Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you. I hope that 2010 was a terrific year for you, and that 2011 proves to be even better. It's been a great year here in Toronto. My health is good, my family is happy and there's still plenty of good books sitting in my 'To Read' pile. The fact that I found Chip Kidd's book on the Big Red Cheese & Co. under the tree this morning leads me to think that next year will be a treat. I resolve to keep plowing ahead through the next year. So long as I can come up with ideas, I'll keep posting. Thanks for stopping by my little blog, and I wish you all a safe and enjoyable holiday. I'll be on break until the first week of January.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Comic Book Robot of the Month: The Thing Called Jeremy

It turns out that this is a bit of a bait and switch cover. Jeremy doesn't not actually look like the robot on the cover, nor the one on the splash page. I really just wanted to feature this one because it's from that short period in time when American Comics Group featured painted covers. They'll all quite attractive, but this Ogden Whitney gem really stands out for me. Technically speaking, Jeremy is really more of an android as he is creating to stand in as the adult son of his creator, Dr. Trimble. They've got something of a Pinocchio/Gepetto dynamic. Jeremy ultimately wants to become more human, and that's his undoing. To tell you the truth, there's not a whole lot of robotic action in this one, but I still love that cover.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: The Thing #17

Here's a very early example of Ditko's work. Published in 1954, it seems quite ahead of its time, and would not have been at all out of place as a black light poster hanging in some stoner's dorm room in 1973. I'm quite comfortable declaring Steve Ditko to be the King of the Wizards. I don't really think anyone does them better than Sturdy Steve. Ever heard of Dr. Strange? He's a Wizard. I find the amount of black used in these Charlton covers to be amazing. It really helps set the tone. I can't imagine that there are many copies of this books in high grade. People talk about Amazing Spider-Man #28, but how many Charlton horror books from the 50s managed to survive without white stress marks? We also get some terrific Ditko spider webs and his signature on a scrap of paper. Great stuff, all around!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Episode of Married With Clickers

Our second episode is now uploaded to our Podomatic Page and should also be available by searching the iTunes store. This week, Kat and I discuss a variety of recent viewings in the Film and TV world including Mad Men, Amazing Race, Hoarders, 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Freshman. We take a fairly in-depth look at the 1973 Clint Eastwood western High Plains Drifter. There's a lot to discuss here and, after a lot of head scratching, we've still only scratched the surface. I'm sure that papers have been written on the subject. So, take a listen and send us your thoughts via email or voicemail. Due to the holiday insanity, we will likely be on hiatus until the New Year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Exit Stage Left: House of Mystery #321

Talk about the end of an era! More than 30 years and 3oo issues after it was opened, the House of Mystery closed its doors. Its main contemporary, House of Secrets, had been cancelled in 1978 and The Unexpected put out its final issue in 1982. I really like the topical Mike Kaluta cover. It may not be his best horror cover at DC, but it suits the occasion. While the stories in this issue are fine, it is the framing sequence written by the team of Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn and drawn by Adrian Gonzalez. In this story, Cain is furious when he discovers that he receives a Notice of Eviction and Demolition. He storms the DC offices and gets argues his case to Karen Berger and Joe Orlando, but to no avail. Things get really crazy in the final few pages when a second Cain begins to narrate the story of the Cain we've been following (Cain Prime?). It's a head scratching, meta textual moment that likely inspired Grant Morrison. All in all, it is a fitting finale to a fine series.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Trade Marks: Coraline

Here's my history of Coraline: I read the book years ago and quite enjoyed it. I have not seen the movie, but look forward to it. I was always vaguely aware that it had been adapted into funnybook format at some point, but never really sought it out. Last week, I spotted it on the shelf at my local library (Yay! Free Comics!) and decided to take it home. The story is a terrific, as Gaimain is a master of setting setting and atmosphere. We're immediately endeared to the young girl all alone in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by people who call her Caroline. Gaiman is aiming for Baum/Carroll territory with this tale and, for the most part, I think he gets there. He has created a wonderful universe and an intriguing set of ground rules. My only real wish is that the characters featured in the bookend segments of the story had been better fleshed out, especially Coraline's real parents. P. Craig Russell was the perfect choice for this adaptation. I hadn't seen his work in years, and he still knows how to tell a story, and his character designs are incredible. I may just have to buy this one. Trade Mark: A-

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

You've Been Warned: Brave and the Bold #71

You'd think this one would appeal to me. It's from my all-time favourite series and stars my #1 and #3 favourite characters. The pair have certain had some good team-ups over the years, but this ain't one of them. The real culprit here is father time. This story has dated sooooo badly. The plot has a Native American angle, and from the moment Batman declares "Holy Peacepipes", you know you're not in for a very racially sensitive story. I actually like the pre-O'Neil/Adams goofy Green Arrow with the bolo arrows and such, but too much of this tale focuses on a convoluted contest and features one of the lamer villains to appear in this series: The Promoter. The whole thing, from Haney's cornball dialogue to George Papp's simplistic artwork, feels like it should have been published in 1957 rather than 1967. If you are trying to complete a B&B run like I did over 20+ years, you may need to buy this one. Otherwise, spend your money elsewhere.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Check out the Married With Clickers podcast

We finally got a new home computer (thanks to those who helped via my eBay sales) and my wife and I have launched a brand new podcast: Married With Clickers. The first show is now available for download (I'm still trying to sort out how to get it on iTunes etc...). You'll see that it's total Amateur Hour right now (or Amateur 43 Minutes to be precise), but we had fun and hope to improve. Our goal is to get a new episode up every 2 weeks for now. This week, we give some quick thoughts on some recent television episodes and a couple of movies, and end with a longer discussion of the 1963 film Charade. Please check it out and let us know what you think, in the kindest and most gentle way possible, of course.

I Loves Me Some: Y: the Last Man

I have been lucky enough to have a colleague with a big comic book budget. Over the last month or so, he has been providing me with a steady supply of Y: The Last Man Deluxe Edition hardcovers. So far, he's saved me over a hundred dollars. I had always heard great things about this series, but never got around to picking it up. In a way, I am glad I waited, as I have plowed through more than 45 issues in a very short span of time. I am not sure if I could have stuck with it month to month, as my patience isn't what it once was, and it was never very good. Churning through this story in a few sittings is likely the best way to read it. I can't wait to see how it all ends.

The premise is fantastic, and is executed very well by showing only tidbits of the catastrophe while avoiding a lot of potential for gore. I always appreciated this kind of restraint, as it allows your imagination to dream up various scenarios. Our sole male survivor, Yorick is a good protagonist as he bring some levity to a post- apocalyptic world. I have been reading (and watching) a lot of Walking Dead lately, so it is refreshing to read something with a lighter tone, although this is certainly not lacking in tension. Brian K. Vaughan and and Pia Guerra do a really good job of building a universe for Yorick and his companions. I also love the way they progress through the years by skipping whole chunks of the narrative. Sure, some of the tangents and subplots are a bit ridiculous but I can't really complain as the entire production requires the suspension of disbelief. I'm happy to do that.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Gil Kane Cover of the Month: Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog #9

You are all probably aware that Gil Kane drew a number of amazing Rex, the Wonder Dog covers. They are just so much fun, and really harkens back to another era. This is one of my absolute favourites. There are no dinosaurs, no mushroom clouds and no toppling statues, so a beautifully conceived cover. I really love underwater covers (especially those featuring non-aquatic characters), as they are quite suspenseful. In the World War Two based story, Rex and his master, Major Dennis, are trying to hide from Japanese soldiers. Near the end of the story, they must hide in a stream as the soldiers walk by. It's never really explain why Rex needs to be muzzled (would he bark? breathe involuntarily?). Who knows? All I know is that Kane captured the mood perfectly, and made it nearly impossible for a young lad or lass to pass on this book back in 1953. A true classic.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Hidden Gems: Mister Miracle Special (1987)

First of all, let me state that I am actually not the biggest fan of Jack Kirby's Fourth World. For some reason, it just does not resonate with me. My favourite character from that Fourth World, however is Scott Free, aka Mister Miracle. This Special, released not long after the Crisis, kick started a bit of a renaissance for Scott, Barda and Oberon as they'd star in an ongoing Mister Miracle series as well as getting involved with the All-New, All-Fun, Justice League. This book features all of your favourites from Darkseid to Funky Flashman, and most of the action takes place in a circus setting in a fun story written by Mark Evanier. What's most notable about this book, however, is that it has 40 pages of gorgeous artwork by non other than Steve Rude. His work here is absolutely stupendous, so crisp and clean. It's obvious Rude likes a good circus-based adventure as he'd later explore than world in The Moth. I'm sure this one pops up in bargain bins from time to time, so keep you eyes peeled and get ready for a Rude awakening.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Charlton Notebook: Space Adventures #7

There's a moment in Charlton history, right in the middle of the transition from old to new, when the comics seem to coexist in two different eras. Although this book was published in 1969, it seems to come from that period in 1966. At times it is still quite staid, but it also features some hard sci-fi and some fresh art talent. This book some interesting stories with intergalactic war, artificial intelligence and one with a twist ending featuring a peaceful Earth. It is a vast improvement on the early 60s books filled with Bill Molno artwork and lettering by A Machine. These are not the modern stories by Skeates and O'Neil drawn by the likes of Aparo and Ditko, but Pat Boyette and Dick Giordano give it a more updated look, and the subject matter is more sophisticated. The presence of Nicholas and Alascia, as well as some of the lettering, makes me feel as though some of these stories came from inventory. It just doesn't feel like 100% pure Charlton circa 1969.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Reprint This! Have Gun, Will Travel

Yet another title caught in licensing purgatory. There's a slim ray of hope, however, as we've seen more and more licensed stuff has been finding its way onto the shelves at comic book stores. This is a TV show that has maintained its popularity for 50 years, and can certainly be counted among the best remembered TV westerns of all-time. There's a lot to like about the comic book series as well. Including the three issues published as part of the Four Color anthology, the series lasted 14 issues, each of which features a Richard Boone as Paladin photo cover. The majority of the artwork was done by the great Alberto Giolitti, with the underappreciated Frank Bolle filling in on a few issues. As far as I can tell, the bulk of the stories were written by Paul S. Newman. Now, I'm not familiar enough with the TV show to know whether the stories were adapted from the screen but it doesn't really matter to me. I'd pay a pretty nice sum to get a a collection of Giolitti drawn western stories into my collection.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Steve Ditko Cover of the Week: Scary Tales #11

What I really like most about this cover is how the main figures are perfectly centaured. Bad puns aside, I must admit that this is not one of Sturdy Steve's better efforts of the 70s. Actually, it's not a true cover at all, as it is a retouched mirror image of the final panel of the 5-page story 'Unicorn'. A tree stump has been added and the rocky hill on which the unicorn stands has been expanded considerably, as the image really needed to be 'stretched' vertically to fit the dimensions of a cover. I'd love to see the original cover, as it would be a real mash-up of stats and ink. The concept is actually quite fun, and I really like the unicorn in the background, but the human portions of the centaurs are just too stiff looking, and the male's head is wicked small. Ditko's figures lost some of their fluidity from time to time, and it really grabs your attention in all the wrong ways.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Quick DVD Reviews

This was my second attempt to watch this film. The first time, my wife felt that the pizza she was eating and 'The Rules' segment didn't quite mix. We tried again on Halloween night, and it was a fun ride. Woody Harrelson is terrific, and the rest of the cast is very, very strong. That Breslin kid can really do no wrong. I must say that the 'big surprise' (I won't spoil it in case anyone has been in a cave longer than me) was probably the weakest part of the film for me. Overall, a really strong horror comedy - something that's tough to pull off. Grade: B+

Robin Hood
Lovely and Tedious. I wish there had been more focus on the Merry Men and the archery. When those elements were featured, I was totally sucked in. I wanted action and got some sort of political drama. I was also psyched to get my fill of Danny Huston, but he was hardly there and hidden behind a beard. Mark Strong continues to do his thing and he's referred to as 'the Andy Garcia guy' in our household. I swear, he's in 50% of the movies I watch lately. There's just not enough to keep a viewer engaged here, especially for well over two hours. Grade: C+

City Island
Speaking of that 'Andy Garcia guy'... I was very, very pleasantly surprised by the film. I wasn't sure what to expect other than it was some pseudo-indie focusing on a working class family in some exotic NYC locale. This film has a lot of heart, as well as a lot of laughs. Although there's a lot of yelling, it works much better in the quieter moments. Garcia, Marguiles and Watson are all terrific but Steve Strait really steals the show. An operatically ludicrous climax brings all of the elements together quite nicely. A very nice, little film. Grade: A-

Iron Man 2
As you may have guessed, I'm a big comic book fan. If you read my review from a couple of years ago, you'll know that I really loved the first one but this one really sucked. I had low expectations based on the stuff I'd heard. I was prepared for it to be dumber and louder, but I never expected to be bored. The fight at Tony's birthday party was an embarrassment for everyone involved. What does it say about the movie when I wish they'd spent more time on a the SHIELD agent played by Clark Gregg? Grade: C+

Comanche Station
The final of the Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott films. It's not as interesting as some of the earlier ones, but there's still a lot to like. Scott is stoic and likable as always, and Claude Akins is terrific as the charming villain. He has a wonderful screen presence and an amazing voice. There is also good good humor scattered throughout, which adds a little bit of charm. The action is counterbalanced by a powerful coda that tugs on your heart strings, which is somewhat appropriate as the curtain closes on this era of the Hollywood western. Grade: B