Sunday, October 31, 2004



BEST OF THE WEEK


UPON FURTHER REVIEW
What I bought and what I thought, week of October 27


WE3 2
Grant Morrison at his most minimal, as he gives us a pretty much bare-bones (well, for Grant, anyway) story of escaped animals-cum-weapons of mass destruction, then steps back and lets Frank Quitely take over. In this issue (as in the last), Quitely plays around effectively with sequential storytelling, specifically the depiction of synchronous events (kinda like split-screen to the Nth degree), and also manages to "humanize" the protagonists (as opposed to "anthropomorphize", which is far more specific) and make them very sympathetic, even the cat (just like I wouldn't want to be a child in a Stephen King story, neither would I wish to be a cat in a Morrison tale), whose surly disposition is quite understandable. Just like with kids in stories, it's easy to work up sympathy for animals, especially a good ol' houn'dog, a bunny, and a kitty- but it's not so easy to do so with such an oddball twist. So far, so memorable, and perhaps soon to be regarded as among Morrison's (and Quitely's) very best efforts. A

THE LOSERS 17
Further revelations about the ill-fated mission in Iraq that caused our "heroes" to become "Losers" in the first place, plus, we seem to be about to find out what the deal is with the event that haunts silent marksman Cougar. As we've come to expect with this book, crisp dialogue, sharp art. The buzz has died down a bit, but I'm in until the bitter end, or the return of Nick Dragotta. A

PLANETARY 21
If We3 is a tour-de-force for Frank Quitely, then this book, and this issue in particular, is the same for John Cassaday, who gives us an imaginative and involving depiction of Elijah Snow's visit to a scientist/magician/shaman/oracle/something, and his concurrent imbibing of some "magic tea"...and the important revelations that are revealed to him. It's nice to have this book out again on something approaching a regular schedule (even though I've never been one to get bent out of shape about long delays between singles), and it's even nicer to have things of import happening. A

JACK STAFF 6
My how time flies. It was with #6 of the first, black and white, self-published series that I acquired my jones for the work of Paul Grist, and now here we are five years later with another #6, this time in nicely done color. I wish I could say that I was as blown away by this #6 as I was by the first one, but unfortunately this continues the mildly disappointing rut that this book has been in since the color series was launched. The main story features Father-and-son vampire hunters Bramble and Son, two characters I was hoping to see more of, and also involves nominal love-interest-for-Jack Becky Burdock, Vampire Reporter, and taken on its own it's an involving chapter of a much bigger story. So far so good, but then we get a WWII flashback with Jack and the Freedom Fighters (including not-so-good guy Sgt. States, before his true state was revealed), and it's OK but nothing special- seems like it was jammed in so that the title character would make an appearance in his own book; a pointless and puzzling (in more ways than one) interlude with the Q agency and its mysterious operative Helen Morgan, and the first in a series of "Beats" cards, not a series about 50's jazz musicians and writers, but a nifty-but-somewhat-(again)-pointless attempt to give us cards for a game of some sort featuring the Staff cast. Not a terrible idea per se, but maybe it should have been saved for a collection...and who the heck's gonna cut the cards out of their $3.50 investment? Four pages that could have been used to flesh out the Q story, if nothing else. Oh well- I'm still enjoying JS, and it's as cleverly dialogued and drawn as ever. But I wanna be blown away again. A-

ADAM STRANGE 2
The theme for this week seems to be the "artistic showcase". This issue once again brings us the graceful, yet frenetic art of Pascual Ferry...and if we gotta have an issue's worth of swooping and booming and shooting and mouths agape and so on, then please Lord, let'em all be like this one. A-

DAREDEVIL 66
In which we meet former Kingpin Wilson Fisk's predecessor, who has just been released from a long stretch in prison and is a little pissed at DD for sending him up. All the usual Bendis pros and cons apply, and this isn't going to convert any unbelievers. Me, I still have no real problem with his dialogue and I think the notion of showing us Kingpin prior is a good one. Alex Maleev, for his part, gets to demonstrate a little stylistic variety as he draws each longish flashback in a different, yet equally scratchy style- first one kinda Guy Davis in b & w, second one kinda Davis-inked by John Watkiss or Tony Salmons in color. I think he pulls it off nicely. A-

DEMO 11
After the gloom and doom of the last few issues, Brian Wood lightens the tone a lot, and wonder of wonders, he actually gives us a complete story, with no dangling questions, unexplained events, and a complete beginning and complete end! I think I would like this a lot more if I was closer to the age of its characters, but I can certainly understand their motivations, and was amused by many of the verbal jabs they delivered to each other as everything played out. Becky Cloonan once again
goes all manga on us, but it's just fine as she successfully conveys the ambience of a large supermarket in the wee hours. I'm not used to having this reaction after reading Demo- make me think I must have missed something somewhere! A-

SOLO 1
More like duet, or trio, as Tim Sale, an artist whose work repels me as much as it attracts me, gets a whole book to showcase his interpretations of scripts by Darwyn Cooke (far-fetched and silly Catwoman/Batman), Diana Schutz (Meh Supergirl/slash/Young Romance), Jeph Loeb (not-bad, proving perhaps that Superman For All Seasons was no fluke and perhaps should get a sequel), and Brian Azzurello (reads like warmed-over 100 Bullets). He does do writing honors for two short tales, neither of which make much of an impression although the second, "I Concentrate on You" is a bit heart-warming. Sale draws his ass off throughout, so this isn't a waste of your time...but for $4.95 I kinda want a bit more. This looks like a series I'll pick up if I'm a fan of the particular spotlighted artist, and will leave alone when I'm not. Next issue: Richard Corben, whose work is good but doesn't excite me much so it looks like it's incomplete run-city for me! B

JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER 201
Not bad-not great debut for Leo Manco as JC:HB regular artist, as he illos a feels-like-a-inventory-fill-in or a nicked-from-an-old House of Mystery/Secrets Mike Carey story about the fate of some unfortunate lowlives who steal some stuff John has stashed away in a storage building in the city. Predictably, they don't fare too well and John is a minimal presence in his own book. Better days ahead, I hope... C+

Didn't get Daisy Kutter 3 in my holds (hopefully it will show up next week), and I chose not to buy Astro City: A Visitor's Guide- however, my shop's having a sidewalk sale next weekend (25% off everything inside), so I'll probably pick it up then.


Some celebrated it on Saturday night, some today and tonight, some not at all...but happy Halloween to you and yours.

Coming (much) later, last week's comics reviews.

Saturday, October 30, 2004


The Chiefs just scored again! And again!


Time now for a quickie edition of Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

I had comments written after every pick and was down to the second to last game, clicked on another page to verify a fact, and after going to a couple of pages I realized, much to my dismay, the pages opened up in the same window as my create post page. When I hit the back button, of course everything I had written was gone. So now what we get is the quick and dirty version.

Standard disclaimer: These picks are FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. I'm not betting illegally with these, and NEITHER SHOULD YOU...and I take no responsibility if you lose your house.

BUFFALO over Arizona
PHILADELPHIA over Baltimore
CINCINNATI over Tennessee
DETROIT over Dallas
GREEN BAY over Washington
INDIANAPOLIS over Kansas City
JACKSONVILLE over Houston
MINNESOTA over the New York Giants
DENVER over Atlanta
SEATTLE over Carolina
NEW ENGLAND over Pittsburgh
SAN DIEGO over Oakland
SAN FRANCISCO over Chicago
NY JETS over Miami (I will never laugh at Miami again)

Last week: 7-7. Season to date: 58-44, .568.

Fantasy:
Cut-throat league- lost 47-29, thanks to Ben Roethlisberger's bye week forcing me to use Michael Vick as my QB, plus no-shows from Reuben Droughns and my receivers. Record, 2-5, last in my division.

BGFFL freebie Yahoo league- lost 79-47. Poor games from Randy Moss and Shaun Alexander sealed my fate. Record, 4-3, third in a 12-team league.

Friday, October 29, 2004



Since I haven't posted anything about Vera Brosgol for a while, here's a panel from a great one-page story she just posted to the Pants Press Sketchblog. Click on the first panel to see the whole thing.

This will be something good to read while you wait for me to post something readable, which will hopefully be later this weekend if at all.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004



Portrait of the artist at 15.

My Mom came over Sunday afternoon with a bag of photos from a family shoot we had done in 1975, by our next door neighbor, who was a photographer. He always reminded me of Jim Backus, for some reason. Anyway, here I am as I was. Time, look what you've done to me, as the song lyric goes.

Posted this because of lack of energy or enthusiasm to write anything that I won't get paid for at this time. It'll get better later, I hope.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

RIP John Peel, The British DJ that I never heard got to hear live and in real-time, but still had an influence on that young Kentucky lad I used to be by championing all sorts of worthy musicians who went on to become an important part of that Y.K.L.'s formative years. I have, however, heard a lot of his recorded programs and liked his mellifluous voice and dry sense of humor.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Oh yeah, lest I fo'get: The Comics Blogosphereiuniverse, whether it deserves it or not, has received an invigorating shot in the arm in the form of the Comics Journal's very own Tom Spurgeon, who has begun his own website slash blog slash commentary, news and opinion site titled The Comics Reporter. It promises to be a daily must-read, as well as an inspiration to the rest of us.

I must retire now, to see if I can't get some of this "sleep" I hear so much about.
Ah, Halloween. They're breaking out the Universal 30's-40's classics tonight on TCM, and I watched several minutes of Dracula, The Mummy and The Wolf Man in between watching Cincinnati behave like wolf men themselves at the expense of the Denver Broncos. Watched the thoroughly ludicrous The Raven last night. I mean, that's one seriously nutball flick that makes no sense on almost any level, but it's cool because it's got Bela AND Boris!

Anyway, one thing stood out as I scanned The Wolf Man: I can understand, or at least go along with, how when Lon gets his foot stuck in a bear trap, or his dad puts a beat-down on him with that silver cane, we don't see any sign of blood or trauma. It was the Forties, after all. Hell, when we see the recently beaten-to-death-with-a-blunt-object Chaney post-transformation, he looks clean-shaven and fresh-faced, like he just got out of the barber chair! But here's the thing that really stood out to me: diminutive, hawk-nosed Talbot Sr., played by Claude Rains. Hulking, pug-face son Larry, played by Lon Chaney. Father and son?!? Who was the mom? Margaret Dumont? And people BOUGHT this! Robert Osborne came out after it was over and stated for the record that The Wolf Man was Universal's #1 grossing film in 1941.

Alright, that's all I got for tonight. This time last year I did a lot of horror movie posting, if I recall correctly- or maybe that was Sean Collins. I know I did some, anyway. Maybe I'll do more! Then again, maybe not. The most grisly and frightening thing I've seen lately was that Falcons-Chiefs game yesterday...
Diamond shipping list powers activate!

Form of...what I'm getting this Wednesday!

ADAM STRANGE #2
HELLBLAZER #201
LOSERS #17
PLANETARY #21
SOLO #1
(maybe)
WE 3 #2
JACK STAFF #6
DAREDEVIL #66
DAISY KUTTER #3
DEMO #11


Yep, looks like another fat stack (well, fat for me anyway). My wallet is filing an official protest, and I don't blame it.
Just watched the documentary Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of SMiLE that's airing on Showtime, and it's a fascinating look at the history of the album, with lots of commentary from some interesting people. It also shows his touring band (aka the Wondermints) rehearsing the material with a initially reluctant Brian (he said he even went to the hospital after the first day, he was so agitated), who begins to warm up to the task. It also shows a lot of the nuts-and-bolts of piecing the eccentric song suite together, even to the point of getting original lyricist Van Dyke Parks back in to write new words, and courtesy of keyboardist Darian Sahanaja's webcam - we get to see them at work. Finally, the whole thing culminates in concert footage of the group performing the album with the likes of Parks, Paul McCartney and George Martin in attendance. In fact, one of the film's most touching scenes gives us Parks' reaction after the show is complete and the crowd is giving Brian and Co. a standing ovation; he's quite visibly overwhelmed, moved to tears, unable to get out of his seat. Fortunately, Brian manages to get him up when he asks him to join the band onstage for another ovation.

If you've been digging SMiLE- and if you have I hope it's because you were persuaded to check it out by my comments on it a few weeks ago- you owe it to yourself to catch this when you get the opportunity. It's one of the best music documentaries I've ever seen, for sure, and further affirms what a wonderful thing has occurred with this whole project.

Sunday, October 24, 2004



Almost forgot! Thanks to everyone who's hung with me for this long, and I hope you always will. Here's to two more!
After seeing at least three dozen hits on my referral list (over the last couple of days) for internet searches for "David Allen Jones" (my secret identity, dont'cha know), I had the feeling something was up. I thought perhaps something had happened in this situation.

Now Tegan emails me with THIS link- apparently there's ANOTHER David Allen Jones that's been involved in some nasty business! At least this guy was, it seems, actually innocent and was serving time for someone else's crime.

So, if you're coming here from one of those Google, AOL, Yahoo, etc. searches, NEITHER OF THESE ARE ME! I haven't murdered ANYBODY. Yet.

I'm also getting a ton of referrers looking for stuff about Red Sox outfielder/long-haired hippie freak Johnny Damon, and the image of teen soul singer Joss Stone that I posted back in April has suddenly gotten a lot of attention as well.

Much to do, including work on the article that's due Wednesday (eee!), so this is it from me today. Have a great Sunday, and watch out for those murderin' Joneses!

Saturday, October 23, 2004



BEST OF THE WEEK


UPON FURTHER REVIEW
What I bought and what I thought, week of October 20!


OCEAN 1
I suppose that, yes, this is another story told in the "decompressed" style that is so reviled by (apparently) cost-conscious (or attention-span challenged) comics readers everywhere. And it's true, this mostly introductory episode unfolds slowly, but it does so in grand fashion- buoyed by typically outstanding art by the underrated Chris Sprouse. 100 years from now, in a future in which space travel is routine, we're introduced to our protagonist- the non-nonsense United Nations special weapons inspector Nathan Kane, who is called upon to investigate the discovery of a multitude of coffins in the oceans of Jupiter's moon Europa. Through typically terse Warren Ellis dialogue we find out a little at a time about Kane- tidbits about his childhood, his aversion to guns, and his interest in ancient Earth space travel. He's also a bad mother shut-your-mouth, both in a scuffle on Mars, and with the ladies. Even though this reminds me a lot of 2001: A Space Odyssey at the beginning, 1979's High Noon-in-space Sean Connery vehicle Outland, and even Sprouse's 1992 DC comics debut Hammer Locke, I was captivated and fascinated from word one, aided in no small part by that expansive, dramatic Sprouse art, and I'm really looking forward to how this plays out. Don't get me wrong, I don't like reading 22 pages of nothing much any more than the next fanboy or -girl, but Ellis & Sprouse's deceptively placid Ocean is an exception to the rule. I wonder if they ever do an issue 11, if it will feature a space casino of some kind... A

PLASTIC MAN 11
Kyle Baker's been getting in some pretty good shots at the current government lately, and this issue's full of them. While attempting to clone Superman, President Lex Luthor gets his brain switched with a frog's (don't ask, just go with it) and Washington calls in Plas to impersonate Lex. Of course, much quality jollity ensues. The ending gets a little too chaotic for me, but everything else is hilarious and clever- and I personally feel like the bit where Superman uses his heat vision to melt Luthor's belt, causing his trousers to fall down should be in continuity. A-

LUCIFER 55
If you need further proof of how important visuals are to my enjoyment of comics, then here's exhibit Z. The last few issues of Lucifer have been kinda disappointing, as if Mike Carey didn't have a good handle on how to finish his last storyline and just batted one out for expediency's sake...and I'm lukewarm to the Peter Gross/Ryan Kelly team at best, which doesn't help. Marc Hempel, an artist whose bizarre, expressionistic style I love, is on board for this issue, and man, what a difference. It also helps that Carey revisits Rudd and Lys, those interesting Hell-ish adversaries introduced a while back, and takes their story a notch or two further. I hope Hempel sticks around for a while. A-

IDENTITY CRISIS 5
The death toll mounts as Brad Meltzer gives up the identity of the killer...or does he? Never was much of a Firestorm fan, nor am I interested in what's going on in Robin, but here I care thanks to some fine dramatics. And I'm still no closer to figuring out what's really going on- he seems to be determined to string us along until the bitter end. Rags Morales turns in another outstanding job, reining in the tendency towards bizarre, distracting facial expressions that have marred earlier issues and as always excelling on the action scenes. Not the most pleasant drive, but I'm enjoying the trip for the most part. A-

H-E-R-O 21
Another hitting, shouting and fighting issue, which hasn't exactly thrilled me in the previous hitting, shouting and fighting installments of this final story arc. Still, this isn't too bad for a hitting, shouting and fighting issue- and we even get a modicum of plot advancement, always a bonus in these situations. Many lament Will Pfiefer's decision to get away from vignettes involving ordinary people who find the H-Dial; me, I'm kinda glad he chose this tack- it will give us who've been there from issue 1 some closure. B

HUMAN TARGET 15
Different strokes and all that...many find Pete Milligan's Target stories gripping explorations of duality, personality, and all kinds of Freudian and psychological things. Me, the longer I read, the less convinced I am and my disbelief-stretching mechanisms are always taxed to the breaking point. I just can't identify all that much with Milligan's Chris Chance, and so his inner turmoil just doesn't register. The situations he finds himself in and the decisions he makes are often clever and unexpected, but aren't always convincing, plausible, or even make sense sometimes. Human Target just isn't working for me anymore, hasn't for a long time now, and I'm thinking perhaps it's time for me to move on. Can't fault artist Cliff Chiang, though- he's never as solid as he is on this book. I'll buy one more to see how this is resolved, then I'm done. C+


Most of you know, if you've read me for any length of time now, that I'm completely fascinated by the music and artists that were recording under the Warner Bros. and Reprise labels in the late 60s and early-to-mid 70s. Among these musicians were budding imprimatur Frank Zappa and his Mothers of Invention, and as was the tendency among many record labels towards their recording artists in the late 60s, Zappa was presented by the Bros. Warner with his very own record label, two to be precise, to do with as he pleased. It should come as no surprise that several idiosyncratic and offbeat artists released records under his "Bizarre" and "Straight" imprints, such as LA groupies the GTO's (Girls Together Outrageously), Tim (forever to be known, apparently, as "Jeff's Dad") Buckley, and Alice Cooper. But none of them were as genuinely weird as the homeless LA street musician and certified paranoid schizophrenic Larry "Wild Man" Fischer. Fischer's Zappa-produced (with backing by the original Mothers) An Evening With Wild Man Fischer was one of those musical experiences which come along only once in a great, great while. Of course, it didn't sell diddley, soon fell out of print, and the double LP has become the stuff of legend, fetching high prices when copies turn up, usually on eBay. Fischer was soon disassociated with Zappa, persevered by touring when he could get gigs, never got treatment for his illnesses, released a few early 80's albums on Rhino which didn't sell either, and continues to be an obscure, but fascinating figure- cultivating his legend (among those who tend to revere this sort of thing) as each day passes and maintaining to this day that Zappa ripped him off.

Myself, I've never owned a copy of An Evening With... . I've only heard two cuts from it, on one of those Warner-Reprise Loss Leaders promo double albums of bygone days. They were "The Taster", which weds the melody from "Unchained Melody" with a sing-songy lyric which WMF intended to be a sort of continuation of "The Twist". It's catchy as hell, and the nonsense lyrics are amusing- "C'mon, let's do the the Taster, when my love was so gray-ster, when the things of the past were just as good as the rest" and so on. The other was "The Story of the Taster", a spoken-word track in which he rants for about 5 minutes, in his inimitable style, about the genesis of the preceding song. I liked what I heard, and wanted to hear more, but it was many years after the album's release and it had already become quite the collector's item, so I never got a copy even though I've tried to keep an eye out for one.

Now, the fine folks at Top Shelf have published The Legend of Wild Man Fischer, a veritable compendium of all things Wild. This bio-slash-comic-slash text piece collection is mostly written by Fischer's post-Zappa tour promoter (of sorts) and friend, Dennis Eichorn, and illustrated (mostly, and kinda crudely) by J.R. Williams, an alternative artist, sculptor, animator, and all-around creative guy of some renown whose style reminds me a bit of Pete Bagge, only not as fluid. I wasn't wild about his art, but it fits Eichorn's reminisces of his experiences with Fischer in the 70s well enough, so it's all good. The text pieces by Williams and Jim Pierron are interesting and informative, and my favorite of all this was the Holly Tuttle-illo'd Eichorn story "WMF Meets The Shroom People". Tuttle's style is even cruder than Williams', but she draws Fischer better and does some nice facial expressions. The Legend of Wild Man Fischer is a great read, even if you're not cursed, like me, to be drawn moth-like to that 60s-70s Warners product. Can't imagine what the audience will be for this, but I hope it brings the Wild Man some well-earned attention and maybe even persuades some suit somewhere that AN EVENING WITH WILD MAN FISCHER NEEDS TO BE RELEASED ON CD! NOW! A

Yep, that's right. Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

Standard disclaimer: These picks are FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. I'm not betting illegally with these, and NEITHER SHOULD YOU...and I take no responsibility if you lose your house.

OK.

ATLANTA over Kansas City- they're gonna have to score, simple as that, and it's tough to win in KC. But the Chiefs just can't seem to get any consistency on offense or defense, and I think Atlanta's D is up to the task of keeping the score down.

BALTIMORE over Buffalo. Take the under on this game.

TAMPA BAY over Chicago. Another low-scoring contest.

NEW YORK football GIANTS over Detroit. This really looks like the Giants' year, doesn't it?

INDIANAPOLIS over Jacksonville- The Jags will keep it from becoming a blowout, but the Colts are just in a different league than the up-and-coming Jacksonville team right now.

PHILADELPHIA over Cleveland- I think the Browns will make a game out of it, but the Eagles are just the better team.

SAN DIEGO over Carolina- The Chargers are just good enough, and carolina is in disarray with injuries. The Panthers could pull one out, but I just can't see it.

ST.LOUIS over Miami- BWAH-HA-HA-ha ha ha ha....whooo!

MINNESOTA over Tennessee- doesn't matter who I pick, these two teams drive me crazy. I like the Vikings at home, which means you should bet on the Flaming Thumbtacks. If you're betting, that is.

NEW YORK football JETS over New England- My upset special. That's right, my gut says the streak stops here. It has been known to be wrong before.

GREEN BAY over Dallas- another pair of teams that I just can't get a read on. The Pack is no longer automatic at home, but I think they have enough to beat Parcells' underwhelming and underacheiving Cowboys.

NEW ORLEANS over Oakland- The bad vs. the putrid. I like NO's offense better than Oakland's D, and while NO's defense truly sucks Oakland's offense is worse than that. Whatta ugly game.

SEATTLE over Arizona- I say the 'Hawks get back on track in the desert, but they better not overlook the gutty Cards.

DENVER over Cincinnati- Boy, the Bengals have been disappointing, haven't they. Again.

Last week- a rebound of sorts at 8-6. Season to date: 51-37, .580.

Fantasy:

Cut-Throat money league, I won again, in a big upset over a pretty damn good team, 56-36! That's more than I scored the last 3 weeks combined! Credit is due to a couple of smart pickups I made, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and Broncos RB Reuben Droughns, along with the Buffalo Bills defense, who scored a TD. I hadn't been getting any production from my QB or RB's at all, and that makes a huge difference. This week I play an undefeated team, and I don't have the idle Roethlisberger so I'll have to go with Vick again...so we'll see how that goes. I'm now 2-4 on the season, and optimistic again.

Freebie Yahoo league: won 69-35. I'm now 4-2 in that league.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

I've sat on this too long. I intended to do six in this one, and I still will- but here's the first two. Consider this chapter one of a three-issue mini-series.



Yes, it's time once again for that far-too-infrequent semi-regular feature here at the Show, Johnny B's Mondo Vinyl-O! in which I take the time to write a line or two about some of the long-playing 33-1/3 RPM plastic platters in my collection that I've spun since the last Vinyl-O. CD's don't count- it's gotta be vinyl, or I don't write about it. This began when, after about five years without one, I got a new turntable back in 2003 and I was having fun digging out all the records that I hadn't been able to listen to in many a moon. So without any further whathaveya, here goes:

STEELEYE SPAN-COMMONER'S CROWN (1975)
Steeleye Span was the third of the Great British Folk-Rock Trinity of the 70s, along with Fairport Convention and the Pentangle, and like those bands were determined to perform traditional folk music and blues with a rock influence and were comprised of some of folk's most talented players along with a distinctive female lead vocalist- Sandy Denny (of course) with Fairport and Jacqui McShee with Pentangle. Steeleye's was one Maddy Prior- whose inflectionless, deadpan delivery defines their sound. This LP in particular is regarded by most who care as one of the best of their 23 skadillion 70s releases, and it's certainly my favorite. Nearly every song here is lively and catchy, and except for the sprightly instrumental "Bach Goes to Limerick" probably was written sometime around three centuries ago. Particular favorites include the nearly nine minute "Long Lankin", a grim tale of a murderer which is said to be "based on a true story" as the saying goes. It's got a haunting melody, and uses Prior's voice to its best advantage. Also, the opener "Little Sir Hugh", another dire tale of harm perpretated upon an innocent, gets a rocking treatment with strong harmony vocals; "Elf Call", which bops along agreeably; "Demon Lover", with a standout chorus; and the album's finale "New York Girls", mandolin-driven and lively, which features ukelele work from actor/comedian Peter Sellers, of all people, who gets to mumble a lot of nonsense at odd times as the song goes on. It works better than you'd think. I have to admit that a lot of Span albums bore me- but I did like their sound and formula enough to pick up about five of them over a "span" of years in the late 70s - early 80s...and I wound up liking two, maybe three cuts on each. It helped that they were easily found in cutout bins. Commoner's Crown is the one album I liked significantly more than the others.

TIM CURRY-FEARLESS (1979)
For better or for worse, and even though he's gone on to do many interesting (and some not-so interesting- Family Affair, anyone?) roles, Curry will always be best known as the pansexual Dr. Frank N. Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Since he sang and strutted his stuff so well on stage and screen, a side career as a recording artist was a logical extension. See, J.Lo didn't invent that sort of thing. Anyway, his first album, 1978's Read My Lips had its highlights but suffered from lackluster material and a curiously laboured performace, even of the best songs. Plus, Curry downplayed his androgynous image on the jacket and in performances, which probably didn't thrill the Transylvanian record buyers too much. So when the time came to follow it up, he at least did one thing right- he chose material which lent itself to his leering, lascivious brogue, and cast it (with the help of Bob Ezrin associate/producer Michael Kamen and many of Alice Cooper's musicians at the time) in a sort of big, brash, bombastic funk-disco-rock setting which at least got the listener's attention, where Lips settled for tapping him/her on the shoulder. Best cut here is the weird reggae-funk-metallic "I Do The Rock" which gives us verses like

"Solzhenitzin, feels exposed/Built a barbed wire prison/Nietzsche's six feet under/But his baby's still got rhythm/Einstein's celebrating ten decades/But I'm afraid philosophy is just too much Responsibility for me/I do the Rock"

It's all very droll, but Curry has a large time and by the end of the song so does the listener. Other highlights include "Paradise Garage", another funky-metal type sendup of the 1979 Disco scene; "Hide This Face", in which he sends himself up with booming guitar breaks, and a decent mid-tempo cover of an obscure Joni Mitchell opus, "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire". Unfortunately, not much else sticks, but the album's worth a listen, if nothing else for the uproarious "I Do The Rock". Curry did one more album, 1981's Simplicity, which didn't improve on its predecessors aesthetically or commercially...and Tim wisely went back to focusing on his acting career. Not long after, we got Annie, Clue, Congo, and...well...he's stayed busy anyway.

More later, I promise!

OK, I seem to have resolved my image problem by taking the pics I had stored over at Photobucket and putting them back on Vendio. Which really isn't a solution at all- I'm still having to pay. But until I can find an image host that won't charge me for the amount of megs and bandwidth I need, guess I'm stuck. I expect to find this at about the same time I discover a cure for cancer, the golden fleece, and El Dorado. And even then, taking on the task of transferring all the images I have on Vendio, then going back through every blog entry to change the code is just something I'm not prepared to do at this time, if ever. Sigh. Domo arigato to everyone who emailed or left me comments.

Anyway, in the interest of posting something, here's something I found on the Pulse a while back, and you've probably seen it:



A new line of Wonder Woman books, aimed at younger readers- written by one Nora Jaffe and nicely illustrated (on the covers, anyway) by Bill Caldwell, of whom I've never heard. Click here for the skinny and some more art samples. I really like those covers- they remind me a bit of Jill Thompson crossed with Josh Middleton.

In the process of re-coding all the images for the last couple of dozen blog entries with pictures, I was struck by how many posts I had written apologizing or making excuses for not posting more. I know- nothing's more tedious than bloggers who constantly apologize for not posting, and, well, I apologize for THAT. I've been spinning a lot of plates lately, and something has to give. I hope to get back to it really soon, but it may be another week or so before I'm back up to speed. So don't give up on me!

Oh well, back to transcribing interviews with one eye on the Cards-Astros game.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Your Dan Bern song of the day, heard on Live365's Musical Justice station:

DAN BERN-PRESIDENT

Raised up my hand & said I solemnly swear
One January day
And just like that I was the President
Of the USA

Just like that I was the President
Of the USA

There were limos, bands & speeches
And parties to go to
I said all that will have to wait
There's just so much to do

Them parties will have to wait
There's so much to do

My first day I offered statehood
To Cuba and Mexico
Cuba-1 state, Mexico-6
All or nothing that's how it goes

No more border patrols & human smuggling
and we'll deal with our own neighborhood
And a few more stars and some green in the flag
Seems like it might be good

And maybe Israel and Palestine
Will follow our lead and just combine
And then become Israelstine, who knows?
Anyway that's my first day

Second day I told Detroit
Start makin' cars that don't use gas
And I give everybody a big rebate
And they started sellin' fast

We'll stop burning up the air we breathe
And making the planet boil
And we won't have to kiss the ass
Of whoever's got the oil

Since before Hoover, the farmers have got
The short end of the stick
With the help of our Cuban brothers
We'll be Communistic
(Collective farms!)

Capitalism is a fine thing
If it works, then great, OK
But if not, gotta try something else
That's what I did on my 3rd day

My 4th day all of our troops came home
From all around the Earth
Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran
More trouble than they're worth

I was tempted to say I'm sorry
We'll rebuild you with money and men
But I just said, "You're on your own
"And don't fuck with us again"

My 5th day I changed the army
So it's all of us or none
We'll all tie knots, and walk through mud
Pitch tents and fire a gun

With just a few of us as warriors
And the rest of us gone soft
Martians could come and zap us
Ain't gonna happen on my watch

Day 6 I swore no prisoners more
Would face their death inside
Thou Shalt Not Kill applies to us all
Too many mistakes, besides

Day 6 I swore no prisoner more
Would ever face his death
At least until my jury hears
The Crimes of President Bush

Day 7 was hot, I legalized pot
And none of this decriminalizing crap
Let it grow in glory, end of story
Then I burned one and took a nap

Hemp will help the farmers
We'll grow hemp everywhere
One acre of hemp's like 10 acres of trees
And hemp grows back next year

My 8th day I made health care
Cover everyone
If you get sick, see a doctor
That's how my government's run

And by the way, abortion
Is included in this plan
No one tells a girl how to treat her body
Least of all some man

My 9th day I said sorry
This government is no fool
Ain't gonna pay you extra to send your kid
To some weird-ass wacko school

We'll do our best to make our schools
Best anyplace on earth
If they ain't good enough, think about it
Before you go give birth

My 10th day I made it OK
To marry whoever you
Would be willing to ride with
On a bicycle built for 2

Marry a woman, marry a man
Marry a monkey too
Marry a big old rhino
And visit 'em at the zoo

And that was my first 10 days
My first 2 working weeks
Lots of work for the bureaucrats
And the paper-pushing geeks

After that we needed
Some time to just have fun
So we added some new holidays
The next week, one by one

Monday was National Nude Day
Everyone disrobed
Tuesday was National Stoned Day
Everyone got stoned

Wednesday was National Painting Day
Thursday no television
Friday was tennis, John McEnroe helped
From his Cabinet position

Saturday, Sex With Impunity Day
With no repercussions
Sunday, do it all-Nude, Stoned, Painting, no TV, Tennis, Sex-Enjoy!!
Just be ready for work on Monday
And mister, no discussion

My Cabinet, as previously mentioned
Includes John McEnroe
And Wavy Gravy and Michael Franti
And Ani Difranco

Muhammad Ali, Madonna
Maya Angelou, Bratt Pitt
And Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton
And we'll watch 'em both go at it

And then I'll get that Stephen Hawking
Make him a citizen and stuff
He's the smartest guy in the world
England's had him long enough

I'll tell him you can be the head of whatever you want
Just bring your thinking cap
And I'll give him an office in Hollywood
With all those ramps and crap

I raised up my hand and said I solemnly swear
One January day
And just like that I was the President
Of the USA

Just like that
Just like that
Just like that I was the President
Of the USA

Laughed my ass off, I did- which made me look kinda funny as I was sitting here with headphones on. Just as well- I have a feeling most of them here will be voting Bush anyway. Heck, I KNOW at least two of them will...sigh...

Monday, October 18, 2004

Worked most of the day today (my day off) on a project, redesigning a media guide for a radio station. Boss of said station says here's the old one, see what you can do with it. It's one of those well-meaning, but kinda amateurish jobs, and I think I can do better, so I started working on it, and sandwiched it in with the other projects I have going on right now. Came to find out today, though, from the program director (who's really responsible for that sort of thing) that they just needed a new LOGO, and would go from there regarding other publications. Sigh. So it's back to the ol' iMac I go. Also did another phone interview, with a certain very highly regarded modern comics creator who is a nice guy but whose work just doesn't...work...for me at all, for the writing project which is progressing slowly but surely.

Anyway, that's why I haven't posted today.

I will, however, assume you care about what I'm getting, comics-wise, on Wednesday according to the new Diamond shipping list, and will fill you in forthwith:

H-E-R-O #21
HUMAN TARGET #15
IDENTITY CRISIS #5
LUCIFER #55
OCEAN #1
PLASTIC MAN #11


I also have copies of the Astro City: A Visitor's Guide and The Legend of Wild Man Fischer put back for future purchase. Gee, I really do buy a hell of a lot of DC comics, don't I... I really need to broaden my horizons some more. Be that as it may, I'm really looking forward to Ocean; the last Sprouse/Ellis collaboration, in Global Frequency, was outstanding.

Which reminds me...someday I want to write a longish article about an early Sprouse effort, from the early 90s. Maybe someday I will.

The great and powerful Mark Anthony has come through, big time, for me again- he sent me DVD copies of The Rolling Stones' Rock 'N' Roll Circus, which I shall definitely want to comment upon when I get half a chance- along with the Who Live at the Isle of Wight 1970 disc and a documentary about producer Tom Dowd, which I actually have already commented on after seeing it on PBS a while back. Many thanks, Mark!

OK, enough for now. I don't know how much I'll be able to put here the rest of the week, and I apologize...but I've got too much going on to really think about posting here all that much.

Anyway, as Dave Fiore would say, "Good night, friends!"

Saturday, October 16, 2004



BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS COMMENTARY!
What I bought and what I thought, week of October 13


POWERS 5
Somewhat routine (how many times now have Bendis and Oeming done that tiny-panel-suspect-investigation thing since V1 issue 1?) until the intense last third, which gives us (finally) a really interesting new wrinkle in the ongoing lives of our principal characters, and pushes this issue to the front of a pretty even pack of good-not-great comics. A-

WARLOCK 2
Outstanding follow-up to the not-bad 1st issue as writer Greg Pak continues to expand and refine his concept. Much of this issue is given to philosophical discourse between the title character, the team of scientists who gave him birth (one of which reminds me of Futurama's scientist Professor Wormstrom, for some reason) and the young lady who shaped his visual look; and while it comes dangerously close to a "talking heads"-type story it is, fortunately, leavened by fine dramatics, and Charlie Adlard's art is once again top-notch. Another great read, doomed to indifference. A-

GOTHAM CENTRAL 24
Is it just me, or did it seem like this storyline would go on longer than this? Hasty-seeming, but no less satisfying, conclusion to the story involving a crime scene processor who is prone to remove evidence and sell it on eBay, redeemed by the usual great Lark/Guadino art and, again, well-written dramatics with the leads. Gotta give Rucka, Lark, and co. credit for working the Bat-rogues gallery into the story without actually showing any of 'em, which should pacify the "GC would be a great book if it didn't have the Bat-villains in it" retinue. A-

CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN 5
Gotta give Howie credit for being ambitious- it's a doozy of a conspiracy theory he's cooked up to provide the raison d'etre for the title characters, taking elements from many diverse CT's of the past and jamming them all together. As always, there are elements that are germane to every Chaykin story- in this case, the smug, arrogant, hateful Aryan blonde bad girl ringleader; and this issue is her showcase. A definite improvement from the exposition-heavy issue 4, with lots of fun snarky dialogue, and Chaykin the artist is drawing like he never went away. A-

100 BULLETS 54
One step closer to the resolution of the New Orleans storyline, which is beginning to seem padded and overlong...but at least it's got Dizzy Cordova in it, so it can't be all bad. I won't pretend to know how Azzurello intends to wind this up- hopefully it won't be too convoluted and far fetched. Risso is solid as always. Up till this issue, there had been a strong Miles Davis/Jazz influence, which has led me to rate each issue as a Davis album. This issue gets the aptly named Decoy, a later effort which features very little actual playing by the artist, which correlates to the holding-pattern feel of this story. B+

FABLES 30
Snow White, unsurprisingly, gives birth to a litter of half human-half wolf pups in one sporadically amusing set piece while the Fabletown election is decided and the candidates deal with their new status. Involving enough, I guess, especially if you're a regular reader and inclined to care...but I can't help but feel a bit of ennui creeping in in regard to this title. B+

JUSTICE LEAGUE ELITE 4
Lotsa bickering and in-fighting as Elite leader Vera Black strives to ascertain the identity of the person who killed the certainly-deserving corrupt ruler last issue. Again, if you're inclined to care about these characters, going back to the ones involved the Kelly/Mahnke/Nguyen run on JLA, like me, you'll be interested. If not, then your mileage may vary. B+

EX MACHINA 5
After this, the pat and yawn-inducing resolution to the opening storyline, I'm resigned to the fact that I will just never understand what it is about writer Brian Vaughn that inspires such admiration in many. Some creators you "get", some you don't, and I just don't get what it is that makes Vaughn so special in many eyes. No harm, no foul, I guess. I'm sure the problem's with me, not him. Now artist Tony Harris, his work I've always liked...and while much of it has been very nice, some of it is just too stiff and finicky, with some frankly bizarre facial expressions, and doesn't have the freewheeling flair of his Starman days. This will be my last issue. C+

SECRET WAR 3
It's been so long since #2 saw release that I had totally forgotten about this miniseries. Interesting idea by Brian Bendis, about a covert operation involving Latveria, the question of where super-badguys get their weaponry, a group of superheroes including Captain America, Daredevil and Spider-Man, and S.H.I.E.L.D., and the evident wiping of the memory of this action from the minds of most of the participants. Dialogue, fine; character interaction, great; Gabrielle Dell'Otto's art, a bit on the murky side but still well-painted and imaginative. Gotta dock this a notch, though for a very un-cost effective 22 pages of actual story for four dollars; the rest is given to a reproduced excerpt of a phone conversation between fictional characters which doesn't seem to add anything else that we don't already know, and some "behind-the-scenes" art features which would be better served in the inevitable hardcover edition. C+


Here we go again with another week's worth of Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

Disclaimer- these picks are FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY. I'm not betting illegally with these, and NEITHER SHOULD YOU...and I take no responsibility if you lose your house.

Okay, here goes nuttin:

PHILADELPHIA over Carolina. The Panthers seem to be in complete disarray, and the Eagles are hitting on all cylinders.
CLEVELAND over Cincinnati. As lame as the Browns have looked, the Bengals have looked even worse.
DETROIT over Green Bay. You gotta believe the Pack is better than what they've shown, but Detroit looks real good on defense, plus they're at home.
TENNESSEE over Houston. These teams seem to be evenly matched, so I take the Titans at home.
KANSAS CITY over Jacksonville. Two teams that appear to be going in opposite directions.
BUFFALO over Miami. Could the Phins be the only team in NFL history to go 14-0 and 0-16? Take the under on this one, 'cause NOBODY's gonna score.
SAN DIEGO over Atlanta. It breaks my heart to type that, but let's face it- if the Falcons can't figure out a way to get Vick on track and score some points, then their 4-0 start will become a dim and distant memory real fast, no matter how good their defense has been so far. SD seems to be putting it together and getting some confidence.
NEW ENGLAND over Seattle. Now you know I love the 'Hawks, but their puzzling and disappointing fourth-quarter fold against the Rams has shaken my confidence in them a bit. If this were at Seattle, maybe- and it's quite possible that they could go in to Foxboro and pull the upset anyway- but I think the Pats are too good to lose at home right now. I stick with them until they give me a reason not to.
NEW YORK JETS over San Fransisco. The Niners, I think, are better than their record indicates- but I don't think they're good enough to beat a tough Jets team on the road.
CHICAGO over Washington. The Skinnies look awful right now, and while I don't like Bears QB Jonathan Quinn, I still don't see them getting beat at home. Maybe a tie.
DENVER over Oakland. Quite simply, the Broncos are the better team, no matter where the game is played.
PITTSBURGH over Dallas. The Steelers seem to have "Mo" on their side, the Cowboys don't. Simple as that.
NEW ORLEANS over Minnesota. You'll lose your mind, and your money, trying to bet on the Saints- but again I go with the home field advantage. A shootout, I think.
ST.LOUIS over Tampa Bay. Two years ago this would have been a hell of a game. Now, who cares?

Last week: a sub-par 6-8. My worst week in a long time. Frigging Seahawks, Packers and Falcons! Season so far: 43-31, .581.

Fantasy:

Cut-Throat Money league- I WON! I actually won a game, 24-22, thanks to the Ravens special teams and defense. Sadly, other than my kicker, Jeff Wilkins and 3 points from Deuce McAllister, that's all I got. I had Mike Vick as my QB, but no more. He is benched starting this week in favor of Ben Roethlisberger or Drew Brees, whichever I get when the waiver pickups are determined tonight. I'm now 1-4, last in my division, but I'm not giving up just yet.

Freebie Yahoo league- I WON! 69-39 over the last-place team. I'll take it. I'm now 3-2 and in a 4-way tie for 3rd place.

Friday, October 15, 2004



One of the many things I've been working on lately has been an honest-to-goodness, legitimate article for an honest-to-goodness, legitimate print magazine. In the course of this piece I'm expected to interview a group of comics professionals, one of which is John Romita Sr. You may have heard the name. I spoke with him on the phone for 45 minutes Tuesday night, and it was a thrill, let me tell you. I promise I'll write more about this whole experience, including the name of the magazine, when I get through it...this piece is on a bigger scale than anything I've ever done before (remember- non journalism scholar here), so I'm very apprehensive about my ability to get it all together and submit something readable. But- I gotta try it, 'cause if I don't, I'll always wonder "what if"...and I've got far too many of those in my life as it is.

ANYWAY-the reason I post the cover above, which is of course by Romita Sr. and is one of my all-time favorite comics covers, is because it was one which I mentioned to him as we were winding up our conversation. It grabbed me hard when I was a kid, especially because of the cliff-hanger of the previous issue in which Spidey had found himself shrunk to six inches high and at the mercy of Mysterio...the mood and the perspective of the cover made a strong impression on eight-year-old me. When I expressed my admiration for it, he laughed, thanked me and recalled that that particular storyline was one that he had plotted, and he had to talk Stan into letting him reduce Spidey like that. Stan was afraid the kids wouldn't understand that the Web-slinger wasn't going to be the new Ant-Man, or something like that. Since I believe it one of the better (in my opinion) later-60s Marvel Spidey stories, I'm glad he did.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

As the saying goes, I'm busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest right now, so posts will be few and far between until this weekend. Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004



Here we have a clever Kyle Baker cover for an upcoming issue of Back Issue magazine, due out in January 2005. It focuses on black superhero characters throughout the years, and features an interview with Thriller artist Trevor Von Eeden, whom I've been known to champion at this here site upon occasion, along with some early sketches of Black Lightning. The reason I mention this is that the last time I had heard from TVE, he told me that in the course of the interview, he had mentioned my Thriller website to the writer, and perhaps I might get a namecheck, thus further spreading the legend, the myth that is Johnny Bacardi...uh, excuse me, I mean doing me a really nice favor. Now, the ad copy for this issue doesn't specifically mention Thriller, so it may be that this will go in a future article down the road, who knows. But I saw this and went "Gasp! That must be it!"

We'll see. Guess I'll have to buy this issue, one way or the other. I've been trying to stay clear of these high-priced comics magazines, but I guess I can make an exception in this case...
Ronnie Del Carmen pointed me through links and such to Stuart Ng's bookselling website, and it's chock full of sketchbooks (and bookbooks, hee) by a host of splendifarous artists. And since I haven't pointed you to any cool art websites lately, I think I'll do so now.


Brianne Douhard, who has a lively style with a great use of color. According to her resume, she's done character designs for seasons 3 and four of the Teen Titans animated series, hence the sketch above.


Israel Sanchez, who seems to be proficient is a variety of styles, including that flooby-looking John K variety.

Jakob Westman. You should see the examples of the book about the kinda/sorta rock band Sparks that he created in the "ads" section. Why didn't I think of that when I was trying to learn to be a graphic designer?

Lastly but not leastly, the online portfolio of Ryan Odagawa.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Remember last week, when I had only one puny comic awaiting me? Well. The Comics Gods have looked down upon me and have seen fit to redress this slight, in spades. Here's what I'm getting according to the new Diamond shipping list:

100 BULLETS #54
CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN #5
EX MACHINA #5
FABLES #30
GOTHAM CENTRAL #24
JUSTICE LEAGUE ELITE #4
POWERS #5
WARLOCK #2
SECRET WAR BOOK THREE


And I'm kinda afraid I may have signed up for
ASTRO CITY: A VISITORS GUIDE
but I don't remember.



RIP Christopher Reeve.


There have simply been too many notable deaths lately, that's for sure. I suppose that any comics blogger worth his salt is compelled to memorialize the modern Superman's passing, so here 'tis. Actually, and I know this is heresy to many, I was never all that thrilled with Reeve's wooden portrayal of the Man of Steel. I fully recognize that I'm in the minority. I did, however, enjoy 1978's Superman film- more so for its contemplative, almost pastoral small-town setting in the first hour or so, and less for Ned Beatty and Gene Hackman's relentless mugging in the second half, and really liked the amped-up sequel Superman II, more so for Terence Stamp and Sarah Douglas' shinyl-clad villains and Richard Lester's frenetic direction than for the performances of its leads. I really didn't appreciate Reeve's craft until 1980's Somewhere In Time, a soaper with Sci-Fi shadings in which Reeve demonstrated a lot more range. Still, needless to say, one has to admire the courage that he demonstrated after his tragic accident, and his determination to not let that keep him from not only acting, but living life as well. I think, all said, that he was a hell of a man.

Update: Andrew over at The Stop Button 2.0 posts a really nice Scott Kurtz illustration regarding Reeve's passing. There's also a link to the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, in case you might be able to contribute.

Saturday, October 09, 2004



Posthumous Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings and a bottle of wine go to John Winston Ono Lennon of Beatles pop group fame, who would have been 64 today.

In related news, on Tuesday Lennon's killer was once again denied parole. There is justice sometimes, after all.


BEST OF THE WEEK

COMICS COMMENTARY!
What I bought and what I thought, week of October 6


Light week, with only one new comic purchase. I wanted to pick up Garth Ennis' 303, but my shop didn't get it- or only got one or two copies for holds customers and no rack copies. Either way, I didngeddit.

DEMO 10
Self-absorbed, dissatisfied yuppie businessguy meets cute street girl who apparently knows everything about him including his desires and insecurities, and he becomes obsessed with her as they continue to meet. As happens so often with me and this book, it's what we never get to find out that frustrates me- specifically, why was the apparently psychic cute street girl doing what she was doing? More I can't say, because I don't want to give away the surprise at the end. I know, I know, with this series you're not supposed to ask why, just take the events at face value 'cause that's all there is, no more, no less. I can play that game, but more often as not I need more. Becky Cloonan's art is fine, more manga-influenced than she's given us lately, but it looks a little rushed. Again, another stand-alone, well-done, absorbing story which left me unsatisfied at the end. Now, refresh my memory- "Demo" is Greek for what? "Incomplete"? B+

ELRIC: MAKING OF A SORCERER 1
Like many of you out there, I'm sure, I'm an admirer of Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion stories, in my case his tales of Elric of Melniboné, Dorian Hawkmoon, and Captain Manfred Ritter Von Bek. I'm not so much of a fan that I have everything he's written, but I have read most of his major works and have always enjoyed his skill at interweaving all the concepts and his flair for dramatics, and dramatic dialogue with its genuinely weird character and place names. So it's pretty much a given that I'll like his ventures into comics, especially when aided by an illustrator as accomplished as Walter Simonson, right? Uh...no. Moorcock's problem here is (as it was with the pair's previous attempt at collaboration, Helix's thouroughly unremarkable Michael Moorcock's Multiverse) when it comes to writing comic-book narrative, he brings none of the qualities that make his prose work special. We get page after page of flat, dull, mostly expository dialogue wedded to a confusing "Is it a dream, or is it real" type storyline, and to me, anyway, it was a hell of a slog. One has to wonder whether this is perhaps being ghosted on Moorcock's behalf, because it scans so utterly unlike what has been, in my experience, his style. And Simonson doesn't help much- he gives us some of his trademark dynamic poses and sequentials, but nowhere nearly enough to liven things up and his character designs are bland, some sort of cross between Native American, Viking, and the armor in which he depicted the denizens of Jack Kirby's Fourth World in his superior Orion series. Moorcock, for his part, fared better with Craig Russell in the Topps comics adaptation of Stormbringer a few years ago. However, unlike Simonson (apparently), Russell hasn't run out of inspiration or ideas- so maybe there's the rub. Perhaps Moorcock and Simonson should agree to pursue different comics-related career paths in the future. One thing's certain- I'll pass on the next three issues. C

My friend, the most esteemed Stupid Llama Mik Cary, loaned me a few trade paperbacks the other day, and I'm in the process of reading them, so look for commentary on Spaghetti Western, The Tomb, Tales From the Bully Pulpit and The Black Forest soon. I also received a fun-looking mini comic recently, Dope Fiends of the Zombie Cafe!, and that will also be coming. Chin-chin!
Johnny B's Week 5 Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

PITTSBURGH over Cleveland
ATLANTA over Detroit (but they better score some frigging points...)
NEW ENGLAND over Miami (has there ever been a more stone cold lead pipe lock?)
HOUSTON over Minnesota (I'm beginning to believe in this Texan team)
NEW YORK football GIANTS over Dallas
INDIANAPOLIS over Oakland (another lock)
NEW ORLEANS over Tampa Bay (NO is so unpredictable, but TB just looks mediocre at best, how the mighty have fallen)
NEW YORK JETS over Buffalo
JACKSONVILLE over San Diego
ARIZONA over San Francisco
DENVER over Carolina
SEATTLE over St. Louis (some are picking the Rams, but I'll take the 'Hawks until they prove I shouldn't)
WASHINGTON over Baltimore
GREEN BAY over Tennessee

Last week, another 9-5 effort. Season to date: 37-23, .617.

Fantasy: Cut-throat money league, lost 37-15. I simply have no offense, and trades are difficult to make- trades that will help me and not the other person, that is. I'm 0-4. Freebie Yahoo league: lost 62-19 after scoring 80-something in week 3. Feh. I had Shaun Alexander and Randy Moss idle, so that explains a lot. I'm 2-2 in that league.

And one of my World Series teams has been eliminated...I have no defense for choosing Anaheim over Boston, except that that Angels seemed to have a lot of momentum going in. I now hope for a Astros-Red Sox Series, and whoever wins will be just fine with me.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Busy at home and at work, no time to get my blog on. Football predictions tomorrow, maybe comics reviews...

Right now, via the great Good Shit, your cool link for today: The Official James Hong webpage!

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Wahaddaya know- Steve Earle has a blog! He hasn't posted since mid-September, but much of what he says on it it truth. Bears watching, I think!

Not me.

After seeing a couple of hits on my referrer page for "David Allen Jones" and "murder", also "1975", I began to become a bit freaked out. So I clicked on the link and here's the dilly-o, as the kids say.

Nasty business- but better he than me!

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Beware, long-winded ramble about the Beach Boys and me ahead.

I don't have a clue when I first heard the Beach Boys. I'm sure it was one of their many big hits of the 60s; perhaps "Barbara Ann", "Fun, Fun, Fun", or even "Good Vibrations". But all of these were in rotation when I was anywhere from 3 to 8 years old, and I just didn't listen to the radio all that much, unless it was in the car with my parents. Sure, I loved the Beatles even then, and had several 45's that my folks had bought for me (and let's not forget my Aunt Lavana's legendary record collection), but I didn't follow music like that then, certainly not the way I did when I got a bit older. By the time I really began to develop my jones, I was 12 or 13 and let's face it, the Wilson/Love family just were not much of a presence, their platinum greatest-hits album Endless Summer notwithstanding- to me, that was ancient history, released by a band that had long passed their sell-by date. Creem magazine rarely, if ever, wrote about them. Neither did Crawdaddy (although there was that big feature article on the aborted SMiLE project...), Circus, or even Canadian music mag Beetle. To 13 year old me, the Beach Boys weren't on my radar. They were old hat, terminally unhip. But eventually, I noticed the odd mention here and there about the Genius of Brian Wilson, and the skill and craft plus plain ol' God-given talent that he and his brothers and cousins brought to their music, and I began to get curious. Two events put me on the path to Beach Boys enlightenment- first, a chance listen to a friend's copy of one of those Warner Bros./Reprise Loss Leaders from 1971 or so in the very early 80s, which contained the Surf's Up track "Feel Flows". That odd, ethereal, haunting cut with its shiver-inducing harmonies and stinging distorted guitar/flute accompaniment absolutely opened my eyes. I began to wonder exactly what the hell was the deal with this group- I had no idea that they were capable of making music this strange and lovely, and my curiosity was piqued. I began to search out books, magazines, whatever I could get my hands on that could give me some history on the Boys, and how they went from relatively innocuous fare such as "California Girls" to something like "Flows". It wasn't easy to do, in the pre-internet 80's. The one book that could have helped me the most, Dominic Priore's Look, Listen, Vibrate, Smile! was out of print. Eventually I ran across the story of how the Boys' money train got derailed by the one-two punch of the Beatles' ascendancy plus Brian's growing artistic ambition (and his concurrent mental turmoil), culminating in the wistful, brilliant Pet Sounds, which was a masterpiece but inexplicably didn't sell, which earned the scorn of the others in the group and led Brian to descend further into drug-induced paranoia and depression...which in turn led to the total creative meltdown of what was to be the grand follow-up to Pet Sounds, SMiLE. I just didn't, couldn't understand what had happened to cause Brian to abandon his muse, and how the Boys themselves descended into the obscurity and irrelevance of the years 1968-1973. The second, a little later, was seeing a TV commercial for some BMG vinyl re-package of the Beach Boys' greatest hits, titled The Beach Boys Forever. I thought it was high time I had some classic BB music in my collection (other than "Flows" on a dubbed cassette, I had none, because practically all of their Warners output was out of print, and that's what I wanted to hear the most), so I ordered it, and heard this music as if it were the first time. This little epiphany led me to pick up as much BB product as I could (thankfully, they were enjoying a renewed popularity not long after, thanks to the hit single "Kokomo"; plus I also recall seeing them in videos with the Fat Boys, of all people, and on their own would-be hit "Getcha Back", so it was a bit easier), but the product at the time wasn't as satisfying. Funny thing- I didn't get to hear the entire Pet Sounds album until I started working at the original WLOC radio, with its wide-open format, in 1988. To be honest, it didn't make all that much of an impression on me! I was even more confused, but I was determined to sort it out and finally did after I got my own copy on CD a couple of years later. I went to see the Brian-less Boys in 1988 in Nashville- at least Carl, Mike Love and Al Jardine were on hand. Slick and forgettable, but now I'm glad I got to see Carl perform at least. Also extremely helpful to me was the 1994 box set Good Vibrations: 30 Years of the Beach Boys, which not only had a ton of information about the Missing Years in its booklet, but also sported bits and pieces of abandoned SMiLE tracks in addition to many, many unreleased songs. I also read Brian's autobiography, supposedly ghosted by his disreputable psychiatrist at the time, Dr. Eugene Landy, and David Leaf's fine The Nearest Faraway Place, an ambitious dual history of the Wilson/Loves and the entire Southern California scene. In dribs and drabs, here and there, I managed to piece together the entire story, for the most part. I filled in my BB collection as best I could, vinyl here, CD re-issue there, and while far from complete, I have managed to come to a fairly thorough appreciation of the lads from Hawthorne. Dare I say even a fannish enthusiasm?

Which leads me to SMiLE 2004, surely the most unlikely, and certainly the most heartwarming, popular music release in many, many years. I can't imagine how much Brian must have gone through to revisit one of the darkest periods of his life, and that this music is as triumphant as it is just amazing. I think a huge amount of credit is due to his backing musicians, the band known as the Wondermints...it's clear that as Beach Boys disciples, they were given the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues with the Pet Sounds tour, and must have been elated to get a chance to help Brian recreate, and even add ideas to, the long-abandoned SMiLE project. SMiLE is a crazy-quilt song suite; song sections stitched together to form an almost seamless whole and accented with all manner of musical textures- banjos, trombones, bells, honky-tonkish piano, sound effects, orchestral sections, and that's just a few. Much of this music they've made together almost defies description. It's also amazing how, even though I've heard the SMiLE cuts that made it onto the box set such as "Wonderful", "Vege-Tables", "Wind Chimes", a solo piano version of "Surf's Up" (that, truth be told, I still prefer- even to the newest version), Brian and his band make them all sound fresh to these ears even though I've been listening to them a LOT since 1994. Can't overlook the contribution of lyricist Van Dyke Parks- his Edith Sitwell-on-hashish rococo poesy works in mood rather than literal description; a line like the oft-derided "Columnated ruins domino" from "Surf's Up" or "Over and over the crow cries uncover the cornfield" (which caused Mike Love's famous negative overreaction) from "Cabin Essence" evoke often indescribable feelings and impressions. Much of what Parks has written (and I'm not sure how much of a song like, say "In Blue Hawaii" is current, or was written back in 1966; "Hawaii"'s lyrics remind me a lot of Parks' solo albums such as Clang of the Yankee Reaper or Tokyo Rose.

Of course, I can quibble, even with this- hindsight is so important when regarding this album, and one can't help but note that this album is so good when practically everything the man's had a hand in since, oh, 1977's The Beach Boys Love You has been mediocre at best and a compromised, bland mess at worst mostly because these are songs that are, for the most part, 38 years old and written by young Brian at the peak of his earnest, clumsy, cockeyed, melancholy songwriting glory. I'm not so sure the man has melodies and whimsy such as this in him anymore, as witnessed by his most recent solo CD. Brian also now has a bit of a slur in his voice which is always lurking, but he's in surprisingly good voice for the biggest part...and this slight impediment even adds to the poignancy, in an odd way.

But you know what? That's the worst thing I can say about this little miracle of a CD, and it's a trifling thing indeed. It's alternately juvenile and transcendent, happy and sad, and completely thrilling to have such a downright odd little collection of songs to listen to after all these years. Would it have captured all the hippies and rode high along with Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's? Who knows. Its cockeyed optimism and silliness might have resonated with the counterculture and may have helped keep things from going as sour as quickly as it did...and on the other hand it might have turned people off almost as much as the hastily cobbled-together Smiley Smile did back in '68, or sold as poorly as Pet Soundsdid...and the Beach Boys would have slid into irrelevance just as quickly.

All I do know, though, that here it is 2004, I'm 44 and not 7, and I can't stop singing "Vege-Tables". SMiLE makes me happy when I hear it, from the opening "Our Prayer/Gee" and how it surges thrillingly into "Heroes and Villains", in which Bri sounds energized as he barks out the words, on through the galvanizing Ba-ba-ba's in "Wind Chimes" and the intense "Mrs. O'Leary's Cow", until the joyful finale of his semi-rewrite of "Good Vibrations", and I know I can't be the only person that feels this way. For that reason, if nothing else, SMiLE is a triumph for Brian, and I think that after all he's been through he deserves it.

What will he do for an encore? Here we go again...!

Here's some respect for ya, Rodney. RIP Rodney Dangerfield.


Also, RIP Janet Leigh, who was so good in Psycho, Touch of Evil, The Manchurian candidate, and other films.

Seems like I'm doing a lot more RIPs than BSBdGs these days, sadly...

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Holy shit! Looks like one of Johnny Damon's teammates broke a bottle of gin (or perhaps vodka) over his head while celebrating the Red Sox's clinching the wild-card spot in the playoffs! Bet that's gonna leave a mark...

Just for gits and shiggles, here's my Fearless MLB Playoff Predictions!

Now you may recall that back before the season started, I tabbed Philadelphia and Anaheim to meet in the World Series, with the Angels winning it all. Philly underacheived all year, and missed the party- but the Angels are still alive so I have a slim shot at getting my eventual prediction right.

That being said, since the Phils messed up my equation, I will now predict something different, and hope the karmic fallout doesn't infect everyone within a 30 mile radius. Now, my somewhat revised month-of-October picks:

NL: Houston over Atlanta, St. Louis over Los Angeles, Houston over St. Louis.
AL: Yankees over Minnesota, Anaheim over Boston, Anaheim over the Yankees.

World Series: HOUSTON over Anaheim. The Astros are just too hot and have that "Team of Destiny" aura about them. We shall see! Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing Boston win it all, but we all know THAT'S never gonna happen.

Monday, October 04, 2004

New Diamond shipping list is out, and here's what I'll be getting Wednesday:

DEMO #10

Uh...that's it?

And knowing how my comics shop is, I might not even get that! They've gotten me the last couple of issues right on time, so I don't think I'll need to worry. Still- one comic? There isn't even a tempting new title coming out this week, except perhaps Tomb of Dracula 1, which isn't all that tempting.

Might be a good time to perhaps pick up an issue or two of some title I've been ignoring...or maybe I should just give my gasping checkbook a needed respite.
Hello- I've been home all day but busy doing stuff that isn't blog-related, hence the lack of stuff for you to read. I plan on remedying that later, but for now just a few quick notes.

First, I'm soliciting recommendations for a new image hosting service, preferably a free one. Since the Show began, I've been using Vendio, and they've been blissfully free of charge for at least two years now, which is how I can afford to post all these purty pictures. But they finally wised up and are now charging me $8.95 a month, and not to whine about my money situation yet again but I can't afford this. So any suggestions out there? I don't blame Vendio- it's their prerogative and I've been happy to coast along on my free ride for quite a while now- and it was inevitable that they would begin charging.

Second, I got Brian Wilson's SMiLE today, and it's (to borrow a song title) wonderful. I've been listening to the cuts over at the website which Shant Sarkisian pointed me to, but it's a whole 'nother experience when you listen to it over your own stereo. Thanks again to Mark for sending it, along with a couple of other interesting CDs. I plan to write a little about them eventually.

Third, I see on my referrer site where someone came here as a result of a Google search for "David Allen Jones murder". Is there something somebody's not telling me?

Fourth, I suddenly have an interesting dilemma. I interviewed for a job in early August, then heard nothing so I assumed I'd been passed over. All the while, I continued to search for a job, and two weeks ago got the opportunity to interview for another position, which sounds like an excellent opportunity for me. They said then that they planned on bringing me back for that all-important second interview, and I wait. I've also been approached by a recuiter for rightbrain.com, who asked me if I'd be interested in interviewing for a position they have in Cincinnati. I don't want to rule anything out, so I said "sure" and sent her the info she needed. I'm waiting for the follow-up on that as well. Now, today, just a few minutes ago, the fellow from the first job I mentioned sent me an email outlining the position and asking if I'm still interested. Of course, I am (it pays better than what I'm making now)...but just not as interested as I was before I heard from these two most recent opportunities! What to do, what to do? Job #2 is the one I really want, but until they bring me back in my hands are tied. It's nice to have a choice, but jeez!

Finally, I need to finish cutting the grass, so I'm done for now.

Sunday, October 03, 2004



BEST OF THE WEEK


COMICS COMMENTARY!
What I bought and what I thought, week of September 29


LOSERS 16
Well, there certainly were more high-falutin' and meaningful comics released this week, but this is the one I was most entertained by. Artist Jock makes a welcome return to full art duties, and Diggle's script seems more energized (especially the sharp dialogue) as a result. Even the ideological exchange between Max and Clay at the end is well-done, and usually that sort of thing just dies on the printed page- witness Ex Machina's artist's screed in the most recent issue. Of course, the fact that he's finally getting around to giving us the gory details about how our boys came to the state we found them in at the beginning of the run may have a little to do with it. If low sales are gonna do this book in, at least it looks like the guys are gearing up to go out with guns ablaze. A

DC: THE NEW FRONTIER 6
Despite the fact that this series as a whole just felt too stretched-out and really kinda bit off more than it could chew, it still is a great success due to the Herculean efforts of artist Darwyn Cooke, who does such a wonderful job of bringing writer Darwyn Cooke's story to glorious, hyperkinetic, dynamic (and a host of other adjectives) life. It takes a Kennedy speech at the end to finally provide some of the resonance that Cooke was shooting for all along, but it seems a little disconnected from the rest of the series. Still, for my money this has been an entertaining exercise in nostalgia, and while I seriously doubt it will ever be considered among the groundbreaking works in comics history, I think it certainly achieved what it set out to do- tell a cracking adventure yarn with giant monsters and lots of superheroes. Plus, we get a dinner-jacket-wearing Phantom Stranger, displaying a welcome sense of humor and sporting Zatanna on his arm. Oh, Strangey- we had no idea that you were such a smoothie! This issue: A-. Entire series: A-.

DAREDEVIL 65
Another anniversary-retrospective type issue, all solemn and dramatic but sporting excellent contributions from several disparate artists which leavens the leaden somewhat. Regular artist Alex Maleev gets the first page, then gives way to an unrecognizable Mike Golden, some Alex Rossish painted art-with-text by Greg Land, idiosyncratic-as-always Craig Russell (y'know, seeing Russell illustrate superhero comics these days is a lot like hearing Kiri Te Kanawa sing "Oops, I Did it Again"), solid Ande Parks-Phil Hester, legible-for-once Chris Bachalo, then a few pinups by Jae Lee (dull for him), Fabry-ish David Finch, and a somewhat unrecognizable Frank Quitely before finishing up with Maleev again, all in service to a Bendis script which purports to show us what happened to DD during his "Kingpin year" as he interacts with a different superhero in each segment (although it's more like Spidey and Ben Urich in one). Best of show: the atypically humorous Dr. Strange interlude. Another nicely done issue, and the choir is preached to yet again. A-

ADAM STRANGE 1
The early 60s DC's answer to John Carter of Mars is back with another spanking new miniseries, by none other than The Losers' Andy Diggle. Mostly scene setting in this first issue, mostly OK although the stereotypically hardheaded tough ethnic cop really got on my nerves and I kept wondering why Strange couldn't have someone (or couldn't do it himself) contact the JLA during his interrogation...plus why they hauled his ass into the station in the first place and attempted to arrest him simply for finding an in-costume photo at the site of his exploded apartment building. Nicely drawn by Pascual Ferry, whose work I don't remember seeing for some time now and I certainly didn't remember being all soft-focus and thin-lined. Pretty good start, and they must be doing something right to have me interested in a character that never interested me much, even when I was a little, easily-impressed kid. B+

JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER 200
You guessed it- another anniversary issue with flashbacks and retrospection the order of the day. Well, not quite retrospection- what writer Mike Carey is doing is using the bargain JC made with the demon at the end of last issue as a springboard for an upcoming story arc. What we get are three "what-if"-is scenarios which reunite John with Kit, Zed, and others who have meant something to him in the past, and they're fantasies which all end kinda unpleasantly for our "hero". It's well done, as far as it goes, but the end result's kinda shrug-inducing...Carey's just not having a good month, I'm afraid. As is the routine these days with this sort of anniversary issue, we get multiple artists such as Steve Dillon, arguably still the best artist this title's ever had; Marcelo Frusin, who quickly became my favorite and will be missed; and upcoming regular Leo Manco, whose work just doesn't grab me like it did in those halcyon Hellstorm days, but is serviceable enough, I suppose. Wow. 200 issues. Seems like only yesterday that we first saw Johnny boy standing in the shadows, smoking a cigarette and wearing his standard overcoat in Swamp Thing- and hey! Doesn't he look like that singer from the Police, Sting is his name! How time flies. B
Looks like once again the evil son of a bitch that murdered John Lennon is up for parole later this week.

I am by nature a conflict-resistant, mostly peaceful live-and-let-live kinda guy, and I know that sounds bad on my part to put it that way- but if there's one person who inspires this sort of feeling in me it's the sack of shit that killed the man who had just signed an autograph for him six hours earler and meant so much to so many people. He deserves everything he got, and got off light if you ask me. I won't mention the killer's name, since I don't want to give him any more of the noteriety that he so desperately craved.

Anyway, there's an online petition to urge the NY Parole Board to deny this, and I sincerely hope that all of you who are reading this and care will go sign it...it's really all we can do but hopefully our voices will be heard.

Saturday, October 02, 2004

What say we do that long-delayed commentary on current samplings from Atomeka Press, eh wot? In alphabetical order:
A1: Atomeka Big Issue: 0 is an anthology featuring quite a mixed bag. First up is Alan Moore's Addams Family meets The Goodies creation The Bojeffries Saga, with art by another Britcomic stalwart, Steve Parkhouse. A digression: I remember seeing Parkhouse's work for the first time illustrating a story of Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter in the old British horror magazine Hammer's House of Horror, which briefly saw release stateside back in the mid-70s. I wasn't impressed with him then, it was a bit amateurish and crude...but he got better. This isn't the first time I've read Bojeffries either- seems like Fantagraphics, or some other fledgling independent publisher put them in as a backup in one of their books. I think it was Fanta and Dalgoda (remember that?). Anyway- I kinda regarded it as a curiosity then, and actually still do, although I appreciate the humor a bit more now, I think. This has got to be a reprint from the early-mid 80's, since I doubt Moore has done any new ones for a long time. But that brings up a teeny-tiny problem I have with most of these Atomeka offerings- the lack of any sort of information about any previous appearances of the material. It's not crucial to one's enjoyment of the stories, mind you, it's just the anal geek fanboy in me. Anyway, Bojeffries is Moore at his most droll, and I really didn't see that side of him again for a long time, until League of Extraordinary Gentlemen in fact. A fun read, and I wouldn't mind seeing more- but I wouldn't go out of my way. Next up is a somewhat unremarkable story by Steve Dillon, well drawn as always- but why is John Constantine all moony over some bird what left 'im? Not 'alf like our Conjob, is it? Then, a nicely drawn tale of some futuristic nautical superhero of dubious intent named "Shark-Man". The story itself was kinda routine, a little hard to follow and one which we've seen many times before, kinda reminiscent of the work of Rick Veitch but without the gonzo edge he sometimes brings, especially on his Brat Pack-type projects. Steve Pugh really shines on the art- he uses a lot of gray tones (these days, who knows if it's wash, pencils, or Photoshop) and excels on facial expressions and action scenes. I was familiar with Pugh's work only through the various Vertigo fill-ins he did in the 90's- and they were nothing like this. I hope this isn't a reprint of something from 1985 or so; I'd like to see more work in this vein from him. Ad since this tale ends in a cliffhanger, I'm thinking I just might. One thing I'm pretty sure isn't a reprint is the next story, the wonderful return of Bob Burden's Flaming Carrot, another 80's stalwart that I've really missed. Another brief story which seems to be a set-up for the upcoming ongoing, and I didn't care since I was so happy to see Burden and the Carrot again...but we better get to find out what happened to Sponge Boy! Rounding out this collection is "Survivor" by Dave Gibbons and Ted McKeever, an odd, first-person account which strives to be a more...realistic and logical, I suppose, look at Superman (of course, he can't be mentioned by name). The choice to simply show the narrator's hands as he goes through his motions is intended, I'm sure, to ensure the reader's empathy, and it pretty much works. The art puzzles me a bit- it doesn't look anything like the Ted McKeever work I've seen for the last 10 years or so, which makes me think perhaps that it's a reprint from early in his career- it's very good, but it reminds me a lot of Kyle Baker's late 80s style and it just makes the little art guy in my head pace around the room. I can deal with him, though. All in all, this is a solid little anthology book- maybe if more of them were this good, we'd have more of them these days. One question: why is native Georgian Burden bunched in with all of these English blokes? B+

Get it? Brick? Top? Red-haired chick? Yeah, I know you do. OK, Totally Bricktop. I'm mostly familiar with Glenn Fabry's work through the many Vertigo covers he's done over the last few years- they're meticulously painted, vivid, and many have been noteworthy- but his interior work, as detailed and frenetic as it may be, pretty much leaves me cold. There's a ©1992 on the inside cover, so that explains the slightly musty smell of the whole concept. In Bricktop, there's a lot of running around, swearing, shooting, crude humor, British slang that I'm totally unfamiliar with, cosmic zapping, never a dull moment- but despite the fact that I think Fabry and writer Chris Smith really, really want you to be charmed by the title heroine, she just doesn't have any endearing (or even interesting, really, shades-inside-at-night thing notwithstanding, which figures in an admittedly funny joke at the end) qualities to cause us to be so, which means that the war is lost before the battle's even half over. This isn't terrible, but it just didn't grab me. C+

The Dave Johnson Sketchbook is pretty much just that, a collection of what seem to be warm-up and prelim sketches by DC Cover artist Johnson, just stuff he had lying around. Over the course of the last few weeks, I've been a little surprised at how unfamiliar most of my esteemed Comics Blogosphereiversal pals are with Johnson's work...but maybe it's just because I've been following it for at least five years now, since I saw a sketch of Batman he did in an issue of Wizard. It was at the end of the 90's, just before the underrated and excellent Rucka/Martinbrough run in Detective Comics, and Johnson was tabbed to tweak the design of Batman's costume...which he did, giving us the black-and-gray Bats with shortish ears, a more...utilitarian utility belt, and for the first time (first time I remember, anyway) giving him practical-looking, heavy-soled industrial style boots, with the thick Doc Marten-type soles. I was blown away by this incredibly cool illo, and when they named Johnson as Detective cover artist, I began to pick them up- with each new issue Johnson gave us a series of innovative cover images- some of the best I'd ever seen. When that gig ran out, he began the still-continuing, often brilliant 100 Bullets covers, and has done a ton of covers since, with only about a half of the Superman: Red Son miniseries showing us what he could do with interiors. Insofar as this particular publication goes, it's as hit-and-miss as most things of this nature are. I like a lot of the character designs he displays- he has a graceful and dynamic way with a pose, and he is excellent with the ladies. Wally Wood-style goofy cartooning (the little fella with the big cyclops eye, who Johnson loves a lot more than many people do, I think) is not really a strength, and while he gives us page after page of technically impressive spaceship designs, I think two or three pages would have been plenty. How much you'll like The Dave Johnson Sketchbook will depend on how much you admire the man's previous work (to state the obvious)- myself, I'm sitting in the choir and Atomeka's preaching right at me. Your mileage may vary. A-.

Finally, another welcome and overdue return of a beloved-by-not-nearly-enough-people 80's character, this time Doc Stearn aka Mr.Monster, whose exploits I used to read back when Eclipse Comics put them out. In Worlds War Two, the Doc takes on evil Martians bent on conquest of Earth, led by Hitler's brain! All sorts of sci-fi and horror films are spoofed: Invaders From Mars, They Saved Hitler's Brain, War of the Worlds (of course), even Tim Burton's not-as-clever-as-it-thinks-it-is Mars Attacks! (as well as the bubblegum cards which provided the inspiration for same), to cite but a few of the smorgasbord of sources. It's fast-paced, frenetic and fun, but it's also a bit overlong and I found myself getting a little impatient before it was over. Nicely illustrated by the team of creator/writer/artist Michael T. Gilbert (has it really been that long since The Wraith?) and inker George Freeman (the 70's Captain Canuck artist, who wound up at Marvel inking a lot of lesser pencillers), who layer on a lot of chaos and visual clutter befitting such a hyperkinetic story- but unfortunately they don't take a lot of pains to give us much period detail in the art. Everything's got sort of a generic, could-be-anytime look about it, and that spoils my enjoyment a bit. Still, this is lively enough to make me hope for more down the road. B+

As with so many of the indie books that have been sent my way, I gotta compliment Atomeka on the sharp-looking design and high production values of their line. The Lego-guys cartoons on the inside front covers are especially fun. There's a lot of good stuff coming from this company, as far as I can see, even though much of it has a slightly-past-the-born-on-date feel due to the prevalence of reprint in its line. Still, it's nicely packaged and mostly entertaining, regardless of when it first saw print. Besides- they're putting out the Flaming Carrot again, and that gets them all sorts of good will points from me.