Wednesday, September 29, 2004

I'm sure most of you are aware that this most prodigal of albums, which no sane person ever thought we'd ever get to hear as a fully realized collection of songs or piece of music or whatever was released yesterday. Do any of you have it yet? And what do you think?

Here's what Robert Christgau thinks, in the (web) pages of Rolling Stone. Here's Edna Gunderson's take in USA Today.

I really do not have the money, but I'm thinking if there ever was an album to make a foolish, imprudent purchase of, Smile is it. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

It's late, I have to get up early tomorrow and go to my underpaying and unrewarding job, and I really should be in bed...but I can't make myself go to sleep so I blog.

First things first: the image above is one by Hope Larson. I like her style, with its fat ink lines. preoccupation with twisted, rubbery limbs (you'll see) and interesting color choices. I also think that if Kyle Baker ever gets bored doing Plastic Man, DC could do worse than to tab her to fill in. Be careful, kiddies- they's nudity on some of them there pages on that website, so exercise caution where you open them. I meant to put this in the linkblogging post I posted earlier today, but I couldn't remember her name or website addy. This, obviously, has been rectified.

In other developments on Planet Dave, tonight I have become "one of them"...that's right, I've become an eBay SELLER rather than a BUYER. Back in December, at one of my father-in-law's auction sales, I bid on and won several stacks of old Time magazines, thinking I'd sell them somewhere, perhaps on eBay, something I'd planned to try for a long time. So, naturally, it's taken me 9 months to finally get around to putting one lot on, to stick my toe in the water and see how it turns out. Keep your fingers crossed! Here's the listing, if you wanna check it out!

Great season premiere of NCIS neƩ Navy NCIS tonight, tense and involving all the way through..and even though the scriptwriters couldn't help but tack an unnecessary twist on at the end, I still enjoyed it. Looking forward to season two.

We're going to try to have a yard sale this Saturday, to get rid of some of the mountains of clothes we've accumulated over the last decade or so. While we were pricing, I tuned in one of the internet radio stations at, called "Musical Justice", which plays a lot of great Americana, Indie, some Punk, and just a lotta interesting music...and I heard the greatest song ever: "Tiger Woods" by Dan Bern. Words cannot adequately express how much that song kicked my ass through my eardrums. Guess I'll have to keep an eye out (not literally) for the CD from whence it came, Fifty Eggs.

All right, that's enough. I gotta get to bed. Oyasumi nasai.

Here's your Vera Brosgol art for today, first posted over at The Pants Press Sketchblog. Ain't it cool? Reproduced without permission, but I'm hoping she doesn't mind...

Gotta love those white thigh-highs.

How about we make this a grab-bag link-post?

While I'm linking to LiveJournal spots, here's a LJ dedicated to The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai: Across The Eighth Dimension.

Here's a link to a message board sporting images from an upcoming with David Bowie as the main character, written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by someone named Yoshitaka Amano. Looks kinda interesting.

Yea, verily, the Football Gods hath smiled down upon us and hath given us a new Tuesday Morning Quarterback column to read. Yea, verily, I wish they would smile down upon my poor struggling money league fantasy football team- I'm off to a putrid 0-3 start, and have scored an average of 17 points a game. Folks, that don't get it done.

Guess that's all I got for now. I'll be back with more later, with any luck.

Monday, September 27, 2004


What I bought and what I thought, week of September 22

Hey, kids, look! Ed and Sean have put a big, ugly robot dude on the cover so maybe you'll pay attention to their excellent comic book! Aaah, I know better so once again I'll preach to the choir: great, nuanced, layered storytelling by Ed Brubaker, especially when it comes to the increasingly complicated Carver/Lynch/Tao relationship, and the usual solid storytelling by Sean Phillips. Sleeper: the Dr. Pepper of comic books. A

I know, this came out a couple of weeks ago, and I swear I meant to pick it up then but it wasn't on my pull list and I just plain old overlooked it on the rack. Don't know how I managed that trick- the J.H. Williams cover is beautiful and eye-catching. You all should know by now that I've been a long-time admirer of this character, especially when written by Jim Starlin; however, I think perhaps he (and Marvel) had gone just about as far as they could go with his version of the Being Formerly Known as Him. So it seems to me that the time has never been righter for an imaginative, efficient re-thinking of the Warlock character, and I was very impressed with how writer Greg Pak laid out new ideas even as he paid tribute to the past- plus I'm a sucker for a story with a comic that has a cute painter/animator/designer as its lead. And make no mistake- it's through her eyes that we'll get to see what kind of effect, good or bad, this new Adam W will have. Charlie Adlard does yet another fine art job- I think it must be his goal to illustrate every comic book from every publisher. And y'know, that might not be so bad. A great start to a promising series, but I understand sales weren't all that hot so guess we better enjoy it while we can. A

Plas and friends, while on vacation, get stuck in a house occupied by a vampire family. Pretty simple premise, and Kyle Baker makes the most of it, giving us a Mad magazine-style romp with several funny jokes (including a good one aimed at the Bush administration), some of which work, some of which don't. This is pretty much what Baker's been doing for a long time now, and I guess either you like it or you don't. I kinda like. The art? Well...I suppose Baker's slovenliness is growing on me, 'cause I'm finding myself admiring the odd pose here or the odd facial expression there. Another title to be enjoyed, while we can. A-

H-E-R-O 20
This has been an up-and-down story arc for me, for the most part- I was bored silly by the one or two issues of non-stop fighting, but in between throwdowns we get issues which actually advance the plot and introduce interesting ideas. I like how Pfiefer's connecting all the characters he introduced over his run- it promises to give his readers a sense of closure, something you don't always get with lame-duck titles. It's got me interested, anyway. Also, I'm liking the not-bad art of Dale Eaglesham; it's a bit awkward in its proportions sometimes, but he has a nice sense of dramatics and visual flair. This issue also has the best Michael Golden cover he never did, by one Kelsey Shannon. B+

Solid and involving as always, but I hate to admit that I'm kinda glad that Kirkman seems to be narrowing down his burgeoning cast a bit- this issue, I was struggling to figure out who were the bite-rs and who were the bite-ees, and I was having to dig a bit to remember who was who among the survivors. Some of this is Adlard's fault, I suppose...but he's pretty damn good on everything else so I'll give him a mulligan. B+

Big disappointment this time out with a less-than-satisfying ending to what, at the beginning, promised to be a grand story arc. Nothing much gets resolved, a major character gets a "death" that he's actually come back from at least once, if memory serves, and even though a big red "end" is placed on the last page nothing is resolved and almost everything is left open-ended. Sure, I know that this is an ongoing, and usually I like how Mike Carey strings his plots along, but I felt a little cheated when this one was over. Oh well, it's not like I'm gonna drop the book or anything- I'm in too deep to bail now! One thing's always constant- the good-to-pretty good Peter Gross/Ryan Kelly art is always there to depict the proceedings in their almost not not exceptional fashion. B

This book continues to keep me at arm's length, although I did manage to stay interested through the at-first intriguing mystery of who's killing the snow-plow drivers, through the usual banter between Mayor Hundred and the Police Commissioner (bet they'll be snogging by issue #7), through one of the stiffest and most contrived ideological exchanges I've read in a while (Hundred's intern and the artist, who should be careful with blowtorches) and a reveal at the end which came as absolutely no surprise, and ruined the snow-plow killer mystery. Art-wise, very good, although I wish I didn't get the impression that Tony Harris keeps facial expressions as clip-art, and pastes them on when he needs them. Two more issues to win me over. B-

Soon- Atomeka reviews.

Here's my haul Wednesday, accoding to the Diamond shipping list. Looks like a light one, doesn't it? WELL...not so fast: 3 of the 5 cost between $3.99 and $6.95. Feh.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Well, here it is, late Sunday evening...and I've written nothing. Nothing! The TV has pretty much had me in its sway (your Stones reference for today), so the comics reviews and the Vinyl-O will have to wait a little while longer.

One quick note- Mrs. B, the Halloween enthusiast, picked up the Scary Godmother Halloween Spooktacular DVD yesterday on a shopping excursion to Walmart. Its early relase couldn't have pleased the folks at Cartoon Network. Anyway, we watched it as soon as we got home and it's pretty entertaining. Not quite as charming or clever as the source, because let's face it- 3-D animation is no substitute for Jill Thompson's whimsical line work, and the script seems to have been written down a bit, presumably for the wee folks out there and not the 40-year-old fanboys-and-girls who buy it for their admiration for Mrs. Azzurello. Still, much of it is lifted straight from the first book and the various characters, especially Skully and Count Max and family, are nicely realized by the voice actors.

Hopefully see you tomorrow, cats and kittens!

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Think I'll take a crack now at the "Favorite Comics Moments" meme that I first saw over at Will Pfiefer's place.

As I think of them:

"The Strange Death of Adam Warlock" from Warlock#11 (1976), by Jim Starlin (script/art) and Alan Weiss (inks). Poor Adam Warlock was, at least as written by Starlin in the series I think was the pinnacle of his career, the most powerful screwup in the universe- I mean, the guy couldn't do anything right. No matter how hard he fought and how noble his intentions were, he was constantly seeing friends and comrades die and all his plans go for naught as he battled against the galaxy-conquering menace of what turned out to be a twisted future version of himself named The Magus and his "Universal Church of Truth". A being called the In-Betweener convinced Adam that the only way to defeat the Magus was to commit a sort of suicide, and that leads Adam (through a bizarre set of circumstances) to confront his future self before he was corrupted. The once and future Warlocks have a conversation- and the bitter, defeated future Warlock's strangely poignant final words have always stuck with me, even 28 years later. You can find most of it reproduced here and here, in a couple of nicely written commentaries on Starlin's saga.

Last two pages of Flex Mentallo#4 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely.
Will cited this series in his list, too. I always get a little shiver at that panel in which our protagonist realizes what is happening, after he's written the "magic word" SHAMAN, as the heroes prepare to invade reality- and he looks at the reader in a closeup panel, saying simply "heh" with an crazed but elated grin on his face. I don't think Grant's ever topped Flex Mentallo, and I have been known to cite it to those who wonder how and why a 44-year old man can still read and enjoy comics. What a shame that it's not out in trade format.

Amazing Spider-Man #16 (1964)
Guest star Daredevil is forced to fight not only the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime, but a hypnotized Spidey as well- and the jokes flow fast, furious and funny as only Stan Lee could write 'em in his prime. Four-year-old me about busted a gut laughing as first DD, then Spidey wisecrack incessantly as they scrap, and damned if 44-year-old me still doesn't do the same in the all-too-infrequent opportunities he gets to read it.

"The Bouncing Ball of Doom", Strange Tales#131, 1965
The Mad Thinker has created a remote-controlled ball, which flies around destroying buildings, dams and such and generally wreaking havoc and the Human Torch and the Thing strive to stop it. One scene which stuck with me out of many in this, a guilty-pleasure comic for me if there ever was one, is a scene where the ball causes support cables on the George Washington Bridge to snap, and the Thing bravely holds the cables together as the Torch welds them. I remembered it just recently, on my trip to New York City, as I drove over the Bridge.

"I said-- get your ASS-- off this TRAIN!", Thriller #4, Robert Loren Fleming (script), Trevor Von Eeden (art)
Marietta, the matriarch of the Salvotini family, is dying from a head wound inflicted in a train crash. Her supernatural daughter, the ethereal Angie Thriller, can save her- but only if she can merge with nine-foot-tall artificially born priest Beaker Parish, whose artificial body can handle what Angie plans to do. Her brother, marksman Tony aka Salvo, objects and wants to stay with his Ma- but Beaker puts his foot down (something the generally pacifistic Father doesn't do often), slams Tony up against the wall, and persuades him to leave. One of the many scenes which made Thriller special- that sense of family ties that was strong between the members of the Seven Seconds.

Killraven exacts revenge from Skar for the death of Hawk, Amazing Adventures#34 (1974)
Killraven, of course, is the escaped gladiator title character from Don McGregor & Craig Russell's extrapolation of H.G. Wells'' original story. Hawk was the Native American member of Killraven's Freemen, a surly fellow who went along with KR because he believed in the cause, but not necessarily his leader; and Skar was a killer that the Martians sent to track KR and his group. This particular issue was the final showdown; it was almost entirely sans dialogue, carried along with minimal (for McGregor) narration. Skar happens upon the group as they were separated, and fires a blast at some rocks which were perched over the heads of some of the group. As they flee to avoid being crushed, Hawk realizes that one of the members, who was mortally wounded a few issues prior and had to be carried along on a sled, was in the path of the rockslide. He goes back, can't drag his fellow out in time, and is crushed under the rocks. When KR hears the noise, he rushes back and has a wordless, savage battle with the Martian killer, and his wrath is yea, verily, most righteous and savage. This issue has always stood as a high point among those who were fans of this series, because of this scene.

The death of Shebaba O'Neil, Ironwolf: Fires of the Revolution one shot (1992)
Lord Ironwolf's back story is a complicated one; I'll leave it at that for now. As I wrote a while back, there were three issues published featuring the Chaykin creation in the early-mid 70s, and the character was revived for an excellent one-shot in the early 90's. In the 70's Weird Worlds issues, Shebaba O'Neil (named after dialogue writer Dennis) was Ironwolf's Number One, his friend, confidant and sharp-tongued comrade-in-arms, and a favorite of mine. Flash forward 18 years, and we find that Chaykin means business when he revisited the concept- she gets her head blown off by enemy fire about six pages in! Y'know, I didn't see that coming at all (neither did she!), and while on the one hand it made me a bit angry, on the other I was impressed and surprisingly delighted (after I had cooled off a bit) to be taken by surprise like that. And y'know what? She stayed dead. Wow. It's like Garth Ennis had killed Nat the Hat stone dead in Hitman issue #6 or some such. I've said it before- if you haven't read this, and are even remotely familiar with the character, then you should order it ASAP. It's apparently still in print, as a click on the link above will show...! I liked that book a lot after I had finished it, and my estimation of it has grown substantially over the succeeding years.

OK, this is it for right now- I'm sure I'll think of others eventually so stay tuned for the sequel!
Bad Mojo, the latest publication from AiT/PlanetLar to grace my mailbox, is a Stephen King-ish horror story which owes a debt to the Bard of Maine's own Thinner. Written by Abel's William Harms, and ably illustrated by Steve Morris, it tells the tale of a minor-league prospect who, with a couple of his friends in along as he drives all night to Florida for spring training, accidentally has a late-night sleepy-eyed fender bender with probably the last person he should have run into- a middle-aged, recently divorced and downright cranky witch, who (naturally) doesn't appreciate her car getting banged up- and, instead of suing the poor schnook, lays a curse on the guy which causes him to die each day at dawn (now there's a movie title for ya) and come back to life at nightfall. Of course, this isn't a pleasant experience (they even do an wince-inducing when you think about it autopsy on the fellow at one point), and eventually they go to the witch to get her to lift the curse. Of course ('cause let's face it- it wouldn't be much of a story if she actually listened to reason, now would it?), she refuses, but then dangles some slim hope in the form of a request for a grim errand, and in return she might reverse her spell. This leads to conflicts with the local law enforcement officers and the townspeople, all narrow-minded religious jingoistic nutcases apparently...and eventually the fellows are forced to make a unpleasant, and ambiguous decision at the end.

Bad Mojo does indeed make the reader uncomfortable- we kinda-sorta sympathize with the unfortunate would-be baseball player, especially since he finds himself in a no-win, Chinese-finger-puzzle-type predicament. This sort of thing always makes me squirm, anyway. I'm a little at a loss to understand why his buddies stuck with him as long as they did, given the extremity of the situation, but it's explained pretty well, I suppose. It took them a lot longer to call his agent than I would have figured, and I'm also a little surprised that they didn't call for help from anyone back home. I was most unhappy with the ending, though- it's way too open-ended, and one wishes for more of a resolution. I know, I know, life's like that sometimes- but you know how I am about ambiguous endings.

I was very impressed by Steve Morris' art- he has a nice style, realistic, but not too realistic- and by that I mean stiff and posed-looking- a bit reminsicent of Geoff Darrow, perhaps, or even someone like Steven (JSA) Sadowski or J.H. Williams. A couple of the sequences that are done in shades of grey (to depict twilight or early-morning, I suppose) were a bit hard to follow (and this is probably intentional), and that was a bit annoying, but otherwise he does an excellent job, and really enhances Harms' script- something which his Abel collaborator failed miserably to do. I hope to see more from Mr. Morris in the future.

Bad Mojo succeeds in generating some discomfort and horror, almost in spite of itself, and is worth a look if you're in the mood for something to read around Halloween. If nothing else, I'm more aware that if I'm even driving late at night and get really sleepy, I'll pull over rather than risk sideswiping a witch! B+

Update: After that sharp-eyed Bill Sherman pointed out something pretty important (but easily overlooked) that I had missed (and which help certain events make a lot more sense), I corrected a couple of things in the above review. Muchas gracias, Bill!

Now for the third of the three publications that Mad Yak Press sent me, The Supernaturalists. As with Texarkana, this serves as an introduction for the upcoming ongoing series. Artist/writer duties are handled by the Subatomic team of the late Jorge Heufemann and the ever-present (at least at the Yak) Patrick Neighly. Set in Prohibition-era New York, the Supernaturalists the title refers to are police detective Edward Drake and his vampire companion Esme, who find themselves unlikely allies as Drake tries to get to the bottom of mysterious vampire-style killings plaguing the city.

Supernaturalists doesn't really function as a mystery story per se; you know about halfway in whodunit and what's at stake, if you'll excuse the pun. You also know, even earlier on, that Drake and Esme will become romantically attached. After the nature of the situation is revealed, really what we get is a basic adventure story, with the only suspense coming from wondering how they'll get through all the trouble going on around them. Once again, I gotta give Neighly a lot of credit for at least trying to come up with something a bit different, or at least trying to put a few creases in. I like the basic concept- a supernatural detective story, set in the 1920's...but as so often seems to be the case I like the idea a lot more than the execution. Part of the problem is that Neighly is trying a bit too hard to give us hard-boiled, terse dialogue, and in the absence of any sort of narration to help me out, this whole story had a kind of disjointed feel about it. The events just didn't progress all that smoothly as I read, and I was often forced to backtrack to refresh my admittedly tenuous memory. Neighly plays a bit fast and loose with vampiric lore here as well- the bitten turn extremely quickly here, contrary to most previously established accounts. I think much of the blame, though, has to fall on Heufemann; while his art is competent and often above average in places- often reminding me of Miller without all the heavy blacks or Sean Phillips (with Romeo Tanghal inks?) even- sometimes his staging within the panels was arbitrary and confusing, and his figure drawings had a samey-ness (now there's a professional-sounding word) about them, something which wasn't so much of a problem with his work on Subatomic. Perhaps color would have helped me here, who knows. I've no doubt that he would have improved this with experience, and it's a shame we won't get to see how much. In all fairness, I'll admit that I read this in about three sittings over the space of around two weeks, hardly conducive to the ideal reading experience, and that contributed to my problems as well.

Supernaturalists is a interesting concept, and while I found it a bit more challenging to read than I usually like, I am kinda interested in where Neighly takes his odd couple from here so I might just find myself taking a look at the first issue of the ongoing when it comes out. B

I'm pleased to announce that the book I illustrated for Mrs. B, Pumpkins On The Vine, is now available for you to purchase if you so desire. It costs $7.99 plus shipping and handling. You can buy it through Trafford Publishing's web site by clicking here. We are supposed to be getting copies of our own to sell, so if you'd rather order one from me personally that's fine- but we just ordered them yesterday so if you want to be sure to get them before Halloween you might want to go through Trafford. When we get our copies, I'll post an update.
Boy, the last couple of days have been a straight up bitch. Busy, busy, busy. Lots of stuff going on. Hopefully I'll get to make some blog hay today and tomorrow, and right now I'll make time for...


Standard disclaimer: For entertainment purposes only. Please do not be stupid and take your hard-earned money and bet it illegally using my picks. You don't know me- I may be insane, or pulling your leg. Also, don't do drugs, m'kay?

ATLANTA over Arizona (This would appear to be a stone cold lock, and that's why it scares me. But SURELY Atlanta can beat the banged-up Cards at the Georgia Dome!3-0! Amazing!)
CINCINNATI over Baltimore
MINNESOTA over Chicago
The NEW YORK football GIANTS over Cleveland
HOUSTON over Kansas City (And boy, will this get the shit stirred up in KC)
TENNESSEE over Jacksonville (but you might want to take the Jags and the points- not that you should wager illegaly or anything)
ST.LOUIS over New Orleans
PHILADELPHIA over Detroit (But for some reason, I think this will be close)
MIAMI over Pittsburgh
DENVER over San Diego
INDIANAPOLIS over Green Bay (Again, you may want to take GB and the points)
SEATTLE over San Fransisco (Sorry, Mik)
OAKLAND over Tampa Bay
WASHINGTON over Dallas

Last week: 11-5. Year to date: 19-13. Fantasy: Money league, lost 35-23, 0-2. Sad, sad. Freebie Yahoo league, lost 53-52. Ouch. 1-1.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Late for the party (or the wake, perhaps)as usual, I still want to send along an RIP Russ Meyer, maker of some of the best trash cinema ever, who died Saturday.

I am long overdue for a re-screening of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!...

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Like I said before, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is everything that everyone says it is. It's a marvelous entertainment and visual experience, but the script leaves a lot to be desired.

I'm sure you know the story by now, but I'll try to run through it as quickly as I can: Scientists are mysteriously disappearing, giant robots are invading Manhattan objective unknown, and intrepid reporter Polly Perkins has to call in dashing superhero aviator "Sky Captain" (real name Joe Sullivan), with whom she has a history of sorts. Sky Cap manages to cripple one of the 'bots and take it back to his base of operations, but is then quickly invaded by flying (with flapping wings, yet!) ships sent by a Dr. Totenkampf. They ships, with SC hot in pursuit, bomb and seriously damage his base and manage to kidnap his right-hand man and gadget inventor Dex. Complicating things is the presence of a mysterious woman dressed in what seems to be a manta ray inspired black leather costume, who is aiding in the search for whatever it is Dr. T is looking for. SC and Polly track Dex (with the help of Franky Cook, who operates a secret flying base with a full compliment of soldiers) through Tibet, eventually winding up on a tropical island full of giant creatures, and it's there that they eventually discover what exactly the Doctor's mad plan is and are determined to prevent it.

Sky Captain is, more than anything, a film made by a film geek for film geeks, especially those who are geekish about 30's and 40's adventure movies and serials. References and tributes abound; at one point, as Wil Pfiefer points out, they run across a big log spanning a chasm that is exactly like the one that Carl Denham and Jack Driscoll's ill-fated crew got stuck on in the original King Kong. Godzilla makes a cameo appearance in a Tokyo newspaper. Totenkampf's giant robots are tributes to the "Mechanical Monsters" from the Fleischer Bros.'s Superman cartoons. Totenkampf himself is brought to life in a clever, surprising fashion. Besides Kong, we also get homages to Metropolis, Buck Rogers, Things To Come, Raiders of the Lost Ark, of course, and probably a whole lot more stuff- pulp magazines, comic books, etc., that I didn't pick up on. This film is a tribute of style over substance if ever there was one. Everything is sepia-toned, soft-focus, and mesmerizing, like a dream- even when they're in the sunlight, everything seems indistinct and foggy. The effect is a lot like watching a silent film, or looking at old postcards. Sky Captain, no doubt thanks in large part to its CGI backdrops, looks like no film I've ever seen (with the possible exception of The Lady and the Duke, another CGI-heavy film), and that (if nothing else) gets it over the top. More than just eye candy, I think this film is an amazing visual achievement.

Problem is, the script is all surface and expects the viewer to take a lot at face value- Kerry Conran seems to be hoping that we'll be so distracted and entertained by what we're seeing that we don't take the time to question the logic of it all. Totenkampf's master plan, for example- it makes very little sense when you stop and think about it. Or if one wants to know more about Sky Captain as a exactly his whole operation works or how he earned his particular status in this hazy world he lives in. I'm sure Conran didn't want to bog down the flow of the story with constant explanations, which would have indeed been tedious...but still, things just keep popping up which don't make a lot of sense.

The lead performances are all top-notch, especially considering that they were acting in front of a blue screen 99% of the time- Jude Law has just the right amount of panache and rakish charm in the title role- no Errol Flynn (or even Harrison Ford) he but he does just fine; Gwyneth Paltrow certainly looks the part with her relentlessly brown dresses and 1940's coiffure, but she underplays her role a bit too much- odd choice, especially when you'd think a bit more snap would be called for, but it's not that big a problem in the big picture; Giovanni Ribisi is fun as Dex, but doesn't have a lot of screen time. I liked the look and the off-and-on appearances of Bai Ling's "Mysterious Woman in Black", but the actress really didn't get to do much with the character...she could have been a CGI effect for all she was asked to do. Still, it was fun to watch her shoot beams with her staff and kick SC's ass once or twice. Angelina Jolie may have made amends for what seems like a decade of rotten film choices with her nicely done portrayal of SC's comrade-in-arms-and who-knows-what-else Cook; she underplays, but there's always a wink and a eye-twinkle in her no-nonsense demeanor.

In fact, one of my favorite lines in the whole flick comes courtesy of Jolie: as they approach Totenkampf's island and are confronted with an attack, she snaps off a terse "Alert Amphibian Squadron!" command, but does so with a hint of a smile on her face, like she's sharing a joke with you, and it's infectious- you can't help but smile right back. And that's pretty much my reaction to Sky Captain: I'm so charmed by the sheer imagination and spectacle of the thing, that I enjoy being in on the joke even though I know that if I think about it I won't like it nearly as much. Like a magic trick, almost.

Sure, go see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the experience will definitely be better on the large screen than at home on DVD. Unless you have a large screen TV at home. I think the visuals will win you over, especially if you love offbeat genre films, the older the better...but if you're one that has to have everything in its proper place and every plot point and character detail in order and fully logical, you'll be doomed to disappointment. I strongly suggest bringing your disbelief suspension gear along.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Well, once again dat ol' debbil TV has conspired to keep me from sitting down and writing stuff I need to write about. This time, you can blame it on TCM for airing the 1943 film The Song of Bernadette. Bernadette stars Jennifer Jones as the title character, a French peasant girl who sees a vision of the Virgin Mary in a grotto near the town of Lourdes, and has to endure the unbelieving town officals as well as the fanatical devotion of the downtrodden who are desperate to experience something bigger than they are- and things get even more complicated when Bernadette, under direction of the "Beautiful Lady", uncovers a spring with miraculous healing powers. Also on hand is a young Vincent Price, as oily and suave as ever, as a skeptical prosecuting attorney. The film manages the neat trick of being reverent in regards to its very religious subject matter, but thankfully doesn't take sides vis-a-vis the skeptical vs. the believers. While the town officials are certainly shown in an unflattering light, the filmmakers don't spare those on the side of the angels either: Gladys Cooper gives a downright creepy performance as a Sister who lets her jealousy and hatred of Bernadette drive her to behave very badly. As someone who isn't the most religious person you'll ever want to meet, I appreciated this balance, which is something you wouldn't see very often these days. The cinematography is excellent, with a lot of beautiful scenery and some nicely contrasting dark/light scenes.

Regarded as something of a classic, Song of Bernadette is an engrossing, even moving film, and was a pleasant surprise to this hard-hearted old sinner.

Didn't know about this until earlier this evening: RIP Skeeter Davis, best known for the supernaturally beautiful 1963 song "The End of the World"- which made a strong impression on impressionable 3-going-on-4-year-old me, died on Sunday.

Here's a good bio.

Cat Stevens, threat to freedom and homeland security. The mind reels.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Just in case someone cares, here's what I'll be getting Wednesday according to the new Diamond shipping list.

H-E-R-O #20

This week's official "Powers: I Can't Believe ANOTHER New Issue's Coming Out" award goes to Walking Dead, which I swear just came out a week or so ago. Plastic Man has my attention now, so I'm looking forward to seeing what Baker does next. I would have already dropped H-E-R-O if they hadn't announced its impending cancellation, and the underwhelming Ex Machina has another issue to justify my continued patronage.

In other news on Planet Dave, I went to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow this afternoon, and while driving home, with the golden afternoon sunlight of this beautiful day creating Maxfield Parrish scenarios everywhere I looked, I had quite a few thoughts about the film- but right now all I can say is that it's everything everyone says it is. And yes, I know that's mighty vague but I will write more about it later, I promise.

Also on the "hope-to-post-sometime-this-week" list are reviews of three Atomeka Press books: Brick Top, the Dave Johnson Sketchbook, and A1: Atomeka Big Issue 0, a few thoughts on the first seven issues of Kyle Baker's Plastic Man, which will not consist solely of me bitching about his art...much...; plus the long-delayed piece on Mad Yak's The Supernaturalists and the latest from AiT/PlanetLar, Bad Mojo. I'm also thinking I'd like to take a shot at the "favorite comics moments" meme that Will Pfiefer started (but that's gonna take some serious thinking, something which just isn't coming naturally to me right now). And for those of you who would like to see me write more about music (surely there must be somebody out there), a Johnny B's Mondo Vinyl-O is in the draft stage.

I know, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and I'm beginning to break a sweat. But I'll try to get this stuff done soon, so you don't have to endure any more posts of this nature from me for a while...

Spent most of my day Saturday helping out at an estate auction for my father-in-law, who's a realtor and auctioneer. Why? Well, he pays me. Also, I keep hoping that someday, there will be a box or two of old comics, records, movie magazines, or something rare and collectible...or heck, I'd even settle for just something kinda cool! Anyway, I've been in the family 25 years now, and the only thing that has come to light was a beat-up old issue of Batman from the 1940s, the number of which escapes me. Either nobody around here ever bought comics or listened to records, or perhaps they got left to friends and relatives. Anyway, as I'm so fond of saying, hope springs eternal.

However, the lady whose estate was being auctioned was apparently a bit eccentric, and bought a lot of, well, junk with a generous sum of money she had been given (or so I'm told), and there were tons of toys, Christmas decorations, nicknacks and trinkets to be had. I found the above Justice League Hawkgirl doll in one of the boxes (which someone else had already bid on) and bought it from her for a buck. I probably overpaid, but what the heck, I thought it would be an interesting thing to have in my tiny collection of toy-type comics-related merchandise.

Just thought I'd share.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Sorry I had to repeat an image, but do you have any idea how hard it is to find good shots of Geena Davis as Morgan the pirate queen in Cutthroat Island, my favorite bad pirate movie?

All of which to point out that somebody somewhere hath decreed that this be "Talk Like A Pirate Day"- and although the day's almost over, better late than never, matey!

Yar. Too bad those scurvy Buccaneers got beat today. At least the Raiders won, and the Pittsburgh Pirates swept a doubleheader from the Mets in baseball.
what I bought and what I thought, week of September 16

Hello! Not listed in last week's Diamond list, but here it is in my holds folder just the same! Kaz Kabuishi dispenses with the Poker lessons this time, and gives us a no-frills chapter which presents Ms Kutter with an opportunity to get her beloved store (which she foolishly lost in a poker game last issue) back by pulling a train job...but is everything as it appears to be on the surface? Kaz allows us to get to know the title character a bit better, which makes her much more likeable in the process. His art walks a tightrope between cartoony-realistic and cartoony-exaggerated, and sometimes it slips off the wire but never falls off completely. The back-feature, about a "Inter-galactic Research Agency" field agent named Lucy Nova, S.E., is a fun, but odd read overall, complete with detailed profiles of the flora and fauna of the planet Lucy is investigating. Writer/artist Jake Parker gives us an appealing character and concept, and fortunately his artwork is up to the task- it's mostly Disneyesque, especially Lucy, but reminiscent of Geoff Darrow when it comes to the big bugs and plants and damned if the robot drone and her space scooter don't look like something from Mike Kaluta's Starstruck. Another solid issue. A

Very efficient and mostly satisfying conclusion to the Black Widow four-parter. Bendis doesn't waste a single word, and Maleev does his usual Malleevian job. Solid and entertaining, if just a shade on the contrived side...unlikely to convert the unconverted but sufficient for the faithful. A-

The emphasis is on characterization this time out rather than sensationalism, and that makes this the most likeable issue to date of this most unlikeable series. Nice exchanges between Green Arrow and Superman, Mister Miracle, and of course Hal Jordan are the glue which holds this installment together, plus I think Meltzer is doing a good job of nudging the mystery plot along without giving away very much at all. A qualified success, par for the course for this series so far. A-

Chris Chance gets mixed up with the figurehead of a religious cult and the organized crime family that said figurehead has pissed off. I was happy to see that Milligan doesn't go for the easy plot choices this time out; Chance misjudges the young figurehead, who doesn't seem like that bad a guy, most of the characters display more than one dimension, and there's a genuinely surprising murder about three quarters into the story. Cliff Chiang's back on art duties this time, and I hate to admit it but I think I prefer his more down-to-earth style on this comic than Javier Pulido's. God knows I love Pulido's work, but there's a certain grounded sensibility that Chiang brings that his more extravagant predecessor, and as a result Milligan's scripts (which tend to be dry and static) flow better. B

You know, really- once you take away the crassness and crudity, and the celebrity lookalikes, how many times have we seen this story before over the last 30 years or so? For those who think Millar's Ultimates is in poor taste, count your blessings, 'cause this is what it would be if not for Marvel's relatively tighter control over its product. It's a tribute to artist J.G. Jones that this hodgepodge is as entertaining as it is...he's one of those rare artists who can take questionable material and make it something better. Of course, unless you get off on f-bombs and scatalogical humor, in which case you probably think I'm full of...well, you know. B-

Sigh. I still contend that there is somebody, somewhere out there that is capable of bringing us an entertaining -hell, even readable- Dr. Strange series, but based on this first issue J. Michael Straczynski, Sara Barnes, and Brandon Peterson ain't them. Hard to say which put me off more- the leaden, talky, soap-opera cliche-lousy script with its lines after lines of expository dialogue (we even get a "Dammit, Stephen" at one point), or the Image-90's-lite art with its awkward perspectives and anatomy, and its scratchy, too-busy ink lines. Purported to be a "re-imagining" or a "fresh look" at the character, about the only fresh wrinkle we get is that we see that the good Doctor had a predilection, in his dissolute years, for threesomes. Oh yeah- he's now a plastic surgeon. How topical and fresh. An almost complete disaster and a huge disappointment, we leave poor Doc Strange crippled after inexplicably deciding that going skiing in pitch darkness was going to help his troubled soul, but I think I know how this is gonna turn out and frankly, I don't give a damn. Someone should smite all involved with a Wand of Watoomb. Nice cover, though. C-

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Time once again for this week's Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!

For entertainment purposes only; if you bet using these picks you are a moron. Unless you win big, then feel free to avail yourself of the PayPal button under Martini Devil Girl.

Last week: 9-7. Not too shabby, but I want to do better.

Kansas City over Carolina
Green Bay over Chicago
Denver over Jacksonville
Detroit over Houston (The Lions! 2-0!)
Indianapolis over Tennessee
Pittsburgh over Baltimore
New Orleans over San Fransisco
Atlanta over St. Louis (hey, we beat San Fran...why not?)
Washington over NY Giants
Seattle over Tampa Bay (take the Bucs and the points, if you must lay money)
Oakland over Buffalo
Dallas over Cleveland
New England over Arizona
NY Jets over San Diego
Cincinnati over Miami (again, might want to take the Fins and the points if you bet, hint hint)
Philadelphia over Minnesota

Check back later and see how I do!

Fantasy teams: in the Cut-throat Football League, I was smoked like a Swisher Sweet, 48-15. 0-1. No production from any of my players except Mike Vick and my kicker, Jeff Wilkins. Bah. In the freebie Yahoo league, with different players, I won 75-31. Different scoring system in that league, too. 1-0.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Well, whaddaya know. It hasn't been quite as busy as usual this morning, so I've even had some time to click around here and there, and I see where CBR has Image's December solicits up. Some of the entries are very noteworthy indeed, and since I went through DC's the other day it's only fair that I do these as well...

JACK STAFF #8 Looks like it's back to WWII for Jack, as they take on a new menace named Kapitan Krieg. It brings back memories of the first four Dancing Elephant issues of Jack, and even features the return of the Freedom Fighters. SPOILERS HERE: I'm assuming it's pre-vamp Sgt. States...regardless, it doesn't get much better these days, in my opinion, than Paul Grist and as long as he serves 'em up I'll be picking 'em up.

Speaking of Grist, Image is also giving us BURGLAR BILL #2, reprinting some of his early 90's work. It's fine, but I didn't start getting real excited about Grist until Jack Staff and later Kane, so while I considered getting these I passed. Maybe someday.

THE AMAZING JOY BUZZARDS #1 looks like fun, and the cover looks pretty good. Most attempts to depict the rock'n'roll lifestyle via the comic fall flat, but hope springs eternal, and maybe this might be the one.

BATTLE HYMN #1 I love B. Clay Moore's Hawaiian Dick, as I'm sure you all know, but I have my doubts about this. Scanning the synopsis, I just get too much seen-that-before for me to get real excited about it. Still, the cover looks nice, so I'll check it out further before I commit. I have this fear of commitment sometimes.

CHOLLY AND FLYTRAP #2 I remember the name from Epic Magazine, and maybe even Heavy Metal...but that didn't look or sound anything like this. Is Suydam recycling, perhaps? Or is this just a non-representative cover. Either way, Suydam's Frazetta-meets-Vess style has never really excited me, so I think I'll pass.

DESPERADO PRIMER Lotta interesting names attached to this, and for 2 bucks I might give it a look. Just for curiosity's sake, y'understand.

And now, by far the best news I've heard lately: FLAMING CARROT #1! The Dreadnought of Chicanery returns! Sure, it's quarterly, but at least it's all Bob Burden. Plus, maybe we'll get to find out the fate of Sponge Boy from the Atomeka one-shot story...woo hoo! The Carrot is BACK!

G-MAN #1 I always liked Chris Giarrusso's Giant-Size Mini-Marvels one-shots, and now he's got his own character. Looks like fun, but that 6 dollar price tag is a major deterrent.

By far the most unintentionally funny cover of the month has to be that of VICTORY, VOL. 2 #3, at left. Even as one admires the skill of artist Attila Adorjany and the...assets...of its subject, one also has to wonder which will happen first: whether she'll fall flat on her shapely posterior, or forward on her honkin' big sword. Either way, I don't intend to buy this and find out.

It's nice to see that THE WALKING DEAD keeps on shuffling along; #15 is the issue cited here. There's also a second printing coming out of the first 6 issues, for those foolish souls who missed them the first time around.

When I saw the title WATERLOO SUNSET, #3 of which is solicited this month, I first thought someone had done a comic book about the brothers Davies. Sadly, this isn't the case, it's another dreary post-apocalyptic scenario type saga instead. Pass.

Finally, here's something that does excite me: THE BEATLES: SATURDAY MORNING CARTOON ACTION FIGURES! I liked the cartoon back in the day on ABC as a even-then Beatle-savvy kid; even though the characters didn't resemble the Fabs as the were in real life at that stage, it was still a lot of fun and the music was, of course, impeccable. When they aired it again on MTV several years later, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they hadn't dated all that badly, certainly not like many of the superheroic toons of the time had, anyway. So I think a set of these McFarlane figures would look seven differnt kinds of cool on my TV set next to the stereo; if you agree, the PayPal button is in the links bar at top right underneath Martini Devil Girl.

Blatant panhandling aside, this completes my look at Image's December offerings. Woo hoo! The Flaming Carrot!

It's Friday, and Fridays are always hella-busy on Planet Dave, plus Saturday, with another of my father-in-law's auctions coming up (always an all-day thing, and very tiring), looks like a bitch as well. But in the meantime, check out these links I found over at the always interesting, but (sadly) rarely updated Sugar-n-Spicy:

If you like vintage art of pinup girls, and God knows I do, here's Pin-up Girls, from whence the above illustration came- it's in a foreign language but it's OK 'cause the linked artist's names are in English. Dave Stevens is among those who have a gallery.

The website of Ronny Vardy, who proves that if you must do paintings of fairies and such, it helps to at least do them well.

Plus, via Clio Chiang's Sketchblog of Doom, here's the sketchblog of someone named "Genn", short for Genevieve, last-name-unknown. She's pretty gosh darn good.

That oughtta keep ya busy for a little while until I can get back to da blog...may be today, may be tonight. Who knows.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

My God. Another one gone. RIP Johnny Ramone.

I'm feeling older now than ever...
A couple of quickies before I get back to building crappy-looking ads:

First, Alan David Doane, lucky sod, has interviewed Howard Victor Chaykin over at Comic Book Galaxy, and he not only manages to get Sword of Sorcery (see "Brilliant But Cancelled", below) namechecked, but also gets Howie to mention Time Squared, one of my top three Chaykin projects! And Chaykin wants to see it back in print! Me too, but I want new stories...

Second, my current favorite Beatlesong: "Baby's In Black". Why, I dunno exactly- but I just love the rollercoaster harmonies on that song. The favorite Beatlesong designation will probably change in a few minutes, so I wanted to get that out there. Favorite Beatle cover of the moment: Grant Lee Phillips' home-recorded "Here Comes the Sun", which is included on the blue Beatlecover disc that came with the latest Mojo. More on that later, hopefully.

Back to the salt mine!

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Finally got around to seeing the Coen Brothers' 2003 film Intolerable Cruelty, and despite my initial misgivings based on poor word-of-mouth, I enjoyed it. Didn't love it, mind you, but found it an often hilarious, if not awe-inspiring like the best Coen efforts can be, time-passer.

The way I understand it, this was a screenplay which had kicked around Hollywood for a long while before the Bros. decided to have a go at it, which explains the conventional plot at its base. Essentially a comedy about a slick, mega-successful, teeth-obsessed divorce lawyer named Miles Massey (legendary author of the ironclad Massey pre-nup), played by George Clooney with a lot of Dapper Dan still in his hair, who falls for a serial divorcee played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, with complications -of course- ensuing, it's pretty mainstream by Coens standards. Where they make their influence felt is with the arch, snappy dialogue and a group of standard oddball characters, such as the Rondo Hatton-ish thug that Clooney hires to kill someone, or Geoffrey Rush's cuckolded actor. It's mostly funny and certainly fast paced, with just enough Coen strangeness to keep it out of When Harry Met Sally-ish relationship comedy dullness, but it doesn't take as many turns, plotwise, as you hope for or expect...and the ending seems rushed and pat. Can't not mention the nicely done animated opening credits, which uses vintage illustrations of Cupids and so on. Not too many people pay attention to this sort of thing, but such is my curse, I suppose.

Cruelty isn't classic Coens, by any stretch, but I found it entertaining just the same.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Time now for me to share with all of you one of the most intimate, most personal, most private things that I could possibly share...

Nah. Tell you what- here's what I'll be getting tomorrow in my holds, courtesy of the Diamond shipping list!


Plus the new Mojo. Matt's been giving me that "I'm sold out of all the other copies I got, and I could sell the one you have put back if you're not gonna buy the f-ing thing" look.
You may not be aware of this, but every comics blogger is required by law to comment on the DC solicitation listings when they appear throughout the Web. And since I try to be a law-abiding citizen (stop snickering), here's mine for December's offerings.

By far the best cover of the month belongs to GOTHAM CENTRAL 26, as you can see at left. I guess it's just my weird predilection for illustrations featuring beautiful women in cemeteries. Oh wait- I haven't mentioned that before, have I? Anyway, looks like Catwoman's gonna hook up with the GCPD, and since Mike Lark's gonna do the art, it should be great.

Speaking of covers, I can't believe that the cover for BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #186 is by Sean Phillips. It just doesn't look like his work- looks more like Kelley Jones. And that Jae Lee cover for BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #60 looks more like Phillips' style, in my eyes anyway.

I see where Carlos Pacheco is still drawing BATMAN/SUPERMAN; that still doesn't make me want to buy but I sure do like Pacheco's art.

The relaunch of THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES is coming out this month; I really want to like the Legion, but I got real bored real fast with the tail end of Abnett/Lanning's tenure on the book, and dropped it before the Gail Simone fill-ins. Mark Waid isn't a terrible writer, and in fact was on board for the post-Zero Hour reboot so it might be interesting to see what he'll do with the characters again. He helped create my favorite newish character, Kinetix, who had really gotten the short end of the stick from subsequent writers; if Waid will restore her that would go a long way towards inducing me to buy. It would also help if they had found an artist with a bit more pizazz than Barry Kitson, whose style is functional and competent, which equals "boring" in the Johnny Bacardi Lexicon. We'll see.

Wow! PLASTIC MAN is solicited through issue #13! Good to know, since I'm interested in it finally. Whether or not I'm still interested in December is something else again. I wish I had enjoyed #'s 1-7 as much as I had hoped I would; more on that later.

ASTRO CITY: THE DARK AGE #1 is the latest in the series, which has been really up-and-down in its infrequent appearances for the last couple of years as far as I'm concerned. I'll probably get this anyway, but if I'm not blown away it just might be time to put Astro City in my rear-view mirror.

I'm also happy to see THE LOSERS #19 listed, and Mike Kaluta turns in another nice cover for LUCIFER #57. And thanks to the DC copywriters for not putting spoilers in the text for Lucifer's entry like they did the FABLES 32 copy...

Another wow-inducing Tara McPherson cover on THE WITCHING #7. Must...remain...strong...don't buy...

And that's about all that grabbed my attention. Small beer, huh! Nothing much new, anyway. Titles like Sleeper, Ex Machina, 100 Bullets, and Justice League Elite sound like status quo is maintained, and it's hard to comment on titles like The Question and Angeltown, both of which I'll be getting, without having seen the first issues of both. And I'd love to get the JOHN CONSTANTINE: HELLBLAZER -- ALL HIS ENGINES HC, the synopsis of which sounds like primo Mike Carey...but I can't afford g-darned hardcovers, can barely afford softcovers on the infrequent occasions that I purchase them. Oh well, maybe there will be a storewide sale coming up soon at my comics shop.

Either way, looks like perhaps my wallet will get a bit of a break in December, if all the other companies will help out...

He's been back for a few weeks now, but Gregg Easterbrook's first Tuesday Morning Quarterback column is up now over at Just thought you might like to know.

Monday, September 13, 2004

I've seen this, yet another sweet Tara McPherson illustration, making the rounds on several fine blogs. To learn more, go to Thought Balloons. Me, I just wanted to post this illo of everbody's favorite Endless siblings.

On a seemingly related note, when I added Plastic Man to my pull list the other day, I dropped The Witching. The days when I can buy comics because I like the covers are long gone.

It's occurred to me that I haven't sent you to any interesting art sites lately, so please go check out Beautiful stuff.
What I Bought and What I Thought, Week of September 8th

By far the most entertaining and enjoyable comic I read this week. Fast-paced and funny, with jokes flying right and left, much of it directed at convoluted superhero comic time-travel stories. I expect no less from Kyle Baker the writer. My problem lately- and the reason why I initially passed on this- is with Kyle Baker the artist, and the sloppy, Aragones-meets-Kricfalusi oddball style he's developed over the last decade or so along with his straight-outta-a-Dennis the Menace-comic book lettering, not to mention his day-glo, hamfisted coloring. Fortunately, it appears that he's kinda grown into it, or perhaps I'm just growing accustomed- either way, (at least in this issue) it's not a problem. I'm looking forward to reading the first eight and the next few, even as I prepare myself for the inevitable cancellation. A

100 BULLETS 53
Part three of the "Long-haired amnesiac Minuteman Wylie Tymes kicks around New Orleans while Agent Sheppard remains tied to a chair" storyline, difference being that stuff actually happens and characters get developed this time. Two issues in, and I have no clue about what exactly Tymes thinks he's doing, a positive I think, and it's a treat to see Risso and his amazing shadows depict New Orleans and its nightspots. Another outstanding chapter, and in keeping with the Miles Davis/jazz theme this issue is designated In A Silent Way, another strong outing which points at interesting developments down the road. A

Deena's in a real bind this time, as she falls into the hands of a powered thug with a grudge, and neither Walker or the rest of the force has a clue where she is. On top of that, Walker's still dealing with his own past in the form of a young girl that he once rescued, who now has powers of her own and apparently a connection to Retro Girl on top of that. Plus, the powered are beginning to chafe a bit under the worldwide ban imposed upon them. Bendis is doing a typically efficient job of nudging each of these threads along, not as talky as last issue, fortunately. And Mike Avon Oeming once again delivers a solid art job. A

Brubaker gives way to Rucka with this arc, and while I tend to prefer the 'Baker man I think Rucka's gotten off to a strong start with this tale of a shooting in the line of duty gone skewed, and the unscrupulous forensics guy that likes to take objects from the scene and sell them on eBay. As always, outstanding art in that down-to-earth Michael Lark style, and more grubby, muddy, downbeat colors by Lee Loughridge. A-

Our beleaguered group finds refuge with a veterinarian and his extended family, as they seek help for lead Rick's son, who was accidentally shot by one of said family. More outstanding post-apocalyptic soap-operatics, without a single shuffling zombie for once...and funny thing, I didn't even notice until long after reading it. Ably illustrated by Charlie Adlard, who does a nice job of channeling Simonson without appearing too derivative. A-

Well, I prefer Lugosi vs. Chaney when it comes to Frankenstein vs. Wolf Man throwdowns...but this isn't bad. Mostly fun Weird WWII tale, a fill-in to let Buckingham & Leialoha take a break and get caught up, I assume. Nice of writer Willingham to acknowledge the similarities between this two-issue tale and the recent Image-released series Black Forest, of which I was unaware until my friend Mik Cary pointed it out the other day. B+

Conclusion to this 4-issue limited series, a wee bit hard to follow with all its metaphysics flying around but satisfying nonetheless. Doesn't quite hit the same emotional highs of #3, but it doesn't really need to because your sympathies are firmly in place. Mike Huddleston does a bang-up job of depicting the frenzied action swirling all around the more calm one-on-one final stand between our hero and the nutjob guru who opposes him. Don't know if I enjoyed this enough to be moved to buy any further installments in the Deep Sleeping one's saga, but I'm glad I read this one. B+

Howard Chaykin takes about 6 pages to make explicit what most of us who are paying attention figured out two issues ago, and that mars this issue somewhat. Still, nicely drawn as usual, there's the usual quota of Chaykinish snarky dialogue, and it does move the proceedings along I'll give this a B+ and hope for better next time.

Speaking of Chaykinish snark, here's a passable approximation of it in this, the final issue of this mostly dull limited series about a Goodfellas-style bloodsucking family. Lots of fighting, explosions, double crosses (no pun intended) and a really-out-of-left-field finale makes this a bit more lively than the previous five would suggest, and redeems this somewhat after all is said and done. The art was all wrong, and I wish there had been more bite (ouch, I'm full of puns today) in the script, but if you happen across the inevitable trade collection someday at a substantial discount, you could do a lot worse than to pick this up. B. Entire series: C+.

Later: three books from Atomeka Press, including Totally Bricktop, The Dave Johnson Sketchbook, and A1: Big Issue O. Also, The Supernaturalists.

Hello there. Kinda took Sunday off, since I had to work at the radio station and then watch football. How 'bout them Falcons, Logan? So now I'm way behind my self-imposed schedule.

Couple of things before I get back to the draft of my last week's comics reviews:

First, I'm constantly seeing new blogs (it seems) in my referrer list, and when I go there I'm surprised to see that they've linked to me, and I had no clue. Since reciprocal linking is supposed to be part of this whole blogging thing (I'm looking at you, Johanna D. Carlson), I make a sincere effort to try to post a link in the bloglink section to everyone who has done the favor for me...but lately it seems like I'm getting behind. Please, if you've linked to me and I haven't repaid you in kind, leave me a comment and I'll remedy it forthwith.

Second, if you've been curious about the status of the children's book I illustrated recently for my wife, we recently got word that we shall soon receive proofs for us to OK, the final step before printing. So we still have hope that we will get this Halloween-themed book out there before Halloween actually gets here. Stay tuned...

Domo arigato to the Bookslut for the namecheck, by the way- many of the new referrals I'm seeing are coming from there. I've been checking out her site for a whie now, and it's always interesting. I said her site. Geez- minds out of the gutter, fellas. Loved her takedown of Jeff Danzinger's knuckleheaded comics article in the Baltimore Sun.

More later, as my workflow permits.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Next up from Mad Yak Publishing is Subatomic, which introduces us to a young fellow named Mark, who when we meet him is feeling dissatisfied with his job. But Mark's not a shoe salesman, or garbage man, or typesetter/graphic artist for a small-town newspaper- no, he's a deep-secret government spy. And not just any old spy, he's a spy for ATOM, a spy agency that is in charge of monitoring all sorts of communication and correspondence from a flying heli-carrier right out of Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. comic. And not only that, he, like many of his friends and co-workers, were born and raised to become operatives of ATOM. Like so many callow youths, Mark feels like there has to be more to his life than opening Joe Blow from Podunk's mail and making sure that there's no threat to our country detailed therein...and he plans to escape to the big, bad world below. Which he does, thanks to a surreptitiously hidden parachute. The bulk of the novel takes place in the year following his escape; each chapter is helpfully titled "Spring", "Winter", and so on. Of course, the ATOM folks don't particularly care to encourage Mark's independence, and spend a great deal of the book tracking him down as he goes from place to place, making friends and working at odd jobs before something happens to cause him to have to run away again. Eventually they do locate their prodigal spy, and what happens then I'll leave for you to find out.

All in all, Subatomic is an imaginative premise, not exactly brand spanking new and fresh but writer Patrick Neighly is skilled enough to conceal his sources well enough to make this an engrossing, if episodic, read. The biggest liability I had while reading this was that Mark just doesn't give me much of a reason to root for him- while I can certainly understand his need to break out of his weird existence, we just don't get to know him all that well...his character, personality-wise, is a blank slate. He exhibits admirable traits: loyalty, willingness to work hard, self-sacrifice, honesty...he seems to be a nice kid. But none of this ever gave me an opportunity to sympathize or empathize with him. Plus, the ending which I am loathe to give away didn't work for me at all, since it requires a major character to completely change his convictions and previously established motivation, and for the life of me I don't understand why. Perhaps there was an art cue I didn't pick up on, who knows. Speaking of art, it's not bad- the late Jorge Heufemann didn't have a particularly compelling, novel or flashy style, sorta reminiscent of Dave Gibbons, Sean Phillips or even Charlie Adlard inked by Pablo Marcos- but he did a solid, competent job and paced the events nicely.

Subatomic was an involving read, and as usual with what I've seen from the Yak, the design and packaging are top quality. But I just didn't get hooked by the characters, wasn't blown away by the art (although I thought it was good enough) and the ending was a bit of a letdown. It's possible you might not agree, so I suggest you check it out for yourself. It's certainly of interest if you like espionage thrillers, especially those with Sci-fi leanings. Fans of Sleeper or Joe Casey's W.I.L.D.Cats might also want to give this a shot. I understand that this has been optioned and is in development as a TV series; this has the potential to be another Alias, 24, or even something like The Prisoner (dare I say John Doe, even?) in the right hands. B-

Two down, one to go- stay tuned for The Supernaturalists.
Couldn't not mention today's anniversary of the 9-11-01 tragedy. My thoughts go out to everyone who lost family and loved ones on that terrible day.

Like I posted on this date last year:

I'd like to think we're a little wiser for the experience, but I don't know. Terrible tragedies bring out the best in many, but sometimes the worst as well.

I'm finally set to begin commenting on the books I received from Mad Yak Press (exactly why is the poor yak so angry, anyway?), and I'll begin with Texarkana. Tex, I think, can be summed up as Mad Max meets NYPD Blue meets Big Trouble In Little China (sans supernatural stuff, of course)- it's a violent, dystopian-future type premise, which also incorporates the police procedural in the process. In Tex, there's been a big civil war in North America, and has been re-divided into new territories, one of which provides us with the series title. We are introduced to a five-person group of mobile Adjuciators, who essentialy act as arresting officer, counsel, judge and jury whenever crimes are committed in Texarkana. I don't recall if this system is used in the other territories, but their presence is recognized in neighboring New Asia, so it may be the case. We first meet our particular group if Adjuciators as they break up a drug deal in an alleyway, and in the process one is killed. His replacement, fresh from Dallas Adjudciation Academy (try saying that real fast three times) is an idealistic rookie (aren't they always?) named Simon Hills. His first assignment with his new teammates is a venture into New Asia, to apprehend potential terrorist "Ped Xing" (ouch). Of course, there's more than meets the eye to this assignment, and complications soon ensue.

I'll say this for Texarkana: it's ambitious. Writer Patrick Neighly has conceived an complicated, and mostly well-thought-out world for his characters to run around in. It's fast-paced, rarely dull, but often a bit hard to follow. The characters are well-defined- each has a distinctive look and personality, and that's important. Hills is introduced, and one expects an "Alice in Wonderland"-type perspective, seeing all this from his unfamiliar viewpoint, from his character...but we really don't get that. Instead, he falls right in to the events in New Asia and while we get some "fish-out-of-water" situations, he takes more of a back seat to Masters, the big cowboy-looking fellow with a weakness for Chinese cabaret singers (an admittedly endearing trait) and the oddest of the group, the judge (sorry, don't have her character's name handy)- a person of small stature but a big deceitful streak. Of course, this being the debut series, he doesn't want to lay all his cards out on the table so I'm sure more will be revealed. The art, by someone named Donny Hadiwidjaja, betrays a strong Humberto Ramos-Joe Madureira influence and overall is fine, but I think sometimes his reach exceeds his grasp and some sequences are a little confusing- nothing time and experience won't solve.

Texarkana isn't perfect, but it's an involving read with interesting characters, and that goes a long way these days. Combined with the outstanding production values of the Mad Yak books- nice paper, embossed elements on the covers, strong graphic design- it's worth your time and money. There's going to be an ongoing series coming out soon, which presumably will expand on everything introduced in this graphic novel. B+

Next up: Subatomic.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Another brutal day at work, so I won't have much tonight. But stay tuned- there's a whole weekend ahead! Of course, I gotta work one place or the other both days- much toil and little reward for your humble scribe- but I got stuff I want to write so by God, I'm gonna get it writ!

Anyway, I am going to make time, since the Titans and Miami play tomorrow afternoon, to give you now the rest of Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications!. Remember, these picks are for entertainment purposes only; The JBS assumes no responsibility if you are are moron and bet your life savings on these selections. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, here goes:

Tennessee over Miami
Chicago over Detroit
NY Jets over Cincinnati
Pittsburgh over Oakland
Houston over San Diego
St. Louis over Arizona
Tampa Bay over Washington
New Orleans over Seattle
Jacksonville over Buffalo
Baltimore over Cleveland
Atlanta over San Fransisco (the first of many nervous Falcon predictions, I'm sure)
Dallas over Minnesota
Philadelphia over the NY GIants
Denver over Kansas City
Carolina over Green Bay

One of these weeks I'm going to pick using the spread as well, just to see how I do.

Season so far: 1-0, thanks to the bumbling Colts. Can I get a mulligan on my SUper Bowl pick?

Comics, music and movie buffs take heart, more with those subjects later.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Well, here it is, 11:37 PM on Thursday night, and I've posted nothing. Insanely busy today at the Snooze, almost the polar opposite of Tuesday with no signs of letting up so no time to write all day, then I go by the comics shop and pick up nine, count 'em, nine comics, which meant that I had to pass on Warlock 1 (which, to be honest, I don't recall seeing on the rack, so maybe it didn't get to my shop today) and the latest Mojo for the second straight week. I did get Plastic Man 9, to go with my set of #'s 1-7 which should be arriving soon. Wait! #9? What happened to #8? Typically, I looked in my shop's back issue section and came a cropper- but Matt said he'd call Nashville and see if they had any left.

Wow. Opening kickoff for the NFL and new comics day, all in the same day! It's like Christmas and Halloween at the same time!

Said game, a good one by the way, kept me from doing much reading. I'll have time tomorrow night when I work the studio board for the high school football game at the radio station. I'll also have 3 offerings from Atomeka Press (which I received today) to read. And I'll try to review them sooner than I have the three Mad Yak publications I got a few weeks ago, which I'm hoping to devote some write time to this weekend. Of these, I've read two and am half done with the third. Publishers, if you're reading this, don't let my procrastination and sloth deter you from sending me all the free stuff you can scoop into a box. I WILL write about them eventually. Speaking of sloth and procrastination (hobbies of mine, apparently, to go with all the others I have), I also wasted yet another evening that I should have been working on a logo for a certain known-to-most-of-us soon-to-be-publishing-giant. Can I hyphenate, or what?

To sum, busy working all day, and the Pats and Colts just kinda monopolized my evening.

This, ladies and germs, has been a state of my union address. Good night and God (or whatever deity you genuflect before) bless.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

In the immortal words of John Cleese: "And now for something completely different".

Longtime readers of the Show will no doubt recall that I have a little thing I like to do called Johnny B's Fearless NFL Pigskin Prognostications, or "Your chance to lose your money by betting using JB's picks". Yes, it's that time once again- the NFL season is almost here. Tomorrow night, the 2004 season kicks off with a rematch of last year's AFC championship between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, and I'll get around to picking the winner of that contest shortly (and later, the other weekend games)- but first, I'm gonna stick my neck out and give you my predictions for the upcoming season. Not only will I predict the order, but the RECORD as well. Gasp! And away we go.

AFC EAST: New England (13-3), NY Jets (8-8), Buffalo (7-9), Miami (6-10).
AFC NORTH: Baltimore (11-5), Cincinnati (9-7), Pittsburgh (7-9), Cleveland (4-12).
AFC SOUTH: Indianapolis (12-4), Tennessee (10-6), Jacksonville (7-9), Houston (5-11).
AFC WEST: Kansas City (10-6), Denver (8-8), Oakland (5-11), San Diego (3-13).

NFC EAST: Philadelphia (12-4), Washington (9-7), Dallas (7-9), NY Giants (5-11).
NFC NORTH: Green Bay (11-5), Minnesota (9-7), Detroit (6-10), Chicago (4-12).
NFC SOUTH: Carolina (11-5), New Orleans (9-7), Atlanta (8-8), Tampa Bay (8-8).
NFC WEST: Seattle (13-3), St. Louis (9-7), San Fransisco (6-10), Arizona (4-12).

AFC Playoff Teams: New England, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Tennessee*, Cincinnati*.
NFC Playoff Teams: Philadelphia, Green Bay, Carolina, Seattle, Minnesota*, New Orleans*.

AFC Championship: Indianapolis vs. New England, and revenge for Peyton Manning.
NFC Championship: Philadelphia vs. Seattle, and I think that the 'Hawks are greener than Philly in playoff games. Fourth time will be the charm for McNabb & Co.

SUPER BOWL: Philadelphia vs. Indianapolis WINNER: Philadelphia.

I have now jinxed your team, Geeky. I apologize in advance.

Tomorrow night's game: New England over Indianapolis.

I love me some NFL football.

From Starstruck by Elaine Lee and Mike Kaluta

The mighty mighty Alan David Doane has thrown down the gauntlet to all of comics bloggerkind, challenging us all to come up with our own "Brilliant, But Cancelled" lists. I feel like I'm up to the task, and here goes nuttin. Many of these I went into detail about in my long-ago and by-now-legendary "12 Comics Series Everyone Should Read" post, by the way.

Bat Lash(1968)
Witty, clever and fun Maverick-inspired Western comic (remember those?) with a nicely adult tone in scripts by Dennis O'Neil and Sergio Aragones, amazing art by the great Nick Cardy, and wonder of wonders, it was published by DC! In the 60s!

Beowulf: Dragon Slayer (1975)
The legendary hero and his conflict with the equally legendary adversary Grendel, wittily written by Michael Uslan (of all people) in a somewhat anachronistic but always imaginative style with gritty art provided by one Ricardo Villamonte, of whom I've heard nothing since. DC introduced a ton of new books, trying to ride the coattails of Marvel's Conan success, but none of them took. This one should have- it was light years better than Thomas & Buscema's heavy handed take on Howard's barbarian.

Weird Worlds featuring Ironwolf (1972?-1974)
After featuring adaptations of Edgar Rice Burroughs characters like Carson of Venus for its first seven issues, DC gave up trying to make ERB's lesser lights saleable and decided to let a young buck named Howard Chaykin have a go at a character he dreamed up- one of the first of many scowling, long-haired cynical but heroic-in-spite-of-himself heroes, by the name of Lord Ironwolf. Dennis O'Neil did the dialogue, and Chaykin hadn't quite gotten his feet under him yet stylistically, but the concepts were fresh and this lasted three issues before DC pulled the plug. The Ironwolf concept was revisited years later (after Chaykin had made his name and rep elsewhere) with Mike Mignola and Craig Russell doing the art and Howard getting a dialogue assist from John Francis Moore, 1992's Ironwolf: Fires of the Revolution turned out to be one of the absolute best one-shots of the 1990's. In my opinion.

Sword of Sorcery (1973-74)
Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, two of my all-time favorite fantasy characters, in illustrated adventures scripted by O'Neil (he was everywhere then) and illustrated by a bunch of no-names like Simonson, Kaluta, Chaykin, and Wrightson. How in the hell DC didn't have a hit with this I'll never know...but they couldn't get out of their own way in the 70s.

Hellstorm (1993-94)
Warren Ellis' lean, mean and cynical take on Marvel's Son of Satan in issues 11-21 are really the only ones you need to worry about in this run; already gasping for air when Ellis came aboard with artist Leo Manco, positive word of mouth didn't help and it was abruptly canned just as WE was gearing up for what would have been a gloriously wild storyline. In typically Spider Jerusalem-ish fashion, he tied up everything in one issue, in cold, ruthless fashion. Oh, if only there had a comics blogosphere when this was being published...

Timespirits (1985-86)
I've written several times about this warm, imaginative and intelligent series, surely one of the best treatments of Native Americans in comics history and a fine epic fantasy to boot.

Starstruck (1982-1985)
Originally serialized in Heavy Metal, then republished in graphic novel format by Marvel, then continued as a short-lived series by Marvel under the 80's Epic imprint, this is one of the artistic high points of the distinguished career of the great Mike Kaluta. A collaboration (originally an off-off Broadway play) with playwright/author Elaine Lee, who went on to write several other comics series including Vamps for Vertigo, this is one incredibly intricate, dizzying, complicated world, full of well-imagined characters, written in an witty Altmanesque style and allowing Kaluta to go nuts with elaborate costuming, panel layouts complete with sound effects, dialogue and computer readouts and symbols all over the place. To be honest, it's a challenging read, and I can see why it wasn't a big success and only lasted 6 issues...but it rewards the discerning reader who isn't afraid to work a little. Lee and Kaluta have both stated in the past that they hope to complete Starstruck (in fact, Kaluta told me just that when I met him in 2000), but so far, not a peep from Galatia 9, Brucilla the Muscle, Erotica Ann, and the Galactic Girl Guides. There was a early 90's series of four expanded issues from Dark Horse titled, aptly enough, Starstruck: The Expanded Universe, which restored several pages that had been omitted for the Epic run...but there was no conclusion, plus it was in black and white, which was fine but if ever there was a series that deserves to be in color, this be it.

Amazing Adventures featuring War of the Worlds (Killraven, Warrior of the Worlds issues 29-32) (1973-1976)
Roy Thomas and Neal Adams came up with doing a sci-fi/sword-and-sandal/superhero continuation of H.G. Wells' classic novel, establishing that the Martians learned their lesson the first time out, figured out a way to become immune to Earth's diseases, came back in 2010 and kicked ass. The main character was a gladiator, trained to fight for the Martian rulers' amusement, named Killraven. He escaped, picked up a band of followers named "Freemen", and vowed to reclaim Earth from its conquerors. Thomas and Adams moved on, Gerry Conway and Howie Chaykin did an issue, then Don McGregor came on board with his florid writing style...and this book clicked. First with servicable-if-uninspiring art by Herb Trimpe, then with a young Craig Russell, McGregor let us get into the heads of this band of renegades, and gave them real relationships and problems...and also provided a Wagnerian (maybe it's Russell's presence, heh) brew of overwrought, grandiose, but gripping sci-fi adventure before low sales finally did what the Martians couldn't do. You can go back and read these now, and they've dated quite a bit, which will cause natural cynics and smart-asses like Warren Ellis to dismiss this series as corny and ridiculous...but there's a depth of feeling among these characters, and for these characters, on McGregor's part that made this book special. Killraven was briefly revived as a 80's Marvel Graphic Novel, and the idea was to let McGregor and Russell finish the series once and for all, but that plan fell by the wayside, a pity. And don't get me started about the wretched Alan Davis revival of a couple of years ago.

Jungle Action feat. the Black Panther (1972-75)
More McGregor, this time with Stan Lee & Jack Kirby's Wakandan prince. In issues 7-24, McGregor, usually with the underrated Billy Graham on art, did a skillful job of giving the Panther a real rogue's gallery, and involving him in epic adventures. But as with Killraven, he also took pains to develop characterization, not only with T'Challa but also his friends and loved ones, and the people he ruled. He even got the Panther into some relevant adventures late in the run as he took on the Ku Klux Klan (renamed "The Clan"- Marvel wasn't THAT ballsy then). Again, low sales in the pre-Shooter period did the Panther, at least in Jungle Action, although McGregor did get another shot at the character in the 80s via a couple of prestige-format mini-series.

Thriller (1983-84)
Liked this one so much I devoted a whole website to it. Looking back, it's a wonder this ever saw print in the first place. The odds of a DC staffer/proofreader submitting his own concept for a comics series for the first time, getting it approved by Dick Giordano, and also getting to write it as a Baxter paper, direct-sales only, brand-spankin' new format series were tall ones indeed. Of course, if then-next-big-thing artist Trevor Von Eeden hadn't been willing to attach himself to the project, it probably wouldn't have gotten done anyway...but fortunately for the few of us who read the thing, it did. These adventures of a world-saving Italian family were simply ahead of the curve in 1983, and its unconventional narrative wedded to experimental-artwork approach absolutely threw people for a loop. The first 8 issues are the only ones worth your time; the last four (and #8, the finale of a story Robert Fleming began before leaving) were written by Bill DuBay and illustrated by Alex Nino, and neither seemed to be able to care less.

Gemini Blood (1998?)
There's been a lot of attention paid lately to artist Tommy Lee Edwards, on the eve of his upcoming Question series' release, and it's entirely justified- Edwards is a hell of an artist, and this was one of his first efforts. Sci-fi writer Christopher Hinz was enlisted to do a spinoff for DC's new Helix SF imprint of his series of prose novels about the Paratwa, genetically created beings in a distant dystopian future, who shared a psychic link with one other of their kind. These dualistic beings were called "tways", were highly intelligent and consummate fighters thanks to their ability to see their opponent from all angles, and they were divided into castes- warrior castes, ruling castes, scientists, and so on. Their covert and overt goal was to conquer the inferior humans who gave them birth on a ecologically spoiled future Earth. Of course, the humans weren't going to just lie down and let them, so they trained soldiers to combat them, one of the most adept being a person of small stature named Nick and his right hand man Gillian, who are called into action by the global authority E-tech to recuit a band of mercenaries and investigate sabotage aimed at a wealthy businessman named Chime Flikker-Wixon. Of course, there is more than meets the eye to the savagely dysfunctional Flikker-Wixon family. Gemini Blood, in my opinion, was a heady and complex mix of action-adventure and sheer imagination; I went out and read Hinz' novels, of which GB was a prequel, after I had read a few issues of this and they're every bit as good. We were just beginning to scratch the surface of Hinz's imaginative world when the plug was pulled; seems the rest of the lackluster Helix line had cast a pall over all its titles, and caused people to overlook this book. I have a feeling back issues are quite plentiful in quarter boxes everywhere; do yourself a favor and scare up a set- you'll be rewarded with a smart, well illustrated series.

That's all I got for now, although I'll bet I could think of others. This was first suggested, I should add, by Casey over at The Only Blog That Matters. He also mentioned Major Bummer, a great, great series which definitely belongs on a list like this. Alan David Doane, for his part, mentions Chase, and you just know that would have been on my list too.