Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Yeah, I suck. I should have reviews up by now, and I have finished all my books I got on Friday (even went and bought a back issue of Manhunter today, #6). Feareth not- I will get them posted (hopefully) tomorrow. Among the examined will be Hatter M: The Looking Glass Wars, War of the Worlds: Second Wave, Death Valley #2, Loveless #4, Daredevil #82, Catwoman #52, F.Paul Wilson's The Keep #4, and others. I did do a half dozen reviews, which shall (again, hopefully- don't know when for sure) appear in my first Buzzscope review column, cleverly titled Johnny B's New Comics Revue- when (if?)it appears. I'll post them here as well, but I'd like for them to go up first there.

A few things have caught my eye as I've passively surfed the ol' Interweb lately, and here are a few of them:

Alan David Doane's frank and forthright analysis of the Speakeasy fiasco. The first Speakeasy book I bought was also, apparently, my last: Flying Friar. Rocketo looked interesting, but like many others, I didn't see it in my LCS. I may look for a trade eventually. I don't feel too much remorse over the news; of course, it's too bad and a shame they couldn't make a go of it...but these days more than ever it's survival of the fittest, and apparently Speakeasy wasn't fit enough. IMO, they failed the same way Crossgen and others have failed: they didn't give us anything we weren't already getting somewhere else. Hopefully, the creators involved will be able to find outlets for their talents elsewhere to make up the difference; they're the real victims in the whole mess.

Jason Bone drew Beowulf! Because he read my posts! If I was a little manga girl I'd go "Squeee!" Oh, wait. I just did. As Paul McCartney once sagely sang in a Wings B-side, "boom-checkit-boom-checkit-boom-checkit owwwt"!

Larry Young returns from his travels in the wilderness long enough to give us a Sermon on the Engine, about how to pitch your story idea. Oh, all right, I'll cease with the religious references, but I couldn't help myself after getting some hits for my statement of many moons ago about Mr. Young, the Patron Saint of the Comics Blogosphere. Well worth reading.

The NYCC? Well, I didn't go. Surprise, surprise, although I was asked by a couple of fine folks if I was (after all, I have been known to visit NYC upon occasion- once in the last 20 years!)planning to attend. Little problem of distance, you know. Certainly sounds like someone did some underestimating somewhere. I know, I know, I'm just an overgrown kid from the sticks, and whaddaIknow, but next years preparations, I think, should begin with scheduling a larger venue for the event. Thank you, Captain Obvious!

God, I haven't written about anything besides comics in a long time, have I? What I'm listening to right now: The Kinks Kronikles, primo late 60's-early 70's Kinks goodness; Four Guys Walk Into a Bar, the Faces box set which has too many damn versions of "Miss Judy's Farm" for my taste- fine song, but we get one studio and two live versions, and there may be a fourth one in there, I don't recall offhand; With the Beatles- finally broke down and bought this, which features most of the songs which appeared on Capitol USA's Meet the Beatles, AKA the Album Which Blew young Johnny B's Mind and Set Him on the Path to Beatlefandom (fave cuts: "All My Loving", "Not a Second Time", "Devil in Her Heart"); Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe by the Alan Parsons Project- this was the first APP effort, tres pretentious but on several cuts this anonymous studio band manages to transcend. Kinda got my nostalgia on with that one- we listened to it a lot in a cloud of marijuana haze back in the day. No, I didn't spark up the other day. Still getting a lot of mileage out of the Tim Buckley anthology- favorites emerging: "The River" (beautifully ominous/ominously beautiful), "Sweet Surrender" (lame title-amazing song) and "Happy Time" (...inside my mind, when melody finds a rhyme..."), and many others. Whatta fearless vocalist. Mott The Hoople Live, the restored, remastered, and rejuvenated 2-CD version of the fractured 1974 vinyl release. Available as an import only, but well worth the extra expenditure and you can get it used for a decent price from Amazon's sellers. Also, a CD my son recommended: Spoon's Gimme Fiction, so I can say I'm hep to what the kids are listening to these days. Not-bad pop-rock. Tick fans, no doubt. One CD I'm giving serious consideration to buying is The Best of Budgie. Several of my friends, circa 1975-76-77, had a couple of albums by the obscure British semi-prog boogie-rock trio (not the blogosphere's own Lee Barnett), and I remember a couple of cuts very well: "I Ain't No Mountain" and "I Can't See My Feelings". Gotta get that one soon. I've also had the strangest cravings for early-mid '70s bubblegum rock like Three Dog Night (Seven Separate Fools from 1972- used to have that one on 8-track, good God)and glamsters the Sweet. Too much music, too little money.

TV? Not much lately. I've been enjoying Match Game reruns again, after a bit of a hiatus in interest. Haven't been able to get interested in any series lately, nor have I had very much time to do so. Mostly my viewing consists of cartoons: Futurama, Family Guy, W.I.T.C.H., the occasional Ben 10 (Very Murakamiesque, and several of the Teen Titans voice actors do the honors there as well and Andy (Jellyfish) Sturmer did the theme song), Teen Titans, Justice League Unlimited (Didja catch the new one Saturday night? Didja? Didja?) and, of course, Avatar- didn't get to see the season finale, but bet your ass I'll be getting the DVDs! Speaking of which, I've been watching the Action DVD set and laughing my bleep off, and Mrs. B got me the Dead Like Me first season DVD set as well, but it makes me sad to watch it because it got killed in its prime. And won't come back. The "30 Days of Oscar" thing on TCM makes for some fine viewing...if you haven't seen most of these films over and over and over again. I'll be happy when they go back to showing the more obscure stuff like Maisie movies.

Oops, Match Game is on now! Who the hell was/is Abby Dalton? Get a load of the hair on that blonde contestant- makes Marge Simpson look like Sinead O'Connor! Oh well, I'll wind this up by wishing each and every one of you a belated happy National Pancake Day!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

When last we left

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...it was decided that he would embark on a quest to obtain the elements which will give him the mystic power that Satan had told him he needs to defeat Grendel, and end the woe that had befallen the residents of Castle Hrothgar. So they assembled a company to achieve this goal: Beowulf's usual posse of Nan-Zee, Wiglaf and Hondscio, along with the enigmatic Shaper and (this was Hrothgar's idea) the scheming Unferth and his creepy lackey "The Silent One". And that's where #3 begins.

On the ocean, as the company is attacked by a octopus-like monster. After a couple pages' worth of nautical bashing about and bon mot-slinging (BW: "Will-zon panicked like a new-born cub! Wiglaf-- you were to get me fourteen of the BEST warriors! How do you explain HIM? Wiggy: "Good help is hard to find these days, my prince!" Wiggy: NOTHING halts this choking monster! Of ALL the enemies from which to pick, YOU had to choose SATAN himself! BW: "My poor taste in enemies is surpassed only by my poor taste in COMRADES!"), they dispatch the sea monster via a Beowulf mace to the head. As they climb back on the ship, they notice that Unferth was once more absent during the struggle, and confront him. Pissed off and embarrassed, like most cowardly scoundrels are, he slinks off and plots to do BW harm. BW then turns to the Shaper, to ask him how to counter the devil (although why Satan is presumably sending monsters to hinder the company is beyond this reader), and his reply is to summon Wyrd, the God of Fate and BW's deity of choice- and ask him for advice. Wyrd appears as a skull-faced specter, and delivers a cryptic prophecy which amounts to "Don't worry- just keep on doing what you're doing!" Thanks, Wyrd.

They soon arrive at the island where the Black Viper dwells. It has a big skull-shaped mountain, just like another well-known island which we are all familiar with, I'm sure. They split up to get the lay of the land and meet later, but Unferth and his stooge hang back, intent on cooking up more trouble for our hero. What they do is summon a demon, who will "usher those fools into a world of madness and death!" And by casting a spell which says "This is dedicated to Winsor (sic) McCay" backwards, summons the sprite Little Omen (again, read it backwards) who casts BW and company into "Nightmareland", where they have a most terrifying experience, reliving their worst fears and dreams...until the Shaper decides he's had enough and casts a counter-spell which chases away Omen and leaves them where they started. Must have been all in their minds, they decide. Either way, they don't have long to ponder it because they're immediately set upon by hostile pygmy headhunters!

In an interlude, we go to Grendel, who's pissed off and killing the swamp men from #2, cursing at Satan and wanting Beowulf delivered to him. Satan appears, says "you better recognize", and promises that BW will be his on the next full moon. This seems to placate Grendel for now, but he's still surly.

Back to BW and company. As he walks up to one of the pygmy chiefs he says to Wiglaf and Nan-zee "This will be a good lesson for the two of you...in how much more can be accomplished by CHARM and DIPLOMACY rather than by SWORDS!" When he explains that he comes in peace and only wishes to slay the Black Viper and claim his venom, they get REAL mad and start throwing spears and shooting arrows! Nan-Zee: "What CHARM! What DIPLOMACY! What a WAY WITH WORDS!" to which Wulfy replies "Nan-zee, why don't you take your sword and...oh, forget it!" The rest of the company joins up with BW just in time to help out, encounter a large warrior, who towers above his brethren. As they battle, BW takes advantage of the closeness of the pygmy chief to bring an end to the struggle, as you can see at left. Of course, BW has no intention of killing the pygmy chief, and out of surprise and gratitude, he realizes that he's been wrong about the Viper and gives Beowulf permission to get the venom he seeks. The giant is introduced as Sydriit, and he'll join up with Wulfy's group later on.

Beowulf then goes off alone to get his prize, and we see the Black Viper in this fantastic page by Villamonte. After he dispatches the giant serpent, he drinks the venom but feels no stronger. He decides he probably won't until he finishes his quest, and this issue ends with him telling us that first the moon will soon be full (remember Satan's promise to Grendel?) and they will have by then crossed the desert in search of the Zumak fruit tree.

And the whole full moon thing is quite apropos, because in this issue, #4, Beowulf meets DRACULA! That's right, DRACULA! Not exactly the vampire count of yore (yet), but Vlad Tepes the Impaler, who is in conflict with the Ashers, the Lost Tribe of Israel, who hunt him for his atrocities. But I'm getting ahead of things here.

As Wulfy and company trek across the desert, they are attacked by the Ashers, who mistake them for Vlad and his men. Beowulf convinces them of the truth by virtue of a huge chain. Seeing the error of their ways, the Asher leader introduces himself as Bruzz-Solomon and his second-in-command as Yusashia Ben Simon, and explains how Vlad Tepes, the evil Wallachian, has invaded the desert from the north- not to conquer but to plunder, torture and kill. In a really nice montage, artist Villamonte depicts him and his men dealing death and Vlad in one scene refusing to drink wine, instead preferring a cup of blood. He says, that's right, "Fool- I never drink...wine!" Anyway, the Ashers apologize and Beowulf says "You may dress differently and believe in a different god, but we fight for the same cause. Beowulf stands WITH you against the madman Dracula!" They then retire to the campfire to plot strategy. But.

In the meantime, another interlude with Grendel as he once more confronts Satan, reminding him of his promise from last issue. Satan obliges, and magically transports Beowulf, Hondscio and Wiglaf back to Castle Hrothgar! BW realizes that this must be Satan's work and somehow intuits that he will face Grendel that night, and resolves to do so alone. Wiggy and Hondscio object, and after doing the rock-paper-scissors (I swear!) they determine that they will stand guard with their comrade. After a long, tense period of waiting...Grendel bursts in and attacks without warning, immediately grabs Hondscio, and eats him alive! This causes Beowulf to go berserk with rage and attack, and the battle is on, as you can see at left. Problem is, y'see, it doesn't go very well for BW since he doesn't have all his magical stuff yet, and Satan calls it off by transporting Wulfy and Wiglaf back to the desert, where they must break the sad news about their comrade to the rest of the company. Unfortunately, there's no time to mourn as they are suddenly set upon by the Wallachians, with Vlad Tepes at the head! The battle rages on, with one unfortunate casualty for the Ashers: Solomon, who gets a death scene which made me a huge fan of this series in just one page.

As a 15-year-old, when I was reading this for the first time, I had kinda been on the bubble about this comic so far. I liked the nonstop action and humor, and appreciated Ricardo Villamonte's art, but in the death scene of Bruzz-Solomon, I found drama and pathos, and a thrilling segue into the meat of this issue: the fight between Beowulf and Dracula. After this, I was drinking the Beowulf Kool-aid for the duration...and this small but perfectly-done scene is still one of the best I've read in comics. Sometimes that's all it takes, kids.

The fight scene's not bad, either, as the savage Tepes matches the brutish Beowulf blow for blow until Vlad actually unhorses BW...and is swooping in for the kill! But is suddenly stopped short by a sword into his own gut, courtesy of one of his own men, who was conveniently possessed by Satan. Seems that ol' Satan one, didn't want BW killed just yet, and two, was so impressed by Vladdy that he chooses him to be his heir, and makes him the "...first of the undead, the count of a race of human vampires that will walk the Earth for all eternity!" After they're gone, the two remaining warrior chiefs say their goodbyes, with Ben Simon leaving Beowulf with a Star of David for good luck.

Next up, in issues 5 and 6: UFO's! And a Minotaur!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

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RIP Don Knotts, who died yesterday at age 81.

I never was much of a Mayberry fan, but of course Knotts was excellent on that show. Probably the other most vivid pop-cultury memory I have of him was of a couple of post-Mayberry films, the underrated live action-and-animation The Incredible Mr. Limpet and haunted house hijinks flick The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, both of which played the Twin City drive-in when I was a wee lad. I loved Limpet (not so much as an adult), and while I liked Chicken I never thought it was as much fun as some of my buddies did.

I knew Mark Evanier (who writes a lot of great stuff, not just obits) would have a great remembrance up, and I was right!

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Also, I'm sorry to report, Darren McGavin has died today as well! Nothing from the usual news sources yet, but it is posted on his website. Of course, He will always be remembered not only for just his countless TV and movie appearances, but two appearances in particular: Carl Kolchak in The Night Stalker (above) and as Ralphie's Dad in A Christmas Story (Sons of bitches! Bumpuses!!). I always thought he did a great job as one of the heavies in The Natural as well. RIP, Mr. McGavin. Whatta day.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


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Dominick Cericola, address unknown! Dominick, email me your snail mail address so I can mail you your books! You have one week from tomorrow, and if I don't hear from you I draw another name.

I had planned to print out everyone's names in order to draw them out, but my printer's out of ink, hence the handwritten entries.

Thanks very much to everybody who entered. I may have to do this again sometime...
Just a quick note to let you all know that the Great Banana Sunday Giveaway is officially concluded, and I plan to draw the name later tonight, probably at 9:30-10 PM CST. Good luck!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Just in case you care:


My DCBS order, which shipped today. I'm hoping to get it on Friday, but who knows.

Monday, February 20, 2006

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Given the poor reception afforded Aeon Flux, it's incredible that this is seeing the light of day- Ultraviolet, starring JBS favorite Milla Jovovich! Will she succeed where another JBS favorite, Charlize Theron, flopped miserably? We will see.

Anyway, that's got nothing to do with the reason I'm posting tonight. What I'd like to do is 1. remind everybody that the deadline to enter the GREAT BANANA SUNDAY GIVEAWAY is 12:30 AM CST Thursday the 23rd.

Holy mackanoley! The amazing colossal JAMES JEAN has an art blog! Guess I was ahead of my time with the ol' Sketch Blog, may it rest in peace, 'cause everybody's doin it! Beware- it's graphics intensive and takes a while to fully load if your connection is as pokey as mine.

RIP The Voice of Baseball and AFL Football, Curt Gowdy. I hear his voice on TV, and suddenly I'm 11 again.

And here's that announcement I wanted to make:

Beginning in early March, I will be doing another comics review column- this time a monthly for the fine folks at Buzzscope. For lack of a better title, I'll probably call it Johnny Bacardi's New Comics Revue, like I have been here since the beginning of the year. I'll still be reviewing over here as well; in fact, the monthly will probably feature a handful of unique, as well as expanded and select reprints of pieces I've written at the Show. I'm excited and grateful for the opportunity to inflict myself once more upon a wider section of the Interweb.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

When I was a kid, very early on, Someone bought for me a copy of The Little House, by Virginia Lee Burton. Between the touching story of the little house, and how happy it was with its family out in the country, and how the city encroached and expanded, which caused it to be relocated and fall into neglect only to be rescued at the end, and the wonderfully realized, often colorful, symmetrical and intricate art of Mrs.Burton, I was completely captivated and the book remains a favorite of mine to this day. Recently, I acquired a copy of a beautifully designed book about her life and work, called Virginia Lee Burton: A Life in Art, and learned a great deal about this remarkable woman, who was not only an accomplished illustrator, but a dancer, designer and craftsperson as well. Check out some of her work above: first a pic of her in her studio, then a page fromThe Little House; Then below, The Song of Robin Hood, and one of many Christmas Cards she designed and drew. Click on any of these images to see them full size.

What the-? My post from yesterday about J.Bone's blogs has magically vanished! Oh well, hopefully it will return...and they are both now added to the slowly evolving linklist.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usUntil then, they are Man's Adventure,from whence the Owl drawing at left comes, dedicated to drawing men (duh) and his less, shall we say, heated artblog Blah, Blah, Blog!. And once more, thanks to Dorian for the heads-up.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

The return of
(Apparently) Bi-weekly ruminations, castigations, disseminations and assorted frustratingly exiguous semi-cogent observations in regard to comics I have read, weeks of January 27- February 15!

Part The Second.

S: Rob Vollmar; A: Pablo G. Callejo
I just can't parse the title of this latest Blogosphere critical darling without hearing the voice of Joe Seneca intoning "I'm a BLUESman" to Ralph Macchio in Crossroads- but that's the only similarity between this and that not-so-fondly remembered Karate Kid rehash. This account of a young black musician drifting through the South in the late '20s, on the run, sought for a murder he didn't commit is SERIOUS DRAMA, and don't you forget it. Which is not to say that it's oppressive or gloomy, far from it...Mr. Vollmar doesn't forget to leaven the proceedings with the occasional lighter moment, just so we don't get bored, and keeps the story moving right along at a fairly brisk clip. He has a good knack for writing the dialogue that this calls for, as well- he doesn't get bogged down in period references and awkward attempts at recreating what a lesser scripter would perceive as "authentic vernacular". While I can't help but think that this is a lot more noteworthy because it pretends to something more than bleak spandex slugfests, and would make a perfectly unremarkable film or TV show (in fact, the entire plot is reminiscent of bits and pieces of many such works), as a graphic novel it makes for an involving read nonetheless. And, unfortunately, I find myself even more engrossed trying to ascertain the race of many of the principals in the cast. Not that I'm usually concerned with such matters, but race and race relations is at the core of what Vollmar's trying to do here, and artist Callejo works against him in this regard- almost all the male characters are drawn with rounded facial features and noses, and shaded with equal measures of gray wash, and it caused me no end of confusion when one character gets all racist on another, but they both look the same! In fact, I still am not completely sure whether the Sheriff Harold character is white or black- at first I thought he was a black man but after finishing I'm guessing he's white- because it would be unlikely that a Southern community would have had a black sheriff, let alone one with a wife with seemingly caucasian features. Otherwise, Callejo does a fine job with his painstakingly rendered and highly detailed backgrounds, and he helps keep the tale moving along nicely with his sense of pacing. But the way he draws and shades his male figures (not to mention his awkward figure drawing in general) added a level of confusion which really blunted my appreciation of the story. Even considering this, which is probably something no one else had problems with, Bluesman Book Two (haven't read book one yet, which may have helped) is a worthy effort and even though I wish it was a bit more of a murder mystery per se, it's still a fine period drama and I look forward to reading not only Book One but future releases as well. A-

S: Javier Grillo-Marxuach; A: Les McClaine
I'd been waiting for quite some time to read this, as I'm sure many of you who've been reading me know, and was I disappointed? Well, maybe a microscopic smidge- but as far as I'm concerned this is a fast-paced and fun rip of Men in Black, with absolutely stellar art by unknown-to-me McClaine- kinetic, expressive, and assured. Don't know what else he's done, but I think I'll be finding out ASAP. G-M gives us an appealing and not-too-quirky cast, and while I wish he'd picked something a bit more fresh than intelligent gangster monkeys (I keep waiting for the Mod Gorilla Boss to make an appaearnce) for its debut, I still have high hopes for ensemble derring-do and highjinks. Really, my biggest nit to pick is Will Smith analogue Wendy (the cute redhead sidekick with glasses)'s midriff-baring adventure outfit, hardly practical and not even all that fashionable anymore. This is pretty darn good otherwise, though, and I'm hoping for the best from the next ongoing series, #1 of which came out today, unless I'm mistaken. Like Marc Bolan would tell you- if you're going to swipe, do so with panache. And this has plenty of panache. A-

FABLES 46 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Bill Willingham; A: Jim Fern, Jimmy Palmiotti
Geez, I suppose Mark Bright, Mitch Byrd or Mark Campos were too busy to do a fill-in, so they had to bring back Scarlett's Jim Fern! And his fine-line, Ernie Colon/Gray Morrow-influenced style has never looked better. Unfortunately, he's not really given much of a story to work with, involving romance between the wooden subjects of Geppetto, I mean the Adversary. Not bad for a fill-in, I suppose, but not especially compelling either and I hope Fern gets another showcase soon. B+

S: Rich Johnston; A: Thomas Nachlik
Between the odd title and the even odder premise, I thought this might be enjoyable, but I'm sorry to say this too-earnest-by-half amalgam of Superman and The Name of the Rose was just too talky and dull to hold my interest, completely negating whatever salient point he wanted to make. And the curiously underdrawn-looking art, with all the curlicued hairstyles reminding me of Richard Case on Doom Patrol except nowhere near as clever, doesn't help one bit. Johnston may very well someday write something that blows me away, but it will have to be more lively than this. B

S: Grant Morrison; A: Yanick Paquette, Serge LaPointe
Okay, raise your hand if you didn't see the revelation at the end coming from a mile away. Now, let me try to sell you some choice swampland. But I'm not complaining- in a lot of ways, this series has been a near-total summation of everything Morrison's been trying to do with this maxiseries- wallow around in the D-list territory of the DC Universe, with the occasional name changed to protect the incompetent. Maybe I'm more charitably disposed because all the various and sundry superbeings he's been giving us remind me a lot of Flex Mentallo's parade of imaginatively named superheroes and villains- especially Minimiss simalcrum Thumbelina. Paquette is impressing me more here than he did on Codename: Knockout, giving us a nice Adam Hughes approximation to reinforce the other underlying Morrison concern here, namely the sexual (and sexual roles) aspects of superhero worship (for lack of a better phrase). I hope you know what I mean. Anyway, this one's been a keeper so far. A

S: Mark Waid; A: Ken Lashley, Adam DeKraker, Rodney Ramos, KWL Designs, Amanda Conner
It's a pity- this book constantly shoots itself in the foot by shackling a ambitious, character-driven and plot-heavy narrative to workmanlike, dull and static artwork, almost like someone in charge feels like it needs some sort of steadying, calming influence. Problem is, it's about to calm me into a stupor. This time, fittingly enough for an "in-between sagas" issue, we get a bevy of fill-in artists, and while they draw their collective hineys off none of them are able to rise above the competent and spark the script. I want to like this, I really do- I am still very interested in these characters. But this is as interesting as watching dust settle on drying paint. Once more, the best thing here is the Amanda Conner-illustrated "letters page". I say again- turn her loose as regular penciller, and watch this title take off. C+

POWERS 16 (Marvel/Icon)
S: Brian Michael Bendis; A: Michael Avon Oeming
Now that Christian Walker has powers again, do I detect the sweet stink of "Dave-marries-Maddie on Moonlighting?" B+

S: Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray; A: Luke Ross
C'mon, fellas, there must be more than one Hex story to write! Yet another "Jonah runs afoul of a corrupt sheriff/mayor/rich dude" adventure, and while it's as well done as always, I'm getting fidgety. Next issue promises nuns with guns, but so help me God if they're being harassed by a corrupt sheriff/mayor/rich guy I'm dropping this book like an effing stone. B+

DMZ 4 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Brian Wood; A: Riccardo Burchielli & Wood
I still can't swallow the premise, and this issue didn't seem to have much of a point in the grand scheme of things, except to broaden the scope of the seceded-NYC scenario. Burchielli's doing a fine job on art, almost reminding me of Killian Plunkett in places. Wish he'd come back to comics...oh, sorry, I digress. Guess what I'm trying to say is that this is beginning to hit me the same way Y; The Last Man did- there's something going on here, but I just don't know what it is, do I, Mr. Jones? B

100 BULLETS 69 (DC/Vertigo)
S: Brian Azzarello; A: Eduardo Risso
Y'know, as much as I enjoyed the Lono-Jack fight this time out, I hate to say it but this title has completely disappeared up its own ass, just plain ol' too complicated for its own good. I'm committed to the long haul, but getting restless and there are 31 issues to go. A-

S: Greg Rucka; A: Kano and Stefano Gaudiano
Yeah, it's the end, all right, unless you plan on buying the NEW SPECTRE comic! It rubs me the wrong way to see this being shunted aside and cheapened for the umpteenth revival of that venerable property, but on its own terms this was a pretty solid drama and after all is said and done a pretty good note to go out on. This book, when it was on, was magnificent, and was always usually highly readable, even when it was teetering on the wrong side of the spandex-vs.-police procedural tightrope. Another one I'll miss for a good long time. A-

In its own way, this is more fun than Defenders ever was, especially with Milligan's amusing-if-inconsistent take on Dr. Strange and Wong. I'm sure diehard Marvel fanmen-and-women are chirping, but ta hell with them. A
Just in the off-chance you care, I'm planning on having part deux of my comics reviews up before the night's over.

One book I wish I'd picked up was one that I saw at my comics shop today (I went in to pick up the new X-Statix Presents Dead Girl): Showcase Presents House of Mystery. Sweet Lady Mary, is that thing chock full of Jerry Grandenetti art! And the primo, nightmarish stuff from the 60's, too! And there are some other excellent illustrators represented as well: young Berni Wrightson, Neal Adams, Alex Toth, Wally Wood...I almost snapped it up, but I thought I'd wait and see if I could get it from DCBS. We shall see. Anyways, hopefully more later.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Time once more for
Ruminations, castigations, disseminations and assorted frustratingly exiguous meandering observations in regard to comics I have read, weeks of January 27- February 11!

Part The First.

JEREMIAH HARM #1 (Boom! Studios)
S: Keith Giffen, Alan Grant; A: Rael Lyra
I'm not going to go the cheap, cynical route and say that this is an old Lobo script that Giffen dusted off and presented to his new buddies at Boom!. Whoops, just did, didn't I? OK, it may not be, but it sure reads like one, and despite the fact that I never liked the cartoonish, oafish Lobo character I found this a pretty good read all things considered- like something from Heavy Metal or Warren's 1984/1994 magazine. By far the best thing about this book is the hyperdetailed and dynamic art of Lyra, who was unknown to me previous. His efforts push this into another level, and make me want to read more. Nice Clint Eastwood homage on the cover, too. B+

HAUNTED MANSION #2 (Slave Labor)
S: Christopher, Roman Dirge, Serena Valentino, Jon "Bean" Hastings, and Dan Vado; A: Christopher, Dirge, "FSc", Jon Morris, and David Hedgecock
Another issue of the lighthearted horror anthology series featuring stories inspired by the Disney attraction (which I actually visited, about 33 years ago, Jesus God), and those attuned to the Gloom Cookie/Lenore/Johnny the Homicidal Maniac vibe will eat it up and ask for seconds. Best here actually features Lenore, by creator Roman Dirge, in which she visits the Mansion and, naturally, takes over in her fashion. Also noteworthy is a story about "The Woman in Black" by GloomCookie's Valentino, drawn in a scratchy hodgepodge of goth and manga styles by someone or something called "FSc", which at least wasn't predictable. It figures that the people who've had the most experience at this sort of thing come across the best here. If you see this while you're browsing for black fingernail polish and silver studded dog collars at Hot Topic, you could do worse than to check it out. B

A TRIP TO RUNDBERG (Frequency Press)
S: Nate Southard; A: Shawn Richter
If you are still digging The Walking Dead, then you might enjoy this- but for everyone else, this wil be a dreary rehash of every zombie story written in the last thirty years, poorly drawn and with a nihilistic ending which renders everything we'd read to that point and any emotional investment we'd made in the plight of the characters meaningless. The team's previous effort, Drive, was no less poorly illustrated but had its moments...however, I can't recommend this at all. This is one Trip you should decline. C-

S/A: Michael Kupperman
Positive word-of-mouth from many other, finer reviewers than I on #1 led me to check this out, and while I can't say I was impressed as some, this was still fun in places. An droll, oddball blend of Griffith, Seth, Clowes, Chris Ware, Bob Burden and Tom Tomorrow, the hit-to-miss ratio of the plentiful sight gags is about 3-to-1, with the most amusing (to me, anyway) being the Captain Marvel satire (The Silver Knight! Starring Merlin!) and the business with Fireman Octopus, his potential licensing character. Guess I was thrizzled, but not to the point of distraction. A-

HELLBOY: MAKOMA #1 (Dark Horse)
S: Mike Mignola; A: Mignola, Richard Corben
I don't know if any of you remember Childcraft, a series of kid-oriented themed reference books which were published by World Book Encyclopedia and usually came bundled with them when you ordered a set- but I had them, and one of my favorite volumes was the one which contained folklore from different lands. Of those represented, among the most interesting were the tales from Africa, and that's what Mignola taps in this, the latest Hellboy mini (or should that be micro) -series, which thankfully sports several (more than I expected) pages with his art in a framing sequence that blends perfectly into the bulk of the tale told by that mummy, an adaptation of one of those old folk stories, this time starring HB and wonderfully drawn by Corben in what must surely be regarded as one of the best art jobs of his long and storied career. His rendition of HB is second to only Mignola, and he brings out the inherent humor as well as the impending danger and of course the underlying menace and tragedy of Hellboy's backstory, as well as some wonderfully detailed renditions of the African terrain. Stellar job by all concerned, and maybe the best Hellboy story since Corpse and the Iron Shoes. A

S: Earl Mac Rauch, Joe Gentile; A: Steven Thompson, Keith Williams
Any of you who've read my rantings for any length of time know how much I loved the Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai film, for its unconventional storytelling and its wonderful cast, and like any Blue Blaze Irregular worth his salt, have long hoped for some sort of continuation, even if it is without Peter Weller and John Lithgow (we gave up on that sometime in the early 90s). Due to a long, complicated series of events, nicely detailed in the text essay in the back of this book, this has not come to pass. But Moonstone has somehow gotten the rights to release another comic book version, the first since the godawful Marvel Comics movie adaptation of 1984, and after a long delay, we have finally gotten this preview. I wish I could say it was worth the wait. Working from a story idea by Buckaroo creator Mac Rauch, it gives us an updated group of Hong Kong Cavaliers, with Perfect Tommy, New Jersey, Reno Nevada, and of course Buckaroo remaining from the classic version. 3/4 dream sequence, and 1/4 setup for the upcoming series (or is that a one-shot? It's kinda vague on that score), the dialogue is clumsy and flat, laden with exposition, and the art is flat-out bad, awkwardly posed and clumsily inked. Well, in all fairness, the Thompson/Williams team do a good job on Buckaroo's jet car. Makes me wonder if this isn't just another Red Lectroid or World Crime League plot to discredit the great Dr. Banzai. But all seriousness aside, if the ongoing/oneshot isn't any better than this, here's one BBI that will break ranks and decline to support Team Banzai in this incarnation, anyway. C+, with the plus being the price point of 50 cents.

S: Mike Carey, A: Glenn Fabry
Speaking of adaptations, this is that rarest of rare things, a comic book adaptation of not only a TV movie but a prose novel as well that manages to transcend its source and become something greater, and this is due for the most part to the excellent work that Fabry is doing-, adding layer after layer of meticulously rendered innovation to already established characters...and everything he's doing works. For those, like me, that were used to Fabry as a cover artist it's quite the revelation. Not much more to say, other than to once more repeat for the record that more people should be talking about this book, for that reason if nothing else. A

More to come, including Bluesman V2, The Middle Man, and Seven Soldiers presents: Bulleteer #3.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

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Yep, it's BEOWULF. DRAGON SLAYER. A three part JBS exclusive series which will outline the short-lived but fondly remembered (by me anyway) DC series from their equally short-lived Sword 'n' Sorcery books, designed to ride the coattails of Marvel's popular Conan series, in 1975. It was based, of course, on the legendary poem (which I've never read), but it's more of a re-imagining than an adaptation. Future movie scriptwriter and producer Michael Uslan was the author, and hitherto unknown Peruvian artist Ricardo Villamonte, whose gritty and expressive style- evocative of Hal Foster- stood out, despite the cheap-ass paper it was printed upon. The editor was Dennis O'Neil, not long after his great writing on Batman, The Shadow, Sword of Sorcery, and Ironwolf- and honestly, sometimes Uslan's dialogue reads a LOT like O'Neil's from the period. BDS lasted 6 issues; more than brother titles Stalker and Justice, Inc. but less than Claw the Unconquered, Rima the Jungle Girl, and the all time champion Warlord. And now, the cast.

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BEOWULF. The hero of the piece. Red hair, stylin' helmet. Made from the skull of a minotaur, no less.

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GRENDEL. Repulsive dragon man-creature, full of piss and spite.

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Hmm. I don't know. Could be...perhaps...SATAN. Yep, him. None other. Please allow me to introduce.

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THE SHAPER. By far the strangest and most colorful character in the whole damn book, and that's saying something. Looks like a cross between Marvel's Diablo, the Joker, Merlin and Gandalf, makes predictions in rhyme, and when he casts spells they are oddball anachronistic phrases rendered backwards, such as "Siht potnanoc eestel!" ("Let's see Conan top this!")

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NAN-ZEE: Former warrior princess, siren and slave of Satan, soon to be recruited to Beowulf's band. No idea if her previous lover was Slug-Go.

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WIGLAF, HONDSCIO: Beowulf's comrades in arms, his Fandral and Hogun. The only ones, until Sydriit (who hasn't been introduced yet) that get any significant "screen time".

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HROTHGAR: Elderly king who owns the castle in which the merrymaking ensues that angers Grendel so.

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His Basil-Rathbone-in-Adventures of Robin Hood-like "Champion", UNFERTH, a scheming, sniveling, nogoodnik, also dwells here, along with Hrothgar's daughter, the princess WEALTHEOW. No, I don't know how to pronounce that, either. I think she will go on to exchange fashion tips with the Shaper.

OK. Now that the cast has been introduced, here's what happens in issue 1. With pictures!

In this first issue, basically, the stage is set and the players (well, most of them, anyway) are introduced. In a festering swamp, somewhere outside Castle Hrothgar in the dim and distant past, the horrible creature called Grendel wallows in the mire and is pissed beyond belief at the sounds of laughter and partying in the castle. There's an evil gleam in his eye as he swears to kill everyone in the castle "For Satan". Next, we head thousands of miles away as Beowulf and his men are in the middle of heated battle with the Franks, and we get to see right off the bat what kind of tone this adaptation will provide as Beowulf boasts as he strikes: "Fight back, you fools! Or do I hold you in such terror that you cannot strike..." Upon which, one of the Frankish soldiers hits him upside the head with a mace as Beowulf gets out a surprised "...Me?". Wiglaf then dispatches the mace-wielder, as Beowulf remonstrates him: "I fear you're too late to spare me one pounding headache, Wiglaf!", to which Wiggy replies "If my prince would learn to open his eyes as wide as his mouth in a battle..." To which Wulfy replies "Oh, shut up and fight!" ...and right there is where it got me- I could tell, even at 15, that this was something else, more along the lines of Lieber's Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories- playful and high-spirited rather than leaden and dull, like the Thomas/Buscema Conan comics that were so popular at the time (after Barry Windsor Smith stopped drawing Conan, I bailed anyway, for what it's worth).

As you can see in the page scan at right, after the battle (and isn't that a striking panel that Villamonte gives us of BW surveying the aftermath?), the strange being called the Shaper is brought to the victorious Beowulf. He gives the prince a cryptic message warning him about Hrothgar's troubles, and he sets sail post haste to help. When asked why, he replies "For "lof"..."Lof", or fame as some call it, is the most permanent of all things in an impermanent world. That fame will keep the "Spirit of Beowulf" alive centuries after I am dust!". Mighty philosophical for a barbarian warrior, huh!

We go back now to Castle Hrothgar, and we find the Shaper again, who has managed to arrive ahead of Wulfy and company. He delivers another puzzling prophecy in poem form, and as the principals (Unferth, Hrothgar), debate its meaning, suddenly Grendel breaks in the castle and attacks! No one can stop him, especially craven Unferth, and after killing several men, he lumbers back to the swamps- sated for now.

Beowulf and company are next seen sailing towards Daneland, and they encounter a siren, who casts a spell on all the men (except BW, of course, who manages to hold out 'cause he's cool like that)- leading them to steer their ship into the rocks! BW jumps off the ship and swims towards the woman, subdues her, and breaks the spell (by slugging her, of course- bear with me here). It is then revealed that she was a possessed slave of Satan, and she was protecting an entrance to the Underworld. BW is then attacked by demons who emerge from the portal, and gets the best of all but one, who attacks behind is back- but is saved by the siren, who is now clear-headed and herself again. When BW asks who she is, she replies that she is Nan-zee, a Scyfling warrior- at which BW erupts into sexist pig laughter and NZ knocks him into the mud at their feet with a haymaker. After this "meet-cute", NZ persuades BW to let her accompany him on the quest, because she has a score to settle with Satan.

When the group arrives at Hrothgar, Unferth realizes that his place in the castle, as the King's champion, is in jeopardy if BW makes him look like the weak coward he is, so he casts a misdirection spell designed to lead the party through a monster-infested swamp. And that's where #1 ends.

#2 picks up where #1 left off, as the company prepares to do battle with some loathsome swamp creatures, thanks to Unferth.

As they struggle with creatures and quicksand, Nan has a sudden conviction- they must stop fighting and let themselves be pulled under! A bit dubious, they comply and find themselves suddenly tumbling into Hell. Nan, former Slave-Maiden of Satan that she was, recognized the presence of a gateway in the swamp. As they seek an exit, they are set upon by a giant three-headed dog and the character on the cover, another Slave-Maid- this time a flaming giantess, who burns the men if they try to strike her, and melts their swords. This time, Nan-zee knows how to fight fire with fire (so to speak), and chops off part of her hair, weakening and pissing her off, and causes her to summon them (by using the curse, "Enoya! Sinnet!"- read it backwards) to a face-to-face with the Man himself, Satan. At this, pale little troll-demons appear in huge numbers, and push them all in a certain direction, until suddenly- a dragon pops out of a cave! In the page scan, notice the dragon's name, another of the numerous amusing puns throughout this series. After BW dispatches this "magic dragon", they finally meet His Infernal Nibs himself, the magenta-hued and reptilian Satan.

Satan proceeds to explain what's going on with Hrothgar and his people, and how he's playing games with all of them by getting Grendel all worked up to go and wreak carnage on they asses (He reveals "...I, er, knew his mother once!"), and goes on to say that once this all plays itself out to its conclusion, they ALL will die! Ever the diplomat, the enraged Beowulf leaps up and cuts Satan's ear off! Understandably pissed, Satan decides to bring the audience to an abrupt conclusion by telling BW how to defeat Grendel, to advance his Satanic plot and to get them the heck out before they cut anything else off. What he tells them is in the page scan at left.

As you can tell, where we were once in Homer's Odyssey territory, we are now in a 12 Labors of Hercules direction.

While BW and co. are occupied in the Pit, Grendel makes another bloody visit to Castle H, but is called off by Satan, who then delivers our heroes to the doorstep of the Castle. As they wade through the gore, they are spotted by the surviving Danes, who are overjoyed to have their potential deliverer finally among them, and despite the recent events decide to have a big celebration.

During the party, BW has a confrontation with Unferth, which doesn't end well for the latter. BW then goes on to tell Hrothgar what Satan told him, and inform him that he must go on a quest to get the necessary components to defeat Grendel once and for all. It is then decided that they will form a company, with the Shaper, Unferth (and his right-hand-man, the Silent One) and leave at sunrise. And that's where #2 ends.

Next up, sooner rather than later, hopefully, #'s 3 and 4.

Received my gift of copies of the scripts for each of the Robert Fleming-scripted issues of Thriller yesterday, and I thought I'd share. Above is the cover sheet for issue #1, done by Bob on his old Smith-Corona portable typewriter. Pretty kewl, huh!


Here's one of my favorite scenes from the climactic issue #4, which was the finale of the first story arc. If I had my comics here, I'd post the full page as it saw print, but I don't- but I did put up a couple of panels from it right here.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


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I'm giving away some comic books! I have an complete, extra set of the Root Nibot/Colleen Coover Oni miniseries Banana Sunday, and I'm giving them away to a good home. And all you have to do to qualify is send me naked pictures of your girlfriend email me at johnnybacardi_ (at)excite dot com (mind the underscore), and after collecting entries for two weeks, I'll have a third party draw one name out of a hat, and that'll be the winner!

A few more details: This contest is open only to those living in the continental US. I'm paying the postage, and as much as I'd like to include my overseas friends, my generosity has its limits and overseas shipping is a bitch. Send your name and mailing address when you enter. Cutoff date is 12:30 AM Thursday, February 23.

Sunday is a very nicely illustrated and lotsa fun miniseries about a young girl, her friends (and enemies) at a new school, and three intelligent apes. Well, one intelligent ape, one randy ape, and the indescribable GoGo. I thought it was kinda run-of-the-mill at first, despite Coover's beautifully rendered art, but Nibot kinda pulled it out with the unusual explanation for the simians. I have no doubt that if this sounds good to you, you'll love it.

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Gotta hit the road, but I wanted to point to Red Kelly's B-Side and an excellent, outstanding, informative and just plain cool post about none other than Billy Preston, who, according to Red, "is in a Mayo Clinic facility in Arizona recovering from a "catastrophic" case of Pericarditis, an infection of the sac that encloses the heart. He is also unable to speak due to an emergency tracheotomy."

If you're not checking out The B-Side, you're missin' out, that's all I can say.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I'm working on the first of 3 posts about Beowulf right now, hopefully the first will be up no later than Saturday. Got a few things I want to mention, some great and the some not-so.

First, a belated RIP to the hugely talented Seth Fisher, who died a few days ago (as most of you know). I can't, in any honesty at all, say I was a big fan and that I was devastated at the news...but I always thought his work was high quality, hugely imaginative, and very interesting. He just never illustrated a book that I was moved to pick up, although the recent Batman story he did with D.C. Johnson will probably be a trade purchase. It's so sad when the young and talented pass on all too soon, and leave so much undone.

But there IS good news, and that is the return of one of my favorite comics writers, the sadly underrated Robert Loren Fleming (Thriller, Ambush Bug) to comics scripting! Bob will provide What's Up, Tiger Lily-esque funny dialogue to an upcoming Marvel book, Romance Redux...but I think I'll let him explain it best, from an email he sent:

My big news here is that I agreed to do a job offered to me recently by Marvel Comics. It's a parody of old romance comics they're doing alled ROMANCE REDUX, one of those "What's Up, Tiger Lily?" kind of things. The nice part is that they sent me a Jack Kirby story from 1963, and it's a fairly well-known one since it involves a girl enamored of romance comics who eventually meets and falls in love with a comic book artist. I had great fun doing it, very reminiscent of the old Ambush Bug days,
which of course is why they thought of me. It was so cool that it was Kirby, though, because partway through the job I suddenly got gooseflesh as I realized I was doing what amounted to a NOT BRAND ECCH!-style collaboration with The King, whose parodies of his own stories in that title were inspirational to me as a kid.

He's also sending me some photocopied Thriller scripts, which I can't wait to read. Maybe that will give me the impetus to redo the ol' Thriller website, which I'm LONG overdue to do.

My DCBS shipment went out today! In it will be:

BUCKAROO BANZAI PREVIEW Couldn't call myself a Blue Blaze Irregular and not get this even though the art looks like it was done by red Lectroids...

Early reviews haven't been kind, but the premise sounded intriguing when I signed up for it months ago.

BLUESMAN VOL 2 GN (I'm supposed to be getting the first one, too, but they're funny about when they ship backlisted items)

That's the funny thing about getting your books twice a week- it seems like I just read this a week ago! And I did!

I think if anyone decides to publish a Seven Soldiers companion, then Jog of The Blog fame should be the man to do so. Just sayin'.

I'm pleased to report that I've seen preview images of this and Corben, like any old pro worth his salt, streamlines his work a bit to fit in with that Mignolaesque feel. This looks like a keeper.

So long, farewell, auf weiderschein. Where will I get my Josie Mac fix now?

This has been great, and you should pick this up in trade format if you haven't been already. Thing is, y'see, I've read the novel already so I want an original sequel by the same creative team.

Will I be thrizzled? We shall see. #1 flew under my radar, but word of mouth convinced me to check this out.

FINALLY I will get to read this. FINALLY. You'll recall that my comics shop's inability to get me the singles of this series was the final straw that led me to start up DCBS. That said, I won't believe it till I hold it in my hand!

DMZ #4
100 BULLETS #69

Five (mostly) consistently good ongoing titles, about which I have nothing whatsoever to say.

Found at the Mighty Spurge's: The blog of Lark Pien. When R.Stevens had one of his periodic fill-in weeks on Diesel Sweeties a few years ago, Miss Pien was one of the participants, and her contribution was fantastic. I've enjoyed her stuff ever since.

That's it for now! More if anything occurs to me.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

RIP Al Lewis, who was Grandpa Munster on the 60s TV show, but you knew that already, didn't you.