Happy Halloween!

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Now either go sit your butt down in the most sincere pumpkin patch you can find, or go get yourself some candy already! I don't care if it is still morning...

The Long and Winding Post

Jeez, we just had the Weekend from Hell. Or, at least maybe the Weekend from Heck. Because some cool stuff somehow managed to happen alongside all the crap. Really terrible weather, severe lack of sleep due to a child who refused to stay in bed later than 5 a.m., severe-but-thankfully-temporary illness for the wife, and I lost out on a job opportunity that I would've been perfect for, that I would've been really good at, and that would've contributed greatly to the well-being of my family. But at the same time, we got to take Liam trick-or-treating at his Grandma's office, we got to introduce him to the wonders that are "The Muppet Movie" and "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," and we got to eat several good meals (and a pumpkin basket full of candy... hey, the kid's too young for that stuff; we were doing him a favor!).

So I'm not sure if the good and bad evened out or anything - the good stuff was fine and all, but the bad seemed particularly Not Good at the time, especially the sickness and the job thing - but there you go. Maybe not the Weekend from Hell or Heck. Probably just "Life As It Manages To Happen." But it happened to us, so therefore it seems larger and more important than that. So there.

I did manage to rediscover my "Go To Book" over the weekend, though. A Go To Book is a book that you might not consider to be your very favorite book ever for whatever reason (though it could be), but you can still pick it up to re-read on a fairly regular basis and enjoy it each time. For example, if you were to ask me what my very favorite book ever was, I'd either say Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, My Antonia by Willa Cather, or D'Aullaire's Book of Greek Mythology, depending on my mood at the particular time I was asked. Never let it be said I don't have wildly varying tastes. But my Go To Book is always The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, which I have just started reading for what might be the 6th time.

If you've never read it, it's a coming of age novel about a 15 year old named Charlie and his experiences during the first year of high school in 1991. It's an epistolary novel, which is a high-fallutin' way of saying that the story is told via a series of letters, sort of like Dear Mr. Henshaw, but with references to masturbation and songs by the Smiths. Charlie describes the events of his life in rather intimate detail to an anonymous friend - anonymous to the reader, and possibly even somewhat anonymous to Charlie himself, as the letters are only ever addressed as "Dear friend." Charlie is gifted but awkward, overly sensitive, perplexed by some of the simpler aspects of daily life, and has a tendency to observe life rather than actually participate in it. It's never explicitly stated, but he may have some sort of mild autism, maybe Asperger's Syndrome or something. And there are a number of hints he may have some deeper form of mental and/or trauma-induced illness, too.

Anyway, it's incredibly well written, in a voice that definitely reads as very real to me, as opposed to the sort of usual fake "teenage" voice a lot of people who write this stuff tend to use. And there are portions of this book I definitely relate to... I've never had the problems Charlie seems to have, but the painfully shy, bookish kid who tends to watch life go by rather than actually take part? Yeah, that was me in 1991 (it's me in 2006, some days). Maybe that's what makes me feel such a strong connection with this book: the main character who, in some ways (though thankfully not all), reminds me of myself at that age, as well as the fact that I was that exact age the year the book takes place. The songs and events mentioned, the sorts of people encountered... this could have been my life. Sort of.

In any event, it certainly reads more real to me than that
other famous coming of age novel, the Elephant in the Room of coming of age novels, The Catcher in the Rye. Which, honestly? I didn't like it. Maybe it was all the hype. Maybe it was the fact that I read it at 23 instead of 13. But Catcher didn't set my world on fire the way it seemed to for practically everyone else ever. Remember Holden Caulfield's assertion that no matter where you go in life, someone got there before you and wrote "Fuck You" on all the walls? That was The Catcher in the Rye for me.

I'm digressing hugely here. But my point here - and I do have one - is that for me, The Perks of Being a Wallflower is the coming of age novel that speaks to my experience, to my point of view. And though I may not consider it my very favorite novel ever, I find that I have to come back to it every year or two. Definitely Go To Book material.

Maybe it wouldn't be the same experience for you. A lot of people find it to be unbearably emo, and I can totally see that, but when you're 15 and trying to make some sort of sense of both the world and your place in it, everything is an extreme. Anything that happens is either best thing ever or the worse. When you're 15,
life is emo. And a lot of days, I still feel 15.

Some links...

Wanna read something legitimately scary for Halloween?

Ten Quick Questions with Evan Dorkin.

The Ten Goofiest Plot Points for the first ten issues of The Fantastic Four and The Amazing Spider-Man.

New Juliana Hatfield live album due November 21st. I think that calls for a "woot." Woot!

Mike Wieringo's October 30th sketchblog entry (you may have to scroll down, if you're reading this after Monday). Daredevil. A gorilla. Two great tastes that go great together. Bless you, Mike. You're doing the Lord's work.

If there had been a contest for who had the best Beefcake/Cheesecake Appreciation Week post, Bully would've won hands down.

Hey, I remember this cartoon - Samson and Goliath! They used to show reruns in the early days of the USA Cartoon Express. Weird even by Hanna-Barbera superhero standards. I could never understand why a dog would transform into a lion, or why a cartoon that had nothing to do with religion would take its name from two different Bible characters (unlike Davey and Goliath, which made perfect sense in terms of nomenclature, but made no sense at all for any number of other reasons).

If this looks like a late-night-ish attempt to just fill some space, well, yeah. Probably.

I've been having a big ol' case of blogger's block lately, hence the sparse-ish posting. This doesn't bode well for NaNoWriMo, I'm sure, but I still plan on forging ahead, as I'm rather foolish.

But in the interest of actually having content, here are some links and stuff:

Is this out on DVD at all here in the States? Because I'd totally watch this. Especially if they used the cover of the American Gigantor theme by Helmet from the "Saturday Morning" cd.

Well, I think it'd be cool, anyway.

A little while ago, Johanna typed about the increase in the number of "sexy" Halloween costume variations for women available these days. Well, Kevin found a video parody (oh lord, please let it be a parody) for a costume store that takes the trend to what is almost assuredly the next step. Honestly, I'm surprised nobody's tried to market a Sexy Abe Lincoln costume already.

Cool contest over at Project Rooftop: redesign and create an existing superhero costume, send in some pictures, and the winner will get an original drawing depicting their design by Dean Trippe. If the Batgirl example Trippe posts is any indication, that's a cool prize indeed.

And speaking of Batgirl, the Batgirl meme returns! It doesn't seem to have reached the epic proportions of the original yet, but it's still cool.

And speaking of something I mentioned many paragraphs ago, 6 more days until NaNoWriMo! It's funny... I'm not panicking about this yet, but for some reason, the not-panicking is sort of causing me to panic. I don't get me.*

*No one does. I'm like the wind, baby!**
**Not really.***
***Or at all.

Worth Another Look

Here are 3 comics/graphic novels you probably haven't thought about in awhile, if at all. But you should, because they're all really good.

  1. Days Like This by J. Torres and Scott Chantler: The story of three women (a divorcee starting her own record company, a young singer of a group like the Supremes or the Ronettes, and a songwriter who is basically Carole King) and how their blossoming music careers intertwine in the 1960s girl group era. Not as hard-hitting as it could be - topics such as racism, the trials and tribulations of the creative process, the realities of the record industry in the 1960s, and so on, are either quickly passed over or outright ignored - but those are probably best covered in another book somewhere down the road (someone get on that). This one's all about the fairy tale, and on that level, it succeeds. Pop confection in comics form.
  2. Magic Pickle by Scott Morse - The best comic about superheroic produce you'll ever read. Weapon Kosher, the titular Magic Pickle, battles the Brotherhood of Evil Produce (Phantom Carrot! The Romaine Gladiator! Chili Chili Bang Bang!) and tries to prevent a hilariously wrongheaded bank robbery at the hands of the Loco Nut. JoJo Wigman, the young girl whose bedroom just happens to have been built above Weapon Kosher's secret lab, is just trying to keep the cute boy down the street from seeing her in her footie pajamas. Antics ensue.
  3. Chronos by John Francis Moore, Paul Guinan, and Steve Leialoha - Whenever talk turns to series that should never have been cancelled, I always have two stock answers: Chase, and this book. Cam Chase still gets a lot of love, though, and has been seen off and on since her book's demise (and is now part of the Manhunter cast). Last time anyone saw Walker Gabriel, the star of Chronos, he was getting all dead-like over in JSA. Too bad. This was a good book, and the start of a great time travel story that would have traversed the entire range of the DC Universe. It was cut down far too early, though (either low sales, editorial interference, or Moore's desire to end it, depending on which account you read), and had to be brought to a quick, unsatisfactory conclusion. It could have been worse, though; at least we got a conclusion. OMAC didn't even get that, originally, and that was a Kirby book.*

*You have to love that last caption of OMAC #8, which is essentially the '70s DC equivalent of "Poochie died on the way back to his home planet."

Piggybacking; or, Disconnection

Kevin mentioned the Neil Kleid interview with Slave Labor Graphics honcho Dan Vado, among other things, in a really good post the other day about both comic blogging in general and his own blog-niche specifically. He used a great pull quote from Vado that got me thinking about something I've always sort of noticed but could never completely identify until now. At the risk of being redundant, I'll reprint Vado's quote here (or at least a portion of it):

VADO: Something cannot be both a sleeper and a hit. A comic or graphic novel either sells or it doesn’t. Critical acclaim does not translate to sales. For all the talk and hype on Street Angel, the comic hovered around 1500 copies sold and never broke out of that. Not enough for a creator with rent to pay to keep the project going. A million blog entries or message board posts mean s--- when it comes to actually selling something. For all of the hype or critical acclaim for Street Angel on the Internet, that alone wasn’t enough to help make it a financial success or, for that matter, even get it nominated for a single award in any category. Snakes on a Plane, that movie was in discount houses in a couple of weeks despite all of the viral marketing hype.

(Emphasis mine)

So at first, I thought it was sort of refreshing to hear an industry professional - a publisher, no less - come out and actually say "Thanks for your support and all, Comics Blogowhatever, but it's not actually translating into solid sales in a lot of cases." Refreshing, but a little weird, too, because based on all of the online acclaim you read about a Street Angel or a Manhunter or a Thing or whatever, you'd think that there would be a bigger groundswell of support for these books. But as has been proven time and again, this often isn't the case (Manhunter being a notable exception). I mulled this over awhile, and that's when I realized it: comics blogging is like college radio. Or like my particular college radio experience, at the very least.

My college radio station had an Alternative AOR (album-oriented rock, meaning less of a focus on singles) format and a clear mission to play music that wasn't being heard on other outlets in the area (radio in central Maine is mostly Country, Top 40, Easy Listening, and Talk). We viewed this as our grand mission to expose the masses to new and wonderful things. The masses mostly viewed us as the station that played a lot of stuff that nobody had ever heard of, if they were even aware of our existence at all (we were low-wattage, and the idea of broadcasting on the internet was still in its infancy*). But we did have a fairly devoted core audience, most of which shared our musical tastes . Unsurprisingly, most of that audience ended up working at the station at one point or another.

And I think that's how comics blogging works. We all type our thoughts/opinions/recommendations/ to the masses, and the masses, by and large, ignore us (whether that's on purpose or not I leave to you to decide). I mean, that must be the case if the sales charts are any indication, right? Because I've seen a lot of online criticism of Civil War, but it's still basically Marvel's license to print money right now, so there's clearly some level of disconnect between the tastes of bloggers and the those of the general comics-buying public. But there exists a certain core readership out there that keeps up with the blogs and apparently shares similar opinions, and I'm willing to bet that a lot of the folks - maybe even most of them, if comments threads are any indication - are bloggers themselves.

This isn't a unique phenomenon to either college radio or comics blogging, though. Go visit a wrestling news site sometime. Those places are full of folks who write about how much they hate the old stars like Hulk Hogan keeping new talent down, and about how wrestlers with actual technical wrestling skills (e.g., Chris Benoit or the late Eddie Guerrero) should pretty much be made king of everything. But you put Hogan in a WWE show even today, and he sells out stadiums and pops a crowd like it's still 1986, so there's certainly something of a disconnect there, too.

(And maybe disconnect is the wrong word to use. "Difference" probably sounds less negative. But you get my point.)

I realize this probably isn't a revelation to anyone. It's just something I've been thinking about lately. Thanks for your time.

*The year I was station manager, I suggested we actually look into webcasting, and people laughed. Luddites! But, of course, the next year they actually started doing it, and were all "Look at how cool we are! What a great idea we had!" Hypocritcal Luddites!

Thinking before you act is for wimps.

I probably just did something stupid.

I keep telling myself that I need to write more often, but aside from the occasional bits of blathering around here, I never actually do it. I needed something to really kick my butt into gear. I needed an arbitrary, difficult and yet still possible to attain goal.

So I went and signed myself up for NaNoWriMo. It achieves all of the above, and yet I find myself feeling not entirely unlike Bart Simpson that one time he signed up for the Junior Campers after he and Milhouse went on that all-syrup Squishee bender. I figure it's probably a mistake, but it's also probably a mistake I need to make. It's kind of Zen. Almost. Not really. Or at all. But it's as close as anything in my life is going to get to Zen, so I'm just gonna say that it is. Even though it isn't. Not even remotely.

So anyway, if I'm all twitchy and "Hey you kids, get offa my lawn! I told you I'd shoot, but you didn't believe me! WHY DIDN'T YOU BELIEVE ME?!?" come mid-November, well, you'll know the reason why.

And feel free to add me as a writing buddy if you like (Jim? Annie? Jer?). My username is prufrock30. I'm sure I could use the support.

Who doesn't like a little cheesecake?

Kalinara says it's Cheesecake/Beefcake Appreciation Week. Who am I to argue with that? So, for those who like their cheesecake with a side order of butt-kicking (not to mention some legitimately useful information), here's Lee Elias's Black Cat making with the judo:

(Image downloaded - not hotlinked - from Fred Hembeck)

Someone should really collect this series someday. I'd love to read it, but the issues are pretty spendy on the rare occasions when you can actually find them.

My one bit of January 2007 Solicitation Snarkiness.

I asked it over at Comics Should Be Good, I'll ask again here:

Why the holy hell are Sue Richards's arms so ridiculously long?!? Is she actually Reed in disguise? Sheesh. For all the crap I give Greg Land and his Magic Lightbox, when I see anatomy this out of whack, I can't help but think that maybe - just maybe - he has the right idea.

The Tube

Because nobody requested it, here are some brief follow-up thoughts on stuff I've seen in this new TV season.

Heroes - More Hiro (the Sensational Character Find of 2006), less hollowed-out skull cavities, please! Also, Mohinder's love interest is perhaps the most ridiculously adorable woman I've seen on television in some time, which only convinces me more that she is, in fact, Up To No Good.

Studio 60 - Great show. Exceptional, really, but I find it sort of odd that a show about a sketch comedy has yet to show a portion of a sketch that I actually find funny. I also take issue with the assertion that Gilbert and Sullivan are funnier than Groucho Marx, and I choose to believe this is why the show's ratings have been less stellar than expected.

Doctor Who - Best show on TV right now, and this week's episode with Anthony Stewart Head and the return of two of the best companions ever - Sarah Jane and K9 - only proves it even more. Throwing a bone to continuity nerds while still making the show accessible to new fans is a really tough feat to pull off, but they succeeded admirably. It was also nice to get the rare glimpse of how traveling with the Doctor for any length of time really affects the lives of the companions, which is a subject that's only ever really been touched on in the Who novels (and rarely at that), never in the show that I can recall. Unless you're talking about Katrina, Sara Kingdom, or Adric, in which case the end result is pretty clear.*

30 Rock - Anyone else find the pilot kind of awkward? And not in a "there's no laugh track, so I don't know where to laugh" sort of way; more in a "I'm not sure where to laugh because there isn't anything that's making me laugh" way. I'll stick it out for a few more episodes because, well, Tina Fey... sigh. But there's a lot of ground to make up here.

Smallville - Every year I give this show another shot, and every year I decide I'm really not missing anything. For one thing, I think I need more Superman in my Superman shows. For another, I can't figure out how this guy can actually grow up to be Superman, since just about everyone on the show - certainly everyone in the opening credits, as far as I can figure - knows Clark's secret by now. Unless they plan on having Zatanna appear in the series finale. Maybe if you pretend that this show actually isn't about a version of Clark who eventually becomes Superman it would all work, but why base a show in this particular mythos if you were going to do that?

Legion of Super-Heroes - It's no Justice League Unlimited, and it's no Teen Titans, but it fills the void pretty decently, I think. I'm especially happy that they respect the audience's intelligence, dropping subtle clues as to the Alexa character's heritage and letting folks figure it out on their own rather than beating everyone over the head with it. Too bad it's already in reruns, though!

The Venture Brothers - I know I'm gonna get rapped on the mouth for this, but honestly? I don't see the appeal here. I think it's clever enough - recasting the Scooby Doo gang as Ted Bundy, Patty Hearst, Valerie Solanis, and the Son of Sam is sort of brilliant, actually - but I think that most of the time it's trying to be much too clever, and I've lost interest in the whole affair as a result. There's a point when even the depths of humor being mined can be too arcane for me, and I think this show reached that mark somewhere around mid-season. Plus, I find Rusty Venture too creepy to be entertaining most of the time.

Jack's Big Music Show - I used to say I watched this show because Liam liked it, but I have to come clean. I love it. I'd watch it even if I didn't have kids. But they need more than the 12 or so episodes that currently air. They also need to throw the one with Henry the Scary Monster back into rotation, as that was my favorite. Anyone know why they never show this one anymore? It's annoying. Anyway, I've heard it'll be at least next January before we get any new episodes. WAY too long. Even Ren & Stimpy never kept us waiting this long for new stuff.

*Uh, they died.


More auctions:

You know the drill. Buy my stuff and streamline my life!

Brief Thoughts on Comics New-ish, Slightly Old, and Older Still


Lone Ranger #1 - A little more gruesome that I'm used to for a Lone Ranger story, and only the bare bones of the beginning (already feels "written for the trade"), but a decent start overall. On the "Lone Ranger Origin Story Scale," it isn't as good as the Clayton Moore TV version, but better than the 1981 movie with Klinton Spilsbury. Definitely coming back for #2.

True Story Swear to God (Vol. 2) #1 - Tom Beland did me a solid back when I got married (
which I've mentioned before), so I'm predisposed to say good things about anything he does. But thankfully, this is very good, so complimenting this takes little or no effort at all. I hope moving to Image nets this book a larger audience, especially since the story is only going to get more interesting from here (engagement, marriage, separation, reunion... so much ground left to cover!).

Marvel Team-Up 24 - Well, that was sort of needlessly gruesome, wasn't it? Should be used as a textbook for "How to Bring an Otherwise Decent Series to a Sudden Dull Thud of an Ending 101."

The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Companion - Haven't read it yet, but I'm just so damn pleased it exists.


Uncle Sam and the Freedom Fighters #1 - The story by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray is fairly interesting and provides some interesting glimpses and new takes on classic characters, and the art by Daniel Acuna and Javi Montes is really quite good (though Montes's decision to color everybody all shiny-like is a little weird to me). So why didn't I like this better? I think it's all the political intrigue and real world parallels. I read comics to get away from that sort of thing. I'm sure this is a great book for the right audience; I'm just not a part of that group.

Secret Six #1 - A little hard to pick up on if you haven't read Villains United, but a decent read. Equal parts The Usual Suspects and a Bond movie (at least the opening), but with super powers. Makes me want to go and read VU, then come back and give this a try again, and maybe move on from there.

Special Education #1 "Convention Special" - The same book as the upcoming-through-Diamond #1, but with a Justice League #1 homage cover instead of a Giant-Size X-Men #1 homage. It's about a kid forced to attend an all-super hero high school, but since he doesn't have powers, he's sent to the remedial class taught by an ex-super villain who only refers to himself in the third person. Similar to PS 238, but with a greater likelihood of fart jokes. Funny start, thanks in large part to Dr. Dome (afore-mentioned third-person obsessive).

Deadman #1 - No. Just... no.

Older Still:

Flash: Born to Run tpb - A real grab bag of a book I picked up from the library. The front half is the "Flash: Year One" storyline that kicked off Mark Waid's first run on the book, retelling the story Wally West's first summer with super powers. Not as epic or groundbreaking as "The Return of Barry Allen," but a lot of fun. The back half reprints several short, similarly retconned origin-y stories, and gets progressively worse as it goes. It also manages to directly contradict details from the first half at least twice, and proves conclusively that Bill Sienkiewicz might be the worst choice ever to ink Jim Aparo pencils. Yes, even worse than Vince Colletta.*

*This sentence brought to you in part by "The Committee for Cheap Shots at Vince Colletta's Expense" and readers like you. Thank you.

Kid Tested, Beloved 80s TV Icon Approved

I love a good bandwagon, though admittedly I'm hopping on this one late:

Via Tegan and Bully. Make your own here.

Talkin' Childhood Relived, Batman, Doctor Who, and yes, Baseball

The other day I finished Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes and the Reinvention of the American Grown Up by Christopher Noxon, an interesting book about how a lot of American adults seem much less traditionally, well, adult than in years past. Naturally, it got me to thinking a lot about my own rejuvenile tendencies, and I was going to write up a big entry about it here, but I ended up thinking better of it. I mean, it should be pretty obvious to anyone who's been reading this blog for more than, say, five minutes, that not only do I fit this particular profile, but that I fit it to the point that I could probably get away with listing my occupation as "Manchild" when it comes time to renew my passport. Why belabor such an obvious point?

There are three important things about this book that I wish to pass on, however:
  1. Do not go into this book expecting a hardhitting look at the increasing number of adults who don't cast aside the joys of childhood, a scathing condemnation of them, nor any sort of assertion that these people are What's Wrong With Society Today. Noxon makes no secret of his own rejuvenalia, and often refers to those who express their displeasure with this as "harrumphing codgers."
  2. Please also bear in mind that he does not use this book as a forum to make excuses for his own behavior, he is merely documenting the various aspects of a phenomenon, both pro and con, and for the most part, does so pretty fairly. He does seem unduly harsh in playing the "I'm a more acceptable geek than you" card in discussing folks dressed in costume at Comic-Ccon, though, going so far as to lump them in with furries, plushies, and assorted other fetishists. Very unfair to paint the entire cosplay culture with that brush, I thought; you wanna tell the Elvis Trooper guy he's no different than a plushie? Hell no - he'd kick your ass with the combined powers of The Force and The King, chummy.
  3. This book left me with a profound desire to get a game of kickball going. Who's up for it? I'm thinking we could get an awesome ECB* vs. ACAPCWOVCCAOE** match-up going.

On the whole, a good read. Give it a chance if you're so inclined.

Hey, have you skipped out on the vast majority of Batman comics for the last two decades because, well, let's face it, they were mostly bad Frank Miller imitations and you were never totally interested in reading about a Batman who was such an insufferable prick most of the time, but now you're kind of curious to catch up on what you missed because the comics are actually kind of good again? Well, Scott Kurtz of PvP did a Batman story for his kinda-sorta-but-not-really 24 Hour Comic Day project this year, and he managed to distill two decades' worth of bad Batman stories into 6 pages of utter brilliance called "My Parents Are Dead." Seriously, if you haven't read Batman since 1986, this is pretty much all you missed.

Via This Is Pop Culture - The new Doctor Who action figures are finally going to be getting American distribution starting around December, which makes me very happy I never shelled out the ridiculous eBay prices for the Doctor and/or a Cyberman. Though I'd still love to get my hands on the Regeneration set they did so I could get a 9th Doctor figure, too.

The new season of Doctor Who, by the way, is all kinds of excellent so far, and easily my favorite thing on TV right now. I had some fears about David Tennant early on, if only because Christopher Eccleston was so good as the Doctor, but all that went right out the window by the end of The Christmas Invasion (and any lingering doubts were pretty much obliterated by halfway point of New Earth). I'm enjoying the unique touches he's bringing to the role so far, but I also think it's pretty cool that in some ways, he's similar enough to Eccleston's Doctor that, for once, it's easy to see that both men are really the same guy. Usually, Doctor-to-Doctor transitions are so jarringly different that it's easy to lose sight of the fact that these 10 guys are actually all the same person, but this time around, it's easy for both the audience and the traveling companion-of-the-moment to see the truth. And I can't help but think this makes the whole regeneration concept so much easier for new fans to understand - it took me a long time to grasp the "No, really, these vastly different people are all the same person, honest" concept when I first started watching the show back in grade school.

I'm a Red Sox fan, so naturally, I was happy as hell to see the Detroit Tigers eliminate the New York Yankees from the American League playoffs. I smiled. I laughed. I may have even done a small dance. I'm not proud... well, no, I actually am, kinda. I can happy dance with the best of 'em. But I digress. Yankee misfortune tends to be a good thing in my book, but even I think it's stupid to blame manager Joe Torre and threaten to get rid of him. The man revived the Yankee Juggernaut, helping return them to the dominance they had for most of the 20th century. Even in the years they don't win (or even go to) the World Series, they're still consistently in contention. That's good managing right there. You don't want to sacrifice that for the sake of establishing public scapegoat. So while I don't like the man's team due to some ancient baseball bloodfeud I was indoctrinated into at birth, I still respect the hell out of Joe Torre as both a manager and a man, and I think firing him would be a huge mistake.

I wouldn't mind seeing them kick A-Rod to the curb, though. That guy's a punk who hasn't delivered. Way to bat 8th, A-Rod! You earned it!

(And no, I'm not just saying that in the hopes that Boston tries to pick him up again. They've got enough problems to deal with right now without adding that guy to the mix. Now if the Yanks wanted to unload Jeter or Matsui on Boston for some inexplicable reason, that'd be a different story... I can't wait until the day the wind up out of the pinstripes so I can actually root for them, because they're both a little bit good.)

One last reminder that my current batch of eBay auctions end Tuesday night!

*East Coast Bloggaz
**Associated Comics and Pop Culture Webloggers of Ventura County, CA, and Outlying Environs

Top 5 Tuesday Thursday

Decided to do another one this week to make up for not doing one last week. Or maybe even the week before. I'm inconsistent. I know this. Anyway, this time, it's Top 5 Amalgam Books!

For those of you who don't know - or possible even care - DC and Marvel had a big crossover event in the 90s where the best known characters from each company got to slug it out with each other for the survival of their very universes. Halfway through the series, the two universes were combined, and characters from the two companies were merged into new characters (Superman and Captain America became Super-Soldier, Batman and Wolverine became Dark Claw, etc.), and they printed comics featuring these characters under the Amalgam Comics banner (pretending that these characters and their books had always existed this way). The books sold well enough that they made more Amalgam Comics titles the following year. Between the two events, a couple dozen Amalgam books were published. A lot were pretty bad, but some of them were pretty good and had a lot of fun with the concept. These are my 5 favorites.

5. X-Patrol (first series) - Not the first time the Doom Patrol and X-Force were combined, nor the funniest; both of those honors belong to Grant Morrison's Doom Force Special. But it was a decent enough little story (certainly more readable than X-Force ever was, and probably more accessible to a wide audience than Doom Patrol at the time), and it had one moment of inspired genius: Dial HUSK (amalgam of DC's Dial H for HERO concept and Generation X team member Husk) becoming...

Mary Marvel Girl. Brilliant. Makes me laugh every single time I read it.

4. Challengers of the Fantastic (second series) - Combining Challengers of the Unknown with the Fantastic Four is pretty much a no-brainer, but this goes above and beyond what you'd expect. Tom Grummett's artwork is suitably big and Kirbyesque for the occasion, and Karl Kesel doesn't hold back with the story, throwing as many wild concepts from across Jack Kirby's entire comics career into the mix, and throwing in jokes for Marvel or DC continuity fans whenever possible (as when Uatu the Guardian tells Johnny "Red" Storm that he must find Galactiac's device and "ultimately, nullify it."

3. Spider-Boy (first series) - Spider-Man was in the midst of the clone saga at the time, and Superboy was hanging out with a bunch of old Kirby creations from the Jimmy Olsen days (DNAliens, the Newsboy Legion, etc.) while also serving as jailbait love interest to several much older women. So, you know, not particular good parts to be forced to combine, but somehow the whole comes together in a surprisingly fun way. More Karl Kesel, so the Kirby aspects are played up large and as off the wall as possible, so I'm sure that had a lot to do with it. The Mike Wieringo art helped, too.

2. Spider-Boy Team-Up (second series) - More Spider-Boy, more Kesel, and some Roger Stern thrown in for good measure. Spider-Boy meets the Legion of Galactic Guardians 2099 - several times - and, of course, they're completely different each time. So even in the Amalgam universe, the Legion can't keep its continuities straight.

1. Dark Claw Adventures (second series) - The first Dark Claw book was pretty grim, which was unsurprising since it combined Batman and Wolverine at the point when they were both consistently written as nearly-psychotic asshats. This book, though, shows the characters in their would-be Amalgam Animated Universe forms, and it's kind of brilliant. Even considering how much of the Wolverine stuff is thrown in here, it still fits in pretty well with the tone of the Batman Adventures book published at the time. But my favorite part of the book is this scene, where we get our first glimpse of Dark Claw's Burrow:

I'm not sure what I love most: the Devil Dinosaur robot, or the giant Canadian nickel. Is there a level beyond genius? Because I think this reaches that. I know I'm given to superlative, but I think it's justified here.

Top 5 Tuesday

Top 5 Tuesday returns! This week - Top 5 moments in songs that always make me smile.

5. It's a weird place to start, I know, but there's this one point in "Monster Boogie" by children's artist Laurie Berkner (who I admittedly have a big crush on, and her music isn't bad, either, so I don't mind playing her CDs or DVD for Liam) where she's singing the line leading into the first chorus, "and this is what I like to do," and her voice cracks a little on the "I like," and it's seriously the cutest thing ever.

4. The bagpipe part in "Under the Milky Way" by the Church. Never underestimate the power of a well-placed bit of bagpipery, my friends.

3. At one point in the Shonen Knife song "Loop di Loop," they include this brief cover riff from Chad and Jeremy's "Summer Song," and it fits the mood so completely perfectly. I loves me some Shonen Knife. They prove that you can be cute as hell and write the bubblegummiest songs on either side of the Pacific, but still be punk as fuck.

2. The part in "I Saw Her Again" by the Mamas and the Papas where Denny Doherty comes in with the chorus a few seconds too early, resulting in "I saw her... I saw her again last night, etc. etc." It was a mistake, but it was left in the finished product because it sounds really excellent there. It helps build in to that chorus, making it stronger, and almost seems to add to the guilt of the song's narrator, as if he can't quite bring himself to completely admit what he's done at first. And of course, since Denny was nailing Michelle Phillips on the side at this point with the full knowledge of Papa John, well, that makes it all that much more powerful.

1. This line from "Sellout" by Juliana Hatfield: "La la, la la la la. Woo!" Lacks the gravitas of my number 2 answer, but it's cute as hell. And my feelings about Juliana Hatfield have been well-documented on this blog many times before, so I feel no need to justify it.

K-Tel Presents...

So, as I said, yesterday was my two year blog-a-versary. Go me. Anyway, I wasn't really planning on marking the occasion with anything special, but I did put together a list of Posts Gone By that I thought were pretty decent. Call it a TPS Greatest Hits Compilation, or perhaps more accurately, a Handful of Posts I Didn't Entirely Hate Upon Re-Reading. If you're so inclined, click, read, and enjoy!

As for the coming year here at TPS World HQ in Rhode Island, well, I'm not sure yet. I definitely plan on keeping the blog going - I started this in order to give me both an opportunity and an obligation to write more often, and so far, I think it's worked out reasonably well. I hope to do more long-form, researched posts in the future, though. I've proved I can dash out a quickie a couple times a week; now I want to try my hand at some work of better quality. I see the beginnings of it in a few of the links above, but there's definitely room for improvement, especially if I ever want to get paid to write some day (and yeah, I'd really like to see that happen).

From a strictly cosmetic point of view, I want to learn how to make this place look a little nicer, maybe get a logo, add some flashier graphics... something to set it apart from all the other hundreds of Blogger sites using the same template.

I'd also like to find out who I have to bribe to get on DC's blogger review copy comp list. Or anyone else, for that matter. Because, you know, that'd be pretty cool. And not just for the occasional free comics (although, admittedly, that'd be a fun perk).

So as I said yesterday, thanks for your time these past two years, and I hope you'll stick around for year 3.