Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Pulp Report: A Gorilla Thrilla

Recently, I went on a bit of a Pulp buying binge on eBay. Why? I am not exactly sure, but they have always intrigued me and I decided that I just had to have some. It turns out that if you are not looking for high demand books and you are ok with so-so condition, they really won’t set you back all that much. So now, I’ve got a tall stack of pulps to read with next to no free time on my hands. Why do I set myself up like that? Oh, well – it’s not a bad problem to have.

I had a night to myself last week and dove head first into my first pulp – Thrilling Wonder Stories, Summer 1946. Why did I pick this one from my tall stack of pulps? The Gorilla Cover. I can’t argue with Julie Schwartz’ logic – Gorilla Covers are real eye catchers. Pay close attention folks, as we will see some other Schwartz/DC connection later on.

Thrilling Wonder Stories started out life as Hugo Gernsback’s Wonder Stories, but was sold to Thrilling Publications and the title was changed. I don’t know much about the overall hierarchy of pulp magazines, but I’d imagine that Thrilling Wonder Stories is held in pretty high regard, at least for the sci-fi genre. Even if your just do a quick search for the title, you see some truly iconic covers.

The lead story of this issue is “Titan of the Jungle” and look what we’ve got here. An intelligent gorilla setting up a city in the middle of the jungle from which he plans to attack mankind. Does any of that sound familiar? It seems that Julius Schwartz might have borrowed more than just covers from this title. OK, OK – that’s a bit of a conspiracy theory – but some of the elements are there, even the name (anyone remember Titano from Superman).

It’s always fun to draw these kinds of parallels, but the real question here is ‘How do these Apes keep getting so smart?). In this case, it’s matter of a scientist creating two serums – one that enhances intelligence and another than lessens it. When Titan has his intelligence heightened he overpowers the scientist and starts dumbing down the local population. Luckily, friends of the scientist are honeymooning in Ghana (Gold Coast back then), as they must have pissed off their travel agent. After several unsuccessful attempts, they finally manage to take on Titan and his army of intelligent Apes. Of course, most of the credit is given to the sidekick Dog, apparently the only animal in Africa that didn’t have a vendetta against mankind.

I haven’t had the chance to read the rest of this magazine, but if the other stories are half as good as this one – it’s money well spent.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

I'm Dropping This Atom Bomb

I really wish that I liked this title. I love the Atom. I mean love, love, love, love the Atom. The first issue did not exactly inspire much confidence, but I thought I’d be fair and give it another shot. I regret to say that I will not be picking up the 3rd issue. Here we have a book written by a talented writer and of the ‘Modern Masters’ at the drawing board, but someone this just does not work.

Now, I am willing to live with a non-Ray Palmer Atom, and Ryan seems like a pretty good character – but there are simply too many supporting characters. How many times will we have to endure these professors sitting around in all of the eccentric glory?. I also found the humour to be juvenile (fart jokes, pantless professors), and the flirty, giddy female characters to be annoying. The quotes, what can I say about the quotes? It’s not just that they are in the way and interrupt the flow of storytelling. They also seem to scream ‘Hey Reader! Comic Book Creators are Wicked Smart!’ Quotes can be an effective tool, when used sparingly and wisely – unfortunately that’s not the case here.

All of that being said, the real dealbreaker for me is the artwork. Every time I see John Byrne’s pencils these days, I want to drive to Terry Austin’s house and give him a big hug. The art is just horrendous. Byrne seems to have totally misplaced his sense of design and layout. Even the perspective he uses in some panels seems totally inappropriate. I am not even going to get into the actual quality of the pencil work, as I am afraid JB will track me down and lecture me for hours about how stupid I am.

Madam, I’m no longer buying this Atom.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

My Favourite Places in the World Pt. 3

Prejean’s Restaurant: Lafayette, Louisiana

Lafayette is the unofficial capital of Cajun Country, USA. At first glance, however, there is not much that distinguishes it from any other smaller American city. Once you dig a little deeper, you discover that things are just a little different in this neck of the woods. It’s a good place for doing a little bayou exploration and to absorb the local history and culture.

Due to its ‘outside-of-town-off-the-highway’ setting, Prejean’s does not look like a legendary restaurant, worthy of mention in most travel guides. Instead, it just looks like an ordinary roadside diner, and you may question why you drove all the way out here. Once you step inside and hear the music, and get a good look at the huge stuffed alligator gars adorning the wall, you’ll suddenly realize that this ain’t Chili’s.

Prejean’s is a huge place: tons of table, tons of people eating as if it were their last meal on Earth. From a d├ęcor/ambience point of view, it’s nothing special – but it’s way off the charts on the kitsch scale. You grab a table, have a look at the menu and check your pocket for your Lipidor. I can’t remember precisely what I ate there – but it was a mixed platter with just about every Cajun delicacy on it. Every night at Prejean’s the Louisiana crawdaddy population takes a severe beating.

Due to the buzz of activity around you, you may feel inclined to speed through your meal. That would be a mistake. Take you time, sip your beer and enjoy the music. You won’t get to experience this kind of place very often in life so slow down. As Kat and I ate our meal, every now and then we’d just push back from the table and listen to the band and let the music soak in. They have awesome live music here – and I was thrilled to have a conversation in French with some of the band members during one of their breaks.

Yup, Prejean’s is a Louisiana institution and will certain attract its share of tourists (try as I might, I can’t pretend I’m not one) who will spend as much in the gift shop as they do on their meal – but that shouldn’t scare you off. It’s a great place, and well worth a visit should you every find yourself in Cajun Country.