Wednesday, December 31, 2003

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The final BSBdG of 2003 goes to Paul Westerberg, 44 today. Gee, it seems like only just the other day I was writing about him. Favorite solo album, and also most underrated: 1998's Suicane Gratifaction.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

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Time now to turn my attention to what I deem as the best movies (that I saw, anyway) of 2003. Being unemployed for seven months this year left me with more time than usual to go to the movies, and I tried to take advantage of that until the ol' severance package ran out. Problem is, I didn't see that many films that I thought were the best of this, or any year. Actually, most of the best flicks I caught this year were on Turner Classic Movies, where I saw many classics, many of which I'd never seen before, and some not-so-classics like the fun Maisie series starring Ann Sothern. Anyway, here ya go. In alphabetical order.

Concert for George Yes, this played in theatres but I got this on DVD for Christmas. For some reason I had forgotten this even took place, but now I have it to view until the end of time. Did I like it? Why sure! Big Beatle freak me, you know. It was great to see all the assembled musicians jamming and having a good time, not only the usual suspects like Eric Clapton and Jeff Lynne but Procol Harum's Gary Brooker (who played keybs on All Things Must Pass) and Billy Preston (who played on the Beatles' final albums, plus was a significant Apple artist for a few years there). Of course, Ringo and Paul were there, with Mr. Starkey singing a Carl Perkins number he could probably do in his sleep, and no big surprise here, "Photograph"; and Paul contributing a great rendition of "For You Blue" (in which Ringo chimed in during the solo with "them old twelve bar blues", much to the delight of the hard core Beatlefans) and "Something", which he started out playing on ukulele and sounded pretty darn good but you just knew the Massed Alberts would have to horn in eventually. It must have been odd for Paulie to sit there and play piano on the Pass cut "Wah-Wah" which was George's version of "How Do You Sleep", John's vicious attack on Sir Paul. Anyway, I could go on and on, but if you like George or his former group at all, this is a heartfelt, entertaining and well-done tribute, and if you aren't, you could maybe get a charge out of the funny skits by the surviving members of Monty Python (with Tom Hanks as a head-scratchingly poor substitute for John Cleese) and the handsome production values throughout.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind All right, this one fooled me because all the dates given for this film adaptation of the memoirs of game show mogul Chuckie Barris were of 2002 vintage, but it made its premiere in limited release on New Year's Eve of that year, and actually had the bulk of its theatrical run in '03. This film was a delight in a lot of ways: it is surprisingly clever visually, thanks to director/actor George Clooney (who knew?), it appealed a lot to me as someone who grew up watching The Gong Show and The Dating Game, it has great peformances by Dean Stockwell as Chuck and Clooney as the CIA agent who recruits him to be a black ops agent, and the script doesn't get so carried away with the utter strangeness of the source material that it forgets to provide emotional depth as well. Very well done.

Finding Nemo Both the animation and story were first-rate in this engaging all-ages animated version of The Searchers. Well, OK, that's not exactly accurate, but you know what I mean. Nemo was a winner not because of the animation, but because of its witty and clever script. This would have been an enjoyable film if they had used sock puppets. I just wish that those who are churning out tepid trad-animated fare like Sinbad and Treasure Planet would realize this.

Kill Bill Vol. 1 An all out feast of pop culture references, martial arts action, rock 'n roll, laughs and thrills, and after all is said and done the best film I saw this year. It's a bit bloody, for sure, but Tarantino is so audacious and skillful even as he repulses you that you can't help but dig it. Can't wait for Vol.2.

Pirates of the Carribean This one was a lot of fun, too, mostly for the mutual scenery chewing of Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush and some nifty special effects. I was totally unimpressed with the acting ability, for lack of a better phrase, of love interest Keira Knightley, and I thought there were a few too many swordfights dragging down, curiously enough, the action...but I really liked this one for the most part.

X2 I'm sure there have been better superhero movies, but I'll be damned if I can think of one offhand. I thought the performances were letter-perfect, especially the great Ian McKellen as Magneto, and this one was balls-to-the-wall action all the way, which kept us from thinking too much about what was going on. Hm...I wonder what the next one's going to be about...

and...well, that's it. I was tempted to include The Return of the King, 'cause I just know I'm gonna love it, but that violates the spirit of these sort of lists. Other 2003 flicks I did see that didn't make the cut were Ang Lee's visually accomplished but utterly joyless The Hulk, with the most (literally) hard-to-watch climax of any film in recent memory; the better than I expected but still not that great League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (review coming); Matrix Reloaded,another visually impressive but needlessly cluttered and convoluted film; the Jamie Lee Curtis remake of Freaky Friday, well acted and often very clever but no improvement on the original, so you have to wonder why they, all right, I know why. I also saw Daredevil, which often threatened to be a good movie and stay true to the spirit of Frank Miller if not Stan Lee and Gene Colan, but suffered from too-dark action scenes and eye-rolling plot contrivances.

Well, that's it, I suppose..most of these are superhero/sci-fi/fantasy genre films, which betrays my fanboy leanings, I suppose. Guess I just wanted to see a spectacle of some sort for my money, can't say. Nine times out of ten I'll wait for a low-profile indie film to hit cable, because 8 times out of ten it won't come within 80 miles of where I live. But hey- I also went to see the great Spirited Away twice in '03, so that oughtta count for something.

Next: they year in TV. Or on TV. Or whatever.
Casting a sleep-encrusted eye towards the new Diamond shipping list, I see that I'll be getting the following books on the second day of 2004:



...get ready for it... it comes...

...I don't believe it- I've been waiting so long for it...

...doesn't this remind you of those email chain letters you get sometimes...


The long awaited (by me, anyway) finale of Paul Grist's B&W JS run, published under the auspices of his own imprint, Dancing Elephant. Of course, I've been anticipating it for so long and have built that anticipation up to such an impossibly high level in my head that I'm bound to be disappointed. But what the hell. Jack Staff 12 is coming out! Hellblazer and Planetary usually get me worked up in a fanboy lather, too, so it looks like a good week.
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Multiple BSBdG's to send out today. First, in what has to have been an amazing coincidence for well nigh 30 plus years now, Monkees Davy Jones (what an odd name), 58, and Michael Nesmith, 61. Anyone who's seen Head knows how Mike feels about birthday celebrations, so I won't drag this out, but I sure have loved me a lot of Monkees music, much of it sung very nicely by our Davy, over the last 37 or so years. Fave Davy moment, besides seeing my name on the TV screen during the closing credits: his song and dance routine with Toni Basil for the tune "Daddy's Song" in Head. I'm an even bigger fan of Mike's solo albums, of which the best is probably the first proper: Magnetic South, but my personal fave is 1973's Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash.

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Also, two artists who are from totally different worlds, stylistically: Jeff Lynne, 56, and Patti Smith, 57. I've written many times about how much I love the Move and early ELO, of which Lynne was the main playa, and even have come to admire such later ELO efforts as Out of the Blue and Discovery. After ELO kinda petered out, he reinvented himself as George Martin via such vehicles as the Traveling Wilburys and the Surviving Beatles' reunion singles in 1996. While nowhere near as gifted as fellow Move and ELO co-founder Roy Wood or Tom Petty, or those Liverpool fellows he keeps hanging out with, he's still developed into an entertaining and often brilliant songwriter and producer, and I never have a problem when I see his name in the credits. Underrated Lynne project: 1990's solo Armchair Theatre, a solid set of songs that don't overstay their welcome. Smith, on the other hand, has never really grabbed me much (you remember...I didn't really get into Punk or New Wave) but a lot of people whose opinions I respect think she's wonderful, so happy happy to ya, Ms. Smith!

Monday, December 29, 2003

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Best of 2003, part deux

Now that I have the comics list out of the way, I'll turn my attention towards the music that I heard, and TV shows and films I saw in 2003 that impressed me the most. This can't be a real, legitimate "best of 2003" list, because I've been unable to afford to buy a lot of new CDs, don't watch a lot of prime time TV, or go to the movies all that much, and I'm not on anybody's comp lists yet, so this is gonna be kinda catch as catch can. If you see that there's some vitally important music that came out in 2003 that's not on the list, and you just can't believe that I didn't cite this or that, please feel free to send me a copy and I'll happily revise this if I see fit!

Anyway, here goes. Music first, listed alphabetically:

Beatles- Let it Be...Naked The act you've known for all these years, back with an old favorite that eschews several layers of Phil Spector production varnish, plus rearranges the song order and adds and drops tracks. Some of the tracks, like (of course, and will you now shut up, Paulie) "Long and Winding Road" and "Across The Universe" benefit while others, like John's great, loping, heavy (and heavily underrated) "Dig A Pony", hits "Get Back" (the victim of some clumsy fading at the end) and the title track, and "I Me Mine" defy you to tell the difference. Still, these are all excellent tracks, even "Road", and there were few albums released in 2003 that were as good, cut for cut. It hasn't been a good month for Spector, has it, what with the ongoing murder investigation, plus Paul McCartney and bandwagon-jumping critics slagging his contributions to the Fabs' long ago swan-song. Me, I still liked what he did (perhaps it's because I've practically grown up listening to his version), and like John said: "...he was given the shittiest load of badly recorded shit with a lousy feeling ever, and he made something out of it." Whoever chose the title and designed the packaging should be locked in a cell with Spector and a loaded pistol.
Maria McKee- High Dive Maria finally, after seven years, managed to release an album- and it was mostly worth the wait. Maria being Maria, there's a lot of daredevil vocalese on every track, but this album as a whole is much more restrained that 1996's sometimes brilliant, sometimes teeth-grinding Life is Sweet. Which is not to say that it plays it safe like 1994's You Gotta Sin to Get Saved, either, which can only mean that Ms. McKee's still trying to get it right. Marred only by a completely unnecessary remake of Sweet's climactic title tune and its coda "AfterLife".
Fountains of Wayne- Welcome Interstate Managers I flat out loved FoW's last album, Utopia Parkway, and this one's not that different, and although there's no drop-dead gorgeous track like Utopia's "Prom Theme", there are hooks and laffs in generous supply throughout. I have a weakness for smart-ass power pop, and these guys do it very well.
Paul Westerberg- Come Feel Me Tremble Since structure and production values just don't suit our Paul, he's given us a sequel, or continuation, of last year's ragged Stereo: basically, a collection of very loose (so loose they threaten to fall off the disc) demos that fortunately are made up of great melodies and sloppy rock and roll, sometimes at the same time, and as a result they sound pretty damn good to this old Replacements fan.
The White Stripes- Elephant I wish they'd been a bit more selective when it came to choosing the tracks to include, because there are some outstanding cuts here beside some not-so-outstanding ones. But songs like "Seven Nation Army", "Ball and Biscuit" and "The Hardest Button to Button" just flat out rock in that good old Yardbirds/Jeff Beck Group/Led Zep fashion, and this CD was stuck in my player for a solid month, unusual for me these days.
The Minus 5- Down With Wilco Oops, forgot this one! If you're a fan of Wilco's albums Summerteeth and Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, you could do worse than to check this often glum but melodically strong and sometimes even playful collaboration between Jeff Tweedy, Peter Buck and the Posies' Ken Stringfellow. There's a lot of nice Fripp-style guitar leads, harmony vocals, Beach Boys-style rhythms, and folkish touches, and the high point for me was the moody "The Old Plantation" with its gorgeous "Have you ever really tried/to peel away the sky/well, neither have I" refrain.

Some other releases of note: I gave my daughter a copy of Michelle Branch's Hotel Paper, and she's listened to it constantly since then, so I'm absorbing these songs whether I want to or not...and to be honest, some of them are pretty good. Of course, the production sound is slick as it can be, and the songs are a mile wide and an inch deep as the saying goes, but Michelle seems to be one of the few teenpop singers who aspire to be Joni rather than Madonna, and good for her. I was mostly disappointed by the Jayhawks' 2003 release Rainy Day Music, which was tuneful and nicely sung, but slight, and saddled with embarrassing, rudimentary greeting card style lyrics. Neil Young turned in his oddball Greendale, which I've only heard once and was as impressed by some tracks as I was repulsed by others, especially the sappy message pieces. In other words, pretty much par for the course for Neil these days. I liked the debut CD from Matthew Sweet, Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins, recording as the The Thorns. It was nicely sung and very tuneful, just like the Jayhawks CD, but the lyrics were better. I meant to get Warren Zevon's latest, The Wind, but haven't as yet. What I have heard sounds stronger than WZ's previous effort, My Ride's Here, but I think it's the beneficiary of Zevon's tragic death, which, like John's Double Fantasy so many years ago, takes a middling record and gives it more emotional depth, sentimentality, and meaning. Until I own a copy, though, and listen to it a few times I can't really judge. I also liked what I've heard from Outkast's new one, Speakerboxx/The Love Below, but really- it's not as groundbreaking and original as some would have you believe, at least not to my ears- but to be honest, I've only heard the album once through, so I gotta believe that there is a lot of stuff there that would grow on me. Let's just give it an incomplete for now. The duo, working seperately as a team (and we know how well that works), have come up with a pretty nifty Prince or George Clinton album. And while both "Hey Ya" and "I Like The Way You Move" are catchy as hell, they go on and on and on and on... Finally, I really liked the latest from the Drive-By Truckers, Decoration Day, but I lost my job before I could get around to borrowing and burning the copy of Mike Carey's cd that I had been listening to. Guess I could go out and buy one, couldn't I. I've also ordered a copy of the new Puffy Amiyumi CD, Nice, with accompaniment by old fave Andy (Jellyfish) Sturmer, and I have a feeling it would have been on the short list above if I had received it sooner. Also, I've managed to pick up a couple of the Bob Dylan SACD reissues, and they're wonderful. I'm especially enjoying John Wesley Harding, a great folk-rock-blues-country album that I hadn't heard in years and (as I've been reading lately) got a lot of folks excited back in the day. I can see why.

OK, that's all I got time for now. Later on: Movies and TV.
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BSBdG's today for Marianne Faithfull, 57 today. Most remember her for being Mick Jagger's paramour during the 60s, and her hit "As Tears Go By", but she pulled herself out of some very deep holes in the 70s to not only establish a career and record several excellent albums in the late 70s and 80s, but just survive. Not the best, but my favorite, is 1987's Strange Weather.
you are darkslateblue

Your dominant hue is blue, making you a good friend who people love and trust. You're good in social situations and want to fit in. Just be careful not to compromise who you are to make them happy.

Your saturation level is medium - You're not the most decisive go-getter, but you can get a job done when it's required of you. You probably don't think the world can change for you and don't want to spend too much effort trying to force it.

Your outlook on life can be bright or dark, depending on the situation. You are flexible and see things objectively.
the html color quiz

Haven't done one of these in a while.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of December 24!

Yep, that's right, since I decided to drop JLA and not start picking up Rose and the Thorn, plus the fact that my comics shop only got in one copy of the new Jingle Belle TPB (and I didn't add it to my holds due to my uncertain financial prospects a couple of months ago), and someone else bought it before I got there...that left only the lonely, solitary new issue of Legion to provide me with holiday reading. Well, OK, I also got the new Mojo magazine, but I think you catch my drift. So here goes nothing:

Honestly, I wish I could get excited about this title again, but whatever momentum that was established by the one-two punch of Legion of the Damned and Legion Lost has completely worn away, to be replaced with typically convoluted space-and-time-hopping superheroics (with, of course, Darkseid- two of them, actually) and seldom-convincing soap operatics. Anyway, nicely (if somewhat stiffly) illustrated by Chris Batista and Chip Wallace, and special kudos to colorist(s) "Sno-cone", either a collective or an individual who has taken his or her admiration of Albert Collins to an absurd level. After all is said and done, maybe my tastes are changing, maybe I'm just getting tired of this sort of thing (I've been reading the Legion regularly for about seven years now), I don't know, but either way it doesn't appear that I'm gonna be on board much longer. B
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BSBdG's go out today to good ol' Uncle Stan Lee, 81 years young today.

Coming soon: my best-of-2003 in movies, TV and music, and a little writing about the great stuff I got for Christmas.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

And now, time for the final regular season edition of Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

New England over Buffalo
San Francisco over Seattle (sorry, Tegan, Mike)
Philadelphia over Washington
Atlanta over Jacksonville
Cincinnati over Cleveland
St. Louis over Detroit
Miami over the NY Jets
Kansas City over Chicago (take the Bears and the points, I think this will be a close one)
Indianapolis over Houston
Tennessee over Tampa Bay
Dallas over New Orleans
Minnesota over Arizona
Carolina over the NY Giants
San Diego over Oakland
Denver over Green Bay
Baltimore over Pittsburgh

Last week: 12-3. Overall: 148-78, .655 .
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Postumous BSBdG's go out today to the great Marlene Dietrich, who would have been 102 today.

Friday, December 26, 2003

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Whilst watching the Concert For George DVD last night, I happened to notice a gray-haired figure standing in the shadows of the stage behind the rest of the band, playing bass, completely anonymous. I was a bit surprised to discover that this was none other than Klaus Voormann.

Most people, unless they're big Beatles or Nilsson fans (and I certainly am guilty as charged on both counts), have no idea who Voormann is. But fortunately, for the purposes of this post, I do. He's the fellow who introduced Astrid Kircherr to the Beatles in the Hamburg days, and remained their friend for life. He is an excellent illustrator, who drew the cover to the Fabs' Revolver and the wonderful charcoal illustrations that graced the lyric booklet that came with Ringo's 1973 Ringo album. He played bass in John's Plastic Ono Band, and went on to play on nearly all the 70's solo albums for not only Lennon, but George and Ringo too. He also played bass on many of Harry Nilsson's best albums, and many other Apple musicians' sessions and records. All this certainly earns him honorary Fifth Beatle status as well as a place in Johnny Bacardi Valhalla as well.

Anyway, while it was nice to see him playing bass again, and I certainly wouldn't think it was right if he hadn't been there, I was disappointed to see that he was relegated to the shadows, next to the drum set of another Apple session stalwart, Jim Keltner. It would have been nice to see him on the main stage once in a while. But that's the way it goes...besides, it might have been the way Klaus wanted it.

Anywho, more on the Concert DVD later. Click on the picture of Klaus above to go to his official website, which is loaded with his witty, excellent artwork in the Gallery section.

The picture was poached from the site of another important figure (and it was a nice one, too) in 70s Beatle history, Lennon companion May Pang's Check it, yo.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

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Couldn't let the day go by without sending out a very special Bacardi Show Birthday Greeting to that notorious rabble rouser and most misunderstood of philosophers, Jesus of Nazareth.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

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It doesn't look like I'm gonna get too much blogtime over the next few days, so I'm gonna shut 'er down until Friday or Saturday.

So from all of me to all of you, I hope your spirits are bright, your wonderlands wintery, may the bells on your bobtails never tarnish, and you have, like, the best Christmas ever! OK!

Monday, December 22, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of December 17!

A stand-alone story which involves a punk singer by night, law firm clerk by day whose body ends up as the host for a demon conference. Complicating things is that the demon who secured this particular venue gets bored and decides to have some fun while the meeting drags on. The titular character walks on at the end, and facilitates a great twist ending. At first glance, this seems a bit like a standard-issue House of Mystery- style horror yarn, but it's more than that- Mike Carey is often inclined to zig when you think he's gonna zag, and the concept in itself is novel (to me, anyway), reminding me more of Clive Barker than Jack Oleck. Doing the art chores is Courtney Crumrin and Gloom Cookie illustrator Ted Naifeh, whose line is a bit sketchy here but is overall excellent. I'd love to see him do this book on a more regular basis, plus, judging by the demonic convention booker's appearance, I'd love to see him illustrate a Grant Morrison Doom Patrol script. Well, one can wish, can't he? A

By not going for the gross-out and the action movie cliche, Robert Kirkman has crafted a nicely effective little drama which just happens to be full of zombies. This book, so far, is like a unheralded low-budget movie which is made more successful by its limitations. Adding to this impression is the solid, if not especially exceptional (in a stylistic fasion) art by Tony Moore. So far, a winner. A

Here's that Naifeh fellow again, doing both script and art honors on this, his creation. I managed to miss the two previous Crumrin miniseries although I was intrigued...but the free reprint provided at this year's Free Comics Day gave me the opportunity to check it out, and I was impressed enough to go ahead and sign up. It's kinda hard to really make a concrete judgement one way or another on this first issue because there are a lot of relationships, references and situations I don't really understand, having not read the previous two miniseries. Still, it's fun in a gloomy sort of way, and while it has a bit of an "afterschool special" feel about it (and this is mentioned by one of the characters), I liked it overall and expect to be more enlightened as the series goes on. Naifeh's art is very impressive in that he does a nice job of creating and sustaining a mood, something which is not always easy to do. The title character reminds me a bit of Mandy from the Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy cartoon on Cartoon Network, by the way, only she's nicer than Mandy. A-

All right, OK, the bad guys had videotape of Ruben Valdez accepting the illegal performance enhancers, so he couldn't stonewall like Bonds, McGwire and Sosa do. I still have a hard time accepting a real-life professional baseball player, with all the legal help available to him in this day and age jumping out of a window because he can't face the shame of a steroids scandal, but it's OK. Gots ta have dramatics. I have been otherwise impressed with the research Millagan has apparently done for his baseball story, and it's made this two-parter all the more enjoyable for it. Javier Pulido rebounds nicely from the somewhat off-by-his-standards artjob of last issue with a strong effort this time out, especially excelling in the action scenes involving Chris Chance towards the end. Maybe Milligan should submit a screenplay for the next season (if there is one) of ESPN's Playmakers A-

A hilarious (and a little cringe-inducing for us internet geeks) Buddy Bradley story and an amusing "Lovey" tale bookend one dated and dull 2000 Democratic and Reform Party convention report and an interesting-in-spite-of-itself essay on teenpop. The Buddy Bradley story is 100 times funnier than Sweatshop, Megalomaniacal Spider-Man and Yeah! put together, which should demonstrate to Pete Bagge once and for all which side his bread's buttered on. And Pete, I liked Schizophonic, too so you're not the only one. A-

I don't know, maybe it's just me, but do a lot of these big multi-issue epics seem like two issues' worth of stories dragged out to six or seven lately? Here's another one, which in and out of itself isn't a bad chapter with lots of drama, tension, decent Hitch-style art, and snappy dialogue...but I'll be damned if I can remember a thing that happened in it except for a couple of scenes with a somewhat less demure Aunt May than I'm used to, no Ultimate Spider-Man reader me. B+

Figures. After dumping on this glacially-paced David Mack vehicle for the last two issues, I actually enjoyed this one somewhat. And it's not just because it's finally over, either! Mack's Echo is a likeable enough, if somewhat derivative, character, and after all was said and done I was satisfied by the outcome of her sophomore outing. But to take a simple vision quest story and s-t-r-e-t-c-h it out over five issues, when one good one-shot or three issues tops would have been enough, signifies either colossal hubris and vanity or the need to pay some bills. Maybe a bit of both. Anyway, when one reflects on all the detailed, intricate, mixed media pages, one has to at least give him credit for a very impressive art job. I hope he was paid well, and I hope he at least gives a little to charity...karmic payback can be tough, and I'm sure he knows exactly what I mean. This issue: B. Entire story arc: C

I like the title character. I like her personality (kinda like a grown-up Ida Red (see my best of 2003 below), and she has charisma. The story they gave her wasn't bad, but again felt a bit dragged out. That being said, I sincerely want to see Jen Van Meter get the opportunity to do a sequel. But what I didn't like was the often amateurish art, which tried to ape Eduardo Risso but failed miserably. Fellas, old people have wrinkles. When you draw the aged with baby faces, almost as cute as the female characters you obviously have more interest in rendering, the effect is ludicrous. And for chrissakes, go look at some Alex Toth, Alex Nino, or Will Eisner, and see where Risso gets his ideas. This issue:C+. Series as a whole: B.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

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Two posthumous BSBdG's go out today to the great Frank Zappa, who would have been 63 today. Favorite album: 1974's Apostrophe('). I have a distinct preference for his pre-1977 work, but there is a lot of worthwhile music in his 80s and early 90s output as well. Either way, it is my considered opinion that he was truly one of the Great American Composers.

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Also, today would have been the 57th birthday of the late Carl Wilson, who contributed so much to a lot of the best Beach Boys music. If nothing else, his place in Pop Music Valhalla is assured for his angelic vocal on "God Only Knows", one of the lovliest songs ever written.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Best Comics of 2003.

Since this year is almost over, I suppose it's incumbent upon me to cobble together some sort of personal "Best Comics of 2003" list. Rather than relying on my often spotty memory, I decided to approach it somewhat scientifically- I went back through this past year's reviews, right here on this blog, and kept a tally of the comics I graded "A". In doing this, I noticed a couple of interesting things: first, at some point in June or July, my standards must have gotten significantly higher; I gave out less than half as many A's the last six months of '03 as I did the first six. I credit that to the influence of my recent acquaintances in the comics blogospheriverse. Also, I noticed a couple of instances of "what was I thinking? : an A for the well-illustrated but slight Mr. Gum one-shot?!? B.P.R.D.: Soul of Venice? I also noticed a couple of sleeper titles, none of which were Sleeper, that surprised me by popping up as often as they did.

OK. This will be a top ten list, and please bear in mind that it is my best of '03; I'm fully aware of many fine books like Blankets or Persepolis, just a couple of those cited by Time's Andrew Arnold or by Alan David Doane. But I can't list 'em 'cause I haven't read 'em. Which is not to say I won't someday...Blankets is beginning to look kinda interesting. But it won't be this year. It's also in alphabetical order, simply because I can't decide what the absolute best title slash book I've read this year is. So enough with the preamble, and I do mean amble: this is a list of the best comics and/or series I have read in 2003- make of it what you will.

BATGIRL: YEAR ONE A modest triumph which might have, at nine issues, been a bit overlong but each chapter was solid. Providing more of an insight into Barbara Gordon as a person rather than Barbara in Bat-clothes made all the difference as far as I was concerned, and the art team of Marcos Martin and (especially) inker Alvaro Lopez, who has such a beautiful inking line, brought out a lot of nuances in the script that many lesser illustrators would have missed.

DAREDEVIL Brian Bendis did a superb job in 2003, giving us a very compromised, yet grim and determined Matt Murdock as he defended his life, career, chosen mission, and loved ones against the fallout of the revelation of his true identity as well as the consequences of the downfall of the Kingpin. Nicely illustrated by Alex Maleev, who was a bit deficient in depicting action scenes but excelled at everything else. The last few months of DD were a bit of a downer as David Mack gave us a beautifully illustrated but completely unnecessary and way too long story of his admittedly interesting creation Echo. Still, Bendis and Maleev were so good earlier that Daredevil's place on this list is assured.

GOTHAM CENTRAL It's easy to dismiss this as Gotham City Blue, but that's really too simplistic. Central de-emphasizes the Gotham Police Force's ties to Batman, although its cast more often as not has to deal with all his nutjob menaces, which is the chief fascination for me- how they do it. As a result, Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka get a chance to shine a revealing light on some of the long-overlooked members of the Bat-books which means that it's characterization that rules the day here, not action, although GC is not lacking for that either. Of course, none of this would work half as well if not for the excellent art of Michael Lark, truly an underrated illustrator if there ever was one.

HAWAIIAN DICK I came very close to naming this 3 issue series from Image my best of the year, I enjoyed it that much. Period Detective Noir-type stories aren't all that unusual in comics these days, but setting this particular crime/mystery/thriller in late 50s Hawaii makes gives it atmospheric, weird and just plain ol' different edge. There's supposed to be a one-shot follow-up soon which I'm anxiously awaiting.

JACK STAFF I think Paul Grist is one of the best illustrators in the business, and he's very underrated as an author as well, writing twisty, turny, clever episodes- with twisty, turny characters who are never quite what they seem- that don't always behave in linear fashion and always keep the reader on their toes. Grist is a tinkerer, an experimenter, and he seems to be having a ball with Staff, even more so than his straighter-by-comparison Kane. I will admit, this being said, that I was enjoying the B&W small-press Jack series, #11 of which came out this year, more so than the four color issues that have been published by Image so far. #11, in fact, was the only comic to get an A+ from me thanks to an amazing story which was propelled along with minimal figure and background rendering, but depended on Grist's lettering skills, and it worked well. Jack Staff transcends its genre trappings and becomes an always entertaining visual experience, in color or black and white.

JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER Here's one which slips under the radar of a lot of insightful people, I think, and I don't really know why unless perhaps I'm seeing something no one else is. Maybe everyone takes it for granted because it's been around so long and people are assuming the fresh wore off a decade ago. But they're wrong. Mike Carey, something of a dab hand at writing about hard-to-like characters, does the best job of capturing Constantine's personality since Garth Ennis departed, and has managed to come up with a couple of very compelling storylines so far, which has made Hellblazer one of the best, and certainly most underrated horror/supernatural type comics out there.

LUCIFER Another contender for "best supernatural" honors, and perhaps one of the best there is right now. Carey has succeeded in breathing life into one of Gaiman's Sandman characters where no one else has by coming up with a compelling supporting cast for the rather aloof and solipsistic lead to play off of, and it has worked amazingly well. This book skips around from theology to mythology to fantasy adventure to humor nimbly and with style. The art team of Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly does a serviceable job of depicting Carey's ideas, and while they're still a bit bland and workmanlike, they've grown into the position. I'm fonder of Ormston's work, and a great deal of it appeared in tandem with Gross and Kelly during one story arc, which made me happy.

THE NEVERMEN: STREETS OF BLOOD Here's another series which I think has been overlooked by those who tend to do the looking. Phil Amara's Nevermen stories have been an aggressively strange mix of pulp adventure, crime fiction and sci-fi, with some of the oddest, and oddly poetic, dialogue I've read in ages. Nevermen benefits greatly from the solid, and often spectacular, art of Guy Davis- whose work on Sandman Mystery Theatre left me cold, but has impressed me a lot here. Again, nothing that's gonna change the industry, but a clever and entertaining series.

PROMETHEA After spending most of 2002 on a metaphysical mystery tour of various stages of existence and explorations of such subjects, in often didactic fashion, as religion, sex, magic, imagination and the Great Beyond, and losing about half of the few readers he did have, Alan Moore rebounded strongly in '03 as the title character first has to deal with the fallout of her journey, then retreats from her destiny, then realizes that she has to fulfill it whether she wants to or not...and the world as we know it will not be the same. As for us, the reader, we feel the same sense of growing dread and anticipation not only because of the events occurring in the comic, but because we know that Moore will soon be winding things up, and that means anything could happen. Promethea, I believe, will eventually be thought of as Moore's finest work, Watchmen and Swamp Thing notwithstanding, because it's the one title that he's seemed to put the most of himself into- his beliefs and perceptions are the base for everything that's happened since issue one. Of course, I can't discuss Promethea without mentioning the amazing art of J.H. Williams III and Mick Gray, whose strong design sense and intricate detail make each issue of Prom a new artistic triumph each time out.

SLEEPER This has got to be the most-hyped, and least read book on the market these days. Perhaps Sleeper is perceived as a bit like broccoli- everyone knows it's good for you, and good for your comics-reading soul, but who the heck wants to eat broccoli? Anyway, Sleeper fulfills all the basic criteria for good comics, the way I see it- nuanced, smart scripting, with well-defined, three-dimensional characters who are neither completely good or completely evil along with solid art by Sean Phillips, who is one of the best in the biz, capable and as at ease with spandex as he is with spy stuff, love scenes, melodramatics, and gun fights. Hopefully the not-so-nice cover price of the new trade paperback collection won't scare off the curious who have been attracted by the great word-of-mouth this series seems to get everywhere.

Also want to recognize a few other series, which didn't make the cut but racked up several A grades. First, Paul Pope's wonderful 100%, a five-issue series that was a skillful, heartfelt and often moving blend of romance and sci-fi, four issues of which came out in 2002. #5 came out early this year, so I didn't list it for 2003. A TPB has been promised for quite some time now but hasn't seen release as of yet. Powers was up-and-down, mostly up, with Bendis starting out strong then floundering a bit with some of the looks at Christian Walker's past, but the last two or three issues have rebounded nicely; Mutant, Texas: The Adventures of Sheriff Ida Red was a corking good fantasy story, very Disneyesque (comics as well as films) and should have garnered more attention than it did. Ultimates was consistently good, occasionally exceptional. I absolutely loved Fables: The Last Castle, a double-sized one shot that clarified a lot of things that Bill Willingham had hinted at and alluded to in the ongoing series, and gave me a lot of the same buzz I got from seeing such films as The Adventures of Robin Hood and Seventh Voyage of Sinbad for the first time, and was beautifully illustrated by Craigs Russell and Hamilton. I know many didn't care for it, but it pushed all the right buttons in my head, anyway. I got a big kick out of Chris Giarrusso's Giant Size Mini Marvels, not exactly an earth-shaking comic which would set fandom on its ear or anything, but I found it extremely funny. Superman: Red Son is one I have to grade incomplete; my comics shop never got #3. I got the first two, and they were nicely drawn- plus the concept of Superman's rocket landing in Russia rather than the US seemed to be well thought out. For all I know, it may have jumped the shark completely in #3, but until I read it I can't say. Other titles which racked up their fair share of A's but missed the list were Human Target, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vol.2 (which was quite good and should have probably been on the list proper), Catwoman, H-E-R-O, Grrl Scouts: Work Sucks, 100 Bullets, the Fables ongoing and the Catwoman: Selina's Big Score graphic novel.
Damn. I forgot that there were NFL games going on today. Anyway, here are my Fearless NFL Pigskin Predictions for this week, minus the Tampa Bay-Atlanta game which is going on even as I type. And the Falcons are kicking their ass! Tampa Bay! And I'm at work where I can't see the game! AAAAGGGH!

Last Week: a stellar 13-3! This year: 136-75, .645.

Minnesota over Kansas City
New England over the NY Jets
St. Louis over Cincinnati (hope not)
Carolina over Detroit
Jacksonville over New Orleans
Tennessee over Houston
Miami over Buffalo
Baltimore over Cleveland
Chicago over Washington
Pittsburgh over San Diego
Dallas over the NY Giants
Philadelphia over San Francisco
Seattle over Arizona
Oakland over Green Bay
Indianapolis over Denver

Coming up later- comics reviews, when I get a chance to write them!

Friday, December 19, 2003

I'm working on a year-end "best comics" list in between ads here at the Daily Nooz. In the meantime, check out Courtney Crumrin (neat little #1 issue that came out Wednesday, by the way...more later) artist Ted Naifeh's website!
Here's a fanboy geek test for ya: Spider-Man 2 blog templates!

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Late for the party as usual, I'll send along best wishes and all that, like most of my colleagues in the comics blogoshphereiverse, to my good friend Jules Schwartz, who was recently taken with pneumonia. Aw, OK, I've never met the guy, but I wish him well anyway. He was indirectly a big part of my formative years and early childhood. According to the most recent update on his condition at Harlan Ellison's website, he seems to be doing better. May the Schwartz be with him.
Here's another favorite cover, spurred by hearing it just now on Live365.

Money-John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (Bradford/Gordy): here's another go at a tune which John had done very well back when they was Fab, but this one, from his Live Peace in Toronto, 1969 has a...well, I can't think of a better word to describe it but grungy edge that transforms this R&B standard into a lugubrious, ragged juggernaut. Adding to the loose feel of this cut is the fact that the POB at that time, made up of Eric Clapton, Klaus Voormann, and Alan White, had only rehearsed together once. The Live Peace album is well worth seeking out, but you'll want it for side one, which features the Band doing mostly covers and recent Lennon tunes, and you'll want to avoid side two, which is nothing but Yoko at her wailing, aimless worst.

More when I think of them!
Derek Kirk Kim has posted the first chapter of The Maiden and the River Spirit, his contribution to FLIGHT, an upcoming comics anthology. Unlike his other strips, this one won't be archived, so get the hell over there now so's ya don't miss out!

This Flight anthology looks interesting; after checking out the website I saw where many of the Pants Pressers are involved.
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BSBdG's go out today to good old Keith Richards, of the Rolling Stones pop group, who turns an astounding 60 today. I could have sworn he was 120.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

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You should have known if I did this long enough, I'd have a repeat BSBdG sooner or later. The lucky recipient is (sigh) Milla Jovovich, 28 today. Ba-da boom!
Good morning!

Pleased to see where Dame Darcy made Whitney Matheson's Pop Candy 100 Interesting People of 2003 list. And at number 75, too!

Of course I first saw this at Dirk's.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Having lately rediscovered my inclination to read books with a significantly higher ratio of words to pictures, I was browsing in Barnes & Noble last night when this book caught my eye, by virtue of its interesting cover design. Have any of you fine folks out there read it, and would you recommend it?

I still haven't finished Kavalier and Clay, nor have I been able to finish Mark Helprin's Memoirs in Antproof Case, for that matter...and I've had that one for at least five years now. Sad.
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Well, I don't know if I would call it the "best of the decade", but this is one hella-sweet cover for the new Sleeper TPB. It's cooler than the other side of Dean Martin's pillow. Wonder if there is a promo poster available. Wait. What am I saying?

Filched from Chris Butcher & Scott Robins' newest Previews Review column. I also happen to agree with Chris on the relative merits of Danger Girl, a series that I liked in its original run but the subsequent follow-ups have been mediocre at best and terrible at worst; I somewhat disagree with him about Fables; and disagree with him about Dark Knight Strikes Back, but I've been down that road before and don't wanna go back. He has me even more interested in the new Courtney Crumrin. I'm happy to see he liked Cinnamon: El Ciclo, I do too for the most part, without having read the end. And I thank him very much for helping me decide not to plunk down two plus on Rose and the Thorn, which I had considered buying because of my longtime admiration for the character and her concept. This new series has a nice cover by Adam Hughes, but the interiors look bland beyond belief and the days when I can buy comics for cover artists are long gone.
Well, just in case someone cares, here's what I'm looking to get tomorrow according to the Diamond shipping list:


I'm not sure if Crumrin is on my list, but if they get any extra copies I'll grab one. I thought the reprint they put out on Free Comics Day a few months ago was pretty good. Otherwise, I'm anticipating the usual solid chapters of Lucifer and Human Target, and am looking forward to the end of the interminable David Mack arc of Daredevil. It is the final chapter this month, right? Also, looking forward to what Pete Bagge's got in that Hate Annual which I had forgotten about.
Here's something interesting I found yesterday over at the Nilsson website: a 1992 interview with Harry on Flo & Eddie's radio show they had on KROQ. It's a lotta laffs and kinda nostalgic, especially if you're a Nilsson fan. Or a Kaylan and Volman fan, for that matter. It's a Real Audio file, so you might have to download that if you don't already have it.
Anybody want to know what I'm getting for Christmas?

Hee hee hee...

Here's something else.

That's all I know for now...

Monday, December 15, 2003

Well, it doesn't look like I'm going to get around to posting much, thanks to muchos errandos early today and mucho Christmas shopping-o this evening.

I will note a couple of things, though.

First, the thorough job Dirk Deppey has done in following up on the Corner Comics situation. There's an old saying that there are two sides to every story, and the truth usually falls somewhere in between, and I think this might apply to that situation. It's still a troubling thing to have happen to any comics dealer, but in accordance with that age-old survival of the fittest thing it's also a good idea to make sure you know your tax laws, especially when it comes to taking inventory. Easy for me to say, I know. I don't know the first thing about business or running a shop, so chances are I might have fallen into the same trap.

And a quick comment on the big news topic of the day: Saddam Hussein's capture. That's great, someone needed to make sure that rotten old bastard doesn't cause more trouble. I'm not so sure that going all John Wayne on his country and pissing off most of the free world in the process was exactly the way to go about it, and I fear there will be consequences undreamed of in the post-capture afterglow, but I don't suppose you can argue with the results, can you? At least not in certain circles of the land of the free and the home of the brave. For those who feels that the ends always justifies the means, these are the days, as the song goes. I hope that now that Dubya's settled the score for his old man, someone will think to ask Hussein where Bin Laden is...

Meanwhile, on Planet Dave, tomorrow is the first day of my new career as a newspaper person. I'm not sure if I'll get the opportunity to surf the web and post to the ol' blog like I did at my previous employer, so stay tuned...we shall see what we shall see!

Sunday, December 14, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of December 10!

The Mignola-less Hellboy series of the last couple of years, like this and B.P.R.D., have been pretty much hit and miss so far, mostly on the miss side. However, in the wake of what has to be the absolute worst Hellboy-related spinoff to date, last month's B.P.R.D.: There's Something Under My Bed, we get what is in my humble opinion the absolute best Mignola-less Hellboy story ever- this issue's lead by Wil Pfeifer and P.Craig Russell. Pfeifer gets the MM pacing and dialogue down very well, cooking up a clever tale with a hint of Anne Rice, perhaps, but a novel setting just the same and with an ending that I didn't really see coming (it's not that revelatory; I suppose I'm just slow), plus some charming characterization. Russell draws the best Hellboy this side of Mr. M himself, and is the beneficiary of a script which allows him to play to his strength. Next up is a Liz Sherman story with surprisingly effective and creepy art by Gene Colan, which shows that the old master has a lot left in the tank. Finally, there's a humorously written and cleverly drawn tale by Craig (Blankets) Thompson in a Wally Wood-ish style. There may have been a couple better-crafted comics I read this week, but none of them entertained me as much as this one, so for this week, it's number one. A

Solid as usual, both script-and-art-wise, with Brubaker and Lark particularly excelling at showing the routine procedures and everyday annoyances of the GCPD- the stakeouts, the conferences with an over-expectant and self-centered Mayor, and the like. But since this is part three of a four-part story, and reads like it, nothing especially earth-shaking happens except perhaps at the very end, which makes the inevitable case for the trade paperback collection (where this will, no doubt, read wonderfully as one chapter of a long story) over the single issue system. A

Another small segment of a larger story that will no doubt read better as part of a collection, and again, nicely written. I wish I could say well illustrated, but despite some nice panel layout design Mark Buckingham is incompetent when it comes to figure drawing, especially facial expressions, and inker Steve Leialoha apparently doesn't care enough to help him out. A-

Well, this one's actually very simple. If you like Mark Millar's The Ultimates and Authority, and are fond of Grant Morrison's more down-to-earth work in the Marvel Boy vein, then this is the book for you. There's not an original word in it, but it's still entertaining because he scripts it in brisk style, which makes it easy to overlook some of the odd set pieces, especially the whole head-scratching bit with the Eminem-lite protagonist and his boss. For me, the main attraction is the promise of J.G. (again, Marvel Boy) Jones interiors, and he does not disappoint. Some of you may be more finicky than I, though, so proceed accordingly. A-

100 BULLETS 48
The original story arc that introduced us to potential Minuteman (and full-time drug addict) Jack was not one of Azzurello's best, in my opinion, but at least it was brief and easily forgotten. Too easily, because now we have junkie Jack (about which I remember very little) doing an encore, and it's as convoluted and awkward an 100B script as Azz has ever written. I don't really buy the motivations of any of the principals involved, except for the pursuit of bad fun for its own sake (and you'd like to think there's more to it than that), and the confusing narrative makes it the story even harder to like. Of course, Ed Risso does his usual excellent job with what he's been given. Another annoying thing is that right now 100B is on a bi-monthly schedule, so A & R can go play with Batman, and the wait between issues doesn't help story clarity either. I know, I know, another argument in favor of collected trades. Sigh. B

H-E-R-O 11
22 ad-infested pages of excellent Kano art is not adequate compensation for the script it illustrates, a lackluster rehash of recent Bendis Powers rehashes of 2001: A Space Odyssey ,Quest For Fire, and (snicker snicker) Caveman. Perhaps Wil Pfeifer worked so hard on his Hellboy story that he didn't have time to polish this one, who knows. I do know, though, that the good will this title built on its original story arc is in serious jeopardy of evaporating completely. C+

1602 5
Although I'm sure the idly curious and the skeptical bailed about two issues ago, those of us who have stuck around, for whatever reason, are being rewarded with a definite upswing in...well, in what I really can't say: Gaiman's script and dialogue are as twee as ever, and Andy Kubert's art is as blurry and awkward as always. But all I have is the vague awareness that suddenly, somehow, I'm a bit more interested in where it's all going and whatever is going is headed there at a faster pace, and for that I'm thankful. Docked a notch for the odd-looking tennis-shoe-like objects Kubert's wearing on his feet in the cutesy page one cameo. C+

Coming later this week: a review of The Walking Dead 3, which I didn't get last Wednesday due to a mixup with my comics shop, and a word or three about Paul Pope's Heavy Liquid, which I haven't finished yet...

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Put your hands together and give it up for Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

Last week: 11-5. Overall: 121-72, .627 .

Minnesota over Chicago
Indianapolis over Atlanta
Cincinnati over San Francisco
Kansas City over Detroit
Tampa Bay over Houston
St. Louis over Seattle
New England over Jacksonville
Tennessee over Buffalo
Pittsburgh over NY Jets
Denver over Cleveland
Baltimore over Oakland
Dallas over Washington
Carolina over Arizona
Green Bay over San Diego
New Orleans over NY Giants
Philadelphia over Miami

Friday, December 12, 2003

Henious beyond belief is the situation first brought to everyone's attention by Laura over at Bloggety, of her friend, comics shop owner Paige Gifford, and her troubles with the IRS over her back inventory. There's been a great response all over the comics community to this situation over the last day or so. Now it seems that, in Laura's most recent update, Paige is resigned to the fact that there's nothing she can do to avoid having to pay thousands of dollars in taxes on her unsold stock, unless she destroys it by a set date. Dirk Deppey and Jim Henley provide a nice roundup of links on the topic so far.

Now, I don't know about you guys, but does the idea of being forced to shred hundreds upon hundreds of books, both good comics and crappy ones as well, fills me with dismay. While I'm not necessarily worked up over old copies of Force Works or Steeltown Rockers being destroyed, there's still the frightening precedent this sets, especially if this tax law gets widespread attention and the IRS's gaze is turned on your local comics shop. The notion of someone shredding unsold issues of, say, Penny Century, 100%, or Kane (or name your favorite) is appalling to say the least.

I don't know what can be done, but I do know that this is all kinds of wrong and if by chance someone who knows something about tax law that hasn't already read the coverage on another blog can do something, anything...then I will have helped a bit.

Boy, these are uncertain times we live in, aren't they?
Jim Henley recently got something started a few days ago with a list of favorite cover versions of various songs.

Late for the party as usual, here are 10 of the covers I've known and loved. This is in honor of one of the greatest interpreters in popular music history, Frank Sinatra, who would have celebrated his 88th birthday on this date. Original artist, when possible, in parenthesis-

Randy Travis-Nowhere Man: (The Beatles/John Lennon) He performed this at an all-star tribute to John Lennon back in '85, I think it was. Just him, an acoustic guitar, a symphony orchestra, and his dolorous, nasal baritone twang- and it was heart-rending, I'll tell you. All the alienation and self-doubt that John was trying to describe in this song were realized magnificently by Mr. Travis, of whom I'm not really a fan. But for this one song, at least, he was great.

Terence Trent D'Arby-Wonderful World: (Adler/Alpert/Cooke) This appeared on an EP, probably that of his then current hit "Wishing Well". The first time I ever heard Mr. D'arby, he performed this on some late-night concert show- I'm thinking it was the one filmed in Britain that Jools Holland used to host. Anyway, D'arby sings this old chestnut with a lot of feeling, almost acapella, and it absolutely works.

Rod Stewart-Mama You Been on My Mind: (Bob Dylan) Waaay back in the long ago days when Rod aspired to folk/rock/blues and was worth your time, he recorded this for his Never A Dull Moment LP with Ron Wood and his usual group of Faces. It's a warm and winning version, with a lovely steel guitar solo, of a song which Dylan never really got around to putting on an album proper but used to perform live with Joan Baez a lot.

Roger McGuinn-Dreamland: (Joni Mitchell) McGuinn recorded this 70's Mitchell tune with Mick Ronson at the production helm on what is arguably his best post-Byrds solo effort, Cardiff Rose. Great fuzzed wah-wah Ronson guitar, jamming little sax solo at the end, and McGuinn intoning Joni's cryptic lyric as the wash of sound bouys him along. Roger also did a great cover of Dylan's "Up To Me" on the same record.

Flo & Eddie-Days: (The Kinks/Ray Davies) One of the best cuts from the former Turtles' second solo album, which came out in 1973. Bob Ezrin was on hand to do the production honors, and he provides a lot of bombast and echo, making this an almost anthemic hard-rock take on an undeservedly obscure, and much quieter in its original version, Kinks tune. Elvis Costello did this many years later, and it was good as well. Good songs will out!

Joe Henry-Let Me Have It All (Sly Stone): On his 1996 album Trampoline, former country-rocker Henry surprised everyone by turning this into a harshly funky, somewhat jazzy, fuzz-guitar driven exercise. Of course, Sly's original was funky too, but Henry put an edge on it that was missing in its original incarnation.

Bowie-I Can't Explain (Pete Townshend) One of the many excellent covers that Bowie included on his 1973 album Pinups, he benefits from a wonderful arrangement by Mick Ronson, who also contributes a lazy, but cutting, guitar solo. I'm also very fond of his cover of the old McCoys tune "Sorrow", and he did very well by Tom Verlaine seven years later with "Kingdom Come" from Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps).

Steve Hillage-It's All Too Much: (George Harrison) super-hippie guitarist (and now-techno guru) Hillage didn't deviate much from Harrison's Yellow Submarine original (itself a tribute to Hendrix), but by virtue of his amazing guitar playing made this song his own on his 1976 LP L, which was produced by Todd Rundgren, himself no stranger to the cover version. In fact, it was that same year that Todd released his own half-covers LP Faithful.

Lowell George-Easy Money: (Rickie Lee Jones) George, on his only solo LP, Thanks I'll Eat It Here, covers this bluesy Jones song from her first album with style and wit.

Harry Nilsson- Zombie Jamboree (Back to Back): (Conrad Mauge, Jr.) Nilsson was as good a songwriter as he was an interpreter, and it's one of life greatest ironies that he had his biggest successes as a recording artist with covers of other people's songs. This is a uber-obscure novelty song from the 1920's, done in reggae style for his 1975 album ...That's The Way It Is, which was mostly covers anyway. Of course, by the time of this particular release his career as a million-selling recording artist was pretty much over, thanks to the dissolute lifestyle he embraced after hitting it big, and there were no hits from the record, which barely got promoted- making this doubly obscure. Be that as it may, this song is a hoot and a half, and to this day I wonder what the hell the "Moiba Ginger Beer" mentioned in the song is like.

I could probably rattle off another couple of dozen if given the time but I don't think I want to right now. These are the ones which immediately came to mind, so here they are.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please.

I have just taken a position with the Bowling Green Daily News. Yes, it's true, I am now once again employed full-time. I start Tuesday at 8. Woo hoo!

More later.
The redoubtable RStevens, whose wacky and wonderful webcomic Diesel Sweeties is always worth your time, emails me with this question: it just me, or does the comics media pretty much ignore web
comics? I just find it kind of funny that gets more
visitors in a day than Jim Lee Batman comics sell in a month, yet no
one talks about it.

Is it too different a medium, or just a blind spot for most bloggers?

I honestly have no answer to this. Myself, I enjoy several (but a microscopically small amount) of the webcomics out there, including DS, Scary-Go-Round, and Small Stories, and try to mention them from time to time, but it's not all that often. Perhaps it's because webcomics haven't been around as long as their floppy cousins, and just haven't achieved that mythic status in most comics bloggers' pantheon. When it comes right down to it, all I can do is speak for myself, and I don't know! I'm sure that RS is aware of Comixpedia, which is devoted to webcomics, and Scott McCloud does his best to keep the flame, but it's true, webcomics just don't get discussed all that often, at least in the circles I'm privy to.

Would anybody else care to take up the discussion? The floor is now open.
Linkin', linkin', whatcha been drinkin?

Jen Wang points us to yet another extremely talented illustrator: Matt Rhodes. Go forth and viddy.

I'm so jealous.

Other places of interest I've viddied lately include:

Shynola, the clever folks behind Junior Senior's great Move Your Feet video. Click to view- you need Quicktime. Move Your Feet never fails to make me smile and dance around like only an overweight middle aged white boy can, even though I spend about 65% of my time in a morbidly depressed state.

A pretty cool-looking record store: Aquarius Records. Now if I could only afford to shop them.

A little seasonal stuff for yas: The Twelve Days of Kitschmas. Found via sweet Susan.

Another interesting artist: Svetlana Chmakova. I love that name Svetlana. Anyway, this came via Jason Marcy, another mostly comics blogger whom I suppose I should add to the swelling ranks of the proud, the not-so-few, the Linked of Johnny Bacardi! Same goes for Dewey's World, who's already linked to me!

I linked to this last year, but it's such a cool site that I'm gonna do it again, by God. Modern Drunkard magazine. What else are the holidays good for if not as an excuse to drink to excess?

Noticed where that perennial holiday favorite, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, aired the other night. Wonderful old cartoon, which I remember watching as a four-year-old, and many more times over the next thirty plus years. Truly a classic, with memorable songs and fun characters. And of course, Santa Claus on the Norelco Shaver toboggan. However, That Cavortin' Bastard has a different take on this Rankin-Bass standard, and it's funny as hell. The Bastard has been silent since 2001, and he is missed. Where the hell are ya, TCB? Did you take one last trip down yo' dark alley, and meet someone you couldn't mess up?

Ok, that's enough of this. Metafilter I ain't. I've got an actual art project that I need to get started on, yes, that's right. Painting Santa Clauses on weathered planks. Real crafty-type stuff, for me Ma. I'll do almost anything for me sainted Ma, even paint. Maybe if you're all good boys and girls, I'll even post a picture of one of them. Plus, Mrs. B gets off work early on Thursday, and I'm sure she has my entire day planned out for me.
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Inga: Hallo! Vould you like a roll in ze hay?
[Dr. Frankenstein stutters]
Inga: It's fun!
[She begins to roll in the hay.]
Inga: Roll, roll, roll in ze hay!

Sendin' out mad BSBdG's today to the pride of Lakewood, Ohio and hay roller par excellence: Teri Garr, 54 today.

Some of Teri's credits include Head, (of course) Young Frankenstein, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and (unbilled) Ghost World. She also appeared as an extra or unbilled in Elvis films and beach party movies. Her place in cool film Valhalla is most assured, and I don't care if she was in Mom and Dad Save the World or Dumb and Dumber.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003


It's been another one of those days, in which I spent the majority of my time running around and leaving myself no time to speak of in front of the butterfly curtains.

I had a job interview today, at a newspaper in nearby Bowling Green. Could be interesting and enjoyable, but the pay's not great. Still, it pays better than unemployment benefits, and lasts a heck of a lot longer, so if they want me, I'm theirs. They will, as the saying goes, make a decision in a few days. I did find out that based on a 5-minute typing test that I can type 53 WPM. Good to know.

The great comics cover debate has raged on without me for most of the last couple of days; I don't really have much to add to what I said earlier but I will say that I could post any number of examples of what I think some of the "best" covers of the last ten years are, but what's the point? As some sage once said, opinions are like assholes, everybody has one...and until someone comes up with unquantifiable criteria for determining once and for all what constitutes the "best", then all you would have is what I think are the best, and while that goes a long way on Planet Dave, it means significantly less to the wild wanton world. I will state for the record as saying out of the examples ADD posted today, I really liked that Green Arrow, admired the cleverness of the Promethea, even though I think there were at least a dozen better ones (including the McCay swipe of an issue or so prior), somewhat liked the evocative, but static Chris Ware, and was mostly indifferent to the others. Crumb is always good, but I've seen him do better, I'm not really a Boswell fan, and while I have always appreciated the joke behind Destroy!!!, at the time I wanted to see more Zot!, and didn't really think that the finished result was as inspired as the initial idea. But the cover certainly clues you in to the content and grabs the attention, fer shur!

And Tegan: I loved that Bolland Gotham Knights cover. Bolland is the master of the clever, arresting image. I thought his series of covers for Vol.3 of The Invisibles were brilliant for the most part, among many others.

Speaking of comeek books, I got my stack today and didn't notice Walking Dead #3 wasn't in it until I got home. I called and had them put it back for me, but I probably won't get it until next week. Sigh. I did get my copy of Paul Pope's Heavy Liquid today, so I'm looking forward to the chance to kick back and read it.

Moving on to other topics, I've been asked to do a Christmas Vinyl-O...but I don't know if I can! I don't really own all that many, especially any that are particularly noteworthy. Last year about this time I posted a list of my favorite individual Christmas songs, so maybe that will suffice and I can do a proper secular MV-O sooner rather than later. I've been very aware that my music blogging has suffered due to all the comics blogging I've done lately, and I hope I can get lots of new music for Christmas so I'll have more to write about! Hint hint!

Shifting gears now, I heard this morning, to my amazement, that the Atlanta Falcons had canned head coach Dan Reeves! I'm a little divided about this news, while I felt that Reeves' style was conservative to a fult sometimes, especially this Vick-less year, still he has had more success with my hapless Falcons than any other coach has had, and I especially was surprised that the firing came with three games left in the season! As I understand it, the Falcons' owner Arthur Blank told Reeves that he was history after the season was over, and Reeves requested that he be let go now rather than serve in a lame duck capacity. Well, OK, understandable, and it does free Blank up to do his search for a new coach sooner rather than later...but I feel Reeves deserved a bit better. Of course, Blank inherited Reeves, didn't choose him, so you knew it was a matter of time...and of course, Michael Vick missing 3/4 of the season, thus ensuring the Falcons' season would be a disaster didn't help his case. If Vick had remained healthy, the Falcons win 9-10 games, go to the playoffs, and Reeves becomes tougher to fire. Que sera sera, I suppose, but I don't like any of the candidates for his replacement mentioned so far.

I feel the urge to write a paragraph or two about the fascinating book I just read Nick Drake: The Biography by Patrick Humphreys, which is exactly what it says it is- an account at the brief life and undeniable talent and legacy of the enigmatic musician, of whose work I am an admirer.

Oh well, that's enough for tonight. I leave you with a great quote, which doesn't apply to anything in particular as far as I'm concerned, it's just a great quote:

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. Dorothy Parker

Oyasumi nasai. Y'all.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003


Much of your
time is spent growing mind-altering plants in
your garden, and looking after your Friends and
Relations. You're still looking for that
elusive vinyl copy of the first X-Ray Spex

Which inhabitant of the Hundred Anarchist Wood are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Hey Brendan, I took your quiz!
Alan, Alan, Alan. To paraphrase Frank Zappa, "Superheroes aren't dead, they just smell funny".
And speaking of comics, here's what I'll be getting tomorrow according to the Diamond shipping listy-poo:

100 BULLETS #48
HERO #11
1602 #5

And that's it! Bigger stack than I had the last couple of weeks, for sure. It will be interesting to see if Walking Dead can maintain its strong start, and of course Gotham Central , 100 Bullets and Fables are usually always worthwhile. And then there's 1602. There's a part of me which is telling me to pass on #5, and take the four issues of 1602, three Hulk: Grays, and the two Superman: Red Sons I have, sell them back to my comics shop, and buy the Red Son TPB when it comes out. We shall see. Wanted has J.G. Jones art, which is enough of a reason to buy for me, even though the preview I read comes across as more of Millar trying to recapture past Authority glory, and we have too much faux Authority-ishness going on right now as it is.
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Best superhero cover of the past decade? Nah. Methinks ADD lets his desire to stir up the drink lead him to slosh it out of the glass and onto the bar.

But, I do like this cover very much. It's a clever rendition of the classic X-Men, before Claremont and dozens of anonymous hacks had their way with the Merry Mutants. Its chief appeal, to me, lies in its novelty and subtlety, plus it gives me a nice little nostalgia rush, as someone whose first X-Men comic was #9. From 1964. The JSA drawing he mentions is a very nice one as well, with his understated and somewhat pug-ugly versions of the Golden Agers successfully evoking memories of the less, shall we say, accomplished or facile art style of that bygone age. I really like his Spectre, by the way. Does he look pissed off or what? I'm reminded of a Paul Grist X-Men illo that I saw in an issue of Comic Book Artist a while back, or the funny Dean Haspiel Captain Marvel story that appeared in Bizarro Comics, which ended in Cap buying the whole JLA and JSA ice cream.

Of course, how much you agree with ADD's bold statement will depend on what you think the function of a superhero comic cover should be. Seth's illustration is understated, muted. It's a nice drawing. Kinda fun to look at. And true, it has enough curiosity value that it might attract one or two readers who ordinarily wouldn't touch a Seth comic book. Plus, you can't underestimate the collector mentality- I'm sure there will be those who will buy the darn thing simply because it's an X-Men appearance!

But as the kind of comic cover that today's reader has come to expect, it fails miserably. It's not dynamic. It doesn't shout at the reader "Buy me! You won't be able to live with yourself if you don't!". It's not inspiring or heroic-seeming in itself, nor is it dark and gloomy or ironic enough to appeal to the Vertigo crowd. Its chief strength is in its novelty value, and the fact that it's a clever illustration doesn't enter into the equation. It creates the same impression as a new Fred Hembeck cover would, for example. It's tons of fun, but like the Haspiel Bizarro story, doesn't aspire to grandeur or excitement or Wagnerian stürm und drang nor does it aspire to the Perez, Adams or Kane model of a "good" comics cover.

So do I like this cover? Hell yes. It's great. But do I think it's the "best comic cover of the decade"? Nope. Sorry.

Besides, what the heck is a "Coober Skeber", anyway?
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThose disgustingly talented Pants Press people have been posting a lot of great stuff lately, especially Jen Wang, who has put up some excellent "brushpen girl-doodles" like the above example. I strongly suggest you, yes you, go check them out.
I understand that Mark Waid and Barry Kitson are to take over "Legion" some time next year.

I'm told that the current team of Andy Lanning, Dan Abnett and Chris Batisita have around a year's worth of material to be published, and are looking for other projects. One of Dan and Andy's collaborators on one of their final "Legion" issues will be Keith Giffen, and they may look to pursue further projects with him.

For me, this is not good news. Once again, DC is looking out for my best interests by helping me narrow down my regular comics purchases. From the latest Lying in the Gutters column.

Monday, December 08, 2003

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Couldn't let the day go by without noting that today marks the 23rd anniversary of the murder of John Lennon. Yasurakani nemure, John.

The above picture was poached from Cyril Maitland. Many thanks to Namiko Abe for the translation.
Guess I should have included this in my reviews, but I forgot. Anyway, I also checked out the first issue of Kyle Baker's long-awaited (by some) Plastic Man on Wednesday, and wasn't impressed so I didn't buy. Baker's version of the Shadow is one of my all-time favorite series, and I liked Why I Hate Saturn and You Are Here a lot too...but for the last 10 or so years his work has slowly devolved into some sort of sloppy, hyperactive wannabe Disney hybrid, and frankly, it's not very much fun to look at anymore. Many times his art on The Truth appeared to be on the level of convention sketches, and while he seems to have taken a bit more care here, it's just too slapdash for me to enjoy. I suspect that he would rather be doing something else- animation, caricatures, God knows- and considers comics work beneath him somehow. Story-wise, it was an efficient re-imagining of his origin, and the cliffhanger at the end was Cole-ish enough...but he really does need to go back and re-read some of those classic Plas stories and get a handle on how to write Woozy Winks. He was comic relief, and later became a bit of a stooge, but he was no drunk and was rarely portrayed as a complete idiot.

Maybe it will get better, who knows, but somehow I doubt that this will last 6 issues. It's just too odd for the mainstream fanboy buyer, and if it had been anyone else but Kyle Baker would have never seen print at all. Joe Kelly over at JLA has done amazing things with the character, but is there gonna be a Kelly Plas series anytime soon? I don't think so. Baker's name and rep bring a "hip" catchet that DC can point to when accused of pandering to the fanboy.

Of course you know that I'll probably pick up oh, #3 or #4, love it, and spend months trying to get the issues I missed, and overpay horribly for them. That's the way it works for me more often as not.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Sendin' out BSBdG's today to a couple of fellows from totally different worlds:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usTom Waits, 54. My admiration for Waits' music stems completely from two albums he did in the 80s: Swordfishtrombones and Rain Dogs, both of which were weird and amazing amalgamations of Delta blues, folk, jazz, field hollers, theatrics, strange rhythms and exotic percussion and were as bold a musical statement as any artist has ever made. He's spent the rest of his career trying to follow them up, with varying results.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAlso Johnny Bench, 56. Bench was my favorite player on those great 70s Cincinnati Reds teams that I rooted for growing up. The "Big Red Machine" boasted many future hall of famers and other great performers, but I always got a charge out of watching Bench hit homers with his smooth swing, or throw out anybody and everybody that tried to steal a base on him.

Click on the images to go to relevant websites.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

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What I bought and what I thought, week of DECEMBER 3!

Alan Moore is bowing out of comics, and in particular his ABC line, and I think it should be obvious to all that Promethea, not League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is the title that is closest to his heart because he's using it as a platform to turn out the lights and lock up before he goes. Nearly all the ABC characters have cameos, except the Top 10 cast, and they're all involved in trying to prevent Prom from bringing about the end of everything as we know it in what's shaping up to be science (represented by Tom Strong, Jack B. Quick (in an amusing scene), and the other ABC characters) versus imagination and faith conflagration, and who knows what will happen, besides Moore of course. And if that wasn't enough, we get the answer to a major mystery that's been a subplot of this book since its inception, quite out of the blue. Story aside, we also get the latest in a series of incredibly innovative artistic exercises from the J.H. Williams / Mick Gray team, who seem to outdo themselves every time out. Make no mistake, this is not a reader-friendly narrative, and it's not one of those "good jumping-on points" that you hear so much about. Moore's writing this, and the next five issues (I assume) for those of us who have been along for the ride from the beginning. Buy the trades, and get caught will be worth your time and money. A

For some strange reason, I had the voice of Jerry Lewis from The Nutty Professor in my mind as I read much of this all-stops-out battle issue. You know- "Always with the hitting and the explosions and the lightning and the arrgh and the ugh and the bang and the pow". Or something like that. Anyway, this was exciting to read, and there were a couple of nice character scenes for Thor and Iron the Hitch/Neary art was as solid as ever. But I'm docking this a notch for the feeling of padding; I mean geez, wasn't twelve issues enough to wind this arc up- and the dumbass jingoistic French-baiting joke Millar had Cap spout. That and the crass (but not unsurprising- they've mistreated him since issue 1, it seems) treatment of Bruce Banner kinda left a bad taste in my mouth. A-

Here's another series as a whole that felt padded-out, a six-issue one, no less- and this issue in particular was talky, talky, talky to the point of being tiresome. One has to wonder whether FKATJL wouldn't have been better served in a one-shot format. Anyway, overall this wasn't a total disaster, in fact was funny more often as not despite the meandering script; Kevin Maguire can still draw curled lips as well as he could twenty years ago, and I'm glad there will be another mini upcoming, but c'mon fellas, tighten it up some next time. B+ Entire series: A-

With all the talk going on around about how to bring a more diverse (and consequently larger numbers of buyers) audience to comics, especially young kids and teenage girls, we now have this as a shining example of the shortcomings of the direct marketing system and the wrongheaded mindset of those making the decisions at the highest levels. This title, which wouldn't have been out of place as a Disney Channel series and would seem to be a natural for just those demographics, or the Buffy crowd, sold so poorly that what was originally announced as a six issue series was truncated to five, and as a result will most likely not be collected and placed in bookstores, where one would think that it could reach the audience that would appreciate it most. I sincerely hope that the DC braintrust didn't think that the spandex-loving fanboys would be fact, I'm really surprised this saw print at all (maybe favors were owed), and have to wonder exactly what DC expected the audience to be when it was...and it 's definitely not encouraging when they do put out something slightly different and no one cares. For once, it wasn't so bad to read a book concerned with adolescent power fantasies, but I suppose because the empowered in question were teenage girls, then that just wasn't cool. Oh well. This issue in particular wasn't too bad, all things considered, and came across as a tad disjointed because of losing one whole issue to develop the script. It was also nice to see Jason Bone back on inks for a great deal of it. Bad Girls was a very well-drawn but unassumingly scripted little series that wasn't a whole lot of fun but was pleasant enough, and deserved a fairer shake than it got. Soon to be a fixture in quarter bins within two years, and may even get a cult following someday. This issue: B. Entire series: B+
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BSBdG's go out today to actor Patrick Bauchau, 65, shown here in his role as Professor Lodz in HBO's Carnivále. Also, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck, 47, and funnyman Steven Wright, 48.

Linkage later when I have more time.