Toth Wheels

Panel from Hot Wheels #4, Sept.-Oct. 1970, art by Alex Toth

Even though there have been some good toy/cartoon tie-in comics over the years (Micronauts, G.I. Joe, Rom), most people tend to think of them as pretty forgettable, throwaway books. I suspect a lot of publishers and creators think that way, too. But DC's Hot Wheels series features some of the best art of Alex Toth's career, wonderfully shadowy moody masterpieces one and all. So many gorgeous panels in #4, I had to scan something from it. The above was my favorite, though it was a tough decision. The story, "Eye of the Storm," is not likely to be listed among writer Len Wein's greatest works, but every single line drawn by Toth for this story is amazing.

Hot Wheels. Who knew?

Tumbling onto the bandwagon

I decided to give Tumblr a shot and set up Better Living Through Junk Culture. Not to replace this blog, but something to supplement it with random, quickly posted stuff that might not always fit here, or be too short to bother with here, or whatever.

Anyway, it can be found at, which probably way too long for a decent URL, but why let common sense stop me now?

Sweet Cuppin' Cakes (or How to Get Bill's Attention, Retail Edition)

Saw these at an IGA in Canada a few weeks back. For some reason, I was thinking about cupcakes for the rest of the trip and I just can't figure out why!

(Also, I found another piece of evidence to support my theory that Canada is really Alternate Reality America: IGA stores are clean there. The ones I remember growing up in Maine looked like they hadn't seen a mop since 1948, but the couple of them we stopped in for snacks in Canada absolutely sparkled.)

There's new DC superhero Pez and nobody told me?

You're supposed to stay on top of this sort of thing for me, internet. What the hell?

Anyway, I discovered these the other day when I was at Toys R Us with my son. We were standing in the checkout line, and there in the Pez display was Batman. While the apex of my Pez collecting days is behind me, I still try and pick up the nerd-oriented ones when I can, so I grabbed this and was excited to find out on that there are Superman and Green Lantern ones to accompany it.

It was surprising to see Batman, seeing as we just go a new set of Batman dispensers a few years ago, but seeing them go with the bust design like they've been doing with the Disney princesses was a good idea, because it finally opens them up to characters who they've never been able to do before. I mean, I suppose they could've made a Superman at some point in years past, but it would've just looked like Generic Black Haired Man.

They should've done this years ago, and I hope they continue. I'm looking forward to seeing who we get in this format down the line, because although this is a good enough start, it's a little skimpy right now. Of course they'd put out a new Batman, and finally making a Superman is a good idea, too. And since Green Lantern had a movie this summer, he's also a no-brainer. But they couldn't have made a new Wonder Woman, too? She has brand recognition far beyond the comics-reading world, and her old dispenser has been off the market for years. And, of course, Batman can always use a Robin.

Not that I'm complaining mind you. New superhero Pez is always a good thing, and I figured the new Captain America and Thor dispensers were all we'd be getting. This is a big ol' windfall for even semi-retired Pezheads like me.

Comic-Non Highlights (such as they are)

Comic-Non attendance was down 50% today from yesterday (it was just me at home), but considering this thing makes no money, no one really cared.

Today's panels and activities included:
90s Fox X-Men on Netflix - Just as Cheesy as You Remember: But of all the 90s Marvel cartoons, this is still the most watchable by far (tried to watch some of the 90s Spider-Man the other day and just could not get through it at all, and I had "Spider Blood, Spider Blood, Radioactive Spider Blood" stuck in my head on repeat for DAYS).

Batman the Animated Series - Possibly Even Better Than You Remember: Hard to believe this was running on Fox at the same time as X-Men.

Gammera the Invincible - Add an Extra "M" and That Means It's an Entirely Different Movie: Also, apparently public domain. It was on the public domain channel on Roku, anyway. Hell, you can go watch the entire thing on YouTube. But, no matter how you spell it, Gam(m)era is still filled with meat.

Meanwhile, over at that other convention...

Holy crap, DC and Marvel Lego sets. We may actually need to buy two of a lot of these, because I don't know that either the kiddo or myself will want to share.

Oh, and I didn't know I needed a Star Trek / Legion of Super-Heroes crossover, but now I'm actually kinda wondering how I've gotten along this long without one.

Yes, please. I will take this.

Lots of good costume photos from Sandy Eggo Day One over at Rotten Tomatoes, including a sad stormtrooper and a Darkwing Duck that will haunt your nightmares. Lots of characters I don't recognize, though, but I've decided that anything I don't know, it's just some type of Pokemon.

Vaya con libros, Borders.

I had two thoughts about the closing of Borders:

1. Given the number of smaller and/or independent bookstores that fell beneath their mighty, coffee-barred heel, there's probably a certain amount of karmic payback here.

2. Given the amount of time and money I've spent at various locations through the years, I'm going to miss the place a lot, karma be damned.

Growing up in Bangor, Maine, in the 80s and 90s, there really wasn't a whole hell of a lot to do after 9 p.m. If you weren't 21, didn't want to go to dance clubs, didn't want to hang out in random parts of downtown, or didn't know anyone who had a place where you could get up to all manner of illicit activities, you were S.O.L. And I, of course, was under 21 and entirely too nerdy to consider dancing, downtown, or illicit anything. But when Borders opened, it was this amazing, heretofore unheard of thing in the Bangor area: a giant bookstore that also had a cafe and, best of all, somehow managed to stay open later than pretty much any other business in the area.

Basically, if you were young and nerdy in Bangor, the opening of Borders was a little like the kids in Footloose getting to dance for the first time. At long last, there was something to do between the closing of the mall and the acceptably late enough time to get your friend who actually had a car to drive you out to Dysart's (the local truck stop and late night purveyor of pie and curly fries). It wasn't much of a nightlife, but by God, it was something, and something after a lot of nothing is pretty much everything.

Years later, after moving to Rhode Island, I worked at a different Borders for a little while. The pay was terrible, so it was a very hand-t0-mouth existence while I worked there, but it was by and large a fun place to work, mostly thanks to a few fun managers and a boatload of awesome co-workers. Some of those people are still there, and they're still as friendly as ever, so I really hate to see them lose their jobs.

I hope some good comes out of all of this. I hope the people who find themselves out of work land on their feet. And I hope that in the absence of a retail 900 pound gorilla, smaller independent bookstores are able to reclaim some of their original niche when and where they can (and they can, even in the age of Amazon, assuming they have community support). But mostly, I hope whatever comes up to take Borders' place in the landscape is similarly inviting to the nerdy kids with no place else to go.

Time once again for the World's Least Impressive Pop Culture Non-Gathering(tm): Comic-Non International!

Once again all of us here at Trusty Plinko Stick World Headquarters have been left home alone and dateless for Nerd Prom out in Sandy Eggo, so we're left to console ourselves with our own non-con for third year in a row. It won't be nearly as exciting, and given the heat wave gripping most of the country, it'll probably end up being even more sweaty than the real thing, but there won't be as many people, you won't be scrambling to find affordable food, and it'll be way cheaper.

How does it work? However the hell you want it to. Talk about your favorite nerdities with your friends. Buy some comics. Watch some movies. Draw something. Drink some beer. Argue about superheroes. Argue with superheroes. Wear a costume. Don't wear a costume. Hell, don't wear pants. It's your house, it's your rules, it's your game show.

As for what's going on around here, well, it's Preview Night, so it's a little slow. But the kiddo already found a few cosplayers:

The kid on the far-left says he's supposed to be Aqualad, by the way. A good effort, but we recommended next year he wear his shorter blue legs instead. Awesome TARDIS costume on that one guy in back, though. Bet that's hard to walk around in.

DC: everything old is new again, except for the stuff that isn't (I think).

The more I read about this whole DCnU thing starting in September - you know, the rebooty retcon that isn't actually either one of those things except for all of the reboots they're retconning (or is it retcons they're rebooting?) - the more I'm deciding that a lot of it Just Isn't For Me. All those things they have planned for Superman, for instance...

yeah, I'm all set. Parts of it feel like yet another retread of well-worn territory (all of his many parents dead, no longer married to or even dating Lois), and the parts that are changing just feel like change for change's sake. And based on what I've seen and heard so far, I don't really like the new stuff (particularly the costume... what we see above doesn't really work, at least not with the cape, and the armor he'll eventually end up in is just ugly), and if I want the well-worn territory stuff, I'll go back to the old comics.

And it's that last bit that I think is keeping me from going all Fantitlement Rage on this. I can't get too upset about any of this - none of us can, really - because there are nearly 75 years' worth of Superman comics out there, and I sure as hell haven't read all of them. I probably haven't read even remotely close to most or even half of them, and I consider myself a big Superman fan. With that much material out there, none of us can complain that there aren't comics that appeal to our particular vision of Superman (or whomever) out there. And with so much classic material in print again, it's easy to get ahold of it.

So yeah. Not For Me, but I won't lose sleep over it.

Kind of sad to see so many great books get bulldozed over to get this going, though. Take Bryan Q. Miller's Batgirl, for instance.

I've only read 3 or 4 issues of this now, but I've decided it's incredibly fun and I'm going to start tracking down the issues or trades of the ones I've missed. The issue I posted above, last month's, I believe, was one of the most fun comic book stories I've read in a very long time. It had my attention anyway, since I've been a huge mark for the Squire ever since Grant Morrison first teamed her up with Batman in his JLA Classified arc, but this was an absolute blast to read, it officially made me a fan of Stephanie Brown (a girl who just cannot catch a lasting break with DC, can she?), and it proved that you can, indeed, have a book set in Batman's sandbox that can be a decent adventure and mystery while still being - SHOCK! GASP! EXCLAMATION POINT! - fun.

Again, I have a lot of these left to read now, and I should be able to track them down, so I have that to look forward to, but it's just too bad that there won't be still more of these to enjoy. That's a real shame. I look forward to the fun reading to come, but I know I'll be out of it all too soon.

Of course, the upcoming change isn't all bad. Despite my reservations about the big guns, some of the "smaller" titles coming down the pike actually have me quite excited. Mr. Terrific, for example, sounds interesting. I was enough of a fan of the first Blue Beetle series to be curious about the new one. And Legion Lost looks to feature my favorite Legionnaire, Wildfire, front and center, so I'll give that a look. But the one I'm looking forward to the most is one that we actually seem to be getting a sneak preview of right now, and that's Jeff Lemire's Frankenstein: Agent of SHADE.

Now, I have no interest in the main thrust of this whole Flashpoint event. At all. I'm not opposed to it, mind you, but based on what I've heard and skimmed, it's mostly not my cuppa (though, admittedly, I *love* the series' take on Captain Marvel/Thunder, the whole S!H!A!Z!A!M! thing). But Frankenstein and the Creatures of the Unknown caught my eye because a.) come on, Frankenstein and a big sword; b.) it co-stars the Creature Commandos and the G.I. Robot; c.) Jeff Lemire's a talented guy, even if I don't always like what he's working on. So I gave this a shot, and two issues in, it's fantastic. It's the best sort of peripheral event tie-in in that it only barely ties in, so you can read this and mostly make sense of it even if you're not reading Flashpoint (and, I suppose, if you're reading Flashpoint and have no interest in this, you can safely skip it, but seriously, don't). The plot's interesting, the characterization is great, and there's so much What the Hell?!? going on that by the time you've begun to process the last crazy thing that happened, some other nutso thing is going on. It's Fun Comics of the highest degree, and though I've mostly given up on monthly floppy funny books, I'll probably give the Frankenstein ongoing a shot.

The New Old Nu DC: there's probably no stopping them now, but in some cases, that's probably an okay thing. As for the rest, well, like I said, there's 75 years of other material to read instead. Keep that gravy train chugging, DC, and we'll continue to get along fine.

(Oh, and obviously, I'm more than willing to be proven wrong on all this. I'll be happy if the new Superman, and everything else, is awesome. If it turns out that it is good, I'll definitely give it a shot. But for now... wary.)

They Might Be Singing When They're Winning

So They Might Be Giants covered Chumbawumba's "Tubthumping" for the AV Club's Undercover series, and it's awesome, people:

They Might Be Giants covers Chumbawamba

Flans is looking very Tony Stark there, don't you think?

We want information. Information! INFORMATION! And maybe something we can dance to.

Some days it pays to open your email. Today, that's how I discovered Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling, a Boston-based duo that describes itself as "moody, minimalist, art-rock with a passion for The Prisoner." The group has put out 2 EPs of songs based on/inspired by episodes of The Prisoner, with a third planned to finish off the series.

And that would be cool enough as it is - I love how music steeped in nerd culture has evolved past the convention circuit and Dr. Demento (not that there's anything wrong with either) and into the realm of elaborate artistic endeavor - but these two kicked it up a dozen or so notches more with the video for their song "Arrival," which happens to be a shot-for-shot homage to the opening of the original Prisoner episode of the same name, using Boston and other New England area landmarks as substitutes for the England and Wales locations used in the show.

And should you want to see how well they matched up with the original, there's a picture-in-picture comparison version, too.

And yeah, the song itself is pretty rad, too. I definitely need to hear more from these people. Check out their site for more information, as well as streaming or purchasing the first two EPs, The New Number Two and Questions Are A Burden To Others.

Be seeing you.

Happy Independence Day from The Shield

Hello, friends. I'm the Shield, an action figure from Remco's 1984 Mighty Crusaders toyline and, yes, the very first patriotic superhero ever (look it up!), and I'm back at the Trusty Plinko Stick weblog internets site once again to wish each and every one of you a Safe and Happy Independence Day! Be careful with those sparklers, kids! Ha ha!

What? No. I don't want to talk about... you know... him. Why do you always have to bring this up? My therapist says I need to move past all that, and I keep trying, and yet you ALWAYS...

Look, I'm sorry. I don't mean to yell. It's not your fault. Listen, I get it. There's a movie coming out, so he's on TV, he's in the magazines, he's on Dunkin Donuts cups... he's even got his own signature donut! Man, if that's not makin' it big, I don't know what is, Sonny Jim!

And the thing is, he's such a nice guy! AND THAT'S WHAT'S WORST OF ALL!!! It'd be one thing if he'd just be a bastard, but he's just this amazingly friendly, upbeat guy and I cannot bring myself to hate him. It's all "Okay, Axis, here we come!" and "Avengers Assemble!" and "Keep 'em flying, soldier!" and "Look, here's a hundred dollars, just take it... no, it's not charity, it's a loan, you just pay me back whenever you can, I know you're good for it, and no, the Comet will never hear about this, this just between you and I, okay?" with him. I guess I don't blame him, not anymore. I've finally learned to stop thinking he stole my shtick - it's not like draping yourself in a flag is a particularly new idea - and to stop thinking he got lucky. He's a hell of a guy who made the most of the breaks he was given and has prospered as a result. Deservedly so. And that shield-throwing thing is hella cool, as I'm led to believe the kids say. Heck, I plan on being first in line on opening day to see that movie of his!

And I will likely have been drunk for some time. Oh, God, I hate myself.