Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Another day, another several previously unknown-to-me comics blogs out there. One of them, which is Comixpedia's, links to a fun interview with the three ladies who played Catwoman in the 60s, Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and Lee Meriwether.

Which brings me to a pet peeve of mine. It drives me absoultely stark raving insane to see how many people who write about that sort of thing, and should know better, think the principal 60s Catwoman actress was Kitt! For the love of God, Newmar was electrifying in that part for darn near the entire run of that show! Kitt only played Catwoman in the final third season, so the percentage was roughly 75-25 Newmar...but because Kitt had the nickname "Cat Woman" back in the 50s and early 60s (one reason why she got the role in the first place) in her Broadway stage and Vegas nightclub singing days, people now associate her in the part that Newmar pioneered! As that noted philosopher Chuck Brown used to say- "AAAAUGH!" Kitt was no more Adam West's Batman's Catwoman than John Astin was the Riddler.

OK. I'll be all right. By the way, I'll try to get around to adding many of you newcomers to the comics blogosphereiverse ASAP, but now I have to wait till I can access a PC before I can add links to my template code. No, I don't understand why, but that's the way it seems to be now.
You know, I was just thinking...the only way that Lord of the Rings: Return of the KIng could have been any better would be if "the King" had been Elvis.

Whoa. Thankyewvurrymuch, Gandalf, for savin' our asses against those wicked bad Nazghul. Those were some bad mommas. Now c'mere, Eowyn...I want me some of that sweet Elf lovin'.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

I'm now three episodes into Wonderfalls, and I hate to say it but I was wrong before. It has superficial similarities to Dead Like Me, including the same creators, but the two series are light years apart in several ways. Wonderfalls, despite a mostly promising first episode, is sinking into a quicksand of cutesy quirky-for-quirky's sake, and the last three episodes have had me gritting my teeth at the inanity of the characters and the contrived situations they keep getting into. Dead has its share of quirk and cutesy, too, but the far superior ensemble cast knows how to underplay it, and apparently the writers of DLM also don't feel like they have to be writing Joan of Arcadia, Amelie, and My So-Called Life all wrapped into one package. And last week's eppy didn't even have Tracie Thoms in it! Oh well, even though I've just spent the best part of a paragraph knocking it, I still haven't given up on the show yet...but I'm getting fidgety.

HBO's Deadwood, on the other hand, is really developing a nice, gnarly drama out of all the muck, grime, and foul bodily functions which it delights in showing us. I get the feeling that almost anything could happen, even to the point of someone bumping off town bully Al Swearengen, which would be shocking (and unlikely, true), but it just serves to show how much I can't see where any of its going- and that usually always earns my attention. And props to Brad Dourif, who's endured countless crappy nutball roles in thousands of no-budget crapfest films to graduate to significantly better parts, mostly thanks to his turn as Grima Wormtongue. He's showing us several layers to his jittery town doctor, and it's one noteworthy performance in a show full of 'em.

This has been your weekly TV update. Tune in again tomorrow.
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I am by no stretch of the imagination a fan of this character, but I do think this is a mighty sweet cover. Does this mean I might pick it up? Nah. But it's a mighty sweet cover.
You've probably already seen these, but just in case you haven't here's The Adventures of Seinfeld and Superman!

Thanks to Mik Cary for the link!
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Caught TCM's latest screening of Shanghai Express last night, and enjoyed it very much. Sure, it's pretty creaky by today's standards, but the uber-charismatic performance by Marlene Dietrich, plus a mostly solid supporting cast and extremely atmospheric direction by Dietrich's mentor Josef Von Sternburg make it a facinating, if a bit stiff and kinda un-PC-ish, view.

In this film, her fourth and the fourth of seven she did with Von Sternburg, Dietrich plays "Shanghai Lily", an notorious "coaster", or lady of (shall we say) dubious moral character, who takes the train from Peking to Shanghai during the Chinese Civil War era, accompanied by her exotic traveling companion Hui Fei (played by Anna May Wong). She encounters a cast of characters on the train, including an ailing German man, a fundamentalist preacher-type, a prissy old lady, a ne'er-do-well gambler type (played by Eugene Pallette, who was Friar Tuck in Errol Flynn's Adventures of Robin Hood), a military doctor who just happens to be the man Lily fell in love with and jilted several years prior, and Henry Chang (Warner (Charlie Chan) Oland), who happens to be a Chinese revolutionary warlord traveling incognito. The train is barely underway when it is stopped by Chinese troops, and a Chinese man is taken off the train and arrested. Turns out it's Chang's right hand man, and he contrives to have the train boarded and taken captive at the next stop, so he can get a hostage and get his lieutenant back. Chang's a little lonely and wants some female company, but is rebuffed by first Hui Fei, then Lily- and when he attempts to force himself on her, the doctor breaks in and slugs him one. Chang then takes the doctor hostage and has Hui Fei brought to him, where he rapes her. The Brits and Chinese governments back down and return his man the next day, but there's one little problem- Chang doesn't want to return the doctor in one piece; he intends to blind him first for the affront he committed to his person. Lil comes back and offers to go away with him, if she'll let her true love go safely. Of course, she doesn't wish the doctor to know, so this causes him to bitterly come to believe that she has rejected him yet again. The rest of the film pretty much deals with the resolution of all these plot threads, including some classic camera shots of Dietrich and a great scene in which Hui Fei gets a measure of payback.

Dietrich is, of course, languidly excellent, and lovingly photographed by Von Sternburg. Wong is mesmerizing, despite being in the background a lot, as Hui Fei. She had such charisma, and in more enlightened times would have been a major star. Oland is all underplayed, reserved malevolence, and seeing him in that part was a bit surprising. I'm more used to seeing him in good guy roles, such as Charlie Chan, although I do remember him as the less-than-benevolent doctor/rival of Henry Hull in Werewolf of London. The subplot with the Bible-thumping Reverend Carmichael started out as another clich├ęd portrayal of an intensely judgemental religious nut, but then took a surprising left turn, actually making the Reverend a more sympathetic and, conversely, righteous character before movie's end. The film's biggest liability to me, besides the staginess and slow pace, was the wooden performance of Clive Brook as Dietrich's doctor and former lover. He was all veddy stiff-upper-lip British uppercrust, you know, and couldn't even get angry in a convincing fashion. Half the time, even when Lily was being threatened by Chang, he looked as if he was wondering when his next polo match was.

I've yet to see a Dietrich film yet that I've disliked, and I really wish TCM would try to assemble an evening of films featuring Anna May Wong. Hell, I'd watch! If you get a chance, you should check this film out. It's a definite time-capsule film, well worth the effort. One unintended side effect this film had on me- I've had that old Rod Stewart song "Every Picture Tells a Story" in my head all day, with its line "Shanghai Lil never used the pill". Sigh.

Monday, March 29, 2004

New Diamond shipping list is up, and here's what I will, presumably, be getting on Wednesday:

AVENGERS JLA #4
HELLBLAZER #194
LEGION #31
MIDNIGHT, MASS: HERE THERE BE MONSTERS #3
PLANETARY #19
ULTIMATES #13
COURTNEY CRUMRIN IN THE TWILIGHT KINGDOM #3


Looks like Planetary and Courtney Crumrin are the highlights of the week for me, closely followed by Ultimates and Midnight, Mass. Aren't they worried that if Ultimates and Planetary come out on the same day, that it might cause a rift in the space/time continuum or something equally dire? I wouldn't mind getting BATMAN/POISON IVY: CAST SHADOWS, because I loves me some John Van Fleet art, but the price tag is a bit too high for me.
Rick Geerling is the latest to answer Dave Fiore's favorite movie list call and having thought it over am now ready to inflict mine upon you as well.

First, the usual ambling preamble. This is a list of my personal favorite films, and I fully realize that there are several films of, shall we say, dubious stature among film buffs on it. So this is not a "all-time best movies in my opinion" list. There's no way that I am going to try to convince you, nor do I believe that, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, for example, is a better film than The Godfather or Touch of Evil, classics both but not on my list because they haven't given me the idiosyncratic personal pleasure that the movies on the list have. That being said, I am prepared to make a case for each and every one of them. I had to make some tough calls, especially with films by creators I admire like the Coen Bros. or Hitchcock. There are probably at least two other films by either that I could put in place of the ones that did make the cut, but the ones listed are those I got the biggest kick out of, and besides, I didn't want to have, say, five Coen movies on a list of 40-something. Also bear in mind that this is my list as of today...this time next year this list might look completely different. So without any further ado, here be the list. In alphabetical order, so I can cop out on naming which ones I think are better than others...

A Clockwork Orange (1971)
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai (Across the 8th Dimension) (1984)
The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
Airplane! (1980)
Army of Darkness (1993)
Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
The Black Cat (1934)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Caddyshack (1980)
A Christmas Carol aka Scrooge (1951)
Citizen Kane (1941)
Duck Soup (1933)
Eight Men Out (1988)
Ffolkes aka North Sea Hijack (1980)
The Fifth Element (1997)
The Fisher King (1991)
The Giant Gila Monster (1959)
Gods and Monsters (1998)
Grosse Point Blank (1997)
Head (1968)
The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
Island of Lost Souls (1933)
It's A Gift (1934)
King Kong (1933)
The Lady and the Duke (2001)
The Last Emperor (1987)
L.A. Story (1991)
The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972)
Miller's Crossing (1990)
Moulin Rouge! (2001)
The Natural (1984)
North By Northwest (1959)
Pollock (2000)
Pulp Fiction (1994)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
Return to Oz (1985)
Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964)
The Seventh Seal (1957)
Sling Blade (1996)
Snatch. (2000)
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)
The Valley of Gwangi (1969)
Videodrome (1983)
Yellow Submarine (1968)

And that's it! I'll stop at 45, 'cause it's such a nice round number. Well, actually it's kind of a pointy number but you get what I mean. Feel free to discuss in the comments section!



Sunday, March 28, 2004

No Room For Super-Turtle.

Now at last it can be revealed...The Secret Origin of Vertigo!

Credit where...due dept: Neil Gaiman's Journal. I saw it on another blog, too, but I forget whose. Sorry, mate!

Saturday, March 27, 2004

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Just wanted to post this really cool (well, to me, anyway) poster which announces the re-forming of the Hero and Heroine and Ghosts-era Strawbs for a number of US and Canadian shows, none of which are anywhere close to me, damn it. It's OK, though, I certainly got my money's worth when I saw the acoustic group last May. I loved this poster, though, and wanted to share.
Yow! I won a contest! And I didn't even know I had entered! I've been informed that I have won my choice of a 3 x 5 drawing by Steve Lieber of Mercury Studios, or a Portugeuse edition of Bruce Wayne: Fugitve, apparently because I linked to the Studio blog and had my name drawn out of a hat. Is that cool or what? Since Portugeuse is not exactly my strong suit, I think I'll go for the sketch. Which character, though, I'm not sure about. Batman, perhaps? Or Hellboy? The only criteria is that it has to be a character which Lieber has previously illustrated. Hawkman? The Escapist? Rosa Saks Kavalier? I must ponder. Anyway, thanks to the fine peoples at Mercury Studios, especially Steve Lieber.

Also, you may have noticed the small button in the links list at right, which says "Paypal: donate". Yes, it's true, I have succumbed to the siren call of mammon, and with iHat firmly in hand, now ask if you could find it in your heart to toss a few coins (or bills) my way, then feel free to do so. And if you don't, that's fine. I'm still happy to have you here just the same. There's no obligation whatsoever, especially when you consider (in the interest of full disclosure) othat I don't think I've ever donated to anyone else's online tip jars, not because I don't want to but because I just don't really have it. Maybe if I get it, then I can...wait, here it comes...pay it forward (sorry) to OPB. Maybe. Anyway, give if you like, and if you don't that's cool, we're still pals.
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BEST OF THE WEEK

COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of March 24


LOSERS 10
Looks like the first story arc in issues 1-6 was just a prelude to even more complicated goings-on as Andy Diggle sheds more light on the CIA agent that he introduced in #9, and the Losers themselves get closer to finding out what's in the volcano that the enigmatic Max wants. Diggle deftly weaves in a lot of great character interaction, including some conflict between leader Clay and loose cannon Aisha that you just gotta believe is going to come to a head at some point. It can't be an easy thing to come up with such a complicated storyline, with multiple players each with their own agendas and none knowing everything they need to know about each other, with sharp dialogue and even humor in places (best example, the blackly funny scene in which Aisha tasers the guard), and not have it devolve into a jumbled mess. If it was, then more people would be doing it. Artist Jock is doing a great job of giving us what we need to maximize the depth of Diggle's script, with his jagged, heavily black-spotted ink style and random perspective shots- and the cover for this issue is modestly brilliant. Honest, folks, words fail me- this is one remarkable comic book, and maybe all who agree with me should go get tasers of our own and "suggest" to our unconverted friends that they go get a copy of Ante Up. Anything to get sales up. And they'll thank us- you wait and see. A

HELLBOY: THE CORPSE ONE-SHOT
So nice, I bought it twice! I bought the original comic this appeared in, the "Corpse and the Iron Shoes" one-shot of several years ago...but hey- it's Hellboy, it's only a quarter, so why the heck not? Plus, now I have a chance to re-read one of Mignola's very best stories, a clever blend of horror, humor, folklore and action, and I can stop digging out the original book, which was beginning to get a bit worn. A

HUMAN TARGET 8
Here's another book with a gnarly plotline, and a character with an equally gnarly backstory, just since Milligan's been writing him alone- and it's recently occurred to me exactly why I'm not insane crazy for this above-average comic. You see, for me Human Target is a book that requires a high amount of belief suspension. Think about it- if you were sitting next to someone who was heavily made up, with a complete body suit and wig and latex makeup covering their entire head, wouldn't you notice? Or at least suspect? Nine times out of ten when you see actors in movies made up to look older (for instance) or disfigured, no matter how good a job it is- doesn't it look just a tad artificial? Now let's say, for the sake of argument, that Chris Chance was hired to impersonate your significant other. Exactly how painstaking is his recreation of this person? Could he copy every mole, blemish, or birthmark? Could he imitate the shape and color of your partner's sex organs? Wouldn't that be a dead giveaway, the first time he made love to you? In the comics, it's well established that Chance is so good that he can whip up complete disguises with limited information and rarely is anyone the wiser...but I gotta believe that in real life it would be fairly obvious, especially if you got close to Chance, that here was a disguised man. Not even the best makeup artists in Hollywood are able to pull off a completely convincing disguise like Chance can do at the drop of a hat. Fortunately for my enjoyment of this title, my disbelief suspension mechanism's not totally gone, so I can tell you that this is an especially deep and well-scripted chapter of the current story arc, with some nice, tense moments and some humor, well illustrated by Cliff Chiang, who seems to be more at home here than on anything else I've seen from him before. But if that internal mechanism ever goes...watch out! A-

SMAX 5
Rousing finale to this Kurtzman-meets-Howard-meets-Bochco mini, to its parent Top 10 as methadone is to heroin. Which is not to say that this hasn't been lots of fun, far from it. It's been a fine entertainment, but it just hasn't operated on as many levels as the original. Artist Zander Cannon (with diverse inkers) has often surprised when least expected, such as his imaginative portrayals of the series' Big Bad, surely the most unorthodox dragon you'll ever encounter in fantasy fiction, or the Death named Dennis. Sad to observe, unless the 49ers ever sees the light of the day (hardly a given considering that the entire ABC imprint seems to be wilting on the vine) this could be the last time we'll get to read new exploits of the good cops of the 10th precinct, and that's more than a little sad. Keep your fingers crossed. A-

WANTED 3
Pretty much status quo- lotsa attitude, lotsa super-villains and spandex in general, lotsa snappy, terse, vulgar dialogue, and pretty much a total dearth of anything groundbreaking or fresh, unless you count the introduction of a kryptonite rubber. Kinda like Astro City as a Penthouse comic. The saving grace of Wanted is its beautiful J.G. Jones artwork, which (if I wanted to be snarky) reminds me of pearls and swine...but honest, I don't mean to sound like I'm being completely dismissive. Wanted has definitely got a lot going on, and the part of me that doesn't mind secondhandedness at all if it's done with a lack of pretention and a sense of enthusiasm (cf. Marc Bolan) is more than willing to hang in and see where this is all going. B+

STEVE RUDE'S THE MOTH DOUBLE-SIZED SPECTACULAR
What we have here is basically 50 plus pages of Rude's dynamic, arresting, exciting, fluid KirbySteranko-inspired artwork in service to clunky, awkward scripting which buries its good ideas in a pile of poor dialogue and helter-skelter construction, more so in the lead tale than in the backup, which is actually pretty good and saw print previously in an issue of Wizard, which I stopped buying ages ago so it's new to me. Inker-turned-scripter Gary Martin did both, so that means (perhaps) that there is hope once he gets his bearings. I love the concept- the circus setting is Kirbyesque to the hilt (and reminds immediately of Rude's 1987 Mister Miracle Special one-shot- something Bill Sherman picked up on as well) and gives it a somewhat fresh spin and strangely enough you don't see bikers in comics too much anymore, especially sympathetic portrayals like we get here. Personally, I hope that "Red" becomes a recurring character- but I also hope that Martin learns to writes better words to come out of his mouth. B-

Later on, The Interman, which I am long overdue in writing about.
You can go here to take the Firefly personality quiz.

I matched up with Inara, which is just fine with me.
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Look! I drew a pitcher! Ain't it purty? Done in a fit of boredom last night while minding the board for basketball games. Perspective problems abound, but I cropped them out, mostly. It's the Losers, by the way. More about them later.

Friday, March 26, 2004

Music over the last couple of days: The Black Crowes-Three Snakes and One Charm, Trip Shakespeare-Across The Universe, Booth and the Bad Angel, Flaming Lips-The Soft Bulletin, the Essential Earth, Wind and Fire, The Essential Miles Davis, T.Rex-Bolan's Zip-Gun, In Time- The Best of R.E.M., the Strokes-Is This It?, Masters of Reality-Deep In the Hole, and an oldies CD I lifted from the radio station that has two Marianne Faithfull cuts that I like- of course, "As Tears Go By" and one which I had never heard before but just dig the hell out of right now-"Go Away From My World" with a great, string section-facilitated chord change that just blows me right away.

That's all I can think of, anyway...I know there are more.
Eve-Tushnet has posted a list of her 43 favorite movies. Why 43? She explains before she proceeds to list. Lotsa good flicks on that list, fer shur. I'm gonna do a list one of these days, by golly. Two on which we agree totally: Gross Pointe Blank and Gods and Monsters.
On the subject of The Walking Dead, Newsarama has posted some character sketches and three pages of finished Charlie Adlard art. Found at Shane's. Danke Shane.
I posted this yesterday, and the more I thought about it the less I liked it so I deleted it, but like the little kid that gets picked towards the end in a pickup ballgame, it keeps jumping up and down at me, saying, "put me in! put me in!" So here it is, for better or worse.

After having observed the discussion sparked by various members of the comics blogosphere about the super hero emphasis and its effect on the perception of comics in general by the great unwashed out there, in particular Franklin's recent column regarding the topic, I really can't add a wealth of significant commentary (no big surprise there) to the discourse, but I can make a statement that doesn't seem to be factored in to anybody's argument one way or the other:

It's not the superhero that dooms sequentially illustrated fiction to scorn and disdain by the infidel hordes of the unenlightened; it's the format itself. Comics in general are perceived, by those who wouldn't think twice about watching movies or TV crime dramas or soap operas or sitcoms or Survivor or football games all day, as somehow frivoulous, juvenile, and just not something that "normal" people read. Billy Bob snuff dipping Deer Hunter or Suzie Trailerpark from Cub Run, Kentucky or any local-to-you stereotype you care to insert here just don't have time for that silly shit. They might let the kid have one once in a while. And of course I'm referring to my own environment and surroundings here, but it's easily applicable to where you live as well- it's a matter of what kind of upbringing and peer experiences people have. They're just not conditioned to open their minds and foster that sense of wonder that is so important to enjoying any kind of fantastic fiction. It doesn't matter whether it's Blankets, Love & Rockets, Maus, Watchmen, Acme Novelty Library, the Hornschmeier book of your choice, or Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, or Wonder Woman, the great unconverted out there don't care. If it looks like a funnybook, it is a funnybook, and nine times out of ten they'll retain that opinion no matter what you stick under their noses. And if this is a defeatist attitude, well, it's been a well-earned one, based on 40 plus years of reading and collecting comics and having only a select handful of friends scattered over 40 years that share my passion. I gave up trying to convert the unbeliever many, many years ago.

And this is a big reason why box-office numbers of recent blockbuster hits like Spider-Man and the X-Men flicks haven't translated into increased comics sales figures. Some things are black and white, good or bad, hot or cold to people, and to them, like water is wet and sky is blue, movies and tv (no matter how stupid or lame they are) are somehow legitimate (no matter how much they might criticize or complain) and comics are juvenile and not worth their time. And that's a shame, but what do ya do. All the free comics days in the subsequent history of the known universe aren't going to matter much while this mindset is prevalent.

And that's my opinion. As I've said on many such occasions, I've been known to be wrong before.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Scott Kurtz's PVP webcomicstrip has recently done a series dealing with the Firefly DVD box. To read them from the beginning go here.
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Speaking of Kaluta, while clicking around the Bud Plant Illustrators Biography site, I decided to check out Mr. K's entry and was a bit surprised to read that he apparently did covers and pen-and-ink interiors for a series of mystery books aimed at young teenage girls entitled (and I think this is a great title and idea for a series) My Name Is Paris, about a young American girl living in Paris at the turn of the 20th century who gets involved with, what else, mysteries. Why doesn't anybody tell me these things? The books are, to the best of my knowledge, out of print, but that doesn't mean I might not run up on a copy or two at a yard sale or eBay or someplace. Just what I need- more stuff to covet.
My friend the Bacardi Show Political Correspondent keeps telling me I should forget about the Great Escape comics shop and do as he do- get them from the subscription service at Midtown Comics' website. They not only bag & board them for you free of charge, they also give a 15% discount, none of which I get at good ol' TGE. So I went over there to check it out, built a subscription list so I could see how many of the books I buy on a regular basis would be there plus much shipping would be, clicked on "continue", and was informed by the nice screen that 15 monthly comics on my list are required, and I only had 12. Sigh. And that's counting books I'm considering dropping, like H-E-R-O and The Legion. So, not wishing to start buying some cranked-out DC or Marvel monthly just to activate my subscription service, I remain, for the time being anyway, a mostly loyal customer of the Great Escape. Sigh.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Tim O'Neil with one "L" has written a very nice overview of Walt Simonson's underrated take on Kirby's Fourth World characters, Orion. I had pretty much convinced myself that no one could do the New Gods but Kirby because that whole trio of books were just so idiosyncratic that his successors just couldn't quite capture that Kirbyesque vibe. But Simonson didn't try to emulate Kirby as much as he tried to take some paths less traveled, and obviously put a great deal of thought into what he wanted to do. It was a damn fine book, it was, and Tim's is a damn fine piece, it is.
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Once again, Steven Wintle has pointed me to something I find cool and fascinating: Illustration Magazine's website, investigation of which in turn led me to discover the work of one Nell Brinkley, which is absolutely amazing. I was thinking "Aha! She has got to be an influence on Mike Kaluta, one of my favorite illustrators!" Then, I follow some more links to this page, which features more illustrators that remind me of Mr. MWK than you can shake a Windsor-Newton No. 2 at.

There's precious little of Brinkley's work on the Web, but I think I'll go back to the Illustration Magazine site and see if I can't print that article out, and investigate some of the others further, some of which I'm familiar with, many of which I'm totally unaware.
Hey, didja know that there's a Challengers of the Unknown website? Well neither did I, and now we do!

Sad to see no mention, though, of the excellent Loeb/Sale miniseries of the early 90's. I really liked that one. At least they mention the late 90s X-Files-ish Challengers- I liked that team as well.

Geez. I suppose if I'm going to be serious about this comics blogging thing, I should read the comics news sites more often. If I had, I would have been on top of the news three days ago that Tony Moore will no longer be drawing The Walking Dead, according to writer Robert Kirkman. Which is a shame, but it's OK, because while I think Moore was getting better with every issue, TWD was one of the few books I buy for the story more so than the art. As long as they get someone halfway competent, I think I'll hang with.

The replacement artist is said to be one Charles Adlard, whose name I've heard but with whose work I'm totally unfamiliar.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

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Something else I watched, at least for a while, was the Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on VH1.

All in all, not a bad show, although I found it annoying how VH1 mixed performance clips in with the presentation shots. Too much going on at the same time for my aged eyes. Speaking of aged, do we all agree that Bob Seger looks pretty rough, like Kenny Rogers after a weekend of hookers & tequila? And while we're on the subject of tequila, I agree with Sean Collins that it's a g-darned shame that Black Sabbath isn't in the Hall, but I have no quarrel with ZZ Top's inclusion. For the most part, they've been an adventurous, unpretentious blues band with a sense of humor, and that's in short supply in blues (and often rock) music. Well, except for a period there in the 80s and 90s where they let their love of tech get the better of them. I've never had any use for the overrated Seger and Jackson Browne, so it burns me to see them get the nod in spite of all the great bands and musicians that aren't in. I was happy to see Prince get in, though, and really happy to see Traffic get their due. It was kinda odd for me to see all the love thrown out for their early songs like "Dear Mr. Fantasy" and "50,000 Headmen" simply because I came to them via their final 70s album, When The Eagle Flies, and that's the one I get all warm and fuzzy over. That one and John Barleycorn. They actually put on a pretty darn good performance, as well, with Jim Capaldi laying down a solid beat and Steve Winwood showing there's still some life left in his creaky-looking body.

After all is said and done, though, here really is no excuse for not having Sabbath, Alice Cooper, Jethro Tull, Faces, Cat Stevens, King Crimson, Yes, Kate Bush, The Monkees, or the Replacements in there. Really. And if you press me I could name many others.
Boy, this new Catwoman flick sounds about a hundred thousand different kinds of bad. Go here for some quotes from star Halle Berry.

Credit where credit is due dept: Near Mint Heroes.
Cool link, especially for those who fancy ourselves graphic designer creative types: The Patron Saints of Graphic Design.

Credi where credit is due dept: Found at Elayne Riggs'.
I like this guy's work. He's good. Real good. I'm going to link to his blog. I need to score a copy of his Paper Biscuit book. That is all.
You may be wondering how I spent my weekend. Well, I doubt it, but you never know.

Throwing common sense and wisdom to the wind a few days ago, I took advantage of another Columbia House "buy one get three "free" " sale and ordered The Flaming Lips' Soft Bulletin, The Essential Miles Davis, The Essential Earth, Wind and Fire (definite impulse buy there), and The Guess Who Anthology, which arrived Friday. So far, that Flaming Lips is amazing- well worth picking up if you've been thinking about it; the EWF collection is fun, and it's amazing how my tastes have changed since back in the late 70s-early 80s when I heard many of those songs incessantly on local radio and hated them each and every one- and now here I am dancing around the living room to "September" and "Shining Star"; The Davis set is a bit challenging, like much of his mid-to-late period work is (to my ears, anyway), but I like what I've heard so far; and it's great to finally have some Guess Who music in my collection. My friend and onetime high school rockbandmate Billy Mack Hill (Mack's the tall guy in the back of the picture, if you go to the link) had an 8-track of The Best of the Guess Who, which we listened to constantly. I would borrow it over and over again from BMH, and he would get so pissed at me, I'm sure. Anyway, for some reason I never got around to buying any Guess Who albums for myself, partially because I could always borrow it or heard it all the time on the radio, so I never really felt the need until now. The Guess Who was one of those bands which made BeatleCreamDoorsBlues-ish music, and hearing it now I'm reminded a lot of not only the groups lumped together in my clumsy made-up adjective, but Grand Funk Railroad, Bloodrock, Steppenwolf and others. One appeal they had for me was that cool older guys I looked up to listened to these groups and others, so it will always be "cool older kids" music, no matter how old I get. Music that always sounded good when driving down the road in someone's van or Camaro, with the 8-track player cranked up LOUD. Ah, nostalgia.

I watched movies this weekend too, oh yes- A Mighty Wind, which was charming and funny, but how could it not be with the usual Chris Guest players on board. Is there a funnier actor on the face of this earth than Fred Willard? Well, probably, but I can't think of any offhand. Those not particulary attuned to Guest and Co.'s type of humor will probably wonder what the point is and just think it's silly, but those of us who've enjoyed Waiting For Guffmann, Spinal Tap and Best of Show will love it. Also decided to spend the four bucks next month when the phone/cable/internet hookup bill comes in and watch American Splendor, which aired on pay-per-view. Now, I've never been much of a fan of autobiographical comics series...I have a tendency to be preoccupied with my own life and I get very little escape or stimulation by reading about others' . Solipistic, I know, but whaddaya do. So, as you can probably infer from this, I've never been all that concerned with following the work of Pekar, Chester Brown, Joe Matt, Joe Sacco, and others. It's all good work- I've read enough in the Journal to convince me of that- but I just don't particularly care. There's no real stimulation for me, visual or mental. I do not own a single issue of American Splendor, Peep Show or others of that ilk, which is not to say that I don't consider them good comics- they're just not my cuppa. That being said, I completely enjoyed this movie, in no small part because of its clever visual style and the nervy juxtaposition of the real Pekar and Co. with the actors that portrayed them, a move which could have easily backfired. Of course, for comics fans it's fun, if nothing else but for the sights like Pekar and "Robert Crumb" sitting at a bus stop talking, Pekar complaining and Crumb sketching away, seemingly oblivious but actually quite aware of what Harvey's saying. Hope Davis makes a strong impression as Pekar's wife Joyce Brabner, as well. I suppose it can be chalked up to that strange attraction I have for movies about artists and the creative process. A psychiatrist could probably make some hay from that, I suppose. Anyway, I found American Splendor quite enjoyable and now wish I hadn't changed the channel whenever Pekar came on the Letterman show.

I caught two new TV shows over the weekend as well: Wonderfalls, which I had to tape and watch later because of work, and the HBO series Deadwood. I liked the charming debut episode of the former a lot more than I liked the second, which presumed the willingness of the viewer to swallow a ton of illogic. The first eppy was zingy and clever, and the lead is likeable in spite of herself. If you don't get Showtime, and wonder what kind of feel Dead Like Me has, well wonder no more- the two shows have a similar vibe, since the same guy created both. Dead is superior, at least in my book, because its ensemble cast is just a bit stronger. I also found myself attracted to her buddy Mahatma, played by Tracey Thoms, whom I could swear I've seen in something else before- but a glance at the imdb listing tells me that isn't the case. In fact, the show is so whimsical and clever, that I'm sure that Fox will begin to screw around with it real soon and I give it two months tops, or at least until enough episodes are filmed to put together a DVD box, which I will be right there in line to buy. Time will tell, I suppose. HBO's Deadwood won't have that problem- HBO generally gives its series room to breathe, and they don't usually bail on a series as quickly as its more fickle network cousins. Deadwood has gained most of its noteriety so far for its constant use of vulgar language, which is certainly excessive but not terribly out of place, since almost everything about this series, from the greasy coif on town kingpin Al Swearengen to Robin Weigert's grimy, loud Calamity Jane to all of Al's skanky looking ladies of the evening are all sweaty, dirty, grimy and generally unkempt. While I only managed to catch the second episode Saturday night (my TV listing said it was the debut, but I don't think so), I thought the cast was great and the storyline appears promising. While I was watching, it kept nagging at me that something was real familiar about the show, and when I saw the credits on last night's encore showing, I realized what it was: the director was Walter Hill, of The Long Riders fame, and it's no coincidence that one of the stars of that great flick (possibly a candidate for my top 30 which I'm thinking about listing right here in response to Dave Fiore's call for some movie blogging) was none other than Deadwood's Wild Bill Hickock, Keith Carradine.

I did other things besides watch TV and listen to music, like participate in the annual draft of the Southern Kentucky Fantasy Baseball League, which was a bit of a cluster f*ck thanks to excessive drinking and tardiness on the part of some of the members, but that's usually always the case so it'll be all right. And in case you were wondering, I had four beers, 'cause I had to get up early Sunday morning and didn't care to be hung over. I had to get up so I could do the Sunday Morning Religious Program Thing at WLOC again. Yesterday, I finally finished burning some CDs for this fellow who emails me from California occasionally and wants to talk music- he sent me some blank CDs back in November and I'm finally getting them done. I gave him plenty of time to get tired of the ones I sent him in October! I did a little work around the house, honest I did, and that's about all I can think of. And that's how I spent my weekend. Woo hoo!
Another week, another Diamond shipping list. Here's the funnybook goodness awaiting me tomorrow at the Great Escape, formerly Pac-Rat's, in the Greenwood Square Shopping Center in Bowling Green, KY. Maybe if I plug 'em enough I'll get a discount on my books. Yeah, like that's gonna happen.

HUMAN TARGET #8
LOSERS #10
SMAX #5
WANTED #3


Plus, I'm supposed to get the copy of Steve Rude's The Moth Double-Sized Special that my shop got shorted on. We shall see. I'd love to get a copy of that sweet-looking Darwyn Cooke spotlight issue of Comic Book Artist, but I had to give that title up long ago. Still, the temptation is there.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

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BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS REVIEWS!
What I bought and what I thought, week of March 17


DAREDEVIL 58
It seems like a book that's as consistently excellent as Bendis and Maleev's Daredevil will, by its very nature, receive consistent reviews from one issue to the next, and it becomes frustratingly redundant to always say something along the lines of "Great, gripping script. Outstanding, atmospheric art. Daredevil is quite possibly the best superhero comic out there, especially when Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev are at the reins. Frank Miller has nothing on these fellows.". But heck, I can't let it go at that- in this issue we get the introduction of the most Tarantino-ish character Bendis has dreamed up yet (or better, re-imagined), the Night Nurse, and exploring all the ramifications of Matt Murdock's new title through the eyes of Ben Urich has given us two more memorable set pieces: of course, the interlude with the Nurse and Matt at the nameless hospital, and the state that Matt's law practice is in now, with a beleaguered Foggy Nelson's sad plight. Daredevil remains one of the few mainstream superhero books you can read and still respect yourself in the morning. A

DC: THE NEW FRONTIER 3
Once again, Darwyn Cooke is loose in DC's Silver Age sandbox, refining and expanding his take on the DC pantheon with an early 60s setting. In this issue, we get an exciting widescreen re-enactment of the origin of the Challengers of the Unknown, more on Hal Jordan (whose handwriting is kinda teeny tiny for such a strapping young test pilot), Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman (is he insinuating that WW had a fling with Ike? Eww), a lot with J'onn J'onzz, and even manages to work in the likes of King Faraday (I wonder how many of today's readers are even aware how long that guy's been around). He also gives us a new character, a black man in the deep south who was the victim of a failed lynching by the Klan, and isn't very happy about it. He is apparently going to take it upon himself to fight this evil with a hammer and a mask, and will call himself John Henry. All good, but if we get Pecos Bill and Paul Bunyan as well, I'm bailing. It's obvious that this is both a Herculean task and a labor of love for Cooke, and it's staggering, almost on a Peter Jackson level, to imagine how much effort he's put into this so far, especially on splash pages like the one on page 51. We also get a cute homage to the film Invaders From Mars which for some reason Dar renames "Invasion From Mars", and why he does this I don't know. Still, this is great stuff, and kinda puts the wan JLA: Year One to shame, doesn't it? A-

THE WALKING DEAD 5
Robert Kirkman plays us like a boxer, stringing us along for three quarters of the book with lots and lots of talk and dramatics, then suddenly we get the uppercut with an intense zombie attack scene (with some atypically quick-reflexed zombies) which is genuinely harrowing because we've come to care about the characters- and as anyone will tell you that's half the battle. And Tony Moore seems to get more confident with every issue as his facial expressions become more facile and his linework gets more assured. Pretty good for a zombie comic. A-

LUCIFER 48
Fine little fantasy story, made better by the appearances of Mazikeen and Elaine Belloc, like the cavalry, at the end. Problem is, I don't necesarily buy this comic for fantasy stories, as it were, but for the machinations of the title character and their effect on those who are in his orbit, and we've been getting very little of that lately which I think accounts for my somewhat lukewarm interest in this otherwise-not-bad four issue story arc. This issue would seem to be a resolution, but the last page shows this isn't the case, so I'll keep the faith 'cause I know it will get better. B+
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I've been digging again in the box my Mom found in our basement, which was full of old, coverless, beat-up comics which I did not deem to be in collectable condition waaaay back long ago when I started collecting comics for real. I had found an old copy of Eerie 8 in that box, which contained one of the stories drawn by Jerry Grandenetti that had blown me away as a kid, and I posted a page and a synopsis of the story in question. So digging in the box again, I unearthed another coverless, yellowed Warren mag, this time Eerie 9, which featured my favorite Goodwin/Grandenetti story, "Rub The Lamp", and there was no way I was gonna not post a page from it. "Lamp" is basically a spin on the old "Monkey's Paw" type tale, in which our protagonist, a lamp collector named John Coates, finally acquires the one object he's searched for for years- Aladdin's lamp.Of course, he has more than a collector's interest...he wants to use its wish granting powers to make himself and his wife rich. So he ducks into an alley, rubs the lamp, and wishes for the staggering sum of $50,000 dollars. Whereupon nothing happens, and he flings the lamp away in disgust. However, on his way home, he is dismayed to find (in the scene above) that his apartment cought fire, due to faulty wiring, and his wife died in the blaze. The next evening, the dejected Coates is presented with a check by his insurance agent for $50,000 dollars. From there on, things go from bad to worse as Coates goes back and finds the lamp, and makes two more wishes- and gets more than he bargained for each time.

Grandenetti was just out of his mind doing this stuff back in this period- it's full of skewed, vertiginous perspective shots, lettering that fills up backgrounds rather than word balloons, some gorgeous wash effects, and of course his trademark expressionism- few could depict lunacy, tension and desperation as effectively as Mr. Grandenetti, especially in those days. I see, looking back, that it was work like this (and, of course, others like Eisner, Adams, Kane, and more) that led me to want to practice drawing and be a comic book artist when I grew up. Of course, I never acheived that goal, but that's my fault and certainly neither here nor there.

I really wish that someone could collect all these great Grandenetti stories from the 60s, both in the Warren Magazines and DC comics like The Spectre as well, so people could check it out for themselves and perhaps stimulate some interest and recognition for this underrated and forgotten creator. Hope springs eternal, as they say...

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Neilalien links to article at Ninth Art about those former wonder kids, Chris Claremont and John Byrne, now turned stubbornly, aggressively. resolutely old hat. And while I don't really like the author's dismissive tone- I think that Claremont & Byrne are still entitled to do whatever it is that they do, even if it's as bland and lame as it's all been for the last two decades- I do agree that it ought to be received with the complete lack of interest that it deserves...but for some reason there are still people in enough numbers out there, seeking to recapture what they think are the "glory years" of the 80s, to keep these fellas working. And that's a shame.

And for what it's worth, even though I absolutely despise Claremont's scripting and haven't bought a Byrne-illoe'd project since his last Fantastic Four oh so many years ago, there was a time, children, that I enjoyed the work of both creators. Claremont, in the mid to late 70s, hadn't fully adopted the leaden, melodramatic tone of his 80s and beyond work, and was cranking out enjoyable scripts for the likes of Iron Fist, Marvel Team-Up, and, of course, X-Men. His partner in crime for most of these books was John Byrne, who had an expressive, dynamic style with just a hint of puckish cartoony-ness, and served to leaven Claremont's often glum tone. Then they parted ways, and Claremont indulged himself in the sort of lugubrious, deadpan, convoluted, self-important soap and space operatics that he had always been inclined to do, and Byrne, under the delusion that he was an auteur or something based on a fair-to-middling run on FF and, of course, his revamp of Superman, saw his illustrative facility shrink in direct proportion to the swelling of his head. The best thing that can be attributed to Byrne in the decades after his leaving X-Men, in my opinion anyway, was his almost anonymous script for Mike Mignola's first Hellboy miniseries.

So there's my opinion, anyway, whether anybody asked for it or not.

Friday, March 19, 2004

And now, the return of the Music listened to today list! In the G4 Cd player today:

Jet-Get Born, T.Rex-Electric Warrior (Rhino Reissue), Coldplay-Parachutes, Joe Henry-Kindness of the World, Eels-Souljacker, Paul Westerberg-Eventually.
July 3rd is the date for the next Free Comic Book Day, according to Newsarama, and scrolling down through the listed offerings, it looks like a mixed bag with a few titles standing out, at least to me:

TEEN TITANS GO!- I don't buy this series, although I like the cartoon, but I don't have a problem with sampling it for free. Of course, I'll also be picking up the upcoming "pay" issue with the Mad Mod...

THE ADHOUSE BOOKS FREE COMIC BOOK DAY COMIC BOOK features Scott Morse, among others, with the results of their Scott McCloud-suggested 24 hour comic challenge.

BEST OF DORK STORM PRESS #2: I think I'll get this for the Dr. Blink, Superhero Shrink strip. I thought the online preview I read was pretty darn funny.

The art for REGGIE-12, by one Brian Ralph, looks interesting and the story sounds fun. Im totally unfamiliar with both Ralph and the Giant Robot comic from whence he came, so see- Free Comic Book Day really does get people to check out product that they wouldn't otherwise!

LOVE FIGHTS #1/EVEREST: FACING THE GODDESS preview by Andi Watson, Greg Rucka, and Scott Morse: Can't pass on this! Even though it looks like I'll be getting Love Fights in trade only...

SLAVE LABOR STORIES #2 Milk & Cheese & Bill & Ted. Most outstanding!

TOP SHELF TALES by James Kochalka, Jeffrey Brown, Scott Morse, and Aaron Renier: Scott Morse is Savoir Faire during FCBD! He's everywhere! And I fully realize that if you've never seen an episode of Klondike Kat, then you have no idea what that reference means.
While I'm throwing out mad (second-hand) linkage, here's something which has probably been linked to already on everybody else's blogs, but not here! Oh no! Peter Bagge's newest Reason story/cartoon. It's quite amusing. Quite.

And if I may, a personal opinion: this is what Pete's best at, rather than creating lukewarm satire for the Big Two. Just sayin', knowhutmsayin?
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Steven Wintle, whose antipathy towards life drawing classes I understand perfectly, has linked to a couple of sites which feature stories of a character I've always found interesting but have read precious few stories about: Lady Luck. Created by Will Eisner, and not to be confused with the Sinatra song, Lady Luck was actually wealthy socialite Brenda Banks, who fought crime with little more than her wits, fists, and a snazzy green dress, veil and wide brimmed hat in a series of quirky and quirkily drawn (mostly by Klaus Nordling, another unsung creator from back in the day) stories from Quality comics of the Forties and early Fifties. Go! Check it out! But come back later, OK...?

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Everything you know is wrong dept:

Paul Grist, on the Image message boards, sets the record straight about the origins of Jack Staff.
Like Short Round said, sorta: "No time for Blog, Doctor Jones!"

I've been crazy busy at home and at work lately, so not much time to collect my thoughts about anything. I've only had time to leave a few comments here and there. So bear with me. I'm off this weekend and Monday, so I hope to make some bloghay then.

A couple of things, while looking over my shoulder for the lady and her never-ending armload of job envelopes:

Is it me, but is this comics blogosphereiverse beginning to resemble the black & white publishing boom of the Eighties? It seems like three dozen new, mostly very good, comics-themed blogs pop up every week, and I'm beginning to experience sensory overload from trying to follow them!

My high school alma mater, Caverna, won their opening-round game in the Kentucky boys' basketball state tournament last night. They play again Friday, I believe.

Got a copy of Jeff Parker's Interman the other day, but I haven't had time to read it yet. Looks good, but I haven't had much sit-down time lately...I'm not even finished with the four comics I bought last night! My shop got short-shipped on The Moth, so I'm told I'll get it next week. Thanks again to Jeff, especially for the cool sketch on the first page!

Speaking of my brushes with greatness, I received a phone call from Trevor Von Eeden, who wanted to tell me that he's finished the drawing he was working on for me, and plans to send it plus the page from Thriller 5 he obtained for me soon. Looking forward to seeing what he's done! Which reminds me that I absolutely need to get to work on re-doing my website so I can update it and add the cool stuff I've gotten from Trevor so far.

Watched Star Trek: Nemesis the night before last. I found it watchable and even enjoyable in places , despite the fact that most of its best plot threads were recycled from other Trek flicks and the main adversary alternately reminded me of Austin Powers' Dr. Evil or "Adore"-video era Billy Corgan. I'll try to opine more later about it.

Brendan, Moonshine will be one of the ten in the next Vinyl-O, whenever I can get my shite together enough to write it!

All right, that'll do for now.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

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Happy St. Patrick's Day, everybody...

...on a semi-related note, those Guinness commercials, the ones where people act like it's Christmas on St. Paddy's day, really crack me up- especially the one where, at the very end, the fellow sits in St. Pat's lap and they look at each other and break up laughing. Makes me laugh every time I see it.

If you get the opportunity, watch Priscilla Lane in Three Cheers For the Irish today at 12:30 central on TCM. The movie's really not all that great, but hey- it's got Priscilla in it, so it's at least watchable! And this from a "Scotchman"!

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

As usual, I'm late to the party...apparently the braintrust behind Dead Like Me has come up with a new program on Fox (warning signal right there) called Wonderfalls, which seems to feature a quirky young living girl with supernatural abilities instead of a quirky young dead girl with supernatural abilities. Of course, there's more to it than that, and I'm intrigued enough to try to catch it when they repeat the pilot episode Thursday night at 9 pm eastern 8 pm central. Stay tuned, to coin a phrase.

Of course, if Caverna wins their state tournament basketball game tomorrow night, then I'll have to work the board for the broadcast at the radio station, and I'll miss it unless I can think to tape it. There's a TV at the station, but it's damn near impossible to watch a show and keep one ear on the game for time out cues, as I kept finding out when trying to watch Buffy, Firefly, and Navy NCIS...
There's a new Christgau's Consumer Guide up at VillageVoice.com, in case you're interested.

He likes Nellie McKay, like many others whose opinions I respect, which I suppose means I should get around to checking her out for real one of these days...
Whilst perusing DC's solicitations for June over at Comics Continuum, I saw a couple of things that piqued my interest, anyway...and they're (GASP) superhero comics!

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First, the return of Joe Kelly, Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen to JLA for issue 100. If nothing else, I suppose this is so they can launch the new book they'll be doing, titled The Elite. Sounds a little Authority-ish to me, but what the hell- if Mahnke & Nguyen are drawing, I'm buying. I honestly think that that they are one of the best, if not the best, mainstream superhero comics illustrators not named Darwyn Cooke. And while Kelly's reach often exceeded his grasp in his previous stint on JLA, I think he brought a lot to his tenure including some snappy dialogue and great characterization. So even though I dropped the book after Kelly, Mahnke & Nguyen left, I'll be picking this up along with The Elite, it would appear.

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And look! They've decided to work the Mad Mod, one of my favorite 60's DC villains and beneficiary of an excellent revival episode in the animated series into the Teen Titans Go! comic series! I love that rendition of the Mod, so I suppose I'll be getting this as well. While I've been watching and enjoying the TV show, that hasn't extended to the comic series so far.
Well, there's a new Diamond shipping list up, and while I should probably be blogging about Spain or other significant world events, I suppose I'll remain steadfastly trivial in the face of trials and tribulations from within and without. Anyhoo, here's what I should be getting tomorrow:

STEVE RUDE: THE MOTH DOUBLE SIZED SPECIAL
DC: THE NEW FRONTIER #3
LUCIFER #48
DAREDEVIL #58
WALKING DEAD #5


Always great to see new Steve Rude stuff coming out, and of course I'm always stoked for New Frontier. Thing is, those two books will cost me as much as the other three put together! Sigh. Anyway, Daredevil is always a highlight of the week it comes out, and overall it appears to be a high-quality, if not high quantity week.

I might be getting Love Fights 8, I thought I signed up for it on my pull list two months ago but I didn't get #7 so your guess is as good as mine. I'll get the upcoming trade though, and then I'll know if I want to go to the trouble of hunting down the issues I've missed. Gotta pass on Howard Chaykin's Mighty Love HC novel, too...I'd love to read a new Chaykin story, one that he wrote (without a collaborator) and drew as well, since he's one of my favorite creators- but I just can't do those hardcover novels. Maybe next year when (and if) it comes out in softcover...

Monday, March 15, 2004

Bandwidth will be guzzled tonight!

My bud Chris Tabor, who besides being the Bacardi Show Political Correspondent (back when I used to post some political stuff upon occasion) is a very talented cartoonist slash designer, did a strip for a friend of his and emailed it to me, among others. I'm sure he didn't bargain for it, but I'm posting it here for all of youse to see, at least until he threatens to sue me. It's based, he said, on a dream a friend of his had. Enjoy!

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When overseas and video receipts are eventually tallied, Gibson, who shelled out around $25 million of his own money to make The Passion, stands to net around $350 million himself for the film.

Just out of curiosity, I wonder if Mel is going to tithe any of this...

Taken from Yahoo! News.
More Neil Young news: apparently he's touring in support of his Greendale album in a caravan of vehicles powered by biodiesel fuels, using vegetable oil grown and produced by American farmers. You go, Neil. Here's the story.

I got a copy of Greendale the other day, and while it's far from his best and is certainly no return to form by any stretch, it's got one or two worthwhile cuts on it and I have a feeling I'll be listening to it fairly often in the next few weeks.
Weekend update time, I suppose. Hold on, this could get lengthy and rambleicious.

Actually, I worked somewhere every day this weekend. Friday, after doing the graphics thing, I worked from 7-9:30 at the radio station, working the board at the studio for the live broadcast of the high school 5th region tournament game we were carrying. Saturday, the same, only I worked at the Snooze from 7:30-12:30, then spent some time with the grandson that afternoon (it was our weekend), then worked the board again for the championship game, in which my high school alma mater Caverna defeated the nominal best team in the region, Elizabethtown, to go to the state tournament in Lexington's Rupp Arena for the first time in 25 years. So congrats to the Colonels of Caverna, it's not very often when any team from there gets to go to the championship game of any sport.

Yesterday, I did the Sunday morning radio station thing that I do every 2nd, 3rd and 5th Sunday of the month , helping the steadfastly religious folks of this area get their preachin' prayin' singin' shoutin' fix. And all this pretty much precluded me getting to blog much, except comics reviews, or bury my head in the sand of popular culture. But I managed to disturb that vast beach just a little.

In comics, I sat down and re-read a series which I really, really hope to get to write a paragraph or three about soon, but I can't decide whethere or not to do it as its own blog entry or as part of a "all-time favorite comics" ongoing series of posts. We shall soon see.

I have also finally gotten back to reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I was stuck for a long time in one place, and have determined to finish the darn thing. One problem is that I bought it to read on the ill-fated flight to Nebraska, and unfortunately I now associate the book with that debacle. But I will finish it. Oh yes.

Saw two movies: the funny Get Shorty, which I had viewed once several years ago but hadn't seen since, and last year's Basic, a sort of Rashomon meets Platoon which squandered a hell of a ensemble cast by becoming tiresome by virtue of giving us about three dozen more plot twists than the average movie. That being said, it maintained my interest until the "what the hell-?" ending, which for some perverse reason I kinda liked. Spoiler (sorta) alert! I'd like to see that group of actors go on from where this film ended and give us a "Section 8" action movie, but I won't hold my breath.

I also watched a couple of college basketball games as well, mostly University of Kentucky games, but also segments of others over this, NCAA tournament selection weekend. I used to be a hardcore (or maybe, more accurately, softcore) bracket junkie, often participating in several bracket pools at once, but circumstances have caused me to kick the habit to the point where I don't even fill out a bracket sheet anymore. Still, I like to know who's going where and who plays whom, especially UK, so I keep up.

I also spent a few minutes listening to my newest eBay acquisition, and an album I've been looking for for a long, long time now: Bert Jansch's Moonshine. It's still early, but it's a well-played, low-key Britfolk album with some very nice songs...but it hasn't grabbed me like the Pentangle album from around that time, Solomon's Seal, did. I'm just happy I finally scored a copy- one less thing to obsess over, I suppose!

This will do for now- more later, hopefully.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

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BEST OF THE WEEK

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


PROMETHEA 29
Heaven help those who haven't been reading this book to date; and doesn't that sound somewhat fitting. I say this because Alan Moore is pulling out all the stops as he builds towards the end of his ABC world, throwing practically every character he's created for not only Promethea but many of his other titles as well in this issue alone, and he's not bothering to provide a scorecard- if you haven't been keeping up, he has no time for you now. And what he's giving us here is an apocalypse, for sure, but for once it's not some horrible Judgement Day-ish event but a benevolent, peaceful one- and of course, there are those (the Bush cabinet, among others, heh heh) who don't want this to happen. We seem to be coming up on a "chaos" (Painted Doll) vs. "order" (Prom) confrontation, but knowing Moore it won't be that simple. Tell the truth- did you expect last issue's cliffhanger to be tied up as efficiently and as quickly as it was? And I cannot say enough about the marvelous art of J.H. Williams and Mick Gray, who work in a myriad of styles, even aping the styles of the artists most associated with the ABC characters Moore works into the story like Sprouse's Tom Strong, Veitch's Greyshirt, Nowlan's Jack B. Quick, and others. It's not often when I get annoyed while reading a comic because the story ends, but that happened with this issue. It's amazing how much Moore, Williams and Gray have packed into this single chapter of a multi-issue story arc...and it seems like I thought that about the last two or three as well. If you ask me, Promethea deserves to be mentioned with Watchmen and Swamp Thing as among the finest examples of Alan Moore's genre work, which means that it also deserves mention in the best comics series ever. If you ask me. A+

POWERS 37
Like all good fiction writers, even as Brian M. Bendis is resolving certain plot threads, he's setting up new ones for the future. We, along with Detective Christian Walker, get a little, just a little closure to the events of the first series, but you just know that when Vol. 2 comes along that there's going to be some unexpected twists in a lot of knickers, including those of the previously-thought-dealt-with Retro Girl thing. And thank goodness Mike Avon Oeming will still be around, providing some of the best and most clever visuals you can get these days. A

FABLES 23
What Willingham's done this issue, besides actually making Pinocchio interesting for the first time since Uncle Walt made his little movie back in the thirties, is take a plot twist that we all knew was coming and make it interesting in spite of itself. I don't know who or what this "Adversary" is, but Jesus God, I hope it's not Geppetto. The Buckingham/Leialoha art, while never impressive, is as adequate as always. A-

STREET ANGEL 1
If you're an admirer of the straighfaced absurdities of Bob Burden, then in the absence of the Master, here's your next favorite book. Rugg and Maruca (whose art reminds me of Burden with a real good inker) expect us to swallow a lot without a lot of explanation, and perhaps explanations would be counter-productive to this sort of thing anyway...fortunately, the title character is appealing (love the bit with the bullhorn) and is just enough of an underdog (her snotty treatment by the rich kid she saves) to keep her likeable. So far, fresh and fun, and deserving of the unexpected hype this book's gotten on the Internet...but it's gonna get real old real fast if she's as unbeatable and unstoppable in a scrap as she seems to be here. We'll see how much buzz there is if this book makes it to, say, issue #5. A-

GOTHAM CENTRAL 17
Speaking of scorecards, here's a title which could definitely use one. I'm beginning to get really blurry on the ever-growing cast of the GCPD. We meet two new members of the Force, with whom I'm unfamiliar (and if they were introduced previously, I've totally forgotten), who take over a case that was being handled by two other cops who we spent some time with last issue, and now seem to be out of the picture and for the life of me I don't know why. Of course, I know next to nothing about police procedures, so that may explain my confusion. The two newbies are both interesting enough- one's a charming gambler type who's weak on the by-the-book stuff, and the other's a (divorced?) Mom who for some reason doesn't feel like she should go see her son perform with the Gotham Philharmonic, but is all about the procedural when it comes to her work. And that surface stuff is pretty much all we get, which of course would be a wealth of information in most books but this isn't most books. And while we're on the subject of "by the book", I have my doubts that an investigating officer, no matter how tough and smart she is, would get away with calling a suspect she's questioning in his workplace a "jackass". Artwise, we have Greg Scott back, doing his Mike Lark impersonation a little less effectively this time around, and the typically ham-fisted hues of Mr. Muddy Brown and Mottled Green, Lee Loughridge. B+

100 BULLETS 49
Long-awaited (by me, anyway) finale to the second uninvolving arc featuring the musclebound junkie named Jack, whose motivations and character I just can't get a handle on, despite going back and re-reading his first appearance. It didn't help that this suffered from a contrived, far-fetched setup involving rednecks who keep tigers in captivity for people to come and shoot, and some Mafia types who wind up getting more than they bargained for, events which I'm sure will come into play at some future point but in and of themselves just don't make for compelling reading, especially with such a long Batman-mandated gap between chapters. At least we stil have good old Ed Risso around to make sure it all looks great. B

H-E-R-O 14
In which we finally get the resolution of the Joe/Electric Girl storyline, and not only do we get a trick ending, something which always pisses me off, but the real ending is so downbeat that you have to wonder exactly what the whole point to this tale was in the first place...and then you have to wonder if it's not going to pop up again when we least expect it. While this arc was not exactly the finest hour of this up-and-down series, at least we have the upcoming Robby Reed situation to keep us interested, if not in anticipation. Personally, I'm fearing the worst- writers these days, Grant Morrison excepted, have nothing but scorn and disdain for those gloriously wacky 60s DCs, and it didn't get wackier than the original Dial H For Hero series. Leonard Kirk's art rarely failed to maintain a high level of mediocrity during this arc, which I suppose made it perfect. C+
Let's all pile up on Byrne!

Found over at ADD's, this quote from "the Chief":

(I disagree with your comment on another level, in any case. I get no sense from Morrison's work that he has any "love for the genre". I get the same vibe I get from Moore -- a cold and calculated mixing of ingredients the writer knows the fans like, but to which the writer himself has no eviceral connection. Nostaligia without being nostalgic, as I have dubbed it.)

Put aside the fact that he's stone cold wrong about Morrison and Moore: there is no such word as "eviceral". Does he mean "visceral"? "Eviscerate"? Don't ask me! I just found that mildly amusing. And of course, I never make spelling mistakes over here...
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Here's a little before-and-after involving Jay Stephens' character Tutenstein, which is now an animated series airing on the Discovery Channel. Stephens' very style is animation-friendly: it's clever and charming all on its own, and simple (as opposed to simplistic) enough to be (I would imagine) easy to animate. So what do the cartoon creators do? Completely revamp the very design and appearance of the character, making him something more in line with what they think the Yu-Gi-Oh! generation would groove on, apparently, as well as sticking him with a lovely young partner a la Delia and Beetlejuice and an annoying talking cat a la Sabrina. So what's the point I'm trying to make? I don't know. It's just that I watched Discovery's Tutenstein recently and was very disappointed with what I saw, that's all. And while there's a lot of quality animated TV on out there right now, perhaps more that there's ever been in the history of televison, I suppose that it's inevitable that there must still be some wretched examples of corporate overthink, copycat-ism and meddling out there too. Sigh.

Friday, March 12, 2004

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Lotsa people are linking to this fun site named Comic Book Gorillarama, dedicated to four-color simians of all persuasions. DC, of course, cornered the market in gorilla craziness back in the late 50s and 60s, and the above is one of my favorites. Wonder if Dave Wood wrote it?
Back to Bowie for a second: Antipopper went to see him back in late February, and wrote this interesting concert review.

Also, a comment on Joss Whedon's X-Men, which of course I care less than nothing about but I know many of you do...so...
OK. I've got a question. There's a fellow, a Fifties and Sixties comic book creator, who was there for the dawn of the Silver Age at DC Comics, and created several characters who, in some fashion or another, are still very much in the public eye to this day.

Who is it, you may ask? John Broome? Bernard Sachs? Mort Meskin? Murray Boltinoff? France Herron? Nope.

His name is Dave Wood. He co-wrote such titles as Challengers of the Unknown and Green Arrow with Kirby, along with Sky Masters and I'm sure others, and created Robby Reed and Dial H For Hero, Animal Man (or was at least his first writer), and Ultra The Multi-Alien. So what I wanna know is- who the hell is/was he? Is he still alive? Is he still writing anything, even if it's non-comics related? What is his place in the grand order of things? Anybody?
Good morning! More shorties today, since I'm at work and they keep interrupting my blogtime with ads. How dare they. Anyway, for those of you that weren't turned off to Liz Phair thanks to her latest album, here's a neat interview on ESPN.com, of all places.

Me, I still haven't heard the entire album but I really liked that song "Why Can't I", especially the wannabe album cover designer's dream video, before radio burned me out on it.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

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Great interview with The Losers' Andy Diggle and Jock over at Comic Book Resources. Go! Read!

First found out at Near Mint Heroes. Quid Pro Quo, n'est ce pas?
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I meant to link to this days ago, but it slipped my mind. From BrianWilson.com, here's a page of reviews of Brian's new Smile show. Via Brendan.

Regarding Smile itself, (insofar as the actual music goes and not the legend which has grown all around it) from the reconstructed fragments I heard on the Good Vibrations: 30 Years of The Beach Boys box from a few years ago I have to say that I love the fragile "Wonderful" as well as the insanely catchy "Vege-Tables", and of course the Brian solo piano version of "Surf's Up". "Cabinessence" is fine, but just stops short of being really memorable. And yes, there's the classic "Good Vibrations" and "Heroes and Villians", which of course I like a lot.
It seems there are comics related message boards everywhere on the web, and I'm not saying this is necessarily a bad thing, even though I agree with ADD about the unintended negative effect MB's have on comics news sites. Over at eBay, there's a thriving comics MB community, and my friend Dave Puckett is a playa over there. He recently sent me a link to a Comic Book FAQ, which some of you out there might find of some use.

One of these days I'm gonna get my hands on a scan or two of Dave's artwork, which I will lay on you all posthaste.
Condolences to Dave Fiore on the loss of the Husk.

You think, ah, it's just a pet, no big deal, but it's so easy to get attached and so hard to accept when they're gone. I'll tell you, it will be a dark day when our dog Nibbles passes on- we've all gotten unbelievably attached to him. We'll probably miss Satan Cat too. Probably.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

If I had a dollar for every time I've wanted to self publish a mini (or regular-size, for that matter) comic, I'd be able to pay Dame Darcy's rent for the rest of her life. Fortunately, however, there are many out there who don't suffer from my particular type of creative paralysis, and there's a new outlet to buy their work: Bowzizzer. Go check it out and buy some of their wares. Free with other people's money, aren't I?
Fascinating reading: the still-in-progress DC Comics Timeline, in which significant events in DC publishing history are laid out from month to month and year to year. Kinda took me back a bit. Link found via fellow cole slaw hater Mark Evanier.
I read over at The Hurting where artist/musician/dollmaker/palm reader Dame Darcy is apparently having money troubles and is selling a lot of stuff on eBay. I've enjoyed her whimsical Meat Cake comic for quite some time now, and if I was in any position at all to help her out, I would...but maybe you can, so go over there and see if there's anything you might want to acquire.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

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Another weekend has quickly gone by, and as is often my wont, I spent part of it watching movies.

Saturday night was Colin Farrell night on pay cable TV, apparently. First, I finally sat down and watched the war movie slash courtroom drama, Hart's War, which featured Farrell as a young Yale grad Lieutenant who winds up in a German POW camp, just in time to get stuck defending another recent arrival, a black lieuteneant who gets set up for murder of another prisoner. Bruce Willis, with jaw locked resolutely as the commanding US officer, is on hand as well. Of course, I'm leaving a lot of the details out, but the gist of what I took away from this movie is that the filmmakers set up a fascinating situation, then totally botch the ending with a (to be kind) unlikely set of circumstances all at once at the end. Still, it's an involving movie and everyone, even Bruce in stolid Sixth Sense mode, gives good performances. Of special note is Terrance Howard, who plays the accused soldier, and Marcel Iures, who plays the commandant of the stalag with subtlety and gets many of the best lines in the film. His character is just a little shy of too gimmicky, but Iures rises above.

Farrell Night continued with a screening of the Hitchcockian 2002 button-pusher Phone Booth, which was involving enough, I suppose, but when it was over I thought of fishing. Fishing, as in this film was like hooking a worm and watching him squirm for an hour and a half, not exactly tons of fun in my head, anyway. In case you don't know the story, it involves a fast-talking NYC publicist who dresses flashily, berates his intern, and tries to cheat on his wife with a young wannabe actress. After placing a call to her at a nearby phone booth (he doesn't want his wife to see his cel phone bill), the phone rings. He answers it, and it turns out to be a sniper who has a bead on him and will kill him unless he goes through a series of increasingly humiliating stunts. Eventually, a bystander gets shot, the police arrive, and things go from bad to worse until the final resolution. The biggest problem I had with this is that I didn't buy into the premise that Farrell's character was bad enough to warrant this sort of judgement, so whatever moral satisfaction I was supposed to get from watching Stu twist in the wind was negated. He was a louse, sure, but I got no kicks or a sense of Twilight Zone-type irony from his plight, so all I got was frustrated. Despite the story flaw, which I freely acknowledge will not be recognized as such by a significant number of others, Booth is actually a well-made film with good perfs from leads Farrell, Keifer Sutherland in what was essentially a voice-over role, and the always-good Forrest Whitaker as the NYC police captain who answers the call. I can recommend it completely unburdened with the compulsion to watch it again.

Having watched and admired Being John Malkovich very much, I was looking forward to seeing the follow-up film from screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze, Adaptation., and I finally got my chance last night. For about an hour, in which we watch Kaufmann struggle with not only his fictional twin brother, to whom writing seems to come as easily as it fails to come to him, but also with his project, the screenplay for a unfilmable book, it's funny, surreal, and clever, and I thought this film was brilliant- but then for some reason the pair decided to go into Cape Fear or The Gift territory and blew it with a ludicrous finale. Great Perfs by Nic Cage as not only Kaufmann but his brother as well and Chris Cooper as a Florida flower poacher with no teeth, who kept reminding me of Jim Varney as Ernest P. Worrell for some reason. "Them snakes is pizen snakes!"

Finally, a film which made all of the above look like classics of cinema: last year's trainwreck Bob Dylan vanity film, Masked and Anonymous. Sloppy and self-indulgent, and full of Grade A Hormel performances, including the prerequisite quirky cameos by stars that were apparently just doing it to work with Dylan, the best thing that can be said for it is that at least it unfolds in a wobbly kind of linear fashion and avoids the incoherence that sank such other films as The Last Movie, which this reminded me of for some reason. In a nutshell, unscrupulous promoter John Goodman, with help from a blowsy-looking Jessica Lange, bring back the legendary folk singer Jack Fate (Dylan, who else) for a benefit concert to aid what the film describes as a "third-world America" which has devolved into anarchy and chaos under its President, who lies on his death bed. Of course, what Goodman really plans to do is pay of his debts with the proceeds- but this, like so many plot threads, are simply forgotten about before the movie's over. The immobile, cowboy hatted, pencil-moustachioed Dylan, who proved he was no actor in 1973's Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid, shows that he hasn't learned a damn thing about the craft in the subsequent 31 years as he staggers from scene to scene, delivering his lines in a deadpan monotone. He looks fragile, dry and gaunt, and scenes towards the end of him scuffling with bad-guy reporter Jeff Bridges, even to the point of breaking a whiskey bottle and holding it to his throat, are unintentionally hilarious. The cast has a lot of fine actors in it, Bobby notwithstanding, and it was co-written (with Dylan) and directed by Seinfeld's Larry Charles, who's no hack...so your guess is as good as mine as to how this turned out so rotten. The music's not bad, for what it's worth, but if I were you I'd just seek out the soundtrack CD and pass on this mess. Recommended for the hardcore completist Dylan freak, but nobody else. Thanks to Mark Anthony for passing this one on- I'm glad I got to see it, but I doubt I'll do so again!
On a personal note, my trusty faithful Discman died on me today. I put the disc in, hit the button, it spins for a few seconds, then says "no disc". On several discs, including those which played just fine in it previously.

It's been my friend and compatriot for almost seven years now, through three jobs and four years at Western Ky., and it will be missed. let us now observe a moment of silence.