Sunday, February 29, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of February 25

"Tremble before the might of Ghidorah!" "You do not need to wait for me, I've been here since yesterday.' 'Cute'." "I think someone may have reactivated the Max identity." "That's what you call 'the path of least resistance'." The first two of these dialogue snippets represent moments which made me laugh. The second two represent cliched paths avoided. Nine times out of ten, when you put these things together in a comic book, you hook me. Excerpt no. 3, in particular, represents a nifty twist on a twist that I didn't see coming. Lots going on- and this is just part one! It's troubling, though, that sales seem to be so low for this series- hopefully, many out there have been won over by the trade. Hopefully, 'cause I'm not ready for this to be over just yet! A

Mostly satisfying conclusion to John's most recent world-threatening crisis, with a couple of surprising moments and a nice overall art job by Marcelo Frusin, whose art beginning to look a lot like Pete Snejbjerg's to me. Marred slightly by the feeling that this whole arc was pretty much a teaser for the upcoming Swamp Thing monthly, and a pat resolution that seemed like something that was too big to pull off as quickly and easily as it was. A-

Fresh off all the attention I've been paying to David Bowie's music, we get introduced to another kind of "star man", who is a pawn in monster Magellan's scheme to revenge himself on our protagonists, the Nick and Nora Charles-esque Adam and Julia Kadmon and thier immediate family. John Rozum seems to be in the same sharp groove as he was in the MM limited series of two years ago, and he has an artist in Paul Lee who's capable, in his somewhat stiff but well rendered style, reminiscent of the artwork found in Gold Key horror comics of the early 60s, of visualizing some of Rozum's more outre ideas such as this issue's glory hand ghost. Another pretty darn good concept and title that isn't selling in big numbers. A-

No Alan Moore, no Chris Sprouse- this is gonna be terrible, right? Uh...not exactly. Against all odds, Geoff Johns (of all people) and John Paul Leon have crafted a pretty darn good story about a Bad Luck Schleprock type that comes to Milennium City, determined to make friends with our hero. This story had the feel of what Moore was doing early on when he launched his ABC line, and I enjoyed it much more than I expected. Leon's art would seem to be totally unsuited to this sort of character, but he reins in his sloppy tendencies and gives us a nice job. Slight, but enjoyable. B+

Typically convoluted ending to this typically convoluted arc, with more characters blasting and hitting and talking per panel than any comic this side of JLA/Avengers. And as with that series, in 1978 this sort of storyline would have been a gas, but in 2004 it just comes across as sort of quaint. Sound and fury, signifying nothing as the saying goes. C+


I like the Thessaly character, but I have to say that I was mostly disappointed in this mini series, which was readable but not particularly captivating. In #'s 3 and 4, Thess tracks down the beings that sicced a supernatural menace on her in issue 1, and deals with them in perfunctory manner- mostly shown in single panel illustrations with lots of narrative explaining what was going on. Not exactly a gripping, thrill-laden read, and it almost read like a first chapter or teaser for something- most likely Fables, with all its myriads of mythological and legendary characters, which writer Bill Willingham launched not long after this was published. Shawn McManus' art was better here than in the latest ongoing (issue 2 out next week!), probably due to Andrew Pepoy's inks. Too bad Pepoy's not on board for the current series. Anyway, glad I read 'em, but I don't recommend this particular mini to anyone unless you're a Gaiman completist. These issues: #3, C+; #4, B+; entire series: C+

Early stuff from Paul Grist, which bears little resemblence to the style he's in now. Mostly, these are inconsequential slice-of-life stories, some with an unusual twist here or interesting character there, and mostly serve as a look at where these creators were early in their career. Don't know if I'll get the next issues in the series; God knows I love Grist's work but I'm not inclined to be a completist over it. B

Friday, February 27, 2004

A crash course for the ravers: that long-promised David Bowie post!

I've been trying to remember when it was exactly I first heard of David Bowie. I started reading Creem in late 1974, and it and all the other music publications of the time had something about him every day in them, so it could have been then. I also seem to remember seeing the Nineteen Eighty Floor Show in late '73, aired as part of ABC's In Concert Friday late night music show so that was probably the first time I actually laid eyes and ears on the man. I was immediately taken with his presentation and cover of the Pinups song "Sorrow". I honestly don't remember what my first Bowie album was either, whether it was the aforementioned Pinups or his earlier-that-same-year Aladdin Sane, but I do recall buying the latter in a Woolco store in Bowling Green. Not long after, I purchased an 8-track of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars, and my fate was sealed.

So, prompted by receiving the 2002 Best of Bowie as a gift around Christmas, (thanks again, Mark Anthony) and also having been in the mood to spin some of my old Bowie albums, I will now proceed to list my Ten Favorite Bowie Albums, with those that didn't make the cut listed below. First, a disclaimer: As many DB albums as I own, there are several more that I don't. And to be honest, the man's recent output has left me cold. The last DB album I purchased in the same year in which it was released was 1995's Outside, and oddly enough I consider it his strongest 90's effort. So don't look for Space Oddity, which I've heard once or twice but not in the last 20 or so years- so there's no way I can properly evaluate it- Tonight, The Buddha of Suburbia, "hours...", The Christiana F. and Labyrinth Soundtracks, All Saints, Peter & The Wolf, Heathen, and his latest, Reality.

It's kinda difficult, sometimes, to pin down exactly what it is about Bowie that compels me to listen to his music as often as I do. As an artist, he's all surfaces and masks and personas; he rarely inhabits what he sings, nor does he often draw you into another point of view except as a voyeur rather than a participant. He's not an especially gifted songwriter, despite the fact that he's written many memorable songs with some brilliant lines- it's just that more often as not we get the likes of " lies dumb on its heroes" (from 1975's Young Americans or "...all I have is my love of love, and love is not loving" ("Soul Love", Ziggy) which just kinda lie there on the page and stand out simply because you go "Wha...?". While DB's lyrics are often leaden and clumsy-sounding, they do create the impression that they are more profound than they actually are, which while not exactly making him a legitimate intellectual at least puts him in the second division and tends to impress the easily impressed. It seems that Bowie is at his most interesting when he has a collaborator with real spark and talent- it's no accident that his most compelling music was made with the Ronsons, Enos and Fripps, and when circumstances have led him to work with lesser lights, we get mediocrity. He's not an especially remarkable singer; when he rocks out he tends to get whiny and nasal, and when he tries to croon he lapses into Anthony Newley impersonations. It seems to me that his theatrical instincts have been the one factor which has worked to his benefit, and have enabled him to make a lot of smart musical decisions. Maybe that explains somewhat why I find his current output lacking- he's been working so hard at being "normal" for so long now that I think he's simply lost the plot...but you gotta give him credit for trying anyway. OK, enough of this- here's my favorite DB albums, excluding best-ofs.

1. Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980) A sort of summing-up of where he had been to that date, and as far as I'm concerned this is like his Master's thesis dissertation, as everything that he's tried to do for the previous ten years came to full fruition on this album. There are moments of real wit and ferocity in the words, music and performances on this album, ranging from the harsh, clipped Japanese girl's rant, playing duck and hide with Fripp's guitar at the beginning of opener "It's No Game (Pt.1)", through his odd Cockney accent while singing the title cut, the harrowing "Scream Like a Baby", and the humorous "Fashion", with one of Robert Fripp's best freak-out buzzsaw solos in the middle and end. There's not a bad track on this album, and it's not only my favorite DB album, but one of my top 25 as well. Too bad that this was, apparently, where he shot his creative wad.

2. Aladdin Sane (1973) I've read where Bowie downplays this one; I think it's because Mick Ronson stole his thunder. This album is a showcase for the arrangement and guitar skills of the late Mr. Ronson, and as a result he takes Bowie's mostly glum songs, which are mostly his reflections on his newish rockstar life and impressions of touring, written during the Ziggy tour. Ronson adds wonderful sonic textures to every cut, and really the only misstep is a labored and somewhat unintentionally funny cover of the Stones' "Let's Spend The Night Together", which might have fit in better on the subsequent covers album but just doesn't seem to mesh very well here. Still it does rock out and is as fun as it means to be, for the most part. Great tracks abound, but one of my favorites is the title cut, which features the jazz piano talents of another of Bowie's most fecund collaborators, Mike Garson, who graced many subsequent albums with his nimble fingers. On "Sane", he plays a completely gonzo solo over the last two or three minutes of the song, and it's amazing.

3. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972) This little song cycle is pretty much the apex of the Glam Rock era (although I could, and would, argue for T.Rex's Electric Warrior), but its charms go way beyond that. I'm sure most of us know that the string which ties it all together is the story of Ziggy Stardust, strange visitor from another planet, promising salvation from some unnamed disaster set to occur in five years through rock 'n roll, who goes about this by becoming a rock star and getting torn apart by his adoring fans for the trouble, which may speak of Bowie's increasing feelings of alienation but more likely speaks to Bowie's ability to spot a great, resonant story idea and run with it. There's not a weak track on this record, which features unusually restrained arrangements by Mick Ronson and antiseptic production by Ken Scott. My personal favorites are the chugging rocker "Hang On To Yourself", the dramatic title track, surging rocker "Suffragette City", catchy "Starman", with it's la-la-la chorus, the wistful "Lady Stardust", about Marc Bolan and punctuated with a staggering piano riff, and of course the bleak album opener "Five Years", which sports some of Bowie's best lyrics, especially in its final verses. Can't not mention "Moonage Daydream", in which Ronson gets to wail away on guitar for several minutes, and "Rock 'n Roll Suicide", with its sharp dramatic flourishes. I don't think it's DB's best album, mind you, but it's very much a classic of its time and still sounds pretty fresh today. I just wish the resolution had been a bit more upbeat- instead of a catharsis, we get cynicism and negativity despite "Suicide" 's would-be reassurance that we're "not alone".

4. Pinups (1973) In which Bowie indulges himself in an entire album of cover songs, familiar to him from his early-mid 60s years. We get Bowieized versions of Syd Barrett, Yardbirds, Kinks, Who, Pretty Things, Easybeats, and many others, and it worked extremely well, thanks in large part once again to the musical gifts of Mick Ronson. This was kind of a fad back about this time, as we also got covers albums from several other artists including Bryan Ferry and John Lennon- but Bowie's source material was unique to the trend, as many of the other musicians pursuing this path tended towards 50s rock n' roll and 60's pop obscurities, and Pinups still stands up today as one of the, well, tougher tributes. Best of show, in my opinion anyway: "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere"; "I Can't Explain" (great, lazy fuzzed-out Ronson guitar solo on that one); of course, the shoulda-been-a-hit "Sorrow"; "See Emily Play", something of an obscurity from Barrett's Pink Floyd; and a nicely done "Where Have All The Good Times Gone", a Kinks tune which probably intentionally served as an epitaph for not only the Ziggy/Spiders years, but perhaps Glam Rock as well.

5. The Man Who Sold The World (1970) The sound of DB throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Nothing really did for him until Ziggy, but I listen to this record a lot. The overall vibe of this record is as dark and fuzzy as RCA's American release cover, which featured a black & white photo of DB standing on one leg, which replaced the British cover of our boy in one of his notorious dresses, reclining on a sofa. Guess RCA got cold feet on that one. Anyway, Ronson's 'eavy 'umble droning blues guitar riffs pretty much dominate the overall sound, but Bowie the BolanDonovanesque hippie poet sticks his head out occasionally as well. Highlights include "Width of a Circle", in which DB namechecks Kahlil Gibran and Ronson plays a looonnng solo; the kinda ominous and downbeat title cut, made popular to a whole generation thanks to Kurt Cobain; "Black Country Rock", a rollicking blues in which B & R take the piss from Marc Bolan, and the Yardbirds-ish "She Shook Me Cold". By far the oddest thing on the album is "The Supermen", which features massed choruses ooohing and aaahing as Bowie sings in a cockney accent about mountain magic and super men, accompanied by kettle drums and acoustic guitar. It's catchy, but weird. If you've not heard this record, it's definitely worth a shot if you run across it sometime.

6. Low (1977) Nobody, I mean nobody was expecting this from Bowie, especially on the heels of the three preceding records, with their disco-soul touches. Of course, those familiar with the solo work of Brian Eno, DB's principal collaborator, might have guessed...chilly, concise, and minimal, and very, very influential on a host of followers, these are, at their core, pretty darn good pop songs, just minus frills. "Sound & Vision", with backing vocals by Mary Hopkin Visconti, the then-wife of this album's producer Tony Visconti (this album was the first he had done with DB since 1970s Man Who Sold The World, and Visconti's first album after splitting with Marc Bolan in 1975), is my favorite but "What In The World" 's deadpan percolating groove is great, as are the side one instrumentals "Speed of Life" and "A New Career in a New Town". "Be My Wife" is a crashing rocker, or as close to rock as this record gets, and is especially memorable in its opening verses. Side one flows so well that it's a shame that the side two instrumentals mostly leave me cold- "Warszawa" is the only one that has any sort of melody that stays with me after I've listened.

7. Lodger (1979) The third of his "Eno Trilogy" is an underrated, clever record, especially lyrically, not usually a strength for our boy. Bowie sounds relaxed and happy to be through a difficult period in his life, and it comes through in the odd, daffy moments like his assertion, in "Yasassin", that "...he's not a moody guy", and the goofy "The Hinterlands! The Hinterlands" cry in "Red Sails"- very Eno-esque. The backing is first rate, sporting some nice Adrian Belew guitar textures, and some of the avant-pop songs like "DJ", "Boys Keep Swinging" and "Look Back In Anger" are among the best things he's ever done.

8. Station To Station (1976) I've always found it ironic that the album Bowie recorded and wrote during the height of his cocaine mania sported some of the longest tracks he ever committed to tape. This one found him in transition yet again, moving gradually away from the soul sounds of Young Americans and closer to the spare, futuristic pop music that we came to know on his next four albums. For me, this record revolves around its two best tracks: the odd "TVC-15", with its rollicking barrelhouse piano riff and Lou Reed-ish feel, and "Golden Years", the completely irresistable disco cut in which he perfected what he started on Americans. I remember seeing DB perform it on Soul Train, obviously chuffed to be there but looking pale and skeletal and all cocaine-shaky. The goosestepping title cut is a clever piece of work that sounds like two different songs stitched together, and "Stay" rocks out in a funky fashion. In fact, about the only weakness this record had was its lack of a sympathetic musical foil, a la Ronson or Eno. With some tougher arrangement and guitar work, Station To Station would have been a classic; as it is, it almost gets there anyway.

9. Young Americans (1975) "Bowie Blacks Out!" screamed the cover headline on Creem upon this album's 1975 release, and they didn't lie; this was DB's pet project and a vehicle to work out his obsession with Philly Soul, Marvin Gaye and especially James Brown, all of whom are quoted both directly and indirectly. Really, there's not a poor cut on this record, but some songs are stronger than others, and those just sound tentative and unsure. I'm sure if he had chosen to follow this up with another soul album, he would have gotten it right, as "Golden Years" bears out, but as we all know he didn' all we have is this one, which kinda stands out like a sore thumb in his catalogue. The title track is catchy and boogies along agreeably, and features some great lyrics. "Win" is a lovely, smooth ballad; "Right" is a laid-back soul workout, which would have made a great song for Gaye to cover, if he'd been inclined, with some nice sax from Dave Sanborn; "Fascination" seems to be the James Brown homage, with more great sax, backing vocals, and an everpresent cowbell in the background. Of course, most people know this from "Fame", Bowie's first US top ten hit and featuring John Lennon in the vocal's a great song with knowing lyrics and is easily one of his best songs ever. The only misstep is an overripe cover of Lennon's "Across The Universe", which featured John's guitar accompaniment. I play this one quite often, actually- a lot of these cuts get under your skin and pop into my head at odd times.

10. Hunky Dory (1971) Yet another transitional period, this time from the folky DonovanBolanisms to a more refined sort of folk-rock, with the first stirrings of the theatrical touches he'd come to perfect later in his career- heck, the next year, even! Of all Bowie's "classic" albums, this is the one I came to most recently, I actually didn't hear this until 1985 or so, except for the ever-present eventual hit single "Changes". Ronson doesn't get to stretch out much on this one, especially after the previous album's extended jams, but when he does get to cut loose on the transcendent "Queen Bitch" it's breathtaking, and his arrangement skills are showcased on such quintessential Bowiefare as "Oh You Pretty Things", a Glam manifesto; "Kooks", a sweet song written for then-wife Angie and young son Zowie, and on the mostly free-associated "Life on Mars", which was "inspired by Frankie (Sinatra)", according to the liner notes. Hm. Anyway, the lower-keyed vibe of this record allows the session piano of Rick Wakeman to dominate much of the proceedings, and gives much of this record a baroque, prissy feel. Many of the best cuts on Hunky are tributes to his heroes of the time, such as Andy Warhol, in the song of the same name, Neil Young (the overblown "Quicksand", a favorite of many but not really one of mine) and Bob Dylan, in the aptly titled "Song For Bob Dylan" ("...with a voice like 'sand and glue'").
There's always something interesting to return to on this record, which kinda got lost in the Ziggy shuffle.

As always, with lists like these, there are some good records that get left off like 1974's Diamond Dogs which is a botched and compromised-sounding affair, a wannabe Sci-Fi epic (DB had planned to adapt George Orwell's 1984, but the Orwell estate said "Uh, no.") which still is full of interesting ideas on its own terms and features and some surprisingly good guitar work by none other than our David himself. I wish Ronson could have stayed on board for one more album, I think his touch could have made a big difference because this just sounds so patched-together to me...but the MainMan retinue was steering him towards a solo career by then, and he was unavailable. I wonder if this album, in some ways, might not be more personal than many simply because it seems to reflect Bowie's growing unease with his future, which was hardly certain post-Spiders From Mars breakup and during the height of his decadent period. The whole record just has an aura of paranoia, dread and freakishness, in my ears anyway. 1977's "Heroes" has a couple of stellar tracks, like the title cut with more great Fripp guitar and the lurching opener "Beauty and the Beast", and another not-bad one, "Sons of the Silent Age"...but the other vocal tracks leave me cold, as do the by-then de rigeur Eno-influenced instrumentals. This album has its intense admirers, though, so what do I know. Even though it was recorded right in the middle of his most barren, creativity-wise, period, 1986's Never Let Me Down is an album which I keep coming back to, despite its thin and tinny 80s-style production sound, mostly because of three cuts: the title track, an appealing soulish ballad; "Day-In, Day-Out", which reminds me a little of Lodger or Scary Monsters with its harsh guitar riff; and "Shining Star (Making My Love)", which defies description somewhat as it has a soul-ish sound but is propelled by a triple-time lockstep beat which DB strains to croon over, but it has a wit kinda missing from many of his songs from that period (his pinched-sounding, trilled "...churr-no-beeel" cracks me up every time). It even features a spoken-word middle section with Mickey Rourke (!). Not a classic album by any stretch, and has several dull stretches, but it's a hundred times better than almost everything else he did four years before and after. 1981's Let's Dance, the Bowie album which most people own or have heard, was definitely a good news/bad news type scenario since it was nice to see Bowie getting some deserved mainstream success, but bad in that this lackluster set defined his sound for most of the decade. It should have been better, as it was produced by Chic's Nile Rodgers, who was just beginning to become a hot producer and was a year away from producing Madonna's Like A Virgin, and featured guitar work from, oddly enough, Stevie Ray Vaughn. The opener, "Modern Love", is probably the best song on the record (the most tuneful, anyway) and has more of those "sounds more profound than they really are" type lyrics. The title cut is catchy but slight, and the recycled-from-Iggy Pop "China Girl" is pretty good too. But everything else on the album is completely forgettable, and Vaughn's guitars solos sound phoned in. Both late 80's-early 90s Tin Machine albums had their moments ("Heaven in Here", flabby and padded but hard hitting; "Amlapura") and it certainly was nice to hear Bowie straining a little again, but almost every song starts out with an interesting riff or chord pattern, then devolves into sludge before it ends- sacrificed to the need for technically proficient but musically mediocre wannabe virtuoso guitarist Reeves Gabriels to freak out, extending tracks to about three minutes longer than they need to be. Other Bowie albums, like Tonight ("Blue Jean"), 1. Outside ("The Heart's Filthy Lesson", "Hallo Spaceboy"), and Earthling ("I'm Afraid of Americans"), have one or two excellent tracks, but are totally forgettable otherwise. Later albums, like these, and others, show him trying very hard to be as innovative and as deep as his rep would have it, but he apparently has lost the knack for good.

Three 80's singles also merit mention: the remarkable 1981 collaboration with Queen, "Under Pressure" which while sounding as if Freddie & Co. and DB weren't in the same area code on the day it was recorded, remains a dramatic, irresistable funk song; the title song from "Blue Jean" video director Julien Temple's quirky 1986 film Absolute Beginners (in which Bowie played a role, as well), which is melodically as strong as anything he did in this period but is somehow strangely unmemorable nonetheless; and the Godawful, prancing, mincing duet on the old Motown tune "Dancing in the Streets" which DB did with old pal Mick Jagger in 1985. It's inconsequential, and the video was an embarrassment. David also has released two live albums: 1974's David Live, recorded on the Diamond Dogs tour in which he was trying to shoehorn his growing infatuation with R & B into his music- but the performances are wan and lackluster and Bowie looks like a corpse on the cover, fitting somehow. 1978's Stage is better by comparison, but still much to polished and professional, despite this being recorded during one of his most creatively proficient periods. The band, with Adrian Belew on guitar and Utopia's Roger Powell on keybs, is very capable but are used to no great effect; most of the performances are rote, by-the-number run-throughs of several songs from 1971-1978.

And that's my David Bowie piece. Boy, am I glad that it's done. I don't mean to give the impression that I'm dismissive of Bowie, far from it- he's done some stellar work, always worthy of one's time and attention- and even at his most fallow and shallow he's been a definite influence on many, many worthwhile artists. And his real name is kinda neat, too.
Hey! It's Oscar time again this weekend! And like last year, I'm gonna try to pick the winners in the major categories, despite the fact that I haven't seen most of the nominees. I'm just crazy like that sometimes. Here goes nothing.

Movies I've seen are in bold.

Best Picture
* LOST IN TRANSLATION (Focus Features)
* MYSTIC RIVER (Warner Bros.)
* SEABISCUIT (Universal Pictures)

Well, everything points to this being the year when Peter Jackson gets his due, and LOTR really is a remarkable acheivement, so give 'im the gosh darned statue already.

Achievement in Directing
* Fernando Meirelles for CITY OF GOD (Miramax)
* Peter Jackson for THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (New Line Cinema)
* Peter Weir for MASTER & COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD (20th Century Fox)
* Sofia Coppola for LOST IN TRANSLATION (Focus Features)
* Clint Eastwood for MYSTIC RIVER (Warner Bros.)

While I understand that Sofia Coppola has received a lot of praise for her work on Translation, like I said above, I think this is LotR, and Jackson's, year.

Best Actor in a Leading Role
* Ben Kingsley in HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (DreamWorks Pictures)
* Jude Law in COLD MOUNTAIN (Miramax)
* Bill Murray in LOST IN TRANSLATION (Focus Features)
* Sean Penn in MYSTIC RIVER (Warner Bros.)

I'm tickled to see Depp get a nomination for this role, he's pretty much the best thing in that film. Penn will probably get the statue, but I'd give anything to see Bill Murray win, just to hear his acceptance speech!

Best Supporting Actor
* Alec Baldwin in THE COOLER (Lions Gate Films)
* Benicio Del Toro in 21 GRAMS (Focus Features)
* Djimon Hounsou in IN AMERICA (Fox Searchlight)
* Tim Robbins in MYSTIC RIVER (Warner Bros.)
* Ken Watanabe in THE LAST SAMURAI (Warner Bros.)

I'd like to see Baldwin get rewarded for taking on such a role, but again, Mystic River will probably get Robbins the award. Sean Astin should have been nominated for his Sam Gamgee. Word.

Best Actress in a Leading Role
* Keisha Castle-Hughes in WHALE RIDER (Newmarket Films )
* Diane Keaton in SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE (Columbia Pictures )
* Samantha Morton in IN AMERICA (Fox Searchlight)
* Charlize Theron in MONSTER (Newmarket Films )
* Naomi Watts in 21 GRAMS (Focus Features)

Something tells me Keaton has a shot, but Theron pulled off the type of role and transformation that, by most accounts, impresses the voters the most. So I go with the lovely Miz Theron.

Best Supporting Actress
* Shohreh Aghdashloo in HOUSE OF SAND & FOG (DreamWorks Pictures)
* Patricia Clarkson in PIECES OF APRIL (United Arists)
* Marcia Gay Harden in MYSTIC RIVER (Warner Bros.)
* Holly Hunter in THIRTEEN (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
* Renee Zellweger in COLD MOUNTAIN (Miramax)

Silly reader. Do you have any doubts who I'm going to pick, whether she has a chance or not? I wouldn't cry if Harden won; I usually always like her in anything she's in...but she already has an Oscar, so I'm thinking (sigh) RZ has a shot. I hope to see Cold Mountain soon.

Best Visual Effects

Pirates was pretty impressive, FX-wise, but Rings was stunning sometimes.

I'm thinking Return of the King will make out like a bandit, but sometimes it's not that cut-and-dried when it comes to the Academy. Anyway, it should be interesting viewing.
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Went to see Elvis Costello Tuesday night at the Ryman Theatre in Nashville. It was a mostly acoustic performance, accompanied by longtime Attraction pianist Steve Nieve and the Brodsky Quartet on several tunes. Now, you may be wondering, did I like the show? And I'd have to say yes I did, for the most part. But first I'll have to explain about me and Elvis C.

Longtime readers of my little bloggie may recall that I've stated many times that I was very slow to embrace punk and new wave music in the late 70s-early 80s. It just wasn't how I wanted my rock musicians to look or sound at the time. I was a middle class country boy from Kentucky, and I just couldn't relate to anything the Punks were all about. I had no desire to wear a spiky mohawk, torn sleeveless shirts festooned with safety pins, and big black work boots, and there was certainly no class structure (no overt one, anyway) for me to rebel against- plus, I was perfectly happy with the music I was hearing in 1976-77. I saw no need to throw out all the "dinosaurs" and goose this supposedly complacent and boring music scene. So, as you can imagine, that extended to Elvis Costello, who just seemed all posing and spite for spite's sake when I first saw and heard him on that famous SNL performance. The sloppily, gulping vocals and rinky-dink farfisa-organ driven music he made just didn't grab me, despite the best efforts of some pretty savvy people whose opinion I respected highly (hello, Bill Lloyd!) to convince me otherwise. I was vaguely aware, in the years to come, that he was attempting to broaden his horizons, incorporating country-western and reggae into his mix (never cared a lot for reggae, either), and I did hear an occasional song that didn't sound terrible, like "Every Day I Write The Book". But I was still unmoved to buy, despite the praise of Robert Christgau, Creem and Rolling Stone. It wasn't until 1987, ten years after I first heard him, that I finally gave it up due to his latest album at the time, 1986's Blood & Chocolate. I don't know what moved me to pick it up- I vaguely recall there being a half off vinyl sale at a record store in the Mall (had to make room for those newfangled CD things), and I took advantage, picking up a big stack, B&C included. It certainly wasn't the cover, which was pretty darn ugly. Maybe I just thought it was time to listen hard to Elvis C, who knows. Anyway, I really liked that one, and soon began to pick up others, like King of America (love that cover). A year later, I started working at the radio station the first time, and of course they had nearly all of Elvis' (both of them!) albums, so I kinda got caught up in a hurry. Spike and Mighty Like A Rose came out not long after that, and I got both of them, along with Brutal Youth, All This Useless Beauty, and his collaboration with Burt Bacharach Painted From Memory. But along the line I began to get a little bored with Costello's music, and he kinda slipped into that "I like, but not enough to buy each new release when they come out" niche that many artists fall into with me, due to my lack of excessive leisure income. For the record, I think Costello is a genius lyricist, whose words always bear close scrutiny and usually always prove brilliant...but he doesn't always craft the most interesting melodies to go with them. I admire his voice as well- while it will never go down in the history of Great Voices in Pop Music, he still works it for all it's got, and can be very expressive and moving when you least expect it. If nothing else, he deserves lots of respect for writing "Pump It Up", one of the kickingest songs ever...

OK. The concert. Sometimes it was Elvis C Unplugged, doing serviceable versions of some of his more obscure tracks like "God's Comic" from Spike or "Brilliant Mistake" from King of America, "Comic" he turned, about midway through, into a longish but frequently amusing spoken word monologue about politics, TV, gay marriage, and whatever, I suppose, entered his head at the time; other times it was Mr. McManus in full Tony Bennett mode, crooning to the mike while Nieve tinkled away on the ivories, and was sometimes joined by the Brodsky Quartet, who provided clever string arrangements for several of the songs, many of which were from his latest release, North, which (if you read the previous paragraph) you can probably guess that I don't own. In fact, that was a small problem I had for the entire show; not being the hardcore Costello fan that many in the audience were, there were several songs that he performed that were received rapturously by the faithful but were completely foreign to me. Elvis was in great voice, fortunately, and his sense of humor popped out at odd times, enlivening the proceedings I came away (I'm ashamed to say that like the old man that I am I left midway through the second encore; after all, I had an hour's drive ahead of me, I wanted to get home before midnight, and I had to go to work in the morning. He did one more that finished with what I read was a great version of "Pump It Up") satisfied and entertained, and happy to get the chance to see a musician I admire if not revere at the top of his game playing a style of music that I don't get to hear very often.

And this was also the first time I had been to the Ryman Auditorium, where they used to hold the Grand Old Opry. I've been to a thousand and one concerts in Nashville, but had never had the opportunity to see one at the Ryman before. And now I have. And I have the mighty mighty Rhonda to thank for it, so again, Rah, thanks. Too bad you couldn't have gone to see it as you intended...

One other thing which was a concert first to me, anyway- my seat (actually a wooden bench- all the seats on the floor of the Ryman are wooden benches, like church pews!) was in a section underneath the balcony overhang. I went to get a beer and when I returned, I noticed a commotion in the bench section next to mine, with ushers toweling the seat and back frantically, apologizing all the while, and the erstwhile occupants of that bench standing, waiting patiently for him to stop apologizing, I assume, and get finished. I asked the fellow next to me, "what's the rumpus?" and he informed me that apparently someone in the balcony above had spilled a large drink of some sort, and it had leaked through to drip on the bench below! I had never seen the like...and my first reaction was "get a cup"! There was also a fellow who looked like Elvis C.'s twin seperated at birth who was walking around meeting and greeting people pre-show...and I had a start when Costello did finally come out, wearing the same color necktie as his doppelganger! Yikes! Was that The Man himself, walking around before the show? But then I realized that the faux Declan was wearing a blue shirt, and the real McCoy was wearing a dark gray or black shirt. So not quite a brush with fame there, but amusing just the same. Another caveat: if you go see a show at the Ryman in the future, don't park in the parking lot immediately adjacent- it cost me 10 bucks! I began to back out and go further up the street, but there was traffic behind me, obviously eager to fork over their ten spots, so I paid the man and went on in. Lessons learned are like bridges burned, as that Dan Fogleberg feller once wrote.

And that's the story of my Elvis Costello concert experience. Thanks for reading. For another opinon slash concert review, go here.
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You just never know sometimes, do ya.

Just read an interesting news item over at Graeme's...seems that there's a chance that there will be a collected edition of a series which I'm surprised anyone even remembers, let alone wants to collect- Bill and Ted's Excellent Comic Book!

I liked the movies, and remember when the series was launched. Nine and three-quarters times out of ten, comic book movie adaptations and series based on same are lackluster affairs, rarely capturing the same qualities that made the source material entertaining. So I passed on it. Then, I discovered Evan Dorkin's Milk and Cheese, loved it, then made an amazing discovery one day whilst perusing the new arrivals on the spinner rack at Jr. Foods- that very same Dorkin fella that tickled me funny bone so much with his dairy products gone bad was doing this, as well! The issue in question was Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book #11, and as is so often the case, I went on a quest to hunt up the back issues I had missed. And I soon found out, to my dismay, that they're scarcer than hen's teeth (to coin a cliché). So it took me a while, and several mail orders along with trips to Louisville and Nashville (and no, I wasn't going just to find B&T comics. I didn't like 'em that much!), but I eventually got a run of 11 of the 12 issues that Marvel published. #10 remains elusive, to this day...but to be honest, I haven't looked anywhere for it in a long time. Anyway, Bill & Ted's Excellent Comic Book turned out to be pretty entertaining, with Dorkin going a bit beyond the parameters of the films and injecting his idiosyncratic sense of humor where he could, especially after the buzz died down after the lackluster ratings performance of the animated TV show.

So what I'm trying to say in a most roundabout way is that I kinda liked that book, and will most definitely make plans to pick up that trade. It promises to be most non-non-non heinous.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

I'm putting this link here so I don't forget to read it in further detail later: The Ziggy Stardust Companion. Yes, my Bowie piece is almost complete, in case you were wondering.
Among the announcements from Cartoon Network:

-- Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi: One of Japan's biggest pop music acts arrives in America, not with a massive stadium tour but as a cartoon. Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, set to debut in December, follows the adventures of two very cool, but very different, pop stars as they travel from gig to gig or just hang out in their hometown of Tokyo. Ami is the peppy, positive and resourceful one. Yumi is the hard-rocking, no-nonsense cynic with an absolutely infallible sense of cool. Together, they take the world by storm, despite occasional misjudgments from their well-meaning but tragically square manager, Kaz. Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yumi also will feature live-action segments starring the real life Puffy AmiYumi as well as the group's catchy J-pop hits.

Well, now...this is interesting! Pictures! I demand pictures! From
Hm. After reading the Waiting For Tommy interview with Igor Kordey plus many of the reactions over at Millarworld's message boards, one cliché and one general opinion come to mind.

The cliché: "Fuck with the bull, you get the horn".

The general opinion: Any creator worth his salt, especially one who seems to have such a distaste for illustrating characters wearing "diapers" (Kordey's term for spandex, not mine) is wasting both his time and ours when he does the likes of X-Men. Get your ass over to DC and do some Vertigo projects, Igor. I personally would love to see you tackle The Losers or Lucifer. Or Dark Horse. Or anybody, for gosh sakes!

By the way, the only books I own with Kordey art are one TPB of New X-Men and his four-issue Black Widow series, which I liked very much. Just for the record.
Happy Bacardi Show Blogiversary Greetings, one day late, to the redoubtable Neilalien!
It would take me all week and then some to articulately and accurately express the problems I have with embracing Christianity completely (and living here in the buckle of the Bible Belt, it's not something one often does in public, or at least one who wishes to avoid controversy), but I was impressed as all get out with Sean Collins' thoughts on some of the hoo-hah about Mel Gibson's new Jesus movie. Goeth thou forth and read, verily. He saith sooth.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

All work and no play makes Johnny B an absentee blogger...

Another one of those days, when I am too busy typing that leetle teeny tiny type in those FULL PAGE real estate listings like you see in your Sunday paper to write about much of anything, except lame, short posts explaining why I don't have time to write.

But fear not, hopefully I will be able to stay awake long enough when I get home to at least post about the Elvis Costello show I saw last night, and heaven only knows what else...

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Song of the day.
Regarding Neilalien's comics blogger lockstep callout, all I can say is I suppose you could look at it as another example of great minds thinking alike...but in my defense, I'm still one of the infidel holdouts when it comes to Manga.

So while I may be marching, I'm still kinda out of step.
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Doesn't this look like a textbook Kirby action pose? Somewhere the King is smiling at his children that follow in his footsteps...

I'm kinda looking forward to this upcoming Dini/Timm/Glines one shot featuring Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy. Here's a preview. Scroll down to the bottom; it's the last of four.

One thing I've begun to notice, though, is Timm's tendency to draw Harley's boobs like bananas. If you think I'm crazy, just check out the cover, it's part of the preview. I also regret that since this preview's in black and white, I won't get to make my requisite snarky comments about colorist Lee Loughridge. Well, perhaps I could say something along the lines that this is the best coloring I've ever seen from him, but that's a cheap shot (even for me), and I won't go there. besides, I actually liked his work on The Losers, which is, of course, the comic I'm feeling most evangelical about these days...

Nothing against bananas, mind you.
I spy with my widdle eye, the Diamond shipping list and the comics which I'm supposed to be getting tomorrow. And it goes like this:


plus ABSENT FRIENDS #1 and SANDMAN PRESENTS: THE THESSALIAD #3. Looks like a pretty good week, and I'm looking forward to The Losers and Hellblazer, which should be the grande finale of the current story arc. I would pick up that MICHAEL CHABON PRESENTS...THE ESCAPIST #1, but Jesus, it's nine bucks and to be perfectly honest, I stil haven't made it all the way through Kavalier and Clay yet.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Well. I've had the day off today, and did I use it to fill my little corner of the 'Net with bloggish goodness?

Uh, no.

Actually, I've been running around with Mrs. B, paying bills and stuff. We got our income tax refund today, and spent most of it shopping and paying off loans. Sigh.

But the day hasn't been a total loss. I got a mention in an article on the Comics Blogosphere (I suppose that it merits capital letters by now, doesn't it?) on the website Comixpedia! I feel like my existence is justified for another day at least, and I say that with tongue only slightly in cheek. A great honor, especially since I don't write exclusively about comics. Thanks, and hello if you're coming here from there. I guess I should crank up the comics writing a bit!

Which is a nice segue to the part where I tell you that the Bowie overview is almost finished, existing right now in that peculiar purgatory known as "draft". I still have to write capsules of 7 of the top ten, but the intro, first three capsules, the also-rans and the sumup is done, so it will be along shortly. Gee, I suppose I could have finished it in the time it's taken me to write this post...!

While I'm thinking about it, I watched an interesting film last night, after I was done re-watching the Beatles Anthology: The Gathering Storm, with Albert Finney giving an excellent performance as Winston Churchill in the days before WWII. Finney was mesmerizing, he was so good.

Saw the new Indigo Girls CD, with art by Jaime Hernandez, at Wal-Mart. Didn't buy, but I got to see the back cover, which features a sketchy-looking portrait of the Girls by our Xaime. Next time, though, I think he should perhaps ask for a photo reference or something because while it did depict two women, one a brunette and one a redhead, they looked absolutely nothing like the real-life Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. Disappointing.

I think I'm gonna do it. No, not go away forever, don't get your hopes up. I think I'm going to go see Elvis Costello tomorrow night, with Steve Nieve and the Brodsky Quartet. No, they'll be with Mr. McManus, not me. EC's gonna be at the Ryman Auditorium, and the seats are pretty good, and I have a few bucks in my pocket, so why the hell not! A million billion thanks to Rockin' Rhonda of Very Black for making it possible. I'm gonna have to haul ass down to Nashville after I get off at 5- the show starts at 7:30 and it takes a little over hour to get down there, driving at legal speeds, that is...

But what about comics, you ask? I'm thinking about devoting a paragraph or three to an obscure, mostly overlooked DC comic from the early 90s, which I completely missed out on when it was being published. More I will not say for now, but I'll give a hint: it was a nine-issue limited series, and was promoted with a tagline that read "Tomorrow's Heroes- Today!"...which totally missed the point of the entire series! This series and the promotion of same was not a high point in the annals of the DC promotional department, whose lunkheaded treatment virtually guaranteed its failure. Stay tuned to find out what it is!

I'd love to write about the Andrew Helfer/Kyle Baker Shadow series, which I think was a masterpiece of black comedy and one of the best things ever published under the aegis of National Periodical Publications...but I just don't know if I can do it justice. We'll see. Another subject I'm not feeling worthy of is Elaine Lee & Mike Kaluta's Starstruck- a wonderfully complex and often downright funny SF...well, not a spoof, as such, but more of a lighthearted adventure story. I had toyed with the idea of doing a website, like my Thriller site, devoted to its whimsical complexities and highly detailed universe, but I just haven't been able to find the energy. Ya never know. I really need to redo the Thriller website too, since I lost all the original working files when I wiped my hard drive back in May, leaving me unable to update the site, and I've got a ton fo stuff from Trevor Von Eeden I'd love to add. Yes, I thought I'd backed up my files before I wiped my drive...but my CD burner malfunctioned, unbeknownst to me, and the disk I thought full of precious files was a dud. I took that burner back and got a new one, but it was too late, I had foolishly wiped the hard drive before I checked the disk. If you were wondering.

I'm still toying with the notion of sitting down and making a list of my all-time favorite comics series, from the 60's to today, and perhaps devoting a couple of paragraphs to each, an issue per day. I'm trying to decide whether I should divide this list into decades, or alphabetically, or whether to make the list 25 titles, or ten, or 50, or...well, you get the idea. Another notion that's been rattling around, BB-like, in my skull is to try and organize a sketchblog of some sort. I'd like it to be a group blog, showcasing stuff by my friends as well as myself like the always entertaining Pants Press Sketchblog- but unfortunately I just don't have that many candidates. Oh, I know some excellent artists, but they're either not on the web in any significant measure, and live too far for me to ask them personally, or are on the web and just don't blog or do anything much but email, or this or that. I look at this as perhaps a way to try and resuscitate the shriveled up corpse of my own artistic urges, but perhaps that's one zombie best left unawakened...

Oh, and Sean T.- I've taken the first step in cutting down on the load-time for dial-up modem readers by deleting image files in my blogroll space at right. For some reason, this template design loads the sidebar first, and yours was not the first complaint about this I've received. I wish I had the money to pay for site hosting somewhere and create a brand new blog page, independent of Blogger, but I don't. Hope it helps. I'd been feeling like my blog was beginning to resemble Homer Simpson's anyway. Gone is the Free Beer! Party button, since I withdrew from the race, and the valentine bikini girl, whose arms were getting tired anyway. I might delete a couple of others before I'm done, but I ain't touching Priscilla Lane. Except in my dreams.

This is it for now. Gotta go back to work tomorrow, which means shorter posts when I get the chance, but you never know so come back occasionally, OK?

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Just for the heck of it: A page devoted to shots from the Beatles' final photo shoot, and some of my favorite pictures of the Fabs, at Tittenhurst Park. I think this is from a website detailing Beatles photo sessions.

Been watching The Beatles Anthology DVD, don'tcha know. I now have a new reason to listen to the Anthology 2 album- a previously unheard take of "Across The Universe", with some nice overdubbed guitar in the mix, and something which sounds like a zither as well. Don't know why I didn't notice it previously, but there ya go.
It's Sunday, and I find myself at the radio station, acting as Ringmaster of the Holy Roller Circus. As a result, I've been surfing the web a lot today, reading blogs, looking for graphics industry recruiters and job postings, and have even taken a couple of quizzes. I took the "Yankee or Dixie" Quiz, which I found over at Franklin's Findings, and am somewhat bemused to see that this Kentucky boy outscored Alabama resident Franklin, 77% to 68%, on the "Dixie" side! See how you do!
Since I haven't posted about my Forties inamorata Priscilla Lane for a while, here's a neat-o keen-o Priscilla Lane Quiz!

My score? Uh...I'm embarrassed to say that I got 7 out of 10. But the average was 5 out of 10 so that's good, right?
On the Beach Boys news front, here's an interesting item: Brian Wilson has gotten around to fleshing out his ill-starred Will O'The Wisp-like Smile project, in order to perform it live like he did with his Pet Sounds album a couple of years ago. Bet your ass if I was rich I would have flown over to London for this.
From NeilAlien's overview of the new Comics Journal's Ditko issue:

"Unmasking The Villain: Notes on Ditko, Kirby and Marvel-Style Plotting" by Craig Fischer

This essay argues that Kirby trumps Ditko because Amazing Spider-Man was overly formulaic while Fantastic Four's plots were good, diverse, and constantly introducing new characters, realms, etc. Then it relates the great story about how Kirby wanted the Him/Warlock story of Fantastic Four #66-67 to be a critique of objectivism, but Lee gutted it, which led to their falling out. Very interesting. "When I peel off the mask of the supervillain, all I see is the face of Ayn Rand, the philosopher-bitch who managed to outdo Yoko Ono and blast apart two of the 1960's most creative partnerships." Four poisoned sandwiches.

Dirk, when you take over the Journal, will you please see to it that ignorant, uninformed statements like the one I've highlighted in boldface no longer see print?

One more time, and repeat after me, kiddies: Yoko Ono did NOT break up the Beatles, nor did she prevent Paul and John from continuing to collaborate. She may have added to the tensions already in effect, but she was only one of many contributing factors.

Thank you.

Saturday, February 21, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of February 18

It's been a year since Matt Murdock declared himself new Kingpin in Hell's Kitchen. Ben Urich relates, to an unknown listener, his reasons for not revealing Murdock's true identity. Also, he tells another tale, of Murdock's battle with the Yakuza for his territory. We then find out now Matt's missing, and get a surprise revelation at the end. Pretty simple, huh! But as always with Brian Bendis, it's the telling, not the tale and he's a sharp and smart as always. Alex Maleev is uniformly excellent, as well, and even does a pretty darn good fight scene this time out, which has been his Achilles' heel so far. All good, but I can't help wondering what the original Kingpin's been up to in that same year... A

Darwyn Cooke successfuly evokes that early 60s, pre-Fabs vibe as he introduces us to J'onn J'onzz (giving us a very creepy looking J'onn), Superman, Batman, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Slam Bradley, and the Flash. I liked the idealogical clash between the Son of Krypton and the Daughter of Themyscira (and boy would I like to knock back a flagon of rice wine with Cooke's WW), was happy to see Slam included (even though it made me miss Darwyn's Catwoman more than ever), and enjoyed the fast-paced and well drawn battle between the Flash and Captain Cold. But I gotta dock this a notch, because there's no way in hell that Ted Grant would ever beat Cassius Clay, and why the heck did Darwyn have the Captain perform his robbery in his bathrobe? A-

A step up from last issue, even though it's essentially a swipe of the John Sayles film Return of the Secaucus Seven. Still, I like Cliff Chiang's art here a lot, a lot more than his previous stints on Beware The Creeper and Josie Mac, and the story took some nifty left turns. That being said, though, I'm beginning to lose interest just a bit in this book because there's nothing here which makes me really care about what happens to the protagonist, who is such a cipher. He was a lot easier to care about when he was a mercenary in the 70s and happy to be so, without all the psychological baggage which Milligan introduced. B+

Scott Morse the artist gives us a wonderful-looking exercise in his peculiar abstract expressionist style (well, how would you describe it?), filling every painted page with odd-looking people in wonderfully gnarly layouts and gorgeous color, with nary a black line to be found anywhere, save for word balloons, and some rousing action at the end. Scott Morse the writer does Scott Morse the artist a huge disservice, though, by giving him a story which begins well, and is somewhat touching at the end, but in the middle is based mostly on Agatha Christie-style coincidence and refuses to make sense, or even make itself clear, on many occasions. For example, just why does the young lady, who apparently kills two men and spends most of the story hiding from Jim Gordon -and who we never really get to see clearly until the end- do what she does? All we can do is just go with it, and while this isn't terrible overall, it's just not very cost-effective at $4.95. B+

Well, unlike the Previews Reviews fellows, I'm not bored with this book, which is as strong, characterization-wise, as always- and as long as that remains constant I'll be around. But there's not really much else happening in this issue, which is essentially about the nominal "deities" of Lucifer's new universe going around shooing all the immortal-type beings out of his creation. Not bad in and of itself, but not especially compelling, and Mike Carey lapses into Fables territory on at least one occasion. Not a peak, but certainly no valley either and as always I'm looking forward to next issue. B+

One trade colection-

In which we get all twelve issues to date, published under the cottage industry banner of Dancing Elephant Press and resplendent in black-and-white, of Paul Grist's take on the superhero comic. Wittily written, with more intriguing characters in any two issues than some titles have after ten years, and cleverly illustrated in Grist's unorthodox style, with his adventurous page layouts and spectacular use of shadows-and-light contrast, not to mention his wonderful incorporation of text in his graphics, giving this a retro-and-cutting edge look all at the same time. I've been singing the praises of Jack Staff for some time now, and if you would like to know what I'm talking about then this is the best place to get acquainted with Grist's work. The Staff color title from Image has been good so far, but it's here where Grist's vision shines brightest. Hopefully he will incorporate a lot of these characters into the color book soon, so here's your chance to get acquainted with the likes of Helen Morgan of "Q", Charlie Raven, The Greatest Escapist of the Victorian Age, The Druid, Doc Tempest, Morlan the Mystic, and the Spider. A+

OTHER TITLES, from previous weeks but purchased 2/18:

DEEP SLEEPER 1 is an intriguing first step, in which we meet the titular character, a writer whose dreams get a little too...intense. Not being a Coffin reader, I'm not all that familiar with the creators, but I like what I've seen so far. I wish artist Mike Huddleston took as many pains with his real-life depictions as he does the dream sequences, which are very well-done and remind me a bit of Paul Pope. A-

The finale of the Joker-sniper storyline, and its aftermath. I didn't get last month's #15 until this week, so I waited to read #16 until I had it. The former was a well-done finale with an exciting climax, but the whole "GCPD resents The Bat" theme that has been the foundation of ths book just doesn't ring all that true to me. Maybe it's just forty plus years of seeing Batman as a good guy, I guess. Most notable thing about #16 was fill-in artist Greg Scott, who does a very good faux Mike Lark. The dramatics and character interaction were first rate, too, and promises further interesting developments down the road. Both issues: A-

Thessaly takes a ride on "The Allegorical Subway", looking for answers to #1's events, and Bill Willingham continues to flex his pre-Fables muscles as she encounters several legendary and mythological creatures. Pretty well done for the most part, and inker Andrew Pepoy retains the cartoony look which penciller Shawn McManus aspires to, and makes this particular mini better-looking, at least interior-wise, than the current Witch For Hire. I will say this, though- the Dave McKean covers that DC commissioned for this series are wretched bad, and I hope DC got a partial refund. B+

And did I mention that The Losers is a hell of a good series, and if you haven't checked it out so far then you should at least get the new trade? Well, you should.

That is all.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

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Is it just me, or am I beginning to see a certain motif springing up on covers these days?
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Here's the nifty cover for the new Indigo Girls album, by none other than Jaime Hernandez! Hope there are more illustrations in the rest of the package...unlike at least one of my blogosphereiverse cohorts, I actually like the Girls, even though their last album left me kinda cold (although it was as tuneful as ever). Looks like I'll be getting this one for sure...

No blogging yesterday, I know, but fear not- another hiatus is not in the offing, it's just that old equation: busy at work/busy at home=less time for the JB Show. I did get started on my as-promised Bowie retrospective and that Vinyl-O, though, so the day wasn't a total waste.

And in case you were wondering, yesterday was financial meltdown armegeddon for me at the ol' comic book shop. Every book I listed on Tuesday came in, so did Deep Sleeper 1, Gotham Central 15, and Absent Friends 1. I put AF back to purchase later. I also went ahead and bought the Jack Staff trade, against my better judgement, because I just really wanted to read those gosh darn stories I had missed! Besides, it was such a nice package that my impulsive devil kicked my frugal angel's ass one more time. I put in on a credit card. Bad Dave. BAD. And of course you know I will write a line or two about each eventually. I didn't see the new Comics Journal, though...but I probably just wasn't looking for it. I'm kinda interested in reading the Ditko material- if copies stay on the shelves for a couple of weeks, I might buy it on a slow week for other books, if I ever have one again...

More later, hopefully.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Well, looks like I'm going to be shelling out quite a bit of the coin of the realm tomorrow, according to the Diamond shipping list:

(Scott Morse! I don't remember if I signed up for this or not. As much as I love Morse's work, I'm kinda hoping not, and I'll get it later)
LUCIFER #47 $2.50
(no, Scott and Christopher, I'm not getting tired of this title...)
JACK STAFF, VOL 1: EVERYTHING USED TO BE BLACK & WHITE TP $19.95 There are two issues of JS I don't have- #'s 5 and 8. I already have #'s 1-4 thanks to the earlier TPB. Why am I not simply ordering those two books from Grist, rather than dropping 20 bucks for 2 stories I don't own? I don't know...
DAREDEVIL #57 $2.99

Guess that's it, but for these six books, I'm going to be laying out $38.79! $41.07 with tax! And that's if those missing issues of Love Fights, Gotham Central, Absent Friends and Deep Sleeper don't show up! Something's got to give, and unfortunately it looks like it's gonna be me...
I think it's time for the semi-monthly sports post.

The big deal right now in sports is the Yankees getting Alex Rodriguez from Texas. Most view this as a portent that the apocalypse is upon us. I do not share that view. I have seen nothing yet that shows me that Rodriguez is anything even remotely resembling a winner, and the Yankees still have some holes that they need to plug. Of course, all this means is that they can go out and spend twenty or thirty mil more and get somebody...I mean when your payroll's already nearing 200 million, what's another 10 or 15?

I love Bill Simmons' column on this week...he's one Red Sox fan who isn't preparing to jump in the Atlantic Ocean.

Meanwhile, my White Sox steadfastly refuse to succumb to this spending mania, preferring to remain status quo...except for threatening to trade Magglio Ordonez, which would have been stupidity of the highest sort. Fortunately, this talk has died down for now.
Wait! Don't "shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it like a Polaroid picture"...!
Just saw on the Image Community message boards where they're gonna be showing three and a half-hour's worth of Sid and Marty Krofft shows tonight on TV Land.

Yes, of course I watched the Krofft product a lot growing up. H.R. Pufnstuf, Lidsville (featuring the Mighty Mighty Charles Nelson Reilly). The Bugaloos, even! Think I'll tune in tonight, when I get home from work.

Speaking of the Bugaloos, recent blogroll addition Mike Sterling reprinted a couple of panels from the short-lived comic that starred those characters. The show might have lasted a few months longer than the comic, I'm not sure... And here, boys and girls, is something that -just think!- you might have gone your entire life without experiencing...Tranquility Forest--the Bugaloos web site!!!

Mahalo to B. Clay Moore for the heads-up!

Monday, February 16, 2004

Go check out Koko Be Good, the newest story from the amazing Jen Wang. Even though it's something (she says) that she batted out, it's still very involving and her facial expressions and the body language of her figures are excellent.
Well, here's some unhappy news: Angel has been cancelled. I was kinda slow to embrace it, even though I liked Buffy; in fact it wasn't until last year that I watched a full season's worth of episodes. After having caught a few reruns, I definitely think it was a fun and fast-paced show, and I'll miss it. And this also means that there will be no Joss Whedon shows on for the first time in a long time. However, that will change when the Firefly movie does such phenomenal box office that the networks fall all over themselves to produce a regular weekly series again...

As Sandy Denny once so eloquently put it: "I'm a dreamer..."
Everything Old is New Again, or Of Moth and Men

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When I saw the solicitations for Steve Rude's upcoming Moth series, it rang a big old church bell in my head, and I remembered where I had seen the character before: ladies and germs, I give you exhibit A in the discussion of exactly how long some character ideas ferment in creators' heads: a trading card from the "Creators Universe" series, which are ©1993. I got this, along with most of the others which included Chaykin's American Flagg!, Art Adams' sorely missed Monkeyman & O'Brien (both Ann and Axwell, and Oniko and Gorildozer, on seperate cards!), and characters from Frank Miller's Sin City, in a couple of boxes for a buck at Kay-Bee Toys. Pretty cool, huh.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of February 11

For some reason this feels like a fill-in issue, even though series creator/writer Bill Willingham is on board. Talk talk talk is the order of the day this time out as we get Bill's takes on Cinderella and Ichabod Crane, Bigby Wolf pulls off a somewhat dubious sting, and a couple of plot twists later we know a little bit more about the Fables' Big we get a French-baiting joke at the end. Sigh. French baiting jokes are so 2002. Very good job by fill-in artist Tony Akins, who along with inker Jimmy (never met a penciller he didn't like) Palmiotti establish and maintain a credible faux Lee Marrs, an improvement in my book over Buckingham and Leialoha. Best of a lackluster week. A-

Tommy Lee Edwards, as regular readers might remember, is one of my favorite contemporary artists. Right now, he's been indulging himself in a Terry and the Pirates-type strip which can be seen on his website, apparently reflecting his love of aviation and especially old airplanes. This is what he brings to his debut on Hellboy, and while it's a nice idea, the execution is disappointingly sloppy and incoherent but still shows glimmers of excellence. I would love to see more TLE on Hellboy, I just hope he takes his time next time. Story no. 2 is a passably written zombie story which sports some truly wretched artwork, and the less said the better. Best of show this time out is a solo tale of Johann the ghost in the containment suit, whose last name I forget, by Kev Walker. I remember being impressed with a guest stint he did on The Legion, so I guess I'll have to keep an eye out in the future for this fellow. A disappointing Dave Stevens pinup and another pointless episode of John Cassaday's retro take on Lobster Johnson finish the book up. Hellboy: Weird Tales remains just good enough to warrant attention, while rarely rewarding it. How long can this keep going on? B+

1602 7
The closer we get to the end, the more Gaiman seems to be trying. His dialogue is still stiff and stilted, but he's thrown us several interesting curves and is keeping me guessing about how this is going to resolve itself. I really wish that they had found someone besides Andy Kubert to draw this series...he's trying hard, but this sort of thng is simply beyond his abilities. I liked the cover, which for some reason reminds me of Frank Zappa's 1975 album One Size Fits All. In fact, I've liked every cover in this series so far. Tellingly, though, the part I enjoyed the most about this issue were the words " be concluded". B+

H-E-R-O 13 The Robby Reed subplot is keeping me interested, since I really can't care less about the plight of poor Joe the Electro-Woman. The art is Leonard Kirk at his stiffest, something I thought he'd worked out in his last couple of JSA's. And to think I had such high hopes for this book once upon a time. Oh well, ce'st la vie. When Robby's dealt with (To be honest, I'm dreading another unnecessary cynical re-imagining of a lighthearted DC Silver Age character a la Kevin Smith's heinous Stanley and His Monster slam in Green Arrow), I'll be dialing B-Y-E B-Y-E. C+

Also had some back issue acquisitions in the past week- I found all four issues of the Sandman Presents: The Thessaliad mini series of a year or two ago, which gave us a solo spotlight for Neil Gaiman's surly petite Thessalonian Witch, named Thessaly. I passed on this series when it originally came out, mostly because after the mostly disappointing The Dreaming series, and several lackluster Sandman Presents spinoffs, I wanted no more to do with other people's versions of Gaiman's characters. But Mike Cary changed all that with his excellent work on Lucifer, and having also become an enthusiast of Bill Willingham's Fables, I decided to see what he would do with Thess, so I signed on for the most recent mini, Sandman Presents: Thessaly, Witch For Hire. It was after reading #1 that I remembered the earlier series, and I thought I'd see if I could find it at my comics shop, on a whim- and lo and behold, there were all four issues! A rarity for the Great Escape, where time and again I have found four issues of a six-issue series, and so on. Anyway, I decided to get #1 this week, and buy the next each subsequent week. Sandman Presents: The Thessaliad begins, strangely enough, in almost the exact same way its successor begins, with a bit more exposition in its dialogue and a bit more explicit violence than I was expecting. But that's pretty much par for the course when Thessaly's involved- creators just can't resist the urge to contrast her demure, bookwormish appearance with the actual mayhem and violence she's capable of as as the last and most powerful of the Thessalonian Witches. She is definitely not to be screwed with, in more ways than one. Since this is essentially a "set the stage" type story, it gets a pass on that account. The artist for SMP:TT is the same as its successor, Shawn McManus, who (if I'm not mistaken) drew a part of the Sandman story arc which introduced Thess. His work on Witch For Hire looks streamlined and mannered, here it is much looser and a little more given to exaggeration and cartoonishness, and is all the better for it. He's still not a favorite, but I like his stuff better in The Thessaliad, at least so far. First issue gets a B+.

I also acquired, through eBay, a set of issues 1-6 of The Losers. Yeah, I know, the trade came out this very week collecting those very same issues...but what the hell, I only spent a buck more and got a duplicate copy of the issue of 100 Bullets that carried a preview. Boys and girls, I gotta tell you right off the bat- I loved this first story arc of The Losers. No, it's not the freshest genre or concept out there; I can name probably a dozen movies in the last five years that have trod similar ground. But The Losers may be a shining example of why comics are sometimes better than films: this material is made fresher by the jagged, brittle art of "Jock", whose Sean Phillips-ish style grated at first but eventually grew on me, and impressed me with his aggressive layouts, use of shadows and light, and some of his facial expressions. Walt Simonson seems to be a big influence as well. I had seen his work in other places, most notably in a fill-in capacity on John Constantine: Hellblazer, and was not exactly overwhelmed, but he definitely brings a lot of panache to the party. His visuals enliven the proceedings, something which films of this nature aren't always able to fall back on...and sometimes, as in the case of the movie Swordfish, great visuals can't redeem a braindead story, certainly not the case with the 8 issues so far. And please sit down or hold on to something, and bear with me because I never thought I would type these words...the coloring by Lee Loughridge is uniformly excellent. That's right, the colorist whose work I love to hate and hate to love has come up a winner on this title. Don't get me wrong, his color pallette is still mostly monochromatic shades of muddy green, yellow, blue and brown...but he also adds some of the other colors God in his infinite wisdom granted his beloved creation, and Loughridge uses them to great effect in several instances, creating and sustaining a mood rather than murking up and obfuscating the art. Never thought I'd live to see the day...I was also previously unimpressed with work I had experienced by creator/writer Andy Diggle, especially the Lady Constantine mini of a few months ago which had completely left me cold. Obviously he has a lot more affinity for this Alias/Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels/Formula 51 type material than he does period fantasy, because here his dialogue is razor-sharp, his plot twists truly gnarly and he exhibits a welcome sense of humor, something which is essential in this sort of story, essentially a "payback"-type tale, with the title characters, who were black ops agents that were on a mission that went all fubar'd, causing them to be declared dead. Problem is, they weren't killed, and furthermore think that they were set up and are united in the goal of getting their lives back, by whatever means necessary. Of course, each is a badass in their own field, and there's one especially intriguing character, an Afghani double agent named Aisha who seems to be a one-women mayhem and destruction machine. Fast paced and fun, I highly recommend the recently released The Losers trade Ante Up- especially to those who are experiencing Sleeper withdrawals until V2 #1 comes out. They may be Losers...but we, the readers, are the winners.
Goose-bump moments in music, part 2:

Flaming Lips, Yoshimi, "Fight Test", original version, at 2:52 when that gorgeous melody takes over from the somewhat repetitive, but no less catchy, lyric.

Kicks my ass every time, in what is certainly a CD full of ass-kicking moments.

Best Yes album in 30 years, says I, with only a hint of seriousness.
Tony Collett and Fred Hembeck (on 2-11) recently posted about what it was like to buy comics before we had such things as comics shops and drivers' licenses and such. Since I always seem to be ready to reminisce at the drop of a hat, come with me now, into the dim and dusty byways of days gone by:

The 1960's
Ah, the decade in which I was born, 16 days in. I don't remember exactly what the first comic ever bought for me was...I'm mostly sure it was a copy of Tales To Astonish 50, December 1963 cover dated with Giant-Man and the Wasp vs. The Top. I also remember a comic with a science fiction story featuring a character named Talos, who became the omnipotent ruler of his world but became a tyrannical despot and eventually was killed, or killed himself, or something...I forget. Anyway, I don't think it was a Marvel or DC because it had the A. Machine lettering style that was popular in EC comics...but the early 1960s were a bit after the time for EC's. Charlton, maybe? Oh well. Of course, I was totally dependent on my folks for the change with which to get these magical funnybooks, and fortunately (except for one ugly situation when, as a result of being unruly in church one day, my father took a stack of my comics and burned them! I got a lot of pleasure, years later, showing him the price guide value of those comics he destroyed...heh heh...) my parents were supportive of my habit. So usually, when we went to town, they'd give me 50 cents (enough to buy four, count 'em FOUR comics then!) and I'd buy whatever caught my eye at that time. The first places that I remember that carried comics in my home town (Horse Cave, KY, remember- see links in the links section) were drugstores and grocery stores. Many of my early purchases were made at Dorsey Drugs, a corner shop which had a pretty good-sized selection as I recall.

Other Horse Cave outlets at the time, and bear in mind my memory is fuzzy and I may be getting my timelines mixed up a bit, were Caverna/Rexall Drugs, which had a pretty good selection of Marvels, DCs, and Harvey; Houchens Markets, the "big" supermarket in town which usually carried magazines only (along with Marvel 25 cent annuals) but always had Warren publications like Famous Monsters, Creepy, Eerie, and Blazing Combat!; Ben Franklin Five & Dime, which eventually expanded when Dorsey Drugs went out of business in the mid 60s and carried mostly Gold Key comics, in the 60s at least; and Stevenson's 5 and Dime, which carried Gold Key and Dell, mostly, and was renowned for its Toyland at Christmas. Believe me, I knew where each and every comics rack in Horse Cave was, and what would be on each of them.

But that wasn't the only place where I got my pre-pubescent fix, no sir! Both my parents worked full-time jobs back then, so I stayed with my grandparents for about 5 years. My grandparents were always driving to nearby Glasgow for doctor appointments, and that meant a trip to the big department store in town, J.J. Newberry's, which used to carry DCs by the score in a wall rack. I remember buying most of my Silver Age DC comics there. There was also a drug store on the corner in Glasgow, an Ely's store, proprietor of which I can't remember, where I remember getting a lot of late 60s Marvels and DCs. It was there that I remember buying the Avengers issues that featured the wedding of Yellowjacket/Hank Pym and the Wasp, and several of the Adams/Thomas X-Men, and it was here that I first saw DC books like Beware the Creeper, Bat Lash, and Hawk and the Dove. As I said before, my Dad worked all week, and his job required him to travel to various grocery stores and gas stations in a different area every day, to take orders and collect money for the wholesale grocery company for which he worked. He often let me accompany him on his routes, when school was out...and a big highlight of this trip was finding new comics on the racks at the various small grocery stores, drug stores, and such he would visit. Sometimes, the grocery proprietor would know of my jones and find an old box of comics from the back that I could go through, or would have a son who had a collection, as was the case with one grocer, whose older-than-me son had a mind-blowing collection of every Marvel comic published up to 1969 or so. I have totally forgotten who this guy was, or where this was or anything that would help me track him down to see if he still had them (and most importantly, would he want to sell them!!)...all I can remember is stack after stack of the most primo Lee/Kirby/Ditko/Colan stuff you can imagine, and about 30 minutes to look through them. I think perhaps his name was Doug something. Oh well...

Another late 60s place I remember getting those X-Men comics, along with many issues of the Spectre, Green Lantern and Showcase among others was the 5 B Key Store, a supermarket on the other end of Horse Cave which was run by a fellow named Blair with his family in mind, hence the "5 B" part of the name...whose son Tommy was a friend of mine and whose older sister Marsheena was always an object of early teenage lustful fantasies. Anyway, moving right along, that's about it for places where I bought comics, or had them bought for me, in the Sixties. Listing them here, I'm a bit surprised that there were as many of them as there were, especially now that about the only place you can buy a comic book is in a specialty store. Nobody carries the things like they used to, not even the large grocery store chains around here. Now, we move on to that decade in which I started earning my own money and driving:

The 70's
In the 70s, things changed a bit for me and my comics habit, which was so firmly entrenched in me now that all my folks could do was shrug and give me a dollar or two. Many of my childhood outlets went out of business or dropped comics completely, so I found new places. During the early 70s, I got a lot of comics in Bowling Green when my parents would go down there to shop. Many came from a drug store on the corner of the BG square which no longer exists, literally- the building itself was torn down and is now a gaping hole in the structure of the Square itself! My friend Dave Puckett (who has helped me with a couple of place names) worked in a head shop a that location in the 70s, pre-demolition. Maybe it was all those hermit crabs they sold. Anyway, the convenience store had just come into vogue, so my main local outlet was the Junior Foods store on the four-way of Hwy 258 and Old Glasgow-Munfordville Road, ironically just down the road from where I live now but in those days a short bicycle ride away. I bought a great variety of DC and Marvel stuff there, many of which are still favorites such as the O'Neil/Kaluta/Robbins Shadow, Phantom Stranger (actually, my first issue of PS came from Cave City Drugs), War of the Worlds featuring Killraven, Tomb of Dracula, and Warlock.

The other two Horse Cave comics sources remained the same as before: Caverna/Rexall Drugs, which sold selected DC and Marvel 25-centers plus Warren magazines, music magazines like Creem, and oddly, Canadian music mag Beetle, plus Castle of Frankenstein and often carried Doc Savage and Justice Inc. paperbacks (I had acquired a taste for them early on in the 70s). Also, Ben Franklin 5 & Dime continued to carry Gold Key, but also started adding several DC titles...and it was here where I bought many of my fave DCs from this period, including Adventure Comics with the Spectre, The Brave & The Bold, which encouraged my nascent fanboyism by printing many letters and team-up suggestions that I would send them, and Superboy Starring The Legion of Super-Heroes. It was here I picked up many issues of Justice League, many of the Kirby Fourth World books, and more than a few issues of Action Comics, depending on the back feature. The local Houchens had pretty much stopped carrying any kind of genre magazine like the Warrens they used to stock, but fortunately a new store opened next door in the strip mall, a Dollar Store-type business which had a great magazine rack stocked with Warrens, DCs and music magazines, so what I couldn't get at Caverna Drugs I got at this store, the name of which eludes me at present. There's still a store of that nature there to this day, but it's called Family Dollar and they ceased to carry magazines long ago.

My folks would go to Louisville many weekends, and give me my allowance which I would take and spend on an album, and comics or paperback books at whichever Louisville mall we would patronize. It was in Louisville, around 1974 or so, that I first encountered the shape of the future: a comics shop. It was a small shop just off the Bardstown Road, the name escapes me, but when I went in I was amazed. They had not only new comics, but wonder of wonders back issues as well! I was able to get copies of Swamp Thing#'s 1 & 2, along with a copy of The Shadow #1, which I had missed. It was wonderful- and it was also short-lived. They were gone, out of business, not long after. Eventually, I discovered that I could get back issue comics through another recent discovery: mail-order. but that was often expensive with postage and stuff, plus, you had to wait for weeks sometimes. Even so, I remember a couple of packages received in the mid-to-late 70s that absolutely made my day. By 1976 I had gotten my driver's license, and along with that came the realization that the Haxby News Co. delivered the latest comics and magazines a day or two earlier to Glasgow than they did to Horse Cave, and to Bowling Green even earlier than that! So, eventually I began driving out of town to get my fix, and the comic run became a part of my routine.

It was sometime around this period that I met my good friend, the aforementioned Mr. Puckett, while working at the same pizza place. He worked in the kitchen, and I was a dishwasher. In the course of our conversation, not only did I discover that he was the same Dave Puckett that had had a letter or two printed in several comics in the 60s and 70s, but we had met several years prior, and had traded comics! I had traded him a copy of Detective, featuring the first appearance of Batgirl, for some MLJ comics...who got the best of that deal I'll leave up to you. Anyway, we struck up a friendship which lasts to this day, though both of us have held several subsequent jobs and have lived in several different locations. I got more than a few books through Dave, who has had and sold and re-acquired some mighty impressive collections in the 27 years I've known him! It was just before that time, about 1975, that I made another important discovery: The Great Escape store on Division Street in Nashville, Tennessee. We stopped by there one day coming home from a vacation in Florida, and my mind was blown. They had not only a huge (to me, at the time) selection of back issues, but magazines like the Comics Journal, paperbacks, albums, and all kinds of stuff! I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. Anyway, as soon as I was confident enough in my driving skills to do so, I would drive down to the Great Escape once a month or so, when I'd get a paycheck from my job at Carmen's Pizza and later Pizza Hut. And this is pretty much how my comics buying habits went for the remainder of the decade: Jr. Foods and Minit Marts in Glasgow and Horse Cave, Ben Franklin's, and the Hallmark store in Bowling Green with the occasional trip to Nashville. Before the decade was over, I was out of school, working at R.R. Donnelley's and hopelessly married. Which takes us to...

The 80's!
Through early part of the decade, I mostly bought my comics in Cave City or Glasgow, at convenience stores and such. Also, I got a few in the mail and from Dave. But sometime in the early 80s, that all changed when a fellow named Sam Falin, along with his partner Rickey Sheppard, opened up the first comics shop (that I was aware of, anyway) in Bowling Green, called Vintage Books. Not only did they have back issues, but they carried a full line of new comics as well, and altered my buying habits forever. Falin & Sheppard soon parted ways, though, and Sheppard moved the store to a location closer to the square, where he set up shop and lasted for a couple of years. It was here that I bought many of the comics that rekindled my somewhat waning interest in the field, such as Thriller, Aztec Ace, Zot!, American: Flagg! and Starstruck. While Sheppard eventually had to fold, two new shops popped up in BG: Kathy & Gary Brown's Pac-Rat's, and James Miles' Books & Buttons. At Pac Rat's, they actually had a subscription service, soon to be described as "holds service" or "pulls"...and I think most of you are familiar with that concept. For a while, I visited both stores once a week, sometimes being able to get books at one that I couldn't at another...but I grew tired of driving across town to the old BG Mall, where Mr. Miles' shop was located, so I eventually stuck with the 'Rat's. A year or so went by, and the Browns sold their interest in their store to The Great Escape, which by now maintained a store in Louisville and one other in the Nashville area. For some odd reason, they kept the name Pac-Rat's, and slapped a "Great Escape Store" tag on the end.

And that's where I bought my comics from then until now, with occasional purchases coming from spinner racks here in Horse Cave or in nearby Cave City (where I lived from '79 till '82). And that pretty much gets me through the 90s, in which Pac-Rat's moved twice and eventually adopted the Great Escape store name, and the Aughts (2000's), in which GE moved to its present location in another part of Bowling Green.

Of course, I understand that these place names will mean nothing to the majority of you reading this, and I appreciate it if you've made it this far. And y'know what? While I'm mostly happy with my comics shop as it is, the very first thing I'd do if I had a time machine (after I went and bet a thousand dollars on the Jets to win the 1969 Super Bowl) is go back to Houchens or Dorsey Drugs and load up on comics from that crazy wall rack. Oh yeah.
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I've been playing around with the Acme License Maker, and created my very own Kentucky plate. Problem is, our state license plates don't look like this anymore- we now have a design with a big smiley face sun straight outta Teletubbies on 'em, which absolutely nobody likes. I understand they'll be changing 'em soon. Anyway, if you don't want one, the state will be happy to sell you, for upwards of 25 bucks, a plate with logos of some of the State Universities, like Kentucky, Western Kentucky, or Louisville, or you can get 'em with butterflies, cardinals, or to advertise military honors or some charitable organizations. Or, if you drive a truck, you can get a generic blue & white plate, which is what I have.

And that's your lesson in state history and social studies for today. Workin' on those comics reviews...stay tuned!