Monday, May 10, 2004

Oh, by the way: enter the Seven Days of Demo contest already, willya? Time is running out!
Y'know, I'm kinda liking this Blogger least now I have some of the buttons above the text field that I didn't have before because I'm on a Mac. Of course, of the four I'm seeing, only the "insert link" key actually functions, but hey-it's a step in the right direction anyway! Especially considering I'm using the pretty much and soon-to-be-if-not-already obsolete OS 9 instead of OS X!

I kinda like the way the previous posts are arranged, too. I like being able to call up a draft and publish it without having to uncheck the "draft" box. I had hoped the upgrade would solve my template problem- I'm not seeing all the code on my Macs, and I have to get on a PC before I can add links, buttons, functions or pictures or change colors and fonts. I do like a lot of those new templates that are now available, but would rather go through a root canal with no local than go through the ordeal of restoring all my links and buttons and bells and I guess I'll keep ol' blue for a while longer. Plus, I don't see the comments function that Tegan referred to, not that I would use the function anyway. Probably a perk for those PC users out there. Bastards.

We Mac people learn to do more with less, it seems.

By the way, go check out my Sketch Blog! And leave a comment, even if it's "you stink". I've been digging around the basement and other parts of the house, looking for all the art I did over the last few years, trying to find some good stuff to put up and hoping to have to avoid drawing anything new for a while. Oops, did I just say that? Actually, the reason I started it was to do precisely that: to goose me into drawing regularly again. So far, the spirit has been willing but the flesh has been weak but I have the goodest of good intentions so don't give up on me!

Soon, and I'm well aware of promising more than I can deliver (always a phobia of mine), the other five Vinyl-O reviews, a paragraph or two about the trades I picked up last Saturday: King David, Sandman Presents: The Furies, and New X-Men 2. I also received three issues of the newish kids series Sidekicks, and plan to opine on them as soon as I can sit down and read 'em. I'd write about movies, but the only movie I've seen from beginning to end lately was Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle, whichis kinda review-proof, y'know, because it doesn't aspire to be anything else but a big, dumb, loud rollercoaster movie, and it certainly succeeded with flying colors. Haven't seen Kill Bill Vol. 2 or Van Helsing yet, thanks for asking. I did see where a Priscilla Lane film I haven't seen in years, Saboteur, is coming on TCM later this month. Looking forward to that- it's the only time Alfred Hitchcock ever made do with Priscilla's services. Said she was too girl-next-door-ish or something like that. Hmph.

The Official NHL Playoff Team of the JBS, the Calgary Flames, beat San Jose yesterday and are now up 1-0 in their best of 7 series. Go Flames, eh!

OK, I'm done. Oyasumi nasai.

Update! Looks like I do have that comments function, after all. I wasn't looking for it in the right place, that's all. I'm still happy with Haloscan, so all's well for now.
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Just to prove how influential my opinions are in the comics world, I see where the current run of The Legion, a title which I've been buying more-or-less faithfully since around 1996, is coming to an end in after about five more issues. Of course, as my regular readers may remember, I had decided to stop buying Legion as of the most recent issue, since I felt the book had shot its creative wad and was dying on the vine as writers Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning seemed to be eager to move on to other, presumably greener pastures, piling on dubious science and wacked-out contrivances (the weird-ass business with Superboy, the return of Lightning Lad in Element Lad's tromium body, completely nullifying the impact of the conclusion of the criminally unavailable-in-a-trade Legion Lost, and most unforgivable, leaving my beloved Zoe Saugin aka Kinetix as an Amazon Breadfruit Woman, or some such) that just didn't sit well with me. Also, the new creative team of Gail Simone, Dan Jurgens and someone named Andy Smith (a Crossgen refugee, methinks) didn't excite me at all. So, for the first time since 1999, I bid the Legion a forlorn adieu. Then DC summarily goes and cancels it, obviously since I wasn't buying it anymore.

I started buying both the Legion of Super-Heroes and Legionnaires regularly a couple of years after the 1994 reboot, because Wizard had hyped it in a small feature article and I was intrigued. And after picking up the most recent issues, I kinda liked it. It was no Watchmen or Love and Rockets, but it was well-drawn (although I preferred the more organic stylings of Lee Moder to the staid Archie-style Jeff Moy work) and the character interaction was interesting, so I became a Legion reader for approximately the third time in my life. I stuck with it through several artist changes and a couple of writer changes, justifying my continued patronage as "guilty pleasuring" until finally I couldn't take it anymore after an incredibly silly storyline involving Bizarros...and I bailed. And I was content for a while, until I started noticing a little something different a few months later...a new artist. One with a radically different style from what I'd grown tired of before. The artist was newcomer Oliver Coipel, and the storyline was "Legion of the Damned"...and it looked a lot more down-to-earth than what had been the norm. At first I was hesitant to re-add it, but I soon gave in and bought the most current chapters, along with the ones I'd missed, and I was hooked again. I soon was convinced that the Abnett/Lanning/Coipel team was enthusastic, talented, and had set out to do some memorable stories, and they did not disappoint for a long time. But, as the Quiet Beatle once sang, "All Things Must Pass", and entropy started when Coipel left for Marvelbucks, and Abnett & Lanning soldiered on, but it just wasn't quite the same despite some fine fill-in artists.

Of course, this wasn't my first experience with DC's 30th century super-team- heck, me and the Legion go way back. When I was about 4 or 5, I distinctly remember playing "supers" with other neighborhood kids and whenever we were the Legion, I was always Lightning Lad or Sun Boy because I had red hair. The first Legion story I remember owning and reading was Adventure Comics 334, which featured the LSH trapped in 'The Super-Stalag of Space". After that, I got the occasional issue but I wasn't really a big fan of either the Superboy-Superman family or the art of Curt Swan so I didn't get many. In fact, the first time I bought a Legion comic for real was in the 70s, when Dave Cockrum and Cary Bates breathed fresh air into the stale concept by totally redesigning their uniforms and creating some fun and fast paced adventures. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, Cockrum bailed to go do some X-book or something, and was replaced by Mike Grell, whose work I hate with a passion, so I left not long after. And I didn't buy another Legion title regularly until Tom and Mary Bierbaum and a talented newcomer named Chris Sprouse launched the Legion companion book Legionnaires, and collaborated on six excellent (and underrated) issues before Sprouse's terminal lateness caused problems and he was soon replaced. OK, at first it was by Adam Hughes, early in his career, but he didn't stay much longer and was replaced by several artists who gave us some of the most amateurish comics art I've ever seen. I bailed again, and now we've come full circle, when I resumed my Legion habit a couple of years later.

Knowing the history of the LSH as I do, and also knowing that LSH fan (and former writer) Paul Levitz is stil calling the shots, I'm pretty sure the Legion will be back sooner rather than later. Will I buy? Who knows. I'm not ruling it out!
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I'd like to take this opportunity now to wish my sure-to-be-granted-sainthood mother, Doris Jeanette Frasier Jones not only a happy belated birthday (May 8) but also a belated Happy Mother's Day as well.

Like she ever reads my blog to begin with...
A cursory glance at the Diamond shipping list lets me know that I should be getting:

HERO #16

And that, as they say, is that!

Saturday, May 08, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of May 5

Sure, it's great that Mike Mignola rather than this writer or that is doing the scripting honors himself on this one, and this Lovecraftian adventure story is all the better for it...but the real star of this particular show is artist Guy Davis, who is doing some of the best work of his career here, or at least some of the best work I've ever seen him do, anyway. Love the depiction of Johann, the "Ghost in a Bag", after his containment suit gets shredded. Dave Stewart is doing a wonderful job on the colors, as well, giving us a vivid palette, even when he's depicting murkiness. Lee Loughridge could do worse than to get with Sewart and exchange trade secrets. The BPRD are hip deep in the middle of trouble involving the frog creatures we saw way back in the first Hellboy story, Seeds of Destruction, and despite the fact that you pretty much know they'll get out eventually, at least Mignola's managed to work up a decent amount of suspense in regards to how and at what cost. A

OK, in this issue Swampy encounters a relative of Abigail Arcane, who has been transformed by her evil uncle Anton into the grotesque, shambling Patchwork Man. Oh, wait. Wrong Swamp Thing 3. Sorry. I kid, but it is odd seeing these issues come out in a new restarted numbering. In this issue, we find out more about the plans of all the particulars, Tef?, Swampy, Sargon, and John Constantine, who has a nice Abbott and Costello thing going on with a reanimated corpse bearing Alec Holland's spirit. Andy Diggle is proving his tepid Lady Constantine miniseries an aberration, providing sharp dialogue, and Enrique Breccia once again gives us effective atmospherics and poor figure drawing. A-

My guilty pleasure purchase of the week is a diverting little piece of superheroic spystuff, featuring all the usual Bendis strong points: great dialogue, ironic humor, and a neat little idea at its center- where do all those super bad guys, who never seem to be able to pull off that one big score, get all those swell toys? Looks like Nick Fury wants to find out, and that's where this begins...but who the heck knows where it's gonna go? Between the atmospheric (but awfully dark and murky) painted art of the much-hyped Gabriele Dell'otto and the usual terse, dialogue-heavy Bendis scripting, this could pass for an issue of Daredevil, and if you (like me) like that sort of thing, you should check this out. Makes me wish for two things: one, that Bendis try his hand at writing a S.H.I.E.L.D. series someday, and tow, that they had titled this something else- the very name "Secret Wars" made me associate this with the ?ber-wretched 12-issue series back in the 80s...enough to make me want to pass. Fortunately, this has absolutely nothing to do with Beyonders. A-

Kinda ends with a whimper instead of a bang, as Willingham chooses to give us the climactic event that the past three issues have been leading up to "off-screen" in favor of a would-be clever retribution scene...then ends the whole thing proper on a dismayingly ambiguous note, all the better to make you want to buy a sequel, my dear. Even so, I enjoyed this mini for the most part- I like the title character in spite of herself and Willingham certainly puts a lot of imagination into her exploits. But all tease and no money shot is not a good way to build reader goodwill. This issue: B+. Entire series: B.

No Alan Moore, no Chris Sprouse, except on the cover. Will the last person to leave ABC turn out the lights? Taken on its own terms, what we have here is a not-bad, not-especially-good script based on a clever idea by one Mark Schultz and solid Madrueira-inspired art from Pascual Ferry, and really, this issue isn't that terrible. But it's kinda like when Gary Cerrone took over the vocal chores for Van Halen, or Ronnie James Dio replaced Ozzy Osbourne. Those fellas were fine vocalists, but they weren't Dave (hell, or Sammy for that matter) or Ozzy, so the same buzz just isn't there. And it's with this that I bid a forlorn farewell to the printed adventures of Tom and his Strongmen of America- it was fun while it lasted. C+

Biggest disappointment this week: no Scurvy Dogs. No surprise, but a disappointment.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Real gosh darned busy today, so no time for blog. How did that song go again? "It's Blo-og, it's blo-og, it's big, it's round, it's wood..."

Speaking of Wood, Demo's Brian that is, I thought I'd take just a second out of my busy day and direct you to an interview with he over at Kevin's. Then, after having drawn mad inspiration from the in-depth look into the man's thought processes, go write your entry to the Great Demo contest.

And if you have any further questions, take them to the Laughing Buddha.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

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Brace's back. Part one of that long-awaited new edition of Johnny B's Mondo Vinyl-O, in which I write a paragraph or two about ten long playing, 33 1/3 RPM vinyl record albums to which I have listened in the interval since the last MV-O. This was all brought on when I got a new turntable a little over a year ago, after not having one for about five. Needless to say, I was having fun getting reacquainted with a lot of music in my collection that I hadn't been able to listen to for a long time, and I thought I'd share. The new has kinda worn off the turntable since then, but I'm still dragging those old platters off the shelf, many of which aren't available on CD even if I could afford them, and giving 'em a spin, not to mention that I still get the occasional new-to-me album off eBay and other places. Frankly, kids, I prefer the sound of a good condition album to a CD any old day...and I know that's a terribly old-fashioned attitude to have, but there ya go. Of course, CDs have many advantages that vinyl does not, but I still love me some vinyl. So enough with the preamble, lets get down to it.

BERT JANSCH-MOONSHINE (1973) Gotta set this one up a little bit. Back in...oh, sometime in the early 80s I think, I was beginning to become infatuated with those newfangled cassette things and began to look upon them as a preferable alternative to the 8 track tape- which just never really seemed to work right despite its larger tape size, which should have meant better sound...but the packaging was faulty. More often as not, 8-tracks were prone to getting chewed up in the player, and often the shell itself would become defective, causing mis-tracking, grinding, and many other annoyances. Anyway, it was sometime in the early 80s that I made my last significant purchase of 8-track tapes, taking advantage of the huge cutout bins at Woolco in Bowling Green. They used to have bin after bin of cutout vinyl and tapes, and I always enjoyed rummaging thru them to see what I could find. Oh, if I could only go back in time and go through those bins now. That particular day, though, I bought ten 8-tracks for ten bucks, one of them being a copy of Bert Jansch's 1972 solo effort Moonshine. I was geeked beyond belief, because I was such a devotee of Jansch's group The Pentangle, in particular their Solomon's Seal album, which came out the year before. Since Seal had become one of my favorite albums, you can understand my excitement and anticipation. First thing I did when I got home was eagerly stick it in the old 8-track player, and after about 30 seconds of quiet acoustic picking, I began to hear a grinding noise and the dreaded garbled tape was eaten by my hungry player. So after a few minutes spent throwing things and cursing loudly and enthusiastically, I resolved to find a vinyl copy of that album. It took me over twenty years. About a month ago I finally found an affordable has it lived up to such a lengthy introduction? Well, yes and no. Moonshine is a quiet affair, mostly Bert's doleful droning voice and his nimble acoustic guitar, and to be honest the songs don't exactly jump out and ask you to love them upon the first few listens. I think the best cuts are the ones which have the most novel accompaniment, like the album opener "Yarrow", with its haunting flute, the very atmospheric title track with more flutes and bells as well, or "Night Time Blues", a mid-tempo track with lively fiddle accompaniment by one Aly Bain. "Ramble Away" gets a rollicking arrangement, and "Oh My Father" gets a full band treatment, rocking agreeably with some stinging electric guitar riffs noodling away in the background. I really like the lyrics to the midtempo acoustic number "The January Man", which essentially personifies each month of the year, giving each a verse. I have a weakness for that sort of rhyme, it appears. The only real clunker on the album is an odd cover of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face", which is a duet with Mary Hopkin, standing in for Jacqui McShee, I assume. Problem is, she comes in singing on the odd beat, and the two voices clash rather than compliment...which makes the track a trial to sit through. Duets with Hopkin, yay. Duets like this one with Hopkin, not so good an idea, and probably should have been left in the can. Moonshine is definitely a grower, you'll need to listen several times before many of these cuts will make a strong impression. But these are strong songs, the accompaniment (including Pentangle bassist Danny Thompson) is first rate, and it's well worth picking up should you run across it somewhere. Rotsa ruck.

BLACK OAK ARKANSAS-HIGH ON THE HOG (1973) Black Oak was the working man's southern boogie band for about a four year period there, after releasing four albums on Atlantic subsidiary Atco that built them a loyal following. The main thing which set BOA apart from their contemporaries like the Allmans, Lynyrd Skynyrd or ZZ Top was the Robert Plant-meets-Jim Varney antics and raspy bullhorn voice of one Jim "Dandy" Mangrum, who would strut around onstage, washboard in hand, with his long blonde hair hanging down to his ass just like a weird mix of Foghorn Leghorn and Sebastian Bach. Anyway, BOA's sound was no-frills southern boogie blooz, competently if not especially well played, and given a boost by Mangrum's crazed vocals. This particular album was the one which gave them the smash hit they'd worked so hard for- the cover of the old LaVern Baker blues song "Jim Dandy" (featuring vocal contributions by the late Ruby Starr), which was all over the airwaves in the Summer of '73. The rest of the record has its moments: "Swimming In Quicksand" has a nice nasty wah-wah riff at its center; "Back To The Land" and especially the beautiful "High And Dry" (probably my favorite track on this record, with its gorgeous melody (that even Mangrum doesn't mess up) and graceful banjo/steel guitar solo) are nicely done country-fied ballads, and "Movin" ("Movin' down the highway is my life/I'd rather have asphalt than a wife"), "Happy Hooker" (about guess what), the instumental jam "Moonshine Sonata" and "Mad Man" all rock convincingly. After this, they toured and recorded for what seemed like years and years, striving to follow up "Jim Dandy" amid multiple personnel changes and the onset of Punk and New Wave, which pretty much knocked Southern Rock for a loop on the charts. I think some version of Black Oak is still out there, fronted by Mangrum, coming soon to a small club or state fair near you...

I scored a really good condition copy of the second proper solo album by the First Lady of British Folk on eBay a few months ago. While I was already familiar with most of the best songs here via the two compilations I own, I still wanted to hear the other cuts on this record. Problem is that the best cuts here are those which have been gleaned for the many best-ofs that have come out since her untimely death, such as the solemn and stately "It'll Take A Long Time"; "Listen, Listen", with its bracing multitracked vocals and sympatico string section, and "The Lady", again with symphonic accompaniment. Of the unfamilar cuts, only her cover of Dylan's "Tomorrow is a Long Time", which is a little more uptempo but fails to outdo Rod Stewart's Every Picture Tells a Story cover version that same year and the very Fairportish "Sweet Rosemary" make much of an impression, which is not to say they're bad, they just haven't really grabbed me yet. Such was the low-key, restrained genius of Sandy Denny, which created songs which snuck up on you, then didn't let go. Really, the only track which I dont like at all is her acapella version of "Quiet Joys of Brotherhood", which many fans love for her admittedly lovely vocal, but (like many accapella tunes do) bores me to tears. Still, the instrumental accompaniment is by all the usual Fairport suspects, such as Richard Thompson, and is very well played, so while I don't like this one as much as I do its successor Like An Old Fashioned Waltz, I still like very much.

Americana Queen Emmylou has a large and fanatical following, but even the most fervent of them generally shun this record, claiming that it's "too short" and has synths (!). Indeed, it's not available on CD, never has been. So, of course, it's my favorite of all her albums. This album, admittedly almost unforgivably short at just shy of 40 minutes, starts out with a Rodney Crowell tune "I Don't Have To Crawl", all low-key, mid-tempo, menacing and garnished with understated synth. Next, we get a bluegrass/Western swing hybrid with harmonies by the Whites and guitar by Ricky Skaggs, her musical cohort for much of this period, titled "How High The Moon". The next cut continues the stylistic variety with a folkish duet with Waylon Jennings called "Spanish Johnny", a western tale which features chiming mandolin, growling harmonica and Jennings' bloated, boozy harmony vocal which flirts with being on-key almost as much as it is off-key, but somehow in tandem with Harris, it sounds marvelously haunting. A fine, faithful cover of John Fogerty's "Bad Moon Rising" is next, then a cover of the Band's "Evangeline", which almost seems written for EH, especially when the harmonies kick in on the chorus. This first side is one amazing sequence of songs- each just flows into the other and is amazingly diverse. Side two, unfortunately, suffers a bit by comparison...can't really say why, but perhaps it just doesn't hit as high a note as the other does. The flip side starts with a surprisingly reserved cover of a song by her mentor Gram Parsons, the Flying Burritos Bros' "Hot Burrito #2". Next, a James Taylor cover, "Millworker", is faithful to the original (one of my favorite Taylor songs, from 1979's Flag) but just isn't as affecting as Taylor is on the original. Little Feat's "Oh Atlanta" is next, and while it's not bad I could think of a dozen other Feat songs that I'd rather hear her sing. We then get us a preview of the Trio album she did a few years later with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt on a fun cover of the old 40s standard "Mr. Sandman", complete with ba-ba-ba's. Finally, she closes with another Crowell cover, "Ashes By Now", which I think Crowell's then-bride Roseanne Cash toopk to the bank a year or so later. Coming off the heels of her brilliant bluegrass and gospel-tinged Roses in the Snow, Evangeline was regarded, I think, as a bit of a step backwards and an overproduced compromise. Me, I don't think she wanted to pigeonhole herself as a hillbilly singer and decided to push the envelope a bit. Regardless, this forgotten and overlooked record is well worth checking out if you get the chance.

Woo! Metal, dude! Or at least pop-metal. Starz were one of the zillions of poor man's BoStyxes, Boreigners, Kisses and Aerosmiths out there in the mid-to-late 70s, and really didn't make a big dent in the public consciousness even at their peak, which was probably the period between their 1976 debut and this, the follow-up. I probably would have sold it in a yard sale or a used record store somewhere if not for four cuts, which are as solid and tuneful as anyone could ever hope for their hair metal to be- "Violation", "Sing It, Shout It", "Cherry Baby", and the oddly syncopated, string-accented ballad "Is That a Street Light or the Moon?", all of which boast dynamite melodies 'n' riffs along with infectuous choruses. In fact, "Sing It" and "Cherry", I believe, should have been monster hits- and did, truth be told, trouble the lower reaches of the charts back then. A look at the credits helps explain a bit- it's produced by none other than Aerosmith's producer at the time Jack Douglas. But wait! There's more! Not being content with an atypically listenable pop-metal album, Violation was also a concept album as well, something about teenagers being prohibited by law to listen to rock music in an Orwellian future society of some sort. Yeah, that was mighty stale even back then, but there you go. Of course, the Starz boys fight the power and liberate the youth of the future with the power of the Marshall amp just in time for the final cut. Special mention must go to the drummer, who was named "Dubé" and sported a Rollie Fingers moustache, the cheeky fellow. Even when I was a teen, I didn't have much use for the Angels, Head Easts and REO Speedwagons of the music world...but none of them put together ever made an album that was as solid as this one.

That's gonna do it for the first half...I've got five more coming sooner rather than later.
Looks like Andy Diggle won't be lacking for work after The Losers folds: Newsarama points us to his upcoming Adam Strange miniseries, with art by Pascual Ferry, late of yesterday's Tom Strong. Looks real good. Go see for yourself.

While I'm talking comics, I have a confession to make. Of course, yesterday I got no Scurvy Dogs. So did I take the money I would have spent on Dogs and buy some promising looking indie book that I would have ordinarily passed on, thus giving some deserving artist and publisher a tiny shot in the arm and some much-needed support? Nah. I bought Secret War. All right! All right! I know! It's Marvel, and it's superheroes, and I keep whining about how sick I am of both of them. I have no excuse except that it's Bendis, and my friend Chris Tucker (no, not THAT Chris Tucker) suggested it. Mea culpa, as they say.

I think I'll go stand in the corner now.

Update! Just wanna state for the record that as far as I know, The Losers has not been cancelled, nor would I be the first to know by any stretch. I was just being my usual optimistic self when I made that semi-serious reference in the first sentence of that post. Don't want to get any hot internet rumors started, especially one that could hurt sales of one of my favorite comics out there right now.
Artbomb has steered me towards an thoughtful and thourough piece on Harvey Kurtzman. I enjoyed it, and I think you might too, hence the link. You're welcome.
Wanna take a minute and direct you to Forager's highbrow discussion of the use of the term "middlebrow" in criticism. I remember Christgau was always referring to David Bowie as "middlebrow", and by these criteria, I think that's very apt.

Also, I like how Kirbyfan J.W. has grouped his links, into "New Gods", "Mister Miracle", and so on. I'm grouped with the Forever People, which is pretty cool. Can I be Mark Moonrider?
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The above is a striking Vampirella illo done by none other than Becky Cloonan. Becky, who draws AiT/PlanetLar's Demo. And that's right, this is a sneaky way to once again hype the latest and greatest contest from those Lone Gunmen of the Comics Blogosphereiverse, Shane, Ken, Rick, and Kevin.

Go here for the 411, the skinny, the straight dope on how to enter and possibly win a shitload of cool swag. More fun than a pirate boat full of monkeys!

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

I see where the Flight Volume One watch continues, with a feature article over at Newsarama.

Now, boys and girls, when Vera Brosgol, Jen Wang, Clio Chiang and the other Pants Pressers are famous and are at the top of the industry, I want you all to remember that your ol' Uncle Johnny B told you about 'em long ago.

And when you all want to buy my original pen, ink and watercolor illustration of Pandora Arcana by Vera B., I'll just laugh and mock you all mercilessly.
Just when you think that there's no way that the excitement engendered by THE GREAT LOSERS GIVEAWAY can be topped, well, it's been done. I am pleased to announce another contest designed to get those of you out there who are hesitant to partake in, shall we say, less accessible and more refined fruit the opportunity to sample free of charge and personal consequence, AiT/PlanetLar's intriguing ongoing series Demo, plus the chance to win a whole bunch of other cool stuff as well!

As conceived by those fine gentlemen of irreproachable repute Ken Lowery, Shane Bailey, Rick Geerling, Kevin Melrose, and your humble scribe (actually, my contribution was kinda in the "Yeah, that sounds like a good idea" area), here's what ya gotta do: write. Tell us how you would answer the question what if you were different? What if you had powers that set you apart from everyone else? What would become of your life? How would you change? We want to know what superpower you'd want to have, and what you'd do with it. And while I can certainly get behind the "I'd like to be invisible so's I could see people in the shower" notion, we're looking for something a bit more, shall we say, fresh. You know, original.

Tell 'em what they can win, Johnny!

OK. Copied shamelessly from Kevin.

Top prize is the first five issues of Demo, copies of Channel Zero, Jennie One, Couscous Express, Public Domain and The Couriers 02: Dirtbike Manifesto, and a piece of original art from that most misunderstood of one-shots Planet of the Capes, all courtesy of Larry Young and AiT/Planet Lar, plus a six-issue subscription to Digital Webbing Presents and four back issues, courtesy of Digital Webbing!

The other prizes, along with all the other pertinient information you will need, is right here, in a really nice looking contest info page. Second through fourth prizes are pretty darn swell, too.

Finally, Kevin Melrose has an interview with Demo artist Becky Cloonan over at his joint. Go read it, then start writing! What are you waiting for?

Contest ends May 12, by the way. I feel like I should rattle off a whole bunch of disclaimer type stuff now really fast in a low monotone.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Edith Bunker meets The Grand...

Remember how, in All in the Family (all right, all you young whippersnappers out there, don't give me that look- AitF has been in worldwide reruns for at least 20 years now), Archie would tell a joke, and everyone would laugh but Edith...and then about ten minutes later Edith would get it and suddenly burst out laughing?

Well, that's kinda how I feel after reading where somebody has finally explained what the Planet of the Capes TPB was all about. Thank you, Dorian (Gray?). You shall be linked to eventually.

Does that change my C- review from a few days ago? Maybe. I'll have to re-read it first, with that in mind. But sitting here at work and trying to remember story details, I'm still not sure if I would have really picked up on the subtleties, even with foreknowledge...and that's not good. Or at least I don't think it is!

And Larry, it would have been really funny if you had had Charlton Heston come out at the end and said "You damn dirty apes"!
The fine folks at Newsarama have posted the gist of WonderCon's Vertigo Panel recently, providing the opportunity for yours truly to opine about upcoming product from the line which, after all is said and done, commands a significant amount of my comic dollars.

First was this comment by, I assume, Matt Brady:

Sparsely attended, with Bill Willingham the only pro on hand, Sunday's vertigo panel at WonderCon allowed DC to show art and lay out the imprint's schedule for the coming months.

Uh...why was it necessary to make a note of this? Are we supposed to feel sympathy for poor struggling DC, or are we supposed to be nodding our heads and saying "Yup, that just shows to go ya...nobody cares about Vertigo books because they don't have big muscle dudes and chicks shooting force beams out of their fingertips, and/or because they're published by a big conglomerate instead of by Sainted Indie Publishers"?

OK, now that that's out of the way, here's what the sparse crowd was presented with.

Of course, Seaguy was mentioned, and I'm already getting that one. Hey, It's Grant Morrison, and I'll always give him a shot.

We3 is described as a take on The Incredible Journey by Morrison and Frank Quitely. Say no more, I'm there.

The Originals is by Watchmen's Dave Gibbons, who is an artist I respect and believe brings incredible chops to everything he undertakes...but for some reason I usually find his style dull and dry, Watchmen being the most notable exception. The sample cover we're given, however, looks really sharp, so while I must always be wary of judging a book by its cover the concept is intriguiing as well. So we'll say "maybe" there, pending seeing some interiors.

Couldn't care less about Blood + Water, which underwhelmed me first time around. Pass.

There will be a preview of The Witching in Fables 26, which might go a long way towards helping me decide if I want that limited series or not, despite the magnificent Tara McPherson covers.

Sandman: Endless Nights will be out in TPB in August , it says. Good. Now maybe I can afford it when my comics shop has another storewide 25% off sale.

Bought about 9 issues of Y: The Last Man, grew progressively bored with each issue, and cut the cord. So the announcement about its upcoming Summer storyline doesn't interest me.

Hellblazer 200 looks like it will be a gas for longtime readers like me- this issue will sport art by Steve Dillon, arguably Conjob's best illustrator and the guy most people associate with this book, when they're inclined to think that sort of thing; Most recent regular artist Marcelo Frusin, in my personal top 3 when it comes to JC stints; and upcoming regular Leo Manco, whom I'm sure you're all sick of me going on about how much I loved his stint on Ellis' Hellstorm. What? No Sean Phillips? Anyway, it looks like it might be that rarest of rare birds- an anniversary issue that lives up to the name.

Fables sports yet another excellent James jean cover, plus promises to show us an encounter between Bigby Wolf and Frankenstein. Whether this is the monster or his creator is unclear, but it sounds like a good idea to me. I'm not familiar with the penciller for this arc, Tony Akins. Anybody?

Human Target will have Chris Chance getting mixed up in sex-trade hijinks at the Mexican Border. Sounds OK, but I wonder who the artist will be?

Someone named Ale Garza, another with whose work I'm totally unfamiliar, will be the "fill-in regular artist", an oxymoron if I've ever heard one, on an upcoming Losers arc focusing on Afghani loose cannon Aisha. Well...that's cool, I guess- after all, it was during Shawn Martinbrough's fill-in stint that I first got the Losers jones. But I worry about Jock leaving the book. I can't help it, it's my Mother in me.

And that's pretty much it.
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Saw this quite some time ago over at Sugar 'n' Spicy, but I'm only just now getting around to checking it out: a strange and fascinating tarot deck designed by Otake Shigeo.
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Pleased to report that the Official NHL Hockey Playoff Team of The JBS, the Calgary Flames, eliminated league 200-pound gorilla Detroit last night 1-0 in a hard-fought contest that I unfortunately had to bail on as midnight approached due to my annoying need for sleep.

Go Flames, eh!

The White Sox won, too, continuing their not-bad season start...but as his fantasy owner, tentative closer Billy Koch is gonna give me five ulcers before the season's over...

And that's your Sports Post of the Week!

Monday, May 03, 2004

Just in case anybody cares, here's what I'll be getting on Wednesday:


Again, not a lot of quantity but some good quality titles this week. Larry Young's AiT care package plot pays its first monetary benefit, at least on my part, as I am supposed to get Scurvy Dogs. Whether or not I'll actually receive the copy I've ordered remains to be seen.

Brought to you courtesy of Diamond's shipping list and the letters D and J and the number 4.
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Haven't done one of these in ages, but I definitely feel the need to send a big fat old Bacardi Show Birthday Greeting to the lovely Welsh chanteuse and former Apple artist Mary Hopkin, who turns an astounding 54 today. I'm listening to her Paul McCartney-produced debut as I type, and I'm always finding myself enjoying the quaint, retro feel of the whole thing, which features a wide range of material from Donovan and Nilsson to Irving Berlin and "The Inchworm Song" from Hans Christian Anderson, and on many cuts is augmented by old-timey jazz horns, full symphony orchestras, latin acoustic guitar & brass, and many other diverse sounds which were contributed by McCartney, no doubt. I love her third album, Earth Song/Ocean Song very much, it's one of my favorites...but it's in more of a Britfolk mode, with hubby Tony Visconti at the helm and people like the Pentangle's Danny Thompson and Strawbs' Dave Cousins accompaning her.

Happy happy to ya, Mary. Those were the days, indeed.
Since I am regarded in many quarters as a "comics commentary"-type blog, here's my take on the Micah Wright thing that has everyone all a-twitter:

Like Mark Millar, I've never read a single thing the guy's written, so while it doesn't particularly affect me one way or the other if he's losing work thanks to the kneejerk PC reaction by many of TPTB, I will say that while what he did was pretty stupid, especially in these apparently less enlightened times...but for him to be losing assignments and jobs over it is, to say the least, a grevious overreaction. For the love of God- if they fired or denied work to every creator that said or did stupid things, there would be no comics industry left to speak of! So while I don't particularly have a vested interest in his future, I hope he perseveres and overcomes. Guess I just have a soft spot for fuckups.
Quick note about a couple of good friends of mine who have started, or resumed blogging- Ruth Loiacano, at L'il Truthie's, finally posted something a few days ago...and I hope it won't be the last thing anytime soon! Guess she got tired of me nagging her...

Also, my longtime friend Dave Puckett, who's been collecting comics longer than I have, if you can believe that, has started his own blog called BeatlesandBizarros, and I'll just bet ya that it will be full of interesting stuff.

Right in the middle of a busy day so far, hopefully I'll have more later...

Sunday, May 02, 2004

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What I bought and what I thought, week of April 28!

What more can I say about this book? It works, and works extraordinarily well at every level, as character study, drama, spy-thriller and action thriller. And writer Diggle even manages to get some gallows humor in when you least expect it- as in the case of Clay & Aisha's brief "zero bodycount" discussion. And you know a book's got it going on when a telephone discussion is as fascinating as any of the big shoot-em-up scenes. Artist Jock absolutely shines, especially during the aforementioned telephone conversation between interesting new character Stegler and his boss, and also the aerial scenes in which Pooch tries to evade a stinger missile- we even get a "wow"-inducing two page spread in that one. Even Lee Loughridge seemes to be inspired to excellence- the scenes inside the dormant (at the time) volcano, all dark greenish-blues and yellows, and the outdoor scenes, all yellow, subdued red and orange, are positively beautiful. Jock also gives us another stellar cover, with exciting perspective and refreshing humor, effectively serving as a big fat FU to those who piss and moan about the lack of word balloons and copy on their comic book covers. For the life of me, I don't know why more people aren't reading this series. Guess it's because of the lack of black leather and tights. And clichés. A

Clever little romance book, set against a world in which superheroes exist and focusing on the people who make a living chronicling their exploits. Jack, who pencils the adventures of big cheese super-guy the Flamer (I suppose calling him the Homosexual would have been too obvious), meets cute young intern at superhero gossip magazine Expose, who aspires to be a feature writer. Complications ensue, of course, aggrivated by the fact that every story Nora writes causes publicity problems for the Flamer, which in turn affects Jack's livelihood. Plus, Jack has an intelligent cat with superpowers of his own, unclear motivations, and the apparent determination to interfere as much as possible in his owner's love life. If this all comes across as a wee bit quirky-cutesy, that's OK, because Watson tempers it a lot with several nice sight gags, and also throws in a skewering of the Vince Colletta school of comic book inking, some shots at the comics business, and even manages a jab at himself- specifically his previous Breakfast After Noon series. Good stuff, and really-I don't mind the deceptive simpleness of Watson's work because he can say more with a few slender lines and some chalk-ish tone effects than many professionals can say with a thousand strokes and a whole battalion of Photoshop filters. A

It's a given that any project involving Rude art is going to be skillfully illustrated, and Rude's in top form here, even better (I think) than on the debut one-shot a month or so. The difference maker is going to be the scripting, by inker Gary Martin- and I'm pleased to report that he's managed to avoid the clumsiness of the one shot this time out. The alleyway scene with the Moth, Nestor and the Weasel was snappy and even funny in places. And if new character American Liberty reminds me a lot of American Maid from the Tick, well, that's just the underlying wackiness of this whole concept asserting itself in my head. A-

Can't really say what seperates this from your run-of-the-mill issue of Batman Adventures, or whatever they're calling it these days, except that it's actually drawn by Bruce Timm for once, and we get a neat little somewhat playful women's prison-catfight shower scene that would fit in nicely with any exploitation flicks of the Chained Heat-Switchblade Sisters school, which is not exactly PC but churlish boor that I am, found amusing. Other than that, this is a pretty routine Batman vs. Harley and Poison Ivy story, one we've seen a hundred times before, and is saved from being a snoozer by the storytelling skills of Timm and writer Paul Dini. Perhaps the apparent change of scenery we'll see next issue will elevate this somewhat. In the meantime, as much as I love Timm's art, and I do love Timm's art-I sincerely hope that the women in his life (or at least the women he may employ as models) don't all have boobs shaped like bananas like Harl & Ivy sport on the cover. B+

In which another routine "John has amnesia and can't remember who he is, but he's in trouble and he better remember fast!" story gets a sudden goose from a two page guest appearance by the Phantom Stranger, of all people, that makes me wish that Mike Carey could be tabbed to try his hand at a PS miniseries or something. Guest (and from what I hear, upcomng regular) artist Leo Manco gets juiced by this script turn as well, turning in art in the style I used to love when he drew Warren Ellis' excellent Hellstorm from so long ago for the Stranger's cameo. All right, everyone's in trouble, especially John and longsuffering Chas, and since we all know JC's gonna get his memory back I hope he does it quick and we get to move on to fresher storylines. B+

I've seen a lot of references in other reviews to the notion that "Marvel can't count" because there were only actually five bad guys in this...but see, kiddies, the sixth member of the Ultimate Six was supposed to be Spider-Man, as shown on the cover. But of course, Spidey didn't play, and the Ultimate Six was pretty much one short for the duration of this not-bad, not especially good series. All the Ultimates ingredients were there, including terse dialogue (verbosity just isn't in Bendis' repertoire, thank God) and cinematic Hitch-ish art by Trevor Hairsine and Danny Miki, but the end result feels padded and rushed all at once somehow. Oh well, this could have been better, but it also could have been much worse. B+

As much as I like the lead characters and the world in which they're operating, I fear the low-key approach taken by writer John Rozum on this (seemingly) make-or-break second shot at success for his brainchildren may have hurt more than helped its chance to reach a larger market. There is a lot happening in this series, much of it clever, but it's strangely uninvolving despite some really nice and imaginative, if somewhat subdued, art by Paul Lee. B

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Went to the sidewalk sale at the Great Escape (aka My Comics Shop That I Bitch About From Time to Time) this morning. They had the usual stuff outside: CD's, vinyl, TPB's, comics, figures & toys, cards and so on, some stuff as much as 75% off, plus they had 25% off of all merchandise inside. So I went down to buy the Love Fights TPB that came in Wednesday, plus the latest issue of Mojo magazine, which featured John Lennon on the cover with an article about his protest period from '68 to '72. Also, in a side note, it featured a small review of the Donovan album Cosmic Wheels, which you all know that I groove on (as they used to say), and has apparently been re-released in a twofer disc with its lackluster successor Essence To Essence. Thought you might like to know this, Bill S.!

I went a little crazy and got carried away in the 25%-75% off fever- and I bought more than I meant to. I'm sure none of you have ever done that. Anyway, just in case you're wondering, here's what I picked up:

King David by Kyle Baker. Ghastly color, but it was 75% off and I kept thinking if I could ever find it at a substantial discount, I'd get it. I did, and I did.

New X-Men TPB 2: Imperial. Yeah, that's right, I bought an X-Men book. I have less than no use for the ongoing travails of the not-so-merry mutants, but I do love Grant Morrison's work, not to mention Frank Quitely and Igor Kordey, plus I bought the first one a couple of years ago to see whether I wanted to start picking the comic up regularly. Turns out I liked X-Statix, or as it was named then X-Force a bit better, so I bought the former regularly for a while, and never got back to the latter. That has changed. I've heard and read a lot of good stuff about this book, so I'm gonna give it another shot to see if it grabs me. At least this time I won't be concerned with whether or not I want to buy the ongoing!

Sandman Presents: The Furies TPB. Well, even though I have nothing but love for the writing of Mike Carey and the art of John Bolton, I passed on the initial overpriced hardcover and kinda forgot about it when the softcover came out. At 25% off, I decided to make my move.

Steve Niles Tales of Terror: Aleister Arcane #1. The painted art looked really nice, and I had read a positive review or two about this, so I picked it up. Again if it hadn't been 25% off, I probably wouldn't have.

And this, plus the Love Fights and Mojo, was my haul. Doesn't sound like much , but it was just a hair over 50 bucks, even with all the discounts. Sigh. Anyway, I'm looking forward to sitting down and reading them ASAP.

Friday, April 30, 2004

It's late, and I'm tired, and I'm not gonna attempt anything substantial tonight. But I did see something interesting over at Shane's joint: the newly formed (well, new to me...but I tend to be behind the curve of this sort of thing) International Comic Arts Association, or ICAA for short, "dedicated to the strengthening and further advancement of the industry as a whole". I'm sure the cynics, critics and the do-nothing brigade will soon be out in force- but me, I think this bears watching, and should at the very least provide a lot of blogfodder for the burgeoning comics blogosphereiverse.

Tomorrow, I have a 25% off sale at my comics shop to attend, then my neglected yard will need to be dealt with, weather permitting. Sometime soon, comics reviews. And who knows, I might even try to draw some more- panels even, and in some sort of sequential order! This should be interesting...
Hello, everybody...been busy busy busy today.

All I got for now is this link to (you know, those little color sample books that fan out and no designer or printer can live without) and their Colorstrology Page. Click on your birth month, then the date, and go from there. Mine is "sunburn" and "burlwood". Wearing these colors is supposed to portend all kinds of good stuff for me, but those colors just make me look kinda silly. Anyway, hopefully I'll post something more substantial later.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Once in a while I'll go over to Wilson & Alroy's record review site; even though I often disagree with them on this review or that, they have a nice, no-frills style and they're fun to read. Clicking on their "new additions" link, I was greeted with a review of something called Wing Sings the Songs You Love, and curiosity provoked, I checked it out. Apparently there's this expatriate Chinese lady named Wing, now a resident of New Zealand, who has released at least seven albums of covers of songs both old and new...and Wilson is evidently an admirer of her work. At least I think he is...all those reviews are written with eyebrow firmly cocked. Anyway, he points to her official web site, where you can get Quicktime samples of many of her songs- and let me tell you, once you've experienced the stylings of Wing, well, let's just say you won't ever forget them. Go check 'em out, I double dog dare ya...hee hee hee...
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Because she seemed to go over well when I posted a sketch of her yesterday, here's another, as recent as you can get...'cause I did it a few minutes ago. It's been kinda slow this afternoon. Anyway, here she is- the Princess of Arrika, daughter of Nikolas and Vulnavia Arcana, goddaughter of Ravyr Zevon, and her world's only hope...if she can only get back there.

I was gonna put some snazzy text graphics on it, but we got busy again...
Ooh! Ooh! A Music Meme!

1. Grab the nearest CD.
2. Put it in your CD-Player (or start your mp3-player, I-tunes, etc.).
3. Skip to Song 3 (or load the 3rd song in your 3rd playlist)
4. Post the first verse in your journal along with these instructions. Don’t name the band, nor the album-title.

Ain't no people on the old dirt road
No more weather on the old dirt road
It's better than a mudslide mamma when the dry spell come, yeah
Oh oh oh old dirt road

Via Brendan.
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You know what? I love me some NRBQ.

I caught an airing of the Mountain Stage concert show last night on one of our local PBS stations, and it featured the Q along with Loudon Wainwright III (another subject for further research-I've heard his stuff on and off for years but have never been moved to buy, something I intend to remedy some day). For some reason, I was thinking that this was an older show, but a glance at the Mountain Stage website gives its air date as September 2003, so...hey, it looks like they haven't lost a step over the years. I hate to admit it, but it's been a long, long time since I last picked up one of their albums- 1994's strangely uninvolving Message For the Mess Age, which was also Big Al Anderson's last record with the group...and, I think, caused me to mentally write them off as well thereafter. Judging from their show last night, though, they're as quirky and fun as ever, mixing covers of country, show tunes, and R&B with likeable originals, and doing them all with style and class. Bassist Joey Spampinato is cool and smooth, and sings wonderfully; brother Johnny, who replaced Big Al, is a fine addition and bashes his guitar quite nicely, and Terry Adams (native Kentuckian he) is his usual inimitable self, playing the piano in his Chico Marx-meets-Jerry Lee Lewis style; and drummer Tom Ardolino is solid as a rock in his knit hat. I never got to see NRBQ when Big Al was with them, and I've always regretted that...but I think I'll try and keep an eye out to see if they'll be playing nearby (as it seems like they always are), and take care of that once and for all. My son watched a large part of the show with me, but I don't think he was impressed much. Afterwards, I dug out their great 1977 album At Yankee Stadium, sporting one of my favorite album covers (by the way), and gave it a spin. Man, I love their trombone-accented cover of "Shake, Rattle & Roll".

And this concludes my rambling little appreciation of the New Rhythm and Blues Quartet. If you've never heard anything of theirs, please do so immediately. Start with the 2-CD set Peek-A-Boo, and go from there. It probably won't change your life or anything, but you'll have a damn good time for a while.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Have you ever felt like doing something crazy-nutty-insane? Well, I'm kinda in that sort of mood. So I'm gonna post more sketches from the last few years, since I've had a pretty positive reaction to what i've posted so far. Lest you fear I'll turn this into a sketchblog, I will tell you that there isn't much more that I care to present for public perusal, even when I'm throwing my better judgement to the wind. So here goes!

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I did this one of Lady Pendragon, a character I know absolutely nothing about nor have I ever read a single issue of her exploits, for a Wizard cover contest I was thinking about entering. Swiped from Mucha.

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This is Volcana Ash, from the McGregor/Russell 1970's War of the Worlds featuring Killraven series. Drawn from memory one slow afternoon at Camping World, and it shows.

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Another Wizard contest entry, the difference being that I actually sent this one in. Of course, I didn't win. Guess I should have drawn Wolverine.

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Finally, this one's all mine. Her name is Pandora Arcana, and she's a cross between the mysterious Russian princess Anastasia, Pat Savage, and Johanna Constantine. She's a character I've had kicking around in my head for years upon years now, and I have a whole backstory and cast of characters to go along with her. Occasionally I toy with the idea of creating a website for her...but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Hope you like 'em, and I hope they didn't take too long to load. I tried to create the files at 72 dpi, but you never know. Will I post more? Stay tuned...
That Melrose fella points to a Time magazine review of Derek Kirk Kim's Same Difference and Other Stories, which is mostly positive, as well it should be. It also makes me think that I really, really need to get some trades of Optic Nerve one of these days. Stray Bullets, too. So much to read, so little time.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Two quick things that I felt like sharing:

One, I've been listening to Mott The Hoople Live, a 1974 stopgap record, the sort that Christgau refers to as a "profit-taking throwaway"...but this ragged little record kicks ass. Ian Hunter had to skip the subtlety and baroque touches that he used on the last studio album, The Hoople, and it makes the album sloppy but fun. One half was recorded in New York, and the other half in London. Ariel Bender was the guitarist, replacing Mick Ralphs, who had joined Bad Company. Bender was the type of guitarist whose reach exceeded his grasp, and what he lacked in skills he made up for with sheer howling noise...and he gets several opportunities to make noisy solos on several great songs. I bought this new back in '74 when I was 14, and I think I've always kinda overlooked it because it wasn't as sophisticated and laden with studio gimmickery as its immediate predecessors, but here 30 years later, on this evening anyway, it sounds pretty darn good.

I also want to note that the Official Hockey Team of the Johnny Bacardi Show is now the Calgary Flames. I like those guys. They play gutty and hard. Plus they have pretty cool unis, ironically enough for a team called the "Flames". As I write, they lead the Red Wings 3-2, and I hope to hell I haven't jinxed them. Go Flames!

And that is your sports mention of the week.

Update! It seems that there will be a reissue of MTH Live, a 2-disc set which promises more of the two shows represented on the vinyl and current CD version. I've been clicking around on a pretty thorough MTH site, and that's where I saw the announcement. I looked on Amazon, but found nothing...stay tuned!
Just when you think you've seen it all, something comes along like a bolt out of the blue and knocks you for a loop.

There is apparently going to be an American Gothic motion picture! You heard me. A movie revival of the excellent TV series from the late 90s. Sheriff Buck must have pulled a few strings. I'm quite sure that they're passing out fur parkas and snow boots in hell even as I type this. Go here to read the article.

Thanks to Mik Cary for the heads-up!
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Not that I'm trying to be a comics news source or anything, but as you may know I really like the art of Jason Pearson, and now I read in Markisan Naso's column (via Popp'd) about an upcoming collaboration with Ed Brubaker called Redbird. Now, questions of political correctness aside, and I know it's always dodgy when creators deal with Native American characters...this looks incredibly sweet! It cracks me up, paleface that I am, that she's wearing a t-shirt with the Cleveland Indians' Chief just know the Native American PC patrol's gonna love that. Just based on the preliminary sketches, I'm sold. I understand that it will run in an as-yet-unnamed anthology book from Wildstorm, which is not especially encouraging given WS's recent history, but we shall see (as the saying goes) what we shall see.

Anybody out there remember Tim Truman's Scout ?
I see where, over at his CBR column, Augie DeBlieck has critiqued The Losers, and comes to completely opposite conclusions about artist Jock and colorist Lee Loughridge (Is Loughridge a woman? I didn't know that!) than I hold. I will admit that I didn't care for Jock's style at all when I first saw it, not only on the preview that appeared in 100 Bullets but also on his fill-in stint on Hellblazer as well, but I think he has definitely progressed with his Simonson-meets-Sean Phillips style, and I wouldn't want to see anyone else (well, maybe Shawn Martinbrough) drawing the book. And I generally despise Loughridge's glum, monotonous palette on nearly everything else she's done, but she uses a much wider range on Losers, and has come up with some beautiful effects several times.

Still, interesting column, especially the sales figures analysis.
I honestly think that the new Catwoman flick is going to make Batman and Robin look like Spider-Man. Or maybe even Citizen Kane.

Check out this poster and explain to me who the hell would think that open-toed shiny vinyl high heel boots would be appropriate footwear for anyone, let alone cat burglars, or whatever the hell this character is supposed to be? Ay caramba.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Most of you reading this may already be aware of it, but if not you can go here for a video interview with Losers writer Andy Diggle!
Image Hosted by Dipping once again into the Ait/PlanetLar box o'goodness, I now present the following:

I went through a phase, oh some 10-15 years ago, of being obsessed with the books of William Gibson (or at least strongly interested...I mean, how far can you take that particular obsession living in rural Kentucky and not even owning a home computer until 1993?) and other "cyberpunk" authors, and I have surely not been the only one because there have been a ton of imitations since...not only in prose novels, but films and especially in comics, and (to be kind) many of them have been (shall we say) less than successful in mining the same vein that Gibson and his peers. Heck, even Gibson is having difficulty these days, as his newest novels have been greeted with mixed reviews. Fortunately for our purposes, however, Brian Wood's Channel Zero is one of the good ones. The tale of former performance artist-turned-"Infoterrorist" Jennie 2.5, who lives in a Orwellian not-so-distant future (actually, "right now" according to the notes at the beginning) dominated by special interest groups and the corrupt government (did I say "future"?). She attempts to wrest freedom of expression back from the Evil Empire by hacking into the regulated, sanitized airwaves and bringing the truth back to the people in order to wake them up from their media-imposed slumber. Problem is, Jennie becomes a celebrity for doing this, and the government turns her fame inwards against her, leading to unforeseen complications and a somewhat draconian resolution. Wood is giving us a lot of stuff here- adventure story, media commentary along with subtle and not-so-subtle satire of same, and compelling personal drama as well. Wood the artist is also on top of his game, augmenting his McKeever-ish drawing style with daring layouts and effectively minimalist inks, as well as collage both pictoral and also in the form of tiny slogans stripped in at all angles on nearly every page, serving to disorient sometimes, amuse sometimes, and often enlighten along the way. It could have easily devolved into chaos, but Wood's instincts keep him honest every time. Channel Zero is sharp and smart, and more than a little prescient given that Wood started this in 1997! Zero is by far the best thing I've read from AiT to date, and I hope that Wood can find time (between issues of Demo) to give us further looks into the life and times of Jennie 2.5. A

Which, in a way, he does with the follow-up

In which we meet the pre-upgrade Jennie 2.5 when she was just struggling art school student Jennifer Havel, and we get a little insight into why she became what she became plus a glimpse of the events that led to the "Clean Act" which has made life so stifling for the free-thinkers in Jennie's world. Biggest difference here is the artist, Demo's Becky Cloonan, and while she's not the daredevil Wood is, she's still pretty damned good- reminsicent of Paul Pope in a lot of places, and she gives the story a lot of vitality along with a more...aesthetically pleasing, shall we say, Jennie. I want more, I do. A

Basically a collection of Warren Ellis' online columns from Comic Book Resources that appeared from 1999 to 2001, how interesting you'll find this depends on how you feel about Ellis and his opinions. If you're an admirer, chances are you've probably got many of these pieces memorized anyway. If you're not, you probably won't want to read...but I think that would be a terrible mistake because much of what Ellis says here is as true in 2004 as it was five years ago, maybe more so, and if your preconceptions are so easily shaken perhaps they're not worth holding in the first place. Me, I'm somewhere in between. Often I think Ellis snipes just for the sake of sniping, and can be a bit of a contratrian- but he has a very low bullshit tolerance factor, always a good thing, and sees to the heart of much that the average comics reader just doesn't want to see...and I admire the heck out of that. I read many of these columns the first time around, so a lot of this was familiar to me, but I can recommend this book to anyone that wants a serious examination and discourse about many of the problems which the comics industry faced, and still faces, now. A-

Well, here's where I go from the comp list to the shit list in one fell swoop. As I've said many times before, I just don't care for super-hero satire. It's not that I don't think the spandex set shouldn't be made fun of, God knows- quite the opposite, in fact. But frankly, in my opinion, the best super hero satire is over fifty years old- Kurtzman & Wood's Superduperman. While there have been other worthy attempts- Marvel's Not Brand Echh comes to mind- there's nothing that the legions of would-be satirists, both in cartoons and in comics, can say or show that wasn't said or shown quite effectively four decades ago. But wait, you say- PotC isn't exactly satire! It has its serious side as well! And that's true...but the humorous stuff and the serious stuff are all written with the same straightfaced tone, and the result is neither here nor there, and is often baffling as in the case of the gargantuan Hulk-type character, who carries a child in one of his deformed arms while going on a destruction spree, and whose frightened parent is told by another of the "heroes" that "He just wants to show you a good time...he just wants you to care", and the parent, along with the onlookers, just accept this and go along, after the Schaff gives the child back unharmed. It's not funny, and you can't take it seriously because we don't get any further with the situation, so one doesn't know what to think. Do these beings, apparently the only super-folks on this world, simply think they're above concern for the lesser, ordinary people they presumably protect? That's certainly the case with this "Grand" fellow, who's a sort of not-so-true blue Superman type. When the super-group gets transported to another world, and encounter powerless Fantastic Four-ish types, all the Grand wants to do is take over, because he doesn't think anyone there can stop him. The Batman/Captain America-amalgam Justice Hall disagrees, and they battle, in a homage or satire or something of Miller's Dark Knight books. This book is full of neither-this-nor-that moments that left me frankly unsure what to think about them...I didn't think it was successful as social commentary, or satire, or even as straight superhero adventure since it seems to be made up of a thousand different elements of superhero comics I've read for 40 years now, and none of them are topped, enhanced or re-examined at all. Allegory? If that's the case, then I just didn't get what it was an allegory for. Creative hubris, perhaps? Regardless, PotC just didn't work for me. It just read like a collection of the clichés that satirists and revisionists use to lampoon the original superhero clichés. Perhaps I am just slow on the uptake, who knows. The art, by Brandon McKinney, was just as inconsistent as the script, which makes it well matched, I suppose. Obviously, he's trying to give us a Perez/Starlin inspired look, and while he wasn't completely unsuccessful, it's just not an art style that excites me much. C-

Still to go- Astronauts In Trouble: Master Flight Plan, the Making of AiT, and True Facts. I'm not done with you yet, Larry...heh heh heh...
I'm sure many of you woke up this morning wondering "Hm. I wonder what comics Johnny B is going to buy on Wednesday?". And thanks to the nice peoples at Diamond, I can tell you!


And that appears to be that. Batman: Harley & Ivy looks to be a lot of fun, and I expect no less from the Dini/Timm team. I was a bit sobered after I read the early review from one of the fellas at The Fourth Rail, in which he points out that with the imminent demise of the Batman Adventures comic, and a new-style Batman animated series on the way, that this might be the last hurrah for the animated Timm-style Batman we've all come to know and love. Well, I've known and loved it, anyway. Also looking forward to the ending of Ultimate Six, and you can take that any way you like; also any week with The Losers is a great comics week even if it was the only one I was getting.
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Our phone wasn't ringing in over the weekend, and we had been thinking about getting a new one for quite some time now (our old phone's handset had died, so we were using another one that didn't have an answering machine, so I had jury rigged both phones together so I could receive messages), so I bought a new phone Saturday night. Well, actually, I put it on a credit card. And because I put it on a credit card, the little "spend money" devil on my shoulder said "Hey, there's the CD by that Joss Stone chickie that you saw on VH1 the other night! And it's only $8.95! Why don't you throw that in, too!" So I did. I thought, well, this might be interesting if she (or her people, anyway) is/are as faithful on record to the retro-soul leanings as she was on the VH1 Divas show I saw the other night. And on that score, she succeeds 100%. Most of the songs on her Soul Sessions CD are very much influenced by Aretha Franklin and Miami Soul, not to mention early Bonnie Raitt, an apparent influence that doesn't get mentioned in the hype. There are some impressive, nicely done tracks like "Fell in Love With a Boy" (A funked-up, gender-corrected cover of the White Stripes song, by far the best thing on the record) opener "The Chokin' Kind", "I've Fallen In Love With You"; a ballsy Carla Thomas cover blessed with a nice string arrangement, and a cover of that chestnut "Some Kind of Wonderful", which is given a laid-back but driving arrangment which pleases. On the negative side, "Dirty Man" is a would-be showcase for Stone's pipes, but has a bare-bones blues arrangement which bores me to tears, and a couple of cuts towards the end are would-be soulful, but just come across to me as dull and lifeless, with her band tinkling around in the background while Joss wails and coos and Janises around ("I Had A Dream Last Night", "For The Love Of You"), and these do nothing for me either. Will our 17-year-old wannabe LaVern Baker have staying power? Will she go on and have a long career, or will she be the next Joan Osborne or Macy Gray? Will she stick to her Stax guns, or will she go all Britney & Christina on us? When will Madonna enter the picture? Who knows. But right here right now, this is a fine little early 70s-style recording- nothing world-changing or anything, but a heck of an accomplishment for a young lady her age and well worth a listen on your part.

The other newish album I've been listening to lately is from Dublin's The Thrills, titled So Much For The City. Even though they're from Auld Eire, they have an affinity for Americana, in the Van Dyke Parks/Beach Boys circa 68/Monkees/Byrds/Neil Young tradition and their debut album is full of it- every song cobbled together from this group or another. And fortunately, these fellows know how to borrow with style. Every song is listenable and often very clever and tuneful- for example, the song "Old Friends, New Lovers" borrows liberally from Nilsson and the Midnight Cowboy soundtrack, and opener "Santa Cruz" sounds like the Old 97's performing songs from Parks & Brian Wilson's Orange Crate Art collaboration of a few years ago. Not a bad album overall, but I'd like to hear a bit less creative borrowing next time and a little more originality before I become an acolyte.

Finally, I really like the song from that ESPN commercial, in which the Black Eyed Peas redo their "Let's Get Retarded" into a more PC-friendly "Lets Get It Started". Catchy as hell, it is.

More later, hopefully.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

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Here's a snapshot of the page from Thriller#5 I got the other day. It's a bit fuzzy because there's a vellum overlay on it, where they used a special red (as I recall) for a couple of effects. I don't have my comics here at home so I can't check it out. Anyway, I'll try to scan it one of these days.
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What I bought and what I thought, week of April 21

Detractors will no doubt find more of what bugs them in this issue: lots of talk talk talk, panel after panel of nothing but dark, static, passive art, and for chrissakes nobody dresses up in spandex and throws a punch until the very end! What's a fanboy to do? Well, for starters realize that this is the thinking man's Marvel comic, and the usual rules don't apply...and then appreciate another issue of this smart, sharp, and deeply resonant superhero drama for what it is, and not what conventional "wisdom" says it should be. And, yes, there are some disappointing, but hardly out of character, sexist remarks on the part of Luke Cage, but I've heard and read worse, believe me...and the wary-yet-easy relationship between Cage and our protagonist is one of the most interesting things in this particular issue. I think we should appreciate Bendis' remarkable Daredevil while we can...I'm pretty sure, given the direction Marvel seems to be headed in, he'll be throwing his billy club at the Mandrill and wearing armored shoulder pads again soon enough. A

This title keeps getting better and better, thank goodness, as Kirkman and Moore tug on the heart strings a little, then throw a curveball right at you with a sudden and shocking death that I frankly didn't see coming, and makes the objections I had about the supposed spoilers I saw in the previews of the first Charlie Adlard-illo'ed issue completely irrelevant. It's pretty much established that this title's more about the people than it is about the zombies, kinda like if we really got to know Duane Jones and the people in that house in Night of the Living Dead...and that's OK by far as I'm concened the main appeal is finding out what the heck they're gonna do next. These people are in deep shit, and I don't see a way out for any of them. A

The focus is still on Mazikeen, Elaine Belloc and company, but this one is a lot better because of a newish character they encounter and the resultant spanner that Maz & EB may throw in the works, plus the introduction of another unexpected character at the very end. And just in case we forget who the title character is, we get a brief but interesting interlude which maps out the problem that they all will face in upcoming issues. A solid chapter. A-

All the intriguing ideas presented in issue 1 are developed further in issue 2, and this is promising to be an interesting, imaginative series. Mike Huddleston's art jumps from style to style all over the place, and it's to his credit that he can keep it all consistent. Nice cover, too. I wish I could say more, but I get the feeling that Deep Sleeper's just getting started, and I don't have a good feel for where it's going just yet. A-

All the usual objections apply once again, but after all is said and done Pete Milligan's crafed a nice little thriller here in the last three issues. The ending, once again, threw me for a loop (I think the underlying theme of my comics reading this week was "I didn't see the ending coming"), but all the dramatics ring true, and the action (such as there was) was fast-paced and worked well. As unexpected as this ending was, however, it was equally as unsatisfying- and while I realize life's like that sometimes I still feel that it kinda invalidated everything that set it up. Oh well. Cliff Chiang has made a believer out of me with an outstanding art job, the best I've seen from him yet. So why am I not more enthusiastic about this otherwise fine comics series? Don't know...but I hope to figure it out in the next few issues. A-

Pretty good week for comics, all things considered.

I also got the Love Fights trade, but I'm waiting until next weekend, when my shop has a storewide 25% off sale, to pick it up. Heh heh.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Over at Susan's, I found a link to a website with a feature on a toy that I had when I was, oh, 8 or 9: Ka-Bala, "The Mysterious Game That Fortells The Future!".

That game was a perfect example of the tactics that the insidious covert agenda of the forces of evil used to foster interest in the occult in children of my generation, thereby helping, in a small but no less significant way, to bring about the excesses of the 60s, 70s and 80s and fomenting the moral decay and sinful degradation so prevalent today in our society.

Actually, all seriousness aside, this goofball glow-in-the-dark toy fostered in me a lifelong fascination with the imagery associated with the Tarot deck. So check it out for yo'self.
I'm sure many of you are aware of this already, because news travels fast in the ol' comics blogosphereiverse, but Johanna Draper Carlson of Comics Worth Reading fame has started her own blog, with its high-falutin' title of "Cognitive Dissonance" and it promises to be a good 'un.

As soon as I can sit down at a PC (still have that summabitchin' template-Mac-IE5 problem with Blogger), I shall provide a link, surely and swiftly. This....THE JACKAL SWEARS!
Rodrigo Baeza points us to a revealing interview with Stan Lee, in which he (Unca Stan, not Rodrigo) makes a few remarks about Jack Kirby which do not dispute any of my long-held beliefs about who did what.

Again, Neilalien was where I saw it foist.
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Back on the 10th, my family on my Mom's side got together for an Easter lunch, and my grandson, along with my cousin's young son, sat for several minutes (a long time for those two), watching a new-to-me cartoon on Nickelodeon, a super-hero/sci-fi-ish thing called Danny Phantom. So, naturally, I said "Move over, kids" and watched several episodes in what was apparently a marathon that afternoon. And you know- it's hardly the most original thing to come down the pike, but it was energetic and fun and wasn't written down to kids (in other words, the grownups can appreciate it too), and I kinda enjoyed it. The animation was of the style that's currently all the rage in TV animation these days, which is that Powerpuff-Kim Possible-FairlyOddParents-Samurai Jack semi-retro semi-anime look, and frankly, that's OK with me...I'd reather see a thousand cartoons like this than any of that barely-animated 70s Hanna-Barbera style junk we got for so long. Unless it's Sealab 2021...that's a whole 'nother cup of gravy. With a hair in it.

Pop quiz: where'd that reference come from?

Anyway, I dug it. And I'll watch it again. And you might want to, as well- what the heck!

Also on the animation tip (ooh-"tip"! I'm so with-it!), I see where there will be a new Mucha Lucha! tonight on Cartoon Network. ML! was my favorite new cartoon last year, and while I was happy to see it find a new home on CN, I figured there would be no new episodes. Glad to see I was wrong!
Interesting- apparently Dark Horse wasn't prepared for the reaction to the Hellboy movie, and people are going to bookstores and are leaving empty-handed.

I've done my share of bitching and complaining about my comics shop lately, but I will say this for them- they had a nice Hellboy display, stocked with multiple copies of all the trades and available single issues. I haven't asked how sales are- I'll try to remember to do that Wednesday.

First spotted this at Neilalien's, BTW.
Busy busy busy lately, and haven't had a lot of time to write. Hell, haven't even been able to formulate many thoughts to translate to words! I do have some news, though- my long-awaited package from Thriller artist Trevor Von Eeden arrived yesterday, and man was it a nice one!

Last summer, in response to my query about Thriller original art, Trevor told me that he thought he knew where some pages from that much-revered-by-me failed masterpiece were, and he would check in on it. He later found them in the posession of none other than Dick Giordano, and arranged through his art dealer to buy some. He cut me a sweet deal on a page, and I sent him payment. Actually getting the page proved to be a bit problematic (for various reasons) plus Trevor was working on an all-new original piece for me as well, so he wanted to send it at the same time. Then he decided to start school, and as we all know that kinda takes priority in your life (if you do it right, that is), so time went by, with the occasional apologetic phone call or email from TVE, until everything finally got sent a few days ago. Of course, I was more than happy to let him take his time, and I wasn't worried about it...but the anticipation was definitely there. I am pleased to report that it was worth the wait. In addition to the page of original art, which was page 7 from Thriller 5, a wonderful scene with Tony Salvotini and his Mom, in which she uses her newfound coercion powers to induce Salvo to eat two helpings of pasta, the new piece, a poster-size group shot of Thriller's Seven Seconds, was outstanding as well. I'll try to scan it and post it soon. He also sent along a Xeroxed copy of a commissioned piece that he did a few years ago for a movie producer, he said, of Batman and the Thriller awesome piece. Plus, he also enclosed the November 2003 issue of Heavy Metal, which contained his most recent published pre-college work. I have wanted, for nigh 20 years, an original Thriller page, and now I have one. I am enormously geeked about it. Thriller is one of my all-time, if not my absolute all-time, favorite comics series, and to possess a small, material part of it is wonderful.

Trevor has been unbelieveably generous and kind, and I'll never be able to adequately express my gratitude for all he's done for me. He's a class act and a great guy.

I have got to get started re-doing my Thriller web page...

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Former Pogues singer Shane McGowan was assaulted in a pub Monday. And this is news because...?
Hello, boys and girls, how's it going? I'd love to be filling your heads with bloggy goodness, but I got nothin'. More so than usual, even. Or to be more precise nothin' that others haven't already posted and posted better, including that f**king c*cks*cker Ken's excellent review of Johnny Dynamite, in which he said everything I meant to, and said it much better to boot, or at least better than I would have said it if it had occurred to me to say those things. Or something like that. Anyway, gosh darn it, everybody else is updating, so I'm gonna post something, and hope that my drunken crack whore muse returns long enough to whack me upside the head with her bottle of Night Train.

I was sorry to read about the demise of Four Color Hell, which I participated in there towards the end, but it seems like no one else but Bill Sherman cared to post anything there after its relaunch so I stopped too. It had become a magnet for spam bloggers, so I'm not surprised Michele decided to knock it in the head. If she's reading this, I sincerely thank her for the opportunity, and it's a shame it didn't fly. The idea was a sound one.

Got an email from Jill Sobule (well, not a personal one-I'm on her mailing list) in which she lets us know that her new album is recorded, and gives us the opportunity to preview the tracks and vote for our favorites. I'd post a link, but the email was read through my Outlook Express at home, and I can't get it here at work. Fie. I'll try to get that link posted later.

Watched parts of VH1's Divas 2004 special last night, in between innings of the Braves-Reds ballgame. I was a bit surprised to find myself tapping my foot to the new Blondie song, which was pretty darn catchy and rocked a bit too. The guys (and Debbie, too) didn't look all that comfortable on the humongous Vegas-style stage. Caught enough of the Patti LaBelle-Cyndi Lauper wail-a-thon to know I didn't want to expose myself to that...I love Cyndi, heaven knows, but I've never had any use for LaBelle (although I like me some Nona Hendryx) I kept managing to catch some young singer, who had long wavy brownish hair sing several times-a forgettable bluesy-poppish thing and duets with Gladys Knight (still in fine voice) and Debbie Harry (on "One Way or Another") as well. Oh. I went to VH1 and saw the lineup- it was "Young British Soul Thrush" Joss Stone, who kinda comes across as a cross between Michelle Branch, Sheryl Crow and Janis and does, all snark aside, have a fine voice. She's not too hard on the eyes either. But is it me or does every so often one of these wannabe Janises come along? Nikka Costa, we hardly knew ye. Also saw Jessica Simpson, who looked like a Barbie doll come to life wailing in that patented Mariah style, tottering around the circular stage in high heels. That's about it, although I might try to tune in again to catch Lauper's set.

All right, that's all I got for now. Hopefully more later, but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

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Look! A groovy screen grab of the Mad Mod from that Teen Titans episode I liked so much. Again, just wanted to share.
Hm. Apparently I'm only 19.52663 Geek, according to the Geek Test. How do you rank?
Tim O'Neil:

1. I hear ya. I feel your pain.
2. You, sir, are absolutely correct.
3. Remember: it is better to have loved and lost than never have loved at all. I say this as a 40 year veteran of reading comics and having the particular misfortune of falling for every niche and cult series out there.
4. Don't read Bloodlines or Genesis, the two times DC suckered me. They'll be finding pieces of your brain in every remote corner of the globe.