Random Ramblings about Things and Whatever

Random Ramblings about Things and Whatever

Friday, October 8, 2010

Non-Sequitur: Vid Blog

This would've been a wordpress entry but, uh...

Saturday, October 2, 2010


I, uh...there's serious talk about Rahm Emanuel running for mayor of Chicago. It's all over the local news. Like this is a serious thing! I, I just don't know what to make of this.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Non-Sequitur #3: A Bit Tasty

I'm sorry, but I'm still shocked by Ricard Daley's decision to not to run for mayor of Chicago again. It's not that I thought the guy was great or perfect or evil or whatever, but he was mayor for something like 21 years and faced no serious threat to his position. The running joke was that he's mayor for life. Now, there's going to be a free-for-all come election season. Place your bets. Vote early, vote often.

Under The Red Hood: I finally saw this movie. I thought it was really fun! I hadn't read any of the comics it was based on, but I had no problem following the story. There's a new threat in Gotham City and Bats is forced to face his greatest failure.Very action packed and actually suspenseful. I enjoyed the art style and the voice acting. I liked the confrontation at the end between Jason Todd and Batman, it dealt with the most debated issue among Bat-fans in a way that was not too hokey.

Scarlet #2: I'm still enjoying it, but it's still artsy "punisher-girl". I really hope next issue confronts systematic inequalities or the means of production or mass media or something that makes it more than just a well done revenge story. I LIKE well done revenge stories, but this was sold as something beyond just that.

I'm eating not so healthily today. Got my ham hocks, some broccoli...gonna smother in cheese and then wash it all down with beer.YUM!

Another great pop song disguised as a hard rock/metal song is "Little Guitars" by Van Halen. Sing along, "..ANNEEE TIYMME!!"

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Random Comics Review: Man-Thing #22, 1975

Alright, this was the last issue of the first Man-Thing on-going series. Man-Thing was a scientist who was transformed into a mindless swamp monster who had the power to burn people who felt fear in his presence. Although mainly a horror comic, some of the stories took a mystical bent featuring sorcerers and other worldly beings.

The story in this issue is by Steve Gerber who wrote the majority of the tales in this run and the art is by Jim Mooney. This issue wraps up several bizarre plot lines involving demons, wizards, "emotion boxes" and of course, the end of the universe. It's pretty off beat to say the least. The title is "Pop Goes the Cosmos!" The splash page depicts Steve Gerber himself sitting on the floor of his wrecked apartment writing a letter to editor Len Wein explaining why he can't write the comic anymore. Basically all the adventures were real and told to Steve by the wizard, Dakimh. But now Steve was becoming too involved and his life was at risk so he was quitting the book. Dakimh gets Steve embroiled in a journey to defeat Thog, the nether-spawn from building a pyramid of emotion boxes that will allow Thog to plunge the world into madness...or something. There's demons running around and Steve is sucked across dimensions, of course Man-Thing shows up to save the day. Most modern comics fans credit Grant Morrison for being "post-modern" and putting himself into the comic book he was writing, here's Steve Gerber doing it 15 years earlier! Interestingly enough, Chris Claremont used the exact same device in the last issue of Man-Thing vol.2 (Chris went as far as to have himself transform into Man-Thing).

The art by Jim Mooney is serviceable and professional. It doesn't knock my socks of but it's moody and just stylistic enough to hold my interest. There's no noticeable credit for the cover. If I had to guess, I'm pretty sure the inks are by Klaus Janson (who went on to fame on Daredevil) and the pencils are probably(?) Gil Kane. Gil was doing a lot of Marvel covers at time including Man-Thing. It's just that Klaus's inks are so heavy it's hard to tell.

Man-Thing #22 is the end of the series, so it feels a little rushed and loose at the same time. One gets the feeling Steve would have liked one more issue to tie it all up a bit more neatly, but maybe the editor told him "Forget it, it's done." However, the storytelling is clear and the reader is never confused as to who the characters are or what their motivations are. Definitely off the beaten track, but absolutely worth a read.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Non-Sequitur #2: Pork Chop Sandwiches!

Last week for my job I had to sit in a major chain coffee house for 5 hours. A guy who looked like a thinner Alfred Molina came in 4 times.

New Avengers #3: I am still digging Stuart Immonen's art. It's gorgeous! The script is starting to meander just a bit. The agent Hand bit should've been one page and the Iron Fist scene should've been maybe two. The Thing's dialogue didn't feel quite right. On the other hand...Stuart's art is gorgeous!

Secret Avengers #4: More action packed fun. I'm a little disappointed that we didn't learn more about Nick Fury's motives, but I guess that's coming next issue. Something I'm a little more bothered by has to do with Mike Deodato's art. I know this is the black ops team, I know it's supposed to be all shadowy and on Mars but why oh why doesn't he draw more clear depictions of Val and Natasha's faces? I've been following this series since the start and I've known the characters since I was 10-11 years old and I could barely tell them apart! If it weren't for their different hair dos I'd been lost!

"My Cherie Amour" by Stevie Wonder is a wonderful wonderful song.

I was going to buy some ham hocks for dinner, but I changed my mind and got chicken instead. I'm boiling instead of frying. That's healthier right?

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Non-Sequitur #1:Uh...

The movie "Salt": I thought it was solid chase movie. Not ground breaking, but competent and fun.

Secret Avengers #3: I'm still enjoying this title. It delivers exactly what I want out of an Avengers comic; varied characters, an intriguing plot, action, nice enuff art, and very little decompression. So far I'm still wondering about Nick Fury's involvement with the Shadow Cabinet and I don't feel like I'm being strung along. Yet. STUFF ACTUALLY HAPPENS IN THIS COMIC.

Superman #702: Even though I knew the entire story before I bought this, I still thoroughly enjoyed this issue... alot more than I thought I would. Very eye engaging artwork, and nice little heart warming story. I didn't buy it 100% but I still recognize the emotional intent. One thing though, after Superman's speech to the aliens, is he going to give some of that JLA teleporter tech to EMT workers? Yeah, I didn't think so...

I gotta do field work at my job next week. It's not my favorite thing, but if I say no then I'm staying at home at least three days and not getting paid, so it's time to put on my happy public face...

On State St in Chicago today I saw a dad walking with his two sons. The boys were very young 6-8 years old. Dad was wearing a red t-shirt with the Flash symbol on it. He was also wearing a matching red cap with the same Flash symbol. This made me smile...

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Random Movie Review: The Girl Who Played With Fire, 2010

Ok...Cubs game? Nah. Biggest Rock fest of the summer? Nah. Grim foreign thriller about long term abuse...with sub-titles? I'm in!!

This is a sequel to the earlier film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. Noomi Rapace is back as Lisbeth, the goth computer hacker as is Michael Nyqvist as Mikael Blomqqvist, the mild mannered yet driven journalist.This film was directed by Daniel Alfredson.

The plot picks up a year after the events of the first film. Mikael is back working as a reporter for Millennium magazine and Lisbeth has been living abroad. The conflict occurs when Lisbeth is framed for three murders. Two victims are reporters investigating human trafficking and the third is a man who was Lisbeth's case worker from the previous movie. Of course, Lisbeth is innocent and we follow our heroes as they undercover the true guilty party and how this case ties to the government and to Lisbeth's own past.

I really like the two leads of this film. Michael is understated without seeming boring or wimpy. Noomi plays her role with just the right amount of weird charisma. I especially enjoy the way Lisbeth's character is portrayed as someone with very serious emotional problems, but never made light of as if she's just "quirky" nor is she an object of pity. In real life some people would describe her as "damaged goods". However, Lisbeth is that rare breed that truly doesn't care what others think. It's acknowledged in the film that she's a person that it's sometimes difficult to be friends with, yet admirable enough in other ways to make her likable.

One thing I did have a problem with is there's a scene where Lisbeth interrogates a man that's a little too similar to the confrontation with the case worker in the first movie. Also, during this same scene she's in a disguise that makes her look like a member of a Scandinavian death metal band. Personally, I think she looks cool...but if you're breaking and entering and threatening someone are you really going to take the time to make yourself up to look like King Diamond? Or are you more likely to just put on a ski mask or something? Another thing is I wish a little more had been done with the human trafficking aspect of the story. Perhaps it'll be touched on again in the next movie.

I felt The Girl Who Played With Fire was a solid thriller.Not as daring and original as Dragon Tattoo, but an enjoyable film none the less.

Also, on the way to the theater I stepped in dog poo. I was walking past a church and a camera man was filming a wedding. Not wanting to interrupt his shot, I walked on the grass around the camera man and stepped in poo! I thought maybe I can turn this into a funny story! An existential metaphor for ....something! I got a wedding, good intentions, and poo! But after thinking about it all day I got nothing. Just poo on my shoe.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Random Comics Review: Vertigo Pop! London #3, 2003

This is the third issue of a four issue mini series by Peter Milligan and Phillip Bond about an over the hill 60's rock god that switches bodies with an up and coming contemporary pop star (thru a magic bong). Rocky is the aged rock and Sean is the pop star Rocky plans to use.The intent is to take Sean's body in order to become a celebrity again. Of course nothing goes as planned.

In this issue Rocky and his current wife Trixie carry out the plan. Things seem to go smoothly at first. Sean/Rocky is placed in a mental hospital, because no one of course believes his absurd story that he's the real Sean Cody. Rocky/Sean begins recording a new album. He and his wife Trixie have a renewed sex life. However, things soon begin to misfire. Rocky/Sean is able to see from an outsiders view the people he's hurt over his life including his first wife and daughter. Rocky/Sean also has to deal with the seedier aspects of Sean's life that lie just beneath the surface of Sean's pretty boy image.

The story by Peter Milligan is told briskly with humor and punch. There's a knowing wink and nudge towards classic rock, the swinging 60's Mod scene, and 90's Brit Pop without throwing in over obvious parodies. The character are well rounded and the ones that aren't likable are at least funny. The art by Phillip Bond is well suited for this story. It strikes just the right balance between cartoony and ..I wouldn't say realistic, maybe naturalistic?

Vertigo Pop!London is fun romp. A fine comic to give to someone who might want to read comics,but not interested in superheroes or horror or science fiction.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Random Comics Review:The Complete Cheech Wizard #3,1987

The Complete Cheech Wizard was a comic published by Rip Off Press (the publishers of The Fabulous Furry Freak Bros.) that reprinted the 70's work of underground cartoonist Vaughn Bode. It's basically a baudy gag strip about a foul-mouthed wizard, his lizard assistant and the various inhabitants of their make believe forest. It's a little like a dirty version of Pogo by Walt Kelly. Vaughn's work heavy influenced some 80's graphitti artists as well as a film by Ralph Bashki named "Wizards".

This issue is interesting because it contains some revealing background information. Not only does it have pages from Vaughn's sketch book there's also samples of a cleaned up version of the strip that Vaughn tried to sell to the syndicate for family newspapers called The Yellow Hat! There's also a nice written tribute by Larry Todd. Not too many many depictions of "Bode Broads" in this issue but there's still a mature readers label probably because of the language and uh, tiny cartoon lizard penis.

So, not quite a definitive look at influential artist, but an very intriguing peak at what he was about. This might be fun too...

Yeah, NOT exactly intellectual, but well, uh...er...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Random Record Review: "Photograph" Def Leppard 1983

Credited to: Allen,Clark,Elliot,Lange,Savage,Willis.
From the album Pyromania.

I am not a big fan of this band, but I do kinda like this song. I was going to attempt to do this whole intellectual deconstruction of the song, but the truth is I don't know that much about music theory and the only real reason I like this song is the simplest: It's a hum-able catchy do-dad. This song is bubble gum metal at it's tastiest and it's chewiest!

First the listener is drawn in by a slinky seductive hard rock riff. Like the bastard child of 70's metal made pretty by 80's gloss. A simple drum beat lays the foundation on which the band builds a mighty tower of unrequited desire. Joe's voice full of yearning and youthful exuberance struts in with bravado beyond it's station and tells his tale of woe (ok,time to stifle these metaphors).

Supposedly,this song was inspired by Marilyn Monroe. Uh,ok...I couldn't tell by the lyrics, but... ok. Can someone explain to me what "passion killer" refers to? Is it supposed to be Joe because he can't have Marilyn? It can't mean Marilyn because I would think photos of Monroe would stir up one's passion not kill it.

Now getting to the good stuff, "Ooh,Ooh! Look what you've done to this rock n roll clown!" When I first heard this line I thought it was "Nuthin' too wild for a rock n roll town!" Then I found out what the real words were. I was disappointed, it went from a declaration of hard rock "Bad-itude" to Joe declaring himself a mope. Sheesh! And of course the chorus is one of the greatest hooks of the era. Best sing-songy chorus the band has ever had and why "Photograph" is one of the best POP songs of the 80's. Taylor Swift new it and so do you. After one listen you can sing the chorus, your mom can sing the chorus your kids can sing the chorus! Think they're gonna remember that Jonas Bros album you bought them? No! But they WILL remember THIS hook 20 years later if you just play it for them once! Don't forget other shining moments; the best bridge ever, "You've gone straight to my Heaaad!" Joe holding that note like a man on a mission, a slick 80's melodic guitar solo by Phil that's just tasteful enuff, a now it's back to the damn catchy "Oh,Oh" chorus! Classic fade out...the song never ends. It goes on forever...in your head.

uh,the music video for this song is one of the tackiest things ever committed to film.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Random Comics Review:Kazar the Savage #23,1983

Ok, we get two stories in this one. The art in the main feature is by Bob Hall and Armando Gil and the art in the second is by Val Mayerik. The writing in both is by Bruce Jones.

The first story opens in Casablanca as Kazar is chasing a man to steal a package from him. Kazar beats up some thugs who are also after the same package. Kazar grabs the package and takes it to a man in a bar. The package is a secret explosive. We also meet the man's boss, an evil woman named Ramona. We learn that she is an ex-A.I.M agent who's behind this all. She and her men previously captured Kazar and placed a device in his head that forces him to don their bidding. There's a cameo by Spiderman. Shanna is staying with Peter Parker and thinks that Kazar is dead as a result of a previous fight with Kraven the Hunter ( or something). The story ends to be continued as Kazar and Romona are crossing the dessert about to be ambushed by other bad guys.

It would be interesting to see how certain aspects of this story would be received today. At one point Romona tries to seduce Kazar. When he rejects her, she threaten to activate the device in Kazar's brain. Nothing is explicit is shown or stated. The reader is left to infer what happened, but essentially Romona coerced Kazar into having sex with her. I believe many people today would consider this rape. The story doesn't seem to treat this like that big of a deal. Kazar is shook up a little, but the story treats it like just another rotten thing he had to do along with stealing and beating people up.

Another interesting thing and it's so obvious that I'm not sure if it's a mistake or if it was done on purpose. When Kazar is in the streets fighting and running he's barefoot. When he meets his contact at the bar, he's wearing shoes. There's a caption at the top of the panel that reads "And shortly..." suggesting some time has passed, but is the reader supposed to think that Kazar just stopped at a store somewhere and purchased some footwear?

The back up story is Tales of Zabu. It's a past tale of Kazar as a boy. Basically, a cave man stabs Zabu the Saber-tooth tiger with a spear and kidnaps young Kazar to raise as his own. It ends with a page depicting Zabu laying on the ground with a spear sticking out of him as the rain falls. It's corny but um, kinda sad.

All in all, not groundbreaking but a solid old school adventure comic.With a little bronze age campiness (some intentional some not) thrown in.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Random Comics review:Scarlet #1,2010

Ok, I have mixed feelings about this comic. As a comic book it's decent. Actually, it's pretty good.The comic is written by Brian Michael Bendis and the art is by Alex Maleev. The dialogue is solid and the art is GREAT, but as a piece of art that is part of the zeitgeist, I have some questions about it.

The story is set in modern day Portland,OR. Scarlet is a young woman who's has just killed an corrupt policeman. She turns to the reader and tells us her story. She explains that the system is rigged to favor the corrupt and the rich. The system is broken she informs us and she means to fix it. Here Bendis does well in what is really his forte, introspective character driven pieces. We learn a little about Scarlet's background and we completely understand her perspective. We understand her doubts and questions, we understand her ambitions. All in all it's a decent set up for future issues.

The art by Maleev is FANTASTIC. It is really wonderful to look at. It is gritty and "realistic" yet at the same impressionistic. I don't know to what extent Maleev uses modern tools like photo refs,computers or photoshop, but it seems he uses them extremely well. As a reader I'm pulled into the visual world he's created. I don't think, "where'd he trace that from". I'm going to embarrass myself with this comparison, but it it's like old school hip-hop. The best DJs and producers were able to take samples you knew and make something fresh and unique out of them. That's how I feel looking at Maleev's pages. I know that's a model and there's a city scape he pulled from somewhere, but he makes it work and I buy it for the duration of the story.

Here's where I have issues. In the back matter, the interview with Brian Bendis where he talks about the inspiration for the story, he talks about what volatile times we live in. He mentions revolution. He mentions political protests that occur in Portland and says something like "yeah, what if some of these people instead of protesting peacefully took up arms?" My question is "what do you mean WHAT IF? People do that NOW! On the left and the right. What about the protests at the G-8 summits where police have to be called in because of anarchists vandalizing property? What about those "christians" who wanted to kill policemen and then kill more at the funeral because they wanted to strike at the government? Don't tell me you've forgotten about Tim McVeigh...But he story on the pages could be any vigilante action movie superhero origin story from the last 30 years. It seems that Bendis wants to have his revolution icing and eat his non-political cake at the same time. On the one hand I can understand not wanting to do a comic that's a preachy manifesto, but why talk up your story as if it's got something important to say about the times we live in if you don't have some point you're trying to make? Hell, 40 years ago Stan Lee had no problem addressing social concerns in Marvel comics. Whether it was fighting the communists, dealing with racism or drugs, or acknowledging Viet Nam in his stories. Some of those stories may have been naive, but at least Stan was willing to present a point of view.

So, yeah...as a comic book, Scarlet #1 is a good solid set up to an urban action thriller. I'll probably pick up the next few issues to see where it's going. As a work of art that reflect the times it was created in...meh.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Random Comics Review: Nexus #21,1986

Nexus was a superhero science-fiction comic written by Mike Baron and drawn by Steve Rude. The basic premise is that Heratio Hellpop has been been granted super powers by a being called the Merk. Nexus's mission is to execute mass murderers,but who's truly evil isn't always easy to determine.

This issue's main story concerns an attack on Nexus's homeworld of Ylum by the Sov. Nexus previously killed their general and they have sworn vengeance. The Merk has cut off Nexus's power because Nexus is behind on his execution schedule. Nexus has to figure out how to fight the attackers without his powers while diplomats from Ylum decide maybe negotiations won't work in this situation. The back up story is Tales from the Clonezone by Baron and art by Mark Nelson. Clonezone is a lizard-like comedian/performer who has wacky misadventures and...stuff. I only skimmed this story so um, I don't have much to say about it.

The main story is very interesting and compared to today's comics much is packed into 20 pages. From the attack, to the diplomat's trials, to Nexus confronting the Merk...a lot happens, but none of it feels rushed. Interesting ideas abound,there's characters who are basically just floating heads, four armed aliens, and actual discussions of the price or power and violence and retribution.Baron is able to strike just the right tone between drama and humor with his script.

Steve Rude's art compliments Baron's story perfectly. It's lighthearted and whimsical,while still maintaining a decent level of mystery and drama at the same time. Rude's storytelling is very kinetic and keeps the reader involved. He's more than capable at drawing dynamic figures. Sometimes his compositions are a little busy, but not so much that they're distracting.

I think I remember reading some years back Baron and Rude shopped Nexus around as a possible TV cartoon. After talking to some industry people, they realized they would have had to water down the concept so much that it wouldn't have been worth the effort. I'm glad they didn't persue it and we're left with this version of the character.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Friday, June 11, 2010

Random Comics review: Cerebus #25,1981

Cerebus the Aardvark by writer/artist Dave Sim started as a parody of Conan the Barbarian which Sim eventually turned into a long complex meditation on religion,politics,and gender. The earlier issues are more light-hearted and mostly focused on pop-culture and comics spoofs.

This issue is actually light on plot but definitely worth a look. Cerebus is accompanying Professor Charles X Claremont across the countryside with the Prof's apocalypse beast (which looks suspiciously like Marvel's swamp monster). Before he wrecks havok on the world,the Prof intends to steal a castle from an unsuspecting home owner. Of course,the issue ends which the bad guy perishing by his own plan.

The story is very funny. What's notable is that most of the humor steams not from one-liners and random gags,but from the dialogue and interaction between Cerebus,the Prof,and the Castle owner. One nice bit is that the owner is a serious artist whose commentaries on society always involve drawings of big breasts. Another hilarious scene is how the Prof meets his demise when he gets caught between his beast fighting, then copulating with another apocalypse beast (who looks suspiciously like DC's swamp monster).

The artwork is wonderful throughout. Dave's layouts are dynamic and varied. They tell the story in a clear and breezy manner. The pacing, which is everything in humor, is perfect. Dave's figure drawing is kinetic and fun. Another thing,the art is black and white,but marvelous just the way it is. Stark blacks,clear whites,and just the right amount of zip-a-tone and cross-hatching for the grays and mid-tones. Color wouldn't add to the visuals at all. THIS is how you do black and white comic book art.

Cerebus #25 is a funny and well drawn comic that reads well on it's own. If you can find it at your local comics shop,it's definitely worth a look.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Look outside the window...

It's a rainy and dreary day in Chicago....
But after hearing this,it's gonna be alright...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Random Comics review:Fantastic Four #271,1984

Fantastic Four 271 is a charming flashback in a couple of ways.It's an old comic which was a tribute to even older comics.Published back in the 80's,this comic features story and art by John Byrne back when he was still a loyal company man for Marvel Comics and storytelling that was typical of that time.The story is a homage to the Lee Kirby monster comics of the 50's.Basically Reed Richards is afraid he's losing his memory and tells his wife Sue a story about the time he defeated Gormuu,a giant monster from outer space.The flashback is drawn in the old Kirby Ayers style and is roughly 8-9 pages which was the standard length for those old sci-fi tales.Of course the creature is defeated in the most improbable way and we return to the present.Reed decides to return to his father's old lab in Central City California to work on a solution to his problem.The issue ends with the FF vowing to get to the bottom of mysterious forces that seem to be haunting the lab.

The storytelling is simple and direct.The panel layouts are basic and uncluttered and John Byrne was still drawing backgrounds in those days.John also does a good job of drawing different body types.Johnny doesn't look like Reed who doesn't like Wyatt.Sue, Jennifer and Alicia are distinct from each other even without the different hairstyles and fashion.One thing I appreciate is that when people are wearing civilian clothes,they actually look like clothes that real people wore.Sue even has a quasi-mullet( hey it was the 80's it was hip then )! There's not alot of crazy cross-hatching or intricate detail in the graphics.Byrne's individual style is present ,but the point of the art here is to tell the story in the most efficient way.

Byrne does a good job conveying the family feel of this series.For example,the comic begins with a surprise birthday cake for Reed and the personalities of the characters play of each other well without seeming too sit-com like.Another thing I like is how when the FF couldn't get into Reed's dad's lab,instead of breaking the door, they use their powers in an unique way to pick the lock.Another interesting thing is although this issue is pretty light-hearted,the letters page has fans expressing their feeling about a previous issue that featured Sue's miscarriage.
All in all FF 271 was a fun trip to yesteryear which in itself was a trip to yesteryear.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Random Comics Review:Excalibur #1,1988

Excalibur was an X-Men spin-off comics from the late 80's originally written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Alan Davis.Set mostly in England the team consisted of Captain Britain, Meggan, Shadowcat, Nightcrawler, and the Rachel Summers Phoenix.The team believed the main X-men team to be dead and decided to fight evil in their own way.Their adventures featured many weird creatures and parallel dimensions.The original tone of the series was a lot more lighthearted than Uncanny X-Men.

This was the debut issue of the first ongoing which followed a mini-series.The Excalibur team is pretty much set up and living in Captain Britain's lighthouse.The reader gets to see the friendships between the characters and their relationships with other people that would become the supporting cast.The antagonists are the Warwovles, snarky otherworldly beings who disintegrate people and wear their skins.

Claremont's writing is clear and humorous.The script is wordy but not cumbersome.The plot moves along at a brisk pace.And the reader understand's the character's personalities and motivations without much confusion.Alan Davis's art is superb.The compositions and layout tell the story in a clear and concise manner.The reader is never confused about where the characters are or what they are doing.Davis is a master of figure drawings as well as facial expressions.His ability to draw detailed environments and objects without seeming cluttered puts other artists to shame.

This is the sort of storytelling I wish we had more these days.The main characters are established,threats are introduced,future subplots are set up and the issue ends on a cliffhanger,but read in isolation,the issue is still a satisfying read.This issue of Excalibur is a classic example of bronze age comics storytelling.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Film Review:Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Full disclosure:The day I saw the movie I almost went to see The Losers.I saw this instead because the theatre showing it is literally closer to my house than the one showing the Losers.So I saw this brilliant cinematic piece of social criticism,not because of my high film standards,but in the words of Johnny Rotton, "cause I'm a lazy bastard."Anyway...

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a fine thriller directed by Niels Arden Oplev with some subtle and not so subtle observations about male and female power dynamics and continued violence against women in modern society.There's also I believe a few wry points made about class thrown in for good measure.The main protagonist is Mikael,a disgraced journalist who's hired by a wealthy old man to investigate the 40 year disappearance of his niece.Also central to the story is the journey of a troubled young hacker named Lisbeth.Eventually Mikael and Lisbeth meet face to face and agree to work together to solve the mystery and they uncover very disturbing facts about the Vanger family in the process.

I really appreciate the relatively low key and measured tone of this film.I can totally imagine how another director might have filled the movie with an overblown musical score and "exciting" editing.Oplev lets the story unfold in a fairly naturalistic manner.I also liked how Lisbeth's emotional problems are treated as truly worrisome as opposed to being merely quirky.Also,Mikael is a grown man who acts like a grown man.He's confident in the face of adversity,but he isn't constantly cracking wise like a typical movie hero.Another commendable aspect of the film is how the investigation is portrayed,as hours of reading old documents,hours of computer research and hours of interviews.There's no scene where a supposed "snitch" just spills everything there is to know about "Mr Big".

Another thing worth mentioning is the depiction of violence in this film.The movie is based on a swedish novel by Steig Larsson and the original title of both the film and the book was "Men Who Hate Women" and I think that's probably apt.There are a few scenes where females are raped or otherwise abused (particularly Lisbeth),but never do these scenes seem gratuitous or meant to titilate.The scenes are harsh without being too explicit.I believe they are there to inform the subtext which I think is that not only do evil or corrupt men abuse women but they also feel the have the RIGHT to to abuse them.On the other hand,the film does show us that women can resist such abuse.

The only quibble I have with the film comes toward the end.I won't give it away, but I feel a character behaves contradictory to the way he'd been presented up until that point.This however was not enough to put me off the film.So,The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo is a tight thriller with interesting things to say about patriarchy,old money,and the evolving media landscape and of course violence.The film is brutal is some spots,but I think it also provides a sense of hope.It's definitely intriguing.Catch it before the inevitable hollywood remake comes.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Random Comics review:Marvel Tales #194,1986

Alright,so this is Marvel Tales which is basically Spiderman reprint material.It doesn't say anywhere obvious on the issue but these stories go back to the 70's and 60's respectively.The first story is a reprint of Marvel Team up #60 from 1977 starring Spidey and the Wasp in the second part of a two part story.The villain here is a man named Equinox who has fluctuating fire and ice powers. In the previous issue,Equinox has apparently killed Yellowjacket,the Wasp's husband and she and Spidey have to bring him to justice with the help of Equinox's scientist mother.The story is by Chris Claremont and the art is by John Bryne,I believe this right around the time they began working together on the X-Men.As a story, this a pleasant enough romp but nothing earth shattering.Fight,chase,origin recap,big fight at the end..pretty typical for Team up comics of the time.John Bryne's art is good but not great.It's professional with clear storytelling.Flashy and dynamic enough to be interesting.The inks by Dave Hunt give it an extra layer of slickness.The most notable thing is probably the power increase given to the Wasp in this tale.If you know the modern history of Yellowjacket,an unintentional creepy moment comes at the end when YJ explains the power boost because he "secretly" gave her a modified serum.Who "secretly" gives their wife anything that's going to change her body unless he's up to no good?Think about it,Hank and Jan never had kids...was he "secretly" sterilizing her too?I'm just saying.

The back up story is a fight between Spiderman and the Human Torch by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby with inks by Steve Ditko.I 'm not sure what comic it's originally from but it's obvoiusly from the very early 60's based on the art style and the character's relationships with each other.It's a juvenile story no matter how old you are.Basically,in an effort to show off,Spidey crashes a party the Torch is at and picks a fight with Torch.That's it.Fight breaks up when the rest of the Fantastic Four show up.One fun aspect is seeing some of the campy ways Spiderman uses his webs that's rarely shown today.He creates a fake bat,parachutes,water baskets,and wings.Yes,the 60's were fun weren't they?

All in all,a solid two and a half stars out of five stars.More interesting as an artifact than as entertainment.The issue is full of ad's for candy and saturday morning cartoons,but it's from the days before comics "grew up".

Monday, May 10, 2010

Random Comics review:Marvel Fanfare #2 1982

Marvel Fanfare was a comic published by Marvel Comics(natch) back in the 80's to experiment with distribution in the then burgeoning direct sales market.The comics were printed on thicker and glossier paper than what was common at the time and utilized more sophisticated color processing.It was also used to clean out some of their back log of fill in issues.
Ok ,there are two stories in this issue.The main feature is the second part of a story written by Chris Claremont with art by Michael Golden starring Ka-zar the jungle lord and featuring Spiderman and the Angel.I'm guessing this was originally intended to be an issue of Marvel Team-Up,but it's easy to see why it was put on the back burner.The plot in the Ka-Zar story has something to do with the evil Brainchild and his partners capturing people and changing them into inhuman creatures.Or something.Spidey and Angel have already been transformed and Ka-Zar is trying to save them as well as a female scientist who has come to the Savage Land to search for another scientist who's incidentally a creature named Sauron.Or something.
Even though there's a recap and lots of captions,this story is very confusing.It's not that there's too much going on,it's that it's not told in a clear fashion.I feel most of the blame has to go to Michael Golden.Golden is a wonderful artist,but he dropped the ball on the storytelling on this.Too many close ups with no clear delineation of where characters are in relation to each other or their immediate environment.People just all of a sudden appear in panels when it hasn't been established that they were even in the room.Marvelous figures,great coloring,but the reader is left feeling, "What?Where'd that guy come from?"If I hadn't been already familiar with most of the characters.I'd still be scratching my head.
The back up story is a Reed Richards tale by Roger McKenzie and Trevor Von Eeden.Reed has forgotten he and Sue's anniversary because he's locked in the lab trying to find a cure for the Thing's condition.We get a two page recap of the Fantastic Four's origin,then somehow Annihilus shows up and has a particularly pointless fight with Reed.Reed of course tricks him back into the negative zone.The end.The art and the script are the definition of serviceable.No zip,no flourish,just the facts ma'am.It's obvious this was produced to have a a story ready to go in case the Dreaded Deadline Doom struck.On the other hand,I least I can tell what was going on in this tale.
There are no ads in this comic,but the Bullpen Bulletin editorial page provides an interesting look down memory lane.There's an item announcing that the X-Men has won the Eagle Awards for favorite comic for the 5th year in a row.There's item hyping how great Marvel's graphic novel line is doing.There's also an announcement of the death of comics artist Wally Wood.Looking at the checklist of comics on sale that month,it's amusing to see some of things Marvel was willing to publish back then.Crazy (a Mad Magazine clone),Epic Illustrated (fantasy/science-fiction),Team America and Rom (based on toy lines) and Dennis the Menace.Dennis the Menace!
All in all Marvel Fanfare #2 was nothing groundbreaking in terms of story or art.Nothing significant as far as the histories of the characters,but a interesting look back at a time when comics production and distribution were in transition.

Saturday, May 8, 2010


Well, originally I was going talk about comics but I didn't buy any comics this week,so let's talk about Mother's Day.
I anticipate tomorrow's Mother's Day as possibly being emotionally rough.My mother lives thousands of miles away and is in poor health.As the saying goes,she has good days and bad days.I speak to her maybe twice a week and I speak to my aunt who takes care of her 4-5 times a week.My mother is usually in good spirits,but I'm hoping tomorrow something doesn't set her off.I love my mother and it's devastating to hear her cry over the phone and I'm in another state.I'm going to fly down to see her the end of the month,but still...She's always been a strong woman and it's more the depression caused by her condition that gets to her more than anything else.She'd always been incredibly independent and it turned her world upside down.
Before her stroke,my mother lived outside of the country and I hadn't seen her face to face for several years.March '09 I finally went to see her.I'm glad I did.She said she wanted to talk about legal stuff concerning her affairs.We didn't do any of that.We basically hung out, watched TV, and drove around the countryside.She was happy.The only downside was when she complained about mild chest pains and not being able to get over the flu.She had a doctor's appointment,but blew it off cuz she wanted to go back to work.I came home.About a month later she had a stroke.
I thank God for my aunt for being able to step up.She's an angel and a soldier.
I also think about an old friend I used to have.We went to school together and lost touch.I ran into him and we renewed our friendship for awhile.While catching up,he confessed that he'd been estranged from his mother since his marriage.He described a particularly ugly incident between the two of them,and in the back of my mind I just couldn't imagine such a scene between me and my mother.I'll admit I'm no angel.I've done messed up stuff that I regret and can never take back,but still...my mother has always forgiven me and I've never had a ugly/angry thought directed towards her.
So anyway...if you're lucky enuff to still have your Mom with you let her know that you love her.And even if you can't afford to spent money on a fancy dinner, just spend the evening with her and crack jokes about whatever dumb shows she wants to watch.Trust me.she'll appreciate it.

This is the first song from our new album...

Hi,this is my first attempt at any sort of blog type thing and I'll be honest,I don't know what I'm doing.But I figure, why let that stop me? I thought this could be a site where I share my ideas about pop-culture and society at large, but realistically...I'll probably mostly ramble on about movies, old comics, and songs that came out more than 10 years ago.So I hope you're patient with me,please please share your ideas as well and we'll have ball.As soon as I think of something to talk about...