Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Freedom Cheese

Because there is no such thing as a Yellow American.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Comic Book Ad: Super Hang Ups

I didn't need to buy any of these as I had plenty of Super Hang Ups of my own to deal with. Mine were purchased using the universal currencies of angst, humiliation and fear. The exchange rate against the dollar was astronomical even when adjusted for ego inflation.

From Weird Western Tales #49 (November 1978)

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

I Bin A-Pinen To Meet You, Miss Gordon

The artist has taken great pains to avoid drawing hands.

Illustration and text page from the novel Ginny Gordon and the Secret of the Old Barn
(Whitman Publishing, Racine, Wisconsin, 1951)
Illustrated by Margret Jervis

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Friendship of the Tortoise and the Eagle

The Great Curve posted an image featuring art in the upcoming X-Men: Fairy Tales #2 that immediately reminded me of the two characters in the long running Johnny Hart daily strip B.C. (which was far more entertaining before he started becoming so heavy-handed with the Christianity messages).

Issue #2 is a retelling of the African folk-tale The Friendship of the Tortoise and the Eagle and unlike issue #1, I am looking forward to reading it. I was disappointed in the debut issue because I just figured this was just a cynical attempt by Marvel to grab Fables dollars from DC while continuing to spread the over-exposed X-Men taint like peanut-butter on the genitals of some perverse elderly dog owner. That is correct, I just equated liking the X-Men with a geriatric beastiality fetish. I'm willing to change my basic opinion of the book should Marvel get away from aping tired 1970's Manga and produce more work in the style of issue #2. I am glad to see that Kyle Baker was doing the art chores so I'll pick the issue up just for that.

For those not familiar with the tale that X-Men: Fairy Tales #2 is based upon here it is in it's entirety.

The Friendship of the Tortoise and the Eagle
A Central African Tale

It was not often that the tortoise and the eagle met, for the one spent his days in the clouds and the other in the under a bush. However, when the eagle heard what a warm-hearted little fellow the tortoise was, he went to pay a call on him.

The tortoise family showed such pleasure in his company and fed him so lavishly that the eagle returned again and again, while every time as he flew away he laughed, "Ha, ha! I can enjoy the hospitality of the tortoise on the ground but he can never reach my eyrie in the tree-top!"

The eagle's frequent visits, his selfishness and ingratitude became the talk of the forest animals.

The eagle and the frog were never on speaking terms, for the eagle was accustomed to swooping down to carry a frog home for supper.

So the frog called from the stream bank, "Friend tortoise, give me beans and I will give you wisdom." After enjoying the bowl of beans the frog said, "Friend tortoise, the eagle is abusing your kindness, for after every visit he flies away laughing, 'Ha ha! I can enjoy the hospitality of the tortoise on the ground but he can never enjoy mine, for my eyrie is in the tree-tops.' Next time the eagle visits you, say, 'Give me a gourd, and I will send food to your wife and children too'."

The eagle brought a gourd, enjoyed a feast, and as he left he called back, "I will call later for the present for my wife."

The eagle flew away laughing to himself as usual, "Ha ha! I have enjoyed the tortoise's food, but he can never come to my eyrie to taste of mine."

The frog arrived and said, "Now, tortoise, get into the gourd. Your wife will cover you over with fresh food and the eagle will carry you to his home in the treetops."

Presently the eagle returned. The tortoise's wife told him, "My husband is away but he left this gourd filled with food for your family."

The eagle flew away with the gourd, little suspecting that the tortoise was inside.

The tortoise could hear every word as he laughed, "Ha! ha! I share the tortoise's food but he can never visit my eyrie to share mine."

As the gourd was emptied out onto the eagle's eyrie, the tortoise crawled from it and said, "Friend eagle, you have so often visited my home that I thought it would be nice to enjoy the hospitality of yours."

The eagle was furious. "I will peck the flesh from your bones," he said. But he only hurt his beak against the tortoise's hard back.

"I see what sort of friendship you offer me," said the tortoise, "when you threaten to tear me limb from limb." He continued, "Under the circumstances, please take me home, for our pact of friendship is at an end."

"Take you home, indeed!" shrieked the eagle. "I will fling you to the ground and you will be smashed to bits in your fall." The tortoise bit hold of the eagle's leg.

"Let me go, let go of my leg, let go of my leg," groaned the great bird.

"I will gladly do so when you set me down at my own home," said the tortoise, and he tightened his hold on the eagle's leg.

The eagle flew high into the clouds and darted down with the speed of an arrow. He shook his leg. He turned and twirled, but it was to no purpose. He could not rid himself of the tortoise until he set him down safely in his own home.

As the eagle flew away the tortoise called after him, "Friendship requires the contribution of two parties. I welcome you and you welcome me. Since, however, you have chosen to make a mockery of it, laughing at me for my hospitality, you need not call again."

From The Magic Drum: Tales from Central Africa, by W. F. P. Burton. London: Methuen & Co., 1961.
While it is still too early to tell, as this series matures it could be a good tool to get people interested in reading. Comics are thought to increase an interest among people in reading and the folk tales origins of the title could be much more palatable to schools than the standard super-hero fare. I'd be interested to see select issues of this title made available to schools or reading programs over the life of its' run.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

attention mr sleezebag

I don't usually receive hate mail (except from the occasional B. A. T.*) in reference to this blog (due to the combination of low readership and my usually innocuous entries), so I was surprised when I received an email the other day from someone who claims to be the child of pulp comic artist Maurice Whitman. He apparently found exception to this entry, Comic Book Covers: Firehair vs Tiger Girl, in which I state the similarity between two comic covers as being "lazy"work by the artist.

attention mr sleezebag, oh my apologys ....sleestak, what you know of my father is 0, and an art critic you are not , if you did your home work , my father was considered one of the most versitile artist out there , and as far as the rest of those artist you mentioned copying my dads stuff , news flash , they all worked together at one point in time and alot of the work they did together was a collaberated effort , you may enjoy reading comics , and collecting them , however you dont have a clue what goes into the imagination it takes to come up with all that art work from scratch ,simply from a script . so unless your painting such works as leonardo davinci , shut your hole , untill you do ...jon whitman
Sorry, sport. I calls 'em like I sees 'em. Two covers of similar theme and layout that are nearly identical I would have to critique as the product of taking a shortcut. From a purely creative standpoint it is lazy. To be nicer about it though, I recognize that comic artists of decades past were grossly underpaid and overworked. So out of respect for work I respect I am willing to couch what I perceived as not a best example of original work by a master of the genre not as lazy, but rather as frugal. If I worked under the same horrible terms and deadlines as most creative teams did back in the early days of comics then I might also avoid going to the genius well too often out of worry I'd drain the aquifer and create a sink hole of suck.

My original post really praises the work of Whitman and found fun in comparison of the covers. After all, monkey covers rule! Maurice Whitman is one of the greats of the era and if anyone collects vintage comics for the cover art then he definitely needs to be on the shortlist of must have artists. That said, I was dissapointed by the lack of creative originality of the latter cover.

* Byrne Attack Troll

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lunch for Ninjas

Kung-Fu shrimps are not very threatening. They fell to my boiling water and fork quite swiftly. They learned from a poor sensei.

Purchased at the Lotte Plaza market in Maryland.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Throw Away Genius: WKRP in Cincinnati

WKRP was a late 1970's television show about a cast of mostly incompetent characters working at one of the worst-rated radio stations in Cincinnati. WKRP was funny, touching and brilliant and was helmed by great writing, producing and actors with an impeccable sense of comedic timing. The number of jokes in each episode was high. When many other programs labored to produce only a few funny moments per show, WKRP threw away more laugh-out-loud gags per minute than you could count.

In this YouTube clip is an example of the unique genius that was the television show WKRP, the fine point of which is missed by many. This clip is usually referenced as the episode when WKRP disc jockey Dr. Johnny Fever, played by Howard Hessman, deigned to play one of the Top 40 songs from the stations' mandatory playlist. One of the running gags of the show was that Johnny refused to play songs from the official list as a matter of principle. Partly because he thought the music was poor and partly because he liked to stick it to the management.

In the episode "The Doctor's Daughter" (18 Feb 1980) Johnny finally meets his estranged daughter and hates her boyfriend. After a few attempts to be a Dad, Johnny realizes it is too late to make up for all those years of his absence. Or is it? Johnny and his daughter come to an understanding of sorts and after she leaves, Johnny later receives a letter.

The letter, which is read at the end of the show, is done in the familiar device of the scribe speaking in a voice-over as the recipient reads along silently. Now here is where the genius comes in.

After putting on to play a Top 40 song, Johnny reads the letter. He smiles and nods at appropriate moments and turns the letter over to continue reading, flips the page back to re-read a sentence and turns the letter over again. All the while the voice-over stays in perfect synch with Johnny's reading.

As I said, genius. And throw away genius, at that. The realistic way Johnny read the letter with the interrupted voice-over synchronization was a great gimmick that probably went unnoticed by many. The show was full of moments like that.

A John Byrne Mother's Day

In John Byrne's 1986 reboot opus The Man of Steel #6, Superman hallucinates that he is on Krypton, the planet of his birth. During the hallucination caused by an info download to his super-brain, he sees his parents and a random stranger in a hallway and is summarily rejected by all of them out of hand. Since in the Byrne reboot of the Superman mythos Jor-El was the nice one, this says something about Superman's psyche.

Overcoming her xenophobia Lara takes a moment to return, thinking that somehow the barbaric stranger in their midst is her arranged-marriage husband Jor-El. Since Lara has never seen Jor without his body-condom it is a simple mistake, one which she clarifies in a few moments by treating the visitor like a lab specimen. Swiftly, Lara concludes Superman's features are a combination of her and Jor-El's genes and that Superman is indeed her son.

Before Superman can learn in his dream if his mother accepts him, Lara transforms into his childhood sweetheart Lana Lang, a woman he once casually discarded like one would throw away an old soda can used as a makeshift spitoon.

John, John, John. Oh, my gosh...John.

If this was intentional, then Byrne is brilliant. If this theme was an accidental byproduct of the script then I truly hope that no one can ever actually create a machine to read minds. But if they do, I hope he never gets hooked up t0 one. And it better not have a publicly viewable 56" Thought Screen monitor. And if it does it better be turned off at all times.

In this one issue John Byrne displayed all the unresolved Mommy-issues that a God can have. He showed us the true motivations of why Superman is a hero. It sure isn't 'truth and justice' that drives him. While Batman is out in Gotham punishing all criminals for the death of his folks, Superman is trying to get the parental approval of the entire universe by being a good boy. I figure that Bats will succeed in his mission long before Superman will.

Of course, even John Byrne multi-layered nuances can't hold a candle to the icky creepiness of the Silver Age House of El.

Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, May 12, 2006

Hot Robot on Girl Action

NASA presentation demonstrating the grace of a robot by likening its' movements to the artistic interpretive dance of a Ballerina.

Disturbingly erotic for some. Not me, though. I'm normal.


Product or service advertisement not part of traditional labeling that appears on otherwise useless packaging materials. A trashvertisement could also be a part of the packaging that could be damaged by the product, thus rendering the ad useless.

For years a piece of plain cardboard keeping the candybars in this package from breaking during handling was an unexploited resource for possible revenue. No longer. What was once simple waste is now garbage that pleads with the consumer, extending its usefullness just a bit further before it is finally discarded.

I figure soon we will see ads printed on Styrofoam packing peanuts like love messages on candy hearts.

The Twilight Bark

The humans have tried everything.
Now it's up to us dogs, and the Twilight Bark.

Spread the word.

I'm just saying

Given the amount of corruption and cronyism infesting the Bush administration I think the real reason for the creation of the huge database of phone-use data and calling habits of Americans is a very obvious one somehow overlooked thus far:

Bush is helping out his pals in the marketing industry.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Stealing fire from the Gods

If Fred Hembeck can do it and make a gajillion dollars then so can I.

My reinterpretation of Superboy #159 (v1, December 1969) after Fred Hembeck who is after Neal Adams.

Hal Jordan, Apple-Polisher!

Hal has his head so far up Guardian ass I'm surprised there isn't a blue ring around his neck.

- Panel from Green Lantern #30 (July 1964)

Hi, Fileboner!

Continuing with the Lois love with a mini-feature space-filler from Lois Lane #16 (April 1960)

While Butter the Shutter seems to have nasty connotations attached to it in today's MySpace society, I think it's time to reintroduce the term Fileboner to the world. Maybe with a slightly modified definition to fit in with modern online culture.

I'm open to suggestions.

Jonah Hex, God's Wild West Ninja

If there is one pet peeve of mine about fiction that keeps cropping up in comics and film it is lazy writing. One aspect of this I particularly find disappointing is the Lucky Break. That is when something completely random and unforeseen helps out the protagonist against all odds or fortuitously finishes off the villain. It happens ad nauseum in film alone.

You know...When the hero is in a ferocious gun battle and some henchman gets the drop on him but his gun jams allowing the good guy to escape? When the previously damaged cable holding the girder in place finally snaps and crushes the bad guy? That kind of thing.

Jonah Hex #7 (v2, July 2006) has one such moment. The scarred dude is up against a gang of killers who already have their guns drawn on him, and Jonah just waits for something to happen.

And it does.Yep. Lightning strikes a nearby oil well and big explosion follows. Furthermore, the rain stops just at that moment to make sure the conflagration continues on to destroy the entire town in proper dramatic fashion. It would not do to have the rain put out the fire (I'm not even going to get into how all that soaking wet wood managed to burn). Jonah takes advantage of that wholly unexpected moment like it was all part of the plan and shoots everyone not necessary to the gory climax of the story. If the creative team was trying to say that Jonah Hex is the Scary Wrath of God Personified then they succeeded in the clumsiest, pop television hack-scripted manner possible*. A note to the authors: Leave that type of story to someone else who is way, way better at it.

So guess what? Jonah runs out of bullets at the worst possible time! Who didn't see that coming? Not me. No, I totally did. But I confess I did not see what was coming next. Mainly because it was so stupid and out of nowhere it never occurred to me that it would be used. Yet I should have known better given this team's penchant for recycling scripts from old DC western titles and cinema.

For no reason at all, Jonah whips out a sheriff's badge he just happened to have in his coat and throws it shuriken-style, blinding and delaying the villain just long enough for Jonah to gruesomely finish him off.

We already know that Jonah Hex has the superior Kung Fu, so this entire scene was a waste of paper.

Besides, Cinnamon did it first way back in Weird Western Tales. It was her schtick.

My rating of Jonah Hex #7:

1 out of 5 Ditko Faces

* Put a laser in Jonah's hand and this could be a comic adaptation of an epsiode of Whedon's Firefly or Serenity. Yes, it's that bad, folks.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Arnold Schwarzenegger in a crazed advertisement for Yosh. Whatever that is, I'll buy some.

Just another blogger jumping on the YouTube YouBandwagon. You Betcha.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Guardians can go whistle

Imagine that you won the lottery of the universe.

Out of all the sentient beings on your planet or light years-spanning space sector YOU are the one chosen to be a ring-bearer in the Green Lantern Corps.

You abandon your former life, family and world and by sheer force of will throw yourself through space to the center of the known universe, possibly never to feel the soil of your home beneath your feet ever again. You are on your way to join an elite force of bearers of light and will endeavor to banish the darkness of evil wherever you travel. You are also very aware that your life expectancy has been shortened by years and you will probably meet a violent, lonely end in battle. You believe the last thing you see before death closes your eyes forever will be the departing emerald flare of energy as your ring flings itself into the void to seek another to wield it. The responsibility is overwhelming, awesome, the stuff of legend and you embrace it without reservation and without hesitation.

And when you report to Oa with the expectation that there is a broken universe that needs you to fix it, you get assigned to this for your entire career.

Eternal security guard duty staring at a big ball of red fire with a green dot at the center. I'd be royally pissed.

Images from Infinite Crisis #7 (June 2006)

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Mosaic Shadows

Mosaic art reminiscent of Hiroshima Shadows are all over the corridors of my son's school.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The SKY is on FIRE

Panel from Black Panther #15 (v4, June 2006). Word balloons by me.

This volume of Black Panther about Wakanda's king isn't as good as the Priest run but it's a bit more readable than many other current Marvel books. It's plodding along now but once the wedding of the Panther and Storm is forgotten (any day now) it may pick up again. I hope. Priest made T'Challa the smartest, scariest guy in the entire Marvel Universe and Hudlin has reduced him a bit in scope in my eyes.

I wasn't reading comics when Priest was writing the character because the amazing suckiness of 99% of the 90's titles drove me away from the genre, but I discovered it when I returned. I consider the Priest Black Panther run as one of the reasons I came back and I went and bought the entire run as back issues because of how much fun the title was.

One of the first comics I bought with my own money was the unfortunately titled Jungle Action #16 featuring the Black Panther. This issue was part 11 of the very long story arc Panther's Rage, written by Don McGregor and rendered by the late Billy Graham. This issue featured as villain one of the visually coolest baddies of the day, Venomm. Compared to the Black Panther's nemesis, the Spider-Man foe similarly named Venom sucks.

It's true.

All the symbiote-Venom does is pose on roof ledges and whip his drooling tongue around in the air. Big deal. And don't get me started on Carnage. Stupid.

Venomm, on the other hand, controls snakes with blazing emo and every time he and T'Challa met the Panther got his head handed to him. The only reason the Panther didn't get killed and snacked upon by snakes in Jungle Action #16 is because Venomm was weary of fighting in a revolution he didn't believe in. He later settled in Wakanda as a good citizen.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to follow the book back then because those were newsstand days and all I could reliably count on being in the 7-11 rack was the Fantastic Four and Superman. I bought the entire run a few years after because I'm a completist and I do love preachy 1970's Marvel comics. Panther's Rage is all about the original Killmonger saga and is worth a read if you get a chance.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Peek-A-Boo Body Armor

With the cover of Supergirl #6 good old DC achieved another artistic comic book milestone.

DC successfully managed to draw a super-heroine clad entirely in a concealing, protective head-to-toe battlesuit remain suggestively nude by the gratuitous addition of faux-nipples and vagina via the artifice of strategically-placed "power holes" on the armor. The delta-shaped 'S-Shield' on the crotch of the other armor isn't as obviously SotI-riffic, but still...

I give it about a day before fan fic is out there describing in graphic multi-chapter detail where and how the armor plugs in and re-charges.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Comic Book PSA: Poster Child Mark McGwire

At first glance I thought this PSA that appeared in Uncanny X-Men #363 (v1, January 1999) was about success in school or just saying nope to recreational narcotics.

I wonder if Mark McGwire knew (or cared, as long as the check cleared) what this photo was going to be used for. Bed Wetting is a real problem that affects many but is not a very masculine cause to get behind for a guy like Mark.

He looks so sad. Anything you want to share with us, Mark? Maybe not.

Are You A Super-Hero?

If you are, then you have a chance to prove it and make $1 Million dollars!

The $1 Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge

The James Randi Foundation

The Foundation is committed to providing reliable information about paranormal claims. It both supports and conducts original research into such claims.

At JREF, we offer a one-million-dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. The JREF does not involve itself in the testing procedure, other than helping to design the protocol and approving the conditions under which a test will take place. All tests are designed with the participation and approval of the applicant. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform a relatively simple preliminary test of the claim, which if successful, will be followed by the formal test. Preliminary tests are usually conducted by associates of the JREF at the site where the applicant lives. Upon success in the preliminary testing process, the "applicant" becomes a "claimant."

To date, no one has ever passed the preliminary tests.
James Randi, aka The Amazing Randi, is my personal hero. A professional stage magician, James Randi has made a career out of de-bunking those charlatans who prey on the gullible, hopeful or bereaved.

He is probably most famous for his expose of Uri Geller, who rose to fame by claiming to use his 'powers' to bend keys and spoons. Randi showed he could easily duplicate any of Geller's feats and has made it his mission in life to expose 'psychics' like Geller, Sylvia Browne and John Edwards. He also debunked the 'miracle messages' of televangelist Peter Popoff.

He promotes public awareness not only of self-claimed psychics, but quack medicine, machines and superstition. He also supports and promotes the critical and scientific examination of claims and backs it up with his $1 million dollar prize.

If you read the faq you'll see that all these people who claim extraordinary powers are unable to perform the simplest feats in a controlled environment.

To me, the idea that a person with the psychic power to mentally drill through space and time to foresee the future, but who's power fails when in the vicinity of a skeptic's 'negative waves', is laughable.

As Randi points out; To be fair many of the people probably honestly believe that they have special abilities but when put under testing are unable to perform. That can be a little sad.

Interestingly, the big name psychics usually avoid the Foundation and Randi at all costs. Sylvia Browne, who gets aided and abetted by Larry King and Montel Williams, made the career-error of accepting the Paranormal Challenge on TV. As you can see here, it has been over 5 years since she accepted and has failed to respond to prove her claim.

Almost all the applicants withdraw their claim or disappear. Which doesn't make sense to me at all. If you can bend a spoon with your mind, then do it and walk away a rich person (or a better person who did some good by donating the 'dirty money' to some worthwhile cause).

There is only one answer to the question "Are psychic powers real?"

That answer is "No, they are not".

The Comic Book Connection

The basic premise of the super-hero comic book universe is that the characters have powers and abilities beyond that of ordinary persons. That's all well and good and I enjoy reading about it. Still, I was disgusted to see that Marvel Comics unfortunately featured Uri Geller in an issue of Daredevil.
I was a rabid comic book reader then, and this book almost made me quit.

For those of you who can, check out your copy of Daredevil, v1, #133 (May 1976).

Uri Geller and Daredevil fight the very lame villain...Mind Wave! What made this issue so bad was not the art and story, but that Marvel (or Marv Wolfman) presented Geller as a person with real powers. Even though the story is set in a fictional universe the issue and the editorial reads like a paid advertisement for Uri Geller.

Once you are done reading that issue (if you still have an IQ left) don't miss James Randi's rebuttal to that issue in DD #137's letters page. Uri also chimes in quoting some PhD's that 'proved' his psychic abilities were real (and that were later shown to have either been fooled or were party to the event). Apparently sensitive to the reactions he must have known were coming Uri must have wrote in as soon as #133 was published.

Also, a good letter from Mark Evanier appears (who also worked in comics at the time). There is a statement in the letters implying that Marv watched Geller carefully and there was no trick. But that quote isn't actually from Marv so if true, that means Marv was fooled or making up stuff to add to the entertainment value of the book. That's not a crime, but a disclaimer would have been helpful.

You can view some of Daredevil #133 and the letters page for DD #137 here at flickr.

Senses-shattering origin!


Nothing's happening! Duh.

Confusing internal dialog or telepathy?

No, Daredevil! Don't beat up that cop!

The smackdown letters page!

I also have a memory that there was an entry somewhere in a Marvel Handbook or something of the time, that described the Marvel Comics character of Geller as 'having mental powers, unlike the Uri Geller of real life' or something like that. I'd like to find where that appeared.

President George Clooney?

Unlike another fellow with the same first name, no one has ever accused George Clooney of being stupid. I wonder if his desire for personal privacy that is balanced by carefully choreographed public statements is part of a planned career path that may take George out of Hollywood and into a different type of theatre.

I hesitate to consider it, but in about a decade will America be under the leadership of

President George Clooney?

To help you consider such a scenario click to hear 'Hail-to-The-Chief' and then stare at the picture of George while it plays.