbed me at the opening credits. In all fairness, the film looks very dated- everything from fashions to cars to slang is very 1974, and I would imagine this film would be particularly jarring for New York City residents- but that ceases to be a distraction about five minutes in. Shaw in particular is very good as the British mercenary who masterminds the subway car heist, coolly working crossword puzzles while he waits for the ransom money. I honestly haven't seen many films besides this and Jaws that feature Shaw, maybe I should attempt to remedy that. Matthau is Matthau, grumbling and kvetching around, but his character has a no-nonsense, capable side that manifests itself more and more as the film goes on. In spite of the tense subject matter, there was a lot of humor including a long gag with Matthau conductiong a tour of the subway control center for a group from the Tokyo subway system, who he presumes can't speak English; and Jerry Stiller is on hand to provide several funny one liners. The subway car hijackers are code-named "Mr. Blue", "Mr. Green", and so on, and you guessed it- this is the film Quentin Tarantino borrowed from when he made Reservoir Dogs.

Speaking of the NYC perspective, here's a nice review of Pelham I found at the Village Voice's website. She nicely sums up the film and the City it depicts that no longer exists in a lot of ways.

If you haven't seen this, then go out and rent it. It's one hell of a good film.

Time to go watch some football...
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Uh well-a-hell-a-hella BSBdG's go out to, up there in rock and roll heaven, the great Buddy Holly, who would have been 67 today if not for that ill-fated plane trip.

Rave on.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Johnny B's Fearless NFL Predictions!

Stupid me forgot to predict Thursday's season opener between the Skinnies and the Jets. I was gonna take the Redskins, I swear. Anyway, I'll just open the season short one game. OK...here goes, and as always bet at your own risk. The Show waives any and all responsibility for any losses incurred by its recommendations.

Winners tomorrow: Atlanta, Tampa Bay (sorry, Theresa), Pittsburgh, Miami, NY Giants, Indianapolis, Cincinnati (that's right), Detroit, Carolina, New England (I think Buffalo's gonna be fine, but Bledsoe is Belichick's bitch), Kansas City, Green Bay, Seattle, San Fransisco, and Tennessee.
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What I bought and what I thought, week of September 4

I wasn't sure whether to bag 'n board this or put it on my coffee table. It's an artistic tour-de-force for David Mack, in his Bill Sinkiewicz-influenced collage and mixed media style, and if you look real hard he even tells a story which serves to re-introduce us to his Echo, his sort-of Native American answer to Elektra who is deaf to Matt Murdock's blind and is able to copy the most intricate movements and inflections, making her a difficult opponent in a fight among other things. As a story on its own terms it's a bit slight, taking the entire issue to re-acquaint us with Echo's background and motivation...necessary, I suppose, but fortunately the paintings are worth the price of admission to this particular cultural experience. A

Part dust-up between Batman and Slam Bradley, and part Pulp Fiction inspired diner heist caper which is a little contrived but still fun. The fight between one of the original tenants of Detective Comics and his more famous successor is a hoot and very well drawn. Lame duck artist Cam Stewart does an excellent Mazzuchelli-style Batman, for sure, and I'll miss him, and this book, when he's gone after #25. One of three comics I bought that were colored by Lee Loughridge, whose eye-hurting hues make me wish someone would take away his computer. Please. A-

Don't get me wrong, if this was an hour long Disney Channel Original Movie starring Raven Symone or Hillary Duff or someone like that I wouldn't watch. But the stars of this particular floppy pamphlet show are, to me, cover guy Darwyn Cooke and interior artists Christine Norrie and Jason Bone. Norrie, on her own last issue, was just fine...but Bone's DeCarlo-inspired (Dan, not Mike) finishes take it to the next level, to borrow a sports cliché. Steve Vance doesn't have much of an original plot or an ear for teenager's dialogue for that matter, but this is well written enough to maintain my interest while I'm gazing at the pretty pictures. Norrie and Bone are so good that they even overcome the typically ugly Loughridge color job. A-

Oops, bump in the road this time out. The first two issues of FKATJL were a delight, and even though this one still has its fair share of bwah-ha-ha it also features the return of Geoff Johns' far-fetched Roulette character and her House, in which she traps unsuspecting superheroes and coerces them to battle to the death using comic-book mind control technology. What appears to be hundreds of thousands of supervillians, lowlifes and criminal scum attend these events, and are all supposed to adhere to some sort of "honor system" in which they willingly agree not to discuss this with anyone, lest angry good guys bust in and shut it down. Yeah right. I didn't care for this silliness in the JSA, and I don't care for it here. Still, on its own terms, it's still well written and drawn, and perhaps this will all be resolved to my liking. Guess who colored this. B+

At least 20 years in the making, and it shows. It's a cornucopia of super-hero comics cliches, derivative of all the big epic multi-issue multi-dimensional spandex throwdowns of yore from Crisis on Infinite Earths and Zero Hour to Flash of Two Worlds and Squadron Supreme to Secret Wars to any of Jim Starlin's Infinity opuses to....well, you get the picture. Of course, DC monsters and villains appear on Marvel's Earth and vice versa, and of course the heroes of the respective worlds don't trust each other and threaten each other- you just know the inevitable scrap will be coming soon, after which they'll realize that they are both on the sides of the angels and unite to have some sort of confusing hyper-galactic climactic battle with one or more of the numerous candidates for the Ultimate Evil Bad Guy of the piece. It's also a video-game-ish quest story- the super-teams are instructed to search out arcane artifacts from both comics' universes. It was fun for about thirty seconds remembering what and where each item came from. As I keep saying, Busiek, when he's writing Astro City, is clever and interesting but turn him loose on mainstream superheroics and he becomes a hack of the first order. For his part, George Perez draws his ass off, filling every fragmented panel with closeups of superheroes with mouths agape, or flying rubble, or Kirby dots, or speed lines or electrical energy, or something, creating a very claustrophobic experience. Even when he draws giant creatures, they fill the tiny panels and add to the overstuffed feeling. It's obvious Perez has worked very hard, but geez, I wish he didn't feel compelled to bowl us over in every one-quarter-inch sized square or rectangle on his pages. This would have been a stone gas in 1975, even 1985- but in 2003 it just looks quaint. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that the fanboy community will embrace this unreservedly. And yes, I know, I bought it too. I think it would be fun for someone to buy this for Gary Groth as a birthday present. C+

I bet 15 year old Mike Allred would have loved JLA/Avengers. I've been reading his Madman book since day one...everything he does is a homage or tribute or something to his early comic book reading days, reflected through his deadpan quirky sensibilities. His illustration style, even, serves this purpose- to me it's always looked like early-to-mid 60's Kirby inked by Chic Stone or Mickey Demeo. It was fun and different, especially at first, but as the years have gone by- through his Red Rocket 7, Atomics, and his lifeless work on X-Statix- it's become painfully obvious that he doesn't have anything else to offer. So what we get here is a Madman story that reads just like every Madman story of the last ten years, and three turns by indie cartoonists, two that are odd for oddness' sake and one especially disappointing story by Nick Derington which slavishly copies Allred's "style", and the sinking feeling one gets when one thinks of what else one could have bought with their $6.95. Goodbye, "Doc", thanks for the memories. C+

Evan, Evan, Evan. What the hell do you think you're doing? We already know from that notorious issue of Dork! that you're not just a joke writer. So I suppose in a bid to be taken more seriously, you've given us one of the most unlikeable miniseries of recent memory and finished it up with a final issue full of death, betrayal, gloom and depression. Sigh. Well done, I suppose, in its own right but it's just difficult to read because of all the sturm und drang and soap operatics of Wagnerian proportion. I hope Dorkin's got this out of his system and goes on to play to his strengths in the future. Dean Haspiel does a great job of illustrating these dire goings-on...but I just don't think superheroics are his strong point. C-

Oh, boy. In this issue the shark was officially jumped. I don't know what to blame more: the disjointed script or the confusing visuals that are supposed to help the beleaguered reader navigate these events but just further add to the confusion. Maybe editorial interference is to blame, who knows...but I'm a veteran of comics with unconventional, non-linear narratives, and this has me scratching my head. This started out promisingly, and may finish strong, but right now all I can do is throw up my hands and hope for the best. C-

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

A couple of musical comments, apropos of nothing:

I've been listening to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band a lot lately, for some reason...and the two songs I'm getting the biggest charge from are McCartney's "Fixing A Hole" and Harrison's "Within You Without You". Of course, I've grooved on these songs, and all the others in varying degrees, for many years...but "Hole", especially, is one of the lower profile cuts on that landmark album, so it's odd that it's jumping out at me right now. While listening to it, from its prissy harpsichordish intro to it's jazzy, shuffling tempo and it's wonderful harmonies, two things came to mind: one, I'll bet if you asked him Brian Wilson would cite this as one of his favorite tracks...and two, the actual sound and arrangement of the song presages many of the cuts from McCartney's 1971 solo record Ram. "Hole" could have fit on Ram quite nicely. Hell, it would have raised the quality of that uneven record, no doubt. Harrison's mystical opus always gives me a charge in the instrumental middle section, where tablas drone and percussion is percussed and the sitar chimes while swirling strings dart in and around, intricately carrying the melody in front of all the Eastern trappings. One of the finest moments, in my opinion, on that album.

Also, I like the Pharrell Williams song "Frontin". Nice old-school R&B. But is there a law in hip-hop land that states that P. Diddy and Jay-Z have to be on everything?
Here's what I'll have waiting for me at the ol' comics shop tomorrow, according to the Diamond shipping list-


Here's where it gets confusing. I didn't get Superman: Red Son last week...it's not on my pull list, and I somehow overlooked it on the rack- assuming my shop even got enough copies. If it's there, I'll get it. Also, I'm not sure if I've signed up for the Madman Super Groovy King Size Special 1, but I'll certainly get that too (it's pricey, though, at $6.95) if it's not reprints. I looked at previews for the new Bad Girls, with new inker Jason Bone (a fave of mine), and it looks sweet. Story? We'll see. I'm not signed up for the long-awaited JLA/Avengers wingding, because I'm just not all that excited by the creative team and am kinda in a "bored with spandex" phase...but my curiosity might get the best of me.

Of course you know I'll review whatever I buy...that's a threat and a promise.
The great Manga-or-not discussion continues. Forager has been the most recent contributor.

I don't really have anything new to add, but it has occurred to me that perhaps the American comics companies should also look into getting their product back onto newsstands and spinner racks. (Crotchety old man voice here) "Why, back in my day that's where we bought our comics, over at the Minit Mart or Jr. Foods store fresh off the spinner, or at Hallmark stores on their magazine rack! We didn't have any of those fancy-schmancy "specialty stores" until the early 80s!" I'm sure there are a thousand and one reasons why comics have disappeared from non-specialty outlets, and I'm sure 999 of them are valid, but a lot more people go into toy stores and and convieniece stores than "real" bookstores. Perhaps that's another avenue to explore-getting the distributors to carry and offer comics once again.

Just a thought.
And now, the semi-monthly Sports Post!

The NFL season, as you may be aware, kicks off tomorrow night. For some strange reason, most likely because I'm still in the running in my "money" fantasy baseball league (2nd place, 3 points up, 11 out of first), and my White Sox are still in first place in their division despite their best efforts to the contrary, I'm still closely following baseball so it seems a bit distracting to me right now. I just can't get used to the idea that Summer's almost over and football season is here! Also dampening my enthusiasm a bit is the fact that the venerable Glasgow Fantasy Football League, which I founded in 1990 and was the longest running fantasy football team to anyone's knowledge in the area, finally ran out of steam this year. Still, I love dat ol' NFL football and God's least favorite team, the Atlanta Falcons, so here are my preseason Fearless Predictions. Bet at your own risk.

In order of finish:
NFC East: Philadelphia (11-5), NY Giants (9-7), Washington (7-9), Dallas (4-12).
NFC North: Green Bay (by default, this is a terrible division) (9-7), Minnesota (8-8), Detroit (6-10), Chicago (5-11).
NFC South: Tampa Bay (12-4), Atlanta (9-7), Carolina (7-9), New Orleans (6-10).
NFC West: St. Louis (11-5), Seattle (9-7), San Fransisco (8-8), Arizona (3-13).

AFC East: Miami (10-6), New England (10-6), NY Jets (7-9), Buffalo (6-10).
AFC North: Pittsburgh (11-5), Cleveland (9-7), Baltimore (8-8), Cincinnati (6-10).
AFC South: Indianapolis (12-4), Tennessee (11-5), Houston (5-11), Jacksonville (3-13).
AFC West: Oakland (11-5), Denver (9-7), San Diego (7-9), Kansas City (7-9).

Playoff wild cards, NFC: Atlanta, Seattle. Sorry, G-Men.
Playoff wild cards, AFC: Tennessee, New England.

AFC champion: Indianapolis, over Oakland.
NFC champion: Tampa Bay, over St. Louis.

Super Bowl: Tampa Bay 20, Indianapolis 14. Tony Dungy gets no satisfaction.

Clip 'n save, kiddies. I fully expect to read this four months from now with total embarrassment.
Scott McCloud came up with a "24-hour comic" challenge, and Jen Wang has answered with a slice-of-life story Let's In. It's pretty darn good, especially when you consider she did the whole thing, 21 pages, in 26 hours. I couldn't do 21 pages in 26 years.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Well, Neil Young's On The Beach, in my opinion his best album, is finally available on CD. Of course, I can't afford to pick it up just yet, but I have seen copies and WB/Reprise did a swell job of reproducing the original album cover art. The back cover, with song titles written in the original Rick Griffin calligraphy, also looks great.

Seeing this caused me to wonder what was going on at the "Release On The Beach" petition webpage, which I signed so long ago and used to link to in my message board signatures. You can find out by going here and not only seeing pictures of the packaging but getting a review by the site originator, Colin Young. No relation, I assume.

Now where the hell is Time Fades Away, Neil?
My comics shop (The Great Escape, Bowling Green, KY- hereafter referred to as TGE) had a big sale all week last week, culminating in a 25% off of everything inside and up to 75% off stuff outside in a sidewalk sale, so I decided to go pick up a couple of things I had been waiting to purchase for a while now.

Now usually I'm not much of a toy buyer. Some of the figures available these days are kinda cool, but I'm barely able to maintain my floppy pamphlet habit let alone pick up every action figure or statue or shot glass or what have you that piques my interest. However, when TGE does their periodical sidewalk sale thingy they usually put out a pretty good lot of toys at 3/4 off, and that's when they get me. For four bucks each, I picked up the recent DC Direct figures of the Planetary cast: Elijah Snow, Jakita Walker and the Drummer. They're pretty nice looking, as these things go...and you gotta admit that there probably won't be too many more of them.

After going inside, I snagged the hardcover edition of The Art of Nick Cardy that they've had on sale for several months now, and I got an additional 25% off of the sale price. Sweet. Anyway, it's a very nicely done career overview slash interview collection, with lots and lots of great Cardy covers and interior art reproduced within, some in color. Cardy, as principal artist on Aquaman, Teen Titans, and most notably (to me, anyway) Bat Lash used his excellent design abilities to create some of the most innovative art to be found in mainstream comics in the Sixties and early Seventies. He also did a lot of illustration work for movie posters and promotional materials, something which I wasn't aware of.

Finally, I picked up the new softcover edition of Human Target: Final Cut by Peter Milligan and Javier Pulido, the events of which have served as a prologue of sorts to the current ongoing series...or maybe it should be said that the current ongoing is a continuation of the TPB. Whatever. Anyway, it's a (for the most part) cleverly written and beautifully illustrated action thriller with Milligan once again furiously working the one handle he has on the Human target character: Chris Chance has imitated others for so long and so well that he has a tendency to lose his own identity in that of those he imitates. Valid and smart, but I'm tellin' ya that this conceit will get real old real fast by issue 10 or 11 of the ongoing. I think, though, that Milligan is a smart enough writer to realize this and will come up with another direction, eventually. I hope. Pulido, perhaps responding to the enlarged format, has beefed up his often minimal style here; there are several scenes and figure drawings that are nicely detailed. And bojemoi, this man can lay out a story. He's quickly becoming a huge favorite of mine. So otherwise, this is a fast-paced kidnapping/action story, like recent films Ransom and Along Came a Spider, except this one's set in Hollywood and features a ton of internal angst by the lead. About the only thing that really bugged me was the out-of-the-blue appearance, at the end, of a character that was only seen once or twice for the first 3/4 of the book- and I'm not sure was ever mentioned by name- who's given a key role. But everything else was very well done so I can overlook it. Human Target: Final Cut is well worth picking up, even if you don't get 25% off.
I haven't written about Rufus Wainwright very much, if at all, mostly because while I liked his self-titled debut album, especially two or three songs, I didn't like it enough to get the follow-up Poses. Apparently it did pretty well without me, though, because according to an interview in the NY Times (found at EveTushnet's), he went on a real old-school binge of bad fun afterwards and has gone through rehab, with a new album's worth of experiences to relate. Click on the link above to read the article, which was doubly interesting to me not only because (despite my failure to pick up Poses) I think Rufus is an artist worthy of attention, but it also mentions his parents Loudon Wainwright III (another one of my "I really need to get something by" musicians) and Kate McGarrigle of McGarrigle Sisters fame, whose first two records are (in my own humble opinion, of course) straight up masterpieces.

So go! Read! And stay away from that crystal meth stuff...it's bad, believe me.
We'll open festivities today with one from the Political Correspondent:


In celebration of the working person's holiday, Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao has announced the Bush Administration's plan to end the 60-year-old law which requires employers to pay time-and-a-half for overtime.

Of course, I'd be more concerned if I actually had a job that required me to work a 40 hour week. For the rest of the article go here.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

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BSBdG's go out today to the Celtic Soul Brother-Van Morrison, 58 today. Favorite album: 1974's Veedon Fleece, even though you can't go wrong with any of his Warners records from 1969 till 1983. Haven't been too crazy about his recent output- either it's bland, r&b-ish songs full of clumsy name-dropping of poets, painters and mystics, or bland, r&b-ish songs bitching about how crappy the music industry and the world are. That being said, I heard a couple of cuts a while back from his most recent effort, 2002's Down The Road, and they didn't sound too bad, so I've been meaning to pick it up one of these days.

The great picture above, an outtake from the photo shoot for Morrison's 1972 release St. Dominic's Preview, was taken by Michael Maggid, from whose website I stole it. Hopefully he won't sue since I've linked to him and given him credit! Please?

Well, I was planning on keeping a low blogging profile this holiday weekend, but Sean Collins has called me out- twice!

First, I'll plead a mean culpa to perhaps getting a bit carried away in my estimation of the talents of Sean (Sleeper) Phillips. When one looks at his work objectively, it's been solid and always consistently interesting, and he's able to excel working in several different genres, be it supernatural, superhero, or spy-type stuff. But, he really hasn't acheived transcendence of subject matter and material as the likes of Clowes, Crumb or Ware have, if nothing else but because hes remained solely an illustrator and hasn't branched out into writing as well as drawing, to my knowledge. He's a solid craftsman, but to place him with more well-rounded creators is a bit premature. I still believe he's as good as it gets as far as mainstream comics illustrators go these days.

As far as the second call-out goes, all I can say is that I've led a sheltered life, I suppose, and I'm easily amused.

Friday, August 29, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of August 26

For the last seven months this low-key spy/superhero/conspiracy theory series has been getting deeper and deeper into the plight of its central character, deep cover agent Holden Carver, who's infiltrated a Illuminati-type group who are actually controlling world events- but the only person who knows about his mission is in a coma. He desperately wants out, and in this issue a way presents itself...but you know there will be complications. While I've been engaged by previous issues, this is the first one that really grabbed me where I felt it. Sean Phillips, another contender for ADD's list in my book, does his usual outstanding art job. I've read elsewhere that Sleeper only has four more issues to go- a shame, but I've no doubt that Brubaker and Phillips will go out with a bang. A

A mildly disappointing continuation of the multitude of storylines Paul Grist introduced in the color series. Excellently illustrated as usual, with several of Grist's trademark splash pages, but Paul the scripter is juggling too many plates for far too long- and not letting us see anything but brief glimpses is more frustrating this time around than engaging. Maybe I'm just impatient to read the end of the other storylines he had going on in the black-and-white book, who knows. A-

By far the week's best art job is turned in by John Cassaday in the new issue of this prodigal title- whether it's a mystical martial arts throwdown in ancient China or a battle of wits in a modern office building, the illustrations are nuanced and graceful, if a little spare...lotta credit goes to colorist Laura Martin, who Photshops the hell out of them. Scripter Warren Ellis, though, has provided another example of why American comics companies should consider the manga model- I've been reading Planetary since day one, and I had to stop and think several times about who Anna Hark was, and who her father was (still don't recall that one, dammit), who James Wilder was, and so on because it has been so frigging long since this book came out on anything resembling a regular schedule! I pity the fool, Mr. T, who picks this issue up without knowing anything about what has gone before...it's reader hostile for sure. That being said, Ellis's script on its own terms is great as usual in its terse way. Nobody does grim as well as Warren. A-

Well, I certainly was unimpressed with the journey, but I have to admit I really enjoyed the destination. Scripters Abnett and Lanning took a great three page story and stretched it out to five, and if DC showed any inclination to collect Legion stories then it would probably be worth it, but reading it in chapter form it really tried my patience, zigging when it should have zagged and throwing a whole kettle of red herrings at us. However, in this particular issue everything gets tied up and resolved neatly and cleverly, and the characterization of a couple of previously underexposed characters shines through. So...not the disaster I expected, but I hope DnA tighten things up in the future. The biggest benefit of the last five issues has been the showcase for (hopefully) future regular artists Chris Batista and Mark Farmer- their version of the LSH is certainly the best since Oli Coipel bailed, and maybe the best since Chris Sprouse and Karl Story (whom they remind me of a bit in places) so long ago. Next issue: an interesting looking Steve Lightle fill-in. A-

JLA 85
Maybe if I had never been a Major Bummer fan, I wouldn't hold the art of Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen in such high esteem, but I was and I do. I think these guys are providing some of the best mainstream superhero book art there is these days, and they turn in a typically outstanding job here. Problem is, their art does more for Joe Kelly's hit-or-miss scripting than vice versa. Actually, this issue (and this arc) is some of the most linear (and most accomplished) storytelling he's done since assuming the reins of DC's premeire super-team...but there's a been-there, done-that feeling to what seems to be the primary menace, and who the hell knows what he's trying to do with his uncharacteristically grouchy Superman, especially odd since he used to chronicle the exploits of the Man of Tomorrow for a while there. Still, when mind control is the major component of your plotline, one must give the writer some slack when it comes to characterization, methinks, and I'm willing to give Kelly the benefit of the doubt on that score. His J'onn J'onzz and Batman's been a little off too, further causing me to think there may be more than meets the eye here. We'll find out in two weeks! Wow- another full issue of Mahnke and Nguyen! B+

Another mysterious figure from Conjob's past has returned, this time getting his perenially-in-trouble cousin Gemma involved in some sort of nasty business with dangerous island dwellers. Mike Carey's efficient chapter one is a bit reminiscent of Lovecraft, perhaps, or some of the late Sixties-early Seventies films that were made based on his stories, like The Dunwich Horror or Die Monster Die!. effectively moody, and this Ghant fellow could prove to be an interesting adversary for JC. Don't know how, or even if, this ties in to the ongoing storyline, but no matter...this may be nothing more than an interlude in Carey's bigger picture, The art is by another newcomer (new to me, anyway)- Doug Alexander Gregory, and it's OK, very Mignola-inspired but a little sketchy and underdrawn in places. He's no Marcelo Frusin, for sure. B+

Once again, a mixed bag: the highlight is the lead story, a Liz Sherman spotlight wonderfully illustrated by the woefully underseen Jason Pearson. Pearson the artist outshines Pearson the scripter, though...it's a pretty standard demon possession story, notable for the ending. Story two is a silly Abe Sapien spotlight by John Arcudi and Roger Langridge. The art is lively and fun, but I wonder if Arcudi has ever read any issues of Hellboy. Story three is even more lightweight, and the John Cassaday Lobster Johnson story is just as deadpan strange as always. B-

I deemed this a failure three issues ago, and nothing since has really changed my mind, although I will admit that the last two issues worked a lot better than the first three. Taking the Creeper character, or at least the idea of a Creeper-type character into turn-of-the-century Paris and its art scene was a clever idea, but unfortunately the dialogue was lackluster at best, the big mystery pretty easy to guess early on, and the heavyhanded cameos by the big names of the Surrealism movement was a conceit best left for art appreciation classes. The ending was well-done, though, for what that's worth. Cliff Chiang is an artist who has a world of talent, and is obviously very skilled, but for some reason his style comes across to me as lifeless, uninvolving, and muddily inked. He has his admirers, though, so I suppose I'm in the minority there. Special mention must go to the colorist, Dave Stewart, who did a wonderful job for all five issues- his vibrant hues were the real highlight of this series. C+

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Of course you know I would never stoop to lowbrow titillation as blogfodder here at the Show, but this rather attention-grabbing photograph just kinda jumped out at me. I watched a little bit of the MTV Music Awards show, from whence this came, but somehow I managed to miss this. If you're inclined to care, a recap of the show can be found here.

And we laughed at the world
They can have their diamonds
And we'll have our pearls
I kissed a girl

I kissed a girl, her lips were sweet
She was just like kissing me
I kissed a girl, won't change the world
But I'm so glad
I kissed a girl

©Jill Sobule

Thursday, August 28, 2003

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Couldn't let the day go by without sending out a BSBdG, via the Black Racer, to the late great Jack Kirby, who would have celebrated his 86th today. Hail to the King, baby.

Good morning!

Teresa over at In Sequence has written a post that I liked a lot, so I thought I'd share it with you all. At first it points out the Sequential Swap program, but then becomes an eloquent appreciation of the 'floppy pamphlet" aka the humble comic book. I like the cut of that young lady's jib.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Gonna ramble, in best Dickie Betts and Steve Martin style.

Mrs. B, a month or so ago, found a half-dead kitten in our driveway, took him in, and nursed him back to health. Dino, as we have named him, is now a feisty and mean little shit who likes to snooze all day and romp all night, even to the point of jumping in our bed and pawing at our faces and biting our arms. He also likes to aggrivate our dog, who l ikes to sleep at the foot of our bed, and the ensuing struggles wake us up without fail. I have a difficult time at best going back to sleep after I've been awakened so I wind up getting out of bed and watching movies and videos and ESPN news during the wee hours. Right now, I'm sleeping for a couple of hours, getting up and staying up till 5:30-6 AM, going back to bed while Mrs. B is getting ready for work (at least one of us still has a job), sleeping till 10:30-11 AM, and having no time to do much of anything at all during the day, or being rushed whenever I try to do something, which mostly consists of running errands and posting on this here blog. Plus, when I get up, I always feel muzzy-headed and tired...so if my ramblings make less sense and have more typos than usual, then this is an explanation of sorts. Bear with me, cats and kittens. The little guy's so cute that you can't get too mad at him, but this shit is getting old.

So I was up at 4:45 this morning and thought to go outside to look for Mars. Maybe I missed the peak viewing time, or maybe it was so hazy and humid outside (ain't nothin' like Kentucky humidity, let me tell you) that the brilliance of the Red Planet was diminshed, I don't know...but it was disappointing. I've seen brighter morning and evening stars.

When I was a kid- oh, 8-10, I was fascinated by astronomy. Of course, it was back in the heyday of the space race and NASA and all that, but I just loved (and still do) going outside and looking at the stars. I had my little pocket field guide to all the constellations, and I would spend hours finding them all, in all sorts of weather. I knew all the names of the major stars in each of them, and hoped to someday, perhaps, be an astronomer if I couldn't be a comic book artist or rock star. Of course, I grew older and found out how much math one had to know to become an astronomer, and that pretty much knocked that in the head. I am proud to say, though, that I made an A in my college astronomy class.

I was one of the "fortunate' ones who read Ian Ungstad's fill-in All The Rage column Sunday afternoon at Silver Bullet Comics.com. It was a smarmy, innuendo-filled report that read more like the Enquirer than a comics column, and I was a little repulsed by it. Especially because he listed the things he did and (wisely) did not name a single name...which has the same annoying effect as the asshole, and we all have encountered them, who comes up to you or a group you're in and says "I know something that would curl your hair if you heard it", then says "But I can't tell you!". I would link to it, but it's been removed, thank God. Read about the removal over at ADD's. Mr. Doane has also recently posted a list of active creators and their works that he considers to be essential, and it's a good one, although I (like many of my fellow Team Comics bloggers) am completely unfamiliar with that Paul Hornschemeier fellow. His Forlorn Funnies looks interesting, so he's definitely a subject for further research. I don't know if I'm up to a list of my own like this, but I know I would add Paul Grist to it if I were.

Spencer Warren over at the Claremont Institute has compiled a list of great Westerns. What a great idea! I might have to do something similar soon. But I have a mighty strange idea of a good Western, and I liked Wyatt Earp, so look out! And for the record, I thought Dennis Quaid made a much better Doc Holliday than Val Kilmer. Heresy! Found over at Forager 23...I wonder if he took his name from the Kirby New Gods character?

EveTushnet has posted several interesting articles lately about Scott McCloud's Understanding and Reinventing Comics. I haven't read the latter, but I agree with her in several places on the former.

On the job hunt front, still no word from Cabela's, and the second phone interview with Donnelley was another screening call. The HR lady was unaware that I had already had one interview, and her tone changed notably when I told her so (she asked, by the way)...so I have a feeling that she's contacted the Glasgow division, been told why I haven't been rehired yet, and I won't hear from her again. But she left me her phone number, so I'll probably call it eventually.

All right, I'm finished for now. Gotta drive south and buy me some floppy pamphlets. Ta ta.

Finally got around to seeing the Warren Zevon special on VH1, which I had taped.

All in all, I thought it was very well done. Stupid questions were kept to a minumum, celebrity cameos were short and sweet, and the focus remained where it should: on the man, his music and his situation. I'm amazed and glad Zevon has hung in there as long as he has; initial diagnoses gave him until October 2002, and it's now approaching one year since the announcement of his predicament. All I can say is that I hope that he's not in too much pain now and is still getting something out of life. One of my first reactions after watching was surprise at how long it had been (maybe because of my own situation right now- the months have flown by) since his illness was made public. This documentary only took us until just after the album was complete, and didn't specify the date.

One thing remains constant with Zevon, no matter what- his dark sense of humor. He gets off several morbidly funny quips during the course of the hour. And what I heard of the album sounds pretty good. I haven't gotten around to listening to the streaming audio yet. There was a bit too much Billy Bob Thornton for my taste, but hey, he's apparently a good friend of WZ's so what can I say. It was cool seeing David Lindley play, with his raccoon tail sideburns, and they got quotes from some interessting people including his sometimes collaborator, author Carl Hiaasen.

All in all, an interesting, but sad hour. I hope Zevon continues to beat the odds.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

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Lest you think I've spent all my time with my nose buried in one floppy pamphlet or another, I've been watching some movies over the last few days as well...including a couple that have been on my "want to see list" for a few years now.

First up is Kissed, easily the best film I've ever seen about necrophilia. That's right, necrophilia- and it's not some low budget exploitation film made to get a quick buck but a sensitive and thoughtful portrayal of a definitely deviant practice. The deviant in question is one Sandra Larson (Molly Parker, above), who we first see as a young girl obsessed and fascinated with death. When she would find a dead animal, she would take it to a special burial ground and perform an elaborate ritual before she buried it, rubbing it on her body in what she called "the anointment". As a young adult, she is shown working at a flower shop but is soon employed at a funeral home after she makes a delivery and is so overwhelmed by the atmosphere that she asks to work there. Sandra, you see, believes that she's performing a sacrament of sorts, and acheives a kind of transcendence in which she "knows" her partner and comforts him, complete with white light and heavenly voices. Eventually, in college studying to be a mortician, she encounters a young man in a coffee shop who is attracted to her, and she likewise. She reveals her secret to him, and at first he's curious but becomes obsessed as time goes on with her and her habits, and while you're sure that no good will come of their relationship it takes an unexpected, but fitting, turn. Kissed deals with some pretty unpleasant stuff in a smart, reserved fashion. There's no explicit sex in the film, even though director Lynne Stopkewich makes it pretty clear what's going on. A memorable, sometimes disturbing but often beautiful film, it certainly enables me to come as close to understanding a necrophiliac as I ever want...and also makes me think maybe I might want to be cremated when I go.

I also caught the HBO film RKO 21, a fictionalized account of one of my favorite films, Citizen Kane- the genesis, filming, and subsequent struggles with its subject, newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst. Excellent performances by Liev Schreiber as Orson Welles, Roy Scheider as RKO studio head George Schafer, and Melanie Griffith, of all people, as Marion Davies, Hearst's mistress. She's no Claire Danes in The Cat's Meow, but she's pretty damn good. The filmmakers play fast and loose with the facts in the name of dramatics...but amazingly, it all works and you get caught up in the story just the same. The period detail is excellent, and the recreations of certain Kane scenes are spot on. I recommend that if you see this, see Kane afterwards to see what the fuss was about.

With all the recent Bob Hope tributes in mind, I sat down and watched his 1961 film Bachelor in Paradise on TCM this morning. It was aired as part of TCM's "Summer Under the Stars" theme, in which they spotlight a different film legend each day in August, and this was part of co-star Lana Turner's tribute. Made one year after I was born, I got a kick out of seeing furniture, clothes, cars, grocery store boxes and so on that I remember from pictures from when I was a baby. The story itself was a bit of antiquated fluff about Hope, a notorious bachelor and author of racy books about life in different countries, being forced by the IRS (his accountant had absconded with Hope's money and left him penniless and in debt to the government) to move into a planned community in California, where he intends to research and write a book about life in the suburbs in order to pay off his tax debt. Assuming an alias, he acts as advisor and benefactor to all the lonely, neglected housewives in the neighborhood, romances bachelorette Turner (whose house he rents), and pisses off all the husbands, and "hilarity ensues" until all misunderstandings are resolved and Bob gets the girl, for once. Like I said, this is all very dated-there's a scene where Hope encounters an odd little neighborhood girl in the grocery store parking lot as he prepares to go in; she's curious about the stranger, and she wishes to go with him to the grocery to help Bob out. She asks her mother, and her mother says OK! Yes, that's right! Can you IMAGINE that happening today? Bob would be in jail so fast his head would spin! Dated, yes-but it's fun, and I found myself chuckling several times. Also gotta mention the cool, jazzy score by Henry Mancini which kept impressing itself on my ear. So it's well worth a watch, if nothing else but to see a world that just doesn't exist anymore.

I've got at least three more movies that I've wanted to see for some time now, but haven't been able to find to rent and managed to miss them on cable: the recent Lost in La Mancha, the documentary of the failed filming of Terry (Fisher King, Adventures of Baron Munchausen) Gilliam's Don Quixote movie with Johnny Depp; The Whole Wide World, a 1996 film with Vincent D'Onofrio as Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard and Renee (sigh) Zellweger as the love interest; and 1995's Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, with Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dorothy Parker in this tale about her life and her role in the renowned Algonquin Round Table. Kissed was one of those films, and now I've seen it; so I suppose hope springs eternal. It took me 24 years to finally see Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr's Son of Dracula, which turned out to be an awful film but I'm one of the biggest Nilsson (and Beatle) fans there is, and I just had to see it.
Well, I see where Fox has dropped its suit against Al Franken, serving up a snarky cheap shot as they did so. The "Honi Soit" subheading is back in its accustomed place, and as I understand it, the "Fair and Balanced" blogthing is over. Had a great time, and thanks for playing. We have some lovely parting gifts waiting for you backstage.

On behalf of Tick, Futurama and Firefly fans everywhere, fuck Fox.

Maybe more later...

Monday, August 25, 2003

On a related note, here's what I'll be getting Wednesday according to the new Diamond shipping list:

JLA #85
(I'll believe it when I see it)

I'll also still have that copy of Witchblade Animated 1 and the Human Target TPB in my folder as well, but this looks to be a heavy week so I'll wait a while longer. My comics shop is having a 25% off sale Saturday, and if I have any money at all that might be a good time to pick those up.

Sean Collins has posted two very persuasive and well-thought-out posts about what he feels is central to the survival and eventual prosperity of those floppy pamphlets that some of us still refer to as "comics books"- the adoption and adaption of book formats and storytelling techniques currently employed by our friends to the East, who publish Manga (the Japanese term for comics, but you probably already knew that) that is distributed over here and is selling like those proverbial hotcakes.

And you know what? For the most part, I agree with him. Adopting the Manga model would certaily result in better-looking, more "real" book-ish , self contained stories that don't require familiarity with years and years of continuity, and presumably "real" booksellers would be more willing to embrace these titles. Despite the fact that I remain addicted to the monthly or bi-monthly (or more, depending on the creators) "pamphlet" coming out and giving me the same "fix" that watching a weekly television show does, it has always irked me when creators, for various reasons, will have to bail on a project in the middle of the run...and nine and one half times out of ten the creators named to replace them are not of the same quality. I think the Manga-style format would eliminate that, if the creators know going in that they're working on a finite story, then they can finish it at their own speed. Now here's where my ignorance of most Manga comes in (and I'll address that later)...it's unclear to me whether or not the model Sean has in mind is, say, the equivalent of six of what would have been monthly comics, coming out every other month, or once a year, or whatever. I don't really know what the frequency of actual Manga titles is. But if it means that some creators wouldn't have that 20 pages a month, every month deadline breathing down their neck, I think it would be a very good thing. I, for one, am perfectly willing to wait for an issue of a comic if it means that the original creators, the ones I'm presumably buying the book for, are able to do these stories without needing fill-ins, the inker of the month, or what have you.

Now as far as the notion of adapting Manga styles in the art and writing, in an effort to make the stories more palatable to the Manga audience, I'm a little less enthusastic about that. There's a strong Manga influence in a lot of mainstream comics already, if nothing else sort of a "monkey see, monkey do" factor, and while I understand that there is much more to Manga art and writing than we're seeing, I just don't want to see companies dictating art styles any more than is necessary. I know it goes on, but right now, I think there's a diversity in art styles, in comics right now, that we haven't seen in a long time, if ever. Remember, I'm of an age when the Jack Kirby Marvel House Style was enforced stubbornly, and I remember Barry Smith's early *shudder* efforts to conform. Many of the visual tricks- speed lines, figure rendering, superdeformity- are being employed frequently. I'm not sure I want to see much more cross-pollenation. I think if the content is there, then it's adaptable to any format. And that brings up another big problem I've had with most of the Manga I've read over the years, and frankly a big reason why I'm a little less enthusiastic about totally embracing the genre completely- while I am interested in and somewhat appreciate Japanese culture, most of the stories I've read, while often visually arresting, are extremely lacking story-and-content wise. Maybe this is just a case of me reading the wrong stuff, I don't know- but what I've read has been a mile wide and an inch deep, as they say around these parts. As a result, I just don't buy very many Manga, although I appreciate the use of its tricks in many of the domestic titles I do buy.

Another concern I have is, as always, price. Even though I know it's more cost-effective to buy a collection rather than individual issues, especially when most mainstream books go for $3 a pop, it's just easier for me to cough up $20 for six seperate books, for example, than it is for me to shell out the same amount, at least, for one collected title. I just read, over at Pop Culture Gadabout where commenter Darren Madigan notes that a parent is most likely going to be reluctant to buy their kids a three dollar comic book, if asked to do so. In this way, the book format might alleviate the "sticker shock" that parents might experience. I can see that, certainly- I bought comics for my son a lot when he was growing up, and I'm sure he would have had me buy him a lot more...but I just couldn't afford at least twice as many comics every week! I know, I know...a good parent would have cut back on his own purchases. Sigh.

I don't really have a problem with the trade dress style issue, because sometimes a certain uniformity can look very good. An example could be recent runs of both Batman and Detective Comics, along with most of the other Bat-titles, which sported a standardized logo design and just looked plain old sharp to my eyes. I think it will just be incumbent on the designer to make the books look as distinctive as possible.

I think perhaps Sean underestimates the pre-teen fixation on the likes of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon on sales of Manga collections. I'm not entirely convinced that Manga without some sort of TV, gaming or film tie-in would be as desirable to young buyers. However, the comics shop I frequent, located in a college town, does carry and sell Manga books, so it's not unheard-of. I don't know how much they sell; maybe I'll ask Wednesday.

So there you have it. Sean makes a very convincing argument, and as I said, I agree with him on a number of his assertions. This being said, if "floppy pamphlets" must be phased out, then I hope it's a gradual one. They may be relatively expensive, not very design-efficient, and obsolete as a product point, but I am one of the unenlightened that still enjoys his weekly fix- so I may be blinded to a lot of his argument. Either way, it's certainly been an argument that's provided a lot of inspired discourse on the subject. Go to the Usual Team Comics Suspects for more- like Bill Sherman, Dirk Deppey, Alan David Doane, Franklin Harris, Tegan Gjovaag, Neilalien and others for more.
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Lots of interesting people having (or would have had) birthdays today.

First, Declan McManus aka Elvis Costello, always interesting and listenable if not always enjoyable. His best album remains, to me, 1978's This Year's Model, but I still find myself listening often to lesser regarded efforts like 1991's Mighty Like a Rose and 1987's Blood and Chocolate. Elvis is 48 today.

Next, the only real James Bond, Sir Sean Connery, 73. Fave Connery films, besides the Bonds (a given) are 1975's The Wind and the Lion and The Man Who Would Be King, and I always thought he did a good job in 1981's otherwise dodgy Outland. Then there's The Untouchables, and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and...oh, you get the picture. So to speak.

Finally, the "It" Girl of the Roaring Twenties, Clara Bow, would have celebrated her 98th today...and I'll bet, based on the legendary stories about her heyday, she would have celebrated.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of August 20

Kind of a difficult week to rate- while most of what I bought was of good quality, almost everything had a flaw or two, preventing me from wholeheartedly embracing anything. Still, a good week.

The Target's been around since the mid-70s, but not much else has been done with him because writers have beither been unable or unwilling to dream up fresh situations in which to place him. Peter Milligan thought of something fresh a few years ago but unfortunately it's the only thing, apparently, he can think of so once again we get Chris Chance submerging his identity inside someone who he impersonates. A valid and logical, if somewhat cynical slant on this impersonator par excellence, but after one mini-series and the graphic novel (that I haven't read yet) of which this ongoing is a continuation, I'm thinking enough is enough. Javier Pulido saves the day with his expressive and deceptively simplistic art- as long as he's around I think I can be patient with Milligan. A-

The very thing that the likes of Neil Gaiman and the horde of CrossGen writers celebrate, Alan Moore sends up with this clever and fun spotlight on two of his Top 10 characters. A little slight, but always clever and while I think I like Zander Cannon better as Gene Ha's inker, he turns in a nice job with all the requisite Easter Egg-type stuff that 10 fans groove on. This is at least as witty as Shrek, which this resembles, and is a good first chapter to what promises to be a fun series. A-

In which the Kingpin finds out that, as the saying goes, "you can't go home again" and gets a convincing comeuppance from not only our hero but his former underlings as well. And if you think I've given everything away with major spoilers, well, you're wrong...as usual with Bendis it's the dialogue and character interaction that make the difference, and it's sharp as always. Myself, I'm hoping that maybe this will signal an end to the Miller-inspired DD/Kingpin/Elektra/Bullseye related plots that have been a part of this book forever and ever, and perhaps an opportunity to go in some other direction for a while. Docked a notch for a silly and self-indulgent sequence, during the big climactic showdown, in which many of the artists associated with DD past (and Bendis, too) get a panel each. It's nice to see Romita Sr. and Colan get a panel, and I know that it's intended to reinforce the weary feeling Daredevil has at having to face down the Kingpin again like so many times over the years- but it's needlessly distracting. B+

A fine "morning after" type story in which we get a few more plot threads tied and prepare for the next big story arc. The focus is mostly on the halfbreed angel Elaine Belloc and her ghostly friend Mona, whose rescue was the main object of the previous big quest, and their story is resolved in winning fashion. The art, by fill-in David Hahn (someon who I'm not familiar with at all) is OK, if a little cutesy- kinda reminds me of a cross between Linda Medley and Mike Allred, only not that good. One thing I know- I'll never be mean to a hedgehog, if I ever run across one. B+

The original Cinnamon was an Old West-type character, if I recall correctly, that had one or two backup stories in Weird Western Tales, or something like that. Introduced with little fanfare and drawn by Jack Abel, I think...she dressed all in white, and was gunning for the men who killed her Daddy. The DC Implosion did her in, although I seem to recall her popping up here and there in Jonah Hex or Weird Western in the 80s. I don't think she's been used since, but I may be wrong because I've never been what you could call a hardcore western comics fan. Anyway, here she is now, all tarted up and decked out in a long brown leather duster a la Sharon Stone in The Quick and the Dead and coming across all Clint Eastwoody. That duster is muy caliente in the desert, I'll bet. Hope she wears a good deodorant. I kept having to remind myself that I wasn't reading an issue of 100 Bullets, because everyone talks that terse, TV crime show dialogue and the artists draw in a style that looks like mid 80s Mike Mignola crossed with 100 B's Eduardo Risso...problem is, they haven't been studying Risso long enough to have his style down pat and there are a lot of awkward-looking panels, perspective shots and poses. But in spite of everything, something about the character is compelling so I'll keep buying. B

1602 1
I liked Sandman for the most part, especially when someone with a strong, interesting style like Jill Thompson or Marc Hempel illustrated it. Gaiman came up with one really interesting concept, his Endless family, and embellished it wonderfully...and if his dialogue was stiff, mannered and florid, well who cared? It fit the concept. I've never read any of his prose novels, so I can't really judge his acumen in that area. 1602 would be easy to dismiss as Neil's attempt to do a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, for Marvel, and someone's already undertaken the task of annotating it just like he did with League...but I don't really think that's what he's up to. The League was public domain characters in a somewhat generic "evil menace threatens the world" fantasy story setting, and Moore's wit and imagination made it more than just that. Gaiman has no sense of humor, at least not in his writing, and the story he seems to be setting up is Marvels again, but in a different setting, with lots of heavy handed cameos and more Easter Eggs. Combined with poorly rendered, fuzzy looking Andy Kubert art, the feeling I got from all this was that this is just more insular Marvel lore, recycled in Victorian clothes for True Believers and Marvelites everywhere. Will it get more interesting? I think so...but I'm not going to wait long. Four issues tops. B-

We get Alan Moore good and Alan Moore bad this week. I like the concept and the world Moore has created for his pulp hero homage Strong. It's a lot of fun. But he's gone way too far with all the dreary, convoluted time travel crap and multiple worlds with multiple Strong families of all shapes and sizes...it's like reading the same issue of What If? over and over and over again. Another attraction for me with this book has been the art by co-creator Chris Sprouse...but of course he's taking a break and this particular story arc is being illustrated by Jerry Ordway, whose precise and bland style doesn't add a thing. Best thing about this issue is Sprouse and Karl Story's cover, a nice swipe of Fantastic Four 26. C
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See, ADD, somebody used your banner!

So, apparently, at least two creators have delivered work to CrossGen, and have not been paid, and have met with stonewalling and excuses when they attempted to find out why. The publisher and his marketing director have resorted to namecalling and vague hints when responding to the allegations. The whole thing is summed up, so far, in typically succinct fashion by Dirk Deppey.

My take? While I understand that small publishers, like any small(er) business, have to resort to belt-tightening and can often have cash flow problems, still it seems like the creators in question have been dealt with in a very dodgy fashion. It reminds me of the last year I worked at WLOC in the early 90s (not to be confused with the WLOC where I work now...similar, but different and a long story). A small, family-owned station in a small town, WLOC had always depended on its advertising revenue from its daytime AM and FM programming to survive. It had a weak signal- sufficient in 1960, when the station was established, but hopelessly antiquated in 1992 and unable to get us out beyond a 25 mile range. When the owner died, previously existing cash flow problems got worse, resulting in several bounced and missed paychecks. When I confronted his youngest daughter, who had been running things, about getting paid (I was already owed two paychecks) I was told flat out that they just didn't have the money, and I should look at the big picture, "take one for the team", so to speak, and trust them to get me the money ASAP. Well, I couldn't go along with that...I love music as much as anybody on the face of God's Earth, and that station was a lot of fun, but I couldn't work for free...so I walked. They shut down two months later, and I never did get all that money back.

The freelancers who are having the difficulties with CrossGen don't have that luxury; they can only hope to become squeaky enough wheels to where they can get some grease. I think it would behoove CG to scrape up the cash somewhere, pay these fellows, and reduce the amount of future damage control they'll have to deal with. Easy for me to say, huh!

Maybe I could be more charitable if I was a CG reader, but other than a halfhearted attempt to read Meridian a few months ago I've never acquired the habit. I'm just not all that interested in the sort of Marion Bradley Zimmer/Anne McCaffrey/Tolkein sort of high fantasy-SF stuff that seems to be the main focus of the CG line. If I was 12 years old, I might think different, but sadly, I'm not...so I just don't care one way or another how the company fares, except that I would hate to see people out of work.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Hello...I've been out and about most of the day, and haven't had any time to sit and compose my thoughts, so no bloggage from me so far. I still have comics reviews to write, and that includes 1602- and I'd like to chime in on the interesting discussions going on here and there about manga and comics and adults who still read comics (like me, presumably) and CrossGen and so on and so forth.

So stay tuned.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

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BSBdG's today, a bit posthumously, to illustrator/author Aubrey Beadsley, who would have been 131 today.
At some point today, one of you lucky people will become the 10,000th visitor to my humble little blog, and for that I thank you, and everyone else who cares enough to visit.

I wish I could send you a prize or something, but I guess you'll just have to settle for my undying gratitude.
Well, Brendan's gonna do it soon, or so he says, and Rhonda's already done it, being inspired by Solonor. All the cool kids are doing it, so I will too.

What, you may ask?

My List of Top Five Guilty Pleasure Songs!

1. "It Might Be You" by Stephen Bishop.
The fact that this is a drop-dead lovely melody balances out its cloying sweetness, at least in my head. From the Tootsie soundtrack, by the way.

2. "Saturday Night" by the Bay City Rollers.
Yeah, the Rollers as a group or a marketing concept or whatever they were was dumb as hell, all wrapped in tartan and high-water pants...but this song is a stomping gem from the late glam-rock period (I'll bet Marc Bolan wailed and gnashed his teeth with envy when he heard it) and it always makes me dance around the room, just like Charlie Mackenzie's dad in So I Married an Axe Murderer.

3. "Foolish Beat"-Debbie Gibson
Another song that I was probably too old to appreciate fully when it came out...but the gorgeous melody receptors in my brain hummed along with pleasure. It's amazing that she wrote, arranged and performed this all by herself, or so the story goes.

4. "Mr. Roboto"-Styx
Dennis DeYoung, the writer of this camp classic, was so far up his own ass by the time he did this that he honestly thought he was doing significant social commentary. Fortunately for us, by the time he and the rest of the boys got finished with it, it came out as cheesy as just about every Styx song did. I'm not really a hard core Styx-basher, though, don't get me wrong- they were as tuneful as the next mid-70s corporate rock band, even if they did take themselves way too seriously, and I defy you not to carry this around in your head all day after hearing it. When I took Japanese language classes in college, the teacher made it a point to mention that "Mr. Roboto" does not come after "domo arigato". Another Styx song I love that was nowhere near as big a hit as "Roboto": "Music Time", in which they made fun of themselves for a change and it was funny and catchy as hell. Which is why, I'm sure, that it was a flop as a single.

5."When 2 Become 1"-The Spice Girls
Hey, stop snickering. I liked the Spice Girls. What's not to like? Five good-looking girls, with manufactured but likeable personalities (well, I'm not sure about Posh on that account) and some of England's best hitmakers working their ass off to write them hit songs. Just like the Monkees, but better looking. Anywho, this is another gorgeous song which gets in my head from time to time. Another nice ballad is from their final record, Forever: "Goodbye". In fact, I like that song better than this one, but "2 Become 1" was a bigger hit, so I figure you've heard of it, at least.

And there you have it! And the title "guilty pleasures" is a misnomer- I regret nothing, do you hear! Nothing!
Found links at both Neilalien and ADD to the forthcoming book Stan Lee and the Rise and Fall of the American Comic Book. This could be very interesting. There's already a few noteworthy items to be found in the "extras" section, mostly correspondence from the Smilin' One to Jack Kirby and others.

There are few more controversial topics in the comics world than who did what in Marvel's glory years. It seems fairly obvious to me that Kirby, Ditko, and many others had as much to do with the creation of these stories and characters as Lee did, and I've always bristled when I would see Stan get sole credit for the creation of the FF, Spidey, and others in the Marvel pantheon. It should be apparent that Kirby in particular was a creative and imaginative force in that period. I always have to ask: what did Stan create after Jack and Steve left? That being said, it's always seemed equally as obvious that Lee's greatest contribution was his snappy, fresh dialogue. Some of those early Marvels are a joy to read because of it. Sure, he could be melodramatic at times, but even then Stan had a recognizable style. One of the first comics I remember owning was Amazing Spider-Man 16, in which he teamed up with Daredevil against the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime. I recently re-read this story in an Essential collection, and I got just as many chuckles from the back-and-forth between Spidey and the Circus as I did over thirty years ago. I think Stan fed a lot from his collaborators-witness how stilted and bland his last scripting efforts were in the early 70s, the waning days of Marvel's Golden period after Ditko and Kirby had gone and Lee was phasing himself out of the editor position. That being said, I'm sure that Lee did contribute some story and character ideas as well- but his greatest contribution was as a scripter. Witness, also, the post-Marvel efforts of both Kirby and Ditko: Ditko always needed a scripter when he went over to DC, but his character ideas were as idiosycratic and interesting as always. When Ditko wrote his own dialogue, as in his Mr. A stories, it was as flat and dull as dishwater. Post-Marvel Kirby, especially his Fourth World, Demon and Kamandi series were bursting at the seams with energy and imagination, but Kirby's dialogue was, to be charitable, odd- even though it worked in the context of the stories.

And that's my two cents worth on that great debate. I'll try to keep an eye out (not literally-ouch) for this book- sounds like it could be a good read.
Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka?

Apparently Tim Burton's set to remake everyone's favorite Oompa Loompa movie, and the studios are hot to get Depp, fresh off Pirates of the Caribbean. Could be interesting, but after seeing what a mess Burton made of Planet of the Apes, I'm not sure I want to see him redo anything anytime soon...

Gene Wilder will be a very hard act to follow, that much I know for sure.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

I write like a girl.

Well, that's according to the Gender Genie, a neat little website which takes a sample of your writing and claims to be able to predict your gender, based on an algorithmic equation.

Poached from Susan.
By gum, it's new comic day!

According to the Diamond shipping list, here's what I'll be getting:


plus I'll have the first issues of 1602 and Witchblade Animated in my folder. I'll probably get the former, but I'm still undecided on the latter because I have less than no interest in the Witchblade character or, for that matter, any of the other Top Cow stable. I also have the softcover TPB of Human Target put back for me in my folder, but that's still a twenty dollar item and I just can't afford it right now. I'm also considering Cinnamon: El Ciclo 1...but I doubt I'll get it. Looking forward to Smax, though...it's the first continuation of Top 10 since that great series went on hiatus a year or so ago.

I've been reading a lot, here and there, in the comics blogosphereiverse about many new interesting books that have come out, most notably Craig Thompson's Blankets, which looks like an obvious work of care, quality and craft but at 30 bucks is way out of my price range. Plus, to be honest (and I haven't read it so this is an uninformed opinion if there ever was one), from the 5 page preview I read it seems like one of those earnest, achingly sincere TV-show dramas, about as exciting as church, that I wouldn't watch if you paid me. A lot of very intelligent folks are singing its praises, though, so I'm willing to be proven wrong. But unless someone sends me a free copy it won't be anytime soon! Also, the Acme Novelty Library Datebook looks pretty spiffy. Big Sunny D and Alan David Doane (along with yours truly, the three-headed David hydra of comics blogging) like it. And to be honest, Chris Ware's series is one that I've been interested in for a long time- I even own an issue or two. But back issues are somewhat hard to find in the comics shops I have access to, and I'm just not intrigued enough to order from Fantagraphics and pay shipping and all that. But as a has-been Graphic Designer I can tell you that Acme, not only the Datebook but the whole series, is a marvel. As in the adjective, not the company. Here's another book, though, that's just too damned expensive for me to purchase. Bet your ass, though, that if I hit the lottery I'll soon have a complete Acme collection. Also, Sunny D and ADD express appreciation for the most recent issue of Eightball, about which I wholeheartedly agree. No one can express deadpan strangeness like Daniel Clowes. Fortunately, I've been a longtime Eightball reader and have had this issue for some time now...but it came out before I started blogging, so I've never written about it. I wonder what his version of Auto-Focus would have been like?

On a more personal note: the State of Kentucky computer systems have been down, probably virus related, causing my unemployment check to be late. And I have the biggest bills of the month due today. Ah, worra worra me.

Some news on the job hunt front, though: I received a call from R.R. Donnelley yesterday, setting up another phone interview tomorrow. I'm a little nonplussed by this, since I've already had at least one phone conversation and a face-to-face interview as well. Guess we'll see. They might be calling to tell me thanks, but we can't use ya. I have also heard from my contact at Printlink.com about the Cabela's job in Nebraska- she says that they're very interested in me and I should hear something within the week. Light at the end of the tunnel or oncoming train? Stay tuned!

Saw the embarrassingly bad 1993 film Boxing Helena last night. I'm tellin' ya, it blew chunks. Bad acting, ludicrous script, cheat ending, it had it all. I suppose that it's a wonder this odd film got madein the first place- I seem to remember a lot of controversy prior to it being filmed. Kim Basinger was sued (or sued the filmmakers) either because she backed out or was dropped or something, and Madonna was considered to replace her...blah blah blah. Anyway, they settled on Sherilyn (Twin Peaks) Fenn and Julian "what the hell happened to my career" Sands as the principals, and while both have done fine work in other films, they flat out suck here. Sands is twitchy and wooden as the nutty surgeon who becomes obsessed with the shrewish Fenn...so he manuevers a way to get her to his house, where she gets hit by a truck, giving Sands the opportunity to amputate her legs and (eventually) her arms, and places her in a box where he can wait on her hand and foot, no pun intended. This sounds horrifying, but believe me when I tell you that it's all presented as neatly and cleanly as can be. No cheap shocks or gore effects, which would have probably livened this mess up a bit. This film crawls at a snail's pace- after I had watched for what seemed like a long time, I looked at thecable channel guide, which shows how much time is left in the movie, and it said there was another hour and twenty minutes to go! Also on hand are Bill Paxton, overacting mercilessly as Helena's snubbed boyfriend, and Art Garfunkel, underacting mercilessly, perhaps in a vain effort to keep the viewer from noticing his puffy, pointy, bald-in-the-middle hair, which reminds one of Dilbert's pointy-haired boss. So here's a word of warning, boys and girls...don't be like me and succumb to curiosity about this formerly controversial, little seen film. Don't watch. Resist. You won't miss a thing, unless you're as devoted to Fenn as Sand's character was to Helena, and if that's the case you need to get a life!

Well, I'm going to get from here now and head south on my comics run. Of course, you know that I'll inflict my opinion of each on you right in this here space. Later!
Get out your party hats, cake and ice cream...we've got a triple shot of BSBdGs today!

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First, ol' Percy himself, Robert Plant, 55 today. His solo career has had its share of ups and downs, but at least he's always been determined to follow his muse and not crank out product. Of course, he's already earned his place in Rock and Roll Valhalla for his idiosyncratic vocals as Led Zeppelin's frontman.

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Next, a somewhat less famous (but no less important) figure than Plant, John Hiatt, 51. Even though he's never had much success as a solo performer, many artists have gone on to have huge hits with his songs, most notably Bonnie Raitt with "Thing Called Love". Favorite album: 1997's Little Head, another album which most regard as one of his weakest. Seems to be a trend with me.

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Finally, none other than seminal horror and fantasy writer H.P. Lovecraft, who would have been 113 today. If you've heard of the Necronomicon or the “Cthulhu Mythos”, well, he's the bloke what created 'em. Hopefully, he didn't go on to encounter anything he wrote about.