Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Stan Lee: An Appreciation.

It's Stan the Man Lee's 88th birthday today.

I've held forth before about Stan and what I felt like his role with Marvel was; while I certainly can believe that many, if not most, of the concepts that galvanized everyone so much back in the early 60s were thought up by Kirby, Ditko, and who knows who else, I do believe that Stan's dialogue and plotting skills were very important in shaping those early classics. It seems that Stan was the hustler, the instigator, the shit-stirrer- keeping everybody up, keeping everybody positive, focused, and committed, and coordinating Marvel's ascent back in those long-ago days. It seems like the only thing he couldn't do was keep everyone well-paid and happy, and thus those halcyon days were relatively short-lived. Indeed, once the most-likely more-lucrative Hollywood and the college lecture circuit beckoned, Stan's focus and enthusiasm for editing and scripting seemed to wane...witness how flat and dead the dialogue is on his later issues of Fantastic Four and Thor, especially compared to his immediate successor, Roy Thomas', overheated, hyperbolic prose.

Regardless, at no point in his early Marvel career was Stan's scripting better than on the title in which he took the most pride, I think- Amazing Spider-Man. Yeah, a case could be made for Silver Surfer, but that was much later. One of the first Marvel comics I ever read was ASM #16, in which Spidey teamed up with Daredevil to battle the Ringmaster of Crime (He's been popping up on this blog a lot this year, hasn't he?) and his Circus. The breezy banter between DD, Spidey, and the Crime Circus thugs trying to jack them up delighted me as a 4 year old, and has continued to do so every time I've reread it in the 46 years since. I thought, as tribute, I'd post those pages here so you could read them for yourself. Click to read biggerer, you know the drill:

Now, sometimes Stan could wield the heavy hand when it came to the soap operatics, and often his attempts to provide his godlike and cosmic characters with a profound voice were often stilted and ludicrous. But on Spider-Man, he was on top of his game, keeping the expository dialogue in check and hand-wringing in its proper place, plus, as above, he didn't leave out the humor. I know damn well Ditko did not write that dialogue, nor did Kirby, as anyone who's read his post-Marvel work surely can see, write any in their collaborations either. So here's to you, Mr. Stanley Lieber- when you wanted to, you helped change a lot of lives, including mine, for what I've always thought was for the better, riding herd on those early game-changing days. For that, as well as your current comics ambassador-like station, I think you'll always deserve a lot of credit. Happy birthday, and many more.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

So long, farewell, arrivaderci, goodbye.

I was sitting at the radio station on Monday night, engineering a local high school basketball game, and scrolling through my Twitter feed when I saw this announcement. Dirk Deppey, who edited The Comics Journal for a while and before that, helped foster the Comics Blogosphere as we know it today and has been operating one of the few absolutely essential linkblogs for a long time now, has been laid off from Fantagraphics, which means no more ¡Journalista! with him at the helm, anyway. This is a sad day.

Now, I hear you say "Wait! Dave, weren't you the one who was always bitching about Dirk and how he never linked to your blog posts when you were trying to make your voice heard? Wha hoppen? Why are you being so nice all of a sudden?"

Well, that's true. I did do that. I felt like I was being unjustly ignored, and in my usual passive-aggressive fashion, I decided I'd just bitch about it, mention it in passing in the odd post, and move on. Eventually, though, earlier this year Deppey addressed that very issue, tempest in a teapot that it was, and we kissed and made up. Or something like that. Anyway, by then I had pretty much stopped worrying about it anyway, so it was all good.

Funny thing is, even in the height of my feel-so-slighted period, I continued to check out ¡Journalista! on a regular basis, because it was always a place where I could find something of interest, even if it wasn't me. And if memory serves, waaaay back in '03 or so, in the Paleozoic Era of comics blogging, a link from Dirk to me (a Super-Hip thing, I believe) was one of the first indications to me that there was even such a thing as a dedicated group of people who devote their newfangled weblog things to writing about comic books. So believe me when I tell you that even if Fantagraphics decides to carry on with someone else doing the work for significantly less pay or even free, it won't be the same, because his writing voice will be missing. With so many things from even less than ten years ago changing, and not always for the best, all the time...well, that's not such a good thing.

So anyway, I've already expressed good wishes to Mr. Deppey via Twitter, that very night even, so at the risk of being redundant I'll just take a minute to say best of luck to you, sir, in future endeavors, be they comics-related or not, and I'm sure you will go on to better things in the future. And thanks for the links I did get.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ain't no snafu. No folderol.

Your guitar is not really a guitar Your guitar is a divining rod.
Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over.
A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you're good, you'll land a big one.

Don Van Vliet, also known in the music world as Captain Beefheart, died on Friday at age 69.

May I ramble a bit? I'll get to the point eventually.

You all know (or should, if you've been reading me for any length of time and have a good long-term memory) that I have had a lifelong fascination with the recorded output that eminated from the Brothers Warner and their associated label Reprise, especially in the years 1970 through 1975, and that, perhaps, not coincidentally, is mostly when Beefheart and the Magic Band were in full swing. I wish I could tell you that I was a fan from Safe as Milk on, but that's just not the case- despite being aware of the man and his group from seeing the curiosity-provoking song titles listed in the old Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders, I was not in a position to hear his music until 1976, when I purchased the 8-track of the collaborative comeback effort he released with Frank Zappa, 1975's Bongo Fury. You see, when I first got interested in the Captain, it was roughly 1974 and he was represented by the critically savaged and backwards-looking Mercury Records releases Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans and Moonbeams. Since my income was limited to the ten dollars a week I'd get from my parents (just enough for an album and a couple of comics or paperback books), I was reluctant to take a flyer on these records, which were painted in a poor light by people whose opinion I respected. There was a chance encounter with a vinyl copy of 1972's Clear Spot, which I spied at a Louisville record store in the Mall at St. Matthews sometime in late '74. I snatched it up, took it to the cashier, and looking at it in line, I noticed a side-length light scratch, where someone else had slid it out of its clear plastic-with-a-flap sleeve and apparently didn't take the greatest care in replacing it. I decided to put it back. I didn't see another copy of it on vinyl until the 90's, in a used record shop, where its $25 price tag was a bit rich for my blood.

You see, part of my problem was that in those long-dead days, there was obviously no Internet with its myriad ways to get music, both illegal and legal, nor were there an endless parade of repackaged CDs of varying price points to help the uninitiated discover an artist's back catalogue, especially for an artist as obscure and out-there as the Captain. The records came out, sold a few, very few, then got deleted and if they weren't smash hits they didn't get reissued but instead were sold for significantly less with a hole punched in the sleeve or the corner cut off the record, same for the 8-tracks and cassettes. And reel-to-reel, I assume, though I don't recall ever seeing any cutout reel to reels. Cutout bin diving is one of the great lost pleasures of being a record buff, believe me, now limited to cities and towns with independent record stores. If you were lucky, you could find some great records for a buck ninety-nine. Since, by 1975, all the Beefheart albums had been deleted, it was very difficult to run across copies. Believe me, I looked after that.

Anyway, after Fury, a couple of years later I finally ran across a cutout copy of Clear Spot on 8-track. Snatched that thing up immediately and played the hell out of it. It was a more commercial, which is to say some attention was paid to accessibility, effort, produced by smokin'-hot Ted Templeman, producer of the Doobie Bros. and soon to helm releases by Van Halen and others- almost a last-gasp play, a Hail Mary if you will, full of R&B and Soul and New Orleans shuffle, as well as the usual oddball spoken-word poetry set to Jazzy, angular rhythms. It would spawn no hit singles and didn't sell any better than his more challenging efforts such as the highly-esteemed Trout Mask Replica and the underrated Lick My Decals Off, Baby. So, the Captain broke up the Band, got new management, and released the aforementioned even more blatant commercial stabs, then hibernated again until hooking up with Zappa and releasing Fury. For some reason, I was reluctant to get 1978's Shiny Beat (Bat Chain Puller), even though it got a lot of positive writeups in CREEM and other places. Perhaps I felt the bloom was off the rose; can't say why for sure. I did break down and get 1980's Doc at the Radar Station, thanks to seeing him perform the track "Hot Head" on Saturday Night Live. I could have sworn it was on ABC's Fridays, but can't find anything online to back that up. Anyway, I bought it, liked it a little though it took so much time to grow on me that I didn't get the followup, 1982's Ice Cream for Crow. After that, there would be no more music from him, though I didn't know it at the time. Eventually, bit by bit, I acquired some of the Loss Leaders with Beefheart tunes like 1971's "Click Clack", and liked them a lot, but still had no luck finding those Reprise records. Finally, CDs happened, and I got the Spotlight Kid/Clear Spot twofer, finally replacing that long-discarded 8-track, and the 1999 anthology The Dust Blows Forward, where I finally got to sample some of the by-then-legendary Trout Mask tracks and many others I hadn't heard. My fandom was cemented, as I came to love nearly all of the weird and willful stuff, even the more conventional blues-based pre-Trout Mask music like "Abba Zabba" and "Electricity". Since then, I've gone on and acquired, by hook or crook, the albums I craved to hear for so long and love them all in their way, especially Clear Spot. You never forget your first love.

Van Vliet's music was an almost indescribable blend of Dada Delta Blues, Zappa-style weirdness, playful lyrics, the aforementioned jazz, R&B, soul and other stuff. Not much country, but there was a little twang in the mix. I'm not surprised it wasn't embraced by the masses- and it seems to me that Van Vliet wasn't either. Eventually he said to hell with it and stopped making music recorded for mass consumption, instead choosing to concentrate on his career as an (unsurprisingly) surrealist painter and sculptor, which brought him a lot more success (and personal satisfaction, I'd bet) than his music career ever did. And that's fine.
Although it took me a hell of a long time, I did finally come to appreciate the genius of the man, and find out a lot about the wonderful musicians who backed him (they deserve a ton of credit for those records, especially considering the crap he put them through while making them, as it turns out). Unlike many artists who bowed out early to pursue other paths, I don't really resent it and wish there had been more, although I sure do wish there had been more from his mid-70s reunion with Zappa. It had been so long since he issued new music, I had mostly resigned myself to the occasional online news update and fairly frequent listens to his albums...so I don't feel the wrenching sense of loss that some of the deaths of people I admire fosters; it seems like he was already gone for a long time to me. Still, he's one of those larger than life figures who left his often sloppy and chaotic mark on a sadly limited number of people, though by extension (i.e., all the musicians he subsequently inspired), the number becomes remarkably large. I am glad that I made the effort and am a better person for the experience, I think.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The most wonderful time of the year.

By that, I mean Best of 2010 in comics lists. I've always put mine here, and I may still, but for now you can read it here.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

All the animated movies in the world. Sort of.

Yep, it's come to this. Memes. I saw this somewhere else the other day, and thought it might be fun to do.

- X what you saw
- O what you haven't finished/seen or saw sizable portions
- Bold what you loved
- Italicize what you disliked/hated
- Leave unchanged if neutral

[X] 101 Dalmatians (1961)
[X] Alice in Wonderland (1951)
[X] Bambi (1942)
[X] Cinderella (1950)
[X] Dumbo (1941)
[X] Fantasia (1940)
[X] Lady and the Tramp (1955): I saw this at the Twin City Drive-in when it was re-released in the early-mid 60s. I think it was 1965, but I'm not sure.
[X] Mary Poppins (1964)
[X] Peter Pan (1953)
[X] Pinocchio (1940)
[X] Sleeping Beauty (1959)
[X] Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
[O] Song of the South (1946)

[ ] The Aristocats (1970)
[X] The Black Cauldron (1985): The first (and last) drive-in movie we saw with my son at the Twin City in Horse Cave.
[O] The Fox and the Hound (1981)
[O] The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
[X] The Jungle Book (1967): Saw this on its original run in the theatre, when I was 7. Loved it then and now.
[O] The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
[ ] Oliver and Company (1986)
[O] Pete's Dragon (1977)
[O] The Rescuers (1977)
[O] Robin Hood (1973)
[X] The Sword In The Stone (1963): Uh...Walt was still around for this one...

This whole "Dark Age" thing is dubious to me. While I was mostly indifferent to most of these (not enough high concept to impress teenage-and-early 20's me), some of them are well done, and I really should get around to seeing the one with the Roger Miller songs.

[X] Aladdin (1992)
[X] Beauty and the Beast (1991): I still can't get that damned "Gaston" song out of my head.
[ ] A Goofy Movie (1995)
[X] Hercules (1997): I liked the Hirschfeld-esque character designs, and some of the songs were very well-staged.
[X] The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
[X] The Lion King (1994)
[X] The Little Mermaid (1989)
[X] Mulan (1998)
[X] Pocahontas (1995)
[ ] The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
[X] Tarzan (1999)

Must admit I saw many of these because my kids were just the right age to want to see them...my daughter LOVED Aladdin and The Little Mermaid.

[X] Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
[X] Bolt (2008): I wound up enjoying this one a LOT more than I expected to.
[ ] Brother Bear (2003)
[ ] Chicken Little (2005)
[ ] Dinosaur (2000)
[X] The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
[O] Fantasia 2000 (2000)
[ ] Home on the Range (2004)
[X] Lilo & Stitch (2002): Watched this the other day for about the fourth time, and it still holds up for me.
[ ] Meet the Robinsons (2007)
[X] Treasure Planet (2002): Another one which I thought was better than I was expecting. Quite imaginative in places.

[X] A Bug's Life (1998)
[X] Cars (2006)
[X] Finding Nemo (2003)
[X] The Incredibles (2004): By far my favorite Pixar film.
[X] Monsters Inc. (2001)
[X] Ratatouille (2007)
[X] Toy Story (1995)
[X] Toy Story 2 (1999)
[ ] Toy Story 3 (2010): No, I haven't seen this yet. Soon.
[X] Wall-E (2008)
[X] Up (2009): A wonderful, excellent film that I have no desire to subject myself to again, thanks to the devastating flashbacks.

[X] All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)
[X] An American Tail (1986)
[ ] An American Tail: Fieval Goes West (1991)
[X] Anastasia (1997)
[X] The Land Before Time (1988)
[ ] The Pebble and the Penguin (1995)
[X] Rock-a-Doodle (1991)
[X] The Secret of NIMH (1982)
[ ] Thumbelina (1994)
[X] Titan AE (2000)
[ ] A Troll in Central Park (1994)

Some of these were OK; Bluth's animation was mostly well done but often looked rubbery and unconvincing. I suppose my favorite of these is Anastasia; another favorite of my daughter, and I've always been interested in the subject matter. Yes, I sat through Rock-a-Doodle. What of it?

[ ] The Adventures of Mark Twain (1986)
[X] Chicken Run (2000)
[X] Corpse Bride (2005)
[X] James and the Giant Peach (1996)
[X] The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
[X] Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005): These W&G flicks are always fun; weird grimacing aside.
[X] Coraline (2009)

Claymation? None of the Burton flicks cited here are Claymation. Oh well.

[X] Antz (1998)
[O] Bee Movie (2007)
[O] Happy Feet (2006)
[X] Ice Age (2002)
[X] Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)
[X] Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)
[X] Kung Fu Panda (2008)
[X] Madagascar (2005)
[X} Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)
[X] Monster House (2006): A favorite of my wife.
[X] Over the Hedge (2006)
[X] The Polar Express (2004)
[X] Robots (2005): I liked this one more than I probably should have.
[X] A Shark's Tale (2004)
[X] Shrek (2001)
[X] Shrek 2 (2004)
[X] Shrek The Third (2007)
[ ] Shrek Forever After (2010)
[X] Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)

[ ] Arabian Knight (aka The Thief and the Cobbler) (1995)
[X] The Last Unicorn (1982)
[ ] Light Years (1988)
[ ] The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
[X] Persepolis (2007)
[ ] Waltz With Bashir (2008)
[ ] Watership Down (1978)
[ ] When the Wind Blows (1988)
[ ] Wonderful Days (2003)
[X] Yellow Submarine (1968): One of the cornerstones of my childhood movie-watching life.

[ ] The Cat Returns (2002)
[ ] Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
[ ] Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
[X] Kiki's Delivery Service (1989): A favorite of my wife. I thought it was cute.
[ ] Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)
[ ] Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
[ ] My Neighbors The Yamadas (1999)
[ ] My Neighbor Totoro (1993)
[X] Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984): I watched this a couple of years ago, and I'll be damned if I remember anything about it.
[ ] Only Yesterday (1991)
[ ] Pom Poko (Tanuki War) (1994)
[ ] Porco Rosso (1992)
[X] Princess Mononoke (1999)
[X] Spirited Away (2002): This one, on the other hand, is one of the best films I've ever seen.
[ ] Whisper of the Heart (1995)
[X] Ponyo (2009)

[ ] Millennium Actress (2001)
[X] Paprika (2006): Visually lovely, but I found it hard to follow.
[ ] Perfect Blue (1999)
[ ] Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

[ ] She and Her Cat (1999)
[ ] Voices of a Distant Star (2001)
[ ] The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004)
[ ] 5 Centimeters per Second (2007)

[X] Akira (1989)
[ ] Angel's Egg (1985)
[ ] Appleseed (2004)
[ ] Appleseed: Ex Machina (2007)
[ ] Arcadia of My Youth (U.S. Title - Vengeance of the Space Pirate) (1982)
[O ] Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2003)
[ ] The Dagger of Kamui (U.S. Title - Revenge of the Ninja Warrior) (1985)
[ ] Dirty Pair: Project Eden (1987)
[ ] End of Evangelion (1997)
[ ] Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone (2007)
[ ] Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance (2009)
[ ] Fist of the North Star (1986)
[ ] Galaxy Express 999 (1979)
[X] Ghost in the Shell (1996)
[ ] Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)
[ ] The Girl Who Lept Through Time (2006)
[ ] Lensman (1984)
[ ] Macross: Do You Remember Love (U.S. Title - Clash of the Bionoids) (1984)
[ ] Memories (1995)
[ ] Metropolis (2001)
[ ] Neo-Tokyo (1986)
[ ] Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985)
[ ] Ninja Scroll (1993)
[ ] Patlabor the Movie (1989)
[ ] The Professional: Golgo 13 (1983)
[ ] Project A-ko (1986)
[ ] Robot Carnival (1987)
[ ] Robotech: The Shadow Chronicle (2006)
[ ] Silent Möbius (1991)
[ ] The Sky Crawlers (2008)
[ ] Space Adventure Cobra (1982)
[X] Steamboy (2004)
[ ] Sword of the Stranger (2007)
[ ] Unico and the Island of Magic (1983)
[ ] Urotsukidoji: The Movie (1987)
[ ] Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer (1984)
[ ] Urusei Yatsura: Only You (1982)
[ ] Vampire Hunter D (1985)
[ ] Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust (2000)
[ ] Wings of Honneamise: Royal Space Force (1987)

[X] American Pop (1981)
[X] The Animatrix (2003)
[X] Beavis & Butthead Do America (1996).
[X] Cool World (1992)
[X] Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)
[ ] Final Fantasy: Advent Children (2005)
[X] Fire & Ice (1983)
[X] Fritz the Cat (1972)
[ ] Halo Legends (2009)
[X] Heavy Metal (1981)
[ ] Heavy Metal 2000 (2000)
[ ] Hey Good Lookin' (1982)
[ ] Lady Death (2004)
[ ] A Scanner Darkly (2006)
[X] Sita Sings the Blues (2008)
[X] South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
[ ] Street Fight (Coonskin) (1975)
[ ] Waking Life (2001)

[ ] The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)
[ ] Animal Farm (1954)
[O] Animalympics (1980)
[O] Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon The Movie (2007): I watched about half of this; what is hilarious for 15 minutes proved to be tiresome for almost an hour and a half.
[X] Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
[ ] Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)
[ ] Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
[O] The Brave Little Toaster (1988)
[ ] Bravestarr: The Movie (1988)
[ ] Cats Don't Dance (1997)
[X] Care Bears: The Movie (1985): Took my son when he was 3, OK?
[O] Charlotte's Web (1973)
[X] Fern Gully (1992)
[ ] G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987)
[ ] Gobots: Battle of the Rock Lords (1986)
[X] Green Lantern: First Flight (2009)
[ ] He-Man & She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword (1985)
[X] The Hobbit (1977)
[X] The Iron Giant (1999): One of my favorite films.
[ ] Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)
[X] Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
[X] Lord of the Rings (1978)
[ ] Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1992)
[ ] My Little Pony: The Movie (1986)
[X] Pink Floyd's The Wall (1982)
[X] The Prince of Egypt (1998)
[ ] Powerpuff Girls: The Movie (2002)
[ ] Quest For Camelot (1999)
[ ] Ringing Bell (1978)
[X] The Road to El Dorado (2000)
[ ] Shinbone Alley (1971)
[X] Space Jam (1996)
[ ] Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (1985)
[ ] Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
[ ] Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)
[ ] Superman: Doomsday (2007)
[ ] The Swan Princess (1994)
[ ] Transformers: The Movie (1986)
[ ] Wizards (1977)
[X] Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
[X] Wonder Woman (2009)
[ ] Balto (1995)
[X] Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)

And that's it, I guess!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just like little girls and boys/Playing with their little toys...

The other day I was hanging out at the town library, visiting my Mom (she works there), and scanning the shelves, and happened across a remarkable little book titled Who Were the Beatles? by Geoff Edgers- part of a young readers-geared "Who were/was..." series. The simplistic, yet adequate and even clever in their way illustrations are by Jeremy Tugeau. See the samples below- first, of young George with his Mom and his first guitar, and next, a scene most likely meant to be from the White Album sessions, when Yoko first started insinuating herself into the Beatles' studio.

Since it's aimed at preteens, much of the Fabs' convoluted, sometimes odd, sometimes messy history is omitted- but given how much that is written about them these days adopts two postures: cynical or fawning, it has a refreshing lack of both as it assays their history that I found charming.

Which is not to say that uncomfortable topics aren't included: John's murder, his "lost weekend", George's chafing at being the odd man out, the breakup of the group and why, John and Paul's sniping at each other in the papers- all are there.

For example, here's the description of John's lost weekend:

By the mid-1970's, John Lennon was still one of the most famous people in the world, more so than the other Beatles. Was he happy? No.

He was still a young man- only in his thirties. Yet he'd spent so much time in the spotlight. He never seemed at ease with himself, even at home. His marriage to Yoko Ono was breaking up. John was afraid it would end up in divorce, just as his first marriage had. Eventually, Yoko asked John to move out. He agreed, though he didn't want to. John began to drink too much. He also took drugs. He started hanging out with people who only wanted to go to parties. He got into fights. His music suffered.

Of course, this is © Edgers. I'd take issue with that last statement, but see what I mean? Even though it's not 100% accurate (no mention of Harry Nilsson or May Pang, which would muddy the picture, I suppose), the lack of snark, hipper-than-thou posturing and mean-spiritedness won me over completely.

I've read a lot of books about the Fabs over the years, but very few of them left me with a good feeling about them. This one did. I guess, in these troubled times, that that is a hell of a thing.

(Reposted from a 2007 entry on my LiveJournal. I figured that many didn't see this over there, and I'm thinking I might put a few more LJ posts up over here, just for the sake of keeping this blog active.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I'm Here to State this Blog is Eight.

Yes, it was eight years ago that I first put words in a blog post and set them loose on the world. It's been an interesting experience. LOT of water under the bridge, and a lot of both good and bad life events for me in that span. I know, right now I'm not posting very much over here, and I'm not happy about that, but it's probably going to remain that way for the foreseeable future. Too many things dividing my attention, and that causes me to leave some things on the back burner- such as this blog. I'm still finding time to Tweet; and I post the occasional video or link on Facebook...and of course I'm still writing about a handful of comics a week at Popdose. I hope you'll follow me there. Until the day when I can get back to updating this blog regularly, I hope you can find it in your hearts to keep me in your feed readers or bookmark tabs or however you monitor blogs, and I thank you for your attention and support over the last 8 years.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

RIP Jerry Grandenetti.

Word has reached the Internet, and by extension me, that Jerry Grandenetti passed away back in February. You may recall, if you've been reading my blog for any period of time, that I have written several posts praising his work in the 60's and early 70's, especially in the black and white Warren Magazines line, via titles like Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. Although I was infatuated with the work of many of the artists represented in those pages, such as Alex Toth, Reed Crandall, Steve Ditko, Gene Colan, Wally Wood, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson, and many others, none of them grabbed my attention or captured my fancy like Grandenetti's surreal, expressionistic, almost hallucenogenic renditions of (mostly) Archie Goodwin's stories. Here are links to two previous posts, one an entire story, a personal favorite called "Rub the Lamp", and a single page from a later story called "Type Cast". As the years went by, I would read a bit about him here and there; I soon became acquainted with his work for DC, especially his run on the 60's Spectre, succeeding Neal Adams, inked by Murphy Anderson. The difference in styles was too jarring for many, and eventually the book was cancelled. Like Frank Robbins when he took over from Mike Kaluta on The Shadow several years later, fans didn't take it well...but I really liked his stint, although it wasn't until the mid-70's that I read them. Eventually, I found out about his beginnings working for Will Eisner, and his stint on DC's war comics. After a while, he moved into the greener pastures of advertising, but kept his hand in by illustrating a hodgepodge of things for DC in the 70's, mostly Joe Simon projects like Prez and in the pages of First Issue Special, The Green Team and The Outsiders. Sadly, his work was unappreciated by many at the time, who only seemed to appreciate the flashier, more modern-style artists of the next few decades. Regardless, I never forgot the charge I got from that 60's stuff, and he became one of the artists I was always evangelizing about to whoever would listen. When I started blogging, I was excited to discover his website, through which he solicited commissions, and I always thought it would be so great to get him to do something for me, but alas I never could afford it. The website is no longer online.

Anyway, short story long, of all the great artists I've admired, appreciated and loved over the years, few have given me as much pleasure as Grandenetti did in the 60's, my formative years. His was such a challenging style, it definitely could be an acquired taste, so I can see why it didn't receive the accolades I thought it deserved. In way of tribute, I want to post a series of pages and covers from different points in his career; I hope it will provide some insight into his talent and yes, genius, and perhaps enlighten you about why I revered it so. It's a very incomplete sample set, but I hope it will be satisfactory.

Two Eisnerish Dr. Drew pages, via Four-Color Shadows.

War comics covers for DC, many done with wash tones.

The uncut funk here, Warren pages from Creepy and Eerie. Grandenetti also did several stories as a ghost for Joe Orlando. Now, some DC pages from roughly the same period; the Spectre pages are inked by Murphy Anderson:

And from the 1970's, Prez and the Green Team:

Always wanted to see a Batman-Green Team teamup. You'd think the cartoon guys would be up for that. Anyway, finally, the one page bio that appeared in Creepy #42:

And that's all. Rest in peace, Mr. Grandenetti, and thanks for everything.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The Power of Love.

Gosh, it's been a week since I posted anything. I have some stuff in the works, pinky swear. In the meantime, here's a pinup of Venus (source unknown, tho I think it's from Marvel Spotlight #2) by the great Bill Everett (the headshot looks touched up by persons unknown), subject of an excellent Blake Bell book that I reviewed over at Popdose this week. You all know how much I loves me some Venus.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

BSBdG: Trevor Von Eeden

Sending out one of those super-duper multi-cover tribute Bacardi Show Birthday Greetings to Trevor Von Eeden, 51 years young today.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Closer to Seeing the Dream Come True.

Just found out via a watched comments section on the For the Love of Harry blog that at long last, the Harry Nilsson documentary Who is Harry Nilsson and Why is Everybody Talking About Him? is set to be released on DVD on October 26 of this year, according to Amazon.com! Now, release dates and schedules working the way they do, this may be changed, but at least we Nilsson fans who have been waiting to see this for years now can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

In keeping with this blog post title, "Don't tell me that isn't what you wanted to do"...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"Still I am Mightiest of Them All!" Part 4.

Continuing my glacially-paced look back at a randomly-chosen run of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Mighty Thor #'s 144-168 (1967-69).

#147 picks up where the last couple of issues left off, with the now-less-than-godlike Thor in deep doo-doo with the police in the aftermath of the botched Giant Golden Bull Caper, in which the Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime hypnotized him into trying to steal a huge statue from a museum. Pinned by gunfire from the cops (and I'd imagine in his de-powered state, a slug could be fatal), he picks the golden bull back up (and off the trapped Princess Python), carries it laboriously back to its resting place, and surrenders peacefully. The Princess (who seemed to be crushing a bit on Goldilocks) pleads with them not to arrest him, "He's innocent!" she proclaims...but she's also making noise so her giant python can find her and carry her down to the street below the museum, where the Ringmaster and the other Circus members await. The last time we see them, they're hauling ass out of town, claiming it was Thor's fault their plan went all pear-shaped. Meanwhile, the Thunder God is taken downtown and booked...and he even gives up his hammer.

Change of scenery now, as we go to somewhere else in the universe, and find none other than good old Loki, in exile, on a big interconnected asteroid/barren rock-like thing. He helpfully muses to himself (and us, of course) that even though Odin sentenced him to eternal exile on that barren planetoid, he knows that the big guy is a sap and won't leave him there for much longer. And sure enough, on the very next page, Loki feels "stirrings" and disappears, rematerializing in Asgard, in front of Odin. The somewhat random All-Father tells Loki that he is also merciful as well as vengeful, and if Loki promises to be a good boy from now on, then he is free to go (since, after all, if Loki stays on the rock, then Stan and Jack can't use him in new stories!). Loki, in his best Jon Lovitz voice (that's who I'd cast in the role in the Thor movie), promises to be a good boy from now on (you may roll eyes) just as Sif and Balder burst in, and call Odin out on his decision. Now, if we've learned one thing in these last four issues, it P-I-S-S-E-S Odin off when people question his judgement, no matter how cockeyed nuts it may be, so he gets all uppity and reminds them that Thor stepped up to him too, and got depowered and stranded on Earth for his trouble. Sif and Balder take the hint and leave, and Loki slinks off chewing on this new morsel of information about his hated stepbrother. He decides to head to Earth and deliver a little payback to the Thunder God C.O.D. for all the ass-whippings he's suffered in the past.

Meanwhile, in his jail cell, Thor is sitting and talking to his cellmate when the cellmate begins to mess with him, suspecting he's really a plant, a spy of some sort. He even thump's Thor's helmet off his head! (The other prisoners are wearing jumpsuits, Thor gets to wear his costume for some reason, including his hat) Thor does not appreciate this at all, and hoists the con up in the air in order to perform a yea verily beatdown on his butt when he is interrupted by a guard- someone has stood Thor's bail, and he's free to go! As he reclaims his hammer and signs his release, he asks to meet his benefactor, and is greeted by a slim, familiar looking fellow in a fedora and cool shades (kinda resembling Speed Racer's Inspector Detector), who states that he's not interested in gratitude, and will explain his reasons in his car as they leave. As they drive three cars wide on the freeway, Thor puts two and two together and realizes that the man is, you guessed it, Loki- and they proceed to indulge in your basic five-page Lee/Kirby slugfest, with a god-powered Loki beating the crap out of valiant and strong, but mortal, Thor. Much grandiose soliloquizing and shattering of brick walls happens in these five pages, until they are interrupted just in time by Balder and Sif, who have decided to defy Odin and beam down to Earth to help their (boy)friend. Odin looks down and sees what hath transpired, and once more is P-I-S-S-E-D (I wonder if Norse Gods have anger management therapists?) O-F-F, firing a beam of mysterious power down to the planet below. Next month: "LET THERE BE CHAOS!"

The second part of the Inhumans backfeature is quite interesting. The robotic Kree Sentry is shown visiting the city of Attilan, just after their king Randac has exposed himself for the first time to the Terragen Mists. The Sentry was set by the Kree to watch the city, and appear to them when they become advanced enough. As they await his fate, the Sentry informs them that their people were granted superior intelligence by his masters, which explains the reasons why to their satisfaction. Turns out he, too, is there to find out how the mists have affected their monarch. Just then, he arrives and demonstrates, firing a powerful, but ineffective, force blast at the giant robot. The Sentry observes that the mists have given him power beyond any other human, and shall henceforth be referred to as...Inhuman! Randac, for his part, vows to expose the other subjects to the mists, and will live in the Great Refuge. Satisfied with this, he admonishes Randac to tell his people to use their powers wisely, because if the Kree ever does return, they may "meet as...deadly foes". The Sentry departs, "never again to be seen by...the Inhumans". And thus concludes...Thor #147!

Comments: I will say that after the mundane Ringmaster two-parter, the return to the more cosmic godstuff was welcome. Ironically, though, that whole juxtaposition of the ordinary Earthstuff, the reactions of the man on the street to Thor and his friends (well illustrated by this issue's prison scenes, as well as the sight of Thor and Loki driving off in a car), was to me one of the most interesting things about the whole series. I guess, though, that there are only so many double-takes by Joe Blow on the street that one can do before routine sets in, which probably explains the shift to more grandiose story ideas beginning soon. Besides, I'm sure Stan and Jack both realized that the Ringmaster and his cronies didn't belong in this milieu, and that whole thing just smacked of "We need to ground Thor a bit, let's try this", and it wasn't altogether successful, even though I liked Kirby's slimy, reptilian rendition of the Ringmaster. Also, I will hand it to Vince Colletta for a not-bad inking job this time out. Of course, unless one owns a whole set of Kirby Collectors in which a page or three from this might have appeared in penciled form, showing what he left out, we'll never know for sure what might have been.

Next time, we find out exactly what mojo Odin hath cast this time, and how it affects our quartet of battling gods.