Monday, December 14, 2009

The best Christmas Cartoon...

...Is none other than Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol. The first big animated Christmas TV special, Magoo's Christmas Carol debuted in December 1962 and is special to me for several reasons. Mr Magoo introduced the Charles Dickens classic to me. The ghosts appear out of order from the book, but it always seemed to me that the ghosts of Christmas Present, Past, and Future was the logical order. Second; the music of Jule Styne and lyrics of Mike Merrill was top notch and unforgettable. This tandem went on to write the music for the play "Funny Girl" which made Barbra Streisand a star. In fact, the Streisand smash hit "People" which was written for Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol did not make it into the final production and then was used in "Funny Girl". Lastly, the show featured actual prominent stage actors such as Jack Cassidy (the father of Sean Cassidy of The Partridge Family), Royal Dano, and Les Tremayne. Let it not go unsaid that Jim Backus's Magoo as Scrooge was a part the near sighted old codger was born to play.

The animated Dicken's classic is framed by Magoo playing a star actor in a stage production. There is even a curtain call at the end of the 60 minute cartoon.

It's a shame that this yuletide gem has fallen by the wayside and has been overshadowed by Charlie Brown, Rudolph, and Frosty. Magoo's Christmas Carol has not been show an annual Christmas viewing since the 60's. If you haven't seen it, do yourself and your young ones a favor and buy the DVD.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Beatles Mono or Stereo Set?

I recently received an email from Amazon informing me that the Beatles Mono Box set I ordered back in the middle of September has finally been shipped. I must admit to being slightly irritated by Apple creating this artificial demand for the mono box set by only pressing and shipping 10,000 copies in their initial release, but in any event it is on it's way.

Now I am excited to receive the mono set because there are some differences in some of the mixes that will be interesting to hear. However, for most listeners the first two Beatles albums; "Please Please Me", and "With The Beatles", are really the only reason for most people to buy the mono over stereo as they were recorded on primitive two track tape machines. The stereo separation is generally more annoying than enhancing the listening experience.

So, the mono set is primarily for collectors and Beatles completists who must have everything, which is pretty much where I fall in. Music snobs will point out that Beatles historians, George Martin, and The Beatles put the most care into the mono mixes, and that is what the Beatles intended for their fans to have. Well, that would be true forty years ago, but how many people today have a hi-fi system with only one speaker? You have two ears and at least two speakers to listen to your music today. Therefore, if you just want to own this great music for the first time, or don't want to spend a whole lot of money; definitely, buy the stereo CD's and enjoy.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Beatles Remasters and other bits you need to know.

Well, today is the day I have been longing for and talking about for quite a while. The whole Beatles catalog was cleaned up and re-released today--FINALLY! I caved and ordered the Mono set online and bought five Stereo CD's: Revolver, Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, White Album, Abbey Road, and Past Masters. I have only listened to the stereo Revolver CD so far. It's definitely better than the 1987 CD, but I wasn't blown away by it. It's a cleaner, more vibrant sound than before, but I still miss the way my old vinyl albums used to sound. There are some things I was used to hearing all while growing up that just hasn't transferred to digital. Even with the high price tag of $229 on the Mono set I am really looking forward to hearing those CD's as the Beatles preferred those mixes over stereo in the sixties.

In other pop culture news of interest Pat over at Silver Age Comics has a cool post about a Superman Imaginary story. DC's imaginary stories used to catch a lot of ridicule from Marvel and Marvel fans back in the 60's. Later Marvel would come up with their own version of Imaginary stories called "What If" so go figure. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

I just finished reading The Marvel Masterworks Silver Surfer Vol 1. First: these hard bound bookshelf collections of Masterworks and the DC Archives are outstanding compilations when reading comics from forty years ago. Vibrant colors and quality printing make them hard to put down. I am constantly searching discount web sites or comic shops for used copies. Secondly: about the Silver Surfer stories in this compilation; it collects the first 6 issues of Silver Surfer. The Silver Surfer was the mouthpiece for Stan Lee and this character gave voice to Lee's feelings and thoughts on racism, ignorance, violence, war, politics, and just about all the hot button issues of the late 60's. I have to tell you that Lee's overly preachy soliloquies get old real fast. After Silver Surfer #1 we pretty much get where Stan is coming from and the proselytizing every issue wears on my last nerve.

Even with that criticism it still has some of Lee's finest writing and plotting along with John Buscema. A word about Buscema's art: Awesome! Totally awesome. Issues 1-3 are good but pretty standard Marvel plotting then it takes off...issues 4-6 are as good as any comic I have ever read. However, the more adult themes and higher price of 25 cents failed to reach enough of the older readers it was aiming for and SS only lasted for 18 issues. I also suspect that not including to the humor of Marvel's most successful comics; i.e., Fantastic Four and Spider-man didn't help. But the Silver Surfer making wisecracks certainly would not have worked. It would have been a good idea to give the Surfer a complimentary character, a la; Rick Jones to lighten things up a bit.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Baddest of them all....

Who is the greatest super-villain of all time? Luthor? Doctor Doom? Darkseid? Despicably evil as they are they have all been defeated. Ladies and gentlemen I give you a villain who retired undefeated with no ties: THE COMPOSITE SUPERMAN.

I am only talking about the Joe Meach Silver Age version who kicked Superman's and Batman's ass both times he faced them in World's Finest 142 & 168. Supes and Bats only survived because of Compy losing his powers just before he turned out the lights on them for good. Meach died in a heroic act of self sacrifice so he was never to return to take them on again. I am not interested in the reworkings of the character after World's Finest 142 and WF 168.

Now this story absolutely thrilled me as a child. Compy's appearance was both very cool and macabre at the same time. My favorite artist Curt Swan was fantastic at making super villains look frighteningly realistic. An ordinary janitor named Joe Meach not only acquires Superman's powers but all the powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes. He uses Chameleon Boy's power into changing himself to look like a half Superman half Batman demon with a green face.

Meach is a janitor in the Superman museum where life like Legionnaire statuettes are displayed. Very life like because each statuette was created by making an exact duplicate of each legionnaire that included his/her own individual powers. A lightning bolt strikes the statuettes and also the nearby Joe Meach who is sweeping up. A curious thing about the Silver Age is that people never close their windows during a lightning storm. Meach is then imbued with powers and an evil personality.

Like all good super-villains Compy has to toy with Batman and Superman before he destroys them just long enough until it's too late. Of course if he knocks them off in the first couple of pages there's about 14 empty pages of story, right?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Hollywood bits and bytes

In recent weeks I have seen a few movies; one of which is the newest release of a blockbuster series, and two others that are in the "B" movie category.

"Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince" is the blockbuster of course and I would have to say that I enjoyed this chapter the least of all the six Harry Potter movies. I have not read any of the books. I have only seen the movies and this is the first time I felt like I really wasn't following what was going on. I also have enjoyed each movie less as the principal characters have grown from children into older teens and young adults.

The two "B" movies I enjoyed quite a bit and are great summer fun flicks. "The Orphan" is about a married couple whose third child is stillborn. To get over the loss they decide to adopt a nine year old russian orphan named Esther. We kind of get a bad feeling about Esther right away when she manipulates the couple into adopting her. "The Orphan" has an innovative twist on what would be just another child from hell film and twelve year old Isabelle Furhman is brilliant. She is American but does a fantastic job with the russian accent and is completely creepy. Isabelle is also a Beatles fan.

"Perfect Getaway" opens with showing us videos of a recent wedding and then takes us to the honeymoon in Hawaii. The news headlines in Hawaii are of two brutal serial killers who are still on the loose. Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich play the newlyweds Cliff and Cydney who meet ex military special ops Nick (Timothy Olyphant)and his girlfriend Gina (Kiele Sanchez). Nick who is guiding Cliff and Cydney through the jungle terrain of Kauai has a nasty looking knife and acts a little wild and crazy. Things really get tense when a suspicious acting and looking hitch hiking couple make the scene. So the guessing game and red herrings begin of figuring out who the killers are.

While the twist about who the serial killers are may be obvious to some, I didn't figure it out until it was revealed. I also didn't sit there watching trying to spot every little flaw and plot hole. I have enjoyed Steve Zahn in just about everything I have seen him in and he does a great job playing cliff. Olyphant and Sanchez were very likable and quite good in their roles. The one I thought was a little miscast was Jovovich as the prim and innocent Cydney.

If you go see "The Orphan" and "A Perfect Getaway" without a lot of pretentious expectations and accept them as just a nice hot summer diversion, I think you will have a good time.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Batman and Science Fiction

Pat over at Silver Age Comics has a couple of cool posts on Batman and Aliens. This era in Batman's history almost got the book canceled before the character would be a huge hit on TV a few years later. As usual Pat's expository posts are delightful and inspired me to get out one of my treasured silver age comics.

These aren't your Dad's comic books.

I don't read a lot of the current comic mags coming out these days. If I do I will wait to pick up the trade editions like the excellent Captain America run going on by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting.

Obviously comics today are not written for children as they largely were when I was growing up in the Silver Age back in the 60's. The classic comics back then may have had kids as their target audience but they did not talk down to us. Quite the contrary they introduced science fiction concepts; language; morality; and even social issues that have stayed with us into our adult lives. It's a different ball game today to be sure. With so many different mediums able to provide kids with the instant gratification of constant stimulation to keep their attention, comics are having a tough go of it.

Comics look very slick today and most of them cost 3 or 4 bucks a piece. Even as slick as they look they aren't as slick looking as a Blu-Ray there you are. What they are doing, though; is becoming as dark, violent, and gory as the computer games they compete against. Right now throughout the summer Marvel has it's "Dark Reign" crossing over in it's titles and DC has "Blackest Night".

I decided to check out was going with DC's "Blackest Night" and have read Green Lantern #43 and Blackest Night #1. All I can say is...UGH! Basically in these two books an old GL villain called "Black Hand" falls under the control of some dark devilish force in space sector 666. We see Black Hand eviscerate, disembowel, and flay his mother, father, and two brothers. Then for the piece de resistance he blows his brains out; all in stomach churning graphic detail. Yum! Torture porn comes to comics. BH is brought back by the sinister dark and malevolent force in space sector 666 and then proceeds to go about raising deceased super-heroes. As you can guess they don't return as the good guys they were when they died. They are zombies or something worse bashing heads to a bloody pulp for their demonic master in space sector 666.

When I finished reading I didn't feel entertained. I felt bad. Movies like Saw and Hostel have the same affect. They aren't entertainment, they are an all out assault. My opinion is that if comics are to survive they need to be more like Brian K Vaughn's "Runaways" and Grant Morrison's "All Star Superman" which are everything that has been and will be great about comic books. In the mean time I will be happy to re-read my Silver Age comics.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

1966 Marvel Super-heroes cartoons

Staying with the year 1966 we get the first of animated Marvel characters. The cartoons were produced by Gantray-Lawrence; a Canadian animation company, which featured Iron Man; Captain America; Sub-Mariner; Thor; and Hulk. The syndicated color series had extremely limited animation and were actually only photo static copies of the characters' comic book panels. The animation primarily was from moving lips, and some minimal arm and leg movement. Stories were lifted directly from the mags in their entirety and were shown in seven minute segments. Each character had it's own cheesy theme song with the best being the Hulk's: "Dr Banner belted by gamma rays...turns into the Hulk...ain't he unglamorays". What a hoot!

Check out the intro from the Hulk.

Here's the opening of every Marvel cartoon in 1966-67 including the Saturday nationally televised bigger budgeted Fantastic Four and Spider-Man with it's classic jazzy "Spider-Man...Spider-Man...does whatever a spider can...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Remastered Beatles Catalogue

As all hardcore Beatles fans know by now, the surviving two Beatles and the two Beatle widows finally got their act together and approved the release of the classic remastered albums due to arrive for sale September 9th. You can get a preview of the songs at Apple isn't doing long suffering Beatle fans any favors though by not including any extra's on the CD's; which, you can buy separately; or, in the expensive box set. Apple could have made one box set and included the stereo and mono versions but (this is Apple we are talking about here) will have to buy The Stereo Box set which is listed for $207.98 at Amazon or the Mono Set for $239.99. So if you are a completist and want both sets it's going to cost you about $450.00. Well, I'd say screw Apple, I've got two ears so why do I want mono anyway? However, there are differences in the mono versions and the stereo versions.

Back when the Beatles were recording in the 60's most people had mono hi-fi sets as stereo sets were still considered for high end enthusiasts. All the hits we heard first were either on tinny AM car or transistor radio's. Stereo console systems were big pieces of furniture that my grandparents owned which is where I used to listen to my stereo albums until my parents finally bought a Magnavox in 1971. Consequently, singles and albums were mastered and engineered first for mono. Then the albums would be remixed for stereo with different final takes. Many audiophiles swear that the mono mixes are better. Not me. I want to listen in stereo even if it's in the fake stereo of putting the vocals on one channel and the instruments on the other. It would be a great reward for Beatles fans if the mono tracks were given to us as a bonus for having to listen to old crappy 1980's technology while inferior bands have had their stuff updated and remastered with state of the art technology for years. It's probably why vinyl has been trying to make a comeback.

Monday, July 06, 2009

1966 Batman Bubble Gum Cards

These color hand painted cards came out shortly after the new Batman hit TV series that debuted on ABC in January of 1966. I thought the cards were pretty cool then and I think they are even cooler now. I noticed right away that the art wasn't by the regular Batman comic artists; although, the back of the card had a Carmine Infantino image of Batman. The artwork is by several artists, the majority by pulp cover veteran Norm Saunders (Mars Attacks) and from pencil drawings by Golden Age comics artist Bob Powell.

Monday, June 29, 2009

LOST and Comics

If you are fan of LOST you will remember the season 4 episode "Cabin Fever". In this episode Richard Alpert shows up at the child John Locke's foster home to present him with several items to choose from that are "his already". One of the items is the March 1956 Atlas(Marvel)comic Mystery Tales 40. The "Hidden Land" is a four page story with the most obvious similarity to LOST being that Fred Phipps, the story's protagonist, works as a bookkeeper as did Locke.

Comics are one of the major influences on the LOST producers particularly Damon Lindelof who called Watchmen "the greatest piece of popular fiction ever produced". Producer/writer Brian K. Vaughan, who is best known for his works in the field of comics (writing the excellent "Runaways"), cited Watchmen as "definitely" the inspiration for his start as a writer. Javier Grillo-Marxuach, writer/producer in Seasons 1 and 2, has stated that Watchmen "was a topic of much discussion among those of us in the writers’ room who were comics-minded." Quoting Damon: “The Watchman” influenced me by telling a story out of order with flashbacks to explore the universe. And how — to know these four characters — you need to know about these six as well, and how they seem to not come together, but they do. We kept that in mind when creating the “Lost” universe. We learned that people will swallow a tremendous amount of story if it’s fed to them the right way."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What lies in the shadow of the statue?

The answer: "Ille qui nos omnes servabit" ("He who will protect/save us all"). If you have been a faithful fan of the LOST television series you were rewarded with a rather satisfying and mind blowing treat in the season 5 finale: "The Incident". I just re-watched the two hour episode and with it now fresh in my mind I want to explore a few thoughts.

The direction and musical score by Jack Bender and Michael Giacchino are right up at the top of anything ever done on television. The cinematic and epic feel they bring demands that this show be watched in 5.1 HD widescreen format.

In the opening sequence we finally meet the ethereal always present but never seen Jacob. He is joined by the unnamed man in black who asks Jacob if he knows; " much I want to kill you"; to which Jacob replies; "Yes". It implies that they have been adversaries for a long time. The eternal struggle of good versus evil, free will and choice vs predestination or fate, light vs dark. These are the common themes in the book "The Stand" which Darlton have both said they are fans of. The man in black would obviously reference the "Dark Man" from "The Stand" and probably also Darth Vader from Star Wars.

It also rather obviously implies that Jacob's adversary is the malevolent black smoke monster.

The next big reveal is that we get a full side on view of the four toed statue which ABC has claimed is the Egyptian goddess of fertility Tawaret.

We got an earlier view of the back of the statue from the episode "LaFleur". Is it just the different angles or is this a different statue because from the back it looks like the legs are separated with the right leg forward whereas from the side view the legs look together with the left leg and foot slightly forward.

The last and biggest reveal is when we find out that the Locke that has been leading "The Others" on an expedition to find and kill Jacob is his adversary: the man in black. The real Locke's body has still been in his casket which has been dumped out onto the sand for everyone to see.

Carlton Cuse said in the last podcast of the season that there hasn't been enough clues presented for fans to really make a close guess as what the end game for LOST is. He said the final episode of season five would do that. Ummm...I still don't have a clue. I am sticking with my original guess that we are dealing with the Lost City of Atlantis. Season 5 ends with the detonation of a hydrogen bomb and another white out. We will have to wait nine months to find out what happened to our LOST family and what happens next for them. The build up and hype for the 6th and final season is going to be amazing.

In the next post I'm going to get into the movies, TV shows, and Comics which have influenced the LOST executive producers and writers.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The man who was Superman.

My first experience with Superman was via the TV show "Adventures of Superman". George Reeves introduced Superman to me and will always be indelibly inked on my brain as the definitive personification of the character.

Reeves had rugged good looks that were slightly marred when his nose was broken in a bboxing match. He soon gave up pugilism after that. His classic square jaw and athletic frame made him look like he was born to wear the costume even though he would occasionally refer to it as "this monkey suit". Reeves as well as his initial co-stars: Phyllis Coates and Jack Larson; took the roles because they thought "The Adventures of Superman" would never actually be shown on TV much less turn out to be a major hit for the next seven years. Most actors considered televison not to be a worthy medium of their craft in the early 50's. Even so Reeves took the role very seriously and felt that he had to do his best for the all the children who were watching. Reeves performances in the first two years of the series is what has stayed in the minds of all the adults who grew up watching him. Reeves was 37 when he took the role and looked like the Superman that was being drawn in the comics at the time. Reeves is very much a contrast to the younger actors in their 20's who have worn the cape and tights since.

In the time since Reeves death only Christopher Reeve has been able to define Superman for a new generation of kids. Dean Cain in "Lois and Clark" was an abysmal Superman wearing what looked like a cheap halloween super costume. That spandex is completely yeccchhhh. Brandon Routh might have been given a chance were it not for the totally misguided and mishandled direction of Brian Singer. I can only imagine that Singer either never read a superman comic or loathed the character as his dark and morose superman has pretty much wrecked the Superman franchise in cinema. In the end Routh looks much more like Tom Cruise than Superman.

So many things that were familiar to me about Reeves portrayal made me raise an eyebrow when I saw the later movie and TV versions with their better special effects. Because of the crude special effects of the day Reeves had to sell Superman's power's through his acting. He didn't just float off the ground into the air, he ran and jumped into the sky, which was primarily George running off screen or by jumping onto a concealed springboard. In a couple of episodes you can actually see the springboard pop into the bottom of the picture. This would be accompanied by swooshing sound effects to make it seem like Superman was fighting the air currents. When bullets bounced off Reeves chest he stood there with an arrogant smirk just like Superman would do if a crook stupidly thought a gun would hurt him. Disconcertingly after the first two seasons, with few notable exceptions, the production budget became smaller and the scripts increasingly juvenile and often asinine. Reeves was obviously bored and chagrined with the routine of dumb plots and appearing only in an obligatory couple of minutes as Superman at the end of an episode.

Most Superman fans are familiar with Reeves death that was judged to be a self inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Many believe that foul play was involved. Reeves once remarked to co-star Jack Larson that it would mean the world to him if just one adult fan had approached him and told him that he admired and respected the work he did as Superman. Sadly after Reeves death there would be jokes that he really did think he was Superman and thought that bullets actually would bounce off him. It would not be until the children who watched him faithfully grew up that Reeves would get the respect he so clamored for.

Here is a clip of what I consider to be the best of all the Adventures of Superman episodes and Reeves portrayal of him.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Finale's and Beginnings

The new Star Trek movie (for the non trekkies) is a reboot of the original series and it's terrific. I got a lump in my throat several times in the film because it brought back for me the wonderment I had when the show first came on in the 60's. The casting is excellent and while the principal roles of the cast resemble those on the original series (Captain Kirk, Spock, and McCoy), it's even more fun that Chekov, Scotty, Sulu, and Uhura are played by actors who resemble the originals very little. Not too long after we meet "Bones" McCoy we get a parody of Karl Urban rapidly arching his right eyebrow. I thought this was pretty funny and obviously a wink to the audience.

It was a brilliant move by JJ Abrams to make a prequel to the original series because it allows the new actors playing very familiar characters to grow on the audience and make the 21st century telling of Star Trek their own. This is a very good summer movie standing on it's own even without the luxury of having a built in audience champing at the bit to see it.

As far as finale's, "Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles" on Fox had it's season ending episode in April. I found out today that it was the series ender also, as Fox has canceled it. So Fox cancels a good series with a great cast and renews the execrable "Dollhouse". "Dollhouse" is a mess of a show and unwatchable save for the Eliza Dushku eye candy. I'd love to know what goes on behind the scenes that makes TV execs do the inexplicable things they do.

Other finale's:
Lost A+ Wow! Just wow
Desperate Housewives C -- this show is becoming stale and way too predictable.
The Office A -- Pam is preggers? The producers of the British "Office" admit that this American version is better than the original.
Chuck B -- I thought about giving this show up a time or two but it's generally a fun hour. Not too sure they can keep dragging out the same plots for a successful third season.
Supernatural A -- One of the best shows on TV period. Consistently puts out a solid hour week after week. If you aren't watching or DVRing this, you really should be.
The Mentalist A+ The best new show of the season and it ended the way it began with a "Red John" episode. "The Mentalist" takes on a totally different tone with the "Red John" episodes. The majority of the episodes are lighter and with lots of humor. It's like "Monk" without all the obsessive compulsive behavior and phobias. This last episode of the season was wrought with tension and Simon Baker's portrayal of the man who is hell bent (with good reason I might add) on catching Red John gives a stellar performance. "Red John" won't be overplayed and the producers have said that we won't find out who he is until the last episode of the series. Let's hope that won't be for a while yet.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Comic Book Movies

The Summer movies are when the big budget eye popping special effects movies come out. More often than not they aren't satisfying movies. I would have to rate the Lord Of the Rings trilogy as the best SFX movies ever. It's just a great movie in all areas of acting, directing, sets, design, costumes, etc; and it wasn't a summer movie. The LOTR movies were released in the Christmas season. The summer extravaganza begins May 1 with "X-Men Origins: Wolverine".

There are not many comic book movies that would make the great movies list. I enjoyed "Iron Man" quite a bit, but that was because of Robert Downey Jr. He's a marvelous actor and he carried this movie by virtue of his prodigious talent. The story and SFX were good but Jeff Bridges as the bald headed villain was just silly. I really don't have a desire to watch the movie again which is the main criteria for any film to be on my favorites list. The recent Batman movies were very good and well made. I enjoyed watching them when I saw them but not really interested in watching them again anytime soon.

Superman II with Chris Reeve is the only comic book movie I have ever watched several times. Then there are the Spider-Man movies. I have seen Spider-Man 1 twice and consider to be far and away the best of the three movies. Interestingly, I have the DVD set of the tv series "Adventures of Superman" I have seen all of the episodes numerous times. I enjoy the George Reeves rendition of the "man of steel" immensely which will be the subject of a future post. Not that it's great theatre but super-heroes presented in a 30 minute format seems to work best.

I plan on seeing Wolverine and expect it to be a pleasant movie going experience. I also expect it to be immediately forgettable.

UPDATE! After going to Origins: Wolverine with pretty low expectations, I am happy to say I wasn't dissapointed that I actually thought this was a pretty good movie. Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber were very good as Wolverine and Sabretooth. The film was much better, in my view, than the trashing it is getting from the critics. It gets a 38% fresh rating at It seems the chief knock on the movie is that it panders too much to X-Men fanboys and doesn't develop enough backstory on why we should care about what happens to this mutant named Wolverine. If I had come into the theater with no idea who Wolverine was I might have cared (but I doubt it) why Wolverine is called Jimmy by his brother and Logan by everybody else (this was an actual complaint from one critic that I read). Well, so be it then. I really don't care what the snobby critics think. Critics often only review movies for each other; or, for people like themselves, and not for the average movie goer. I've never been much of an X-Men fan but I knew enough about the character to think that the film captured his and co-mutants essence pretty well.

Does this mean I will watch the film more than once? Probably not...unless I happen to come across it on cable one of these days.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Beatles in the comics.

Growing up in the 60's meant that you saw the Beatles in many publications not the least of which were comic books. I'm not going to talk about comics that were one shot issues that were produced specifically to feature the Beatles. Naturally the DC and Marvel romance comics would have an issue where the Beatles were mentioned as a back drop to some soap opera plot. In fact one of the harder romance comics to find in upper grade condition is "Girls' Romances" #109 from 1965. Beatlemania was in full swing with the Fabs on the cover which is drawn by Gene Colan. Colan went on to much greater heights as a fan favorite drawing superheroes "Daredevil", "Iron Man", "Sub-Mariner", "Dracula", and"Batman", and he does a nice rendering here of the Beatles on the cover.

The Beatles also made appearances in the mainstream silver age superhero comics which were usually quite amusing. Displaying the hipness that would eventually make Stan Lee and Marvel the number one comics company, "Strange Tales" #130, feature the Beatles in a March 1965 issue. The cover shows the Thing and the Human Torch hilariously wearing Beatle wigs. The Thing and The Human Torch are taking their girl friends to see a Beatles concert but have to leave the girls to go and defeat a villain. Bummer man. Stan Lee was definitely one cool cat.

Beating Marvel to the punch though was DC which published "The Red-Headed Beatle of 1,000 B.C." in the Sept 1964 issue of Jimmy Olsen. Jimmy travels back in time and puts on a show for the ancient teenagers with a Beatle haircut and a bongo. Superman being no square himself notes that Jimmy is as popular Ringo.

Obviously, DC felt that Jimmy Olsen being a young cub reporter was able to relate to kids who read comics and were also big Beatle fans. The Beatles are referenced again in "Jimmy Olsen" #88. Superman is doing a twist like shimmy while warbling "YAH YAH YAH".

The most entertaining of all the Beatles references in Superhero comics was in "Batman" #222. This issue has a cover date of June 1970 and came out just as the group was breaking up. The story written by Frank Robbins is a take off on the "Paul is dead" hoax that was perpetrated by a Detroit disc jockey but managed to capture the world's attention. Unlike Paul McCartney who was cut off from the world on his farm in Scotland, which only helped fuel the rumor, and who was innocently unaware of the firestorm; the leader of this comic's fictional band (who were drawn to resemble the Beatles) actually and purposefully planted clues that he was dead and replaced by a doppleganger.

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Valiant effort

The last time I was truly excited about modern comics was in 91-92 with the birth of the Valiant Comics Group. A brief history on Valiant is that it was a start up comics company that was formed largely through a partnership of Jim Shooter and Steven Massarsky. Shooter had originally come into comics as a teenage wunderkind who wrote comics that were published by DC when he was 13 years old, most notably Adventure Comics which featured the Legion of Super-Heroes.

In 1987 Shooter had been fired from Marvel Comics where he was editor in chief. He later got some financial backers and made an attempt to buy Marvel which was unsuccessful. He was introduced to Massarsky, who had a somewhat successful career as an agent representing rock groups, and they in turn got the financial backing to start Valiant.

Because money in the beginning was in short supply, Shooter used the Stan Lee Marvel Comics model in Valiant's infancy of introducing a new book every few months and emphasizing story, characterization, and continuity.
He had obtained the rights to the old gold key characters: Dr Solar, Turok, and also Magnus Robot Fighter which was published as Valiant's first super-hero comic. Money was so tight that Shooter, an admitted rank amateur artist, drew early issues under the pseudonym of "Paul Creddick".

A lot of negative things have been said about Shooter by other people in the comics industry accusing him of being an overbearing, controlling, ego maniac; but make no mistake, the man was an expert, maybe even a genius in his craft. His work as writer and editor of every Valiant book in these first two years was and remains the pinnacle of his career. He used story telling techniques that had not been used by the big two; Marvel and DC, in decades. Comic Book artists had become like rock stars and were making huge salaries and the result was that a large group of them started their own company called "Image Comics" where they would own all the rights to their comic book creations.

The difference between the two young companies was that "Image Comics" was all about flamboyant art and not so much about content. Shooter's "Valiant" produced an extremely crisp comic that was told in old fashioned six panel grids. Again using the Marvel model he had characters crossing over into other characters books and was able to maintain subplots with incredibly tight continuity. These books were simply just a great read; every one of them. The artwork was mostly produced by newcomers in the industry and they were drawn in clear, concise layouts that perfectly illustrated Shooter's plots. No guessing if you were looking at somebody's head or an elbow because of pretentious and self indulgent artwork that was popular at the time. The stories were told in clear concise panels. Shooter also had an astute command of science and was able to write it in a way that entertained and did not come across to his readers as implausible.

Valiant was catching on and took off after a cover story by Wizard Magazine. Early back issues skyrocketed in price. Just as it seemed that Shooter could sit back and bask in the glow of what he created...he was fired. The upshot of it, is that Shooter's partners were in the business to make a company, then sell it for a big profit. When he resisted signing a new deal with more backers that he thought would give him less control over his comic books he was forced out. Just like that it was over.

Valiant sold more books after Shooter left because of the popularity of the characters that he infused such life into, and also because Valiant was an instigator of the the comic speculator boom in the early 90's. As their comics became more and more like the rest of the industry with flashy art in three and four panel pages the content of the stories became less and less important. What made Valiant stand out from the pack was that quality story telling was the nucleus of every book. Valiant sadly replaced great content with gimmicks like foil embossed and variant covers.

Shooter railed against gimmicks but he actually started it all off with the "0" issue which could only be obtained by purchasing enough issues that included coupons which could be mailed in and redeemed with a comic that wasn't sold in the comic shops. Soon every comic company was producing a "0" issue with enhanced variant covers that speculators who weren't really fans bought and bought and bought. The boom predictably crashed which almost ended the whole industry. All of the duplicate books that had variant covers or were shipped in plastic bags that speculators and fans bought multiples of were actually worthless and quickly filled up the quarter boxes in the shops.

The fans of the early Shooter produced Valiant books clamored for copies that had now dropped low enough in price where they could be obtained and enjoyed over and over. Valiant was eventually sold to a company called "Acclaim" that wanted to use the characters as video games. The Gold Key characters: Magnus, Solar, Turok reverted back to their original copy write owners. Jim Shooter would go on a couple of more times to start a new universe of comics, but wasn't able to duplicate the same magic as Valiant and failed. Shooter most recently finished a run on the Legion of Super-Heroes where he started his career.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Swedish Vampirism

Just watched the Swedish film "Let The Right One In" on Blue-Ray. It's a pretty interesting movie. I wish I had thought of changing the settings from the overdubbing to sub-titles. Dubbing is always more distracting to me than subtitles.

Oskar is a friendless boy 12 years old who is almost a willing victim for three school bullies. Oskar "never fights back" but dreams of getting his revenge. Ali is a 12 year old girl who moves in next door. She is a vampire who is feeding on the neighborhood. They become friends because they have their isolation and loneliness in common. They both grow to genuinely care for each other. There is a twist that is revealed in the book the movie was made from, but was still somewhat ambiguous in the film. It was for me anyway.

The violence and gore have more of a melancholy feel than horror. It's disturbing but not frightening and not done just to shock. This is a movie about friendship and how you can always count on a real friend. There is the traditional vampire lore and homage to the classic Dracula films and for the first time I found out why vampires cannot enter a room without being invited to come in. What makes "Let the Right One In" an above average movie is that the vampire lore isn't over the top or romanticized like the silly "Twilight". I give this film 3 and a half out of 4 stars.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Swim - Ear

Here's the situation. I have had some water trapped in my ear for a week or so. Got it from taking a shower I reckon and it's been driving me up the wall. I bought something called "Swim-EAR Ear Drying Aid" to relieve me from this annoyance. The non explicit directions are as follows: "Drop 4 to 5 drops in each affected ear" and that's it. I went on the internet to see if I could find some more application information and ran across this account by some dude named Durban Bud which hilariously describes my experience exactly.

Swimmer's Ear

I went to the beach a couple weekends ago. It was that weekend when I wore my lime green bathing suit. It was also the same weekend that Ira forced me to drink a lot without letting me have dinner. You know, when you go to happy hour at 6pm and then realize at 11pm that you probably should have eaten something because you begin to fall asleep while standing up? Yeah, that weekend. Anyway, while I was frolicking like a little kid in the water I got hit by a surprise wave. My ear got clogged. Most of the water came out but there was still a little left in it. And it's still in there.

It's not so bad that I can't hear out of the ear, it's just annoying cuz when I turn my head a certain way I can feel it. I decided to do something about it. I asked Encyclopedia Tos what the best remedy would be. He told me they have stuff for "Swimmer's Ear" that I can pick up at any CVS. He said it's basically alcohol and then proceeded to give me a demonstration on how alcohol and water interact with one another. Apparently, someone watched a lot of Bill Nye, The Science Guy when he was a wee lad.

I went to CVS and picked up something called Swim-EAR. I was so excited to get rid of this little annoyance. I get home and read the directions. Here they are: "Apply 4 to 5 drops in each affected ear." Okay, then what? Am I supposed to tilt my ear up so it soaks in? Am I supposed to tilt my ear down so it runs out? How long do I leave it in before I should move my head? Do I shake my head? Do I do the hokey-pokey? WTF DO I DO?!? I looked for one of those 800 numbers on the label to call for assistance. No such luck.

I decide to proceed along with their instructions, modified with some of mine. I tilt my head to the side and put 4-5 drops in my ear. I don't know how anyone is supposed to do this because you cannot see inside you ear cavity how many freakin' drops you are putting in. Instead, I start "listening" for 4-5 drops. I think I have put 4 or 5 drops in but I may have put in 7, or 3 or even 12. I don't know because I can't see in there!

I let it soak in. I tilt my head back up and a bunch of the alcohol fluid drips out of my ear. That's not good. I tilt my head back. I let it soak in some more. I tilt my head back up. I can't hear out of the ear anymore. I shake my head about. I tilt my ear down trying to get the fluid to drain out. Still can't hear. I stick my finger in and try to pull out the fluid. Nothing. I can't hear out of my freakin' ear anymore! Now I have salt water AND alcohol stuck in my ear. My problem has been exacerbated. I can't hear and I now speak like Marlee Matlin. Thanks Swim-EAR! If anyone has any other suggestions, do let me know.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Watchmen hype

If you don't read or haven't been into comics you're probably saying; "what hype?" it's just another comic book movie. The hype comes from comic fanboys who hold the graphic novel as the "holy grail" of comic books. Time magazine ranks it as one of the 100 best novels in English literature. It takes place in the 80's and Richard Nixon has served five terms as President. One note about the portrayal of Nixon; the actor playing RMN has a seriously ludicrous looking make up job. The prosthetic nose makes him look more like Cyrano de Bergerac or maybe even Bob Hope. Nixon's appearance is very exaggerated; which is obviously by design, and the character is supposed to be a caricature of Nixon rather than a realistic portrayal.

"Watchmen" was originally released as a 12 issue maxi series by DC Comics in 1985, and honestly, I didn't care much for it. It was way too dense and complex for a comic book. I've always viewed comics as cheap and quick entertainment because I don't have to put in the time and effort to read them like a novel. The story works much better as a graphic novel, which is how it should have been issued in the first place. I have recently re-read the story in graphic novel form and enjoyed it much more.

The story is about the murder of one of the members of the "Watchmen" superhero crime fighting group several years after they have been disbanded by the government. Who is behind the murder and why is the crux of the film. Like in the novel, the characterizations and back stories are what drive the film. It tries to answer the question, "what if real people were actually super-heroes?"

The casting of the movie is what works the best about it. The actors are largely not high profile and look amazingly like the characters in the graphic novel. All the performances are very good but Jackie Earle Haley's portrayal of the sociopathic Rorschach stands out from the rest. Zach Snyder, the director of "300", produces a visually stimulating film that is very loyal to the novel, which, for me took away any real tension in the film. I think this may be a film I will enjoy much more as time goes by. I give it a B+. Here is the trailer for "Watchmen".

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Prank War

Okay, here's the deal. This guy Streeter from and his buddy Amir have been pulling these pranks on each other, sometimes a year or so apart from the last one. Since this is the 7th prank you'd think that they would be suspicious and ready for anything, but this is set up so beautifully with Amir thinking he's hit a blindfolded half court shot at half time of a Maryland game. Amir is out of his mind ecstatic thinking that he's just won 500 grand. Don't miss the look on Amir's face when finds out he's been had. Utterly hilarious.

Polymer Clay Art

I discovered this art form a little over a year ago. It captured my interest because clay jewelry, or more precisely polymer clay, combines sculpting and painting into almost unlimited shapes and designs.It is very colorful, durable, and light weight.

Some of the coolest themes that I have personally seen include a musical instrument design of earrings and pendants adorned by images of banjo, saxophone, guitar, fiddle, or mandolin. Another favorite set is based on Vincent Van Gogh's "Starry Night".

It's called clay only because it is malleable and sculptable. It is actually a material based on the polymer polyvinyl chlroride (PVC). This is the same type of plastic used in plumbing pipes. It usually contains no clay minerals, and its texture and working properties resemble those of mineral clay. People should definitely be checking out polymer clay jewelry as it is stylish, attention grabbing, and inexpensive.

Jewelry making can range from the simple to the extravagant. While some artists create a wide variety of different types of jewelry, there are others that hone their skills and focus on a specialty. Some polymer clay artists are so talented that their finished work, so intricately and finely detailed, can look like it was done by a machine. Developing a personal style is what gives this jewelry its attraction and differentiates it from all other polymer clay pieces. So when people are looking for particular theme they will begin to associate it with the artist who has developed a niche for that theme. Dan Mudd - Author

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


I get my weekly fix of the TV show LOST tonight. This season is just slammin for the devotees of the show. LOST hasn't had a dud episode yet this season. It has been chock full of revelations, new twists and turns, not to mention great acting except for the outrageously hambone performances of Fionnula Flanagan as Mrs. Hawkings. It's sad that a lot of the people who were hooked the first season fell by the wayside in season two and three as the show meandered along with trying not to run out of ideas. The problem was that trying to run as a continuing series until who knows when wasn't working for the concept behind LOST. Now with a finite end to LOST, as next season will be the final season, the ones who have hung in there are being handsomely rewarded. Many of those folks who initially watched faithfully every week and gave up on it like my wife, now find the show inaccessible because the don't know what is going on. Well too bad for them I guess unless they buy the DVD's. That wouldn't be a bad idea though to watch the episodes in succession where you can remember all the character's back stories, flash forwards, time jumps, and all the easter eggs that are fun to look for.

I'm not going to try and catch anyone up here because there are other blogs that are dedicated to doing that all the time. If you are a LOST fan you must read three sites without fail. The first one is Nik At Nite. Nikki catches all the little details that I usually miss and breaks it all down. Then she discusses it all with other fans who read her blog. She rewatches it and has updates with anything else that we might have missed. The 2nd site is Everything you wanted to know about LOST but were afraid to ask. The 3rd essential LOST guru you have to read is Jeff Jensen and his weekly columns at He goes by Doc Jensen. Why? Beats the heck outta me. Anyway he researches all the obscure literary references that the LOST writers drop on the viewers. He gets a little whacked out with his existential theories and whatnot but it's always entertaining, plus he has interviews with the producers and actors to try and get spoilers. Not major spoilers. They're more like little teases.

Speaking of teasers, here's one on tonight's episode.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

1956 -The Silver Age of Comics

I was born in 1956. Stamps cost 3 cents; a gallon of gas - 23 cents; a gallon of milk - 97 cents.

Among the more notable events besides my birth was the introduction of play-doh but that was hardly the most memorable. Elvis Presley blasted into the national consciousness with "Heartbreak Hotel, Hound Dog, and Love Me Tender". Even bigger than those hits was Elvis' first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show and changed the course of popular music forever.

It was also, and as it happens the topic of this post, the dawn of the Silver Age of Comics. The Superman TV show was going strong but comic book super-heroes had all but disappeared. The mainstays of Superman and Batman sold well but were pretty much in a formulaic rut. Comics were more commonly referred to as "Funny Books". Then Showcase #4 nonchalantly appeared on the news stands and racks. Some character in a bright red suit was on the cover and he was called "The Flash". That particular comic reinvented and re-defined the super-heroes from the 40's that faded away.

If you grew up in that period it's doubtless that your images of Superman, Flash, Green Lantern, and today's popular films of superheroes; i.e, Batman, Spider-Man, The Hulk, Iron Man, The X-Men, and the Fantastic Four were forever defined.

Comics were 10 cents then 12 cents, and you could get annuals of reprints for a mere 25 cents. It was hours of cheap, colorful, and imaginative entertainment. There was no color TV not to mention cable and satellite with hundreds of stations, video games, or DVD's. It was a black and white world. Kids could only live their fantasies in a 4 color medium through Walt Disney who was systematically releasing all of his classic films once a year. Far more accessible were comic books which screamed "look at me" "buy me" with their fantastical characters and vivid eye catching colors from the covers.

You will find jillions of sites on comic books but the best one that I have found is devoted to this period and frequently posts engaging synposes of full comics, and loads of information on the creators, editors, artists, writers and publishers. It's mostly DC and Marvel stuff natch, but reminds us that there were other companies out there like Harvey, Charlton, and Dell putting out entertaining books.

Silver Age Comics is updated three or four times a week with new posts and I hardly ever miss visiting it at least once or twice a week. Here is an image from a comic reviewed on this site. Check it out.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Paul McCartney aka The Fireman

Paul released an album at the end of 2008 but I am now just listening to it. It's Paul revisiting himself as a different artist a la The Beatles as Sgt Pepper. I guess the reason for this is that he could experiment away and he could excuse it if people hate it. Paul is never one to not make it known he should be appreciated for all the great music he's made, most of which was with our favorite band, so I never pay much attention to the substandard music he has put out for a while; mostly, out of boredom it would seem. Then it occurred to me that maybe we should just be happy he's still making music. I had heard that "Electric Arguments" was the best album he's done in decades. It may be but it will depend on how varied your taste in music is.

I have listened to "Electric Arguments" twice all the way through, and I am not as disappointed with it as I thought I would be. I'm not going to break it down song by song just simply state that there are five outstanding songs on this album: "Sing the Changes, Highway, Light From Your Lighthouse, Sun is Shining, and Dance Till We're High". These songs are the old McCartney magic and showcase his almost unparalleled strength for melodies and "hooks". "Nothing Too Much Just Out of" is a rocker and his voice is pretty impressive but it only just kinda grabs me. It always annoys the hell outta me when I read how bad Macca's voice is compared to the good old days. Well, Duh! The guy is 66 and people want him to sound the way he did at 24? Paul McCartney has influenced countless musicians and it's a testament to this that I can hear dashes of Billy Joel, Bono, and Bruce Springsteen in this album's songs. Ironic the artists that were influenced by Paul are now leaving marks on his songs.

I also have to give Paul credit for branching out a bit and experimenting with Sonic Youth. Fans of electronica, techno beats, and all that kind of spacey new agey vibe will appreciate "Electric Arguments" probably more than I did. Although you could say that the Beatles were the first group ever to experiment with electronica by way of backward tape loops, slowing down and speeding up different tracks in their 66 and 67 period of psychedelia. One very interesting song I can't quite put in as great with the five I mentioned is "Traveling Light". It's Paul embracing his Irish heritage with this very celtic sound. It's nice and it may get better with age or it could get boring. We'll find out.

Where's the hope?

Tennesseans lost 30,000 more jobs in January. 1 in 10 Californians are unemployed. This new administration ran on a platform of positive change and hope. Say what? Well, I fart in their general direction. In fact I wish Obama would just shut up. Every time he opens his mouth my IRA and 401K take a further nosedive.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


Just watched the DVD "Ghost Town" and I really enjoyed it. Ricky Gervais is hilarious. This movie has an unusually good soundtrack and includes "I'm Looking Through You". One of the very few times a Beatles song actually by the Beatles and not a cover has been in a movie.

"sideways" by Citizen Cope is in it also. I had only been familiar with the version of the song on the Santana album "Shaman". I like the original version without the Santana overkill much better. So here tis.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Nashville Music

I live in Nashville and it's unbelievable how many great musicians, writers, singers and whatnot are here. People who came to Nashville to try and make it and figured it wasn't going to happen and are now doing all the other mundane every day jobs that the rest of us do.

I am going to mention two acts that you must see when you are in town or anywhere they happen to be. They really are the only two acts that can get me out of the house.

1. The Steeldrivers
They are listed as a bluegrass band and I guess technically that is what they are, but they have a cool fusion thing going on with the blues. Absolutely a must see.

2. Nashville Fab
Okay, it helps if you are a Beatles fan (and really, who isn't?) These guys are Nashville songwriters, producers, singers, and session players mostly in the country genre of course. But they are hands down one of the best Beatles cover bands you will ever hear. They love what they are doing and it shows. The female bass player is one of the best session musicians anywhere. All the musicianship is top notch.

Some day I am going to post on how much I think American Idol is destroying everything we have loved about American music.

My favorite sports teams

In this blog I will be commenting on my favorite sports teams which would be the Louisville Cardinals and the Tennessee Titans. So to start that off I see that Albert Haynesworth of the Titans signed a whopping 100 million deal with the Redskins. Haynesworth, if not the best defensive tackle in football,then he's right next to it. He's virtually unblockable without double teaming him and that doesn't stop him most of the time.

I figured Haynesworth would bolt. Didn't see old daddy Adams busting the bank cause he hasn't done it in the past. So it figures that Kerry Collins will be leaving also.

The Titans blew their best chance to get back to the Super Bowl in probably quite a while when they choked against Baltimore who they had already beated earlier in the season. Steve Fisher's ball control offense is made to suffer when the it doesn't play turnover free because there just isn't enough quick strike ability to overcome it. This played out to perfection against the Ravens with the two disastrous fumbles on scoring drives.

Let's face it, if it wasn't for divine intervention with the Music City Miracle the Titans would never have made the Super Bowl in 1999 and would be labeled the chokers they have been. Twice with home field advantage thoughout the playoffs they've taken the gas.

Barack NoBama

One thing I always hate is when I go to one of my favorite blogs that has nothing to do with politics and the jerk running the blog would always throw in some Bush bashing nonsense. Well, since I clearly state that I will comment on anything that catches my fancy, I'm going to shove the political crap back at YOU!

NOBama please in 2012. End the madness.

Whew! feel so much better.

Long time

Wow, I haven't been on this for such a long time. I am sick of waiting for someone with common sense to finally give the okay for the remastered Beatles catalogue.

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