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Date: Monday, 07 Jul 2014 11:14
You know, I used to write a lot of comics reviews. Almost from the beginning of my blogging days, I did that. Actually, I even did it before I started blogging- in my pre-blog days, I spent a lot of time on the old DC Comics Message Boards, and there was this thread that asked people to post their reactions to comics they'd read the week previous, and I always used it as an opportunity to hold forth about what I had bought. So naturally, even though I didn't really intend to make it such, it was only a matter of time when I started posting them on my then-new blog, back in 2002.

And slowly, I began to get some attention for doing it. I started making the online acquaintance of others who did the same, and eventually my little blog became 75-80% comics content, sometimes more. And I was cool with that. I was actually part, for a little while, of a club...the Comics Blogosphere, as it was called. People linked to me, I linked to them...it was fun and interesting and I even began to get free comics, thanks to many kind publishers like Larry Young's AiT/PlanetLar, Oni, Top Shelf, the fine folks at Fantagraphics, even DC Comics thanks to Alex Segura. I even wrote for other websites eventually, like Alan David Doane's Comic Book Galaxy and Trouble With Comics, the short-lived Pop Culture Shock, and more recently, PopDose, thanks to the redoubtable Jeff Giles.

But, every year, sometimes every week, newer and better and more interesting voices came along and drowned out a lot of others, survival of the fittest in action. Group blogs became the order of the day, then eventually the bigger comics websites skimmed the cream off the top. The comics themselves changed. And I myself changed, I think. Got older, if not wiser, and while I have not stopped reading comics and other forms of sequential entertainment, I have found myself having less to actually say about them. Blogging became a real chore, since it seemed like I no longer had the desire and energy and spare time to devote to it, and I decided to put the by then venerable Bacardi Show on hiatus, as well as limiting my Popdose columns to once a month and even then that became something I put off as long as I could, as honored as I was (and still am) that I was contributing to that awesome site.

It came to a head in October of 2012. Confronted with dear Raina Telgemeier's then-new graphic novel Drama, my brain shut down. I couldn't think of a single damned thing to say about it. It was a very good story with a worthwhile point to make, rendered in Raina's likeable art style...yet I couldn't think of a single interesting way to express that. Of course, this assumes that could ever do that in the first place, not for me to say, so work with me here. I decided that I needed to take a break from foisting my opinions on people, especially since I could no longer adequately express them, it seemed. I apologized to Jeff and requested a hiatus there, too, which lasts to this day. I think I'm still welcome to come back, but who knows.

So now, here we are, June of 2014, and once more I'm entertaining notions of writing reviews of comics I've read. I still don't feel all that confident about it, and I certainly don't want to just do it for the sake of doing it...I've always wanted to be as entertaining as possible, and informative too; I've been reading the damned things since I was four years old, I've seen a lot of things come and go, and surely that counts for something. I want to do this, just to see if I can get over the block and still do it. So here goes...some of the stuff I've read in the last month or so, along with general reviews of titles I've been buying regularly. Wish me luck.

Big Trouble in Little China #1
W: Eric Powell (with John Carpenter co-credit) A: Brian Churilla, Michael Garland (Boom!)

The biggest surprise when it comes to this, the latest in a long line of licensed property comics from this and other publishers, is that it took so long to appear. And, as usual with this sort of thing (and bear in mind I have yet to sample the likes of Adventure Time comics, which I understand goes off in a lot of different directions), it tries to hit every. Single. Beat. that made the film, mostly ignored by the general population but solidly in the Cult Status Canon, so enjoyable- and that is part of the problem. Powell (of The Goon fame), picks up from where the film leaves off- a good idea, but hedges his bets by sticking slavishly to the Carpenter/Richter template, and gives the impression that this will never color outside the lines and thus will become a bore. This is hard to believe from such a blank slate character (Jack Burton. I hear you say, smiling, "Who?" but you know what I mean), so the net effect is that it certainly seems like the writer knows how to imitate Richter and may have some definite ideas about where he wants to go...but how far he's willing to go remains to be seen. Churilla illustrates with a cartoonish (somewhat appropriate, I guess, because the film was such a cartoon in its own way) style and does OK by the likenesses, so that's half the battle I suppose. Otherwise, he's competent but unremarkable. It might bear watching just to see where they go with this, but I can't recommend going out of your way to get it. Maybe by the inevitable trade it will show its true colors.  C+

Pretty Deadly #'s 1-6
W: Kelly Sue DeConnick; A: Emma Rios (Image)

Another weird western, full of allegory and symbolism and other heady stuff...but the execution was haphazard and sloppy and while I appreciate ambitious vanity projects- often they become transcendent- this was confusing from issue one and didn't get any clearer as it went on. I will always take a look at anything Rios illustrates- she's quite imaginative in her way- but I can't recommend this at all and that's a shame.  C-

The Sixth Gun
W: Cullen Bunn; A: Brian Hurtt (Oni Press)

Speaking of weird westerns, Bunn's long-running opus seems to be running headlong into some sort of resolution, if not conclusion, and it's been a fairly engrossing trip, thanks to strong characters and Hurtt's always clean and concise storytelling. It's not the first comic I read each month, but I do remain interested in where it's going so that's a positive, I'd say.  B+

W: Mark Waid; A: Chris Samnee (Marvel)

Waid stubbornly resists the current Modern Comics Conventional Wisdom that everything that involves superpowered characters has to be all distanced and ironic and glum and manages to give us that rarest of rare things: superhero adventures that manages to keep a realistic tone yet still manages to entertain, without having to resort to transgression and world threatening hyperpowered menaces and all the lowbrow, clichéd, knuckleheaded depressing schtick that modern comics apparently think they have to give us, whether it's by editorial mandate or sheer lack of imagination on the part of the authors. Even though things often get dire for Matthew Murdock, Waid never wallows in it or plays "top this" with himself and the reader like Bendis did (which made DD such a chore to sit through back in the early 00's) and that makes all the difference in the world- kids, this is superhero comics for adults. Waid never condescends or writes down or goes there to create titillation, and this longtime comics reader appreciates it. He has an equally adept collaborator in Samnee, who adheres to the Toth/Caniff/Wood/Robbins/Eisner etc. etc. school of cartoonish realism and excels as much in drawing faces and places as he does when giving us frenetic action scenes. They couldn't have found a better and more sympathetic artist for what Waid's trying to do. It doesn't get much better these days in genre comics than what Waid and Samnee are providing us, and I hope it lasts a long time. A+

W: Bill Willingham; A: Mark Buckingham, Steve Leialoha, others. (DC/Vertigo)

You know how some TV shows seem to peak early, but then (for various reasons) they carry on, adding and shedding characters right and left and continuing to stay on the air for a lot longer than they probably should, provoking "I can't believe that show's still on the air!" remarks when confronted with that knowledge? Yep, that's Fables, which pretty much said all it had to say when the Big Bad Geppetto storyline concluded a couple of years ago...but since it was one of, if not the best selling, Vertigo imprint titles, it couldn't just go away so it's been given the Gaiman treatment and now is shambling in all kinds of directions towards its final conclusion at issue #150. In for a penny, in for a pound (which is a remarkably Fables-ish way to put it, isn't it?) so I continue to buy- Willingham does still provide fairly clever spins on all these characters, and I'm vested enough in them to stay interested in where it's going. It's just taking an awfully roundabout way to get there. Buckingham still excels on art; he really has developed into a fine storyteller despite not having a really distinctive style to call his own. Leialoha remains his best inker, and even got the chance to do a storyline by himself which of course didn't look anything like his art in the 70s & 80s. Kinda late to get on this train if you haven't already, but hey, all the trade collections are still in print as far as I know so I recommend starting there and working forward. B-

W: Ed Brubaker; A: Sean Phillips (Image)

Another long-running series- well, not as long as Fables, for example...but after Sleeper and Criminal, etc., it seems like we've been reading Brubaker and Phillips Comics and Stories for a hell of a long time now. Of course, it's all of very high quality- Phillips is, in my opinion, as good as it gets these days, and Brubaker retains his naturalistic way with storytelling. He must be doing something right, because I generally don't hold the Noir genre in the same esteem as many do...all the seductive, bad news dames and hard nosed mooks that get involved with them in the dark rainy streets of some generalized late 40s-early 50s city just don't really blow up my skirt all that much. Mix it with Lovecraftian tropes, however, and it's just novel enough to make me wonder where it will all end up, and at this stage in the game, I'm really just hoping for a coherent ending more than anything. We will soon see, because it's set to end as well in another month or so.

Moon Knight #'s 1-4
W: Warren Ellis; A: Declan Shalvey, Jordie Bellaire (Marvel)
Trees #1
W: Ellis; A: Jason Howard   (Image)

Mr. Ellis, surely one of the most august personages on the World Wide Interweb, has been a writer whose work I've enjoyed for many years now, beginning with his wonderful Hellstorm for Marvel (I'm due to dig those out again one of these days soon) on through Transmetropolitan and Desolation Jones and NextWave and...well, I can't say I've read everything he's done; there are an awful lot of somewhat generic looking vaguely SF-flavored indie comics series, most of them drawn by (it seems) someone named Ryp (Supergod was an exception; it had a nice apocalyptic fatalism that was fascinating), but I will always at least take a look when I see his byline. For no other reason other than to keep the license in perpetuation (on Marvel's end) and because 1. he's being paid and 2. it amuses him to do so, Ellis has taken on the House that Stan, Jack, Steve, Gene, Don, Larry and Dick Built's perpetual b-list pale (in more ways that one) Batman simalcrum, and for once, we the readers are the beneficiary. Bringing a somewhat bemused yet straightfaced attitude, and stripping away the accumulated barnacles of all the myriad treatments of this muddled character in the last four decades, Ellis gives us a streamlined Knight- the multiple identities (the Shadow influence in this crazy-quilt character's portfolio) are still there, so is the large fortune built in his years as a mercenary, and Ellis uses all the Egyptian mythology stuff to great effect as well- especially in issue #3, the highlight of the run so far. In that story, MK uses his connection to those deities in order to investigate and confront a host of Punk ghosts, and it's as sparely written as a zen koan- yet he's able to suggest, rather than explicitly state, a multitude of things about his take on the character. Although you never lose the feeling that Ellis is just experimenting with format, you have to admire his craft...and when it comes to this sort of thing, sometimes that can transform something mediocre into something worth following. For his part, Declan Shalvey, always in my book the next best artist on Thunderbolts not all that long ago, has really stepped up his game when presenting all of these metaphysical shenanigans; his capeless depiction of the Knight in his white business suit is a winner and he excels in bringing out a lot of the subtleties in the script. This team's only here for 6 issues, kids, so tradewait...but you will want to pick it up. A

Trees, on the other hand, kinda scans like District 9 mashed up with the venerable 50's drive-in SF flick The Monolith Monsters. Huge cylindrical shafts spring up, devastating cities and killing people and throwing mankind into yet another dystopian future, and the focus (after one issue, it's hard to say beyond that) seems to be on a clutch of individual characters and their situations in the face of the crisis. It's nicely drawn with a lot of rendering by Jason Howard, whose style reminds me of Guy Davis crossed with Sonny Liew. It's too early to judge, but so far nothing about the premise or art really grabs me...however, I'm committed to buying at least the next two issues, so we will see. C+

Wonder Woman
W: Brian Azzarello; A: Cliff Chiang, and a whole bunch of others (DC)

If you had told me, 15 years ago, that I would only be buying one DC proper comics series on a regular basis, and it would be Wonder Woman, no less, I would have run away from you, fearing that you were a dangerous lunatic. However, here and now, that far fetched projection has become reality. Chiang's art reeled me in, of course, but as a childhood Greek mythology buff I came to enjoy and appreciate Azzarello's Machiavellian (I'm reminded a lot of Zelazny's Amber family, and that's bait I can never resist) and somewhat revisionist take on all the various gods and goddesses of legend, even working in a New God or two, for reasons unknown or as yet unrevealed. Of course, as this has gone on and is so often the case with modern comics creators, Chiang has found other (presumably more profitable) projects to occupy his time and efforts, and now is found mostly on covers, though he has done the occasional issue here and there. Kudos to the editorial staff for finding replacements which compliment his art style; it at least helps to have a visual continuity. None of them have Chiang's panache, of course, but that's the way it goes.  For his part, Azzarello has done a nice job of presenting us with straightforward, easy to follow scripts- none of the convoluted obfuscation that often made 100 Bullets and many of his subsequent projects a chore to parse sometimes. Wondy is often the second or third most interesting character in her own comic, though, and that's problematic; even more so, as with Fables, after the first big climactic battle with this title's Big Bad the First Born, everything else has seemed rather tacked on and anticlimactic, as the Big Bad came back almost immediately to plague Wondy and company after his so called defeat. So pacing and plot has been a little off too. Still, the character interaction is interesting and also as with Fables, I'm in for that proverbial penny so I'll stick with this title till Azzarello leaves, which will be soon. Sadly, the announced successors, already off on the wrong foot via some ill-considered pronouncements in an introductory interview, don't sound all that promising, so I guess that will be the end for my DC proper purchases for the time being. Anyway, this has been an interesting take on a character that no one really seems to be able to do well for a sustained period, the first really radical revisionist look since the O'Neil/Sekowsky days, and I can recommend it. I wish it had been a little more this or that, and I sure wish Chiang had been willing to stick around, but overall I think, pending the actual conclusion, it's been a success and I'm sure DC will sweep it under the rug ASAP in favor of a more DCU-compliant model. B+

Well! That will do for now. Thanks for reading. Perhaps I'll do more soon.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Big Trouble in Little China, Chris Samne..."
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Date: Thursday, 03 Jul 2014 22:28

Above is a page from dead-comic-walking Doom Patrol #20. The Patrol, due to the machinations of the powers that be at Oolong Island, their former base, as well as the hissable Thayer Jost aka Mr. Somebody, have been evicted from their home.

They need transportation back to civilization, and Cliff Steele calls in a favor. And as you can see above, that favor is none other than JBS mascot Tadwallader Jutefruice, aka Super-Hip! You know, the fellow flying in the header at the top of this very blog.

Since this is such a momentous occasion, merely the first in-continuity appearance of Tad's alter-ego since, appropriately enough, the Mento-Elastigirl wedding in the later days of the first DP series, and I wanted to share it so much with everyone...well, I couldn't wait to get the comic and scan it, or download it, so I ganked it from CBR's preview, where I read it first. You all probably know how much I'm in the tank for this comic in the first place...and dropping Super-Hip, even older, fat Elvis-style Super-Hip...well, I for one was completely geeked by it.

Best of all, since Giffen is doing some of the best writing of his career right now, and dare I say in particular on this comic- he has done an unsurprisingly great job of reintroducing him. Many writers, especially those who perpetuate the sour tone that has become de rigeur at DC these days, would have made him a pathetic figure. Pill junkie, perhaps. What if it had been James Robinson? J.T. Krul? Shudder. But Giffen gives us an older Tad, like I said Fat Elvis or Wayne Newton style, living large in Vegas- perfectly logical and very gratifying for someone like me, who loves the character mostly because, well, I thought he was really neat and cool back in 1966.

My friend Jason (@jason1749) Last Name Unknown on Twitter said "Jeez, Giffen's writing that book directly at you now, isn't he?" and given that the sales figures for DP are so low, that may be true- I may be the only one still reading at this point!

Regardless, I thought that this was just far-out, fab, gear and groovy and wanted to share.

Oh, and DC? I beg of you- next time you need cannon fodder for your big multi-issue line-wide crossover doom-and-gloom event, please forget Giffen has done this, OK? Thanks.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "DC Comics, Doom Patrol, misc. comics stu..."
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Date: Thursday, 06 Feb 2014 17:59

11 years ago, I started a joke...I mean I started a blog, the one you see before you. Time has marched on, and so have I, pretty much...but the blog remains here, like an abandoned home that was once the pride of the neighborhood but is now neglected and forlorn, with peeling paint, overgrown weeds, and hanging shutters. Still, if you do desire, most of what I wrote on it, back in the day, is still here, so I hope from time to time someone will visit and enjoy whatever disjointed thoughts I was thinking hard enough to allow them to escape through my fingers and get out on the InterWeb via this very outlet.

If you really miss me, I can still be found on Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

See ya next year, perhaps! And, as always, may every song you sing become your favorite tune.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "blogaversaries, me myself and I"
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Date: Wednesday, 24 Oct 2012 08:42

10 years ago today, I wrote my first blog post here at what I named The Johnny Bacardi Show. It has been a year since I've posted anything here, I know, and that makes me sad. I used to look forward to coming up with stuff to write about, and enjoyed the links and feedback I got upon occasion. Unfortunately, at some point a couple of years ago it began to feel like more of a grind and an obligation than anything else, and some of the writing that came somewhat easily early on became harder and harder, so this blog has become like a house that has been vacated, but nobody has bothered to move all the stuff out.

Still, I had some good times, have met a lot of interesting people, even got paid for one shining moment to write something...so I can't complain too much.

Don't see the hiatus ending anytime soon, I'm sorry to say...right now, at this stage of the game, not much about my life is conducive to writing, for fun or otherwise. High-stress job  (I know that's all relative), apathy about so many things I was enthusiastic about just five or so years ago, family obligations, blah blah blah...there are many culprits. Perhaps things may change for me someday, who knows, but I don't see that happening anytime soon. I no longer have any illusions that my writing will lead to anything that will improve my life in any way...well, any more than it actually has by now. In a lot of ways, it's become sort of an exercise in futility for me, repeated over and over, and these days I rarely have the energy to fight it.

Anyway, just because I'm not writing here doesn't mean I'm not findable here on the Intarwebs. I have been known to get on Tweeting jags on Twitter about all sorts of things, even comics sometimes, so by all means follow me if you're on there. I also post stuff, mostly images, on Tumblr from time to time, and that one is the closest thing I have to what this site used to be. The LiveJournal is still alive, kinda dormant like this one unless I get in the mood (and have the time) to sketch something, and I put it up there. As of right now, I still review comics about once a month at Popdose...I'm kinda overdue right now in getting the latest one done. After putting it off for about eight years, I am finally, slowly but surely, rebuilding and redoing my Thriller site, this time in blog format. Please check in from time to time, I do want to get it done but it's difficult to get the time, energy, and desire to do it. I'm on Facebook too, because, well, why not.

And so, here we are. Ten years. That's quite a long time, and sometimes I wonder what it would have been like if I had had the energy and wherewithal of, say, a Mike Sterling, who has put something up almost every day since he started, or Laura "Tegan" Gjovaag, who has done the same. Who knows. A lot of the blogs that started out when I did are similarly no longer active, a victim of their owners either succumbing to ennui or moving on to higher-profile (and hopefully paying, in some cases) gigs. Does that mean blogging is dead? I doubt it, but in the wake of Twitter and Tumblr and so on, it certainly doesn't seem to be as widespread as it once was, and maybe that's for the best; there were a lot of, shall we say, undistinguished blog sites that sprang up so many years ago. I think perhaps the cream has risen to the top and a lot of the chaff has fallen by the wayside, if you'll forgive my mixed metaphors.

OK, enough rumination. If you have made it this far, I thank you most sincerely, and I appreciate it more than you'll ever know. Happy birthday, Johnny Bacardi, you old bastard. See ya in the funny papers. Or webcomics on your Kindle. Or whatever. As if you could even afford a Kindle.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "me myself and I, blogaversaries"
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Date: Monday, 24 Oct 2011 20:14

As of today, this blog has been in existence for nine years. Hard to believe. Like Sandy Denny once sang, "Who Knows Where the Time Goes".

I'm really sorry that I don't update it like I used to, but that's the way it is for me these days. I can't bring myself to delete it, so here it will stay, patiently awaiting me to write a little on it, for old times' sake, if nothing else.

Thanks to everyone who's ever read me here, or commented or both. Lots of love to you all.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "me myself and I, blogaversaries"
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Date: Monday, 29 Aug 2011 23:14
About time I posted something here, eh? Well, it's for a good occasion, I think. Yesterday would have been the 94th birthday of the Once and Future King of Comics, Jack Kirby. I posted some things yesterday on Twitter and my Tumblr, and I thought it would be appropriate to read some of what I consider Kirby's best comics, his run on Fantastic Four. I found some scans (what- give Marvel some money? For KIRBY comics? What money are they giving his family?) and decided to spend some time yesterday afternoon rereading some of his early-mid 60's efforts, just when he and Stan Lee were coming into their own on the title, and including one of my all-time favorite comics, FF #35.

While it's pretty easy to pick holes in a lot of these stories, one thing is undeniable- the dynamism and imagination Kirby brought to the pages...from the gnarliest alien being to prosaic street scenes, he drew them with flair and commitment. Sometimes he wasn't served very well by the inkers they paired him with; Dick Ayers was good, and I rather like Chic Stone, who doesn't ignore Kirby's detailed backgrounds. George Bell neé Roussos, not so much- his crude line and blocky shapes didn't do Jack's pencils any favors.

I thought it might be fun, and take up a lot of space because I know my infrequent visitors are probably tired of looking at that Gene Colan remembrance, to post a page, chosen at random, some which brought back memories, from each of the comics I read yesterday afternoon. I'm inspired, of course, by Tom Spurgeon's wonderful tribute post, as well as the amazing stuff Bully puts up on a consistent basis.

Roussos inks many of the following pages; Ayers does the first few, and Stone ends the run. I hope you can dig these, and I hope they help get across some of what makes Kirby's art so special.

You may notice that I picked out several pages with Giant-Man in them. This is not coincidental; 5-year-old me insisted. Thanks for checking out my FF gallery, and of course, Hail to the King.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "jack kirby, stan lee, Fantastic Four, Ma..."
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Date: Wednesday, 06 Jul 2011 23:05
By that, I mean Best of 2010 in comics lists. I've always put mine here, and I may still, but for now you can read it here.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "best of 2010, comics best ofs"
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Date: Tuesday, 05 Jul 2011 19:57

I know, it seems like the only time I post here anymore is when someone notable dies...but I couldn't not mark the passing of the great Gene Colan, whose art I've loved for decades, especially when I was growing up in the 60's and 70's.

I won't try to eulogize him or write an obituary, because in the past couple of weeks there have been many, many wonderful posts doing just that, and far more eloquently than I could. That said, because of what Colan's art meant to me as a young comics reader and aspiring comic artist in those years, I wanted to write something...and I think what I'll do is post a few pages from some of my favorite Colan-drawn comics over the years, literally the first ones that came to mind when I read about his passing. They won't be the usual suspects, I don't think...at least after the first few.

The first place I saw Colan's art was most likely on one of his Iron Man stories in Tales of Suspense, under his "Adam Austin" pseudonym, followed soon after by one of his Daredevil efforts. The looseness of his style was the first thing which caught my eye, especially in those days when perhaps only Neal Adams, then just starting out over at DC himself, was doing realism with a flourish- Colan's figure drawing and layout style was far looser, yet it was still grounded in the everyday world. Sometimes, especially in his 70's work, his figures always seemed to me to be dissipating into mist, as if the ink line was the only thing holding it together. I found it exciting and fascinating, but I could never ever draw like that, and believe you me I tried. I also noticed his stellar inkwash work in a few issues of Creepy and Eerie for Archie Goodwin; go here to read a favorite of mine from this period. The page above comes from Daredevil Annual #1, cover-dated September 1967; this one was Stan's attempt to follow the template he came up with for 1964's Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1, in which six of Spidey's most popular foes teamed up to battle him. Stan took Electro from the Sinister Six, and obviously 'Leckie neglected to realize that 1) Spidey's rogues gallery was far more deadly than DD's, and 2) it didn't work against Spider-Man, so why the heck did he think it would work here? Regardless, this was a fast-paced and fun tale which gave us DD fighting against each bad guy separately, as well as all together at the end, and a big part of the reason why was Colan's dynamic, kinetic art. I love how all hell breaks loose in that middle horizontal panel, as the "Emissaries of Evil" gang up on DD. This annual also sported a fun backfeature, which gave us a fly-on-the-wall look at a story conference with Lee and Colan...with a generous amount of whimsy to boot. One of the reasons why the whole Bullpen myth was so persuasive and enjoyable back then. You can read that story here.

The above pics, top to bottom, are from Doctor Strange #'s 182 and 178.

Arguably, though, it was Colan's moving on to Doctor Strange, paired with Tom Palmer, who was generally agreed to be his best inker, which seemed to turn him loose and give him free rein to play around with page layout and further refine his storytelling style...which he later used to great effect on Tomb of Dracula, as well as his successful return to the character in the 70's. Colan's style, which was rooted in the newspaper strip/advertising realism tradition (but still was always quite loose, especially compared to the Caniffs, Crandalls and the like), took flight as he gave us page after page of vertiginous layouts and non-stop action; even when the Doctor and Clea had some quiet downtime things seemed to be bubbling under the surface. Below is a great example, and a page I love very much, from Doctor Strange #180; I first saw it on someone's blog right after his death was announced, but alas I failed to bookmark it and forget now where I saw it, otherwise I'd just link to it there. Apologies to the first poster.

By 1970, it seemed like Colan had drawn every Marvel character's comic at least once, except Spider-Man; I remember loving his stints on Captain America, Sub-Mariner and the Avengers as well. Trying to stay as busy as he could, and to keep the money flowing, he began to do a variety of short stints on various titles in Marvel's fractured, hectic 70's period, and all the while doing Tomb of Dracula. ToD was a high point not only for him, but also in comics in general, as was Howard the Duck, a series I was mostly indifferent to as a teen (though I liked Steve Gerber's other work in general); when rereading ToD now, Wolfman's prose often seems overheated (as did Thomas' on those Doctor Stranges), but there's no denying Colan's artistry. He was truly well suited for horror stories, which also was made manifest on a short stint doing Brother Voodoo in Strange Tales, and the story below, from which I've pulled a couple of pages:

Marvel Spotlight was one of Marvel's showcase titles at the time; and featured the Son of Satan character which was created by Gary Friedrich and first drawn by Herb Trimpe. By the time he got his own feature in Spotlight, Steve Gerber wrote and Jim Mooney drew the first few issues, but for whatever reason the artist moved on after #17 and Colan stepped in for #'s 18 and 19 to bridge the gap between him and Sal Buscema, who drew the series until it was granted its own title a few months later. Anyway, Gerber's obviously Exorcist-inspired story could not have found a better realizer than Colan; it was completely rooted in the mix of the mundane and the fantastic that was Colan's stock in trade. He made this two-parter sing (despite some rather unsympathetic inking by Frank Chiaramonte), alternating polite dinner parties and dining room conversations and literal hell-raising action as Daimon Hellstrom struggles to exorcise a demon that can leap from host to host. Gerber tied it up with a clever solution, and went on to write some very imaginative stories before he was done with the character. If not for this two-parter, though, chances are I might not ever have seen the potential for excellence in the Son of Satan; I was not particularly interested in him before I plucked these off the spinner rack, attracted by Colan's art. Daimon soon became a favorite of mine, mostly thanks to Gerber, though Colan's rendition was my gateway. As a matter of fact, the first issue of Howard the Duck that I bought was the one in which Daimon made a cameo appearance, partly because I was tickled to see Colan draw him again.

Gene never limited himself to just horror or superheroes, though; in 1974, he took another fill-in assignment on a series that I was already a rabid fan of: Don McGregor's War of the Worlds (featuring Killraven). Regular artist Herb Trimpe had moved on by issue 25; Rich Buckler and Klaus Janson had done that one. Colan came along next, and provided his usual sharply observed job on one of McGregor's more whimsical scripts:

On his travels across the country to the "Place of Yellow Stones", Killraven and his men, with the Martians' killer Skar in pursuit, happened upon Battle Creek, Michigan, and encountered the leader of the group of its surviving residents, led by Pstun-Rage the Vigilant, who all guarded a treasure at the cost of their lives, if necessary. The revelation at the end is one of the most bizarre endings that I can recall in a comic book from the Big Two that wasn't written by Weisinger or Bridwell. Inked by Dan Adkins, Colan navigated all the action-adventure, as well as the drama and humor, of McGregor's wordy script (that bottom page, in particular, was notorious, showcasing a narrative style that irritated many, but I love it) with aplomb, despite never having drawn any of the characters before. McGregor and Colan collaborated a few times after that in subsequent years, forming a sympathetic team on such fare as the neo-noir Nathaniel Dusk (which I think I should revisit someday) for DC, and Ragamuffins for Eclipse. This story above was the first thing I thought of when remembering Colan and his career's effect on my life; even though the series went on to hit some very high highs with Craig Russell, it will always be a fondly recalled story in one of my favorite comics series.

And that pretty much does it for show and tell with me and Mr. Colan; after Dracula folded and Jim Shooter ran him out of the House that Stan and Jack and Steve Built, I did go on to buy some of his 80's work at DC like the occasional Batman or the aforementioned Dusk (never was too interested in Night Force or his take on Wonder Woman), but with diminishing returns; the fizz had seemed to go out of the pop for me. I still liked seeing his work here and there, especially on his return to Daredevil in the 90's and the outstanding commissions he did via his website. The decision not to saddle him with an inker on his infrequent appearances (which dated back to Dusk and Ragamuffins, if I recall correctly), brought on by his increased reluctance to subject his vision to the tender mercies of other, perhaps lesser talents, wasn't to his advantage, either, at least when it came to printed comics...his very good penciled commissions were something else again. When his health issues came to light, I did the dutiful blogger thing by linking to the drive to get him some financial relief for health care; I also recall a cover gallery on his birthday a couple of years ago. See the tags at right to be taken to those blog posts.

His passing was not a surprise, even as much as it was for me when Jeffrey Jones met his maker several weeks ago. That doesn't make it any harder to process, though, at least in my solipsistic view. Each year, more and more comics legends form my formative years die, and as I said before, every time it happens a little bit of my childhood dies as well. He was truly one of the all-time greatest, and his influence and legacy is vast. Even though he wasn't such a big part of it for the last decade or so, he will be missed merely by not being around.

I will be forever grateful and proud that I was able to experience it first-hand the way I did. I'm sure his work will remain an inspiration to up-and-comers for decades to come.

There have been dozens of outstanding blog posts and obits commemorating Colan's passing; I encourage you to visit the usual suspects (Heidi, Tom, CSBG, Robot 6, Blog@), to find them. I was especially moved, though, by Blake Bell's reposting of interviews with Colan's late wife Adrienne on living with him throughout his career. Here's the posts tagged "Gene Colan", all three parts are there.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Obit, The Son..."
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Date: Sunday, 05 Jun 2011 11:59

Some people are just so clever and creative. It's sickening.

All seriousness aside, please click through and check out this awesome series of drawings of the late great Vincent Price, who would have turned 100 a few days ago, each on a post-it note and each featuring his likeness in most of his films and television appearances, by Zach Bellisimo. I like how Zach draws Price in each of his disguises in Theatre of Blood, to name one example, as well as including Vincent's animation voice work.

And yeah, I know- while there were two Dr. Goldfoot films, he pretty much looked the same in both of them. I was kinda hard up for a post title, OK?

Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "art appreciation, Vincent Price"
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Date: Sunday, 29 May 2011 18:53

It was with a little surprise and a heavy heart that I read, first on Twitter then elsewhere as it was confirmed, that Jeffrey Catherine Jones passed away from, as Heidi MacDonald reported it, "complications from emphysema and bronchitis" at age 67 yesterday. Pardon me if I reminisce, OK?

The first place I saw Jones' work was probably in the 4th issue of The Monster Times; early on in that storied publication's history they were soliciting art and one-page stories from the likes of Berni Wrightson, Gray Morrow, Frank Brunner, and Jones. They would run them in the center spreads of the tabloid-style publication:

I suppose this would have been 1975-ish that I read it, though this story was dated 1971 and appeared in 1972. I didn't get my first issue of TMT until 1974, and I would have received this as part of a big package of Timeses that I spent about a summer's worth of allowance on. My memory being a bit fuzzy on some things, I don't recall when I saw my first issues of National Lampoon, in which Jones' excellent one-page strip Idyl ran. That most certainly would have been the second time I became aware of his work, I'm sure, unless I happened up on a friend's copy of NatLamp or perhaps stood at the magazine rack at the convenience store and read them as I was wont to do for a while (I was always nervous about asking my folks for money to buy a copy, or even to buy one with my own money and bring it home) before I started my TMT habit.

By the time I had reached 18, I had become aware of the amazing art book The Studio, which was also the name of both the location and the collective that Jones, Mike Kaluta, Berni Wrightson, and Barry Windsor-Smith had formed when they shared studio space in the 70's. Four artists whose work I admired above almost all others, together! I especially loved Kaluta and Wrightson, who had blown me away with their art on a number of projects, especially The Shadow and Swamp Thing, respectively, about five years earlier. Of course, Windsor-Smith's Conan was a favorite, as well as his later, ornate Pre-Raphaelite-influenced works, and then there was that Jones fella, who I remembered from Idyl and a bunch of paperback book covers. Believe me, I lived in that book for a long time, and copied and studied each page, back when I thought I could be an artist.

I was utterly fascinated with Jones' signature; that single letter "J", curved with the line across the top, and fitting stylishly within a loose square, looked as cool as anything I'd ever seen before. Yeah, bet your ass I copied it; after all, we did share a name. Eventually, I at least dropped the loose square, though to this day I really emphasize the J when I sign my infrequent doodles.

One of Jones' contributions was perhaps my favorite piece from any of the artists, the beguiling "In a Sheltered Corner":

I wish I had a dollar for every time I sat down with a piece of paper and attempted to draw that face, with those lips.

I mean, geez, look at these guys:

Jones is second from left. They looked just like rock stars- rock stars that could generate art masterpieces. That was exactly what I wanted to be at age 18. Exactly.

Anyway, after that, I kinda lost track of Jones and his work. While he appeared in Heavy Metal in the 80's (with a new Idyl-ish feature called I'm Age) I'd see it here and there with less frequency as the decades went by; I just assumed (as one, well, me anyway in those pre-Internet times when the goings and comings of the art/writing heroes was more difficult to keep up with) that he had found regular illustration and painting gigs in places that I didn't see. Of course, I read about his gender issues and his eventual 1998 hormone replacement therapy sessions; several years later (now I had the Internet, y'see) I read about her awful financial issues. Eventually, these seemed to get worked out, and I was proud to cite Jones among my Facebook friends; she posted an always-welcome stream of artworks both old and new. Eventually health issues became too much for her, and now she's gone.

I suppose that's just part of the price one pays for living on; one will see his or her heroes and people he or she admires pass away before them, even people who one still imagines, in their heart of hearts, to be still young and still strong and vital. Even though recent pics told another story, in my mind's eye I saw Jones and her work in the same way that I did at age 16, in 1976, and it saddens me no end to see people who I looked up to like that get old and die. Pushes me, slowly, another foot towards the grave myself.

All that's over now for Jones, and I'll be eternally grateful for the magnificent art. May she rest in peace, and I hope she's found a measure of happiness wherever she is.

Credit where credit is due dept: I got most of the scans I posted here from these fine websites. Please visit them as often as you can, they're good people.

ETA: Not long after I posted this, Tom Spurgeon posted his outstanding obit. Go check it out.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Jeffrey Catherine Jones, obits"
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Date: Thursday, 19 May 2011 13:55
I'm still alive, and I do intend to take up blogging here again eventually. There just aren't enough hours in the day and enough energy to pursue it like I feel it ought to be pursued, it seems. But I do miss the days when I'd post several times a week, and keep thinking about a way to get back to that...so stay tuned.

In the meantime, I'm still reviewing comics over at Popdose.com, Tumblring and Twittering like mad, and even post the occasional item of interest over on Facebook, if you're desperate enough for my company to befriend me there.

Look for a post that I'm sorry I have to write later this evening, then stay tuned- keep me in your Google Reader feeds, whatever you do to follow blogs...and who knows? I may be back sooner rather than later.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "me myself and I, i me mine"
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Date: Sunday, 20 Mar 2011 19:59
No, I'm not introducing anyone or anything. In this past Friday's "Five for Friday" feature, Tom Spurgeon asked his readers to provide, and I quote, "Five of Your Favorite Comics/GN Introductions". Well, sometimes I'm pretty hit and miss with Tom's FFFs; occasionally I'll immediately think of more than five of the given topic, and sometimes it's a real struggle to come up with anything even close to that number. Sometimes, I can't think of anything at all, and I don't participate. That was the situation this week.

Now, when it comes to text introductions to graphic novels and collections, generally, if I read them at all, they don't really stick with me. More often as not, it's just a friend, collaborator, inspiration, or acquaintance of the writer and/or artist, paying back a favor or gladhanding a little. Sometimes I wonder if someone like Walter Cronkite himself could even be bothered writing an introduction to a Peanuts collection; bet a nickel that he had an assistant do it as a favor to ol' Chuck Schulz. For the life of me, I couldn't think of any forewords/introductions that I thought were remarkable enough to come out of hiding in the vast, cobweb-bedecked, shuttered up and boarded-doored archive of my mind.

So, the next thing I thought of were actual intros in the comics themselves; one which occurred to me was those long-winded speeches that the Phantom Stranger, the Rod Serling of Comics, would give before the lead stories in his 70's comic. They fit the character, and Len Wein in particular excelled at it. And then I thought of one other example: the introduction slash infodump that Jim Starlin gave us in Strange Tales #178, via a character named "Sphinxor from the Star System Pegasus", when he relaunched the Adam Warlock character and began that memorable, and short, run of stories back in the mid-70s...and enraptured young David Jones of Horse Cave, KY in the process.

But, alas, I could think of no others, and that's why you won't see Johnny Bacardi among this week's participants. But, thought I, perhaps I could share that Starlin-written and illustrated intro with all of you. And that's just what I'm gonna do. Below, from Strange Tales #178, cover dated February of 1975, the first (and only, I guess) appearance of Sphinxor, and a nifty recap of the Adam Warlock story to that point.

Now that's an introduction. Amiwrong?
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Jim Starlin, Comics, Introductions, Adam..."
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Date: Sunday, 06 Mar 2011 07:35

Today would have been the late Will Eisner's birthday. Here's a page from 1946.

Google paid tribute today by creating this swell graphic; go here and click on the Spirit's mask.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "BSBdGs, Will Eisner, The Spirit"
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Date: Wednesday, 23 Feb 2011 19:25

Multiple sources around the Net have reported that Dwayne McDuffie has shockingly passed on. I say shockingly because no one seems to have even been aware that he might have been ill- he has been active in his writing career, both in comics and in animation, right up until now. No cause of death has been reported as of this writing.

I won't try to BS you and tell you that I've been a lifelong fan of his or anything- I can only think of one series I've read regularly that he scripted. Back in 1993, when my then-11-year-old son wanted me to start getting him comics to read on my weekly Wednesday run, some of the titles he liked were DC's teen heroes- Robin, Impulse, Superboy. One other that caught his eye was the series above, Static. Now, since I was as much a comics geek back then as I ever was, I read not only the titles I bought, but the titles I bought for him (he liked X-Men, Spawn, Gen13, and other hot books back then too- I didn't read them often) as well, and I enjoyed Static. McDuffie only scripted the first four issues, along with the mysterious Robert L. Washington III, but was instrumental in creating the character with artist J.P. Leon, the first place I saw his soon-to-be excellent work as well. He was a driving force behind the whole Milestone imprint company published by DC which was designed to spotlight minority characters. Many years later, I found myself addicted to the animated TV series Justice League Unlimited, as far as I'm concerned one of the high-mark programs of its kind- he was its story editor and a producer, and also scripted many of its best episodes. I may have to go back and look up some of the other comics work he's done, such as the late 80's Marvel series Damage Control and his troubled stint on Justice League of America. He seemed to be a talent whose best work was still ahead of him, whether it was in animation or comics.

Reaction all over the Web has been heartfelt and overwhelmingly sad- he seemed to have been well-liked by everyone whose lives and careers he touched. I never had the pleasure of interacting with him online, but I can see his obvious talent and importance in the industry, and he will be missed by all who care about comics. I just thought I should write a few lines.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Dwayne McDuffie, Obit"
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Date: Sunday, 13 Feb 2011 11:17
Having a good new year so far?

This is my first post here of the year 2011. I really hate that I don't update this blog as often as I once did, but that's the way it goes sometimes. Life in the Meat World is hectic and often frustrating, and I often have trouble getting myself in the proper mental place to write. I do still post stuff all over the place at odd times, just not here...and while it's possible that I'm spreading myself too thin, often it's just quicker and easier to post in those places. And those places are:

Twitter, of course. I'm always blathering on about something there. I hope you'll follow me in case I accidentally say something profound in 140 characters or less.

I've been posting mostly images of this and that on my Tumblr blog, called I Come Tumbl'n. That's kinda taken the place of the images I used to post here. Last night, I thought I would start a mini-feature of sorts, in which I'll post a page a day from Thriller, until I decide to stop.

Speaking of Thriller, I'm afraid I'm not going to be upgrading the venerable old website anytime soon; although I did reserve a Wordpress blog a few months ago with the idea that I might recreate it in blog form. Someday, I'll give the series and its creators a proper spotlight.

I'm on Facebook, and post a lot of links and videos there, which probably irritates my friends and family no end but I do get positive feedback as well, so feel free to friend me there if you like. I deleted my MySpace page last week, so don't look for me there.

If you miss my opinions and thoughts on recent comics and graphic novels, please check out my more-or-less weekly column over at Popdose, Confessions of a Comics Shop Junkie. Perhaps someday I'll start capsule reviewing my new comics purchases here again, but it won't be anytime soon.

I've also been invited to participate in a group blog about pop culture called Poplitiko; many, many fine writers have contributed already. I haven't put anything up there just yet, but I plan to do so as soon as I can get some coherent thoughts together. Chances are it won't be about comics; my first post will most likely be about my favorite year in music, 1974.

I still post the odd sketch on the ol' LiveJournal, as well as my DeviantArt page.

Geez, I am spread thin!

OK. How about some personal stuff! Actually, it had crossed my mind to make this blog more diary-like, but I'm not sure how much I want to do that. I din't think my personal life is all that interesting. I'm still working at the small print shop full time, though decreased business has caused the owner to cut us back to 4 days a week instead of 5...this is not a pleasing development, but we've managed to get by OK so far. Needless to say, I am considering my options and have been looking around for other jobs, but let's face it, my age is a handicap now. I've also begun to entertain thoughts of a career change for the first time in my life...but what, I can't say right now. Anyway, I still work part-time at the radio station, and right now, during basketball season, I'm getting enough hours to almost make it worth my time. That will all come to a halt in April, and I'm now considering trying to find a second part-time job to help make ends meet. Busing tables or working in a kitchen doesn't sound as bad to me now at 51 as it did, oh, 20 years ago.

Recent TV and movies I've seen and enjoyed include the Coens' True Grit and of course Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (I know, I haven't done proper movie reviews in ages). I've begun to watch the AMC series Breaking Bad on DVD, and am liking it quite a bit so far. I actually won an autographed copy of the documentary Who is Harry Nilsson...and Why is Everybody Talkin' About Him?- autographed by the director, not by Nilsson, of course. Actually, I have Harry's autograph already, obtained years ago for me by a friend at a Beatle convention. Long story. Anyway, it's fascinating, informative, and often moving- and while I can quibble with this and that and how it is or isn't presented, I recommend it highly if you haven't seen it. As far as currently airing programs go, right now I'm loving the FX series Justified, and am looking forward to the return of HBO series Boardwalk Empire and Treme.

Musically, I took money I got for Christmas and ordered a bunch of recent albums, such as the Black Keys' Brother, Tom Petty's Mojo, Band of Horses' Infinite Arms, Justin Townes Earle's Harlem River Blues, and Paul Simon's self-titled debut. Of all the new ones, I really loved that Band of Horses the most, though they were all very good. Some better than others. My music listening habits are random and varied; I'm liable to start the day in a Prince mood and wind up listening to Jethro Tull by days' end.

I also took some of that Christmas money and ordered the first four volumes of Fantagraphics' Popeye comic strip reprints; while I had read several of them here and there over the years, and liked them a lot, I had never read a sustained run of them. I have to tell you, that is some inspired, wonderful, insane stuff. If you think you know Popeye from today's comics or the cartoons, know that this is a whole 'nother thing, like those comics and films cranked up to ten and dosed with something stronger than spinach. They're quite amazing and very enjoyable, and I haven't really gotten into the acknowledged peak of Elzie Segar's tenure yet. I'm also still getting and reading lots of comics; current favorites include Keith Giffen's Doom Patrol, which is selling poorly and probably won't be around much longer, damn it; Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt's Sixth Gun; Jeff Parker's entertaining Thunderbolts; Aaron and Guera's Scalped; David Hine and Moritat's surprisingly good take on The Spirit; and the Hellboy books, with a number of creators including Mike Mignola and Guy Davis, are as solid as always. Invincible Iron Man. Batgirl is intermittently interesting, as is Batman, Inc. and Booster Gold. And I know I'm forgetting some, so I'll stop now.

I'll wind this up. I don't know when I'll post here again, but hopefully it will be sooner rather than later. Thanks for reading!

Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Comics, movies, me myself and I, i me mi..."
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Date: Tuesday, 28 Dec 2010 18:07
It's Stan the Man Lee's 88th birthday today.

I've held forth before about Stan and what I felt like his role with Marvel was; while I certainly can believe that many, if not most, of the concepts that galvanized everyone so much back in the early 60s were thought up by Kirby, Ditko, and who knows who else, I do believe that Stan's dialogue and plotting skills were very important in shaping those early classics. It seems that Stan was the hustler, the instigator, the shit-stirrer- keeping everybody up, keeping everybody positive, focused, and committed, and coordinating Marvel's ascent back in those long-ago days. It seems like the only thing he couldn't do was keep everyone well-paid and happy, and thus those halcyon days were relatively short-lived. Indeed, once the most-likely more-lucrative Hollywood and the college lecture circuit beckoned, Stan's focus and enthusiasm for editing and scripting seemed to wane...witness how flat and dead the dialogue is on his later issues of Fantastic Four and Thor, especially compared to his immediate successor, Roy Thomas', overheated, hyperbolic prose.

Regardless, at no point in his early Marvel career was Stan's scripting better than on the title in which he took the most pride, I think- Amazing Spider-Man. Yeah, a case could be made for Silver Surfer, but that was much later. One of the first Marvel comics I ever read was ASM #16, in which Spidey teamed up with Daredevil to battle the Ringmaster of Crime (He's been popping up on this blog a lot this year, hasn't he?) and his Circus. The breezy banter between DD, Spidey, and the Crime Circus thugs trying to jack them up delighted me as a 4 year old, and has continued to do so every time I've reread it in the 46 years since. I thought, as tribute, I'd post those pages here so you could read them for yourself. Click to read biggerer, you know the drill:

Now, sometimes Stan could wield the heavy hand when it came to the soap operatics, and often his attempts to provide his godlike and cosmic characters with a profound voice were often stilted and ludicrous. But on Spider-Man, he was on top of his game, keeping the expository dialogue in check and hand-wringing in its proper place, plus, as above, he didn't leave out the humor. I know damn well Ditko did not write that dialogue, nor did Kirby, as anyone who's read his post-Marvel work surely can see, write any in their collaborations either. So here's to you, Mr. Stanley Lieber- when you wanted to, you helped change a lot of lives, including mine, for what I've always thought was for the better, riding herd on those early game-changing days. For that, as well as your current comics ambassador-like station, I think you'll always deserve a lot of credit. Happy birthday, and many more.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "BSBdGs, stan lee, Marvel Comics"
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Date: Wednesday, 22 Dec 2010 09:49

I was sitting at the radio station on Monday night, engineering a local high school basketball game, and scrolling through my Twitter feed when I saw this announcement. Dirk Deppey, who edited The Comics Journal for a while and before that, helped foster the Comics Blogosphere as we know it today and has been operating one of the few absolutely essential linkblogs for a long time now, has been laid off from Fantagraphics, which means no more ¡Journalista! with him at the helm, anyway. This is a sad day.

Now, I hear you say "Wait! Dave, weren't you the one who was always bitching about Dirk and how he never linked to your blog posts when you were trying to make your voice heard? Wha hoppen? Why are you being so nice all of a sudden?"

Well, that's true. I did do that. I felt like I was being unjustly ignored, and in my usual passive-aggressive fashion, I decided I'd just bitch about it, mention it in passing in the odd post, and move on. Eventually, though, earlier this year Deppey addressed that very issue, tempest in a teapot that it was, and we kissed and made up. Or something like that. Anyway, by then I had pretty much stopped worrying about it anyway, so it was all good.

Funny thing is, even in the height of my feel-so-slighted period, I continued to check out ¡Journalista! on a regular basis, because it was always a place where I could find something of interest, even if it wasn't me. And if memory serves, waaaay back in '03 or so, in the Paleozoic Era of comics blogging, a link from Dirk to me (a Super-Hip thing, I believe) was one of the first indications to me that there was even such a thing as a dedicated group of people who devote their newfangled weblog things to writing about comic books. So believe me when I tell you that even if Fantagraphics decides to carry on with someone else doing the work for significantly less pay or even free, it won't be the same, because his writing voice will be missing. With so many things from even less than ten years ago changing, and not always for the best, all the time...well, that's not such a good thing.

So anyway, I've already expressed good wishes to Mr. Deppey via Twitter, that very night even, so at the risk of being redundant I'll just take a minute to say best of luck to you, sir, in future endeavors, be they comics-related or not, and I'm sure you will go on to better things in the future. And thanks for the links I did get.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "goodbye for now, dirk deppey, journalist..."
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Date: Monday, 20 Dec 2010 12:20

Your guitar is not really a guitar Your guitar is a divining rod.
Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over.
A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you're good, you'll land a big one.

Don Van Vliet, also known in the music world as Captain Beefheart, died on Friday at age 69.

May I ramble a bit? I'll get to the point eventually.

You all know (or should, if you've been reading me for any length of time and have a good long-term memory) that I have had a lifelong fascination with the recorded output that eminated from the Brothers Warner and their associated label Reprise, especially in the years 1970 through 1975, and that, perhaps, not coincidentally, is mostly when Beefheart and the Magic Band were in full swing. I wish I could tell you that I was a fan from Safe as Milk on, but that's just not the case- despite being aware of the man and his group from seeing the curiosity-provoking song titles listed in the old Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders, I was not in a position to hear his music until 1976, when I purchased the 8-track of the collaborative comeback effort he released with Frank Zappa, 1975's Bongo Fury. You see, when I first got interested in the Captain, it was roughly 1974 and he was represented by the critically savaged and backwards-looking Mercury Records releases Unconditionally Guaranteed and Bluejeans and Moonbeams. Since my income was limited to the ten dollars a week I'd get from my parents (just enough for an album and a couple of comics or paperback books), I was reluctant to take a flyer on these records, which were painted in a poor light by people whose opinion I respected. There was a chance encounter with a vinyl copy of 1972's Clear Spot, which I spied at a Louisville record store in the Mall at St. Matthews sometime in late '74. I snatched it up, took it to the cashier, and looking at it in line, I noticed a side-length light scratch, where someone else had slid it out of its clear plastic-with-a-flap sleeve and apparently didn't take the greatest care in replacing it. I decided to put it back. I didn't see another copy of it on vinyl until the 90's, in a used record shop, where its $25 price tag was a bit rich for my blood.

You see, part of my problem was that in those long-dead days, there was obviously no Internet with its myriad ways to get music, both illegal and legal, nor were there an endless parade of repackaged CDs of varying price points to help the uninitiated discover an artist's back catalogue, especially for an artist as obscure and out-there as the Captain. The records came out, sold a few, very few, then got deleted and if they weren't smash hits they didn't get reissued but instead were sold for significantly less with a hole punched in the sleeve or the corner cut off the record, same for the 8-tracks and cassettes. And reel-to-reel, I assume, though I don't recall ever seeing any cutout reel to reels. Cutout bin diving is one of the great lost pleasures of being a record buff, believe me, now limited to cities and towns with independent record stores. If you were lucky, you could find some great records for a buck ninety-nine. Since, by 1975, all the Beefheart albums had been deleted, it was very difficult to run across copies. Believe me, I looked after that.

Anyway, after Fury, a couple of years later I finally ran across a cutout copy of Clear Spot on 8-track. Snatched that thing up immediately and played the hell out of it. It was a more commercial, which is to say some attention was paid to accessibility, effort, produced by smokin'-hot Ted Templeman, producer of the Doobie Bros. and soon to helm releases by Van Halen and others- almost a last-gasp play, a Hail Mary if you will, full of R&B and Soul and New Orleans shuffle, as well as the usual oddball spoken-word poetry set to Jazzy, angular rhythms. It would spawn no hit singles and didn't sell any better than his more challenging efforts such as the highly-esteemed Trout Mask Replica and the underrated Lick My Decals Off, Baby. So, the Captain broke up the Band, got new management, and released the aforementioned even more blatant commercial stabs, then hibernated again until hooking up with Zappa and releasing Fury. For some reason, I was reluctant to get 1978's Shiny Beat (Bat Chain Puller), even though it got a lot of positive writeups in CREEM and other places. Perhaps I felt the bloom was off the rose, perhaps, I was looking in other places at the time. I did break down and get 1980's Doc at the Radar Station, thanks to seeing him perform the track on Saturday Night Live. I could have sworn it was on ABC's Fridays, but can't find anything online to back that up. Anyway, I bought it, liked it a little though it took so much time to grow on me that I didn't get the followup, 1982's Ice Cream for Crow. After that, there would be no more music from him, though I didn't know it at the time. Eventually, bit by bit, I acquired some of the Loss Leaders with Beefheart tunes like 1971's "Click Clack", and liked them a lot, but still had no luck finding those Reprise records. Finally, CDs happened, and I got the Spotlight Kid/Clear Spot twofer, finally replacing that long-discarded 8-track, and the 1999 anthology The Dust Blows Forward, where I finally got to sample some of the by-then-legendary Trout Mask tracks and many others I hadn't heard. My fandom was cemented, as I came to love nearly all of the weird and willful stuff, even the more conventional blues-based pre-Trout Mask music like "Abba Zabba" and "Electricity". Since then, I've gone on and acquired, by hook or crook, the albums I craved to hear for so long and love them all in their way, especially Clear Spot. You never forget your first love.

Van Vliet's music was an almost indescribable blend of Dada Delta Blues, Zappa-style weirdness, playful lyrics, the aforementioned jazz, R&B, soul and other stuff. Not much country, but there was a little twang in the mix. I'm not surprised it wasn't embraced by the masses- and it seems to me that Van Vliet wasn't either. Eventually he said to hell with it and stopped making music recorded for mass consumption, instead choosing to concentrate on his career as an (unsurprisingly) surrealist painter and sculptor, which brought him a lot more success (and personal satisfaction, I'd bet) than his music career ever did. And that's fine.
Although it took me a hell of a long time, I did finally come to appreciate the genius of the man, and find out a lot about the wonderful musicians who backed him (they deserve a ton of credit for those records, especially considering the crap he put them through while making them, as it turns out). Unlike many artists who bowed out early to pursue other paths, I don't really resent it and wish there had been more, although I sure do wish there had been more from his mid-70s reunion with Zappa. It had been so long since he issued new music, I had mostly resigned myself to the occasional online news update and fairly frequent listens to his albums...so I don't feel the wrenching sense of loss that some of the deaths of people I admire fosters; it seems like he was already gone for a long time to me. Still, he's one of those larger than life figures who left his often sloppy and chaotic mark on a sadly limited number of people, though by extension (i.e., all the musicians he subsequently inspired), the number becomes remarkably large. I am glad that I made the effort and am a better person for the experience, I think.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Obit, Captain Beefheart"
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Date: Wednesday, 08 Dec 2010 07:33

It has been thirty years since the senseless and maddening murder of John Lennon.

安らかに眠る, John.
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "john lennon"
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Date: Sunday, 28 Nov 2010 09:08
Yep, it's come to this. Memes. I saw this somewhere else the other day, and thought it might be fun to do.

- X what you saw
- O what you haven't finished/seen or saw sizable portions
- Bold what you loved
- Italicize what you disliked/hated
- Leave unchanged if neutral

[X] 101 Dalmatians (1961)
[X] Alice in Wonderland (1951)
[X] Bambi (1942)
[X] Cinderella (1950)
[X] Dumbo (1941)
[X] Fantasia (1940)
[X] Lady and the Tramp (1955): I saw this at the Twin City Drive-in when it was re-released in the early-mid 60s. I think it was 1965, but I'm not sure.
[X] Mary Poppins (1964)
[X] Peter Pan (1953)
[X] Pinocchio (1940)
[X] Sleeping Beauty (1959)
[X] Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
[O] Song of the South (1946)

[ ] The Aristocats (1970)
[X] The Black Cauldron (1985): The first (and last) drive-in movie we saw with my son at the Twin City in Horse Cave.
[O] The Fox and the Hound (1981)
[O] The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
[X] The Jungle Book (1967): Saw this on its original run in the theatre, when I was 7. Loved it then and now.
[O] The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
[ ] Oliver and Company (1986)
[O] Pete's Dragon (1977)
[O] The Rescuers (1977)
[O] Robin Hood (1973)
[X] The Sword In The Stone (1963): Uh...Walt was still around for this one...

This whole "Dark Age" thing is dubious to me. While I was mostly indifferent to most of these (not enough high concept to impress teenage-and-early 20's me), some of them are well done, and I really should get around to seeing the one with the Roger Miller songs.

[X] Aladdin (1992)
[X] Beauty and the Beast (1991): I still can't get that damned "Gaston" song out of my head.
[ ] A Goofy Movie (1995)
[X] Hercules (1997): I liked the Hirschfeld-esque character designs, and some of the songs were very well-staged.
[X] The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
[X] The Lion King (1994)
[X] The Little Mermaid (1989)
[X] Mulan (1998)
[X] Pocahontas (1995)
[ ] The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
[X] Tarzan (1999)

Must admit I saw many of these because my kids were just the right age to want to see them...my daughter LOVED Aladdin and The Little Mermaid.

[X] Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
[X] Bolt (2008): I wound up enjoying this one a LOT more than I expected to.
[ ] Brother Bear (2003)
[ ] Chicken Little (2005)
[ ] Dinosaur (2000)
[X] The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
[O] Fantasia 2000 (2000)
[ ] Home on the Range (2004)
[X] Lilo & Stitch (2002): Watched this the other day for about the fourth time, and it still holds up for me.
[ ] Meet the Robinsons (2007)
[X] Treasure Planet (2002): Another one which I thought was better than I was expecting. Quite imaginative in places.

[X] A Bug's Life (1998)
[X] Cars (2006)
[X] Finding Nemo (2003)
[X] The Incredibles (2004): By far my favorite Pixar film.
[X] Monsters Inc. (2001)
[X] Ratatouille (2007)
[X] Toy Story (1995)
[X] Toy Story 2 (1999)
[ ] Toy Story 3 (2010): No, I haven't seen this yet. Soon.
[X] Wall-E (2008)
[X] Up (2009): A wonderful, excellent film that I have no desire to subject myself to again, thanks to the devastating flashbacks.

[X] All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989)
[X] An American Tail (1986)
[ ] An American Tail: Fieval Goes West (1991)
[X] Anastasia (1997)
[X] The Land Before Time (1988)
[ ] The Pebble and the Penguin (1995)
[X] Rock-a-Doodle (1991)
[X] The Secret of NIMH (1982)
[ ] Thumbelina (1994)
[X] Titan AE (2000)
[ ] A Troll in Central Park (1994)

Some of these were OK; Bluth's animation was mostly well done but often looked rubbery and unconvincing. I suppose my favorite of these is Anastasia; another favorite of my daughter, and I've always been interested in the subject matter. Yes, I sat through Rock-a-Doodle. What of it?

[ ] The Adventures of Mark Twain (1986)
[X] Chicken Run (2000)
[X] Corpse Bride (2005)
[X] James and the Giant Peach (1996)
[X] The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
[X] Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005): These W&G flicks are always fun; weird grimacing aside.
[X] Coraline (2009)

Claymation? None of the Burton flicks cited here are Claymation. Oh well.

[X] Antz (1998)
[O] Bee Movie (2007)
[O] Happy Feet (2006)
[X] Ice Age (2002)
[X] Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006)
[X] Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)
[X] Kung Fu Panda (2008)
[X] Madagascar (2005)
[X} Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008)
[X] Monster House (2006): A favorite of my wife.
[X] Over the Hedge (2006)
[X] The Polar Express (2004)
[X] Robots (2005): I liked this one more than I probably should have.
[X] A Shark's Tale (2004)
[X] Shrek (2001)
[X] Shrek 2 (2004)
[X] Shrek The Third (2007)
[ ] Shrek Forever After (2010)
[X] Monsters vs. Aliens (2009)

[ ] Arabian Knight (aka The Thief and the Cobbler) (1995)
[X] The Last Unicorn (1982)
[ ] Light Years (1988)
[ ] The Triplets of Belleville (2003)
[X] Persepolis (2007)
[ ] Waltz With Bashir (2008)
[ ] Watership Down (1978)
[ ] When the Wind Blows (1988)
[ ] Wonderful Days (2003)
[X] Yellow Submarine (1968): One of the cornerstones of my childhood movie-watching life.

[ ] The Cat Returns (2002)
[ ] Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
[ ] Howl's Moving Castle (2004)
[X] Kiki's Delivery Service (1989): A favorite of my wife. I thought it was cute.
[ ] Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986)
[ ] Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
[ ] My Neighbors The Yamadas (1999)
[ ] My Neighbor Totoro (1993)
[X] Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984): I watched this a couple of years ago, and I'll be damned if I remember anything about it.
[ ] Only Yesterday (1991)
[ ] Pom Poko (Tanuki War) (1994)
[ ] Porco Rosso (1992)
[X] Princess Mononoke (1999)
[X] Spirited Away (2002): This one, on the other hand, is one of the best films I've ever seen.
[ ] Whisper of the Heart (1995)
[X] Ponyo (2009)

[ ] Millennium Actress (2001)
[X] Paprika (2006): Visually lovely, but I found it hard to follow.
[ ] Perfect Blue (1999)
[ ] Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

[ ] She and Her Cat (1999)
[ ] Voices of a Distant Star (2001)
[ ] The Place Promised in Our Early Days (2004)
[ ] 5 Centimeters per Second (2007)

[X] Akira (1989)
[ ] Angel's Egg (1985)
[ ] Appleseed (2004)
[ ] Appleseed: Ex Machina (2007)
[ ] Arcadia of My Youth (U.S. Title - Vengeance of the Space Pirate) (1982)
[O ] Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2003)
[ ] The Dagger of Kamui (U.S. Title - Revenge of the Ninja Warrior) (1985)
[ ] Dirty Pair: Project Eden (1987)
[ ] End of Evangelion (1997)
[ ] Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone (2007)
[ ] Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advance (2009)
[ ] Fist of the North Star (1986)
[ ] Galaxy Express 999 (1979)
[X] Ghost in the Shell (1996)
[ ] Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004)
[ ] The Girl Who Lept Through Time (2006)
[ ] Lensman (1984)
[ ] Macross: Do You Remember Love (U.S. Title - Clash of the Bionoids) (1984)
[ ] Memories (1995)
[ ] Metropolis (2001)
[ ] Neo-Tokyo (1986)
[ ] Night on the Galactic Railroad (1985)
[ ] Ninja Scroll (1993)
[ ] Patlabor the Movie (1989)
[ ] The Professional: Golgo 13 (1983)
[ ] Project A-ko (1986)
[ ] Robot Carnival (1987)
[ ] Robotech: The Shadow Chronicle (2006)
[ ] Silent Möbius (1991)
[ ] The Sky Crawlers (2008)
[ ] Space Adventure Cobra (1982)
[X] Steamboy (2004)
[ ] Sword of the Stranger (2007)
[ ] Unico and the Island of Magic (1983)
[ ] Urotsukidoji: The Movie (1987)
[ ] Urusei Yatsura: Beautiful Dreamer (1984)
[ ] Urusei Yatsura: Only You (1982)
[ ] Vampire Hunter D (1985)
[ ] Vampire Hunter D Bloodlust (2000)
[ ] Wings of Honneamise: Royal Space Force (1987)

[X] American Pop (1981)
[X] The Animatrix (2003)
[X] Beavis & Butthead Do America (1996).
[X] Cool World (1992)
[X] Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)
[ ] Final Fantasy: Advent Children (2005)
[X] Fire & Ice (1983)
[X] Fritz the Cat (1972)
[ ] Halo Legends (2009)
[X] Heavy Metal (1981)
[ ] Heavy Metal 2000 (2000)
[ ] Hey Good Lookin' (1982)
[ ] Lady Death (2004)
[ ] A Scanner Darkly (2006)
[X] Sita Sings the Blues (2008)
[X] South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999)
[ ] Street Fight (Coonskin) (1975)
[ ] Waking Life (2001)

[ ] The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)
[ ] Animal Farm (1954)
[O] Animalympics (1980)
[O] Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon The Movie (2007): I watched about half of this; what is hilarious for 15 minutes proved to be tiresome for almost an hour and a half.
[X] Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker (2000)
[ ] Batman: Gotham Knight (2008)
[ ] Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010)
[O] The Brave Little Toaster (1988)
[ ] Bravestarr: The Movie (1988)
[ ] Cats Don't Dance (1997)
[X] Care Bears: The Movie (1985): Took my son when he was 3, OK?
[O] Charlotte's Web (1973)
[X] Fern Gully (1992)
[ ] G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987)
[ ] Gobots: Battle of the Rock Lords (1986)
[X] Green Lantern: First Flight (2009)
[ ] He-Man & She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword (1985)
[X] The Hobbit (1977)
[X] The Iron Giant (1999): One of my favorite films.
[ ] Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010)
[X] Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
[X] Lord of the Rings (1978)
[ ] Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1992)
[ ] My Little Pony: The Movie (1986)
[X] Pink Floyd's The Wall (1982)
[X] The Prince of Egypt (1998)
[ ] Powerpuff Girls: The Movie (2002)
[ ] Quest For Camelot (1999)
[ ] Ringing Bell (1978)
[X] The Road to El Dorado (2000)
[ ] Shinbone Alley (1971)
[X] Space Jam (1996)
[ ] Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (1985)
[ ] Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009)
[ ] Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010)
[ ] Superman: Doomsday (2007)
[ ] The Swan Princess (1994)
[ ] Transformers: The Movie (1986)
[ ] Wizards (1977)
[X] Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
[X] Wonder Woman (2009)
[ ] Balto (1995)
[X] Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)

And that's it, I guess!
Author: "David Jones (noreply@blogger.com)" Tags: "Disney, movies, animation, Pixar"
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