Thursday, June 30, 2005

Ah, zombies. The living dead, reanimated either via sorcery, science, or chemistry. They shamble and sometimes sprint along, seeking to carry out the bidding of their master, or craving to eat the flesh and/or brains of the terror-struck living, unstoppable, unreasonable. Whether they pop up in end-of-the-world-type scenarios, or as an aberration slash threat to/on the normal everyday world as we know it, they've captured the imaginations of millions of people- writers, artists, filmmakers, readers- everywhere. Zombies are really popular right now thanks to a resurgence of Living Dead films a la Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days Later, and the latest George (Father of the flesh-eating variety) Romero effort Land of the Dead. Robert Kirkman shares some of the blame, I mean credit, as well with his hugely popular Walking Dead comics series, about a group of people scrambling for survival in a post-catastrophe, zombie-ridden part of the United States.

And I've been right there, digging this zombie jamboree; when I was a kid, I got the creeps after watching early Hammer horror film Plague of the Zombies and the 1930's mood piece White Zombie with Bela Lugosi. Later on, I was astounded like everyone else when Romero re-imagined the zombie with his Night of the Living Dead, still one of the most groundbreaking and powerful horror films ever. Re-Animator and Return of the Living Dead were both greatly entertaining, often laugh-out-loud takes, the latter introducing the whole "...brains..." schtick which has now become canonical in zombie legend. And so on and so forth. In comics, there have been fewer zombie tales- I seem to recall a fairly well-done series from Dark Horse in the '90s titled Zombie World, featuring various arcs by various writer/artist teams, one being Tommy Lee Edwards, which is why I bought it. Not bad, not world-shaking, either, and as I recall the ending was a bit of a cheat. But, not long after viewing the otherwise fine 28 Days Later, about a brain-eating, scabrous Sandra Bullock (I'm kidding...really) and having just finished reading the latest claustrophobic chapter of Walking Dead, I had a minor epiphany: There was nothing left that hadn't already been done with the zombie. Just about everything in the last 30+ years has been spoofery or riffs on an established template, and only the chops and/or artifice (or lack thereof) of the filmmaker or writer/artist made it as fresh as it was. I dropped Walking Dead not long after, and have yet to see a single recent zombie-related film to this day. Let's face it: zombies and zombie stories are, for lack of a better word, less-than-fresh to me.

And with this in mind, consider now the newest release from new-to-me publisher Boom! Studios: ZOMBIE TALES, an anthology featuring several living dead stories by an impressive group of creators, all printed on nice paper stock and in full color for a paltry $6.99. And y'know what? Although I've been on record for the last year or so that I don't want to see or read another zombie story in quite possibly ever...this wasn't all that bad.

Story one is an amusing Keith Giffen-drawn tale about a really dimwitted zombie name of Ted, who wanders around looking for something (guess what) to eat and constantly talking to himself. He finds a zombie kitten to be nice to, so you know he's not a bad guy, then we discover that actual living people are hunting the kitty that Ted has befriended, which apparently has the key to "save the world" from further zombieism (I assume), to be continued. We have the Romero-ish team of scientists who have apparently unleashed the zombie plague and are looking to set it right. Not the most original template out there, but writer Andrew Cosby milks it for some chuckles via Ted, and Giffen's art is appropriately grubby.

The next two stories pretty much follow the standard E.C./Warren twist-ending template. "Severance" is a pretty intense tale of scientific-experiment-gone-bad and revenge, a look at corporate greed and family ties that, with its big-shot boss looking out from his office as the city burns, echoes Dennis Hopper in Land of the Dead. "Daddy Smells Different" looks good- I like Andy Kuhn's art here. But Kuhn has to take the blame as well for not giving me enough visual information to enable the twist ending to resonate with me. At the risk of spoiling, I won't give it away but since we had no real clues about who was and who wasn't a zombie, the ultimate revelation came across as arbitrary when it should have been "wow"-evoking.

"For Pete's Sake" is a lavishly illustrated tale about a woman who is keeping her zombified husband alive in the hopes that someday a cure can be found, and the priest who attempts to reason with her. Nicely done drama by writer Johanna Stokes, and excellently imagined by artist J.K. Woodward, whose painted work reminds me a lot of similar stuff by John Bolton or Scott Hampton. I think Woodward is a talent worth keeping an eye out for. Not literally, of course. For me, this was the best story in the book.

As great as I found Woodward's work, I was was equally unimpressed with the first Stateside art of Carlos Magno, who gives us a workmanlike and unexceptional visual to go with what I thought was a pretty clever story by Mark Waid, titled "If You're So Smart...". Unlike "Daddy Smells...", I was actually surprised by the twist ending.

Rounding out the collection is a "Dead Meat", another Warrenesque (this time '80s Bill Dubay-style) story about a zombified mercenary soldier, and frankly, it didn't make a lot of sense. Too much playing it fast-and-loose with zombie lore to prop up the merc zombie tough-guy conceit. Ron Lim does the art, and it's not as slavishly imitative of Jim Starlin as I remember it being in the '90s on the Warlock books- it's not terrible, but he just can't get the stiff, superhero-comic artist out of his style.

I had no reason at all to enjoy Zombie Tales as much as I did, but despite my complete disinterest in the zombie genre right now I was entertained and impressed in places. I see where Boom! is preparing another zombie-themed collection soon, and hopefully I'll get the chance to check it out as well. And J.K. Woodward- watch that name, first as new Fallen Angel artist, and then who knows...! B+
Keep on Keepin' On, or Johnny B can't "keep" up with everything, chapter 10,435.

Apparently the fine folks at IDW will be putting out an adaptation of F. Paul Wilson's THE KEEP, to be released in September with art by Matt Smith, who did the first couple of issues of Astronauts in Trouble as well as the 90's DC miniseries Day of Judgement. And I knew nothing about it until I saw a posting on Newsarama.

Many moons ago, in the dim and distant early 80's, I picked up the paperback version of Wilson's novel on a whim, and dug the hell out of it. The premise is simple- Nazi soldiers hole up in an ancient keep in Romania, and accidentally let something out that should have stayed in. But Wilson went in a number of different directions with it, and it was an engrossing read all the way. Then, in 1983, Michael (Miami Vice, Thief) Mann filmed it and failed spectacularly, despite a decent enough cast that included Scott Glenn, Robert Prosky and Gabriel Byrne- it's oh-so-Eighties laser light show special effects and rubber suited monster dated it badly, as a recent viewing on cable attested.

Wilson went on and wrote a not-bad sequel that I also read, The Tomb, which introduced his character Repairman Jack, a mercenary good-deed-doer who apparently is a central figure in something called "The Adversary Cycle", which connects all his books and which I know nothing about, since The Tomb was the last one I've read to date.

Anyway, I've always liked Smith's Mignolaesque style, and I'm pre-sold on the subject matter, so I'm lookin' forward and I wanted to show and tell!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I don't have the energy for a large post tonight, so I'm just gonna post some random thoughts, and make of them what you will.

First, for future reference (i.e., my year-end best-of 2005 comics list):


You see, at the end of the year I tally up how many A's, B's, and so forth I give out, and the books that get the highest grades all year long become eligible for the list. Now that I'm reviewing for Comic Book Galaxy, I don't attach those faux-Entertainment Weekly letter grades over there, and I won't be able to use that formula. A rare glimpse into the JBS decision-making process!

I knew this would happen...I started a big review of Zombie Tales last night, and now I'm thinking I should save it for CBG. Decisions, decisions. I'll probably just whittle it down somewhat for Last Call, and post the whole thing here, when I finish it.

Also, I finished reading Smoke last night, and I'm very impressed. Solid all around, and I've added it to my holds and look forward to the next two chapters. I'm glad that I entered that Isotope contest- I don't think my comics shop even got a copy of #1 in. Nor have they got a copy of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, which is not to say that they didn't order for holds customers. And no, I didn't have it on my holds, damn my eyes...I figured they'd get a copy in and I'd buy it during the next 25% off sale they have. That's what I get for thinking, huh! I could order it easily from Khepri or Amazon, but when you figure in shipping and such I won't be saving that much money so I think I'll just wait until they announce the sale, then ask them to order a copy for me from Nashville. SURELY the larger Nashville store has a copy!

Today, I got the previously MIA Shaolin Cowboy 3, but my shop didn't get City of Tomorrow 3. That's the way it goes sometimes.

I thought that it would be mighty tough to top Paul Pope's issue of Solo, but I'll be damned if Darwyn Cooke just might have done that very thing. #5 is an amazing smorgasbord of styles and textures, from advertising art to gag cartooning to affectionate's a fricking tour-de-force. I don't want to review it just yet (that comes tomorrow night), but if you're on the bubble about this issue it's well worth the five bucks.

A comic I didn't buy this week, but saw on the stands and after a few minutes of browsing put back to buy next week is Kyle Baker's Nat Turner #1. Now, I've been harsh on Mr. Baker lately, accusing him of being lazy, hacking stuff out, and other spurious things...but I wish to declare before the entire "Inter Net" (little in-joke for those of you who've read the new Planetary) that this book contains some of the finest art I've ever seen from Mr. Baker. It is heartfelt, accomplished, and excellently rendered, and you should look it over if you haven't already. I'm serious- I'll be raving about this one in another week or so, and if I hadn't been trying to keep my cash outlay under $25 I'd have it already.

To shift gears somewhat, I received one of my periodic "care packages" from the Mighty Mr. Anthony the other day, and one of the discs made my day: Shelby Lynne's latest, Suit Yourself. Essentially a set of songs recorded demo-style and live, even to the point of retaining dialogue, false starts and brief rehearsals, it's the best thing I've heard from her since her outstanding 2000 effort I Am Shelby Lynne. She almost effortlessly mixes soul, r&b, country and folk in such a way that few musicians have been able to do before (Van Morrison's early 70's albums come to mind), and unlike the case of I Am, she doesn't have a producer collaboration to share credit with, since she produced it herself. She got a lot of Dusty Springfield comparisons five years ago, and those are apropos here as well- I'm also hearing a strong Bonnie Raitt and Sheryl Crow influence. There's honestly not a bad cut on this thing, and there's a sultry, laid-back rendition of "Rainy Night in Georgia", listed as "Untitled" on the sleeve, that is absolutely amazing.

Kinda wish I had the nerve to do the "Open Blog/(5) Questions" thing that I've seen here and there lately. Which is my lame-o way of saying that I can't decide.

Oh well...time for Futurama! Oyasumi nasai.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

In case you haven't seen it yet, and I only just now did, here's the trailer for Peter Jackson's King Kong remake.

It looks damn good.
Those who can, do, and those who don't have a lot of time, linkblog.

First, not quite a link, but an opportunity now taken to send Ian Brill of Brill Building renown a Bacardi Show Birthday Greeting! And yes, I know I've been slack about BSBdG's lately; lots of notable people have birthdays in June and I should have made special mention of not only the Master, Alex Toth but the Maestro Brian Wilson.

Well, the film has certainly drawn the ire of fans of the original source material, including the writer of said source material- and I can't say one way or the other because I've yet to read it myself- but even if the V For Vendetta film turns out to be a cluster fuck as only Hollywood can create, this is still a sweet poster image.

And can there be ANY doubt about the righteousness of the Thanagarian cause when no less a respected and loved figure such as OWLY can don the sacred hawk armor and prepare to kick some Rannie butt? From an Andy Runton LJ post in which he presents several sketches of Owly as various characters.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usMrs. B and I went to a consignment shop yesterday in a small town (even smaller than Horse Cave! True!) where my Mom has been working part time, to drop off some merchandise for sale and to visit and shop around. As I looked at their book section, what should I spy all nestled amongst the Harlequin romances and John Grisham novels but a copy of Neil Gaiman's first prose novel, Neverwhere, for the astounding price of one big fat dollar! Now, I have (unreasonably, perhaps) so far avoided Gaiman's prose work, mostly because I was afraid that his pretentious and often twee style would become an endurance test without a collaborator like Jill Thompson or Marc Hempel along to leaven it a bit...but for a dollar, well, why the heck not. I'm about two chapters in, and so far it's not bad but it's early. I'll have more when I'm done.

Several have linked already to the latest Basement Tapes with Casey and Fraction, in which the dungeon-dwelling duo hold forth about the contrasts between the comics of the 70s and those produced today. I mostly agree with their comments and criticisms, but speaking as someone who was reading them the first time around back in the day, I think there's a good reason that the caption has kinda gone the way of the passenger pigeon: writers like Steve Englehart, Len Wein, Gerry Conway, Roy Thomas even, and many others ran the device into the ground with jokey, wannabe-hip and cheesy writing that made me cringe when I was 13 and hasn't aged much better as a potentially nostalgic 40-year-old. Which is not to say that most of these gentlemen weren't good writers, on the contrary (well, Conway excluded)- but I could only take so much imitation Stan Lee jive patter. Sometimes a writer like Don McGregor would come along and write such floridly imaginative narration that it made the device worthwhile- McGregor never tried to ingratiate himself with his readership, but mostly the narrative caption was worn down to a nub by the mid-'80s. I don't miss it, and would like to point out that it is still used in many books, but mostly as first-person narration and not the writer trying to portray Tommy Chong as the Voice of God.

I'm ashamed of myself that I like this, the cover for Gun Candy #2, as much as I do. It's by Brian Stelfreeze and Phil Noto, by the way. Something about the composition- the twisty, turny body english perspective, on this one. YES, and the heat-packing Lolita, too. Happy? Actually, 12 Gauge has some interesting stuff coming out, most notably the reprinting of Jason Pearson's violent, but well drawn and mostly entertaining Body Bags, which I picked up faithfully back in the mid-'90s. I don't see anything about this reprint which will compel me to buy, but I recommend it to those droogies who don't mind a bit of the old ultra-violence.

On to other subjects- I've posted the cover for my overdue contribution to the round 2 Mixed Bag Project CD- go check it out! And comment! Hopefully I'll be mailing these babies out very soon.

Allrighty then. That's all for now.

Monday, June 27, 2005

My haul Wednesday, according to the new Diamond shipping list:


Aaaaand...that's it! Oh, and last week's MIA SHAOLIN COWBOY #3.

Looks like a strong week for me, with several interesting titles. regarding Losers 25, Jensen better not be dead, that's all I can say.
Yeah, so I decided to take the weekend off. So what?

Anyway, I'm hoping to get some substantial posts up later, plus I'm right in the middle of burning CDs for the round 2 Mixed Bag thang. In the meantime, here's some odds n' sods, mostly links from nice people who want me to check out their stuff, and apologies if you've already seen these at other places, I'm always unfashionably late, I'm afraid.

New at Comic Book Galaxy today: an outstanding column by Marc Sobel about comics criticism as reflected through Dan Clowes' Ice Haven, and Logan "James K" Polk opining on the Batman films. And for the record, Logan, I liked Batman Returns more because it was a good Tim Burton film, with all his attendant black-clad grotesqueries and idiosyncrasies, than a Batman movie. Plus, I can't believe you didn't love Victor Buono as King Tut in the TV show!

And for the luvva Pete, don't forget about the big AiT/PlanetLar/CBG contest!

The fine folks at Comic Foundry are constantly putting up great stuff for our perusal, like these interviews with new Catwoman artist Pete Woods and Smoke illustrator Igor Kordey. I thought Woods' debut issue of Catwoman was great, and Kordey's always been an artist whose work interests me, especially since the Black Widow: Pale Little Spider miniseries from a couple years ago. I just got my copy of Smoke this morning, I'm looking forward to sitting down and reading it. Plus, they're still conducting their signed comics giveaway, go look!

The Super Hero Origins blog, apparently comprised of original origin stories for original characters. Could bear watching, if you're inclined to be interested in that sort of thing.

Ladies and gentlemen, a brilliant birthday sketch, tossed off by Vera Brosgol, who rocks my world.

OK, that's all I got for right now. More later. This post brought to you by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention's Burnt Weeny Sandwich El Pee.

Friday, June 24, 2005

I have a confession to make, one which shall forever mar my manly-man image. When I was a young boy, I loved to read Nancy Drew books. I probably read at least a dozen or so of 'em in the early-mid 60s. Yes, I used to read stuff besides comics. Anyway, I don't quite know why they appealed to me so- I liked mysteries, but not more so than any other genre. Nancy, Bess, George, and Ned were likable characters (although I though it odd back then that a girl would be named George), the stories were challenging enough for me at ages 4-6, but not excessively so, and so on. I think a lot of their appeal to me had to do with the fact that these books were a numbered series, each with its own special cover, similar to comic books but different. I have vivid memories of standing in front of the bookcases at the J.J. Newberry store in nearby Glasgow or the Ben Franklin Five and Dime in Horse Cave, and looking at the neatly arranged books, with their fascinating titles, colorful yellow spines, and each one bearing a distinctive cover painting which grabbed my imagination, because as you all know I'm all about the visuals. Although I read other mystery books like the Bobbsey Twins (yes, it's true), Nancy was perhaps my first real crush.

Above is the cover of the first one I remember reading, The Mystery of the Fire Dragon, which may not be terribly PC by today's standards but in those less enlightened times was a fine tale of Miss Drew investigating sordid goings-on in Chinatown. Click on the pic to see it close up.

This was all prompted when I ran across a nicely thorough Nancy Drew site recently, with a cover gallery sporting reproductions of all three eras of cover paintings: the original 30's versions; the 60's, the ones that captivated me so; and the lackluster 70s era.

Also, here's another Nancy-centric site, and here's the listing for the first of three Nancy Drew films that were made in the late 30's, starring perky Bonita Granville as the sleuth. These air from time to time on TCM.
Just wanted to pass on a quick reminder that the new Last Call is up over at Comic Book Galaxy. Since I was able to review everything I read last week, I won't be posting reviews over here this time. Comics reviewed at CBG include Drive, Flaming Carrot #3, Hellboy: The Island #1, Astro City:The Dark Age #1, and Livewires #5. No Shaolin Cowboy #3 for me, I'm afraid, it was a no-show at my comics shop, or at least in my holds.

Coming later, something completely different, as John Cleese is wont to say.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Hey, all you comics history scholars out there! I have a question.

The first comic I remember owning was Tales to Astonish #55, with Giant-Man and the Wasp. But I have a fleeting memory of another comic, and I'd love to know what it was.

I don't remember what the cover looked like- early on I must have pulled it off and it is now lost to the sands of eternity. All I remember was this:

1.) It was a comic that featured at least two stories, non-superhero. One was kinda supernaturally-themed, and the other was a science fiction tale.

2.) The lettering was done, E.C.-style, with that A.Machine mechanical font type rather than by hand-lettering. I don't think it was an E.C. book, though, because by 1963-64 they weren't publishing this sort of thing anymore.

3.) One story was a recounting of the legend of "The Maid of the Mist" at Niagara Falls, with a Native American princess who killed herself for love.

4.) The other was a "absolute power corrupts" tale about a man named "Talos" (at least I think that was his name, it may have been the name of the planet) who starts out good but eventually becomes an evil tyrant ruling the world with an iron fist.

And that's all I know. Anybody? Bueller?

I can't give you anything for helping me out except hearty and heartfelt thanks and the knowledge that I'm forever in your debt. It's occurred to me that it would be nice to have a copy of this comic, if I knew what to look for.

Quick! Name something that I had been doing on a monthly basis that I failed to do last month.

Give up?

Go through the DC Solicits, and comment on them for all of you! And nobody noticed! So does that mean I can never do it again, ever? Well, no. I think I'll take a quick look at September's solicits. Just because. And I do mean quick- there's not a whole lot there which piques my interest, I'm sorry to say, that I'm not already buying.


Due to extreme underwhelm, I've pretty much decided to stop picking up Detective Comics. So, chances are that includes DETECTIVE COMICS #811.

I have a feeling that I'm going to wish I had been getting BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT, though, because of the D.C. Johnson/J.H. Williams III W.R.iting team. #195 is September's offering, #4 of 5. Nice Seth Fisher cover on this one, don't you think?

Another nice Adam Hughes cover adorns CATWOMAN #47- I've committed to coming back to the book so I can see what Pfiefer and Woods do with it, so I'll probably still be buying this long. Seems like there's going to be a bit more superheroic, or should that be suppervillainous, action involved under Wil and Pete. I wish that artist would ditch the shinyl vinyl uniform and go back to the flat-black Darwyn Cooke looke.

A little disconnect between the cover of GOTHAM CENTRAL #35 and the solicitation text, which states "With the discovery of a dead Robin...". Looks mighty alive to me here, champ! A little embarrassed to have broken the Batsignal, but alive just the same. I like that character, whose name escapes me right now, that turns the signal light on and is co-featured on this cover- hope this arc utilizes her in a prominent way. And not as a victim.

"And why is Deathstroke the Terminator at the head of Dick's crime world?" A textbook case of words that probably shouldn't be strung together in the same sentence, courtesy of the copy for NIGHTWING #112. Beavis and Butt-head pointed that out, huh huh.

If one has the cash, one could do worse than to purchase all three volumes of BATMAN ILLUSTRATED BY NEAL ADAMS VOLS. 1, 2 & 3 HC That's some mighty fine Silver Age stuff, yessiree.


Now you all know that I am not a fan of either Superman or the Marvel Family, but I really like that cover for SHAZAM/SUPERMAN: FIRST THUNDER #1 . Best Cap Marvel drawing I've seen in a mainstream DC book this side of Alex Ross. I'd almost be tempted to buy this. Almost.

Heh...guess that's it. Good thing that DC doesn't depend on me to keep the Superman franchise going, right?


From the copy for GREEN LANTERN #5 : "Guest-starring Hector Hammond!" It saddens me to think that there are people out there who greet this news with excitement.

KAMANDI ARCHIVES VOL. 1 HC Huh? Kamandi? Well, uh, sure, I guess...Kamandi was always an odd book anyway- it lasted almost three times as long as any of Kirby's other 70s projects, despite it being a poor fourth to The Demon, New Gods and Mister Miracle in the originality and excitement department. By virtue of being collected in an Archive, The Last Boy on Earth once again has the last laugh on his more-respected peers.

I like Warren Ellis, generally, and Gary Erskine's not bad either (although he's not a favorite), so you'd think I'd be all over JACK CROSS, but nah. It just doesn't sound all that fresh. #2 is the one solicited.

I gave up on JSA years ago, and I have no real desire to get its spinoff JSA CLASSIFIED, either. But I do like Amanda Connor's art, so I'm tempted. That's how they reel me in, you know. #3 is September's issue.

PLASTIC MAN #18: Kyle Baker has incriminating pictures. That's gotta be it.

I wouldn't mind having THE SECRET OF THE SWAMP THING, the manga-sized digest reprinting of the already twice-reprinted original 10 70's Swamp Thing is...but when it comes to digest-size reprints, size does matter and I think I'd just as well track down the Dark Genesis TPB if I was going to get these again. I used to have them, you know, bought many of them off the spinner rack back in 1973. Sigh. I echo Mike Sterling's call for the OTHER 70's Swamp Things to get the reprint treatment, the Michelinie/Redondo ones, anyway.

SEVEN SOLDIERS: MISTER MIRACLE #1 gives us an all grown-up Shilo Norman, and so far Grant's been money on this series, so I'm trusting him.


One of the best things in last month's solicits was the long-delayed premiere of THE WINTER MEN, which was first mentioned back before The Losers debuted. #2 comes out in September, and I've kinda got my hopes up for this one.

CITY OF TOMORROW #6 is the final issue of what has been kind of a yawn-inducing Chaykin series so far. Maybe it will finish strong.

DESOLATION JONES #3 Now here's an Ellis project I like. The art has a lot to do with it.

SILENT DRAGON #3 is the latest issue of a series that I'm buying simply because of the good will that writer Andy Diggle has built up with me on The Losers. I hope I'm loving this in September.

BLOODY MARY was the first thing that Garth Ennis wrote that I absolutely hated. I thought it was crude, stupid, and obvious and if I had been blogging when it was first published, I might have given it the rare and not-so-coveted D- rating. That said, it's better than Fury was, and I would have given that an F...but lots of people liked it so your mileage may vary. I warn because I care.

LUCIFER #66 is an all-Kaluta issue! I can't remember the last time I saw anything other than covers by the man who has always been one of my top 5 favorites. Looking forward.

And that's it! Told you there wouldn't be much!

And by the way, here's August's solicits, in case you haven't seen 'em already.
I've seen this article linked to in a couple of different places, but hey- since when has that ever stopped me before?

Female Orgasm: Proof Of God
Science can't explain it, evolution can't understand it and men can only lie there in awe

Paging Grant Morrison...
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In your Spice Girls news for today, it appears that Bob (Professional Humanitarian) Geldof has invited the Girls That Johnny B Loves Beyond All Reason to reunite and participate in the upcoming Live 8 concert. But that darn Scary is being a stick and isn't sure she wants to do it. What a diva. What's she got, a dentist appointment conflict or something? It's not like she has a career or anything that would interfere! This is like a scene from Spice World! Anyway, for the Skinny Spice go here.

In the meantime, to illustrate how the mighty have fallen, I can remember when no less than the reunion of Led Zeppelin was Geldof's he's settling for the Spices.
Good morning!

I haven't hyped the Comic Foundry lately, so here you go: they have a brand new interview up with Robert Venditti, writer of the new Top Shelf ongoing The Surrogates, about getting your comics projects off the ground.

I was sent a CD with a PDF preview of The Surrogates a while back, but never got around to reading the darn thing because it got mislaid. I especially wanted to check out the art of Brett Weldele, whose work I liked on Couscous Express. I'll have to get right on that.

More later, time permitting.

Monday, June 20, 2005

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or, what I bought and what I thought, week of June 15!

A wonderfully nuanced chapter in the ongoing crossover series. For more, see Last Call. A

The first issue was clever, but uneven. This one kinda ups the ante a bit by going away from Garbage Pail Kids-style antics into a real kind of story, complete with evil adversary and terrible trap for not only Jr. but his poppa as well. There was a nice sense of gravity to these proceedings, and that gives me hope that this isn't going to be an Amazing Screw-On Head-style weirdness-fest, but more along the lines of Courtney Crumrin, fantasy-adventure with a gothic vibe for the young and the young at heart. And speaking of Courtney, as always Ted Naifeh does an excellent job of illustrating the proceedings. A

A troubling and serious turn in the life of Deena Pilgrim is the sole focus of this issue, and its ramifications for the rest of this series should be profound. I don't see how Bendis is going to credibly work this out with any sort of happy ending at all. The usual solid dramatics on the title that I believe BMB likes to write. A

Well, if you're going to rehash one of the hoariest cliches in the history of written fiction, that of the "world of evil opposites", then it helps to at least play it for laughs and even refer to it as you go along. All things considered, I'm enjoying this series the farther I go, and even though there's a dark cloud hanging overhead, in the words of the immortal B.J. Thomas, "Those blues they sent to meet me won't defeat me". A-

While nobody's looking, Brian Bendis has crafted a very involving little mini-epic here on his penultimate arc, starting out humbly with the encounter group, but gradually ramping up the madness via supernatural creatures and gothic horror, and even some tense superheroics via a conversation between two of the therapy group participants at the end. Didn't I tell ya about the guy in the cap and shades? Huh? None of this would be half as effective without the moody work of Alex Maleev, it goes without saying. Oops, I just did. A-

Nice to see the title character participating in his own comic again. After what seems like a whole year of farting around, Mike Carey is finally gearing up for what promises to be the epic to end all epic, at least epic insofar as his Lucifer comic goes. This issue we get lots of interesting character interaction and entertaining spins on theological and mythological notions, which is why I got interested in the first I'm pleased for now. A-

A teaser for three upcoming AiT/Planetlar series. For more, see Last Call. B+

It's not easy to put one's finger on why this is such a disappointing conclusion- the characters are still likeable, and on the whole, it's still fun and imaginative. But part of it may be that this too-pat, somewhat cliched and very tidy resolution comes across as more Hollywood sitcom than Bollywood epic, and there's never any real sense of consequence or danger, crucial to the reader's implicit participation in the narrative. And perhaps the genial and light-in-tone, albeit very well done, Philip Bond art (nice cover, especially) should shoulder some of the blame there. Guess all we can do is chalk it up to the mighty stumbling once in a while, and even so, it's more of a letdown than a disaster. This issue: B. Entire series: B+.
Time now for the weekly look into my comics buying future, courtesy of the new Diamond shipping list:


And that be it! That's enough! Anyway, some good stuff coming, including some new Mignola Hellboy and the first Pfiefer/Woods Catwoman.
I have completed my annotated track listing for round two of Lefty's Mixed Bag CD Project, and it's now up over at the LJ. In case you're interested.

I'm hoping to get the CD's done and out real soon.
He will, he will, write you...

The online diary of former Queen guitarist Brian May, updated fairly often and ful of interesting pictures and a lot of astronomy stuff, if that blows your skirt up...
I've been reading several articles like this lately, about how HBO's ratings are slipping, and the one I've linked to even states that Deadwood lost two million viewers from season one to season two!

That's kinda troubling. Of course, it doesn't take into account DVD sales, and it's possible people are waiting for the sets to come out, but two million?

Of course, if I was Lord God of TV, I'd have HBO pick up Dead Like Me...but that's just crazy talk.
Finally, time to put round one of Chris "Lefty" Brown's MIXED BAG CD PROJECT to bed!

In time to begin round two- I've received more than half of the CD's, and haven't listened to any of 'em yet because I'm waiting to finish commenting on round one, and also because I haven't had the opportunity to burn and send out MY round two contribution yet!

Anyway, the last two R1-ers:

MercuryX23's MIX23:

Not to reveal too much right off the bat, but this is one of my favorites of the CD's I received for round one- lots of interesting tracks by interesting bands, many of which I had been curious about in the first place.

The Best: Grant Lee Phillips' "See America" is a great track by a fellow who has one of the best voices in the music biz, in my own humble opinion. The rendition he did of the Carpenters' "We've Only Just Begun", on the If I Were A Carpenter tribute CD, gives me goosebumps and might just end up on a future mix. I was a big fan of his band Grant Lee Buffalo, and his solo career has been just as interesting. That said, I still haven't gotten around to picking up the CD this track comes from, Mobilize... I've also noted where I own the Mercury Rev album from which comes the next cut, "Opus 40", and like it very much. "Opus" is a great glam-via-Brian Wilson cut. The winning streak continues with the string-accented strains of Devotchka's "Queen of the Surface Streets", which kinda gives me an Astral Weeks vibe even though it sounds nothing like Van Morrison. Waterboys, perhaps. I LOVE Built to Spill's "Carry The Zero", a great surging popsong which reminds me of a dozen different groups but no one group in particular. It's very strong and has me wanting to hear more- I've read about these guys for years but have never been moved to investigate. There are cuts on the Arcade Fire's Funeral album I like better than "Neighborhood #3 (Power Out), but this is a good one. The Fire is headed for great things down the road, I think- I like their sound. Elliott Smith, more often as not, leaves me cold but the track here, "A Distorted Reality is Now a Necessity..." isn't too bad. I listened to his swan song release a few times after it came out, and it didn't grab me. I'm not at all familiar with Home, but their "Chicago" is a great, grandiose piano-driven poprock song. Giant Sand is represented with a sloppy, jazz-flavored version of the great Roger Miller's "King of the Road"- not-bad alt-country. Neutral Milk Hotel's "Ghost" is a wonderfully unhinged, distortion-laden song which impresses even though the vocalist sounds like the hated Jackson Browne to my ears. Gotta love that trumpet solo, and the looney theramin-ish synths at the end. Olivia Tremor Control's "Hideaway" doesn't impress at first, but gets good after the Beach Boys-style vocal harmonies and brass section kick in. Whoever came up with the idea of having The Shat (a non-singer if there ever was one) cover "Common People" is a genius- this version is clever and it rocks, too. I haven't heard the rest of his album, but if all the tracks are this much fun, I'll have to check it out. The CD closes on a great note with Spiritualized's "Do It All Over Again", with its infectious melody and its grande finale feel.

The Rest: Cafe Tacuba's Spanish-language "Eres" is tuneful enough, but not particularly compelling. Jamie Cullum's Sinatra-or is that Connick?-esque "Twentysomething" is cute but wears thin after repeated listens. Lotsa marimbas, or synth-marimbas, on Aloha's "They See Rocks", but the tune kinda meanders along and reminds me of some of XTC's less successful attempts at pop-jazz. I really like the last couple of Flaming Lips albums, but their earlier releases, which have a more conventional hard-rock sound, aren't as appealing. The cut represented here, "Lightning Strikes the Postman", has a cool title but the track itself is just a lot of tuneless noise. I don't know what switch flipped on in Wayne Coyne's head before he made Soft Bulletin, but I'm glad it got flipped. I've never really been a Radiohead fan, and "A Wolf at the Door" isn't likely to make me a convert...but it sounds good in the context of the surrounding songs. Good sequencing. I've heard a lot about popsters Grandaddy, but "El Caminos in the West" didn't excite me much. It wasn't terrible, but it reminded me a lot of one of Fountains of Wayne's lesser tracks.

Subjects for Further Research: Oh, boy. Lots. Just about everybody in the "Best" section.

Re-listenability: High. I'll be coming back quite often to this one, especially for the Built To Spill track and the last five.


I think it's safe to deduce, with no less than three tracks represented, that Thom is an Eels fan. Fortunately, I am too.

The Best: "No Milk Today" is a neat track by one of those British Invasion groups that tend to be taken for granted when they're thought of at all, Herman's Hermits. Kinda sounds a little like the Move, or vice versa. I've never really been all that crazy about Nine Inch Nails, but "The Hand That Feeds" rocks agreeably enough. My son was (and still is, to a lesser extent) a HUGE NIN fan, and he happened to hear me listening to this CD in my truck the other day. His eyes got big and he said "Are YOU listening to Nine Inch Nails?". Hee hee. LS Underground's "Baby Flies a Comet" is a lively cut that kinda reminds me of Elvis Costello covering the Stones' "Shattered", with a middle eight that sounds like the Church. Nick Cave's "There She Goes, My Beautiful World" also echoes the Stones with some gospel-influenced en masse chorus vocals. Not bad, but a tad overlong. Cave seems to want to stretch every 3 minute track to at least 5. "Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)" is a great Eels track. The Killers are one of the most hyped groups of recent memory, but somehow I've managed to miss hearing them until now- "All These Things That I've Done" is a clumsy title, but it's an ambitiously-arranged bombastic pop song with promise. The Eels pop up again with a likeable cover of a great Elvis song, "Can't Help Falling". Nice to have a copy of Joey Ramone's poignant cover of "(What a) Wonderful World"; I never got around to picking up that solo album he did. "Blow It Away", by the regrettably named Lassie Foundation, was a not-bad charging rocker.

The Rest: The polka version of a track from my favorite Eels album Daisies of the Galaxy, "Flyswatter", is cute but not exactly my idea of a good time. Cush's "Arching Heart" isn't terrible, but it's kinda plodding and overlong. Not familiar with Damien Jurado and Gathered in Song (cool name, though), and this cut, "Like Titanic" doesn't yank my crank although it has some interesting pop touches. Juliana Theory's "Jewel to Sparkle" fails to do so, sounding to me like run of the mill 90s alternasynthpoprock. White Stripes' "Black Math" certainly thrashes up a fair amount of Sabbath-cacophony, but it's simply to arryhthmical for me to get into. I like the WS's, and that Elephant album, but that's not one of my fave tracks. Green Day, the Official Band of the Mix Bag Project, is represented yet again with "Give Me Novocaine", which I didn't hate but don't like all that much either. I've read a lot of hype for Interpol, but didn't care for this track, "Evil", at all- too much like a harder-edged Cake, and for no good reason. Over The Rhine's "When You Say Love" had a strong 80's vibe- guess it's that stuttering guitar-and-synth lick. problem is, this sort of 80's vibe track leaves me cold. The Choir's "We Give We Take" was fairly strong melodically but not terribly distinctive. A plodding chunka-chunka riff doesn't help the dull, mid-tempo selection by Starflyer, "Not Funny". Again, I was reminded of Fountains of Wayne. There's a fair-to-middling cover of "Black Betty" by someone named Spiderbait- the original was fun but got old real fast and time hasn't improved it or any cover versions. Sounds like something Rob Zombie would stick in one of his crappy horror movies. Not familiar with Pedro the Lion, either, and the last cut, "The Poison", kinda sounds like Beck at his most doleful.

Track 12 didn't get listed, so I have no clue who it is. It's not especially impressive- kinda sounds like more generic 90s poprock.

Re-playability: Moderately low, although there are a couple of tracks I'll come back to now and again.

Whew! I'd do some kind of summing-up of all the discs, but I'm ready to move on. All in all, though, there wasn't a bad disc in the bunch and I got to hear a lot of great music that I probably wouldn't have had the chance to hear otherwise, so it's all good.

I'll get around to round two soon, probably on the LJ. My tracklist for my R2 CD will be up there soon as well.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Just finished watching The Tick, and God, it was good to see it again. The live-action show of a couple of years ago had its moments and wasn't terrible, but it was small beer compared to the wackjob cartoon. It's also nice to have a cool show on Sunday mornings again to bridge the gap between The Sports Reporters and the 12:00 NFL games like I had back in the day, when my cable provider didn't provide a WB network, so the only way I could see the likes of Freakazoid! (another show I miss lots) and the animated Batman and Superman shows was on WGN, which aired WB Kids shows on Sunday morning. It was tons of fun to watch these while I was gearing up for football on Autumn Sundays...and the rest of the year as well. This morning's eppy was one that I didn't recall seeing, either- a Cops-themed show in which a cameraman follows the Tick around as he leaps rooftops and eventually tussles with Pigleg...I mean, the Deadly Bulb. I'm working at the radio station this morning, and I had to read the top-of-the-hour news as the show came on (I'm recording it anyway), and right before I started the Tick came off with a "Honk if you love justice, Arthur!" which made it very difficult to keep a straight face as I tried to relate the story about a high-speed car chase which occurred on I-65 yesterday afternoon. I'm so glad to have that show back on- wish they would show it every day instead of Sunday morning. Happy Father's Day to me from ABC Family!

Oh, and Happy Father's Day to all of you out there who are of the fatherly persuasion.

While I'm at it, and speaking of fatherhood, my son has a subscription to Entertainment Weekly, which comes to our address even though he lives somewhere else, and I"ve been checking out the latest issue and its goodly-sized "Must List" section, which had a nice look at the cast of Serenity and the women of Deadwood...and also cited, right there at #93, that Larry Young fella, my erstwhile afternoon dining companion! Congrats to Mr. Young for the listing. He had mentioned to me when we met that he had made the list and that he and Mimi were considering attending the soiree that EW was hosting in NYC, but I thought I should hold off throwing the congrats out until it actually saw print. I'm funny like that. Three Larry Young mentions in one week!

I've also been listening fairly regularly to the new White Stripes CD, courtesy of Stupid Llama Mik, and am liking it with reservations, like I did Elephant. I'm happy to see that Jack White is diversifying his aural portfolio with some folk, R&B and country textures to go along with the punk and blues, and while this might alienate the DeStihl adherents out there to me it shows that Mr. White will be a force to be reckoned with for quite some time. Favorite cuts so far include the throbbing opener, "Blue Orchid", the countryish "Little Ghost", and the almost-funky "Denial Twist". "The Nurse", with it's marimba-like sounds and jerky beat, reminds me a little of Captain Beefheart. It's a very interesting set of songs, and I have a feeling it will be growing on me.

OK, that's all I got for now.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

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Happy Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings to Sir PAUL McCARTNEY, formerly of the Wings pop group among others, who turns a fab gear and groovy 63 years old today.

As I did for George back in February, here's a list of some of my favorite Maccasongs. I'm going to list solo work only, because there's just so darn much of it and also many of Paul's best songs were written with major contributions from that other fella in the Beatles, and vice versa.

EVERY NIGHT from McCartney
JUNK from McCartney
MAYBE I'M AMAZED from McCartney
OH WOMAN OH WHY (B-side of "Another Day", 1971)
RAM ON I & II from Ram
TOMORROW from Wild Life
MARY HAD A LITTLE LAMB (single A-side, 1972)
HI,HI,HI (single A-side, 1972)
JET from Band on the Run
PICASSO'S LAST WORDS from Band on the Run
JUNIOR'S FARM (single A-side, 1974)
SALLY G (single B-side, 1974)
ROCK SHOW from Venus and Mars (are Alright Tonight)
LISTEN TO WHAT THE MAN SAID from from Venus and Mars (are Alright Tonight)
SHE'S MY BABY from Wings at the Speed of Sound
LONDON TOWN from London Town
I'M CARRYING from London Town
GETTING CLOSER from Back to the Egg
SPIN IT ON from Back to the Egg
TAKE IT AWAY from Tug of War
PIPES OF PEACE from Pipes of Peace
ONLY LOVE REMAINS from Press to Play
OFF THE GROUND from Off the Ground
FLAMING PIE from Flaming Pie
SPINNING ON AN AXIS from Driving Rain
HEATHER from Driving Rain

The great twenty-eight! Heh.
I forgot to note that yesterday would have been the 78th birthday of the great Wallace Wood. He was born the same year as my late father. How 'bout that.

Honestly, I didn't know much about Wood's art until the mid 70's, when he did a number of inking and pencilling jobs for DC. Impressed by the compact preciseness of his line, and his *ahem* skill at drawing ze ladies, I did some digging (i.e. asked my bud Dave Puckett) and soon found out more about his great contributions to the industry. His Mad stuff (see below) is especially wild.

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All of which eventually led me to join Wood's revenue raiser/fan club, the "Friends of Odkin", and also to send him a letter asking if he'd be interested in critiquing my art. For the response, and my only interaction with Mr. Wood, I point you to this post.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Well, one thing I know I can still do here is hype stuff that I think looks cool, and at right we have the latest such something, Viper Comics' THE MIDDLE MAN, which is written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach (now there's a name for ya), drawn by Les McClaine, and is scheduled to come out beginning next month. I first noticed the Newsarama piece on the series that appeared today, then followed the link to the Viper site to see more. Grillo's getting most of the hype because of his current position as writer and supervising producer of ABC's Lost, but it's McClaine's sharp artwork that has caught my eye.

I'm not sure if I've signed up for this at the comics shop or not; guess I'll have to check this Wednesday and see. The way my luck goes they won't have ordered any, and will send to Nashville to see if they have any copies, and I'll add it to my holds anyway and get issue #2, and track down #1 on eBay months later. As the smart lady once said, "...and so it goes"... I still haven't seen a single issue of Temporary. And yeah, I know, I can order them anytime online, but postage & handling is killer. All right, I'm done now.

Oh. Yeah. Click on the covers- they get BIGGER! Ooh!
Hello! Just wanted to let you know that my first regular column, and the next step in my Master Plan For World Domination(TM) - "Last Call With Johnny Bacardi"- for Comic Book Galaxy is up and running, and there I've reviewed Black Diamond: On Ramp, Seven Soldiers: Klarion, Two Sisters, and repeats of True Story, Swear To God: This One Goes to Eleven and Strange Girl, slightly modified from their appearances here. I wanted to write about everything I bought yesterday, but simply ran out of clock so I'll most likely do the rest of them here, if that's OK with youse. I plan to do this every Friday, so check it out, yo! Alan David Doane has designed me a spiffy logo and everything.

But what does that mean for the future of the Show, you may ask? Well, I don't really know for sure. I'm not ready to stop, but I am somewhat infatuated with my new sandbox right now, so maybe there will be less comics stuff (I'll still link to the reviews I write, though, like this earlier review of Foul Play!The Art and Artists of the Notorious 1950s E.C. Comics!, which was up on Tuesday) and more of the stuff that has been kinda placed on the back burner since I have been welcomed into the warm and slightly sweaty embrace of the Comics Blogosphereiverse, like movies, sports and music.

All I can say is that I hope you keep checking back from time to time, just in case I post something worthwhile.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

OK, my image host is now cooperating so it's time for a special Bacardi Show Birthday Greeting to the legendary NEAL ADAMS, who turns 64 today.

Impossible to describe how much I was blown away by Adams' at-the-time groundbreaking art, when I first encountered it in the pages of The Spectre, and a bit later on X-Men. It was so utterly different to anything I had encountered before- more realistic, more vital. Of course, time and legions of imitators have dulled his impact, but I wanted to recognize the day anyway- and here's a gallery of covers he did that made an impact on me back in the day. Click on the pics to see 'em bigger:

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFound myself awake in the wee hours this morning, and as sometimes happens, I caught all but the first few minutes of an engrossing and thought-provoking film: Last Night, an indie film out of Canada which starred the sigh-inducing Sandra Oh and a host of others, including Sarah Polley and David Cronenberg in small roles.

Night was written in response to a Toronto film competition in which filmmakers were invited to do a story dealing with the upcoming millennium. Actor/director/scriptwriter Don McKellar instead decided to make a movie which dealt with not only the end of the millennium but the end of the world itself as well, and its effect on not only the city of Toronto, but a specific group of people and how they spent their last few hours. Many indulge in pleasures of the flesh, as you can imagine; others choose to spend it with family and friends, reminiscing. Oh's character is a young married woman who is trying to get back to her home across town so she can fulfill a suicide pact that she made with her husband...but she's attacked and her car is wrecked, and she must find a way to get across town before midnight. She encounters a young man (McKellar) who has just endured the loss of his girlfriend and simply wants to meet the end alone, with wine and music. He's willing to help her find another car, but that's all he wants. Another man, a friend of McKellar's character, has been striving for the previous two months to indulge himself in every kind of sex that he's ever wanted and most of the laughs in the film come from his quest. Of course, most of the main characters encounter each other in some fashion, but it's always believable and not contrived.

Unlike many end-of-the-world-scenario flicks, there's no action sequences or special-effects laden set pieces; it's a studied, thoughtful approach throughout. The film is a tad slow sometimes because of it, but fortunately there's enough humor and plot twists to keep one's interest. I found it fascinating all the way up to the end, and there's a scene to finish the film that is very powerful, between McKellar and Oh on the roof of his apartment using that rotating camera-type shot that's been used to death since, but it's used to great effect here. '

If you should happen to catch this film some night or see it on Netflix, take a chance. You'll be surprised, I think. And even if you're not, there's plenty of Sandra Oh!

Monday, June 13, 2005

There's just something about James Kochalka's quirky, naughty childlike humor and art that's real hard to dislike. Sure, it's a bit precious and more than a little woozy sometimes, kinda like comics' answer to Emo Phillips...but when he's on, he can scale some very tall heights of straightfaced absurdity, and that's always a good thing as far as I'm concerned. I recently received a triple shot of Kochalka-ness, and I will now proceed to tell you all about 'em.

First up, Superf*ckers, one of the most wicked funny superhero not-quite-parodies I've ever encountered. I say not quite because Kochalka's having fun with superheroes here instead of merely making fun and trying to convince us he's too cool for the room. It's a fine-line difference, but it's a difference just the same. I never get a feeling of mean-spiritedness from Kochalka; to him his characters are all as interesting as he can make them no matter how big of jerks they may be. He gives us a group of dysfunctional slacker super-people, with all their attendant neuroses and psychoses, kinda like a naughtier and smarter X-Statix or Legion, in a story which is really one long running gag with multiple storylines converging at the big Wednesday Team Tryout, where super-guys and gals hope to impress the S*F's enough to be allowed to join. I had a large time reading Superf*ckers; and if you like to see the spandex set sent up but not torn apart, or are a Kochalka fan in the first place, you'll love this, I think. It's better than anything that saw print in Project: Superior, even Bryan O'Malley's great story. First thing I thought when I put it down was "Man- they oughtta let Kochalka write JLA. I'd buy it!" A

Top Shelf has rereleased the trade of the first Monkey Vs. Robot series, in a smaller size and with a new cover, and it's as much fun as the sequel, Crystal of Power. Fun and imaginative, yes, but there's also a sober little message at its base about overcoming differences and such. Still, though, it's monkeys! Fighting robots! What more could you ask? A

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usWhat more, you say? How about a music soundtrack? All-around renaissance guy Kochalka is also a working musician, and Rykodisc has just released a new best-of CD of songs by his band James Kochalka Superstar titled Our Most Beloved, and it's definitely an extension of his quirky illustration work. With titles like "Twinkle Twinkle Ringo Starr" and "Neigh-Neigh & Woo-Woo", the JKS come across like Wild Man Fischer fronting Alien Ant Farm, or Space Ghost's Musical Barbecue. It's a hoot and a half, and while it's best listened to in short stretches, everybody out there in search of a laff or three should consider checking this out.
I should be writing my "real" reviews, but instead I'll waste more time by posting what I'll be getting this week according to the new Diamond shipping list:


Just in case you were wondering.

I might put back the Batman book- it's depressing.

Also, I may have signed up for the SCOTT PILGRIM VS THE WORLD VOL. 2 GN, but I'm not sure. Rest assured, though, that I will get it sooner rather than later.
My little town of Horse Cave has had celebrities in its midst today, and didn't even know about it!

About 3:30 this afternoon, I was at the radio station doing my pre-recorded voice tracks when I happened to check my email before I left, and saw an email from Mimi Rosenheim, aka Larry Young's better half. Its subject was LARRY YOUNG IN HORSE CAVE and it said that he and his wife were indeed in this little quaint backwoods hamlet, and would like to meet ME! At first, I thought it was spam or someone was pulling my leg. I mean, he lives in San Francisco- why the heck would he be in Kentucky? Then I thought maybe I should call the number anyway, and went home to tell Mrs. B so we could get the house (in a real state of disarray- we're gearing up for some remodeling) ready to have them over if they wanted. However, before I could discuss it much more, I received a phone call, and it was indeed the esteemed Mr. Young! They were in the area on some business of a personal nature, and had been visiting some of the area attractions like Mammoth Cave. So we decided to get together at a nearby Cracker Barrel, and it was there that the Summit For The Ages took place. We had a great conversation that was only too brief, about a multitude of topics, and all I can say is that they're both great people, every bit as cool as you'd expect from the publishers of AiT/PlanetLar books, and I had a wonderful time. That, and I hope I didn't come across as sounding like a jerk...

Many thanks to Larry and Mimi for looking me up, and for the soda. Dry county here, y'know. Hope we can do it again someday!
Just wanted to take a minute and let you know that The NEW Comic Book Galaxy site is up and running.

Alan David Doane has rededicated him self to the whole thing, and has recruited an impressive group of reviewers and columninsts, such as the mighty mighty Jog and Battlin' Bill Sherman.

And then there's one other person. L'il ol' me.

Yep, Don Vito Doane offered and I couldn't refuse, so even though I feel like Little Nemo swimming in a river full of intellectual piranhas, I have chosen to contribute the odd review, as often as possible, beginning with a look at Foul Play!, the recent E.C. comics retrospective. Chances are you'll see situations where, when I review some books, I'll link to what I wrote over there instead of putting it in full over here. I'd like to try and do a column, but lately I just haven't been able to get into a regular writing groove, it seems. Ya never know, though...if I can think of something that isn't too derivative of what everybody else is doing, in short, have a different take- which is all-important to me. In the meantime, all I can do is, as always, try not to suck.

Anyways, there's a great new contest sponsored by Larry Young and AiT/PlanetLar (and that's my...LARRY YOUNG MENTION OF THE WEEK!), a nice intro by Mark Millar, and several new columns already up. So what are you waiting for? Go! Then come back later, before the day is over I plan to have some James Kochalka-related stuff up.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

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or, what I bought and what I thought, week of June 10!

Three quarters of this is a fairly routine, if still interesting because of the emotional involvement those of us who have been reading for a while have with the characters, tale of corrupt cops out on the streets and the death of a teenage street kid. Then, it abruptly shifts gears and becomes something out of E.C. Comics, a horrific revenge tale featuring a resolution which comes out of the blue but is no less effective because it's surprising- and surprisingly well done. Really nice job on art by Steve Lieber, which certainly atones for a less-than-stellar job on Detective a few years ago, probably the inker's fault anyway. A-

Boy Blue, aka the Black Knight, finally gets to confront and kill the Big Bad...or does he? The reveal at the end is fairly obvious to anyone who's read an adventure story or seen a movie in the last, oh, 50 years...but it gets by thanks to, and I can't believe these words I type, a super great job of staging these events by illustrators Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha, who have really stepped up the creativity in recent months. And despite the predictability of the ending, there's still a nice surprise immediately before, and I don't really have any idea where this is going next. A-

Well, in typical Joe Kelly fashion, the climax of the 12-issue storyline makes very little sense, but in typical Johnny Bacardi fashion I'm willing to overlook it because he's done such a great job with the characterizations of not only his Elite but the Justice League as well, who make appearances here and there in this one. While Kelly will, it seems, always be too clever for his (and the reader's) own good, he knows how to do gritty without getting carried away with the grim- and if we have to have these less-than-noble heroes, then I much prefer the cynical barbs of his charges than the cynical bullets of his peers. And the Mahnke/Nguyen art is, as always, real damned good. This issue and entire series:A-

I can't remember too many comics in my experience, anyway, that use the Rapture as a springboard to their ongoing here's to novelty! And it looks like an intriguing and promising setup, as well, if writer Rick Remender can keep a fairly consistent tone in subsequent issues. He's got a charismatic and likeable title character, a left-behind young goth girl named Beth who ends up as a cocktail waitress in a demon bar, and the apparent pupil and favorite of a very big demon named Belial, whom he writes with the requisite cynicism, but a hint of something more. Anyway, we shall see. On art, we get a fellow named Eric Nguyen, with whose work I'm totally unfamiliar with but looks like, at first glance, a collaboration between Jill Thompson and Duncan Fregredo after a fifth of tequila. Each. It's way too sketchy and busy, and the often-garish coloring doesn't help, but in its convoluted way it has a certain energy and is likeable in spite of itself. Kinda like the heroine. A good beginning, I think. B+

Three down, three to go on what has to be the most disheartening comics revival ever, featuring Steve Englehart at his most stiff and heavy-handed and Marshall Rogers, apparently immobile under several years' worth of rust, with Terry Austin unable to provide the oil can he needs. Almost nothing works here- romance, action, even bringing back some super-obscure baddie- usually an Englehart strong suit. Everything just lies there flat on the page, staring at you like a dead, smelly Joker-fish. He still has a certain flair for writing the Joker, though, which makes me think that perhaps he would have been better suited not revisiting past glories, but doing an all-new Joker series with a different artist. Aaah, we'll never know, will we? C
Without a word as to why I haven't updated since Wednesday, here's PART 5 of MIXED BAG CD PROJECT REVIEWS!


The Best: This one gets off to a great start with ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead's "Will You Smile Again?", which manages to be melodically strong and bombastic at the same time. That's a band I've been curious about, and if this is indicative of their output I'll have to hear more sometime. Queens of the Stone Age's "Burn the Witch" is next- I used to like Kyuss OK, and I've always usually liked what I heard from the Queens as well...which doesn't explain why I don't own any of their records, but there ya go. "Witch" reminds me a bit of the style of Masters of Reality's Chris Goss, who has worked with both the Q's and Kyuss in the past- and in fact, his name is in the credits for the album that this comes from, Lullabies To Paralyze. I'm not all that familiar with Monster Magnet, except by name, but "Unbroken (Hotel Baby)" is a great churning rocker. Desert Sessions' "I Wanna Make It Wit'chu" is another great hard-edged Stonesy rocksong. I've never heard these guys before, but I'd like to hear more. Supergrass is a band that I've always thought I'd like after reading lots of praise for them, but the few songs I've heard in the past haven't impressed. "Brecon Beacon", though, with its ska-ish rhythm and short running time, is a nice, driving tune. Tomahawk, one of the multitudes of Mike Patton supergroup projects after Faith No More, is represented with a somewhat interesting cut titled "Harelip" which sounds like lounge music from hell- and also makes me curious about what the rest sounds like. Eagles of Death Metal's "Speaking in Tongues" also boogies along agreeably, reminding me a little of My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult or the Tubes. Elastica's "How He Wrote Elastica Man" is fast and loose, with that Farfisa organ/synth sound percolating along at its base. Short and sweet, just how I like bands like that. Burden Brothers' "You're So God Damn Beautiful" is a great churning rocker with an even greater title- who says country music gets all the good song titles? Finally, it was cool to hear a cut from Too Much Joy- I saw them open for the Royal Crescent Mob back in 1991 or so, and liked them a lot. However, I never got around to picking up any of their albums- why I don't know. They were an underrated bunch of smartasses.

The Rest: Never really worked up much of a taste for the heavy Berlinisms of Garbage. I've always liked the idea of Reverend Horton Heat and band than the actual execution, which never raises as much hell as his name would imply. Bill Hicks is usually always funny, and his "Rush Limbaugh" is no exception, but that said I don't always care to listen to spoken word comedy recordings more than once or twice. Other than "Clint Eastwood", everything that has been released under the Gorillaz aegis has bored me silly, and "New Genius (Brother)" doesn't deviate from that. I've never really been a big Nick Cave fan, but "The Curse of Millhaven" is pretty good- just overlong. Wish he could have reined it in at about 4:30 or so.

Subjects for further research: Several. Trail of Dead, Monster Magnet, Tomahawk, and of course the Queens.

Re-listenability: High, at least until I get some more music by some of these bands. Good job, Mr. Fuckwood!


The Best: Spoon's "Stay Don't Go" bops along agreeably. The New Pornographers' "The Body Says No" starts out in Springsteen territory, but kicks in about 52 seconds in to give us a track which sounds like a collaboration between the Boss, Ian Hunter and Sparks. Rocking, if not particularly tuneful. I've always liked the energy and high spirits of the Mooney Suzuki, and "Everything Gone Wrong" is a good example of what they do. I usually like whatever Ryan Adams puts out there, and while "1974" crashes and bashes a little more than I usually like from him, it's still an interesting throwaway with a nifty little acoustic ending. There's just something about that year, 1974. Enter the Haggis' "Another Round" is an enjoyable Beatles-meets-the Pogues romp. G Love and Special Sauce is a group that I generally like when I hear them, even though I don't own any of their music, and their Dylanish "Gimme Some Lovin'" goes down smooth. My Morning Jacket, who hail from my part of the woods in Louisville, KY, are represented with the low-fi but melodically strong "Sooner". I can say the same thing about the next cut, Iron and Wine's "Such Great Heights"- at least the production is less muddy. Ryan Adams pops up again, this time with his erstwhile group affiliation, Whiskeytown, on the Pneumonia cut "Jacksonville Skyline", a somber, nostalgic reminisce about his childhood.

The Rest: Thought OK Go's "Get Over It" was, well, OK. Think Gwen Stefani stole the beat for "Hollaback Girl"? Black Rebel Motorcycle Club's "In Like the Rose" reminded me a bit of the Church- doleful, rhythmic mope-rock for people who like to dress all in black. OK as far as it goes, but I generally don't get too excited about it. I'm sure that people who queue up to see the International Noise Conspiracy get to have a large time moshing like fiends during "Smash It Up", but that doesn't mean I necessarily want to listen to it in my living room. Same goes for Rock and Roll Soldiers' "Funny Little Feeling". I've always liked the name of the Sea and Cake, but their "Soft and Sleep" doesn't leave much of an impression. Jet's "Move On" is a reheated Allmans/Stones/Faces souffle, not terrible by any stretch but not the freshest thing on the buffet table. Cake gets the finale with the doubletime acoustic TMBG-like "End of the Movie". Appropriate as the closing track on a mix cd, but a little lacking as a standalone song.

Subjects for further research: Spoon (the Tick's favorite group?), and I keep meaning to pick up some My Morning Jacket albums someday. I'd like to hear more Black rebel Motorcycle Club, to see if this track was typical of their output.

Re-listenability: Moderately high- this starts off strong, but kinda peters out towards the end despite some good tracks. Some of the more sedate tracks could perhaps have been placed in different positions, mixing the ratio of slow-and-fast up a bit better.

Fred Hembeck's HEMBECK MIX 2005 2

Fred and I had exchanged mixes prior to The Project, so I already had the CD that he sent to most of the other Project participants. Problem is, I didn't know this- my disc had the track list for mix 1 on the front, so, thinking I had already heard it several months ago, I waited until the end to listen to it (except for a bonus disc he had enclosed, a collection of oddball covers by Andy Williams), whereupon I discovered that tricky Freddy had thrown me a curve worthy of Tom Glavine- he sent me a second mix, completely different than those I already had, and different from the enclosed tracklist! So, undaunted, I plunge ahead with the commentary but with this disclaimer: I'm not sure who all these musicians are, although I know most of them, and I haven't listened to this CD as much as I have the others. So with that in mind, here goes:

The Best: My disc leads off with one of my absolute favorite tracks by one of my absolute favorite groups: Mott The Hoople, with their US flop single (but no less great song) "All the Way to Memphis", with honking, squealing sax solo courtesy of Roxy Music's Andrew Mackay. From 1973's Mott, one of the three anybody curious about MTH should own. The serene sounds of Linda Thompson's voice, augmented by Richard Thompson's Fender guitar, comes via "Did She Jump or Was She Pushed", a painfully frank track from their justly praised but often difficult to listen to "Shoot Out The Lights" album. Breakup records always fall in the category of "Uneasy Listening". I've always loved 10cc (at least until 1979 or so), and their 50's sendup "Johnny Don't Do It" is a delight. Bing Crosby's "Pistol Packin' Mama" is a lot of fun. The Beach Boys contribute their trademark supernatural harmonies to a 50's doowop cover called "Hushabye" from 1964's All Summer Long. It is, of course, great. Next up is the Fab Four, no slouch with the harmonies themselves, on a cover of "Words of Love" by the late great Buddy Holly, from Beatles For Sale. The Traveling Wilburys' "End of the Line" is a great track from what I've always considered a minor masterpiece of a record. The disc finishes with a selection from The Kinks Album I Don't Have, Arthur, called "Shangri-La". It's great, and I gotta get that one one of these days...!

Mystery Songs: Track 2 is some cool, funny 20's jump jazz track, by musicians unknown to me. Then a doo-wop track, nicely melodic but again, I don't know who it is or what it's called. Track 9 sounds very familiar, like CSNY or at least Steve Stills solo, but I don't think it is. I'm stumped, and I'm sure I'll smack my forehead if I ever find out who it is. Track 11 is sung like a Native American chant set to pop music, and I'm clueless about this as well. Track 12 is a 25 second cut with a girl strumming on an acoustic guitar singing la la la. No idea. Track 17 has a tick-tock rhythm track, 80's production values and a female vocalist that sounds a little like Pat Benatar, but it's not her. Not a bad cut, but not one that grabs me where I feel it either. I'm equally lost on track 19, a popsong of recent vintage that sounds very familiar.

The Rest: I like Elvis Costello, but his reggae-fied "Watching The Detectives" always loses me a couple of minutes in. There's just something about that reggae sound that doesn't push the right buttons in my brain. Neil Young's "Down By the River", with its classic one-note guitar solo, is a great song that suffers only from overfamiliarity. I love Jimi Hendrix, and I love Bob Dylan, but for some reason I've never been all that crazy about "All Along the Watchtower". Heresy, I know... I think it's the clumsy, whiteboy beat that Mitch Mitchell provides that keeps me from embracing it. Radio wore me out on Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants to Rule the World", and while I don't really hate it, I don't love it all that much either. Reminds me too much of the 80s and what I was doing then. Which was a whole bunch of nothing. That and Dennis Miller's HBO Show. Track 18 is Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" quite the departure for them, especially back then, and while I don't hate this song (in fact, it's one of the few GD songs I can stand to listen to more than once) I don't love it all that much either. Man, I must be the only person in the Project that doesn't dig Green Day!

Re-playability: Moderately low. Much to like here, but most that I like I already have. Still, I'll definitely pop it in upon occasion for the 10cc track, which I don't have, and the Richard & Linda Thompson cut, which I don't have on CD.

That's all for now, 2 more to go!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usOne of my favorite pages from We3, which I hope you all bought when it came out in trade last week (if you haven't bought the floppies already). The news , via Heidi McD, that New Line Cinema is developing this excellent story for theatres is as good an excuse as any to post this picture. And also tell you that this news fills me with equal measures fear, dread, and anticipation. You'd think that not even Hollywood scriptwriters and producers could fail to understand one of Morrison's most straightforward narratives like in the history of ever, but these are Hollywood scriptwriters and producers we're talking about, so who the heck knows. If the CGI are decent, I give it a chance, though.

Click on the pic to see it all big-like. Kinda reminds me of when our sweet little kitty, "Satan Cat" (aka Dino), decides to jump on you from on top of something for no good reason except he's just mean like that.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Andy Diggle's exclusive deal with DC Comics ran out last week, will be working with Marvel shortly.

From the brand-spankin' new Lying in the Gutters column.

Wonder how much longer Losers has left?

Update: For more on this, go to Fanboy Rampage. Diggle is disputing this report.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Because I care, I now present you with the list of what I'll be getting this week, comics-wise, courtesy the new Diamond shipping list.


And that, as they say, is that.


Now, that's hardly fair- I had no preconceptions whatsoever.

Highlights: "P Control" from Prince, the funny and funky lead cut from his (in my opinion, anyway) last worthwhile album The Gold Experience. Steve Earle gets represented twice, once on his own and once in a duet with Lucinda Williams. Earle is a big fave of mine, and these two cuts are great, especially the winning duet. The Pogues cut, "Streets of Whiskey", good stuff from early on; and an interesting cut from someone named John Legend- "Let's Get Lifted" is a smooth old-school soul ballad, very nice. Two cuts from the Indigo Girls- I like the Girls, but was less than impressed with the album from whence these two came, All That You Let In. Of the two, I liked "Tether" best. Good PJ Harvey cut from what I feel to be her best, To Bring You My Love.

Subjects for further research- Legend. Always interested in a soul singer with a take.

No harm, no foul: Not one, not two but three Marillion songs- I find this group to be kinda Prog-lite, a little bland but not terrible. I'm not an ABBA hata, but "When All is Said and Done" isn't a song I'd put on a best-of. The Streetwalkin' Cheetahs tune was energetic but not particularly memorable.

The rest: The Geto Boys song was amusing, but I don't really have any desire to listen again. I wasn't too impressed with the Magnetic Fields or Liquid Jesus.

Re-listenability: Moderately low. I already own most of my fave cuts on this one, but I will most likely want to hear the John Legend song again once in a while.

Sorry, only time for one right now. Five more to go! And then round two begins and I'm gonna have to 1.) come up with the money to get mine burned and sent out, and 2) come up with a quicker way to write about them!

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Comics reviews are below, go on, check 'em out. They're short and mostly not so sweet. But I wanted to also pass on this little heads up:

Sequential Tart has certainly taken its share of knocks lately; some deserved, some not so. But the newest "edition" is online now, and features an interview (and you know that interviews don't always excite me all that much) with D. Curtis Johnson, who co-created Chase with J.H. Williams III. And you all know how much I loved Chase, or if you don't well you should. So go here and check it out, then come back and read the reviews, m'kay?

Johnson also talks up the upcoming Moon Shine, an interesting-sounding project coming from AiT/PlanetLar. Which is my Larry Young Mention of the Week.
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or, what I bought and what I thought, week of June 3!

Guess you already know that I liked this one, huh! With needling Alan Moore out of his system, everything Grant failed to do last issue comes through in fine fashion this time out. Zatanna's confrontation with the "Shapeless One", her new refugee-from-The Craft-like "apprentice" (who amusingly has "run away to join the superheroes", as opposed to running away to join the circus, I suppose) and the clever use of her unproven abilities (love the use of the dice), and the update of Cassandra Craft are all very well done, with wit and spark. Artists Ryan Sook and Mick Gray add a lot with their imaginative use of Easter-egg-like depictions of the SO, especially when he manifests himself in the shapes of letters in a book, and the interior of Craft's magic shop. I only wish that they had chosen to draw the Phantom Stranger in a trenchcoat instead of the 70s turtleneck-cape-and-medallion look. A

David Lapham eschews the "villain-of-the-month" and weird science approach this time, just like I hoped he would, and this is better for it, but this issue's Eisnerian urban drama just didn't have much life in it, despite the somewhat unexpected ending. Bachs and Massengill do a fine job on the art, reminding me often of Phil Winslade's Monolith work. The backfeature is a routine story of Young Alfred, which Jeff Parker does his best to enliven with his art and darned if he doesn't almost succeed. B-

The excellent Frank Cho art, especially on the statuesque title character, remains the only reason that this is remotely enjoyable. And thankfully, the lead male character only gets off one "Holy buckets" this time around. C+

Everything gets resolved quite tidily in the finale of one of the most disappointing series I've read so far this year. Chadwick the writer comes up with one really interesting twist- Concrete's baby- and one unexpected and well-done sex scene, and weighs down everything else with talk, talk, talk, and dryly earnest lecturing. And Chadwick the artist does him no favors; much of this is clumsily rendered and staged, and more often as not he looks like he's drawing with the opposite hand. Just because your character seems to be made of stone doesn't mean that your stories have to be fossilized as well. This issue: C. Entire series: C-.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usAs I'm sure most of you are aware, Monday was Memorial Day. Hope you had a happy (or at the very least reverent or family-bonding-ish, or whatever) one. So, naturally, the week's comics shipment was scheduled to arrive in shops on Thursday instead of Wednesday. But- my shop got short-shipped, which meant several titles were no-shows yesterday and I was advised to wait until Friday to get my four-color fix. Many thanks to Mik Cary for the heads-up (and also, in the spirit of credit where credit is due, he was the one which brought the great news about the Animated Tick to my attention as well). So anyway, I went and got my new comics today, and to be perfectly honest, they weren't an especially inspiring bunch. Out of the four I got (which I listed a few days ago), the best by far was issue 2 of Seven Soldiers: Zatanna, which featured a surprise return by a character that I had thought long forgotten (and if she's appeared more than once or twice since 1975, it's news to me): -and HERE BE SPOILERS SO STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE SPOILED - Cassandra Craft, the blind psychic girlfriend that Len Wein gave the Phantom Stranger back when he was writing his book back in the mid-70's! And lookin' GOOD as drawn by Ryan Sook and Mick Gray. Nicely updated, with long, straight pale blonde hair and a clever nod to her former attire, a chartreuse bellbottomed jumpsuit which not only Jim Aparo but Fred Carillo (who drew the later issue in which she and the Stranger reunited, #35) chose to render her in as if she had 100 pair of those one-piecers in her closet and nothing else along with a spiffy new (again, to me) magic shop which I think she must have leased from Madame Xanadu. You see, and you'll know this if you recall how much time I spent posting the images from PS's backup feature (and eventual Seventh Soldier) Spawn of Frankenstein, that I was and am a fan of the Phantom Stranger character, and that Wein/Aparo run in particular, so I was geeked to see Cass make a comeback. And then at the end, -and again, HERE BE SPOILERS SO STOP READING NOW IF YOU DON'T WANT TO BE SPOILED - The Stranger himself shows up, just like I was hoping fervently that he would! And as he is prone to do, he gives a somewhat long-winded speech (nicely written by Grant, with just the right amount of Wein-style pomposity) and then follows it up with a great, mood-deflating joke, just like no one has EVER let the Stranger do! I'm tellin' ya, it SLAYED me! MAJOR props to Grant Morrison.

I didn't really set out to write a review as such, that comes later, but I just wanted to share. Hope I didn't spoil it for anybody.

I also wish that I'd been more aware that Alex De Campi & Igor Kordey's Smoke came out yesterday as well; the $7 price tag is daunting but I would have liked to have looked it over, maybe to pick up the presumed forthcoming trade. I didn't notice a copy on my shop's wall rack, though, and I'm not sure I would have noticed it if they did. That one's my bad, I guess, but it's also entirely possible that they didn't order it. I really like Kordey's work, so I hope to see it eventually. Also spent a couple of minutes skimming the We3 trade; you know, I'll bet it reads even better collected, or at least that's the post-skim impression I had.

Other recent acquisitions I intend to write about eventually: the first Dark Horse hardcover reprint edition of the Gold Key/Russ Manning Magnus, Robot Fighter (many thanks to John Jakala, my enabler), which I used to read a lot as a child but haven't seen in quite a while- and while those old tales don't give me quite the sense of wonder as an adult that I remember as a child, they're still solid, old-school comics and an entertaining read. And brother, that Manning art is smooth. I also got the copy of Adventures of Bob Hope #101 that I won on eBay was in fine shape (paper was a bit yellowed but it was tight and not rusty staples or corner wear or tears of any kind) and I'm very pleased. Haven't read it all the way through yet.

In non-comics related notes, I finally took the plunge and spent an extra $6 to get a copy of Maria Muldaur's 2000 release Richland Woman Blues, which is about 95% more bluesy that anything I've heard from her previously, full of tributes and collaborations with some legendary blues artists. I've been curious about this one for a long time, in fact, it's the first Muldaur album I've owned since 1979's compromised and bland Open Your Eyes.

I've also made a habit of watching Samurai Champloo, one of the newest anime to be featured on Cartoon Network's Saturday night anime block. As with so much anime, I have to grimace sometimes at the tone of the translations, full of modern slang expressions, but that may be the point to it- it's definitely trying to be a round peg in a room full of square anime holes with its eccentric music and offbeat characters. In fact, it's the interaction between the three principals that keeps my interest- I'm not sure where it's going and I like them enough to care, especially the tall samurai (named Jin) with the anachronistic glasses (how do they stay on his face when he does his lightning-fast moves?), who has a calm demeanor and a desert-dry wit. I seem to recall reading somewhere that the same people responsible for Cowboy Bebop, which I've also been interested in on-and-off-again, are behind this as well, and it shows.

All right, that's all for now. I've got a lot of writin' to do this weekend, so stay tuned!