Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Music to kill by

Here is my list of the Top Ten songs (with links to videos) that provides the perfect theme music to play in the head of any serial killer while he or she goes about their work:

10) Every Breath You Take - The Police

9) Eyes Without A Face - Billy Idol

8) If I Was Invisible - Clay Aiken

7) Evergreen - Barbra Streisand

6) Love Is A Stranger - Eurythmics

5) Gotta Get Back - Shelby Lynne

4) A World Without Love - Peter and Gordon

3) Makin' It - David Naughton

2) The Look of Love - Sergio Mendez and Brasil '66

1) Possession - Sarah McLaughlin

Monday, October 29, 2007

Grocery Store Artifact: Unfortunate Halloween toy

The Pez website lists this candy dispenser as the "Glow in the Dark Mummy" but to me it says "Blackface Minstrel Pez".

I may be seeing controversy or insensitivity where none exists or was intended, but the resemblance to the unlamented cartoon caricatures of people of African descent is uncanny.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Dead or Alive: Chichén Itzá edition

Whenever I see photos of the Great Ball Court at Chichén Itzá, I don't see those big stone rings up on the walls as goals to shoot a ball through, which seems to be the accepted use. Those rings are pretty small and placed really high up from the ground. The rings being so far above the court would lead to some frustrating and extended games for players and spectators alike. A missed goal probably means the ball flies over the wall and keeps landing in the spectator seats. I don't see how anyone could win at a game like that.

I've always thought of the rings as anchors for a net or barrier, something that would separate the opposing teams during play, somewhat like a volleyball net.

I've read plenty of educational entries in books, articles and on the internet that states the rings are the goals and not anchors, but I have never read or seen any of the scholarly source material that concludes how the game was set up and played from the available evidence. As far as I can determine it is just another one of those accepted facts that everyone "knows" is true because every resource claims it is.

I could be entirely wrong, but it never hurts to always look at things with new eyes.

Science rules!

Cause ev'ry girl crazy 'bout a sharp dressed man

Found in San Diego in a collection of old photos.

Unfortunately, the Date and Place Taken fields of this souvenir photograph on the reverse were left blank. So the subject and origin of this photo will probably remain unknown.

Text on the reverse:
Taken by the Photomatic
International Mutoscope Reel Co., Inc.
New York City

Thursday, October 25, 2007

San Diego still better than any place in Maryland

My Dad was out camping when the fire got a little close and was told to evacuate by the Rangers.

So they packed up all the horses and came home. This is what the highway looked like on the way back.

At the grocery store I work our sales have doubled above normal for this time of year all week, and we have been out of water, eggs and bread for days. As fast as product comes in and gets out on the sales floor it is sold. I'm seeing a lot of panic-buying, but also many people are purchasing stuff for friends who are displaced from home and for donations to disaster relief. 300,000 people being displaced requires a lot of food to migrate and the supply system can't adapt quickly enough not to have shortages.

Everyone in my family is okay and not affected by the fires except for sinus headaches due to the particulate matter in the air caused by falling ash and soot. Others are not so lucky.

Test marketing shows it sells well in Texas and South Dakota

And all along I believed that Whitey made sure people didn't succeed in life.

From Adventures in the Unknown #99
(August 1958).

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Stargate: M*A*S*H-lantis

For those too young to have seen the show in it's first run, M*A*S*H was a powerhouse of Thursday television night for over 11 seasons, based on the hit movie of the same name. The show was a dramatic comedy about the staff of a mobile army field hospital in Korea during the 1950s. The show exposed the sometimes ridiculous and more often terrible effects of war. While set during the Korean conflict, the film and television show is considered by many to be an allegory for the Vietnam war, which was fresh in the public consciousness during the life of the show. The show is still being broadcast in syndication and is available for purchase on DVD.

"Dreams" was an episode of that seminal television show that was initially broadcast on February 18, 1980. It was generally well-received for it's anti-war message and is fondly remembered by fan of the show for it's stark emotional portrayal and the effects of the conflict on people, both military and civilian.

In "Dreams", the hospital staff endure various nightmares as they attempt to come to grips with the horrors of war and the traumatic disruptions to their personal lives and psyches. M*A*S*H was not the first to explore this plot device and was not the last, as it is a handy way to explore characterization and give depth to a story. The "Nightmare" plot is one of several common and easy story devices used over a wide range of media. Many examples can be found to have been utilized time and again over the years in various print, comic book, movie and television stories. Another familiar story device is that of enemies being locked or trapped someplace together, who later come to a grudging understanding of each other, though usually the status quo of their mutual enmity returns by the following episode or chapter.

The recycling of the "Nightmare" plot was baldly evidenced in the October 19, 2007 episode of Stargate: Atlantis, "Doppelganger".

Stargate: Atlantis is not the most original show, being somewhat derivative of the final seasons of Earth: Final Conflict given the similarities of the predatory villains. But I like the various Stargate series and SG: Atlantis it has a sense of humor about it in the Been there, Done that portrayal of recent addition Amanda Tapping to the show as Colonel Sam Carter.

What is most disappointing as a fan is that the recent episode of SG:A is unoriginal and very similar to the M*A*S*H "Dreams" episode from start to finish. Several of the dream sequences were even in similar settings (namely, the water sequences of Nurse Margaret O'Hoolihan and Scientist Rodney McKay and the military personnel in a hospital setting). The episodes are similar enough that one could easily label it a direct rip-off and even though the basic premise of each show is similar (military personnel in a foreign setting), and it was clearly inspired by the M*A*S*H episode. It would be too charitable to call this episode of SG:A an homage to the war drama. I prefer my Science Fiction to be a bit fresher in practice and this episode came off as formulaic at best.

If you have the means to do so and a little time I urge you to watch the two episodes in their entirety for the geek of it, but here is a little sample from the finale of both of the shows to illustrate their similarities.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Faster than a speeding bullet

This may be the first instance of Superman out pacing a bullet to it's intended target.

Panels from Action Comics #8 (January 1939)

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Why I'm not upset about Big Barda dying

I am not as annoyed as some comic book fans of the off-panel death of Big Barda in her kitchen. At least for this post I won't be addressing the typical contempt that publishers seem to hold for a good portion of their customer base. WFA has many links to the pulling of this month's tiger's tail perpetrated by DC, so check them out.

Instead, I'll go over what I think is happening with the New Gods over all.

Only those not familiar with comic books will believe for a second that Steve Rogers will not return as Captain America, Superboy won't be back in some form and that the New Gods will be dead forever.

I have no doubt that DC is merely rebooting the sometimes campy, though brilliant, characters that Jack Kirby created. I may be wrong, but I am expecting that the New Gods pantheon will be re-imagined somewhat like the finale to DC's Lords of the Ultra-Realm in order to breathe a new life into the concept and extend their marketability. It is possible that DC is re-creating them in order to diminish the hold Kirby or his estate may have on the concept, be it legally or in the minds of die hard fans.

Would I like Barda and pals to remain static and never change? Sure I would. I love them as they are. But even in the current creative climate of fast and loose continuity all characters must evolve or at least have the illusion of growth. There are some amazingly bad and goofy concepts in there and many characters, like Desaad, are criminally misused and weakly portrayed at best. A re-imagining is probably the best way to go about making the Fourth World characters a bit more interesting and contemporary.

So I figure that what is being torn out of the New Gods isn't so much as their hearts, but the "God Essence" that makes them what they are. The body is merely a shell that is unimportant and can be left behind. Of course, knowing Starlin, the divine spark that is being forcibly recalled from the gods is probably being used as fuel for some ultimate weapon of destruction by a villain or anti-hero. In the end I suspect that all the captured souls will be reformed into an all new pantheon of Gods for DC to play with.

Mimi


From Popular Mechanix (December 1962, March 1963 & June 1963).

Scandalfreude

What a surprise!

No, not really.

I feel all warm inside like I just ate a great, big home made brownie fresh from the oven.

The day seems a little bit brighter.

Be sure to read the Big List o' Charges.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Super-Nature vs Super-Nurture

Today the character of Superman is known as a big weeping boyscout, but it wasn't always that way. That characterization that he must always be perfect, good and kind is at odds with most story-telling and at times causes restrictions to creativity. But once upon a time Superman was seriously flawed, had a bad temper and was very much at odds with the status quo instead of being a tool of the system.

That a superhero is fighting the establishment is something of a cliche now, having been explored most famously by Marvel Comics in the character of Peter Parker as Spider-Man (and enjoying something of a revival with many characters in Marvel after the Civil War story lines). But Superman was different from the comic characters that would ape his success later. In his early days, Superman was a vigilante who was sought after by the authorities for rabble-rousing and his upsets of the system. The authorities were annoyed that Superman he did not follow the rules, didn't "understand" how things worked and often did a better job than them of catching crooks. Superman cut through red tape by taking direct action and was the symbol of the frustrated working class who did not have the resources to fight injustice or better their situation. Superman basically embodied revolution in one body and that worried those in charge.

In Action Comics #8 (January 1939), Superman comes to the aid of a group of dead-end kids. Lured into organized crime by a Fagin-like criminal, the kids are double-crossed and given up to the police when their crimes begin to lead back to him. Superman gets involved and violently frees all the captured youths from the police.

Once Superman proved himself as a tough-guy of the mean streets, the kids vow to change their ways and go straight since any feller so tough is awright with them. Superman then opines that the kids are dangerous, murdering delinquents due to their living in a ghetto and sets a plan into motion to force the government to rectify their living conditions, thereby halting all crime.
Superman accomplishes this by organizing strikes and petitions and creating greater public awareness of the plight of the poor. Just kidding! Actually, Superman forces the authorities take care of their citizens by making homeless refugees of the ghetto residents, attacking the city and destroying the slums by smashing up all the buildings and infrastructure with his bare hands.

Since no government could possibly remain idle while a force of nature wreaks havoc on a city, the military is called to respond and put a halt to Superman's urban renewal efforts. Unable to stop Superman with ground troops the government then escalates the situation and applies a scorched earth policy using fighter aircraft. The attacking airplanes swiftly finish the job Superman started by bombing the the ghetto and leveling the entire district, turning it into a gutted wasteland while in the process failing to even muss Superman's spit-curl.

Unlike in the real world, after a disaster the administration of the DC Universe swiftly replaces the destroyed slums with modern, clean and affordable housing instead of rezoning the land for the construction of casinos, golf courses and luxury tourist destinations.

In a few years time Superman would go on to become little more than a one-man branch of the Department of Defense and unquestioningly support any authority figure and policy that draped itself in an American flag. This boy scout image of Superman is a persona he has been unable to successfully change in spite of the best efforts of the comic book creators of the 90s. Superman's plan to give people a second chance at life and hope for the future by enabling people to overcome their environment and lead happy, productive lives failed miserably. This was possibly due to Superman being an alien who grew up in Kansas and he may have been unfamiliar with human nature and the concept of "pooping where you sleep". In very little time the new urban centers that held such promise would be not-so-affectionately known as "Suicide Slum" and is considered one of the most crime-ridden, blighted and dangerous sections of Metropolis.

Friday, October 19, 2007

The Mailman

Classic advertisement for a correspondence school drawn by advertisement illustrator Neal Adams, who would later influence a generation of artists with his comic book work in the 1960s.

From Popular Mechanics (September 1959). This as also appeared about a year earlier in the same magazine.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Second Amendment porn

"...the excitement will erupt full force, and one of life's greatest moments will be upon him. We are witnessing the making of a man."
From Mechanix Illustrated (June 1963).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Joe Kubert goes trick-or-treating!

Other than the cover with all the neighborhood kids checking out Connie Rod's breasts, there isn't much about Halloween in this month's PS Magazine featuring the gritty war-torn art of Joe Kubert (and school).

Things to look for in this issue:

Living, speaking death machines eager to be on the attack!

M-16's don't work right when paper is used to fix them!

Proper uses of the field shovel and torque wrench!

What end of the ear-plug to insert during various noisy jobs!

Camouflage vest replacement!

Order the correct lubricant!

Braking and roll-over prevention!

PS Magazine is not just for mechanics!

Celebrity renderings of George Foreman and his famous grill, Jan Ernst Matzeliger and Garrett Morgan!

Get it here free in pdf format and let the government record your patriotic IP address!

The origins of out-of-context comic book humor?

Most bloggers are content to mine the Golden and Silver Ages of comic illustrations for their out-of-context funny bits. The recent decades have been a little sparse with the type of sight gags we rely on, primarily due to the fact that "anything goes" in comics now days. Before the 90s, comic book publishers had to behave much more than they do presently and had to be a bit more stealthy in their creative subversions. The Comics Code Authority and prior to that, public opinion, caused many comic book authors to rebel against the restraints upon their creativity by inserting imagery and dialog that could easily be mis-construed as something other than perfectly innocent.

But it isn't just from the 1940s - 1960s that offers material for bloggers to post non-ironic or uninsightful gags about sexuality and misogyny long after the subject stopped being funny. I for one don't just confine myself to comic books. I delve much further back and into other media.

As Pulps are the precursors to comic books and Fanzines are the cost-effective ancestor of the blog, so do out-of-context images come from a much older and little recognized source, that of the hardbound novel.

Once upon a time long before television and computers books existed by the millions and people read them. People not only read novels but they treasured them and passed them on to friends, family and strangers so they could also enjoy them. Old books usually had lavish, beautiful illustrated full color panels. Some were even hand-colored for each copy of the book and not mass-reproduced by machine. And what's more, the illustrations were listed in the contents and had their own individually numbered pages. This is rare today and not normally available unless the book is an expensive special edition of some kind.

So it was while book-hunting in a Hillcrest thrift shop that I discovered Mazli - A Story of the Swiss Valleys by Johanna Spyri (J.P. Lippincott, 1921). I purchased it for the nice colored panels but later realized that the art by Maria L. Kirk were early examples of the classic out-of-context gag that so many of us bloggers utilize in our desperate bid to be noticed by our peers and linked to by WFA and the big professional websites. Really, the captions just make my case for me.

Oh, this is hilarious! I don't know what's going on here, but except for that stomped flat dead skunk in the bottom of the panel, it sure is a sexy scene!

I can guess! Shenanigans!

Note how intently the boy is staring at the chest of the young girl. Did all that furious and unnecessary hand-shaking make her breasts jiggle? I think it did.

I'll sum up this picture for you: FREE-LOVE COMMUNE.

So is the Mazli novel and the questionable illustrations within the origin of out-of-context comic book humor? Probably not, as I am sure their are even earlier examples. For as long as there have been creative types there have also been those who are too dimwitted or repressed to allow free expression. Under those circumstances true artists of whatever medium will find ways to circumvent the rules and expectations of the authoritarians peering over their shoulders to shock, educate and make us think. Or they are all perverts.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A book from my personal library

In and out of context

Out-of-context comic book art is a blogger's best friend. Like most comic book bloggers my site would be bereft of all content if it wasn't for the many decades of comics granting me thousands of pages of images to choose from with content that hints of everything from sexuality, status quo propaganda, misogyny and much, much more!

I'd quit this blog in a minute without the use of out-of-context comic panels like the one featuring Electric Superman halting the fall of a Freudian fighter jet by the projection of a magnetic vagina field. The stress of having to provide actual original content on a regular basis would be far too daunting a task and turn a hobby into a chore.

For example, this excerpt from a one-page strip from the Golden Age certainly qualifies as prime material for an out-of-context post, if not fodder for a week long treatise, in any lazy writer's blog.

A strange older man with a blissful grin on his face, his hand in is pocket seemingly fondling himself and propositioning a young boy while he blocks the only means of escape is blogging gold, I say!

Often the chosen panels (usually from the Golden or Silver Age of comics that labored under the oppressive Comics Code Authority) are funny, alarming or of some interest culturally as a historical pop-media comic book artifact only after being carefully edited and put through a tortuous and careful set up as a gag by the blogger. It is the usual case that afterwards when someone happens to read the original story the panels were gleaned from that the scenes in question are found to be perfectly innocent when read in their proper context.

Then again, sometimes not.

Harvey Hector, Jr. by Al Hartley from Exciting Comics #58 (November 1947).

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

The cure for childhood obesity

If you make your little darlings sit down at the table and use horrifying psycho clown eating utensils they will be too unnerved to ever finish a meal.

More amazing, Trix was the "sugar cereal", try using that as a selling point these days.

From Good Housekeeping (October 1957).


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Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Illuminated Vonnegut

Found this duct tape-covered copy of Kurt Vonnegut's Welcome to the Monkey House while browsing for old books at a Hillcrest thrift store. No telling where this personalized copy originated or who vandalized/arted it up, but the Hillcrest area of San Diego is known for being a community of (among other things) artists.



The references to rape and beer leads me to believe the artist was probably a college student.

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If you think the flag is huge, check out the pole

You can tell by the size of my flag pin that I am a true American, for Americans, who knows what Americans want.

Americans want someone who doesn't just pledge allegiance to the flag with shallow lip-service like some people. No, as any true American knows, all true Americans are justified in suspecting, tasering, not voting for and incarcerating anyone who doesn't wear a pin verifying exactly where their loyalties lie.

I have my pin, where is yours?

Vote Sleestak for President!

His flag is bigger than anyone else's!


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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Land of the Lost News: My worst fears realized

So it's true.

Will Farrell is being cast as the lead in a Land of the Lost movie. That's as stupid an idea as Jack Black as a Green Lantern and is pretty much guaranteed to destroy the idea as a viable franchise for yet another decade.

From an article with a quote attributed to Marty Krofft, one of the original producers of the LotL TV show, about the screenplay: "What they did is keep the integrity of the show, but they made it very funny for Will. The adventure is all there. There are going to be 50 Sleestaks!"

Get that? They made it funny for Will.

Well, at least something funny will be attached to Will Ferrell. It's about time.

When the Tim Burton Batman movie was first being announced as starring Michael Keaton it was reported as being a campy comedy along the lines of the 60s television show. This was, I suspected at the time, a feint to get a studio back an up and coming comedic actor with some growing box office appeal. No studio would back Keaton, known primarily to the public as a funny second banana, portraying a serious Bruce Wayne in a dramatic role. I am hoping that the Land of the Lost producers are applying the same sort of tactics with Farrell.

While the promise of 50 Sleestaks slowly rampaging across the big screen has me intrigued I am anticipating that Farrell will apply his usual gift of turning something as potentially fun and exciting as the pocket universe of the Land of the Lost into a huge black hole of Bewitched-level suck.

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Monday, October 08, 2007

San Diego Dining

I'm not really one for eating at fast food places anymore (not the healthiest fare one could eat) but I have always enjoyed the dining area design of one of the local McDonald's here in San Diego.

No one really pays any attention to it now, but the futuristic sci-fi theme of the dining area designed by space-warp enthusiast and artist Diosdado Mondero made a big splash back in 1989. People hated and loved it and many visited the restaurant just to check out the unusual spacey atmosphere.


You could write a whole novel just based on the image of the evil penguin overlords coolly watching their plans to destroy the known universe coming into fruition.

This McDonald's was notable not just for having one of the first artistic dining areas that deviated from the dated corporate template, but their children's play area also had one of the first activity centers without razor-sharp, child-maiming protruding bolts on the interior of the gym set!






Bonus! Will Time Travelin' Schatzi © be able to put a halt to the penguin overlords' mad plans before the universe is pulled into a laser-tag roller-disco hell of no return?


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Sunday, October 07, 2007

Untimely yet timeless

Er...She'll be outed by top-level administrators for minor partisan political gain, thereby risking the security and lives of anyone she had come into contact with over the course of her career, whether or not they were in the intel biz like her or just innocent and unwary civilians?

From Sub-Mariner #5 (Spring 1942).

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Grocery Store Artifact: Injury report


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Saturday, October 06, 2007

Everything's better with SCHATZI!

Eventually, every comic book author falls back on the plot device of the retcon. Whether the authors are out of ideas or actually believing that they have something to add to the story the concept of changing a characters' back story is usually met with dread and derision.

And with good cause.

Sometimes the retcon works. DC's Crisis on Infinite Earths was a bold experiment in mass-retconning, but the company dropped the ball after the story was finished by not starting over their entire line from Year One. The Marvel Ultimate line (for the most part), Ma and Pa Kent still among the living, Bucky dying near the end of World War II, Swamp Thing realizing he isn't really Alec Holland, Deadpool visiting a young Peter Parker, Batman never having captured his parent's killer and Daredevil being a ninja are further examples of retconning that didn't harm the characters and actually enriched their stories.

There are other retcons that failed miserably. Heroes Reborn, the John Byrne Spider-Man, Captain Marvel plucked out of time and Gwen Stacy playing Happy Tomato Fun Time with Norman Osborne (who appears to have a post-autopsy healing factor).

One of the sub-categories of the retcon is the Slice of Time retcon. This is when a writer revisits an established story and reveals what really happened that the reader did not see the first time around. Sometimes the new tale fills in the gaps or re-arranges the old story to better dovetail a new one. Marv Wolfman once proposed that the Barry Allen Flash could have a series based on a Slice of Time retcon. Trapped in time, Barry would be able to appear for short periods knowing that every time he entered the real world he was getting closer to his inevitable death. Not a bad idea and it seems to be in practice in the Marvel Comics revival of Captain Marvel, who may have been plucked out of time to serve as a prison warden in the Civil War titles some years before his death by cancer. More rarely, as with the current Booster Gold title, a whole new story arc and even series branches out of untold tales.

But if I was writing a comic book I wouldn't use Booster Gold. I would use one criminally under-used character that has lots of potential.

That character would be SCHATZI, the plummeting puppy!

You can read the whole sad tale of Schatzi elsewhere. But in a nutshell his story is that he fell from the open cockpit of an airplane during World War One and splattered into the ground. But for me, Schatzi's tale does not end there. What happened to Schatzi in the interval between his fall and the sudden stop at the end is where the true story begins!

In my comic book, Schatzi tumbles from the cockpit of Enemy Ace's plane just as Bob Kahniger and Joe Kubert originally plotted, but instead of slamming into the countryside and triggering a psychotic episode in the Hammer of Hell, his fatal fall is interrupted when he just happens to intersect with a random time/space warp.

A now intelligent and articulate Schatzi (thanks to the mental-boosting effect of chronal radiation, it's DC, duh!) is pulled through random warps to emerge at critical crisis points in DC history to repair the time line wherever it is broken. Along the way he will make friends and enemies knowing that each fall into chronal space might be the final one that dumps him out over war torn Europe and a date with furry destiny.

Here are some examples of the kind of events Schatzi would be involved in.

Black Canary is a hot property right now, so Schatzi can team up with Dinah Lance in a classic Silver Age story.
Will Black Canary's greatest nemesis, the dreaded Sportsmaster, defeat her once and for all?

Then Schatzi could warp into deep space, where he assists a band of shanghaied, shirtless explorers against an evil corporate empire!

Once the people of the future are properly attired, it's off to the 1950s!

By interfering with Oogie's date with Judy, they never marry and have the child who was destined to destroy Superman once and for all. Good dog.

Then it's a quick stop in a dystopian future, where our favorite falling canine convinces Captain Marvel to save humanity from itself.

But what DC epic is not complete without revisiting the mega-event to to end all mega-events?

The only creature in the entire multi-verse the Anti-Monitor fears is Schatzi!

DC's rich and convoluted continuity offers endless possibilities for stories that reassure the reader the status quo is maintained at the end of each issue and therefore their collection of back issues will remain precious, over-valued and worth keeping! Excitement! Pathos! Mega-Crossovers! DC Direct action figures! I can taste the Geoff Johns-level money already.

Where and when will Schatzi show up next? Wherever he is needed!