Fish-Flavored Baseball Bat

It's a John Cleese reference.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Some Thoughts on Recent Comics

I picked up my books for the past couple of weeks this weekend, and just wanted to toss out a few comments.

Cthulhu Tales #3: I would never have thought I'd pick up this book, but then I saw the magic words on the cover: "Messner-Loebs." After reading his story, I would love to see more of Charles Dexter Pigeon's investigations. I don't think the Elder Gods have ever been this wryly amusing...

Thunderbolts #121: And so the Ellis/Deodato run comes to an end. I've enjoyed it...not as much as Nextwave, but I've still appreciated Ellis' take on "playing with the company's toys." I am, however, greatly disappointed that Bullseye is up and about again...his comeuppance was one of the book's most satisfying moments, and seeing him fully recovered and back to his old self is a bit of a letdown. To expand: Bullseye is one of those villains who has been used so often and done such monstrous acts that I can no longer think of him as a challenge-worthy antagonist, but can only wonder "when is this guy gonna get what's coming to him?" I thought that moment had finally come, but now it's gone again. (The Joker is another one of those villains that's gone too far and gotten away with too much...while I know that the Joker is too important financially for DC to do away with, I can't believe that Bullseye is a comparably vital property for Marvel.)

(And an artistic quibble: What was up with those blades that Bullseye was using? If they were supposed to be scalpels that he picked up in the infirmary, it shouldn't have been too hard to find a reference picture of a scalpel. If they were SUPPOSED to be X-Acto knives, where would he have gotten them?)

Another thought on the Ellis Thunderbolts run. While I enjoyed his characterization of Norman Osborn, my initial impression was that Osborn was supposed to be the shadowy "man behind the man," running the operation from behind the scenes in an "I'm not really here" kind of way...and I was perfectly fine with that. When it turned out that he was a very public spokesman, my suspension of disbelief went out the window. Government pardon aside, Osborn's identity as the Green Goblin was revealed very publicly in The Pulse...and even if he'd managed to cast doubt on his previous Goblin activities (e.g., Gwen Stacy's murder), there's no way he could deny the cops he killed in that Pulse storyline. I can see a corrupt government agency deciding to overlook Osborn's crimes to make use of his tactical brilliance...but from a PR standpoint, putting a known cop-killer in charge of this agency is strictly a no-go. (Nevertheless, there were so many other elements in the book that I enjoyed that I was willing to look past this flaw.)


Thursday, June 26, 2008

What I Sang 6-25

"Silver Machine" by Hawkwind.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Dangerously Close

DANGEROUSLY CLOSE (1986). Directed by Albert Pyun. Starring John Stockwell, Carey Lowell, and J. Eddie Peck.

It's generally not a good sign when the video box (or, as in the above image, the poster) is more enthusiastic about the soundtrack than the movie itself. In the case of Dangerously Close, that warning sign is fully justified.
In Vista Verde High School, the line is clearly drawn between the elite students of privilege and the lowlife "commoners" (i.e., everybody else). And just to make sure everyone knows where they stand, The Sentinels are there to put people in their place. Ostensibly a glorified hall-monitor organization to keep order in the school building, the Sentinels, led by Randy McDevitt (John Stockwell) naturally have a more sinister side. At night, they organize "hunts" to terrorize those they deem the most undesirable (stoners, graffiti artists, etc.), tracking them down with paint-guns (and the standard "next time it'll be real" warning) to pressure them into dropping out or transferring. (Astoundingly, it works every time...I know that wealth has its privileges, but surely SOMEBODY out of all their victims would report them.) Predictably, the hunt eventually goes too far...
Directed by Albert Pyun (of the notorious 1990 Matt Salinger Captain America and other infamously bad movies), Dangerously Close is one of his better movies (for what that's worth). He crafts a number of effective action sequences, though he's at a loss when it comes to the scenes that involve actual human interaction (i.e., the romance between reluctant hero J. Eddie Peck and idealistic "nice girl" Carey Lowell).
And the soundtrack is pretty cool, featuring a number of '80s hits (Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love," the Smithereens' "Blood and Roses," and tunes by Fine Young Cannibals, Depeche Mode, etc.). I imagine most of Cannon's budget went towards the music rights...
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
Carey Lowell, making an unimpressive film debut, went on to bigger and better things (Licence to Kill, Law & Order) within a few years, and would no doubt prefer that this and her other Cannon/Pyun production (Down Twisted) be forgotten. Others who would probably like to sweep this under the rug: Gerard Christopher (TV's Superboy), Dedee Pfeiffer (of the TV series Cybill and For Your Love, though she may always be best known as Michelle's sister), and Miguel A. Nunez Jr. (Juwanna Mann).


Monday, June 23, 2008

RIP George Carlin

May you find a place for your stuff:


Reed Richards, Art Critic

Following up on yesterday's post and participating in Bully's meme...

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Who Nose What Evil Lurks...?

Saw this on the Duck & Cover blog today:

Mallard Fillmore's Latest Complaint

Mere seconds after reading the punchline, I thought of the obvious counter-example. But apart from Mr. Allard/Cranston (and discounting the bills of Howard and Darkwing Duck), can anyone else think of any other heroes with prominent proboscises?

(I remember in the original Tangent Flash one-shot, Gary Frank based a secondary character on Rossy De Palma...I was disappointed that this character only appeared in a couple of panels and had no dialogue, since I've been smitten with Ms. De Palma ever since Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Now, a heroine modeled on Rossy...that would be something to see.)

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

What I Sang 6-18

From last night at Midtown Tavern:

"Life's Been Good" by Joe Walsh.
"Mama Look a Boo Boo" by Harry Belafonte (as a post-Father's Day song).
"White Wedding" by Billy Idol.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

VHS Vednesday: The Swap

THE SWAP (1969/1979). Directed by John Shade and John C. Broderick. Starring Robert De Niro, Anthony Charnota, Jennifer Warren, and Sybil Danning.

The story behind The Swap is far more interesting than the movie itself. It was originally begun in 1969 as an independent film titled Sam's Song, but was never completed. It would have languished in obscurity had it not been for one factor: An early role by an unknown young actor named Robert De Niro. Ten years later, Cannon Films got hold of the footage and took advantage of De Niro's fame...but they didn't just release the original Sam's Song. Instead, they took De Niro's scenes and shot an entirely new movie around it. The new storyline features Anthony Charnota as Vito, the brother of De Niro's character Sam, just out of prison and determined to find out the truth about his brother's murder.

From what footage there is of Sam's Song, it appears to have been a quiet, slow-paced character study, with no indication of violence or sinister goings-on, making for a truly bizarre juxtaposition with the new sordid storyline. Sam, from all indications a decent, ordinary guy in the original film, gets dragged through the mud in retrospect. Most shockingly, Vito discovers that his brother was a pedophile and child pornographer (a revelation which the filmmakers don't seem to think is particularly significant, or even worthy of condemnation). I think that should tell you all you need to know about the thinking behind this movie.

Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?

Apart from De Niro, who was understandably upset by the re-appropriation of his footage, there is one other notable bit of casting: De Niro's love interest Erica was played by Jennifer Warren in Sam's Song. However, when Cannon put together The Swap, Warren was either unavailable or (very likely) unwilling to reprise her role. So, they replaced her with a supposed look-alike...namely, Sybil Danning. What the--??


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Refresh My Memory #2

Here's another half-remembered horror tale I'm hoping you can help me remember:

The story is about a little boy with a beloved pet...a beloved pet blob. The creature is named "Spot" or "Fido" or something equally innocuous. Everything's fine until one day when the blob starts eating people. (I remember specifically that it got the Avon Lady when she rang the doorbell.) The boy is informed that his pet will have to be destroyed (just like Old Yeller), but he won't hear of it. The boy finally finds the blob (who had run away) and breaks down in tears. The boy's father joins him and assures him that everything's all right: "Sometimes pets just get a little touchy...just before they have puppies!" And the father holds out a handful of writhing mini-blobs.

I'm pretty sure the story was illustrated by either Richard Corben or Berni Wrightson. (Not that they're similar, but they're both masters of the kind of grotesque imagery featured in this story.)

So, anybody else remember this?

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Monday, June 16, 2008


Kalinara pointed me towards Newsarama's preview of the upcoming Rucka/Williams Batwoman mini. As promising as it looks, and as much as I'm looking forward to it, what's got me really excited is the mention of another of Todd Klein's projects:

"He also says he’s working on a Man-Thing story that was written by the late Steve Gerber back in the ’90s."

YES! YES! A visit to Klein's page confirms it: The long-awaited Steve Gerber/Kevin Nowlan Man-Thing graphic novel! (Well, "long-awaited" by the relatively few who were aware that one was planned...) Klein states that he isn't sure what the published title will be, but I remember it originally being announced as "Screenplay of the Living Dead Man"--a follow-up to the classic Man-Thing #12 story "Song-Cry of the Living Dead Man." Words fail me!

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

VHS Vednesday: The Deadly Females

THE DEADLY FEMALES (1976). Directed by Donovan Winter. Starring Tracy Reed, Bernard Holley, and Roy Purcell.

British actress Tracy Reed (who may be familiar to some viewers through her small parts in Dr. Strangelove and A Shot in the Dark) stars as the head of a "disposal service" which specializes in using attractive young women as assassins, the better to worm their way into their targets' confidences. The agency is run very efficiently and businesslike, in a stereotypically "proper" British manner. Unfortunately, in this case, "businesslike" means "boring." The assassins spend so much time putting their victims at ease that one wonders whether their m.o. is talking the target to death. The occasional instances of gratuitous nudity are equally uninteresting. The Deadly Females is proof that, in certain hands, sex and violence are deadly dull.
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
In the cast of relative unknowns, one name in particular stands out...and that name is familiar primarily as a joke. Rula Lenska, known to many for her Alberto VO5 commercials of the '70s, makes a cameo as an independent operator (who, in her two scenes, proves herself much more efficient and interesting than Reed's entire operation).


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Refresh My Memory

In an effort to blog more often, and to have more comics content, I've decided to start an occasional feature dedicated to the half-remembered stories of my youth, in the hopes that somebody out there can fill in the gaps.

A bit of background: When I was very young, we had a family friend with a very large comics collection, and he would let me read them. Sadly, he passed away at a pretty young age (lung cancer), and most of his collection was given to me. (It would probably be incredibly valuable, if it weren't for the fact that, generally speaking, a 7-year-old has no clue how to take care of comics...) I say "most" of the collection...I got his super-hero books, but the horror titles (Warren and otherwise) were kept away from my tender little mind. Unfortunately, I had already read many of them, and there are many vague grotesqueries etched in my brain.

So, to pin down these partially-forgotten horrors, I'll share my best recollections of them. Hopefully, there's somebody out there who knows what I'm talking about...and if not, I hope you'll be entertained by my vague reconstructions.

To start off:

I remember a story that began with a man waking up surrounded by robed, chanting women. A metal ring had been placed around his neck, and as the women chanted, it slowly began to shrink, eventually strangling him. Then, the story introduced the protagonist, who was trying to find out what had happened to the guy in the opening sequence. (Was he a reporter, a detective, or just a friend of the first guy? That, I don't remember.) In the end, our hero found himself in the coven's clutches, with the same metal ring around his neck. As the chanting began and the ring began to shrink, we got the shock ending...a shot of the hero's girlfriend among the women, with the caption: "[Whatever her name was] was among them, and she was crying."

So...ring any bells?

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Zombies! Gore! Show Tunes!

Opening with a special preview show tonight and continuing through July 5 at Dad's Garage Theatre Company:



What I Sang 6-4

Tonight's offerings:

"Bo Diddley" by Bo Diddley (RIP).
"Yellow" by Coldplay.
"Along Came Jones" by The Coasters.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

VHS Vednesday: Firesign Theatre's Hot Shorts

FIRESIGN THEATRE'S HOT SHORTS (1983). Directed by Phil Austin. Starring Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, and Phil Proctor.

(Ignore the "Beta" label on the was the only picture I could find on-line, but this is indeed a VHS Vednesday.)
In the tradition of Woody Allen's "What's Up Tiger Lily?", the celebrated Firesign Theatre comedy troupe (or three of them, at least) have edited and re-dubbed several vintage movie serials, transforming them into an assortment of twisted shorts. Among them:
"Mounties Catch Herpes" (Dangers of the Canadian Mounted): In Alcana, "a thin town on the dotted line between Mexico and Israel," the Royal Mexican Mounted Policia battle an infestation of ticks, brought in by the notorious criminal Al Herpes.
"Sperm Bank Holdup" (The Black Widow): A sinister mastermind plots to distribute the DNA of Richard Nixon to unsuspecting would-be mothers.
"Revenge of the Non-Smokers" (Spy Smasher): The heroes of the non-smoking resistance movement battle the Axis powers of tobacco. (Though I'm sure many pundits would reverse the roles, this is the way the Firesign Theatre cast them...)
"Nazi Diet Doctors" (She Demons): A mad scientist hides deep in the jungle, leading the bikini-clad native women in a sinister aerobics class.
"Toy Wars" (Manhunt of Mystery Island): The pirate Captain Kiddie plots to dominate the market with the stolen plans for a new remote-controlled plane, only to be foiled by agents Ken and Barbie of the Marxist Toy Company.
"Claws II" (Panther Girl of the Kongo): An up-and-coming director travels to the jungle and finds her new star...a wisecracking giant lobster.
"Olympic Confidential" (Undersea Kingdom): An idealistic wrestler falls prey to the insidious steroids of Dr. Pillpopper.
"The Last Handgun on Earth" (Radar Men from the Moon): Agents of Big Brother track down the owner of (as indicated in the title) the last handgun on Earth.
"Heaven Is Hell" (King of Jungleland): Heaven has a new appointee to the office of God, but one disgruntled angel plots to dethrone Her (if his interior monologues don't give him away).
There's really no way I can do justice to the Firesign Theatre's inspired speaks for itself. I could offer a selection of my favorite quotes, but they need the visual juxtaposition for full effect. ("Now everybody lean back and pretend like you're flying!") Many of the lines, like the best MST3K quips, will stay with you for a long time...from time to time, I find myself singing the merry jingle "You killed the pirate with his own toy gun!"
Who's Leaving This Off Their Resume?
All of the original serial/B-movie stars, ranging from Buster Crabbe to Irish McCalla...who undoubtedly remained blissfully unaware of this project.

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