Friday, June 29, 2007


For your pulchritudinous pugilistic entertainment this evening, we have the late, lamented (by me, anyway) Yelena Belova aka Black Widow II, saying do svidanya to some unfortunate Afghani terrorists who have taken exception to her "borrowing" their vehicle. Art by J.G. Jones, from the 1999 Black Widow miniseries.

For more of Yelena, check out this post on my LiveJournal. It's one of her best scenes, and one of the reasons why I get so pissed off at what effing Bendis did to her. This one's for the 2 Guys Buying Comics.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

My contribution to Thursday Night Thinking tonight features the unfortunate "Sir" Ernie Baxter, the Connecticut Ice Cream Man in King Arthur's Court from House of Secrets #123. Art by the late great Alex Toth, and Sir Ernie was based on Julius Schwartz. Methinks Sir Baxter should have thought twice, because it didn't go well for him after he "thought" up his dastardly scheme to kill Arthur and his knights. If you haven't read this story, it's right here for you to do so.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Blog@Newsarama points us to this L.A. Times blogpost review of the too-expensive-for-sad-old-me Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus Vol.1, in which we find the following statement:

The work presented here shows why Kirby, who died in 1994, deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Will Eisner, say, or Alan Moore and Frank Miller.

Gosh. As that Seinfeld fellow was fond of saying, "YA THINK?!?"

Well, OK, I can buy the Eisner part. He was a contemporary. But geez.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


My newest DCBS shipment, which should be arriving on Friday. Just in case you care. I also have the DAMNED and MAINTENANCE TPBs from Oni Press, as well as BRAVE AND THE BOLD #3, which I shall review along with #4.

Of the above, I'm most looking forward to DELPHINE, of course- loved #1; and the Jack Staff one-shot sounds pretty cool as well. Also, more Mignola/Fregredo HELLBOY goodness.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


That semi-regular feature in which I opine upon various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted said opinions upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately 14 to 23 June, some of which may even still be on sale at finer comics selling establishments worldwide if you're lucky. Or not, as the case may be.

S: John Arcudi, Mike Mignola; A: Guy Davis. (Dark Horse, $2.99)

Guy Davis is a freaking genius, certainly one of the best artists in the field today. OK, now that we have that out of the way, here's some commentary on the rest of the comic: The assorted plot threads of the three previous issues finally cohere as the focus is mostly on Abe and the typically apocalyptic machinations of a group of oddballs on an island, which may or may not be finally giving him the answers he's been seeking all his life; i.e. who he really is and how he came to be. Captain Daimio gets a little screen time as well, as well as another creepy little kid, a staple of this sort of entertainment. Another solid chapter in the ongoing whatever-it-is. A-

DMZ 20
S: Brian Wood; A: Kristian Donaldson. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

I've been hot-and-cold on this series so far, but Wood is really firing on all cylinders this time out (if you'll excuse the expression), evoking a lot of sympathy for all sides of this arc's Rashomon-style triangle. Donaldson pinch-hits for Riccardo Burchielli, and does a good job- his art reminds me a little of Becky Cloonan merged with John Watkiss. Now, given my distaste for Watkiss' work, this wouldn't sound like a compliment, but this I liked- he manages to avoid the excesses and dodgy anatomy of the latter, and has a interesting choppy solid ink line like the former tends to have. I think I know where this is going, but I'm enjoying the ride so far. A-

S: Bill Willingham; A: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Back when I first started reading this title, back around #8 or so, I found myself wondering one idle afternoon how the myths and legends of King Arthur and his knights might fit in to Willingham's scheme of things, and now, years later, we're finding out...and it's as imaginative as we have come to expect from the writer, who also gives those of us who have been following along with the tug-of-war between the Adversary and the residents of Fabletown a really sharply-written confrontation between oily villain Hansel and Prince Not-so (this time) Charming. Buckingham and Leialoha, for their part, continue to do what they do so well. A-

S: Marc Guggenheim; A: Tony Daniel, Jonathan Glapion, Marlo Alquiza. (DC, $2.99)

It occurred to me, when I cracked this, that this was more than likely the first issue of the Flash that I had read and/or possessed since the mid-to-late 70's, when the book was mired in a run of anonymous, bland stories which seemed to last forever. Although I really liked the Flash as a child (I have a picture of me somewhere with a copy of #150, imitating a standard Flash running pose), the endless mediocrity of the post-Broome/Fox/Infantino issues soured me on the character forever; or at least of buying the comics that bore his name. I know, a lot was done with the character after they killed off Barry Allen in the 80's, on into the 90's, and he was used to great effect in the Justice League animated series, but I couldn't care less about his four-color exploits. Now my history with the spinoff title Impulse, on the other hand, is a different story. My son, who grew up liking comics up to a point, as a teen liked one title as as much, if not more, than any other- and that title starred Bart Allen. When I would hit my LCS and get my stack, he asked me to get that one (among others) for him when it came out, and I was happy to do so. Usually, before I got it to him, I'd wind up reading it as well so I'd have something to talk to him about when I gave it to him. While I probably never would have collected it myself, I always found it an enjoyable read, between Waid's fast-paced and breezy scripts and Humberto Ramos' bigfooted anime-influenced style. So now, here we are in 2007...and since DC is on a mission to eradicate everything light and humorous in their stories, as if it's a weakness of some sort that must be purged so that they, along with a certain strain of fanman/boy, can feel like they're telling serious, worthwhile stories, we get Bart, who has now taken on the mantle of the Flash proper and is involved in some sort of a struggle of massive proportion and grave consequence (we're not really given much in the way of details, as if it's not as important as getting to the big death scene, and it's our fault for not buying the previous twelve issues) against the Standard Flash Rogue's Gallery and some imitation Flash who is Bart's second cousin twice removed that can't access the speed force and has to do it via drugs and...blah blah blah. Now, since the newly launched Bart-as-Flash title has met with slow sales and general indifference from the multi-issue-company-crossover-saturated comics buying populace, well, it must be that Bart is still seen as the lighthearted Impulse of yore and just can't be taken seriously...and since DC worships seriously above all else except sales figures, well, I don't think I'm spoiling anything when I tell you that Bart has to die so that a new Flash can arise from the ashes, one which will hopefully be "cooler" than the old one, since it's plain that Bart's character's reputation hurt his sales...and sure enough, we'll be getting yet another relaunched Flash pretty soon. So, putting aside my nostalgia for that little bit of unhip father-and-son bonding which took place over Impulse, and how these events (not just Bart's death-by-kicking-and-ray blast, but the whole Bart-as-serious-Flash thing as well) make me more than a little sad, even though I understand that this is the way of things now in the industry...well, I have to put on my objective hat and say that for what this sets out to do, it does it fairly well. The art is slick and professional to a fault, and the script, while nothing special, at least partially succeeds in capturing that Grand Shakespearian Tragedy vibe that it strives to evoke. It's lean and to the point, if nothing else. So even though I don't care for what it is, exactly, I can at least tell you that it does it in adequate fashion. If this sort of thing is your sort of thing, then by all means help yourself. But don't expect me to join you. C+

S: Marc Bernardin, Adam Freeman; A: Lee Garbett. (DC/Wildstorm, $2.99)

Ooh, a sleeper book! I am absolutely unfamiliar with the work of any of these creators; a little Google Fu tells me that Bernardin used to be a staffer for Entertainment Weekly, and Freeman MTV, so I can honestly say at least that this is by far the best thing I've ever read by a former staffers at EW and MTV. Seriously. Don't really know who to credit- whether one plots and the other dialogues, or vice versa, or if one is blackmailing the other into a co-writer credit, well, can't say for sure. Anyway, while there's really nothing here that hasn't been done in a thousand previous espionage thrillers, even those set "a few years after tomorrow", at least it's a tale told with a minimum of fuss and some snappy dialogue, and the cameo by former President Clinton works very well. Artwise, Garbett reminds me a little of Frank Quitely, but with a slightly lesser tendency to draw puffy anatomy. Sometimes he gives us an occasional awkward pose, but for the most part he does the job very well. Sometimes a book comes out with unknowns at the helm and a minimum of hype, and the results are nine times out of ten disappointing. And then, there's that one out of ten, which defies expectations...and I think this might be one of them. B+

S: Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti; A: Phil Noto. (DC, $2.99)

Just when I had decided that this Western vehicle wa spinning its wheels, along comes this not-bad continuation of a previous issues' storyline, in which Jonah gets stuck in a jam courtesy of a little too much rotgut and Wylie Park, the "businessman" he crossed in #19. Even though I'm a little dubious about how quickly Hex manages to be functional after getting a fistful of broken fingers, it's an engaging read. Noto, who often comes across as too static, layout-wise, and has shown a tendency to underdraw (to no good effect) in the past, is making some strides in the storytelling department. Hex hangs in there with me, too good to let me drop but not good enough to make me anticipate further issues. B+

S: Mike Carey; A: Sonny Liew, Marc Hempel. (DC/Minx, $9.99)

The second Minx offering goes down a lot smoother than the first, thanks to more assured storytelling. Now, I don't know exactly what qualifies 47-year-old Carey to write a story chronicling the exploits of a Hapkido-fighting Korean teenager any more than what qualifies me to comment on a story about same, but I do know that if I can comment half as well as Carey writes it, then I will have done very well indeed. God Save the Queen notwithstanding, there are two things Carey can do, and do very well: pace a plot, and characterization via dialogue- and combined with the lively art of Liew and Hempel, so good separately and even better together (as this and the trio's previous collaboration, My Faith in Frankie, prove) this is engaging and enjoyable, never preachy or descending to Afterschool Special level, even though the plot (which puts one in mind of the likes of Bend it Like Beckham) is often predictable and the ending is a little too pat. It does trouble me a little that the overarching aim of the lines' two books so far seems to have been to pass along "be true to yourself" homilies rather than just entertain, as if the young female audience the line is aimed towards needs more life lessons, the ones they don't get from Hollywood that is, in the guise of entertainment...but I suppose I'm digressing. Insofar as the story itself goes, young Dixie is a likable character and you really root for her to work out her difficulties with family and friends, and the ending doesn't disappoint unless you're looking to be surprised- and the Liew/Hempel art is never less than outstanding. Overall, a little short of O.Henry, I guess...but very good just the same. A-

S/A: Tony Millionaire. (Dark Horse, $2.99)

I have enjoyed Millionaire's po-faced woozy whimsy in varying degrees over the years- sometimes, when he hits the target, we're given something totally unique and remarkable, or as in the case of many of his Maakies strips, something laugh-out-loud funny. And then sometimes he labors mightily to very little, and often inconsequential and downright baffling effect, and that's been the case with The Inches Incident as far as I'm concerned, anyway. It's not that this wrap-up is disappointing, necessarily, it's just that it doesn't really add up to much of anything at all now that it's done. Well, that's not entirely true; I can safely say that next time I have a battle with ants in my kitchen I'll probably recall this miniseries and its frenzied anteater-vs.-ants death struggle. But is that enough for my twelve dollars? I have to say no. C+


DOG OF THE WEEK(S): Hate to, but gotta go with the pointless SOCK MONKEY: THE INCHES INCIDENT 4.

Friday, June 22, 2007


To celebrate the occasion, here's that most storied of heroes, Superman, on the receiving end of a haymaker delivered by obscure New God Magnar! From Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #147.

Separated at birth? Twin sons of different mothers? At left: actor Kevin Kline, aka The Luckiest Man on Earth alias Mr. Phoebe Cates, and at right, Lucifer and Crossing Midnight (among others) writer Mike Carey.

More later, including perhaps a new Spinner Rack Junkie and definitely Friday Night Fights!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Art appreciation time again! Besides vaguely controversial comic book covers, that is.

Via the invaluable ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archives blog, comes a look at some illustrations from East of the Sun and West of the Moon, by Kay Nielsen. Also, here's the same for Twelve Dancing Princesses.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I've already seen, here and there, where certain parties are already trying to make this the next controversial cover. Me, I like it. I can see the issues with the others, but I think this is a very strong illustration, and if people are going to try and play the sexist card on this one, I think they're barking up the wrong Batcave.

Now, as I understand it, this is an upcoming cover for the Superman/Batman series. Apparently the female in front is named Bekka, and she's Orion of the New Gods' wife, girlfriend, something. I don't recall this relationship being a part of Kirby's Fourth World books; she was Scott Free's Apokoliptian mentor Himon's daughter. Perhaps this is something I've forgotten from Walt Simonson's outstanding Orion, or maybe it's new for this title (which I've never read an issue of). Anyway, apparently Batman has the hots for Orion's wife/girlfriend/something, and that's a big part of the storyline. Me, I'd think that the prospect of sex with a New God would be daunting to mere mortals, even our Bruce, but what the hey. Dodging Darkseid's Omega Beams would be child's play compared to doing the horizontal mambo with a strong woman who could tear your head off when she's feeling really amorous.

"But, look how scantily clad she is! And there's a boob window!" You may say. "And Bats has his hand in a very conspicuous place! What's up with that!" And that's true. But to my eyes, anyway, her garb isn't terribly revealing, no more so that the run of the mill DC or Marvel supersuit; it doesn't look terribly practical as battle gear, but compared to Big Barda's original bikini outfit or Red Sonja's chain mail bikini ensemble, it's practically a one-piece unitard. Sure, Batman's hand is in that place...but it seems as if he seeks to shield ("Don't you be lookin' at these" is the impression I get there) or embrace, rather than grope, her. It's a passive pose- only his left hand, with the batarang, is tensed. And look at Bekka's stance. She's got a heads-up, guns at the ready, typically Apokolipsian "Don't screw with me" look on her face. No dripping goo or meek facial expressions. If she's being exploited, I just don't see it.

And it's a really nice piece from a design standpoint, reminiscent of Mike Kaluta's recent covers with emphasis on symmetry. It also reminds me of tarot card illustrations, and I'm always interested in those.

Anyway, to wind this up, if this is in poor taste or exploitative, I just don't see it. Of course, I've been known to be wrong before...but I don't think this is one of those times.

A Bacardi Show Birthday Greeting today for BRIAN WILSON, adding music to my days for almost 40 years now.

For a list of my favorite Beach Boys songs, only one or two of which I'd replace now, go here.

Picture ganked from Wendy Lynch. Please don't be mad.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

I finally got to see 3/4 of Superman Returns last night. I say 3/4 because just after the big Supes-rescues-Lois-and-Cyclops scene, I got an important phone call that I had to take and it lasted just long enough for me to see the final scenes. Hey, it was money and bid'ness, OK?


Did anybody out there hate this film as much as I did?

"Huh-WHA? Hate, you say? But JB!"

No, I hated it. Hated it even as I was watching it. Hated it for the fact that they chose to recreate the production values and simpleminded, lowest-common-denominator-aimed script of the 1979 film, even as they laded on the 2007 CGI. Hated the fact that they had a lead actor playing Superman, the Iconic Man of Steel, that looked like he could have been sharing that apartment with Derek Zoolander, he was so pouty and clueless. I don't know what YOUR ideal Superman looks like, but that ain't mine. Oh, his performance was decent enough, considering that all he did was ape Christopher Reeve (another wooden prettyboy actor who grew into the role, thankfully). I know Smallville is all the rage among those who don't know better or don't care one way or the other, and I know that finding an actor with the proper physique and acting skills is hard to do. But at least the cat that plays Clark Kent in Smallville is supposed to be playing a young Superman, so his lack of build isn't such an issue. But this is supposed to be ADULT CLARK KENT! Five years after the 1979 film- FIVE YEARS! He barely looks older than Jimmy Olsen!

Crap. I don't have the time or the critical vocabulary to lay into this movie properly. But I'll do what I can.

Yeah, there were one or two decent effects-heavy setpieces, none of which eclipsed Dick Lester's in Superman II. And while I'm bitching, what the hell is up with this revisionist history that claims that Lester somehow ruined II when he took it over from Richard Donner, necessitating that money-grab "Director's Cut" that came out last year? Hell, as far as I'm concerned II is the best of the lot; not as ridiculous as its two successors and unburdened with the campiness of the second half of the first one. Maybe it's just because Lester directed Hard Day's Night and I'll always cut him slack because of it, but while II had its silly scripted moments as well, it was directed just fine.

Kate Bosworth? As Lois Lane? Now Bosworth is very attractive, and can even act a little, as she proves here; but the only examples of more egregious miscasting in comics-based films I can think of offhand are Katie Holmes, overmatched in Batman Begins, and of course Halle Berry in that wretched Catwoman film. She is fine, she just isn't Lois Lane, or at least the Lois Lane that exists outside some clueless producer's mind.

"Kevin Spacey!" You say. "Kevin Spacey! One of the finest actors in recent memory! SURELY he avoids your scorn, JB!" Yeah, well, OK. Spacey knows how to underplay and be menacing, and he does that real well here. Half the time he seems to be self-consciously channeling Gene Hackman, but he does manage to exude a nerdy, Keyser Soze-sort of malevolence the other half. I'll give Spacey a pass, he does the best with what he had to work with. And what he had was a dumb, tired rehash of the first flick's "beachfront property" scheme, dovetailed into the only slightly less-tired "I hate and want to kill Superman because he's an alien" trope. Why, oh WHY do Hollywood screenwriters want to make Luthor into a buffoon? Do they not want him to somehow send the wrong message to the kiddies and impressionable idiots out there, who could possibly think that Luthor has more charisma and is cooler than their wooden, lifeless Superman? They ALWAYS have to saddle him with a doofy sidekick (thanklessly played by ol' Kumar, Kal Penn) and a ditzy Miss Tessmacher-type "moll" (again, thanklessly played by Parker Posey, who is SO much better than this crap), and make bald jokes with all the wigs, and hit every single note that has been hit in the character's three other big screen appearances. Sigh. I will say that I got a chuckle to his annoyed reaction when Lois teased him about being out of the public eye for so long. And in all fairness, to have Lex find the Fortress of Solitude, steal the crystals, and make mischief was a decent idea. But it wasn't THAT good of an idea.

Just so I'm not completely negative all the time, I will go on record as saying that of all the company, Frank Langella's performance as Perry White was as good as any of them, including Spacey.

I won't even go into all the Jesus Christ Posing that the scriptwriters and director saw fit to jam in; I have my blood pressure to think of. Not to mention the whole Superman's kid thing.

I could rant on and on, but I'll spare you. Who knows, I might see the 15-30 minutes of the movie I missed when I got my phone call, a light will switch on (or a candle, as the case may be) in my head, and I'll reconsider. And maybe I've been spoiled by the vastly superior Superman: The Animated Series, still the gold standard for depicting the Man of Steel and his friends and foes as far as I'm concerned. But damn- for all the money they spent, and the pre-sold audience they had, to make such a pretentious, sodden, dull, dimwitted, noisy motion picture like this is almost unconscionable.

Say what you will about Marvel's filmed output- and I understand Spider-Man III has its share of head-scratching scripting and pretensions too- between this and the watchable-in-spite-of-itself Batman Begins, it's time for an old DC guy like me to admit that right now, Marvel is making the superior motion picture product by far. There's no reason why a Batman or Superman film couldn't be at least as entertaining, even in a "big dumb fun" way, as I'm hearing that Ghost Rider or Fantastic Four 2 are. But they have just GOT to look beyond 1979 and 1990 as starting points, and remember that they're trying to be entertaining without being moronic. I believe that it can be done- just look at Spider-Man 2.

Cripes, did I hate this movie. Not to put too fine a point on it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Been looking over DC's September solicitations, and here's a question for those of you who, unlike me, have been paying attention.

First, the text solicitation in question.

Written by Grant Morrison
Art and cover by J.H. Williams III
Concluding a 3-part story by Grant Morrison and J.H. Williams III! Batman's reunion with the Club of Heroes turns into a deathtrap as Robin and the Squire are kidnapped by the Black Glove! And with the Club of Villains lurking in the shadows, can good possibly triumph?
On sale September 12 o 32 pg, FC, $2.99 US

Is this the Beryl Hutchinson Squire that captivated me so in JLA Classified #'s 1-3?

FLASH! No, not THE Flash, but news flash- I was looking over my pending DCBS orders, and I see where I added Batman #668- I guess because it had J.H. Williams III art. Don't know why I didn't get #667! Oh well.

Beatle Birthday time- sending along a Bacardi Show Birthday Greeting to Sir Paul McCartney, 65 today.

In case you haven't seen it, here's the video for his latest single "Dance Tonight", from Memory Almost Full, which has apparently sold very well in the first days of its release. Look for none other than Natalie Portman playing some sort of fairy ghost or something.

Actually, I really like that song; it reminds me of something the great Ronnie Lane would have recorded in 1974 or so, or perhaps of Jimmy Page's two-year mandolin fixation via Led Zeppelin III and IV.

Two years ago, I posted a list of my favorite McCartney solo (well, with Wings too but you know what I mean) tracks. And here she be. Perhaps I should do my favorite Macca/Wings albums, since you can buy them all on iTunes now.

And thus concludes my cynicism-free birthday greeting for Sir Paul. I reserve the right to be all snarky in the future. You'd think that people would have had enough of Paul McCartney; I look around me and I see it isn't so. Oh no. (I never get tired of that joke. "We KNOW", I hear you all say.)

Saturday, June 16, 2007


That semi-regular feature in which I opine upon various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted said opinions upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately 23 May to 13 June, some of which may even still be on sale at finer comics selling establishments worldwide if you're lucky. Or not, as the case may be.

S: Steven T. Seagle; A: Becky Cloonan, Jim Rugg. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

Well, this was going to be (once again) my final issue, but Seagle has gone and introduced a new, interesting character who really livens this stagnant narrative up when she appears. Otherwise, more of the same old same old, well drawn as usual, and I guess I'll stick around just to see how long it takes Seagle to kill her off or dump her. This is my yo-yo book, apparently. B-

S: Larry Young; A: Jon Proctor. (AiT/PlanetLar, $2.95)

I did some Googling to try and remember what I wrote about On Ramp, the teaser issue for this series that came out back in 2005 (!) and sadly, I came up empty. Seems I reviewed it for Comic Book Galaxy when I did my Last Call column, and sadly, (I guess that depends on who you ask) those columns no longer exist on the Intarwub. So, at the risk of contradicting myself about what I may have written earlier, I'll just deal with the right here right now- and right off the bat one thing that Black Diamond has going for it is Larry's specialty, the high concept...and this one's 1970's Grindhouse/Drive-in all the way, with (of course) Death Race 2000, the Mad Max films, and even The Searchers or perhaps The Vanishing figuring into the mix. The notion of the government grounding all commercial airflights as a reaction to terrorism fears isn't all that far-fetched and sounds just logical enough to help us buy that the other part of this reaction includes building the high-rise titular super-super highway, which must do wonders for property values on the ground below, as cars are prone to come flying over the barrier, to crash on Earth below. This one's all setup, as we establish the initial scenario in which Baltimore dentist (who just happens to be married to the Diamond's designer) Dr. Don McLaughlin finds out his wife (who's in Washington) has been kidnapped by terrorists, and has to take his brother-in-law's '73 Mercury Cougar, get on the superhighway, and come to the rescue. Pretty cool, huh. If I was inclined to quibble, I'd question the use of a 1973 muscle car when one from 1970 or '71, before insurance companies, Ralph Nader, and government restrictions began to force Detroit to scale back the power as early as 1972 would have been even cooler. Like I said, just nitpicking there. I'm down with the concept, but I'm not completely sold on the art, which seems to be color flats laid down in illustrator and then traced in outline by Proctor; it's a lot like the other trend I've seen from AiT artists (Goodbrey, Milady- see review below) lately, in which photographs are manipulated in Photoshop or some art program to get rid of all midtones and quartertones, resembling old Xerox copies in which all the image detail is blown out. Proctor's is more colorful for sure, and reminds me a bit of Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life, or Ralph Bakshi's not-always-successful rotoscope animation. It's fine as far as it goes, and tells the story well enough, but while his machines look OK even without a lot of surface detail, his figure drawings and especially facial expressions (most notably early on in the dentist office scenes) are not so great. This artificial-looking approach just takes me right out of the story sometimes, especially when I'm confronted with a mouth like that on page three, or faces like those on on pgs. five and seven. Not a deal-breaker, but I'm hoping it gets better. All things considered, though, this promises to be a lot of fun, and those looking for fast-paced action-thriller fiction should make damn sure that this is on their short list. Now, what we need is a KISS cameo and maybe, just maybe, Larry could have a character who drives a '72 Chevelle SuperSport, just like your humble scribe used to own... B+

S: Garth Ennis; A: Darick Robertson. (Dynamite Entertainment, $2.99)

Picking up right where #6 keft off, Garthie takes the usual shots at comics-as-PR in the form of a gnomish old guy (more Bridwell than Lee, I suspect, and good on Ennis for avoiding the obvious cliche) who publishes the propaganda pieces in BoysWorld, and I'll bet ya a dollar that Robertson originally drew him on the toilet in the cover illo. Funnier by far is the plight of poor Tek Knight, who should hook up with the animal buggerers from Preacher. As long as Ennis skewers the so-called good guys along with the so-called bad guys, I'm still on board. When this changes, I'll be sure to let you know. B+

S: Ed Brubaker; A: Sean Phillips. (Marvel/Icon, $2.99)

Another arc, another criminal...and while AWOL soldier Tracy doesn't promise to be as sympathetic as poor Leo was in issues 1-5, he also promises to be no less interesting as he looks to get payback for the life of his brother from the gang of small-time crooks he was hanging with. As always, Phillips just kills, providing tons of mood and atmospherics. He's so underrated it's a, well, crime! Promising beginnning. A-

S: Ed Brubaker; A: Michael Lark, Steven Gaudiano. (Marvel, $2.99)

The "Is Melvin Potter homicidal, or crazy, or both?" storyline rumbles on, and remains solid as it keeps us guessing. Me, I believe the answer lies with surprise returnee Lily, who has been known to drive men astray in the past. Brubaker also seems to be setting up some sort of turmoil within the Matt/Milla marriage, on shaky ground already. So, interesting ongoing subplots, check; a little action to keep things moving, check; typically stellar art by Lark and Guadiano, check. Yep, another outstanding issue of Daredevil. A-

S: Andy Diggle; A: Leo Manco. (DC/Vertigo, $2.99)

In which John sets himself up in the casino owned by last issue's Pearly Gray, in order to perpetrate some as-yet-unnamed scheme. The notion of having ol' Conjob do his business in a gambling establishment is such a good one that I'm amazed nobody's used it yet- and gives me another reason to believe that I'm gonna like Diggle's tenure. Manco, for his part, tries hard but just doesn't enliven the proceedings very much at all. B+

S: Mike Mignola; A: Duncan Fregredo. (Dark Horse, $2.99)

Boy, that was quick- seems like just a week or so ago that I read #1! Anyway, chapter two finds HB struggling with a group of witches (and a deranged undead witchfinder) who seem to want to strike up some sort of truce with him, and through a series of convoluted events winds up in the clutches of the Baba Yaga on some other plane of existence. I was enjoying this just fine until that last wrinkle; the way it developed didn't make a lot of sense and seemed to be a rare breakdown by Mignola the scripter and Fregredo the artist. Otherwise, Fregredo is as dynamic and outstanding as always as he strives to stay true to that static Mignola feel even as he seeks to remain true to his style. The push and pull is really interesting, for those like me who tend to notice such things. B+

S/A: Matt Silady. (AiT/PlanetLar, $12.95)

More and more comics and graphic novels, it seems to me anyway, are coming across as TV show pitches; so it's not all that surprising that we now get a graphic novel that's about TV show pitches. Homeless Channel details the startup of a TV channel devoted to shining a light on the plight of the homeless (hence the title, duh) and focuses specifically on lead character Darcy, who pitches and helms the endeavor. Oh, and she has a homeless sister, too, and of course that figured significantly later on. It's a good idea, and Silady writes good Sorkin-style dialogue, which helps it a lot. Not so good is story structure; scenes often run smack in to each other, without any visual or scripted cues to help the reader discern how much time has passed- more than once I found myself backtracking to look for a character I thought I had overlooked, or to figure out how long after event a event took place. Not the first time I've had to do that with a book, and (I'm sure) not the last, but it does kinda spoil the reading experience. The art doesn't help, either- it's yet another example of someone taking what appears to be photos (many people are thanked at the end for posing- I wonder if they did this gratis or were they paid, and who paid them?) and blowing out all the midtones, quarter tones, and highlights; just leaving the shadow areas and then tracing in the rest...and it's just realistic enough to distract from rather than illuminate the script, unlike when Goodbrey did it, difference being that Goodbrey's surrealism needed a certain visual approach to emphasize its otherworldliness; Silady's story is grounded in the here and now of the real world and the not-quite-realistic approach works against it in a lot of ways. Homeless Channel is a fine, mature read; I found it a little hard to follow sometimes between the art and the somewhat disjointed script, but judging from the other reviews I've seen I"m in the minority there. Say, here's an idea- why don't YOU be the judge? B+

S/A: Mike Allred. (Image, $2.99)

When Alan Moore got all pretentiously metaphysical in Promethea, you could respect, even if you had difficulty following along, because he seemed to have at least done his homework and knew his subject inside and out...because, well, he had. Allred, on the other hand, is utterly unconvincing when he does it because it just doesn't play to his strengths- he just doesn't have the hightoned vocabulary that such undertakings need. Fortunately, he snaps out of it about 3/4 of the way through and finally gets around to the gist of the story- and it begins to read like the Madman we've known and loved. Unfortunately, it may be too little too late, and I'm getting the feeling more and more that Allred did whatever he set out to do with the character over a decade ago, and is only spinning his wheels now. C+

S: Doug Wagner; A: Brian Stelfreeze. (Image, $2.99)

It's been a good two weeks for muscle cars in comics, hasn't it? More high-octane guilty-pleasure shenanigans in this, the latest in the Ride series from the 12 Gauge Comics guys, and it's as enjoyable as the other entires in the series to date. Heck, just seeing Lolita-esque hitperson and series star Laci with her posse of nuns is almost worth the price of admission. Even though it sometimes looks sketchy and underdrawn, Stelfreeze still is as good as anybody at depicting dynamic action, and this series plays to his strengths. First lap, good. We'll see how the rest of the race goes. A-

S/A: Geoff Darrow; additional scripting by the Wachowski Bros. (Burlyman Entertainment, $3.50)

Darrow's insanely detailed art alone keeps me from dismissing this out of hand, but Mary, Mother and Joseph is this becoming a rambling, plotless mess. Characters talk and talk and talk and TALK and not much of anything happens, and I suppose Darrow is counting on his admittedly-excellent art to distract us from the fact that nothing is going on...but at least for my part, it's failing. As Warren Zevon once wrote, "Ha'ina 'ia mai ana ka puana", which roughly translated means "get to the point". Please. C+

S: Darwyn Cooke; A: Cooke, J. Bone. (DC, $2.99)

In which Cooke aims high, seeking to replicate the feel of such Eisner-era mini-epics like "Ten Seconds" and "The Visitor", and is almost successful, sabotaged by an unsympathetic protagonist. As Eisner was prone to do, he makes Denny Colt a secondary participant in the story, and that's fine- the story's not really about him anyway. But the plight of the troubled, antisocial "Blue" just didn't really resonate with me, unlike the desperate Freddy from the aforementioned "Ten Seconds" to name but one, and as a result I just didn't really care much about anybody in the story. That's the way it goes sometimes. I'm happy that Cooke is reaching as high as he does, and I have faith that he'll grab something good very soon. Of course, art-wise this is excellent- Cooke and Bone combine to at least make everyone compelling from a visual standpoint, even though the club atmosphere came across as more 1997 than 2007. Cooke's Spirit remains better than the run of the mill, but still a little short of excellence. B+



DOG OF THE WEEK(S): Sorry to say, SHAOLIN COWBOY #7, followed closely by MADMAN ATOMIC COMICS #2. Oh how the mighty do disappoint.

Coming later this week, reviews of

FABLES #62 and
DMZ #20.

Be there! Aloha!
The last thing DC needs (or I need, for that matter) is for me to be shilling for them via Con announcements, especially since I am a utterly disinterested in about 85% of what they're issuing right now...but there were a few things that I noticed in this Con report at CBR that caught my eye:

Left to right: the return of Tommy Monaghan, aka HITMAN!

Jordi Bernet is back on Jonah Hex! I had decided to drop Hex after #20, but #20 (which I read yesterday, yeah, I'm that far behind in my reviews) wasn't half bad so I may reconsider. I wish DC would cancel this and American Virgin so I wouldn't have to worry about it anymore...

And that's Uncle Sam in that Dave Johnson cover, which would suggest a new Freedom Fighters series. I'm all about Graymiotti's Uncle Sam.

Rouleau's Metal Men is also cited, so it looks like I'll still be getting my fair share of National Periodical Publications, doesn't it!

Today is the day I finish Spinner Rack Junkie, I swear this on the Hammer of Grabthar.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

OK, new Blogosphere-wide feature, a la Friday Night Fights: Thursday Night Thinking. So, here we have Tadwallader Jutefruice, alias Super-Hip, thinking some not-so-nice thoughts about Badger Goldliver.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I suppose it speaks to how out of sync I am with the conventional wisdom, but I find this far more repulsive and offensive than I do all the Heroes for Hentai and MJ "comiquettes" put together.

Guess I prefer titillation to rotting flesh. Call me crazy.

Found at Chris Butcher's, and also the Manstream LJ Community.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Since I've been privileged to have Lea Hernandez as an LJ-friend, I've seen a lot of her opinionated writing on a number of subjects, seen quite a few lively and colorful single panel illustrations, and read about how she and her family have managed to get their lives back on track after that devastating house fire. I've seen everything, it seems, but her sequential art- and it's easy to forget how good a storyteller she can be. For an excellent reminder, here's the first installment of her online comic Texas Steampunk I: Cathedral Child, all for free and in its entirety.

Finished watching Terry Gilliam's Tideland yesterday.

At the beginning, Gilliam appears to address the audience in a scenario that reminded me of old films (such as Frankenstein, unless I'm mistaken) in which the director or some other interested party would step out and make the case for tolerance or understanding of the film they were about to present. In it, he states that some will love it, some will hate it, and some won't know what to think about it. I'm afraid I fall in that camp.

As with any Gilliam film, it's full of arresting imagery and odd characters, and a sort of muted-down dash of Monty Python view-askance humor. But it's presented in a such a shrill and hyperactive way that it becomes an endurance test instead of a showcase to depict how a child's essential innocence can deal with any sort of dire situation. And this one is dire indeed.

Jeliza-Rose, played with assurance and dodgy southern twang by Jodelle Ferland, is the daughter of way-past-the-sell by-date musician and junkie Noah (Jeff Bridges, who has this kind of role down to a science) and grotesque Courtney Love-analog Queen Gunhilda (Jennifer Tilly). Jeliza-Rose pretty much is the only reasonably competent member of the household, even to the point of cooking up her dad's smack and assisting him after he shoots up. When Gunhilda overdoses on methadone, the father and daughter flee to his Grandmother's house in Texas, which they find deserted and looking like something out of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre when they arrive. Later that night, Dad shoots up, overdoses, and Jeliza-Rose is left to her own devices...which include having frenzied, running conversations with her disembodied doll heads and encountering her neighbors, a deraged, witchlike taxidermist (eventually she administers her craft to Dad, and it's not the first time she's done so, to humans that is) and her lobotomized brother.

Somehow Gilliam manages to depict all this gruesomeness in imaginative fashion, but after a while the all the hysterics become wearing, and no amount of visual spice can help.

It's a brave film, I suppose, especially in this era that reveres and strives to protect the perceived innocence of children above and beyond all else. Performances are fine for the most part; Tilly is amusing in her limited screentime, and Bridges is always good, but the actors portraying Dell (the taxidermist) and Dickens (the brother) could have stood to have dialed it down a couple of notches. Anyway, I wish that there had been more of a point to it all- sure, we see that Jeliza-Rose can cope by descending into (what I perceived, anyway) as madness, but is that really a compelling reason to ask us to donate two hours of our time?

Tideland, I must conclude, seems to be for hardcore Gilliam admirers only, and few others. As several reviewers have noted, it appropriately ends with a trainwreck...but that's not fair. It has many merits...but sifting through the sludge to glean them may be too much to ask for those who aren't already acolytes, like me.

(Cross-posted from the LJ)

Your Art Appreciation link for today: Mike Maihack's Buffalog. More of his work can be found at

The above is an illustration of Yoshimi of Flaming Lips fame. Cool, huh!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Just an observation, and I'm sure it's not startlingly original, but what with everybody (on the Net, anyway) talking about Heroes For Hire covers and Dark Mary here, I can't help but shake my head at how eagerly and how successfully all these otherwise well-meaning commentators are providing publicity for characters and books that otherwise nobody much really cares about at all. I mean who, besides the fine folks who write and put out Alter Ego, really talked about, or even cared much, about Mary Marvel anyway? Actually, the last time I remember this much Mary M discussion going on was when this, JLA Classified #8, came out. Seems like the only way that dear, sweet Mary can get any attention is when she dresses in black and acts all naughty. What this says about people is up to you, dear reader.

I'm just a little surprised at how everyone, myself included with this very post, seems to be so eager and willing to perpetuate all that hype and publicity for character developments and depictions that they regard as vile, in poor taste, unnecessary, and at best regrettable.

"But what should we do?" You ask- "If we see something we feel isn't right, we must bring it to light in order to express our displeasure and let those who perpetuate such tripe know that we find it reprehensible and hold them accountable!" And that's true, this being America and all that. But where does protesting begin and unintentional shilling end? Ya got me. It's a fine line.

Me personally? Well, my knee-jerk reaction is to be sad that once more a light-at-heart character must be presented in a dark fashion in order to stimulate the presumed audience, which apparently can't get enough "serious" takes on the licenses. I don't necessarily have that rose-colored viewpoint a lot of the fanmen/women out there have, that superhero comics should be, by strict definition, "fun", "lighthearted", "escapist", and any number of adjectives you can come up with, like they "used to be" when (insert the decade the speaker grew up reading such comics here). I grew up in the 60's and 70's, reading every comic I could get my hands on back then, and to be fair a lot of that storytelling was also adjectives like "cliched", "trite", "dumbed down", "formulaic", and anything that grownups could glean out of them had to be read between the lines, or appeared in obscure corners of each company, in titles such as Killraven, Warlock, and others. I lean towards finding it regrettable, but am not exactly sure I prefer this to Dark Mary above there. For sure, the excesses of the Garth Ennises and Frank Millers out there often cross that selfsame line, but without someone willing to tae a more realistic, "adult" look at comics and comic characters, we wouldn't have the likes of Chase, Hellstorm, Timespirits, American: Flagg!, Planetary, and many, many more. So what's an (presumed) adult reader with no real inclination to see his reading art form of choice revert to the fashion in which they appeared in his childhood to do?

Persevere, I guess.

On a tangential note, I wish that a certain writer whose work I normally admire wouldn't hold this attitude:

A character who stays cute, charismatic and funny isn’t very interesting. So, it’s better to put that character through some tests and see if they come out the way they came in, or if they undergo some changes that ultimately make them a stronger, more interesting character.

Sounds like it's easier to rely on absolutes like the above, rather than try to make such characters interesting. Makes me very concerned for Jingle Belle and Sheriff Ida Red. Anyway, I have no doubt that status quo will be restored eventually, and it doesn't sound like anything really Sue Dibny-esque will be involved, so I find it hard to really get het up about it, especially since I cheerfully passed on 52 and have no plans to get Countdown either.

And heaven help me, I kinda like the black shinyl vinyl costume. I'm such a pig sometimes.

Spinner Rack Junkie is coming soon, if anybody's interested.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Something You Don't See Every Day Dept.: A history of Major League Baseball, of sorts, done in a series of paintings in the style of those classic orange crate labels.


I picked the above illo because it had those 1970's White Sox uniforms that I liked so much. Well, I liked the the cap and jerseys...and preferred the long pants with non-stirruped striped white socks.

Friday, June 08, 2007

No, this isn't a repeat of my Sgt. Pepper post.

I have no idea if anyone else has linked to this, but to commemorate the anniversary of that album's release, the Sun updated Peter Blake's classic cover with current stars and noteworthy (if Britcentric) personalities, and none other than Uncle Stan the Man Lee was included among that number. See if you can find him!

Go here for a complete list of who's who.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Aw, hell no.

Apologies for the busted link. Guess I was so horrified my fingers were palsied with revulsion.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Good morning! Hope everyone had a great weekend.

It's a little slow here at work this Monday morning, so I've been killing time looking over what's available for pre-order at DCBS, for when I make my order out for reals. These are two of the upcoming titles that caught my eye:

Another attempt to update and revive the METAL MEN, this time drawn and scripted by Duncan Rouleau, whose work I've seen here and there but which has mostly appeared in DC titles I rarely buy. His style is a bit too Amerimangaesque for my tastes, but it looks OK, and that new Copper robot is a cutie. (I'm a sad, sad man.) On the writing side, his ideas sound pretty good, for post 52-type stuff, even though I don't understand why Platinum had to be renamed "Platina". Huhwha? Anyway, overall it sounds intriguing, so I think I'll check out the first few issues anyway. I've always kinda-sorta liked the Metal Men...and if Rouleau brings back the Sizzler, I'll be even more impressed!

The team that brought us that great Daughters of the Dragon mini that went south so fast once it became Heroes for Hire is turning their attention to Shanna the She-Devil in a miniseries called "Survival of the Fittest". I'll buy this simply because I liked Daughters so much. And yeah, I like Shanna too.

Finally, this was solicited last month but I didn't order it:

This is Green Arrow: Year One by the Losers team of Andy Diggle and Jock. Blame the Engine for this; I was gonna ignore it because, well, it's Green Arrow fer Chrissakes and I've never really liked the character all that much...but Jock started posting covers and pages on the Engine message board, and I couldn't help myself. I emailed DCBS and asked them to add it to my order...but if t hey don't I guess I'll make the drive south to the Great Escape to pick it up.

Finally, since I know you all breathlessly await knowing what I'll be getting in my comics shipment every other week, here's my box, due today:

THE RIDE: DIE VALKYRIE #1 (what can I say- cars, girls, guns. I'm a pig.)

More later, perhaps. By the way, I'm up to issue #17 of Fate...

Friday, June 01, 2007

I was 7 years old in 1967, so frankly, I have no real recollection of when I first became aware of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts' Club Band. I knew the Beatles, sure- you may recall me writing, at some point or another, about how one of my earliest childhood memories was seeing the Fabs on Ed Sullivan, and my parents' bemused reaction, and that fabled copy of Meet the Beatles that my Aunt Lavana owned, but didn't like nearly as much as I did, and she wound up giving it to me because I was constantly playing it on her record player when she wasn't at home. Both my parents worked, y'see, so I stayed days with my father's parents before I started school, and my Aunt lived at home with them for a while. Beatles merchandise was everywhere; mostly in the form of bubblegum cards, which I bought as often as possible, and while I didn't own any records myself (save for that Meet the Beatles), I always loved hearing their songs on the radio or at older neighborhood kids' houses, and seeing the occasional TV appearance, including the Saturday morning cartoon series, which I never missed. Looking back, I'm amazed that Lennon's "More popular than Jesus" remark didn't become a sore point with my parents, especially my devout Baptist father; but then again, they always encouraged me (mostly) to read all kinds of things and listen to all types of music, so perhaps they got the gist of what John was saying, if they even thought about it all that much.

Anyway, I digress.

I believe it was sometime early in 1968 when I got my first copy of Sgt. Pepper; I had read things here and there in the newspaper, and had read a long article in the World Book Year Book about the Summer of Love, especially the music, and of course Pepper's was a big part of the piece. I was very curious by then, and had already had a few LPs bought for me, mostly of the kids' stories variety- I recall a spoken-word Legend of Sleepy Hollow-Tell-Tale Heart album, as well as a Jonny Quest LP and a few music 45s. So one day, when I was in Bowling Green shopping with my Mom at a Big K store, I made my move, and asked her to buy it for me. When I got it home, I listened to it constantly- at eight, of course I couldn't really judge it like I would now or compare it to what I had heard before, but I could tell that it was just different than the likes of "Eight Days a Week", "She Loves You", or "I Feel Fine"- it was operating in a different dimension, a more imaginative and more visual one which I thought was very exciting. I remember spending hours playing with another recent acquisition, a Frustration Ball, and listening to Pepper's, trying to pop the little balls in the little cups while Indian sitars and music hall clarinets played in the background.

But of course, I grew up, and as I got older I got a progressively better grip on just what exactly the Four Lads were all about...and even though I was too young to be affected by the Summer of Love and the impact it made, my fandom was cemented throughout the late 60's and 70's, when they went their own ways and made their own individual sounds. While I came to love all their albums, from Magical Mystery Tour to the great Revolver to Abbey Road and beyond, Pepper's still maintained a special place in my listening routine. I owned it on 8-track, eventually acquired a new vinyl copy, and when CDs became easily available in the 1980's, I made Pepper's the very first compact disc I ever bought on its 20th anniversary, 1987.

So to make a long post longer, I thought that here on the 40th anniversary (since I still can't legally download the mp3's), I'd take Pepper's track-by-track and share my opinions and comments on each of its songs.

And I hope I don't sing out of key.

SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND: The opener establishes the feel and connective thread of this not-quite concept album; it's not like all these songs are related per se, but the concept is a group of tunes performed by a fictional band. I've always liked the chunky guitar riff (probably McCartney) and the funky rhythm that Ringo plays in this song; sometimes it's a shame that the sound effects and cute conceits take over, but the song is so cheerful that it doesn't matter. Jimi Hendrix did a decent cover of this song live, and if I'm not mistaken a version came out on one of his posthumous LP releases.

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS: Ringo's genial showcase, with its almost-mock humility, plays perfectly into Mr. Starkey's strengths. Some classic lines ("What do you see when you turn out the light/I can't tell you but I know it's mine") and a strong melody. Cocker's slowed-down blues version was good, but it didn't eclipse this.

LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS: At 8, of course I had no idea about the LSD rumor, which was convincingly shot down by Lennon over twenty years ago. I responded to the wonderful Lennonesque wordplay more than I did the meandering melody, as I recall, and that remains true today. This song had a really nice showcase in Yellow Submarine. That said, if you ask me, of all the Pepper songs this one has dated the least gracefully.

GETTING BETTER: Of course, I didn't know it at the time, but of all the Pepper tracks this one sounds the most like it would have fit on Revolver seamlessly. The bopping, cheerful melody belies the self-hating Lennon lyrics. British roots-rock band Gomez did a really nice cover of this, some of which was used by GE in commercials for a year or so.

FIXING A HOLE: This one probably would have fit in on Revolver, too, but its jazzy shuffle might not have set easy. This is a track which I didn't care for so much at first, but years and years later I've begun to enjoy it more and more, especially the middle section where a guitar riffs over a Macca-sung "hey-hey heyyyy".

SHE'S LEAVING HOME: Probably my least favorite track on the album, but it's still very strong melodically and the " leeeeea-ving....hooo-ooome" interludes are touching. Harry Nilsson did a decent cover, and I think I sometimes prefer Bryan Ferry's take on the mostly forgettable All This and World War II 2-LP set to the original. Go here to see the trailer for that bizarre, and little-seen film. I didn't know until just a couple of weeks ago that George Martin didn't score the strings! Apparently he wasn't very happy about it either...

BEING FOR THE BENEFIT OF MR. KITE: Another one in which I liked Lennon's wordplay, mostly copied verbatim from a circus poster. Catchy melody and imaginative aural collages make this one unforgettable. Took on a whole new dimension years later when I watched George Martin sitting at the mixing board and pushing sliders up and down to demonstrate how many sounds were in the mix while listening to the backing tracks they put together on a FOUR TRACK RECORDER in a documentary made to coincide with the 20th anniversary. It aired on Disney Channel, believe it or not.

WITHIN YOU WITHOUT YOU: George's sole songwriting contribution is very misunderstood, and often gets dismissed when considering this album. Sure, it's full of the then-trendy Indian instrumentation, and as such is very dated as well...but you don't forget the melody easily, the lyrics are among the best, and certainly among the truest, that George ever wrote, and the middle instrumental section, where symphonic strings glide in and among the tablas and sitars, is made of genius. It's become one of my absolute favorite Pepper tracks.

WHEN I'M 64: More twee McCartneyisms; litle did we know he would make a solo career out of this sort of thing. Still, it's a nice tune, 8-year-old me got a kick out of hearing the "Vera, Chuck and Dave" part, and it's still very catchy. It also got a clever showcase in Yellow Submarine, and on a personal note, I'll never forget one evening at the Baker Street Cafe, back when I used to play guitar on open stage nights there, in which someone sat down at the piano and started to play this song...and I was the only one who knew all the words so I got to sing it. It got me and the piano player a nice hand and I got a couple of beers bought for me out of the deal. Good times.

LOVELY RITA: This is probably the most overlooked track on Pepper, probably for good reason; it doesn't really sound finished to my ears. The extended heavy-breathing fadeout that takes up the last minute or so of the song would seem to bear this out. Still, the lyrics are clever, and it's catchy in that way that only Macca can do catchy. The great Roy Wood did a disappointing cover on the aforementioned WWII album.

GOOD MORNING GOOD MORNING: Lennon typically denigrated this one (and another favorite Fab cut of mine, "Cry Baby Cry") as "gobbledygook" in interviews later in his life, but I've always thought that he was dead wrong and was too self-depricating in this case. Inspired by TV commercials, and ostensibly about being self-absorbed as well as the communication gap that often exists between people, it benefits from a wicked McCartney guitar lick in the middle. Again, like "Rita", the animal sound effects at the end would seem to signify that they didn't know how to end it otherwise, but it serves as a great segue to...

SGT. PEPPER'S REPRISE: Which is just a short-and-sweet rock-out return to the opener, and I've always loved how they run the "SgtPeppersOneandOnlyLonelyHeartsClubBand" line together towards the end. The Beastie Boys sampled the Ringo drum lick which begins this on Paul's Boutique, to great effect.

A DAY IN THE LIFE: Lots and lots of brilliance going on here, possibly the most seamlessly stitched-together of all the songs that Lennon and McCartney wrote in piecemeal fashion together...or if the stitches show, the garment as a whole is impeccable. So influential, you still catch writers and musicians using several of the lines and ideas put forth here. For the comics fans among you, it was either Steve Gerber or Mike Friedrich, I forget, which worked the "4000 holes in Blackburn, Lancashire" into a Son of Satan story in Marvel Spotlight in the 70's. Again, in that documentary I mentioned earlier, I was greatly amused to find out that when they were recording the part where they come back in after the classic ascending orchestra section, they had the late Mal Evans counting down to keep the musicians on cue, and then an alarm clock rang to let them know when the time had come. The clock stayed in, Mal didn't. One of Lennon's best vocal performances.

FEW SECONDS OF GOBBLEDYGOOK AT THE END: This wasn't on the US LP release, so I didn't hear it until I got the CD. Don't know how I ever made it without experiencing it.

And that's it. I think Pepper's is certainly a landmark album, and deserves (mostly) the praise it's received over the decades. Personally, I don't think it's the best Beatle album- for my money, Revolver remains their creative apex. Pepper's is perhaps just a little too self-consciously arty to be perfect, and the weakest cuts on Revolver are better than "Lovely Rita" or "She's Leaving Home", which gets cut by "For No One" if nothing else. Still, it's a great record just the same, and will hopefully sound as good forty years from now as it did four decades ago.

Time for me to step into the Friday Night Fights ring, hosted by the mighty Bahlactus!

One of my favorite haymaker punches, as drawn by Neal Adams and as thrown by the Batman on Hellgrammite in Brave and the Bold #80. Wasn't quite as effective as he hoped, though...