Christmas is for Kaiju (and everyone else who wants to celebrate)

(Click to Santa-size it.)

Merry Christmas (or Happy Friday, as the case may be) to you all. Enjoy the day!

Nostalgia Chow: More Childhood TV Moments

The Hercules and Willie Whistle clips the other day sent my brain reeling into all sorts of televisual memories, and thanks to YouTube, I can foist them onto the rest of you, maybe even re-awaken them in those of you who experienced this stuff in parallel.

First of all, from the Boston's late, great WLVI, Channel 56, here's the intro to a Saturday afternoon institution, The Creature Double Feature:



I never watched this as often as I would have liked, since my parents seemed to think my Saturdays were better spent playing sports I wasn't good at in organized leagues with kids I spent most of the rest of the week trying to avoid (on more than one occasion, I've asked my mom whose side was she on, anyway), but this intro (especially the song) is burned into my brain for all time.

A little more WLVI goodness here, some PSAs (including the old school Boston Museum of Science ad that ran for years and years) and a morning programming promo (for Bozo the Clown and Battle of the Planets) narrated by Dale Dorman, a disc jockey who was pretty much the voice of Channel 56 for years:



And now here's the late, great Eddie Driskoll, all-around on-air personality for WLBZ, Channel 2 in Bangor, Maine, to bring things a little closer to home (and my neighborhood, in fact, as Eddie lived just a few streets away), with a promo for his afternoon movie program, The Great Money Movie:



(They used to air a lot of those movies made up of stitched together TV episodes like Spider-Man and Battlestar Galactica on GMM, which I'd always tune in for. The only better week of programming was their annual Planet of the Apes week).

Here's Eddie doing an ad for local pizza chain Napoli's:



Apparently this Godfather was from downeast Sicily (even growing up in Maine, it still makes me laugh to hear anyone say "Bangaw" or "Bah Hahbah."

Men of steel, chins of hugeness

Seriously, I think the Paul Dini, Bruce Timm, and company were at least a little influenced by the old Mighty Hercules cartoons when designing the look of their Superman series, don't you?


Not making any sort of accusations here... I'm sure it's completely intentional act of homage, but still, not the sort of thing I've ever heard referenced anywhere, and I think it's kind of cool.

Iron in his thighs? Um, Hercules, you might want to have that checked. Could lead to a clot.

Hey, lookee here, it's the Mighty Hercules in "Medusa's Sceptre"



I always loved these as a kid. I'm not quite sure where I saw them - I wanna say The Willie Whistle Show on Boston's WSBK, TV38, but I'm not 100% certain - but I think they may have made about a hundred million of these since it seems like they were on a whole lot. Limited animation - and plot - aside, I always liked the character designs (there's a whole lot of this Hercules in the Timm/Dini Superman, isn't there?) and how you got an entire adventure in just 5 minutes. I never really understood why a guy as buff as ol' Herc here needed a ring to get his powers (though I remember running around with a red garbage bag tie on my finger pretending it was the ring of Hercules), nor why he ran off crazylegs-style at the end of every single cartoon, but hey, it was good stuff, and it holds up surprisingly well, annoying centaur sidekick aside.

And did you see in the credits that the theme song was performed by Johnny Nash?




And hey, speaking of The Willie Whistle Show, here's a clip:



Watching that now, I can only think DEAR SWEET LORD IN HEAVEN THAT SHOW WAS TERRIFYING! How I watched that every day without becoming an official, card-carrying coulrophobe I'll never know.

Pretty Sketchy: Brainiac 5 by Andrew Charipar

More great artwork from Andrew Charipar, this time up it's late LSH "Threeboot" era Brainiac 5 in the costume revamp designed by Francis Manapul (loved how Manapul worked in the animated Superman/JLU Brainiac design element with the insignia). You may recall that my son and I have several of Drew's sketches in our collections now. I just can't get enough of this guy's work!

And then there was the time Atari ruined everyone's Christmas.

I can't imagine a gift leading to more Christmas morning (or Hanukkah evening) tears than the E.T. game for the Atari 2600.



It apparently took Atari thousands of years to win back the holiday goodwill of humankind.



But honestly, decent as the ports of Ms. Pac-Man and Jungle Hunt were, there was no making up for that E.T. game.

For Your (Re)Consideration: Superman 3

(Holy Crap, this is Post #1000! Thanks for putting up with this malarkey for so long, folks.)

So here's the thing about Superman 3: it's not as bad as you think you remember. It doesn't hold a candle to the first two, but for its misfires - and there are plenty - there are enough good moments that make it better than its reputation would have you believe.

Most folks' biggest complaint about the film is that director Richard Lester and writers David and Leslie Newman place too much emphasis on big, campy gags that waste valuable screen time and stall the story. And yeah, that's pretty accurate. I have no problem with writers injecting humorous moments into movies like this, but a lot of the gags here are terribly forced, awkwardly derailing the pace of the movie. Worse still, they often don't even lead up to a satisfying pay-off.

Take the scene during the credits sequence: a small accident begets another, slightly larger one, and so on down the line, building toward a Rube Goldberg-esque (or at least Tom & Jerry-ish) sequence of happenings that you think is going to lead to A Job For Superman. And then... Superman rescues a guy from his car. Sure, it's great Superman could rescue that guy, but honestly, a firefighter, police officer, or even random passer-by with something that could break a window could've done the job. And some other guy gets a pie in the face. The end. Promising set-up, lackluster finish.

(Not that every joke falls flat. The running gag where Lana and Clark always have two conversations running at once with Clark inevitably getting confused was cute, thanks in large part to having two charming actors like Annette O'Toole and Christopher Reeve to sell it.)

Where Superman 3 soars (sorry), though, is the fact that it contains some of the most recognizably Supermanly moments of the entire series. The first of these comes fairly early, as Superman battles a chemical plant fire. The firefighters' water tanks burst, and the whole place is about to erupt in a giant superheated chemical death cloud. So what does Superman do? He finds a nearby lake, freezes it with his superbreath, flies it to the plant and then drops it over the blaze, the heat melting the ice into rain before it can hit the ground. That's about as Superman as Superman gets right there.

And of course, there's the movie's bread and butter, the "Superman goes bad" sequence. While prompted by the villains' artificial Kryptonite (not one scientist in Robert Vaughn's employ thought to question the whole tar thing?), it's a classic Red Kryptonite story brought to life, from Superman going bad right on up to the (literal) split personality showdown between Superman and Clark in the junkyard. It seems like it should be cheesy, but again, the strength of Reeve's performance saves this, too. The darker Superman isn't cartoonishly, cacklingly evil, he's just plain mean, which is more entertaining and sinister at the same time. And as the Clark half of the battle, Reeve isn't just the good Superman in Clark clothing, he's actually retaining the Clark persona, awkwardly standing up to a bully (and outright losing his shit when it becomes clear that's the only way to deal with the situation. Mad Clark is mad.).



The climactic battle with the super computer isn't all that bad, either. A little hokey, what with Robert Vaughn fighting Superman like he was in a video game (complete with sound effects from the Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man), but it does the job well enough as a big end fight scene. You've got Superman fighting off missiles, the giant computer that can figure out any opponent's weakness, a little actual Kryptonite, and the villains' plan going beyond their control. Nothing new, but adequate. Apparently producer Ilya Salkind originally wanted Brainiac to be the villain for this movie, and at least a little of that seems to carry over into the finale, as the computer becomes self-aware and fights to preserve its own existence. So there's that.

Overall, Superman 3 has its problems - and honestly, very few of them have anything to do with Richard Pryor, who does the best with what they gave him (which wasn't always much) - but there's enough goodness in there, especially if you like a little Silver Age in your Superman, to justify giving it another shot. It's really not as bad as people say, and it's a lot easier to take than Superman 4: The Quest for Peace, or even - no, or especially - Superman Returns. If Superman Returns had a face, I would punch it. I would punch Superman Returns in the face. Superman 3, on the other hand, I'd buy a beer. Probably because Mean Superman would make me, but still.

So this one time Batman wore Plastic Man as a boot and kicked a guy so hard...

that it Kirby Krackled* all over the damn place.



Seriously, you guys, Batman: The Brave and the Bold is probably the best cartoon on TV right now**, and one of the best Batman anythings ever besides. If you're so hung up on what Batman "should" be that you can't enjoy this show even a little, you're beyond my ability to help ya, friend.





*Not to be confused with this Kirby Krackle, though they're decent, too.

** Phineas & Ferb is very, very close second, in case you were wondering.

Forever late to the (holiday) party...

I know we're three nights in now, but Happy Hanukkah to everyone who celebrates it.

So where's this guy's Christmas special?

I was at Target a few minutes ago and saw an elderly gentleman - 90 if he was a day - walk in to the music aisle of the electronics section, step up to a keyboard, and proceed to go to town on a number of ragtime-style Christmas songs completely from memory. This man was absolutely beaming the whole time, and when he finished, the shoppers who had stopped to listen burst into applause.

This is one of the greatest things I have ever seen in my life.

Better Late Than Never Reviews: Rhode Island Slush Storm Edition

Winter here is messy. It was less so in Maine. I'm no fan of snow, but it's a lot easier to clean up the yard after snow than the wet slop we get here.

But I digress. As always, these are short reactions to recently read (though not always recently published) comics. And away we go.


Batman: The Story of the Dark Knight by Ralph Cosentino - Not actually comics, but a picture book outlining the "Who He Is and How He Came to Be" of Batman for the kids. Cosentino's illustrations are gorgeous, very Golden Agey by way of someone like, say, Seth (some pages are recreations of panels from Batman's comic book origin), and he gets points for not sidestepping the whole "MY PARENTS ARE DEAD!!!" thing, handling it in a straightforward, but tasteful manner. Nothing new or earth-shattering going on here, but if you enjoy Batman and aren't opposed to things that are fun, you'll dig it and will want to buy a copy for the kid(s) in your life, and probably one for yourself, too.



Batman/Doc Savage Special - Lots of the online folk seemed to have a problem with this, mostly because the story doesn't have a whole lot of "there" there ("Batman's innocent." "Why, Doc?" "Just 'cuz."), but it got me excited for this whole First Wave thing that it's kicking off, so I'm willing to overlook what should otherwise be a not-so-shortcoming. Well, that and the "Batman with guns" thing. I don't care if he did use guns for 30 seconds back in 1938, I never enjoy the idea of a pistol-packin' Batman. But anyway, I mostly enjoyed Brian Azzarello's characterization, the Phil Noto artwork was, as always, a thing of beauty to behold, and the preview sketches and pitch material in the back was pretty interesting, especially the idea that this is some sort of combo retro-modern Earth with cell phones and airships (there are always airships in these things, aren't there?). I think they should've called this something like "First Wave Prelude Starring Batman and Doc Savage," maybe that would've lessened people's expectations a bit, but I want to see what comes next, so mission accomplished, DC.



Black Widow and the Marvel Girls #1 - Like Jeff Parker and Fred Van Lente before him, Paul Tobin has made the Marvel Adventures line into his own little fiefdom of good storytelling, comic books true to the spirit of the characters without being weighed down by whatever major events are going over in the so-called "real" books. And while the premise of this story may raise your eyebrows at first (Black Widow teams up with the Enchantress? In flashback? Wha huh?), the result is entertaining and surprising. Any time writers can work both espionage and Asgardian magic into the same story seamlessly, you know they're on to something. I suspect that if you enjoyed Tobin's earlier Doctor Doom and the Masters of Evil mini-series (and you did enjoy that, right?), you'll find a lot to like here, too.



Fantastic Four #573 - I kind of wished Jonathan Hickman had just come right out and titled this "The One Where I Tie Up the Loose Ends from Millar's Run," because that's all this was. And I didn't read Millar's run, so I had no particular attachment to the story or the characters. And even then I thought it was wrapped up too quickly and in slapdash fashion. Uninspired fill-in art, too. And nothing like the cover ever occurs in the book, which is too bad, because that story looks fun. In short, this was about as bad as the the past few issues have been good. I'm hoping he bounces back next issue.

Getting Hooked Part 8: Accidentally Alternative

The book: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #8

Bought from: Moonshadow Comics, Portland, Maine

Way, way back in the halcyon days of 1986, I would occasionally convince my parents to let me mail order my comic books from Moonshadow Comics in Portland, which was certainly the first direct market comic book store I had ever encountered, maybe even the first one in all of Maine (the arrival of Bangor's first comic shop, Wizard of Comics, was still a few years off at this point). I eventually stopped using their service, though, when they made what I considered at the time to be an egregious error, and swapped out some crucial books for stuff I didn't order. Sure, I got my issues of Captain America, Marvel Age, and some of the other books I considered essential, but the rest were odd. I should have been reading the first issue of the Howard the Duck movie adaptation, but instead I had this dumb book a lady with clocks on her boobs, a grey, Peter Porker-looking barbarian, and four ninja turtles.

I was appalled. I had never heard of this book, it didn't have superheroes, and worst of all, it was printed in black and white! I mean, honestly. I wanted to return the books and complain, but my parents couldn't be bothered. Funny books were funny books, they said. Defeated, I thumbed through the weird, new comics, tossed them in the stack with the rest of my collection, and promptly forgot about all of them.

About a year and half later, I'm watching TV after school one day, and these guys come on the screen:

And from that first episode, I was hooked. They sure looked different than the ones in that almost-forgotten comic, though. I dug it out to be sure, and while these guys were kid-friendlier than the originals, everything matched up, so I actually read the comic this time, and though it was a very different experience than what I was seeing on TV, it was still pretty enjoyable, even without any color.

A few months after that, Wizard of Comics opened, and they had a whole table of Turtles books out which I descended upon like the cartoon versions on a pizza. Stuff like in-story references to other comics and creator credits in the anthology book Turtle Soup made me curious about other independent books, and now that we had a comic book store in town, I could actually find some of them.

So while purists may have resented the TMNT cartoon - and subsequent merchandising explosion - and thought it was a sell-out move by Eastman and Laird, it sent me off to discover both the original comic book and the world of independent comics as a whole. Come to think of it, it sent me back to those discoveries. Moonshadow Comics tried to get me started earlier, but I wasn't ready yet.

For a while, I was mad that they sent me the wrong books. But in the time since, I've been mad that I never got the chance to thank them for that.

Hot Button Comics Internet Discussion Issue of the Moment!

Ever since last week, the blogs and message boards have been ablaze with controversy about some Green Lantern/Blackest Night booby picture that some retailer posted which was then spread to the world at large by an internet comics gossip columnist of some infamy or renown, depending on your opinion, I suppose (though the idea that an interner comics gossip columnist can achieve a degree of either status always struck me as rather silly). Having been busy throughout the holiday weekend, I never gave it much thought, but seeing as it is still a hot button issue, I do feel compelled to make my contribution to the topic of Blackest Night-related booby photos:



I mean, I'm certainly willing to give the people what they want, though I'm still not sure I completely understand all the drama.



(Yes, that was a long way to go for a very dumb joke. No, I am not sorry.)

Holidaze

As you can probably tell from the header graphic and sidebar (provided you come directly to the blog rather than just reading this through an RSS reader, anyway), I'm getting ready for the holiday season, and yeah, that's gonna creep into the blog content for the next month. We here at Trusty Plinko Stick World HQ won't be going overboard, mind you, but it's our favorite time of year (minus the cold and, when applicable, the snow), so it's hard not to share the enthusiasm.

Even Batman and Robin get into the spirit of the season:



as does the Doctor (who isn't even of this Earth, remember!):



so how can we possibly hope to avoid it?

Pretty Sketchy: Boy Wonder

Yes, it's Robin his own self, as rendered by Vincent Kukua (who also did this awesome Hellcat for me) for my son, Liam, who months later still talks about how much he loves having this on his wall beside Batman and Wildcat.

Four Color Ones and Zeroes: Comics on the iPod Touch


Nerd that I am, the first two apps I downloaded for my iPod Touch (which for now I'm calling Cerebro, but I'm not completely satisfied with that) were for comics readin', iVerse Comics and comiXology Comics to be exact. My only experiences with digital comics have been web strips, awkward PDFs, and site-specific readers that just don't work (trying to read the Clone Wars comics on StarWars.com was an infuriating experience), so I really wasn't sure what to expect. But hey, new technology beckoned, and iTunes changed their pricing standards so that these once paid apps were now freebies. And I loves me some free stuff.

And while I was skeptical, I have to admit that reading comics on the Touch or iPhone is a decent experience. They're easy to read, easily reformatted to portrait or landscape layout, and most surprisingly, I have encountered very few awkward/hard-to-read pages due to panels being resized or cut down to fit the screen. I'm sure a lot of the latter has to do with the specific titles being made available for the devices, but still. And while both apps have advantages over one another - I like the page layout and transitioning of iVerse better, but comiXology appears to have a slightly better library of available titles so far - they both get the job done well, and are the best time-killers I have available to me right now. Waiting for take-out or at the doctor's office is a lot more tolerable now.

But here's the thing: I haven't found a single comic book I'd actually pay to read this way. And that's a problem for the digital comics initiative as a whole, I'd say. Both apps have a slew of free titles available, and that number is constantly increasing. And obviously, this is a terrific way for people like me to sample books they might have otherwise missed for whatever reason. For instance, I've sampled both The Middleman and Tania Del Rio's manga-makeover version of Sabrina the Teenage Witch through comiXology, and I really enjoyed them both, enough that I want to read more of these books now. But I'm not buying them through comiXology, I'm getting the actual books. The trade of the first few issues of manga Sabrina is already on the way to me from Amazon, and the collected Middleman is definitely on my want list. It may be the old-fashioned bibliophile library boy in me, but when I want the book, I want the book, even if it costs me a little more and takes longer to find.

Am I completely opposed to buying comics in a digital-only format? No. If it's exclusive content that I want badly enough, or something that's long out of print in physical form, then yeah, I'd probably be willing to pony up the money. But convenience isn't always going to be enough to make me pass up the format that I prefer for dozens of reasons.

I think the apps are a great form of entertainment, and so far they're doing a great job of selling me comic books. But they're not yet convincing me that I should be buying my comics digitally, and I doubt I'm alone in this regard. That seems like a huge hurdle they're going to need to overcome before "the future of comics" becomes a workable now.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Be thankful for your good fortune and eat yourselves silly today, my fellow Americans.

For those outside the U.S., consider at least eating some pie today.

Wieringo Wednesday - Several Swine, No Flu


To my knowledge, Mike Wieringo never drew anything Thanksgiving-related professionally. Can't find anything online, and the scanner's still busted, so going through my comics won't do me much good, either.

But while he may not have drawn any turkeys, he sure drew a fair share of hams!








Heck, he didn't even limit himself to just the most well-known comic book superhero pig!

Better Late Than Never Reviews - 11/24 Edition

Shortish reviews/reactions to recently read - though probably not recently published - comics. Gotta catch 'em all.

(Sorry. I've been playing a lot of Pokemon: Diamond lately. Anyhoo...)

Britten & Brulightly - An unusual and very European take on noir from English creator Hannah Berry. Fernandez Britten is a South American p.i. (though he prefers "researcher") working in the U.K., and has brought enough bad news to people over the years that he is often called "The Heartbreaker," much to his chagrin. The case of his latest client, a widow hoping to prove her husband was the victim in a blackmail/murder plot rather than a suicide, may do nothing to improve this, especially since there seem to be superficial ties to one of the most distressing cases of his past. Uncooperative potential suspects and a partner who would rather stare at the ladies (oh, and it's likely he's not even real) don't help matters much. Interesting and entertaining, and gorgeously illustrated, if a bit dense in the plot detail department (either read this all in one sitting or do a better job remembering details from the beginning than I did) and slowed down at points by the lettering. Still, an impressive debut and well worth your time, especially if you don't mind your detective fiction unabashedly quirky.




Elephantmen Vol. 1: Wounded Animals - I've only knew Richard Starkings' Hip Flask character from those Comicraft ads that ran in CBG in the 90s, so I didn't know what to expect out of a book populated by anthropomorphic hippos, elephants, and other animals, but good god damn was this an excellent read. The story of former living weapons awkwardly segued into mainstream society 200 years in the future, this is as good an example of world-building as I've read in comics in a very long time. An ongoing plot emerges over the course of the seven issues reprinted here at a deliberate, measured pace, but revelations come at what feel like very natural increments, the overall experience is so immersive that you won't care, anyway. Gorgeous artwork from the likes of Ladronn, Moritat, Chris Bachalo, and others, too. This is the total package, and I'm sorry I ever dismissed this in the past as "that book about a hippo even though elephants are in the title."




Empowered Vol. 1 - Even though this book has been a darling of the bloggyverse since it's debut, I was still really surprised by how much I enjoyed this. It's probably easy for some to dismiss it out of hand as witless fanboy stroke material - the basic premise does revolve around a clumsy superheroine who repeatedly ends up captured, half-naked, bound, and gagged, after all - but anyone who jumps to that conclusion is missing out, because Adam Warren is creating something really special here. Empowered is as fantastic, charming, and downright endearing a character as you'll ever hope to read about, and as she begins to overcome (or at least shrug off) her (perpetual) embarrassments with the help of her new, bizarre support system (ex-henchman boyfriend, female ninja best friend, imprisoned demon overlord who watches her DVDs all day), you can't help but root for her. And yeah, it doesn't hurt that Warren draws her to be sexy as hell in a style that's part manga, part Milo Manara. This is shipped to retail in shrinkwrap for a reason, people - it's not full frontal or anything (everything is strategically covered and the curse words are all blocked out), but it's pretty racy just the same. Well done, literate smut, to be certain, but still, probably not for the overly prudish. But it's also smart, funny, sweet, and it has something to say. If only more "mature" comics were this adult.

Sigh... okay, let's go over this one more time.

So the sparkly vampire sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon: Froggy Went A'Courtin' And He Did Ride, Uh-Huh (okay, I may be exaggerating the title a bit) beat the opening day record previously set by The Dark Knight. Needless to say, this has Certain Types of Fans in a tizzy, because how dare something they don't like (and that girls *do*) outdo something with Batman in it?

Honestly, people, get over it. So you don't dig Twilight. You know what? Neither do I. But a lot of people do, my wife among them, so just let them get on with the business of liking what they wanna like, and you do the same, okay?

The success of Twilight in no way invalidates the stuff you enjoy, or even your life itself.

And no, the success of Twilight will not ruin a generation of teenage girls by teaching them that obsessive relationships with stalkery boys who treat them like crap is okay. Teenage girls have been getting into relationships like that for ages now. That's what makes them teenage girls.

Let them have their have their fun, okay? Besides, girls are really cute when they go all geeky over something.

And finally, here's a picture of series co-star Ashley Greene, because attractive, that's why.

Hip to be Dimensionally Transcendental?

In a short piece in the November issue of Wired, Scott Brown talks about something I've noticed with increasing frequency over the past few years: Americans are actually starting to like Doctor Who.

Now, of course, this is all due to the current series, which unlike the original, has money and decent effects and lead actors that people would like to smooch. I get that, and even as a fan of the original, I appreciate those things, too.

Doesn't stop the whole thing from seeming sort of amazing to me, though. I can remember a time when admitting to watching Doctor Who, or even just knowing enough about the show to understand the basic premise, was schoolyard suicide. Not that that ever stopped me, mind you, because I suffered from a childhood malady known as "Not Knowing When to Keep My Big Trap Shut," so I had yet another heaping helping of nerddom thrust upon me at an age when it seems like I couldn't go a day without someone reminding me of how near the bottom of the social ladder I sat.

(Could've been worse, though. I could have been the kid who wore the Tom Baker floppy hat and long scarf to school that one time. That kid didn't just sit at the bottom of the ladder, he built a cottage and lived there year round.)

But at long last, this is changing. I think part of it is the public acceptance of geeky entertainment, of course. The success of comic book and sci-fi movies and TV series both overt (The Dark Knight, Star Trek) and more subtle (Lost) have created a lot of crossover appeal for this sort of thing. Even just ten years ago, I never would have imagined seeing Aquaman or TMNT shirts in the Men's section of Target or people getting excited over a revival of Battlestar Galactica, of all things.

I have to think the growth of cable television has a lot to do with this success, too. Back in the day, Doctor Who... all British TV, for that matter... was almost entirely the domain of PBS. And in the eyes of a lot of folks, there are exactly two ages when PBS is cool: when you're young enough for Sesame Street or old enough for woodworking shows. Being a kid and admitting you watch shows on PBS, even if it's Monty Python or Fawlty Towers or even some show where you actually saw boobs because PBS didn't seem to care about that sort of thing (the miniseries of Armistad Maupin's Tales of the City was important to me for all the wrong reasons)? Again, schoolyard suicide. But now, it's on cable, along with just about every other important British series of the past few decades. Removed from the fear that it might be somehow educational or stodgy, people are really starting to embrace this stuff.

And good for them. Too bad I can't let out a good old-fashioned "I told you so," though, as I'm pretty sure it'd still result in someone giving me a wedgie.

Making the (Lego) Band & the Brave and the Big Red Cheese

Liam has been fascinated by the idea of the Lego Rock Band game. I mean, he loves Lego as it is, and has enjoyed all of the Lego Star Wars, Indy, and Batman games (even if we do a lot of the playing for him). And he loves playing Rock Band with us, too (even if we don't actually turn his instrument on most of the time). So a combination of the two is a slam dunk for him, and Erin and I are both excited to check it out, too, though we haven't gotten around to doing that yet.

So Liam took matters into his own hands and made his own Lego Rock Band. My only contributions to this were suggesting he could use a shovel and an oar as guitars. The rest was all him. My kid is the coolest person I know.

The whole short photo set can be seen here.




How do you make Batman: The Brave and the Bold even better? You put Captain Marvel on the show, that's how!

(They might make you sit through an ad first. Sorry.)



Not sure when this debuts, but oh, I'm excited.

Ketchup!

I was sick, like, 2 weeks ago, and I still feel like I'm behind on everything. Here's a big ol' post of miscellanea in an attempt to get caught up with things. Might be SPOILERY in spots, so beware.

First of all, AMC's remake of The Prisoner:



I really wanted to like it, but I barely made it through the first episode and the prospect of trying to slog through another five seemed both tiring and depressing. Like most folks, I think it missed the point of the original entirely; if you're not going to keep the central theme of the struggle to stay individual in the face of conformity - a valuable thought in this day in age, I think - then why just not make an entirely new program in the first place? I also think the folks behind this assumed everyone potentially coming into this was familiar with the original, and made little effort to actually lay out the premise satisfactorily. And as fantastic as the original is, it's the textbook definition of cult classic. Sure, Comic-Con attendees and The Simpsons writers know it, but they're hardly the typical AMC Sunday night audience. Poor, and worse still, boring.



Hey, look, Geoff Johns finally got his fondest wish.


Yeah, I know, it's a comic book death in the midst of a giant crossover that is all but promising the reversal of every DC character death ever, but still. Don't like Hal Jordan, downright hate his fans' feeling of entitlement.

Fucking H.E.A.T.

And incidentally, I was going to link to their homepage in the interest of providing some sort of reference for people lucky enough to be unfamiliar with Hal's Emerald Advancement Team, but you know what? THE SITE CRASHED MY COMPUTER. Their evil knows no bounds.

And I bet they smell funny.



R.I.P. Ken Ober, comedian, actor, host and TV producer, but probably best known to us all as "The Quiz Master of 72 Whooping Cough Lane" on MTV's Remote Control. That one was shockingly random. I loved Remote Control, and even managed to convince my parents to let me see the "Remote Control Out of the Basement" tour when it came to the University of Maine even though I was only in middle school and the show was on what they called "that awful MTV." Thanks for the entertainment, Ken, not to mention all of the TV trivia I doubtlessly picked up from you.






Hey, speaking of Remote Control, here's an old commercial for one of its frequent prizes, the MTV LeRun, "part bike, part skateboard!"



Does anyone out there know ANYONE who had one of these? Or better yet, had one themselves? Never once saw one of these in real life (judging by the video, unsurprisingly), so they've always been a mystery to me. A stupid-lookin' dorky mystery, granted, but still.

B is for Belated: Happy Birthday, Sesame Street


Sesame Street turned 40 yesterday. Meant to get around to posting about it, but pretty much forgot. Hopefully it doesn't mind a late card with a $5 bill in it.

Anyway, thanks for the many fond memories, Sesame Street, for being around long enough for me to watch with a child of my own, and for your somehow staying as entertaining for me at 33 as you were when I was 3. Maybe a little less Elmo, Baby Bear, and Abby Cadabby, though, okay? Thanks.

Here's my favorite Sesame Street segment (probably yours, too), and one of the funniest bits from any TV show ever:

Better Late Than Never Reviews - Maybe Still a Touch Swiney Edition

Quickish reactions to recently read comics. *CoughHackSputterWheeze* Let's do this. *SnorfleGaspChoke*

Dark Reign: Fantastic Four #s 1-5 - I was enjoying Jonathan Hickman's run on FF so much I wanted to read the Dark Reign tie-in mini he wrote preceding it (and I couldn't find the trade, so I scrounged up the issues), and yeah, it was just as good. And while I enjoyed Reed's soul-searching and Sue, Ben, & Johnny's (and their various counterparts, too) cross-dimensional hijinks, what impressed me the most was that Hickman actually did something with Franklin and Valeria. In most FF stories involving the kids, they're hostages, their powers go wonky, or else they're just shuffled off to Alicia's house before the rest of the fam heads off to the Negative Zone. But here they have they get their own adventure, and if we're all being honest with ourselves, most of the best scenes. Two kids - exceptional kids, admittedly, but still - hold off an entire HAMMER squad, and their method of pissing off Norman Osborne (particularly Franklin's method to "mess with his head") was hilarious. Plus, I think it's funny that a kid surrounded by sci-fi every day of his life like Franklin would spend the entire time dressed as a cowboy (why wouldn't his fantasies be more down to earth when his regular life is most kids' dream?). If you're enjoying Hickman's regular run on Fantastic Four but skipped/missed this, backtrack and read it. You'll be glad you did.

Fantastic Four 572 - And yeah, this is still great, too. The storyline ends a bit more abruptly than I was expecting, but I definitely get the feeling that we'll be coming back to some of these plot threads later.

Not much more to be said, really.

The Boys #1 (Dynamite edition) - I've never been a big Garth Ennis fan, but so many people whose opinions I trust have been raving about The Boys from the beginning, and this reprint of the first issue was only a buck, so I figured what the hell. And I have to say, I kinda liked it. While there's all the usual profanity, debauchery, and ultraviolence, I was legitimately shocked by Hughie's tragedy. Did not see that coming at all, and found it rather heartbreaking as a result. Well played, Garth. I'm certainly curious to see where the story progresses from here and will be tracking down the trades at some point in the near future.

Final Crisis - Finally got around to this, and as most of the rest of the inter-ma-net debated this endlessly months ago, I won't belabor the point: this was a mess, a shambling collection of ideas and happenings all banging into one another as they desperately search for a plot to hang themselves on (though they'd be better served searching for something to hang themselves with). Not so much scripted as scribbled on napkins during a 3 martini lunch. And based on how little effect it seems to have had on the DC Universe in the months since its release, I can't help but think the company didn't care for it, either. When a company sweeps a story under the rug the same year it was published, that says something.

Down with the sickness

It's been a long, rough week at Trusty Plinko Stick World HQ. We'll be back soon.

Pretty Sketchy: Kitty Pryde and Wolverine by Pat Loika

Late 80s-style Kitty "Shadowcat" Pryde and Wolverine by the marker king and arguably most-connected (and certainly one of the friendliest) guys in comics, Pat Loika. Pat also did a great Captain Marvel for me a few years back.

Thanks again, Pat!

The way life should be? Yeah, not so much.

When you come from Maine, you spend a lot of time defending it to other folks because the state has a certain reputation for being ass-backwards.

And, as was proven again yesterday, the state itself does very little to change that perception.


Oh, and better still, they vote against gay marriage but for medicinal marijuana. Hate, fear, and weed... sure, Maine, nothing redneck about that at all.

Happy Birthday, Steve Ditko!

Comicdom's favorite Ayn Rand fan, "Shy" Steve Ditko, is 82 today.



For the uninitiated, Steve co-created Spider-Man and Dr. Strange for Marvel, created Captain Atom, the Question, and the Ted Kord Blue Beetle for Charlton, Mr. A for his own self, and a bunch of great sci-fi and monster stories for any number of publishers. But my favorite Ditko creation of all appeared in two back-up features that originally ran in Charlton's E-Man #s 2 and 4, a fella by the name of Killjoy.



Killjoy, like The Question and Mr. A before him, typified Ditko's strong Objectivist outlook, but whereas Q and A (now that would've been a team-up!) stories were pretty serious affairs, the Killjoy strips are wild and very tongue-in-cheek, with Ditko working in an almost Kurtzman & Elder-esque fashion (and it's fitting, too, that I first encountered this Mad imitation in an issue of Mad's greatest imitator, Cracked). Bizarre caricatures, flop sweat, wild takes, people bursting into dramatic tantrums at the drop of a hat (WAH! SOB! He's not fair!)... it's good stuff, even if you don't necessarily agree with all of the politics at the heart of it. You can read both stories here.

Happy birthday, Steve!

Lazy Monday YouTube Blogging: 1, 2, 3, 4 chickens just back from the shore

Sesame Street's attempts at turning an artist's popular song into one about letters or counting or whatever can be hit or miss. This one is just about perfect:

Happy Halloween!

Worried about ending up with a bag full of rocks because of your awkwardly made ghost costume like Chuck here? Why not consider some of the fine Halloween attire advertised in these spots?





Remember, kids, nothing says "authentic costume" like a plastic smock with your character's name - or better yet, their picture - prominently displayed on the chest.

(Not that any of us actually cared about that at the time.)

Now go get some candy!

Wieringo Wednesday: Long Live the Legion!

I've been reading a lot of recently purchased Legion of Super-Heroes back-issues lately, and it dawned on me that I haven't done a Wieringo Wednesday in a week or two, so I thought it'd be awesome to see if 'Ringo had drawn any LSH in his career. A quick search didn't turn up anything official, unfortunately (which is really too bad, because his style would have been perfect for the post-Zero Hour Legion!), but these sketches give us a glimpse of what could have been.

Nice shot of the founders and Superboy here. I enjoy that everyone actually looks like teenagers. Reminds me a bit of Alan Davis' artwork on the Superboy's Legion Elseworlds mini-series.

This solo shot of Mon-El confirms something I've always thought about the guy: when by himself, his outfit looks pretty cool. Pair him with other super-heroes, though, and all you notice is how un-superheroey it looks.


The animated Legion gets their turn, too. I like his take on Phantom Girl better than the actual show's... she looked too bug-eyed a lot of the time on TV, and he really tones that down here, thankfully.

Brainiac 5 looks a little Zentradi!

You've got the Touch (almost)

The funds are there, so the wife and I will very soon be the proud owner of new iPod Touches. Yes, the Touch, and not the iPhone. She has her phone through work, I renewed my contract with a new phone last year, and we’re both happy with our provider (Verizon) besides, so we don’t need iPhones. The lack of a camera on the Touch is sad, but hey, we can deal. I’ll just be excited to Twitter and Google and find restaurants and play games and get directions check Facebook and, yeah, listen to music, on the go.

Which brings me to my point (and I do have one). Somewhere along the line, we started living in the future. I can’t pinpoint exactly when this happened, as there certainly wasn’t any formal announcement that I was aware of, but it did happen. We don’t have flying cars, personal robots, Elroy Jetson rocket belts, Martian resort hotels, teleporters, or TARDISes, but we’re still there, at least as far as anyone for whom the very idea of something like an iPhone would have been science fiction. It’s a ubiquitous gadget these days, sure, but remember that this thing you keep in your pocket and probably play Snood on has significantly more computing power than those giant, room-filling computers of decades past.

It’s amazing. Why don’t we appreciate that more than we do? Has the domain of Captain Kirk or Doctor Who become so commonplace to us now, or are we just spoiled?

Happy Wonder Woman Day


Well, techincally Sunday is Wonder Woman Day in Portland, OR, and Flemington, NJ, but if you'd like to bid on some art and help raise funds for domestic violence shelters, you have until midnight PST tonight to do so.

The official site has all the details.

Pretty Sketchy: It's Clobberin' Time!

Yup, it's Aunt Petunia's favorite nephew, the idol of millions, the ever-lovin' blue-eyed Thing his own self, as rendered by Dave Wachter, illustrator of the mini-series Scar Tissue and writer/artist of the webcomic The Guns of Shadow Valley.

So long, Soupy.

R.I.P. Soupy Sales, a funny man and, for my money, the best cinematic Moses ever.

How cool was Soupy? Even Alice Cooper dropped by to hang out:



For more about the man and his career, you should check ou Fred Hembeck's remembrance from the 80s, I Remember Soupy.

How's Who #5: The Mutant Phase


TARDIS Crew: 5th Doctor (Peter Davison) and Nyssa (Sarah Sutton)

The Plot: The TARDIS is dragged into a time corridor that deposits it first on 22nd century Earth during the early days of the Dalek occupation, and then Earth again in the 43rd century after some great disaster has wiped out nearly all life on the planet. Daleks are mutating into something new, bizarre, and deadly, and have been driven to the point of seeking out the aid (in their usual charming manner, 'natch) of their oldest enemies: their ancient planetary rivals, theThals, and the Doctor himself. The secret to dealing with the Daleks ' "mutant phase" lies in both of these eras, but the Doctor's problems are even greater than being forced to work with his worst enemies or being asked to alter history. Strange things are happening within the very fabric of time, and the Doctor, Nyssa, and everyone else find themselves in "a very bad place to have a paradox."

The Thoughts: Yes, I know, this is one of the Big Finish
audio adventures and not an episode of the TV show. For some, this is a shocking breach of "canon," I'm sure. But you know what? Fuck canon. The TV show, the audios, the novels, the comics... everyone has their own idea of what counts and what doesn't, but I can't be bothered to get caught up in all that hand-wringing. Trying to establish a "official" canon for a series as lovably inconsistent as Doctor Who is a fool's errand, anyway. If you like it, it counts.

Anyway, this was my first experience with the Big Finish ver
sion of Who, or first full one, anyway (I heard a chapter or so of The Sirens of Time about 8 years ago, and a short Sylvester McCoy story on the BF podcast, but that's been it until now), and I was impressed right out of the starting gate. I think I was mostly afraid that it would come off sounding like an audio book, or a recorded stage play (which is why I never took to those Alien Voices things all those Star Trek people did), but it sounded, even felt, like an actual episode of the show without any of the pictures, and yet it wasn't at all like just listening to the audio track of an episode from the next room or whatever, because my imagination filled in all of the visuals in a way that even the best of Old Time Radio has never been able to make me do. And honestly, I think the lack of visual information is a real strength here; there are no cheesy costumes or wobbly sets to distract people from the story, so the buy-in comes much easier.

And it didn't hurt that we get a Dalek story that, for once, isn't just another invasion or inter-faction squabble (and no Davros!). Pitting them as the victims, making them fearful to the point of seeking aid from their hated enemies (well, forcing said enemies to help them, but that's a "six of one..." sort of thing inDalek terms), that's a simple, but thoroughly welcome, inversion of the formula.

The only thing that took some getting used to was listening to Peter Davison and Sarah Sutton. Their performances were fine, maybe even better than
they ever were on the show, but they do both sound older. Makes sense, it has been nearly 30 years since the originated the roles and all, but still, listening toDavison's somewhat deeper and certainly raspier voice did take me out of the story for a second when the Doctor and Nyssa enter the story. It was easy enough to get over, and in no time it was 1982 all over again. They re-inhabit their parts with such ease that it hardly seems like they left. And rapport between the Doctor and Nyssa was quite nice... not the sort of thing we ever got to see much on the show since the TARDIS was packed with companions in the early 80s. Without Tegan there to shrill things up, they really make quite a good team.

Overall: The Mutant Phase is as good as any TV story from Davison's original run as the Doctor (better than most of them, I dare say), and is now quite probably my favorite Dalek story ever. I don't know why I've waited so long to give the Big Finish audios a try, but I'll be correcting this oversight as often as time and funding allow (especially since downloads off their website are much cheaper than getting theCDs).

A final word about canon: Seriously, fuck canon.