08 January 2010

This and that, and the Always Popular Other Thing II.

Hello, TWC readers! Been a while, I know. I'm not doing a whole lot of writing about anything these days at present, and that includes comics. But in the interest of not making Chris Allen (who admittedly is worth any five other writers, no doubt about it) alone provide content, I decided I'd take up a microscopic bit of slack and cobble together one of those helter skelter type listy blog postish things, with my thoughts on a few comics-related topics, and pass it on to you. And if you're reading this, then no one objected. So:

ITEM! I haven't been completely silent in the last couple of months; I did manage to cobble together a personal best of 2009 and the decade 2000-2009 at my sadly neglected blog. Some of my selections are not the usual suspects. Go read 'em if you dare, I mean, like!

ITEM! One of the many things about the Comics Industry As We Know It Today that leaves me scratching my head is why in god's name DC (and to a lesser extent, Marvel) continues to kill trees to publish comic books that everyone and their grandmother knows won't sell worth a damn, and will last a year maybe if the stars and planets align just so. And this is no indictment of the quality of these books, far from it. Many of them are well worth your time, but they feature unknown or obscure characters, along with not-quite-household-name creators, so your average X-fan or mega-event junkie doesn't want to know, and more importantly doesn't care. So your Blue Beetles, Magogs, Simon Darks, Manhunters, and so forth come and go, and their passing is marked by the occasional "You know, that was a pretty good comic. Too bad nobody bought it." type remark from some august comics commenter in a Tweet or message board post, and then it's soon forgotten, a la Trouble Magnet, Relative Heroes, Body Doubles, Trigger, and so on. Another such title, recently concluded as of its 12th issue, which came out just yesterday, is The Mighty, by Peter J. Tomasi, Pete Snejbjerg, and Chris Samnee. And y'know what? That was a pretty good comic. Too bad nobody bought it. One of what seems to be a plethora of "What if Superman was really an evil asshole"-type storylines out for fanman consumption right now, this one wisely focused on this particular Superguy's Jimmy Olsen analogue (name of Gabriel) and his struggle to solve not only what happened to his predecessors in the official "Alpha" (the Bad Supes' name in this) military/police/civilian liaison organization, but also his gradual realization that Earth's protector hasn't got anyone's best interests in mind but his own, and how to keep his own head on its shoulders (as well as that of his wife's) if Alpha finds out that he suspects. When we do find out what's what, it works on a couple of levels: not only do we root for and sympathize with the mostly likable Gabe, but it also almost achieves a Miller/Moore sort of gravitas as far as the problem of what to do when the superperson ostensibly looking out for you doesn't necessarily have your best interest in mind. At first, it was ably illustrated by the underrated Snejbjerg, but he mysteriously bailed after a handful of issues, and the decision makers wisely chose to tap up-and-coming Samnee, who brought it home in fine fashion, sticking to the mood and feel his predecessor established, but surpassing him as far as expressiveness, dynamic action and staging. The question remains-- was the "throw enough shit at the wall" theory in effect? Did they honestly think that the comics-buying marketplace would go for this? Was it a personal favor to Tomasi, who's been a good DC soldier for some time now? Does he have incriminating photos? Were they thinking that Snejbjerg is one of those "fan-favorite" artists because of his impressive run on Starman and the little-read (but not bad) Vertigo minseries Light Brigade, also with Tomasi? Why did this come out under the aegis of DC Comics, when it had nothing to do with their usual mainstream continuity clusterfuck and more closely resembled a WildStorm title? We may never know. I suppose this willingness to sail these tiny paper boats out on the vast uncaring fanman/woman lake is preferable to putting out yet another Batman, Superman or Green Lantern title (they do plenty of that as it is)-- it still shows that they're at least willing to try and get some variety out there. But how much longer can this go on?

ITEM! Looks like the great Brother Voodoo as Sorcerer Supreme experiment is over before it really began. Now why exactly should you care, I hear you ask, and I understand your skepticism...but even though I'm guilty of not buying his book (I'm sorry, screw Bendis, I'm a Doc Strange fan) I do have an affinity for the fringe DC and Marvel characters, a club of which Jericho Drumm is definitely a member, and even after all these years, I still like seeing these characters come back and be used in new stories-- that is unless they're treated with condescension and scorn. So while on some level I was pleased to see Brother V pop up in stuff like Marvel Divas and in his own book, it's too bad he couldn't sustain it. I guess it's true-- the market just doesn't seem to want to support a magic-user based title, any more than it does the War or Western genres. Too bad for them.

ITEM! You guys all know that the title Girl Comics is meant to be ironic and tongue-in-cheek, right? Anyway, the first two covers have been great, especially Jill Thompson's, and I'm looking forward to this coming out.

ITEM! Giffen's Doom Patrol, the latest attempt to perpetuate the licensed property I mean give us a worthwhile take on the venerable super-team, is actually pretty good and indeed worth your while to check out. Giffen plays up the anti-social, misanthropic side to the characters, even more so than Grant Morrison did (his were positively warm and fuzzy compared to the surly Giffen DP), and all the rancor makes it surprisingly compelling, never more so than in the recent Blackest Night tie-in, which was by far the most interesting of any of what I've read to date, an admittedly incomplete sample set. By comparison, the enervating Blackest Night: JSA #1 was one of the worst superhero comics I've read in many a moon, full of bland, uninspired, excessively Photoshopped artwork and cliche-spouting characters, all going through the motions in predictable fashion. At first, I was mildly interested in the whole BN hoohah, since it did seem to have the courage of its convictions at least, but since the early issues it seems to have devolved into a showcase for the novelty of dead supercharacters coming back to harangue their living former friends and loved ones, as well as being preoccupied with wretched uniforms and color coding, often coming across as something conceived by an eight-year-old playing with action figures in his sandbox. Yes, I had a sandbox, why do you ask? Anyway, the most depressing thing about it is that once again, Doug Mahnke is being wasted.

ITEM! Here's a belated observance of the passing of the great illustrator David Levine, whose work I first saw as a child in an illustrated version of Washington Irving's Legend of Sleepy Hollow. He was a caricaturist without peer, and I liked his fine-line, exaggerated style very much.

ITEM! I've been buying Love and Rockets for a long damn time now, since 1992 or so, and most of you who know me know it's been mainly for Jaime Hernandez's work and not so much his brother Gilbert's, for reasons mostly art-related although I do find Jaime's more grounded Hoppers stuff more palatable that Gilbert's often surreal and chaotic Palomar and Luba stories. But this Troublemakers looks kinda interesting, mostly, I must admit, due to the underrated Rick Altergott's cover. I understand it's a sort of Pulp Fiction type thing, apparently featuring illustrated versions of the movies that his character "Fritz" Martinez has starred in. I haven't seen any recent reviews of it; I originally saw it solicited for June of 2008, and a more recent CBR feature, with preview pages, says it was scheduled to come out last month. So I guess the upshot is that despite my preference for Jaime, I think I'll pick this up when I see it, if I see it.

AND THEN: No more and then! Thanks for reading, and I'll try not to be so DC/Marvel-centric next time.

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30 November 2009

A Little Moore Love, Part the Third incorporating The Summup.

Ah, well. Here it is the thirtieth day of November as I write this, almost the end of Alan Moore Month, and I did not get the last two parts of my little series completed in time. Oh well, I'll try to make the best of it and hit the last two series in condensed fashion. Again, I'm just attempting to shine a light on certain Moore-scripted efforts that made a lasting impression on me, without citing a lot of the usual suspects.

The final two series I wish to bring up have a bit in common, which is to say that they both feature strong female characters as their leads. Now, believe me, I know that discussing "strong female characters" is a red flag to some, who will always find some point or another to dispute your claim no matter how good the intention is; that said, I think Moore has done quite a bit towards giving us characters of that ilk- Abigail Arcane, Mina Harker, Dhalua and Tesla Strong to name a few. And yes, I know you can nitpick these selections as well- some of them are dependent, to different degrees, on the male characters in the books in which they appear; it seems to me to point towards the pursuit of a well-rounded character rather than any sort of slight, intended or not.

One such character was an early effort, released in 1984 at roughly the same time as Saga of Swamp Thing: The Ballad of Halo Jones, a British series that was collected and reissued Stateside in three volumes. It was probably the first thing I read by Moore after I had discovered him via Swamp Thing. In collaboration with longtime British comic stalwart Ian Gibson, he gave us a young lady of the 50th century who embarks on a quest of sorts, without even knowing it. She leaves Earth after the death, under mysterious circumstances, of her best friend, then eventually heads into outer space as hired help on an luxury space liner before ending up, through a set of odd circumstances, as a soldier in a interplanetary war. She really undergoes a life-changing journey, and I found it fascinating when I first read it so long ago, especially thanks to more than one really deft plot twist as the story unfolds. It also points to another unfortunate reoccurring situation in Moore's career, and I borrow Wiki's assessment: "a dispute between Moore and Fleetway, the magazine's publishers, over the intellectual property rights of the characters Moore and Gibson had co-created", effectively ending what was originally intended as a nine-issue saga. A couple of pages from Book Three:

The other series is Moore's highly imaginative, and often hard to (for lack of a better word) penetrate ABC series Promethea, in which he once more confounded expectations by taking what had appeared on the surface to be an attempt to bring us his version of Wonder Woman into some strange and unexpected places, taking the opportunity to expand upon and instruct the great unwashed about his views and beliefs on divinity and the afterlife, as well as the nature of Man. Heavy stuff, and to Moore's credit he gradually worked it in rather than overwhelm us with it. By issue #10, he got around to the nature of sexuality, and how it tied in with the imagination as well as magical realms (some would say there's no difference), and while I had been exposed to many of these ideas in a number of other places, I had not seen them presented as concisely (and I must say I had never seen them presented as well, either, thanks to the great J.H. Williams III) as I had here. In this issue, in order to learn how to harness her abilities and powers better, as well as face the threat she was dealing with at the time, she enters in an agreement with the John Constantine analogue Jack Faust, (who appears to her as he truly is, an old man, rather than the young-looking glamour he wore when we first met him) who offers to instruct her (and alter-ego Sophie Bangs) in exchange for sex. Well, it's not quite as sordid as it sounds-- and the lesson proceeds something along these lines:

See what I mean? Anyway, the series proceeded to get more metaphysical and phantasmagorical from here, and while sometimes it seemed like Moore was headed straight up his own arse with much of it, he did bring the series home nicely at the end. This issue in particular, though, has remained one of, if not my very, favorite of the whole run due to its clever and fascinating way of enlightening a subject that remains near and dear to my heart, even after all these years.

So, to sum up, it seems to me Mr. Moore gets some stick in a lot of corners, usually from the people who are inclined to be contrarian and simply hate to see anyone or anything praised or highly regarded in what they consider to be excessive or disproportionate fashion. Me, though, I have no problem with the accolades he's been given due to the many, many outstanding works he's given us. Sure, in many cases he's simply recycling ideas he's gleaned from a multitude of sources-- but isn't that what most writers do? Einstein once famously remarked that "The secret of creativity is knowing how to hide your sources", and I believe this to be true. And while he may not be an Einstein, Mr. Moore is a pretty smart fella. Smart enough to take a look at comics, their characters and their tropes, -many sacred, others less so- and rethink many of them. Look at them in a newer, more realistic light. Separate the good stuff from the bullshit and distill them down to their essences, and reshape them to his more level-headed way of thinking. Sure, many other writers have also done this since-- your Morrisons, Ellises, Ennises, Gaimans and so on (notice most of them were from that big UK invasion of the mid-'80s/'90s) have done the same, and it can also be argued that Frank Miller took this tack (in my opinion, he still toed the Marvel House line and kept his innovations squarely in the Spillane-school area, and DD still looked/felt like a Marvel comic) when he revamped Daredevil in the very early '80s...but Moore was one of the first, or at least the first to get my attention in this fashion. To me, that's something remarkable, and it's a shame that all the battles with American comics publishers and all the kerfluffle with Hollywood have seemed to drain his energies and dent his reputation somewhat.

Regardless, while I've been a bit disappointed in recent efforts such as LOEG: Black Dossier and Century, if he writes it, I'll check it out- I still believe in his ability to make, well, magic.

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24 November 2009

Alan Moore Month: A Little Moore Love, Part Two.

Continuing a multi-post look at single issues of Alan Moore-scripted comics that made a lasting impression on me, without citing the usual suspects.

Like most of the titles from Moore's cheekily-named America's Best Comics, Top 10 had a ready-made hook: Hill Street Blues with superheroes. In the Top 10 universe, everyone had superpowers, and an attendant set of rules and regulations for them to follow. This, of course, gave Moore, in tandem with artists Gene Ha and Kevin Cannon, the opportunity to provide a panoply of imaginative characters--some pastiches of established types, some a bit more cleverly disguised. The Top 10 precinct was the hub around which many different storylines revolved; some overlapped, and many went independently of the others, until the climactic events of the final issue of "Season One".

In the period of time that had elapsed between this issue and the last one I wrote about, a span of some 15-plus years, we had found out a great many things about Moore, and he had written a great many of what most consider comics classics; Watchmen of course, From Hell, Killing Joke, and so on. We had found out quite a bit more about the man, as well, such as his disagreements with DC, his stance about the filmed adaptations of his work, and his embrace of witchcraft and pagan religious beliefs, if that's the best way of describing it. When he reemerged, doing stuff like WildC.A.T.S. and Supreme for Image, I figured that he must have some bills to pay or something, and it wouldn't last long. I was quite surprised when he launched the America's Best Comics line, and even more so that he was scripting every title himself- what an insane workload, thought I! But he pulled it off: League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Promethea, Tom Strong, and this title are among his very best extended comics work, in my opinion. He once again exceeded my expectations.

But he also confounded them once or twice as well, and there's no better example of that than this issue, #8, in which Moore gives us a character that is a practicing, born-again, bible-believing Christian, in the middle of the cornucopia of beings and belief systems already established by this point. Her name is Lt. Cathy Colby, code-named Peregrine. She has flight-based abilities. We're given the beginning of her day like this:

A bit of explanation: in the world of Top 10, interplanetary travel is facilitated by Star Trek-like transporter technology. Sometimes accidents happen, as is the case here, in which a giant horse-headed (Beta Ray Bill doppelganger, perhaps?) alien being collides with a craft piloted by a husband and wife returning from vacation, an analogue for Adam Strange and his beloved Alanna. At first, the cause of the collision is unknown, but they report seeing an unknown man-sized shape of some sort. The horse-headed being and the man are slowly dying from being merged, and the wife is already killed. Lt. Colby decides that she needs to stay on the scene and try to figure out what happened, and provide aid if necessary. What happens afterwards has stayed with me ever since I read it, and BEWARE OF SPOILERS. I MEAN IT, I'M GIVING AWAY THE ENDING TO THE PRINCIPAL STORYLINE OF THIS ISSUE NOW:

The dying man asks Lt. Colby if she's a Christian; she replies in the affirmative. The three of them then begin in on a discussion about belief and philosophies that is on the surface somewhat simple, but no less profound for it, and ends on a touching, dramatically nuanced note. Another thing that surprised me as much as anything is that Lt. Colby, the conservative Christian, was not held up to ridicule or cast in a harsh light; she displays empathy and concern, as well as professionalism, until the very end--and this coming from a self-described snake-worshiping anarchist (according to Wikipedia, anyway), who had also begun to hold forth on his personal philosophies and beliefs via Promethea--maybe the last place you'd look to find a sympathetic portrayal of mainstream Christianity. Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised, since Moore's sprawling cast was shown to be made up of a number of different belief types, but this impressed the hell out of me--no pun intended--and even though I am not exactly what you would call a believer myself, I was very happy to see this...it made the ending (as well as my enjoyment of the series as a whole) that much greater.

Defying expectations. As far as I can tell, that's been one constant throughout his career to date.

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17 November 2009

Alan Moore Month: A Little Moore Love Part One

So we're all writing about Alan Moore, here on his birth month, eh? Well, I wanna play too!

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I'll be writing about individual Moore comics that have had the biggest impact on me, beginning with...

Saga of the Swamp Thing #24 (cover date May 1984)
Confession time: I believe (although my memory is spotty) that this is the first Alan Moore comic that I ever read. I certainly don't recall reading any before this. Now, I had always liked Swamp Thing-- bought the original Wein/Wrightson and Michelinie/Redondo 70s issues right off the spinner racks, and while I was happy to see the character get his own book back in the early '80s, the creative team of Martin Pasko and Tom Yeates (who had done, and would go on to do, work I liked a lot) didn't really click as well as I hoped. By issue #15, I had stopped buying, and although I noticed they had changed the writer and artists by #20, I really didn't know who the heck this Alan Moore guy was, or Bissette and Totleben either for that matter, and for all I knew here was another case of replacing a creative team with new, unproven and green talent-- and it would only be a matter of time before the inevitable cancellation. As it turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong. One afternoon, and I still recall this vividly, I was standing in a nearby convenience store, checking out the comics rack (back when convenience stores still HAD comics racks), and happened to glance at the cover of Saga #24, noticing that depicted thereon were members of the Justice League-- but with a difference. Superman, Green Lantern and Co. were standing (in Hawkman's case, hovering in mid air) all around their monitor screen in an otherwise dark satellite, their figures and faces half obscured by darkness, watching Swampy in conflict with a strange looking fellow with leafy Chia-pet style "hair," brown wood-hued skin, and oh yeah- a chain saw. I was intrigued, certainly by the tableau on the screen, but also by Steve Bissette and Tom Yeates' decision to depict the League in this fashion. Paging through it, I was a bit surprised to see that the badguy was Jason Woodrue, The "Fluoronic Man"-- but a radically different one from the fella I was familiar with from the old Gardner Fox/Gil Kane Atom series that I had been collecting at the time. Hooked, I plunked down my three bits, and settled in at home to see what was going on.

Apparently, I saw, this was the conclusion of what (as it turned out) was a four-part story arc, which just happened to contain, two issues prior, the now-legendary "Anatomy Lesson" in #21. Botany expert Woodrue (who, I'm only now finding out, had transformed himself into the plant-guy in a mid-'70s issue of Flash, of all places) had been hired by Pasko's Sunderland Co. to find out the secret of the creation of the Swamp Thing, and by extension the bio-restorative formula that it was assumed had created the monster. Of course, we all know (as Moore conceived it) that wasn't the case at all, and the end result had left Sunderland dead at Swampy's hands, and the Thing himself in a comatose state. Woodrue had eaten one of Swampy's tubers, and suddenly found himself communicating with the plant world in such intense fashion that it drove him absolutely batshit insane, and caused him to set out to take the planet back for the plant world by killing all the "meat sticks", using his vegetation controlling abilities. Things look dire, and eventually it comes to the attention of the 1980's Justice League, consisting of Superman, Zatanna, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Flash, Wonder Woman, and Firestorm, whose hands, it seems, are tied. A standout scene from this issue involves the League throwing out, and dismissing, plans of action in dealing with the threat. Then, fortunately, Swampy emerges from his comatose state (he was really having a hard time dealing n' all), just in time to save Abigail Arcane (who Woody was menacing, dumb idea) and derail the F.M.'s plans...simply by, after resorting (unsuccessfully) to violence, stopping him dead in his tracks with the gravelly voice of reason: if Woodrue kills all the people, who will replenish the carbon dioxide plants need? Woody has been using his great power for his own blind, selfish purposes, and did not represent the Green after all. Almost 30 years later, this message about the abuse of power still rings true.

After putting this comic down, I was-- well, if not dumbstruck, certainly surprised as I recall...this was something that I didn't quite expect. Not so much the whole scenario and resolution of the Woodrue/Swampy conflict, clever and gratifying as it was, but the radically different way that Moore, Bissette and Totleben depicted the League: as near-omnipotent superbeings, grimly observing events in the Louisiana town down below, all wrapped in shadow and mystery...but exhibiting logical extrapolations of character traits we'd seen before. Superman, for instance, probably the most thoughtful rethinking (and Moore always did pretty well by the Man of Steel, actually)-- calmly calculating Woodrue's motivations, and the effect his heretofore unseen abilities were having on the Earth below. This was NOT the standard Len Wein/Gerry Conway/Dick Dillin/George Perez style. This was new, weird and fresh- and it's hard to get across to those versed in the sour superteam books of today exactly how odd it was. See below, and of course click to see all bigger 'n stuff:

You gotta love Bissette and Totleben's callow-looking Firestorm (who was still a teenager in DC continuity then, I believe), as well as Hawkman's placid fatalistic declaration at the end of the page-- Moore has never had more sympathetic collaborators than those two. Superman's response to Firestorm's idea (which many, lesser writers would probably have gone ahead and used if it had been a situation that came up in, say, Firestorm's own book), injects a little humor into what is an otherwise grim scenario. The equally downbeat finale was strong, as well, with Superman and Green Lantern calmly descending from on high in the wake of Swampy's victory to collect the quite obviously broken (in more ways than one) and disoriented Woodrue:

How often do you see, in superhero comics anyway, these characters that have put themselves through some sort of fantastic transformation, actually ponder and reflect on their state? Yet, here's Moore, giving us Woodrue (as he pathetically attempts to make himself "presentable" for his arriving "guests") fretting about how much his bark has grown out...and it's all the more pitiable (and telling about how shameful his defeat was) that he now wants them to think of him as one of the humans he so despised and sought to destroy just hours earlier.

All of this served notice, to me, anyway, that this Moore fella had a different way of approaching these super-beings than what I had become accustomed to seeing, and marked him, in my book, as a writer to watch.

Coming next: Top 10...but not one of the scenes you might be thinking of.

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04 October 2009

She had Seven Seconds to save the world. Part One.

ETA 10/6/09: There were a few factual errors made while writing this, and I've corrected them below. I'll try to do mo' better in parts 2 and up.

Trevor Von Eeden's recent interview in the Comics Journal, along with Michael Fiffe's excellent series of blog posts spotlighting his art over the years (scroll down, they're not tagged), has caused a bit of buzz in some circles about the artist and his work, and one of those works just happens to be an obscure 12-issue mid-80's title called Thriller, created and written by Robert Loren Fleming, and illustrated by Von Eeden, which just happens to be one of my all-time favorite comics series. When I first started an online presence back in the late '90s, it always bothered me that there was nothing much at all to be found online about this comic, and decided I wanted to create a website to spotlight this book which had captivated me for almost 20 years by then. Finally, in 2002, after working on it for almost a year, I launched the site and have had a lot of positive feedback- seems like the book had a lot of fans, just not as many as one would like to keep a series going. I've also been fortunate enough to become online-acquainted with both men, who have shared a lot of information (as well as copies of scripts, and original art) about the series and what it was, what it was intended to be, and what happened to make it fall apart. Anyway, it was suggested to me that I should perhaps write something about the book, since I seem to know a little about it.

So what exactly was this series about, you may wonder, and why has it inspired such a small, but fervent, cult? What happened to Fleming and Von Eeden? What have they done since? Why has Thriller not been revived and revisited like so many other concepts and characters? I'll try to answer most of these questions as best I can in the course of this post, which is looking more and more like part one in a series...

From the comments section, here's Robert Fleming in his own words about the book's genesis:

I first pitched the idea to Dick Giordano on my lonesome, long before Trevor became involved. In fact, my proposal called for the artwork on the series to be in the style of the Steranko-influenced MASTER OF KUNG FU series that Marvel had done, with artists like Gulacy, Zeck and Gene Day! Dick and Paul Levitz liked my proposal and agreed to buy it, and it was Paul who suggested Trevor as the artist, based on the strength of his recent BATMAN ANNUAL. I was extremely receptive to this idea and had already met Trevor in my capacity as DC's proofreader, since one of my duties was to return original art to the artists. The next time that Trevor came in to my office, I started telling him about THRILLER. He became so excited that he raced away to see Dick and nail down the assignment before I was even halfway through my pitch! It was only after we were already a team on THRILLER (but before we'd started work on the series) that Karen Berger thought to give Trevor my House of Mystery script ("Strung-Out!"), which had been sitting in her drawer for some months.

Many thanks to Mr. Fleming and Mr. Von Eeden for their input in the comments!

At some point, it was decided that this new Thriller comic would be one of a small group of titles that DC would print on whiter, superior (to the crappy newsprint paper comics were normally printed on in those days) paper, and even more, be one of a select few that would be distributed to the spankin' new direct market only, not to newsstands and spinner racks. Bob and Trevor's new project was going to be given a high-profile spotlight.

In late summer of 1983, Thriller (cover dated November 1983) hit the stands with more than a little fanfare. Ads (see above, click to see bigger) depicting the cast of the comic in silhouette accompanied with clever taglines like "She had Seven Seconds to save the world" and "Thriller: You can't read it fast enough", appeared in comics-related publications of the day including Amazing Heroes (in an issue which also included a preview and interview with Fleming) and the Comics Buyers Guide. Of course, we're also talking about the ancient days pre-Internet, and the level of buzz that brings...so it took a little while for the reaction to be known. And it wasn't positive. Seems that readers of the day found Fleming's characters hard to put a finger on, and Von Eeden's experimental storytelling mystified them more than it excited them...and many shrugged their shoulders, scratched their heads, and went back to their Claremont/Byrne X-Mens. Then it all really started to unravel. Von Eeden went through some personal difficulties and trials, many of which were outlined in his recent Journal interview, and his interest and enthusiasm waned. He never did less than his best, but he did become somewhat incommunicado with Fleming, who was writing away and getting little, if any, feedback from anyone- especially that of the positive nature. Dick Giordano edited the first few issues, and gave way to new editor Alan Gold; Gold just didn't "get" the book, and Fleming grew more and more frustrated until after writing the script for #7, he had decided he had had enough and walked away from his brainchild. When Von Eeden heard that Fleming had decided to move on, he drew one more issue, by former Warren writer/editor Bill DuBay (at DC by then and looking for work), and then left himself. DuBay wrote four more issues, with art provided by the legendary Filipino artist Alex Nino, but the book did not improve sales-wise, and finally, it was put down after 12 issues. I won't concern myself with the DuBay/Nino issues; they were game, but neither really seemed to get the characters or concepts and did not have the jene sais quoi that Fleming and Von Eeden brought. Nino especially seemed lost, although to his credit he turned in some fine work on its own terms. That was twenty-five years ago, and other than a five-page Ambush Bug story, co-written by Fleming (which starred issue #'s 1-4's villain Scabbard), and a page in one of the Who's Who in the DC Universe series, nothing from Thriller- none of the characters or storylines anyway- have seen print in a DC comic since. Not even a tiny panel in the big Hypertime thing that they tried to introduce several years ago.

Thriller, as Fleming conceived it, was to chronicle the adventures of an extended Italian Catholic family, named the Salvotinis. Remember that word: family- it is very important to the big picture. Inspiration was drawn from the pulps, especially the Shadow and Doc Savage, who both had groups of agents, led by an omniscient, almost supernatural figure, and which assisted them in the battle against evil. It was supposed to take place fifty years in the future, although little effort was spent towards making this future look very futuristic. The core group of characters were referred to as the Seven Seconds, "seconds" as in "assistants", and the nominal leader was Angelina Salvotini Thriller, who, thanks to a genetics experiment conducted by her Nobel Prize-winning genetic scientist and multimillionaire husband Edward Thriller, had become a supernatural ghost-like being, capable of seeing the future, and only able to manifest herself as such phenomena as splinters of glass, bandages, mist, reflections of light, and only physically by merging with her blood relative, brother Tony (more on him later) or with another member of the Seconds, nine-foot tall test-tube baby "Beaker" Parish. Did I mention he was a priest? Who had been taken in by the Salvotini family? Fleming cheekily described Angie as a "cross between Jesus Christ and his Mom". One drawback to Angie's omnipotence was that she was merged with Edward, literally sharing bodies; when he was present, she disappeared and vice versa.

This is where I should stop for a minute and say that this, in a nutshell, was the beauty and yet the undoing of Thriller: it was such a huge pile of odd ideas and characters, and I suppose many who tried to embrace what it had to offer were simply overwhelmed by all the...stuff...that Fleming had cooked up. I would imagine that sometimes it seemed like just too much. Indeed, that was my reaction, as I recall, after I had finished issue #1. But I was more intrigued than off-put. I think I was in the minority.

The other Seconds were the aforementioned Tony "Salvo" Salvotini, Angie's brother and a black leather-clad superhuman marksman who, to be frank (pun intended), looked very much like a somewhat more benign version of Marvel's increasingly-popular Punisher. Tony could shoot a fly off of yonder mesa, as the saying goes, but he absolutely would not, under any circumstances, shoot to kill. He had a motto: "Only out-patients! Only flesh wounds! I won't kill a fly- so don't ask me!". Not exactly "It's Clobberin' Time", but hey- it worked in context. His girlfriend was jet pilot Janet Valentine, who, when not in her pilot outfit, had a "costume" made of white silks, knew how to manipulate bodily sensations (laughing, crying, nausea, etc.) with her fingertips, and was called "White Satin". She looked like Stevie Nicks- TVE admitted using her for inspiration. Edward (not an official Second) had a ward- a young pickpocket and safecracker from the Honduras that he had adopted, named Crackerjack. He was best buds with another Second, Freddie Martin, codenamed Data. Data was a hugely obese man who essentially lived in a Rolls Royce which he controlled via computer circuitry in his brain. This same wetwiring made him super-intelligent. His father was the President of the United States. Robert Furrillo, aka "Proxy", was an actor who had badly burned his skin while freebasing cocaine; he was the test subject for a newly developed synthetic flesh, which enabled him to make himself look like anybody he chose. He had a crush on Satin. I mentioned Beaker Parish earlier, who also served as a helicopter pilot (making him, literally, "help from above") for the team, and finally, the seventh Second: Dan Grove, a cameraman for SNN, Thriller's CNN analogue. He had no extraordinary abilities, unless self-doubt and an inferiority complex qualify. But he turned out to be the focus of the first four issues, in which he served as not only a point-of-view character for the reader to experience the strangeness through, but also as a coming-of-age story of sorts. He's the axis of the book, the Alice through which we visit Wonderland, at least for the first four issues.

And those are just the Seconds. More importantly, you'll notice that no one besides Angie had any sort of extranormal powers; no blasts emitting from fingertips, nobody flew or ran at super-speed or had wings. This was another hallmark of the book, which set it way apart from other titles the Big Two were publishing then. Thriller boasted a fairly large cast, for a brand-new title; other group books, like X-Men or the Justice League, were stuffed full of characters too but the new characters were mixed in with a lot of familiar ones as well. Thriller didn't allow that luxury, and RLF introduced them to us with very little setup, instead letting us get to know them as events unfolded. As someone who had grown accustomed to the spoon-fed scripting style of the Thomases and Claremonts of the comics world, this was fresh and bracing to me, as if I was experiencing these dizzying, heady events along with the book's protagonists (and antagonists), like entering a room full of strangers and trying to organize a group activity.

And that's where I'll finish part one. Next, I'll get into the first four issues, which comprised an arc of sorts. Below, the memorable spread page from #1:

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24 September 2009

This and That, and the always popular Other Thing.

I know my contribution to TWC (as well as my own place) have been somewhat slack, mostly due to a hellish workload lately- now, stay with me, this is not another non-posting apology post. Stuff happens, I'm not losing too much sleep over it. That said, I have been trying to think about what I could do on a more or less regular basis here, and while I do have a couple of pieces in the pipeline (and keep your sewer jokes to yourself, please), they're still a ways away. It did occur to me that I could perhaps post a list of things that I've noticed here and there throughout the Comics Blogospheriverse, with the attendant commentary, so that's what I think I'll do. Now, I know there are no shortages of these sorts of columns throughout said CBverse, and chances are you read them all. I don't presume to be any sort of linkblogger, nowhere near in the same league as Heidi or Tom or Dirk or the fine people who write for Comics Should Be Good or Robot 6 or Blog@Newsarama. However, as always, I do strive to not suck, and try to remain true to my writing voice...and for better or worse, you won't find that at any of the other sites!

So...shall we begin?
  • I didn't really have much of an opinion one way or the other about the whole Kirby Heirs vs. Marvel and Disney thing, in fact, I only knew what I knew from skimming some posts at the aforementioned sites and the buzz on Twitter. I think Steven Grant put it in perspective very well in his latest Permanent Damage column, though. I say, go for it, Kirby Heirs, get what you can, and hopefully a satisfactory solution can be reached. And to those who whine about how Kirby knew what he was getting into when he did all that wonderful work back in the day, since when does knowing you're getting screwed make a difference when you don't have choices? If Wal-Mart is the only game in town, and you need to feed your family, then by God you're going to go hat in hand to Wally World and put up with it till something better comes along. And unfortunately for the King, by the time something better came along, he was in the twilight of his career. It wasn't like Kirby could tell Martin Goodman and Stan Lee or Irwin Donenfeld to take their jobs and go to hell and take his fertile imagination and start his own comics company- and nobody self-published on the level at which he was accustomed to in those days, either. As a product of the WWII generation, he did what he had always done- cooperate and pitch in to make his situation work. He was getting a wage, and he felt like he needed to justify it...and pitching ideas to Stan was one way of making comics the way he wanted to do it. Means to an end, if you will. People forget that then isn't now, and modern business practices in the comics industry (for good or ill) didn't exist. And don't worry- it will be in Marvel/Disney's best interests to settle in order to maintain control over these properties. They won't let the Kirbys take them away, which I doubt they'd want to do anyway, none of them being publishers.

  • I am finding myself wondering, and if it was mentioned in Blake Bell's otherwise fine book I missed it...but does Steve Ditko have any heirs? Did the man ever marry? Have kids? Does he have a sister somewhere in western Pennsylvania that he will leave whatever passes for his estate to? Or will he be buried at state's expense when he passes, if he ever does? Don't mean to be morbid, but I would think that Steve (not that he would pursue it) or his heirs, if they exist, would have a pretty good reason to take similar legal action, get their share of the pie, so to speak, for not only Spider-Man but Doc Strange as well. Just the type of rampant supposition that you don't find at respectable comics news sites!
  • A few comics that have made an impression lately: Ghost Rider: Heaven's on Fire #'s 1 & 2- I've never really been a big fan of the Ghost Rider character, but I am an admirer of Jason Aaron's scripting, and I've been reading all over the place about how good his take was, so I broke down and checked the first two issues (I think #3 comes out next week)- and imagine my surprise when it turns out to be a continuation of Warren Ellis' excellent 1990's refurbishing of the Daimon Hellstorm/Son of Satan character! I am on record as being an unabashed fan of Ellis' short-lived run, and while others have brought the character back in years since, none of them had the same, proper mix of dry wit and Lee Marvin-style badassery...until now. He even brought back Daimon's girlfriend in that series, "occult terrorist" Jaine Cutter. There are tweaks- Daimon has a shaved head and goatee now instead of shoulder-length hair and five o'clock shadow- but all of them work just fine. Aaron's one of the best writers going right now, and this somewhat-gnarly storyline, continued from a previous series (but not especially hard to follow because of it), is shaping up nicely, and Aaron seems to be having a blast. Beasts of Burden#1 reunites Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson on the animal characters from Dark Horse's Books of... series; I own two of the four, and read the BoB stories in those, but I hate to say I found myself at a bit of a loss when it came to figuring out this dog from that dog and that cat from that cat, and if I don't identify, I don't feel the tragedy when something bad happens to one or more of them. Definitely one time you should acquaint yourself with the previous stories, and you can do just that right here. Anyway, the main attraction for me isn't the premise, or even Dorkin's serious scripting side (to one who came to his humor work first, it's interesting to see him expand his palette)- it's Thompson's wonderful watercolor artwork. Now, I know nothing about "serious" art circles these days, or who the best watercolor artists are...but based on what I've seen here and elsewhere, she's got to be in the conversation. I've tried to paint in watercolors, and let me tell you it's fucking HARD. She makes it look effortless. Models, Inc.#1- So now, on the heels of the better-than-you-expected Marvel Divas, we get the Mighty Marvel Model Stable, all in action, all in the present day, and all with modern continuity intact- Patsy "Hellcat" Walker is indeed the very same member of the Avengers who starred in her own funnish miniseries, was married to the aforementioned Son of Satan, and is doing double duty in Divas. Millie the Model's the nominal star, but Hedy Wolfe, Chili Storm (she's a LESBIAN, the writer wishes us to know), and others all get their turn in the spotlight. It's an uneasy mix of what used to be fun and what we get in its stead now, and I wish the art was a little more idiosyncratic and less plain, but it works in spite of itself and while I'm sure the rank and file X-buyer won't be bothered, I think I'll see where it goes. Finally, it's official: I was intrigued by Blackest Night there for a little while, but that dog has gone hunting and won't come back. It's just not yanking my crank, if you know what I mean.

  • Speaking of Aaron, he recently informed his readers that he signed a contract with DC/Vertigo that ensures that his masterful Scalped series will at least make it to issue #49, and you have to believe that they'd at least squeeze out a #50 before it was over. This makes me happy, and I hope it does you too.
  • Artist Trevor Von Eeden recently informed all his Facebook friends, of which I am honored to be one, that he had recently secured the rights to re-ink and publish his Original Johnson, which had originally been serialized at ComicMix.com. Here's what he wrote: Mike Gold requested a sit-down with me last August--and told me that the pages from "The Original Johnson" that were inked by Don Hillsman were done on overlays (for Internet presentation) and that my original pencils are to be inked by me--for the print publication of the book. I said "Ok." We had no further problems. My book is mine again. Johnson was some of the most committed and original work I had seen from Von Eeden in many years, and it's great news that he's going to take it further.
  • I've written about this in other places, but not here, and I want to draw as much attention to the plight of writer Steve Perry as I can. Perry co-created (with artist Tom Yeates) and scripted one of my all-time favorite comics series, the mid-80's Marvel/Epic Timespirits...and, down on his luck in recent years, he's been diagnosed with cancer and is destitute to boot. Recently, his friend, artist Steve Bissette, posted an entreaty on his blog, asking anyone who could to help him by sending money to help him meet his expenses. Apparently, it's doing some good, as this more recent post bears out. I hope that if you can, you'll find it in your heart to help out.
  • I like the Cyclone character in Justice Society of America, another in a long line of redhead comics characters that I've been fond of over the years. Cf. Killraven, Son of Satan (see above), Kinetix of the Legion of Super-Heroes. She's cute and fun, or at least as cute and fun as a DC character gets these days. I'm surprised she's avoided rape and evisceration so far. Maybe that will happen in the new title she's apparently been farmed out to; I don't know. I won't buy- the mother book has become increasingly leaden and dull, and I don't see this being any better.

  • I see where DC plans to release a hardcover reprint edition of Steve Ditko (and Dennis O'Neil)'s Beware the Creeper; I approve of this, and if you can afford it, then go for it. I can't, so I won't...but I still have my original copies, so I'm content. You'll be getting what I consider Ditko's last hurrah before he slowly slid into irrelevance. The stories are nothing special, but the character has a kooky charm, and the art is '60s Ditko good in a lot of places. The rest of the volume is padded with Steve's late '70s return to the character via World's Finest, and it's weak beer indeed.

  • Finally, your art appreciation this week is Mr. Eric Canete, whose dynamic, energetic work on the recent Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin miniseries had me raving and keeps me mentioning it two years later. Here's his blog, and here's his new Deviantart site. At right, a recent commissioned illo of Zatanna. Click to see even bigger.

Hey! That's all I got for now. Maybe we should do this again real soon! Thanks for reading.

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15 September 2009

So Come On, Ye Childhood Heroes, or 15 Pop Songs That Reference Comics

I like music, you know, and I like comics. Many musicians do as well. Over the years, many have referenced comic books and characters in their songs. While mulling over what I'd like to put up for my first TWC post, it occurred to me that it might be kinda fun to make a list of 15 that crossed my mind (and were also suggested via Twitter by some kind folks that will be mentioned), since everybody likes lists, right? So here goes. As usual, in no particular order save that in which I think of them.

1. That's Really Super, Supergirl- XTC
Andy Partridge is a well-known comics fan, and while he's made many references to all things comicsy in nature, this track, from what is arguably XTC's finest album Skylarking, is probably the most overtly comicsy. That said, it's not specifically about the Maid of Might- it's more of a bitter tirade against a young lady, most likely Andy's wife at the time, who is causing him grief. Its bouncy melody, full of Todd Rundgren studio trickery, belies the sarcastic nature of the words. Even so, he can't help but cleverly work in all sorts of references to the Superman mythos, such as Jimmy Olsen's constant references to being in a "jam", and the Fortress of Solitude. Here's an interview with Partridge about the song. You can listen to it here. Other XTC tracks to mention comics were the Black Sea track "Sgt. Rock (Is Going To Help Me)" and "Braniac's Daughter", written for the pseudonymous Dukes of Stratosphear project.

2. Evangeline- Matthew Sweet
Much was made, at the time of the release of the album from whence this came- 1991's Girlfriend- about how Power Popper Sweet was a huge manga and anime fan, even to the extent of releasing a video, for the title song, which featured clips from the anime Space Adventure Cobra. His fanboyism didn't end with product from Nippon, either- the album also featured a tribute to the Chuck Dixon/Judith Hunt/Ricardo Villagran series Evangeline as well (a series I'm not familiar with save by title alone), sung from the point of view of (according to Wikipedia) character "Johnny Six". It's a loping hard-rocking track with a searing guitar riff, and some wonderful harmony vocals. It's a highlight of one of the best albums of the 90's, in my opinion of course. Hear it here.

3. Waiting For A Superman (Is It Gettin' Heavy?)- the Flaming Lips
I won't lie- it's hard for me to be impartial about the Lips' 1999 release The Soft Bulletin, a marvelously imaginative and extraordinarily tuneful rumination of death, loss, grief, mortality, and perseverance in the face of same, made even more poignant by Wayne Coyne's fragile voice. "Waiting" is just that, the singer's admonition to himself and his listeners that there's really only so much one can do in the face of overwhelming problems, and must hold on to hope. To wit:

Tell everybody waiting for Superman
That they should try to hold on best they can
He hasn't dropped them, forgot them or anything
It's just too heavy for Superman to lift

Since Warner Bros. removed all their video content from YouTube in a hissy fit a couple of years ago, it's damn near impossible to find a video for you to sample, but here's a TV performance from the year of Bulletin's release.

4. Magneto and Titanium Man- Paul McCartney & Wings
Everybody knows about this one, from 1975's Venus and Mars (are Alright Tonight) album. Sir Paul namechecks not only Magneto and Titanium Man, but another Iron Man adversary, the Crimson Dynamo, in what amounts to yet another silly love song, albeit one with a nice Jimmy McCullough guitar solo. Sample it here. The McCartneys and helpmates also famously (well, in comics circles anyway) met Jack Kirby on the subsequent 1976 Wings Over America tour.

5. Elton John- Dan Dare (Pilot of the Future)
John and Bernie Taupin namecheck the British comics stalwart in a pretty fun tune from his 1975 Rock of the Westies release. Not to beat my own drum, but go here for more. To listen, go here.

6. The Kinks- Plastic Man
OK- this 1969 cut, which first saw US release on the notorious Reprise cash-grab 1973 kompilation The Great Lost Kinks Album (after the band had signed with another label; they were not consulted or amused and sued to have it deleted)- doesn't actually have anything to do with Jack Cole's pliable Eel O'Brien; actually, it's Ray Davies once again pointing out a fellow who is living a drab, ordinary, menial existence a la "Shangri-La", "Mr. Pleasant", and the like. It rocks quite nicely in its music-hall way, and inexplicably not a success when released in the UK as a single in '69. Go here and judge for yourself. The Kinks would later namedrop more comics characters in the late 70's, such as Captain America ("Catch Me Now I'm Falling") and of course Superman ("Wish I Could Fly Like...").

7. Donovan- Sunshine Superman
Another well-known superhero namedrop-fest slash love song, in which the groovy 60's troubadour mentions not only Kal-El but Green Lantern as well. You've all heard this one, I'll bet, but if not, well, here's another YouTube link!

8. (Whatever Happened to the) Teenage Dream- T.Rex
From 1974's UK-only album Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders of Tomorrow comes this track, which mentions the Silver Surfer in the course of Marc Bolan's free-associated lyrics, which mostly deal with looking back to a simpler time. "Teenage" was pretty much the last go-round for what had been thought of as the "T.Rex Sound", i.e., howling guitar solos, lush strings, and a vaguely 50's-style doo-woppish melody married to Bolan's often odd lyrics. Marc had pretty much renounced this approach a year earlier, with the gospel/soul touches of the Tanx album, though, and this was not a hit, released as a single in Britain as the public and press had begun to tire of "T.Rextasy". Youtube! Since Zinc was not released in the US at the time, and Reprise in America had dropped T.Rex, "Dream" ended up seeing issue in the US on a late-1974 compilation album titled Light of Love (which combined Zinc tracks with Bolan's Zip-Gun tunes) on Casablanca Records, which later became prominent via KISS and Donna Summer. Didn't help Marc's commercial fortune, though. Marc also namedropped Dr. Strange in the lyrics to his 1971 Electric Warrior cut "Mambo Sun".

9. Puffy Amiyumi- Teen Titans Theme
The J-Pop duo, formerly known as "Puffy" but renamed with the addition of the girls' names in order to avoid confusion with Sean Combs, were approached to record the theme song for Cartoon Network's new animated series, which was overtly anime-inspired and starred the DC Comics superteam. Puffy's ace in the hole was their producer-songwriter Andy Sturmer, late of the sadly missed pop-rockers Jellyfish, and he constructed a rocking track that mixed elements of the old Johnny Rivers hit "Secret Agent Man" with the duo's charming vocals...and to many, this song was one of the highlights of the show's entire run. It also led to the girls getting their own toon show on CN, Hi Hi Puffy Amiyumi, about which the less is said the better. A fuller version ended up on their excellent 2003 release Nice. Watch!

10. Black Sabbath- Iron Man
This one, a classic from the early days of the legendary metal group, doesn't really seem to have anything to do with the Marvel Comics hero, instead dealing with a more generic sort of giant robot monster. ETA: David Wynne, in the comments, informs me that Sabs bassist Geezer Butler did indeed write the lyrics with Tony Stark in mind, but changed them around to avoid any copyright hassle (I suppose Marvel in 1969-1970 had a few lawyers to look out for). Thanks, Dave! Still, the lyric fudging didn't prevent the makers of the Iron Man movie from using the song in the end credits. Ozzy!

11. Crash Test Dummies- Superman's Song
A melancholy tribute to Clark Kent and his alter ego, by the band which everyone loved or hated, seems like there was no in between. For my part, I really liked "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm". Viddy, o my droogies!

12. 10cc- Life is a Minestrone
Another of 10cc's typically wry and witty tunes, from 1975's The Original Soundtrack, which sports the following:

Minnie Mouse has got it all sewn up
She gets more fan mail than the Pope
She takes the mickey out of all my phobias
Like signing cheques to ward off double pneumonia

We also get a Minnie-like voice saying "C'mon, Pluto" after the first line. When these guys were hitting on all cylinders, I loved 'em. Mini-mini-mini-minestrone.

13. Blue Oyster Cult- Black Blade
OK- "More Cowbell! More Cowbell!" Happy? OK, now that that crap's out of the way, here's a hard-rocking cut which appeared on 1980's Cultosaurus Erectus album. Eric Bloom, the band's (mostly) lead singer, had been collaborating with writer Michael Moorcock on a handful of songs which saw release on several of their albums at about this time, and this one is (of course) a tribute to Moorcock's arguably most famous creation, Elric of Melnibone, and his ebony blade which stole the souls of those it killed. And yes, this qualifies- there have been many Elric comics over the years. In the mid-70's, writer David Kraft actually crafted a story arc of The Defenders by using concepts and ideas gleaned from BOC albums, especially 1976's Agents of Fortune. You can find almost anything on YouTube!

14. R.E.M.- Superman
From Life's Rich Pageant, another track which isn't specifically about Superman the comic book character, but someone who plans to use his imagined "superpowers" to keep tabs on the object of his affection. It speaks to how much of a cutural icon Superman is that his name has come to stand for any being with extraordinary abilities. A cover of a 1969 song by a group called The Clique, this one's tacked on to the end of the album, and comes across as sort of an afterthought- Mike Stipe didn't care to sing its admittedly stalkerish lyric, so he left it to Mike Mills, who contributed his first lead vocal to an R.E.M. album. Me, I like it- it's very catchy, with circus-like organ and hard-hitting guitar. Why stop linking to YouTube now?

15. Jethro Tull- Thick as a Brick
Tull's first album-length song suite boasts the following lyric:

Come on ye childhood heroes!
Won't you rise up from the pages of your comic-books
your super crooks
and show us all the way.
Well! Make your will and testament. Won't you?
Join your local government.
We'll have Superman for president
let Robin save the day.

Yep, that's where the post title came from! British hero Biggles gets a mention later as well. Here's the rest of the words, co-credited to the fictional Gerald Bostock . Go here for a vid of Tull performing this in 1978.

And that's my 15! I know there are many, many, many more I've left off, including Wet Willie's "Comic Book Hero" (about, that's right, Superman), the Sensational Alex Harvey Band's cutesy 20's-Jazz-style "Sgt. Fury" (from The Impossible Dream, 1974), The Beatles' "(The Continuing Adventures of) Bungalow Bill" (The Beatles, 1968), in which Captain Marvel is described as zapping someone "right between the eyes- ZAP!"; Also, from Twitter: The Monkees' "Randy Scouse Git" (Micky refers to his girlfriend as "Wonder Girl") and "Oklahoma Backroom Dancer" ("She dances on air, just like Superman's child."), thanks to Johanna D. Carlson for those two; "Pocket Full of Kryptonite" by the Spin Doctors, and "Absurd" by Fluke, thanks to "Yes, that" Ted Naifeh; Biohazard- "Punishment", Henry Rollins- "Ghost Rider", "Sidekick"- Rancid (Wolverine), G//Z/R- Detective 27, Anthrax-"I Am The Law", Billy Connoly- "Supergran", thanks David Wynne; and Last Emperor- "Secret Wars Part 1 and Part 2", thx David Brothers; and "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugar Hill Gang, with its mention of "super-sperm" (SwanShadow).

If you know others, please list them in the comments!

ETA 9/16/09: How could I forget about Prince's "Batdance"!?! Anyway, I'd link to a video but I seriously doubt I could find one...

You know him, you love him, you can't live...aw, you know him, anyway, and Johnny Bacardi can also be found at his own blog, as well as on the Twitter.

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12 September 2009

Data Sheet: Johnny Bacardi

NAME: David Allen Jones, actually, if you must know

BIRTHPLACE: Glasgow, Kentucky, United States of America.

AMBITIONS: To drink cup after cup of this here grog. To string sentences together in an intelligent fashion. To draw something I don't hate when I'm done. To retire and drink, play golf and paint all day. Perhaps even at the same time.

TURN-ONS: Comics, music, movies, sports, TV, books, good booze, good cigars, a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.

TURNOFFS: Narrow-mindedness. Excessively religious people, you know the kind, the ones that ooze it and get it all over you if you're not careful. Stress. Poison gas. I really hate that.

GREAT COMICS: The Spirit by Will Eisner and Various Assistants, specifically the period from the mid to late 1940's and early 50's. Lee & Ditko's Spider-Man, Lee & Kirby's Fantastic Four, Love & Rockets, WE3, Starstruck, Andy Helfer & Kyle Baker's Shadow, The Archie Goodwin-edited Warren magazines. Name your favorite EC comic here. Calvin & Hobbes, Times Squared, Flex Mentallo...and the list goes on and on and on. Perhaps I'll even write about some of them someday.

FAMILY LIFE: Wonderful wife, two grown kids (boy and girl), two grandchildren (yep), two dogs, one cat. Lots of birds that mooch off me in my back yard via four (!) feeders.

FAVORITE FOOD: Chinese, Mexican, Italian. Hard to be more specific- I like to eat.

WHAT I LIKE IN COMICS: Things which challenge and inspire the mind and the eye, and a sense that the creator is at least half as engaged with his or her creation as he or she would like for me to be.

WHAT I DISLIKE IN COMICS: Cynicism, especially that of the unearned variety; Uninspired, cookie-cutter artists trained only to draw like someone who is perceived as "successful"; silverfish. I really hate seeing silverfish in my comics.

FAVORITE CREATORS: Mike Kaluta, Mike Mignola, Howard Chaykin, Jaime Hernandez, Alex Toth, Richard Sala, Don McGregor, Archie Goodwin (god rest his soul), Sean Phillips, Doug Mahnke, P. Craig Russell, Jill Thompson, Bill Everett, Jerry Grandenetti, et cetera, et cetera...

FAVORITE MUSICIANS: Beatles together and solo, Nilsson, T.Rex, the Beach Boys, Mott the Hoople, Ian Hunter, Bowie, Nick Drake, Zappa, Monkees, Mike Nesmith, ELO, The Move, Roy Wood, the Stones, Kinks, Lloyd Cole, Bob Dylan, Kate Bush, Neil Young, Jellyfish, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Eels, Cibo Matto, R.E.M., the Replacements, Paul Westerberg, Masters of Reality, Prince, Flaming Lips, Parliament/Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins, George Clinton, XTC, Tim Buckley, Todd Rundgren, Faces, pre 1976 Rod Stewart, pre 1977 Elton John, Mick Ronson, King Crimson, Strawbs, Roger McGuinn, John Prine, Roxy Music, Jethro Tull, Sandy Denny, Maria Muldaur, Wendy Waldman, 10cc, Godley+Creme, Sparklehorse, Steve Earle, Wilco, the Jayhawks, Ron Sexsmith, et cetera, et cetera...well, you asked!

IDEAL EVENING: Two hot babes, a bottle of rum, fine cigars, and a hot tub. In reality, I'm fine with a cold drink, something good on the TV, my laptop next to me to Twitter if it tickles my fancy, and a stack of comics to perhaps peruse if the mood strikes. And two hot babes to read them to me.

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