Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Brit, Vol.1: Old Soldier (2007)

I'm sure folks get sick of my reviews of Robert Kirkman books, because I always talk about how whatever it is isn't as good as The Walking Dead, even off volumes of The Walking Dead. Did I also bitch that every Frank Miller project wasn't The Dark Knight Returns or every Alan Moore project Watchmen? No, because Miller also gave us Born Again and Year One, while Alan Moore did Miracleman and Swamp Thing. I keep reading Kirkman books, and the drop-off isn't just steep from The Walking Dead, but too often from other random shit I pull off the shelf. I don't have to love every project, but can't I at least like one?

Well, I like Brit okay. Of Kirkman's various projects, it reminds me the most of The Irredeemable Ant-Man, an intentionally funny action comic with an amusingly skeevy lead. Brit qualifies for Social Security, but invulnerability keeps him on the government payroll, and there's always his side job as owner of a strip club. Kirkman owes a clear debt to Erik Larsen's combination of blue collar ethos and outrageous gross-out scenarios, but he just as clearly does the influence one better. The title does a nice job balancing domestic hassles, giant monsters, and the occasional melodrama. This trade collects three extra length specials, providing three complete stories for your entertainment dollar. The first book has rough early art by Tony Moore, the second a smoother look, but Cliff Rathburn's third installment plays the trump card. A satisfying and attractive package, so it's a shame the follow-up ongoing series was three years late and by a different writer...

Sunday, November 27, 2011

1991 Miller Lite "Then, Now, and Forever" Commercial

I'm finally going through a batch of VHS to DVD transfers I did years ago of material dating back to the early '90s. Since I was poor, video quality is usually lacking, and the YouTube library makes a lot of my stuff redundant. Still, as I go through it and check to see if there's cause to upload any of it, I figured I'd share here. This commercial spans decades of pop cultural fashion/music history through the then cutting edge morphing technology (now most the domain of Syfy original movies.)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

1980 S W Studios Masquerade Make-Up Kits ad


Having grown up on Mammy Two Shoes and Jolson references in animation, I shouldn't be too surprised that you could still advertise a "Black Face" make-up kit in 1980. What's interesting is that it appears to be an African-American boy lad wearing the make-up, and I tend to think the wonders of latex applications hadn't quite trickled down to the suburbs yet. Perhaps "Zulu Warrior" would have been more appealing to the racially insensitive youth of America, but I suppose a sigh of relief could be uttered for the absence of "Darkie Savage" or "Spearchucker." Never mind the "Indian," which was probably a trademark dodge for "Tonto" rather than a nod towards A.I.M. Just scope the KISS make-up, or rather "Black & White (Disco.)" Between "Black Face" and "Indian," "Kabuki" was clearly expecting too much. Ads like this remind me that whatever the faults of political correctness, I'll take it over grody crap like this.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Wednesday Is Any Day For All I Care #127

Jack Avarice is The Courier #1
Orchid #1
Charles M. Schulz Peanuts #0
Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #1

Jack Avarice is The Courier #1 (IDW, 2011, $3.99)
I bought this book expecting to like the art and not give a rat's ass about the story. Instead, it was breezy, funny read with art glitches that gave me pause. Creator Chris Madden is set to revive the Danger Girl series, and in terms of basic style, he's quite clearly a suitable stand-in for J. Scott Campbell. However, I'd be very surprised to learn that he drew on anything but a tablet, and I'd expect some sort of background in animation, as well. This is to say, Madden tells a story well visually, but in an extremely rough hewn shorthand. Each panel looks like a really nice sketch jotted out on the quick at a convention, with all the layout framework left in. The art could be very pretty, with elements of Kyle Baker slipping into the Campbell, but it is often distracting in its disheveled nature. This book is published weekly, so perhaps the intention is to show how well Madden can perform under extreme deadline pressure.

Anyhow, despite my aggravation with the "almost there" art, the story is as fun as Danger Girl was over a decade ago, and Madden's silly characters make the sort of immediately endearing impression one would expect from a cartoon. Giving everyone distinctive features and their own logos right off the bat never hurts. Twenty bucks to read this week after week for a month doesn't seem that steep when the book seems like such a good time.

Orchid #1 (Dark Horse, 2011, $1.00)
Companies like Virgin Comics used to talk with famous people about their lame ass ideas for b-movies and potential starring vehicles, then hire some journeyman writer to turn their shitty star-fuck-fan-fic into a marketable product. That is not the case with Dark Horse and Tom Morello, legendary guitarist from Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Morello, a man of integrity, has written his own first chapter of a graphic novella that can stand proudly next to one of those shitty derivative sci-fi stories from the back of a Heavy Metal you bought in junior high to masturbate to the Luis Royo cover or the Horacio Altuna lead before they invented internet porn. It's much better written than the free music track downloadable with purchase, and will take longer to read than to listen, but it's still sort of like splitting a fifty count McNugget combo with a friend. It sounds like a good deal until you're chocking down #37 while the wedges of salt with potatoes mixed in have dried your throat and sent your BP to 180/120.

Peanuts #0 (kaboom!, 2011, $1.00)
It's Peanuts. I have to explain Peanuts to you? If you don't know whether you'll like this going in, google "Peanuts." The six page opening works fine, in part because it plays like a Sunday strip with more individual panel image space. The silent "Woodstock's New Nest" is like a week or two worth of daily strips strung together into a series of set-ups and beats. There are four pages of reprint strips of predictable quality, and the closing weak link four page sample of the graphic novel "Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown!" It goes by quick, but at a buck, there's nothing to complain about.

Star Trek/Legion of Super-Heroes #1 (IDW, 2012, $3.99)
This is one of those books that seems like a natural, and although there's little connection between the two franchises in this opening issue, its steady going so far. A decade of super-hero porn commissions haven't kept the Moy brothers in their fighting from from a run on Legion in the '90s, and sometimes flat coloring does them little favor, but it's not a bad looking book overall. Chris Roberson establishes the premise of the crossover, and while the various characters aren't really given a proper introduction (aside from mugshots on the inside cover,) the characters' voices seem confident.

There's also ten page preview of another Roberson project, "Memorial," which reads just like one of those network shows out this season that ripped of Fables. Actually, I only saw the pilot of Once Upon A Time, but it's pretty much just like that. Fairy tale characters in a modern setting, less Willingham's cynicism and innovations in favor of playing things more obviously cute and fanciful. It's not bad for this type of thing, but you'd figure that if this is half of the debut issue, you'd spend more time with your protagonist and less with Pinocchio and Captain Hook decked out like Reservoir Dogs. That is, if you don't want to be dismissed as a total cash-in, I mean. Didn't Roberson even write an actual Fables spin-off? This is one of those "change the names to reuse a rejected script" things, isn't it?

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Frank Review of "Madmen of Mandoras" (1963)

The Short Version?They Saved Hitler's Brain!
What Is It? Thriller
Who Is In It? Hitler!
Should I See It? Maybe.

For an early '60s black and white public domain bomb, Madmen of Mandoras is decent. The plot is a total hash of disparate elements that only go together because of the assumptions of the genre, rather than a sense whoever wrote the screenplay ever read it again afterward. People keep getting kidnapped or shot in service to a gobbledygook conspiracy of super-villainous impracticality involving Nazis and Latin American strongholds. The important thing is stuff keeps happening, so at least it isn't completely boring. Everybody do a shot when somebody gets shot, and it'll do wonders. The main reason to watch of course is the same as it was when some UCLA students tacked on twenty minutes of new footage in 1968 to turn it into a "head" film: there's motherfucking Hitler's head in a motherfucking glass jar. Dated technique be damned, it looks really cool and wrong, plus, y'know they do things-- with the head. Not Barbara Crampton things, but still, wicked.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Wednesday Is Not-So-New 2+2 #126

Aquaman #2 (2011)
Legion: Secret Origin #1
Stormwatch #2 (2011)
Uncanny X-Men #1 (2012)

Aquaman #2 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
This is a gorgeous book, and clearly the best visual rendition of Aquaman ever seen. The writing also respects the character, even if the metatextual defensiveness is a bit of a self-defeating turnoff. Show, don't tell. Cool villains, and I approve of the dark fantasy direction, but it sucks to read an issue inside five minutes.

Legion: Secret Origin #1 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
I've had a lifelong interest in the Legion, beginning with the fantastic art and character designs seen in DC Comics house ads for books that never reached the newsstands in my neck of the woods. Years later, I read some occasional Legion back issues, but the property is notoriously convoluted, so those tastes were not enough to help me wade into a continuity that served as the basis for the X-Men soap opera. I finally jumped on in 1994, when the entire franchise was rebooted in the wake of Zero Hour: Crisis in Time. Mark Waid wrote a strong introductory #0 issue, and writers like Tom Peyer and Tom McCraw kept me buying the book for the rest of the series' run. I also dove into back issues, reading nice fat chunks of the esteemed Paul Levitz and controversial Keith Giffen runs.

Beginning in 2000, DC launched a series of renumbering schemes intended to introducing new readers to the Legion. In eleven years, there have been two volumes of Legion Lost, one of Legion Worlds, one of Adventure Comics and three volumes of Legion of Super-Heroes (one top-billing Supergirl,) plus the animation tie-in The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st Century. I spent six years happily collecting at least two Legion series a month, and sampled every single offering since for various durations, but have yet to buy more than thirteen consecutive issues.

Legion: Secret Origin will not change my mind. I already gave the 21st Century Paul Levitz a chance on Adventure, which I thought was terrible. This book was just mediocre, but as a jumping-on point for new readers, it's the pits. There's nothing but soldiers, bureaucrats, and scientists talking for seventeen of twenty pages. Much of what is said is vague or of no great importance, and the only characters truly introduced were Brainiac 5 and Phantom Girl, but not in such a way as to inspire anyone to want to read more. The Legion origin adventure takes place off-panel, and we're instead stuck with a boring contrivance tacked on to the already burdensome Legion continuity. The only good thing I can say about this book is that it's some of the slickest, smoothest work I've seen from Batista, which may be the influence of inker Marc Deering. In truth, the only reason I ordered this book was to get a free Legion flight ring, and my supplier didn't send me mine, so I got nothing I wanted out of this purchase.

Stormwatch #3 (DC, 2011, $2.99)
DC must be going for some kind of record in soliciting the most comic books using cover art that doesn't actually appear on the book. I made a bit of a stink over the announcement that the tonally appropriate Miguel Sepulveda cover art used to promote #1 was supposed to be replaced by an atonal Chris Burnham one. It wasn't that I disliked Burnham's art, but that I didn't feel it worked as well as a debut image. I also loved Sepulveda's cover to #2, which was replaced by an unannounced (Al Barrionuevo? Sepulveda?) replacement. Now here's Sepulveda's #3, which looks nothing like Burnham's solicited #3, which doesn't bode well for his #4. Are they trying to push exclusive artist Sepulveda, are they keeping the book's tone consistent, or heaven forbid, actually using the Martian Manhunter's presence to help sell the book to a DC audience? DC isn't even doing variant covers for this series, so I guess the trade paperback will just have a killer pin-up section.

I talk a lot about the cover because there isn't that much to say about the issue. I liked it as I was reading it, but after those few minutes was up, I once again felt gypped. For frig's sake Cornell, slow down and take a breath. I know a bunch of these characters, but a large portion of New 52 readers do not, and as introduced over the past three issues they might as well be Itchy & Scratchy. "They fight! And bite! They fight and bite and fight! Fight fight fight! Bite bite bite! The Stormwatch (not Authority) Show!" Which would make J'Onn J'Onzz Poochie, I suppose, unless Poochie is a gestalt of all the new characters (Adam, Harry and the Projectionist.)

Jack Hawksmoor is the God of Cities, which developed over time from the funky guy who communed with cities, but it pretty much all happened under creator Warren Ellis. Now we have the Projectionist, the goddess of media, and Harry Tanner, the Eminence of Blades Lies? It's getting a little fan-fic in here, like Cornell is building a "bleeding edge sci-fi" JLA by reworking the same Ellis riff. Even Jenny Quantum is explained this issue as a sort of goddess of theoretical science who can do pretty much anything, unless a theory is disproved*. Jeez, instead of operating out of a ship called the "Eye of the Storm," maybe they should rechristen it the "Gods out of a Box?"

There are some cute moments, including Jack having tea with the personifications of three cities (including a Paris with stereotypical "oui-oui" accent.) Not to get spoilery, but if Harry Tanner doesn't turn out to be the Tao of the team at some point in the near future, the red herring is glowing like a traffic light. If there were any remaining doubts, let it be known that Adam One is a terrible team leader. J'Onn J'Onzz remains a glorified walkie-talkie who gets jobbed this issue to make up for his de-jobbing last issue, although the rest of the team suffer a double jobbing. Sucks to be them, but each issue reenforces an increasing likelihood that this book may end up being "Midnighter and Apollo's Breeder Friends!"

Again, the book isn't bad, but it's kind of like a Jeph Loeb comic with half a brain (as opposed to none.) Lots of action, slight characterization, all to the glory of Superman/Batman stand-ins. So long as he doesn't get nailed for any more swiping, Sepulveda's art looks sweet, like a star in the making (just hopefully not the Rob Liefeld of the Perez/Hitch influenced set.)

*I thought I was having trouble with spell check, but instead learned that "disprooven/disproven" isn't actually a word. That sounds familiar actually, but my real education started right here. That's one to grow on!

Uncanny X-Men #1 (Marvel, 2012, $3.99)
Remember X-Men #1? The one from 1991 with four different covers and a fifth that combined the other four into one gatefold Jim Lee mini-poster? That shit sold fucking MEEELIONS of copies, and was like the be-all, end-all of comic books. I believe it's still the bestselling single issue of all time.

Remember a couple of years ago when they relaunched X-Men with some creators nobody ever heard of and an asswipe team with Spider-Man and goddamned vampires? I don't. Seriously, I forget that shit happened all the time. I still think the mega-millions X-Men comic is out there, but you can now have a complete run of that title and totally ignore this other dogshit adjectiveless X-Men. In fact, so many people ignore the X-Men now that they cancelled the original X-Men title that was the only book left at Marvel to publish over five hundred sequentially numbers issues under (basically) the same title that didn't involve (him again) Spider-Man. That's a big deal, right? Major talent and a heavy push, right?

Last month, a new Ultimate X-Men #1 was better than it had a right to be, especially while pairing Iceman and the Human Torch. It hit pitch perfect notes to recall the past, while offering twists enough to reflect our present. This? Look at that cover. That is not a Jim Lee gatefold. That isn't even a New 52 Rob Liefeld, which is at least excitingly revolting. That is the most pedestrian image for an X-Men cover in, like, ever. It's barely fit for #545, which makes me wonder if this scam wasn't decided after the fact in a pathetic bid to steal DC's thunder.

Open the book, and there's a splash page of all the main characters in the book with tiny little caption boxes relating their names, secret identities, and powers. I think they count that as an introduction to new readers nowadays. That stinkin' thinkin' insures that there are no such beasts. The next two pages establishes the locale of San Francisco and the current status quo of Marvel mutants. That helps, I guess. The next two pages reintroduce the villain Mister Sinister. They're pretty good. The next two pages tell readers that Scott Summers is fucking that evil whore Emma Frost, so if you grew up with Cyclops as a cretin, he totally still is. He's also leading the single worst X-Men team I can think of, according to a splash page. Let's look at this for a moment.

Magneto: God, this character sucks. He had an arc, where he started out as a dyed in the wool world conqueror, but then he became sympathetic as a Holocaust survivor and fallen friend of Professor X. He tried to make good in Xavier's absence, backslid, and ended up a hard villain again. That's a great tragedy. He's done the same thing half a dozen times since, plus died repeatedly, and now he's a joke. I don't care if there are only two hundred mutants left-- you've got to keep killing this guy until it keeps. If I were among the last 200 humans on Earth, and I glanced over to see Osama Bin Laden still kicking, there's be 199 humans and a bloody rock. In fact, it would be a bright spot to that whole "everybody else is dead thing." We're all crying for lost family and the weight of our shared responsibility, and then we'd roast marshmallows over Magneto's corpse. Maybe one of those mutants could turn him into the marshmallow even.

Danger: Joss Whedon completed the "Professor X is an irredeemable monster" course begun with Onslaught by having him knowingly enslave a sentient life form and use "her" as the training ground for his team. Can't come back from that, and the end result is a lame ass robot x-person.

Colossus: Created to be the star of the All-New, All-Different X-Men, he ended up being the Potsie to Wolverine's Fonz. Hell, he was the Arnold to Nightcrawler's Potsie. Nice visual, cheesy Cold War accent, personality void. Plus, now he's in danger of losing his soul while exploiting a new Juggernaut power-up. How much cliche can you strap onto a character before he collapses in on himself?

Magik: Colossus' sorceress little sister, who like him used to be dead, and for all I know still has a soul compromised by demons. Her costume remains blah and she was created for the New Mutants, one of those teams that existed for years for no apparent reason beyond launching Bill Sienkiewicz's abstract style.

Hope: She's Jean Grey. Look at her! It's Jean Grey, re-raised by the son of her clone, watching Scott fuck Emma. She totally skeeves me out.

Storm: She's awesome, and a way better team leader than Cyclops. I hear she's joining the Avengers, which is a perfect place for her and makes her an ideal role model for mutant kind. She should be on that team with her husband, the Black Panther. Of course, that marriage is now on the rocks, because it was a stupid idea in the first place, and helped lead to T'Challa becoming the poor man's Daredevil instead of the African Batman. Anyway, why is Storm associated with this riff-raff team? It's like Obama rolling with the Weather Underground. Who needs that headache?

Namor: Aside from his Leisure Suit Larry costume and his letting a little bitch like Cyclops tell him what to do, the only interesting aspect of this team. I hope he fucks Emma while Scott and not-Jean watches.

Am I the only person who looks at a team like that, and thinks of Saved by the Bell: The New Class? Did you know that at seven seasons, that show ran almost twice as long as the old class? I only just found that out on IMDb. I can't name any of those actors, and I'm certain I never saw a single episode. Okay, maybe this is more like ER. After so many seasons, all the guys you like are long gone, and the ones left have been thoroughly exhausted as characters through countless arcs of life/death/marriage/divorce/entire seasons being a dream. I should have referenced "jumping the shark" and the later seasons of Happy Days, right? Damn it, I totally had that set up earlier in the review. I blow.

Moving on, the new team spends pages talking about how the reason they exist is to swing the mutant dick around, and they even try to have Cyclops play Billy Badass by mocking Wolverine's starting a new school. Actually, that is kind of wimpy. Fucking neuterboy Wolverine. I do remember when he used to be cool. Ended sometime around Kitty Pryde and Wolverine. Anyway, on page thirteen a Celestial poses a threat, and a team member with one of those powers that insures it won't matter loses a limb. It's all really dull (I did mention the Celestial,) so I didn't care that it lasted twenty-seven pages with a final spread that just made me shrug. Kieron Gillen has done work that's gotten him some hype, but I don't see it here. Carlos Pacheco now draws in a style reminiscent of Paul Smith, which means he's way better and more graceful now. Still, I don't do not can't give two shits in such a potent manner. If "meh" were a liquid, I'd be swimming in it. It'd probably be brown. No, gray. Definitely gray.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Death's Head Resolicitation (August, 1991)

Literally on the back of the torn out page of Advance Comics with the Mutant Genesis Ad was this solicit for what ended up being the first Death's Head II mini-series. I believe the same little sketch, presumably by Liam Sharpe, was in the original solicit. Because the image was so small and the lines so fragile, I decided to take the scan as is. The yellow highlight was for books I was interested in ordering, and the green for those that got purchased. I was so anal in those days, I read the goddamned thing cover to cover. I'd been a fan of Death's Head since he appeared in a comic strip on the back of Dragon's Claws, the first Marvel UK series I followed.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Frank Review of "Night Court: The Complete First Season" (2005)

The Short Version? Crazy city court with a zany staff.
What Is It? Sitcom with regular doses of human drama.
Who Is In It? The sorts you'd expect.
Should I See It? Yes.

Growing up, Night Court was one of my favorite sitcoms, and I followed it both in first run and syndication. I'm always wary of revisiting shows like this, especially after years distance without exposure, because they rarely live up to those misty watercolor memories of the way they were. While not exactly an exception, Night Court still holds up as an amusing, entertaining program with standout performances and strong episodes. Others, well, we'll take a look at that. This disc covers the show's debut 1984 season as a midseason replacement, and it's fun to see both how much was in place from the very beginning, and how many changes were made. Harry Anderson often says he was essentially playing himself as Judge Harry T. Stone, so the consistency over nine seasons isn't shocking. The only character written expressly for the actor cast was Selma Diamond, who does not deviate from the very start. Karen Austin is a treat as Lana Wagner, who was built up as Harry's primary support and love interest all season. I expect that would come as a shock to viewers who missed this half-season, since the character vanishes three-quarters of the way through. Richard Moll's take on Bull solidified very quickly, and the actor has understandably been most associated with the character ever since. Paula Kelly was terrific all season, so it was a shame that she received so little attention, especially give the two Bull episodes and an awful lot of time devoted to Lana. John Larroquette grew the most organically, reasonably prominent but not quite a featured player yet, with the seeds of the future "crème de scum" planted over a series of episodes only just beginning to hatch by the end of the season.

  1. "All You Need Is Love": This one was all about introducing viewers to the wacky, improper, youthful Judge Stone, with a fair amount of time bouncing off his first court clerk, Lana Wagner. Assistant D.A. Dan Fielding is uptight and pretentious, Bull is brusque, and Bailiff Selma Hacker is dry as a bone. The very basics of the supporting character are there, but only to play off Harry. Actress Gail Strickland breezes in for a single episode as P.D. Sheila Corinth, while Rita Taggart makes the first of several appearances as hooker with a heart of gold Carla B. Not bad for a start, even if things go a bit overboard in portraying Harry as a loose cannon.

  2. "Santa Goes Downtown": An after Christmas comedown, with wonderful character actor Jeff Corey as a mentally ill St. Nick. Michael J. Fox as a runaway is a nice surprise, but he overplays the disaffected youth angle to the point that you kind of want to brain him. Paula Kelly makes her debut as Public Defender Liz Williams, and helps play this one for heart more than laughs.

  3. "The Former Harry Stone": Terry Kiser joins the cast as muck-raking journalist Al Craven. I enjoyed the character, but the cases coming through the court didn't warrant press, and many of Craven's smarmy characteristics would later be adopted by Dan Fielding. '80s sexpot Judy Landers gives Dan his first opportunity to show signs of lechery. Seinfeld's dad Barney Martin has a cameo as a bum.

  4. "Welcome Back, Momma": The disgusting, manipulative, womanizing Dan Fielding we all know and love really starts to blossom here, amidst a parade of beauty pageant contestants charged with assault. For the second episode in a row, an element of Harry's past comes back to haunt him, bringing either the humanity the series was known for or the wet blanket over the humor the show was also known for. Bull's sweet naivete is developing. Martin Garner debuts as newsstand operator Bernie.

  5. "The Eye of the Beholder": The first Bull-centric episode, showing the big guy for the teddy bear he is. Character actors Al Ruscio and Stanley Brock turn up, for the first of several appearances in a variety of roles.

  6. "Death Threat": Character actor Phil Leeds offers the first of several appearances, this time memorably as "God." George Murdock is also great as Womack of Homicide. Jack Murdock (relation?) as a twitchy member of the bomb squad is a kick, contributing to an already strong episode. For once, even the shoeshine boy with a sob story (Gabriel Gonzalez) injects humor, instead of the usual soap opera.

  7. "Once in Love with Harry": Carla B.'s third episode is a spotlight that wrings drama out of her situation, leaving it up to John Larroquette's Dan Fielding to keep things from getting depressing. Howard Honig's cameo is a bit much. Bull is about as hairy as he gets. The sexual tension between Harry and Lana gets ratcheted up. Jason Bernard makes his first appearance as the adversarial Judge Robert T. Willard, though his run is limited.

  8. "Quadrangle of Love": What the title says. Harry, Dan and Bull competing for the same woman. Not as funny as it sounds, unfortunately. Too much Mel Torme, as well. Like, way.

  9. "Wonder Drugs": A Lana Wagner spotlight, even more so than usual. I liked this character, and it still surprises me that someone so important disappeared before the second season. I'm glad she got this showcase. Jack Riley is great as usual in a cameo. Lionel Mark Smith makes a good straight man.

  10. "Some Like It Hot": Mike Finneran debuts as maintenance man Art Fensterman, who would appear sporadically for the rest of the series. Combined with the first of repeat performer Yakov Smirnoff, this one was pretty painful sitcomedy. Larroquette and Kelly have some rich moments in handcuffs, at least. Still, a rotten episode to serve as Karen Austin's last, as she departed the series without notice, and only really had a cameo here.

  11. "Harry and the Rock Star": Pandering to a younger audience with Kristine DeBell. Fairly grating, but Alice Drummond is fun in a cameo. Paula Kelly was especially good this time, as well. The one good thing about the loss of Lana is that there's no repeat cattiness against another Harry love interest.

  12. "Bull's Baby": A strong episode, aside from a painfully out of place Murphy Cross as a substitute court clerk.

  13. "Hi Honey, I'm Home": Murphy Cross remains stiff in an expanded role, likely written for the Lana character. A good story to end the season with, enhanced by the always awesome Charles Napier in a guest appearance. Bernie and Selma have a sweet subplot, as well. Shame Paula Kelly didn't see much action in her last episode.


  • Commentary on All You Need Is Love by Creator/Executive Producer Reinhold Weege Discussing pre-production and the difficulty of getting all the necessary information about the show across in a pilot. Really though, this is a tight overview of the series, well worth a listen.
  • Night Court: Comedy's Swing Shift Eighteen minutes of a fantastic hour long documentary. What's here is swell, but they only got Reinhold Weege and Harry Anderson.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Luke Cage Noir (2010)

Once DC Comics set into a comfortable, family friendly rut in the 1950s, they had to start telling "Imaginary Stories" that allowed changes to occur with their characters, even though they were all done-in-ones with no impact on "reality." Marvel did something similar with "What If...?" except those were tales spun off a set point in continuity, typically a worst possible case scenario where heroes failed instead of triumphed. Meanwhile, DC started rebooting its official continuity every five years, so when they started doing "Elseworlds" one-shots, they were more like quaint throwbacks than daring flight of fancy. Marvel never really bought into reboots, but once they broke the cardinal rule of "nobody stays dead but Bucky and Uncle Ben," nothing seems to matter or feel irreversible in their universe anymore. They have whole sublines of "Elseworlds" type stuff, rather cheesy "imaginary stories" like "what if a given Marvel hero and their supporting cast operated out of a Depression era crime setting?" Some characters lend themselves to that sort of thing, and some characters are Deadpool.

Luke Cage was supposed to be a very hip cat when he was created in the 1970s, but his whole reheated Shaft shtick was heavily indebted to gumshoes from decades prior. Telling a legitimate 1930s noir story with the character, along the lines of the work of authors like Chester Himes or Walter Mosley, is actually pretty inspired. The solicited covers for the four issue mini-series were fucking gorgeous, and Shawn Martinborough drew the hell out of the interiors. The colors by Nick Filardi complemented well, and Dennis Calero offered a potent cover for the trade collection.

Things fall apart from there, though. The trade is in a dinky digest format, which at three-quarters standard dimensions is too big to fit in a pocket but too small to serve the art well. The pages are a slightly heavy but flat stock, so that regardless of the colors used, everything looks brown or gray. Ten buck for four issues sounds fair in a standard format trade with decent quality printing, so Marvel charges $14.99 and cuts every corner they can. It would have been deeply offensive if the story had lived up to the efforts of all the other creators.

Adam Glass and Mike Benson are probably best known (as much as they are) for writing Deadpool comics, and while the story is much better than that resume would indicate, competency doesn't warrant applause. Aside from featuring a lot of black people, the story is strictly post-Chinatown boilerplate. Luke Cage as presented here is a generic amateur dick without any personality or swagger. Willis Stryker and Billy Bob Rackham are so far removed from who they were in old Hero for Hire comics, it seems like the script came first and determining analogues happened on the assistant editor's office. The Spider-Man villain Tombstone, a perfect potential foil for Cage, gets his resemblance in this story from the colorist leaving him white rather than anything out of the script. There are two major "twists" in the story, one of which relies upon prior knowledge of the character. This negates the argument that the story was meant to stand on its own, but more importantly, the entire plot is built around teasing the twists and ladling out cliche in every other aspect of the story.

I read this book months ago, and kept putting off reviewing it. The story isn't outright bad, just pedestrian, failing to live up to the potential the concept suggests. It didn't have to be great, but it did need more than just being "there." The old "Elseworlds" were fun because they kept the basics of the characters with a simple but effective shift in perspective, while "Imaginary Stories" tended to be bizarre and "What Ifs" were often pure schadenfreude. This was simply a faceless screenplay for a late '70s b-movie with some Marvel trademarks grafted on.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mutant Genesis Ad (August, 1991)

I've been digging through my boxes of loose crap lately, and figured it was time to revive Smelly Brown Paper (Scans of Yore) as a more regular feature. This piece seems especially appropriate, since my original is literally smelly, brown, and, um, yorey. Good thing there's digital contrasting to clean it up. This ad was torn out of an issue of Advance Comics after I realized that I didn't want to keep hauling ten years worth of two different retailer catalogs from place to place and recycled that shit. It was used to promote the launch of Chris Claremont, Jim Lee and Scott William's X-Men #1, as well as the new art team of Whilce Portacio and Art Thibert on Uncanny X-Men. For some reason, I clipped out the part of the ad with the X-Men credits, so I trimmed out the Uncanny ones from the scan. Claremont of course was drummed off both books, and I don't think that either of these line-ups ever came into being. I ran a check for this art online, and couldn't find it, but please drop a comment if you can direct me to better scans (re: any.)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Wednesday Is Leftovers For All I Care #125

Ghostbusters #1 (2011)
Near Death #1
Pilot Season Declassified 2011 #1

Ghostbusters #1 (IDW, 2011, $3.99)
This was a cute story that I think would appeal to fans of The Real Ghostbusters. Good character designs, introductions to all, and callbacks to the movies. The story worked well as the initial chapter in a serial, and there's some solid extras in the back.

Near Death #1 (Image, 2011, $2.99)
In a text afterword, writer Jay Faerber acknowledges the influence of television writer Stephen J. Cannell and crime novelist Robert B. Parker. That sounds about right. I caught the pilot for J.J. Abrams' Person of Interest a few weeks back, and it had a similar feel. A hitman has a near death experience, and decides to start saving instead of taking lives. Since his revelation and new mission begins in this issue, a lot of ground has to be covered in a short span of time, so that first job is given short shrift. Markham seems like an alright protagonist, and is already building a supporting cast. Artist Simone Guglielmini reminds me of a cross between Lee Weeks and Jorge Zaffino, which means it's almost too good for the episodic, slightly gimmicky material. Still, it's a solid start, and I enjoyed what I read. Perhaps a trade paperback with a nice low introductory price would get me to buy more.

Pilot Season 2011: Declassified #1 (Image, 2011, $1.00)
I want to say that I've done this before. Buying a book because it's a dollar, even though it is only slim, stupid, stiff interviews Newsarama would pass on and the types of "bonus material" packaged with the Previews catalog I order crap like this out of. In other words, this was pointless and tedious. Therefore, I will now review the concepts being put forth in this circular at face value while planning not to buy a single goddamned issue.
  • The Test: Sounds just like the movie The Signal, and we're promised shocks on every page. There's an eight page preview, and there's nothing shocking from what I can tell. Also, the writer fellates the artist, but he only looks worth a handjob, at best.
  • City of Refuge: Something about cops in a pacifistic society taking drugs to be violent enough to fight crime, which sounds pretty boring. The writer has some association with I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, while the artist was one of the reasons I blew off Shooter's Dark Horse Valiant books.
  • The Beauty: Attractiveness as some sort of communicable disease with adverse consequences. Written by a guy who writes for Top Cow, and drawn by a guy I ain't never heard nothing about.
  • Fleshdigger: One of the more interesting concepts, since it's basically a Bronze Age Marvel hero-monster premise like Werewolf By Night, but with a zombie. There's also design sketches, which are way less worthless than uncolored/unlettered preview pages.
  • Theory of Everything: Kind of like the last one, with the sketches and an okay premise, except this one involves poor man's sci-fi instead of discount horror.
  • Misdirection: It's about a race car driver, and is written by a Top Cow editor. Sounds like bad comics to me.
  • Anonymous: The phrases "elite Special Forces soldier" and "black ops" are in the first sentence, and "Wet work" starts the second. The only way this could get worse is if "wanted out" and "Screenwriter Alan McElroy" were in succeeding sentences, and they are. But wait, the concept is only being executed by a hired hand, as the creator is another fucking Top Cow exec and there's no artist assigned yet.
  • Seraph: Easily my favorite portion. The concept by All Pro football player Lance Briggs is at essence Spawn. Facilitating writer Phil Hester does his best to try to conceal this fact and elevate the material, but Briggs keeps chiming in that no, no, it's really really Spawny, but with more of the preachy. They also plug Lance's Comic World, a glorified blog that went from April through mid-September without any updates, and that update was art for Seraph unseen in the preview book.


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