Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Four-Color Fiend: IMAGE UNITED #1 (a spoiler or two)

Truly this is less about reviewing this particular comic than it is about my feelings about Image, some of its creators and my interaction with some of them.

Set the Way-Back Machine for San Diego, July of 1976, Sherman. The place the El Cortez Hotel where the San Diego Comic-con is being held. A twenty-five year old sailor is walking around at only the third convention he has ever attended. His second SDCC. There is a guy at a small table offering to draw super-heroes for a dollar. At the time the sailor’s favorite is Deathlok/Luther Manning (the original), so he asks the artist to draw him. The artist, a Jim Valentino, doesn’t remember on which side Deathlok’s face has a metal covering so after buying a VG copy of Astonishing Tales #25, the sailor (let’s call him Steve) returns and gets his sketch. He still owns it!

About twelve years later, Valentino (he no longer signs his first name to his work) is working for Marvel Animation and gives me, and my then wife, a tour. Year or two later, Valentino is writing & drawing GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY for Marvel. While there he is having some trouble with the then current editorial climate, meets some fellow artists, also unhappy and they decide they want to make a change. In 1992, Valentino and six other artists form Image Comics and begin publishing creator-owned titles.

That year I was working as a volunteer at the SDCC. I was helping out at a special event for the new Image Comics, taking tickets from the con-goers who were lucky enough to get them. Just before the doors open Rob Liefeld, Todd McFarlane and a couple of other Image folks ask me to let them take the tickets, giving the fans a surprise and a thrill. It actually helped to turn around my opinion about a couple of these guys, which was not 100% positive.

Next year (1993), at the first (and only) Philadelphia ComicFest, Todd McFarlane debated Peter David about artists vs. writers in comics and some of the Image practices. McFarlane and Erik Larson demonstrate they are both a**holes to a high degree, no matter what you may think of them as creators.

Let's flash forward to now:
Robert Kirkman, especially his work on his WALKING DEAD series, is among my favorite writers. Todd McFarlane is still an a**hole, but I can’t deny that I have read his SPAWN in the past and enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed, but remain a bit confused by their new HAUNT series, which deals with two brothers who find they can merge into a brutal creature called Haunt.

IMAGE UNITED (IU) has been promoted for the past year and the idea of six of the original founders of Image working together does seem pretty cool. The Image Universe really has never merged in the way that the DC & Marvel Universes have. Of course, when you have six (originally seven) creators working in different styles and with different ideas of storytelling it would be all but impossible. Give them credit for trying for six issues, at least, to do that very thing.

The idea is good, but the execution (in the initial issue) doesn’t quite measure up. Like I said before, Kirkman is a good writer, however if the reader isn’t already familiar with the characters created by the six artists involved (Todd McFarlane, Jim Valentino, Rob Liefeld, Erik Larson, Marc Silvestri & Whilce Portacio) he/she is going to be pretty lost. While I give credit to Kirkman for having many of the characters call each other by name a glossary or something of the sort would really have been helpful. Also, a character called Fortress (whom I believe was created for this series by Portacio) narrates the story and appears to be almost as clueless as the reader. It doesn’t help! It seems that Fortress has been having visions of a ‘future’ in which all the superheroes must unite to fight an unknown foe. This villain is revealed at the end of the book and turns out to be one of the original Image heroes, now turned evil. I think his name is Monarch, but I could be wrong. (Sorry, could not resist!)

One of the draws (pardon the expression) of the series is that the characters will be drawn by their respective creators (McFarlane doing Spawn, Larson doing Savage Dragon, etc.) over layouts by Rob Liefeld. It’s interesting but makes things a bit strange looking, as the styles, shading, etc of each artist doesn’t allow you to really see the page as a whole, if you know what I mean. Like doing a comic book using characters cut out from different books and pasting them onto a background by yet another artist. I did something along those lines when I was in my early teens, sometimes tracing, sometimes cutting up comics to produce a piece with a Curt Swan SUPERMAN standing next to a Nick Cardy AQUAMAN. You get the idea, I’m sure.

Curiously, in the back of #1, there are a few pages of HAUNT (by Kirkman & McFarlane) that not only make more sense than the rest of the book, but explain things the first two issues of Haunt’s own title hasn’t gotten around to yet. It doesn’t say so, but I’m hoping for folks not reading IU that those pages appear in HAUNT #3.

I’m going to be honest and say that I don’t know if I’m going to stick around for the entire six issues of IU. It really depends on what happens in the second issue. I’ve read worse comics and with art not half as good, but at the price it might not be worth it. Also, do we really think this entire thing is going to come out on time?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ian McKellen - Popeye the Sailor Man

Just because this guy is brilliant!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Four-Color Fiend: some disappointments and some surprises

Okay, I was on the fence on whether or not I was going to be dropping JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA (DC), but a couple of things happened in the last couple of months that made the decision much easier. (There are some SPOILERS in the rant & review below, so I apologize and warn you off.)

First was the introduction of MAGOG as a regular member of the group. Originally created by Alex Ross & Mark Waid for their 'alternate Earth' KINGDOM COME mini-series, the character was brought back (for no good reason, IMHO) in the issues of JSA that featured the SUPERMAN of that world. Hoping that would be the end of him, when that story arc wrapped up, imagine how thrilled I was to find he was not only remaining in the JSA, but also getting his own title and then showing up in the pages of the newly launched THE SHIELD. Why DC has decided that this is a character they want to push completely baffles me. He's unlikable and, face it, not the best designed character I have seen in a while. While Waid & Ross may have been trying to make a point with his rather devil-like appearance, does the costume really scream out 'HERO' to you?

As if that wasn't bad enough, it was something I could have ignored, since Magog will be part of a splinter group departing from the main JSA cast. However, the folks at DC editorial decided they would get a few more bucks out of my pocket each month with the six-issue JSA vs KOBRA mini-series. Writer Eric Trautmann (with whom I don't believe I'm familiar, so excuse me if I'm off base) has the current JSA discover that the new Kobra leader (Jason Burr, brother of the deceased former leader) is recruiting new members and sending them on suicidal missions. In the first issue, you already lose track of the number of Kobra members and innocent by-standers that get killed. With each issue the body count mounts, the JSA seems to win, but always too late and Burr keeps escaping. After hundreds (if not thousands)have been killed the series ends with Burr free and bringing more innocents into his 'religion'. All of them with the potential to become human bombs at his command. Well, wasn't that six months worth of crap? Did I really expect the JSA, lead by Mister Terrific to become victorious? Did I really think they would capture (even for a short-period of time) Burr and bring some solace to the families of the slain? What a sap I was!! Thanks DC! Good luck with both the JSA books and Magog's own title. I'm sure some folks will be buying them.

HAUNT from Image, was co-created by Robert Kirkman and Todd McFarlane. Haven't been the biggest McFarlane fan for a number of years, but Kirkman's WALKING DEAD is currently my favorite comic. I'm also a sucker for his work on MARVEL ZOMBIES, so when I saw that he was the writer on this I decided to give it a try. Brothers Daniel and Kurt Kilgore (can you get a more obvious "things are going to get brutal" name than that?) do not get along. Daniel is a priest (one who uses prostitutes, but a priest nonetheless), while brother Kurt is a Black-Ops agent who goes to Daniel to confess his sins. Things turn bad when Kurt is killed by people looking for a particular notebook. In the apartment of Kurt's widow, Daniel is confronted by the spirit of his brother, just before two men (seemingly from the same group that killed Kurt) break in. When the men open fire on Daniel the brothers somehow merge into the being that will eventually be known as Haunt, I guess. This new creature has no problem beheading the gunmen and there the first issue ends. Whew!

I've already added HAUNT to my pull list at Nuclear Comics, so I'll be picking up at least the first half-dozen issues. I'm curious enough and have enough faith in Kirkman to see where this will go. My one problem is that Todd McFarlane is pretty well known for losing interest in something and moving on to the next thing. I really wonder if the two of them will be able to maintain a monthly schedule, or if Todd will be handing over all the art chores to Greg Capullo and Ryan Ottley, who assist him in the first issue. Of course, Kirkman and not the Toddster are my main reason for picking up the book to begin with, so his leaving wouldn't cause me many problems. We'll see what happens.

Finally, as I talk about over at PARTING SHOTS I'm going on a cruise for the next couple of weeks with Donna. We'll be sailing from Miami through the Panama Canal and into San Diego. If you want you can check out my Facebook page, where I may be posting at least a few words now and then. I'll get back to blogging sometime after I return on December 6th.

Happy Thanksgiving & Happy Trails, until next time!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Detectives, Batman & Doc Savage - Reading Comics & Old Time Radio

Instead of posting two separate entries I figured that I would combine two shorter pieces.

I had meant to write about a recent OTR (Old Time Radio, for those unfamiliar with the term) set to which I had been listening, but got sidelined with some other things. Naturally, I misplaced the written notes so will have to go from memory.

NostalgiaTown.com has produced a series of OTR sets consisting of several episodes of various programs under a theme. These include westerns, comedies, espionage and detectives, along with sets with multiple episodes of particular series. If you enjoy OTR as much as I do, you should check out their site (the link is included just above). The one I just finished was Old Time Radio Shows – Detectives (20-CD). Among them are NERO WOLFE (starring Sidney Greenstreet); RICHARD DIAMOND (Dick Powell); PAT NOVAK FOR HIRE & JEFF REGAN INVESTIGATOR (Jack Webb) and LET GEORGE DO IT (with Bob Bailey). This last one was new to me, having heard at least a couple of episodes of the nine other programs. Bailey plays a freelance detective whose classified ad brings him an assortment of unusual and generally deadly cases. As with Webb always making me think of his Sgt. Friday character whenever I hear him, Bailey is immediately identified in my mind with YOURS TRULY, JOHNNY DOLLAR. Bailey's Johnny Dollar was the only OTR program of which I have a strong memory. The program was broadcast on Sunday evening and when we would visit my grandmother, my dad would let me go sit in the car and listen to the show while the rest of the family began clearing up from the meal. I felt pretty grown up being given the keys to the car and trusted to start it up so I could play the radio. Bailey's voice is the one that comes to mind whenever I think about those shows.

BATMAN/DOC SAVAGE SPECIAL #1 is a one-shot from DC that acts as prelude to THE FIRST WAVE mini-series that begins in March 2010. Having gotten the rights to Doc Savage & The Avenger, DC has given them over to Brian Azzarello to play with. At the back of the book, Azzarello talks briefly about the series, along with character sketches by Rags Morales, who will be doing art on the series. Along with Doc, First Wave will also bring in a new generation of BLACKHAWKS, a new BLACK CANARY and a different RIMA THE JUNGLE GIRL. Add to this THE SPIRIT, who in this world is accompanied by a female Ebony White. Sounds pretty interesting, doesn't it?

The special brings together only the two major characters, but does drop some hints about an organization called the Golden Tree that will play a central part in the mini-series. Since there was no Golden Age Batman in current continuity, it doesn't seem clear if this is an alternate Earth introduced in 52 or something completely new. It is a strange place where airships co-exist with television and cellphones. Bruce mentions in some internal dialogue talking to someone 'during the war', but it is not clear which war this might have been. My initial reaction was that this might be the Batman we saw in JSA: LIBERTY FILES, but that was a more experienced and brutal Bats than we see here. Looks like a whole new Earth that will mix together new and different versions of some old favorites. I'm already going to tell Kenny at Nuclear Comics to add it to my list when he orders.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Shel Dorf: R.I.P.

If you go to Mark Evanier's website you'll find a nice tribute to Shel Dorf. Shel passed away today, from a long illness. He's probably best known to comic geeks as one of the people who started the San Diego Comic-con. Comicstrip fans, on the other hand, may know that he was the letterer on the STEVE CANYON strip for over a decade. I wanted to pay tribute and this was the closest I could come. I loved the Steve Canyon strip and enjoyed the short-lived TV series which was based on the character.

Monday, November 02, 2009

I got nothin'!

Reading the same comics....watching the same shows...thanks for tuning in!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Remote Viewing - LOST TAPES on Animal Planet

Since the ALCS was only mildly interesting last night...cough.... I was surfing the cable stations for something before the shows we normally watch were on. Just out of curiosity I decided to check out Animal Planet where I found they had some show called LOST TAPES, of which I was unfamiliar. Whoa! Not what I had expected on AP at all!

I guess I thought the show was about material from animal/wildlife documentaries which had been unseen for some reason. What I discovered was that the program's premise is that there are actual creatures of legend roaming about (vampires, werewolves, etc.) of which video and film footage exists. The footage has been repressed by the 'authorities' to prevent panic. The two episodes I watched last night dealt with the hunt for a 'serial killer' who turned out to be a werewolf and the discovery of a vampire leaving in a home just purchased by a family. The 'tapes' of the events are intercut with interviews with the people involved and "experts" on cryptozoology and paranormal creatures.

The show has a website (link above), where you read more about the show, watch entire episodes and discuss them with other viewers/fans. Since I just found both the site and show I haven't had much of a chance to do more than skim a bit, but it does look like a lot of fun.

Major disclaimer: I do not believe in the existence of any of these creatures. I do not believe in the paranormal. I certainly don't 'buy' some of the things that folks report and discuss in the forums, since a few really do believe in some of 'urban legends' and creatures in the series. I love being scared and love monsters. I take everything in the series with several tablespoons of salt, but can still enjoy it for what it is. Much like I am interested in seeing the movie "Paranormal Activity" but certainly don't believe that that film is anymore than a well-done independent film with special effects.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Four-Color Fiend: Why am I still reading?

Just a quick peek at some of the comics I’m reading.

Walking Dead (Image Comics) by co-creator/writer Robert Kirkman & current artist Charlie Adlard continues to be among my Top Five comics. I’ve talked about the book before, so if you’ve heard all this skip forward.

Kirkman’s characters are the reason to read this book (not to slight Adlard’s art which perfectly fits the series). Forced into a situation by a plague which reanimates the dead, a group of survivors have to do whatever they can to survive. In the past five issues (#61-66), the “Fear the Hunters” storyline, former police-officer Rick Grimes and the others confront something just as ‘evil’ and perhaps much more dangerous than zombies. Not going to give it away, should you be picking up the book in TPB, but the changes in society may have reached a point where the morals we once lived by no longer suffice. I recommend you pick up the first TPB or better yet the first ‘omnibus’ edition of the series and give it a try. Ignore the zombies and just follow the interaction of the characters. It will be worth it!

Justice Society of America (DC Comics) has reached a point where I just don’t care anymore. I started picking up the book during the whole Final Crisis saga, have been reading it and mostly enjoying it through the “Kingdom Come” Superman/Gog storyline. I now find that I’m reading the book more out of habit than for the enjoyment the book used to bring. I still like some of the characters (especially Michael Holt, the new Mr. Terrific), but not enough to keep buying the book. It was announced back at SDCC, I believe, that the book is actually going to have a spin-off, with part of the team going off with Magog (is there a worse “new” character currently being pushed by DC?) with the rest staying put. Frankly, I haven’t cared enough to actually research which members are going and which staying. Anybody want some back issues...cheap? I may keep the JSA vs. Kobra mini, since Michael plays such a central part.

Just as I’m dropping JSA, it seems that Justice League of America is going to get more interesting. The recent story arc featuring the Royal Flush(ed down the toilet) gang and third string villains Amos Fortune & Roulette was pretty much of a waste of time & effort. Frankly, I really can’t even pretend to care about the mostly second-string characters currently in the JLA. It is primarily the knowledge (from SDCC again) that James Robinson will be picking up the writing chores that keep me buying the book. I don’t want to miss out on any hints of what is to come.

Speaking of Robinson, I really want to recommend his current Justice League: Cry for Justice mini. The story features Hal Jordan (from some period before Blackest Night, I’m guessing), Ray Palmer, Congorilla and several other characters who may or may not make up the newly reformed JLA when Robinson takes over that team’s book. In this incarnation Congorilla (the one time “great white hunter” Congo Bill) reminds me a great deal of Cliff (Robotman) Steele at his best wise-cracking best. Hey, between this particular golden gorilla and Kenneth (Gorilla-Man) Hale in Marvel’s Agents of Atlas I’m getting my fill of talking gorillas. As a child of the Silver Age DC comics, I could not be happier! Team-up!!!

Next time some Old Time Radio!

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Popcorn For One: ZOMBIELAND (perhaps some SPOILER)

I'm going to start right out by giving my ratings and then my review: The first half of this movie gets *** 1/2 Stars and the second half *** stars. Not a perfect film, but certainly as good as I hoped and better than I would have expected.

ZOMBIELAND, if you haven't seen all the ads, takes place in a post-apocalyptic America where a plague (never really explained) has wiped out almost everyone. When the film starts it has obviously been several months since the plague hit and we eventually meet four 'normal' folks who have thus far survived. 'Columbus' (played by Jessie Eisenberg) is a videogame playing nerd, who is trying to get to Ohio to find if his parents have survived. He has gotten by so far by creating a "list of rules" that he follows, many of which we get to see as the 'rule' actually appears on the screen during the action. It is Columbus who narrates the film and it is through his neurotic eyes that we see the other survivors, "Tallahasse" (Woody Harrelson in his best role since NATURAL BORN KILLERS) who seemingly mourns only the death of his puppy; and two sisters "Wichita" (Emma Stone) and "Little Rock" (Abigail Breslin) who were together and without supervision (not explained) prior to the plague.

While Tallahasse's only goal is to find the last box of Twinkies, the girls seek an amusement park they visited in California as children in the idealistic belief (which it is apparent Wichita doesn't really believe) that there are no zombies there. The first half of the film introduces the characters, give some background and eventually has them teaming up for the great road-trip across Zombieland, which is what Columbus has come to call what is left of the U.S. In many ways this is the strongest and most fun part of the film, until the predictable final confrontation at the park. As much as I loved the movie, and would gladly see it again, there are some scenes that take place in the Hollywood home of a celebrity that all but stop the film dead in it's tracks (perhaps appropriate in a movie about the undead). I know we are expected to care and things lead up to this moment, but the scene goes on way too long in my book. Thankfully the appearance of the mansion's owner (a well-known star who I won't give away as many have)turns the film back into the delight that it was in earlier reels.

Two warnings: Many of the most shocking and gory scenes in the film, as well as some of the funniest, appear during the opening credits. If the blood & guts there don't bother you you won't have a problem with what is to come. What a is worse than a puking zombie? One puking directly into the cameralense. Oh, yeah! Secondly, stick it out through the end credits, for a cute bit featuring that 'guest star'.

As usual, there were over half a dozen trailers before the film and this time around the some choices fit with the main feature. Quickly:
1) A Nightmare on Elm St. - why? The trailer shows scenes we have seen in the original and it's sequels. Skip
2) Shutter Island - a creepy, scary tale from Martin Scorsese with Leonardo DeCaprio? I'm am so there!
3) Saw 23 - okay maybe only VI, but haven't we lived through Jigsaw's games way too often already? *yawn* skip
4) 2012 - okay, the trailers looks awesome and living in California there's nothing better than watching the entire state being destroyed. I like John Cusack and Woody Harrelson is also in this one. I'd be tempted to see this one with Kristina, since she is always asking me if I believe in the Mayan prophecy. I might see this.
5) A Christmas Carol - not a huge Jim Carey fan, but I so love this book that I can give just about any version at least a try. Very probably!
6) Amelia - Hilary Swank as Amelia Earhart. Donna wants to see this one, and she doesn't want to see very much! :-)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Monday, September 28, 2009

Remote Viewing: Is anything on?

Caught the two-hour season premiere of THE AMAZING RACE last night. As usual, we root against any lawyers, yoga instructors or models (in this case professional poker players who lie about who they are). Frankly, we tend to root FOR what we consider 'normal' folks, or at least people who seem like able. Sadly, there seem to be fewer of them and more of the former each season. Of this season's teams Gary & Matt the father/son farmers, friends Zev (who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome) & Justin, gay brothers Sam & Dan and, believe it or not, Herbert & Nathanial the Harlem Globetrotters teammates are the duos we are favoring after the first two episodes. Sometimes during a season a team or one member of that duo will reveal themselves to be total a**holes, so we may change our minds at any moment. Sad, that our lives have come to this and Bingo, huh?

The new Fall Season used to be a much bigger deal, but despite the network hype it just doesn't mean the same as it once did. I think part of it has to do with most folks around the country turning more and more to cable with hundreds of alternatives to the Big Four, plus the fact that everybody knows that some shows will be pulled after only a couple of episodes anyway so why not wait for a bit. It also seems that those shows that turned up as mid-season replacements for the previous season's losers often have an already built-in audience.

I may have mentioned this before (maybe only on Twitter or Facebook) but can somebody tell me why Jenna Elfman has yet another television series? I realize that for some reason that I'll never understand, her show DHARMA & GREG was a hit, but she already bombed last season and the promos for the new show seem to show her as just as unlikable as she was in the previous one. Wasn't the point of the Dharma character was that she was kind of a lovable airhead or something? I guess CBS is hoping that putting her on Mondays, with all the hit shows might give her holdover viewers. Does that type of thing still work with so many folks having TIVO or other DVRs hooked up?

Recently, Donna and I have taken to falling asleep in our recliners during Letterman and waking up at some point when Craig Ferguson comes on. I have to admit that when Ferguson was first announced as the hosting a show after Dave I was sceptical. I mean I thought the guy was funny as Drew Carey's overbearing boss, but wasn't really familiar with him outside that show. Now that I have had a chance to watch him, especially his opening monologues I have become a fan. As Mark Evanier has said on his site, the show has a low-budget feel, but Ferguson and his crew do a great job with what they have. Best of all, unlike Conan, who always seemed to me to think of himself as slumming, Ferguson really seems to be enjoying himself. Set the DVR and check him out!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Solid Potato Salad - The Ross Sisters (1944)

I'm thanking Mark Evanier for bringing this to my attention. I wanted to share it.

If these gals have any granddaughters they might want to get an act together and hit America's Got Talent!

Monday, September 21, 2009


I love Watching Buck! It probably says too much about me, but he's just funny. Plus he covers all these strange reality shows that I never watch.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Remote viewing: what I've been watching

No surprise, I guess, that Kevin Skinner (former chicken wrangler) won "America's Got Talent" this season. After the surprise win last year of an opera singer, it looks like it was time for a country/western style performer to take top prize. I did think the toughest competition would be Barbara Padilla, but two operatic singers in a row would have been too much. Personally, I think ventriloquist Terry Fator remains the best performer the show has produced. He's amazing and with or without his puppets he's a good singer. Donna and I agree that we'd love to catch him in Vegas our next trip.

Top Chef was also pretty good last night. It did look like a tough task, cooking at a campsite with limited equipment, over firepits. Still, what a group of whiners some of them were! I keep waiting for brothers Michael & Brian to actually start fighting. I love the looks on their faces when the other wins! I'm still rooting for Kevin! You know me so you know I was happy to see the French guy asked to pack his knives and get deported...um, leave.

It's bad enough reading a couple of books at a time as I usually do (not counting comics, of course). This time around, including the audiobook version of "Last Town on Earth" by Thomas Mullen, I'm in the middle of four books. One is the next Joe Bob Briggs review item, Christopher Hitchens' "God Is Not Great" and Stephen King's "Wolves of the Calla" (the fifth book in his Dark Tower series). Some people ask me how I can do it, but it's just something I've always been able to do. Maybe it does have to do with my reading comics, since you have to remember characters and situations from one issue to another, but I really don't have a problem getting into each book immediately. Because of it's size I'm reading the King book at home, the Joe Bob books I generally keep in the car and read at lunch or in the morning if I'm early, while the Hitchens book I keep at work. Since it is non-fiction it's easy enough to read a few pages during quiet times on the Reference Desk. Anybody else able to juggle a few books at a time?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Review: Causes Unknown by Leslie Horvitz

One of the last Joe Bob Briggs' reviews, unless the good folks there send along some more books. To be honest, I had all but given up hope of ever seeing any more in print, but I have been told that the site will begin posting 'new' reviews shortly.

Just for those who may be interested, here's the new one from me.

Causes Unknown by Leslie Horvitz
Published by: Leisure Books
ISBN: 0843957956

Michael Friedlander doesn’t believe that his brother Alex killed himself. They had not been close for the past few years, but had remained in touch. While Alex was making money on Wall Street, Michael found himself moving from job to job and city to city. Once a medical student, a possible frame up destroyed his medical career and pushed him out of New York City. Now, while waiting to sell his brother’s condo and clearing away his belongings Michael becomes more and more convinced that things are not as cut and dry as the police and the Medical Examiner would have the family believe. Meanwhile, a possible serial killer called The Chopper by the press is leaving a trail of body parts and dismembered corpses around Manhattan. Money is changing hands and there is an obvious cover-up that may tie The Chopper to the death of Michael’s brother. As he begins to investigate his brother’s business dealings several other deaths occur and Michael himself may be in danger.

Originally published in 1989, the book doesn’t seem that dated. Horvitz’s New York skyline is still dominated by the World Trade Center and the stockbrokers and cops are not pulling cell phones out to keep in touch. Still the story captures a time before 9/11, Iraq and the financial breakdown of the past few years. I lived in the city back then and the author captures the spirit of a particular period perfectly.

While we follow Michael we also get into the minds of several other characters, including that of the killer. Horvitz has created a totally creepy, if pretty realistic, sociopath in The Chopper. Convinced that his victims are ‘asking for it’ and able to assume the identity of just the right person to attract those he intends to kill. Aided by a part-time medical examiner’s investigator, who has found she has been used, and a former-cop turned private investigator, Michael tries to uncover the conspiracy which led to his brother’s death, while trying to keep himself and his allies from falling victim.

Horvitz creates some interesting characters, both good & bad, but none without their flaws, and throws in some surprises along the way. Good casual reading for those in the mood.

Three stars

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Mr. Sardonicus Trailer

This movie totally freaked me out as a kid. I had nightmares for weeks after and I don't think I watched it again for a decade or so. It still creeped me out!

Of course, I tend to watch horror movies with my hand over my mouth and not my eyes. Who knows why?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Four Color Fiend: Wednesday Comics

I had meant to mention this limited series of tabloids earlier, but I wanted to read at least half the issues so I had a better idea of what the creators were doing. If you aren't familiar with Wednesday Comics you should know that it consists of fifteen one-page stories of sixteen DCU characters. More depending on how you want to count the Teen Titans & Metal Men. As a 'tribute' to the old Sunday comicstrip supplements you would find in newspapers each character appears in a one page chapter of a twelve page story. At the recent San Diego Comic-Con Dan Didio was asked about the series and when asked about the ultimate fate of the stories, hinted that a compilation, similar to the old Treasury Edition books might be considered. It would make artistic sense, if not necessarily a financial one, that the pages be reproduced as close as possible to the size in which they appear in the actual tabloid.

Naturally, as with any anthology, some of the stories are better than others, although none of them (IMHO) are bad. It is nice to see that most of the creators involved can work in a format that doesn't allow (or force them) to drag a storyline out over six months and a hundred pages. Most comics today are 'written for the trade' and often you find both writers & artists, with editorial insistence no doubt, padding their books. Again, while it makes financial sense, it doesn't often allow for a complete tale each issue. Here the creative teams know they have a limited time and space to put forward an adventure. Unfortunately, one or two seem to still to be padding a bit or being cute in how they use the format.

The best stories and the ones I think have a feel for the old adventure strips are the ones featuring HAWKMAN and ADAM STRANGE. Perhaps, these two holdovers from DC's Silver Age, with their SF elements are perfect and lend themselves to this sort of thing. The Adam Strange tale especially, done by Paul Pope & Lovern Kindzierski, reminds me of the best Flash Gordon stories that Mac Raboy did when I was reading the Sunday pages as a kid. Exotic aliens, strange surroundings and brave heroes doing things simply because they are the right thing to do. The Hawkman story, wonderfully written & drawn by Kyle Baker, began with the Winged Wonder trying to save an aircraft being high jacked, and turned into a 'survivor' tale on an island inhabited by dinosaurs. Way Cool!

I love the SUPERGIRL story from Jimmy Palmiotti & Amanda Conner. What a fun, humorous little story. It seems that Krypto & Streaky (Supergirl's super-powered cat) are both beginning to act a bit too much like typical pets and causing havoc due to their powers. When the Girl of Steel (who seems to be in her mid-teens in appearance and actions) goes to Dr. Mid-Nite for assistance in discoving the cause, things don't work out quite as easily as both heroes had hoped. I love this and Amanda Connor does a great job on the art making the pets cute and giving them just enough emotional quality to pull off the humor, letting us know what they may be thinking at a given moment. Bravo!

I would like to think that Jack Kirby fans and even the Kirby family are happy with what Dave Gibbons & Ryan Sook are doing with his creation KAMANDI. (Btw, it is nice to see the titles giving credit to many of the original creators of these characters. Not something always done often enough.) Gibbons & Sook bring a very, realistic feel to the world & characters The King created years ago. Not trying to imitate the creator in any way, they remain true to the characterization and the story has the grand epic quality that Kirby brought to almost everything he did.

Stories featuring SUPERMAN, BATMAN, GREEN LANTERN (Hal Jordan) and the METAL MEN are all entertaining with the GL & MM stories being closest to the Silver Age feel I enjoyed at that age. Supes & the Bats are a little darker, although you expect that from the Dark Knight as he has been portrayed for the past few decades. Karl Kerschl & Brenden Fletcher are doing a nice take on THE FLASH, with poor Barry & Iris West having a very difficult time just trying to have a dinner date. Gorilla Grodd never makes things easy and The Flash finds himself bouncing around in time and alternate realities. I still don't know how the Scarlet Speedster will get out of this.

DEADMAN by Bullock Heuck & Stewart Fletcher has a cartoony art and really nothing special. Same holds true, sadly for SGT. ROCK by Adam & Joe Kubert. The senior Kubert's art is still as good as ever, but Sarge & Easy seem only to be going through the motions in a not very special story. Kubert & Robert Kannigher would have wrapped this up by now (after nine pages) and moved on back when they were cranking this stuff on a regular basis.

Jack Kirby's other creation, THE DEMON, has been teamed with CAT WOMAN for no apparent reason. Perhaps only because somebody felt that Jason Blood could not stand on his own, although so far any female character (even one created just for this story) could have done as well. Walt Simonson & Brian Stelfreeze don't do anything special and like the story featuring Rock, they seem to be padding a twelve page story just to get it to the proper length.

TEEN TITANS by Eddie Beerganza & Sean Galloway appears to be trying to appeal to fans of both the original team and the animated series. I really don't care about these characters and have no idea who a couple of them are. Should I?

Ben Caldwell, with whom I'm not familiar but will have to make an effort to do so, brings us a very, young WONDER WOMAN , in fact Diana here does not even have the various instruments for which she became known. Sort of an 'origin' story, even including Etta Candy. I am enjoying this much more than I would have expected, given how I'm not a big fan of WW and thought I'd be getting more out of some of the other characters in the series.

I loved METAMORPHO when creators Bob Haney & Ramona Fradon were first putting the Element Man through his paces. The character was tragic, but was also fun. His supporting characters (Simon Stagg, his daughter Sapphire & Java) were always a bit cartoonishm, but later attempts to make them more 'realistic' bordered on the creepy, especially in one ill-fated series where the fatherly feelings of Stagg crossed to perverted. Enough about that! I like Neil Gaiman, I have enjoyed his prose & comics work since those first issues of SANDMAN began. I have also had a chance to meet and correspond with him, always finding him a gentleman and a nice guy. I have also been a fan of Mike Allred beginning, naturally with the wild MADMAN comics, although I've found some of his stuff hit or miss the last decade. I find it unfortunate that two such creative guys can take one of my favorite characters and make me want to pass over the page. It's almost as if both men are trying to be so 'different' and 'witty' that they have forgotten that a story would have been nice. Metamorpho is pretty much as I remember him, but the threesome of Stagg, Sapphire & Java are tiresome and more cliche then they were in those first Silver Age stories. I'd like the three of them to meet some grisly fate. Also, with only twelve pages of story to utilize, why do Gaiman & Allred drag out the 'periodic table' gag for two weeks. Do we also have to end on the same final panel note of Java rejoicing in the possible destruction of the hero? Sorry, to end on a very negative note, but I wanted to mention all the creative folks involved and it had to cover the good & the bad.

Wow! This took me much longer and I went on & on. Next time I'll try to remember that as many of the folks here seem to do that brevity can be good.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Mouse and Marvel: Should we care?

I have to admit that my immediate reaction was a shrug, since I don't own stock in either company. On the other hand, I have been enjoying a number of books in the Marvel Universe the past year or so, in addition to knowing a couple of folks who work for the company or have in the past. I do hope that if the purchase does affect them it's only in a good way. Higher royalties, might be nice as a start!

There is enough speculation around pro & con, so I don't think that I can really add anything of substance. I believe it will come down to the bottom line, as it always does with corporations. Disney will decide if leaving Marvel editorial alone is best, or if they should have some of their own looking over the individual titles and characters. I'm sure that when other licenses have ended we will see a "Disney" imprint. Possibly they will stand aside, as Time-Warner seems to have done with DC, and only use the characters in films, TV shows and merchandise. I wonder at times if some folks at T-W even know they still publish comics. I'm guessing that the Marvel themed stuff at Universal will find themselves at a Disney park eventually, but you never know.

Since Donna is going to Bingo tonight I'm going to watch MEGA SHARK VS. GIANT OCTOPUS, which I recorded last weekend on SyFy. LOL! You've got to love it! I don't have Mike & the 'bots around, but I think I can probably entertain myself.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Remote Viewing and other things

I finally had a chance to watch M Night Shyamalan's UNBREAKABLE with Bruce Willis & Samuel L. Jackson. It seemed that every time I mentioned that I was into comics somebody would ask I had seen the film. Now it's easy to understand why, since it is part fanboy wish fulfillment and part letting an obsession control your life. Willis (as David Dunn)is very good, but Jackson (as Elijah Price) steals the film as victim of a disease which makes him highly subject to injury. The film does have a solid ending, but it does leave room for a sequel. Personally, I think it better to leave the fates of the characters up to the viewer's imagination. Recommended.

Anybody else watching TOP CHEF: LAS VEGAS not surprised at who was let go in the second episode? I thought she should have packed up her knives after the initial competition. Can't say I have chosen a fave, just yet, but I wonder how long both brothers will remain in the show. I do like both Hector & Kevin, so wouldn't mind either of them moving on.

Given how some competetors were upset by the 'bachelor/bachelorette' theme, I wonder if any feel quarms about shopping at Whole Food, given the boycott talk by some folks? I'm sure, since WF is a sponsor that nothing will be broadcast, but I'm sure something must have been said or considered behind the scenes. Personally, I don't know how well boycotts work in most cases. I've taken part in my share, but I think you have to pick your enemies. I don't shop at Whole Food anyway, so it would be a sham to announce I'm joing in.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Planet Terror International Trailer

I recorded this the otner night on Encore and finally had a chance to watch last night. OMG! Totally over the top, wish some great cameos by name stars. Make up and SFX are incredible.

Ya' gotta love a chick with a machine gun for a leg!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Popcorn For One & other business

First off, I've been told by the Joe Bob Briggs folks that they will soon start posting new reviews on their site. It's been almost two years since they last updated the page, so my last review was from around Thanksgiving of '07. They have about a half dozen already on hand and I have a couple more books that I never got around to. Keep an eye on the Joe Bob Briggs site and we'll see what happens.

On Friday, your friendly reviewer finished off most of his medium-sized combo while sitting through too many lame trailers. Now generally I love these, but they didn't strike me as something that would appeal to folks waiting for a Quentin Tarantino flick. To me the only one that had any interest was the one for THE WOLFMAN with Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro in the lead roles. Has that great Hammer film feel to it, so it may be worth checking out.

I had been waiting for INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS since I caught the initial trailer before either STAR TREK or WOLVERINE. I hadn't heard anything prior to that so it was a nice surprise. I've been reading about it since and it has been impossible to miss the interviews that Brad Pitt and Tarantino, himself, have been doing the past few weeks. The additional trailers and 'word of mouth' have added to my interest and I was not disappointed.

This is pure Tarantino! How you feel about him as a screenwriter and director will already color your judgement of this movie. The man is always over the top and this film will not disappoint his fan base. It will certainly piss some folks off, but then Quentin wouldn't be doing his job if it didn't. Those who want reality or a historically accurate portrayal of WWII, are not going to be happy with this movie. Tarantino, especially in later portions of the film, plays extremely fast and loose with facts. For those who allow themselves to be swept along, they will be more than happy with the results.

Pitt plays Lt. Aldo Raine, an Army officer who recruits a group of Jewish-American soldiers (and a former member of the German army) to parachute behind German lines in occupied-France. There they set about murdering "Natsies" and spreading unease among the soldiers. Meanwhile, Allied command has discovered that much of the German high-command, including Hitler will be attending a movie premiere in Paris. The movie theatre where this will occur, just happens to be run by a Jewish woman (now passing as a non-Jew) who earlier escaped the murder of her entire family. She has her own plans for the event. Naturally, the movie culminates in all of the characters coming together in the theatre and the usual Tarantino ultra-violence breaks out.

Pitt is a lot of fun, but the best performances are from Melanie Laurant (as the Jewish theatre owner) and Christoph Waltz (as Nazi Colonel Hans Landa). Landa is known as the "Jew Hunter", having been sent to France to discover those members of the Jewish faith who have gone into hiding. This is a man who thoroughly enjoys his job. Waltz can be charming, funny and then very, scary the next moment. If he doesn't get the Best Supporting Actor nod this year there is something seriously wrong with the members of the Academy. I won't even attempt to mention the number of cameos in this movie, but it is fun seeing one in particular in a scene featuring the then Prime Minister of Great Britain. I highly recommend this movie, but do warn you that the director's well-known love of violence is on display throughout the film. Be warned!

While I'm talking about the subject of violence, I also should mention that among my comic picks this week were WALKING DEAD #64 and VIKING #3, both published by Image. Robert Kirkman's WD continues to be one of the best books currently being written. This issue is especially disturbing, though if you are already reading the book there won't be anything to really shock you. Even when the undead don't make an appearance, it is easy to see how the changes they have created on society effect even those not in immediate danger. VIKING is a bold move by Image. Here is a book in a larger than normal format, yet in full color and priced at less than many titles from the Big Two. No superheroes, but just a tale of individuals living in a savage time where groups made their own laws and death was all to close every day. The art by Nic Klein continues to improve, though his coloring can be a bit dark in places. Writer Ivan Brandon, still doesn't make his transitions immediately easy to follow, so this is a book you may have to read twice to get the impact. Not a whole bunch of likable characters, but it is possible to understand why even the 'good guys' do what they do, sometimes with glee.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

World of Warcraft: Horde Zeppelin

Just to piss off some of you! LOL!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Four-color Fiend: PUNK ROCK & TRAILER PARKS by Derf

Punk Rock & Trailer Parks

Okay, I’ll admit that this isn’t exactly one of those books that I’d normally pick up. I have been out of high school over forty years and my interest in ‘punk’ probably lasted only a couple of years during the late ‘70s. Even then I probably only had a few compilation albums or cassettes I bought, while attending college back in Connecticut. Those are long gone and I don’t even remember listening to them once I graduated. I also don’t recall ever seeing any work by the artist “Derf”, although it is possible I may have seen samples or a cover someplace. However, I have read reviews of the book by several folks, whose opinions I trust, so when I saw the TPB at San Diego, for about 50% off I figured I would give it a try. I’ glad I did.

The self-named “The Baron” is a tall, geeky high school senior growing up in Akron, OH in the late 70s. Like many of his contemporaries he is going through hard times, being picked on both for his appearance, non-violent personality and just being a band “nerd”. He lives in a local trailer park, being raised by his uncle, a retired union organizer, who lost his driver’s license so much now go to the bar on his riding mower. The Baron, loves the then emerging ‘punk rock’ scene and believes he is destined to be a part of it. Getting a job in the local club, as bouncer and general clean up guy he finds himself in close contact with a number of the bands and individuals who are helping to make punk the driving force it would be for several years. Bands such as The Clash, The Ramones, The Plasmatics (specifically singer Wendy O. Williams) and others appear briefly and interact with The Baron, often giving him advice or just making his life more interesting. There is a great sequence with the late, rock critic Lester Bangs that shows a lot of respect for him and demonstrates just what a good writer Derf can be. The book ends with a page memorializing some of the real life personalities who appear in the story, who are no longer with us. It’s sad to realize how many of these very creative folks died at such a young age.

Certainly NOT a book for kids or those offended by language, sexual situations or violence, I still have to recommend the book for those with a sense of humor. You would not have had to have much or any experience with ‘sex & drugs & rock ‘n roll’ but it couldn’t hurt! One of the best TPB’s I’ve read this year!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Inglourious Basterds - Movie Review

These guys are the best at what they do! Always fun always spot on...unless I don't agree.

Check them out on YouTube and subscribe. I'm adding a link over on the side.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Four-color Fiend: Reviews with SPOILERS (I give all kinds of stuff away!)

FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF THREE WORLDS has finally ended, months after the main FC series did and after the 'surprise' returns of Bart Allen (Kid Flash/Impulse) and Conner Kent (Superboy) have already been given away in other titles. Up until this issue, which shipped way late, I was willing to allow Geoff Johns some leeway, even though I had had a bad feeling about how it would end from the second issue. What a surprise to discover that not only had I been right, but that Johns had even made it worse by breaking the fourth wall. Bad enough that this alternate Earth Superboy finally gets his wish and returns to his home, but he is confronted by his parents with the fact that they have been reading about him in FINAL CRISIS. The last couple of pages are an additional slap in the face, with S-prime bullying his parents, implying that Lori, the girl he supposedly loved was physically harmed (perhaps killed) and speaking to the 'reader'. Is the character really that "popular" with fans or writers at DC that he couldn't be killed or de-powered? Artwise, I have no complaints, since George Perez did his usual amazing job of making literally hundreds of characters all individuals. Sad, that his craftsmanship was wasted on this forgettable non-event.

MS MARVEL #42 has Carol Danvers killed again by the current Ms Marvel (the villainous Moonstone in disquise). Don't worry, she apparently gets better again on the last page.

Since I have been you picking up DARK AVENGERS, NEW AVENGERS, MIGHTY AVENGERS, SECRET WARRIORS and several other DR related books, I'm going to go out on a limp here and guess that none of the "Dark Avengers" are going to actually die by the end of this whole thing, since that would mean they couldn't come back in the next event. My hope is that Norman Osborne reverts to the Green Goblin again in the next couple of months and things wrap up. It seems that the whole DARK REIGN story line has been going on for much too long. Not that all of the titles I mentioned (and some other tie-ins) have been bad, it just seems that all this right on top of SECRET INVASION has really not allowed for some of the 'heroes' do move on. It almost appears that since CIVIL WAR many are just running in place from one (pardon the expression) crisis to the next. Of course, the same can be said for the DCU for the past several years, so fair is fair I guess. I wonder it all this is leading up to one of my occasional "THE HELL WITH ALL THIS CRAP" decisions and I just stop collecting. Stay tuned!

Of course, if we look at some of the books not produced by the Big Two, there are still some bright lights and I'd hate to stop getting those. If I have time this coming week I'll try to mention some of those. I may also try to briefly mention some of the freebies and other stuff I picked up last weekend at Comic-con.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A bit more of San Diego, pt. 2

I don't have as much patience to stand in line as I used to, so I tended to skip a lot of events that involved hanging around in the halls for an hour or so. The one event I was willing to stand for was the RiffTrax 'live' show, but due to a late dinner and being caught at the train-crossing the line was closed when I finally arrived. This makes two years in a row I have missed out on seeing the guys who once did Mystery Science Theatre 3000. I guess there is always next year, if I plan ahead.

It was good seeing some former Capa-Alpha folks and meeting others I had not met before. Always odd sitting around with Mark Verheiden when he is talking about the shows he is writing, since I don't watch a single one. Still fun hearing him trying not to give anything away to those who do ask. He is always working on some other projects that he can't reveal, so those always come as a surprise.

Hard to believe that Bob Ingersoll has retired from his civil service job. He remains one of the better story-tellers and can be a pretty brutal critic. Jeff Gelb remains an optimist, so he is another fun breakfast partner. I do feel badly about not making an attempt to meet up with Paul Storrie, since he is another great guy. Yet, another reason to start planning already for next year.

Did I mention last time how the guys doing security at some booths can be major A**holes? Or that somebody should tell the con staffers that they might learn where lines start or end? I know I'm not the only person who missed out on a signing, panel or give-away due to being directed incorrectly.

There actually didn't seem to be quite as many booth-babes as there have been in the past. Even those who were there actually seemed to be wearing a bit more clothes. In fact, it appeared that the fangirls and cosplayers were wearing less! A quick check of YouTube will certainly give you an idea of those in and 'out' of costume. Btw, did anybody happen to see the amazing SILK SPECTRE on Saturday evening? Certainly turned a number of heads not only at the con, but at the Grand Hyatt!

Speaking of our hotel, I don't think I'd mind staying there again. Dan and I had a nice room with a great view and were within short walking distance of both the convention center and the seaport restaurants. I might not use the valet parking though, since it was over $30 a day, with no discount for guests. Also, Dan learned his lesson about ordering Room Service. It was over thirty dollars for a chicken sandwich!

Mark Evanier's annual Quick Draw Challenge with Sergion Aragones & Scott Shaw! was fun as usual. Loved seeing Stan "The Man" Lee on the SuperHero Squard panel. The toyline looks sharp and the cartoon itself (they showed several segments) is delightful. They will be using all of the Marvel heroes and the show has a light, fun style.

Better late then never I suppose, huh? Bye for now!

Friday, July 31, 2009

At Last! My San Diego Comic-Con Report! pt. 1

So a week after everybody else who was at SDCC has given you their opinions, photos and rants I finally have a few moments to get mine down. It would take quite a lot of bandwidth to tell you everything and I'm sure much of it would be meaningless unless you are really into comics are were actually there. There are a few things that stand out and I do have a few misc. photos to share. Speaking of that, I have to get a new memory card for my camera. I thought I could switch off with the one we use in out new digital camera, but discovered too late that it didn't work. There were other pics I took that I had to delete to keep the ones I have. I promise to do better next year!

As you can see Lex Luthor's cousin "Shortie" Luthor made it to the con and was gabbing it up with '50s Superman. I caught a video of this particular Man of Steel dancing on YouTube over at BarelyPolitical, I believe. Pretty funny!

I was pleasantly susprised to see a number of folks dressed up as members of the Justice Society of America (I didn't get a chance to get more photos of them), which must demonstrate that there are fans of the books around. Makes sense then that DC has announced a second JSA title coming out later this year.

Peter Jackson's DISTRICT 9, looks good and they had a big presense at the convention. Dan and I couldn't resist having out picture taken by the MNU van. Okay, I dragged him over to be honest. I'm the bigger fanboy, I guess.

As usual at SDCC there was way too much stuff going on to take in even a part of it over three days. I may consider doing Thursday, as well, next year, but will have to look at my Vacation schedule and how many days I'll have.

That will have to do for now. I hadn't noticed the time. A few more photos and more stuff later!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Going to San Diego and other things on my mind

If you have been paying the least bit of attention here or over at my other blog (or MySpace, Facebook or Twitter) you already know that I'm going to be meeting up with my friend Dan on Thursday. We have a hotel already booked, in fact Dan will be in SD on Wednesday and will be staying there already.

I have some plans to meet some folks there over the weekend, but plan on spending most of my time roaming aimlessly about the displays and taking lots of pictures. Of course, should I be struck by another Jedi this year I don't know if my camera will survive a second light saber hit. *sigh*

There are a number of panels and presentations I would like to attend, but I don't have the patience to stand in line for two-hours for a one hour program. A quick glance at the posted list of programs made me realize that I can't possibly attend everything I would like. A couple of Mark Evanier's panels sound good, especially an interview with Stan Freberg on Friday and the annual "Quick Draw" with Sergio Aragones & Scott Shaw! The former MST3K folks now working as RiffTrax are also doing a live event, which I missed last year but hope to catch this time around.

As usual, I'll be going to Dick's Last Resort at least once and the Marriot Gaslamp for the annual Capa-Alpha breakfast on Saturday. I hear they have re-opened the Spaghetti Factory also, so I might head over there. There are a lot of good places to eat in San Diego, but the problem is that most of them will be packed. We'll have to see how the coffee shop at the hotel is if nothing else is available.

If I can I might try to log-on over the weekend at least once and give a quick update to some of my pages. Keep an eye out!

I highly recommend the first issues of both BLACKEST NIGHT & BLACKEST NIGHT: TALES OF THE CORP for you DC fans. Some really creepy stuff, including the seeming death of a couple of characters and the resurrection of several more. The lead up to this series in the two GL books has been good and it looks like this is going to have a big payoff.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Still listening: Old Time Radio

One of the nice folks that we have met on our regular Bingo nights is Jeanne. Jeanne is a wonderful lady, who it's hard to believe is in her mid-80s. She's still working part-time and has more energy than people half her age. Anyway, Jeanne is quite naturally a fan of Old Time Radio and has been nice enough to let me borrow some of the CD collections she owns.

Among the collections have been compilations of detective shows, some sets of one series and others of miscellaneous programs. As a fan of these shows I'm still surprised to discover one with which I wasn't familiar or to find one by a particular actor. Two actors, primarily known for their film or television roles (at least by me) were Dick Powell and Jack Webb. In both cases, it was a pleasant surprise and in the case of Webb a revelation.

I knew Dick Powell played RICHARD DIAMOND, PRIVATE DETECTIVE on radio for several years. Jeanne had let me borrow several collections featuring this program and I had also heard several before on RADIO SPIRIT compilations. What I hadn't known was that four years previously (the same year Powell appeared as Philip Marlowe in the film "Murder,My Sweet) he had a short-lived radio program. Called ROGUE'S GALLERY, Powell played Richard Rogue, a private-detective. The show's gimmick was that at least once a week Rogue would be hit over the head (or otherwise rendered unconscious)and find himself in dreamland where he would have a conversation with his alter-ego, EUGOR (spell it backwards!). Just as with Powell's interpretation of Diamond, the show was often tongue-in-cheek with Rogue never taking himself too seriously. If you find these shows I recommend them, since you can hear how this portrayal comes close to the one Powell used in the later series.

Other than DRAGNET, and perhaps the film THE D.I., most folks probably are not familiar with Jack Webb's career. I'll be honest and admit that except for knowing he did a few other movies and later became a producer, my knowledge of Webb was pretty much limited to that of his Sgt. Friday. I'd also read his non-fiction book on the Los Angeles police department (and some of their most famous cases) THE BADGE, back in high school. It's kind of odd hearing Webb playing some one other than Friday, especially because his voice is so distinctive, as is his delivery. Apparently, his first show was actually of the comedy/variety type and called THE JACK WEBB SHOW. Sadly, I haven't heard any of those and may have to only imagine what they must have been like.

Before DRAGNET, Webb appeared/starred in about a half-dozen radio dramas for various periods. The only two that I have heard myself have been PAT NOVAK FOR HIRE (Webb as an unlicensed P.I., who also works down on the docks) and JEFF REGAN, INVESTIGATOR (where he works for the sometimes not very scrupulous, Lion Detective Agency). It's a lot of fun, if odd, hearing Webb portray characters who weren't criminals, but didn't have a lot of use for the police. In fact, in both of these dramas you often had the police working at odds with Webb's characer and even being corrupt. It was while working on the film, HE WALKED BY NIGHT in 1948 (based on a true murder case), that Webb got the idea for the series that would make him a star.

Hope you found this interesting. Next time out either comics or a movie review.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


In preparation for San Diego, I'm going through some of my comics to decide what I might need/want to purchase. I have also checked out the current list of 'guests' and may bring along some books to have signed while I'm there.

I first met Randy Reynaldo at one of the SD Comicons in the early '90s, if I recall. He is there just about every year and so was I for some of that period. Considering the number of 'small press' comics and creators that have disappeared over the past decade, it's great to see somebody like Randy continuing to put out such a fun book.

Randy's Website will tell you more about his book and the lead character than I can, so I recommend you go there. However, I highly recommend ROB HANES for fans looking for something a bit "old fashioned" yet contemporary at the same time.

Reynaldo's influences such as Milt Caniff, Roy Crane, Alex Toth and other "Golden Age" of action comic strip artists are obvious. Rob is modeled after the adventurers like Terry, Buz Sawyer and Steve Canyon, but the stories themselves involve terrorists, video piracy, steroids in professional sports and other things the Old School guys never knew of. Of course, as in those strips and Will Eisner's THE SPIRIT you'll see lots of beautiful women and evil henchmen in just about every issue.

Check out Randy's page, read some of the free webcomics and buy some of the Rob Hanes books. I think you'll be happy you did!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Remote Viewing: Surfing the channels last night

I've yet to start reading anything online, but Donna and I thought that Niel Patrick Harris did a nice job hosting the Tonys last night. He was fun and you could tell he was having a good time. I think it's smart to fill the show with musical numbers, since most of America will not have a chance to see the actual shows. Smart, also, to promote the traveling editions of the shows, as for many those are the only way they'll get a chance to attend.

Quick notes: Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda and Angela Lansberry are all beginning to look their age, with Parton beginning to take on that creepy, Joan Rivers overly tightened look. Liza continues to act and look like a drag-queen doing a moderately okay impersonation of her. (Yeah, Donna didn't think it was funny when I said that either!)

The new season of WHO WANTS TO BE THE NEXT FOOD NETWORK STAR? began last night. No standouts, but you can understand why somebody doing a salad would get booted. I also can't see the nutritionist going too far either and you should never bad-mouth the network kitchen to somebody who works there!

TOP CHEF MASTERS looks to a way to spin-off from the original. Bringing in some of the major chefs who have been judges on the TC show and Food Network to compete against each other for charitable donations. I love this stuff!

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

I've got no clue, but what the heck?

As I mentioned yesterday, over on PARTING SHOTS, the block seems to have been lifted on Blogger. They have been working on the various filters and there are librarians who post professional information and links on their blogs, but we have not been able to access them. We'll see what happens in the coming days.

When time permits I'm going to be adding and deleting some of the links on both my blogs. There are some news sites that have caught my eye and others that I seldom, if ever, visit any longer. I doubt I'll be playing around with the layouts, since I'm pretty happy with them.

If you haven't been here in a while, or are just finding this blog, I recommend you scroll down and view my reviews of STAR TREK, WOLVERINE & WATCHMEN. It will give you a pretty good idea of where I'm at currently. I stopped promoting these blogs a few months ago, when the filtering began, but have started listing it on some new sites. If you haven't been here before, Welcome!

I hope to be posting some comics reviews later this week, since I'm currently going through three weeks worth of stuff I picked up at Nuclear Comics.

I'm really getting into the buildup to BLACKEST NIGHT at DC, but the teaser shots of returning "dead" DCU heroes has me nervous at the same time. Still I recommend both GREEN LANTERN & GREEN LANTERN CORPS, even though I think Sinestro is outlasting his usefulness. I'm hoping he departs as some of my favorite heroes make their return.

On the other hand, I think I about reaching the saturation point for "Dark Reign" over at Marvel. It might be time for both the Big Two to start getting back to non-epic stories and maybe letting the good guys win every so often.

Really quick: If you like zombies and other films of an apocalyptic nature, you should try QUIET EARTH. Good site for folks who like that sort of thing, and I'm certainly in that category. I have to admit that I got an initial kick out of the site's name, since my first apa was called CURSED EARTH, which referenced the post-apocalyptic America in the Judge Dredd series.

Well, I have to go now. There's something scratching at the door, so I better go and ....

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Stop Talkin' About Comic Books Or I'll Kill You - Ookla The Mok

How can you not love this song!

"I don't care if Spider-Man's a clone!!" LOL

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Popcorn for One: A Review of STAR TREK (a few spoilers)

So okay, I'm a sucker for STAR TREK (ST), especially the original (OST) series with Shatner, Nimoy and company. I've lost count of the number of times I have seen all the episodes. I also enjoyed NEXT GENERATION & ST: DS-9, and the first two seasons of VOYAGER, although I'll admit that after the pilot & first few episodes of ENTERPRISE, both Donna and I gave up. I've also seen all the previous Big Screen ST films, at least once and several a few times when they started making the rotation on television. It was obvious from my initial viewing of the "Under Construction" trailer prior to last year's San Diego Comicon that I was going to be psyched for this movie.

As a fan of LOST and CLOVERFIELD, I was willing to give J.J. Abrams the benefit of the doubt on his take on the franchise. He admitted he wasn't a fan, and frankly, that might be a good thing, especially as the film takes things in a different direction. These are not the characters I have followed since high school and I'm fine with that. Maybe part of the problem with some of the earlier ST films was that we were already overly familiar with Kirk, Spock, McCoy and the rest of the bridge crew. We could almost guess what their reactions would be in any given situation. For a 'new generation' (pardon the expression) of fans to accept the series it had to move into new ground.

In the first few minutes of the movie a gigantic spacecraft emerges from a wormhole and engages a Federation ship. From that point, all bets are off. The appearance of the Romulan ship, commanded by Nero (Eric Bana) changes events and creates an alternative timeline. The characters we knew from OST are not the characters we are introduced to throughout the film. The names are the same, but almost everything else we knew has been changed.

The James T. Kirk (Chris Pine), and Dr. Leonard McCoy (Karl Urban) we see here are for the most part closer to the 'classic' ones we knew. Spock (Zachary Quinto), or NuSpock as he as been branded in fan circles, is by far the most radically different from how we knew the Vulcan portrayed Leonard Nimoy. As both characters appear in the film, the versions are easy to compare. Sulu, Checkov, Uhura and Scotty are all here, with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) given quite a bit different persona than we saw from Nichelle Nichols. It will be interesting to see in the sequels (which I'm sure we can expect given this movie's critical success and box-office) where the different characters go from this point.

I liked the new actors, and thought they did good jobs in the roles. I don't think I'm the only one who will be willing to see some more of the new Enterprise crew.

Monday, May 04, 2009

DCU: Green Lantern CORPS - Floyd Was Here

Just because it is so cool!

I"ve added both GREEN LANTERN and GREEN LANTERN CORPS to my pull list at Nuclear. Love the way both titles are going with the leadup to BLACKEST NIGHT.

Whoa! Got over a dozen freebies for FCBD. Hope you scored some goodies this past weekend! I"ll try to have some reviews and comments later this week.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (with spoilers)

Hugh Jackman owns the role of Wolverine. I can't imagine another actor doing the role at this point and hope I won't have to for a while. Equally good in the film is Liev Schreiber, who stars as Logan's brother the villain Sabretooth.

If you aren't a comic book fan, you might be surprised by some of the things revealed in the opening sequence of the film. That I won't giveaway! You might also want to stick around after the credits start to role, as there are a couple of extra goodies. Just don't expect to see Nick Fury or Tony Stark show up. They aren't that sort of spoiler, just a couple of moments to show "what happened to..."

As you may know, if you have read anything about the movie, this takes place a few years before the incidents in the first X-MEN film. We see a couple of characters that appear there and understand why they react as if they don't know each other after an initial meeting. The movie is filled with mutants, some of whom I'm familiar with and others I'm not, so I can't say how faithful they are to their four-color characterization. I do know that one character is pissing off the fanboys and I can understand why. Even though I've never liked this character I think he is ill-used and this ruins him for future appearances. (Think Darth Maul!)

One last thing about particular mutants in the movie. I think it was a mistake to use The Blob in the film, since the scenes with him (after earlier ones where he is unidentified) stop the film for comic effect and it doesn't work. It's basically Wolverine fighting Fat Bastard! The same information could have been introduced without resorting to jokes about an obese man.

Overall, I enjoyed the movie and think that it works. Not amazing, but a decent summer movie for action fans. If you enjoy super-heroes and can overlook some of the minor things I've mentioned I recommend you check it out. Give you something to do until STAR TREK opens next week!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hugh Jackman on FCBD plus Wolverine Trailer

Damn! For the 3rd year in a row I'm working on FCBD!

Support your local shop and buy some comics.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Watching & reading, as usual!

Is everyone as confused by LOST as I am? (SPOILERS)

I mean I still enjoy the show and many of the characters, but the current time-hopping storyline makes things even more confusing then they were when you just had to worry about something being a dream or vision. Characters are not only appearing in flashbacks, but some have actually moved back in time to the 1970s. In the latest episode one character saw himself as a three month old infant!! Oh, and John is alive again. (End spoilers)

I'm currently reading three books, and should probably concentrate on one. I'm about half way through I'M NOT A COP! by Richard Belzer, one of those books where the celebrity writing as her/himself becomes involved in a mystery or murder. Steve Allen, wrote a nice series where he mixed fictional and real life characters solving crimes. Belzer, does that here, but doesn't really include anybody other than himself in the story, except in some phone conversations he has with his wife. I think you have to like the Belz and his humor, along with his television persona to enjoy the book. So far, I am.

I've been a fan of Charles Dickens, since I first read some of his novels back in junior high. His final, unfinished novel THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, has been the subject of close to a dozen books, in which different people have tried their own hand at discovering what Dickens had in mind for the ending and even attempted to write that conclusion themselves. In DROOD, writer Dan Simmons tries his hand at not only figuring out the mystery of the novel, but also of the final years of the author. Following his surviving a horrendous train wreck, the famous writer spent the final years of his life engaged in not only writing, but performing and staging adaptations of his works. In his personal life he also seemingly became even more difficult and began suffering from both physical and psychological attacks, often leaving him in weakened states.

Simmons, through the narration of Dickens'one-time friend and collaborator, author Wilkie Collins (The Lady in White, Moonstone, etc.), chronicles the final years of the "illustrious" writer as he becomes involved in with a mysterious individual called, simply Drood. Who is this person? Is he a healer, or serial killer? What hold does he have on the author and what will Dickens do to protect him? Finally, has the favorite of Queen Victoria begun plotting a murder of his own and decided to turn his own life into one reflecting his final work? Even though I'm not quiet halfway through I highly recommend the book.

Oh, and in case you're wondering I'm also reading comics.

Not sure where Dwayne McDuffie is going with JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA, but things do not look good in the current issue #31, where the team is basically told to disband by the current chairperson. Repercussions of several past and current stories come together and we see how a few of the characters are dealing with the apparent death of Bruce Wayne/Batman. McDuffie sort of fills us in on things and lets us know of other changes taking place in the DCU. Looks like there are several super-hero teams about to be shaken up and have their rosters changed.

That does it for now! Don't forget about FREE COMICBOOK DAY coming up pretty soon, either!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Supercar series one title sequence

For some reason I can't explain, I found myself humming this on my way to Starbucks this afternoon. I haven't seen the show in a couple of decades, but still remember the opening.

On an unrelated note, it pays to call the hotels in San Diego a couple of months before the convention if you want to book a room. Hell, don't even mention the con! I know folks who booked rooms last year when they were there, or a few months after. If you are sharing a room the costs aren't that bad.

Oh, did anybody else catch the premiere of THE UNUSUALS last night on ABC? A comedy/drama cop show, with some familiar faces. I liked it!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Just some random stuff!

If I haven't mentioned it before, but I believe I have, I'm going down to the San Diego ComiCon again this year. My friend, Dan, is flying in from Brooklyn and we already have a hotel room booked for three nights (Thursday thru Saturday). The only definite thing so far will be the annual Capa-Alpha get-together on Saturday morning. Be nice if we got more than the six folks that came last year, although I had a really good time. These things used to take up several long tables with a couple dozen current and former K-a members. Ah, well...

I have finally gotten around to watching my anniversary present from last year. Namely the MST3-K 20th Anniversary DVD set. Nice selection of four films from several seasons, plus the "History of MST3-K" special split over three of the disks. I still haven't watched the fourth film, with the video of last year's SD convention get-together. Recommended to all MYSTies!

In the comics, it looks like several titles are having deadline problems for various reasons. It will be interesting to see what effect the badly delayed FINAL CRISIS: LEGION OF 3 WORLDS will have on the up-coming new LS-H series. Also, I'm really disappointed that Marvel's THE TWELVE seems to have slipped under the radar and the delays will probabaly real damage the sales on this very, good book. Finally, it's nice to see Barry Allen back in the scarlet costume. I don't think things are going to go smoothly for the speedster though. Check out THE FLASH: REBIRTH, if you haven't already. Plus, I recommend RAGE OF THE RED LANTERNS and both the current GREEN LANTERN & GREEN LANTERN CORPS books. Been quite a few year since I could say that!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Popcorn for One: A movie review - WATCHMEN


Wow! That pretty much sums up my reaction to the film adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbon’s classic graphic novel, WATCHMEN. Director Zack Snyder finally does what others before him could not get done. Namely bring this book to the big screen and do it justice. Seeing it in IMAX probably added to my enjoyment, but I'm sure it would also work on the regular screen.

If you are familiar with Moore’s story you already know that it takes place in an alternate 1985, where Richard Nixon is in his third term as President and the U.S. won in Vietnam. In this reality super-heroes, have been around since the 1940s and were pretty much accepted until outlawed. Some have gone into business, or into other pursuits and some began working for the government in one way or another. When one of the more notorious members of the group called The Watchmen is murdered, another member believes that someone is purposely targeting ‘masks’.

That pretty much sets up what happens as we learn some of the background and origins of the major players. It seems the ‘good guys’ may have had their own share of dark secrets and might not have been morally much better than some of the ‘bad guys’ they fought.

Some reviewers didn’t look favorably on the performance of Malin Ackerman (Silk Spectre II), but I thought she was quite good. Her action scenes seemed believable and I thought she was equally as good in the straight scenes as many of her male co-stars. To be honest, I certainly thought she was better than Matthew Goode, doing his best David Bowie impersonation, who chewed the scenery as Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias. I put Goode’s performance on a par with Julian McMahon who made Dr. Doom such a cipher in both FANTASTIC FOUR films.

On the other hand, a couple of the major male leads were extremely good and I would hope one of them gets a nod come Oscar time. If Heath Ledger brought the Joker to life (pardon the expression) then Jackie Earle Haley as RORSCHACH deserves equal credit. With his face totally hidden behind his ever-shifting mask, Haley has to use his voice and body language to portray what is going on. Those scenes, especially those in prison, where he can be seen are even more powerful. Patrick Wilson and Billy Crudup (Nite Owl II and Dr. Manhattan respectively) are both good, even though Crudup is computer generated for part of his performance. Hey, if a CGI- Gollum can get an MTV Movie award than Dr. Manhattan and his blue wee-wee are equally deserving of one. As The Comedian, Jeffrey Dean Morgan actually makes you feel sympathy for a character that is pretty unlikable.

By the way, it was fun to see Matt Frewer(Max Headroom, for those with good memories)as Moloch, a 'retired' super-villain. Even though he doesn't have a big part in the film his role is pivotal to the plot.

Finally, I think this film does as much to bring up the level of ‘super-hero’ movies as did the original SPIDER-MAN, IRON MAN and last year’s DARK KNIGHT. Just don't take any small children or elderly nuns, huh?

Folks who know me know I love previews. There were about a half dozen film trailers, evidently being released to IMAX. Of them, I know I'll be catching the new STAR TREK film, with fingers crossed and the second TRANSFORMERS film looks to be even more over the top then the first. Donna caught an ad for MONSTERS VS. ALIENS on television and we might both go to see that one. The next Harry Potter movie really looks as dark (even in the way it was filmed) as I remember the book, but the 'kids' do seem to be much older than the ones they portray at this point.

Save me an aisle seat!