Tuesday, September 30, 2008

"David Chelsea In Love" by David Chelsea (1993/2003)




I stumbled upon this autobiographical graphic novel at Half Price Books, being liquidated for $2.00, with an original retail of $16.95. I've paid full price for far worse, but I'd recommend taking a dig for it at two bucks all the same. These are hard times, after all.

Anyhow, this was originally published in the early '90s by Eclipse Books, but mine was by Reed Graphica from 2003. The story begins in 1980, as the young artist is struggling to make a living in New York as a magazine illustrator. He frequently returns to his native Portland for extended family visits to "spawn" with less materialistic women. His sister introduces him to her gawky, deeply neurotic actress friend Minnie, whom David has a painfully complicated courtship with for nearly 192 pages. Anyone remember "Dream On," an HBO sitcom set apart from network fare by mildly explicit language and an obligatory nude scene or two per episode? It starred Brian Benben, whose lead character was a fairly well adjusted book editor who screws a new woman every few episodes? Marry "Dream On" to mid-career Woody Allen pictures like "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan." That's what this is.

The book is dialogue-driven, mostly revolving around Chelsea's decidedly horny, somewhat romantic, and hopelessly self-centered everyman. There are occasional side trips into darker territory, as Minnie plainly has serious emotional problems, but that area is only grazed in favor of Chelsea's cutesy obsessions and escapades. The story itself is rather episodic and repetitive, but its chugs along pleasantly enough, and is cathartic in that the reader is satisfied after all the travails with a decisive conclusion. The basic art style is very inviting, and the subject matter makes it ideal as a gateway loan for new readers, especially those with no interests in genre material. It's especially well executed when compared to modern amateur navel gazers, seeing as the art alone is strong enough to rate a look, and the dialogue lends itself well to potential adaptation.

My only caveat is that there is a great deal of intricately rendered copulation in this novel. You can spot these sequences a mile off, as they typical take up a full page, are produced in a different style than the narrative pages, and are drenched in inky backgrounds. There is nudity, and these sequences pop up routinely, but the diversions are neither coarse nor essential reading for those inclined to skip them. I would imagine that anyone willing to spend time with David's libido and deal with some of the more controversial turns in the book should have no problems with the sex, though. I found the book well worth the investment of my time, which with the sheer quantity of dialogue was considerable, and look forward to revisiting it in the future.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Marshal Law #1 (October 1987)




Marshal Law--Fear and Loathing Prologue (June 1990)


San Futuro, the former San Francisco, is a bombed out hell hole in a time after the Big One hits. Through its night time streets, a woman (barely) dressed in the costume of Celeste ran from a murderous stalker. She briefly encountered a pseudo-Shadow analogue.

"A masked man's following me! Can you tell me where the nearest police precinct is?"
"No."
"Please!"
"Sorry-- it's a secret."
"Do you know their phone number?"
"Sorry-- it's unlisted."
"Well, will you help me?"
"Sorry-- that's a job for the police."

The poor doomed girl was a strippergram in a stupid get-up who was going to be raped and murdered for no crime beyond a sartorial mistake; number five in a series. Her killer was far more guilty, including his one wardrobe choice: a skintight gray-black number, baring claws measured by the foot, and a brown sack with an eye hole tied over his head.

"I am bacteria. I am the lowest form of life. I am a super hero. My flagella are my hands. I see the world through my vacuole. I wear a bag over my head because I'm ashamed of what I am, and what I'm going to do. I am called the Sleepman. I am the pits."

Her body fell through the disabled trolleybus home of Sorry-- The Nearly Man, whose distasteful power/deformity proved no help to him in war or after. A pathetic fanboy perpetually garbed in an unwashed costume, he was assumed the murderer when the Ex-SHOCC troopers turned gangbangers Gangreen stumbled upon them. Led by Suicida, who'd taken to wearing a necklace of severed human ears while fighting in the Zone, the gang "tried" and lynched Sorry. The Nearly Man was saved by the timely arrival of Marshal Law, astride the Eagle, a sort of motorcycle/VTOL hybrid. Law began beating and killing his way through Gangreen, aided by a handgun that fired specialty rounds. The first shown, "dragnet," released spinning sensory lines that caused an explosion on contact. Suicida managed to snag the gun while being assaulted, and shot Law with a "hotline," which sent a debilitating signal to the brain faster than a super hero's "pain gate" could close it out. Law hid under a car until he could recover, then ran off Gangreen by chucking the vehicle at them.

Marshal Law went with his excited fan Sorry back to the trolley, so that belongings could be gathered before the Nearly Man would be dropped off at "The Midnight," a sort of VA for disabled super heroes. Law never suspected Sorry in the murder. "Doctor SHOCC gave us super powers to win the war. Worst of all, he gave us power over pain. If you can't receive pain, you want to inflict it. To see what you're missing. You become capable of anything... Maybe that's why I like vulnerable people... people with problems. People who aren't goddam perfect."

While conventional wisdom was that the Sleepman was a "surp'-- a surplus hero driven crazy by the Zone," Law set his sights a lot higher. "...Autopsies of the bodies-- blood and semen samples-- suggested he was a flyer... Their superhuman metabolism made a sexual relationship with an ordinary woman highly dangerous... Only a few super heroes, like the Public Spirit, could fly... That was the real reason he was engaged to Celeste... the Sirens were secret agents with super sexual powers... but maybe she still wasn't enough... There were stories..."

Marshal Law hit his regular corner store on the way to the station, where he picked up his usual, and chatted with MILF proprietor Mrs. Mallon and "The Midnight's" priest Father O'Brian. Mallon was full of hate for the super gangs and openly flirtatious with Law, who worked with her handicapped son as a fellow Cave-Cop... "That's what they call us when we work out of secret police precincts..." His was littered with masks and corpses of super heroes who should have left well enough alone.

Marshal Law held a teleconference with Commissioner McGland regarding the latest murder, though Law's suspicions about an "uptown" suspect were swiftly dismissed. Mrs. Mallon's boy Danny tended to Law's wounds, and alerted him when Gangreen was detected breaching one of the entrances to the precinct. Danny had several options available to wipe out the "vermin" en masse, but Law wasn't willing to see a turf break out in their sudden absence. Instead, Law and his massive sometime-partner Kiloton "greeted" Suicida's crew with heavy fire, sending them packing. "Let 'em go... They're just the symptoms... I'm after the disease!"

Created and owned by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill

Marshal Law #2 (February 1988)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Marshal Law--Fear and Loathing Prologue (June 1990)




"I was five when I felt the magic... The whole Jesus League of America was assembled... Stigmata... Shroud... Virago... Sin-Gorger... Monstrance... Private Eye... Devil's Tool (later known as Rubber Johnny)... Black Abbot and his ward Red Riding Hood... Purgatory and Whipping Boy... and their leader: super hero supreme... Colonel Buck Caine... The Public Spirit.

They were there to announce man's first mission to the stars... I didn't understand it all... especially the way girls made a fuss about him... but Buck seemed above that sort of thing... Soon after, he ascended into Heaven...

Years later, I tried to follow him... Instead... I descended... into Hell."

Joe Gilmore was an impressionable young lad who idolized the Superman-type that was the Public Spirit. Colonel Buck Caine saw it as God's will that he should join the astronauts Sherman and Lomas in their mission to reach Nemesis, our sun's dark companion star. "Travelling close to the speed of light, the round trip had taken two years... While, due to Einstein's Theory of Relativity, a quarter of a century went by on Earth." In the meantime, other artificially empowered beings were created by S.H.O.C.C., Super Hero Operational Command and Control, to fight in a Vietnam-style quagmire called the Zone. "Doctor SHoCC says... 'Thanks to my unique operation, you can go into combat without fear! When wounded, an electrical stimulator in your body will cause fat nerve fibers to generate fast impulses, closing a 'pain gate' at the spinal cord before slower pain signals from thin nerve fibers reach it. Result: No pain! Because no pain impulses can reach your brain!'"

Gilmore enlisted, joining the Screaming Eagles in a jungle nightmare, serving under McGland and alongside the future Suicida. "While back home... the long-awaited 'Big One'... the mega-quake... arrived. Nothing... would ever be the same again. Downtown became a no-go area... controlled by warring gangs. The new times... called for new solutions. New ways of dealing with law-breakers."

"After the Big One destroyed San Francisco... after the war in the Zone ended in stalemate... after the super heroes came home... It was time for... Marshal Law."

The utterly, irreparably devastated San Francisco was re-dubbed "San Futuro." The utterly, irreparably devastated Joe Gilmore was re-dubbed "Marshal Law." In his own words, "I'm a hero hunter... I hunt heroes... Haven't found any yet... Bad old days... Bad new days... We'd come full circle... Only now the outlaws were called super heroes... Lot of people say I hate super heroes... That's not true, you know... Well, all right... it's partly true... Okay, it's true. I hate the way they look... I hate what they were ordered to do. I hate what they turned us into. 'Cos God help me, I'm one. Only one who wanted the job of doing it to his own."

An eight page prologue to the 1987 "Marshal Law" mini-series from Epic Comics was created by Pat Mills and Kevin O'Neill for the 1990 trade paperback collection "Fear and Loathing." While rather decompressed when compared to the dense original story, the introduction was so seamless that it led directly into the cover reproduction of the first issue, a virgin offering that appeared as though it were a silent story page. The piece is filled with in-jokes and references to future volumes, and is the sort of extra I miss in the perfunctory collections of modern times. Trades were still an extravagance back then, you see, and having read most of the story in that volume, I can't separate the "extra" in my mind from the whole (especially a callback to a couple of gag panels in the second issue.)

Marshal Law #1 (October 1987)

Saturday, September 27, 2008

ReVampirella Rejected!

A few weeks back, I posted my submission for the Project Rooftop/Harris Comics: Vampirella ReVamp Contest. Now, I had some sour grapes when my entry to Shadowline's "WHO WANTS TO CREATE A SUPER-HERONIE" (sic) competition failed to pass muster.This was mainly due to my having little-to-no desire to read books others suggested. At least one of those has been so solicited. Didn't order it. Phooey.

Anyhow, no such issues with Vampirella. I waited until literally hours before the end of the contest to get started, and hacked mine out. What I came up with was far removed from the general notion I had regarding a more Barbarella-flavored approach. The art style I used wasn't right for what I wanted to accomplish, and the execution was sloppy. My drawing was too dark and grim where, with a time machine, I'd shoot for playful. My effort was piss poor, and didn't rate mention beyond this blog.

Meanwhile, Grand Prize winner Ralph Niese had a much more fun approach, reminiscent of the early days of the 60's "mod" Wonder Woman era where she had no single uniform, but a definite vibe. I haven't bought a Vampirella comic book since the Morrison/Millar/Connor team of what, the late 90's? For Niese, I'd have to throw down for a trade paperback, at least. My only complaint is I hate the feral form, but solely on principle, not execution. I don't like Vampi drinking human blood, either, so that's all personal preference, not a market liability.

Anyhow, 18 runner-ups can be found at Project Rooftop. I admittedly like some better than others, but every single one was superior in art and coloring to mine. I must say though, I'm shocked not a one came close to my initial idea for this project: Tatted-Up Suicide Girl Vampi. It seemed so obvious, I immediately steered clear of it on the assumption there'd be dozens offered. Maybe there were and they were cancelled each other out?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Get These Dynamite Embroidered Patches That Tell It Like It Is! Now Only 69¢ (1972)



Not the best quality source, but this advertisement for the "with it" scene was too boss to pass up. Psychedelic Love! Black Is Beautiful! Peace Sergeant! Soul Power! Flash Gordon! Ecology Peace Flag! Wait... Flash Gordon? That's pretty damned random, isn't it? A concession for the comic book nerds, maybe? And hey, are you old enough to remember when a savings of 6¢ ea. would be a deal maker, because I damned sure ain't!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Rehabilitation of Eel O'Brian by Don Thompson



I've been on a bit of a Plastic Man kick lately, having recently read excerpts from Jones & Jacobs' "The Comic Book Heroes," the entirety of Art Spiegelman's "Jack Cole and Plastic Man," a variety of reprints, and the article from "The Comic-Book Book" headlining this post. You see, I often find myself hating Plas and wishing he would just go away, until I'm reminded by these resources there's a great character there... he's just never appeared in a DC-originated comic I've read. Thompson's piece was written in 1973, and it's quite good, though it must be forgiven some omissions, diversions, and over-compensations. After all, even Bob Overstreet's price guide was only three years old at that point. Information of any kind relating to the inner workings of comics was rare and required great effort to gather. So what if Thompson went on a pages-long tangent to discuss other characters that appeared in Police Comics? School was in session, sucka!

Anyhow, here's some highlights from the fifteen page article...

Thompson put forth the theory that, as of 1973, only two comic characters had ever successfully balanced superhero adventure with humor. "Twice the trick was pulled off to perfection: by Otto Binder and C.C. Beck with the original Captain Marvel... and by Jack Cole with Plastic Man. Little kids could read Plas's exploits as straight-out adventure yarns; older and more sophisticated audiences could see them as masterpieces of humor ranging from satire to slapstick." I myself have read very few Golden Age Shazam adventures, but every single Plastic Man story I've caught by Cole has been an absolute gas. Not just funny, but a ripping yarn to boot.

Thompson noted that at the time, gaining super-powers rarely altered a person's moral orientation much. Good people remained good, while the bad were the same or worse. Generally though, he noted that in comics all power corrupts to some degree, even the heroes who abuse the law, individual's rights and so on. "However, there was one petty criminal who suddenly acquired superpowers and did not use them for evil at all, but immediately became a force for good in the community, going so far as to join the FBI and even to help arrest his criminal self. What's more, he took on a petty thief and pickpocket as his partner and reformed him too."

The hood Eel O'Brian, also known as "The Eel," was left for dead by his fellow crooks after being shot and exposed to an unspecified acid. He managed to escape capture, then was nursed back to health by a kindly monk. Why? "Because something told me that here is a man who could become a valuable citizen if he only had the chance." Eel told the monk about his being orphaned at age ten, and pushed around by an uncaring world, until he decided to push back. "He credited the monk with restoring his faith on mankind." So far, does Eel O'Brian sound anything like Jim Carrey to you, or more like a Humphrey Bogart type? Really reorients your perception of the character, doesn't it?

Once Eel was alone and discovered his new found ability to stretch his body at will, he said to himself, "What a powerful weapon this would be AGAINST crime! I've been FOR it long enough! Here's my chance to atone for all the evil I've done!" Of course, Plastic Man started his crime-fighting career nabbing "the rats who deserted me on that Crawford job." Resuming his "Eel" identity, O'Brian rejoined his gang, only to taunt and attack them during a staged caper. When you think about it, the set-up isn't so far removed from Spider-Man's much-lauded origin. Sure, the irony and pathos were absent in Cole's original, but again, this character is clearly not the empty-headed irritant of DC Comics-- and a hell of a lot more compelling for it. After busting the backstabbers, Plas "drove off grinning over how much fun it was to fight for the law."

This was apparently Plastic Man's method of operation for his first couple years: using Eel O'Brian's bandit lifestyle to angle crooks into cells-- a sort of Entrapment Man. However, as Plastic Man was not yet officially affiliated with law enforcement, and in fact still a wanted felon himself in his true identity, no shyster could use it in court.

Woozy Winks was introduced in 1942, as "The Man Who Can't Be Harmed." The tubby crook had been granted invulnerability by a soothsayer he'd saved from drowning, but only because the rescue required no more than to "reach out a hand." Woozy immediately launched a crime spree, and his untouchable status extended to anyone, including Plastic Man, facing potential death through various natural agents if they crossed him. Eel O'Brian managed to get close by plotting heists with Woozy, which only elevated Eel's status as a wanted man. In fact, once Plastic Man convinced Woozy to turn himself in by asking how his mother would feel about his crime career, he found the authorities were no longer interested in Woozy... Their pursuit of Eel O'Brian blinding them to all else. In another issue, the matter was resolved when Woozy was deputized to arrest the Eel, only to have Plas later use his powers to escape. "Much later, when Plastic Man had been working with the FBI for some years, his chief revealed that Plas had been identified through his fingerprints as Eel O'Brian, but that the FBI was willing to overlook this, since Plastic Man was obviously completely reformed and an invaluable crimefighter... Eel, now pardoned, was never heard from again. His rehabilitation completed, he vanished and only Plastic Man remained."

Maybe the lack of respect given to Plas comes from his laughable villains, including Snout Sniggers, Dr. Doser, Needles Noggle, Dr. Slicer, Mime, Dr. Ameeba, Phony Fink, Amorpho, the King of Zing and Stretcho the India Rubber Man. Certainly Plas has taken lumps for Woozy Winks, which is a shame. Thompson believed he was, "one of the best hero's flunkies in the comic-book business and he got the publicity he deserved. He was on the cover of virtually every issue of every comic in which he and Plas starred. (Before he came along, Plas frequently shared cover scenes with the Spirit, but unfortunately, they never met in a story-- what a team-up that would have been!)" Where Plastic Man played straight man to an insane world; Woozy was a lusty, lazy, hustling, backsliding ne'er-do-well only kept in check by his association with the hero. Woozy delivered the yucks, not only as a co-star, but in stories all his own.

Jack Cole stuck with Plas until 1950, though others had handled him before, and would continue after (Russ Heath primary among them.) Cole went on to the newspaper strip "Betsy and Me," as well as extensive work during the formative years of Hugh Hefner's Playboy Magazine, before his death by suicide in 1958.

Thompson went on to discuss Cole's earlier work on the original Daredevil and the Claw. He spent a paragraph on Plas' Police Comics roommate, Will Eisner's The Spirit. Somehow he missed Cole's work on an in-house rip-off of same, Midnight. Thompson spent a good deal of time with other stablemates, including Firebrand, police reporter Chic Carter (a.k.a. the Sword,) Phantom Lady, the Mouthpiece, the Human Bomb, Flatfoot Burns, and Manhunter. Of particular interest was No. 711, about a convict who made good by busting out of prison every night to fight crime. One of the earliest heroes to be killed, he was avenged by the non-costumed Destiny.

Thompson continued by detailing Plastic Man's indignities after Quality Comics sold him and most of their other properties to DC in 1956. Rather than continue Plas' series, as they did with Blackhawk, Plas went untouched for a decade. His first reappearance was as a form taken by Robby Reed in the lame Dial "H" For Hero feature. That same year, DC launched a new Plas series, with only the first issue drawn by Gil Kane. "This series was not funny, it was silly; childish even." Plastic Man's origin was mangled, and he was placed in a retirement home, while his adult son took over the title role. That lasted ten issues. Thompson was among the first to note Plastic Man's legacy, including Elastic Lad, Elongated Man, and Mr. Fantastic. "None of these imitations is up to the original, but without Cole they hardly could be."

You know, comic book history is largely written by super-hero fans. What a lot of modern fanboys don't understand is that super-hero comics were a fad in the Golden Age, not unlike the boom years of the early 90's. Sure, there were new heroes and companies appearing left and right, spawning many hundreds of concepts still being exploited today. However, the wave crested around 1943, with super-hero titles dying in droves before the end of World War II. Pages were cut, features were canceled, and hangers-on saw their publishing status cut to bi-monthly. The Flash and Green Lantern's books ended in 1949, while the rest of the Justice Society of America were washed-up by 1951. Plastic Man's run over two titles lasted from 1941 through November of 1956. I sometimes wonder if there wasn't institutional hatred directed at Plas for having outlived so many DC properties before being purchased and left to rot. Meanwhile, Plastic Man's long life, even after the departure of Jack Cole, is as much a testament to how well the character can work as a damnation of DC's inability to realize it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Black Emmanuelle, White Emmanuelle (1976)



Character Names: Emmanuelle/Laura & Laure/Pina
Actresses: Laura Gemser & Annie Belle
Actual Movie Title: Velluto Nero
Known Aliases: Black Emmanuelle, White Emmanuelle; Emanuelle in Egypt; Naked Paradise; Smooth Velvet, Raw Silk
Country of Origin: Italy
Occupation: Model/None Known
Locales: Egypt
Release Date: August 6, 1976 (Italy)
Director: Brunello Rondi
DVD: Black Emanuelle's Box, Vol. 2 (1976-1978)
Stats: Pseudo-Black Emanuelle

It sounds like an inter-company crossover event, teaming the original French Emmanuelle with the infamous Italian knock-off Black Emanuelle. If you enter the movie from that perspective, you're bound to be disappointed. Yes, Annie Belle was in a film based on Emmanuelle Arsan's work, and it's even been dubbed "Forever Emmanuelle" on some prints, but the character and film are actually named "Laure." Yes, in Laura Gemser's top-billing is the notation that she's "Emanuelle Nera," her character is named Emanuelle and Gabriele Tinti is even along for the ride. She's still only in about half the movie, has few lines, and plays a world-famous model far too passive to be Black Emanuelle. Depending on the print, Gemser is also named "Laura," and Annie Belle is alternately Laure or "Pina." There's no jet-setting, few psychotropic elements, no cheesy theme song, no Sylvia Kristel, no Joe D'Amato and really, no Emmanuelle.

The truth is, this is an unfocused 1976 melodrama called "Velluto Nero" ("Black Velvet.") In it, Susan Scott/Nieves Navarro plays Crystal, a matriarchal figure who makes her home in an Egyptian estate. Bitter after numerous failed marriages, Crystal makes do with her mute servant Ali and a romance with the ridiculous mystic Antonio/Horatio (Al Cliver.) Her live-in daughter Magda (Ziggy Zanger) is a frustrated nymphomaniac unable to reach orgasm. The pair await the arrival of Crystal's daughter from another marriage, Laure (Annie Belle,) visiting on holiday. There's a bit of gratuitous nudity with Crystal, and then Magda is off to pick up vacationing friends Emanuelle and her abusive photographer boyfriend Carlo (Tinti.) In the middle of the desert, Carlo stops their jeep and forces Emanuelle to pose nude with the rotting corpse of a dog. Emanuelle is used to this treatment, speaking little and suffering from a mix of guilt and revulsion at her status. Carlo jerks Emanuelle about, pressuring her into uncomfortable positions, barking orders and insults while snapping rolls of film.

Crystal goes off in search of Antonio, who's preaching nonsense to his followers, and this leads to a tasteless simulated facial. Magda torments Ali, her default partner in attempts at sexual satisfaction. Everyone meets with Hal, a supposed religious figure, "pederast," and failed actor. In his den, Crystal, Antonio and Magda have a ménage à trois while Emanuelle looks on in horror. Carlo and Hal just plain look on.

A half hour in, Laura Gemser hasn't participated in a sex scene, Annie Belle has just arrived, and this is clearly not an Emmanuelle picture. Laure is led through introductions of the motley crew by Magda before spending some quality time with mother, with the requisite incidental nudity (but no incest this time.)

Laure, Emanuelle and Carlo stumble upon a massacre in the desert, so of course Carlo forces his model amongst the bloated, fly covered corpses. Emanuelle feels faint amongst the murdered children and runs away. Laure curses at Carlo as he chases Emanuelle down and eventually forces himself on her. After, Carlo presses Emanuelle to stand on a dung heap, which proves the last straw, as Laure and Emanuelle drive off without him. Laure and Emanuelle make their way to an estate orgy, where they eventually make love (after taking in some voyeurism.) Gemser, clearly embarrassed and stiff during most of the lesbian sex scenes over the course of her career, looks like she might be enjoying herself for a change. It's also the only decent erotic turn in the entire picture. Carlo makes his way back riding a donkey.

Laure, Carlo and Magda tour an archival site. The former pair get into a screaming match, while the Magda allows herself to be molested by roaming nomads. Laure becomes the devastating truth teller: belittling Carlo, pointing out Magda's promiscuity is pointless if she finds no pleasure, and rubbing Hal's nose in his delusions of grandeur.

Back at Hal's palace, Antonio presides over some hoodoo perpetuated against the cast. Crystal fears death and loneliness. Hal wants to continue running away, as he did from Hollywood, to where no one knows he's just a lousy actor. Carlo destroys his camera. Magda states, "I'm still young, but I already stink of dead bodies." Emanuelle is another matter entirely. She envisions a crowd of hands, which she guides to touch her tenderly. Instead, she is suddenly nude and fearful. She bows compliantly, speaks in tongues, then asks the "father of happiness" to protect her. Laure begins to protest, but Antonio refuses to release Emanuelle, who slaughters a young goat and drinks its blood. Emanuelle begins screaming, writhing on the floor in agony and tearing at her dress. She tries to burn her face with a lit torch, but Carlo rips it from her grasp. Carlo "wakes" Emanuelle, who promptly leaves him for good. Antonio moves on to Laure, over whom he finds he has no power, and who turns on the radio for an impromptu victory dance.

At Abu Simbel, twin temples carved out of a mountainside, Laure dresses down and hooks up with Antonio. Crystal knows she'll lose Antonio to Laure, and can't stand it. Laure makes Antonio tell Crystal he's leaving and never loved her. Crystal climbs the monument and threatens to jump. Laure cruelly calls her bluff, humiliating her mother completely, until she collapses in sobs. Her work done, Laure dumps Antonio, and wanders off alone into the desert. Whether metaphysically, metaphorically, or otherwise, Laure is met by Emanuelle. The couple walk off into the horizon while stripping naked.

To call "Velluto Nero" sexploitation gives it too much credit. It's certainly Eurotrash, but has artistic pretensions it cannot reach, and little interest in arousal. However, it's a serviceable melodrama and features some majestic sights from Egypt.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Frank Review of "Burn After Reading" (2008)



The Short Version? "Hello, anybody lose their secret C.I.A. shit?" Extortion and murder follows.
What Is It? Dark Comedy
Who's In It? George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton, Brad Pitt, David Rasche, J.K. Simmons
Should I See It? Yes.

Sure, I'm reviewing this movie after its second weekend of release. I was out of state and evacuated from a hurricane, so I figure I've got a good excuse. Still, I hesitate to write this up, as I expect I'll find more to dig when this feature hits DVD. It's a farce, you see, and by those clever Coen Brothers to boot. Lots of potential to miss something.

For instance, I've read other reviews that refer to this flick as a comedy. I think that's a tricky term. The farce puts it out of the range of "dramedy," as nothing here can be taken seriously, but there are expanses of time where the movie isn't exactly shooting for laughs either. Still, every moment serves a purpose, so even the dryest stretches are working toward a massive payoff, and in and of themselves can be hilarious by virtue of playing with a straight face amongst lunacy. It's never boring, and is blessed with an abundance of terrific actors turning in rock solid performances. Yes, John Malkovich once again plays John Malkovich, but whether you love or hate him, the many abuses directed at him should please. Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton are also in familiar territory, but are too deep into the zone to rate anything but accolades. It's been some time since I've seen George Clooney or Brad Pitt play characters so broadly, but you dare not take your eyes off of them for fear of missing a single quirky twitch. It's all to the good, and worth your while.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Outlaw Nation




Right up front, let me say, old school Vertigo fans should just stop reading and buy this book. It's 456 pages for $15.99, and is written and drawn in the manner of the earliest Vertigo titles. If any of that sounds appealing, this book was custom made to your tastes, and offers the complete series in one volume. The only things missing are color and Glenn Fabry's original covers, which would have just jacked up the price.

Having said that, and noted that I was pleased with what I read, goddamn if this book isn't superfluous. "Outlaw Nation" is to "Preacher" as "The Dreaming" was to "The Sandman." On the surface, they're continuations, but without any genius spark to speak of. They're the seasons after the show jumps the shark, limping along to inevitable cancellation, not so much bad as just terribly pale by comparison.

In his introduction, writer Jamie Delano mentions the series' original title was "The Great Satan," and was inspired by "Johnsons;" hobos, thieves and outlaws of the 19th century. Sounds cool, right? Barely relates to the series. Instead, the focus is on Story Johnson, a inexplicably long-lived gonzo writer who spent the last quarter of the 20th Century shacked up in Vietnam drafting his magnum opus. He writes his ladyfriend out, burns his manuscript, and returns to the States to see what he's missed. These include Story's old flame, his bastard son investigating his ties to semi-immortal subversive kin, the boy's knocked-up girlfriend, and the dirty business the bad half of his family have gotten up to. From these springboards come one long, meandering road trip.

Where "Preacher" was driven by conspiracies and Jesse Custard's convictions, "Outlaw Nation" is merely labored. Story is constantly pursued by his evil kin, who are evil for no particular reason, and want Story only because it drives the series. Officially, it's because the paterfamilias, Asa Johnson, wants to see Story write the Great American Novel. Meanwhile, Story has given up the craft, and is trying to coast through life as best as possible. The series begins in a metatextual place, and never leaves. It's like DC/Vertigo is the evil empire demanding Jamie Delano write a "Preacher" knock-off every month, while Delano is the author who refuses to write anything substantial, riding past glories while going through the motions with minimal involvement. There's a Saint of Killers, but he mostly just struts. Herr Starr is here, in the form of deviant albino Kid Gloves, but he disappears for long stretches of time and is ridiculously overplayed. Story has a couple of Tulips, but an epic romance this is not. Things happen, and the things that happen find a resolution sooner or later in a roundabout way. It's inarguably competent, and a pleasant diversion, but serves no higher purpose than middling pastime. "The Great Satan," this is not.

The art for the first half of the book is provided by Goran Sudžuka, a queer hybrid of Bryan Talbot, Mike Zeck and Bob McLeod. In the latter half, Sudžuka inks over Goran Parlov, the result resembling Will Rosado. The storytelling is clear and sound, complimenting the scripts well. I again must say, my reading experience was entirely pleasant, but I can't recommend the book without plentiful caveat. Little is explained, and the series is resolved through deus ex machina. The lower your expectations, the better I feel you'll come out of the experience.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Veruca Salt @The Engine Room 10/17/05

Having neglected my best friends’ birthdays due to a financial strain, I had decided it would be great for the three of us to attend a concert together. I had designs on Nine Inch Nails, but several months of car troubles and a misunderstanding about ticket prices ($80 each?!?) kept that goal out of reach for several months. My boy Miguel’s uncle remedied my car’s primary ailment (for $425, after the $2000 I’d spent with an idiot mechanic’s shop on the recommendation of someone I’m no longer associated with,) and NIN tickets turned up in the $35-45 range. I hit the box office, picked up four passes, and was a happy camper. Within the same week, I was tossing through the Houston Press, a weekly independent newspaper, and scanned the bands coming to town. There, in a tiny little box, were the words "Veruca Salt." I squealed, which isn’t so unusual for my workplace at the time, so I didn’t attract much attention. I shouted the news out to some co-workers having a smoke break to their very mild interest. I would be seeing Veruca Salt and Nine Inch Nails in the same week with only one day separating them!

Working out the logistics of the Nine Inch Nails concert proved to be quite a challenge, and in the end one member was cycled out of my original group plan, with my brother finding himself at his first concert in seven years. The problems with the NIN posse were still weighing on my mind that Monday though, as was my dismay at Veruca Salt's venue, the Engine Room, which previously ruined my enjoyment of a Juliana Hatfield performance. Knowing all this might help you understand my trepidation about the Salts show, as Houston was now in the midst of a massive turnaround in the Astros’ season that led them to the play-offs. You could suddenly find tickets to events everywhere, like those NIN numbers I almost bought for $25. Tickets to Veruca Salt were, however, nonexistent. The Engine Room’s own website didn’t acknowledge the band’s presence until two days before the appearance, relying solely on the Press ads (in which it was one box out of a half-dozen or so tiny others). Even then, there was no price or time announced, only an opening act. After last time, I knew not to leave before 6:00 p.m., even in the face of Houston’s infamous freeway network at rush hour.

I made it out with blessedly few obstructions, finding the Engine Room’s front door already open. I entered to inquire about the start time, and was told 8:00, so I went out for bad food in the seven o’clock hour. I’d returned around eight to find a small line still waiting. After sitting around for a quarter hour, I returned to my car to finish off my leftovers, and finally got in after another fifteen minutes or so. The announced opener, Panic Prone, rolled out shortly after. The lead singer came out in bare feet and an unfortunate dress. She seemed to be going for an Evanescence sound, while her band was just as enamored with Black Album-era Metallica. The guitarist even bore an affected resemblance to the James Hetfield of that period, and the enthusiasm with which he twirled his hair was infectious. Their tubby keyboardist was similarly jazzed about getting local exposure, so it all started well enough. As the set continued though, the Amy Lee impression melted into something more akin to Ashley Simpson, including silly dramatic poses. The band had shot it’s load straight out, and as the night progressed I couldn’t blame them, because there seemed to be variable time pressures imposed on the opening acts.

Next up was a much more polished looking group out of L.A., Dig Jelly. These were the guys with a record pending release and stylized knit caps available at the t-shirt den. The leader singer was a diminutive, pig-tailed Asian girl who looked like Kobe Tai with an even larger man-made set of breasts tucked in a sports bra. The girl clearly took care of herself, with one of the tightest bodies I’ve ever seen, and the vocal talents to match her looks. No, I can’t recall too many hard-bodied songstresses of note either. She in fact sang rap-rock that at times sounded as political as Rage Against The Machine, but was laughable when delivered like those humorous Oriental whiggers I’ve seen on TV but never believed actually existed. Considering Panic Prone were pretty obviously local talent, it was surprising to hear them display more hooks in their first song than could be found in Dig Jelly’s whole act. I gave them a few songs before retiring back to a booth a few yards from the stage.

At this point the sequence of events gets fuzzy, but I’m going to say the next act was Porcelane for dramatic effect. I’m not actually sure which misspelling of "porcelain" they had taken for their name, but since their stuff sounded so modern-rock radio friendly as to render me senseless, I can’t say it really mattered. Points for their left-hand guitarist (by position amongst three, not by southpaw), who hopped around in an entertaining fashion.

On came the fourth opening act, after the second promise of Veruca Salt’s imminent arrival. By this point I began to wonder if I’d stumbled into a Twilight Zone episode in which one hapless audience would wait an eternity without ever… oh, wait, you’re familiar with Twilight Zone irony, so why finish the thought? We were to be treated to The Lovemakers out of Oakland. The male lead dressed like Scott Weiland, meaning a heroin-addict at a Pride parade. He danced like your dad when he’s got a buzz on, jumped offstage, rolled around, and simulated fornication. The keyboardist made the scene in a tan suit with a professional haircut, a Brit who reminded me of Fred Schneider as he bopped along in a rather stiff fashion under his computer monitor’s light. The drummer was a guy in a t-shirt, meaning he looked like every other drummer in history with two arms. The female lead was a WASPy chick, wearing a sheer shirt that betrayed a wilder side, with her black bra and shoulder-blade tattoo. She wore a red skirt that didn’t match her gorgeous stilettos with thick black ankle straps. She was also throwing out attitude the whole time, like a gin-soaked barfly with an acid tongue. They friggin’ ruled. I’d heard of the musical form called "electroclash," but I’m not enough of a geek to be down with that level of subdivision. I do know it sounded like new age and electronica, and that by the time they played "Shake That Ass" I was following orders. Half the room rushed to buy their CD after the set, but I thought better of it when I realized it would be an encumbrance during the main show. After the bitter disappointment that tainted my respect for Juliana Hatfield’s adventure, I wished to take no chances. Besides, you can pick it up at Amazon for $9.95.

And now… Veruca Salt. The appearance of the headliners caused a sea change, as the audience swiftly crowded the stage. All sins were forgiven and all eyes were on Louise and the crew. A previously lethargic bunch were now radiating as "Spiderman '79" and "Born Entertainer" opened the show. I think.

See, in preparation for the shows, I’d burned an MP3 disc for my car stereo, providing me with most of the catalog of NIN and VS. I’d never paid much attention to "Queens of the Stone Age" outside of singles for instance, so I made sure to keep their first album in rotation. In the case of VS, I’d made a point of excluding all Nina Gordon songs. I mean, I’d heard "Resolver" for frig’s sake, and didn’t want any embarrassing moments, like that douche that kept asking for "Forsythia." I knew the biggest Nina-penned numbers would have to get played anyway. This was Houston after all, where I heard the White Stripes play "Fell In Love With A Girl" through probable gritted teeth to appease Redneck "fans." This would also give me a chance to familiarize myself with the good and bad specific to Louise. A side effect of this process was to cloud my memory of which songs I heard live, which I was jamming on the ride to & from, and the sequence of either. I’m reasonably certain everything I list was played live, erring on the side of omission, so that’s that.

Louise greeted us in Spanish, which prompted a brief conversation in a tongue not my own with a Latina who I’d noted also arrived early to the event. The crowd roared as it wound down with the words, "Chicas de los Volcano" with a smile on "Weezie’s" lips. The band would continue to rock through "Shutterbug," "Straight," "Used to Know Her," "Victrola," and "Officially Dead." The set included copious new, unavailable material that was declared a part of a forthcoming EP to be made available on their website "in a matter of days." The new stuff sounded excellent, although my bodily appreciation of the show diminished as I switched my mental reel-to-reel on. This was the first point I was aware that I couldn’t really make out the lyrics, an unimportant facet when I was singing along to the stuff I knew. Highlights were "Blood On My Hands" and the sleepless "Days and Days."

Early on Louise had passed out a dozen or so roses, which she began tossing to the audience as a thank you for coming. She kissed a yellow rose, which I caught as it fell to the side of me toward an attractive blonde. Feeling guilty that I perhaps snatched something not intended for me, I handed her the rose and moved on.

Still afraid of a Hatfield incident with someone who could better wield an ax in anger, I was slightly away and to the left of the front of the stage. This provided me with a swell view of guitarist Stephen totally playing the rock star. Stephen turned fans on with his histrionics, often leaning well off stage with a well placed knee or neck, occasionally allowing us to stroke and fondle his guitar. Mareea’s reserved quiet cool was about as far on the other end of the spectrum from Stephen as she was on the stage, but fans who felt cheated were hopefully consoled by their view of her pretty face. Toby was the first band member to get a shout-out though, prompting Louise to note Stephen’s assertion that she’s a frustrated drummer trapped in a guitarist’s body. Speaking of which, fans scolded Louise for inhaling ciggies into her lungs as a terrible influence, but it didn’t seem to take any spring out of her rather elevated step (nice shoes, said the still-insistent heterosexual non-fetishist once again.)

Louise was absolutely radiant, clearly relishing every second of her return to the stage. She seemed perfectly happy with the turnout, only noting that "you could hear a bottle drop" as her water missed its mark. She was very playful with us, engendering a nice rapport. She seemed especially fond of a hippie-looking couple who remained front & center for every act. Upon noting the male looked familiar, he responded, "Jesus?" While the Metallica-dude from Panic Prone remained to enjoy all of the other acts, but especially Dig Jelly’s lead, I was surprised to find that very same pixie sidling up to me for a better view. Seeing the calculated image DJ seemed to craft, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was taking notes on how to work a crowd, but she was smiling and jamming all the same.

The big closer was "Hellraiser," which prompted plentiful fist-pumping and devil horns (while I threw Spider-Man hands, as it seemed apropos.) Lord knows I did enough head-bobbing and twirling to occasionally lose my balance, like I cared. The group gleefully exited, prompting the requisite calls for an encore. Louise eventually returned for a solo "Pale Green," but banter with the audience caused her to lose composure. After getting "back into character," she finished the song, before joining the band for a rousing "Seether." By the end, everyone was spent. The blond with the rose got the set list, while I spotted a pick Stephen had tossed to claim as my souvenir. My ears rang the rest of the night, and I was heartened to find I’d just experienced probably the second best show I’d ever seen, pretty much exclusively because of how awesome and capable the Salts were. This was despite wearying opening acts, difficult traffic, long waits (the show ended at 1:00 a.m.,) low attendance, and a lousy venue. NIN didn’t hold a candle to them two days later. It just goes to show, you can make up any excuses you like, but nothing can turn a day right-side up like an enthusiastic bands rocking your socks off.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Countdown Presents: Lord Havok and the Extremists (2008)



Justice League International was a big hit in 1987, serving as funny counter-programming to all the mean-spirited book then on the stands. Cashing in was on DC's mind, and eventually they spun off "Justice League Europe." That title always struggled to find a rhythm, as the humor and chemistry always seemed forced. Right around the same time, about 1990, someone decided both "JLI" and "JLE" needed to do big, black stories with body counts. "JLI" revamped Despero, while "JLE" created a greatest hits collection of Marvel super-villain analogues. Proxy Dr. Doom, Dr. Octopus, Dormammu, Magneto and Sabretooth had gone nuts and slain a world full of people, as well as tying into an old 70's story involving the deaths of a group of Avengers surrogates. If that whole description doesn't fairly scream "disposable," I don't know what does. Unfortunately, in a time when fans were hungry for "serious" villains to fight the Justice League, they ate that shit up. Never mind the whole crew turned out to be glorified animatronics that had slipped loose of their creator, a Stan Lee/Walt Disney hybrid, and served as a critical commentary of the sad state of the '90s "House of Ideas."

In a glorious example of missing the point entirely, the Enchanted Tiki Room of Evil players kept popping up and getting trashed, only to be replaced by others group who only used the name. "Dreamslayer" turned out to really be an evil sorcerer, and then JLI organizer turned bad Max Lord had his mind planted in Lord Havok's body. The Extremists were a bad idea, but one fans and creators refused to turn loose of. Cue "Countdown," and the return of the DC Multiverse. Another incarnation of Extremists had arrived, with another world to themselves, and this time they were all real! Somewhere, an infernal choir sings in praise at our damnation.

"Lord Havok" is "Countdown's" bitch, as elements from that weekly abomination weave their way into the trade paperback with little explanation. The purpose of Frank Tieri's script is to establish a permanent rip-off of Marvel's "Ultimate" line, with emphasis on sampled Mark Millar snark and fascism. Their Iron Man was president of the United States of Angor, until Havok assassinated him, so now an adulterous boozehound Captain Americommando has assumed the role. The States have their own super-hero registration and 50-State Initiative, meaning DC now has a second generation copy of a Patriot Act parody, and are too thick-headed to realize how sad a spectacle that is. Havok also conquers his own Latveria, leading to a confrontation with U.S. forces, as though that assassination thing weren't motivation enough.

SPOILER WARNING

Once the basic plot is established, it coasts as the focus shifts to origin stories for the new Extremists. Again, Tieri just regurgitates bleak variations on the Marvel characters, highlighting the pointlessness of the whole exercise. Gorgon is the Dr. Octopus of the Sam Raimi movie, except he's an MPD who murders his girlfriend in a jealous rage over her attentions from another of his personalities and the secretly gay Thor riff Wandjina. Tracer isn't so much Sabretooth as Wolverine, down to a painful good ol' boy drawl. He was a deserter in the Iranian War, so he was packed off to be experimented on by Project X. Oh, and he killed a little girl while under mental control. Dr. Diehard isn't a WWII era German Jew who's radicalized when Nazis kill his family. He's instead a peaceful U.S. dissident leader (a.k.a. Professor X) radicalized when troops kill his family in a detainment camp. At least, I think his wife died there-- he has another die later in the story. This guy has worse luck with women than Matt Murdock. Dreamslayer has one of the biggest twists, since hardly anyone knows Dormammu's origin to swipe it, though there's some need for further explanation left untended. Lord Havok is born deformed, rather than made so by his own arrogance, but he's otherwise Dr. Doom with elements of one of the Post-Crisis General Zods. The only surprise was that one of these guys doesn't see the end of the mini-series, though really, should any of them?

SPOILER ENDS

The events of one Earth out of fifty-two don't amount to much in the grand scheme of things, but even under those terms, this is a sound and fury affair. New versions of characters that had been killed off are themselves snuffed out. Monarch struts around with his multiversal army. Whoops are de-dooed.

Most of the art is by Liam Sharp, who despite my better judgment I've liked since his "Death's Head II" days. He's never been consistent, but if you dig him, then Sharp is one of the only reasons to pick this book up. To give additional benefit of doubt, he does have six fucking inkers on this thing, as well. Mark Robinson fills in on pencils for about an issue and a half of the six, and he pretty much sucks. I sincerely hope this was a rush job-- like two weeks to produce thirty-some pages, or else there's no excuse for it. Come to think of it, Tieri might want to try floating the same explanation, or leave this one off his resume entirely.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Emanuelle on Taboo Island (1976)



Character Name: Haydee
Actress: Laura Gemser
Actual Movie Title: La Spiaggia del Desiderio
Known Aliases: A Beach Called Desire, Emanuelle on Taboo Island
Country of Origin: Italy
Character Nationality: Islander
Occupation: None
Married: No
Locales: Unidentified island
Release Date: 1976
Directors: Enzo D'Ambrosio, Humberto Morales
DVD: Emmanuelle on Taboo Island (1976)
Stats: Pseudo-Emanuelle

Story: Daniel (Paolo Giusti) is a heroin addict who shoots up with a group at a beach. He wakes up to find one of the girls has overdosed, freaks out, and steals a small boat. In his addled state, Daniel nearly has a wreck, and ends up conking his head on the engine. He wakes up adrift at sea for an indefinite period before paddling to a small, seemingly deserted island. Daniel struggles to survive on native grubs and the odd fruit. Left cold turkey, he hallucinates during his detoxification. He tries to signal a plane by writing "S O S" in large letters with leaves along the beach. I don't recall a word of dialogue being spoken for about fifteen minutes.

Daniel stumbles upon Haydee (Laura Gemser) and Juan (Nicola Paguone,) young siblings living in rags and a bamboo shack. The pair were raised from birth on the island by their father Antonio (Arthur Kennedy,) and are ignorant of the outside world. When Antonio finds Daniel with his kids, he demands the newcomer stop trying to attract outside attention, and to stay away from his home. Haydee and Juan begin spending time with Daniel on his beach, teaching him to fish and other necessities of survival. Daniel teaches the siblings about the mainland.

Antonio takes some amusement in this, and enjoys the bottle of booze Daniel brought with him. He reminisces about the wife who'd joined him on the island for a time, and who was just like their daughter, but "prettier."

Daniel is a friend to Juan and a perfect gentleman with Haydee, even when she runs around topless. That is, until he catches the siblings playing a game they like that we would refer to as "dry humping." Appalled but detecting fair game, Daniel paid Haydee a late night visit. Off on the beach, Daniel takes a fully nude Haydee and sucks on her tit. And sucks. And sucks. Don't get me wrong, it's a marvelous tit, but after a while thoughts move out of the erotic and into the domestic. Daniel was like a suckling baby, or the serial killer from "Angel" that would drain the tip of an egg until it caved in on itself. After minutes of this, there's some more kissing on the mouth, a cut to waves crashing on the rocks, and then the return to the spent couple.

The next morning, Antonio catches the pair asleep, and expresses mild displeasure. Daniel happens to spy a fishing boat, and makes arrangements with a fisherman to leave the island. However, Daniel's still sick from detox, and Haydee is potent medicine, so he opts to stay on a bit longer.

Juan brings a rusted out rifle of his father's to Daniel, who pleases Antonio by fixing it. Antonio agrees to allow Daniel another month on his island. Juan, Daniel and Haydee continue to bond, especially the latter two. Haydee remembers funny tribal stories her mother used to tell. Daniel sucks and squeezes on Haydee's tit for a really long time some more. Again, it's a swell tit, but it's connected to Laura Gemser, whose body is a wonderland. It's like going to an extravagant buffet and eating only cantaloupe. The trouble with Laura Gemser is in your not having mouths and hands enough to reach everywhere simultaneously. Heroin was the least of this guy's worries.

The fisherman returns with gasoline for Daniel's boat, so that he can leave whenever he wishes. He takes a watch in trade. Haydee stops playing the "game" with her brother, and he's pretty put out by it. Juan hates the player. "She won't say no to Antonio. Haydee doesn't dare to tell him that." Daniel catches Antonio whipping Haydee bloody for doing just that. "I should have cut your throat the first day you got here, but there's still time." Antonio comes at Daniel with a machete. Juan refuses to help, even at Haydee's urging. Antonio bashes Daniel's head against a rock. Haydee hugs Antonio's knees to beg for her lover's life. Both tear up.

The next day, Daniel prepares to leave. Antonio will be finished if Daniel informs the guards at San Rafael of Antonio's whereabouts. Antonio sends Juan to kill Daniel, but Haydee overhears and warns him. Daniel gets the drop on Juan. Antonio tries to hack Daniel from behind. The father slips off a cliff and falls to his death. Juan builds him a funeral pyre, then gives Haydee to Daniel to take with him to the mainland. Haydee thinks the fisherman will bring a girl back for Juan, who can trade coral for profit. Daniel agrees, but knows the girls will run out when the coral does. Daniel can't bear to take Haydee to the awful world he knows, nor leave Juan alone, so he refuses Haydee and returns unescorted.

Summation: Not only is this a VHS transfer, but it's a bad one. There's a minimal menu screen, and the movie's picture is heavily pixilated. You could do better at home with one of those transfer decks they sell at Wall*Mart. I'm also pretty confident this version has been edited, as there are some choppy cuts.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Wed. Is Any Day For All I Care #15


Crossed #0
DC/Wildstorm: Dreamwar #5
Mercy Sparx #0
Rest #0


Crossed #0 (Avatar, 2008, $1.00)
Is it just me, or after that Greyhound decapitation incident, does this series seem eerily prescient. Murderously insane religious fanatics all pounce at once across a national landscape in this eleven page story. I think Garth Ennis and Jacen Burrows did a great job here, but not enough to get me to buy the eventual $25-30 trade collection. It's a shame Avatar keeps giving readers a tantalizing taste of their wares, only to bait-and-switch with an overpriced trade.


DC/Wildstorm: Dreamwar #5 (DC, 2008, $2.99)
I accidentally missed the fourth issue, which seems to be where all the much needed exposition took place. There's enough carryover here so that I know what's going on, but revelations also render the whole hullabaloo pointless, seeing as the premise is the only story being offered


Mercy Sparx #0 (Devil's Due, 2008, $0.99)
Where Avatar keeps offering me cheap samples of books I want to read but not pay for, Devil's Due tends to offer assurance I'm not missing anything there. The eight pager establishes Mercy as a pain in the ass Suicide Girl type with too much attitude, in a version of Hell not far removed from our own reality. Excuse me while I stifle a yawn. Six unlettered preview pages make clear more of the same is forthcoming, while the art by Matt Merhoff is serviceable but uninspired.


Rest #0 (Devil's Due, 2008, $0.99)
Spoke too soon. Milo Ventimiglia stars in a comic that should have probably come out at Virgin, but is surely glad it didn't. Starfucking bids for movie options aside, Mark Powers script actually drew me in, even if it did give me some "Matrix" flashbacks. Shawn McManus' typically cartoonish pencils are given a painterly treatment by Lizzy John, and they turn out better combined than nearly anything I've seen from McManus solo. Lizzy gave cover artist Roger Robinson the same treatment, making Tim Sale's solo cover look bad by comparison. One to watch, I think.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Daredevil: Hell to Pay, Vol. 2 TPB (2008)




My first issue of Daredevil was January '84's 202nd issue of the first series, part of Assistant Editor's Month. That was when Marvel made a point of indulging themselves with humorous back-up stories and weird concepts, like DD battling a modern caveman and "visiting" a grade school class. I can't tell you what drew me to start there-- perhaps the ferocity displayed on the cover, or I just really loved Danny Bulandi's inks. I didn't come back for a few months, with the Harlan Ellison issue where DD confronts an army of little android girls set to explode. That was my introduction to David Mazzucchelli, one of the primary architects of the "grim n' gritty" era. I returned again for #220, this time with Denny O'Neil and Frank Miller having Matt Murdock investigate the potential suicide of an ex-girlfriend. That was the one that finally locked me into Daredevil, and I soon continued with the epic "Born Again" and Ann Nocenti's curious run that followed.

I tell you this because I want to make it clear that from an early age, I was taught to expect something different from Daredevil. I'd guess it starts from "blind super-hero," and works out from there. Ed Brubaker's work on Captain America pisses me off, for instance. I want to like it, but it all reads flat to me, and bringing Bucky back did me no favors. Where other readers see bold twists, I find that book obvious and irrelevant, as I doubt many of the changes will stick. The ones that could, I'd just as soon do without.

On Daredevil though, the stakes have always been higher. Everything sticks in Daredevil, and even when it doesn't (I'm looking at you, Elektra,) it still spells another ordeal for poor Matt. The guy really must be a masochist to not use his amazing acrobatic abilities to jump off a bridge, as his life has just about always amounted to a world of shit. It takes a really sadistic writer to handle Daredevil's story properly, which was why I bowed out of most of Brian Michael Bendis' run. That guy's got too much heart, I figure, since he dealt more with soap opera than trauma. Brubaker on the other hand is clearly an evil bastard, so he seems a perfect fit.

"Without Fear" is the second half of an extended Brubaker story arc involving an invigorated Mr. Fear, never before all that interesting a character. The tale picks up after Daredevil's wife Milla has been battered by an old foe that had once made good, Gladiator, driven to violence by Fear. Angered at having been struck so close to home and seen positive work undone, Daredevil tracks Mr. Fear down, only to learn that too was all part of the plan. The first issue, an anniversary, spends most of its length making Daredevil look terrible in front of the authorities as he relives past indignities. These sequences are drawn or painted by artists with a history alongside the character, including Marko Djurdjevic, Jazzy Johnny Romita, Gene Colan, Bill Sienkiewicz, Alex Maleev and Lee Bermejo. Most are still as good as they ever were, and only the contrivance used to bring them together undermines their efforts. Bermejo especially proves he'll be among the greats someday, once he finds a project to draw that meets the expectations of his incredible art. Pretty pictures are the main appeal of this first installment, as it lacks a true beginning within the collected edition, and the mechanisms of plot set up a story more than tell one.

Chapter two is the entry point for the volume, as it explores the aftermath of one hell of a night. Michael Lark and Stefano Gaudiano handle most of the art chores from here, and are entirely appropriate in the Mazzucchelli/Weeks mold. There's some fill-in work by Paul Azaceta and Tom Palmer, and to be honest, I never noticed before checking the credits. Helping to keep the look seamless is colorist Matt Hollingsworth, who maintains a muted palette perfect for the material.

Brubaker meanwhile puts Murdock and his supporting cast through their paces, mingling crime stories with legal procedural and a heaping helping of human drama. His work on Daredevil is like a blueprint for serialized adaptation to other media. His scripts had me imagining a weekly television series based on a comic book that, for once, was pretty damned good. I heard something about FOX considering another DD movie, but it seems to me their FX network could benefit from a stripped down take along these lines.

As I said, it just isn't Daredevil unless pain is dealt and resolution is found someplace you never expected. The character makes choices in the story I was really unhappy with, but they make sense for who he is and the hand he's being dealt. Brubaker's Daredevil is among the best and truest storytelling the hero has been handed in decades.

Also included in the collection is an annual, scripted by Ande Parks from a Brubaker plot. The lead character takes a back seat to Black Tarantula, a Spider-Man villain introduced during the rebuilding process following the catastrophic "Clone Saga." I always found the guy impressive and well designed, so I was happy to see he wasn't going to waste. Carlos LaMuerto may overplay the barrio boy on parole shtick, but the character is sympathetic as we watch the will he/won't he tale of backsliding play out. The art by Leandro Fernandez still doesn't seem up to snuff for major company work years into his association with Marvel, but it isn't hard on the eyes either. All in all, a really solid package that I'd recommend.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Juliana Hatfield at The Engine Room (2005)


Juliana Hatfield by Rob (Aquaman Shrine) Kelly


The Engine Room is a long-standing Houston dive, resting in the shadow of the Toyota Center. My first concert there was to feature one of my all-time favorite singer-songwriters, Juliana Hatfield. I’d gone weeks prior to pick-up an advance ticket, at which point the clerk up front shrugged, "Don’t worry about it. The show’s not going to sell out." I insisted, and the bartender wrote me out a receipt for my lousy twelve bucks. I’d arrived hours early, because the Engine Room tends to open whenever they damned well feel like it, and heard "Dirty Dog" being rehearsed through the walls. Odd bits of strumming were eventually followed by silence, so I made my way along the muddied sidewalks to grab some food and kill time. Houston had seen rainfall for the better part of a week, so everyone was miserable and waterlogged. I returned to sit outside the club for another hour before the doors opened.

Opening act Absolute Pistol played to general disinterest. I wasn’t at all impressed with the joint itself, and I was further concerned at my inability to hear the singer’s meager talents. I had trouble making out the vocalist of the follow-up band as well, but "the Damnwells" proved to be excellent nonetheless. A visibly irritated Juliana finally appeared before the admittedly slight audience, which had thankfully filled out somewhat during the previous set, but was still in need of winning-over. From my point of reference dead center of the stage (I could look up the poor girl’s nostrils) Hatfield’s tiny voice was basically inaudible most of the time.

Hatfield played some the perfunctory stuff, like "My Sister" and (thankfully) "Universal Heart-Beat," but the set was filled with unpalatable off-center choices. These included tracks off her Blake Babies reunion and Those Girls side project (still haven’t bought either), poor catalog selections (the godawful "Mabel"), and plentiful representation of her latest album (but no "Dirty Dog," a fun if forgettable number). Requests were denied in favor of more "In Exile Deo" work, with blame laid at the feet of the record company. Attempts at banter with the audience turned hostile, likely due to the difficulty in communication and Hatfield’s oft-noted prickliness. After her attempts to raise applause for a returning member of the Damnwells failed (again, who could hear?) Hatfield turned into full-on bitch mode. After finishing her set list, she tossed her guitar aside and stormed off-stage. There would be no encore… just one straggly-looking guy I’d seen throughout the day asking a roadie for her set list. I picked-up a copy of the Damnwells debut album from a band member after the show, trying to apologize for my town, and he was really understanding.

To this day, nearly four years later, I still get depressed thinking about Juliana Hatfield. I haven't bought one of her albums since, though I enjoyed some MP3s she offered on her site for free. I hate that I'm still not over one lousy experience, but it really was the worst I ever had at a concert. I'd hoped I'd get over it when I bought tickets to a Lemonheads show Hatfield was to open for, but she canceled on short notice. I ended up working that night anyway, and friends I'd given tickets to got lost and never made the show. It's like a curse.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sal Velluto Black Panther Sketch



I've had a number of original art pieces pass through my hands over the years, but the vast majority ended up given away or sold when I had my shop. I only have three professional originals still in my possession, and all are framed on my wall. One is a faint Kevin Maguire drawing of Martian Manhunter. Another is a DC Comics-rejected piece by Michael Bair, which I believe was intended for the first JLA Secret Files & Origins. Finally, there's this rendering by Sal Velluto of the King of the Wakandas, a crouching T'Challa ready to strike. I've never once considered letting this number get away from me, and it's about time I shared it online.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Wed. Is Any Day For All I Care #14

Welcome to the "DC Comics Can Eat A Dick" edition...

Ambush Bug: Year None #2
Final Crisis #3
Hawkman Special #1 (2008)
Legion of Super-Heroes #45


Ambush Bug: Year None #2 (DC, 2008, $2.99)
The first issue of this series was a wonderful return to the form of Ambush Bug's hilarious early guest-appearances and first mini-series. The second issue is an unfortunate return to the weak second half of the "Stocking Stuffer" and "Son of Ambush Bug" mini-series. It mistakes random and goofy for funny, and never mind that I always though Mr. Nebula, intergalactic decorator was a terrible idea. Mitsu Bishi? Don Gaye Apparel? The Amber Butane Corps? Please, please stop. The bits with a chatty Source Wall, OMAC, and Blue Beetle were pretty good, but the further the book strays from satire, the more deserving it is of it.


Final Crisis #3 (DC, 2008, $3.99)
I was an early defender of Morrison on this book, but my resolve is beginning to waver. The subplots from the beginning of the series inch forward at a snail's pace, and don't get me started on the vomitous "Countdown" carryovers like fetish Mary Marvel. I'm pretty fucking pissed about the big companies charging an extra buck per issue to follow stories that fail to satisfy as a whole or in parts, especially as this installment begins to branch out into spin-offs.


Hawkman Special #1 (DC, 2008, $3.50)
I'm always happy to see Jim Starlin illustrating, and his take on Hawkman's appearance is rock solid. However, Carter Hall has never been what one might call deep, so taking him down the metaphysical road well traveled by the likes of Captain Marvel, Adam Warlock, Vanth Dreadstar and so on really makes for an odd fit. Trying to balance the winged fascist out with existential angst comes across as rather clunky, especially in the dialogue. I'm pleased to see DC remember Katar Hol, as I always dug the dichotomy of science fiction and medieval temperament, and Thangar opens up too many story possibilities to divorce Hawkman from that world. I just wish the story had been given another pass by the editor, since beyond teasing another revision of the character, there's none to speak of.


Legion of Super-Heroes #45 (DC, 2008, $2.99)
Jim Shooter brings quality back, after a craptastic last issue I'd like to blame on his rumored brief departure from the book. Mary Sue M'rissey gets the hell away on page 2, while Lightning Lad starts to get his shit together and delegate his way out of incompetency. Scenes with Vi and Imra offer new insight into their personalities, while Brainy is his same old magnificent bastard self. I also like the sex appeal restored to the book in this most recent incarnation, after all those neutered Zero Hour-reboot years.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Frank Review of Emmanuelle (1974)


WARNING NSFW MILD NUDITY

WARNING NSFW MILD NUDITY

The Short Version? The Eurotrash Softcore Classic of female sexual liberation.
What Is It? Romantic Melodrama.
Who's In It? Sylvia Kristel.
Should I See It? Yes.

Since I've already exhaustively covered the plot of Emmanuelle, this review will be somewhat scatter shot. I'll also bounce off the excellent review at 1000 Misspent Hours, where our opinions diverge.

Obviously, Sylvia Kristel made her career with Emmanuelle, and broke it as well. Kristel is incredible at allowing Emmanuelle a naiveté without compromising her womanhood, making it clear this is an adult navigating her way through an adulterating process. It would have been easy to play Emmanuelle as a little girl lost or a bimbo, but Kristel instead makes her not only relatable, but admirable in her questing nature. Despite a good deal of prodding (*ahem*) on many fronts (*ah-aheh-hum*,) Kristel imbues Emmanuelle with a core of personal strength and authorship of her destiny, if not always her circumstances. Many people try to force themselves and their views on Emmanuelle, but she clearly picks and chooses as she sees fit, and does so without spoon-feeding this element to the viewer in the same manner as the often tedious monologues of Jean and Mario. Emmanuelle embodies her beliefs rather than droning on about them.

Kristel is also a wonderful choice physically, the "Sexiest Tomboy Beanpole On The Planet" about three decades before Keira Knightly was given the title. Kristel manages to be both stunning and non-threatening, a sort of "girl next door," if one lives in a rather upscale Dutch neighborhood. Part of what made "Emmanuelle" so dynamic was that she offered a wish fulfillment role to women who, with a bit of spit and polish, could imagine themselves rivaling this beauty (and perhaps avail themselves of the same rewards.) This was an aspect lost on all the other sequels, including the ones featuring Kristel, who became far too glamorous and worldly to serve as a proxy for normal women. The first "Emmanuelle" starred a model dressed down with short hair, freckles, and an overbite; where every other volume starred an idealized super-model that only served the males in the audience. Worse, Kristel sacrificed her greatest asset, dooming her to a softcore fate (though the cocaine habit couldn't have helped.)

I liked Daniel Sarky as Jean. I think he sells the philosophy well, and he offers an old Hollywood charm along the lines of a Clark Gable or Errol Flynn while still being of his time. He's one of those rare men who can rock a moustache authentically. I also feel that the character of Jean is unfairly condemned. I've known plenty of people of both genders capable of great emotional intimacy with one person, but who seek sexual fulfillment outside a monogamous relationship. I don't see the character's emotional breakdown in Emmanuelle's absence as hypocrisy, but the aftermath of his abandonment by Emmanuelle. There's a difference between a willingness to share one's own body, or their lover's, and the sudden loss of their affection.

Alain Cuny, the elder statesman and most experienced actor in the production, is plain terrible. While there is a lot to loathe about Mario, I'm not sure how much of that is what Mario does, and how much is Cuny's unpleasant personage. The actor seems so hateful, both onscreen and apparently off, that it's difficult to see him as anything but an abusive villain. I think that's a shame, as unlike others, I don't believe his iconoclastic philosophy is inherently flawed. There's enough meat on its bones to make me want to see how different the character's representation was in the book. On celluloid, Cuny is stiff, forced, angry, and at times doddering. I seriously doubt that was the intention in his casting.

Jeanne Colletin was cast as the vamp Ariane, and is well suited for the role. She's never terribly subtle, but it seems to me her overtly predatory nature and desperate manipulation are kind of the point. Similarly, Marika Green as Bee is dismissive and judgmental, a career woman whose drive simultaneously accounts for her appeal and her worst character trait. You might be interested to know Green is the aunt of the actress Eva Green, best known for her roles in "Casino Royale," "The Dreamers" and "The Golden Compass." By God, but wouldn't Eva Green make a fine Emmanuelle in a new film?

Speaking of which, I've seen a lot of low rent distributor logos while watching Emmanuelle movies. Color me surprised by Lionsgate, one of the most successful low rent distributors in North America, putting their name behind "Emmanuelle." Maybe they'll team-up with Studio Canal for a PG-13 remake in 2010. That would be fantabulous. Alternately, Studio Canal also holds the DVD rights to the first "Black Emanuelle" film, sadly still unreleased in that format. Maybe Lionsgate could turn it over to the "Saw" guys for a proper Joe D'Amato-style genre patchwork? I'd pray for Rosario Dawson to star, but expect Bai Ling. Say, wouldn't Jason Statham be great in a Gabriele Tinti role?

Christine Boisson is tricky to discuss as the nymphet Marie-Ange. I initially assumed her Lolita affectations were just that, as it was typical to cast thirty-somethings as high-schoolers until fairly recently. Emmanuelle seems meant to be older than Marie-Ange by a bit, but still quite young herself. Turns out Christine Boisson was just eighteen at the time of release, Sylvia Kristel twenty-two, and you figure to deduct a year for production. That means that for all Boisson's impish sex appeal, truly rivaling Kristel's own, discussing it could very well be a sex crime in some states. Further, the real life basis for Emmanuelle was just sixteen when she married her "Jean," and the movie gives the impression the character isn't out of her teens yet, meaning Marie-Ange is jailbait to the nth degree.

It wasn't until after I started researching this series that I became aware of the girls below the age of consent appearing in this movie. I mean, as an occidental porn fan, I'm trained to assume all Asian women are rather petite and often hairless. I was oblivious until the matter was called to my attention by text relating to a documentary I couldn't manage to dig up. I'm rather put off by that, because once you're on the lookout, it's now so plainly obvious I'm appalled. Fuck's sake, the "cigarette smoking" girl looks barely pubescent, and her go-go partner seems at best nubile, so their simulated oral now gives me the heebie-jeebies. I'm the last guy to call for censorship, but how is this legal again? The Black Emanuelle films clearly didn't corner the market on questionable ethics.

I'm also not at all comfortable with the implied rape sequences in the film. I understand there was a time when the rape fantasy was popular amongst women, as it provided a sexual release without the burdens of responsibility, especially in times of great repression and fear of retribution. 1974 wasn't terribly far into the sexual revolution, and modern feminism was really only beginning to take shape. However, the sexual assault "theme music" that plays at various points in the movie seems to fetishize the acts in a manner that seems intended to play more to a masculine desire for physical dominance against any other will. Sans music, the chase involving the servants Jon and Ting seems playful, as the woman is clearly grinning and goading her way through. However, with the tense theme and the manner in which Ting tries to fend off Jon once captured, there's a distateful air to the proceedings. The music softens once Jon is actually on top of Ting, but his forceful thrusts and the surrounding circumstances are a real turn-off. The same problems plague Emmanuelle's rape, but are far worse, as there is nothing resembling consent on her part.

As I mentioned, the music in "Emmanuelle" is prominent and powerful, sometimes to a fault when the material enters problematic areas. The lensing of Just Jaeckin and Richard Suzuki is a mixed bag, often beautiful to behold, while at other times amateurish. The story is intriguing, though it seems to lose its way at the end of the relationship with Bee, possibly due to severe cuts in Alain Cuny's scenes, and the need to excise much of the philosophy of the original novels. I do find my interest in reading the books piqued, but regardless, to fans of softcore "Emmanuelle" remains a critical and commercial milestone. I'd recommend it, certainly.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Witchblade Volume 1 Trade Paperback




I don't mind Ron Marz. I read a year or so of his run following Jim Starlin on "Silver Surfer" when it was the "in" thing to do (possibly short for "Infinity, as in "ad infinitum") I also read much of his "Green Lantern" run, in part because it constantly featured guest stars and crossovers involving characters more interesting than Kyle Rayner. I would support Marz taking over a book like "Nightwing," as his middle-of-the-road style would be a relief after years of painful misfires involving a hero I love. On the other hand, I read virtually none of his work for CrossGen, as his middle-of-the-road style on its own was no draw.

Which leads me to "Witchblade," a book that blew up thanks to the short-lived "bad girl" craze and the once-intricate art of the late Michael Turner. I was a dealer when Witchblade was big, and the interesting thing about Turner was that despite the grotesque anatomy and near-nudity of his heroine, women were as enamored with the supernaturally-enhanced police officer Sara Pezzini as the fanboys. Relative to comics, Pezzini was a "strong, realistic heroine," plus the romantic intrigues and liberal use of autumn tones never hurt. The woman I ran my shop with positively drooled when a regular of ours had a Turner poster elaborately framed. Anyhow, Turner was the major draw, so when he departed the book, sales tumbled swiftly. I ended up tossing a number of the issues that transitioned from Turner to Turner clones, especially the ill-considered Jason Pearson fill-in, into our quarter boxes. However, there had to be something to her, as my orders on Turner's follow-up "Fathom" were little better than Witchblade's in his absence. I guess something must be said for Christina Z. and David Wohl's dark, sometimes kinky scripts. Clearly, Witchblade is only as strong as her creators, and not a character I'd follow without major inducement, but not without some inherent value, either.

Witchblade and Ron Marz, two mediocre tastes that taste middling together. Joined by artist Mike Choi, very much of the Silvestri/Turner school, a bold(ish,) new(er) direction was heralded. More importantly, a trade collection of their first six issues was offered in the direct market at $4.99 for 160 pages. What's that I said about a major inducement?

"Witch Hunt" begins with Pezzini in the hospital, having been beaten into a coma by parties unknown. The incident is investigated by Internal Affairs Detective Patrick Gleason, which in an hysterically Image turn is introduced as a thirty-nine year old with seventeen years on the force, but looks like a teen heartthrob. The equally hard-bodied and pretty Jake McCarthy, Pezzini's partner, takes exception to Gleason's questioning, but is happy to indulge new readers in exposition. In fact, beyond acting as a reader proxy, there doesn't seem to be much reason for Gleason to exist, since his entire role could have been filled by McCarthy. Also on hand to help deepen the mystery is I-Ching from the mod Wonder Woman comics of the '60s, or a reasonable facsimile.

Pezzini awakens from her weeks long coma, and the scratches all over her face and body vanish as soon as her breasts are restored to their proper place as best supporting character in the series. Pezzini and Gleason share more exposition, mostly involving her fracture memory regarding her injury. They also meet with Father Fiorentino, in whose church Pezzini was found, and the priest who's guided Sara throughout her life (though likely had never appeared in the previous 80 issues.)

From this point, there are spoilers aplenty, involving demons, secret cabals, betrayals, grievously injured partners, and... wait... you've totally figured out the entire plot for yourself, haven't you? It's by-the-numbers and entirely adequate for this type of thing. There's also a cover gallery, featuring some nice pieces by Greg Land and Frank Cho. I doubt the book will make anyone rethink the character, beyond the recognition that Witchblade for the most part is average super-hero fare unworthy of excessive scorn or praise. Thankfully, the $4.99 strategy seems to have worked for Top Cow, as they're now soliciting a Darkness trade at the same value featuring scripts by Phil Hester, whose work I've enjoyed lately. Here's hoping that collection is better than this one, but even if it isn't, there are worse ways to spend a five and a bit of free time.

Monday, September 8, 2008

ReVampirella

Contest Announcement: Vampirella ReVamp!


Project Rooftop announced a contest to revamp Vampirella recently, and I of course piddly-farted around until the very last minute. I knocked this out in two hours, with the end result far removed from what I had in mind when I started. I initially wanted something close to Barbarella, the French science-fantasy comic strip and Jane Fonda movie that inspired Vampi's creation in the '60s. I never quite understood the logic of making Vampi more generic by removing her sci-fi origins in favor of her being just another blood-sucking vampire from Hell. Oh well, maybe next time. Certainly I'll try a more clean style next time, as when I tried to color this in Paint, it actually looked worse than it does here (after I broke out the map pencils double quick.) Given my druthers, I'd start from scratch, but no time for that now. Deadline is up either right now, a half hour ago, or an hour 1/2 ahead (damned time zones.) This explains my late post this evening. Now you know why I write more than I draw, eh? But at least the poor dear has something resembling clothing on. Shame about the damned trenchcoat, but I realized I was subconsciously ripping off Milla Jovovich's half-jacket in "Ultraviolet" while referencing an actual still for the drawing. D'oh! Additional reference included a picture of a lovely black model named Yasmine Taylor from the Summer 1999 issue of "Perfect 10" magazine (the first I picked up and tossed through for a pose,) several pictues of the actress Mathilda May, and a lot of Vampi pieces. Proof positive plentiful reference will never replace actual talent, damn it!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Twilight Book III of III (1990)




Prologue: Homer Glint argued nature vs. nurture with his seeing-eye cat F'tatatita, who refused to stop denying its feral nature by stalking lizards and birds.

Space Cabby: A tubby, smarmy, sweaty, cigar-smoking ethnic type who tried to run up Star Hawkins' meter, and made the mistake of assuming his robot Ilda was also his lover. The thought revolted Hawkins.

Star Hawkins: "Poor Ilda-- a Greek heroine in full metal dress... stuck on a bastard nobody could ever mistake for a hero..." She joined Hawkins on the planet Jerkwater 18, in search of Jon Starker and in anticipation of Tommy Tomorrow's arrival.

Tommy Tomorrow: "What Jerkwater 18 was... was a cesspool... collecting the assorted dregs... A toilet for the indiscriminate lowlife and biogenetic misfits... In other words, the perfect breeding ground... for the Sound of Thunder Wonder Show." The deified Tommy temporarily appeared as miles high, nude, and gold-skinned. He called the people of Jerkwater 18 the "Heartland" and "Tomorrow People," demanding they help carve up the remaining Karelists and unify in praising him. Also launched a homecoming parade/nuclear strike on the Chinese.

Knights of the Galaxy: The former Planeteer and Knight Brent Wood took personal responsibility for the death of Karel, which drove him mad. Homer Glint kept him sedated so that he wouldn't hurt himself.

Star Rovers: Homer Glint led the surviving Karelists in hiding. He noted Brenda Tomorrow also felt guilt in Karel's demise, manifest in her search for the Methuseloid mother race.

Space Cabby: Took part in seeing-eye cockfighting.

Manhunter 2070: Jon Starker was sleeping through a bender in the stands. Starker awoke under the mistaken impression he was back assisting suicides, and shot a gamecock dead. Participants were out for his blood.

Star Hawkins: Rescued his brother and hauled him into another Space Cab. Tolerated Jon's drunken pawing at Ilda.

Star Rovers: Homer Glint captured by Tommy Tomorrow's forces. Most of his fellows slaughtered. Tommy Tomorrow wanted to bring him on to write his bible.

Manhunter 2070: "Poor Jon Starker... All eternity ever did for Jon Starker... was give him more time to lie in the gutter." Had his system flushed out by his brother, who wanted to use him to assassinate Tommy Tomorrow. This would mean going bio-mechanical to get close. "Why in hell should I want to be part of any machine-- or be melded with a ro-- ah... hmmm... yes... well... I'll do it... on one condition... that I meld with Ilda... body and soul"

Star Hawkins: "EEEUUWW!" Hawkins had to convince Ilda, stroking her neck and explaining the melding would make her like family, as she carried his brother's essence. Ilda swooned. "...Hawkins was a loathsome slug who found himself on the side of right... only by accident..."

Tommy Tomorrow: Hot to find a "consort" and have his image refined by Homer Glint. "Spare me... you've either accidentally incinerated them when you ejaculated-- or you've simply murdered them in a fit of pique..."

Space Museum: The Ilda-Starker meld paid the Space Cabby extra to drop it off as close as possible to where Tommy Tomorrow's big rally would be taking place.

Knights of the Galaxy: Brent Wood was also in attendance, and was spotted by Brenda, who in his deluded state he imagined as Karel. Brenda enlisted him for a second assassination plot.

Manhunter 2070: A riot cop tried to push Starker-Ilda behind a set perimeter. "I know how important it can be for you fanatics to get close to the Eminence... even you freaks he's never going to let in the Kingdom... but rules are rules-- no two ways about it..." Manhunter punched his crotch out.

Tommy Tomorrow: Preached before the masses, Homer Glint and the spirit of Karel in tow. It seems her consciousness came with her power, allowing Karel to manipulate Tommy from the great beyond. Karel drove Tommy to tear his own eyes out.

Manhunter 2070: Tried to capitalize on Tommy's distraction, but was torn in half for the trouble.

Knights of the Galaxy: Brent Wood tried to capitalize on Tommy's other distraction, but was blasted dead for the trouble.

Manhunter 2070: Capitalized on Tommy's other other distraction, shooting him in the chest.

Tommy Tomorrow: Forced by Karel to allow Manhunter's blast through his defenses, killing him.

Star Rovers: "Most of the crowd had fled the scene when the fur started flying... suddenly, the few that remained joined voices in unison... singing the first verse of Karel's favorite hymn..." Glint was escorted away by his only real friends, Brenda and F'tatatita.

Epilogue: For months, a hailstorm of metal appeared on every known world, from when all of Tommy's space vessels spontaneously disintegrated in orbit. Homer married Brenda, who died at some point thereafter, alluding to a sequel that never came into being. The aging process was reinstated. Homer Glint was an old man with a talking cat, and "if someone had told me the collapse of civilization was the middle of the story, and not the end-- I'd've gotten off right there."

Twilight: Howard Chaykin - Writer. José Luis García-López - Artist. Steve Oliff - Color Artist. Ken Bruzenak - Letterer. Andy Helfer - Editor.

...nurghophiles...

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