Monday, December 15, 2003

Well, it doesn't look like I'm going to get around to posting much, thanks to muchos errandos early today and mucho Christmas shopping-o this evening.

I will note a couple of things, though.

First, the thorough job Dirk Deppey has done in following up on the Corner Comics situation. There's an old saying that there are two sides to every story, and the truth usually falls somewhere in between, and I think this might apply to that situation. It's still a troubling thing to have happen to any comics dealer, but in accordance with that age-old survival of the fittest thing it's also a good idea to make sure you know your tax laws, especially when it comes to taking inventory. Easy for me to say, I know. I don't know the first thing about business or running a shop, so chances are I might have fallen into the same trap.

And a quick comment on the big news topic of the day: Saddam Hussein's capture. That's great, someone needed to make sure that rotten old bastard doesn't cause more trouble. I'm not so sure that going all John Wayne on his country and pissing off most of the free world in the process was exactly the way to go about it, and I fear there will be consequences undreamed of in the post-capture afterglow, but I don't suppose you can argue with the results, can you? At least not in certain circles of the land of the free and the home of the brave. For those who feels that the ends always justifies the means, these are the days, as the song goes. I hope that now that Dubya's settled the score for his old man, someone will think to ask Hussein where Bin Laden is...

Meanwhile, on Planet Dave, tomorrow is the first day of my new career as a newspaper person. I'm not sure if I'll get the opportunity to surf the web and post to the ol' blog like I did at my previous employer, so stay tuned...we shall see what we shall see!

Sunday, December 14, 2003

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BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of December 10!


HELLBOY: WEIRD TALES 6
The Mignola-less Hellboy series of the last couple of years, like this and B.P.R.D., have been pretty much hit and miss so far, mostly on the miss side. However, in the wake of what has to be the absolute worst Hellboy-related spinoff to date, last month's B.P.R.D.: There's Something Under My Bed, we get what is in my humble opinion the absolute best Mignola-less Hellboy story ever- this issue's lead by Wil Pfeifer and P.Craig Russell. Pfeifer gets the MM pacing and dialogue down very well, cooking up a clever tale with a hint of Anne Rice, perhaps, but a novel setting just the same and with an ending that I didn't really see coming (it's not that revelatory; I suppose I'm just slow), plus some charming characterization. Russell draws the best Hellboy this side of Mr. M himself, and is the beneficiary of a script which allows him to play to his strength. Next up is a Liz Sherman story with surprisingly effective and creepy art by Gene Colan, which shows that the old master has a lot left in the tank. Finally, there's a humorously written and cleverly drawn tale by Craig (Blankets) Thompson in a Wally Wood-ish style. There may have been a couple better-crafted comics I read this week, but none of them entertained me as much as this one, so for this week, it's number one. A

GOTHAM CENTRAL 14
Solid as usual, both script-and-art-wise, with Brubaker and Lark particularly excelling at showing the routine procedures and everyday annoyances of the GCPD- the stakeouts, the conferences with an over-expectant and self-centered Mayor, and the like. But since this is part three of a four-part story, and reads like it, nothing especially earth-shaking happens except perhaps at the very end, which makes the inevitable case for the trade paperback collection (where this will, no doubt, read wonderfully as one chapter of a long story) over the single issue system. A

FABLES 20
Another small segment of a larger story that will no doubt read better as part of a collection, and again, nicely written. I wish I could say well illustrated, but despite some nice panel layout design Mark Buckingham is incompetent when it comes to figure drawing, especially facial expressions, and inker Steve Leialoha apparently doesn't care enough to help him out. A-

WANTED 1
Well, this one's actually very simple. If you like Mark Millar's The Ultimates and Authority, and are fond of Grant Morrison's more down-to-earth work in the Marvel Boy vein, then this is the book for you. There's not an original word in it, but it's still entertaining because he scripts it in brisk style, which makes it easy to overlook some of the odd set pieces, especially the whole head-scratching bit with the Eminem-lite protagonist and his boss. For me, the main attraction is the promise of J.G. (again, Marvel Boy) Jones interiors, and he does not disappoint. Some of you may be more finicky than I, though, so proceed accordingly. A-

100 BULLETS 48
The original story arc that introduced us to potential Minuteman (and full-time drug addict) Jack was not one of Azzurello's best, in my opinion, but at least it was brief and easily forgotten. Too easily, because now we have junkie Jack (about which I remember very little) doing an encore, and it's as convoluted and awkward an 100B script as Azz has ever written. I don't really buy the motivations of any of the principals involved, except for the pursuit of bad fun for its own sake (and you'd like to think there's more to it than that), and the confusing narrative makes it the story even harder to like. Of course, Ed Risso does his usual excellent job with what he's been given. Another annoying thing is that right now 100B is on a bi-monthly schedule, so A & R can go play with Batman, and the wait between issues doesn't help story clarity either. I know, I know, another argument in favor of collected trades. Sigh. B

H-E-R-O 11
22 ad-infested pages of excellent Kano art is not adequate compensation for the script it illustrates, a lackluster rehash of recent Bendis Powers rehashes of 2001: A Space Odyssey ,Quest For Fire, and (snicker snicker) Caveman. Perhaps Wil Pfeifer worked so hard on his Hellboy story that he didn't have time to polish this one, who knows. I do know, though, that the good will this title built on its original story arc is in serious jeopardy of evaporating completely. C+

1602 5
Although I'm sure the idly curious and the skeptical bailed about two issues ago, those of us who have stuck around, for whatever reason, are being rewarded with a definite upswing in...well, in what I really can't say: Gaiman's script and dialogue are as twee as ever, and Andy Kubert's art is as blurry and awkward as always. But all I have is the vague awareness that suddenly, somehow, I'm a bit more interested in where it's all going and whatever is going is headed there at a faster pace, and for that I'm thankful. Docked a notch for the odd-looking tennis-shoe-like objects Kubert's wearing on his feet in the cutesy page one cameo. C+

Coming later this week: a review of The Walking Dead 3, which I didn't get last Wednesday due to a mixup with my comics shop, and a word or three about Paul Pope's Heavy Liquid, which I haven't finished yet...

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Put your hands together and give it up for Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

Last week: 11-5. Overall: 121-72, .627 .

Minnesota over Chicago
Indianapolis over Atlanta
Cincinnati over San Francisco
Kansas City over Detroit
Tampa Bay over Houston
St. Louis over Seattle
New England over Jacksonville
Tennessee over Buffalo
Pittsburgh over NY Jets
Denver over Cleveland
Baltimore over Oakland
Dallas over Washington
Carolina over Arizona
Green Bay over San Diego
New Orleans over NY Giants
Philadelphia over Miami

Friday, December 12, 2003

Henious beyond belief is the situation first brought to everyone's attention by Laura over at Bloggety, of her friend, comics shop owner Paige Gifford, and her troubles with the IRS over her back inventory. There's been a great response all over the comics community to this situation over the last day or so. Now it seems that, in Laura's most recent update, Paige is resigned to the fact that there's nothing she can do to avoid having to pay thousands of dollars in taxes on her unsold stock, unless she destroys it by a set date. Dirk Deppey and Jim Henley provide a nice roundup of links on the topic so far.

Now, I don't know about you guys, but does the idea of being forced to shred hundreds upon hundreds of books, both good comics and crappy ones as well, fills me with dismay. While I'm not necessarily worked up over old copies of Force Works or Steeltown Rockers being destroyed, there's still the frightening precedent this sets, especially if this tax law gets widespread attention and the IRS's gaze is turned on your local comics shop. The notion of someone shredding unsold issues of, say, Penny Century, 100%, or Kane (or name your favorite) is appalling to say the least.

I don't know what can be done, but I do know that this is all kinds of wrong and if by chance someone who knows something about tax law that hasn't already read the coverage on another blog can do something, anything...then I will have helped a bit.

Boy, these are uncertain times we live in, aren't they?
Jim Henley recently got something started a few days ago with a list of favorite cover versions of various songs.

Late for the party as usual, here are 10 of the covers I've known and loved. This is in honor of one of the greatest interpreters in popular music history, Frank Sinatra, who would have celebrated his 88th birthday on this date. Original artist, when possible, in parenthesis-

Randy Travis-Nowhere Man: (The Beatles/John Lennon) He performed this at an all-star tribute to John Lennon back in '85, I think it was. Just him, an acoustic guitar, a symphony orchestra, and his dolorous, nasal baritone twang- and it was heart-rending, I'll tell you. All the alienation and self-doubt that John was trying to describe in this song were realized magnificently by Mr. Travis, of whom I'm not really a fan. But for this one song, at least, he was great.

Terence Trent D'Arby-Wonderful World: (Adler/Alpert/Cooke) This appeared on an EP, probably that of his then current hit "Wishing Well". The first time I ever heard Mr. D'arby, he performed this on some late-night concert show- I'm thinking it was the one filmed in Britain that Jools Holland used to host. Anyway, D'arby sings this old chestnut with a lot of feeling, almost acapella, and it absolutely works.

Rod Stewart-Mama You Been on My Mind: (Bob Dylan) Waaay back in the long ago days when Rod aspired to folk/rock/blues and was worth your time, he recorded this for his Never A Dull Moment LP with Ron Wood and his usual group of Faces. It's a warm and winning version, with a lovely steel guitar solo, of a song which Dylan never really got around to putting on an album proper but used to perform live with Joan Baez a lot.

Roger McGuinn-Dreamland: (Joni Mitchell) McGuinn recorded this 70's Mitchell tune with Mick Ronson at the production helm on what is arguably his best post-Byrds solo effort, Cardiff Rose. Great fuzzed wah-wah Ronson guitar, jamming little sax solo at the end, and McGuinn intoning Joni's cryptic lyric as the wash of sound bouys him along. Roger also did a great cover of Dylan's "Up To Me" on the same record.

Flo & Eddie-Days: (The Kinks/Ray Davies) One of the best cuts from the former Turtles' second solo album, which came out in 1973. Bob Ezrin was on hand to do the production honors, and he provides a lot of bombast and echo, making this an almost anthemic hard-rock take on an undeservedly obscure, and much quieter in its original version, Kinks tune. Elvis Costello did this many years later, and it was good as well. Good songs will out!

Joe Henry-Let Me Have It All (Sly Stone): On his 1996 album Trampoline, former country-rocker Henry surprised everyone by turning this into a harshly funky, somewhat jazzy, fuzz-guitar driven exercise. Of course, Sly's original was funky too, but Henry put an edge on it that was missing in its original incarnation.

Bowie-I Can't Explain (Pete Townshend) One of the many excellent covers that Bowie included on his 1973 album Pinups, he benefits from a wonderful arrangement by Mick Ronson, who also contributes a lazy, but cutting, guitar solo. I'm also very fond of his cover of the old McCoys tune "Sorrow", and he did very well by Tom Verlaine seven years later with "Kingdom Come" from Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).

Steve Hillage-It's All Too Much: (George Harrison) super-hippie guitarist (and now-techno guru) Hillage didn't deviate much from Harrison's Yellow Submarine original (itself a tribute to Hendrix), but by virtue of his amazing guitar playing made this song his own on his 1976 LP L, which was produced by Todd Rundgren, himself no stranger to the cover version. In fact, it was that same year that Todd released his own half-covers LP Faithful.

Lowell George-Easy Money: (Rickie Lee Jones) George, on his only solo LP, Thanks I'll Eat It Here, covers this bluesy Jones song from her first album with style and wit.

Harry Nilsson- Zombie Jamboree (Back to Back): (Conrad Mauge, Jr.) Nilsson was as good a songwriter as he was an interpreter, and it's one of life greatest ironies that he had his biggest successes as a recording artist with covers of other people's songs. This is a uber-obscure novelty song from the 1920's, done in reggae style for his 1975 album ...That's The Way It Is, which was mostly covers anyway. Of course, by the time of this particular release his career as a million-selling recording artist was pretty much over, thanks to the dissolute lifestyle he embraced after hitting it big, and there were no hits from the record, which barely got promoted- making this doubly obscure. Be that as it may, this song is a hoot and a half, and to this day I wonder what the hell the "Moiba Ginger Beer" mentioned in the song is like.

I could probably rattle off another couple of dozen if given the time but I don't think I want to right now. These are the ones which immediately came to mind, so here they are.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please.

I have just taken a position with the Bowling Green Daily News. Yes, it's true, I am now once again employed full-time. I start Tuesday at 8. Woo hoo!

More later.
The redoubtable RStevens, whose wacky and wonderful webcomic Diesel Sweeties is always worth your time, emails me with this question:

...is it just me, or does the comics media pretty much ignore web
comics? I just find it kind of funny that Penny-arcade.com gets more
visitors in a day than Jim Lee Batman comics sell in a month, yet no
one talks about it.

Is it too different a medium, or just a blind spot for most bloggers?


I honestly have no answer to this. Myself, I enjoy several (but a microscopically small amount) of the webcomics out there, including DS, Scary-Go-Round, and Small Stories, and try to mention them from time to time, but it's not all that often. Perhaps it's because webcomics haven't been around as long as their floppy cousins, and just haven't achieved that mythic status in most comics bloggers' pantheon. When it comes right down to it, all I can do is speak for myself, and I don't know! I'm sure that RS is aware of Comixpedia, which is devoted to webcomics, and Scott McCloud does his best to keep the flame, but it's true, webcomics just don't get discussed all that often, at least in the circles I'm privy to.

Would anybody else care to take up the discussion? The floor is now open.
Linkin', linkin', whatcha been drinkin?

Jen Wang points us to yet another extremely talented illustrator: Matt Rhodes. Go forth and viddy.

I'm so jealous.

Other places of interest I've viddied lately include:

Shynola, the clever folks behind Junior Senior's great Move Your Feet video. Click to view- you need Quicktime. Move Your Feet never fails to make me smile and dance around like only an overweight middle aged white boy can, even though I spend about 65% of my time in a morbidly depressed state.

A pretty cool-looking record store: Aquarius Records. Now if I could only afford to shop them.

A little seasonal stuff for yas: The Twelve Days of Kitschmas. Found via sweet Susan.

Another interesting artist: Svetlana Chmakova. I love that name Svetlana. Anyway, this came via Jason Marcy, another mostly comics blogger whom I suppose I should add to the swelling ranks of the proud, the not-so-few, the Linked of Johnny Bacardi! Same goes for Dewey's World, who's already linked to me!

I linked to this last year, but it's such a cool site that I'm gonna do it again, by God. Modern Drunkard magazine. What else are the holidays good for if not as an excuse to drink to excess?

Noticed where that perennial holiday favorite, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, aired the other night. Wonderful old cartoon, which I remember watching as a four-year-old, and many more times over the next thirty plus years. Truly a classic, with memorable songs and fun characters. And of course, Santa Claus on the Norelco Shaver toboggan. However, That Cavortin' Bastard has a different take on this Rankin-Bass standard, and it's funny as hell. The Bastard has been silent since 2001, and he is missed. Where the hell are ya, TCB? Did you take one last trip down yo' dark alley, and meet someone you couldn't mess up?

Ok, that's enough of this. Metafilter I ain't. I've got an actual art project that I need to get started on, yes, that's right. Painting Santa Clauses on weathered planks. Real crafty-type stuff, for me Ma. I'll do almost anything for me sainted Ma, even paint. Maybe if you're all good boys and girls, I'll even post a picture of one of them. Plus, Mrs. B gets off work early on Thursday, and I'm sure she has my entire day planned out for me.
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Inga: Hallo! Vould you like a roll in ze hay?
[Dr. Frankenstein stutters]
Inga: It's fun!
[She begins to roll in the hay.]
Inga: Roll, roll, roll in ze hay!

Sendin' out mad BSBdG's today to the pride of Lakewood, Ohio and hay roller par excellence: Teri Garr, 54 today.

Some of Teri's credits include Head, (of course) Young Frankenstein, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and (unbilled) Ghost World. She also appeared as an extra or unbilled in Elvis films and beach party movies. Her place in cool film Valhalla is most assured, and I don't care if she was in Mom and Dad Save the World or Dumb and Dumber.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Hello!

It's been another one of those days, in which I spent the majority of my time running around and leaving myself no time to speak of in front of the butterfly curtains.

I had a job interview today, at a newspaper in nearby Bowling Green. Could be interesting and enjoyable, but the pay's not great. Still, it pays better than unemployment benefits, and lasts a heck of a lot longer, so if they want me, I'm theirs. They will, as the saying goes, make a decision in a few days. I did find out that based on a 5-minute typing test that I can type 53 WPM. Good to know.

The great comics cover debate has raged on without me for most of the last couple of days; I don't really have much to add to what I said earlier but I will say that I could post any number of examples of what I think some of the "best" covers of the last ten years are, but what's the point? As some sage once said, opinions are like assholes, everybody has one...and until someone comes up with unquantifiable criteria for determining once and for all what constitutes the "best", then all you would have is what I think are the best, and while that goes a long way on Planet Dave, it means significantly less to the wild wanton world. I will state for the record as saying out of the examples ADD posted today, I really liked that Green Arrow, admired the cleverness of the Promethea, even though I think there were at least a dozen better ones (including the McCay swipe of an issue or so prior), somewhat liked the evocative, but static Chris Ware, and was mostly indifferent to the others. Crumb is always good, but I've seen him do better, I'm not really a Boswell fan, and while I have always appreciated the joke behind Destroy!!!, at the time I wanted to see more Zot!, and didn't really think that the finished result was as inspired as the initial idea. But the cover certainly clues you in to the content and grabs the attention, fer shur!

And Tegan: I loved that Bolland Gotham Knights cover. Bolland is the master of the clever, arresting image. I thought his series of covers for Vol.3 of The Invisibles were brilliant for the most part, among many others.

Speaking of comeek books, I got my stack today and didn't notice Walking Dead #3 wasn't in it until I got home. I called and had them put it back for me, but I probably won't get it until next week. Sigh. I did get my copy of Paul Pope's Heavy Liquid today, so I'm looking forward to the chance to kick back and read it.

Moving on to other topics, I've been asked to do a Christmas Vinyl-O...but I don't know if I can! I don't really own all that many, especially any that are particularly noteworthy. Last year about this time I posted a list of my favorite individual Christmas songs, so maybe that will suffice and I can do a proper secular MV-O sooner rather than later. I've been very aware that my music blogging has suffered due to all the comics blogging I've done lately, and I hope I can get lots of new music for Christmas so I'll have more to write about! Hint hint!

Shifting gears now, I heard this morning, to my amazement, that the Atlanta Falcons had canned head coach Dan Reeves! I'm a little divided about this news, while I felt that Reeves' style was conservative to a fult sometimes, especially this Vick-less year, still he has had more success with my hapless Falcons than any other coach has had, and I especially was surprised that the firing came with three games left in the season! As I understand it, the Falcons' owner Arthur Blank told Reeves that he was history after the season was over, and Reeves requested that he be let go now rather than serve in a lame duck capacity. Well, OK, understandable, and it does free Blank up to do his search for a new coach sooner rather than later...but I feel Reeves deserved a bit better. Of course, Blank inherited Reeves, didn't choose him, so you knew it was a matter of time...and of course, Michael Vick missing 3/4 of the season, thus ensuring the Falcons' season would be a disaster didn't help his case. If Vick had remained healthy, the Falcons win 9-10 games, go to the playoffs, and Reeves becomes tougher to fire. Que sera sera, I suppose, but I don't like any of the candidates for his replacement mentioned so far.

I feel the urge to write a paragraph or two about the fascinating book I just read Nick Drake: The Biography by Patrick Humphreys, which is exactly what it says it is- an account at the brief life and undeniable talent and legacy of the enigmatic musician, of whose work I am an admirer.

Oh well, that's enough for tonight. I leave you with a great quote, which doesn't apply to anything in particular as far as I'm concerned, it's just a great quote:

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. Dorothy Parker

Oyasumi nasai. Y'all.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

RABID

Much of your
time is spent growing mind-altering plants in
your garden, and looking after your Friends and
Relations. You're still looking for that
elusive vinyl copy of the first X-Ray Spex
album.



Which inhabitant of the Hundred Anarchist Wood are you?
brought to you by Quizilla


Hey Brendan, I took your quiz!
Alan, Alan, Alan. To paraphrase Frank Zappa, "Superheroes aren't dead, they just smell funny".
And speaking of comics, here's what I'll be getting tomorrow according to the Diamond shipping listy-poo:

HELLBOY WEIRD TALES #6
100 BULLETS #48
FABLES #20
GOTHAM CENTRAL #14
HERO #11
WALKING DEAD #3
WANTED #1
1602 #5


And that's it! Bigger stack than I had the last couple of weeks, for sure. It will be interesting to see if Walking Dead can maintain its strong start, and of course Gotham Central , 100 Bullets and Fables are usually always worthwhile. And then there's 1602. There's a part of me which is telling me to pass on #5, and take the four issues of 1602, three Hulk: Grays, and the two Superman: Red Sons I have, sell them back to my comics shop, and buy the Red Son TPB when it comes out. We shall see. Wanted has J.G. Jones art, which is enough of a reason to buy for me, even though the preview I read comes across as more of Millar trying to recapture past Authority glory, and we have too much faux Authority-ishness going on right now as it is.
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Best superhero cover of the past decade? Nah. Methinks ADD lets his desire to stir up the drink lead him to slosh it out of the glass and onto the bar.

But, I do like this cover very much. It's a clever rendition of the classic X-Men, before Claremont and dozens of anonymous hacks had their way with the Merry Mutants. Its chief appeal, to me, lies in its novelty and subtlety, plus it gives me a nice little nostalgia rush, as someone whose first X-Men comic was #9. From 1964. The JSA drawing he mentions is a very nice one as well, with his understated and somewhat pug-ugly versions of the Golden Agers successfully evoking memories of the less, shall we say, accomplished or facile art style of that bygone age. I really like his Spectre, by the way. Does he look pissed off or what? I'm reminded of a Paul Grist X-Men illo that I saw in an issue of Comic Book Artist a while back, or the funny Dean Haspiel Captain Marvel story that appeared in Bizarro Comics, which ended in Cap buying the whole JLA and JSA ice cream.

Of course, how much you agree with ADD's bold statement will depend on what you think the function of a superhero comic cover should be. Seth's illustration is understated, muted. It's a nice drawing. Kinda fun to look at. And true, it has enough curiosity value that it might attract one or two readers who ordinarily wouldn't touch a Seth comic book. Plus, you can't underestimate the collector mentality- I'm sure there will be those who will buy the darn thing simply because it's an X-Men appearance!

But as the kind of comic cover that today's reader has come to expect, it fails miserably. It's not dynamic. It doesn't shout at the reader "Buy me! You won't be able to live with yourself if you don't!". It's not inspiring or heroic-seeming in itself, nor is it dark and gloomy or ironic enough to appeal to the Vertigo crowd. Its chief strength is in its novelty value, and the fact that it's a clever illustration doesn't enter into the equation. It creates the same impression as a new Fred Hembeck cover would, for example. It's tons of fun, but like the Haspiel Bizarro story, doesn't aspire to grandeur or excitement or Wagnerian stürm und drang nor does it aspire to the Perez, Adams or Kane model of a "good" comics cover.

So do I like this cover? Hell yes. It's great. But do I think it's the "best comic cover of the decade"? Nope. Sorry.

Besides, what the heck is a "Coober Skeber", anyway?
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThose disgustingly talented Pants Press people have been posting a lot of great stuff lately, especially Jen Wang, who has put up some excellent "brushpen girl-doodles" like the above example. I strongly suggest you, yes you, go check them out.
I understand that Mark Waid and Barry Kitson are to take over "Legion" some time next year.

I'm told that the current team of Andy Lanning, Dan Abnett and Chris Batisita have around a year's worth of material to be published, and are looking for other projects. One of Dan and Andy's collaborators on one of their final "Legion" issues will be Keith Giffen, and they may look to pursue further projects with him.


For me, this is not good news. Once again, DC is looking out for my best interests by helping me narrow down my regular comics purchases. From the latest Lying in the Gutters column.

Monday, December 08, 2003

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Couldn't let the day go by without noting that today marks the 23rd anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. Yasurakani nemure, John.

The above picture was poached from Cyril Maitland. Many thanks to Namiko Abe for the translation.
Guess I should have included this in my reviews, but I forgot. Anyway, I also checked out the first issue of Kyle Baker's long-awaited (by some) Plastic Man on Wednesday, and wasn't impressed so I didn't buy. Baker's version of the Shadow is one of my all-time favorite series, and I liked Why I Hate Saturn and You Are Here a lot too...but for the last 10 or so years his work has slowly devolved into some sort of sloppy, hyperactive wannabe Disney hybrid, and frankly, it's not very much fun to look at anymore. Many times his art on The Truth appeared to be on the level of convention sketches, and while he seems to have taken a bit more care here, it's just too slapdash for me to enjoy. I suspect that he would rather be doing something else- animation, caricatures, God knows- and considers comics work beneath him somehow. Story-wise, it was an efficient re-imagining of his origin, and the cliffhanger at the end was Cole-ish enough...but he really does need to go back and re-read some of those classic Plas stories and get a handle on how to write Woozy Winks. He was comic relief, and later became a bit of a stooge, but he was no drunk and was rarely portrayed as a complete idiot.

Maybe it will get better, who knows, but somehow I doubt that this will last 6 issues. It's just too odd for the mainstream fanboy buyer, and if it had been anyone else but Kyle Baker would have never seen print at all. Joe Kelly over at JLA has done amazing things with the character, but is there gonna be a Kelly Plas series anytime soon? I don't think so. Baker's name and rep bring a "hip" catchet that DC can point to when accused of pandering to the fanboy.

Of course you know that I'll probably pick up oh, #3 or #4, love it, and spend months trying to get the issues I missed, and overpay horribly for them. That's the way it works for me more often as not.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Sendin' out BSBdG's today to a couple of fellows from totally different worlds:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTom Waits, 54. My admiration for Waits' music stems completely from two albums he did in the 80s: Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs, both of which were weird and amazing amalgamations of Delta blues, folk, jazz, field hollers, theatrics, strange rhythms and exotic percussion and were as bold a musical statement as any artist has ever made. He's spent the rest of his career trying to follow them up, with varying results.





Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAlso Johnny Bench, 56. Bench was my favorite player on those great 70s Cincinnati Reds teams that I rooted for growing up. The "Big Red Machine" boasted many future hall of famers and other great performers, but I always got a charge out of watching Bench hit homers with his smooth swing, or throw out anybody and everybody that tried to steal a base on him.

Click on the images to go to relevant websites.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

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BEST OF THE WEEK

COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of DECEMBER 3!


PROMETHEA 28
Alan Moore is bowing out of comics, and in particular his ABC line, and I think it should be obvious to all that Promethea, not League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is the title that is closest to his heart because he's using it as a platform to turn out the lights and lock up before he goes. Nearly all the ABC characters have cameos, except the Top 10 cast, and they're all involved in trying to prevent Prom from bringing about the end of everything as we know it in what's shaping up to be science (represented by Tom Strong, Jack B. Quick (in an amusing scene), and the other ABC characters) versus imagination and faith conflagration, and who knows what will happen, besides Moore of course. And if that wasn't enough, we get the answer to a major mystery that's been a subplot of this book since its inception, quite out of the blue. Story aside, we also get the latest in a series of incredibly innovative artistic exercises from the J.H. Williams / Mick Gray team, who seem to outdo themselves every time out. Make no mistake, this is not a reader-friendly narrative, and it's not one of those "good jumping-on points" that you hear so much about. Moore's writing this, and the next five issues (I assume) for those of us who have been along for the ride from the beginning. Buy the trades, and get caught up...it will be worth your time and money. A

ULTIMATES 12
For some strange reason, I had the voice of Jerry Lewis from The Nutty Professor in my mind as I read much of this all-stops-out battle issue. You know- "Always with the hitting and the explosions and the lightning and the arrgh and the ugh and the bang and the pow". Or something like that. Anyway, this was exciting to read, and there were a couple of nice character scenes for Thor and Iron Man...plus the Hitch/Neary art was as solid as ever. But I'm docking this a notch for the feeling of padding; I mean geez, wasn't twelve issues enough to wind this arc up- and the dumbass jingoistic French-baiting joke Millar had Cap spout. That and the crass (but not unsurprising- they've mistreated him since issue 1, it seems) treatment of Bruce Banner kinda left a bad taste in my mouth. A-

FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE 6
Here's another series as a whole that felt padded-out, a six-issue one, no less- and this issue in particular was talky, talky, talky to the point of being tiresome. One has to wonder whether FKATJL wouldn't have been better served in a one-shot format. Anyway, overall this wasn't a total disaster, in fact was funny more often as not despite the meandering script; Kevin Maguire can still draw curled lips as well as he could twenty years ago, and I'm glad there will be another mini upcoming, but c'mon fellas, tighten it up some next time. B+ Entire series: A-

BAD GIRLS 5
With all the talk going on around about how to bring a more diverse (and consequently larger numbers of buyers) audience to comics, especially young kids and teenage girls, we now have this as a shining example of the shortcomings of the direct marketing system and the wrongheaded mindset of those making the decisions at the highest levels. This title, which wouldn't have been out of place as a Disney Channel series and would seem to be a natural for just those demographics, or the Buffy crowd, sold so poorly that what was originally announced as a six issue series was truncated to five, and as a result will most likely not be collected and placed in bookstores, where one would think that it could reach the audience that would appreciate it most. I sincerely hope that the DC braintrust didn't think that the spandex-loving fanboys would be interested...in fact, I'm really surprised this saw print at all (maybe favors were owed), and have to wonder exactly what DC expected the audience to be when it was...and it 's definitely not encouraging when they do put out something slightly different and no one cares. For once, it wasn't so bad to read a book concerned with adolescent power fantasies, but I suppose because the empowered in question were teenage girls, then that just wasn't cool. Oh well. This issue in particular wasn't too bad, all things considered, and came across as a tad disjointed because of losing one whole issue to develop the script. It was also nice to see Jason Bone back on inks for a great deal of it. Bad Girls was a very well-drawn but unassumingly scripted little series that wasn't a whole lot of fun but was pleasant enough, and deserved a fairer shake than it got. Soon to be a fixture in quarter bins within two years, and may even get a cult following someday. This issue: B. Entire series: B+
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BSBdG's go out today to actor Patrick Bauchau, 65, shown here in his role as Professor Lodz in HBO's Carnivále. Also, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, 47, and funnyman Steven Wright, 48.

Linkage later when I have more time.
Here we go again with Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

Last week, including Thanksgiving games: 8-8. Overall: 110-67, .621.

Philadelphia over Dallas
Washington over the NY Giants
Pittsburgh over Oakland
Seattle over Minnesota (I know, I know, Seattle's been horrible on the road...but the Vikes are in a free fall)
Jacksonville over Houston
Detroit over San Diego
Baltimore over Cincinnati (hope I miss this one)
Tennessee over Indianapolis
New Orleans over Tampa Bay
Green Bay over Chicago
San Fransisco over Arizona
New England over Miami
NY Jets over Buffalo
Denver over Kansas City
Atlanta over Carolina (gasp!)
St. Louis over Cleveland

There you have it! Bet at your own risk, the JBS accepts no responsibility for any losses incurred after taking its advice.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Guess what? Today was a lot like yesterday, full of errands and so on and so forth. So I'm not finding myself with much time in front of the butterfly curtains as a result. Sigh. And right now I'm typing this at the radio station, keeping one ear on the high school basketball game we're broadcasting, so I can play commercial spots during timeouts, at halftime, and to put the station back on the music schedule when they're over. If you'd like to listen, you can go here.

I have, however, picked up one or two interesting things over the last few days, most notably the latest issue of Mojo magazine (the link should be good until Dec. 15), which is full of excellent articles about such diverse subjects as the Band, Bob Dylan, the Beatles and the shift in focus from psychedelia to a more rustic, back-to-basics sound in 1969 plus a review and piece on the recent re-release of Let It Be, an interview with OutKast in which Big Boi gets off the plane in London, all het up to meet Kate Bush, of all people; a fascinating feature on Fleetwood Mac's 1979 album Tusk, especially since it's one of my favorite albums. Plus, it comes with a not-quite-all-inclusive "best of 2003" CD, which features some interesting music from the likes of Louisville, KY's own My Morning Jacket, The Black Keys, Johnny Cash, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Uncle Tupelo (tracks from reissues are included). I had gotten out of my Mojo habit for a while there, but I have been a regular reader again for the last few months. I can't really afford it, but hey.

I also made another foolish purchase, the DVD of the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol (titled Scrooge) starring Alastair Sim in what has to be one of the best performances in the history of cinema. The movie's available on this disc in its gloriously oppressive B&W version, as well as the abominable colorized version, which I'll only watch at gunpoint, and not even then without a fight. Patrick (John Steed) MacNee has a small role in the picture, and introduces it here on this disc. I've written about this film, about a year ago in my "favorite Christmas movies and TV shows" list, but I just wanted to share.

I also watched an odd film last night- Valentino, by Ken Russell and starring Rudolph Nureyev as the title character, the "World's Greatest Lover" of the silent era. As is typical with a Russell film, its full of excessive visuals- sometimes vulgar and crass, sometimes quite beautiful- and he gets a decent, not great, but serviceable performance from Nureyev (who as an actor makes a great dancer) as well as Michelle Phillips as his possessive, pretentious, career-driven wife. Also making a positive impression on me was Felicity Kendall as casting agent June Mathis, who is always looking out for the cocky but naive Valentino. Not a great film, and in fact I didn't care for it when I saw it years and years ago, but for some reason I got caught up in it when I watched last night so I suppose my standards just aren't as high as they used to be. I'll leave that up to you, gentle reader. It must be Ken Russell Tribute Month on pay cable; not only has Valentino been airing, but also his nutball 1988 monster movie Lair of the White Worm, the reserved (for him) Women in Love, and his overripe take on the events leading up to the writing of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, 1986's Gothic. The Russell film I want to see, but have never had the opportunity, is his 1975 opus Lisztomania!. If I could only have seen it once for every five times I've seen his overwrought Tommy, I'd be happy. Russell misses more often than he hits (to me) but when he does hit, it's always worthwhile and often spectacular.

OK, guess that's all I got for tonight. Tomorrow, I intend to post new comics reviews, and of course those football predictions that I'm sure a breathless nation is awaiting.

Until then, in the words of Mick and Keef, "May every song you sing be your favorite tune".

Thursday, December 04, 2003

One thing has led to another today, and after telephone interviews, and reading that Nick Drake bio, and errands and so on...whoops! Where did the day go?

Anyway, I'll try to get around to posting something, but it will be much, much later on. I'm going to a play tonight, Horse Cave Theatre's final run-through of that perennial holiday favorite A Tuna Christmas.

Update, five hours later: Nope, sorry, nothing today. It's late, and I'm tired. Don't ya just love it when someone posts to tell you that they're not going to post anything? The play was pretty good, a bit draggy and the humor was dated but still entertaining in a Hee Haw kinda way...just the sort of thing that the folks around here eat up.

Hopefully I'll do mo' better tomorrow. Oyasumi Nasai.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Oh, lest I forget, a happy belated BSBdG goes out to Elayne Riggs, who celebrated that momentous occasion yesterday.

She's a bit upset with me right now, so I don't know if she'll come by these parts to see it, but I'm sending it out to her anyway!

Also a million billion thanks to Brendan, that most excellent of Leptards, who has sent me an honest to goodness Christmas present! And I didn't have to threaten his family or anything! Now if I could only figure out what to get him in return...

While I'm at it, I foolishly (I say foolishly because I need to be saving my money...) bid on and won a TPB copy of Paul Pope's Heavy Liquid on eBay! It lists for $29.95, but I'm paying $12.50 shipping included. Who needs groceries, anyway.

More updates when they occur to me.

Johanna Draper Carlson does an excellent dissection of the new Catwoman.

I suppose I owe the fine folks at DC thanks for helping me narrow my monthly purchase list down.
With the anniversary of John Lennon's murder coming up, here's a cartoon which raises a question or three. Kinda far-fetched...or is it?

Muchas gracias to Chris Tabor for the link.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

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Paging Dave Fiore: Good news! December will bring two Priscilla Lane films that I haven't seen: 1948's Bodyguard, her last film (5:45 PM CST, Dec. 11, TCM (where else?) ), and 1939's Yes, My Darling Daughter (9:30 AM CST, Dec. 23, TCM) !

Turner will also screen the ubitiquous Arsenic and Old Lace and The Roaring Twenties this month, but I've seen them several times this year already so I'll pass.
I didn't do this last week, so what the heck. Here's what I'll have waiting for me tomorrow, according to the Diamond shipping list:

BAD GIRLS #5
FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE #6
PROMETHEA #28
ULTIMATES #12


That's, as the Pig says, all, folks! I might pick up Plastic Man#1, but I wasn't too impressed by the preview I saw. I really, really want to like Kyle Baker's stuff again, but he makes it so hard. Conspicuous by its absence: Strangers in Paradise#61. But the new issue promises to focus on "David's Story". Aargh. Must...fight...
Grant Morrison's latest interview over at Comicon.com's Pulse certainly has attracted a lot of attention all over the comics blogospheriverse. Why this one's different from other Morrison interviews, in which he alternately bullshits and attempts to enlighten the reader and leaves it up to you to figure out which is which, I can't say. But I read it, and would like to address a couple of things he said:

I must admit I have no time for the '80s style "serious superheroes" books riding the retro wave; never resisting any chance to gratuitously stick the boot in, I thought Watchmen was self-conscious, derivative, and heavy-handed when it first appeared and time hasn't mellowed my opinion of this vastly overrated series - so the comics I dislike most of all at the moment are filled with unsexy '80s retro "superheroes-in-the-real-world" type stories. All these soldiers-in-tights comics seem miserly and lacking in wonder, surrealism or novelty...So why anyone would look to the awkward pomposity of mid-'80s comics for inspiration is baffling.

I certainly agree with this in principle; I do think there's too much fondness and nostalgia these days for hyper-complicated, cosmic sagas with men and women in tight pajamas- witness the last few issues of JSA, or more recently JLA/Avengers. But in attacking Watchmen, I think Grant is being a bit disingeneous and it doesn't become him. And since we can't jump in a time machine and go back to 1986 to ask young Grant what he thought about Moore's opus after he read it, I guess we'll just have to take his word for it that he held this opinion. Of course it's "self-conscious, derivative and heavy-handed". That was the entire point of Watchmen, was to take the stodgy old characters of Charlton and put them in a more realistic milieu, to point out the ludicrousness of the 70s and 80s-standard superhero. Derivativeness and self-consciousness was the nature of the beast. And how else could Moore have approached such grandiosity, except with a heavy hand? And that being said, I don't think it was all that heavy-handed anyway. Moore's dialogue and characterization rarely lapsed into overkill, at least to me. I think if we must blame someone for the sorry state of superhero comics, one must look back farther to the late 70s-to-early-80s efforts of such luminaries as Roy Thomas, Marv Wolfman, George Perez, John Byrne, Chris Claremont, and Jim Shooter. The issues of Teen Titans, X-Men, and Avengers, to name a few, that they produced attempted to marry overblown cosmic opera and soap opera-style dramatics with just enough real-world touches to cause undemanding fanboys (like, yes, I admit-me back then) to lap it up and ask for more. Moore was attempting to apply a harsh spotlight to the early 80s superhero comic clichés and is not to blame for its continued excesses.

But you know, it's become fashionable and trendy to bash Moore's writing and Watchmen in particular anyway, since it begat so many lame (and some not-so-lame) imitators, plus it has the disadvantage of being 17 years old now, and people seem to have forgotten how different it was back then, and what an impact it made as a result. Maybe Watchmen is overrated, but as far as I'm concerned not by much.

Even Alan Moore himself ran screaming from this kind of story and began an ungainly, 15-year long attempt to reinvent himself as me.

Hm. Don't know why, but it sounds to me like Grant's "taking the piss" as our friends across the pond like to say. I'll bet Grant secretly wishes that he could get his ideas across as succinctly as Moore without lapsing into incoherence as he is so wont to do.

Don't get me wrong, I like Morrison, and I like his writing. Some of my all time favorite series were scripted by the Mad Scotsman. But I like Moore's even more, and I happen to think he's one of the all-time best, so I felt obliged to disagree with what seems to be an increasing trend around message boards and the like.
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A friend of mine sent me this funny illustration by Frank (Liberty Meadows) Cho, of all people, and I thought I'd share it with all of youse. Reminds me of that notorious illo by Wally Wood (as legend has it) of all the Walt Disney characters engaged in definite non-Disney-approved pursuits such as shooting dope, gambling, drinking, sodomy, the dwarves pulling a train on Snow White, and other such shenanigans.

My money's on Blip. He's more experienced.
Bee Ess Bee Dee Gee's go out to

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Kill Bill vol.1 and Charlie's Angels co-star Lucy Liu, 35. Also:

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Sweet l'il ol Britney Spears, all of 22 today. Doesn't Madonna look like a child molester chasing her around in their new video? Anyhoo, there are many sides to our Britney of which we're unaware. Go here for Britney's Guide to Semiconductor Physics.

Monday, December 01, 2003

You may have noticed the "Link and Think" button at right. I saw this button over at Susan's, and thought it would be a worthwhile thing to be a part of, plus just a plain ol' interesting thing to do. It's part of a global observance of World AIDS Day, and part of the agreement I made in order to display this link is that I am supposed to write something about HIV/AIDS or AIDS awareness.

I intend to try, but it's a bit difficult because to be honest, I don't know anyone personally who is suffering from this malady. I suppose that means I should consider myself fortunate. Living here in the buckle of the bible belt, the gay community is almost non-existent, even though it does exist...but it's just not as visible. As a result, I just don't encounter too many people at risk, although I do know a few gay men and women, and only one or two personally- and if there is a significant HIV positive presence I just don't hear about it. Guess that's just part of living in a small rural community- there's a "don't ask, don't tell" mentality in effect. There may be more of a presence in Bowling Green, the college town about 40 miles south, but if there is I'm unaware of it. And who knows how many times someone might die from AIDS around here and it gets covered up.

Anyway, since I don't really have any personal experiences to relate, I'll provide a few links and hope that I've done a drop-in-the-ocean amount of good.

AIDS.org, a site for news and info.
HIVinsite, another news and info site.
Avert.org. yep, news and info.

And, a Yahoo! Link List.
I must admit to being a bit nonplussed by last night's big season finale of HBO's Carnivále. I suppose I was expecting more revelations, or something like that, but I should have known better because it's apparent that the writers were only interested in providing cliffhangers to build anticipation for season 2. And there is your good news and your bad news. I'm glad that there seems to be a season two (not that I've read anything that confirms this), but I sure was hoping to get more answers to what the hell was going on with Ben Hawkins. Oh well. It was still gripping viewing and well done. If nothing else, the people who make Carnivále have a Lynchian ability to establish and sustain a mood.

Wonder if Julee Cruise could make an appearance next season?

They also had a live chat last night with series regulars Ben Stahl and Clancy Brown, who plays the seemingly-evil Brother Justin but will always be Rawhide, one of Buckaroo Banzai's Hong Kong Cavaliers. I thought about logging on to it last night, and getting all geeky on Mr. Brown (Rawhide! RAAAWHIIIIDE!!! Say you're not dead!) but I didn't. Good for me. I was also a bit surprised to discover that the same actor that played the blind mentalist Professor Lodz, Patrick Bachau, played Jodie Foster's ex in Panic Room. Small world, ain't it.
A veritable plethora of BSBdG's today, El Guapo.

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First, Bette Midler, 58. Favorite album: 1976's flop Songs For the New Depression. Favorite film: 1991's flop For the Boys. Hm. See a pattern? Anyway, I haven't heard any of her recent efforts like 1998's Bathhouse Betty, the cover of which I love, or her new Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook simply because her propensity for big, overblown weepy ballads has killed my interest. But I still think I'll get Betty one of these days...

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Next, the great Richard Pryor, 63 today. His 1974 album That Nigger's Crazy is one of the funniest things I've ever heard in my life. His movie career has been hit and miss, but his concert films are great and his teamup with Gene Wilder in 1976's Silver Streak was excellent. I liked The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars and Motor Kings, too.

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Number three is someone only die-hard Twin Peaks enthusiasts will recognize, singer and maker of "white angel noise" Julee Cruise, 47. Thanks to her involvement with David Lynch, she had a small hit back in '93 with "Falling" from the Peaks TV series. That song appeared on the subsequent album Floating Into the Night, on which appears the haunting "Rockin' Back Inside My Heart", for which my love is so strong that I felt it necessary to observe her birthday. I dig that song, daddy-o. I don't have a clue, really, about what she's done since, although I know she did a couple of follow-up albums, one of which came out last year.

Two more notables: Woody Allen, 68. Favorite films: Zelig, Bullets Over Broadway, and Annie Hall. Also, Blue Oyster Cult "stun guitarist" Eric Bloom, 59. I'd lay even money that he was the one who played cowbell on "Don't Fear the Reaper". The BOC was one of my very favorite rock bands when I was a kid, you know.
Good morning.

Goest thou here to see Vera Brosgol's "Concomitent Corset Cincher". It's a corker!

Saturday, November 29, 2003

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BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of November 26!


SLEEPER 11
The cover of this penultimate installment of the best comic you're probably not reading is very appropriate, and sums up this series quite nicely. Is Carver behind bars looking out, or is he outside looking in? Actually, it's both and I'll be darned if I can see how he's going to get out of the corner he's painted himself into, which is exactly what Brubaker wants. Can't wait to see what happens next month, when you'd think that we will get a resolution...but you can't be sure of even that. A

HELLBLAZER 190
Part two of what is shaping up to be the best John Constantine story in quite some time in which Conjob and a parcel of rogue mystics prepare for the coming of a Big Bad, and things don't exctly go as planned. Excellent dialogue by Mike Carey, and nicely drawn with the fattest brushstrokes possible by Marcelo Frusin, who has eschewed the finesse of his earlier stint on this title for something a bit more earthy. For once, the murky hues of Lee Loughridge add to the feeling of oppression rather than fight with the art. I also want to see more of Nathan Arcane when this is finished. A

LEGION 27
The emphasis this time out is more action and not as much talk as the Legion runs around trying to defend itself against powerful beings that resemble the JLA while trying figure out what we already know- said beings are engaged in the pursuit of reviving Darkseid. Nicely scripted by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning, who figure if they keep things moving along at a lively pace, then the discerning reader won't take as much time to think about what's happening, and nicely drawn by Chris Batista, Lanning and Chip Wallace. Batista's work is slick enough to look streamlined and futuristic, but his figures have a nice expressiveness and organic-ivity (is that a word?)...plus he draws crowded action panels as well as anybody these days, a good thing when your title has a cast as large as The Legion does. Great cover by the Harris/Feister team, as well, which almost makes up for their shortcomings on last week's Legion Secret Files 3003. B+

JLA 90
You see, early in Joe Kelly's run as writer on this book he had this neat little scene in which Batman and Wonder Woman sparred, while bantering the whole time in a teasing way which turned sexual in nature before it was over. Many readers, myself included, thought "Wow! Kelly's actually gonna hook up WW and Bats! What a great idea!". Of course, many other fans of both characters were equally as horrified that such a thing could ever happen. Kelly proceeded to expand and develop this relationship over the course of his tenure, but now it seems that since this tenure's at its end, he gives us this issue which resolves this "will they or won't they" subplot via a plot contrivance which damn near sinks the book but contains enough touching human moments to get it by for me, anyway. Fill-in artist Chris Cross makes me wanna jump, jump...no, seriously, is fair-to-middling and gets a big boost from regular inker Tom Nguyen. If Kelly's gotta go, I at least hope that Doug Mahnke and Nguyen stay on for a while. B

JLA/AVENGERS 3
Anybody remember the scene in Pee-Wee's Big Adventure where Pee-Wee and the hobo sing "Jimmy Crack Corn" while they ride on the train? And how PW was having a blast at first, then the hobo kept singing, and singing, and singing and Pee-Wee couldn't stand it any more...? That's how I felt reading this, the latest chapter of this soulless, tedious, claustrophobic exercise which some choose to view as "old-school superheroics", but honestly- that does a disservice to those old-school epics that were actually worth reading. Still, I can't deny the craft that George Perez brings (hell, the cover should be made into a poster which will hide the holes in many a fanboy's wall for years to come), and will admit to getting a tiny kick out of seeing the Phantom Stranger and Gypsy make an appearance. C-

CATWOMAN 25
Well, here's the thing. I've never really had a problem with the poor man's Steranko stylings of Paul Gulacy, and actually even liked his 70's stint doing Master of Kung Fu. Unlike Steranko, though, Gulacy's never been particularly clever or inventive in his storytelling style, and there are times, to be frank, that his anatomy and perspective are really off. It was that way in his recent Master of Kung Fu comeback miniseries, and it's that way here. But that has nothing to do, really, with why I disliked this book so much. Gulacy does a fine job. He does! But the choice to utilize him as the new penciller is so wrongheaded, and it's so totally opposite of everything behind the relaunch of the Catwoman character, plus the script by Ed Brubaker is so routine and lifeless and so like a run-of-the-mill Batman script that all one can assume is that word must have come down from "on high" that since Catwoman isn't selling as well as the other Bat-titles, then it must be redone and rethought to resemble the other Bat-titles. Of course, that means that this is now totally devoid of anything that made this title so much fun to begin with, and I suppose all the fanboys who dug Selina's big tits and purple spandex look are rejoicing. Me, I'm bailing. I've had enough. D+

I also picked up issue 1 of The Walking Dead, and I'm kinda glad I read #2 first because as good as that issue was, it was nowhere near as horrifying or as cleverly scripted as this premiere issue, and I would have viewed #2 as a bit of a letdown in comparison. Funny bit: the first name of Mr. Jones' son. Sympathetic and somewhat moving moment: the plight of the zombie bicyclist. Grade: A. Also, my friend and fellow Stupid Llama Mik Cary loaned me the Sei: Death and Legend one shot that came out a couple of weeks ago, which had provoked my interest based on some previews I had seen. It's beautifully illustrated, but the dialogue comes across as juvenile in tone, and works against the art. By the time things get more serious, at the end, whatever profundity the author intends gets completely lost in the translation. Can't give it better than a C+.
Animal Man is a title that I've never read in any significant measure, despite my admiration for Morrison's scripting, because the artist that they got to illustrate the majority of it was one Chas Truog, whose work is, in my own unworthy opinion, some of the worst to ever grace any works of sequential fiction. Flat, unimaginatively laid out, awkwardly posed, poor perspective shots, you name it. Maybe I just got off on the wrong foot with the guy because he was the artist they chose to follow Steve Leialoha in Epic's long-ago Coyote ongoing, and he stunk on ice...and I've never seen anything from him since that has changed my opinion. I'm sure he's a nice fella, and is loved by his friends and family, tithes often, and is a pillar of his community...but Jesus Mary and Joseph I hated his artwork.

That was what I said, when commenting on the then-new Animal Man trade that DC released a month or so ago. I got several responses in my comments section, some of which agreed with me. I also, about a week ago, got a comment from none other than one Chaz Truog. Yes, that Chaz Truog. Fortunately, he didn't seem to take umbrage or offense, and I respect that. I still don't care for his work on those series, but I appreciate that he came here and stood up for himself. I hadn't checked my edit comments site in a long time, so that's why I hadn't noticed it before.

He also provides a link to his website, which features a lot of his newer stuff. I haven't seen everything there yet, but what I have seen is much better than what I remember from his 80s and 90s days. In particular, there's a humor strip there named Scorch which shows he has a deft hand for that sort of cartooning. But don't take my word for it, see for yourself!
And now, the remainder of my Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications. Lotta tough games to predict this weekend. As always, bet at your own risk. But if you took Detroit and the points Thursday on my advice, why not send me a small percentage?

Indianapolis over New England
New York Giants over Buffalo
St. Louis over Minnesota
Chicago over Arizona
Atlanta over Houston
Baltimore over San Fransisco
Pittsburgh over Cincinnati
Philadelphia over Carolina
Washington over New Orleans
Denver over Oakland
Kansas City over San Diego
Seattle over Cleveland (my gut feeling tells me to go with the Browns, though- don't know why. Seattle's 6-0 at home)
Tampa Bay over Jacksonville
Tennessee over the New York Jets

Thursday: 1-1. Last weekend: 11-5. Overall: 103-60 (counting Thursday), .632.
Hello! I'm still alive. I've been dealing with a lot of stuff lately and it hasn't left me with a lot of enthusiasm or desire to write or do anything creative, hence my absence from the blogospheriverse. I'm doing better now, I think, so hopefully I can get back in the saddle. Thanks for hanging with me.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

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I suppose this is gonna be it from me until the weekend, when I'll try to get comics reviews and the rest of my football predictions up. Hope everyone has a great turkey day.
Predictions on tomorrow's NFL Games:

Detroit over Green Bay. Playing a hunch here.
Dallas over Miami.

I'll do the rest Saturday. Bet at your own...aw, you know.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Sunday, November 23, 2003

In case you haven't seen this yet, and I'd be amazed if you hadn't, you can go here to see the first trailer for the upcoming Hellboy flick.

Good: Selma Blair is Liz Sherman. The Nazis and Rasputin look good. There's a cool scene where Hellboy hits a car on the hood with his stone hand, causing it to flip over his head.

Not-so-good: The scenes inside the BPRD headquarters look a little too James Bondish (or Steranko-style S.H.I.E.L.D., perhaps) for me- part of the charm of the Bureau is that it looks like an old-style office building or even library on the inside. John Hurt as Dr. Bruttenholm (called "Broom" on the Yahoo page). He looks like Dr. Wiley from Mega Man, not a slam on the actor himself (he's a good one), but... The body suit makeup for Abe Sapiens, which looked kinda cheesy but the preview was a bit low-res so it was hard to tell what it looked like sometimes. The jury's still out on Abe. Also, the groan-inducing and clichéd (but necessary from a filmmaking standpoint I suppose) introduction of a pretty-boy newbie agent, an "everyman" through whose eyes we meet everyone. Of course, Mignola introduces new agents all the time so there's a precedent, but he usually gives them a quirk or two to make them a little less ordinary. Finally, the makeup on Ron Perlman just isn't all that convincing. To me, he looks like someone in a better-than-average Hellboy Halloween costume. He is shown speaking some lines, though, and Perlman manages to convey some wryness and emotion through the prosthetics, so maybe there's hope.

Anyway, it's coming in April 2004. Everybody cross your fingers.
Yesterday, of course, marked the 40th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, which happened on November 22, 1963. I don't remember when I first heard about it or where I was, but I distinctly remember watching the funeral procession on TV when I was 3, at my grandmother's house. Conspiracy theories abound, and most rational people know better than to buy the "official" explanation, but the sad thing is, we'll never know. Too much time has passed, and the coverup was too thorough. "They", whoever "they" is, had ample time to get rid of whatever incriminating evidence that may have remained, so this incessant theorizing certainly seems to be an exercise in futility. In my opinion, of course. Besides, most implicated in the conspiracy are dead. Let's say the truth comes out, miraculously. Who the heck is gonna get punished? Castro? I doubt it. Who's left to even apologize? It's a terrible shame something like this was perpetrated on America, but it was just one in a long, long list over the years and I think people have gotta let it go and move on.

Now if you want a real conspiracy theory, remind me to tell you about the US government's mind control via cheese, which is going on right now, even as I type these words. And it's happening to you. And you. And you...
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BSBdG's go to a couple of late greats today: First, Harpo Marx, who would have been 115 today. He, along with his brothers, made some of the funniest movies in the history of cinema. I am a stone Marx Bros. fanatic, in case you don't know.

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Also, the great Boris Karloff, who would have been 116 on this very date.

Friday, November 21, 2003

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BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of November 19!


LUCIFER 44
More angels vs. everybody else, including demigods and even a mortal woman in the finale of the current story arc. Oh yeah, and the title character, too. It must be difficult to make such an amoral, self-absorbed and solipsistic character so interesting and even sympathetic, but month after month Mike Carey pulls it off. Lucifer isn't a very reader friendly narrative, but for those of us who got an early start, it's a pleasure to read the paces he puts his cast through. The art by Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly is as servicable as always. A

HUMAN TARGET 4
In which a superstar baseball player unexpectedly commits suicide after hitting a game winning homer, and the owner of the team hires Chris Chance to impersonate a teammate and find out why. Can our hero hit a major league curve ball well enough to carry off his deception? Stay tuned... Actually, I feel somewhat more qualified than usual to critique this because I follow sports pretty closely, and often comic book (or prose novel, for that matter) attempts to depict the world of big time athletics fail miserably because the writers don't understand the nuances and vocabulary, and the artists don't want to take the time to draw things properly, resulting in generic, clumsy looking ballplayers- and said creators figure that the readers won't know the difference or care. But I am the exception to that line of reasoning, and I am pleased to report that Pete Milligan gets almost everything right, to his credit, except for one major plot point: A veteran ballplayer, who's not exactly fresh off the boat from Cuba (and in the narration Ruben Valdez says that "every year" he's the "New Yorkers' MVP"), would have an agent savvy enough to advise him about how to deal with a steroids rap, assuming he didn't know how himself. These days, players stonewall a la Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa, the player's union stonewalls, and little gets done except perhaps a shortish suspension and fine...then the player writes a book after he retires and cleans up, so to speak, even more. It stretches credibility a bit that any modern major league baseball player, fictional or not, would think that suicide was the only way out of this particular situation. I know, I know...it's more dramatic that way. But it's a glaring mistake. Fortunately, ol' reliable Javier Pulido does an acceptable job drawing MLB uniforms, though he's saddled with having to try to draw a Yankees-ish uni instead of the real thing. His action and dialogue scenes are first-rate as always. No home run this time out, but a two-out, bases clearing triple. A-

LOVE AND ROCKETS V2 9
Pretty much status quo: a humorous in places, atmospheric and creepy in others Maggie story by Jaime, excellently paced and drawn, and three more chapters, in varying lengths, of 'Beto's ongoing serials: "the High Soft Lisp", in which we witness big breasted, lisping heroine Fritz in three more dysfunctional relationships; "Julio's Day", an odd throwaway; and "Me For the Unknown", a collaboration with other brother Mario which to me was the best of the three, actually working up a little dramatic tension. Myself, I wish the ratio was reversed, but what can ya do? A-

CINNAMON: EL CICLO 4
Our no-nonsense cowgirl hero forms an unlikely alliance, and gets mixed up in some sort of slavery/porn ring and a senator's runaway niece...and of course there's bound to be more than meets the eye. Not exactly the freshest plot in the world, but Jen Van Meter pulls it off well enough. I suppose I've gotten used to the subpar art, which is Risso lite and often reminds me of the early efforts of Mike Mignola. B+

LEGION SECRET FILES 3003
Here's a rarity: a Secret Files that is actually relevant to the title it's profiling. In some ways a continuation of Legion 26, for the most part it's a fairly routine "Legion through the eyes of a news reporter" story, the bulk of which is capably drawn by Leonard Kirk and Elayne Riggs' better half but is also interspersed with occasional pages and one-panel character profiles by regular cover artists Tony Harris and Tom Feister, done in such a grotesquely cartoonish fashion that they almost sink the whole project. I loved Harris' work on Starman, of course, and the duo's covers have been top notch so far...but the facial expressions and gestures on pgs. 7-8 and 29-30 are just awful. B

B.P.R.D.: THERE'S SOMETHING UNDER MY BED
...and boy does it stink. I didn't sign up for this when the pre-order was solicited, and I didn't remember why so I plunked down my three bucks. Hey, it's the BPRD! But after I finished it, I think I must have had a psychic flash or something because this is really bad. Silly, far-fetched (even for a Hellboy-related tale) script by one Joe Harris, with whom I'm unfamiliar and based on this will probably never get familiar, and poorly drawn in a sketchy hodgepodge of styles by Adam Pollina, whose reach apparently exceeds his grasp. I was one of the two or three people who bought the first couple of issues of his cartoon-style, but weepy and boring masked wrestler opus Big Daddy Danger, and I applaud him for at least trying to be diverse, but unfortunately he's just not successful at either. When future list makers sit down and try to name the best of the Hellboy spinoffs for posterity, I think it's safe to say that this won't be one of them. C

DAREDEVIL 54
Pretty pictures. And it's got Wolverine in it, too! Yawn. C-
And now, chapter twelve of my ongoing compulsion to embarrass myself, Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

A day early, 'cause I don't think I'll be blogging tomorrow. Going out of town for a while.

Last week: 9-7. I am nothing if not consistent. Overall: 91-54, .628.

Cleveland over Pittsburgh
Indianapolis over Buffalo
Green Bay over San Fransisco
Minnesota over Detroit
Carolina over Dallas
New England over Houston
Seattle over Baltimore
Philadelphia over New Orleans
New York Jets over Jacksonville
Denver over Chicago
St. Louis over Arizona
Kansas City over Oakland
Tennessee over Atlanta
Cincinnati over San Diego
Miami over Washington
New York Giants over Tampa Bay

Bet at your own risk. The Bacardi Show accepts no responsibility for money lost.

It's been a slow week for Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings, so I'll proceed to make up for that now.

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First, Björk Gudmundsdöttir, 38. Fortunately for us listeners, she's as adventurous in her music as she is in her fashion sense. Favorite CD: her first solo effort, the aptly titled Debut. Here's another good site for a bio. Next, Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr. John the Night Tripper, the New Orleans-based jazz and blues pianist who had a huge hit in 1973 with "Right Place Wrong Time" and the album In The Right Place, which is my favorite of his recorded efforts and also features the Meters. He's 63. Finally, one of my favorite painters, the late René Magritte, who would have been 105. Irrelevant aside: he provided the inspiration for one of Paul Simon's, of all people's, best songs: "Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War". Lovely tune.

Correction: I originally had included Harpo Marx in this, becuase one of my sources erroneously listed today as his birthdate when it is actually Sunday the 23rd. I'll re-post it then.
And now for something completely different.

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Everybody sing along with me, to the tune of Iggy Pop's "Nightclubbing":

Cat blogging, I'm cat blogging...I'm so happening...

This is Dino, the kitten that Mrs. B found, left for dead, in our driveway back in July. She, along with my daughter (and I helped occasionally as well) nursed it back to health by bottle feeding him kitten formula and now he's grown into the big-ass cat you see here, with the longest tail and biggest feet you've ever seen and always ready to pounce on our ankles, feet, hands and wrists and bite and scratch like he was fighting for his life. In other words, he's a mean little shit, a real Satan cat. Insane in the membrane, if you will. Anyway, we're gonna get him "fixed" and de-clawed real soon- that'll settle his hash!

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Personal to Sean Collins:

I've been spending some time reading the archives at Michael's Movie Palace, and was particularly interested in his Halloween 2002 listings of his favorite horror movies. I think you might be, too, so go here. He wrote about more fright films, this year, mostly obscure, including the Karloff film The Walking Dead, which I saw a while back and enjoyed.

For that matter, the rest of you should check it out as well if you're interested.
Oh, and speaking of Mrs. Tegan Gjovaag, she's finally gotten around to posting her thoughts on last weekend's Justice League episode.

I read somewhere else that the team of Doc Fate, Aquaman and Solomon Grundy in that eppy was an intentional approximation of Marvel's original Defenders grouping of Doctor Strange, the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner. Curse me for a novice, that went right by me!
Franklin Harris has received some positive attention lately for his anti-floppy (that's a comic book, son) column, and Tegan Gjovaag has responded quite nicely.

I quite agree with her on the issue of the travelability of graphic novels. Especially as long as they're stored in a protective bag-n-board, you won't hurt them unless you treat them badly when you read them. Case in point- I recently took a dozen floppies with me on my trip to Nebraska, to read on the plane to Denver. I could have taken more, but I also had a couple of issues of Mojo to occupy me as well. I simply stuck them in my backpack, which I carried on board the plane with me, took 'em out before takeoff, and read 'em! No problem. I could have taken a dozen more, perhaps. The protective bags-n-boards kept them quite safe and sound, and they fit nicely in the compartment in the seat in front of me, until I could get 'em back in my backpack. I've never, to my knowledge, been overtly inconvienienced by carrying a moderate-size stack of comics to read, as long as I didn't try to tote 'em around in my arms. They slide around something awful that way. And if I so desired, I'd even read them on the beach, but I probably wouldn't want to- sunscreen and sand just ruin any paper product, graphic novel or pamphlet. besides, I never go to the beach. I would not read them in a box, I would not read them with a fox, or in a train or in the rain. Or...aw, forget it.

Which leads me to the question goes about collectability and the overly particular treatment of pamphlets in the name of same, which is where I disagree with Mrs. G. I take care of my comics, bag 'n board them and all that, because I've invested upwards of $2.50 for them and I want to keep them in as good condition as I can for as long as I can, until death do we part and they're left to one or both of my kids. And certainly not because I necessarily plan to resell them, but simply because I like to take good care of what is mine and what I've spent good money on. And if I do decide to sell some, like I did just recently, then I know they'll be in decent condition and therefore theoretically easier to move. I try to take just as good care of my trade paperbacks and hardcovers as I do my floppies...it just is against my nature to intentionally crease the covers or worse. Those things cost too much money to rough up!

If the evolution of the industry dictates that in order to survive, the floppy must die and trades will be the norm, so be it. Survival of the fittest, baby. But you'll excuse me if I don't get too enthusiastic about it, and continue to by those floppy pamphlet sequential graphic type comic books until the bitter end.
...subject matter such as transformer-style robots, samurai warriors, teenage soap operas, big hyperexaggerated gladiatorial arena-fight style sagas, sometimes all at once...

Boy, I certainly got a lot of mileage out of that statement, didn't I? And I got some excellent responses, always a good thing.

But I said earlier that I wanted to clarify, and I will, and point the finger at my amateur-hour writing skills, which often lead me to make statements that are fuzzy or half-formed. Graphic designer here, not journalist. Anyway, yes, I'm aware what the target audience for Shonen Jump is, and I know it's no more indicative of what Japanese comics are like than oh, say, Batman Adventures or Powerpuff Girls are of American comics. Also, my exposure to manga is quite limited, consisting mostly of having read several titles like early chapters of Akira and Barefoot Gen many years ago, along with more recent instances where I've stood at the graphic novel rack at Barnes & Noble, looking at the manga trades and trying to see the sailboat, having had my curiosity piqued by all my comics blogging homeboys and enduring the disapproving stares of the floor workers. So what I'm trying to say is that I shouldn't have generalized quite so much. I'm very aware that the above statement isn't necessarily gospel, but it is representative of what I've seen so far, and I fully admit I need more exposure more manga so I can have a fully formed opinion.

But I still stand by my contention that based on what I've seen, I'm still not convinced that American comics should become more like manga, except perhaps in format, and I'm not exactly sure how that would work except that instead of monthly installments of whatever, we would now get bigger volumes less frequently. Tradeoff- maybe more creators would be able to finish a project, and not have to rely on fill-ins or replacements because they couldn't meet deadlines. Maybe it's because I'm an old-school fanboy from farther back than I like to admit, but I'm not so sure I want comics to stop (or de-emphasize) trying to be written with adult themes and viewpoints, all the better to appeal to that 12-year-old demographic which is expected to save the industry. Frankly, the manga I've seen, with rare exceptions, has been lacking in depth and subtlety, and art-wise has a monotonous look, all pointy noses and hair, speed lines and clunky-looking lettering, or superdeformation. Maybe it's just a question of getting acclimated to what is apparently more of an acquired taste to me than it is others. Maybe if I'd been 13 in 1984 instead of 23 and dug the hell out of Transformers and Voltron and so on. Who knows.

Apparently, or so I'm told, there is manga out there which deals in mature, sophisticated subject matter in a myriad of genres in a myriad of styles. And I'm definitely convinced of the convictions of the converted, who seem to know better than I. But to me, it's like the Taj Mahal- I know it has to exist, because people tell me it does and I've seen pictures...but I've never seen it with my own eyes, so...

What's a poor ignorant gaijin to do?

Maybe there's hope for me, though- when I was a preschooler I absolutely loved seeing Astro Boy on channel 13 (they'd never show anything like that now, that's for sure) and Tobor the 8th Man on Louisville channel 3 a few years later, and I really liked anime like Akira, Ghost in the Shell, and especially the wonderful Spirited Away. Even got in the habit of catching an occasional Cowboy Bebop on Cartoon Network, although I haven't watched an episode in months and can't get interested in any of their other offerings. So anime I have no problem with, apparently. Maybe it's just the comics format then. Maybe I'll just end this now and see what kind of reaction I get.
Looks like another hectic day around here at Casa Bacardi. Hopefully I'll get back in front of the butterfly curtains later this evening.

One thing before I go- in my own humble opinion, as they say in the chat room, there are fewer more wonderful sounds on God's green Earth than that plucked note and resultant feedback that graces the beginning of the Beatles' "I Feel Fine". Then when those ethereal harmonies kick in on "she's in love with me/and I feel fine", well, adjectives fail me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Well, I did the Louisville-to-Bowling Green shuttle today, just like I said I wasn't going to do, which should show you what a pathetic, hopeless comics junkie I am. Anyway, I don't think I'm going to write much more tonight. Kinda tired.

But I'm gratified by the responses my little manga musings last night brought, and I intend to clarify what I said a bit more. I'll do that tomorrow.

And it is with a curious mix of pleasure and sadness that I report that when I turned in my holds update today, I also dropped the two titles that had vexed me the most for a long time: JSA and Strangers in Paradise. I also declined to pick up Hulk: Grey. Enough is enough. One day at a time, brothers and sisters, one day at a time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Here's a question:

Why's it called "Shonen Jump"?

I know that "shonen" is Japanese for "young boy", and jumping is, well, jumping...so is this big, setting-the-world-on-fire manga collection actually named "jumping boy" or "young boy jump"? And why should I care anyway?

At the risk of really sounding nitpicky and unhip, this is one reason of many why I just can't seem to embrace manga- the awkward-sounding, loses-something-in-the-translation nature of the whole genre. I look and see a host of stories with subject matter such as transformer-style robots, samurai warriors, teenage soap operas, big hyperexaggerated gladiatorial arena-fight style sagas, sometimes all at once, and I wonder- is this the model to which Western comics should aspire? Leaving aside the actual cost-effectiveness argument (John Jakala's already-classic comparison can't be disputed) is it really all that much better than what we're generally being served up by America and the rest of the world? Or is it just different, and therefore somehow better by inference?

And before you begin to flame me, calling me an idiot and a Luddite or something- I'm not necessarily putting down manga, don't get me wrong, but I'm reading a hell of a lot about it lately and I'm beginning to feel like I did long ago when all the good music magazines and cool people I knew were championing punk music...and I just didn't get it. Perhaps I'm not seeing forest for trees or something like that. I feel like there's something wonderful going on and I'm not able to see it, kinda like the dude in Mallrats that kept staring at the picture, trying to see the sailboat, and everyone kept walking by and pointing it out to him. It's reminding me of when I used to get in discussions with my hair-metal loving friend, Keith, back in the late Eighties and early Nineties. I just couldn't tell them apart, musically- to me, Warrant, Winger, Skid Row, Dokken, Extreme, Tesla, Poison, Motley Crue, and so on sounded exactly alike, and that's one reason why I couldn't get into them. I just didn't give a damn because there wasn't anything going on there to engage me- nothing that made them distinctive or interesting to me. Keith swore up and down that there were differences, big ones, and he couldn't believe that I couldn't hear them. And I'm thinking that all the manga enthusiasts out there are like good old Keith, and once again I'm just not hearing or seeing it.

Or maybe I just think too much. Anyway, why "Shonen Jump"? Is that the best title they could think of?