Archive - February 2009
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|February 28th, 2009|
|"Hey, Lynn--"Valkyrie" is
gonna be showing at the Silver Cinemas this
week! Wanna go see it?"
"It's the true story of the attempted assassination of Hitler by some of his top officers. Tom Cruise is the star."
"Well, I don't know. Probably not."
"Nazis kinda creep me out..."
"Hey, Tom Cruise creeps ME out, and I still wanna see it!..."
That was, more or less, an actual conversation between me and the missus. In the end, she chose to demur, and sent me off on my lonesome with her blessings.
And what did I see?
ANOTHER movie whose ending I knew before I'd even bought my ticket!! But unlike "Titanic" and "Apollo 13", I had absolutely NO idea concerning the events that led up to that all too inevitable ending. I generally avoid war movies, y'see, save for things like "Paths of Glory" and "All Quiet On The Western Front", but I was so intrigued by this film's historical backstory, I was actually looking forward to seeing it. Cuz, for as far back as I can remember, almost as an aside, I'd heard about plots by German generals to kill der Furher, but never did I hear any of the details.
Well, the flick does a fine job of filling in unanswered questions--and does it with an admirable tautness. You KNOW it's not gonna work, but you're on the edge of your seat, trying to figure out HOW it's not gonna work!! And when the plan is put into action, you'll likely be amazed at just how far these rebels got. Like I always say when I watch one of these period pieces, how different things woulda been if only they had cell phones back then...
Director Bryan Singer ("Superman Returns", the first two "X-Men" films) does a masterful job maintaining suspense throughout, while the acting is uniformly top-notch. Cruise's role as the noble Colonel risking all for the greater good, well, he's portrayed as being nearly the hero the lead of Singer's LAST project was, but he exudes a believable authority even if the role lacks any truly humanizing nuance. The plot against Hitler is the true star here, not Cruise.
I'd rate "Valkyrie" highly, and well worth seeing. After all, it's not every day you see a WWII movie where the Nazis are the bad guys--AND the good guys!! (Or, for that matter, get to see Tom Cruise pop in a glass eye each time he has an audience with Adolf!! Nothing creepy about THAT, nosirree, uh uh, nope!....)
|February 27th, 2009|
|It'd probably be sexist of me if I said,
in all the years I've been watching "Saturday
Night Live"--and I've been there from
the third or fourth week, through thick and
a fair amount of thin--Amy Poehler is my
all-time favorite female cast member. Because,
y'know, that denotes a second class status
of sorts--"she's funny--for a GIRL".
Fine. Forget I said it. The truth is, if there was ever anyone on the show more consistently hilarious, as fearless in their physical comedy, yet just adept at nuanced subtlety, well, their name currently escapes me. So, Amy Poehler, greatest SNL cast member of all-time, gender specificity be damned? Hey, I'M not gonna argue with me...
And it all began--at least for me--back in the late nineties on "Late Night With Conan O' Brien". Y'see, they had a running bit wherein then (and future) sidekick Andy Richter would introduce his "little sister", Stacey, who was sitting in the audience. Each bit would follow a deceptively simple formula--Andy embarrasses the retainer-wearing Stacey by informing Conan of the school-girl crush she has on him, Stacey mistakenly takes Conan's complimentary words as a signal that he has reciprocal feelings, only to have her hopes dashed shortly thereafter, at which point she rises out of her seat and fumes like a woman scorned--squared!! Subtle variations made this bit fresh every single time it was performed, and now, over on YouTube, three of these comedic gems have been posted on a single page for your perusal. Last night, I watched all three--they're roughly six minutes each--and I found 'em just as funny now as I did then, and only wish every single variation of this bit was currently available for another look-see!! Maybe someday...
Here's the link.
Bear in mind, Amy never received guest-star billing for these appearances. She was just another no-name hired hand brought in to help out with the comedy skits. But it wasn't hard to spot her obvious star power! If you're a fan of Ms. Poehler's, and you've never seen these, you're in for a BIG treat!
C'mon, I ask you--would The Sultan of Dorkistan steer you wrong?...
|February 26th, 2009|
|In a patriotic effort to help our struggling
economy, allow me to introduce
THE HEMBECK STIMULUS!!!
Yes, friends, I've determined that it's time again to auction off some brand new illos on the eBay!! But this time around, these fully finished--if relatively simple--drawings are being launched at a very reasonable (i.e., low) price, affordable to all!!
WHO'VE we got?
CAPTAIN AMERICA and BUCKY!!
|MR. and MRS. FANTASTIC!!!|
|The ever amazing SPIDER-MAN!!!|
|..and COUNT DRACULA and the MONSTER of FRANKENSTEIN!!!|
|As always, you can view larger versions of
each simply by clicking your mouse
blog sized pics.
And go here for easy access to each of the eBay auctions.
We'll be posting more of these again soon. We have to--it's what the President would want...
|February 25th, 2009|
|Yesterday, Lynn and I forked over a dollar
apiece to check out Anne Hathaway's Oscar
nominated performance in Jonathan Demme's
"Rachel Getting Married". Playing
the title character's troubled sibling, fresh
out of yet another stint in rehab, Hathaway's
Kym manages to wreak a subtle but deep havoc
on an otherwise happy event. Filmed in a
cinema verite style, and for long stretches
focusing languidly on the joyful camaraderie
of the day, the younger sister's presence
is an inescapable reminder of a preventable
tragedy from decades earlier. That provides
the dramatic structure for what is basically
a character study.
Truthfully, this is generally not my favorite type of movie, but a day later, I find it's left more of an impression on me than I figured it would as I was walking out of the theater. Certainly, the actress turned in a tremendous performance, even (spoiler alert) without literally falling off the wagon during the course of the proceedings. And director Demme--whose "Melvin and Howard" from way back in 1980, constitutes my only other brush with his work (hey, like I've told you before --I have a LOT of catching up to do, okay? That particular flick was always a big fave, by the way--as was the later SCTV takeoff...)--gave the film a relaxed, documentary feel, with some of it's most startling moments sneaking right up on you before you knew it.
Take the dishwasher loading competition. Without giving too much away, there I was, watching the dad and his son-in-law-to-be good-naturedly competing in a contest to see who could load up the dishwasher with more dirty dishes in an allotted amount of time, all while dozens of guests crowded into the tiny kitchen happily egging them on, and I'm thinking, where the heck is THIS going?
And then--whomp! Point made. And powerfully.
As long as you're in the mood for seeing something serious, "Rachel Getting Married" is well worth your time.
And if nothing else, never have I seen the Yogi Berraism, "If you see a fork in the road, take it" more fully realized on the big screen...
|February 23rd, 2009|
|...I was hoping for something a little crazier--or
at least, a little longer.
But considering he never even made it backstage to talk with reporters after accepting his Oscar, maybe Jerry wasn't feeling all that well. He DID look a mite peaked coming out on stage. Well, hang in there Mr.L--you didn't cause the ruckus I was hoping for, but at least you had your moment, brief as it was...
Otherwise, I thought last night's Academy Awards telecast was better than average--and that despite the almost total absence of suspense, as virtually every winner had been predicted en masse weeks ago, the only mild upset coming when Sean Penn, milking his role for all it was worth, wrestled the Best Actor statue away from Mickey Rourke (...sorry...)--and even THAT was predicted as the one possible upset!!
Hugh Jackman? Excellent. He sings, he dances, he can deliver a joke--and he's an actual movie star, not some late night stand up comic in a tux! True, snarky gags aren't his forte, but I thought he handled himself nicely overall--even if his opening number invited unavoidable comparisons with Billy Crystal. And as for that mid-show production number, well, any musical medley that can seamless meld Chess Record standards with Disney teen tunes, selections from "West Side Story" AND Abba''s greatest hits is a-ok in MY book!!
I LOVED the intimate yet lush look of the set. I found the gimmick of five past acting winners coming out and singing the praises, one each, of a current nominee far more interesting than simply watching the same old tired clips--for one thing, it gave even the inevitable four losers in each category a chance to be recognized not only by their peers, but by the audience as well. Would Melissa Leo (who, as a teenager, played Dr. Cliff Warner's wild kid sister on "All My Children" for several years--we AMC fans NEVER forget...) or Richard Jenkins have received as much face time on the broadcast otherwise?
Steve Martin and Tina Fey? Funny. Seth Rogan and James Franco? Funny as well--especially in the filmed piece where they were laughing inappropriately at clips from several dead serious flicks. Funniest--but also, without a frame of reference, most obscure? Ben Stiller riffing on Joaquin Phoenix's recent very odd visit with David Letterman.
Biggest mistake? During the so-called Death montage, panning the cameras across the stage, trying to pick up the video monitors hanging from the rafters while still keeping Queen Latifah in camera range. There were times I clearly couldn't read the names of the honored deceased--they should've just aimed a camera straight on as they have in years past. (And despite published reports to the contrary, the producers didn't mute out the audience applause as promised, resulting in yet another ghoulish round of "Who's YOUR favorite dead guy?" Lynn wondered if any of the folks in the auditorium might've been pondering how THEY'D make out in the applause sweepstakes when their numbers come up? Oh, just probably ALL of them, I'm thinking...)
The show zipped along, finishing several minutes before midnight even, and I can think of three specific reasons for that. One, the outgoing Academy President graciously agreed (likely with a figurative gun pointed at his noggin) to forego his annual show-stopping--and I mean that in the worst possible way--speech. Two, the segment spotlighting clips from the Science and Technical Awards Dinner from the previous week was trimmed down to last about as long as the promo for the eleven o'clock news, the one that's generally aired between several commercials at about 10:45 each night--and likewise, was stuck off in it's own truncated mini segment, surrounded only by commercials. And three, no totally unnecessary clip packages. Oh, we got compilations of action, comedy, and romantic movies, but they were all part and parcel of of reviewing 2008 (and they weren't all from nominated films either, to which I say, good--some of last year's most popular flicks didn't make the Oscar cut, but that doesn't make 'em BAD! Though they DID show a few seconds on "The Love Guru"...). During past telecasts, midway through, just as things were FINALLY building up a head of steam, the host would stroll out onto the stage and proclaim, "For the past 80 years, Hollywood has had a love affair with trains!"--and then we'd get ten minutes of film clips set on trains!! But not THIS year!! Good call, Academy.
Personally, unlike almost every past year, where I hadn't seen ANY of the nominations, or had any real intention of checking out any of the winners, due to our new-found weekly visits to the two (or one) buck theater, Lynn and I have already seen a few of the flicks up for consideration ("Wall-E", as well as Heath Ledger, Penelope Cruz, and Angelina Jolie's performances), but due to the lag in time making their way to the second-run outlet we prefer, we haven't had a chance to see ANY of the five best pic nominees. I'm glad the show didn't overdose on clips from these films, because I'd like to see 'em all (especially that "Slumdog Millionaire"--as well as the proposed sequels, "Slumdog Jeopardy" and "Slumdog Family Feud"...), and I hate going into a movie knowing too much about it. I regret passing up on "The Visitor" earlier in the year, but I saw a trailer for it that seemed to tell the whole story, and that just turned me off to it. Not that I found the plot unappealing--I found the fact that I now KNEW the plot unappealing. These days, I do my best to look away and hum to myself when there's something being promoed up on the big screen that I know I want to see. Kudos to the Oscar folks for not giving away TOO much last night. Always leave 'em wanting more, right?
Which sorta brings me back to Jerry, doesn't it? Sigh...
|February 22nd, 2009|
|Lynn and I just finished watching "Apollo
13", and I for one enjoyed it so much,
I can't WAIT to see the first twelve!!
(Yeah, I know I used a variation of that very same gag a week or so back, but hey, when you find something that works, it ain't all that easy to let go of, y'know?...)
Seriously, this was one tremendously well-done re-enactment. In a lot of ways, this 1995 Ron Howard film was the anti-"Titanic" (another notable piece of cinema only recently screened by the missus and me). Both movies, going in, the viewer knows the ending. Despite that, both movies manage to build up a full head of steam, suspense-wise. The big difference is, this movie has a happy ending, that one doesn't. And this one adheres far closer to recorded fact, as there's no room in that tiny little capsule for fictional stowaways to carry on a doomed romance. Which, I suppose, is all for the better.
The entire cast. led by Tom Hanks, excels, and the attention to detail was such that, after watching this, I have a pretty clear idea what sort of procedures astronauts have to go through to get up into space, and--especially in this extreme case--back.
I was struck by how this film utilized actual network news updates--featuring the likes of Walter Cronkite, Jules Bergman, and Chet Huntley--throughout, often delivering their reportage in casually callous terms, as relatives of the three imperiled astronauts gathered around various television sets to hear the most recent doomsday scenarios delivered in stentorian tones by America's anchor-gods. Given this ghoulish approach, I certainly couldn't blame Mrs. Lovell from forbidding the networks from setting up their gear on her front lawn.
Secondly, where the hell was I when this happened? I was 17 back in the spring of 1970--and I certainly was at least aware of the situation--but I have absolutely NO memory whatsoever of watching ANY of the clearly tense news coverage of this days long ordeal!! (Yes, I DO recall watching Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon a year earlier--I switched over from a Mets doubleheader to catch THAT little bit of history!...)
At that age, its true I wasn't watching much TV--hardly any, actually--but you woulda thought I'd tune into something like this. But no, apparently not. Y'know, there've been times in recent years when something seemingly all-consuming saturated the news, and only later, I'd find out that daughter Julie had absolutely no idea what was going on! Naturally, I'd chastise her for her obliviousness, but y'know what? Being a teen-ager is the very definition of self-absorption--the very fact that I missed this thing the first time around is undeniable proof of THAT!! So Julie, my apologies--your not knowing about the Rod Blagojevich scandal doesn't even measure up to me missing out on THIS real-life drama!!
(But don't worry, sweetie--someday they're sure to make a movie about HIM, and you can catch up just like I did!!...)
|February 21st, 2009|
|The very first Marvel Comic I ever bought,
FANTASTIC FOUR #4 way back in 1962, included
a letters page for fans to write into, but
many of their other books at the time--STRANGE
TALES, TALES OF SUSPENSE, JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY,
and TALES TO ASTONISH among them--did not,
and wouldn't until midway through 1964.
What they DID have (primarily to adhere to some arcane postal regulations) were two-page text stories. And to this day, despite being a life-long Marvel Maniac from pretty much the very instant I picked up that first FF--I've NEVER read a single one!!
And maybe even more amazingly, I was never even conscious of that curious little fact until just the other night!!
There I was, finishing off the second volume of the ATLAS ERA TALES OF SUSPENSE MARVEL MASTERWORKS, and I suddenly realized that, all the while enjoying the pre-Marvel era monsterwork of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and Dick Ayers, printed oh so lushly in this fancy-schmancy edition, I had STILL been routinely skipping "Lady Luck","The Bridge", "Masquerade", and all those other potential literary classics! And there wasn't even any decision making involved on my part--pricey format or not, I just ain't reading the things!
I DO occasionally pause for a moment and admire the oft recycled Joe Maneely artwork (like the one pictured above). These small vignettes were my first--and only--encounters with the late cartoonist's work until his "Black Knight" stories were reprinted some years later in the pages of FANTASY MASTERPIECES.
(Which also, I should point out, reprinted Stan Lee's very first work for the firm, a two-page Captain America text story from the early forties, which I DID read. Historical significance combined with actual characters I was familiar with prompted me to make THAT little exception.)
I wonder--did ANYBODY read those things? Is anybody reading 'em NOW? (And I loved how, towards the end of their existence, they were strung out across two issues, with part one often cut off right in mid-sentence!! Was there EVER a kid who haunted the stands back in early 1964 hoping to be the first one to get his hands on the latest issue of TALES OF SUSPENSE so he could see how the text piece turned out?? If so, it sure wasn't yours truly, brother!...)
I suppose it might make for a fun experiment for me to go off in the corner and actually read one, and then report back to you with my thoughts, but gee whiz, if only I had the TIME, y'know?I mean, I really need to alphabetize my comics character tee shirts, then trim my nose hair (its getting a mite bit unruly), and of course, Google the career of Durward Kirby--but hey, who knows? Maybe after that?...
|February 20th, 2009|
|Let me redirect you folks over to Hero Complex, where you'll find the first of my three
part examination of the Hulk's history via
a select group of my own classic cover redos.
Here's the link: Fred Hembeck's Hero Complex: The Hulk, Part 1!!
No need to linger here--over there's where you'll find the silly pictures and the witty commentary!
(Well, allegedly witty, but hey, why not head over and judge for yourselves?...)
|February 19th, 2009|
|Tomorrow night will mark the final broadcast
of "Late Night With Conan O' Brien".
I'll be watching. And why not? I was also there watching when the very first episode hit the airwaves way back on September 13th, 1993--and unlike a lot of other folks at the time, I thought the show was absolutely hilarious right from the get-go!! (Hey, don't act surprised--I AM the guy who liked "The Spirit" after all...).
If you want to check out Conan's humble beginnings, it's been assembled in three parts--and fully annotated--over on YouTube. Here's the link.
(And you might consider giving a look at the always irrepressible Norm MacDonald as he brings up the whole "following Leno at ten" situation to a clearly uncomfortable O'Brien only a week ago. This clip runs 9:40. And I strongly suggest you follow it with the show's subsequent segment, a cooking demo with the chef from Fox's "Hell's Kitchen", one that Norm reduces to near chaos!! That one's 5:18!! Funny stuff!...)
Y'know, I gave up watching Letterman back in '96, and Leno not long after. I hung in with Jimmy Kimmel for nearly two years before bailing on him, but aside from the infrequent power failure and the slightly more frequent trip out of town, I've taped and watched nearly every episode of Conan's late-night chat-fest over the last sixteen years--and whether that should be considered a point of pride or something to admit shamefacedly, well, the jury's still out on THAT!!
But for now, bye bye, Consie--see you in June!!
|February 18th, 2009|
|Yesterday's one dollar delight was a little
thing called "Twilight"--maybe
you've heard of it?....
Intrigued by the phenomena surrounding the project--and also because daughter Julie was dragged along to catch it the day after it initially hit the theaters by friends who plumb adored the book (which Julie hadn't read)--Lynn thought "Twilight" might be worth checking out. And considering how I faithfully watched every small screen episode of "Buffy" (not to mention "Angel"), well, I certainly couldn't truthfully say the concept of mixing teen-age girls with vampires was TOO far afield for me.
That said, "Buffy' and "Twilight' are pretty much like--you should pardon the expression--night and day. There was always a plentiful supply of clever witticisms provided the cast of those pair of Joss Whedon vampire serials to leaven even the grimmest situations. "Twilight" leans much heavier on the teen angst meter, and the dialog can be a little clunky and awkward at times. But the leads do a nice job with their parts--though their love affair doesn't develop as much as it just appears, full-blown, without any truly convincing motivation. Maybe Bella just really dug those big ol' eyebrows of Edward's--who knows?...
I went in having absolutely no idea what to expect, save that there'd be no sex between the couple (and, as it turns out, no swearing either, setting it vastly apart from every other flick I've seen recently focusing on teens). There's a long slow build-up as our brooding heroine figures out our (anti) hero's big secret, and THEN--zap!--it suddenly turns into an effects movie!! The last quarter--precipitated by what I can confidently point to as the very first vampire baseball game in all of cinematic history--even takes on all the aspects of a slam-bang action movie, and believe me, I didn't see THAT coming!!
("Twilight"--like "Buffy" before it, and even "Tomb of Dracula" (which I'm currently rereading in the Omnibus Edition) have their own very specific rules of vampirism, which is fine as long as they're consistent. Our "Twilight" vamps don't sleep, they go to school during the daytime (save for on REALLY sunny days), and run like The Flash, for instance--and yes, there IS the occasional biting...)
Did I like it? Hey, I'M the guy who liked "The Spirit"--what do YOU think?
Julie thought it was a little cornball, and when we saw it, there was a group of teen girls down front who I can only assume had already seen it, but came back to giggle inappropriately at all the film's most serious moments (glares between our heart-throb bloodsucker and his native-American rivals evoked a particularly loud outburst.).Having no emotional investment in whether to find the character of Edward Cullen hot or not, I was able to simply take in the story, which, not surprisingly, played out like a cheesy (but entertaining) novel. In fact, the last fifteen minutes serve as a sort of a combined epilogue/sequel set-up, and while I may not be waiting on line to catch part two in a first-run theater, I look forward to plunking down a dollar (or even two) to see what happens next!
|February 17th, 2009|
|We do commissions around here--you all know
that by now. And sometimes we customize them
to fit the specific requests of our patrons--remind
me to show you my redo of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
#16 sometime, which depicts our friendly
wall-crawler in combat not with Daredevil
but with Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing.
Usually the switcheroo aspect of these pieces amount to little more than slotting one character in for another. Usually...
I've mentioned the name Gerry Turnbull here on several past occasions. From my dealings with him over the past few years, I definitely know three things:
1. He's a big Dr. Strange fan.
2. He's a big John Byrne fan.
3. ...and sometimes, he's just too creative for MY own good!!
Okay, okay, I kid about that last point (mostly...), but the piece I'm gonna share with you today was one of the most extreme redos I've EVER attempted. You might well say it was more of a revamp--a near total revamp--than a redo.
It started with this page, an ad Gerry found buried in the back of CONAN THE BARBARIAN #143 (February 1983)....
He wanted me to sub in Dr. Strange for Indiana Jones, which sounded simple enough.
Except he wanted Clea and Wong at his side.
And how about Mordo and The Ancient One floating outside the window?
Oh, and as for the window, it needs to be changed to match the one in the Sorcerer Supreme's Sanctum Sanctorum. In fact, the rug and the desk need to made far more ornate--and hang Doc's cloak up in the corner, okay? Hey, and just for laughs, why not have some mumbo-jumbo parchments stuck in Dr. Fate's helmet? And, y'know, just fill the room up with as many mystical Ditko doodads as you can manage!!
Otherwise, simply follow the Byrne/Austin original.
Ultimately, the downshot format of the layout and the shape of the desk are pretty much all that remains of the original, but I gotta admit, it was a fun challenge.
Here's how things came out...
|Gerry put in a hefty chunk of HIS time with
the illo as well--click the above drawing
to view a trio of larger versions on a single
page: plain B&W, and two others masterfully
colored by Mr, T (who's getting better and
better with the hues every day!), one a day
take, the other a night. Nice job, Ger--love
And that's it for now, folks--this is your hoary host, Hembeck, signing off!!
|February 16th, 2009|
|Jimmy Olsen. Alfalfa.
Jack Larson. Carl Switzer.
Back during my earliest days plopped in front of the tube, there wasn't many a day that passed when I wasn't watching one or the other featured in an episode of "The Adventures Of Superman" or a "Little Rascals" short. But while I've continued to repeatedly enjoy the "Superman' show over the years (I saw one just two days ago, in fact), it's likely been several decades since I've sat through an entire "Rascals" romp.
So what's the connection? Well, for that, we need to bring in a third party: Alan Freed!
Y'see, I was checking out the pioneering rock and roll DJ on YouTube a few nights back, and I came across something called "1950s Juvenile Delinquent Movie Trailers (#2)", which intrigued me enough to take pause and watch.
Most of the first half of its 4:32 running time is given over to a star-studded preview of "Rock, Rock, Rock" (featuring Mr. Freed, natch), but what REALLY caught my attention were two of the other trailers included. The 1957 "Motorcycle Gang" spotlights the now grown up Switzer specifically by name (wearing a helmet that unfortunately hides mostly of his face, much less that famous cowlick). You can see him briefly at 2:12.
Further on down, watch out for "Johnny Trouble" (also 1957)--and in this oddly assembled trailer made up entirely of still pictures, display lettering, and the requisite voice-over, you'll find Jack at 3:52 and 4:18--but no verbal mention of him whatsoever. That's reserved for the stars: Miss Ethel Barrymore, Cecil Kellaway, Carolyn Jones, and (ta da!) introducing Stuart Whitman.
Huh? How could they NOT mention Jack? Wasn't he a pretty big star by 1957? Or did my aging eyes deceive me--maybe it wasn't really him. So, I checked out his imdb page--yup, it was him. I then zipped on over to get a gander at the cast roster of "Johnny Trouble" and I was astonished by what I found: listed in the order of the actual screen credits, the popular star of TV's "Superman" comes in 17th out of seventeen--dead last!! And there's no indication that it's any sort of special credit either, of the "and featuring" variety. Geez, no wonder Larson pretty much gave up acting all together soon after...
Conversely, knocking around Hollywood during the lean years after he outgrew his rascalness (did you know he had an unbilled role in "It's A Wonderful Life"? I didn't...),Switzer not only managed to get fourth billing on this admittedly Grade B-minus motorcycle picture, but soon after landed a plum (if small) comedic role in Stanley Kramer's 1958 A-lister, "The Defiant Ones". Things finally seemed to be looking up for the artist formerly known as Alfalfa, but it didn't last: the Tony Curtis/Sidney Poitier starrer would mark his final screen appearance.
On January 29th, 1959, he was shot and killed during a drunken argument concerning a lost hunting dog. Really. You can read the mind-boggling details here. As much as the death of Larson's co-star, George Reeves, has clearly entered the realm of pop mythology, I've always sorta wondered why Switzer's hasn't. Probably because it lacks the key element of mystery that will always surround the end of Reeves life.
Except for maybe this--what the HELL was he thinking anyway?...
Larson and Switzer, two young stars irrevocably typecast. One got out while the getting was good, and one didn't. Given the subsequent turn of events, it sorta takes the sting out of being bottom-billed on "Johnny Trouble", y'know?..
(And if you all of a sudden find yourself with a hankering for Alfalfa, you might want to give this nicely produced fan compilation of some of his most memorable moments a look-see. It runs just over eight minutes. I found it pleasantly nostalgic--and likely all I'll need to see of the character for several more decades...)
|February 15th, 2009|
|Y'know, for months and months I kept hearing--from
mainstream critics and hardcore comics fans
alike--how wonderful "The Dark Knight"
was. Oscar worthy. One of the best films
of all time, even.
And then I saw it for myself, and I didn't like it all that much. I didn't hate it, but aside from Heath Ledger's mesmerizing performance, not much registered all that positively with me either.
Then, pretty much since sneaking into theaters last Christmas Day, I kept hearing--from mainstream critics and hardcore comics fans alike--how absolutely awful "The Spirit" was. Razzie worthy. One of the worst films of all time, even.
Well, this afternoon, I saw it for myself, and you know what? I liked it!!
No, I didn't love it, and no, clearly it's not a classic--and likely not "The Spirit" film Will Eisner would've helmed, given the chance--but as horrible as I was led to believe by pretty much everyone? Uh uh--I don't see it. Daughter Julie and three of her friends caught it over winter break and THEY liked it--the only positive impressions I've encountered--and it looks like this time around, I'm siding with the teen-age girls! (Lynn generally enjoyed it as well, save for all the shooting and such--but I felt the violence was portrayed in such an over-the-top cartoonish fashion, I wasn't bothered by it the way I was in "The Dark Knight".)
Look, I'm not just being a contrarian here, honest. I went in, fully expecting to see a bad movie, but one I could enjoy via detached bemusement, sort of in a "Plan 9 From Outer Space:" manner. Instead, I find myself swimming against the tide of public opinion and actually ENJOYING the thing (I have one good buddy who tried in vain to persuade me from even plunking down the two bucks it took to get in, who, after reading this, will likely never take ANY of my opinions seriously again--sorry, big guy, but I liked it, I honestly liked it!!...).
Samuel L. Jackson's overacting wasn't as accomplished as Ledger's method acting, but it was nearly as much fun!! Gabriel Macht made a more convincing hero to my way of thinking than that foul-mouthed Bale fellow. And yes, pardon me, but i thought the low-brow comedy of the Louis Lombardi clones was funny. It reminded me of Eisner's sprinkling his tales with outrageously buffoonish characters, usually right alongside corpses turning up under coffee tables!! And as for the whole intertwining of our hero's origin with The Octopus's actions and the resultant effects of bestowing near immortality on the pair, well, yeah, I'll admit that was a radical leap, but one I made my peace with early on. And the look of the movie, the framing of the shots? More Miller than Eisner, true--though Plaster of Paris' entrance came directly from a famous Eisner splash, which was fun to see, though a bit of a visual non sequiter in the context of the story--but always made for interesting viewing (save for some of the muddled underwater sequences).
You know what I DIDN'T like? The snarky reference to "Star Trek"--y'know, when The Octopus vows he'll make sure his arch-foe is "as dead as Star Trek". Trust me, I'm not a big "Trek " fan (though yes, I've followed the various series over the years), but I felt it was a rather unfortunate dig, seeing as how the trailer for the updated version ironically played before today's feature unspooled, and the likelihood of it being an actual box-office smash--something "The Spirit" clearly isn't--makes the slight sound both stupid AND mean spirited, no pun intended. Plus, it took me out of the movie temporarily--an earlier reference to Robin I could accept since Batman and The Spirit originate from the same era--but while I was willing to allow for the computers and cellphones included as background details, the notion that The Octopus has ever even seen a single episode of something that debuted several decades after Eisner penned his last escapade set in Wildwood Cemetery, well, for some reason, THAT'S what rankled me most!!
(Incidentally, I don't think I've come across a single complaint that Ebony was left totally out of the mix. Huh...)
The gals? Fun--particularly Scarlett Johansson as Silken Floss (pictured above) and Sarah Paulson as Ellen Dolan. I even found the scenes with teen-aged Denny and Sand affecting. and though there weren't more than a dozen folks in the audience with us, even on a Sunday afternoon, amazingly, almost all of them stayed through the entire end credits, which I've NEVER seen happen before!! They either really, really liked the Frank Miller art, or flat out dug Christina Aguilera's take on Marlene Dietrich's "Falling In Love Again". Maybe both!!
Look, if a guy were to put a gun to my head and say, "You watch either "The Dark Knight" or "The Spirit" again--pick one and I won't pull this trigger", I'D say, "Um, how about "Iron Man"?"--but as soon as I heard him cock the pistol, I'd scream out, "The Spirit"!! For god's sake, make it "The Spirit"!!
So friends, if you've been at all hesitant to check out this much maligned hunk of cinema, let THAT serve as my heartfelt recommendation!!
|February 14th, 2009|
|HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!!|
|February 13th, 2009|
|We have a winner!!
Jolly Jeff Kapalka knew that the illo i ran the other day of the FF and the hula girls was from a storybook for kids done back sometime in the eighties (mine has a copyright date of both 1984 and 1985) and he correctly identified the painted artwork as coming from the brush of veteran Marvel Magazine cover artist (TALES OF THE ZOMBIE, MONSTERS UNLEASHED, SAVAGE SWORD OF CONAN, et al), Earl Norem!
Where Mr. K went slightly awry was in neglecting to include Marie Severin in the mix. While it's fairly obvious that Norem did a majority of the heavy lifting, artwise, apparently he was working off Ms. Severin's layouts (who, in turn, took her cues from David Anthony Kraft's script). Nice call, Jeff!!
(There are plenty of other nifty pics included within the books scant 32 pages, and I'll share some more soon, promise!! But as for the audio tape that accompanied the volume, well, you're on your own there--I'm not even sure where mine is anymore, to be truthful...).
Also, a few days back, I offered my nomination for the goofiest panel Jack Kirby ever drew, and in so doing, mischaracterized the action taking place in said panel. As my old buddy, Mountain Empire Comics own Robert Pilk pointed out to me, the Rawhide Kid is shooting the HEELS off the boots of an owlhoot, NOT the spurs!! D'oh!! The correction is much appreciated, jasper!
And y'know, maybe I was even a wee bit hasty in designating that bit of fancy shooting as Jack's wackiest! Just last night I was reading the second volume of the ATLAS ERA TALES OF SUSPENSE MARVEL MASTERWORKS, and came across yet ANOTHER nutty noteworthy sequence in the May, 1961 issue, number 17.
The story is "Beware of Googam, Son of Goom!!"--perhaps the greatest unintentional self-parody of all-time--and by page seven, the neighbors are getting a mite suspicious of the scientist and his family living in that big ol' house on the hill. Sara Perkwhistle decides to get to the bottom of things using her own tried and true methods...
|What she doesn't realize is that the entire
family is being held captive by an
GOOGAM, SON OF GOOM!!
But never let it be said that Googam doesn't pull his own weight, graciously answering her inquiring knock...
|Now, if Googam had only greeted Ms. Perkwhistle
while standing on his head, well, THEN
have some REAL competition!!
Ultimately, I stand by my earlier assessment, but c'mon, a monster named Googam playing both combination kidnapper AND butler?? Pure genius!!
|February 12th, 2009|
|Sure, it's Lincoln's 200th Birthday, but what about THIS guy?...|
|Audio-Animatronic Abe turns 45 SOMETIME this
year--not sure exactly when--and I'm thinking,
he deserves a little love, too!!
So, if you have just under six minutes to spare for some Disneyfied inspirational speechifying, follow this link to the accompanying video.
But if you only have less than a minute available and prefer something a little goofier, check out our malfunctioning (and drunk?...) robotic Great Emancipator.
Meanwhile, in honor of our sixteenth president, I suggest you follow my lead today and steer clear of balcony seating!!
|February 11th, 2009|
|NOW, HERE'S SOMETHING YOU DON'T SEE EVERYDAY!....|
|I mean, c'mon---that straw hat Mr. Fantastic
is wearing has gotta be the BIGGEST one I've
(And to see this delightful image at exactly twice the size as above, simply click your mouse on it!! Anybody care to guess as to WHERE this is from--and WHO did it?...)
|February 10th, 2009|
|Recently, I've been reading the second volume
of the RAWHIDE KID MARVEL MASTERWORKS,
some of the most energetic--and oft
of Jack Kirby's storied career.
Published concurrently with the classic early issues of FANTASTIC FOUR, folks tend to overlook this run (much as I did while perusing the newsstand as a kid) largely, I'm guessing because a.) it's a western, a genre long out of favor; and b.) each issue (mostly) featured four short stories (three starring the title character) that read more like vignettes than the fully fleshed out book-length tales such as those found in the then emerging Marvel super-hero series.
That said, cliched or not, Stan Lee certainly knew how to write an effective Rawhide Kid escapade, and Jack Kirby sure knew how to draw one (and to my eyes, Dick Ayers' inking on the strip is among his very best working in tandem with The King)!!
Also featured in this run?
The most sublimely ridiculous panel Jack Kirby EVER drew!!
It turns up in "When The Kid Went Wild!!" (did he EVER!!...) in the October, 1962 issue of RAWHIDE KID, number 30.
But before I display that particular panel for all to see, I need to show you the sequence that leads up to it. Trust me, you'll appreciate it even MORE that way...
|l know what you're thinking--those last two
panels are pretty darn ridiculous on their
own, what with Rawhide shooting the drawers
off one of those rannies!
Well, you ain't seen NOTHIN' yet!
Cuz HERE'S the very next panel...
|That's right, friends--the Rawhide Kid is
shooting off the spurs of a fleeing owlhoot
WHILE STANDING ON HIS HEAD!!!
And y'know, it would be one thing if, storywise, the Kid was somehow cornered, winding up in that awkward position with no other choice but to shoot his way out from it...
Clearly, he's just plain showing off!!
And doing so in such a sublimely ridiculous manner, well, I had no choice but to laugh right out loud when I first laid eyes on that panel!!
Hope it gave you a chuckle, too--thanks Stan, thanks Dick, and most especially, thanks Jack!! And I'll just bet YOU coulda DRAWN this thing while standing on your own head if you'd wanted to!!...
|February 9th, 2009|
|Digging through the small pile of VHS tapes
Lynn bought off of ebay several years back,
last night, in our ongoing attempt to catch
up with the past two decades of film fare,
we came up with 1995's "Leaving Las
Vegas", a sort of romantic drama concerning
the unlikely relationship struck between
a suicidal alcoholic and a prostitute in
Las Vegas. Nicolas Cage's work deservedly
garnered him an Academy Award for Best Actor.
Though nominated for Best Actress, co-star
Elisabeth Shue didn't win, but considering
she matched Cage shot for shot, she easily
could've. The film also received nominations
for Best Adapted Screenplay and for Mike
Figgis as Best Director.
Yup, remarkable performances, no denying it, but did we LIKE the film? On the one hand, I have to stop and wonder--do I REALLY want to spend two hours watching this guy literally drink himself to death? I'm not entirely sure of the point. On the other, Cage and Shue somehow managed to make each of their characters engaging without ever sugar-coating them. The most unorthodox of love stories, perhaps, but the romantic aspect of the storyline nonetheless rang true. So yeah, I guess I did like the film (as did Lynn, even if she felt it meandered a bit), just not enough to run it through the VCR again anytime soon.
I realize it's considered a pretty depressing flick, but oddly, I never felt all that bummed out watching it. Partially that was due to Cage's quirky charm, and partly it was because his alcohol consumption was portrayed as SO over the top that I had real difficulty believing anybody could possibly down so much booze in such a short amount of time. Maybe--probably--it can be done, but my doubt nevertheless distanced me somewhat from becoming TOO emotionally involved with the character's plight. Of course, afterwards, I checked out the "Leaving Las Vegas" wikipedia entry, and learned that the film was based on a semi-autobiographical novel by John O'Brien, and that, two weeks after production on the film began, O'Brien shot and killed himself. He was 34. So I guess not everyone's a happy clam like yours truly, and some people WILL commit the most unlikeliest of acts...
Interesting trivia: the scene in which Cage gets his nose bloodied by an angry biker, the bartender who apologetically gives him the heave-ho (it's bar policy, y'see, even for the clear losers of fights), that bartender is played by none other than Julian Lennon, only son of Cynthia and John.
Slightly less interesting trivia: Ty Pennington, the host of ABC-TV's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" is listed as a set production assistant. Well, I TOLD you it was less interesting...
Next up on our own little Catch-up Theater? Probably "Apollo 13"--though I AM a little reluctant to dive right into it. After all, I haven't even seen the first twelve, y'know?...
|February 8th, 2009|
|Time for the concluding segment over at Hero Complex of my two-part survey spotlighting notable
Marvel Comics covers (as redrawn by your
humble blogger) featuring our star-spangled
bud, Captain America--of which the above
is naturally among those included.
Fred Hembeck's Hero Complex: Captain America, Part 2--there's yer link, amigos!! Go for the illos, stay for the sappy--er, I mean snappy--patter!!
And that's all for us here today, but we'll be back again tomorrow, fear not!
|February 7th, 2009|
|It's only a matter of days now.
Before this month is out, Jerry Lewis will stride up on stage at this year's Academy Awards ceremonies and accept his honorary Oscar. In anticipation of that momentous occasion, I thought I'd share a clip from the greatest movie Jerry never made.
No, we're not screening scenes from the legendary "The Day The Clown Cried" here today--more's the pity--but instead, "Scenes From An Idiot's Marriage". Playing the role of Jerry Lewis in this faux Ingmar Bergman send-up is Martin Short, accompanied by Andrea Martin as Harriet Anderson in this spot-on 1984 SCTV parody. I think my favorite part is "Jerry's" repeated inability to properly pronounce the name of his estranged wife's lawyer, but really, the whole thing is a tremendous hoot!
Here's the link--four minutes and forty five seconds of pure hilarity!!
And if you'd like the see the real thing sitting alongside Martin Short (in short shorts, no less), here's a clip of the duo apparently rehearsing the ditty, "There's No Business Like Show Business". I have NO IDEA as to what the background is regarding this particular clip, but it's fascinating to watch, even if, at a mere two minutes and thirty nine seconds, you're left wanting more!
Go here, friends, to witness for yourself the hairy, hairy legs of Jerry Lewis!
Knock 'em dead at the Oscars, Jerry--but for gosh sakes, WEAR LONG PANTS!!!
|February 6th, 2009|
|Little bit busy today folks, but inasmuch
as I currently feel the overriding compulsion
to post something new here every single day,
well then--I thought I'd share the above
illo with you (and yes, you can indeed see
a larger version simply by clicking your
mouse on it)! It's a recent commission I
did of the seventies era Black Widow. Nice
outfit, huh? Gee, wonder how I'D look in
Okay, okay--I WANT you to come back. Honest. No leather outfit for me--promise!!
(Oh, and for those of you who may be curious--all half-dozen or so of you--no, I WON'T be at the big ol' NYCC event this weekend. But odds are, it'll STILL probably be massive fun. Probably...)
|February 5th, 2009|
|The most recent flick taken in by Lynn and
me--Mr and Mrs. One Hundred and Twenty-First
Nighters, that's us!--was "Cadillac
Records", which traces the history of
the trailblazing blues label, Chess Records,
from its inception back in the early forties
up through founder Leonard Chess's sale of
his business at the tail end of the sixties.
The film stars Adrien Brody as Chess, with Jeffrey Wright (last seen by me several weeks back portraying Colin Powell in "W.") as the label's first artist, Muddy Waters. The story mostly follows these two men through the years, but makes time for several other important characters, primarily actor Columbus Short (last seen by moi essaying a far more reserved character on "Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip") as the dangerously volatile Little Walter and (though she doesn't come in until the movie is more than half over, due to the strictly chronological nature of the storytelling), Beyoncé Knowles as the sassy--and tragic--Etta James. Ms Knowles DOES get to belt out three complete tunes, more than anyone else in the movie, likely because a.) aside from Brady (who DOESN'T sing), she's the biggest name involved; and b.) she's an executive producer!! The perks of power. Still, she's more than up to the task, both musically and dramatically.
In roles afforded lesser screen time, Cedric the Entertainer serves as bassist/songwriter (and narrator) Willie Dixon. Eamonn Walker gives an unforgettable performance as the quietly courtly--but nonetheless imposing and intimidating--gruff voiced Howlin' Wolf. Mos Def brings an easy charm to his portrayal of Chuck Berry, even if vocally, the match sounds a wee bit off (and most amusingly, the guy is totally incapable of duplicating Berry's famous duckwalk!! The film makers clearly discovered this somewhere long the line, so every time he attempts Chuck's signature move, conveniently there are either audience members or a studio window frame blocking the lower portion of his body! Though there WAS that one cut-away shot, one that DIDN'T actually show Def's upper torso. Hmmm...).
Written and directed by Darnell Martin, I thought this was an admirable attempt to shed a little much deserved light on a pivotal--if oft overlooked--chapter in American popular music. Though long a fan of fifties era R&B and the soul music of the sixties, I'll confess to never having been much of a fan of straight out and out blues. Despite that blind spot, I found the musical numbers in this film--all fresh recordings lovingly replicating the originals, masterfully overseen by Steve Jordan--to be absolutely exhilarating, enough so to send me off to investigate some of the vintage material, especially that of Waters and Wolf.
Dramatically, most everyone shines as well. Adrien Brody is always an arresting screen presence, and Jeffrey Wright's subtle transformation from poor southern sharecropper strumming the blues on the front porch of his run-down shack to the well-heeled dean of Chicago's electric bluesmen nicely provides the film with a solid backbone of continuity. As Little Walter, Columbus Short gives the showiest performance (and belts out my favorite tune, "My Babe", a link to an audio only version (3:07) I provide here for the curious--the scene from the movie can also be found on You Tube, but as it gives away too many plot details in cutting away from his joyous crooning in the studio to various outside storylines, I'd suggest you simply listen and not look if you plan to see the movie.) (Yes, Roger, I'm talking to YOU!...)
As stated earlier, Knowles does Ms. James proud (A curious factoid about Etta's alleged parentage is revealed in one of her earliest scenes, something I'D never heard before, but which i found absolutely astounding). The palpable enmity festering between Muddy Waters and Chess latecomer Howlin Wolf could've provided fodder for an entire movie, as could the story of Chuck Berry. And while he's mostly portrayed as a good guy who had the best interests of his artists at heart (he bought 'em all Cadillacs; hence the title, y'see), there are more than a few hints that Chess took at least some financial advantage of his performers. Plus, there's a fair share of cussin. smoking, drinking, and womanizing--this isn't a complete (and this time around, I want you to really, REALLY pardon the expression) whitewash, y'know.
When things start to get a little frenzied around the mid-sixties--look for a quick cameo by actors portraying fresh-faced versions of The Rolling Stones--the film briefly slips into made-for-TV mode, spitting out one big event after another. But for the most part--and especially at the beginning--it does a nice job of telling a sprawling story succinctly.
As mentioned earlier, I'm no expert on the blues, so as to the complete historical accuracy of "Cadillac Records", I can't honestly say. However, I've read enough retellings of the early days of rock and roll over the years for the phrase "the Chess brothers" to have gotten stuck somewhere in the back of my noggin. So afterwards I went home and checked and sure enough, there WAS a Phil Chess!! And he's even listed on the film's imdb page AND wikipedia entry as being portrayed by Shiloh Fernandez in the film!! But I have no memory whatsoever of seeing him anywhere on screen or even being MENTIONED by another character, even (and most especially) his brother? THAT'S the most curious thing about this flick--what ever happened to Phil Chess? How does a sibling partner--even one who may not've been the driving force behind the music--wind up entirely on the cutting room floor? Very, very odd...
Despite this historical glitch, I'd highly recommend this movie to anyone interested in the genesis of American popular music. Trust me, you WON'T have the blues when you leave the theater!!
(Unless, of course, you happen to be directly related to Phil Chess...)
|February 4th, 2009|
|A few months ago, back when I wasn't blogging
every damn day (clearly, its a sickness of
sorts, and currently, the fever is obviously
raging...) but during our now weekly jaunts
to the two buck (one on Tuesdays) movie theater,
Lynn and I took in a romantic comedy entitled
Starring Ricky Gervais--whose impressive resume I was well aware of going in, though I'd only ever seen him during several amusing appearances on the Conan O'Brien show--as well as Greg Kinnear and Tea Leoni, the film was hardly a box office blockbuster, though it did receive generally positive reviews. Since I've come to realize over these past several months during our sharp revival of moviegoing that romantic comedies are pretty much my favorite film genre, I figured "Ghost Town" would be worth checking out.
I was right.
In fact, I enjoyed it even more than I'd expected to. The story of a cranky dentist (Gervais) who, during minor surgery, actually "dies" on the operating table for seven minutes before successfully being revived, with his brief sojourn to the other side imparting on him the rare ability to see and interact with NYC's massive ghost population. One of whom is the recently deceased Kinnear, who enlists Gervais as his reluctant agent in overseeing his widow's (Leoni) current situation (she's engaged to--you should pardon the expression--a real stiff).
A classic? Well, I'm not going to go THAT far.
But I will say this:
We saw ANOTHER romantic comedy the other night, this time on DVD, one from some years back, one already designated as an all-timer--and one Lynn and I both fully expected to enjoy.
Well, we didn't.
And as far as I'm concerned, "Ghost Town" was much funnier, more convincingly romantic, and even--spirits aside--more believable than this much vaunted modern classic.
The film in question?
"Sleepless In Seattle"--maybe you've heard of it?
|Look, neither Lynn or I hated it or anything
that extreme, but we were both disappointed
by it. Oh, Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks did nice
enough jobs with their parts (especially
Hanks), but for a variety of reasons, we
just weren't buying the premise. Lynn had
big trouble with the notion of Meg Ryan flying
clear across the country to pursue someone
she'd only ever heard on the radio--all the
while having a decent (if dull) fiancee waiting
Me, I just couldn't get past the kid. It wasn't the actor so much as the part--everything he said and did reminded me of something a kid on an eighties era sit-com would do--which is why I pretty much avoided every eighties era sit-com that had a kid in it!! The whole precocious eight year old who manipulates his sad widowed dad into the position of matching up with a doll like Meg Ryan--after strongly disapproving of the woman his pop was dating during the interim--well, that came across as just so glaringly artificial that it lost me almost from the get-go.
Plus, there's the glaringly overriding bit where the whole plot seems to hinge on the finale of yet ANOTHER movie, "An Affair To Remember", which not only gets summarized on screen by several of the characters, but key clips are shown playing on various TV screens frequently--and brazenly--in at least half a dozen scenes. Gee, how very original.
And then the pair meet and its magic. It's also the end of the movie--Hanks and Ryan spend approximately two minutes of actual time on screen together. Kind of a clever and daring way to go--if it had worked. For us, it didn't. Maybe if there had been a few actual laughs mixed in somewhere...
So for my money (about four dollars for each), if you're looking for a funny, romantic movie with a situation you can believe in, I'd easily recommend "Ghost Town" over "Sleepless In Seattle". (Heck, I found "Zack and Miri Make A Porno" funnier, more romantic, and yes, easier to (you should pardon the expression, part two) swallow than this ever popular Hanks/Ryan pairing!!...)
Oh, by the way, did I mention that we watched "Sleepless In Seattle" while most other folks were tuned into the Super Bowl? And going in, I was all for it? Guess that tells you a little bit about the sorta guy I am, huh? (But folks, no way am I missing the Mets home opener for "You've Got Mail"--THAT I can guarantee you!!...)
(And just for fun, check out this re-edited trailer for "Sleepless In Seattle" that makes it seem like a horror movie!! It's pretty clever, and only 58 seconds long. Makes me sorta wish I'd seen THIS flick...)
|February 3rd, 2009|
|Set the Tivo, the DVR, or (in the case of
an old school video viewer like yours truly)
Ex-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is scheduled to sit down with David Letterman later tonight, and folks, the encounter has all the potential of becoming Number 10!!
Uh huh--as in the survey posted over at Cracked.com, Letterman’s 9 Most Hilariously Awkward Moments! (Found via the always indispensable TV Tattle.)
Writer Michael Swain offers not only well-considered text regarding each amusingly uncomfortable segment, but provides embedded YouTube videos of each one as well!! There are some real doozies here, believe me--AND the number one choice really DOES deserve being slotted at the top spot!! So if you have a few minutes to spare, you might want to check 'em out!!
And yeah, comics fans, Harvey Pekar made the cut.
(Like there was ever any doubt...)
|February 2nd, 2009|
|There's one OTHER blog I need to tell you
It's Hero Complex, the comics (and more--MUCH more) blog of the LA Times, presided over by Geoff Boucher. Now, in and of itself, it's a flat out joy to behold, full of the sort of timely news and reviews presented in the professional manner you'd expect from a great metropolitan newspaper, but done also with a clearly tangible love for the material in question. So yeah, there alone it's worth your time.
But now they've added something a little bit extra to the mix:
Fred Hembeck's Hero Complex!!
Which is, in this week's debut episode, a half dozen of my cover redos, all focusing on good ol' Captain America (just like the one above), and all accompanied by a few pithy remarks from yours truly. Next Sunday Geoff will post part two of my recapping of Cap's past via the redo route. After that, well, we hope to offer up a dozen classic Marvel covers per month during the company's 70th birthday year. I'll be sure to alert you hereabouts each time a series of illos goes up thereabouts!
So I bid thee, go on about your way, reliving the genesis of Marvel's Super Soldier as seen through a strange parallel dimension in which everyone has squiggles on their knees!! How very, very odd...
|February 1st, 2009|
|Sorry if I caused any of you to do a double-take
(or worse, considering how close you must
be to your computer, a spit -take...), but
rest assured neither of the above magazines
exist--at least not in the REAL world.
They DO exist in a wonderfully fanciful dimension known as Dial B For Blog, a visually sumptuous--and lovingly annotated--virtual valentine to the Silver Age of Comics (with a little Golden Age and present day commentary thrown in for good measure). "Robby Reed"--aka Kirk Kimball--presided over an amazing 500 installments, and while they all remain available for your viewing pleasure, sadly, there apparently will be no more. So, I wanted to respectfully salute (if a bit belatedly) the fine, fine, work of Mr. K, and direct any latecomers his way. Folks, if you haven't experienced Dial B For Blog before, you're in for a treat!! And even if you have, it's always fun to go back and look over some favorites (like the two Kirk Kimball Kreations pictured above). I was honored to assist the talented Mr. Kimball on a couple of entries in a very, very small way, and wish him only the best with any future endeavors!
Or, to put it another way,
"Sockamagee, Kirk! You sure did a swell job!!"
While we're on the subject of blogs, there's a few others I'd like to mention...
The name BookSteve pops up so often around around here, you probably think the guy pays me! He doesn't. But he does put together fascinating blogs--and now he's added three more to his resume!! Both his photo blog and his page dedicated to the legendary Wally Wood are well worth checking out, but I find myself most intrigued by You're Only As Good As Your Last Picture. The novel premise here has Steve closely examining the last big-screen appearances of Hollywood legends. Y'see, in researching the topic, Steve discovered that a celluloid icon was as likely to go out starring in a much lauded box office blockbuster as he (or she) was to call it quits featured in an obscure piece of drek! AND therein, friends, lies the fascination, as Steve details all available background info regarding each star's exit performance. So far, Mr. Thompson has regaled us with the tale of "Cuban Rebel Girls", Errol Flynn's last flick, and the still-unreleased-in-the USA Mexican horror spoof that served as Basil Rathbone's swan song! Extremely interesting stuff, and I eagerly await more!!
Also always worth a look is Mark Engblom's Comics Coverage and Mike Lynch's page (check here for a complete five page Dennis The Menace story Mike provides concerning the Mitchell's new Jewish neighbors!!)--both blogs offer a wide variety of spiffy graphics and interesting--and oft times obscure--topics.
It should also be noted that David Olbrich has a brand new blog, Funny Book Fanatic, which is chock full of behind the scenes minutia, and (as they say) more!
And of course, there's Valerie D'Orazio's Occasional Superheroine, with a bit more of a contemporary take on things. The writing is always engaging, whatever the topic, and oft-times challenging. I find I agree with Ms. D'Orazio far more often than not--but even when I don't, her opinions are presented in such a heartfelt and sincere manner that I can't help but stop and at least consider them. Thought proving AND entertaining--hey, how can THAT be bad, I ask you??
But of course, if there's only ONE blog you can spare the time to read, well, what can I say? It should be THIS one!! (Hey, I'm not THAT magnanimous!...)
So it's agreed, then? See you back here tomorrow!!
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