Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

The words "frustrating" and "'fun" don't pop up often in the same sentence, but I think both words could be used to adequately describe Infocom's classic text game of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
Penned by HG2G mastermind Douglas Adams about a quarter of a century ago (gah!) it was one of many pitstops taken by the story as it traveled from medium to medium. And, like all of Adams' other translations of HG2G, it sometimes contradicted other versions of the story (as well as sometimes contradicting itself.)
This game emerged in the days of "text adventures," a short-lived era that also produced the original Zork games. It didn't take long for programmers to figure out how to add graphics and music to the events, though, with games like Questprobe, Danger Mouse, Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island evolving from those early efforts.
And HG2G isn't content to simply walk you through a story. It's loaded with jokes, some of them at your expense. At one point in the game, for example, you have to find your way through a not-so-difficult maze of spaceship corridors. There are only three ways to go, but all appear to lead to dead ends. Only one of them is not a dead end ... the game is simply lying to you and will admit to such if you continue to pressure it. Bastard.
And then there's the famous solution to the game, which is probably responsible for more than a few aneurysms. It's been about 25 years since I was snookered by the game and I'm still equal parts bemused and pissed off.
The version of the game I had as a kid came with a "Don't Panic" button, a zip lock bag holding a microscopic fleet of spaceships, a pair of panic-sensitive sunglasses (made of black cardboard) and some navel lint. That last little item was a clue, though I wouldn't know it until it was too late.

The game maintains a cult following and has been revived a number of times. It's even been tweeked during some of these revisions, sometimes in splendid ways. You can currently play it online for free at BBC Radio 4, pictured above. Check it out.


Here's something I came across a few years ago: an AP wire story from 1980 about an appearance by Rom the Space Knight and Spider-Man (at Rom's right shoulder) at the Marvel offices in NYC. Sorry about the quality ... this was a photocopy made from an old bit of microfiche.

The Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Workout

Here's a cool app I'm currently running on my Droid:

Here's the write-up:
"The Zombie, Run! Zombie Finder is a survival tool for people living in a zombie-infested area. Zombie, Run! displays the location of nearby zombies, helping you safely navigate your urban or rural area."
This app uses Google Maps and GPS to create a physical game that's also a pretty good workout. Just select the destination you want to walk to and the game will put red and green dots on the map to represent different levels of zombies (some are more aggressive than others.) If you're "spotted" the dots will come after you. All you have to do is get from the starting point to your destination without getting bitten. It can turn a 10 minute walk into a 30 minute walk.

Here's a video of the developers testing the software:

In the meantime, here's another zombie-related website I'm currently wading through: Enjoy!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Spice Must Flow!

Above is a prop I recently purchased from Reel Art in Florida: a resin model of the crysknife from the 1984 movie Dune. I'd made a mistake on my shipping address and gave them a call to make sure it was mailed to the right place. One of the owners asked me what I planned to do with he knife and assumed I'd be using it for cosplay. I told him I planned to display in in a shadowbox, but should have told him that I was going to settle a score with Sting for those last 10 solo albums he released. Boy, did they suck.

I'm an unabashed Dune fan. I love the original Frank Herbert books, as well as David Lynch's film. It's a lush, smart movie that doesn't get enough credit and holds up incredibly well bracketed between The Elephant Man and Blue Velvet.
On the other hand, if you were expecting Star Wars then you were probably a little baffled. Dino DeLaurentis certainly marketed the film as though he believed Dune was another summer action movie for kids, stopping just short of including sandworms in McDonald's Happy Meals (although a cinnamon-flavored "Spice Shake" would have been awesome.)
Still, a lot of the Dune merchandise was grossly inappropriate. I don't know which is more baffling: coloring books based on Frank Herbert's heady, neofacist religious parable ... or that someone once tried to sell toys based on characters in a David Lynch movie.

Among the products aimed at the youth market was the Marvel Comics adaptation, which was (and still is) pretty damn great. Illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz, it's the closest we're ever going to get to a "Classics Illustrated" version of Dune. This comic is a terrific piece of art in its own right.

DOWNLOAD the comic here.

(Note: The art above is the unadulterated cover for a pocketbook edition of the comic, which collected the entire miniseries.)

Most certainly NOT aimed at the youth market was an audio interview recorded by Waldenbooks with Frank Herbert and David Lynch. Herbert has passed away since this was recorded in 1983, while Lynch has pretty much stopped trying to explain his movies in any conventional manner. He's also stopped talking about Dune in any way, shape or form ... so it's refreshing to hear him so enthusiastic about the project and talking about the scripts for the planned sequels.
Below is a download link for the six-part Herbert/Lynch interview. It also includes a seventh MP3 file of an unrelated interview with Herbert.

DOWNLOAD: Dune: A Recorded Interview

Rare Star Wars Photos

If I'm not mistaken, the photo above shows an early design for some kind of super stormtrooper, a concept that was abandoned during the development of The Empire Strikes Back. They found another use for the design, obviously.

This photo was taken from a collection of "Rare Star Wars Photos," some of which I've never seen before. They're definitely work checking out.

NBC's Saturday Night

Little known fact: Back when Saturday Night Live debuted in 1975 there was already a show on CBS calling itself Saturday Night Live. For the first few years SNL was referred to as "NBC's Saturday Night" but later assumed the name when its rival was canceled.

Here is a relic from the days before home video: an album of audio highlights from that legendary first season. In addition to the original cast are bits from hosts Lily Tomlin, Peter Boyle and Richard Pryor.

Inside the RAR file are two MP3 tracks ripped directly from the original vinyl release. The selections here were intended to mirror the early format of the show. I don't think this was ever re-released on compact disc, and all of these sketches are available on the DVD set of season one.

Here's another item from those early years of SNL: Marvel Team-Up #74, which teams Spider-Man with the Not Ready for Prime Time Players. This was produced after Chevy Chase had left the show and includes Bill Murray. Warning: it's corny as hell. What else do you expect, though, when Stan Lee is "hosting" SNL in the story?


(Note: this is a .cbr file. There are a few free programs your can download that "read" this files. HERE is a good place to start.)

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Star Wars Cash Magnet

Ah, the good ole days. When Saturday morning television was wall-to-wall toy commercials. Even the actual cartoons were sometimes toy commercials, though those kinds of shows tended to come on during the work week. Saturday mornings were usually reserved for sugar-frenzied fantasies like Scooby Doo, The Smurphs, The Snorks and that bizarre Happy Days cartoon where Ritchie and the Fonz traveled around in a spaceship or something. What was that all about?

But I digress.

While my memory is fuzzy about many of the actual cartoons I watched as a kid, I have distinct memories of certain ads for Star Wars toys. The video above is a compilation of the ads which successfully helped part my parents from lots and lots of cash between 1977 and 1983. Enjoy!

The Dark Knight Returns

Buying a statue has always seemed like a risky venture for me. When you put a fragile artifact in the same room with cats and Class-M planet gravity, it's just a matter of time before bad shit happens.
Consequently, I've never bought a statue. And there have been some nice ones over the years.
The little item pictured above, though, might change all of that. It's a statue of Michael Keaton as
Batman as he looked in the 1989 film (before the costume took on that "body armor" look seen in every film after.)
I've always thought of Keaton as the Sean Connery of the silver screen Batmen. While the 1989
Batman has a few rough edges (almost all of which involve the script) it still holds up well as an example of traditional Hollywood adventure tropes. In many ways it's got more in common with movie serials than the original Star Wars and Indiana Jones films.
I'm not sure when the statue is coming out. I've seen dates ranging from April to October, but it's pretty easy to find via Google.
Now, where's my Clean and Sober statue?

The Teen Titans return (again)

Not long before the first issue hit the stands, DC let creators Marv Wolfman and George Perez take their new Teen Titans idea for a test drive. A short, 16-page story was inserted into the pages of the Superman team-up book DC Comics Presents to let a wider audience get a look at the series. It was not only a savvy business idea, but a solid story, as well.
Wolfman forgoes the usual introductions by throwing a very confused Robin into a future where a thriving new group of Teen Titans — which had been disbanded for months in his reality —
battle an extra-dimensional organism. The story tricks both Robin and the reader into off-the-cuff introductions and character exposition without ever bogging down the story (which is something a 16-page sampler couldn't afford to do.)
The tale has an interesting structure. Robin begins to lose his equilibrium while dealing with a mundane terrorist threat (so mundane that, like the jewel heist in Reservoir Dogs, it is never shown in panel). He loses consciousness several times, awakening in a false future where he and a new group of Teen Titans fight to send an alien blob back to its dimension. The story collapses inward as Robin's "dream" threatens to pull him into a third reality of an alien dimension before he's hastily pulled back to his own reality. By this point, though, neither the character nor the reader know what to think about the events of the story.
It’s revealed that Raven, the mysterious new “witch” on the team, has manipulated Robin into confronting his own doubts about the Titans in anticipation of a more aggressive effort to draw her players to the battlefield in the first issue of the on-going series. The fact that Robin’s vision of the future comes to pass — though this particular conflict never does — is only icing on the cake.
Wolfman and Perez leap the usual hurdles of introduction stories with ease and set the stage for a much more elaborate “cute meet” in the first issue of the on-going series. It's not every team that gets two origin stories.

Pop Art: From my personal stash

Blade, by Paul Maybury. I had no idea who Maybury was when I asked him to draw this, but have since discovered he's done some really great work — such as Aqua Leung.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Indiana Jones and the Well of Life

Here's something I came across earlier today: an unauthorized radio drama created a few years ago based on Indiana Jones.
Now, I haven't had a chance to actually listen to this yet. I'm still wading through the Dark Shadows and Judge Dredd audio dramas created by Big Finish, but thought I'd pass these links along for you hard-core Indiana Jones fans. I put it on my stack of "Things to Listen to."

Here's a story summary from the Indiana Jones wiki;

"The story is set in 1941 and follows Indiana Jones on his quest to find the Well of Life (more commonly known as the Fountain of Youth), a fountain that restores youth to those who drink from its waters. Indy is not without competition. Nazi agents also want the Well of Life for the Third Reich."

There are nine episodes in all, ranging from 8 minutes to 21 minutes in length. You can visit the series' producers HERE. I love the idea of the "serialized" nature of this series and think it ought to work well with the character.

Again, though: I haven't listened to it yet. It could be crap. (Insert obligatory Kingdom of the Crystal Skull joke here.)

Indiana Jones and the Well of Life:
Episode 1
Episode 2
Episode 3
Episode 4
Episode 5
Episode 6
Episode 7
Episode 8
Episode 9

And here are two Rapidshare links. The first should give you the entire series:

NEWSFLASH: Captain America doesn't exist

I hope that headline didn't burst too many bubbles. But it's the truth.
Certain areas of the Internet are currently bubbling over in rage over a rumor that The Office's John Krazinski has been cast as Captain America. If true, I have no real problem with that idea. But I'll get to that in a moment.
This kind of nonsense has been the way of comic fandom since Tim Burton's first Batman film. Reactionaries didn't have the benefit of a full-blown WWW back when Michael Keaton's casting was announced in 1988, but the rage still spilled over into the mainstream media. Warners rushed a trailer into theaters to show the kind of film they were making and managed to silence a few naysayers. The rest shut their mouths soon after the movie was released.
Today, when people tick off the problems with Burton's original film, Keaton's name never makes the list. Most people don't remember the furor created by the DC Comics Fundamentalists over his casting.
But the process seems to have carried over into the development of just about ever superhero movie since. The problem, I think, is that many comic fans spend so much time engrossed in fantasy that they lose all perspective on the characters. You will never find a human being who looks like Alex Ross' version of Captain America. If you were able to genetically engineer such a specimen, they'd lack certain talents to actually carry a film (such as acting, charisma or general talent.)
The origin of Captain America is a pretty simple story about an ordinary guy who becomes a superhero (in many ways it's a story that mirrors our own nation's humble origins and rise to world power.)
You don't tell that story by casting the embodiment of the Golden Mean (or, more to the point, the Aryan Ideal) in the role of the everyman. If you do there is no character arc. Before the movie even begins the audience can see the artifice behind the story. It makes about as much sense as casting Rebecca Romijn as a mousy waitress.
In the end, there's more to acting than putting on a costume. Krazinski might not be the first person I think of when I read a Captain America comic (he's always looked a little too much like Chevy Chase's illegitimate child to me.) But I'm ready to give him a chance. Because life's too short to waste it bitching about a movie that doesn't yet exist.

Twittering of the Gods

Speaking of Twitter ...

Here's an account I've been following for a while, first under my band Mary Shelley Overdrive's account, and later from my personal account:

The one and only H.P. Lovecraft.

There are a lot of performance artists using Twitter these days, from Drunk Hulk to Pirate Trent Reznor. Those are all fun but, at the end of the day, I prefer to believe that H.P. Lovecraft isn't another joke ... and that he is still among us and just loves his Twitter.

Anyhoo, you can find him at Folow him and you'll get occasional reminders that we live in a bleak world of eldritch horrors that the human mind is too puny to fully comprehend.

Conan O'Brien takes to Twitter

A few weeks ago I ordered a "Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" shirt from NBC. True to form, the shirt was not scheduled to be available for shipping until Feb. 25 ... almost a month after his last show aired. Great job, NBC!

This week, Conan signed up with Twitter (or, at least, someone officially representing CoCo is posting for him. You never can tell with "celebrity accounts.") His first post?

"Today I interviewed a squirrel in my backyard and then threw to commercial. Somebody help me."

You can find him at I have no idea what he's got planned in coming months, but all that creative energy is going to have to go somewhere.

Pop Art: From my personal stash

Etrigan, by Matt Wagner. He's one of my favorite artists and writers, but I actually like his writing even more than his art.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Night of Blood (Yawn)

It's amazing the kinds of "traumas" that kids take for granted.
What might seem horrible to an adult, though, is just business as usual for children. You don't begin to idealize childhood until your own is over, and we tend to forget just how normal the abnormal can be.
Example: a few days ago a relative was telling me about a "lock in" event my oldest niece was attending. For the uninitiated, a "lock-in" is when a bunch of well-meaning adults (usually a youth center or church) let young teens hangout together all night. Even though they are supervised, you can bet that most of these kids will find a few moments alone for some distinctly unsupervised behavior.
Anyway, my sister-in-law was telling me the names of some of the movies they were showing at the upcoming event. I forget what they were ... probably the usual saccharine Disney stuff always dumped on kids though.
But she was appalled to learn what movies were shown at the lock-in that I attended back around 1985 or so when I was 13.
Day of the Dead

Silent Night, Deadly Night

Jaws isn't a big deal. I'd already seen it about a dozen times by that point (if not more) and there was a cool "hook" to this showing. There was a swimming pool at the community center and organizers hung sheets over a fence and played a 35mm print of the movie while we were swimming.

Later that night, though, things took a turn for the nasty. Someone put a couple of high school students in charge for the night. And, apparently, they weren't in the mood to watch something as benign as
Teen Wolf. So out came the videotapes of Day of the Dead and Silent Night, Deadly Night.

While parents might be horrified to hear about their kids watching zombie orgies, rape and serial murder at a "youth center" event, I think we were adequately entertained. And it's not like I wasn't already primed for these movies.
Night of the Living Dead (along with Tron and Swamp Thing) was one of the first movies I ever saw on videocassette (ahem ...Betamax,) and I'd seen Dawn of the Dead a year or so earlier.

And the media had done a fair job of creating a panic over the poster to Silent Night, Deadly Night and the "threat" it's existence allegedly posed to children. So, it's not like these movies were unknown to me.

Still, we live in a world where parents think they can keep the dangers of the world at bay by simply shielding the idea of these things from them. And that's all movies are: ideas. While I don't recommend the local Sunday School turn viewings of Silent Night, Deadly Night into a holiday tradition, movies (and art, in general) never become problematic until you start using them as tools of indoctrination.

And all we did that night was watch a couple of movies. Off the top of my head, I could rattle off about 10,000 worse things that could have happened. In fact, I still kind of like those movies ... so my hat's* off to my former teenage chaperones.

(* In case you're wondering, my hat is a blue-denim ball cap with a Nostromo patch.)

Pop Art: From my personal stash

Ironically, Iggy Pop is the latest addition to the Pop Art series. This was drawn by Philip Xavier. I had a variety of musicians I wanted to get sketched, but wanted the artists to tackle someone they were comfortable with. From Glenn Danzig, Iggy Pop and Johhny Cash, Xavier selected Iggy.

This sketch is based on the famous Mick Rock photo on the cover of Raw Power.

Below is video of one of the greatest moments in rock history.

Matinee: Buckaroo Banzai (1984)

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

The Trailer:

The P
lot: After failing to gain a foothold on Earth in the 1930s, aliens from an alternate dimension make another bid for invasion. Standing in their way is brain surgeon/rock star/scientist/adventurer Buckaroo Banzai and his team of Blue Blaze Irregulars. Banzai faces the evil Red Lectroids, as well as the more benevolent (though no less dangerous) Black Lectroids - who are willing to destroy the Earth to keep the Red Lectroids in check.

The Heritage: Buckaroo Banzai didn't generate much in the way of merchandise. The Marvel Comics movie adaptation (illustrated by Mark Texeira, who also drew the Swamp Thing movie adaptation for DC) was well received. There was also a strategy game released for personal computers, written by Questprobe's Scott Adams. But that was about it for Buckaroo.

The Response: Tepid. Critics didn't get it, and audiences turned a cold shoulder to it. The end of the film announced a pending sequel that never materialized and, for mainstream audiences, Buckaroo Banzai faded into oblivion. (If you pay attention to the dates, the 71% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes doesn't exactly reflect the consensus of critics in 1984.)
But the movie found a small, rabid fan base that has since generated its own memorabilia. Decades of patches, badges and fan fiction eventually lead to a comicbook series from Moonstone Books.
Other efforts to revive the characters on film have not been as successful. In 1998, Fox made an effort to develop the concept into a TV series, but it was not picked up. A few years later Frank Darabont began development of another Buckaroo Banzai show but it, too, failed.

The Film: Buckaroo Banzai has its charms. At its heart is a terrific idea - a post-modern Doc Savage who's equal parts Leonardo DaVinci, Indiana Jones and Adam Ant.
Unfortunately, the movie is not very good. There's a cheapness to the spectacle that often drags the story do

  • Why does an internationally famous rock star (who has his own comic book, no less) play to a sparse audience in some dingy New Jersey nightclub?
  • The press conference where Banzai first sees the the Lectroids for what they really are was obviously shot at a local hotel convention room that wouldn't have been big enough to hold the average comicbook convention.
  • The President of the United States, who deals with Banzai from a hospital bed, looks like he's being treated in a ramshackle VA hospital that should have been closed years ago.

All of this serves to undermine the "do it yourself" aesthetic of Banzai's science, which is all stitched together from left over garbage like bubble wrap and tin foil. Alone, it's an interesting concept. Dropped into the middle of a film that looks equally hodgepodge, though, and the aesthetic fades into the background.
But I want Buckaroo Banzai to work. Every few years I return to the film, always hoping that I'll connect with it the way the creators want me to. And every time I tune out about half way through the film and fall into a daze.

The Music: Pretty neat. I'm not a fan of using electrical instruments in film scores, though there are exceptions (Blade Runner comes immediately to mind.) But the soundtrack firmly anchors BB in its time without ever coming across as camp. The melodies are solid and the overall texture has a proper B-movie vibe that never falls into actual B-movie mediocrity. And who can forget the closing credits of the film with the cast walking down an abandoned drainage canal in step with the final cue?

BONUS: Here's a download link to an expanded (and unauthorized) version of the soundtrack, courtesy of The Inferno Music Vault.

The Cast: Amazing. I think this is the real reason the fans love Bucakroo Banzai. As the lead, Peter Weller plays Buckaroo with all the earnestness of Adam West and shows he understands the kind of film he's making. Ellen Barker, on the other hand, straddles genuine drama with "damsel in distress" antics and provides a bit of balance to the film. Add in a supporting cast that includes Clancy Brown, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Lloyd, Dan Hedeya and others and you've got a winning recipe.
The show stealer is, of course, John Lithgow as the deranged Dr. Lizardo. I've got no clue what his inspiration for the role was. At times Lizardo comes across like an Italian version of Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein. The rest of the time he's just batshit insane.
Not long after Buckaroo Banzai was released, Lithgow got to reprise Lizardo on an episode of Saturday Night Live. Sadly, there doesn't seem to be any video of it available online.

End of Line: Buckaroo Banzai ought to work, but doesn't. It's as crazy a movie as you can imagine but falls into incoherency toward the end, and lacks a visual punch to differentiate it from the average television movie. There's a lot to love, but it never really gels.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pop Art: From my personal stash

Eric Bloom, circa 1971, as drawn by Dan Brereton.
For more info about this sketch, see this post.

Marvel Premiere #35 — 3-D Man

I like the 3-D Man.
There, I said it.
This affection for the character doesn't have any great depth or mystery behind it. The first time I ever saw the character was in an issue of
The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe and I was struck by his costume. I was one of those odd kids of the '70s who actually got to see some classic 3-D movies in the theater and my discovery of 3-D Man arrived right at the cusp of the 3-D revival of the 1980s. (This revival didn't last very long, thanks to the cinematic abominations like Jaws 3-D, Amityville 3-D, Metalstorm, etc.)
I'll be damned if 3-D man wasn't a little hard to find, though. His appearances were limited to a handful of Marvel promo books which had very little demand among later fans. The books were worthless, so they should have been inexpensive ... but there was no profit in them so retailers tended not to stock them.
It's an odd book from top to bottom, something typical of Bronze Age comics. Meant as a throwback to a time when Marvel had no superheroes, the character begins as a test pilot in the 1950s. After a run in with the Skrulls (chronologically predating their first appearance in Fantastic Four) he acquires the power to ... well, I'm not exactly sure
what his powers were. He apparently has three times the strength, speed and stamina of a normal man but, unlike normal men, spends 21 hours of the day trapped inside the lenses of a pair of kooky glasses.
During a three-part story arc (Marvel Premiere 35-37) 3-D Man grapples with the evils of rock and roll, aliens, brainwashing and the explanation as to what might really have been behind the Bermuda Triangle (the Skrulls.)
It's all a little hard to swallow as nostalgia, though, because the book takes place just a few years before the first issue of Fantastic Four hit the stands ... and Ben Grimm is even referenced directly in the story as a notable test pilot. For some reason, though, 3-D Man is a character stuck in an editorial conceit of a fictional 1958, while the rest of the Marvel Universe was allowed to move on. I have no idea how this issue was addressed in his later appearance in The Incredible Hulk, and the character was later re-vamped as the deadly dull Triathlon in The Avengers.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Wax Paper and Bubblegum

Early last year I came across a great website that I thought I'd share.
I'd been interested in tracking down some of the old non-sport trading cards I'd loved as a kid (as well as a few I'd only heard about.) Naturally, Ebay was my first stop.
Now the prices at Ebay are erratic, to say the least. If you get two people determined to win an item, it can often sell for far more than it's worth. At other times, coincidence can end in an item selling far beneath its true value. Those are the ways of auctions.
I forget what card set I was bidding on, but I eventually got a good deal on something or other from a store that was selling its merchandise at Ebay. And then I found another great deal. Before long, I decided to eliminate the middleman and go straight to their online ".com" store.
You know those trading card sets I've mentioned in previous posts? They came from Marchant Non-Sport Cards in St. Louis. I've managed to get many, many (too many?) sets are cards at amazing prices. My most recent purchase was a sale on a complete set of Star Wars cards from the 1970s ... a set that included the blue, red, yellow, green and orange series. And I paid less than 50 cents per card for a complete set of 330 cards fresh from the wax packs. And I so didn't deserve it.

Anyway, check the store out. They've extended their current sale for a few more days.

(NOTE: The image at the top is taken from the wax wrapper of the original Star Wars Topps series in 1977. It's sized to be used as wallpaper for 1024x768 resolution.)

Kurt Cobain Meets Morbius

Here's a photo from Cobain Unseen, the terrific multimedia book about Kurt Cobain's various artistic endeavors.

As you can see to your left, this book is exhaustive. I thought I'd post this photo because it shows Cobain, at age 8, drawing inspiration from an issue of Giant Size Werewolf By Night (with special guest star Morbius!)

At least, the book claims it's Cobain and it has no reason to lie. But they could have said it's an 8-year-old Katie Sackhoff and I'd believe that, too.

The Punisher: 1989 Score

Here are a couple of links I came across to a really unlikely album: the Dennis Dreith score to the 1989 New World picture The Punisher.

It's pretty unusual for a movie to skip its theatrical release and still get a soundtrack album released. It's even more unusual for that album to be released 20 years after the fact. I think part of this comes from the growing cult following the Dolph Lundgren movie has gained since the advent of DVD.

Helping the argument for the Lundgren film are the subsequent Punisher movies with Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson, which illustrated that the much-less-expensive 1989 film wasn't so bad, after all. While it might not make a great "modern" interpretation of The Punisher, it's fairly reflective of the Carl Potts era of Marvel when the film was made.

You can pick the soundtrack up at Amazon HERE, or buy the DVD (it's cheap!) HERE.

Pop Art: From my personal stash

Don't Fear the Reaper, by Dan Brereton. The year I got this I was getting sketches of musicians, among them Eric Bloom of Blue Oyster Cult. I left my sketch book with Dan and, when I got it back, he tossed in this extra drawing for free. Turns out Dan was also a BOC fan.

I'll post the Eric Bloom sketch at a later date. It's pretty terrific.
Meanwhile, enjoy this video from Blue Oyster Cult.


Pop Art: From my personal stash

Blade "the Vampire Killer" by Georges Jeanty. Since drawing this little sketch, Georges has made quite a name for himself drawing another vampire hunter named Buffy.

What if Edward Gorey drew Star Trek?

Shaenon K. Garrity shows us what Edward Gorey — a reported fan of the original Star Trek — could have made from the classic "Trouble With Tribbles" episode.

Click here to read the whole sordid affair.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Coneheads: Animated

It took Saturday Night Live a long, lone time to become as refined as it has today. While it's a caricature of its former self, there was a time when it's raggedy, drug-addled humor was the best thing on American television.
Once the original cast found mainstream acceptance, though, they gradually lost their edge (and interest in writing) and became ... well, hacks. I hate to admit it because that original cast is like The Beatles to me (don't be surprised if you get a lengthy tirade from me one day about how Garrett Morris was a wasted talent.) But when they sold out, they sold out cheap.
I'm not sure where the following cartoon falls in this spectrum between "Nick the Lounge Singer" and"Vegas Vacation." It's a little odd to see characters that were birthed in a cloud of marijuana smoke being given the "holiday special" treatment. But, here it is in three parts: The Coneheads animated special.

Pop Art: From my personal stash

Here's an interesting one.
When Innovation published their first issue of The Vampire Lestat back around 1990, the inside from cover featured a silhouette of the title character. Not content to scribble an undecipherable autograph on the front cover, artist Joe Phillips filled in the darkness with a gold-ink sketch.

A few years later I took TVL boxed set of 12 issues, and Phillips again drew a sketch. This time it was a dragon holding a shield, with Phillips' signature on the shield. I don't have that one scanned yet, but will share it eventually.

Vertigo gets off to an early start

DC Comic's "Vertigo" imprint didn't launch until 1993, but the seeds for the line had been in place since the early 1970s. DC had experimented with more mature titles (i.e., "not superheroes") a few times, with such books as Swamp Thing, The Shadow, Jonah Hex and their assorted mystery/horror anthologies. For a lot of reasons (such as the the national paper shortage, changes in editorial staff, etc.) the company had a hard time keeping any new book in print for more than a dozen issues, so many of their best books were also their most brief.
One of the best comics the company published in the 1070s was the Denny O'Neil/Mike Kaluta interpretation of The Shadow (it also featured some occasionally uncredited assistance from Jeff Jones and Bernie Wrightson.) It was a no-nonsense interpretation of the William Gibson pulps, with The Shadow portrayed more like an underworld boogeyman than a costumed adventurer. Kaluta left the book after a few issues, with the remainder completed by the likes of Frank Robbins and the much-underrated E.R. Cruz. The series even featured the first meeting of The Shadow and The Avenger, something that pulp fanboys had wondered about for decades. They'd meet again in the late 1980s, during the controversial — and hilarious — run on The Shadow by Andy Helfler and Kyle Baker (anther prototype series for Vertigo.)
After a dozen issues, though, DC pulled the plug. O'Neil said he was never offered a reason for the book's cancellation and had every reason to believe it had sold well (at least well enough to continue publication.) The O'Neil/Kaluta stories were collected in The Private Files of The Shadow, a hardback that has been out of print for many years (and will likley remain so, seeing how the comic rights to The Shadow are about as popular as Chris Brown right now.)

The Z-List

Here's a little experiment. The Blog Doctor has provided links to something called "The Z-List," which is designed to help bloggers boost their traffic. Here's what he has to say:

"The Z-List is a concept started in December 2006 by Mack Collier from A Viral Garden as a meme. A meme is a "unit of cultural information" which can propagate from one mind to another in a manner analogous to genes. The Z list is a blog meme, which has bloggers creating and sharing a list of many links to blogs in a single post."

I have no idea if it works or not, but decided to give it a spin and see what happens. It's also a great go-to list for people looking for interesting, successful blogs. So start yer clickin'!

Make Money Online With Dosh Dosh

A Viral Garden

Connected Internet


Can I Make Big Money Online


Blogging to Fame

Million Dollar Experiment heads Down Under

Kumiko’s Cash Quest

Calico Monkey

Internet Bazaar
Shotgun Marketing Blog



Customers Rock!

Being Peter Kim

Pow! Right Between The Eyes!

Billions With Zero Knowledge

Working at Home on the Internet

MapleLeaf 2.0

Two Hat Marketing

The Emerging Brand

One Reader at a Time
One blogger’s experiment in building and engaging with online communities.

Ruminate this site
Reviews blogs and sites so that we don’t have to.

SMogger Social Media Blog
The ethical use of social media for bloggers and other web users.

Blog Consultant bringing the twin passions of business and blogging together.

Successful Blog
The legendary Liz Strauss, blogger extraordinaire and creator of the SOB award.

Troy Worman's Blog
Focus on writing, ideas and connections

Copywriter's Crucible
The importance of copy in corporate blogging

Copywriting Tuneups
How to measure reading effectiveness and why it is important in the blogosphere

Dipping into the Blogpond
Blogging about starting an Internet company in the Sutherland Shire.

Broad and deep insight into the branding process.

Own Your Brand!
Blog to help businesses re-imagine their brands.

The Emerging Brand
Corporate branding blog focused on leadership.

The Engaging Brand
Using technology and marketing knowledge to improve business communications.

What is Brand?
Japanese readers/speakers? Anyone?

Presentation Zen
(Site in English) Tips for great presentations, marketing, and business communications.

Dummies Guide to Google Blogger Beta
Complete help on the new blogger. Blogger Hacks, Blogger templates. Adsense. Search engine Optimization.

Bob Sutton
Discussions of “jerks” in business.

Health, wealth and the freedom to choose. Archived blog. New one is jugaad (

Ramblings from a Glass Half Full
Views on business life.

Simplicity Mary’s Blog
Business development, marketing troubleshooting

Funny Business
Wide ranging discussion on business with a funny and pictorial approach.

Creative Think
Fun Ideas to stimulate your creativity.

The Copywriting Maven
Marketing and SEO copywriting tips.

Brain Based Biz
Tips for stirring creativity in business.

How to create great customer experiences on the web and in the “real” world.

Creating Passionate Users

raving lunacy

Anne 2.0

Emily Chang - eHub

Darren Barefoot - Vancouver Technologist, Writer, Raconteur, Miscellanist

Liz Strauss at Successful Blog - Thinking, writing, business ideas ...

ALLIED by Jeneane Sessum

Presentation Zen

good to know


gillianic tendencies

Steve's 2 Cents

Listics - Frank Paynter's Voice and Vision

Escape from Cubicle Nation

Blog Sisters: Where men can link, but they can't touch

Designers who Blog

E-Commerce Blog by Solid Cactus

Brand Autopsy

Unconventional Thinking

The Boomer Chronicles

Renovate Your Life with Craig

I Dream of Kimchee

The Moronosphere


Paula Mooney

Inspiration Lane

me,myself & me

A Gota de Ran Tan Plan

How Can I do That

Bonnie Writes

Flee the CubeStarting up a small business in web design.

Community Guy
Online and offline community building tips and tricks.

A Free and Decent Blog Host
Technology news focusing on blogs and blog software

Billions With Zero Knowledge
Changing the world with little bits of knowledge

Connected Internet
All things to do with technology, mobile phones and gaming.
Tech news, writing and marketing

Focuses on the technology of the Internet and loves Google.

MapleLeaf 2.0
Tech news stories relating to Canada

Scott Burkett's Pothole on the Infobahn
Musings on technology, IT management, and online community.

Small Surfaces
Interaction design, user interface design, user experience, usability and social trends related to mobile devices.

Tech new and reviews written by 17 year old in India. Awesome.
Design and photography blog.

Through the Lenses
Travel/photography blog includes stunning shots and photography tips.

Travel And Vacation On Blog
Lightweight travel guide/destination information on selected cities. Needs more.

The Best Guides to eCommerce with Favor
Viral marketing tools, memes and SEO tips.

Web Metrics Guru
Web analytics, in particular for blogs

The Future of the Web
Use of new technologies for the web.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pop Art: From my personal stash

Judge Dredd, by Michael Avon Oeming. He drew this the week that the first issue of DC's Judge Dredd series was published. He also drew it on the day of OJ's famous White Ford Bronco debacle, which you can watch below.

Godzilla is a Four-Letter Word

Here's a story that kinda creeps me out.
When I was a kid (maybe five years old) my neighbor had a copy of Godzilla that had the Avengers in it. I was floored seeing the likes of Thor and Iron-Man on the same pages as Godzilla. But my neighbor, who was a few years older than me, wouldn't let me read it.
His reason? It was full of too many "bad words." He'd open the pages at random and point to some word in a balloon and tell me it was a "cuss word" and that I shouldn't say it.
Part of me wants to think that he simply didn't want to share his comic, but if it was a power play he'd have got a kick out of taunting me (which he didn't.) If he really wanted to embarrass me, he would have done the opposite: trick me into thinking a dirty word was, in fact, harmless (which would have provided much more entertainment.)
As it stands, I don't know what his goal was. It still weirds me out. I still haven't got around to reading this issue, though I did meet the artist on the book (Herb Trimpe) last year. No profanity was involved in the exchange.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Wax Packs: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

So, I've been re-discovering my love of "non-sport" trading cards in recent weeks.
As it turns out, these cards aren't worth much these days, with only a few exceptions. Many of these cards I had as a child, but haven't seen them in 20-25 years. My memories of them are still vivid — such as walking down to the local Junior Market to buy Star Wars or Jaws 2 wax packs — and it's surprising how well I still remember the small details about these cards.
What's also surprising are some of the things I didn't notice.
This is one of the few non-sport series I can think of that relies on such as dark design. Later in the year Topps would also adopt black borders into the design of the Jaws 2 series, and it works pretty well for both movies. It also makes them stand out from the blue/red color schemes that were so prevelant because, I presume, of the success of the Star Wars cards.
As a kid, I was a little weirded out by the "Starring Melinda Dillon" card in the CEOT3K series. The lighting was strange, and it was so tightly cropped that it was hard to tell exactly what was happening in it. It looked overtly sexual for some reason (I don't know why.) I came across this card, as well as the Teri Garr "actress" card when something occurred to me ... where was the Richard Dreyfuss card? I flipped quickly to the set only to find that the star of the movie appears nowhere in the entire set. There were probably legal reasons for this, but it's still damn bizarre.


Cover Card: (0 out of 5)
Nope. The series kicks off with a #1 card depicting a parked fight plane from the 1940s. Yawn.

Design: (8 out of 10)
There's a lot to be said for simplicity. The front design never intereferes with the photography. In fact, the dark borders actually make the color in the cards that much more vivid.

Photography: (8 out of 10)
Overall, pretty good. The series is hampered by the absence of Richard Dreyfuss, so the movie's lead character — and participant in the film's most important scenes — come off as a little awkward. Still, the solution is kind of fun ... LOTS of photos of the "mother ship" landing from the end of the movie make for some colorful, if slightly repetitive, cards. Oh, and Steven Speilberg ever gets a card!

Production: (8 out of 10)
The photos are pretty sharp, but nothing to get excited about. Considering how inconsistent Topps' photo quality was in its nonsports cards (which might have been the fault of the movie studios and not Topps,) CEOT3K is a solid, if unspectaular, set.

The Other Side: (4 out of 5)
Story synopsis, trivia and a puzzle. Pretty much what you'd expect from Topps in the late 1970s.

Stickers: (7 out of 10)
The stickers reprint many of the "mother ship" landing cards on slick paper. While they look nice and hold up well as an independent set, the problem of repitition in the cards is even more pronounced. Still, there are some nice SFX photos here, even if the alien card looks a little scary.

TOTAL: 70 PERCENT (35 out of 50)

Eduardo Barreto 'gravely ill'

Here's a depressing headline from The Washington Post:

BREAKING: 'Judge Parker' artist Eduardo Barreto is 'gravely ill'; new artist sought

Beginning next week, readers will notice a sig
nificantly different look to the comic strip "Judge Parker." That is because Eduardo Barreto, the feature's artist since 2006, is gravely ill.

"Eduardo is not coming back," Woody Wilson, the longtime writer of "Judge Parker" and "Rex Morgan M.D." tells Comic Riffs. "He's gravely ill. He has told us he will not be able to [draw the comic for] the foreseeable future."

The first time I remember seeing Barreto's work was on The New Titans, not long after George Perez left the re-launched direct sales title. And I hated him. They couldn't have found an artist more different from Perez — who'd worked on The New Teen Titans for 7 or 8 years straight — had they done so on purpose.

But here's the strange thing: by the time Barreto left the book, I was sorry to see him go. With enough time he won me over and I've been a fan ever since. (I had the same response/resolution when Tom Grummett took over the pencils for Titans.)

While I'm still not sure Barreto was the appropriate artist for a book like the Teen Titans/New Titans, he found a comfortable home in The Shadow Strikes, DC's "conventional" take on the pulp hero. He and Gerard Jones re-wrote many of the classic pulp novels and streamlined them into a comicbook narrative. Barreto's style is pure pulp fiction. It's no surprise to me that he's found so much work in the subsequent years drawing crime-related comics.

Here's hoping he makes a full recovery.

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