Thursday, January 31, 2008

As a fanboy I am made of fail, as my two weeks' worth of comics shipment, arriving tomorrow (fingers crossed) bears out. Want proof? Here's proof:

FAKER #6
HELLBLAZER #240
WILL EISNER'S THE SPIRIT #13
JACK STAFF SPECIAL #1
DAREDEVIL #104

That's it! Of course, I'm still trying to get through several GNs and collections, not to mention the "real" book reading I'm attempting to do right now...so fear not, my eyes will get no rest.

As you may have guessed, I'm most excited about that JACK STAFF SPECIAL; Paul Grist has been working ahead, I hear, to try and maintain a monthly schedule and this one-shot is supposed to be one of those "jumping on points" you hear so much about. FAKER gets its finale, and I don't have high hopes for it; despite its pedigree, it's been dull and confusing and shouldn't go in a prominent place on either creator's resume. Of course, I reserve the right to be surprised. HELLBLAZER and DAREDEVIL have been consistently good and consistently readable lately, so no worries there, and who the hell knows what THE SPIRIT's grab-bag of creators will bring to the table. Hopefully more than the last grab-bag group.

And uf cuss I will review them all, in good time...in good time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008



Well, whaddaya know- in a move which would seem to be the complete antithesis of what DC stands for these days, they're BRINGING BACK AMBUSH BUG! And not only that, but it will be by original creative team (well, on the miniseries, anyway) Keith Giffen and Bob (little series called Thriller) Fleming. Inks will be by the redoubtable Al Milgrom, who takes over from the late Bob Oksner.

You just never know sometimes, do ya.
Today, we will observe the grande finale of DC/Vertigo's long running Y: The Last Man series. It lasted 60 issues; I only made it to #8 myself. The concept was a fairly fresh one, especially for comics, but Vaughn's writing style (with a few exceptions, such as his recent Doctor Strange mini) has always struck me as undistinguished, and the art was passable in its bland sort of generic Vertigo house style way- in my opinion, of course. I just got bored with it pretty fast- it seemed like Vaughan had thought it through pretty well prior to beginning, but as I recall it just seemed like all the situations he placed his hero (Yorick, not his sister) in were somewhat contrived and clich├ęd, and it began to come across to me like he was spinning his wheels towards the end, so I dropped it. Thousands of other readers obviously disagreed with my lukewarm take, and much commemorating and commiserating is taking place in the title's wake. Since I am freely willing to admit that I might have been hasty, I thought it would be interesting to go waaaay back into the JBS Archives and exhume the capsule "too short to be real" reviews I wrote back when I was a committed buyer.

And I'm a little surprised- I never gave it a grade lower than B, which indicates that I thought it was somewhat enjoyable, but just not particularly exciting. I could only find capsules of #'s 5-8; I started blogging back in 2002, and #5's piece was from the very first review column I wrote for this blog. The reviews I wrote for the first four issues were on the old DC Message Boards, where I started inflicting my opinions on other people; I suppose they're archived somewhere but that's a lot more trouble than I want to go to right now. Anyway, here they are, such as they were:

Y: THE LAST MAN 5: I still say that this doesn't deserve half the praise it receives, but in spite of myself I actually enjoyed this chapter. Guess I'll be buying #6 after all. B (Nov. '02)

Y: THE LAST MAN 6: Overpraised and underwhelming, this continues on in its not-bad but not-outstanding way. I'm still interested in where it's all going, so I still buy and shall continue to do so for the time being. B (Dec. '02)

Y: THE LAST MAN 7: How the heck did this make top three? Can't really say, guess it just grabbed me more than it usually does, or maybe the rest of the stack wasn't all that great. But here it is just the same. B+ (Jan. '02)

Y: THE LAST MAN 8: No better or no worse than previous issues, this title has sort of settled into a bland complacency. It's not poorly done, and it's readable, but I'm losing interest fast, and I'm thinking that this will be my last issue. I really didn't buy Yorick's reaction at the end, either, especially considering the circumstances. B (Feb. '02)

Alas, poor Yorick- I didn't know him very well at all, it seems.

For more on Y, check out Heidi's overview at the Beat- she was the original editor when the book launched.

ETA: I suppose I could have gone back and reread them, to see if I liked them any better a few years on...but I sold them on the eBay a month or two ago for about six times what I paid for each issue! Sweet. Maybe someday I'll buy a trade or two, if I find them on the cheap, and read beyond #8...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

CONFESSIONS OF A SPINNER RACK JUNKIE



Yes, cats and kittens, it's time once more for another Spinner Rack Junkie- that more-or-less ongoing feature in which I write "Burst Culture" reviews of various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted said "too short to be real" reviews upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately 7 to 25 January, 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.

Before I get started, let me revisit one comic that I kinda/sorta reviewed last time around- CASANOVA 11, a typically gnarly Bond-movie casino job riff that is especially noteworthy for the depiction of the death of casino owner Suki Boutique at the hands of Casanova Quinn's half sister Zephyr, which as illustrated by Fabio Moon is a wonderfully understated and quite touching scene. Moon skillfully manages to wring pathos out of a tableau that necessitates sympathy for a character we only met a handful of pages ago, and know only a bare minimum about. Matt Fraction also under-writes it admirably. I had skimmed over #11 in my haste to get that last SRJ up before the end of 2007, and didn't really devote as much attention to that story as I should have. The "liner notes" at the end were especially helpful. Good job all around, fellas- even though the whole of the Casanova quilt remains a helter-skelter tapestry, some of the individual parts are outstanding. Now, on with the Show.

100 BULLETS #87: The Standard Review: Another well-done issue what will engage the already engaged, baffle the uninitiated, and even baffle the initiated upon occasion. I think I'll just cut and paste this review for the next 13 issues. I do think Azz has been reading some Cormac McCarthy, though. B+

AMERICAN VIRGIN #22: In a funny way, I think foreknowledge of impending cancellation has been good for this book- it's forced writer Seagle to stop going off on tangents and focus on the most interesting thing- the dysfunctional Chamberlain family and their various relationship issues. As we head into the home stretch, you can see Seagle furiously tying up plot threads, and to his credit it doesn't seem especially rushed. Of course, Cloonan and Rugg are outstanding as always. I will not be a happy camper, though, if the big revelation Mel is getting ready to drop negatively impacts Adam and Vannessa- she's been the best thing about the comic for over a year now. B+

B.P.R.D.: 1946 #1: As the Hellboy franchise begins to spead itself thinner and thinner, and Mike Mignola distances himself further and further from his most famous creation, it's good to see (in this case anyway) that the quality control standards of the custodians still has the sharps to recruit Paul Azaceta, whose art was the best thing about the very good BOOM! limited series Talent. An illustrator in that John Paul Leon/Tommy Lee Edwards style, he gives this flashback adventure, which stars Hellboy's deceased father figure Professor Bruttenholm, real visual panache and a nice grubby versimillitude thanks to his blocky, thick ink line. Writer this time out is Joshua Dysart with whom I'm completely unfamiliar, but he does a nice job with pacing and dialogue. I especially liked the oddball reveal of the USSR's "Head of Arcane Studies and Esoteric Teachings", who is depicted as a vodka-swilling young female child, dressed in curls and a frilly dress a la Princess Anastasia. Of course, this is only issue one, but if this series can maintain this unpredictable tone, then this will be a good one. A-

CATWOMAN #75: Y'know, you have to give it up for Will Pfiefer. Editorial can hand him the biggest piles of crap imaginable and thanks to his solid dialogue style and sharp plotting sense, he can make it readable almost every time. Case in point, someone's decision to shoehorn Catwoman into the Sci-Fi Spandex Lord of the Flies wannabe opus Salvation Run, which may be a masterpiece of sequential fiction for all I know but I ain't gonna read it on general principles so there- but damned if this doesn't go down smoothly thanks to Will's deft characterization hand not only in regards to Selina but Luthor as well, making the interaction work very efficiently. If you've got to stick this character on an alien planet ferchrissakes, at least let it read like this. Los companeros Lopez are doing their usual solid job on art; while sometimes I wish their figures were a bit more graceful there's nothing wrong with their layouts and pacing. A-

FELL #9: In which this prodigal funnybook returns with the good detective (who, I noticed for the first time, reminds me a little of Tintin grown up and gone seedy) acting as a hostage negotiator in a standoff situation. Of course, there's a twist, and Ellis gets a chance to try to jam in a point about the US healthcare system which gives off a slight scent of straw man. Ben Templesmith gets in some really clever stuff here, especially when he shows us Fell's thought processes as he ascertains the location of the perp. Nice to have the detective back; hope it won't be so long in between issues next time. B+

HAWAIIAN DICK: SCREAMING BLACK THUNDER #2: As much as I love Scott Chantler's Northwest Passage, and as good as he has been so far here as well, there is a certain exaggeration and (for lack of a better term) cartoonishness to his figure drawings that clashes a little with the events he's depicting and that's a shame because this is, in spite of everything, a really good little story unfolding- reminds me just a little of the Archie Goodwin/Alex Toth Batman story "Death Flies the Haunted Skies". I think following this with the back-feature by original artist Steve Griffin may add to this perception; I can't help but compare, and Griffen's more earthy style just fits the concept and the characters better. Still, I'm enjoying this, as well as the Kahani-centric backup (also written by Griffin), and wouldn't have 'em change a gosh darn thing. B+

IMMORTAL IRON FIST #12: Another outstanding issue in one of the more exciting and lively storylines in recent superhero comics memory. Nice to see more Kano art, and prodigal illustrator Javier Pulido, whose work I've enjoyed in the past, gets a few pages as well. For more of what makes this series so exceptional, may I direct you to a couple of posts by the fine fellows at Thought Balloonists? A

LOBSTER JOHNSON: THE IRON PROMETHEUS #5: A cluttered, chaotic, finale for a cluttered, chaotic, series. Lobster Johnson served as a decent change-of-pace mystery when Mignola jammed him into Hellboy stories, but when featured in his own title sans the big red guy, he can't be anything more than a poor man's Shadow, no matter how much weird crap the writers shovel in. There are better places to get pulp-style action, just sayin'. C

NORTHLANDERS #2: In which our Sven, the lead character, spends several pages reinforcing what a bastard he apparently is, and since lineage looks like it's going to be important in this series, I mean in a figurative more than a literal sense. He also gets to "meet cute" with some sort of feral archer woman who shoots at him early on, and I think we all know where this is going. So far, this isn't bad, but it's lacking a certain something somewhere- to me it has a generic look and feel about it, despite the unusual subject matter, and that's disappointing. Still, I'm interested enough in where it's going to keep buying for now. B+

OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #4: This comic is getting seriously weird, you know, but everything is working- writers John Lethem and Karl Rusnak, with their detached, deadpan style that is matched equally by the po-faced illustration work of Faryl Dalrymple, is doing a great job of evoking tension and anticipation simply by establishing early on that pretty much anything can happen. And believe you me, it's a hell of a thing to read a comic that isn't predictable, one in which anything could happen. Plus, there are mysteries within mysteries- just why the hell did Omega capture and cook that eagle anyway- that hopefully will be if not revealed, at least expounded on before it's all said and done. If this sounds like too much work for you, o Countdown/World War Hulk fan, well, it probably is and you might not like. But if you don't mind thinking a little as you read, then you should check this out, if not in singles format, when and if it's collected. A

WILL EISNER'S THE SPIRIT #12: When Darywn Cooke announced that he was going to attempt to do the Spirit, I was excited- I thought his retro art style would be perfect (and I wasn't wrong) for the character. The biggest problem has always been his scripts- while he is an good writer, when compared to the Eisner collective, unfair I know but the comparison must be made, he always came up short. Sometimes he got close, though, and those issues were fine reading indeed. But the modern sensibilities he tried to inject usually always clashed and grated, sometimes the satire was forced and not especially funny, and the horror-movie themed story turned out to be a disaster. I know that it's possible for today's creators to do the character well; Kitchen Sink's forgotten 90's series The New Adventures of the Spirit proved that, hitting as often as it missed. Of course, to be fair, this was also a group of different writers and artists on a per-issue basis, and Cooke was trying to do this all by himself (with, of course, stellar inking assists by Jason Bone) on a monthly basis to boot- a daunting task, and I don't need to tell you that Eisner and Co. were hard acts to follow. This final issue is a retelling of the Sand Saref story (which was itself a reworked "John Law" story, as you may know), and it's done very well despite the familiarity of the plot. Cooke does some rejiggering, as is his wont, and most of the changes work, although I was sorry to see the most memorable supporting character he created, double agent Hussein, meet his maker. And of course, his art as inked by Jason Bone is superlative. All in all, a respectable way to bow out, and if he wasn't always a success in this task he set out for himself, I'm glad as hell he gave it a try. B

TEEN TITANS: THE LOST ANNUAL: Speaking of what-the-hell approaches to comics writing, here we have that old stalwart Bob Haney's swan song, and bet your ass that Haney knew it, too- even in the old days, he wouldn't have concocted something this off the wall if he knew that he was gonna have to script the next dozen or so issues of Teen Titans, too. Jay Stephens and Mike Allred's art doesn't mesh as well as you'd think it would- I like both gentlemen on their own (my problems with Allred are script-related only), but Allred grounds Stephens' ordinarily fanciful style- awkward anatomy and disjointed layouts also are a problem. Stephens isn't accustomed to doing this sort of mainstream super-hero stuff, and it shows. One does miss the more kinetic style of Nick Cardy (as does Bat Lash), who is at least represented on the cover and some over-rendered pencil sketches. All things considered, though, while it's seldom dull this is a rambling and overlong mess; Haney's attempts to have the Titans speak through beatnik slang grate as much in 2008 as they did in 1966, and the whole Wellsian "Morlocks vs. Eloi in Space" tale he cooked up just doesn't coalesce like his best scripts back in the day often could. I'm not sure that the whole riff on JFK's death isn't in poor taste, too. Oh well, like Haney could give a shit. This is a fiasco, but it's at least a colorful fiasco and it deserved to see the light of day a lot sooner than it did. C


Reviews of I SHALL DESTROY ALL THE CIVILIZED PLANETS! THE COMICS OF FLETCHER HANKS, Adam Warren's EMPOWERED #'s 1 & 2, JACK KIRBY'S FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS vols. I and II, and Matt Kindt's SUPER SPY, all of which are taking me a while to get through, will most likely be in the NEXT Spinner Rack Junkie, coming soon to this here blog.

Friday, January 25, 2008

I haven't read the books, nor I haven't seen the film, but I am becoming utterly fascinated with Persepolis. No doubt you've already seen these links via Tom and Journalista, but in case you haven't, I'd just like to pass on the word that the redoubtable M.E. Russell has a great illustrated interview as only he can do, as well as an even longer text Q & A with creator Marjane Satrapi.

I think you should read it! But be warned- if you are inclined to have tender sensibilities about politics and abortion rights, you might not find it to your liking.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

THESE ARE COMICS COVERS THAT CAUGHT MY EYE WHILST PERUSING DC'S APRIL SOLICITS.



AND THIS IS WHAT I WAS THINKING AS I SO PERUSED.

From the top, working my way down.

TINY TITANS #3: Aww, it's so cute. But DC can put this out, and not Sugar and Spike? Just askin'. Will I be buying? Nah. I'd buy this before I'd buy something like Superman/Batman or Salvation Run, though...

THE SPIRIT #16: Now, you all know I love me some Bruce Timm...but how the hell did the clapperboard guy avoid getting filled with bullets? Buyin'? Probably. I intend to give Evanier, Aragones and Ploog a shot.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: 1,050 YEARS IN THE FUTURE TP: Hey, a Neal Adams cover! DC be kickin' it old-school. Adams must be kickin' it old-school, too because it looks a lot like figures taken from this cover and redrawn...! Wonder if my dear, sweet, much-missed Kinetix makes an appearance in one of these reprints? Buyin? Only if Zoe's in it.

JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA: THE INJUSTICE LEAGUE HC: I bet they were SO PROUD of Ian Churchill when he burst in to the editorial offices and said "See! See! Look! I can draw JUST LIKE ARTHUR ADAMS! All by myself!" He got many pats on the head for that, I'm sure, since as we know Adams can't draw everything. For some reason, I find the insanely detailed zipper on Poison Ivy's costume very amusing. Buyin'? Nah.

DETECTIVE COMICS #843: I like the helter-skelter jumble of Scarfaces with the striking red-dressed femme fatale lying in the middle. It's not particularly innovative, and for all I know will have little to do with what's inside, but I like the way this one's laid out and drawn. Dustin Nguyen, by the way. What is it with all these talented, and apparently unrelated, Nguyens in the comics world these days? Buyin'? No.

CATWOMAN #78: Ouch, babe! Selina goes Mike Tyson one better. This one may (and I can understand why) squick Ragnell out, but I kinda like it- it's a much more frenzied, more dynamic look for Adam Hughes, who usually goes for the graceful and/or static pose, in the best pinup artist tradition. Reminds me almost of Duncan Fregredo. Buyin'? Most definitely. I still think that Catwoman is DC's best ongoing superhero book, no matter how hard they try to make Pfieffer screw it up.

COUNTDOWN SPECIAL: KAMANDI, THE LAST BOY ON EARTH 80-PAGE GIANT: I'm sure they had their reasons, but I wonder why they chose the three seemingly random issues represented herein? Y'know, growing up I would buy the occasional issue of Kamandi, but never really was a big fan of what Kirby was doing with the book. Perhaps one of these days I should try to get the Archives edition that came out to see if they scan better now that I'm a theoretical adult. Personally, I wish they'd just put out a 2-volume Showcase Presents Kamandi and be done with it, and I don't think the King would mind. Really nice cover by Ryan Sook. I would totally buy a Evan Dorkin-scripted Sook-illustrated Kamandi toot sweet. Buyin'? Maybe.

CROSSING MIDNIGHT #18: I like this cover- no surprise, it's J.H. Williams III at his most painterly. Too bad about this lame-duck series; I skimmed the first couple of issues and it didn't grab me, so I haven't been buying. Lately, though, I've been mulling over picking up a trade- I mean, I trust Mike Carey on stuff like this, and always thought Jim Fern was a solid, if unspectacular, artist in his Ernie Colon style. Buyin'? Nope!

BIRDS OF PREY #117: OH, I SEE HOW IT IS. If I wanna read about Manhunter, DC tells me, then I gotta buy BoP, which I've always found dull and unexciting. WELL. Sorry, DC, no will do. It's either Manhunter in her own book or nothing. Buyin'? Uh...no.

THE ALL NEW ATOM #22: Here's another title which I ignored at first, but have read so much about that now I'm kinda thinking about picking up the first trade perhaps, just to sample. I'm sure it's been through a dozen writers and artists since then, though, so I don't know what good that will do me but my blogosphere brethren sure have made me curious! I see here where Strange Girl's Rick Remender is taking over the scripting chores, which doesn't exactly dust my ruffle, and new artist Pat Ollife may be a "fan-favorite penciller" but his stuff looks like every other DC and Marvel art drone of the last 10 years to me, so meh. Talk about someone who's overlooked, though- Jose Ladronn, the cover artist, turns out brilliant cover after brilliant cover, and nobody says a word. This one reminds me a lot of classic paperback novel cover art. Buyin'? Nah.

Finally,
AMERICAN SPLENDOR SEASON TWO #1. While I've never been an avid reader of Pekar's previous work, I did enjoy much of Season One. I probably won't buy this, but I like that Philip Bond cover for some reason- well, besides the fact that it's Bond, of course, and I usually always like his stuff. Buyin'? Definitely maybe not.


I think I'll take a stab at Marvel, Image, Dark Horse, and so on later. Ta!

Monday, January 21, 2008

When I was a wee lad, I used to buy a great many comics that weren't superhero titles; I would buy other companies' offerings, and once in a while (when I'd see one) I'd buy an issue of Bunny Ball. Yes, it's true. I never really got into Millie the Model or her rival Chili, or Patsy Walker (not until Hellstorm), nor was I a big Archie fan although I did buy some upon occasion. But Bunny was something else again, what I don't know- or don't care to say- because I'm a nice guy and all-around swell person and don't care to denigrate the honest efforts, no matter how inept they were, of those middle-aged men trying to be all hip, psychedelic and "yvoorg". All I know is that something about Bunny comics clicked with 6-7 year old me, who didn't really know any better, just like I'm sure they intended.

Anyway, as a result of my childhood indulgence, I retain no small amount of nostalgia for the exploits of Bunny, and Fruitman, and her artist boyfriend Marc Schlumper...and was tickled to find a blog post, on a blog that I was heretofore unaware of named I'm Learning to Share, that features a generous amount of scans from several issues of Miss Ball's comic book, posted on my birthday no less, and I thought I'd hip you all to that zoovy happening!

Here's another panel from a Bunny story, starring the Bunnyworld's answer to Sly and the Family Stone, "The Soular System"!



Phantasmagorical!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Posting has dropped off a bit, yeah I know, but I've been spending my time wisely I think; I've been reading. Specifically, I've been reading a spate of books that I have acquired for Christmas, as I posted about the other day, and none has been as interesting as one of the few fresh takes on the well-worn saga of the Beatles: Stephen Gould's Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America.

As this NY Times review states:

"Gould aims to meld the three primary, often distinct strands of Beatle bibliography — biography, music appreciation and pop sociology — into a single volume, a mother ship of Beatles books, with, as the subtitle implies, a special emphasis on the divide between the country that gave them birth and the country that arguably loved them best."

And that's true- one of my favorite Beatle books is musicologist Tim Riley's Tell Me Why, in which he deconstructs the musical output of the Fabs via the nuts and bolts of how the songs were put together in regards to the actual notes-on-paper, and Gould does a fair amount of that here. But as Timothy White did in his book about the Beach Boys, The Nearest Faraway Place, he also takes a look at the phenomenon from a sociological viewpoint as well, and while sometimes he does diverge a bit into areas that I don't really care about too much, this is often fascinating and is quite the antidote for the last few Fabs-related works I've read, which often concerned themselves with warts-and-all portrayals of these four men, and not always in a flattering fashion. It's not that I don't want to know that George was a self-absorbed dick to not only Pattie Boyd but just about everyone in his orbit in the early 1970's, or John was borderline psychotic and a mean, nasty drunk, or Paul was often a prima donna and mistreated his co-workers/bandmates while they were making music that I love, but the little part of me that still wants to hero worship a wee bit gets very sad with every revelation. Even sturdy old Geoff Emerick, the visionary engineer whose sonic innovations helped the sound of the Beatles during their most fruitful years, couldn't resist telling tales out of school about the Fabs' asshattery. Gould's book, so far, has been a refreshingly "just the facts" take- even though he and I differ in general opinion of many songs.

It's kind of a dense read so far, though- I'm only just now up to the Rubber Soul era. Unless the rest of the book totally devolves into sludge, I think, though, that I can recommend this unequivocally to those, like me, who have an interest in the music and not so much the dirt.

Anywho, I did start the new Spinner Rack Junkie today, and sincerely hope to get it posted this week.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


Via Cartoon Brew, I found this story about an interesting-looking animated project called SITA SINGS THE BLUES. By clicking on the preceding link, you can access a trailer, which I did my very best to post for you but it didn't work. So you'll have to settle for the above picture until you visit the site.

According to the Brew-meisters, creator Nina Paley needs to create a 35mm print of it, or it will premiere on video, which would be a shame I suppose. So if you, like me, think this looks cool and can contribute, please do by all means!

Of course, given the appalling news about the snubbing of Persepolis, which looks wonderful from the trailer, it may be just as well...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008



'Twas on this day, fourteen years ago, HARRY NILSSON died. I first heard about it that evening, when Dustin Hoffmann (who had starred in the film Midnight Cowboy, its Nilsson-heavy soundtrack giving Harry a lot of his early success) announced it at the Oscar telecast.

Since hearing "Coconut" and even more importantly its frantic, impassioned gospelish B-side "Down" at age 11, then later purchasing the John Lennon-produced Pussy Cats a few years later, I've been a huge fan of the man's work, which could be rocking or melodic, sweet and vulgar, or sad and hilarious, sometimes all in the same song. And even though he was mostly inactive, at least in the public eye, from 1977 till his death in 1994 I eagerly snapped up each new release or tidbit of news whenever I could. I rarely went a week without listening to at least one of Harry's albums. I even got an autograph, thanks to a friend who attended Beatlefest in Chicago in the early 80's.

Anyway, just wanted to pay the man a small tribute, and this is it.

Some links:

Harry on Wikipedia.

For The Love of Harry, a great blog in which you can read lots of information and sample tracks if you so choose.

Harry's gravesite.

Van Dyke Parks reminisces about his sometimes collaborator.

The trailer for Who is Harry Nilsson- and Why is Everybody Talking About Him?, the 2005 documentary which I can only hope will get a distributor, and thus a DVD release, someday before I die.

Another YouTube video, this one from buddy Ringo Starr, as Harry appears in his promotional clip for his 1974 hit "Only You". He's sitting on top of the Capitol Records building, smoking in his bathrobe.

And finally, the man himself, from the unfinished documentary he made during the London recording sessions of what is probably my favorite HN album, Son of Schmilsson, titled Did Somebody Drop His Mouse?. Here's to ya, big fella.



I don't know where life's goin'
But soon it will be gone
I hope the wind that's blowin'
Helps me carry on
Turn on your radio baby
Baby, listen to my song
And turn on your night light baby
Baby I'm gone

Monday, January 14, 2008

I've been reading, here and there, a lot of the reactions (some predictable, some not so) to the whole Playboy cover thing. And for the record, sure, it's in questionable taste- but not for Playboy, who has painted superhero logos (altered, as is the Wondy cover if you look closely) on women before. I think that it's intended in a cutesy, jokey kind of way and not in a mean-spirited fashion. But many don't see it like that.

Here's the thing, to me, and I feel like I'm whacking the hornet's nest with a stick when I say this-

Wonder Woman will always be objectified and not taken seriously as a fictional character until she stops wearing what is in effect a glorified one piece bathing suit.

It is a costume design that practically begs to be depicted in cheesecake/good girl art type poses, as Adam Hughes will attest. The only way she could show more skin is if she is naked, or wearing a two-piece or thong, which she may as well be. Besides that, for me anyway, there's always been a disconnect for me when I see her in the pages of JLA or the infrequent instances when I pick up her own comic and I ponder just how unrealistic and awkward it looks for this Princess of Themyscira (sp?), this noble, valiant warrior woman, clad in that one-piece, standing in a room full of fully clothed men and women, sometimes in all sorts of weather (yeah, I know, godlike powers, temperatures probably don't effect her). Obviously, I'm in the minority here, but even when drawn by the best in the biz such as Bolland, Thompson, Mahnke or Hughes, that costume has always appeared impractical and sometimes even downright silly.

And let me get this in: I know that they've tried to give her different outfits- the 90's black two piece jacket spandex biker shorts thing (which I thought looked OK except for the crop top), the 60's Diana Prince- Wonder Woman days- but nobody liked them, or if they did like these looks, the corporate trademark-perpetuating interests stepped in and said "Cease and desist- Wonder Woman is known for her star spangled swimsuit, and we can't have people getting confused." I hope nobody thinks that the 70's Wonder Woman TV show was memorable for Lynda Carter's acting ability...nope, it was the statuesque Carter tricked out in a red, white and blue leather corset.

Sure- Wondy should be a feminist icon and inspiration, not to mention the same for young girls growing up who can look to the character as a strong, proud, self-sufficient female role model, and as far as I can tell, in most cases, the various creators have taken pains to see that she's depicted in that fashion.

But the damned one-piece clashes with this depiction on at least a visual level, and I'm sure in others as well.

Of course, I can only speak for myself, and this is how I see the situation. Many, many other people, who love the character a lot more than I, obviously don't have this problem. It's just my unsolicited two cents' worth, make of it what thou will.
Trying to fall back into old habits by maintaining a fairly regular posting schedule here- and one of the ways I'd do that when I was not feeling particularly opinionated was by posting a list of comics I was getting in the upcoming week.

For a few weeks there, DCBS was sending me weekly shipments even though I only paid for bi-weekly. Apparently someone noticed, so they're back to doing it right- but that means that I had to wait three weeks instead of two...so here's what I should be getting this weekend, three weeks' worth:

LOBSTER JOHNSON: THE IRON PROMETHEUS #5
NORTHLANDERS #2
SPIRIT #12
B.P.R.D.: 1946 #1
TEEN TITANS: THE LOST ANNUAL
OMEGA THE UNKNOWN #4
FELL #9
AMERICAN VIRGIN #22
HAWAIIAN DICK #2
IMMORTAL IRON FIST #12
CATWOMAN #75
100 BULLETS #87

Looking forward to that Teen Titans Annual, the last Bob Haney script. I remember writing a little about it back when it was first announced something like four years ago. I've seen page scans on scans_daily and other places, and it looks totally nuts.

Wow- Fell! How many issues of that title came out in '07? I recall listing it in my best of 2006, but when I was going back through my reviews for '07's list I don't think I gave it anything higher than a B. But it's been so long since I remember reading an issue that I'm not sure why, although I do recall one issue that had Detective Fell acting so much out of character that I thought Ellis was "taking the piss", as our British friends say, at the expense of his readers.

Always happy to get a new issue of Hawaiian Dick, and Omega. And it seems odd to write this now, but I'm actually looking forward to the next (penultimate, sadly) issue of American Virgin.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

I suppose a lot of the furor has died down about "One More Day" reboot stunt, and it's just as well- soon, another controversy of this sort will pop up, and people need to recharge their outrage batteries. But I've been thinking about this, and the whole nature of comics that are and aren't beholden to the sort of continuity that we're accustomed to now, not to mention the cyclical nature of comics in general, and I thought perhaps it might be of some small value to somebody to write them down. So, here those thoughts be, and bear in mind my opinions and reflections are made without actually having read the issue in question, relying instead on what I've read all around the 'Net. And be warned that this is gonna ramble like a ramblin' thing listening to the Allman Brothers that loves to ramble.

Let's call a spade a spade; that was as clumsy and contrived a reboot as you would ever want to see. I mean, honestly- is that Faustian scenario the best they could come up with? Surely there were other more down-to-earth scenarios that they could have cooked up without resorting to Stan Lee's spandex Lucifer, who worked very well, once, back in the day when the Comics Code Authority wouldn't let him use the "real" Satan- in a story set up to demonstrate how Christlike Stan's Silver Surfer was. What better way than to give Surfy his very own tempter? Mephisto/Satan was given a presence, depth and reason to be by Lee and John Buscema in that long-ago Silver Surfer #3, and as it turns out should probably have never been used again. Trying to make him into the standard issue Marvel Comics archfoe just has never worked, because pitting him against the Fantastic Four or X-Men, outside the context of the re-enactment of the Temptations of Christ that Surfer #3 essentially was, robs the character of his menace and mystery, and makes him look just like another spandex badguy buffoon, one of a rotating "fight of the month" group of supervillians for whatever hero. It cheapens the character. He might as well be Baron Mordo, or the Red Skull, the Purple Man, or the frigging Porcupine.

Of course, the creative braintrust felt that the only way to achieve this reboot was through supernatural means, since as all Dr. Strange fans know, it's the easiest way to do anything that requires a complete do-over with no possible chance of referral to times past. Well, that, or the jerry-rigged comic-book sci-fi employed in Zero Hour.

Apparently, the main reason why this was done is why many are up in arms- the mercenary, insensitive rationale behind it: "...marriage ages the characters, making them less appealing to young readers, and lessens the dramatic, "soap opera" possibilities" (Quoted from Wikipedia). Whether this is or isn't true is debatable- I can't believe that there are hordes of readers, kids or adults, out there that haven't been picking up any Spidey titles because he's not single. That's kinda insulting to kids' intelligence, seems to me. It's not like Pete and MJ have been portrayed as Ward and June Cleaver...

On the other hand, I'm not convinced that marrying them was the smartest thing to do in the first place- it's the classic sign of clutching at straws to come up with novel story ideas in order to keep publishing exploits of exhausted characters that have been in existence for decades. If your character is established as a harried, down-on-his-luck but plucky and likable everyguy, it's not especially believable or even appropriate in terms of ongoing story that he would have a longtime girlfriend that's a fashion model/actress, let alone marry her. But it's a wish-fulfillment not only for longtime readers (who say "Gosh, let Pete have something good happen to him for once..."), but also by those who wish they could have such a girlfriend/wife/partner.

That's the problem with practicing the kind of ongoing continuity that most mainstream superhero comics providers have been striving to provide since Uncas Stan and Jack & Co. helped popularize the concept of a shared experience aka "Universe", in which all the superguys and their archfoes inhabited the same planet, indeed city, and were aware of and in a lot of cases friends (or at least allies with) the others. DC/National had done this already with their Justice Society stories, but it wasn't quite the same- you never really got the feeling that the Atom and Dr. Mid-Nite, for example, would ever hang out together or even appear in each other's comics. They were like Venn diagrams, overlapping only in the pages of All-Star Comics and nowhere else. But Marvel did it differently, and this provided many exciting stories in which Daredevil could join forces with Spidey, for example, or Iron Man, in the pages of The Avengers, could send a holographic emergency transmission to Professor Xavier and his X-Men, and both would be aware of the other. Even as a little kid, this sort of thing was cooler than cool, and opened up a world in which Captain America could be enjoyed as a solo star, but also could be buds with Nick Fury and interact in an adventure with him.

Of course, continuity not only meant interaction between books and their characters but interaction between the characters themselves- once the initial premises were established, Stan, Roy Thomas, and others spent the next four or five years just going from there. That said, the really early tales weren't quite so interrelated in linear time, even though Spidey did try to get a job with the FF and fought Doc Doom, the FF and Avengers teamed up to apprehend the Hulk, etc. At some point, a linear sort of timeline began to develop in all Marvel books, spurred in part by continued stories such as those in Fantastic Four in which events that happened in the previous issue would not only be referenced, but sometimes also have a direct bearing on what happened in the current issue...and that opened up another can of worms.

DC? They really didn't try to do this sort of thing very much at all until the mid-late 1970's. Most DC stores were self-contained, with character awareness and interaction (and even the occasional cross-comic guest appearance) but the tales were mostly one-and-done single events, and had little or no bearing on the next issue, unless perhaps a character would mention meeting or battling another. Very neat.

Now, linear and interrelated continuity was a fresh, new, wonderful thing when it fully came into flower in the late 60's- it gave an air of things having weight and consequence, as when Scott Summers' brother Alex was introduced, his powers discovered, they fought the Sentinels, then, seeking help for his out-of-control abilities accidentally get him mixed up with the power-draining Sauron, all in the space of four or five issues.

But there was one problem- time marches on. And after a while, when it became apparent that years and years had gone by in Marvels pseudo-real time, it was pretty much unreasonable to keep characters in the status quo. Since I started with Spidey, I'll use Peter Parker as an example: He started as a harried adolescent high school science nerd, but he couldn't stay that way longer than 2-3 years (assuming he was a high school, oh, sophomore when he received his fateful spider bite), so they began to tinker. Sent him to college, had him move out from Aunt May's, hook up with Gwen Stacy then Mary Jane Watson. Gave him a full-time job with the Bugle. And that got Pete through another decade and a half, but then another problem reared its ugly head: entropy. As the Entropic Cult in Man-Thing chanted, "Entropy, entropy, all winds down." You can only show Spidey fighting Kraven or Electro or the Shocker so many times before, frankly, you run out of new, fresh scenarios in which to put them in, and each new issue brings more by-the-numbers superhero battles and outlandish, contrived developments with the characters and their relationships. Stan and Jack didn't help matters when they had Sue Storm give birth in that Fantastic Four annual; while it was a great story in and of itself, afterwards they were stuck with a character that either had to grow up in "real" time as his parents and uncles aged as well, or suddenly revert to the one-and-done, no-continuity stories of the early days. They chose the former, and Franklin Richards has since become one of the most convoluted and pointless in a long line of pointless and convoluted Marvel characters, only working well within those fairly recent Calvin and Hobbes-style solo stories, which I assume takes place out of what passes for continuity with Marvel these days.

And so, as DC found out first by the time of Crisis on Infinite Earths and then, when that didn't take, Zero Hour, things get so distended that the only recourse when publishing characters that have been around for four decades is to declare a do-over. So far, Marvel has only really tried to do it once, with the whole "Heroes Reborn" thing, even relaunching titles with #1 issues all around, and reaction was so bad that they eventually recanted and quietly rebooted again. Subsequent reboots have been more low-key, a la the cancellation of Daredevil's ongoing, which was up in the 400s by the time writers got so desperate for ideas that they had tricked him out in body armor. When he was relaunched with the Marvel Knights imprint, the basic story details remained the same but there was rarely the feeling that this DD was the same DD which once assumed the identity of Mike Murdock and battled the Matador in tales done by Stan and Bill Everett and Wally Wood.

This is what Quesada and Co. are trying to do with Spidey here- it's a do-over, but a qualified one- sure, Pete has no memory of being married to MJ and vice versa, Harry Osborne is back, etc.- but I wonder how much of the last 40 years will be referenced? Is Venom/Carnage/Black Cat/blah blah blah still a part of Spidey's world? Will we get new versions? In short, will the writers now have free hand to recycle the same crap that's been recycled for decades? Guess we'll see. I know none of this is any consolation to the fan who only began reading comics at about the time Pete and MJ got married- this is "their" Spider-Man, they like it that way, and see no reason why it can't continue that way indefinitely. Part of this may also be a desire to sync Spidey comics with the movies, in which the two are not yet man and wife.

"So what are you trying to say, Dave?" I hear you asking, along with "Do you really think I don't know all this?" I don't really know. I'm just articulating thoughts here. I don't have a solution. You can't really go back to one-and-done in mainstream superhero comics completely, because you're robbing yourself of the opportunity to really enhance your story- plus readers today, or at least mainstream superhero comics readers today, are conditioned to enjoy and expect a "real-time", linear ongoing narrative with events that overlap the next and impact subsequent stories.

Continuity is a double-edged sword- it can really enhance not only superhero comics, but other kinds of stories as well. It's only the passage of time that makes this element unwieldy. And Marvel/DC have this problem- as long as people seem to want to read, or are still aware, of iconic characters like Batman or Spider-Man, then they'll feel the need to continue to publish periodicals with the adventures of same. It's also a fine line to walk- writers want, in most cases, to depict events that have lasting impact and make changes, but you can only change iconic characters so much before you risk confusion among those not familiar with the ebb and flow of comics stories. I think it will be interesting, though, to see what effect, if any, this constant upheaval and change (especially DC's apparent insatiable desire to screw around with their characters) will have on comics- how many times can the Big Two rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic before people say to hell with it and get off the boat?

ETA: One other thing that I meant to add and forgot in my posting mania the other day was that perhaps Spidey fans should at least give Joe Q and co. a chance to see what they can do. They might be surprised. But then again, if they hate it and just can't face life without Pete and MJ hooked up, well, they have their back issues and can make their displeasure known by dropping the book.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Whee! Just went nuts and placed a honkin' big Amazon.com order, using Christmas gift money! And in the interest of maintaining a fairly regular posting schedule, I thought I'd share:

Can't Buy Me Love: The Beatles, Britain, and America by Jonathan Gould
Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 1
Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus, Vol. 2
Adam Warren's Empowered Vol. 1
Adam Warren's Empowered Vol. 2
The Venture Bros. - Season Two DVD
"I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets: The Comics of Fletcher Hanks" TPB
Under the Blacklight - Rilo Kiley
Children Running Through - Patty Griffin

The last two were bought from Amazon Associates. $182, baby!

Of course, there are two more Kirby Omnibi out or coming soon, and I won't be getting them anytime soon, but I just had a hankerin' to reread those early Fourth World sagas and figured this was the best way to do it. That Beatles book is supposed to be really good; hope it's not as depressing as the last few Fabs-related tomes I've read. I've wanted those Adam Warren books for some time now as well, and have seen plenty of online samples so it looks real good- even though I wish it was inked. The Rilo Kiley and Patty Griffin CDs are releases I should have picked up ages ago. Couldn't not get that Venture Bros. set, since I've had such a blast with the first one. Damn, I hope season 3 starts soon!

But uf cuss I'll review the comics-related stuff ASAP.

Friday, January 11, 2008

This is how the food chain works in the Comics Blogosphere: even though I am beneath Dirk Deppey's notice as a reviewer and year-end best-of list-maker, he's so darn good at the link compiling thing that I still, once in a while, check out Journalista and usually always find something interesting, which further justifies his existence and further demeans mine. Anyway, also interesting to me is his new 50 (well, 52) Excellent Comics from 2007: One Reader's Recommendations list, which cites several things that either I hadn't seen in '07, or didn't think to cite because they're still (despite the existence of collected paper volumes, of which I'm aware but am seldom engaged to purchase) webcomics in my mind. I was glad to see efforts such as Chris Onstad's surreal and hysterically funny ACHEWOOD (don't forget each character's infrequently updated blogs), John Allison's droll SCARY-GO-ROUND (which I've been reading since it was BOBBINS), Tatsuya Ishida's imaginative and too-smart-for-American-funnypapers SINFEST, and Nick Gurewitch's indescribable PERRY BIBLE FELLOWSHIP among the listed. They're all excellent. I'm also beginning to think that I should break down and purchase I SHALL DESTROY ALL CIVILIZED PLANETS as well- I've enjoyed seeing Fletcher Hanks' brilliantly deranged comics here and there on the Internet, and it looks like a blast. Paul Pope's PULPHOPE unsurprisingly looks great. I usually always love Pope's work, and I'm sure this will be no exception- but given a choice between eating and gas money to get to work and Paul Pope hardcovers, well, the books don't taste very good (even when you cover them with ketchup) and when I tried to stuff paper into my gas tank I didn't get anywhere except towed to the garage. Also, while I'm just not much of a fan of the Manga- although there have been works I've enjoyed so I guess I'm not completely unhip- the art example on that DRIFTING CLASSROOM citation looks very good, but ye gods- eight volumes (to date) at ten bills each? Yow! I'm also thinking that I wish I'd picked up on Warren Ellis' historical saga CRECY- since it's a one-shot perhaps I'll run across a copy soon. Perhaps then I can stop hearing Patsy Cline sing the title in my head. Speaking of books I hope get issued as a trade, there's also Atomic Robo (not on Deppey's list)- it looks good, but the first issue is already going for a lot of smack on the eBay, and I want all of 'em if I'm gonna get them. Guess I'm just too cheap to be a real comics connoisseur.

But I digress.

Anyway, getting back to webcomics, there are a few others that I read on a fairly regular basis, and get a kick out of- many of which I'm sure are very familiar to you, my discerning readers- and they are as follows:

THE NON-ADVENTURES OF WONDERELLA, by Justin Pierce, is a off-the-wall Wonder Woman rip that usually updates on Saturdays, but lately Pierce has been posting character sketches on weekdays. Not every strip is a hit, but he is very funny when he does hit, which is more often than not.

PULP SUNDAY, by Francesco Francavilla, which I linked to a few days ago, isn't a webcomic per se but does feature ongoing strips most of the time, and they're excellent.

BOLD RILEY by Leia Weathington and Konstantin Pogorelov- a bit overdue for various reasons, but this legend-framed tale of a warrior woman, usually published in volumes (each with different titles), is outstanding.

Of course, R. Stevens' DIESEL SWEETIES, appearing in your local newspaper by now hopefully (not in mine, I'm afraid) is always witty and clever.

Jess Fink's CHESTER 5000 XYV, which reminds me a little of Jane Austen if she wrote steampunk porn. It's, in the parlance, NSFW.

OCTOPUS PIE by Meredith Gran, another slice-of-life with oddball touches and involving young trendy NYCNY types, which of course I have very little in common with but I can always enjoy tales well told, especially when done with Gran's deliciously loopy, swoopy linework.

Danielle Corsetto's GIRLS WITH SLINGSHOTS, which could actually be described the same way as Octopus Pie but they're really coming from different places. Corsetto scripts and cartooning is accomplished and witty, and the characters are very likable, sexy even. Well, maybe not the talking Scotch cactus. I wish Danielle would fix her RSS feed so I could subscribe...

JOHNNY CROSSBONES is by Middle Man artist Les McClane, and it's an enjoyable Tintin-esque adventure strip which features a protagonist with what HAS to be the world's smelliest mask because he never takes it off ever.

Raina Telgemeier's SMILE, which always brings the same to my face when it's not reminding me of personal dental nightmare scenarios, which if I had any sort of work ethic I'd draw up and submit to her as a fill-in strip if she'd have it.

Finally, but not lastly, there's Jason Little's engaging BEE, which is about the impetuous title character, a young (supposedly teenage, but she's not drawn that way) lady who seems to have a knack for getting into trouble. It's also quite often NSFW.

OK, that's all I can think of. I hope if you're not reading any of these already, and you should be, that you'll check some of them out and even better, enjoy!

Credit where credit is due dept: the pic at above left is from the Scary-Go-Round strip that was posted on my birthday last year.

ETA 1/12: I was under the impression that the Hanks book was a hardcover, and now that I've been informed that's not the case (thanks, ADD!), I have ordered it this very day.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Yeah, I know Christmas was two weeks ago, but I spotted this great illo by one of my favorite Playboy cartoonists, Doug Sneyd, and wanted to share. It's part of an ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive blog post which features a goodly amount of Sneyd Playboy one-pagers, and you can go here to viddy it, o my droogies. Oh, and it's NSFW. You've been warned.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Gonna get all metapostical for just a minute...

Thanks to a couple of most appreciated links, I had as many hits today as I've had in ages, maybe ever, and for that I am grateful.

But one thing I'm not is prepared- at the moment! I've gotta assume most of these hits are from people who've not visited here for a long time, if ever, and I should probably post some sort of insightful analysis or fascinating series overview, or even something about movies and/or music like I useta back in the day...and right now, I got nothin'. Happens like that sometimes, I guess.

But fear not, I am back from my break which turned out to be longer than any I've ever taken before, if shorter than I intended, and I hope to be able to provide a few interesting things to read before they pry my laptop from my cold, dead hands, which is apparently the only thing that's gonna stop me blogging anytime soon, so deep is my jones (if you'll excuse the expression).

So...what else?

If I've linked to you in the past, but you don't see your link in the section at right, please bear with; when I changed the template none of my links were preserved, and I'm having to replace them one at a time. I'm also taking the opportunity to check and see how many are still current, and that takes a little time. It's odd and a more than a bit sad how many links I'm finding that were to people who I "befriended" back in, say, 2003 but haven't visited, or heard from, in years- I'm tending to not relink them, because in some cases they no longer link to me, and in other cases it seems kinda pointless. I guess that's the way the blogging thing goes. I'm still planning on keeping the music, political, etc. links separate, but it's gonna take a little while to get to them. Heck, for all I know nobody clicks on those things anyway- I've seen posts about how many bloggers are leaving links off altogether, just to make their pages less cluttered. Speaking of which, I still don't know if I'm going to bring back the picture links I had on the old blog; it just looked like too much "flair" to me.

I'm also quite peturbed at my sometimes image host, Imageshack. Of course, I've posted a metric ton of pictures on this blog since 2002, and I've been through three hosts to do so, counting my first one- the name I don't remember, but when they went to a pay service, I bailed, and there are several pics from approximately 2004 I still haven't replaced as a cursory glance at my archives will bear out. I now alternate between Imageshack and Blogger's own Picasa, favoring Picasa because it seems less likely that I'll encounter the problem that's vexing me with the former- missing images! Apparently IS's system must be unstable or something because every so often, unexpectedly, I'll click on a link to an older page and the image will be gone, replaced by a tiny empty box. This is incredibly annoying, and emails to their support are greeted with incredulility, if not skepticism. Many of these images are from posts I'm proud of, such as the overview I did on Spawn of Frankenstein. Don't know what else to do about it, though, except rescan them, and who the hell's got time for that! So if you check out a page via Google search or something, and the pic isn't there, well, it must be the Imageshack Image Thief and I'm sorry.

OK, I guess this is enough for now, just wanted to let those who are interested know what's going on with this blog. More will be coming soon, this I do affirm.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

CONFESSIONS OF A SPINNER RACK JUNKIE.



It's been too long since we took the time
No-one's to blame, I know time flies so quickly
But when I see you darling
It's like we both are falling in love again
It'll be just like starting over, starting over


Yes, once more, against all odds, here is another Spinner Rack Junkie- that more-or-less ongoing feature in which I write "too short to be real" reviews of various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted said "too short to be real" reviews upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately 25 December to 6 January, 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.

THE BLACK DIAMOND #6: Far be it from me to be excessively critical of a comic with such excellent taste in pull-quotes, but I do have a few things I'd like to mention. I was delighted to note that even though I didn't read #'s 3 and 5, I had no trouble understanding this issue's ending, and it was a satisfying one- even though the whole "'deuce' ex machina" thing was a little frustrating, because I sure would have liked to have known what happened next. You know how I am about ambiguity. Larry Young's expository dialogue in the first few pages was breezy and well done. I also thought the self-aware placement of Young's script directions was a great touch, and in some odd way reinforced the stated intent of the series to evoke 70's drive-in road pictures. The juxtaposition reminded me a bit of the real-world-reveals of, say, Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie or even Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles. That said, I think Larry's biggest mistake on this entire series was to hitch his wagon to artist Jon Proctor; while he does have some design chops, too often his figure and vehicle renditions look too obviously lightboxed, and not very well- what's happening with Kate's nose on page 1 and 5, to name one example- his coloring is often unnecessarily garish and monotonous, little pop-art touches like the first panel of page 7 are left-field and seem to serve no discernible purpose, and I seriously doubt if he's even seen the "great helicopter shot at the end of Easy Rider". The art (well, that, and my disbelief that people would be willing to put up with having cars fall on their heads) was the main thing that kept me from enjoying this series as much as I probably should have, and I hope that if Young is able to continue the series, he finds a more sympathetic and talented collaborator. In fact, I'd suggest that he look no further than some of the back feature artists; this issue's, by Filip Sablik, was especially good despite some more garish, ugly coloring. B-

BRAVE AND THE BOLD #9: Waid and Perez continue to sprinkle superheroes like confetti on our heads at a New Year's party. It's quite overwhelming sometimes, especially since Perez' art is virtually synonymous with overwrought clutter and chaos, but the sum is so pro-adventure and pro-fun that it's hard not to like it in spite of itself. I would imagine Kurt Busiek is jealous. B+

CATWOMAN #74: It's regrettable that someone in editorial felt like they had to sex up Adam Hughes' already great cover, to which Hughes responded by making Selina look like Audrey Hepburn with big tits...but really, that doesn't matter to the great unwashed out there...the ones who buy the book anyway. The interior is the important thing, and it's solid as usual, if a bit contrived- all the better to shoehorn in a licensed property that just doesn't belong in the latest 52/Countdown/et cetera-type company-wide profit-taker. I was a lot more interested in seeing Selina settle up with "The Thief" than I am in finding out how she copes with being on another planet with The Joker and King Croc. B+

DAREDEVIL #103: Like sands through the hourglass, these are the days of Matt Murdock's life. Actually, this time around there's a bit more of DD bouncing around and beating up thugs, and even threatening to go all QT on the Ox. It works, because Brubaker is good, but I'm not really enjoying it much. A-

HELLBLAZER #238, 239: Gotta own up to an oversight here- I was in such a rush to complete the last SRJ that I forgot to mention how much I liked #238; as drawn by Dan Zezelj, it pitted Constantine (being manipulated, as it turns out, by heretofore mostly benign spirit-of-London character Map) against the personifications of some urban legends in another dimension on the other side of a bridge, trying to rescue some unfortunate journalist types who unknowingly crossed over. Nicely done suspenser, giving John the chance to be a good guy as well as a bad-ass for once, and the urban legends thing reminded me of the halcyon Grant Morrison Doom Patrol early-Vertigo days. Nice job all around. In #239, Leo Manco is back in the first part of what would seem to be a multi-issue saga that involves some horrible African magical menace, and the sacrifice of one man to get a warning to John in England. Again, nicely done, if a little gratuitously gory, and bodes well for the rest of the story arc. #238: A-; #239: B+

IMMORTAL IRON FIST #11: Everything seems to be coming to a head very soon as the tournament continues, Hydra gets closer to crashing the competition, and Danny reunites with Luke Cage, Misty Knight and Colleen Wing, who have been searching for him. The flashback tale this time is just as rousing, featuring the tale of Davos, the "Steel Phoenix"'s first encounter with Shou-Lao the undying big-ass dragon, and featuring the art of none other than Kano, whose art was a big reason to pick up the early issues of DC's H-E-R-O, and whose work I haven't seen since a short stint on the much-missed Gotham Central (Thanks, Dan!). Lotta bang for your bucks with this title. A-

IRON MAN: ENTER THE MANDARIN #4: I suppose this series, if anybody was paying attention to it in light of the current ongoing dreary Marvel line-wide "event", is the vindication of Tony Stark and his armored alter-ego. This is a cool, rico suave Stark, confident and capable and yet not a bastard, like he useta be back in the day. This issue introduces more early 60's spy-movie stuff into the mix, as well as a nifty digression involving the Crimson Dynamo, another early villain, and I'm finding this a very good read. It's also great to look at thanks to Eric Canete's art; he has a great sense of dynamics and pacing. A-

WASTELAND BOOK 02: SHADES OF GOD: I don't really have much to add from when I reviewed the first trade; There's still nothing happening here that will be new or fresh to you if you've read any post-apocalyptic fiction at all, and it's still weird to read the characters dropping f-bombs and otherwise cursing like real people do, except they substitute "sun" for "God", as in "sun-damned". There's also (with me, anyway) a real problem with such a large cast of characters, and keeping them straight; artist Chris Mitten really doesn't help much in this case. All his women look the same, with only darker wash tones used for hair, and his men are mostly distinguishable by whether or not they have stylin' razor-cuts or long hair and beards. Also, there just isn't enough contrast in his black-and-white art; too often we're given entire pages of nothing but scratchy thin linework, only broken up by wash tones no darker than perhaps 40 percent black. In spite of all this, and even though I think I know what the big reveal's gonna be when the two main characters get where they're going, I remain won over by its ambitions (secondhand as they may be) and interested enough to keep buying the trades. C+


NOTES: Boy, I was dealin' out the A's and B's this time, wasn't I?

DCBS seems to be sending me my comics weekly these days, so I had hoped to include NORTHLANDERS #2, OMEGA #4 and LOBSTER JOHSON #5 here, but thanks to the holidays I didn't get 'em on Friday so it will be next time. I also keep meaning to finish SUPER SPY and LUCHA LIBRE #2, and perhaps I will by the next column. Sayonara!

Saturday, January 05, 2008



Doesn't this screencap from Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer look just like something Kirby would have drawn, say, in the late 60's in a scene in which the FF might have visited some sort of disco while on a night on the town?

Well it does to me.

Cap taken from the film_stills LJ community, in which I've been known to post myself upon occasion.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

JOHNNY B HEART THE MOVIES: 2007




In the past, I've done "best of" lists about movies, music, etc., but the last couple of years I've kinda let that go by the wayside as I haven't really been spending a lot of money to catch current films when they are released; it's more common for me to see a film on DVD than in theatres. But yesterday I was looking around on Wikipedia for something, and happened across a "2007 in movies" page, and was surprised to note that I have, as it turns out, seen several films that came out in the previous year- mostly on DVD, but I've seen them just the same. And I thought I'd share my impressions with you.

Code Name: The Cleaner: Good one to start on, huh- these are in chronological order, so that's the way the ball bounces. Sat and watched this on cable one afternoon when there was nothing else on and I was too lazy to turn off the TV and do something. It's just a silly, stupid contrived spy-movie vehicle for comic actor Cedric the Entertainer, who really is very good in supporting roles but just isn't leading man material. Lucy Liu provides eye candy, but it's not enough.

Alpha Dog: Bleak treatment of what is supposed to be a true story, mostly notable for the fine turn done by Justin Timberlake as a conflicted teen who ends up as accomplice in murder. I got caught up in it, but I don't really have any desire to see it again ever. I watched it with my son, who was visiting, and I thanked him for not turning out like these kids did...

Smokin' Aces: This was hugely entertaining for a while, but got too clever for its own good in the last 30 minutes or so with a headache-inducing conclusion. Still, lots to like, mostly a good cast in offbeat roles. If they ever do a 100 Bullets movie, I hope it looks like this.

Zodiac: Outstanding film, a tad long perhaps but wonderfully acted and completely involving until the unresolved ending, which is frustrating, but hey- they didn't solve the real case on which this is based either so whaddaya expect? Shame on the moviegoing public for not making this a bigger hit. Guess it was that ending.

Grindhouse: Death Proof: I still haven't seen Planet Terror, so the jury is still out on Grindhouse as a whole, but I thought this was awfully pointless and self-indulgent. The wild-ass ending redeems it somewhat, but QT, I think, forgot that setting out to make a grindhouse classic on purpose is something that the Andy Milligans and H.G. Lewises of the world never did...and I would think he'd know better than that.

Spider-Man 3: Too much soap opera, too many villains. They could have made a good movie with the Sandman (and really, the Sandman parts work best) or Venom, but having them both together and icing it with that weepy, tiresome Peter Loves Mary Jane subplot just made for an overlong, noisy, crowded film that was nowhere near as much fun as its predecessors. I know it's contrary to the Way of the American Blockbuster Movie, but sometimes less really is more.

Shrek the Third: Many slagged this one as unnecessary, but really, even though it was kinda by-the-numbers (especially at the end) I enjoyed it as much as 2, and it wasn't a whole lot worse than the first one either, for that matter. It's no landmark of cinema, but it was mostly clever, entertaining and didn't seem to go on forever. Could have been a whole lot worse.

Knocked Up: Now THIS one took me by surprise in a good way- I was expecting a dumb smirkfest, but it's really quite perceptive, with very good performances by the leads and naturalistic dialogue. Of course, there's a fair share of fratboy and geek humor, but it's never mean spirited. I didn't think I'd like this one when a friend loaned it to me, but damned if it might not be one of the best films I saw this past year.

Ocean's Thirteen: If you like the Ocean's films, and I have so far, then you'll probably like this too- Clooney and Co. have a great rapport onscreen. But the payoff in this one was a little too routine for my tastes and that was a letdown.

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer: I could sit and nitpick this, like I'm sure most of you reading this, but at the end of the day I came away liking this OK, better than Spider-Man 3, anyway. I think, all things considered, the Four are well cast, and they play off each other well. I still have some reservations about Jessica Alba as Sue- she just looks too much like your garden variety bimbo. I say this as someone who grew up with Lee and Kirby's Invisible Girl- her portrayal may play better to non-initiates and those whose memory of the FF in comics doesn't go back much farther than Byrne. Anyway- I thought Doom was more of a credible menace, liked the CGI Silver Surfer even though I never heard Larry Fishburne's voice in my head for all these years when I've read Silver Surfer comics, and even kinda liked Unca Stan's obligatory cameo. I wonder if Unca Jack would have made an appearance in one of these if he'd lived. The big reveal of Galactus was a ripoff. Altogether not a great flick, but no disaster either, and it went down smooth.

Transformers: This one surprised me a little, too. I was prepared to ignore it completely (Transformers, the 80's toys and cartoons, were more my son's thing) until a chance viewing, walking by the electronics department of Walmart, of the scene in the desert in which the Army or Marines or somebody battles this huge robotic scorpion- it was a blast, and I thought that this might be a good, turn-your-brain-off action flick, and maybe I should Netflix it- which I did, and I was right...that's exactly what it is. Fortunately, the script didn't ignore the humans too much and benefited from some good turns by some experienced scene chewers like John Tuturro (of all people). Not bad, for what it is.

Stardust: I've always blown hot and cold over the work of Neil Gaiman- while his work in general isn't exactly innovative, and his writing voice is precious and mannered, he excels at seizing upon a central idea or theme- Underground cities in London, a family of demigods that represent human nature- and then expanding these central ideas brilliantly. When Stardust the 4-issue limited series came out, it was after he had finished up his mostly outstanding Sandman series, and I was curious about how he would follow it up. Frankly, the first issue bored me. As a result, I didn't buy the next three and was mostly unfamiliar with everything but the basic premise, and I think that helped me enjoy this as much as I did, which was quite a bit actually. It's an imaginatively presented, sweeping adventure with a little humor, not excessive but enough to keep it light (even though it sometimes veers too close to Princess Bride territory), and an appealing cast, although Claire Danes, though attractive, is a little too lumpish to be a really entrancing ethereal starperson. If Terry Gilliam had had half the budget and studio interference that Matthew Vaughn was given, Brothers Grimm would have been a masterpiece, so I guess we've come that far at least.

Across the Universe: I love the visual innovation of director Julie Taymor, and of course you all know how much I revere the music of the Beatles, so someone was gonna have to try really hard to get me to dislike this. But sometimes great expectations can lead to bitter disappointment- fortunately, that was not the case. While the script was kinda cliched and obvious, the visuals and imaginative staging and from time to time some of the vocal performances even transcended it. So far, this is my favorite film of last year.

No Country For Old Men: Then again, sometimes great expectations actually do end up leading to colossal disappointment. Sadly, that was the case here. For a good 120 minutes or so, I was excited by the best Coen Bros. flick I've seen since O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Dialogue was outstanding, performances were great, and the direction was excellent. Atmosphere, marvelous. Some of the scenes were Hitchcockian in the tension they delivered. I was absolutely caught up in the cat-and-mouse game between Llewellyn Moss and Chigur, and was anticipating the resolution...

...and beware of spoilers here, those who may be reading and haven't seen it...

...which never came.

Like an ADD-stricken kid, the Coens suddenly dropped it and walked away! We were set up for what surely was going to be the final confrontation in the El Paso hotel. But suddenly, we get Tommy Lee Jones arriving too late at the scene of a shootout which forced us to assume that it hadn't gone well, and shifted the focus to Jones' conflicted and ineffectual character. By not giving us some sort of resolution to what had been established as the backbone of the film, I felt as if a bait-and-switch had been pulled on me, and the longer I sat there the madder I got.

I don't know. The more I think about it, the more I think the theatre must have left out a reel or something. I almost turned to the other five people in there with me and asked them if they felt the same way I did about it. I haven't seen this brought up in any of the reviews or blog posts I've read, either- and I'm 99.9% sure I didn't nod off or something, so I'm just confused and saddened.

I get that the Coens were all about setting up Chigur as some sort of inhuman monster, and thematically dealing with choices we all have to make and the inevitability of death and probably a dozen other things that those more perceptive than I have picked up on...but all I know is that they really fucked up what I thought was, as I said, the backbone of the film, and I just can't wrap my head around that.

I think I'll have to sit down and watch it again when it comes out on DVD, and see if I perceive it any differently. I'm not optimistic. As compromised and bad as The Ladykillers was, at least they followed up on what they promised.



And that's my look at the films of 2007 that I've seen, so far. I'll be getting Eastern Promises today or tomorrow, and I might add it if I get the chance.