Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Look! Up in the Sky! (A sneak peek at John Byrne's plans for the Man of Steel) by S.J. Getman

Amazing Heroes #82 (November 1, 1985) featured a story on the breaking news that superstar Marvel artist John Byrne would be taking over a Superman title. Please note that copy-editing wasn't the magazine's strong suit, and try to overlook the typos, misspellings, etc...

Just when you thought nothing could shock you with regard to the ever-changing personnel on today's comic book titles, John Byrne has dropped what may be a historical bombshell...

Byrne, speaking at an open house given by the Comic Book Club of Ithaca, New York, surprised (if not flabbergasted) the attending fans when several of them overheard him make a passing remark to writer Roger Stern concerning the villain Terminus.

"Terminus would be the perfect Superman villain," Byrne said, "I kind of wish I'd known when I put him in The Fantastic Four that I'd be doing Superman"

"You're kidding..." Someone glancing over the table of Byrne's original art looked up. "When?"

"I've already started," Byrne replied. "You'll see it come out in July (of 1986)."

Byrne said he would inked by Dick Girodano. "When I told them I'd do the book, I said I wanted the best inker they had," he explained,"and that's their editor-in-chief." He said he thought long-time Superman artist Curt Swan would be moved over to Teen Titans, but his personal feeling was that "DC should give Curt a very comfortable pension for the rest of his life—after 30 years, he deserves it!"

When asked what issue of Superman Byrne's tenure would begin with, he replied "Number One... that's one of the things I asked for when DC and I discussed doing the book. I'm starting everything all over again... as far as I'm concerned, this is the only Superman."

Amazingly, the prolific Byrne will continue writing and drawing both his Marvel assignments, Incredible Hulk and Fantastic Four, while shouldering the considerable task of revamping Superman as well.

Fans of the day will recall Byrne's relationship with Marvel Comics (and most especially Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter) took a decided turn toward the hostile, and they abruptly parted company. Byrne instead drew Action Comics, Superman and two-mini-series for DC. In fact, Legends featured a humiliated one-off villain meant to mock Shooter.

Byrne continued answering questions about his ground floor revamp, revealing Clark Kent's anchorman job for Galaxy Television was history. He would instead work as a feature writer for the Daily Planet newspaper, rather than as a city reporter (explaining why he had an office and how he could cover the entire globe.)

With the mention of Lois Lane, Byrne was asked if he planned on reinstating the currently defunct romance between Lois Lane and Superman. Byrne responded with a firm no, and this prompted some of those attending to make comparisons between the new comic book series and either the Superman movies (especially the third) or the 1950s television series. Byrne, however, had a different comparison in mind.

"My Superman will be heavily influenced by the Fleischer cartoons," Byrne explained, referring to the animated cartoons produced in the 1940s by the Max Fleischer animation studio. "They did the definitive Superman, and I'm going to do gear my version to them. I'll also be coor­dinating this Superman with the ver­sion Frank Miller is doing in Bat­man... wich is also based on the cartoons... In keeping with this interpreta­tion, Superman's powers will be severely limited... almost a thousandfold. He will still be significantly faster than a speeding bullet, quite a bit more powerful than a loco­motive, and able to leap very considerably higher than tall buildings in a single bound. Don't get me wrong... he will still be the toughest guy around—as far as being able to kick ass and bust heads—but he won't be so damn omnipotent. He'll still be able to fly, but now he'll be getting knocked out of the sky once in a while... and no, he won't be able to travel in time..."

Rather than the separate six-issue mini-series Man of Steel that saw print, the initial plan was to open the Superman title with the bi-weekly origin tale (which helps explain the lackluster story and cover to Superman #1. "I want to say to people 'This is the legend of Superman... if you don't read it here, it didn't happen! "

'There will, for instance, be no Superboy... and certainly, no Super-baby! Clark Kent will begin his career as Superman while an adult." A fan asked if this wouldn't upset continui­ty with the Legion of Super-Heroes. The super group of the 30th century was reportedly inspired to organize by tales of Superman's exploits as a boy. Byrne said he had already taken that into account.

'The Legion was inspired by legends of a 'Superboy'. . . but one didn't really exist. As the centuries wore on, the legends afose, much in the same way Washington is sup­posed to have thrown a dollar across the Potomac." It was pointed out by an observer that this would tie in with Elliot S! Maggin's story for Superman #500 that recounted how Superman's life would give rise to countless myths in the future, and Byrne nodded his head. 'That's right... the Legion was inspired by a myth."

...except of course that the Legion had met that "myth," inducted him into their ranks, and had several decades worth of published adventures with him. A "pocket universe Superboy" was created to incredulously shoo that fact away, allowing hubris to run roughshod all over DC continuity. A fan asking after Krypto was told "May you forever burn in hell for that!" Others making reference to old stories where annoyances like people not recognizing Clark as Superman through devices were similarly dismissed.

"No, Clark Kent's glasses do not make people see him and Superman as two different people! DC printed that story and then never mentioned that fact again. That's my reply to anyone who complains that I'm messing with the character'... DC's been changing facts about the character for 50 years."

Byrne informed the crowd that Lex Luthor was being re-conceived from the ground up. "My Lex Luthor will not be the smartest man in the world—he'll be the richest. I really liked the way Gene Hackman played him in the movies... Since there will be no Superboy, Luthor doesn't hate Superman for causing him to lose his hair as a teenager. Luthor hates him because he's jealous. Before Superman came along, Luthor was number one in everything—the most powerful man in the world. Now, he's number two, and he doesn't like it." Byrne stated the intention, though I don't believe it was ever realized, that portions of humanity would have similar issues with the Man of Steel. "Everyone looks up to him, but he still makes them real nervous." Byrne had some issues with Crisis on Infinite Earths, and ultimately never really had to address the series, given the lengthy gap between its end and the start of his run.

A fan asked him what one character he'd want to write if he was ever given a free rein and he replied without hesitation:
"Superman. A lot of writers think he's old hat and don't want to touch him. As far as I'm concerned, however, it's a dream—this is the one book I've always wanted to do."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Irredeemable Volume 1 (July 2009)

In his afterward, Grant Morrison calls Mark Waid's Irredeemable Volume 1 "brilliant, hard-edged, progressive super-hero comics. There's no trace of nostalgia... it rides the zeitgeist..." The two page piece is full of such accolades.

I'd like to take this opportunity to note that Morrison also thinks his scripts physically manifest on the material plane, and he's taken an awful lot of drugs in his time.

Over a decade ago, Morrison offered similar praise for Waid's work on The Flash, seeing it as a harbinger for the end of the 1980s deconstructionist wave in comics and the beginning of a new era of optimism and revitalization. However, aside from his successful return of JLA to its Silver Age roots, comics have only become more bleak and cynical into the present. A generation of writers, mostly British, continued the trajectory of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen to their natural descent into the abyss of Rick Veitch's King Hell Heroica. In short, the likes of Warren Ellis, Mark Millar, Garth Ennis and so on haven't really progressed the dystopic super-hero universe past the late '80s/early '90s, and just keep raping the corpses of Alan Moore's past glories. What Irredeemable represents is Mark Waid's ultimate defeat; his giving in to the same necrophilia previously hinted at in overrated titles like Kingdom Come. Bitter and likely seeing the inevitable demise of the printed comic book in his lifetime, Mark Waid has given in. If he'll never get to write Superman, he'll merge Gruenwald's Squadron Supreme with Whatever Happened To The Man of Tomorrow and take it monthly at $3.99 a hit. That, my sad, tired reader, is the gist of Irredeemable.

The Plutonian is the man of tomorrow-- Earth's mightiest mortal-- the Übermensch of the whole universe-- and he's gone homicidal for reasons not fully known. You can tell he's bad because he loses his cape and wears more red, you see. Being that Waid is slavishly devoted to remaining a cunt hair's distance from Bronze Age DC continuity, it's made clear this is the Pre-Crisis Superman picking off the Satellite era Justice League of America, none of whom are remotely as powerful as he. This collective is carefully constructed exact recreations of every League member. They're now more ethnically diverse, and they have challenging-to-remember names from world myth, but that just makes you all the more inclined to assign them the identities of those they represent. For instance, I didn't immediately recall that Kaidan's power was to conjure ghosts from Japanese culture to do her bidding, but it was no sweat to realize the second issue was the pseudo-Zatanna spotlight. Of course, Zee is older, grimmer, and less fashionable than she once was, like the rest of the not-JLA, and exactly like the Giffen "5 Years Later" Legion of Super-Heroes stories of the early '90s. Asian-Zatanna locates East Indian Lois Lane, who tells the umpteenth variation on how pissed she was when she found out brown-haired Clark Kent and blond Superman had been jerking her chain for years, forever queering their relationship. The Krypto-- er, Plutonian got so upset he remembered Larry Niven's Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex, then forced Green Arrow to fuck Black Canary in a Lois wig while he watched impotently. It's a bold new world!

Just in case you begin to confuse this revolutionary, fresh skewering of classic super-heroes with that tired old Pat Mills/Kevin O'Neill Marshal Law, Waid roped in Peter Krause to draw this series. Well after John Byrne's 1986 revamp of Superman sent the seemingly tenured geriatric creative teams who'd sat on the Man of Steel's titles for decades to the unemployment line, Krause came along to remind everyone of the longstanding DC traditional of static, serviceable, bland art for four reliable years of The Power of Shazam! Krause has improved since that long lost last steady gig, now recalling contemporary Steve Lieber, but not to worry-- the scripts are bursting with flashbacks that allow Krause to slavishly recreate the look of the late Curt Swan. This is done in much the same fashion Alan Moore employed using Rick Veitch during his run on Supreme in the '90s. Waid even brings back analogues of Bronze Age b-list Superman foes like the Prankster, Terra Man and Parasite for a final hurrah. Brand new-- you're retro!

Am I being snide and excessively critical? Perhaps. I expect I'd be a lot more forgiving without Waid's foreword and Morrison's hype about exercising new muscles and breaking ground. Waid's one of the best writers in the business, and Irredeemable is a well presented page-turner. It's just that Waid's entire career is based on recalling fond memories of past stories by other men, and repackaging them for modern audiences. Even as he attempts to reinvent his image, Waid's just expertly traipsing down the road most traveled for the last twenty-plus years now. Irredeemable is good, disposable, Michael Crichton/Dan Brown type fare. It features covers by Planetary's John Cassaday, and tries its damndest to fill its interiors with work akin to Planetary's Warren Ellis. God help us, but it's nostalgia for Post Modern Comics from a guy who can proudly recite Clark Kent's Social Security Number in his middle age. Maybe Waid really is the harbinger of a new age-- an icy one.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Frank Review of "District 9" (2009)

The Short Version? Slumdog Xenophile.
What Is It? Science Fiction.
Who Is In It? South Africans.
Should I See It? Yes.

A few decades past, a spaceship hovered over Johannesburg, South Africa until it was investigated by human forces via helicopter. Inside were found a malnourished slave race of aliens abandoned on our world. They were placed in "temporary" shelters on the ground, which became their squalid permanent shantytown home... until now. Tired of their poor living conditions and disregard for societal norms, the people of South African insisted their government relocate the aliens to a smaller and more remote housing area. Independent contractors were employed, and one racist bureaucrat would be the subject of a documentary on moving day-- until circumstances deviated from plan.

After plenty of good buzz, I caught District 9 on its opening weekend... six weeks ago. Why didn't I post a review until now? Ah, I've been busy, and I can't say as I felt all that strongly about the movie either way. Critics I respect like Devin Faraci at CHUD offered glowing words like "Ladies and gentlemen, I give you one of the best films of the first decade of the 21st century." Steven Lloyd Wilson at Pajiba said "One hopes that the implied and inevitable sequel can live up to the high bar set in District 9." I have to wonder if we saw the same film. Feraci also stated no less than Peter Jackson claimed "while many young directors make movies about the movies they've seen, Blomkamp has made a movie about his life." Besides not having much interest in Jackson past The Frighteners (you heard me right, precious) I have to call bullshit. If ever there was a movie from a director who has watched too many other people's movies and lived too little life, it's Neill Blomkamp with this feature.

I've never heard of Gregor Turley of Only Good Movies, but he does a damned fine job of listing the many flicks District 9 owes a royalty to. Alien Nation is the most obvious, but I can even see callbacks to E.T., never mind that Nation itself borrowed the extended xenophobia-as-racism metaphor from Planet of the Apes and a slew of moldy sci-fi tales. Cronenberg's The Fly is an enormous influence, and most of the first reel is devoted to Blair Witch Project phony documentary footage, until it gets in the way of the narrative and is dumped without warning. Virtually every story beat can be found lifted wholesale, with the best defense being that it's finessed in the manner of Tarantino. Because of this, Turley's bilious reaction, venting to the effect of "...having to endure another awful... movie like those schlockmeister Uwe Boll repeatedly churns out," is as misassigned as the previous accolades.

Let me tell you, some reservations aside, I enjoyed watching District 9 from beginning to end at the theater. It is a fun ride, and takes some chances, plus I always prefer my science fiction grounded in real world concerns. No, the problem comes in reflection, when I recall those reservations, and start tugging at the loose strings until the entire story begins to fray. The movie, despite a veneer of edge, is really a fairly safe crowd-pleaser. All the bad guys get their comeuppance, and the good guys work to find a better day. It is formula disguised as innovation, and whatever message it might have is decidedly mixed. You see, we have a human anti-hero whose selfish concerns motivate most of the action, and an alien protagonist who spends too much time reacting all too slowly. This alien is the only one portrayed with any dimension and intellect, and as a metaphor for black folk, he's "clean;" "neat;" one of the "good ones." The rest are all filthy thieves and lowlifes, unfit to keep company with one of "ours" (even if he is the 21st Century Watermelon Man.)

Setting aside the plot, the film is a technical marvel. The script works, the performances are pitch perfect, and the production design is absolutely convincing. I'm still amazed the aliens were entirely CGI, especially given the film's modest budget. For once, instead of rendering creatures in such intricate detail that your mind immediately recognizes they're fake, the computer artists crafted beings just realistic enough to be totally believable. The physics are incredible-- everything seems to have weight and occupy physical space. Instead of seeking bragging rights and validating outlandish expenditures, the CGI serves the story, and damned well better be served Oscars in the near future for the accomplishment.

So in summary, despite high falutin' projections, District 9 is neither paramount nor the nadir of anyone's science fiction filmgoing experience. It's just a solid first major effort from a director that wants to worm his way into our hearts and pocketbooks, with the aid of excellent effects work. I suppose Spielberg and Lucas should be proud.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

riot Magazine, Volume #1, Issue #0 (1997)

riot was a very short-lived magazine that aimed to be a hipper version of Wizard in a format more closely resembling Comic Scene. I'm not actually certain any issues were ever released to the general public, as the only one I've ever seen was this special zero issue given free to retailers as an introduction to encourage sales. All under a fantastic Phil Jimenez JLA cover and summarized:

  • Editorial Mission Statement (one page)
  • Propaganda- News on the upcoming Marvel Heroes Return titles, the newly founded Awesome Entertainment, and Divine Right: The Adventures of Max Faraday.(two pages)
  • twenty-first CENTURYBOY (four page Grant Morrison interview)
  • Where the Wild Things Are (feature on JLA/WildC.A.T.S., two pages)
  • POP STAR (Matthew Sweet interview, two pages)
  • Hollywood Goes To Hell (Spawn movie feature, two pages)
  • Two page ad for October's riot #1, a 128 page monthly with an extended Matthew Sweet interview, a look at Duran Duran, John Waters, John Woo, Buffy, X-Files, Wonder Woman: Amazonia, and all under a new (unseen) cover by Joe Madureira on his departure from Uncanny X-Men.
  • Stargazing (a two page Neil Gaiman interview concerning Stardust.
  • A two page look at the Hercules/Xena animated video.
  • Tools of the Revolution (toy section spotlighting Spawn movie figures, Batman and Robin, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Toy Biz late Summer releases. The riot Hot Ten Action Figures took up an additional two pages.
  • Max & Lily in "Junkie" (a one page gag strip on flea markets by Kris Dresden.)
  • UK Music Report on Tellin' Stories, and reviews of the new Daft Punk, HAL (featuring Gillian Anderson,) and Mark Morrison.
  • Four pages of comic reviews for Genesis #1 ("just not that great,") WildC.A.T.S #39 ("What else could you want?") Supreme #53 ("too much fun,") Wolverine #115 ("intense,") Red Rocket Seven #1 ("original,") Spawn #62 ("one of the greatest,") Spider-Man Unlimited #17 ("soap opera,") and Inferno #1 ("solid.")
  • Under The Hot Lights: Alan Moore (interview where the writer bemoans the state of the industry, grim n' gritty, and everything else you'd expect. Two pages.)

riot really seemed enamored of paid sponsor Spawn, but then again, their only other ad was for DC's Genesis, so maybe there wasn't a conflict of interest after all. The most interesting portion was of course the Grant Morrison interview, where he discussed JLA and Invisibles.

Having proven itself worthy with its return to epic storylines and its acquisition of massive sales, JLA is the book to watch. But when finally cornered as to the secret of the series' success, Morrison only laughs. "The only reason sales dropped off in the past is that perhaps there wasn't a clear understanding of JLA's mythical underpinnings, which was what really gave the book its power. With JLA, you're dealing with concepts that are rooted in the mythologies of every single culture on Earth... When you look at each individual Justice Leaguer, whether it's Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, or even the Martian Manhunter, you can map them onto a different mythological character, and that's why they're so strong. That iconic power of the characters is what makes this book so successful. And with comics like the X-Men, you don't have that. You don't have characters so strong that they're almost gods... Superheroes are as powerful, as they are symbolic. They say so much, but even today, they have the potential to say so much more... Comics are incredibly sensitive barometers of social change. Just look at the way that Batman has reflected the culture over the years. This material has a psychological and a spiritual significance, whether we're embarrassed to admit it or not..."

"The Silver Age began when DC Comics editor Julie Schwartz and his little stable of writers revitalized the market with lively, science fiction-oriented heroes. Julie brought an adult point of view to mainstream comics, and what several of us have been talking about recently is that characters from that era, like the "Barry Allen' Flash and the "Hal Jordan' Green Lantern, were all 'grown-ups.' I read Gerard Jones' book, The Comics Book Heroes, and he pointed out that these were heroes who never fought amongst themselves; held interesting jobs; and had wives or girlfriends. They were just very together, unlike most heroes today. Even in their spare time, the Silver Age heroes just hung out reading books about science and tackling weird medicine."

"Looking at where comics are now, I also want to approach characters as adults... The last few years we've seen nothing but those tortured characters—the 'Dark Knight' Batman basically became a tortured adolescent—and what me and a few others like Mark (Millar) and Mark Waid (Flash, Kingdom Come) would like to do is bring heroes like Batman back as men. I'm talking about the Batman that I remember. The Denny O'Neil, seventies Batman with a big hairy chest, who was always kissing girls, and flying about in the Batplane all over the world..."

Though Morrison doesn't want to limit his audience to just kids—The Invisibles is definitely not a children's book—he does see the importance of bringing them back to comics. Of course, he also thinks that you'd have to be stupid not to. Working up cool ideas such as Justice League Junior—a hip and happening superhero team that would showcase younger DC characters such as Superboy, Mary Marvel and Impulse—he's setting out to attract the once prevalent, currently dwindling, younger audience, as well as attempting to safeguard the future of the industry he loves.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

2005 Dreadstar & Company by Jim Starlin and Alan Weiss

Click For Higher Resolution

Here's an outstanding piece of the entire team! Oedi! Syzygy Darklock! Vanth! Willow! Skeevo! I love these guys, and Weiss is an awesome inker here!

Friday, September 25, 2009

1985 Vanth Dreadstar by Jim Starlin

Here's a swell pin-up of my favorite incarnation of Dreadstar, a pencil drawing by his creator at 8" x 10". The piece was colored by Steve Oliff in 1990.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

1982 Amazing Heroes "The Secrets of NoMan" Page

The great thing about writing a one page origin story is that it's pretty near impossible to screw it up... and yet, Dennis Savage somehow managed just that in March 1982's Amazing Heroes #9.

This should be simple. Len Brown is one of the most accomplished agents of The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves. He's given a belt that increases his strength and invulnerability, but he turns out to be a bit of a klutz with a hard-on for one of the enemy's #1 operatives. See? Two sentences and out. Want another? Guy Gilbert was the leader of the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Squad, until he was asked to become Lightning, and wear a super-speed suit that would bring him closer to death with each use. One sentence and done. With effort, I might have squeezed in his angst-ridden love interest from the Squad, Kitten Kane, but it wasn't essential.

So what does Savage do? Depends on whether you're meant to start reading from the pin-up panel that vaguely seems to lead into the second panel from the top, or the first panel, which starts with an unresolved sentence fragment and an editor's note directing readers to another biographical page from two magazines prior. Are you pulling my dick? I've got to cross-reference to fully understand something as simple as "benevolent scientist invented super-devices, but was murdered by bad guys, and all that remained were inventions given to exemplary U.N. agents that bestow upon them super-powers to combat villainy?" But wait-- just to confuse matters further, some shitty bit of retroactive continuity involving NoMan's human body still being alive gets shoehorned in! Best of all, the text is so choppy and poorly structured, it seems to have been clipped from the dossier of some foreign miscreants plotting against T.H.U.N.D.E.R. At least, that's the only excuse I can come up with. Regardless, this script should explain why Rob Liefeld has more writing credits than Dennis Savage, and deservedly so!

Monday, September 21, 2009

1984 Star Comics Wally the Wizard House Ad

Of the four Star Comics launch titles starring characters created in-house, only Wally the Wizard wasn't crafted by Harvey Comics' veterans Lennie Herman and Warren Kremer. Little Archie creator Bob Bolling was instead responsible, at least to start, and the title lasted twelve issues. What little there is to know about the book is told by Don Markstein here. Oh yes, he'll be appearing in the Star Comics: All-Star Collection Volume 1 TPB shipping 12/23/09, as well as co-starring in the new X-Babies four issue mini-series.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

1984 Star Comics Top Dog House Ad

Like Royal Roy, Top Dog was a Star Comics launch title that I never read once, but will soon be appearing in a trade paperback and X-Babies mini-series from Marvel. Unlike Roy, Top wasn't a total dog, lasting fourteen solo issues and a couple years as a back-up in Heathcliff's book. If you care way more than I do, Don Markstein can tell you more.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

1984 Star Comics Royal Roy House Ad

I never read an issue of Royal Roy in my life, and given that it only ran six, I expect you haven't either. It was a rip-off of Richie Rich, during a hiatus in the Poor Little Rich Boy's publication. I admit to buying Richie's "collector's item" return issue, to my eternal shame. Anyway, I've got backdated posts to serve up, and I'm ashamed I haven't actually scanned a "Scan of Yore" for you people in ages, so you get the Royal treatment. To learn more, talk to Don Markstein, or maybe go here. There's a Star Comics trade coming soon from Marvel, and Roy will also be in an X-Babies mini-series.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Toasting Absent Heroes: Alan Moore discusses the Charlton-Watchmen Connection

Click To Enlarge

On June 16, 2000, an interview was conducted by Jon B. Cooke with Alan Moore, then transcribed by Jon B. Knutson for Comic Book Artist #9 (August 2000.) There, Moore discussed how spotty distribution of American comics was to the U.K., as they were treated as shipping ballast rather than a periodical in need of a consistent newsstand presence. "...There'd be sometimes a whole month of a partic­ular comic, or even a whole lot of comics that I just missed." Also, the books were dumped en masse onto the market, so all the best books could be bought at once, leaving less desirable product still on the shelves for weeks. "Somewhere along the way there, I'd see the Archie/MU/Mighty super-hero comics, the Tower comics that were around at the time...." Charlton Comics would often sit around with titles like Caper the Friendly Ghost, but for the period Dick Giordano wrested the company out of the creative dumpster. "Prior to that golden period when Dick was editor, I very much enjoyed the Steve Ditko stuff—Captain Atom and the Charlton monster books—so the main reason that I liked Charlton would've been probably Steve Ditko, origi­nally. Not to say that there weren't other great artists and writers, but the ace of it all was, Ditko was the only one that I really noticed, until that period when Dick took over." Moore also name-checked Pat Boyette, Steve Skeates and Jim Aparo. "All of these things contributed in pushing Charlton higher up my league title of which comics to buy first. They never quite ousted Marvel or DC, but during that golden period, Charlton was up there with the best of them."

Moore pointed out how The Question came off as a mainstream reworking of Ditko's extremist prozine character Mr. A from witzend, and how Ditko's work was clearly informed by his right-wing views. Though Moore's politics were always far in opposition, the writer respected that Ditko at least expressed an honest viewpoint through his work, as opposed to being strictly commercial. "...I have a great deal of respect for the man, and certainly respect for his artwork, and the fact that there's something about his uncompromising attitude that I have a great deal of sympa­thy with. It's just that the things I wouldn't compromise about or that he wouldn't compromise about are probably very different."

Moore then went on to discuss the genesis of Watchmen. "Wouldn't it be nice if I had an entire line, a universe, a continuity, a world full of super-heroes— preferably from some line that has been discontinued and no longer publishing— whom I could then just treat in a different way." After having treated Marvelman in a similar manner, Moore's initial leaning was to have a go at the MLJ line-- Golden Age heroes who had been cast aside when Archie proved more popular than spandex. They had suffered through a limp revival in the '60s, and would soon be mangled again by other hands in the mid-'80s. "The initial con­cept would've had the 1960s-70s rather lame version of the Shield being found dead in the harbor, and then you'd probably have various other characters, including Jack Kirby's Private Strong, being drafted back in, and a murder mystery unfolding. I suppose I was just thinking, 'That'd be a good way to start a comic book: have a famous super-hero found dead.' As the mystery unraveled, we would be lead deeper and deeper into the real heart of this super­hero's world, and show a reality that was very different to the general public image of the super-hero. So, that was the idea."

Moore had done some work with Dave Gibbons for 2000 A.D., both were part of the first wave of the British invasion of comics in the early '80s, and they were looking to do something together at DC. "One of the first ideas was that perhaps we should do a Challengers of the Unknown mini-series, and somewhere I've got a rough penciled cover for a Martian Manhunter mini-series, but I think it was the usual thing: Other people were developing projects regarding those characters, so DC did­n't want us to use them. So, at this point, I came up with this idea regarding the MU/Archie characters, and it was the sort of idea that could be applied to any pre-existing group of super-heroes. If it had been the Tower characters— the T. H. U. N. D. E. R. Agents— I could've done the same thing. The story was about super-heroes, and it didn't matter which super-heroes it was about, as long as the characters had some kind of emotional resonance, that people would recognize them, so it would have the shock and sur­prise value when you saw what the reality of these characters was."

As DC had recently purchased the Charlton Action Heroes, Moore sent transplanted editor Dick Giordano his basic proposal shaped around the characters, whom Giordano had stewarded nearly twenty years prior. Dick liked the premise, but felt using the Charlton heroes would either ruin them for other DC appearances, or dampen the strength of Moore's mini-series. At first Moore resisted, feeling that he couldn't make up characters with the nostalgic resonance of an existing property. "Eventually, I realized that if I wrote the substitute characters well enough, so that they seemed familiar in certain ways, certain aspects of them brought back a kind of generic super-hero resonance or familiarity to the reader, then it might work."

Moore came to feel the plot and characters in Watchmen weren't as important as the overall quality of storytelling and innovative techniques the book contained. "So, we started to reshape the concept— using the Charlton characters as the jumping-off point, because those were the ones we submitted to Dick— and that's what the plot involved. We started to mutate the characters, and I began to realize the changes allowed me so much more freedom... So, it was the best decision, though it just took me a while to realize that... By the time I was writing the first issue, I was sold on the idea. It was in preparation when I had my doubts." As Moore continued, he began playing with surrounding elements: the pirate comic commenting on the current narrative, the incidental characters coming to the fore, the cryptic references and cinematic touches. "And that's when Watchmen took off; that's when I realized that there was something more important going on than just a darker take on the super-hero, which after all, I'd done before with Marvelman."

Moore was asked to comment on an issue of Swamp Thing he had done featuring the Justice League, and mentioned how he suspected the graphic excesses of Marvelman had made DC initially disinclined to offer him the reins of a more traditional book. He then detailed the exact analogues from the Charlton Action Heroes to the Watchmen. I can't really say that Nightshade was a big inspiration. I never thought she was a particularly strong or interesting female character. The Silk Spectre was just a female character because I needed to have a hero­ine in there. Since we weren't doing the Charlton characters any­more, there was no reason why I should stick with Nightshade, I could take a different sort of super-heroine, something a bit like the Phantom Lady, the Black Canary, generally my favorite sort of cos­tume heroines anyway. The Silk Spectre, in that she's the girl of the group, sort of was the equivalent of Nightshade, but really, there's not much connection beyond that... So, yeah, these charac­ters started out like that, to fill gaps in the story that had been left by the Charlton heroes, but we didn't have to strictly stick to that Charlton formula. In some places, we stuck to it more closely, and in some places, we didn't."

As for the present, "My super-hero comics are very different, I think. After I fin­ished doing Watchmen, I said that I had gotten a bit tired of super-heroes, and I didn't have the same nostalgic interest in them, and that's still very true to a certain degree. Even if I was actually writing for DC Comics again (and I often read Superman), I haven't got any interest in Superman now. I'd gotten interested in the character when I wrote it, but it wouldn't work for me now— the characters are dif­ferent, the whole world is different." The heavier material Moore often traffics in didn't seem to benefit from the presence of super-heroes, nor vice-versa. "Perhaps I over-burdened the super-hero, made it carry a lot more meaning than the form was ever designed for... The ABC stuff at the moment is not a denial of Watchmen, it's just a recognition that, hey, Watchmen was 1986, that was almost 15 years ago, and today's a completely different time. With ABC, I want to do stories with a sense of exhilaration about them, a kind of freshness and efferves­cence, a feeling that the people doing them are loving it."

Meanwhile, Jon B. Cooke also spoke with Moore's Watchmen collaborator Dave Gibbons about the Charlton characters, and whether he produced any art with them for that project. "As a matter of fact, Dave tells me, the very day he receives Alan's initial proposal in the post casting the Action Heroes, he also gets a phone call from the writer telling Dave that DC has nixed using Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, etc., and Moore & Gibbons will create entirely new characters." Gibbons never had much exposure to or interest in Charlton, and didn't recall even referencing them for his book. However, he did produce the unpublished cover above for the first issue of the aborted Comics Cavalcade Weekly. You can see a fan colored version here

Comic Book Artist #9 is presently sold out at the publisher, but you can read more about it here

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

nurghophonic jukebox: "American Made" by Oak Ridge Boys

Written By: Bob Dipiero & Patrick Joseph McManus ("Pat McManus")
Released: January 1983
Album: American Made
Single?: #1 Billboard Country chart, #72 on U.S. Hot 100 singles.

I've been listening to the repetitive-as-fuck Conservative talk radio hydra Beckrushboity lately, and I think this ancient cornball ditty got stuck in my abused brain as a result of their pimping Freedom Concerts/Corporate Sponsored Redneck Manipulation Benefits. Consider this an attempt at exorcism, and remember that if I were really cruel, I could achieve extraordinary rendition in my comments through the targeted application of "Elvira." Giddy-up (a-oom-bop-a-oom-bop-a-mow-mow!)

Seems everything I buy these days
Has got a foreign name
From the kind of car I drive
To my video game
I got a NIKKON camera
A Sony color Tee Vee
But the one that I love is from the U.S.A.
And standing next to me.

My baby is American Made
Born and bred in the U.S.A.
From her silky long hair to her sexy long legs
My baby is American Made.

She looks good in her tight blue jeans
She bought in Mexico
And she loves wearing French perfume
Everywhere we go
But when it comes to the lovin' part
One thing is true
My baby's genuine U.S.A.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Blockbuster Weekly/Comics Cavalcade Weekly

I first became aware of Blockbuster Weekly/Comics Cavalcade Weekly through the August 2000 edition of Comic Book Artist #9, which was later elaborated upon by Michael Eury in Dick Giordano: Changing Comics One Day At A Time. Together, they explain what DC Comics initially had in mind for the Charlton Action Heroes after their acquisition.

In 1983, Paul Levitz purchased Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Nightshade, Peacemaker, the Question, Sarge Steel, and Thunderbolt from Charlton Comics' Ed Konick for $5,000 each, along with a modest royalty fee per use. This was done as a "gift" to Dick Giordano, a longtime DC editor who had started his career overseeing the Charlton line. Giordano in turn bought Son of Vulcan for Roy Thomas, as it was the first book he had ever scripted. It was Giordano's hope to pick up with the characters' continuity right where he had left off in the late 1960s, even suggesting DC reprint the original stories as springboard "flashbacks" to the new adventures. If possible, he would have even enjoyed working with some of his original stable of creators, but DC's marketing department didn't want what they felt was unsellable, dated material. As a compromise, Giordano began work on what he hoped would be America's first weekly comic series, featuring a mix of DC and Charlton characters, as well as rookie and veteran talent. Even then, marketing was hostile to the prospect of convincing vendors to sell on that schedule.

Giordano had high hopes for his Blockbuster Weekly, and was very protective of the Charlton acquisitions. He refused to allow any of them to guest-star in DC books until Crisis On Infinite Earths, where they would be introduced as having existed on their own world before integrating into the DCU. Neal Pozner was heavily involved with the initial proposal, and an ongoing cheerleader of the book. Associate Editor Robert Greenberger was tapped to help build the title, which was to be a standard format 32-page newsstand comic broken up into 2-4 page chapters for each character. The Superman newspaper strip had been revived before his 1978 motion picture, and was still running in 1983, so plans called for its inclusion in Blockbuster. That feature was in the hands of Marty Pasko, George Tuska and Vinnie Colletta, and each Blockbuster installment would fit a week's worth of newly colored strips onto two comic pages. Giordano assigned several of the other segments to these creators:

  • Blue Beetle was to be by Steve Englehart, Dave Ross and Alex Niño. In the series, Ted Kord would have been married to a wife supportive of his adventuring.
  • Judomaster was to be reunited with his creator, Frank McLaughlin, who penned a post-war tale involving a cybernetic survivor of Hiroshima seeking revenge. McLaughlin also worked up an unpublished Secret Origins story.
  • Peter Cannon-- Thunderbolt would also returned to creator Pete Morisi (in more ways than one.) As with Judomaster, it was to be written, penciled and inked by the same man. Unlike Judomaster, Morisi had an ownership stake in T-Bolt, which led to a rocky relationship with DC, until all rights were recovered by PAM in the 1990s. Morisi produced eighteen unpublished pages for Blockbuster, a complete story, and another twenty for a Secret Origins tale that has yet to see the light of day.
  • Peacemaker was Keith Giffen's to write and pencil, scripted by Robert Loren Fleming, and inked by Gary Martin. Having read 24 of the pages, I can safely say it was for the best that Ambush Bug and Justice League International were made available instead of this painful dud. Unfortunately, Paul Kupperberg seems to have also read them, as he incorporated Giffen's idea of voices emanating from the helmet guiding Christopher Smith into a later misguided deconstruction. Giffen's serial was completed, and considered for release as a special, but nothing came of it.

Giordano realized he didn't have time to fully nurture the project in the face of his many other duties with the company, and turned the book over to Bob Greenberger, who renamed it Comics Cavalcade Weekly. Greenberger staffed the remaining features as follows:

  • Captain Atom was turned over to Paul Kupperberg and a pre-Concrete Paul Chadwick. Here, Nathanial Adam was an astronaut on the space shuttle Champion who tore his suit while repairing a communications satellite. He somehow ended up in a S.T.A.R. Labs particle accelerator, which gave him his powers. The inexperienced hero would then work with S.T.A.R., but not the inexperienced penciller. Slow in producing pages, Chadwick was soon replaced by Denys Cowan, who also provided the character's first Who's Who page.
  • The Question would come from Mike W. Barr, Stan Woch and Rick Magyar.
  • Sarge Steel would be handled by Andy Helfer, Trevor Von Eeden and Dick Giordano.

Dave Gibbons produced a cover, and a mock-up of the first issue (colored by Tom Ziuko) was presented to Paul Levitz and Jenette Kahn for their disapproval. None of the features seemed to measure up, especially in their demanding format, and nothing came of any of the efforts. Watchmen didn't end up elevating the Charlton characters, so they were instead introduced piecemeal to new readers, usually in radically altered forms. Dick Giordano took another pass at Sarge Steel with Max Allan Collins, and DC took another pass of their own. Eventually, DC did try the weekly format with an oversized Action Comics, which I understand sold decently, but not enough to justify the effort it demanded. Over a decade and a half later, 52 finally validated the publishing schedule, if not the anthology format.

Below are pages from Blockbuster Weekly in various states of production, mostly from Giffen's Peacemaker. You can find more art from Judomaster and Captain Atom in Comic Book Artist #9.

Blockbuster Weekly #1 pg 1 - Judomaster
Blockbuster Weekly #1 pg 1 - Peacemaker
Blockbuster Weekly #2 pg 1
Blockbuster Weekly #2 pg 3
Blockbuster Weekly #3 pg 1
Blockbuster Weekly #3 pg 2
Blockbuster Weekly #4 pg 1
Blockbuster Weekly #4 pg 2
Blockbuster Weekly #4 pg 3
Blockbuster Weekly #4 pg 4
Blockbuster Weekly #6 pg 1
Blockbuster Weekly #6 pg 3
Blockbuster Weekly #8 pg 1
Blockbuster Weekly #8 pg 2
Blockbuster Weekly #8 pg 3
Blockbuster Weekly #8 pg 4
Blockbuster Weekly #9 pg 4
Blockbuster Weekly #10 pg 4
Blockbuster Weekly #13 pg 1
Blockbuster Weekly #13 pg 3
Blockbuster Weekly #13 pg 4
Blockbuster Weekly #14 pg 1
Blockbuster Weekly #15 pg 2
Blockbuster Weekly #15 pg 4

Sunday, September 13, 2009

2007 Michael Bair Valkyrie! Sketch

Digitally Altered. Click To Enlarge.

I still need to cover the late '80s Valkyrie mini-series by Chuck Dixon and Paul Gulacy for Comic Box Trot, but what else is new? Anyway, here's a nice piece *ahem* by the underrated Michael Bair. I highly recommend you up-size it as directed.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Supergirl by Kevin Nowlan

Click To Enlarge

There are numerous variations on this piece out there, but I like this one best.

Friday, September 11, 2009

T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents: Introduction "First Encounter!" (November, 1965)

A team of special United Nations agents parachuted toward a remote mountain location, only to face enemy fire from within the compromised lab of Professor Jennings. The enemy fell back and escaped in a helicopter, leaving the body of Jennings, who "looks like he put up quite a struggle..." An agent cursed, "We shouldn't have let him work alone! The greatest mind in the free world!"

This was clearly the work of the mysterious "Warlord," whose evil forces were active throughout the globe. "We first heard of him two years ago, when an attempt was made to steal the newest atomic engine!" From one of his captured men, they learned Warlord had "recruited every available criminal and spy," and was "out to steal every scientific development he can!" Even within his organization, the Warlord was an enigma to all but his top lieutenants.

The Warlord's men had made off with the professor's inventions, for which no notes were kept and no duplicates could be produced. "They didn't have time to get everything, sir! Look at these!" The prototype models were taken to The Higher United Nations Defense Enforcement Reserves secret headquarters, though even there many could not be deciphered. However, a few were successfully analyzed...

  1. "An electron molecular intensifier belt which will make the wearer's body structure change to the consistency of steel!"
  2. "A light polarizer material which is completely non-reflecting... in effect, an invisibility cloak!"
  3. "A cybernetic helmet... It could be dangerous, but it could amplify a man's brain power many times over..."

More remained to be examined, but for now these three combined could create a "one-man army," but "if he were captured, we'd lose all of them!" Instead, they would "find and train at least three special agents... the best!" After all, "They'll have to be the best to cope with the Warlord!"

...And so the search begins...

This story, originally published in Tower Comics' T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents #1, was by Len Brown & Wally Wood.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Daredevil and Black Widow by Paul Gulacy

I found this Paul Gulacy piece online not so long ago, probably at Comic Art Fans, but now I can't find that larger image. Just in case it's escaped the internet, here you go!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

SFX Magazine's 50 Greatest Superheroes Poll

Billed as the Earth's greatest science fiction magazine, what SFX really proves is that the British have no more goddamned taste than the rest of us. I will be rude and piggy, so do gird your loins for homomisogynanglophobia.

  • 50: She-Hulk Whom I like, but not so sure about "top 50 like."
  • 49: Cyclops Who I never liked, but respect. Ish.
  • 48: Elektra Who has not been relevant since about 1989.
  • 47: Hawkman Who I still kind of like, but whom the continuity bugfuckery and constant alterations have damned near ruined. Some more.
  • 46: Iceman Who is fucking Iceman, the lamest Amazing Friend, because at least Firestar kept her snatch in the front.
  • 45: Midnighter Who is a queer bondage fiend Batman analogue/Warren Ellis Mary Sue.
  • 44: Colossus Who never had "it," but is an alright sort.
  • 43: Madrox Who has come a damned long way from the Fallen Angels, let me tell you.
  • 42: Northstar a.k.a. gay Namor. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • 41: The Question Who was exemplary in every Vic Sage incarnation. The dyke doesn't do it for me, but at least she's representing, so even she rates inclusion.
  • 40: Emma Frost Wow, a generic femme fatale with a common mutie power. Here's a fuck you from me to Morrison.
  • 39: Marvelman/Miracleman: Yeah, okay. You guys are limeys. I get that.
  • 38: Scarlet Witch is a fucking mess. When she isn't a whiny, indecisive tittybaby she's a crazy murderous bitch. But hey, she's still twice as useful as Zatanna in most situations.
  • 37: Spawn Look, he's an African-American super-hero whose sold millions of comics, is owned by his creator, with an enormous toy line, a cartoon, and a movie. Please forgive the spikes, chains, guns, and maudlin wheel spinning.
  • 36: The Punisher Who is Mack Bolan in drag, but fuck it. He's O.G.
  • 35: The Spirit Who I try to regard, but it never quite comes.
  • 34: The Silver Surfer Who works much better as an icon than a character, but at least that's happening.
  • 33: Captain America Who is too low, because he was socking Hitler in the yap while you ungrateful snaggletoothed motherfuckers were sucking on jerry bombs.
  • 32: V Because once again, you people eat blood pudding.
  • 31: Doctor Manhattan Who signals friggin' Rorschach is imminent. Get off Moore's jock, would you?
  • 30: Zenith Who needs to be re-reprinted, so I can make my own judgment.
  • 29: Doctor Strange Because he's the pimp, and you people just don't know.
  • 28: Morpheus Who is a fine storytelling device, but no great shakes as a character.
  • 27: The Tick Who is just Ambush Bug marketed correctly, but I shouldn't be hatin'.
  • 26: John Constantine Who really is the tits.
  • 25: The Thing Who is too high, but belongs hereabouts.
  • 24: The Vision Who is random as hell, but a'ight.
  • 23: Kitty Pryde My first comic book crush, so don't you say nothing about my sweetie.
  • 22: Hawkeye Who despite tons of effort on DC's part, is still a better character than Green Arrow.
  • 21: Rogue Who I never cared about, but I acknowledge her widespread appeal. Also, I'd love to spread Anna Paquin wide, so there's that.
  • 20: Rorschach I knew it! Eat more penis, you bloody bastards! You've already got the Question, prats!
  • 19: Nightcrawler Is in the top 20, because you don't know what hole to shit out of. I like Kurt, but he belongs in She-Hulk territory.
  • 18: Beast Mutie-loving commie liberal pinko sonsofbitches.
  • 17: Gambit I'm going to blow everyone's mind and confess I still kind of think Gambit is okay, and doesn't deserve all the shit thrown his way. Now move to the back of the bus, Cajun.
  • 16: Green Arrow You can't have two archers in the top 50, and since Ollie Queen stole his personality from Clint Barton, I tend to make mine Marvel. Also, Judd Winick never wrote Hawkeye.
  • 15: The Flash Who officially has the most boring super-power in my personal estimation. Written correctly, none should compare, which means he's never written correctly. Runsfastman FTL.
  • 14: Wonder Woman Speaking of poor writing... but I live the Amazing Amazon, inconsistencies and idiocies inclusive. Top 10 would have been nice.
  • 13: Buffy the Vampire Slayer Who never wowed me, and grates after the WW slight, but has earned her spot.
  • 12: Thor Who is a dude with a hammer, and excepting John Henry, that's always a torture scenario for me. Power by meh.
  • 11: Hellboy Who is basically the Thing fighting more monstrous monsters. It's all on Mignola.
  • 10: Hulk Who smashes, from what I understand.
  • 9: Daredevil For a poor man's Spider-Man, he's really done good over the years. A triumph of craft over concept, though his origin was always decent.
  • 8: Deadpool The single most creatively bankrupt character of all time. I burn with hatred for this idiot. I wish a hairy mole on all who voted for him.
  • 7: Captain Britain
  • BWAH-HAH-HAH-HAH-HAH!!!! I don't care about Alans Moore and Davis, this guy was always our little prank on you people. I'm not current on the exchange rate-- how many pence exactly does it take to equal a clue?
  • 6: Green Lantern As a concept, and whilst on a career high, I'll begrudgingly accept this. In Hal Jordan's name? A raspberry, good sir!
  • 5: Iron Man
  • One of my best pal's favorites, and I love Robert Downey Jr. That's all I've got to give with this old heart of mine.
  • 4: Wolverine
  • One of my favorites... when I was 9. I grew up and out of my aggression issues. Could some more of you?
  • 3: Superman
  • Sometimes works for me, and is sometimes near the top of my shit list. I'm surprised he still plays so well across the pond.
  • 2: Spider-Man is someone I liked and got over before Wolverine. He's a classic, with wide appeal, which explains my apathy.
  • 1: Batman is to the British as David Hasselhoff is to the Germans-- they love him! The numbingly obvious choice.

My question: where is your national pride, UK? Judge Dredd? Strontium Dog? Dan Dare? Nemesis the Warlock? Marshal Law? Why hath you been forsaken?

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Frank Review of "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" (1974)

The Short Version? Teens in bellbottoms killed and eaten.
What Is It? Slasher Horror
Who Is In It? Nobody famous.
Should I See It? Yes.

I was a scaredy-cat growing up, but I took my slow but steady 'tween initiation into horror movies seriously. Based on its reputation and grisly iconography, I knew The Texas Chain Saw Massacre was a must see, but played it safe by watching it edited for television on a Houston station. It was my first experience in recognizing that there was a huge difference between perception and reality. I then found the movie plodding and mostly bloodless. A sequence toward the end where an old man just this side of the grave impotently but persistently tries to bash a girl's brains in actually had me chuckling like a little deviant. I later discovered its sequel, and came to look upon the whole series as mere black comedy. As I eventually saw the third and fourth sequels, well after their release to video, I learned that the series was mostly just plain bad. The 2003 remake didn't help terribly much, but at least it was reasonably entertaining, not to mention competent and comprehensible.

To my shame, I was in fact at a Wall*Mart this weekend, and found Dark Sky Films' 2-Disc Ultimate Edition of 1974's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre on sale for just $5, yet still briefly deliberated. My initial interest was due to owning the much loved Part 2, but I long ago learned that kind of completist mentality comes to no good. Instead, I was sold on the aluminum casing, and the extra disc devoted to special features. For the record, the deleted scenes/outtakes are a complete waste of time, with the blooper reel not much better. Both commentary tracks were dull and repeated the same anecdotes as the included documentaries Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth and Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw. Then A Tour of the TCSM house with Gunnar Hansen commits the same sin, but at least extra footage from Shocking Truth yielded some gems.

Having matured, I can now appreciate the film's deliberate pacing, social context, and experimental influences. There is a surprising amount of tension sustained, considering there's only a handful of killings executed mostly within a ten minute span. The swift, brutal attacks lend unnerving legitimacy to the proceedings. It's only later, when one of cinema's first "final girls" is speed walking from imminent yet indefinitely postponed death that you feel the tropes traipsing. The acting is amateurish, but in that unpracticed sense that reinforces the docudrama feel of the "true" events. Post-pubescent, all the skintight clothing is certainly more appealing. The production design is strong where the script wavers, and the villains can certainly give you the creeps even after the credit crawl. For my part, the only lingering unease comes from a literal WiR.

All in all, I'm glad to own TCSM, if only because it reminded me my loaned copy of Part 2 was never returned, so I can now replace my bare bones edition for a double disc upgrade with a clear conscience in our recessed economy. I expect to revisit this first edition on occasional, and I certainly enjoy it more than some other overrated (Halloween) and dull (Friday the 13th) early entries in the genre. Besides, I'd like to work out how they managed stealth attacks with a chain saw. I have trouble starting a leafblower.

Special Features?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Frank Review of "Flesh Wounds: Seven Stories of the Saw" (2006)

The Short Version? Mild doc on shock.
What Is It? Documentary.
Who Is In It? Cast and crew.
Should I See It? Probably Not.

Chapter Four: In Memorium

This is the second documentary on Dark Sky Films' 2-Disc Ultimate Edition of 1974's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and appears to have been created for that presentation. It focuses on six side stories related to the film, with a brief memorial portion for deceased persons involved with the production. Unlike TCSM: The Shocking Truth, it feels like it was put together by professional documentarians rather than AV geeks. On the other hand, it's staid enough to run on PBS after Antiques Road Show, complete with folksy guitar and lots of lingering shots of rural settings. With exceptions, it covers the same ground as Shocking, only in greater and usually unnecessary depth. The seven chapters break down as follows:

  1. Part One Chainsaw Cameraman: A discussion with cinematographer Daniel Pearl about his career. This fellow went on to direct major music videos for some of the biggest acts in the business, and returned to lens the TCSM remake for Marcus Nispel. A solid segment, though it establishes the static talking heads approach featured throughout the documentary.
  2. Part Two This Old House: A tour of the domicile from the original film with the head of its fan club. It was a kit house ordered from Sears-Roebuck and delivered from Austin to Round Rock in the late 1800s by horse carriage. It was moved in pieces a hundred miles away to Kingston after the family that lived there moved out some time after TCSM was released. That's about all you need to know, unless you're an avid Bob Villa follower.
  3. Part Three The Famous Mr. Ed: As in Edwin Neal, the undiagnosed schizophrenic who played the hitchhiker, and was absent from The Shocking Truth. Well, he's certainly animated, and thanks to voice acting has gotten more work than most anyone else associated with TCSM. It would have been nice to have seen him spread out over a full documentary though, as the concentrated blast here wears on the nerves.
  4. Part Four In Memorium: For Franklin, the Cook, and the production designer.
  5. Part Five The Good Doctor: Special effects artist for the grandfather and a local plastic surgeon W.E. Barnes. Once you've seen one of these heavily technical numbers, the layman has seen them all.
  6. Part Six Frightmares & Wastelands: A kind look at the convention circuit.
  7. Part Seven Life After Leatherface: Gunnar Hansen- Icelandic scholar, writer, documentarian, and interesting if somewhat pretentious guy.

All in all, a strictly okay show for the die hards only, and possibly their grandmothers.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Frank Review of "Texas Chain Saw Massacre: The Shocking Truth" (2000)

The Short Version? Doc on shock.
What Is It? Documentary.
Who Is In It? Cast and crew.
Should I See It? Yes.

Part 1: Introduction (NSFW)

Blue Underground put together this recollection of the making and impact of Massacre in 2000, and it has since been released as part of Dark Sky Films' 2-Disc Ultimate Edition of the original picture. It's a pretty solid set of intercut interviews with most of the cast and creators behind the picture. It is in that area that Shocking earns its recommendation, as the subjects are especially candid, sometimes catty, and well worth your time. There are such curious, informative, amusing, and nauseating anecdotes that fans of the film will eat up, how could I not?

It is in the additional materials I find fault. Narrator Matthew Bell is plainly trying too hard to recreate John Larroquette's tone in reading the text scrawl from the original film, and his forced delivery grates where it appears. There's an attempt early on to create an historical context for the piece, with reference to the crimes of Ed Gein and a consideration of the trailblazing Night of the Living Dead. The doc then fails to acknowledge the influence of Psycho, the work of Herschell Gordon Lewis, nor any other obvious antecedents to Tobe Hooper's film besides Last House on the Left. Instead of the cultural critics, sociologists and noteworthy directors who often pop up in these types of documentaries, outside those involved in the original film, there's no one remotely noteworthy. A couple of horror directors of negligible films fawning is the closest the doc comes.

There's a lot of random period footage from Texas, in no clear way connected to the actual production, and some other awful stylized junk the doc director inflicts every once in a while. During a sequence detailing the longstanding ban of the film in the UK, wholly inappropriate footage of Nazi rallies and book burnings run. It's obnoxious.

So again, the interviews make this documentary, as the extras are more tumorous than of added value, but when weighed in the balance it is not found wanting. The whole documentary is available free on YouTube (well, as of this writing, anyway.) So long as it remains so, you can view it through the embedded screens below...

Part 2: Conception, Pre-Production, and Making (NSFW)

Part 3: Special Effects, Set Design, etc. (NSFW)

Part 4: The Dinner Scene and other painful shooting (NSFW)

Part 5: Post-Production, Distribution, Release, and the Mafia (NSFW)

Part 6: Reception & Sequels (NSFW)

Part 7 More Sequels, Sabotage and Conclusion (NSFW)


Blog Archive


Surrender The Pink?
All books, titles, characters, character names, slogans, logos, and related indicia are trademarks and/or copyright of their respective rights holders.