Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Safety Word is "Alfred"

I feel weak for posting such an obvious and overused bit, but I couldn't possibly leave this alone. I just couldn't.

To borrow a line from Dorian of Postmodernbarney:

"Subtext? What Subtext?"

Seeing Bruce Wayne tied to a chair by an underage boy in chainmail panties and elf boots while he himself is forced to wear a yellow and red spandex costume, and being told that "it is all for his own good," well, it brings back memories.

Hey, I had to pay for college somehow.

I think that on the next page, a mutant banana-man wearing a rooster mask attacks them with a bullwhip made from a chain of linked sausages.

Nope, there's no subtext here.

Move along.

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Eternal Verities

Some things are eternal, divorced from ephemeralities.

The sun rises and sets.

Rivers flow.

And music critics will proclaim each and every new Bob Dylan album "the greatest since 1975" and his "return to importance."

Oh Mercy, Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft, and now Modern Times, among others I can't recall right now, have been lauded as The Masterpiece Bob Dylan Comeback Album.

And each one is forgotten about three months after its release, only to be dredged up as the mere precursor to the new, better, true Masterpiece Bob Dylan Comeback Album of this year.

A Bob Dylan record review Mad Libs would be easy. To crib a bit from, here's a rough draft of one:

But the real achievement of the last decade is his magnificently rejuvenated career as an important recording artist. On [most recent album] and [second most recent album], Dylan reconnected to his songwriting muse.

Whether shouting above the supercharged rock on his classic mid-'60s albums or singing these [style of current album], he's always been [practitioner of style of current album]. Hardscrabble blues, 19th-century parlor ballads, gospel testimonies, ragtime, Tin Pan Alley tunes, [insert genre of current album]—Dylan's music has carried these echoes from the start, but never with such a sense of mission as in his recent work.

For those of us who've waited since [either "Blood on the Tracks" or "Blonde on Blonde"] for the Dylan of our youth, the great visionary artist, to return and grace us with his genius once again, it is time to celebrate.

Whatever Dylan's next album will be--perhaps a collection of eighteenth century folk tunes, perhaps a cover of songs from Guys and Dolls, perhaps a song cycle about Barney the Dinosaur, you can be certain that various press outlets around America will read just like this.

For some things, they are eternal.

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Friday, August 25, 2006

For Your "Vocabulary Builder" Word-A-Day Calendar

A few cool-ass neologisms from a once-hip, now mostly forgotten source: the novel Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, by Douglas Coupland.* The book stuffed a bunch of new-fangled words in sidebars. A few of the best ones:

2 + 2 = 5-ism - caving in to a target marketing strategy aimed at oneself after holding out for a long period of time: "Oh, all right, I'll buy your stupid cola. Now leave me alone."

café minimalism - to espouse a philosophy of minimalism without actually putting into practice any of its tenets.

celebrity schadenfreude - lurid thrills derived from talking about celebrity deaths.

clique maintenance - the need of one generation to see the generation following it as deficient so as to bolster its own collective ego: "Kids today do nothing. They're so apathetic. We used to go out and protest. All they do is shop and complain."

derision preemption - a life-style tactic; the refusal to go out on any sort of emotional limb so as to avoid mockery from peers. Derision Preemption is the main goal of Knee-Jerk Irony.

emotional ketchup burst - the bottling up of opinions and emotions inside oneself so that they explosively burst forth all at once, shocking and confusing employers and friends — most of whom thought things were fine.

fame-induced apathy - the attitude that no activity is worth pursuing unless one can become very famous pursuing it. Fame-induced apathy mimics laziness, but its roots are much deeper.

me-ism - a search by an individual, in the absence of training in traditional religious tenets, to formulate a personally tailored religion by himself. Most frequently a mishmash of reincarnation, personal dialogue with a nebulously defined god figure, naturalism, and karmic eye-for-eye attitudes.

mid-twenties breakdown - a period of mental collapse occuring in one's twenties, often caused by an inability to function outside of school or structured environments coupled with a realization of one's essential aloneness in the world. Often marks induction into the ritual of pharmaceutical usage.

musical hairsplitting - the act of classifying music and musicians into pathologically picayune categories: "The Vienna Franks are a good example of urban white acid folk revivalism crossed with ska."

I consider these perfectly cromulent words.

*Yep, Sweet Dougie Fresh and his novel Generation X were briefly considered vital touchstones to the generation of Americans born between 1961-81. Like most everything designed to tap into a generation's consciousness directly, the book was forgotten in short order. True generational touchstones, such as Gen-X's beloved Mr. T, aren't planned as such.

Perhaps when my age cohort grows old and surly and decides to look back upon itself with goopy nostalgia (VH1's current broadcast practices notwithstanding), rather than fill the televisions with images of Jerry Garcia and the overused phrase "what a long, strange trip it's been," as my parents' cohort did, we will show Mr. T and the phrase "I pity the fool."

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

This One's For Burgas

Greg Burgas, Marvel Comics has produced The Comic For You!

(For those unfamiliar with his work, Burgas is the blogger who writes for Delenda Est Carthago, The Daughter Chronicles, and Comics Should Be Good. He's a former schoolteacher, father of two adorable li'l girls, and all-around decent fellow.)

What comic is this? Which is The One For Burgas?

The first issue of the upcoming series Blade.

Check out this publicity blurb (boldface mine):

The star of three blockbuster movies and a hit television series is finally getting what he deserves…his very own ongoing comic series. Blade #1 sees the return of the Blade to his own comic ...the Lord of the Undead, Dracula, makes an appearance. But what’s scarier than the most fearsome vampire in history? How about Blade having to face down an entire classroom of bloodsucking fourth graders? And all of this is just in the first issue!

A classroom of vampiric fourth graders.

Entering a classroom to find a score of tiny little monsters, each one a half-human, half-demon, all a second away from flying into an animal frenzy, hungry for your blood?

Any schoolteacher could relate, I'm sure.

"I'll put you in time out. Time out...forever!"

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A Parallel Notion, Plus Disco

The Wikipedia's entry on Watchmen contains this groovy tidbit:

"Watchmen Observations" notes that Watchmen uses a three by three panel structure and that there is little variation in this format. The effect is to "reduce the scope for authorial voice--the reader has fewer clues how she should react to each scene; also, they heighten the feeling of realism and distance the novel from standard action comics."


A cheap parallel came to my head: that the same description could be applied to soundtracks in movies. The rise-and-fall of intensity, the sudden rushes of feeling, and the changes-of-pace that comics express through panel shapes are more than a little like the same effects created in movies by their music.

Big scenes in movies are embiggened by music swells, and often musical cues are clues for the viewer to figure out how to react to a scene. (e.g., "Is the breakup scene funny or tragic? The dialogue is unclear, but the music is boppy. Ah ha! It's supposed to be funny!") Minimizing the music in a movie increases a sense of both realism and distance; heavy use of music creates deeper involvement in the action and a stronger emotional connection to the story.*

When our hero Dirk Squarejaw punches out a dude in the climax of Explodo Jones: The Quest for Ever More Radness, and the music is bopping along, it feels like no big deal. It's just Our Hero decking a dude. Replay the scene with brass and strings at high volume, the music peaking just as Dirk connects with a hook to the bad guy's head (BWAAAHH!! BWAAAHH!!), and it'll feel like A Very Big Moment. The audience will feel it in their guts.

The comic book adaptation of Explodo Jones: The Quest for Ever More Radness would show a minor dude's punchout in a small panel. A major villain's comeuppance via uppercut would take a splash page, the comic equivalent of a BWAAAHH!! BWAAAHH!! The reader will feel it in his gut.

That's my theory.


For your enjoyment, I give you: DISCO-DANCIN' FIRESTORM!

His head blazes! Blazes with a Disco Inferno!

And if I had Photoshop, I'd put him on a discotheque floor! But I don't! So instead he grooves in the inky blackness.

Go Ronnie! Go Ronnie!

*The problem is that the emotions engendered by the music (or, one could argue, panel size and placement) are largely unearned. If the story requires musical cues to be effective, it's a crap story, isn't it? It should invoke its emotions without aid.

Then again, one could argue the same thing about any element in art. What constitutes illegitimate manipulation? The Dogme 95 movement rejects as many "artificial" elements from their films as they can, claiming that elements such as music, optical work, and special lighting are dishonest:

"As never before, the superficial action and the superficial movie are receiving all the praise. The result is barren. An illusion of pathos and an illusion of love."

Which sounds like a load of self-deluding twaddle to me, but there you go. The line between drama and melodrama, sentiment and sentimentality, is a matter of taste. Cartoon sound effects and thought balloons are rejected by most modern comic folk as "unreal," yet so are panels, cross-hatching, and a world that's drawn on paper. But at the same time, it's so easy to overuse emotion-creating effects and cheapen a work...gaaagh.

Drawing attention to the artifice of the panel by rejecting it in Watchmen invokes Brecht's alienation effect. Another nod to Brecht is the Black Freighter story-within-story, a recasting of Pirate Jenny in the Threepenny Opera. My ever-so-clever supposition? Moore liked Brecht. Yep.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Realtors Hate Superheroes

My morbid side wants to know: how many cities and/or countries have been destroyed in the DC Universe?

Off the top of my head I can think of several:

  • Coast City, nuked by Mongul in the "Death of Superman" bit.
  • Bludhaven, annihilated just recently in Infinite Crisis.
  • Tampa, squashed by a giant meteorite in an old issue of Firestorm.
  • The nation of "Qurac," nuked by Cheshire just to prove a point in an old issue of Deathstroke the Terminator.
  • Topeka, destroyed by Imperiex Prime in the Our Worlds at War crossover.
  • Fairfield, a city in the midwest somewhere, nuked by the robot Mister Atom in Power of Shazam.

That's not counting the cities that are nearly destroyed but bounce back:

  • Gotham, destroyed in an earthquake, abandoned by the government, and eventually rebuilt.
  • Metropolis, destroyed in Luthor's last mad grasp at power before he "died," sometime in the late nineties.
  • Moscow, flattened badly in the Invasion! crossover.

Plus, a good-sized chunk of San Diego fell into the ocean, killing most of its inhabitants and leaving the rest mer-people. (The sunken section is now called "Sub Diego," which is German for "a whale's penis.")

Man, I would hate to be a realtor in the DCU. "Buy real estate in Springfield! We haven't been nuked, destroyed by aliens, or sunken into the sea! Yet!" Worse still to be an insurance agent.

What's sad is that I know this list is far from complete.

Can you folks help me out?

What other cities and/or countries have been reduced to rubble in the DCU?

Or the Marvel U, for that matter. I don't recall Marvel destroying any cities wholesale, though New York does take an awful beating on a regular basis.

(Edited to add: I forgot that the Marvel Universe's Washington, DC area was smooshed by Kang the Conqueror in The Avengers a few years ago. How could I forget it? When I read it, I looked at a panel of kabooms and thought, "Hey, wait--based on landmarks in that picture, my house would be in the middle of that particular kaboom. Marvel Universe Harvey and the Missus would be dead, toasted by Kang's Space Army from the Far Future. Murdered by a dork in green and purple named 'Kang.' What a drag." DC Universe Harvey and the Missus live on, as best I can figure.)

At the risk of being unbeliveably, unbearably tacky, I just remembered that this is the anniverary of Katrina and the loss of New Orleans. My subconscious remembered this and got me thinking about destroyed fictional cities rather than deal with the horror of a real one.

Thanks a lot, four-color brain. Way to be sensitive and humane.

(smacks self in head)

For those of a charitable bent, please donate a bit to Direct Relief or another reputable organization. There's still a lot to be done.

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Fifty-Two Answers, More or Less

Over at the Absorbascon, Scipio asked fifty-two questions about the series 52. Rather than clog up his already-overflowing comments section with my answers, I put 'em here.

Heed my wisdom, yo!

1. Do you like Steel's new look and powers?
--No. I liked that John Henry Irons built his powers, that he’s a hero because he wants to be, not someone cursed by fate. Also, the giant hammer he used to use ties in the John Henry motif, which I think is snazzy. Losing that would be like having a hero named Paul Bunyan Woodman with a super-axe and taking away said axe after ten years.

2. Is Supernova the real Booster Gold?
--That’s a good guess; I hadn’t considered that. Whoever he is, he has a terrible costumer. Egh. Supernova’s too noble to be the greedy Booster we all know and love, though. Would Supernova go in for a Justice League casino on the island of Kooeykooeykooey? I think not.

3. Will Isis survive 52?
--Nope. She’s doomed. Will she die in such a manner as to deeply affect Black Adam and forever change the whole Marvel Family situation? Duh, of course.

4. What exactly IS Egg Fu?
--The Giant Egg Mastermind of my dreams. HEE-HO!

5. Are they going to kill the Question?
--I hope not. I dug the O’Neil/Cowan Question series and love the look. Then again, would it matter? Every incarnation of the character is pretty dang different from the last. The Ditko Question is not the same as the O’Neil one, who is nothing like the Veitch one from the recent miniseries, and the guy in 52 doesn’t feel like any of those prior incarnations. So the version of The Question I liked is long gone anyway. Killing off “Vic Sage” wouldn’t matter much. I hope they don’t, though.

6. Are you as tired of Montoya's Sam Spade act as I am?
--Oh my lord yes. How can she be the “strong and silent” type if she won’t shut the hell up?

7. Now that Luthor's uncorked the metagene bottle, how will DC ever get the metagenie back in?
--Deadly side-effects, it’s only temporary, Luthor’s actually using stolen alien tech and will run out of it soon…there’s a jillion ways. I’d bet on “deadly side-effects.”

8. What is Egg Fu hoping to do with the kidnapped mad scientists?
--HEE-HO! That is not for us to know, Westerner!

9. Will we see Bruce and Diana at all in 52, as we have Clark?
--I’d be shocked if we didn’t. Bruce playing shuffleboard, Diana punching out rhinos, stuff like that. Both will have Moments of Rededication when they do something Terribly Noble in the face of Great Evil. Many capital letters will be involved.

10. Will Ralph stay bonkers?
--Nah. We have to have our “hero rediscovers what it means to be a hero” story. He’ll snap out of it when a big crisis forces him to act. See #9.

11. Do you love the idea of a permanently bonkers Ralph as much as I do?
--Not a weepy, delusional Ralph, no. A basically-coherent Ralph with a permanent bend in his mind would be good, though.

12. Who is the trenchcoated man in the background behind Ralph?
--The ghost of former Secretary of the Treasury Lloyd Bentsen.

13. What is the Dominators’ connection to the 52?
--Probably trying to harness them for their own fiendish purposes. (All Dominator purposes are fiendish.)

14. So does Adam Strange have one eye or two, and will be getting any of them back?
--He’ll get ‘em back. Never count out Adam Strange. He may have to improvise a new set from the body of a salmon, a box of pop rocks, and the unspooled tape from an 8-Track recording of Frampton Comes Alive, but he’ll do it.

15. When will Rex the Wonder Dog meet Krypto?
--Better still, when will Rex the Wonder Dog meet Topo the Wonder Octopus? That I would pay to see.

16. Hey -- where is Krypto while Clark is powerless?
--Krypto’s back? Man, I’m so out of the loop.

17. Am I the only person who wants to see them bring back Destructo [Krypto’s evil super-dog counterpart]?
--Hell no you’re not the only one! An evil super-dog with a pirate-flag cape? Booyah!

18. What relationship -- if any -- is there between John Henry Irons and the new Commander Steel in the Justice Society?
--I’d guess none. If I put on my Grant Morrison hat (the one with the pork chop coming out of one side and smells like Tuesdays), I’d have the new Commander Steel be Steel’s niece, Natasha. Her brain is transplanted into the cybernetic body of an insane white man to become a new superhero! A more pedestrian possibility is that the technology used to make the new CS is based upon Irons’s research.

19. Will Lois become pregnant?
--Yeah. She’ll lose it by week 45. Drama!

20. When is Rip Hunter and how soon before we see him in person?
--Rip will make at least one “oogy-boogy-boogy, the End is Nigh!” appearance in the next month. He won’t figure into the story as a full character until week 30, and will only speak in portentious phrases until week 45. The death of the Kent baby may be tied in with it.

21. Will Lex be one of the kidnapped mad scientists?
--Yep. Because that would be awesome. Imagine Luthor, Sivana, Morrow, and Magnus all trapped together and plotting their escape…dude, they should form a regular team and be an ongoing series. The Mad Scientist Brigade. I would so read that.

22. Having been fused into one body, do Firestorm and Cyborg keep in touch?
--It’d be too awkward and raise too many arguments. “You got the liver!” “Up yours! You got the spleen! You ever try to live without a spleen?”

23. Will Haven (the "Eureka" for bad people) become a fixture in the DCU?
--I have no idea what this is. Let’s say, um, sure, it becomes a fixture.

24. So, did the Batfamily just take a cruise while the Red Hood is running around killing people or what?
--Basically yeah. Modern Batman isn’t so much about protecting regular people as he is about punching out bad people. Taking a break from the villain-whomping is about “getting his head together,” not “abandoning people to the monsters.” Dillhole. What’d be funny is if in his absence he uses his influence as Bruce Wayne to help the city, something he neglects as Batman, and returns to find the city much safer than before.

25. Will we see Harvey Dent at all in 52, given how active he is supposed to be in Gotham?
--Probably, but only in passing. The whole Dent story played out in Batman's own books already, so there's little to be gained by covering it in 52 at any length.

26. Will we get to see Bullock expose the corruption in Commissioner Akins' department?
--Definitely. I look forward to it. Unless it involves more bad first-person narration, like Montoya’s.

27. Will Bullock and Film Freak get a New Earth rematch?
--I have no idea who “Film Freak” is, so I’ll say…um…no.

28. Will the feminist bloggers stop cataloging every rape and attempted rape if I start cataloging every time a female character kicks a male one in the nuts?
--No, I don’t see that happening.

29. Will we ever find out what the heck is happening in Sub Diego?
--Years from now, some writer will go back to Sub Diego. It'll be a while. The odds on it being raised back up to rejoin San Diego in that story are very strong. Or it’ll be totally destroyed. One of the two. I doubt any writer would keep it status quo.

30. Will we ever find out why somebody sunk Sub Diego to begin with?
--I thought we did. But I didn’t read Aquaman back then, so I dunno. In retrospect, that was a bad call on my part.

31. Shouldn't Black Manta be one of the missing mad scientists?
--Maybe he’s just not mad enough. Work on the crazy, Manta!

32. Any guess about the status of Lorena, Mera, Tempest, Dolphin, et al.?
--In Comic Book Limbo for the foreseeable future.

33. Does anyone care about the status of Lorena, Mera, Tempest, Dolphin, et al.?

34. Is Wonder Girl brainwashed or just tragically stupid?
--Her history suggests “tragically stupid.” Make that “her history screams ‘tragically stupid.’”

35. What is Devem's connection to Krypton?
--None. He’s a Durlan screwing with us.

36. Am I the only person who'd really prefer that Starfire never return to Earth?
--Nope. I never liked her. “Alien sex kitten/vicious warrior/naif” is a little too Chris Claremont for me.

37. Is the character of Natasha Irons now irredeemable?
--Nope. Unless she goes on a kill-spree, she can come back. If she finds Luthor’s Secret Evil Plan and, in her horror, opposes it, she’ll be back.

38. Will there be a Batwoman costume available this Halloween and, if so, who (other than me) will wear it?
--Yes, and it will be worn by those with advanced fashion sense. I will not, as my man-mammaries are insufficient to fill the suit. Alas, my he-hooters are small. I lack adequate boy-boobs.

39. What will Skeets do with his spare time now that Booster's dead?
--Two words: “Hollywood Squares.” I’ll take Skeets to block.

40. Does anyone know or care what Holly's last name is in Catwoman?
Know? No. Care? No. Willing to make one up? Sure. How about Hohenzollern?

41. What does the return of the Metal Men portend?
--Awesomeness. It portends awesomeness.

42. Is Captain Marvel really going to stay stuck in the Rock of Eternity?
--The Wizard Shazam will return, or a suitable replacement will be found, before 52 ends.

43. Given that Todd & Damon were dating before 52 and still are after it, doesn't that make them comics' longest standing gay couple (aside from Apollo & Midnighter)?
--If we skip over Batman and Robin, then yes.

44. Will we ever get to see Damon meet Alan Scott?
--I’d wager yes. Brief awkwardness followed by laughs and hugs. Alan’s a mensch.

45. Is anyone still reading Outsiders and, if so, why?
--I can’t answer either question. Perhaps they’re just really big fans of S.E. Hinton.

46. Will Batwoman come into conflict with Harvey Dent?
--The only questions are how much, and will she punch him out.

47. Am I the only person brushing up his Chinese for the first meeting of Egg Fu and the all-new Atom?
--Probably. I just got the first two issues of the All-New Atom, and yea verily, it rocketh. If it adds Egg Fu, it will rock so hard as to spontaneously transmute matter.

48. Speaking of the Atom, is that Luthor who's handing out "shrinking belts"?
--I hope not. I’d rather see someone different. Either a new guy or an old mad scientist with a new gimmick. Dr. Doog, perhaps?

49. With Whisper Adaire and the Monster Society running around and mad scientists being kidnapped, why doesn't anybody remember Professor Milo?
--Give them time. That Radium dude just came back. Milo can’t be too far off.

50. Am I the only person really excited about the idea of the evil Titans East, including the return of the Joker's Daughter?
--Probably not, though I could never give a crap about any Titans.

51. Will we meet Miss Martian in the J'onn J'onzz miniseries?
--I’ll bet she’s toast before the end of 52.

52. Who do you want to see turn up in 52 who hasn't yet?
--J’onn would be nice. I like that goofy bastard. The Connor Hawke Green Arrow. ‘Mazing Man. Grodd.

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Concord of the Long Boxes

Eye-bugging and mutterings of "oh, holy crap, would you look at that!" came from my oversized noggin last Saturday. Left to my own devices for an afternoon, I decided that rather than do any number of useful things, I would instead begin the great Concord of the Long Boxes. My collection was split into two chunks in 1997 and has been in disarray ever since.

Saturday, I organized and fused together all of my non-Big Two comics. A few bizarro treasures revealed themselves.

For example, Lust of the Nazi Weasel Women, a series by Fantagraphics from the early nineties. The book starred the Easter Bunny, and contained the brain of Hitler transferred into the body of a parrot, as well as the titular (though never seen) Nazi Weasel Women. A fine premise, though I don't recall the series being particularly good. (I didn't have time to re-read 'em this weekend before actual work intruded and forced me to return them to the long boxes.)

That being said, man, what a title. As a teenage boy with a love of both absurdism and boobs, could I have possibly resisted a comic entitled Lust of the Nazi Weasel Women? Of course not.

I remember trying to find the fifth issue back in my completist days, and wondered how long the series survived. How many Nazi Weasel Women did I miss? A quick scan on Ye Olde Internette shows that the four issues in my long boxes are all that were published.

I don't know if I should be proud of that or not.

Oh, what the hell. Let's say I am.

Hot Rods is one of my "mystery comics," of the sort that every collector has somewhere. You know the kind: the comics we not only forgot we owned, we forgot how they ended up in our collections or what possessed us to get them in the first place.

An added bonus of coolosity: the issue was cut improperly. The right-hand edge of the book is at a slight angle. Ah, old-skool production values. Better still, if you look closely on the cover, you can see the "hoodlum" being tackled by one of the heroes is clearly a young Robert Blake, fresh off the set of In Cold Blood. Everyone remembers him for Baretta and his murder trial. How often do we bring up his work as a comic book actor?

Mystery comics are the prizes in the bottom of the cereal box. They aren't great, but after you blow away the Cap'n Crunch dust and open the little plastic bag, they bring a little joy. In my case, all of my "mystery comics" were the product of the early days of collecting, when I snapped up anything and everything comic-esque and tucked it away. Old Beetle Bailey comic? Sure! Captain America Versus Tooth Decay? Righteous! The Adventures of Kool-Aid Man? Oh yeah!

Ah, to be young and foolish.

Behold The Green Hornet #1. This cover is pure radness. Jim Steranko did a kickass job, as you'd expect. The Green Hornet series itself, not so much with the radness.

The Hornet was the tentpole for NOW Comics in the early nineties, and a comic I stuck with for longer than I should have.

The Green Hornet ran for two series, the cover to the left being the first issue of the first series. The first run spent seven issues setting up the family lineage of the Hornet, tying in the old radio show, the teevee show of the sixties, Bruce Lee, and it even managed to work in the Hornet's familial tie to the Lone Ranger without violating copyrights. This is all good. But the comics weren't all that exciting.

It felt like...well, it was written like an "action" television show of the period. Not awful, just not fun or wild or cool. Jeff Butler's art, which I enjoyed in the Marvel RPG game books of oh-so-long-ago, felt stiff, which didn't help.* The first series wheezed to an end after fourteen issues.

The second series improved on the first. More fluid art and an overheated writing style by new guy Chuck Dixon turned the Green Hornet into a decent crime comic.** I lasted fifteen issues into the second volume of GH before I gave up. It never reached the heights of kickassery suggested by the Steranko cover. Nor that of very first issue of the first volume, which was pretty darn cool.

Still and all, finding the Green Hornet stash was rad. The comics were unremarkable, but the memories they dredged up were happy ones.

I do so love digging in the longboxes.

Another discovery: the detritus of my eBay madness. For a few months in 2002 or 2003, I forget which, I went nuts on eBay buying runs of comics I'd ignored in the nineties. I coughed up a few bucks here and there to satisfy my curiosity about the Would-Be Third Major Publishers of the past. Harbinger, Archer and Armstrong, Eternal Warrior, Savage Dragon, Shadowman, I got lots of 'em. Sometimes the slabs-o-third-company-comics are downright curious.

How the hell did I end up with a full run of Ninjak?

*Though the coloring process added to that--early Valiant comics had the same color printing method and the same stiffness. I doubt that's coincidence.

**The Hornet v2 was my first exposure to Dixon, or at least the first time I noticed him as a distinct writer. His writing was a marked improvement, and I've had a warm spot for him ever since. In the letter page for the first issue, NOW's staff dubbed him "The Master of Action." That is a title I covet and must someday claim for myself.

I read a blurb by Dixon regarding the Hornet job. Someone asked him what he remembered from writing the Hornet. "I remember having a hard time getting paid," he answered. Ouch.

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Thursday, August 17, 2006

Things Showcase Taught Me

DC's long-running anthology series Showcase was more than entertainment. It educated a nation of youth. A few things I learned:

The Brain Robbers of Satellite X target men in boring purple jumpsuits, using their mind-control powers to change their victims' attire to green miniskirts and yellow go-go boots. Thus, the Brain Robbers of Satellite X are, in fact, Space Fashionistas, spreading fabulousness throughout the galaxy. And I, for one, am impressed.

Grimace used to be a real dick.

The tragedy of Jonny Double was not his trauma-scarred past, nor his craving for violence, nor his alcoholism. No, Double's real tragedy was the displacement of his digestive organs by an oversized red woman's head that floated in his midsection. Because of her, he could not eat, and survived only on the nutritive content of her copious tears.

I think I saw a show on the Discovery Channel about this syndrome once.

The name "B'wana Beast" invokes terror. Who knew? Also, gorillas are purple.

Brachiosaurs are herbivores, but even they cannot resist feasting upon the flesh of a man named "Corky." For some reason, they just taste really good.

Don't look at me like that. They do.

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Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Because I Must

The "Batman Panel" gag making its way around the comic blogosphere is too good to leave alone. Thus, I give you my entry:

It was either that or "post-coital." Bruce's face shows the relaxed satisfaction that one feels only after ruthlessly buggering one's youthful ward and best chum in the waters of a secluded pond. It's a face I know well.

Hm. Did I say "well?" I meant "not at all."

Not at all.

Alright then.

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The Literary Meme

Poking around the blogrolls, I found that I’ve been tagged by Chris of 2 Guys Buying Comics with a meme. Since I’m still blocking on a comic-related post, I thought I’d fill it out.

The Literary Meme

One book that changed your life:
Herzog by Saul Bellow. Right after college I rediscovered reading for pleasure. One of the first books I cracked on this binge was Martin Amis’s collection of essays The Moronic Inferno, which made several references to the greatness of Bellow’s work. As a result, I bought a copy of Herzog to read on a cross-country train trip.

The book is amazing. Its plot is almost non-existent: a literature professor, Moses Herzog, putters around the country seeing friends and family and writes letters he never intends to mail. And it’s beautiful. It portrayed everyday, unremarkable life as high art. Overpraised, boring New Yorker-style slice-of-life novels that clog the “literature” section of bookstores are attempts to reach the heights that Bellow did. Herzog showed me how good modern literature can be. Other novels impressed me just as much. But Herzog was the first.

One book you've read more than once:
The Thought Gang by Tibor Fischer. A lazy professor of classics at Oxford flees to France after being caught embezzling money from the university. Within hours of arrival, his ill-gotten cash is lost in a car fire. Not long after that, he meets with a stick-up man who lacks a few body parts and is dying of “a fashionable blood disease.” They pair up to become philosophical bank robbers, and prove to be brilliant at it. The Neoplatonic Bank Robbery is a sweet moment. Great stuff. Robberies, jokes, bar fights, histories of philosophy, odes to laziness, and more uses of the letter “z” than you’ll ever believe. An all-time favorite of mine.

One book you would want on a desert island:
Aside from the obvious “how to survive/how to build a boat” books (we’ll assume I have enough supplies to survive and somebody will pick me up in a year), I’d go with In Search of Lost Time. I’ve always wanted to read it. Sticking me on a desert island with nothing else around would make that happen.

One book that made you laugh:
Life With Jeeves, a collection of three novels by P.G. Wodehouse. Wodehouse is always funny, and is at his best in the Jeeves stories. He described his books as “musical comedies without the music,” and the description is perfect. They’re light, airy, charming, brilliantly written, and damn funny. Wodehouse is the literary equivalent of Fred Astaire; he’s so good he makes it look easy. It isn’t. Read just about anyone else’s “humorous” novels for proof. The man was incredible.

One book that made you cry:
Eichmann in Jerusalem. Cold despair and sad truth on paper.

One book you wish you had written:
My next one. Must get off lazy ass…must get off lazy ass…

One book you wish had never been written:
I’ll skip the easy choices (Mein Kampf, etc.) and go strictly by the book(s) that annoy me beyond belief. At the risk of offending many of the internet folks out there who quite like her, I’ll go with the Ayn Rand collection. My apologies to her fans.

Her “philosophy” is essentially Nietzsche minus the self-awareness, insight, or depth. Her work is not taught in universities for a reason. Not because the academy is “afraid” of her; academics frequently teach works that disparage academics. It’s because there’s so little substance to her books, and what bits can be found are shallow and inferior interpretations of much better work.

Plus, not to be overlooked, the books are written like ass. When one rejects the richness and complexity of the human experience in favor of binary thinking, one cannot understand humanity and loses the ability to write characters at all. Forget three-dimensional characters; she couldn’t manage two-D.

She tells her readers that it’s all very simple, that moral complexity is a sham, and that those with Reason and Purpose and Self-Esteem (implicitly defined as “those who read my books”) should rule the world. But they’re held back! Back by the forces of Unreason! Who would stand against Reason? Why, the Evil and Petty who would strip away what is Rightfully Yours and give it to the Parasites!

--cough-- Yeah, that's why. Sure.


She provides paper-thin rationales for the frustrated little men of the world to cast themselves as misunderstood geniuses and rage at the world around them for failing to acknowledge that fact.

A cheap irony is that Rand’s work is the product of anti-communism, yet her books have the exact same faults as a hack Marxist tract cranked out by a crackpot “revolutionary.” That’s comedy.

In short, her work tells resentful people what they want to hear and bolsters their sense of aggrieved entitlement. It feigns depth and spews nonsense, taking very basic truths (“use your head, maintain your self-respect”) and rockets them way past the point of real-world relevance, straight to Crackpot Junction and Tinfoil Hat Town.

We could use less of that in the world.

For those of you who love her works, enjoy. I can’t stand 'em.

One book you are currently reading:
Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan. I am a complete sucker for the “popular history/science/weird crap” hybrid, such as Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, The Secret Life of Lobsters, and Longitude. Not only are they entertaining reads, they give me all sorts of weird bits of knowledge to fling out at inopportune times.

Me: “Did you know that lobsters pee out of their foreheads?”

Normal person: “No, but thanks for sharing.”

One book you have been meaning to read:
Aside from the previously mentioned Proust, there’s Thucydides. I have a super-snazzy edition of his History of the Peloponnesian War with maps, timelines, and all sorts of spiffy stuff in it to provide context. The translation is solid. It’s freakin’ sweet. It teases me from the bookshelf.

Why don’t I read it? Because dammit, man, there’s television to watch!

Tag five people:
Meh. I’ll pass on that.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Ten Years Later, The Emerald City Trembles

The Lovely and Delightful Mrs. Jerkwater and yours truly have jet across the country to spend a week in Seattle. We haven’t been on a non-family-mandated vacation in quite a while, and needed the escape.

Why Seattle? In part, because she’s never been to the Pacific Northwest.

In part because I have.

When I first stepped onto the ground at SeaTac airport, it was difficult for me not to bellow out “I’M BACK, BITCHES!” at the top of my lungs.

Let’s travel back in time a decade.

You remember the mid-nineties, right? Oklahoma City, O.J. Simpson, the Yugoslavian war going apeshit, Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich. The economy started to boom, baseball cancelled the World Series, paranoia became a theme of pop culture, the comic industry went into freefall, and politics’ descent into the vitriolic hackery we know today picked up a lot of steam. Me, I graduated from college, armed with a double major of “history” and “unemployability.”

Lacking any direction or understanding, I decided to split away from the world I knew and start fresh. Had it been 1926, I would have gone to Paris. But it was 1996, and thus I went to the City of the Hour: the Emerald City, Seattle.

Once there, I got a crap job, lived in a crap house in the Lake City neighborhood, and spent a year in the venerable post-adolescent tradition of “finding myself.” This entailed underemployment, lots of coffee, kung fu, strange men, stranger women, and the dreaded Twelve Egg Omelette at Beth’s Diner on Aurora.

I grew up in the Rust Belt. Seattle's gleaming downtown felt only one step below Oz.

God, I loved this city. God, my life here sucked appalling amounts of ass.

I haven't been here in ten years. I left a battered but wiser young man, unemployed and alone.

I return in triumph.

I'm back, bitches.

Let the city tremble.


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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Why I Love Hitman in Two Words

Those two words? "Zombie" and "seals."

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