Friday, February 29, 2008

Well, I've decided. No more comics, music and movies commentary from me; I'm going to be a Ditko scans blog from now on! I've had more hits today than I've had since...well, since I posted scans of that Alex Toth story a couple of years ago. But seriously folks, I thank everybody who linked to that post, the scans of which kicked my butt so hard I just had to share 'em. I recently acquired a comic via the eBay with a short story that I'd like to share as well, so I might be doing the scans_daily thing again soon. That is, as soon as I get the indigo iMac straightened out so I can use my scanner reason why my presence has been missing on Bahlactus' Friday Night Fights.

Anyway, I'm sure you've noticed the image at right, another Warren magazine page scan- but not Ditko this time. One reason why I revere these old mags from my childhood, and have been so eager to acquire them in whatever format I can get them in, is because of the art of Jerry Grandenetti, which made a HUGE impression on me at a young age. Curiously enough, I've come to notice as I peruse these pages (and those of the first Showcase Presents House of Mystery as well) that Joe Orlando also worked a similar stylistic vein, but the stories that have stayed with me the longest have been those with Grandenetti art. He worked in a delirious, expressionistic style that almost made the morbid subject matter of these tales an interactive experience- when a character would experience fear or distress, often Grandenetti would draw the figure with radiating lines all around him, often with big, haphazardly lettered thoughts or statements floating around his or her head- it was a sea change from the by-comparison prim and proper work by the likes of Curt Swan or Kirby or Don Heck that I was used to from superhero comics. The page at right, while not the best example, is certainly one example of what I'm talking about. Grandenetti wasn't the most elegant or most aesthetically pleasing artist (although I've seen him do some dead-on Eisner impersonations, when he was the Great One's assistant), but he's been a longtime favorite of mine. Click on the image to see it bigger, whydoncha.

Back in '04, I posted a couple of more JG pages, and here's the links- but you may not be able to see the detail very well because I didn't make the file big enough and I didn't upload it so you could click and see it bigger/better. Mea culpa.

Let's see, what else. I am supposed to be getting my bi-weekly comics shipment either today or tomorrow; if all goes well it should contain:

WILL EISNER'S THE SPIRIT #14: So far word of mouth on Evanier & Aragones' maiden attempt at writing the exploits of Denny Colt, with art by another Eisner helper Mike Ploog, has been meh. I will reserve judgment until I have perused.


CATWOMAN #76: Another Salvation Run crossover event issue. Yawn.

BRAVE AND THE BOLD #10: I may be misinformed, but I think this is Perez' last issue. His replacement is the spectacularly ordinary Jerry Ordway, who makes the staid Perez look like Daimon Scott. This may be my last issue.

DAREDEVIL #105: Sean Collins really had a good quote about this comic a week or so ago, describing poor, harried Matt Murdock as "a rich lapsed Catholic pussyhound lawyer who can't stand losing".

IMMORTAL IRON FIST: ORSON RANDALL- THE GREEN MIST OF DEATH: I encountered the Green Mist of Death just recently. I looked at the guy and said "Dude!" What? Someone had to make that joke!


HELLBLAZER #241: It's so nice to actually look forward to this comic again!


I also bought the first trade paperback collection of DC/Vertigo's modern-day Native American Sopranos SCALPED and read it last night...Garth Ennis was right, and I'm hooked. A review of this, probably a standalone one although I might fold it in the next Spinner Rack Junkie, is forthcoming. I bought a copy of Showcase Presents: Metamorpho last weekend for $8, but soon discovered to my dismay that someone had marked up the interiors with a black ball-point pen! Kinda spoils the reading enjoyment, don'tcha know. I'm thinking I'll take it back, but I've been skimming it occasionally this week. I dare say it's the pinnacle of Bob Haney's career, Brave & Bold notwithstanding. I also found my Howard the Duck for President button the other day, I'm thinking I'll make a picture of it one of these days. yeah, I know most of you have seen it, but I wanna represent for both Gerber and the Duck!

OK, that's all I got, good evening to ya.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Here's that Steve Ditko story I mentioned in my post from earlier today. In addition to the accomplished inkwash technique Ditko uses (although not as much here as in other Warren efforts), the amount of detail and rendering he employs is staggering, especially considering that the work many regard as his best- his Spider-Man and Doctor Strange stories for Marvel- rarely had this level of delineation. I was amazed as I read this tale, and as far as I'm concerned it's one of the best art jobs I've seen from him.

I recently came into possession of a handful of scans of old Warren magazines such as Creepy and Eerie, which as you know featured horror stories by some of the giants of the field such as Reed Crandall, Alex Toth, Gray Morrow, Wally Wood, Neal Adams, Johnny Craig, Gene Colan, Joe Orlando, Jerry Grandenetti...the list goes on and on, all in service of outstanding scripts by Archie Goodwin and others. Also appearing in several issues was the great Steve Ditko, working in ink wash like many of the other artists in these books. Now, early-mid 60's Ditko art is golden...but his wash work is extraordinary. Above is just one sample of it- click to see it all bigger- Dr. Strange fans will immediately recognize the imaginatively weird images Ditko brings to bear in the story. there's another story in an issue that I have at home that is just insane in its detail and may be the best Ditko art job I've ever seen.

Skimming through many of these scans, besides the obvious nostalgia rush I got, I reacquainted myself with many other fine artists who also had work in these Warren mags that I had forgotten about- the likes of Tom Sutton (who went on to do a lot of Warrens after the "classic" period had passed), Rocco Mastroserio, Mark Ricton, and especially Angelo Torres, best known via Mad, who contributes some absolutely amazing realistic fantasy and horror art to several issues.

Tempering my enjoyment is that I couldn't find any from Eerie #'s 7 & 8, two fondly remembered issues from my childhood, which had some incredible Ditko, Toth, Adams, and Grandenetti work. Oh well- I intend to post some more pages here eventually, unless anybody objects, including that amazing Ditko job I mentioned earlier.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Well, I'll be damned. I had no idea that the great BILL EVERETT drew the early issues of Big Boy Comics! Just shows to go ya that I don't know everything. You should click on this link and go check it out!

Something cool to look upon on a Tuesday morning- Stephen DeStefano is posting his tutorial on How to Draw the Venture Brothers! I, like most right-thinking people, am eagerly anticipating season three. I think it starts in May, but I'm not sure about that.

Monday, February 25, 2008



BLUE BEETLE #27: "Hold me closer, tiny demon". Ouch. Actually, Blue Beetle is one of those comics I think I'd be buying if I had more disposable income. Looks like it might be kinda fun.

DETECTIVE COMICS #844: I'm finding that these Dustin Nguyen covers are catching my eye with more frequency- they're cleverly conceived. This one's got Zatanna by Dini, which is probably made of win, but I'm just not interested in buying odd issues of this or that title right now, with few exceptions. I hope everybody concerned understands.

FABLES #73: Ho hum, another wonderful James Jean illustration. You know, one of these days he's going to decide that he's bored with doing illustrations for comic books, and then where will we all be? Let's appreciate his excellence now while we can.

FINAL CRISIS #1: Y'know, I've been quite happily ignoring all the 52/infinity/Countdown multi-title crossover bullshit for a year or two now, since I was so thoroughly put off by Identity Crisis so long ago. But this is by Grant "Jesus" Morrison and J.G. Jones, so it's gonna be hard for me to pass. I just hope it makes sense, as much as a Grant script can make anyway.

JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA #16: So, I guess (and please bear in mind that I haven't read an issue of this title since #1) they're recycling Kingdom Come here, right? How's that working, I wonder? Someone will have to tell me, I'm not gonna buy. I am still intrigued by that Cyclone character, though- maybe I should draw her one of these days, after I draw Black Bolt and Fred Hembeck...

DC SPECIAL: RAVEN #3: There's a part of me that really likes Damion Scott's colorful and energetic graffiti-inspired artwork, as I believe I discussed in my review of Solo #10; however, it's so sloppy and all-over-the-place that I can see why there are haters as well. None of t his really matters all that much because I'm not buying, but this post is all about things that occurred to me as I looked over the solicits, so there ya go.

THE SPIRIT #17: I like Ploog as much as the next guy, but I haven't seen his first issue of this title yet, so it's anybody's guess how much I'll like him here. That said, I think that this is a really, really really good Eisner-style illo from Paul Smith, who does the art honors on this particular ish, and that bodes well.

TEEN TITANS: YEAR ONE #5: Visited my LCS on Saturday, and took the opportunity to look over #2 of this title. Y'know, I pretty much liked what I saw for the most part, Kerschl & LaPointe's sickly Aqualad and some headscratching anachronisms being the only real liability. I think I'll think about getting the trade. Neat to see the Flips poster on this issue's cover...

THE WAR THAT TIME FORGOT #1: Is that a goofy, delirious, overheated cover or what? This is somewhat interesting, especially because of the presence of Firehair, a character which has given me reason to think about looking for some old back issues someday, but I doubt I'll get this. Perhaps a trade.

AMAZING SPIDER-GIRL #20: Hey! Does Sims know about this one?

DEAD OF NIGHT FEATURING MAN-THING #4: I like the covers' conceit of aping old EC comics. Not enough to buy, but I like it just the same.

IRON MAN: VIVA LAS VEGAS #1: Are we sick of Iron Man yet? Just you wait! Anyway, this somewhat gratuitous cover, not that there's anything wrong with that, looks good (as well it should, it's by Adi Granov) and the story it's wrapped around is supposed to be written by Jon Favreau, the movie's director, so it has that going for it anyway.

IMMORTAL IRON FIST #15: The return of Bei Bang-Wen, plus new art by Kaare Evans. I would buy this anyway.

MOON KNIGHT #18: I repeat: Are we sick of Iron Man yet?

OMEGA: THE UNKNOWN #8: So, if I understand it correctly, certain parties who shall go nameless are suggesting that supporting this comic is somehow disrespectful to the memory of Steve Gerber, who as we all know originally created the character, wanted to script any revival, and was on record as being opposed to this project's release, and I'm being a bad person by not only purchasing, but enjoying Lethem, Rusnak, and Dalrymple's faithful-in-spirit take. Well, to hell with that. I wish that Gerber could have done it, too, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate what the latter three are trying to do! Just my opinion, make of it what you will.

SHE-HULK #29: Offhand, I don't remember why this one caught my eye, besides the obvious. Perhaps I meant to say that this looks more "gratuitous" than the Iron Man: Viva cover to me. Oh well.

SKY DOLL #1: I like this cover, which is (if I read it correctly) part of a Marvel partnership with French publisher Soliel. I see nipplage! I'll bet you a nickel that the interiors aren't half as interesting.

YOUNG AVENGERS PRESENTS #5: It shows how out of touch I am with Marvel comics that I didn't have a clue who this character was, and no wonder; there are just WAY TOO MANY permutations of the standard Marvel roll for me these days, between the Ultimate, Old, New, Borrowed, Blue, Crosby, Stills, Nash, Young, and Marvel Adventures versions, and so on and so forth- it's wearying. Anyway, this seems to be the daughter of Scott (?) Lang, who was Ant-Man for a while back in the late 70's-early 80's and has probably appeared a million places since in a million comics I've never read. ANYWAY, I like this costume, but I just don't have the money, energy or patience to get mixed up in all these multitudes of versions of the same characters. Nice costume, though.

I also liked this totally gratuitous cover by two of the foremost practitioners of superhero cheesecake these days, the Dodsons:

I don't have a clue who these provocative wenches are, again see the entry immediately preceding, except that they're two of the YOUNG X-MEN, and that's all I care to know.

Finally, the IRON MAN: ENTER THE MANDARIN TPB comes out in May; you should get it. Have I ever lied to you before?

Of course I haven't. And now I'm done.

Sending out a posthumous BSBdG today to GEORGE HARRISON, who would have been 65 years of age.

10 of my favorite Harrisongs, both solo and with the Beatles, in no particular order and subject to change at the drop of a Krishna consciousness button:

Apple Scruffs, from All Things Must Pass
Within You Without You, from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Old Brown Shoe, B-side to "The Ballad of John & Yoko", appears on Past Masters Vol. 2
Simply Shady, from Dark Horse
Be Here Now, from Living in the Material World
Don't Bother Me, from With The Beatles
Something, from Abbey Road
Life Itself, from Somewhere in England
Behind That Locked Door, from All Things Must Pass
If I Needed Someone, from Rubber Soul

I need to expand this to 25 someday.

Oh, by the way, George's Wikipedia entry has this annotation:

Harrison started a rumor that he was born on 24 February as a joke. All reliable sources show his birth date as 25 February.

You know you can always rely on Wikipedia for the facts. Regardless, I don't know for sure about the veracity of this one way or the other, so until I am convinced otherwise I continue to cite 2/25. Here's a copy of his birth certificate, which appeared as part of a trade ad for his 1976 LP Thirty-Three and One-Third.

Friday, February 22, 2008


It's time once more for another Spinner Rack Junkie- that more-or-less ongoing feature in which I write capsule reviews of various works of sequential fiction that I have perused in the interval since the last time I inflicted said reviews upon one and all, or to be specific, the period from approximately 2 to 16 February, 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.

100 BULLETS #88: 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 12 issues. Sorry to see a minor supporting character, who's actually been around for a long time now, get killed. B+

ABE SAPIEN: THE DROWNING #1: At first, I wasn't terribly enthused about yet another miniseries featuring Abe and what I assumed was further filling-in of the blanks about his backstory. Turns out that isn't the case; guess I should pay closer attention to the solicitation info! Anyway, Mignola's on board for this, and it seems he has loosened up a bit script-wise; he's positively loquacious, as compared to his usual sparsely dialogued scripting, in this account of Abe's first solo adventure. It also features another new character, a 19th Century John Constantine "occult detective" type that seems to bow out early but you should know better. Even though there are the requisite scaly tentacle monsters to contend with, apparently a requirement for Abe stories since it's all supposed to be tied in with, or at least echo, that ongoing pseudo-Lovecraftian extraterrestrial human race-threatening frog monster subplot Mignola's been working since 1994, it's a fast-paced and solid beginning. I'm also liking the art by Jason Shawn Alexander, not to be confused with the actor that was the voice of Duckman- it's a tad on the sloppy side, but in a good way, and reminds a teensy bit of the work of Mike Lark with Steven Guadiano inks, or perhaps a less pretentious Jeff Jones. Another promising Hellboy spinoff, so what else is new. A-

AMERICAN VIRGIN #23: Well, it figures that this series, which danced all around the very issues it promised to illuminate, bucks the trend of the final, and pretty much the best (at least most focused) story arc and concludes with the bane of my existence- the ambiguous ending, quite possibly written so because the writer didn't really know exactly how he wanted to end the thing in the first place and designed to provoke further thought on the matter at hand, but completely unsatisfying from the standpoint of the committed reader who simply wants to witness the resolution of the storyline he or she has invested two years of their life following. Of course, I know that it's difficult to get a cancellation notice, then have to hurriedly wind up narratives that were most likely meant to go on for years to come. And that begs the question- in these turbulent times, when new series come and go at the drop of a hat, even Vertiginous ones, why would a writer plot that far in advance? Anyway, as so often seems to be the case in endeavors that sport her byline, the brightest star of this show was Becky Cloonan, who provided outstanding visuals for the entire run, with a handful of sympathetic inkers. But was it all worth the effort? Who the hell knows? Figure it out for yourself- you'll have the rest of your life to ponder it. B

B.P.R.D.: 1946 #2: Ooh, this one is shaping up nicely. I'm loving Josh Dysart's dialogue; it's terse and lean and to-the-point but never dry and uninvolving. This is a great premise for a supernatural adventure, too- in the wake of World War II, the US and Russian paranormal agencies stumble upon a Nazi-created menace, and it looks like it's going to be up to Professor Bruttenholm, depicted wonderfully, and a demon who chooses to look like a weird, pale young Russian child (Anastasia, perhaps? Or Claudia from the Anne Rice vampire books) that is in charge of the Moscow team to defeat it. Maybe it's just my fascination with early-mid 20th Century Russia, maybe it's just the sheer oddity of Mignola's idea here, but I am enjoying it very much so far. A big part of this mini's success so far is Azaceta, whose moody, Tommy Lee Edwards-like style is letter-perfect. A

FABLES #69: Rather pat finale of the "Good Prince" story arc; everything gets resolved early and conveniently, there's no dramatic tension whatsoever, all the events are treated as a fait accompli, and the satisfactions are left to be small ones- the sweet final scenes, for example. Longtime readers will be left to wonder how the other (wooden) shoe will fall, because surely the Adversary (whom we don't even get to see react to what seems to be a crushing defeat) will not stand for this very long. We don't really have a clue. This is still readable, and as solidly if unspectacularly drawn, as always...but it's just structured oddly, and one gets the feeling that there will be more to come, some Adversarial milkshake drinking perhaps, if you'll excuse the expression. We'll see. B+

IRON MAN: ENTER THE MANDARIN #5: Tony Stark and Iron Man are such polarizing characters among Marvel readers that I can understand, sort of, why this series hasn't received the attention I think it observes; as someone who couldn't care less about Civil War or its attendant spinoffs, I'm seeing this as a great old-school spin on the original Lee/Heck Tales of Suspense stories, and one with nothing at all to do with the character the way it's written now in what passes for continuity. But this wouldn't be half as good as it is without Eric Canete's loose, but dynamic art- he's created a minor masterpiece here and deserves a bigger showcase to show just what he can do. Oh well, one more issue of this to go (this one's a setup for the climactic Iron Man-Mandarin battle next issue), and then we'll see. Buy the trade, if you're on the fence. A

JACK STAFF #14: This issue sums up, even better than the Special of two weeks ago, what makes Grist's homage/tribute/pastiche such a diverting read. We get more Jack action this time out (yeah, that sounds bad I know), a new villain who yeah, is a Joker copy- but that's what Grist is doing with this series, giving fresh spins and a British slant to familiar characters and presenting it to us via his first-class storytelling skills. Best of all, he brings back the Spider, who grabbed me back when I first started reading Jack and remains a favorite character, especially in the short vignette in which he appears. I'm glad that Grist seems to be back on schedule and committed to it, and this issue is the first of what I think will be an outstanding run. A

NORTHLANDERS #3: Wood's Viking saga continues to unfold at a measured pace; this is well-written- I expect no less from Wood- and nicely illustrated by Davide Gianfelice, whose art often gives me a distinct late-70's Esteban Maroto vibe when I look at it sideways. A major drawback for me, however, is the fact that I still can't warm to any of the characters in this tale, whether they're kinda-good or kinda-bad...and that kinda tempers my enthusiasm a bit. Still, I'm still interested enough in where this is going to continue to buy. B

And there you have it. Gosh, some might say, don't you ever write any negative reviews? Well, I reply, I do, but most of the books I get these days, since I have gradually dropped off the few comp lists I was on at one time, I pay for and I just don't have the cash mon-nay to buy comics I'm not at least interested in. But worry you not- if I buy a comic that sucks, I'll be even more pissed abot it and I'll be sure to pass that vexation on right here in future Spinner Rack Junkie columns. Until then, ta for now!
Prepare yourselves, mortals, for JOHNNY B's FEARLESS OSCAR PREDICTIONS!

Yes, for the first time in a long time (unless I did it over on the LJ- I forget), I am, without a net (or Frankie, for that matter, tee hee), determined to predict the winner of each Academy Award. Of course, we all know that there are many fine films not represented here (Zodiac? Hello!), but these are the choices we are stuck with and it is incumbent upon us all to make do as best we would-be Criswells can do.

Un disclaimér: Since I am of modest means and tied down with many bills and responsibilities, as since the nearest multi-screen cinema to me is run by people who think the likes of Hope Floats and The Bucket List are hightoned filmmaking, it should come as no surprise to you that I have not seen a great many of the cited films below. So this will not be a list of the films I think should win, but a list of the films I think will win, since I do keep up with writing about films as much as the average pop culture aficionado. I will also post my typically witty and erudite commentary after each. And now, before I use up my daily ration of italicized words, here goes nothing.


Atonement: Hey, I saw the trailer! Looks like the kind of film the Academy loves to reward. Also looks like the kind of film that I struggle to stay awake during. I might try to watch it on cable someday.

Michael Clayton: I like Clooney, and Tilda Swinton up to a point, and I have this in my Netflix queue. And why haven't you friended me yet? Click the link in the still-a-work-in-progress linkbar at right. Anyway, I haven't seen this yet because I've been busy watching every season DVD of Entourage (that's available- what the hell is the holdup on season 4?), and since I'm a man of limited means, (see above) I only subscribe to the one disc at a time option. So blame Vincent Chase and Ari Gold. And E, don't forget E. Anyway, this one has a shot, because I hear it has an actual honest to goodness ending, something many of the films on this list lack.

No Country for Old Men: Ah, yes. No Country, aka 3/4 of a classic film. OK, OK, I've mellowed a bit in my stance about how annoyed I was at the non-climax of this film. I can even accept and understand why the author chose to structure it that way. All things considered, this is the best Coen Bros. film since O Brother, make no mistake. But that non-resolution still grates, even after all this enlightenment. This one seems to be the favorite, but I'm not so sure.

There Will Be Blood: I may try to drive down to Bowling Green, 40 miles southwest, and see this tomorrow- I've been meaning to do it for weeks now, but these days, with 3 dollar gas, a frivolous 80-mile round trip is not something lightly undertaken. Anyways, this one looks like it will be outstanding, although I understand it has ending issues as well. Daniel Day-Lewis is a hell of an actor, and I want to see it for him if nothing else. I don't know- there's a nagging feeling I have about this that it won't win the Oscar (TM).

Juno: The trailer I saw, months ago, made this look like it would be clever, witty, and somewhat heartwarming. This will most likely be a Netflixer. Its subject matter and its non-epic status make it a dark horse for me, though. Another hunch.

WINNER: The cynic in me screams Atonement, but the pragmatic, dispassionate observer in me keeps thinking it will be No Country for Old Men, which will make both of us happy because we are big Coen fans, even though they've been pissing us off for about six years now.


Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)
Jason Reitman (Juno)
Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton
Joel Coen and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men)
Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood)

WINNER: I think this race comes down to the Coens and Anderson, with Schnabel as a dark horse. The other two films seem to me like they could have been directed by anybody more competent that Uwe Boll. Anyway, it seems like the Academy likes to fuck with people, and create these little headscratching situations, so I predict that Paul Thomas Anderson will win for There Will Be Blood, even though the Coens will have directed the Best Picture. This award will be presented first, though, so I claim the right to reverse these picks if the Coens win Best Director.


George Clooney (Michael Clayton)
Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
Johnny Depp (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street)
Tommy Lee Jones (In the Valley of Elah)
Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises)

WINNER:Of these, I've seen Depp and Mortensen's performances (Eastern Promises: another film which coulda/shoulda been nominated for Best Picture), and while Depp was pretty darn good, even singing, as was Mortensen- neither of them have a English policeman in the Russian Mafia's, or a Todd's Barbershop's Patron's chance. That leaves Jones, whom I'm sure gave the standard Tommy Lee Jones Performance®™, usually always worthy of consideration; Clooney, who usually always gives solid, likable, relaxed (even when he's experiencing deep emotional turmoil a la Syriana) perfs; and Day-Lewis, who is an "Act-or's Ac-tor". I'm picking Day-Lewis.


Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth: The Golden Age)
Julie Christie (Away From Her)
Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose)
Ellen Page (Juno)
Laura Linney (The Savages)

WINNER: I have seen none of these films, although I have La Vie Netflixed. I have a hunch, however, that Julie Christie will win- because it's been a while since we've heard anything from her, and she's playing someone with Alzheimers', things the Academy seems to always recognize, and on top of that she's looking pretty damn good these days for a woman her age.


Casey Affleck (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)
Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)
Philip Seymour Hoffman (Charlie Wilson's War)
Hal Holbrook (Into the Wild)
Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton)

WINNER: Wait- how the hell did someone or something from Robert Ford get nominated? Does the Academy know about this? (I kid- that one looks interesting and is Netflix queued/Entourage cockblocked even as we speak) Anyways, despite the presence of Hoffmann, I believe that Bardem will take the statue, because his role as Chigurh generated the most buzz out of all these. Watch out for Holbrook- he might get a sympathy vote because he's probably not long for this world.


Cate Blanchett (I'm Not There)
Ruby Dee (American Gangster
Saoirse Ronan (Atonement)
Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone)
Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton)

WINNER: For the record, I don't think Blanchett looks very damn much like 1965-era Bob Dylan at all, except for the curly wig. I might think different if I see the film, but judging by my previous experience with director Todd Haynes, I probably won't for quite some time. I keep seeing "Sandra" when I see "Ruby" Dee because I'm an idiot. I haven't seen Gangster, except for one clip with Dee, and she was good but I'm dubious. Moving on, nobody wants to have to pronounce Ronan's name more than once. Swinton, by the scenes I've seen (ooh, alliteration!), should probably win this but I'll bet Blanchett gets it because the Academy likes to reward stunt casting.


Surf's Up

WINNER: While I believe that Persepolis, which I still haven't seen yet and most likely won't until its release on DVD because I live in Bumfuck, Kentucky and can't afford to drive to Louisville just to see a film, will be the most enduring of the two nominees (I think that Surf's Up is there just out of courtesy to some producer or somesuch), the Academy will most likely give the statue to Brad Bird (who will always have my undying gratitude for The Incredibles, a flick I just can't get enough of) and Ratatouille, which may deserve it, I don't know. It's in the queue. Blame Drama and Turtle.

And that's all I'm callin'. I don't care (and I suspect you don't either unless you're in the industry or are going to school to try and be) about the "Best Sound Mixing" and "Best Original Score"-type categories.

So there you have it! We will see what we will see!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

At last, here's the long-awaited (by some, certainly by me) reprint collection of the "Diana Prince" period of Wonder Woman. It's a collection of comics which I completely ignored when I was a kid. It's not that I was especially disinclined to like Wonder Woman, far from it- although I've never really been what you could call a big fan of the character, as I've stated many times, I used to own a handful of issues when I was growing up- including many of the retro-style Kanigher/Andru efforts and strangely enough, the single issue that came out just prior to this "new direction". And all things considered, especially given that this is stodgy, conservative 1960's DC we're talking about, it was a shocking and unprecedented direction indeed- and this collection of an obscure time in a flagship character's history is long overdue.

Look, I'll say right up front that for content, I'm giving this, the DIANA PRINCE-WONDER WOMAN TP VOL 01: a C+ - but don't let that give you pause if you're considering buying; it's deeply flawed and probably not meant to stand up to this sort of scrutiny, but it's still vital and imaginative and very much of its time. Very much. It's a mishmash of any number of early-mid 60's pop culture touchstones; spy films like the Matt Helm and Flint series and of course James Bond, TV action series such as Honey West, Danger Man, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which it reminds me of more than anything; Swinging London and its mod fashions, biker flicks, hippies, romance comics, superhero comics, of course- all are represented in different degrees. At some point, it seems, sales figures caused the decision makers at DC at the time to consider doing something different with the even-then venerable Wonder Woman character; the freewheeling lunacy and the subsequent retro approaches of Kanigher and Andru had run their respective courses. Inspired, no doubt, by the still-popular superspy trend, the decision was made to depower Wondy and recast her as a Diana Rigg/Emma Peel-style adventurer. Scripting would be pre-Green Lantern/Green Arrow Dennis O'Neil, and co-plotting and art duties would be assumed by Mike (Justice League) Sekowsky. OK, so far so good- O'Neil was an up-and-comer, and Sekowsky's idiosyncratic style lended itself well to drawing females and action. The first issue in which this change took effect, #178, was a testing-the-waters-type tale in which Steve Trevor gets framed for murder and WW has to go undercover in Hippie-land (shades of Brother Power the Geek!) to clear his name. To make matters worse, it's her own testimony that incriminates the Colonel. So after about two panels' worth of weeping, she realizes in order to achieve her goal, the previously straight-laced and buttoned-down career military gal Diana must get a fashion makeover, which she pursues with gusto, having a wonderful time and apparently forgetting all about her incarcerated lover. Not to worry, though, after a page or so of Diana modeling the latest two-years-late ginchy fashion, she goes on the trail and eventually finds the real killer, and is comfortably snuggling with Steve at the end, dressed in full Amazon regalia aka the star-spangled bathing suit. However, Trevor can't help but ponder how attractive Diana Prince was in her new look, the heel, and thus the stage is set. They commit to the premise for real in #179, in which it's revealed that Paradise Island is running out of the magic or power of the gods, or whatever sustains the Amazons and their abilities in our world, and must relocate to a different dimension to recharge their batteries, in a manner of speaking. Diana is forced to choose to go with them, or stay in our world- a decision that is made more difficult by Steve Trevor. Seems once again Steve has gotten in trouble, this time the result of a secret undercover government mission which has caused him to be considered a spy and go on the lam. Of course, Diana doesn't know that this is all a setup, so she feels she has to come through for her man once more and decides to stay put, thus ensuring that she will no longer have her Amazonian abilities. For some reason, which if it was explained I missed it, she also loses her job with the US Army, and finds herself bereft of boyfriend, powerless, and out of work. She decides to set up a boutique, her love of kicky clothes being well-documented last issue, and the means to clear Steve comes along next via an encounter with an elderly Chinese gentleman named I Ching, who trains her in the martial arts and recruits her in the battle against Dr. Evil a new menace, "Dr. Cyber". The next few issues are spent tracking down and facing off with the sexy and quite female doctor (who resembles a younger Elizabeth Taylor) and her seemingly limitless group of equally sexy and quite female minions, in settings as diverse as vast underwater lairs and fake Swiss villages. These issues maintain a solid kind of B-movie In Like Flint sort of action-thriller pace, combined with standard "comic booky" plot twists.

But then, we get a real left-field curve- O'Neil moves on and Sekowsky takes over on both scripting and art duties, and suddenly, and I do mean suddenly- it's like one panel Diana is weeping over a betrayal (more on that later) and the next she's being visited by one of her Amazon sisters, who's there to call her back to Paradise Island for some out-of-the-blue mythological adventure, to do battle with her grandfather Ares. After one acclimates to the abrupt shift in tone, it's actually a pretty good adventure saga- Ares has designs on conquering first Paradise Island, then the other dimensions, and has placed a spell on his main obstacle, Diana's mother Hippolyta, to further his goals- he seeks the secret of dimensional travel and she won't give it to him, so he's had his witchy woman associate to place her in a state of perpetual nightmare-plagued sleep. He now wants the secret from Diana, but after tearful deliberation she decides not to gove it to him and fight instead. She rallies the troops, and gets them to try and hold off Ares and his army so she can recruit (and this is where it really gets nuts) the likes of King Arthur and Lancelot, Sigfried, and other legendary heroes to aid her and her sisters. They've become bitter and lazy, however, and won't help- but then Valkyries arrive and join forces with the Amazons, and we get the battle royale conclusion, which features a few twists before it's done. All things considered, this is good heroic fantasy, especially for a late 60's DC comic, and showed that Sekowsky had some game. This is where the collection ends, however, and judging from the covers to subsequent issues, to be collected in volume 2 I'm assuming (if sales warrant, of course), he went back to the spy game in short order.

Of course, regardless of the genres involved, there are some nits to pick and more than a few logic gaps- for example, how did the Amazons retain their abilities when the male I Ching came over with Diana and set foot on the island? And why did Diana lose her military intelligence job in the first place- it was Trevor that had to go on the lam, and since the government set it up in the first place it's far likelier that she would have just been reassigned! But, as it usually is with DC books from this period, sometimes it's best not to think about them too much and go with the flow. Really, the most troubling thing about the stories is the grating sexism that is rampant herein, especially (oddly enough) in the issues O'Neil scripted.

Introduced in his run were supporting characters like PI Tim Trench, who constantly sports sexist attitudes and spouts belittling bromides at her, striving, I'm sure, for a Lee Marvin-in-The Killers character-type vibe but it's kinda dismaying to read almost 40 years later, when we know better. And I have to believe O'Neil knew better then too- this was, after all, the man who gave us the aforementioned socially questioning Green Lantern/Green Arrow as well as one of the first attempts to give a real depth to the Catwoman's characterization. But much of this is dire. Diana, newly stripped of her powers, is endlessly thinking to us, the readers, how "frightened" she is to be facing danger in this new state. And sure, that's believable up to a point but it's played up way too much. The lead story in this collection, with a submissive Diana/WW curling up next to her somewhat boorish boyfriend at the end when all has been put right again, also raises eyebrows. After Steve is eliminated from the picture later on, Diana is also constantly falling in love with the likes of Trench and at least one other supporting character (not I Ching, of course- he's old! Gasp!), and is constantly weeping, distraught and despairing that she has been deceived and will never be happy and in love, just like in the pages of one of DC's romance comics of the time. Despite the fact that the creators have set Diana up to be a kick-ass, no-nonsense, capable heroine they were constantly undermining that image in order to soften her up for the sensibilities of the time, and perhaps DC's editors as well. It's especially glaring when one considers that powers or no powers, she's stood toe-to-toe with the Justice League and has faced extraordinary menaces of all types, not to mention that she is still an Amazonian princess, and it just plain old rings false that she would be as timid as she's portrayed...especially early on. There's subtle racism as well in the portrayal of I Ching; of course he's a venerable martial arts master; of course he's able to spout Confucius-style wisdom at the drop of a hat; of course his speech is often written in that pidgin Engrish style, for example "Soft emotions cloud intellect! Grieve later if you must!". But to their credit, O'Neil and Sekowsky also portray Ching as possessing a sly sense of humor and a steadfast perseverance in the face of adversity, and he's always got Diana's back, so after a while he won me over to the point that I wound up liking him quite a bit. He reminds me of another questionable Asian mentor portrayal, Joel Grey's Chiun in the Remo Williams film. He was about as Asian as Arnold Schwarzenegger, but he's a good enough actor to where his portrayal was clever and witty, and wound up being a highlight of that uneven movie.

Artwise, let's face it- Sekowsky's style is an acquired taste, even back in his Justice League salad days. He was a solid layout/storytelling guy, and could draw beautiful women with the best of them, but it's always come down to the fact that his, shall we say, adventurously contorted figure drawings made his work simultaneously distinctive and yet somewhat offputting. Fortunately, he was as at home with the fantastical mythological adventures as he was the Bond-movie superspy stuff, and with the help of Dick Giordano's sympathetic inks on a few of these stories, he kept the events moving along at a very smooth clip. This isn't a dull-looking collection by any means.

So that's what you're getting into when you step into this twenty dollar time capsule ($14 at right now!) and revisit one of the oddest chapters in Wonder Woman's long history. Me, I like the idea a bit more than I like the execution; I wish that O'Neil and Sekowsky's heads had been in a bit different place when they were writing this stuff, but it's novel and fun when it's not making my eyebrow raise. To some, seeing Diana as a martial arts adventurer with no Egg Fus, Glops or Centipedes in sight might more than compensate for the fact that much of the characterization is not favorable to the perception of her as a confident, self-sufficient female. Regardless, I'm happy to finally have the chance to decide for myself. It's a handsome presentation and I for one am happy that it wasn't relegated to the B&W Showcase Presents ghetto. Sure, I gave it a C+ for content, but overall I'm thinking B-. I sincerely hope to see a volume 2 very soon.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

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Almost forgot to send out a Bacardi Show Birthday Greeting to Smoke author Alex De Campi. Here's to many more!

Monday, February 18, 2008

ADD's Comics Retailing Poll is done, and unfortunately I did not send in a response. That doesn't mean I didn't start one, though, and I decided to post the answers I did write here for all to see. I think it will be clear why I didn't finish; since I don't really purchase many of my comics or GNs at a comics shop anymore, I don't really have a horse in this particular race- although I do believe that the continuance of the brick-and-mortar shop is still of importance in the grand scheme of things, for accessibility if nothing else. My former comics/music/gaming shop (and one I still visit occasionally) is The Great Escape, in Bowling Green, KY, one of a chain of TGE stores based in Nashville, TN. Below, I'll refer to them as TGE. Anywho, here are me answers:

1. Do you regularly buy comic books and/or graphic novels in a brick and mortar comic book store?

No, I do not. I did from roughly 1982 to 2005.

2. If not, why not, and where do you buy them?

I purchase mine from an online service, DCBS. I do so because they offer a discount and will pre-bag & board my comics and purchases, and my comics shop did not do either.

3. How much would you estimate you spend on comics in a year?

App. $500-600 a year.

4. Have you ever bought something at a comic book convention that you had previously pre-ordered through a comic book store? How did you handle the situation? Did you buy the second copy when it arrived at the comic book store, or did you refuse to buy it?

I rarely attend conventions, due to my lack of access to the cities in which they're held and most importantly my lack of discretionary income that would enable me to do so. The last one I went to was a toy and gaming con in Louisville, KY, which featured Mike Kaluta as one of the guests, in 2000. When I have attended, I only bought back issues. I know in the rare occasions when I would get comped or somehow buy something before I got back to my comics store, I'd just tell them and they'd either put it back on the shelf or send it to one of their other stores, perhaps even eventually returning it. I don't know for sure. It wasn't a hassle, and it didn't happen enough to be a real problem.

5. If you do shop regularly at a comic book store, how satisfied are you that your retailer is knowledgeable about the comics you are interested in and committed to getting the books you want into your hands as quickly and efficiently as possible?

I knew that a couple of them knew the types of books I was interested in, and once in a while someone would suggest something, but for the most part I didn't get a lot of personalized attention, nor did I really expect any. They had a lot of people besides me subscribing their holds service, after all. They did an efficient job of getting my books to me, but sometimes getting Indie and other obscure titles was a problem, if I didn't pre-order them- which was one reason I stopped shopping there regularly. In the times I've been in there since, I see they're doing a better job of stocking certain types of books. In my time of shopping at TGE, there were more than a few employees who read and bought comics (many were BIG Gaiman fans) and while they weren't knowledgeable about the whole spectrum, I could usually talk to them about this comics-related subject or that. I kept up with things enough where having someone recommend something to me just wasn't that necessary.

6. What is the best experience you've ever had in a comic book store?

Well, there were times when I'd run across that long-sought back issue, or see a title come out that I'd been anticipating. But the best times were when I'd see friends and get in good conversations with them, as well as some of the store employees.

7. What is the worst experience you've ever had in a comic book store?

Can't think of too many- usually it involved frustration at not being able to get a copy of this or that comic, and that's one reason why I no longer shop regularly at that store.

8. Do you believe the majority of comic book stores adhere to professional business standards that make them competitive with mainstream bookstores such as Borders and Barnes and Noble?

In general, the ones I have been in have. But I haven't been in that many.

9. Do you believe the majority of comic book stores you have shopped in actively seek out customers of all ages, genders and interests? Do you believe professional comic book stores should do so?

I don't know if I'd say "actively", but TGE always seemed to carry a healthy amount of manga and other kids-oriented material as well as gaming supplies, both Yu-Gi-Oh type and video. It wasn't a focus, but it was there.

10. Do you believe the majority of comic book stores you have shopped in have adjusted well to the development of the graphic novel market?

Again, my sample set is limited, but by and large, yes. They always seem to have a large selection.

11. Do you believe overall that the direct market for comic books is functioning well and has positioned itself to thrive in the long term? If so, why? If not, why not?

There's always room for improvement, but I'm not really knowledgeable enough about the particulars to have a relevant opinion on this matter.

12. What is the direct market doing right?

Again, I'm not really knowledgeable enough about the particulars to have a relevant opinion on this matter.

13. In what ways could it be improved?

You guessed it, I'm not really knowledgeable enough about the particulars to have a relevant opinion on this matter. I simply haven't paid as much attention to it as I probably should. As long as I can get the books I want from DCBS, this ostrich is content to keep his head buried in the sand.

14. Please include any other comments you have about your experiences as a consumer buying comics and graphic novels.

Ah, this is where I'm supposed to provide some insight or meaningful statement. Sorry, I'm not particularly insightful, it seems, especially about this subject.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Via Mark Evanier (who probably should have started reading them at age 13, like I did), I find out that Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings are in order today for Clark ("Doc") Savage Jr., 1930's-1940's star of a series of Pulp adventure novels that reached a whole new audience in the 1960's and 70's when Bantam books reprinted them out of order in a series of paperbacks with 62 stunning, realistically painted covers by James Bama.

Hard to adequately describe how much I dug these books as a teen, and how hard I worked to acquire the set of paperbacks. Of course, truth be told, I first discovered Doc and his Fabulous Five via the short-lived Marvel Comics adaptations (right, Jim Steranko cover) that sported art by Ross Andru which still defines the way I see these characters in my mind.

The original pulp stories were up and down- most of them were written by a fellow named Lester Dent, who is generally acknowledged as Doc's creator, under the Conde Nast house name of Kenneth Robeson- and by and large his were the best. Other gentlemen contributed to the canon as well, and they were mostly unremarkable, often awful. I think that the idea of Doc, his crew and cousin Patricia (who I always wanted to read more about, wouldn't ya just know it), and the larger-than-life menaces they often fought was enough to inspire awe and the promise of mind-bending adventure. And sometimes the reality didn't (as so often is the case) match up to the expectation...but hey, sometimes it did, and that was magic. And I'm rambling.

So, anyway, happy birthday, Doc- I just might pull out one of the paperbacks and give it a read today. And I'll put on the first Electric Light Orchestra album, just like I sometimes did back in the day- "Manhattan Rumble (49th Street Massacre)" always evokes Doc riding on the running board of his Roadster, with Monk and Ham bickering all the way, en route to combat with some weird menace. Ah, nostalgia. If I was collaborating with Kerry Conran (Sky Captain) on my Doc movie, I'd recruit Roy Wood to do the soundtrack, which I'm sure would be regarded with horror by the suits and bean counters in Hollywood.

ETA: And hey! Due to some judicious Googling, you can click below and hear "Manhattan Rumble" in all its glory! So pick up a Doc paperback, and start reading!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I was, as it seems was the case with so many remarkable cultural benchmarks, slow to embrace Kirby's new comics for DC back in 1970 at age 10. Why, I can't really say- certainly a limited income factored in, and perhaps I was reluctant to read Kirby comics if they weren't in tandem with Stan and in service of new Fantastic Four stories. Maybe the slipshod, jerry-rigged look of the covers of the first few issues of New Gods, Mister Miracle, Forever People, and Jimmy Olsen turned me off, all full of hysterical blurbs, cutout-colored figures, and so forth- I was strongly visually oriented even then. Maybe the local distributors just didn't put them up on the spinner racks, unlikely but distribution was spotty back then; nobody seemed to care that it was important for kids that loved X-Men #59, for example, to get #60 to keep reading and find out what happened next. Whatever the reason, I finally stuck my toe in the churning waters of the Fourth World via Mister Miracle #6, reprinted in volume two of these handsome hardcover collections. I don't know why I chose that particular issue. While I'm sure I didn't get all the in-jokes in what amounted to a pisstake at Stan Lee and Roy Thomas' expense, I kinda understood that Jack was making fun of Stan since they weren't working together anymore, and I LOVED Barda, Oberon, Scott Free and the family-type dynamic they had going on. Especially Big Barda, and her former battle partners the Female Furies, who were introduced in that very same issue. I even liked the Golden Age reprint (I forget what it was). After that, I did not miss an issue of Mister Miracle. For some reason, though, I never bought New Gods or the other two- I guess I was afraid that I had already missed too much of the interrelated storylines, who knows. Years later, when I began collecting comics for real, I made it a point to go back and get those issues I missed, only lacking a couple of Jimmy Olsens before I sold most of my original collection in 1987. I was caught up in a grand way by the sheer magnitude- the sprawling panoply of ideas, and the relentless action of Kirby's vision. I have held the opinion since that these were among the best, and most memorable, comics sagas in the history of American comics.

At this point I can hear you saying "That's all well and good, Dave, but aren't you supposed to be reviewing JACK KIRBY'S FOURTH WORLD OMNIBUS Vols. I & II, not reminiscing?" And that's right. It's now 20-something years later, and I'm rereading this stories for the first time since I was in my twenties. So what do I think now? OK, the basics: As I said, these are handsomely packaged collections. I like the cover designs. The paper stock could be better, but it's an improvement over the toilet paper they were printed on in 1972. Plus, I kinda like that the paper has a little texture to it, and it's not as smooth and glossy as better stocks would be- kinda suits the grunginess of Kirby's work. The afterwords and forewords, especially those written by Mark Evanier, are very well written and informative. Vol. 2 has some reproduced pencils, which are always interesting. These are not half-assed, slipshod collections. But what about the content? Well, it's definitely Kirby, with all that that entails. These works were done as he was a shade on the downhill side of his great career, after the peaks of the late 50's and early-mid 60's at Marvel, when his style became squatter, stockier and squared-off, without the attention to detail that was a hallmark of his earlier work (and I know that a lot of this was the fault of his inkers, but a man that draws as fast as he did would of course take shortcuts). But his storytelling style didn't suffer at all- and these stories, each and every one of them, is sheer balls-to-the-wall action all the way, breathless and delirious. Even the quieter moments are colored with the promise of hell about to break loose at any second. And that, coupled with the seemingly never-ending array of cleverly realized characters and ideas, are what makes these stories great. These are not, I say with complete understatement, dull comics. But one thing, and one thing only, drags these down- and it's a well-known and much-discussed caveat, no doubt about it- it's Kirby's hamfisted dialogue that almost sinks these stories. I don't know how else to put it. I guess I could be kind and just say it's "idiosyncratic" and let it go at that, but the ongoing parade of characters constantly explaining what's happening in the panel, and constantly explaining who this is and who that is and why this person wants that and what that thing does and so on and so forth, coupled some of the strangest diction and misplaced emphasis words, just makes me wonder- since DC was so willing to fuck with Jack on so many things when it came to these books- cutting up covers, getting Vince Colletta to ink the first few issues of each title, having Al Plastino and Murphy Anderson redraw Jimmy Olsen and Superman's faces- then why didn't they insist on someone with the ability to write with a more naturalistic voice, like Stan did for him for so long? I'm not trying to be iconoclastic here- I revere Kirby (as much as I can revere someone who I never met, anyway) for what he meant to me growing up and fully recognize him as one of the greatest creators ever, even still. But since DC, and by DC I'm assuming Carmine Infantino, had no apparent respect for his grand vision in the first place, then why didn't they intervene on this? And speaking of editorial intervention, sometimes Jack could have used more of it, I hate to say- right off the bat, in the first few issues of Jimmy Olsen, we're given a belligerent, thrill-seeking Jimmy, sans bowtie, running around with the new Newsboy Legion in the Whiz Wagon and brawling with the Hairies, who smarts off and seeks to subdue his former pal Superman- then an issue or two later (in Forever People #1) we're given the traditional green-jacketed, bowtied Mr. Olsen, palling around with Clark Kent in time-honored "Gee whillikers, Mr. Kent" style. Strange. Ah well, water under the bridge. More than anything, I guess I wasn't prepared at all for how much the dialogue took me right out of the story sometimes. And that, kids, is really my only beef. Kirby's vision, as strange and as wide-ranging is it was, will still draw you in no matter how clumsily written it is. And even with my bitching I can't help but observe that nobody, and I mean nobody, else has been able to write Darkseid, arguably Kirby's greatest creation, as well as Jack. This same dialogue style that I've railed so much against here fits the Apokolyptian despot to a tee, and Kirby could also give him a depth, a majesty, a certain gravity that has managed to elude a legion of successors. Kirby's Darkseid is hissable and a villain for sure, but there's a black sort of charisma, a dimension that makes him fascinating and even somewhat admirable- and that's a difficult trick to pull off anywhere. So there is that. And honestly, no one's really been able to hit the right character notes on a consistent basis with Orion either, although Walt Simonson surely came close one more than one occasion. It certainly is a puzzlement on top of a contradiction, no doubt about it.

There's also a part of me that can't help but wonder, fully aware that hindsight is of course 20/20, what could have been if the business practices of the comics industry, specifically Marvel in 1968, had been flexible and different enough to allow Jack and Ditko and others the financial recompense and creative voice they felt like was their due. Most certainly, Darkseid, Orion, Scott Free, and others would have found their way into the pages of Fantastic Four and Mighty Thor, like when the FF got mixed up with the Inhumans and their struggles, or Thor and the whole High Evolutionary thing- and wouldn't THAT have been a wonderment? Oh well, such speculation is pointless. It's a good thing, I believe, that DC is putting these comics out in this format, because it's an epic saga that has gone on to influence everyone that's come along to create comics since, and they deserve such a showcase. Plus, especially if you can overlook the tin-eared dialogue, these are Kirby-crackling good yarns, full of adventure, non-stop action, and grandeur. The price tag is steep, for me anyway, but the reward is great- and I think 12-year-old me would agree.

Friday, February 15, 2008

This Jim Steranko romance comic story got linked to in a couple of places yesterday, for good reason- it's a beautiful job by a master at the top of his game, even though it's in service of a tossed-off love story comic script by Stan Lee, who probably forgot about it five minutes after he handed it off. I had never seen this before, and it's an amazing thing to me. Steranko perfectly sums up that late 60's early 70's groovy psychedelic vibe with an uncharacteristically (for him, anyway) open and light style, full of frilly filigree (as befits the aimed-at-teenage-girls genre) and Saturday morning cartoon flourishes; compared to a page from, say, "At the Stroke of Midnight" from Tower of Shadows, they're literally like night and day. I gotta also give it up to the letterer, which appears to be Artie Simek- his solid characters look really good, grounding, perhaps- amidst all the Pepperland-esque graphics.

But be that as it may, I couldn't help but notice how much the linework in the page above, especially the guitar-playing young lady in the upper left-hand corner, reminds me of none other than 100 Bullets' Eduardo Risso. It never occurred to me that Steranko might have been an influence on him, but it's forehead-smackingly obvious to me now. Don't you agree?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Your obligatory Valentine's Day romance comic cover post:

Boy, I had a pretty good little posting streak going there for a while, didn't I? Unfortunately, I've been very busy at work and at home so I haven't had much time or energy to post the piddling stuff I do post. But here's something, at least!

Anyway, the song above is your Valentine's Day present- one of the most romantic, yearning, beautiful songs in (fairly) recent memory IN MY OPINION OF COURSE. It's from the one-shot album James singer Tim Booth did with David Lynch's music collaborator Angelo Badiamenti, titled Booth and the Bad Angel, and it's called "Fall in Love with Me". You're welcome. Please forgive the little burst of guitar noise at the beginning, left over from the preceding song- I didn't rip that mp3.

I still plan on putting the Jack Kirby Fourth World Omnibus Vols. I & II post up eventually, but I haven't had a lot of time to buckle down and write, thanks to meatworld concerns. But that doesn't mean I can't lay some linkage on you, and hopefully at least one of them will be new to you.

The real skinny on Valentine's Day, via GoodShit.

Still feeling a bit sad about Steve Gerber's passing; here's a tribute post by fellow traveler Don McGregor on his MySpace blog.

Alan David Doane has a poll going on, in which he asks you a bunch of questions about your comics shop experience(s). You should respond! I'm working on mine, but a lot of the questions don't apply to me anymore since I buy mine online.

One thing I will be getting at my former comics shop (I still like that shop, but now it's less convenient for me to stop in since I don't work in that town anymore) is FANTASTIC FOUR: THE LOST ADVENTURE #1, that reclamation project in which they took an unfinished Kirby FF story, done just before he bailed for DC, and completed it. By clicking on the link, you can see the first few pages; I like the subtle humor in that scene between the Thing and that Janus character, in which the latter disturbs Ben in a bank vault while he's checking out his safe deposit box- by showing the Thing in a fairly annoyed, passive stance in the face of the blustering villain who's bothering him, it points out how well Kirby could do the nuanced as well as the aggressive...and explains to me, or at least from my viewpoint, why just about every successive attempt at drawing the character by a host of different artists has fallen flat.

A new-to-me blog called Uncle Ernie's Creature Ink posted a complete John Severin story from Creepy magazine the other day; if you want to see great work by an artist in his prime go check it out. Damn, if I could find those old coverless Eerie and Creepys I have, I'd scan and post a Jerry Grandenetti story one of these days... I'm mulling over getting those Creepy Archives hardcovers; I love those old magazines and it would be great to have them collected like that. Oh well, as always it's price which gives me pause.

He's so lucky...he's a star...

Aw, you remember, the Britney song, before she went batshit insane? Anyway, I'm referring to Paul Pope, who recently posted a really cool short story called, wait for it, that's guessed it- LUCKY. You should peep it, if you haven't already. Hey, I can talk that jive!

The great Roy Wood recently received a honorary degree, making him a Doctor of Music, from England's Derby University. You can go here to get the scoop, including links to a video of the ceremony!

A movie that I seem to have been watching a lot lately is Smokin' Aces a flawed, but diverting, little slice of shoot 'em up cinema. The director, "Smokin" Joe Carnahan, has a blog.

Here's a Flickr set of illustrations by advertising and children's book artist Barbara Bradley, found via another new-to-me blog called Today's Inspiration. The last few days' worth of posts have been devoted to her art and observations.

New comics Friday! This is what I should be getting:

BPRD: 1946 #2
100 BULLETS #88

Looking forward to that Diana Prince... collection; I'm sure it's dated badly but I haven't read many of those stories. Sorry to see the last issue of American Virgin, which I almost dropped at least twice but it got better towards the end. I'm disappointed there hasn't been more buzz about that Iron Man book- guess Marvel's really made fans sick of the character. That BPRD series, 1946, got off to a good start; hope they can sustain. Finally, a new Jack Staff, only two weeks after that Special! It's like having Christmas and a birthday back to back!

OK, that's it for now. More later, maybe.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Via Mark Evanier comes awful news: STEVE GERBER has died after his extended illness, of which we who read his blog upon occasion were aware of, but he wrote optimistically until the end, so I (at least) had no clue that he was so close.

Above I've posted just a handful of covers of comics he worked on over the last three decades, many of which were among my favorites of the periods of time in which they came out. I'll leave it to others to post the more well-known of his many credits; these are some of the books which made an impression on me.

I think I first became aware of him when he took over Daredevil and the Black Widow from Gerry Conway; I think #97 was the first. Not long after, he started writing Defenders, which I was slow to pick upon (I started around #48 or so, and I had to backtrack to read Gerber's; I think it was because I've always been so averse to Sal Buscema art), but at about the same time he did some great Man-Things, some really gnarly Tarot-themed Son of Satan stories in Marvel Spotlight, eventually (of course) Howard the Duck (another book I was slow to pick up on, can't say why) and another of my favorites, an overlooked run scripting the Guardians of the Galaxy in Marvel Presents. The subsequent decades brought the ahead-of-its-time and ended-too-soon Void Indigo for Epic/Marvel, and the fun Nevada for DC/Vertigo. One thing you could always count on in a Gerber script was that it would be sharp, smart, and inventive, and often just nuts- and there simply weren't enough of them after the 70's.

I was considering buying his most recent effort, the Dr. Fate series he was working on until the end for DC. I was thinking I'd check out the trade. I wasn't crazy about the 90's Image-style art, and I told him so in the comments of his blog when he posted some advance images from it- he was dismissive of my gripe, but not in an especially negative way, and I probably deserved worse. And that was the last time I commented there, which I kinda regret.

Anyway, he's no longer dealing with a bad illness, and that's a mercy. RIP, and thanks for all the great stories, Mr. Gerber.

Tom Spurgeon has a very thorough, and very eloquent, remembrance right here.