Two quick bits of an unrelated nature

Heidi's ToyFair coverage at The Beat had some cool stuff, but the thing that caught my eye most was next year's convention circuit exclusive from Palisades Toys: Super Grover (scroll down for the picture)! The Alex Ross designed box is probably the last thing anyone needs (because under Alex Ross's brush, even SG looks strangely tired, puffy, and more than a little like Alex Ross), but a Super Grover figure is something I firmly believe that everyone needs in their home or office. I'll definitely have to make a beeline for the Palisades table at WizWorld Beantown in October. Maybe they'll also have a few extra of the Adventure Kermit figure I've been kicking myself for not getting in Philly last year.

For the first time in forever, I find myself really not caring all that much about the Oscars this year. I'm pulling for The Incredibles in the Best Animated Feature category, though, and will be really shocked if it doesn't walk away with the trophy. I wouldn't mind if Ray won for Best Picture, if only because that's the only one of the five nominees I actually saw (and it was good, so at least it's not a vote out of complete desperation on my part). And Jamie Foxx was damn good in the title role there, so I wouldn't be at all upset if he won Best Actor (and when did Jamie Foxx become such a good actor, anyway? Was I out sick that day?).

Mostly though, I'm pulling for Morgan Freeman. I haven't even seen Million Dollar Baby, but come on, the man's due. Let's see some Oscar gold for Easy Reader, people!

It had to happen!

A "Top 100 Things I Don't Like About Comics" list was probably inevitable. Thankfully, though, the person who finally went and did it was Dorian, so it's intelligent, amusing and more than a little accurate, instead of the "Kyle Rayner is teh suck" sort of thing we all feared it'd be. My favorite was #20:

"The mistaken belief that there is some kind of hierarchy of geekdom. That it is somehow acceptable for Star Wars fans to look down on Star Trek fans, for Trekkies to look down on D&D players, for D&D players to look down on comic fans, and for comic fans to look down on furries. Guess what? You’re all nerds. Deal with it."

Got an extra $20K?

If you're looking for a way to spend that upcoming tax refund check, you (yes, YOU!) can buy the complete original artwork for "Ten Minutes," lauded by many to be the greatest of Will Eisner's post-WW2 Spirit stories, for the low, low price of $19,500! There are other, slightly cheaper Eisner Spirit originals available, too. It'd be a fantastic addition to your own collection, or a terrific gift for that special, pop culture-obsessed blogger in your life.

I do have a birthday coming up at the end of April, you know. I'm just sayin'.

Kackle, kackle! Kickle, kickle! (or, The Return of Old Comics Week)

Amethyst (the 1st mini-series) 1-4 - I’ve heard so much about this series over the years that I figured I’d give it a try (the fact that I scored all 12 issues for under $3 didn’t hurt, either). Four issues in, it’s pretty good. All the typical fantasy chestnuts are here (secret heritage, mystical creatures, fortresses built to resemble their evil masters, magical bolts fired from the hands, etc.) but it’s handled well enough that it doesn’t come off as clich├ęd. I have to admit that I was expecting warmed over She-Ra stuff, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. A lot more violent than I thought something that’s been recommended to kids for years would be, though, but it serves as a reminder that DC’s current dark trend is nothing new for them. The art by Ernie Colon is gorgeous in a very Gil Kane sort of way (it blows my mind that this guy cut his teeth on Richie Rich), and the story moves along at a brisk pace, so it’s been a fun read so far. Can’t wait to see where it goes next, though I’m a bit wary of the Swiftwind clone (yeah, I watched a lot of She-Ra back in the day; what of it?) on the cover of #6.

The Spirit (Kitchen Sink series) 1-6 - I don’t feel there’s anything I can really say about this series that hasn’t been said a million times before, but here’s something that absolutely blew me away. In one of the stories in the first issue (I don’t remember which one right now and don’t have the issue handy to look it up), there’s a panel of the Spirit and Chief Dolan discussing the particulars of a case. Pretty mundane stuff, but the “camera angle” from which this is presented is from inside a garbage can. Why? Why not? Here it is, 2005, some 60 years after these stories were created, and there’s still incredibly innovative stuff to be found in the individual panels. Just brilliant stuff here, and I should have discovered it YEARS ago (though I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it as much then). It amazes me that so much can be packed into a seven page stories. The perfect panacea for those of you tired of the so-called “decompressed storytelling” trend.

Nova 1 - Everyone spoke so glowingly of Nova (any pun you find there is unintentional, I swear) over on Mike Wieringo’s sketch blog the other day, and it’s one of those books I’ve been meaning to look into for years, so I figured I’d finally give it a try. The concept is nothing more than “What if Peter Parker became Green Lantern” (though Richard Rider starts off as an even bigger loser than Peter ever was), it’s got all the typical origin story baggage to deal with, and the villain is pretty lame. But with Marv Wolfman, John Buscema and Joe Sinnott on the creative end, the whole is far more than the sum of its parts, and I’m definitely interested to see where the story of the man called Nova goes (er, went). It’s 70s Marvel high drama at its finest – full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, but a hell of a lot of fun.

Little Lulu: Lulu Goes Shopping -
The first volume of Dark Horse’s attempt to reprint the complete John Stanley run of Lulu stories in an affordable format, and therefore one of my Ultimate Comics Dreams come true (similarly formatted and priced reprints of Carl Barks’s Uncle Scrooge stories and Herbie the Fat Fury would also be greatly appreciated, please!). Fun reading, excellent mode of delivery, and the lack of color really doesn’t affect too much (except for one story where Lulu turns herself green – you really have to take their word for it in that case). I was hoping to see Witch Hazel and Little Itch (they of the respective “Kackle, Kackle” and “Kickle, Kickle”), but I’m sure they’ll show up sooner or later, as they play a role in some of the fairy tales Lulu concocts for Alvin, the pesky neighbor kid. I’ll definitely be picking up the later volumes. Great stuff all around. They truly don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

Mostly Harmless

Well, if you were alive, breathing and of the geekish inclination last week, you were probably aware that the trailer for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was up on's homepage. If you missed it, you can see it over on the movie's official site. A lot of people seem to be getting worked up over the perceived differences between the movie and the story they all know and love. Personally, I don't see the big deal. The story of the Guide has gone through several iterations over the past few decades, and each version was a little different than the one before it. The books changed elements from the original radio series, the TV show differed from the books, the computer game goes off in an entirely different direction altogether, and the comics... well, bad example there, as the comics are literal adaptations of the books (a little too literal, if you ask me). So to my eyes, this is just another version. The location of Zaphod's second head doesn't bother me, I don't care that Arthur refers to Trillian as "Tricia" (which I think he would, anyway, since that's who he initially knew her as), and I wouldn't be at all surprised that the Macintosh-influenced design of the Heart of Gold was something that Douglas Adams himself (an avowed Mac worshipper) wrote into the script before he died.

I'm just excited that the movie now comes out the day before my birthday. I must've been a good boy this year.

Let me count the ways.

Fred started it, Alan David Doane ran with it, and then Mike goes and turns it into a meme. Well, knowing a fun bandwagon to jump on when I see it, I had to join in, too, so I humbly present to you, in no particular order, The 110 Reasons* I Love Comics (because I refuse to submit to The Man's limit of 100):

  1. The Marvel Family (and their assorted friends and villains)
  2. Superman
  3. The 60s Batman TV Show
  4. Starman by James Robinson
  5. “The Kid Who Collected Spider-Man”
  6. Getting issues of March of Comics from Paul at Standard Shoes
  7. Wednesdays at Nostalgia Ink during high school and college (Hi, Bruce and Mary, if you’re out there somewhere)
  8. Jack “King” Kirby
  9. Stern and Byrne on Captain America
  10. Bone
  11. The first season of “Lois and Clark”
  12. Wolfman and Perez on The New Teen Titans
  13. Animal Man by Grant Morrison
  14. Steranko’s brief but perfect Captain America run
  15. Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham
  16. Strangers in Paradise from Volume 1 up through the High School story in Volume 3
  17. Milk and Cheese (MERV GRIFFIN!!!!) and other works by Evan Dorkin
  18. The Maze Agency by Mike W. Barr
  19. The Sesame Street segment about the letter S, starring Superman
  20. DC reprints by Whitman, available in three-packs in drug, book and department stores everywhere
  21. Dr. Doom
  22. Mark Gruenwald on Captain America (pre Cap-Wolf, anyway)
  23. Steve Ditko
  24. Batman: The Animated Series
  25. Carl Barks
  26. Superman: The Movie & Superman II
  27. Sandman by Neil Gaiman
  28. Peanuts, featuring Good Ol’ Charlie Brown
  29. Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends
  30. Sarah Dyer's Action Girl Comics
  31. JLA/JSA crossovers
  32. DC 100 Pagers
  33. Lynda Carter as Wonder Woman
  34. JoAnna Cameron as Isis
  35. Gorilla covers
  36. “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” by Don Rosa (D.U.C.K.)
  37. The Dark Phoenix Saga
  38. The fact that superhero action figures of the 80s were about the same size and could be used interchangeably (Dr. Doom Vs. the JLA! The Spider-Man/Firestorm feud!)
  39. The Phantom Blot
  40. Dr. Doom traps The Fantastic Four in The Village, sort of (FF 84-87)
  41. The Skull House storyline (Captain America 290-300)
  42. Byrne on Fantastic Four
  43. The Essential Marvel books
  44. The Adventures of Captain Marvel starring Tom Tyler
  45. Watching Batman: The Movie in French on the CBC when I was 4
  46. Crisis on Infinite Earths
  47. John Romita drawing Spider-Man
  48. Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud
  49. The Aim toothpaste give-away comic with Spider-Man and the Green Goblin
  50. Wizard of Comics, the first comic book store in Bangor, ME
  51. Calvin and Hobbes
  52. Filmation’s Shazam! cartoons
  53. Gil Kane
  54. Erin discovering Optic Nerve
  55. The Legion of Super-Heroes
  56. Waid and Garney’s first run on Captain America
  57. 80 Page Giants
  58. Jack Cole’s Plastic Man
  59. Will Eisner’s Post-WW2 work on The Spirit
  60. Superman Peanut Butter (Fred's right; that stuff was good)
  61. Fred Hembeck
  62. Watchmen
  63. Alan Moore’s run on Supreme
  64. The New Adventures of Superboy
  65. Nostalgia Con 1-5 (comic conventions in Central Maine, run by the afore-mentioned Nostalgia Ink)
  66. Challenge of the Super-Friends
  67. Superman: The Animated Series
  68. Kirby names (Flippa Dippa! Vermin Vundabarr! Mr. Buda!)
  69. Walter Simonson’s signature (it’s a dinosaur!)
  70. The 7-11 Marvel Superheroes promotion
  71. Gumby’s Summer Fun Special by Art Adams
  72. Little Lulu by John Stanley
  73. X2: X-Men United
  74. Spider-Man on The Electric Company (and Spidey Super Stories)
  75. “This Man… This Monster!”
  76. Nexus by Baron and Rude
  77. The Fleischer studios Superman cartoons
  78. Ask The Answer Man
  79. Grant Morrison’s New X-Men
  80. Zot!
  81. Tales of the Beanworld
  82. “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”
  83. True Story Swear to God
  84. Get Fuzzy
  85. Spider-Man 2
  86. The Comics Journal’s online interview archive posts
  87. Outlandish origin stories
  88. Mad (comic and magazine)
  89. The Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League
  90. The hand-me-down Superman pajamas/playsuit I got from my neighbor as a kid (and the warning printed on it: “Remember, this suit won’t make you fly. Only Superman can fly!”)
  91. The first comic book store I ever went to, Moonshadow Comics in Portland, ME.
  92. DC’s “The Greatest ________ Stories Ever Told” series
  93. Herbie Popnecker
  94. Days of Future Past
  95. Squadron Supreme by Mark Gruenwald
  96. Marvel Tales (classic Spidey at an affordable price)
  97. Barnaby and Mr. O’Malley
  98. Getting a letter printed (Electric Girl #2)
  99. Stan Lee and John Romita unmask the Green Goblin
  100. Darkseid
  101. Heroclix
  102. Eating pizza with Mart and Carrie Nodell (perhaps the two nicest people I have ever met)
  103. The Aquabats (they count, right?)
  104. A Charlie Brown Christmas
  105. Krypto
  106. Blue Beetle
  107. "For the Man Who Has Everything"
  108. Multiple Earths (especially 2, S, X and Prime)
  109. Comics creators with exclamatory names (Elliot S! Maggin, Scott Shaw!)
  110. My parents actually encouraging me to read comic books (thanks, Mom and Dad!)

*Updated from 105 Reasons at 3:43 pm. on 2/14/05, because I somehow managed to leave stuff out, if you can believe it.

Um, I think it's time to consider hiring a different ad agency.

Two things that have bothered me about recent TV advertisements:

First, the new Quizno’s ads starring Baby Bob, who you may remember (and you’re lucky if you don’t) as the lead character of a mercifully short-lived CBS sitcom. Anybody else out there get the willies from these things? Damn baby is even scarier than the It’s Alive kid. Apparently, someone out there actually thinks this is less creepy than the Spongemonkeys (who, by the way, were a big hit in my house; Erin and I still occasionally exclaim “We love the subs!” That’s what passes for entertainment in our house. Sad, no?).

Furthermore, I find it impossible to believe that we’re nearly 50 years past Clutch Cargo and people still think Synchro Vox can work.

Second is the Valentine’s Day themed ad for J.C. Penney, which lets us know that we can buy all sorts of fancy gifts to give to our respective significant others this February 14th – everything from jewelry to clothing to exciting underwear. All well and good, but there’s all these red balloons floating through the background, and the action all takes place to the tune of a cover of Nena’s “99 Red Balloons.” Because, obviously, there’s no better song to convey love and affection than one that’s about an Army that mistakes the releasing of balloons for an enemy invasion and proceeds to blow up the world.

Appropriate for current times, perhaps, but I’m not so sure about the romantic angle they’re selling.

"Space," it said, "is big. Really big."

Well, I thought this was cool. A few weeks back, the people who officially name asteroids (which may or may not be called The International Coalition Of People Who Give Names To Random Heavenly Bodies That Don't Really Need Them But It's A Nice Gesture All The Same, or the ICOPWGNTRHBTDRNTBIANGATS), went and named an asteroid after the late, great Douglas Adams.

And given that the rock's original designation was, by total coincidence, 2001 DA42 (2001 being the year of his death, DA being his initials and 42 being, well, if you don't know that already you can look it up yourself), it just kinda seems meant to be, huh?

A True Tale of Childhood Woe

When I was about 4 years old, my family decided to teach me an important lesson.

See, we were at some store one night (I think it may have been Service Merchandise) when I saw The One Toy I Wanted More Than Anything In The World (or that week’s version, anyway): The Mego Pocket Super Hero Batmobile, the one that actually came with Batman and Robin figures (go here and scroll down the page a bit if you don't know what I'm talking about). I begged, I pleaded, I probably threw myself on the ground and cried, but no dice; it was $10, and my parents were not spending that much on a toy when it wasn’t even Christmas or my birthday.

I told my older sister about it the next day, and seeing as she was (and still is) one of the coolest people ever, she concocted a plan to help make my little pre-school dreams come true. If I was an extra good boy and kept my room clean and helped out around the house and all that, she’d give me a dollar a week, and in time, I’d save up the money and be able to buy it myself (see, my sister is about 15 years older than me, and is therefore like my younger, hipper mom, so she had things access to things that blew my mind back then, like money and the car). She ran the idea by my parents, and they loved it. Kid learns valuable lesson, parental duty assumed by a surrogate – it was a win-win situation for them, really.

So for the next 2 months or so, I was pretty much a candidate for sainthood. You’ve never seen a more helpful or well-behaved kid in your life. I was polite, I ate all my vegetables, I helped with the dishes, I even cleaned up my brother’s side of the room (and he was 12 years older than me). And for my Herculean efforts (by a 4 year old’s standards, anyway), I earned the princely sum of $1 a week. On the Friday of week number nine, someone (either my parents, my sister or my next-door neighbor, I don’t know who) figured that I had indeed learned from this whole experience and rewarded me with an extra dollar, allowing me to reach my goal an entire week sooner than anticipated. Needless to say, I was pretty excited, and you better believe we marched right back to that store the moment we finished dinner that night. The Batmobile would be mine at last.

Well, it would’ve been, if they’d actually had it. We looked everywhere, and it was absolutely nowhere to be found. We even had people look out back, but no luck. We eventually found someone who remembered that it was in stock at one point, but that they probably hadn’t carried that particular item in about TWO MONTHS, and he didn’t think they company made it anymore. And so there I was again, throwing myself on the floor in utter despair. The difference this time, though, is that my parents very obviously felt really bad. They carted me off to a few other stores and over to the mall, but no dice. They did help me find another toy I kinda wanted that night, the General Lee car that came with the Bo and Luke action figures (also made by Mego, oddly enough), and it was cool, but it wasn’t nearly the same.

So in the end, my family actually taught me a few lessons with this experience. I learned the value of the dollar, and how important it was to earn things instead of just getting stuff for no real reason, sure. But in addition, I learned that working your ass off won’t always get you what you consider to be your just reward, and life really sucks like that sometimes.

Also, parents who think they’ve messed up are pretty likely to take you out for ice cream later. I probably used that one to my advantage more often than just about anything else I ever learned as a kid.

Random thoughts on everything (give or take an infinite number of items)

I hope no one's waiting with baited breath for a Blackhawk movie, because they already went and made one and called it Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. All you'd have to do to make it official would be to shoehorn in Andre, Chuck and Weng in there somewhere and there ya go. Fun little movie. Not life changing or anything, but a pleasant enough way to spend 100+ minutes. It got me thinking though: this is totally how they should make the next Superman movie. Give it a real 30s/40s retro feel with all fedoras, big ass cars, tommy gun-toting gangsters and Lex Luthor returning to his roots as a mad scientist with a penchant for robots and death rays. It's probably not "hip enough" an idea for today's audiences (or, more likely, movie execs), but I know I'd go see it.

Though I've seen and heard a lot of strange things in my life, I never even considered the possibility that I'd ever hear Paris Hilton talking about Daleks, but it happened last night on Saturday Night Live, during a sketch about a phone sex line for geeks. Outpost Gallifrey has the info and a screen capture. And before you ask, although I am a huge Who fan, no, Paris talking about the TARDIS did nothing to excite me. First of all, even I'm not that dorky, and second, it's Paris Hilton. I'm pretty sure the girl leaves a trail. Ick. On the topic of Tina Fey dressed as Princess Leia, however, I can only say "No comment."

Brief thoughts on recent comic purchases (probably a few spoilers):
Legion of Super-Heroes #2 - Damn you, Mark Waid. You've officially got me hooked. If the next few issues are even half this good, I'm in for the long haul. Brainiac 5's meltdown at Dream Girl ("Cause! Then effect!") is worth the price of admission alone.
JLA Classified #3 - Does the Justice League actually have the authority to banish people to a whole other universe? I'm just askin', is all.
Plastic Man #14 - This used to be my very favorite book, but in the past few months, it's increasingly becoming something I just kinda read and forget. It's like as sales decline, so does Baker's interest (and therefore, mine). Plus, the "Plas as female mouse" scene and its punchline really disturbed me. I don't even wanna know how that was possible.

You, yes YOU, can help me raise a child, and some belated goodness

The march toward impending parenthood continues. The other day we finally had The Big Important Ultrasound Appointment and found out that we are having a boy. So I'm proud to announce that come June, myself, Erin and the rest of the world will get to meet young Liam Breheny Doughty, and we're just about as excited as can be (I'll resist the urge to post the ultrasound picture this time, though, hard as it is to do; I don't want to be that guy).

Babies, though, require a great deal of space and money (which is surprising, seeing as they're so small and everything), so we've spent the last few weeks pruning the excess stuff from our life (and wow, is there ever a lot of it). We've dumped several carloads upon the fine folks at The Salvation Army (with more to follow), and I've started putting some stuff up on eBay, too. Not a lot so far, but it's a start, and if I continue past this first bunch, I'll probably put more stuff up in waves so as to minimize time spent at the Post Office (I really HATE the post office). So if you're interested in Atari 2600 games or comics-related goodness, it might be worth while to check out what I've put up so far.

Ooh, one more thing: Iraqis who actually dared to leave the house and vote weren't the only ones celebrating last Sunday - Fred Hembeck went and had himself a birthday! So we here at TPS World Headquarters in Rhode Island wish you belated birthday goodness, Fred... any cake left?