Monday, February 28, 2005

Time once again for that weekly look at what I'll be getting Wednesday, hopefully, according to the new Diamond shipping list!


aaaand...that's it!

Well, I'm hoping the missed-last-week


show up.

I'd get that BILL & TED trade, but I think my shop is having a 25% off sale next week, and that's when I'll pounce. We shall see.
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Isn't this a gorgeous panel by Jaime Hernandez? I was clicking around this morning and checked out the Fantagraphics site, and there it was. So I stoled it.

Anyway, I was thinking about how cool it would be to have a Comics Cosmic Cube, that would instantly make anything I wished for, comics-related, become reality...and I thought that one of the millions of things I'd like to see, after he did the Amazing Joy Buzzards-style Adventures of Los Lobos, would be a Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels-style gangster story. Besides his obvious mastery of the female form, JH is excellent at depicting young guys in black tie, jacket, and shades, and a Guy Ritchie-pre-Madonna yarn would really play to his strengths. Not that I'm tired of the Hoppers crew, but sometimes I kinda wish he would stretch out a bit and do other stuff.

What do you think? Mi comments section es su comments section...

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usOK, Oscar® time tonight. Of course, I've seen very few of the nominated films, but I've never let that stop me from taking a stab at picking the winners before. So, here goes nothing!






ACHEIVEMENT IN DIRECTING (Why they call it this I'll never understand): Martin Scorsese for THE AVIATOR



That's all I'm picking. I'll probably watch the first hour, then go over to HBO for Carnivalé, then go back when that's over. More than anything, I'm looking forward to seeing Chris Rock as host- even though he's gonna have to tone his material down to a PG-13, he's usually always good.
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How to get my attention, exhibit no. 425796876.

I present to you the cover for the recently-released-stateside album by dear little Emma Bunton, aka Baby Spice, titled Free Me. Even though what I do for a living now bears little resemblance to what I dimly remember as "graphic design", I think this is an elegantly simple design, with an appealing choice for a font and excellent composition.

Hell, I might even try to get this one of these days. I've only heard one cut, the giddy (and giddily titled) salsa workout "Crickets Sing for Anamaria",and it was OK. Still, it's way down on the ol' wish list- but I do like this cover. This is why, not to sound like a Luddite or anything, I would hate to see the mp3 file and the iPod-type player become the dominant music format. When you download songs from a site, that's all you're doing- downloading the music file. There's no art or packaging. And I love album cover art way too much to ever want to see CD's phased out like vinyl has been. Of course, if I could afford an iPod I might f eel differently...but I doubt it.
Gee, I remember back in the day when no self-respecting comics or otherwise bloggers blogged on Sunday. Now everybody's doin' it!

New comics blogs are just like Rasputin's demon Sammael in the Hellboy movie, which I watched on DVD last night- (the first time I've seen it since I watched it through an allergy-medicine induced haze in its initial theatre release...I got the director's cut DVD box for Christmas and watched all the bonus features but hadn't viewed the actual movie) kill (or link, actually, to) one and two more spring up to take its place! I try to check out nearly all of them via Chipper; but I just can't seem to keep up when it comes to linking, and I apologize to those who've linked to me and I haven't returned the favor yet. I'll try to get you on eventually, and if you are among the few and the proud who bear my unworthy name upon your site, and I don't have yours, by all means leave a comment or shoot me an email and inform me of my egregious mistake.

I'm long overdue to re-organize my links list somehow anyway- right now I've got some vague categories, with comics bloggers mixed up with non-CB's, and that's just not satisfying to my anal nature. Complicating things is that so many blogs these days are hard to classify one way or the other, making it difficult to decide where to put them. I'm sure this one falls under that description! Anyway, as soon as I get the time and the moxie and a clue about how to go about it, I'll sit down and come up with some way to categorize my links and make them make sense for once.

A hearty "welcome back" to our old chum Sean T. Collins, who can't comics blog for fairly obvious reasons but has launched a ginchy new music blog called the Outbreak. Sean is an excellent writer about just about anything, and music is no exception. I'm looking forward to checking it out on a regular basis. I've been thinking hard and long (hey, here we go with boners again!) about trying to start a music-only blog myself- I like writing about music (and film) as much as I do comics, but I tend to let the comics stuff push all the other stuff to the back burner. Time constraints is my biggest problem. I do have that LiveJournal page I started so I could post comments on other LJ's, and that is one possibility. I must ponder this further.

I usually don't post on Sunday very often because I usually do my comics reviews on Saturday, and I don't want a host of posts (hee-poetry) to push them farther down the page, where the attention-span challenged among us are unwilling to go. So if you've made it this far, be aware that new reviews of manga, Scurvy Dogs, and what I bought in comics last week are further on down, m'kay?

I've had the stereo on all morning. Just in case you care, here's another edition of that all-too-infrequent semi-regular feature at the JBS-

Beatles For Sale; Pentangle-Solomon's Seal (brand-new, on CD! Whee!); Roy Wood-Exotic Mixture; U2-The Unforgettable Fire; Bonnie Raitt-Streetlights; Mary Travers-Circles; Manfred Mann's Earth Band-The Roaring Silence; Wet Willie-Dixie Rock; James Taylor(Apple records, 1969); Frank Zappa-Waka/Jawaka; Mick Ronson-Slaughter on Tenth Avenue; and Debbie Harry-Rockbird.

Later today- I've seen very few of the nominees, but I'm not going to let that stop me from predicting OSCAR® WINNERS!

Update, 10:53 CST Sunday night: Sean has corrected my misapprehension about his new blog; he will write about a variety of subjects, not just music. But not comics. And politics. Duly noted, and pardons are begged for.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThis is old news, I know: Dark Horse is supposed to be releasing a prequel comic book to the eagerly-awaited (by me, anyway) Joss Whedon Firefly film Serenity. It's supposed to be written by Whedon with someone named Brett Matthews, which immediately makes me think of the Howard Chaykin/David Tischman collaboration-in-name-only situation, and art by another who-dat named Will Conrad.

Longtime readers know that I gots nuthin but mad love for Firefly and am all fired up about its big-screen second shot, but comic book adaptations of film and TV properties are, as far as I can tell, hit-and-miss, mostly miss- so this will be very much a game time decision for me.
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BWAH-HA-HAAAAH! Woo hoo hoo...

Ow, my sides hurt. I've spent a fair amount of the morning over at the already-linked-to-by-everyone-else-in-the-Comics Blogospehereiverse, in which they simply reproduce a 50's-60's-70's era DC Superman, Lois Lane, or Jimmy Olsen (among others) cover and make a snarky comment. Sometimes these are funny, sometimes not so, but more often as not these covers are funny all by themselves. Then there's this delerious series of panels from some old issue of Batman or Detective, in which Batman and the Joker seem to be trying to see who can make the other screw up in public in the most embarrassing fashion- but using the parlance of the day, Bill Finger or Bob Kane or Shelley Moldoff or whoever the hell wrote these back then keep referring to them as "boners", and of such is hilarity made. Go look, whydon'cha?

In the "similar but different" department, I've also been reading (and even commented) on a CBR Forum thread by Gail Simone about how much she hates that form of sarcastic hipper-than-thou-ness dubbed "snark". She makes some great points; I hate it too, even as I occasionally laugh at it.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

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What I bought and what I thought, week of February 23!

There are those who just won't give the time of day to an anthology book; why, heaven only knows- but the poor sales of every anthology comic from the Big Two since Showcase went under the first time show that for whatever reason, readers just don't want to commit to something which demonstrates consistent inconsistency, I guess, as opposed to inconsistency with a consistent character or group of characters. Go figure. Of course, publishers are still compelled to give the anthology a shot now and again, because you never know what the market will latch on to, plus I'm sure that inventory tends to pile up and how else are you gonna get it off the shelf or off the computer? Someone at DC hit upon the bright idea to devote each issue of this latest attempt to a particular illustrator, giving him or her the opportunity to get the spotlight. The first two, featuring Tim Sale and Richard Corben respectively, had their moments but were mostly hit-and-miss. With this third issue, though, all the potential of this approach is wonderfully realized by Paul Pope, who goes from postmodern Greek mythology to Eisnerish slice-of-life to Kirby homage to all-things-Batman, and does each with style and aplomb- not surprising to anyone who's read prior Pope work such as Heavy Liquid, THB and the story which made me a fan, 100%. The Kirby tribute, OMAC #1 adapted straight (to the best of my recollection) from the source material, oddball Kirby dialogue intact, is an amazing thing- Pope brings out the inherent alienation and creepiness of Kirby's already unsettling OMAC concept- just look at the expression on what's left of Buddy Blank's face as he begins his Brother Eye-initiated transformation into the One Man Army Corps. And as good as his OMAC story is, his Batman and Robin story at the end is even better- equal parts unsettling and whimsical (it cracks me up how he depicts the Joker with a Cesar Romero-style covered-in-white moustache) and a fine tribute to the Kane/Robinson/Sprang/Finger era. Loved the "Read More Comics!" ad at the bottom of the last page, as well as Batman's fatherly advice to Robin, thankfully free of the snarky-sleazy Batman-is-a-pedophile subtext. The X-ray Specs story was amusing, especially the account of the young boy (Pope, I'm assuming) being disappointed by his "life-sized monster ghost" (ordered from an OMAC comic, heh) when it finally arrives. The urban study "On This Corner" was probably the weakest of the five; outstanding from an illustration standpoint, somewhat routine from as far as writing goes. I couldn't help but notice that most of these stories were dated 2003, and I can't help but wonder what the story was behind that. Even so, I haven't been able to say this about the first two issues in this series, but Pope's Solo was well worth the five bucks. A+

"Shoulda checked the wreckage, dipshit!" Oops! Sure looks that way! In this issue, the second chapter of "London Calling", the team joins up with CIA spook Marvin Stegler and try to operate a scam designed to get into Max's computer system, but encounter a wrinkle in the form of a thought-dead "friend". Fill-in artist Ben Watson delivers another solid job pinch-hitting for Jock, and Diggle is sharp as always- thankfully able to keep focused on this book even though he's spreading himself thinner than ever these days. A

Well, sure, it's a little late for Christmas, but this storyline doesn't have too much to do with the twenty-fifth of December anyway. An old friend of Santa's opens a Christmas-themed amusement park, which is successful at first but eventually goes to seed as crowds decline as the decades go by, and the friend asks Santa for advice on what to do. Kinda like the real-life Holiday World, formerly Santa Claus Land, in Indiana except for the "asking Santa for advice" thing. Anyway, Santa dispatches Jingle Belle to help out, since she's young and presumably in touch with what kids want these days, and she responds by recreating the park as a gambling casino theme park! Of course, hilarity ensues until the Mob threatens to horn in. To be continued! I gotta say that whatever Paul Dini did to get his Jing mojo back, it certainly worked because this mini has been very good so far- and Jose Garabaldi's art has been outstanding. Obviously color work, computer-assisted perhaps, is more his milieu than pencil-and-ink because the difference between this and what he gave us before is amazing. A

Guess I have to face it- I'm just no longer as surprised and delighted by Paul Grist's storytelling tricks as I used to be, and I'm sure it's simply the effect time and familiarity brings. It doesn't help that I'm a lot more interested in the storyline with Becky Braddock and Bramble & Son vs. The Shadow Man and his minions than I am the routine Jack and the Freedom Fighters in WWII flashback storyline. It's not that the likes of Tommy Twister and Blazing Glory are bad characters per se, but there's nothing about them that sets them apart from their Marvel counterparts, the Whizzer and the Human Torch (well, except that Glory is a female). And knowing what we know about Sgt. States, it's a little odd to see him still fighting alongside the others, although the way the Nazi super-soldier they battle did come up with a novel, if dubious, way of subduing him. I also kinda liked the origin stories Grist gives us in regards to Glory and Tommy. So- even though I'm a little weary of WWII and Nazis and so on, I could still find stuff to like, so Grist still has it working, I suppose. Still, I hope he wraps it up sooner rather than later and gets back to the present day and everybody's favorite Vampire Reporter and her plight. A-

Brian Bendis is becoming the Grateful Dead of comics writing, s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g out his plotlines in the name of maintaining a low-key feel (and with an eye on trade paperback collections), like the Dead would take fine 3-minute songs and make them last for 20. I'm not unhappy with him just yet on this title, still, I wish he'd get on with it sometimes. Fortunately, I was surprised enough by the revelation of the identity of Blackguard's killer to deem this a success, unless he blows it next issue. So far, at least in these pages, he hasn't. A-

Lots of ghosts flying everywhere, and shooting and hitting and shouting and bugs and electrical explosions and Abe's still doing the Wango Tango with some sort of zombie or ghost or whatever...and all we can do is say "gosh" and follow along. Never dull, and very well drawn, but I miss Hellboy. I'm also beginning to wonder if when Guy Davis thinks "Liz Sherman" he sees Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. B+

Appropriately enough for issue #3 of the latest restart, we get a focus on Triplicate Girl (Triad is still a better name, I don't care.), who goes out on dates with three different Legionnaires...or does she? Well, yes and no, and we find out the reason in a nicely done reveal at the end which seemingly points to some internal conflict somewhere down the road for our new Legion. If only Barry Kitson could get the starch out of his figure drawings, I'd be liking this a lot more than I am. B+

Ok, so that's who John's demonic benefactor in Chas's body is! Nicely done spotlight for cousin Gemma, who seems to be an unsuspecting victim of JC's demonic kids. Johnny-boy is pretty much relegated, this time out, to rushing across town to save her and/or her family, and that's OK, I guess- this is a solid, if not especially involving, storyline, and I don't know whether it's my fault or Mike Carey's. I'm inclined to lay the blame on Leo Manco, who continues his disappointing run of mediocre art. I'm finding myself wondering what fans of the film (who don't read this comic, or any comics), who may be led to check out the source material, will think after reading this, the first to come out after the premiere of the film. B

Manages to avoid the second issue blues with a rousing Raiders of the Lost Ark style adventure in which our boys (and a cute archaeologist who one of t he AJB's is crushing on) enter an ancient temple and unwittingly release a fallen angel who's mad at the world- so mad that he intends to destroy it, painfully, toot sweet. Mark Smith's script reads better than I was expecting, with some funny lines and some clever exchanges, but Dan Hipp's art is still way too inconsistent- he takes Naifeh and Mignola and mashes them together, but he's never able to draw a character the same way twice and he really needs to get a better grip on his black spotting. Oh well, better than I expected, and that's never a given these days. B

In which B. Clay Moore squanders much of the goodwill he built up with me with his Hawaiian Dick series with this uninspired and derivative rehash of the type of story we've seen every decade for the last 30 or 40 years- a modern, cynical look at the relatively simple superheroes of comics' Golden and Silver Age. We had Kirby's return to Captain America in the late 60s, we had Roy Thomas relatively straightforward, but no less uninspired Invaders series in the 70s; the 80's brought us Watchmen, not a Golden Age rewrite per se but still a revisionist look at older costumed characters and their tropes; James Robinson & Paul Smith's Golden Age in the early 90s along with Robinson & Harris' Starman in the late 90s, and Darwyn Cooke's recently finished New Frontier in the Aughts, to name just a few. Moore fails to give us anything we haven't seen before, unless you want to count the suggestion that the Sub-Mariner's been fucking Betty Dean, and the script drags throughout. The perfectly bland Jeremy Parks/Ande Parks art doesn't add any spice to this pablum, either. I don't know. Maybe I'm being too harsh, and should give this some room to get its legs- but my patience is short these days. C

Before I forget, again, here's a belated happy 5 year anniversary wish to the redoubtable NeilAlien!

And NA, your drawing will go out on Monday.

Tom Schwartz, over at Digital Manga Publishing, recently took note of my public attempts to get a handle on the whole mangathing, and offered to send me a couple of his company's titles for my perusal. Unable to refuse free stuff, I said, why shore! And here's what I got.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usIWGP - IKEBUKURO WEST GATE PARK VOLUME 1, by Ira Ishida (script) and Sena Aritou (art), is apparently taken from a live action TV series, and it features a lot of young pretty people who go around doing things that people in Japan (and just about anywhere else) would like to do. Part Beverly Hills 90210, part The Warriors, part urban crime thriller, most of the action in the first volume revolves around Makoto, who's got a beautiful girlfriend and the protection of the local gang, the G-Boys, led by (what to me, anyway) was the most charismatic character, the fey-but-slyly dangerous Takashi, who's always stuffing some sort of food in his mouth. Turns out Makoto's girl, Rika, had more going on in her life than met the eye- and when she turns up murdered, the latest in a string of call-girl serial killings, Makoto gets the G-Boys involved and they search for the killer. There's also a subplot with Rika's friend, Hikaru, who comes from an apparently very rich family and has her share of secrets as well along with a huge crush on Makoto, who is only focused on finding Rika's murderer. While it was kinda touch and go at first- the young pretty people doing young pretty things left me cold, and as always with manga in my experience so far the translated dialogue more often as not read flat and dull- this book seemed to get its bearings after Rika's death, and the brutal methods of the G-Boys added an appreciated touch of gravity, especially as administered by the almost Joker-like Takashi. Sena Aritou's art was kinda inconsistent at times, mostly in the layout department, although that may have been just my gaijin eyes struggling with reading right-to-left-and-down. Overall, his work reminded me of Adam Warren (or perhaps Warren was inspired by him or this style- I have no idea how old this Aritou person is or how long he's been working) in several places, and one thing for sure- he (?) draws some gorgeous women. There were several excellent good-girl drawings early on in chapters two and three, and a very erotic scene in a "singles club" later on, while Makoto and Hikaru try to identify the call-girl killer. So for the most part, I did enjoy IGWP- it was slow going in spots, but I did keep finding things to like. B+

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWORST VOLUME 1 has very little plot and a simplistic idea at its heart: big, likeable smarter-than-he-looks country boy Hana Tsukishima moves into a boarding house, run by a gruff older guy and his transvestite brother, with four other guys who are all planning to attend the same school, one which apparently features fighting for social position as the main curriculum rather than reading, writing, and 'rithmatic. Hana is determined to take on all comers and do the unprecedented: rule the school! Just like the Pink Ladies in Grease. Anyway, Volume 1 ends before we get to see if Hana suceeds in his task. It's all lively and done in good fun, but I found myself skimming through a lot of the fighting which dominates the second half of the book and as a result had a hard time sorting out the plethora of badasses that writer/artist Hiroshi Takahashi introduces along the way. One thing I did notice, and kinda addressed one observation I made in my Planetes post- Takahashi draws his characters with Asian features, unusual in my experience anyway. He also is good with facial expressions and action scenes (fortunately), and his numerous characters at least are drawn (for the most part) distinctively, making it a bit easier to figure out who's who. And, of course, the translated dialogue is even more stilted than IGWP's. While Worst is hardly the, if you'll excuse the expression, worst manga I've ever read, I am not particularly interested in Fight Club-style hijinx and probably won't seek out further issues. B-

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usBefore I'm done with DMP for the time being, I just wanna note one of their titles, spied at their website, which by virtue of its unusual-for-manga-in-MY-experience-anyway artwork stood out to me: BAMBI AND HER PINK GUN, the exploits of "a punk girl with a pink gun as she rampages across the land". The copy informs us that this is a favorite of Puffy AmiYumi, and if the girls like it, then that's OK by me! Anyway, she seems to be a Courier of some sort, which would suggest that she occupies a similar world to Brian Wood's Special and Moustafa. Think I'll have to keep an eye out for this- I like the art samples, reminiscent of people like Brendan McCarthy or Bob Fingerman, I've seen so far!

What will be the next funnybooks from the Land of the Rising Sun in my quest to acquire that most elusive (for me, anyway) of acquired tastes? Stay tuned?
Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI'm so pissed that Larry Young didn't use my blurb on the back cover after I went to all that trouble a while back to come up with one- and no, I'm not gonna link to it 'cause I don't remember when it was- that I'm gonna give the brand new collection of SCURVY DOGS a D-.

Aw, I'm only kidding.

Just like I kept telling you when the singles were coming out, Scurvy Dogs is a laugh-a-minute, often inspired, compendium of crazy absurdity- taking no prisoners and leaving no turn unstoned in the fevered pursuit of surreal humor booty. And jobs.

Sounds like I just wrote another blurb, doesn't it?

Anyway, if you've been curious as to what we've all been going on about, you should check this out. At $12.95, that's less than the individual issues would cost you if you tried to buy them one at a time, plus (and this is good for those of us who have the singles) you get all sorts of extras like an amusing crossover with Vampirella, creator commentaries, a sketchbook, a pin-up gallery, photos, and more. In fact, if you've been thinking about getting this you better do it now before Young realizes that he set his price too low!

For me, the high point was issue 2's pirate vs. monkey battle. Made me think that perhaps they should bring in James Kochalka and have a pirates/monkeys/robots free-for-all. #'s 3 & 4 were great fun with Blackbeard's brother and the battle with the Hobo Mafia. And since this is a review, I suppose I should get all critical for a minute and be a little negative- The backbone of this whole series was pop culture references, using them as a springboard for jokes and situations, and it had begun to get a bit rote and predictable by #5. Still funny, but things like #4's battle of the hybrid spandex bands and #5's nonstop TV show satires began to smell a bit ripe by the end. I think it was wise for Boyd & Yount to step back and take a break- like I said when I reviewed #5, if only more comics creators would do that when inspiration flags. And as a Faces fan from way back, I didn't appreciate all the jokes at poor Rod Stewart's expense. Aw, I'm kidding again- actually I didn't realize that they were parodying him until much later. I thought he really was drinking gasoline these days!

OK. Scurvy Dogs. You should get this. It's very funny, you'll get many laughs, even more chuckles, a couple of smirks, and once in while you'll even guffaw. And in these troubled times, anything that can do that for you is an opportunity that's too good to miss, now isn't it?

Friday, February 25, 2005

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usGuess this is kinda old news by now, but I see (via Michele) where The Jayhawks have broken up.

The 'Hawks, one of those bands that I came to love after working at WLOC the first time, never really gave me a whole album of songs that I was crazy about from start to finish, but the ones I did like, like Tomorrow The Green Grass's "Blue" or Sound of Lies' haunting title cut, I liked a LOT. I saw them play in Louisville back in 2000 at Headliners Music Hall, and it was a bright spot in my otherwise dismal first unemployment summer. Hollywood Town Hall, recorded before co-founder Mark Olsen left to go be married to Victoria Williams, is probably their strongest all-around effort, but my favorite remains the hard-rockish Sound of Lies- even though it hasn't aged very well. Their last couple of releases, Smile and Rainy Day Music, were slick and mostly forgettable, although they both had their moments. Guess it was inevitable, and I can't say I won't miss hearing new music from them.

Update: According to the Jayhawks Fan Page, the divorce isn't quite final yet, or so says Gary Louris. Only time will tell...
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Hey! It's an action figure of the Bumblebee! I think I just might have to keep an eye out for this one! From the new line of Teen Titans toys.
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Sending out a posthumous BSBdG to George Harrison, who would have been 61 today.

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

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

Thursday, February 24, 2005

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Via This is Pop comes some very exciting news! Well, exciting for me, anyway. FINALLY, the Ringo Starr-dircted T.Rex film Born To Boogie is going to be released on DVD! With bonus documentaries! And unused footage! I'm probably the biggest Bolan fan you'd want to know, and I've never seen it (although I've seen the occasional picture and brief clip) so I am STOKED for this!

I just hope the experience of getting to see it at last doesn't turn out like when I FINALLY got a copy of Harry Nilsson & Ringo's rock 'n' roll vampire movie, 1974's Son of Dracula. I love Harry, heaven knows, and of course I love Ringo too, but that movie SUCKS. Desperately. Nilsson was no actor, the whole thing looked cheap, and the script was pretty dumb. Oh well, I wouldn't take anything for my copy! Where else you gonna see performance clips of Nilsson, who never played live?

Anyway, back to Boogie, here's a very informative page at Sanctuary Visual Entertainment, and from there, the Official Born To Boogie website.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Really had hoped to get some more review-like stuff posted today, but 'twas not to be. Tomorrow doesn't look too good, either. Still, ya never know.

If you've been seeing my link pop up on the Comics Weblog Update-a-Tron 3000, and have come over here expecting some sort of wonderment, then were disappointed when there were no new posts, I just want you to know I'm not messing with you- I'm transferring images from my old image host, which suddenly decided a few months ago to charge me ten bucks a month, to my new image host, which is mercifully free. For the time being. Anyway, I'm having to do a lot of copying, deleting, uploading, pasting new code, and republishing on posts dating back to the Paleoithic Era, aka 2002, when I was still employed at my semi-rewarding, moderately well-paying job and I commenced this assault upon your sensibilities. Every time I republish, it pings the CWU-a-T, and then chicanery ensues. So please accept my apologies, it's going to be going on for a while, and only when I have time- I had something like 800 images at my old web host, and it's a tedious and time-consuming process! I'm also going back through a lot of the posts and deleting ones with dead links, apologies for template problems or just plain ol' not posting, silly quizzes, and so on.

While I've got your attention, a few observations.

The episode of Futurama I watched last night, "A Head in the Polls", where Bender sells his body and the head of Richard Nixon buys it so he can run for President of Earth- is in my humble opinion one of the top three episodes of that much-missed series. I was laughing my arse off, and I've seen that one a half dozen times! Especially Morbo- Nixon asks him "Hello, Morbo. How's the family?"
and Morbo replies: "Belligerent and numerous." Morbo kills me.

Got all the comics on my list of the other day except SEVEN SOLDIERS 0! NOOOO! Like Fred Willard said in A Mighty Wind, Wha'hoppen?!? My store sold out, and while I'm a little annoyed that 1) they didn't get enough copies of such an obviously high-profile comic, and 2) they didn't fill holds customers' orders first, I don't guess there's a hell of a lot I can do about it. DCBS is sounding better and better, if I could ever get myself on the position to make that first order payment... One other note: that Paul Pope issue of Solo was the shiznit, wasn't it? Wasn't it?

Got my copy of Wilco's A Ghost is Born CD yesterday, and while it's too soon for me to make any sort of solid judgment about it, I will say that while their two previous efforts reminded me of what it would sound like if Neil Young, the Beatles, the Beach Boys and Hank Sr. collaborated, this one reminds me of what it would sound like if Neil Young fronted mid-to-late 70s Genesis. And on one cut, ELO. And then there's the cut which sounds like Uncle Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, or perhaps Young's Weld. I'm not necessarily saying that's bad, mind you, but Jeff Tweedy's apparent pretension towards Prog and his obvious disinclination towards coherent song structure means that it's going to take a while for me to assimilate it all. That said, the ELO swipe "Hummingbird", is catchy.

I made what must be my fourth attempt to sit and watch Master and Commander tonight, and bailed on it yet again. Guess there's only one conclusion I can draw from that!

Oh well, I have to get up and go to work in the morning, so I better wind this up. Oyasumi nasai. Y'all.
New blog: Suspension of Disbelief: A Fact-Check for the Four-Color World.

This oughtta be fun...!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Time now to dig into the reading stack for a look at some titles I've received lately.

Image Hosted by Thanks to the generosity of Brett Warnock at Top Shelf, I was finally able to read two of the most-talked-about books of the last two years, and it's certainly easy to see why; both are very good and very thought-provoking. And it's going to be extraordinarily difficult to say anything about them that hasn't already been eloquently said elsewhere. But I've never let that stop me before, so I'll give it a shot anyway. It's hard to really criticize something like BLANKETS (although I'm sure that won't stop some); when the creator lays as much personal stuff as this on the line for people to see, it almost feels churlish to take shots at it. As I'm sure that most of you reading this are familiar with the story, I'll just try to do it in a nutshell: Blankets is the autobiographical story of Thompson's childhood and early adulthood, his experiences growing up in Wisconsin with his aggressively religious parents; sharing a room with his brother; and his first love, who he meets at a Bible camp of some sort and eventually goes and visits for a couple of weeks, and gets involved with her family, who has problems of their own. It also documents his struggles with the religion he was raised with, and his eventual rejection of its teachings, and there's also significant time spent describing his love for drawing. Quite a bit to stuff in, even though it's darn near 600 pages long! I found myself relating to a lot, not all, of what Thompson was going through; I, too, was raised in a very religious household, father was a deacon in a country Fundamentalist Southern Baptist church (easily the most volatile, dare I say virulent, strain of organized religion there is, if you ask me)...but luckily for me my folks had a sense of perspective about it, and weren't fanatical. They actually realized early on that I had a great intellectual curiosity about the world, and actually encouraged me to read and explore, thank God. Of course, there were times they thought I went a bit too far (my Dad wasn't too happy with me when I brought home a copy of the Bhagavad-Gita to read when I was 16, to name an example), but by and large they were tolerant and caring. Thompson wasn't so lucky. When Thompson finally gets around to asking some hard questions about his faith, and gets no satisfactory answers, that was where I was most in tune with the whole story because I certainly have been down that road. His relationship with his brother was uncharted territory for me as well, being an only child. I must confess that I didn't really understand a lot of his motivations or reasons for many of the decisions he made, especially when it came to his relationship with the person that would seem to be his soulmate, Raina (who admittedly had seemed, inexplicably, to cool on the relationship as well), but hey- it's his life, not mine, and he's simply laying it out there for the reader, make of it what you will. Art-wise, Blankets is thrilling. At first impression, Thompson's art took a little getting used to- it's so loose and sloppy that I didn't care for it at first. But the more I looked at it, the more I began to see Will Eisner in his inking line and storytelling approach, along with other artists like Marc Hempel and Jerry Grandenetti (not an influence, I'd be willing to bet, but many of the full-page, expressionistic layouts reminded me of JG's work a lot). The amount of work that he must have put in on illustrating this book is astounding. I especially liked many of the idealized portraits of Raina he would put in at odd times, fanciful and moody and detailed and often brilliant. While I suppose people will judge Blankets for how they relate to what Thompson is giving them, for my part I was mostly empathic, captivated and especially impressed by his artwork. I don't know how much Thompson has embellished or left out of his life story here, but I do know that I was impressed by what I read and will look forward to what he puts out in the future. A

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usCARNET DE VOYAGE was Thompson's follow-up release to Blankets, but it's no sequel although we get several Raina references. Voyage is basically an illustrated tour diary, done while Thompson was doing a book promotion jag in Spain, Morocco, France, and the Alps, and it's absolutely fascinating. As with Blankets, Thompson doesn't hesitate to let us in on his internal thought processes; he is by now in an on-again, off-again relationship with a girl in the States and we get to share his feelings over that as they talk on the phone at odd times; most of the time he feels lonely and out of place, and has a nagging hand pain problem which I'm sure wasn't helped by the constant drawing he was compelled to do. He encounters interesting people, some benevolent, others not so; we get caricatures and art of and by other artists like Mike Allred, and several pages of outstanding renditions of buildings and scenery in the places he visits, along with lots of drawings of the people he encounters during his trip. Fascinating, and very enjoyable, and I had two impressions when I had finished it- one, I was annoyed that it was over; I wanted it to continue! two, I felt ashamed because Thompson, the space of what- three months? has done more artwork than I have done in the last thirty years, and that's not including stuff that I'm sure was left out of the final publication. And this is not (for the most part) hacked-out, hurried work, but painstaking and skillfully rendered art. Carnet De Voyage is not an epic like Blankets, but it's every bit as impressive and is actually more entertaining. I think Top Shelf needs to send Thompson back out on tour ASAP. I hope his hand is better. A

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI've seen James Kochalka's work here and there for what seems like ages, and have always enjoyed it, but have never been moved to buy. I had hoped to get a chance to get something f his someday, and finally realized my ambition in that regard when I received MAGIC BOY & THE ROBOT ELF and MONKEY vs. ROBOT &. THE CRYSTAL OF POWER. Of the two, I liked Magic Boy the least; while it was certainly as whimsical and odd as you would expect, the story had the feel of something personal which Kochalka had worked out on paper, and I just didn't get it. Maybe it was no more than a simple fantasy story, but I kinda doubt it. Image Hosted by ImageShack.usCrystal of Power, one of a series of "Monkey vs. Robot" tales, was a heck of a lot of fun- the information-gathering Robots need the titular object to revive their Mother Computer, because a monkey that they kidnapped destroyed her power crystal as he made his escape. The robots find a new one, but it's deep in the jungle and sacred to the monkeys. And the fight is on! Not exactly Landmark Fiction, but a hoot and a half just the same. Magic Boy: B, Monkey vs. Robot & The Crystal of Power: A.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usUNMARKETABLE, by Tom Hart, is the second collection of stories about his character Hutch Owen, a idealistic, philosophy-spouting homeless bum who gets mixed up with corporate greed and idiocy. Kinda like an urban Mr. Natural, I suppose. I'd seen Hart's work only once before, on his Kamandi story for DC's first issue of Bizarro Comics. That story was enjoyable enough, but his crude art style doesn't quite yank my was tolerable on the Kamandi story since its difference made it fit in, but sadly, a whole book full of it just became too much after a while. Mostly Owen goes from one situation to another, getting taken advantage of or taking advantage of others, pops off a few high-toned diatribes, things blow up , etc., etc. There were occasional laughs here and there, a lot of Dilbert-style jokes at the expense of the drones of the Worner Corporation and their boss (which (I suspect) is not quite the way Hart intended for this to be perceived), and several references to the events of 9/11 which kinda seem out of place even that terrible event provides a lot of the impetus for what happens after the first story. I think perhaps this is just humor that doesn't work on a consistent basis for me, and I must be in the minority, judging by the glowing praise reproduced on the cover and inside. For them that likes, I guess. C+

More later, including some manga and the latest from AiT/PlanetLar...

Monday, February 21, 2005

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And together we are...WYLD STALLYNS!

Well, I just got home from seeing CONSTANTINE. I said I wasn't, but I did. And y'know what? It didn't suck. Much.

Of course, the biggest liability was Keanu, and his mumbling, monotone performance was at best disappointing and at worst unwatchable, especially if you know anything at all about the character he's supposed to be portraying. Casting was iffy for the whole film, with only Tilda Swinton, as the androgynous angel Gabriel, and Rachel Weisz as that type of character which is indigenous to this sort of thing, the sexy police detective, really bringing any dimension to their roles. Djimon Hounsou, as hoodoo man Papa Midnite (in the comics, an adversary from the first two or three issues, and still dead as far as I can remember there) wasn't bad but didn't have much to do. Gavin Rossdale made the most of his stunt casting as a demon. I didn't care at all for Peter Stormare's lip-smacking, eye-rolling portrayal of Lucifer; he thought he was being over-the-top, I suppose, but he just struck me as silly. I also didn't think much of the decision to rewrite Conjob's loyal but somewhat dense cabbie friend Chas as an eager young taxi-driving chauffeur/apprentice exorcist- I guess the thinking was "Constantine is a comic book character, comic-book characters have eager young sidekicks, we have to give Johnny one!" Shia LeBeouf didn't really do much with the part, either.

Fortunately, that was the one time the script kowtowed to comic-book conventions; otherwise, Constantine stayed pretty close to the established supernatural Exorcist-style movie thriller formula. It never condescended, and that was welcome, and even managed to work in some references to the comics series here and there- some to good effect, some not so. The film was deliberately paced, but there were enough tense moments and action sequences to keep me from getting bored. I wasn't expecting a thrill-a-minute Raiders of the Lost Ark approach, anyway. I was impressed with many of the special-effects set-pieces; the opening exorcism was exciting, the scene with John and the detective, outside on the dark streets and facing a demon attack was nicely done, and the interludes in Hell were effective. The whole thing was dark visually without being oppressive, a problem not only movies of this type have but comics as well. Director Francis Lawrence wisely let some color punctuate the gloom from time to time. I wished there had been a bit more of the comics Constantine's sarcastic humor- the few times Keanu got to crack wise seemed forced, and he delivers them in such a low-key fashion that the effect is negligible. I didn't like Constantine's reliance on weapons throughout; as neat as that golden gun looked, the comics' JC would have sneered at that sort of thing. And the little interlude on the roof at the end, and the way it spit on the clever ending of the Garth Ennis JC-gets-cancer story, was just annoying.

So, to sum, questionable casting, poor perf by Keanu, impressive visually, and strong enough story-wise not to piss me off. Constantine is no masterpiece, but it's not the trainwreck I've been dreading all this time since I first heard who was going to play the title role. This being said, I'm inclined to be charitable since I got in free; my daughter started working at the movie theatre a few days ago and let me use her pass. If you pay, you might be a little less tolerant.

Another fat stack is in store for me, according to this week's Diamond shipping list. And you can probably add JACK STAFF #7 and AMAZING JOY BUZZARDS #2 to this pile as well. Sigh.
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BSBdG's to Scott Pilgrim mastermind Bryan Lee O'Malley, 26 today.
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RIP Hunter S. Thompson, who surprisingly topped himself yesterday. Don't know what to say about that, other than it's a shame and I hope he's at peace. Also, Bonnie Raitt's dad John Raitt, and Sandra Dee.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

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What I bought and what I thought, week of February 16!

100 BULLETS 58
Major plot developments this issue, as we get a surprising death, more insight into the pecking order of the Minutemen and the Trust, and an unexpected twist involving a character that's been around since the very beginning. Nice to see this book moving forward with purpose again. A

In which Alan Moore helpfully provides a summing up of everything he's tried to enlighten his audience about for the last 22 or issues, and is thankfully entertaining and not too obtuse about it. More than anything, this winning coda is a tour-de-force for artist J.H. Williams, who gives us a bright, colorful, trippy visual accompaniment, and even sneaks a little cheesecake in just so the whole thing doesn't float away into the ether. Although this comic certainly didn't go in the direction I thought it would when it started (remember early on when everyone regarded it as a Wonder Woman ripoff?), and I'm not 100% convinced that it would have taken the path it did if sales had been better, it's been an enchanting, fascinating, often gripping trip, always spectacularly and lavishly illustrated. And if we are to accept the gist of what Moore's saying, this has been as close to a genuine religious experience as this stubborn skeptic could possibly hope for. A

The good guys and the bad guys get a bit more definition and the basic conflict is further enhanced in this deliberately paced serial which will most likely read better collected, but I can't help it- I'm an impatient cuss. Some have opined that Ellis is falling back on formula here, especially dialogue-wise, but I've read my share of his prior work and I find it as witty and concise here as ever. To-may-to and toe-mah-toe, I guess. Anyway, it's not Ellis' show in the first place- Ocean is first and foremost a showcase for the stellar art of Chris Sprouse and Karl Story. A-

I can't resist the good-natured Henny Youngmanisms of Giffen and Dematteis' Justice League; they should include a CD with rimshots and canned laughter with each first issue. And despite the dark shadow cast over this opening chapter by Identity Fiasco I still laughed out loud in several places and was hugely entertained throughout- and was genuinely surprised at the ending. I must have been one of the few. Anyway, always great to see this much Kevin Maguire art in one place, facile and solid in spite of the inconsistent inks of Joe Rubenstein, and I can't not mention the new colorist, David Baron, who is a colossal improvement over the previous colorist and gives us as good a job on a superhero book as I've seen lately. A-

I'm a sucker for Adam Warren's art, and his scripting when he's in full-bore futuristic technospeak mode. Unfortunately, he's only writing this one, but colleague Rick Mays, whose art I hated on the Paul Dini Zatanna one shot of a year or so ago, manages to ape his work well enough to get by. And sure, this is one big getting-acquainted infodump, with tons of expository dialogue (which normally causes me to gnash my teeth) but by gosh, at least it's cleverly written and lively, and he throws us a nifty curve when he reveals the true nature of one of the principals. So far, I like. A-

The Hulk on trial, huh? Now where have I heard that one before? Guess he figures his contemptible readers don't have memories that go that far back. Anyway, the trial happens, relationships between the fractious team break down further as they zing and snark among each other in admittedly entertaining fashion, and Mark Millar stops boning his fans long enough to give us a contrived, cliched "Of course- how else could it end?" resolution. Well, maybe he didn't stop after all. Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary contribute their usual dynamic, expansive illustrations. B+

After a slow stretch, Mike Carey turns his attention towards a character he seems to have a strong interest in, cabaret singer slash supernatural baby receptacle Jill Presto, and this opening chapter of the latest arc starts promisingly. Peter Gross and Ryan Kelly are back on the art chores, and they're as competent as ever. B+

Speaking of slow stretches, this arc is FINALLY over. Bendis took seemingly forever and two weeks to essentially launch his new White Tiger, and you can't tell me that the resolution here was a surprise to anybody. Still, all said, this arc didn't stink, it was just too padded and convoluted, and Alex Maleev tried really hard to vary things up, succeeding as often as he failed- and while no classic, was good enough, all things considered. B+

We seem to be in a stretch in this Blade Runner knockoff where we, the readers, have already figured out most of the plot and now we have to wait around for the characters to put it all together...and I don't have a whole lot of patience for that sort of thing. I don't like to bail on limited series, especially after I've read half of it, so I'm sticking around- but I want to see more than I've gotten so far. B-

MIA- Jack Staff 7 and Amazing Joy Buzzards 2.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Posting has been light, I know, and nobody hates it worse than me. I've got several things upon which to opine, and I plan to do so over the next few days, but last week was very busy at the ULPJ, and frankly, after typing auto dealer ads, real estate ad listings, auction ads and the like, I'm to busy to write at work and too sick of banging on the keyboard to do it when I get home! So that's my excuse, love it or leave it.

My reading stack has gotten slightly smaller, but I received the first volumes of Worst and IWGP from Digital Manga Publishing, and haven't finished everything from Top Shelf yet, either. I did read IWGP last night, and I liked it OK- many of my standard manga objections still apply but I was quite impressed with the renditions of the female form by Sena Aritou. I'll have more later. As far as Western comics go, and I'm not talking about Dell/Gold key, I got everything listed back on Monday with the exception of the new issues of Jack Staff (dammit) and Amazing Joy Buzzards- apparently my shop didn't get its full shipment. My books may have come in during the week, but I didn't particularly care to drive across town to find out. And no, I didn't buy two copies of Promethea 32 to take apart and make the poster. Actually, I kinda enjoyed reading it in bound format; kinda added to the disorientation of the whole experience.

Interesting to see where Johanna Draper Carlson has picked up on the observation I made in my review of Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life about the age gap in comics these days; while I realize that my statement sounded more definitive than I intended, and I realize that there are many comics being published with older characters, it's just that most of them aren't as high-profile and talked-about as Scott Pilgrim or most manga. I hope that an interesting discussion breaks out. And believe me, by bringing it up in the first place, it's not that I want to become the poster child for old-fogey comics fans- but I just couldn't help but note. Y'know?

I know, I said a week or so that I would do another Johnny B Heart Netflix, and there are a few movies I've seen in the last couple of months that I haven't written about, but I just haven't been able to buckle down and get them typed up. I'll get to them eventually. I haven't seen anything new recently since I cancelled Netflix and can't afford to go to the cinema; but heaven (or hell) help me, I've been considering going to see Constantine. Wait, wait, let me explain- as a longtime fan of the character, it galls me to see him being represented to the great unwashed out there in the form of Keanu Reeves. Nothing against Keanu, who's not a bad actor per se, despite his Lugosi-like inability or unwillingness to lose that Valley-Boy surfer-dude inflection in his voice and mannerisms. He's best when asked to play roles that he can inhabit without stretching credibility, like QB Johnny Utah in Point Break, the abusive redneck husband in The Gift, and of course Neo in the Matrix flicks. But ask him to play a character outside his comfort zone, like Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker's Dracula, and he is inept and ludicrous. He damn near kills that film as he struggles to sound British- "That bah-stahd." I suppose we should be thankful that if they had to cast the guy as Ol' Conjob, at least by making him an American they spared us that. Anyway, I've been reading the mostly poor reviews, and while they're hardly ringing endorsements (and often boneheaded, when they insist on making Matrix comparisons) the events and situations they describe sound kinda imaginative, which is borne out by the trailers I've seen, so I'm kinda thinking about sucking it up and seeing if I can't tolerate Ted "Theodore" Logan in a trenchcoat for the visuals. Maybe if I think of him as another character, like Clive Barker's Harry D'Amour. Plus, I have two free passes to the movie theatre, so I won't be out anything of value, except my time. One major deterrent to me is the spoiler Rich Johnston posted in last weekend's Lying in the Gutters, which describe an event in the film which effectively spits on one of the comic's best scenes.

I got some belated birthday money the other day, so I placed another order. I got the latest Wilco CD, A Ghost Is Born, the Pentangle's Solomon's Seal, one of my absolute favorite albums only recently available on CD and that as an import; plus, I ordered May Pang's book about her time with John Lennon before and during his "Lost Weekend", a chapter in his life which continues to fascinate me.

Music the last couple of days, including this morning: The Raspberries' Greatest Hits, Todd Rundgren-Liars (great song-"Soul Brother"); Wilco-Yankee Hotel Foxtrot; Bonnie Raitt-Fundamental and Takin' My Time; The Essential Dave Brubeck; The Best of KC and the Sunshine Band; Wendy Waldman-The Main Refrain; Babe Ruth-First Base; George Harrison-Living in the Material World, Dark Horse, and Thirty-Three and 1/3; Hamilton Camp (who has a supporting role in Desperate Housewives!)-Here's To You; Traffic-When the Eagle Flies; Roger McGuinn; and Aerosmith-Rocks.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThose of us who have been coupled up for any length of time more than likely have an album or albums, even, that remind them of their dating days. Mrs. B and I have several such albums, but at left is one of ours, the self-titled 1977 debut album by one Dean Friedman.

If you've heard of him it all, it's most likely for his hit from that album, "Ariel", a goofy, but charming popsong ditty about a date with a free-spirited Jewish girl who looked "mighty fine" and eventually made love like "bombs bursting in ai-ai-aiiiirr-e-ell". It hit the top 30, and I liked it so much it led me to check out the album, which is mostly singer-songwriterly relationship-type songs, piano, strings, a little sax, very late 70s sounding but redeemed a lot by Friedman's charming sense of humor. Another standout track was the forlorn "Solitaire", which is another piano-and-massed-strings song, but with a great melody. Mrs. B and I started dating not long after I got the album, and not long after that I picked up its follow-up, 1978's equally witty and melodic Well Well, Said the Rocking Chair, which in a lot of ways is even better than its predecessor; much more varied in its sound and subject matter, as is borne out by the likes of "S&M" ("My credo and my ism is sado-masochism") and the title cut, a gleefully surreal kind of pick-me-up song, which even rocks in a light fashion, sung by the singer to himself. Both albums are available as a twofer, if you're inclined to check 'em out. He was backed by a number of NYC studio musos of the period, including a pre-King Crimson Tony Levin on bass.

He did one more major-label album after that, 1981's Rumpled Romeo, which I never got around to checking out. Since then, he's kept his hand in playing club dates, doing soundtracks for the odd TV show and underground film, and working on video technology. Of course, I got all this off his website, which I discovered after receiving an email (how I got on the mailing list I'll never know) from "Dean Friedman", and thinking it was spam, prepared to delete it, but curiosity got the best of me and I opened it. It was a link to a new Flash animation, a political satire written by Friedman called "Four More Years", and it's pretty clever. He's no Dan Bern, but hey. From there, I visited his site, and decided to pass it on to you, my deserving readers.

Besides, I haven't done a music post in a dog's age, so here it be! Felt good. I'll try to do more sometime.
Well, crap.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

I just checked my SiteMeter, and was delighted to note that as of a few minutes ago, I have just reached the lofty heights of 100,000 visits to my humble blog. The referrer URL was listed as "unknown", but it came from somewhere in the Midwest, or someone on Mountain Standard Time, anyway.

I am simply amazed that I have had 100,000 visitors. Of course, before I learned to set my SiteMeter not to recognize my IP address, I was probably responsible for about 25,000...but regardless, I am honored, I thank all of you, and will always try to do my best to be at least interesting in the future.

This is beginning to feel like an Oscar® speech...
DC, out of the goodness of their corporate hearts, was nice enough to give us their solicits for May- so I figure the least I could do is run 'em down, like a good little comics blogger...

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The prominent theme, at least early on in the list, is "Month of May= excellent Cliff Chiang cover art". Above is from BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #65, which is hyped as being "...the shattering conclusion of Ivy's quest!". Sounds painful. Don't want anything shattered, so I won't buy. But bojemoi, that's a nice cover.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAnother excellent Chiang image, this time from GOTHAM CENTRAL #31. Hey, look! Cliff draws Josie Mac for the first time in years!

James Jean is on fire, too- his pop-arty cover for GREEN ARROW #50 looks great.

But holy geez, what a wretched awful thing that's going to be stuck on HAWKMAN #40! Reminds me of something you'd see on a Caliber or Top Cow book. Ugh.

THE OMAC PROJECT #2 continues to look interesting to me, even though I'm not a big fan of Jesus Saiz's art.

There's going to be 16 issues of PLASTIC MAN. Wow. Baker must have some dirty pictures of somebody somewhere. I've been so underwhelmed by the last couple of issues that I'm strongly considering dropping it, and I may do it before you've finished reading this.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThe Seven Soldiers parade continues with SEVEN SOLDIERS: SHINING KNIGHT #2 and SEVEN SOLDIERS: THE GUARDIAN #2 . Beauty cover on that Shining Knight, eh? My wallet is groaning at the thought of having so many miniseries to keep up with, but so far it looks like it will be worthwhile if I don't go all chapter 7.

Wouldn't mind having that WRATH OF THE SPECTRE TP, since I don't have my original Adventure comics anymore. Those were some wicked fun, especially the first four issues or so before it got a tad formulaic. Also, the Spectre fan in me has a hard-on for THE GOLDEN AGE SPECTRE ARCHIVES VOL. 1 HC, but if I could afford hardcovers I'd be sitting on a stack of Spirit Archives right now. Sigh.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usI tried picking up a couple of issues of WONDER WOMAN recently, but just couldn't get into 'em. WW is a character I've always kinda liked, but have rarely liked the way her own title was done, a state which continues to this day. I wonder if Promethea knows that Wondy has snagged her staff?

On to the Wildstorm section.

CITY OF TOMORROW #2, the latest Chaykin joint, looks good. Hope I signed up for #1- I forget!

DESOLATION JONES #1: Warren Ellis. J.H. Williams III. I'll be getting this, even if I have to give plasma.

MATADOR #1 kinda-sorta looks interesting; it's by Devin Grayson, with whose work I've been unimpressed, and Brian Stelfreeze, with whose work I've been somewhat more impressed. After Angeltown, I'm a bit reluctant to stick my toe back in the urban crime thriller comics genre pool.

THE RAZOR'S EDGE: REDBIRD #3: Does no one have any cover scans for this? We were given a small illo for #2, and there's some sort of caption box on this one. Hey, it's still Jason Pearson, and that's cool, but...

SLEEPER SEASON TWO #12 draws the final curtain on one of the best series in recent memory, most likely for good. Can't wait to see how it turns out, though.

TOP TEN: THE FORTY-NINERS HC I'll believe this is coming out when I see it on the rack. I think I might have to order it from DCBS- I miss Top 10 so bad that I'm fiending to read this!

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usJames Jean, who's absolutely on a roll: at right, the cover for FABLES #37.

The first three PREACHER trades are being re-released; if you haven't read this series, do so now. Unless you're easily offended.

And that looks like that! I thought April was a slack month, and there was more to look forward to coming out then than this month! Oh well, there's always the usual suspects like 100 Bullets and The Losers, which didn't move me to comment.

Wish I could say that by May I would have broken off with my comics shop and went exclusively DCBS, but that doesn't look like it's gonna happen anytime soon. C'est la vie.

UPDATE! Mighty Mike Jozic has reminded me of a May solicit that I had overlooked: BATMAN: DARK DETECTIVE #'s 1 & 2, the much-ballyhooed return of Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers to a character they did for a short but brilliant time in the late 70's. Many of the story ideas they initiated have been blended into Batman lore, including Joker fish and the whole Clayface thing. I recall those being somewhat adult in tone, especially compared to the norm in comics at that time. Anyway, I'm considering picking these up, but I'm a bit apprehensive- many times creators have come back to the scene of past glory, and have failed to live up to expectations. We shall see, I guess!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things
Cream colored ponies and crisp apple streudels
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings
These are a few of my favorite things
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes
Silver white winters that melt into springs
These are a few of my favorite things
When the dog bites
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad
[Repeat all verses]-Rodgers & Hammerstein

Oh. Wait. That's not right at all. Actually, what I meant to do was perpetuate the latest meme-onic madness that Freddy Hembeck started, in the immortal words of George Harrison, "All Those Years Ago" and Meestah Alan David Doane took to a whole new level, and Mike Sterling called everybody out on, namely

Johnny Bacardi style!
And among other things, that means "in no particular order except that in which I thought of them".

1. THRILLER by Robert Loren Fleming and Trevor Von Eeden. Big surprise, huh. Incidentally, the creators are both good people. If I were President of DC, first thing I would do is put out a deluxe trade of the first eight issues, then put both men back to work on a 12-issue follow-up. And buy them cell phones so they could stay in touch this time...!

2. JERRY GRANDENETTI's expressionistic 60s Warren and DC work. Very unappreciated.

3. The comics wall rack at Cave City Drugs in the 60's and 70's.

4. SPIDER-MAN by Steve Ditko and that Lee fella, especially #16, the first one I ever read and one of the funniest comics Lee ever wrote.

5. AMAZING ADVENTURES featuring KILLRAVEN, by DON McGREGOR and CRAIG RUSSELL. As close as we ever got to Wagner in spandex.

6. BAT LASH by Nick Cardy. Too smart for the 60's room.

7. GEMINI BLOOD by Christopher Hinz and Tommy Lee Edwards. Suffered by comparison with the other Helix titles.

8. The MIGHTY ATOM and the PIXIES by God only knows...

9. SUPER-HIP! by Arnold Drake and Bob Oksner in the ADVENTURES of BOB HOPE.

10. WONDER WOMAN by Mike Sekowsky and Dennis O'Neil. I've only read one or two, don't own any, and am DYING to get some. Sekowsky Wonder Woman, that is.

11. The SHADOW by O'Neil and Kaluta. Beautiful mood and period detail, and O'Neil's no-nonsense Shadow dialogue was great. There just weren't enough of them, although successor Frank Robbins was pretty good. When you read #2, listen to Electric Light Orchestra II to get the total David Allen Jones 70's Shadow experience.

12. THE SHADOW by Andrew Helfer and Kyle Baker. Outstanding black comedy, one of the best things DC ever put out in my own humble opinion. I still pause before eating hot dogs, thanks to Helfer and Baker.

13. The spinner rack at Jr. Foods on the corner of Hwy. 259 and the Old
Glasgow-Munfordville Road.

14. THE ROCKETEER by Dave Stevens.

15. MICHAEL WILLIAM KALUTA, one of my absolute favorite artists. Stylish, graceful, classy. Did about a million DC House of... covers in the 70's and 80's. Seemed to be a nice guy when I met him once in 2000.

16. THE PHANTOM STRANGER by Len Wein, Jim Aparo, Arnold Drake and Gerry Talaoc. Wonder whatever happened to Talaoc...?

17. BEOWULF: DRAGON SLAYER by Michael Uslan and Ricardo Villamonte. Another overlooked, but clever and witty, sword and sorcery title that got lost in the shuffle.

18. X-MEN by Roy Thomas and Neal Adams. Kicked my widdle ass when I was about 9 years old.

19. BRAVE and the BOLD 80- Batman and the Creeper vs. the Hellgrammite by Bob Haney and Adams.

20. PAUL GRIST (Kane, Jack Staff)

21. CHASE by D.C. Johnson and J.H. Williams III/Mick Gray.

22. BATMAN FAMILY 17, with the Bob Rozakis/Michael Golden Man-Bat meets the Demon story, plus a typically kickass Kaluta cover.

23. LETTERS PAGES in the Brave & the Bold, Unknown Soldier, and any others that actually printed my letters! There were also Batman Family 20, 70's Captain Marvel 57 and Thriller 12- and that was about it for my letterhack career...

24. JAIME HERNANDEZ. I love his way with an ink line, his always-dead-on black spotting, and he draws some of the sexiest women EVER. "Nuff said.

25. FLAMING CARROT by Bob Burden. Ut!

26. Lettering by IRA SCHNAPP on those old 50's-60's DC comics covers and house ads. Go here for some great examples, but beware- the fella who posted them must have scanned them all at about 1850 dpi, so they can take forever and a day to load...

27. HOWARD VICTOR CHAYKIN- Especially Ironwolf, Times Squared, his Solomon Kane take with Roy Thomas, and, of course, American:Flagg!.

28. COMICS STARRING FAFHRD and the GRAY MOUSER- DC had Sword of Sorcery, Marvel put out a Mignola-pencilled Chaykin-scripted miniseries in the 80s. There should be more.

29. JACK KIRBY's FANTASTIC FOUR. With great dialogue and story assists from Stan. Favorite from my youth: #32, "Calamity on the Campus!", in which evil alchemist Diablo brings Dragon Man to life, and all hell breaks loose at Reed's alma mater.

30. JACK KIRBY'S MISTER MIRACLE. I liked all the Fourth World books, but this was my first and still my favorite. Sure, the characters are silly and the dialogue was, to be charitable, odd- but those comics had an intensity and energy that was downright exciting to read. And it's VerMAN Vundabar, not VerMIN.

31. JACK KIRBY. Period.

32. STEVE DITKO's Dr. Strange. Three stories in particular always come to mind: the one with the two extradimensional sisters; the one in which he battles in his ectoplasmic form with other spirits over an airplane, as he flees from Baron Mordo, and the first Tiboro issue. Ditko was giving us hallucinations without drugs.

33. ALEX TOTH. The master. Oddly enough, one of the first stories featuring his work that made an impression on me was the "Death Flies The Haunted Skies" story in Detective Comics, which he doesn't look back on all that fondly. Bravo For Adventure is great, too.

34. WARLOCK by Jim Starlin.

35. NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. by Steranko

36. DC SPECIAL SERIES #16, the Death of Jonah Hex, by Mike Flesher and Russ Heath. I had this comic in my original collection, let it go, and it's so scarce that I can't find it anyplace, eBay, you name it, for under $10. Feh.

37. HAMMER LOCKE by Tom Joyner, K.S. Wilson, and Chris Sprouse. I know, I know, I keep saying I'll do an overview of this series, and I actually have one about two paragraphs long in draft status. Keep watching the skies.

38. The spinner rack at the Ben Franklin five and dime store, featuring all the best Gold Key and later DC comics.

39. ZOT! by Scott McCloud

40. THE FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS by Gilbert Shelton and Dave Sheridan, read for the first time in 1976 while stoned in my friend Dave's basement room. Thought I was gonna die laughing. Literally.

41. STARSTRUCK by Elaine Lee and Mike Kaluta. An incredibly witty and densely populated saga that is sadly nowhere near complete. I wish Lee and Kaluta could get back to it someday.

42. THE WHOLE FRIGGING COMICS BLOGOSPHEREIVERSE. Of course, I have my favorites, but I love 'em all. Mostly. And you know who you are.

43. CAP'N QUICK and a FOOZLE by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers. Another clever series that was over way too soon.

44. SWAMP THING by Wein and Berni(e) Wrightson, later by Alan Moore, Steve Bissette and John Totleben.

45. THE CHECKERED DEMON by S.Clay Wilson. Sick, but funny.

46. Waiting for the Haxby News guy to deliver new comics to the drug stores and convenience stores in the 70's.

47. COMIC BOOK ARTIST magazine, volume 1. I've only read 1 issue of vol. 2, and it was fine, but I got a huge kick out of the first series.

48. PROMETHEA by Moore, Williams III and Gray.

49. PAUL POPE comics, especially 100%.

50. PREACHER by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon.

51. HELLBOY by Mike Mignola. Accept no substitutes.

52. THE NEVERMEN by Phil Amara and Guy Davis.

53. Borrowing my friends' copies of Wizard and Toyfare so I wouldn't have to buy 'em myself.

54. The WORST issue of THE MONSTER TIMES, #30, in which Joe Kane introduced me to the likes of Brother Power, The Geek and Dell's Dracula.

55. The 1970's SUB-MARINER by Bill Everett, in which he gave us the sexiest Venus and cutest Namorita ever.

56. MAJOR BUMMER by John Arcudi, Doug Mahnke and Tom Nguyen.

57. HELLSTORM by Warren Ellis and Leo Manco.

58. MONKEYMAN and O'BRIEN by Arthur Adams. I can't believe he's let this languish and become forgotten over the years.


60. Ellen Forney's Wonder Woman story in the first BIZARRO COMICS.

61. MANHUNTER by Archie Goodwin and Walt Simonson.

62. THE SPIRIT by the late great Will Eisner

63. FLEX MENTALLO by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Still the best explanation I can give for continuing to read comics after I've theoretically grown up.

64. HOT STUFF comics from Harvey. Including Stumbo the Giant. The L'il Devil Kid ROCKS!

65. THE AVENGERS by Thomas and John Buscema. There have been many fine Avengers series since, but this one still is the best, as far as I'm concerned.

66. RED ROCKET 7 by Mike Allred. Just for mentioning Mott The Hoople and T.Rex.

67. The Bouncing Ball of DOOM! (Strange Tales 131)

68. THE SPECTRE, a character I've liked in almost every incarnation he's ever had. Except as Hal Jordan.

69. OMAHA THE CAT DANCER by Reed Waller and Kate Worley. No unicorns.

70. URSULA by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba. Ideal for Valentine's Day.

71. SKELETON KEY by Andi Watson.


73. PECULIA by Richard Sala.

74. DAVID MAZZUCHELLI. Don't see his art nearly enough.

75. FRANK ROBBINS, especially on the Shadow and those 70's Batman stories. I didn't appreciate his Caniff-esque style nearly enough when it mattered.

76. BRUCE TIMM and all his followers.

77. SCARY GODMOTHER by Jill Thompson.

78. JOHN CONSTANTINE. Will always be cooler than Keanu.


80. Speaking of which, the MAD MOD.

81. GIANT-MAN and the Wonderful WASP in TALES TO ASTONISH. Childhood favorites.

82. TOP SHELF COMIX, who are putting out some excellent titles. Same can be said for


84. ONI PRESS, and


86. "Still only 25¢!".

87. BUNNY BALL. One of my first loves. Sigh. She was so yvoorg.

88. Finding out about a character or title you've never heard of, but sounds cool as hell. See "The Life and Loves of Lisa St. Claire", the post earlier today.

89. The first comics store I ever saw, off Broadway in Louisville. It wasn't there very long.


91. THE SILVER SURFER by Stan Lee and John Buscema.

92. DOOM PATROL by Grant Morrison and Richard Case. Special mention to the last six or so issues, done by Rachel Pollack and Ted McKeever.

93. SANDMAN: THE KINDLY ONES by Neil Gaiman and Marc Hempel. Way to finish an epic, fellas.

94. The fabled Marvel collection of a fellow named (I think) DOUG LINDSEY, about 8 years my senior, who I would see once in a great while when I went with my father on his sales route. Don't know what happened to the guy, or his comics, but he had complete runs of every Marvel book, and that includes romance and westerns, through 1972 or so. I still get a chill thinking about that collection.

95. Oh, all right, THE COMICS JOURNAL. I don't read it much these days, can't afford it, but I was a regular buyer from 1978 till 1996 or so, and it shaped my tastes and writing style immeasurably.

96. ADAM WARREN art, especially on Dirty Pair.


98. JUNGLE ACTION- The Black Panther by Don McGregor and Billy Graham

99. CONAN by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith.

100. TEX ARCANA by John Findlay. Originally ran in Heavy Metal, one of the best gol-durn supernatural Western comedies I've ever read. Needs to be collected.

Wow, that's 100 already! I'm sure I've left out a ton of stuff that I'll think of later, and if I don't mention you, please don't take offense! Perhaps one of these days I'll get the time to whip out the ol' Photoshop and do a visual 100 Things. Don't hold your breath. Anyway, I'll try to link up more of these entries in the next day or so.
Yes, it's that time of the week again. No, it's not my look at DC's newest solicits; that's coming soon. Instead, it's time to take a squint at the new Diamond shipping list! Here's what I should be getting on Wednesday, and it's a monster:

100 BULLETS #58
JLA CLASSIFIED #4 (wouldn't miss this for anything. Whoops- I should have put the Bwah-ha-ha Justice League in my 100 Things list!)

Ouch! Plus, I've still got Ultimates 2 3 out there, which could come in. I'll have to endure the disapproving glares of the comics shop people when I tell them to put back the Bill & Ted trade for the third straight week. Le sigh.

I typed this up after I posted the 100 Things list, but I set the post date before 'cause I wanted it to be seen. Just in case you were wondering!
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From all of me to all of you, Happy Valentine's Day.

But wait! There's more!

Whilst clicking around the Grand Comic Book Database, looking for a romance-themed comic book cover, I came across this:

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What the f-? There was an ongoing series in this DC romance book? And looking at the covers, many of them were drawn by Mike Sekowsky, who in my opinion drew some mighty fair females! The Lives and Loves of Lisa St. Claire is the title, it began in Young Love issue #68, and now I'm super-curious. Gonna have to do some research, and I'll bet these comics are scarce as hen's teeth. Anybody out there have the skinny on Lisa St. C? A Google search wasn't much help.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

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What I bought and what I thought, week of February 9!

A Bollywood version of Zelazny's Lord of Light, as filtered through Bend It Like Beckham. Guess maybe the synchronized schoolgirl volleyball players on pages 2-3 put that in my head. Anyway, Grant Morrison gives us a light, lively script which is ably illustrated by another of his best collaborators, Philip Bond. Nobody can genre-bend like our boy Grant. Right now, as with so many first issues, it's kinda hard to get a handle on where this will go, but so far so good. A

With Michael Lark gone (except for covers) and Brubaker right behind him, a lotta people are preparing last rites for this title, a bit prematurely maybe- but for now it seems determined to remain strong as ever as Greg Rucka returns with a look at what happens when a Flash villain's Gotham hideout (which begs the question, do Batman villains have hideouts in other cities, and so on?) is discovered by a couple of Latin kids and a police officer, with grisly results. Longtime GC inker Steve Gaudiano gets to show what he's got as he assumes complete art duties, and he does not disappoint. While his ink style is as sloppy and distracting as the fill-in artist we've had for the last couple of issues, it's tempered by great layouts and pacing, and better figure drawings. A-

In this issue we get a fill-in from Bite Club's David Hahn, and while I thought he was about eleven kinds of wrong for the sanguinary snark of that title, frankly I love his work here- it just suits his clean, babyfaced style a hell of a lot more. Heck, some panels here even remind me of Chris Sprouse, and that's high praise, as far as I'm concerned! Only one complaint- the stylized squiggle he puts on everybody's ears (like Fred Hembeck's elbow and knee spirals, only with sharp edges) just looks dumb. This being said, I would be perfectly happy if the uninspired Buckingham/Leialoha art team was sent packing and Hahn were to take over on a permanent basis. Story-wise, Bill Willingham gives us a side-trip involving Jack B. Nimble (and to a lesser extent, Thumbelina, pun somewhat intended), who has stolen a bunch of the late Blackbeard's money and goes to Hollywood to become a filmmaker, and becomes a major player by throwing a bunch of money around. Now, honestly, I didn't believe for a minute that it would be that easy to set oneself up as a big-shot film producer; I would imagine that nine times out of ten there are dues that have to be paid and channels to go through. Also, I seriously doubt that anyone would be interested in seeing a three-picture Lord of the Rings-style trilogy of films about Jack the Giant-Killer, Jack and the Beanstalk, and the third, which involves some sort of elaborate revenge fantasy for our jack and actually doesn't sound too bad. Still, Willingham gives us a sequence of events which manages to convince, without too many "fables", if you will, so I can happily report that this was the best issue of this book I've read in a good while. A-

Hoo boy. Beautifully drawn, even with revisions, but the plot is straight out of a 50's drive-in B picture. Fortunately, I like 50's drive-in B pictures, so I can laugh at the amusing joke and tolerate the unlikely premise. And did I mention that it's beautifully drawn? B-

Things happen this time out, thank goodness, but the players are so poorly defined that you can't tell 'em apart without the scorecard they neglect to give us, the mystery is banal, and the dialogue these characters spout is leaden and nowhere near as street as its writer thinks it is. But hey- I'm just a poor Kentucky boy, how do I know how the brothas talk? Which is what Phillips is banking on, I'm sure. Again, the excellent art by Shawn Martinbrough is wasted on this mediocrity. C

Comics reviews later today. First, an announcement posted over at the Sketch Blog (remember it?), posted here in case you haven't seen it:

It's with a heavy heart that I make this announcement: In one week, I'll be deleting this blog. I'm not updating it as much as I should, it has failed to inspire me to draw more, like I hoped it would, and I'm just using bandwidth that someone else could be using to do something worthwhile. So one week from today, Johnny B's Sketch Blog is history.

I'm giving everybody a week to remove the link from their blogs, if you've linked up to me here, or download images for some reason if you so desire. If for some reason you'd be interested in any of the originals I've posted here, please send me an email.

Thanks for checking it out, and for the kind, positive comments you've provided. This was kind of an experiment for me, and I guess I found out what I needed to know. There are few things sadder than someone with a gift, and no idea how to best take advantage of it.

More later.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Haven't had a whole lot of non-work related computer time lately, so apologies for the whole lot of nothing I've given you lately. When I haven't been working, I've been reading; I just finished with Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and for the first time in ages I got caught up in a book, unable to put it down...or at least put it away with a modicum of effort. It's a very imaginative take on the Baum OZ characters, especially the Wicked Witch of the West, a character everybody knows but no one knew anything about. Hopefully I'll write a bit about it at some later date.

Let's see, what else can I spout off about?

Jason Little has begun the follow up to his excellent Shutterbug Follies, starring "Bee"- Motel Art Improvement Service. I read Follies as he posted it on his website about three years ago (and as a sad result I never purchased the hardcover book, despite the fact that it looked sensational), and I'll probably read the sequel this way too. I love Little's clean, colorful art style, and his Bee is a likeable character.

You should go over to Alan David Doane's to see his 100 Things I Love About Comics. It's really something. Inspired by Fred Hembeck own "100 Things" list, ADD has put in a lot of time on it and it shows. I'd do one, but it would just seem like I'm riding on ADD & Fred's coattails.

Four Color Meat & Fish, a blog I thought I already had on the blogroll at right, is having a contest in which they're giving away the first two Fables trades. Hey, those are some pretty good comics, well worth your time- so go enter, already!

I've been seeing the music meme pop up in a lot of places you don't usually see memes of that sort pop- Warren Ellis' PULSE column, for example, or Heidi MacDonald's Beat at the same location. I've yet to read one that's less than completely fascinating.

Looks like my reading stack is not going down anytime soon; I still haven't finished my stack of comics from Wednesday thanks to the Wicked Witch and the wicked people who take out ads in the newspaper. I got everything I listed the other day except Ultimates 2 #3, which was supposed to be in my holds so all I can surmise is that it didn't ship, my shop didn't get any copies (unusual for such a high profile Marvel book) or got damaged ones and sent them back, or who knows. We shall see. I got Shanna The She-Devil #1, though. Not exactly compensation. I had also meant to keep an eye out for the Batman: The Man Who Laughs one-shot illo'ed by Doug Mahnke, but I didn't see it either. Hmpf. Another significant addition to my reading pile was the gift of a handful of books from Brett Warnock at Top Shelf Comix, including Blankets and Carnet De Voyage! Many thanks to Mr. Warnock. I can't wait to get into the much-praised Blankets and its successor. Of course, I will be sure to relate all my impressions of those and the other books I received ASAP.

While I'm recounting personal good fortune, I suppose I should finally spill the beans about the Significant Event that's coming up for me, namely, my first actual for-money printed article! In a real, honest-to-goodness magazine, or to be more precise, Special Edition Book. Back in October, I was approached by Sean Collins, who as you all may know works at Wizard Entertainment, who asked me if I'd be interested in trying my hand at some freelance writing. Now, folks, what you've been reading here at the Show represents the sum total of my journalistic output; I've never done any "real" writing, so I was apprehensive about it to say the least. But, tempted by the promise of monetary recompense for my efforts, as well as the desire not to spend the rest of my life wondering "what if", I decided that I'd take him up on his offer, figuring I'd get a short piece, perhaps on some obscure character or comic of some sort. When Sean sent me my assignment, I received a shock- it was a 3000 word piece, for the upcoming "Best of Basic Training" collection, about the "tools of the trade"- in short, what materials pros used to illustrate comics. I had never written ANYTHING on this scale before, and I gotta admit that I almost backed out...but I said "No, I can do this!" Part of the job was to interview 6 artists, in other words actually call them up or email them and ask them a series of questions, to be distilled into the body of the piece. So, being an interview journalism virgin, I had to go out and get a recording device of some sort, then I was ready. The Wizard folks wanted me to contact none other than John Cassaday, Mark Bagley, Jim Lee, Steve McNiven, David Finch, and none other than a living legend...John Romita Sr! I was given contact info, and set out on my task. Cassaday and McNiven gave me their answers by email, and I conducted phone interviews with Bagley (friendly guy, fine conversation), Lee (also very open and friendly, and probably the most surprising responder, with his accounts of his laid-back work habits), and I gotta tell you- John Romita Sr. gave me enough material to write two articles! He was very open and friendly as well, and boy, did he love to talk! He gave me a ton of anecdotal information, and I gotta tell ya it made the inner fanboy in me swoon when he would casually drop names the like of Kirby, Buscema, and Gene Colan into his accounts! Niven I never did get in touch with; his emails kept being kicked back and his phone number was the wrong one, so he didn't get interviewed. I'm sure he's losing sleep. Fortunately, I was able to call upon one of the few pro contacts I have, JLA Elite inker Tom Nguyen, who provided me with a wealth of info about inking. Anyway, after taking forever (this came during a very tumultuous time in my life, I had design projects and job interviews and a bunch of other stuff going on) and getting a couple of deadline extensions, I finally got it finished, sent in, revised, and sent in again...and then I heard nothing for several weeks until I saw it solicited in March's Previews, so I emailed Sean about what was going on with it, since I kinda wanted to blog about it- he said it had been edited up, and was indeed going in, so at last I can tell you all the story. Of course, I won't be able to afford a copy of my own, but you guys can check it out and tell me if it sucks too much! It's funny- doing actual paid writing was far from my mind when I started this blogging thing oh so long ago, but it's led to it and y'know what? Although it was kinda stressful, I enjoyed it- and even if I never get to write anything for anyone else I'm very glad I did it- if nothing else but because I got to chat with John Romita Sr.! Many, many thanks to Sean for giving me the opportunity.

OK, I guess that's enough for now. I'll be back with comics reviews over the weekend, and who knows what else.