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I've liked Grant Lee Phillips since we was hanging out with the Buffaloes, so "See America" was a great way to start out this disc. "Opus 40" by Mercury Rev has a similar "almost country" feel to it that's appealing, mixed with a vaguely retro sound. Devotchka's "Queen of the Surface Streets" is very strong as well. Jamie Cullum's "Twentysomething" was pretty fun as well. A nice mix of snarkiness and a faux-jazz score. The Arcade Fire's "Neighborhood #3" struck me as well. It's a bit repetitive, but I've enjoyed it. The Elliot Smith track with a name too long to be contained on the track listing ("A Distorted Reality is Now a Neccessity To...") has a similar sort of sound and I liked it quite a bit as well. I can generally be counted on to like Radiohead, and "A Wolf at the Door" is fine, but not one of my favorite songs of theirs. Grandaddy's "El Caminos in the West" has a bouncy tune to it that I enjoy as well. "Hideaway" by the Olivia Tremor Control was a great song, and while I'm not the big William Shatner fan some others are, there's a certain sense of wry cynicism and knowing cheese to "Common People" that elevates above the novelty record level of most of Shatner's past musical output.
"The New Year" by Death Cab for Cutie has a certain quality to it. I'm not certain I like the particular song, but the sound of it has me intrigued enough to be curious about the band's output. I have a very similar response to the New Pornographers' "The Body Says No." The song itself doesn't quite work for me, but I'm curious enough about the band now to want to hear more. I really dug OK Go's "Get Over It," though, as well as Rock and Roll Soldiers' "Funny Little Feeling." Both are good, straight-forward, unapologetic rock songs. "Another Round" by Enter the Haggis has a nice sound to it, and while G Love is hit or miss for me, "Gimme Some Lovin" is a good, bluesy tune from him. And I've been a fan of Sea and Cake for awhile, so I've had a copy of "Soft and Sleep" but it's a good song, so its presence here was welcome. Iron and Wine's "Such Great Heights" has a similar sound and I liked it quite a bit as well. And Cake's "End of the Movie" continues with that slightly melancholic sound, and it's tone makes it a great final track for the disc.
I've not been too impressed with the Jet tracks I've heard in the past, but "Last Chance" was actually quite good. And I still have a soft spot for the Beach Boys, so I can find no flaws in "Sloop John B." And, as I've mentioned before, I do really like Green Day, so I enjoyed "Macy's Day Parade." I'm not a Counting Crows fan, but "Hanginaround" was quite good. "Lonely Day" by Phantom Planet was lovely as well, but that's more or less what I expect from Phantom Planet. Son Volt's "Drown" is excellent as well, with a strong country element to the music and vocals.
"Will You Smile Again?" by "And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead" has a great, hard-driving rock beat to it. I can easily get behind this tune. And much to Pal Corey's dismay I'm not really a Queens of the Stone Age fan, but I quite like "Burn the Witch" anyway. And I always feel vaguely guilty about it, but I kinda like Garbage, so it was nice to hear "Metal Heart." Supergrass' "Brecon Beacons" is great, as is the Rev. Horton's Heat "Baby I'm Drunk," which is a great showcase of his typical style. "Harelip" by Tomahawk has a certain quality to it. I'm not quite sure I like it, but it's very striking. Same deal with "Speaking in Tongues" by the Eagles of Death Metal. And, ah, Bill Hicks...we lost our greatest American philosopher. Elastica's "How He Wrote Elastica Man" and the Gorrillaz's "New Genius" have a similar kind of sound, and I sort of like it, but I can't imagine listening to a full disc of it. And, when exactly did Nick Cave get good. I really like "The Curse of Millhaven" and all the other songs of his I've heard recently, but I remember intensely dislike him when I was younger. And, being a comics fan, I'm well aware of the fact that your taste is at it's best when you're young (or so all the people who tell me that comics were better when they were kids tell me), so it can't possibly be that my taste has matured over the years to the point where I'm able to appreciate Nick Cave.
Let's see, I kinda liked the Donna's tune, "I Don't Want to Know" and "The Legend of Finn MacCumhail" by Dropkick Murphy's. And Tori Amo's cover of "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is wonderful, and it's something I've only ever heard before in not very good live recordings. And the tracks by Ben Folds Five ("The Battle of Who Could Care Less"), Green Day ("Uptight"), Gary Numan ("Cars"), Joe Jackson ("I'm the Man"), Kim Wilde ("Kids in America"), The Lemonheads ("Style") and Patsy Cline ("Crazy") all have the benefits of familiarity and pre-existing good-will. But I do prefer Kermit the Frog's cover of "Coconut" to Nilsson's. But, this was the other mix disc that Pete really liked.
There's something wrong with Sterling. I mean that in a good way. There's nothing here I actually dislike (well, maybe "I'm a Little Weenie" by Dick Baker), I just find the actual album itself, in its entirety, hard to listen to. Oddly, Mike's second disc, the one put together with a "Think my taste in music is weird, do they? I'll show them! I'LL SHOW THEM ALL!!!" attitude, I like much more and find more tuneful. I can't listen to this disc while I drive, for example, but the second disc I can slide in, hit the "mix" button, and go happily about my commute.
That's it. All the first round of Mixed Bad mix-discs reviewed. Now I just need to finish burning the second round discs and get them in the mail. It's taking some time as I decided that folks who missed out on the first round will also get copies of my first mix. Just so they don't hear only my deliberately strange disc and think I'm completely insane.
Since I'm rapidly running out of time and wanted to get these out of the way before I mailed off the second batch of discs, and since I'm halfway through burning them, I'm only going to hit the highlights of the discs this time around.
"The Captain" by Kasey Chambers has a nice, melancholy tone to it I enjoy. "Anastasia Says" by Darling Violetta has a similar sense of melancholy to it, but I don't like it as much. Cracker tends to be very hit-or-miss with me, but "Eurotrash Girl" is a fun tune. And Warren Zevon's "Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner" is darkly funny, but then, what do you really expect from Zevon? Montgomery Gentry's "Speed" comes dangerously close to living up to all the stereotypes of country music, from the subject matter to the music to the method of singing, but I like it anyway. It's the sort of thing my Dad would probably really like as well. Carbon Leaf's "The Boxer" has a really nice sound to it as well. It's a very jumbled up sound, a sort of mix and country and Celtic, and I think I might want to check out some more of their stuff. Heather Nova's "Virus of the Mind" is fairly catchy as well, though if it's typical of the rest of her work I'm probably okay with just having the one song from her. I'm so hot-and-cold on the girl with a guitar style of music that a little bit of it goes a long way. And while I generally like David Bowie, and "Lady Stardust" is a good song, this particular version doesn't quite gell for me. It's been awhile since I heard "Past the Mission" by Tori Amos, but it's very hard to do wrong with Tori (well, except for the "Boys for Pele" album. I never could get into that one).
I can't really take "stalker" songs seriously. Sometimes they're amusing, but ultimately I tend to find them a bit silly. "Is She Really Going Out With Him?" by Joe Jackson is one of my two favorites of the genre, probably because it doesn't take itself seriously, and only skirts the edges of the "obsessed with the ex-girlfriend" subject matter. Toots & The Maytals' "Pressure Drop" is just a out-and-out good reggae song, and it's hard to find fault with it. And I'm eventually going to have to go back-track and pick up the more recent Green Day releases that I've skipped, aren't I? Because if "Letterbomb" is typical of their recent output, than they've recovered from that brief slump when I lost track of them. Tift Merritt's "Stray Paper" is one of those rare songs that makes me reconsider my usual indifference to the "girl with a guitar" genre. It's really good. I'm almost tired of "Dancing Queen." I think I've got close to a dozen different covers of that ABBA tune alone. But, I can't dislike ABBA. In contrast, while I'm not generally a Bruce Springsteen fan, "Jesus Was An Only Son" has a very nice sound to it, and it's a far cry from the "Born in the USA" sound that made me a non-fan in the first place.
"Ghost Riders in the Sky" by Johnny Cash has always been one of my favorite songs, ever since I first heard it as a little kid. I must have worn out my dad's 8-track of this, making him play it over and over again in his little VW Bug, back when we lived in Colorado and I was obsessed with growing up to be a cowboy. And while I generally don't much care for the Beatles anymore, "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is one of the very few songs of theirs I can still happily listen to at anytime. In my defense, there wasn't really anything on this disc that I dis-liked. It was mostly a case of most of the music simply not being to my taste. I believe this was Pete's favorite of all the mix-discs I played for him, though.
I haven't had too many opportunities to listen to Frank Zappa's work, but I've liked most of what I've heard so far. "Orange County Lumber Truck" isn't quite my usual thing, but it has a certain appeal. Trip Shakespeare's "Down My Block" has a very nice sound, I'm sorely tempted to describe it as vaguely nostalgic, but I'm not sure of the actual age of the song. I've been a Robyn Hitchcock fan for some time, but "I Saw Nick Drake" was a new one on me. It's not on any of my Hitchcock albums. It's got a nice blend of languid style and surreality that I like about his work. I quite like The Waterboys' "Glastonbury Song." It's another one of those songs that, in normal circumstances might not quite be my thing, but it's about Glastonbury, a region I have an interest in, so that pushes it over the edge for me. I can generally be relied upon to like most Nilsson songs. "Subterranean Homesick Blues" may be a tad over-exposed at this point (I seem to remember hearing it all the time not too long ago, not to mention covers), but it's still good. And lastly, Yoko Ono's "I Have A Woman Inside Me" is a really surprisingly good song. It probably won't do much to stop people from making her the butt of their easy jokes, but it does show her to be more than the one-dimensional caricature of the popular imagination.
Going to the movies today? I'm not. Someone has to be at the store just in case this Memorial Day happens to be the first one in the store's 25 year history that someone decides they'd like to buy a comic book. But, if you're planning on going to the movies, here's my reactions to the trailers you may be seeing. Ranking is based on how effective they are at wanting me to see the movie, In The Theater, Rented Through Netflix or Watch It On Cable If The TV Gets Stuck In The On Position And You Can No Longer Turn It Off.
Theater March of the Penguins: It's a nature documentary...about penguins. On the off-chance that it even plays anywhere near me, I'm off to see it. Heck, I may take time off work.
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: Whether or not the trailer looks good is a moot point, as Pete has made it quite clear that we will be seeing this film, probably on opening day. The montage of the kids ageing at the opening is kind of nice, but having read the book, and knowing that there's almost no way this film is going to run much past two hours in length, they're pretty much going to have to cut out everything that isn't an action sequence from the film, aren't they?
Fantastic Four: Again, I've been told that I will be seeing it. That being said, it actually doesn't look too bad. It's got Chris Evans and Ioan Gruffud, so the beefcake factor is decent. And Chris Evans, at least, appears to realize what kind of film he's in and is hamming it up. And, really, it's not like it's going to be worse than, say Daredevil or Batman & Robin. It's going to be dumb, and it's probably not going to be very good, but it might be fun.
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe: Tilda Swinton was the best thing about Constantine, so this film has got that going for it. Again, this film doesn't look bad, but I'm not exactly filled with confidence for some reason. It may be that disquieting rumor I keep hearing that Disney plans to heavily market this as a religious movie, to try and grab some of that The Passion money. I hope that's not the case, because I really think that the success of that film was more a fluke engendered by the fake "controversy" and the "big event" marketing that went into it. This film would probably more benefit from a "family film/if you liked LOTR" approach to marketing. Of course, this is another film that Pete is going to make me go see, so ultimately my opinion is moot.
The Dukes of Hazzard: Remember a few days ago when I said there was a movie coming out that I was really looking forward to, that nobody would guess that I was looking forward to? This is it. The Broken Lizard guys are involved in it, it's got a likeable cast, they seem to be strenuously avoiding taking the material seriously, and I still have a nostalgic fondness for the show from when I was a kid. So, yeah, this is the one that Pete doesn't get to argue with me about seeing.
The Legend of Zorro: A new novel, a new comic book, and now a new movie. It's a good year to be Zorro. I'm always down for a good swashbuckler, so despite some groan-inducing dialogue and unconvincing CGI stunts, I'm going to hope that this turns out to be a fun time. But you know what would improve it? Bunny Wigglesworth.
November: Courtney Cox in a dramatic mystery, one that promises some intriguing elements. Unless, of course, it turns out to be a generic stalker plot.
Batman Begins: The Bat-Voice doesn't quite work for me, but I've now seen enough footage to think that this is probably going to be a decent action film, at least with good actors, and perhaps even some intelligence.
Sky High: There are some cute jokes here, and the cast is appealing (well, at least for the bit players...the kids all look like generic WB-grade teen performers). It has the promise of being a fun, not taking itself seriously super-hero romp. I just kind of wonder, in my blackly cynical little heart, exactly how long after the first issue of ps238 came out did this film get pitched.
Rent It War Of The Worlds: This summer's movie to substitute explosions for plot or acting. My tolerance for Tom Cruise is very low, and Spielberg, in my opinion, is George Lucas' only rival for the "worst use of actors as a director" award. You can see all the plot points and character "moments" coming from miles away in his films. And, in the grand tradition of remakes that didn't need to happen, I'm sure that this one will be forgotten in a couple of years, while people continue to enjoy the original film (see also: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory).
A History of Violence: David Cronenberg tends to be very hit or miss, but he's been given an excellent cast here, so this has promise. If this had been a comic originally published by Dark Horse I'd make some kind of snarky comment about how it would be unavailable at the time of the film's release.
Mysterious Skin: Greg Araki, as a director, is very hit or miss. The trailer goes for the "suggestiveness over explanation" approach to the film, so it's hard to get a strong assessment of whether it's going to be worthwhile or not.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Tim Burton's movies always look interesting. He has no idea what actors are for, and he can't tell a story, but his movies look good. I'm sure once the novelty of this version wears off, people will go back to the Gene Wilder version for their preferred viewing of the story. Remember, the last time Burton tried to "improve" a film he gave us Planet of the Apes. And I may have mentioned it before, but when I say that Johnny Depp looks like a gracelessly aging drag queen in a film, that shouldn't be a complaint.
Cable Rebound: Martin Lawrence as the coach of a children's sports team. I bet he really doesn't want the job, but then experiences a moment of heart-warming enlightenment that changes his mind. And then the kids come from behind to win the big tournament. Man, that would be awesome, and a totally unexpected plot development!
Layer Cake: I realize that Matthew Vaughn is supposed to be the new hotness, but all this trailer says to me is that he's watched a bunch of British crime movies and absorbed all of their cliches. I'll just go and watch Snatch again, thanks.
The DaVinci Code: Man, this trailer just reeks of "by the numbers" doesn't it? So, so laughably bad and needlessly over-dramatised. That "in a world..." guy just kills trailers for me now, too, so that's one big strike against the film. Add in Tom Hanks and Ron Howard, neither of which has really ever done any films I've liked, and I'll be staying far, far away from this. I may not even go see movies at theaters this is playing at, just in case those films get worse by proximity.
Land of the Dead: To be honest, I only ever really liked the original Night of the Living Dead. And I really don't ever need to see another film in this over-saturated, over-exposed genre ever again. Shaun of the Dead really should have been the last word on the subject of cinematic zombies.
Bomb the System: Turning taggers into anti-authority heroes? No thanks. I can sort of see what they're going for. Some people mistake vandalism for art, so they use vandals as viewpoint characters for their gritty urban drama. But not only do I have no sympathy for any of the characters immediately because they are vandals, but the film wants to beat you over the head with how "serious" and "important" it is. Look for the hipper-than-thou set to rave on and on about how fantastic this film is.
Dreamer: Father-daughter bonding over horse-racing. I'm sure this won't be sappy or sentimental at all.
Valiant: The heavy-pastel color scheme is very distracting, and annoying. And really, I didn't find anything even remotely funny in the trailer. Just lots of the usual stupid puns and fart jokes that make up kid's movies these days.
This Is One Of Those Weird Posts Where I Don't Have Any One Thing To Say, So I Ramble On About Whatever Happens To Be On My Mind Of Late
I'm participating in the second go-round of the Blogger Mixed Bag Disc Exchange, and I actually managed to finalize my disc in a short amount of time. I'm not quite ready to send it out, as I need to sit down and take the time to burn 25 copies of it. And, glutton for punishment that I am, I decided to throw a copy of my first disc in for the people who missed out on the first go-round of the exchange. So that's closer to 35 discs I need to burn.
After the, ahem, "mixed" reaction my first disc got, I was slightly concerned that my second disc, created in a spirit of "Think MY taste in music is weird, do they? I'll show them! I'LL SHOW THEM ALL!!!" was actually slightly too mellow and mainstream. Now that others have heard it, no, it's just that this is my idea of mellow and low-key. What I basically did was load up about three hours worth of music into my MP3 player of choice (WinAmp in this case) and remove all the tracks that were either "not weird enough" or "hmm...maybe a little too weird." One of the songs that fell into the latter category was the song "A Christian Cowboy." I was reluctant to give people the impression that I was making fun of Eisenhower-era attitudes toward evangelicism, when what I was making fun of was 50s children's records sung off-key. So I selected a different badly sung children's recording for the disc. Ironically enough, it's a non-religious song by a Christian singer. When you date a minister, and you're a heathen, and outspoken at that, it's surprising the amount of sensitivity you rapidly develop to that kind of consideration.
But, not to worry. There is a song about a cowboy on the disc. In consulting with Mike (who also entered the composistion of the second disc with a "Think MY taste in music is weird, do they? I'll show them! I'LL SHOW THEM ALL!!!" attitude) we discovered that we both included songs by the same performer again and we both had songs on the same theme appear. In addition to that, I've got another techno remix of a familiar song, a song by a comic creator, a song heavily referenced by a comic creator during one of his seminal runs on a title, a cover of a song I put on my last disc, a song only on the disc for the benefit of Fred Hembeck, some non-musical short spoken bits that expand and comment on the songs and the disc as a whole and, uhm, more really, really, really gay songs. Two to be precise. Roughly on the same subject. Edit: I should also mention that there's at least one incredibly heterosexual song on the disc as well.
And no, while I think a couple of swears snuck into the last disc, this one is probably best not listened to in front of little old ladies. Unless the little old lady in question is anything like my dad's mom. I swear, mouth on that lady would make a sailor blush...
And I've got eight more discs I need to review. Probably in a mad dash of activity this weekend. I already made the decision not to review Mike's or Tom's discs, and in the next go-round probably not Ian's either. It just feels a bit, well odd, to try and dissect their taste in music.
Speaking of my dad, something I noticed when listening to these discs, specifically as it relates to the country songs on them, and the growing appreciation of country I've had over the last five years, is "My God! I'm turning into my father!"
On the off chance any of you know my father, the reaction to that is probably "Turning into?" It's not a bad thing. It's more of a sudden realization that all those people who tell me that I've got my father's looks, mannerisms, sense of humor and uncanny charm and personality were right all along. Just mixed in with my mom's temper and cynicism.
The utter thought I've had in reaction to the discs is that there are certain similarities between rap music and country music. Lots of people don't like either, but without really listening to either. And, given the heavy emphasis on formal considerations in both styles of music, that's understandable. There's so much cookie-cutter, by the numbers rap and country out there, it's not surprising that people haven't been exposed to the really good stuff.
I've had the urge to do one of those comprehensive looks at upcoming films via their trailers lately, but to be frank, very little that I haven't already covered looks comment-worthy. There are a bunch of fantasy films coming out soon, as well as some goofy comedies (and at least one film I'm eagerly awaiting that I seriously doubt anyone thinks I'd be looking forward to. I'll let you all guess which one that is). But the only film that I immediately have something to say about is, ironically, The DaVinci Code. Now, I tried to read the book. I honestly did. I'm down with the paranoid occult history/thriller story. I think the Priory of Sion was one of the greatest literary hoaxes ever perpetrated. But that book was terrible. Just a dull as dish water, by the notes "thriller" with card-board characters. And the trailer...hoo boy...cameras panning through a twisty, dark cavern with that "In a world..." guy narrating. It screams out "You've seen this film a dozen times already, and it wasn't good any of those times either!"
In non-mixed-bag news, I picked up the new Justin Tranter album (sort of an electro-clash thing) and the newest release by the Mountain Goats. Who I could have sworn broke up years ago. In fact, about a half-dozen albums had been released between their last album I bought and the newest one. Of course, none of the albums I saw had my favorite song of theirs, "Grendel's Mother," on it. Of which I only ever had a second generation tape copy, which I lost two moves ago.
I was also feeling in a trashy novel move, so I picked up Douglas Preston's The Codex. The thing about Preston's novels, especially his collaborations with Lincoln Childs, that I like is that they know that they're not great literature. They're just escapist adventure or mystery novels, meant for rapid reading and visceral enjoyment. That they have some wit and actual talent behind them is just a bonus. I'm always terribly surprised that the only works that have been adapted to film are Jennie and the horrible adaptation of the very enjoyable The Relic that not only killed off all the characters who were necessary for the sequel, but wrote out entirely the two most important characters, including FBI Special Agent Pendergrast, a character who deserves his own film series. I mean, if anyone's looking for reasons why Hollywood just doesn't "get it" look no further than that film. Pendergrast is nearly the only character in the novel with an actual personality, and they wrote him out.
Alan Moore to DC: "I'm taking my ball and going home!" Now, it's not as if DC hasn't given Mr. Moore ample reason in the past to not want to do business with them, and he's certainly well within his rights to publish his creator-owned work with any company he chooses. But the impetus for this move seems to be that Mr. Moore was insulted by the content and tone of comments Joel Silver made about the V for Vendetta movie. And he expected DC Comics, a tiny little division of the Time Warner conglomerate, to somehow strongarm Mr. Silver and Warner Pictures into issuing an apology. I don't think any reasonable person would expect Paul Levitz to really have that much pull over another division of the company. And I love how some commentators have been spinning the fact that DC keeps Watchmen in print as some kind of conspiracy to deprive Messrs. Moore and Gibbons of the copyright. They couldn't possibly be keeping it in print because it's a critically acclaimed and best-selling work important to the history and artistry of the form.
Also in that same piece, according to Joe Quesada it is somehow DC's fault that so many Marvel trades have serious printing errors. Are there any comics publishers who will take the blame for errors their company makes?
Marvel plans new variant covers...actually, I'm so frustrated by Marvel trying to bring back the speculator market that I don't have anything cynical to say about this. I fully expect them to start selling the comics pre-CGC slabbed any day now.
Excalibur cancelled...replaced with New Excalibur...no, I'm not making that up. What's funny is, the running gag at work is that Marvel keeps canceling titles and replacing them with New Whatever We Just Cancelled. So when they finally run out of Garth Ennis inventory stories on Punisher, expect it to rejoin the Marvel U as New Punisher.
House of M "sells out", to get yet another variant cover...Y'know, when DC sells out of something, it's after a healthy over-print. When Image or Dark Horse or most indie publishers sell out of something, it's because of re-order activity. When Marvel sell out of something, the fact that they mostly print to order on their comics has to be considered a factor. Oh, and we have so far had one customer asking us to pull House of M and all the related cross-overs for him, and he buys everything Avengers related anyway. Meanwhile, we keep upping orders on Infinite Crisis tie-ins, and can't keep them in stock. I'm just saying...
Oh well...at least we still have Tom Spurgeon to show us what comics journalism could look like.
True Story Swear To God: This One Goes To 11 by Tom Beland
This is one of those series that has developed a very strong and dedicated audience of readers, yet nevertheless stayed under my radar for a very long time. I was glad it was selling, and I was glad people were enjoying it, but there are only so many hours in the day and so it just dropped onto my list of titles to check out "when I have the time." Well, thanks to a nudge from Larry Young, who sent a copy, I decided to sit down and make some time.
Beland has a great artistic style. It's very loose and fluid, one of those styles that looks deceptively simple but is really quite elegant and developed. It's a good match for his story, which is very emotionally real and recognizable. It's a very human, engaging story with characters that are instantly likeable, and the open-ness and elegance of the line-work contributes to that immensely.
My one, very minor complaint, is that starting with the second volume for my reading was probably a mistake. There are relationships between characters that aren't made explicit, and I suspect they were dealt with in the first book. For example, I didn't realize that Joe was Tom's brother until nearly half-way through the book. Likewise, while I do get a strong sense of the love between Tom and Lily, it's origin is still a bit of a mystery to me. I suppose the best solution for that is for me to go and buy the first volume.
But that very minor complaint aside, this was a charming, funny, engaging and heartfelt book that I really enjoyed.
Would it kill you to list your releases in alphabetical order? Having to back-track through the last four months of order forms to double-check order numbers would go a lot faster if I could just scan for titles by the first letter. But no, that's too easy...you've got to place the titles in some near-random order based on what you're trying to push in any particular month!
Viz, I notice you're also starting to develop this bad habit, so don't think this doesn't apply to you as well.
Despite the number of kids running around town with Murphy's Law t-shirts on, I think I've managed to successfully avoid hearing any of their songs until now. "How to Start a Fight" is enjoyable and clever in it's own loud and fast way, which is all I really ask of rock music sometimes. Sick Of It All's "Step Down" has a nicely nostalgic sound for me, reminding me of all those identical sounding bands I used to go to clubs to see all the time. I've got a soft spot for British reggae/ska, so "Bring Back the Skins" was great. Judge Dread's singer reminds me a bit of Ian Drury, but then, ahem, a lot of Brit ska/reggae tends to sound alike. And you can't go wrong with the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, so "How Why Wuz" is a great follow-up. If anything, the only flaw with Bill Withers' "Lovely Day" is that it's a little too mellow for me.
Desmond Dekker's "Pickney Gal" gets things back on track with the kind of mellow song I can get behind. "Return of Django" by the Upsetters is one of those very rare instrumental songs I don't lose my patience with, and it serves as a nice bridge to the second Dekker song, the enjoyable "What Will You Gain." "Liquidator" by the Harry J All-Stars is, however, one of those instrumental songs that I just lose my patience with, at the very first high-pitched note in fact. It may be Mike's influence, but I can kind of dig "found-music" type recordings, especially when the people putting them together actually have a sense of music and aren't just trying to make something obnoxious, so I dug Pete Rock's "What Would You Do?" Fat Hooligan's "Skinhead Girl" is gloriously loopy and strange, and has the right amount of loud and fast to keep me happy.
Dropkick Murphys is another one of those bands that, despite the frequency with which I see their t-shirts around here, I've avoided hearing. Unlike the other Murphys band on this disc, if "The Gauntlet" is typical of their output, I've not missed much. The theme to Grand Theft Auto didn't really do much for me either, but then there's a reason why I usually turn the sound way down when I play video-games. The emphasis always seems to be on tunes that can loop endlessly without being too distracting rather than on making something that sounds good. Then we get a double dose of instrumental tracks, by Pete Rock and Gang Starr, that both fell on the "lose patience with" side of the instrumental music scale. Dilated People's "The Platform" left me cold as well.
But we get back into the swing of things with the Circle Jerks' "Wild in the Streets". And I'll probably lose all kinds of credibility in some circles if I confess to being a secret fan of the Offspring, but "She's Got Issues" is a great example of the less than serious take on music the band has. Minor Threat's "Good Guys Don't Wear White" is a fun little tune that doesn't really stay with me too long after hearing it. "Modern Day Music" by DJ Rob Swift isn't a bad song on it's own, but rap music is one of those genres that continually frustrates me. I feel like I should enjoy it more than I do, but it feels like a chore trying to find performers in the genre whose work I do enjoy. So, on the next track, "All I Need," I end up enjoying the parts with Mary J. Blige much more than the parts with Method Man. And she's not given much to do other than sing in the back-ground. The disc ends on a high note, though with "Still the One" by Punk Covers...I have a few of their tracks too...but, seriously, I've got a fondness for covers and loud and fast music, so this track makes a nicely final comment on the disc.
Overall, I'd say that about half of this disc really worked for me, with the rest of the songs falling somewhere between "ok" and "just not interested."
Starting up with "P Control" from Prince, my first thought was, "My God, when did Prince lose all his subtlety?" But then I realized that, no, he never really was that subtle in the first place. So not one of my favorite artists, and an obnoxious outing for him at that. The Indigo Girls have never done much for me either, so neither "Come on Home" or the later "Tether" are likely to be replayed by me much. I've just never grown fond of the female folk-singer with a guitar thing. Steve Earle's "The Truth" is very jangly, but I like it a lot. A band I'm not familiar with at all, Marillion, is represented by three songs here, "Genie," "You're Gone," and "Neverland." All three songs were pleasant enough, but they didn't really grab me. Actually, "You're Gone" sort of sounds like a U2 song, and that right there is probably enough to keep me from getting too excited. John Legend's "Let's Get Lifted" has pretty much the same effect. It's a nice enough song, but just not my thing.
Now, "White Collar Money" by the Streetwalkin' Cheetahs I feel like I should like more. It's got all the ingredients and sound of the kind of music I generally like, but this particular song was just sort of there and never really gelled for me. I'm pretty sure it's not them, it's me. But the follow-up is a great Magnetic Fields song "Papa Was A Rodeo." Any song that basically transcribes the conversations of a gay trucker in a bar is going to be aces with me. The Steve Earle/Lucinda Williams duet, "You're Still Standing There" is a strong follow-up and a very enjoyable tune in it's own right, with more of that jangly sound from the disc's earlier Earle track. "Better Or Worse" by Liquid Jesus has an interesting quality to it. I'm not quite sure I like it, but I don't dislike it either, and I keep coming back to it in an attempt to pin down what about the song I'm hearing but unable to articulate. "Streams of Whiskey" isn't my favorite Pogues tune, but I really like the Pogues in any case. I can't say the same for "Damn It Feels Good to be a Gangster" by the Geto Boys. It's got just about all the elements of rap music I find frustrating in one song, and I just have to skip over it.
I'm not a particular fan of PJ Harvey. On most days I can take or leave her. She makes good music, but I never really feel the urge to hear it on my own. "Send His Love To Me" is pretty on par with that trend. Good song, but I can't get too excited about it. Of course, "When All Is Said and Done" by Abba is great, if only because it's by Abba and I'm not even sure it's technically possible for them to have recorded a song that isn't good.
So the songs on this disc that I liked, in general I really liked. And the few songs that I actively disliked are outnumbered by the songs that I thought were just sort of okay. But there were a lot of those songs that were just sort of okay. Which, again, doesn't mean that they're bad, just that they aren't working for me.
"Go All The Way" from the Raspberries opens the disc, and it's a jaunty little tune that does a good job of establishing the mood for the rest of the disc. Upbeat, and not entirely serious. "Sweet City Woman" by the Stampeders and "All Summer Long" by the Beach Boys continue with that theme. I'm more taken with the Beach Boys tune, mostly because I had a very strong and strange obsession with the Beach Boys in my middle school years. Both tunes are good, but all three tracks together are in that category of music I've mentioned before that is nice enough on it's own, but in the long run doesn't really grab me or motivate me to rush out and hear more. Of course, Fred then throws "It's Raining Men" by the Weather Girls, which is such a gloriously silly song with such catchy vocal melodies, I forget all about the first three songs anyway.
"I'm an Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande" by Bing Crosby is up next. In general, if I may quote, "I don't dig that kind of crooning chum," but it's still a breezy song with lots of fun turns of phrase. Next is The Knack with "My Sharona," a classic song that I can really think of nothing to say about. It's so classic it's almost beyond discussion. The Police have never really grabbed me with their music, but "Every Breath You Take" is one of the few songs of theirs I do enjoy, so it's a welcome presence here. And "One Fine Day" by the Chiffons is another one of those simply classic songs that defy easy description. The girl-group sound of that period has always been one of my favorites. Although, no disrespect to John, Paul, George and yes, even Ringo, but I burnt out the part of my brain that could appreciate the Beatles long ago. They're right up there with Elvis and Pink Floyd and The Who in bands and performers who, through no fault of their own other than their popularity, have largely ceased to entertain me (okay, so maybe in the case of The Who it's more than just their popularity). So while "I've Just Seen A Face" is a perfectly swell little tune, I just have no particular interest in ever hearing songs by the Beatles ever again.
However, "A Little Respect" is one of my favorite Erasure songs, and there's a lot of good songs of theirs to choose from for that title. Dean Martin's "I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm," with it's jazzy inflections, is more my style of crooning, so that was nice. "Morning Train" by Sheena Easton is a bit of an odd duck. It never sounds like a Sheena Easton song to me, for some reason. "Romeo and Juliet" by the Reflections is another great 60s vocal group, and I like the sound of the male vocal groups from that period almost as much as I like the girl-group sound. Steely Dan is yet another band that I've mostly avoided hearing up until now. "Bodhisattva" has some nice musical hooks, and it's a toe-tapping tune, but it doesn't make me want to hear any more Steely Dan right away. "No Time" by the Guess Who is a bit closer to my taste in 60s music. I can't quite describe why this sound works for me, and so many other highly praised bands of the period just leave me indifferent or hostile, but I do really like their sound.
And, ah, Bow Wow Wow singing a song of theirs that I haven't actually heard before, somehow. "C30 C60 C90 Go!" has a very catchy beat, and a hard driving drum line you have to get behind, and this is speaking as someone who, in general, doesn't overly dig the whole drum sound. A very cool song. Speaking of which, the drum beat on "Sing Sing Sing" by Benny Goodman is really good as well, and this is a great swing song. Unit 4 Plus 2 has the distinction of being one of the few bands on all the mix discs I've received that I've never heard of before. "Concrete and Clay" has a sound that's fairly typical of the "British Invasion," a musical style I'm never quite sure if I like or not. I tend to go back and forth on it. This is a good song regardless of all that. And then we get "The Word," another Beatles track, and one that does less for me than "I've Seen a Face." Sorry. "It Feels So Good" by Sonique has some very nice vocals, but it's a tad over-produced (I know, I like the Scissor Sisters, I have no call to be complaining about over-produced music...). It sounds good, but I can see why we haven't really heard anything else by Sonique. This song would just blend in with all the other music being played in the club. "On and On and On" by Abba is up next, and this is a great dance tune. But then, it's Abba, what do you expect?
Rounding out the disc we get "Rendezvous" by the Greg Kihn Band. It's a strong song, and Kihn has a lot of vocal qualities that I like. I may be strongly tempted to seek out more of his material. And the last track, and I probably shouldn't be too surprised by this, is "I Ripped My Pants" by Spongebob Squarepants. I'll be upfront. I don't get the appeal of Spongebob. The show just doesn't work for me. The song is cute and silly, all qualities I can get behind in a novelty song, but man, that sponge-voice just kind of grates on me.
I really liked this disc a great deal. It's a very good selection of music that all blends well together, even the songs that I'm not very enthusiastic about.
One of our more "high maintenance" customers came in to the store the other day. This particular fellow is a bit of a man-child. And I don't say that to be mean or paint a negative portrait of comic book fans in general, I say that because he's my age and his emotional and social development peaked at around age fourteen. If his interests had lain less in comics and more in socially approved obsessions, like sports or cars or politics, his off-kilterness may not even be noticeable. But, in any case, this fellow has always had very specific tastes in comics. He's primarily interested in comics featuring female versions of existing male characters. So, anything with She Hulk or Spider-Woman is a big priority for him. Recently, his tastes have branched out. Now he's also looking for comics in which female super-heroes get stabbed. I don't really want to know what brought up this sudden new dimension to his comic collecting.
There's a scene I'm getting tired of seeing play out in our store. That's the parent who has dragged their kid into a comic book store and then refused to buy the kid anything. It's usually because the comic is "too expensive." Or "not appropriate." Or "you can't read." Or "we're only here to buy something for your brother," always directed at a girl, I've noticed. Of course, since about half the time the above occurs the kid in question is making a scene by screaming and crying and, on at least one memorable occasion, actually throwing themselves to the floor and kicking at people, I'm not too choked up with sympathy for the kids. Having spent some time as a full-time caregiver for children, I'm well aware of their uncanny knack for picking the times to make a scene which make the adult look like the unreasonable one.
A recent phone call: "Do you guys buy comics?" If they're in sellable condition and they're ones we need, sure. "Well, how much is this comic worth?" What comic? (Thinking: we're on the phone, genius...) "I've got a bunch of comics here and they're all really old and I want to know how much you'd buy them for." Well, you'd need to bring them in so we can take a look at them... "Like, I got this one, and it's really old. It's got some kind of shiny stuff on the cover and it says 'Butt-kicking first issue.' How much is that one worth?" Without knowing what the actual comic is, I couldn't tell you. "It's 'Butt-kicking first issue.'" No, I'd need to know the actual title of the comic. If you look at the first page, there's usually a small box with lots of tiny writing in it. The title is usually the first word in that box. "Oh, okay...It's Neigh-Tea-Rash-Her. How much is that worth?" ...Uhm...Night-Thrasher? "Yeah, that's it. How much is it?" To be honest, we probably wouldn't be interested in buying that. We've got plenty of back-stock on comics from that period. If we did buy it, it would have to be in perfect shape. And even then we'd only pay, maybe, half of whatever the cover price is. "Well, I got a bunch more comics, how much are they worth?" If they're all from that same period, we probably wouldn't need them, or pay much for them if we did. "What comics do you buy then?" Right now, we're mostly looking for older comics in good condition. As a rough estimate, unless a comic is at least thirty years old, we're probably not going to want to buy it at all. "Oh, yeah, all these comics are thirty years old." Really? And they're all about the age as the Night-Thrasher comic, and they're all about thirty years old. "Yes."
Funny, we didn't see anyone come in later that week with a collection of comics more than thirty years old, but we did see a box of mostly Marvel comics from the nineties that were in incredibly bad condition.
I'm not really what you could call a Star Wars fan. I used to enjoy the original trilogy when I was a kid, but sometime in my early twenties, when I rewatched the movies, it suddenly hit me that, on the whole, the films really weren't very good. Yeah, Harrison Ford put in a half-way decent performance, but most of the rest of the actors were struggling to sell really goofy lines. And while the silly creatures and special effects worked for me as a kid, as an adult I just felt that I had outgrown the whole thing. When the "revised" editions came out, I went to see the first one out of curiosity, and what I suspect was the first sign of Lucas growing out of touch with his intended audience began to show. Lucas, it seemed, was starting to take his universe too seriously. When The Phantom Menace was released, and I took my young cousins to it on the grounds that, hey, I liked Star Wars when I was their age, they might like it too. Those "this is serious drama, dammit! and you will take it seriously!" elements were written all over it. And when I got dragged to Attack of the Clones by the boyfriend, over my objections, I had to keep my face stuffed with popcorn and soda to stop myself from giggling nonstop at the pompous, over-blown and melodramatic seriousness of it all.
So, no, I won't be going to see the latest Star Wars movie today, or any day. Pal John recently wrote a piece for Orkut, Google's attempt to meld LiveJournal and Slate into a web-site that will be inexplicably popular in South America, that I think sums up a lot of the reasons why I won't be going to see the movie. You can read the full piece here, but this excerpt is choice: "Whereas any rational human being would know what creative bankruptcy to expect in a "Rocky 6" or an "Alien6" or a "Death Wish 6," the cult of "Star Wars 6" refuse to see the mice scurrying around the Bank of Bespin, persisting in believing that George Lucas could still do something new and fresh with this material, if only a few things were touched up on the outside."
I'm getting ready to start putting together some order numbers for May solicited manga, so I guess it's time to go through the book and share my thoughts here again. Probably only hitting the high-lights this month, though. A brief note on our approach to manga: most manga titles we treat the same as monthly comics...we want to sell out, with maybe only one copy left over as a "back-issue". We don't want a heavy back-stock. The only titles we try to keep in stock are the best sellers and the best quality titles. And even trying to keep orders low on poor selling titles, we still have managed to grow a large and eclectic manga selection. (Oh, and I'll look at selected items of interest to me as well...)
Dark Horse Samurai Executioner: We've been selling out of the volumes of this that have been released so far, but I haven't had any requests for reorders, so my guess is that we've got pretty much perfect ordering on this title.
Japan: We'll probably match orders to our other "mature" Dark Horse titles, as it's my understanding that this is an anticipated title amongst manga fans. Buronson's work has never appealed to me, so I'll be skipping it.
Trigun Maximum: Sales on this title have slipped a bit in the last few releases, so it's probably time to start shaving numbers off the orders.
Vampire Hunter D: As I've mentioned before, our customers have shown zero interest in manga novels.
DC/CMX Tenryu: The Dragon Cycle: When I finally get around to reviewing some manga, you'll hear how little I cared for the first volume in this series. And I was the only one who bought a copy. So we'll slash orders on this to the bone.
We'll also probably slash down orders on From Eroica With Love and Land of the Blindfolded, but keep Madara where it is, as of the three it's the only one selling well for us.
The manga-esque Dead Boy Detectives will be a tough one to order. The Death manga by Jill Thompson sold well when it was released, but it's just been sitting on the shelf then. We'll probably scrounge up our order numbers on that book and match them.
ADV Nothing in this month's solicitation really jumps out at me. There's nothing new, and the continuing series listed have been marginal sellers at best.
AiT/Planet Lar Seal Team Seven looks a little too Michael Crichton/Tom Clancy for me, but I bet I can move it.
ALC Publishing I would hazard a guess that both Rica'tte Kanji and Yuri Monogatari will do well for us, but our, uhm, sapphically inclined customers haven't shown much interest in manga to date. And I don't want to shove it in their faces and say "Look! Girl on girl stuff! By actual women, not straight men!"
Alias Enterprises The books are just sitting there on our shelves. And the line keeps growing. My reaction at this point is that someone learned the wrong lessons from the collapse of Crossgen. And total disclosure: I'm disinclined to support the line because of the statements Mike S. Miller has made about gay people. I'm really baffled as to how he's gotten so many gay men to work for him in light of those statements.
Antarctic Press I'm always surprised to hear they're still in business. At this point, the only titles that sell here are Gold Digger and Mangazine.
Broccoli International Kamui: Sounds like about a dozen other titles, none of which have really had any appeal to me or sold more than marginal amounts.
CPM Manga With the exception of the truly dreadful Jerry Robinson's Astra, everything listed this month I'm positive has been released before, but there's no indication that this are relists.
Dynamite Entertainment Red Sonja: Okay, at least they're not even pretending that this version of the character has anything to do with Robert Howard. But, if I'm reading the solicitation correctly, this new series ties in to the Marvel Conan series. They even say which issue number the story is a prelude to. That's...really knowing your audience.
Del Rey Genshiken: Turned out to be a surprise hit for us, so we'll probably bump orders up a bit. I think it might be the wish-fulfillment aspect of a girl trying to get a comics/anime/toys/game nerd to fall in love with her.
Guru Guru Pon Chan: A dog that turns into a girl...y'know, weirder things have sold well.
Digital Manga Publishing Robot: I imagine that this will do okay for us, but I'm not going to be able to shelve it in the manga section. I think if I treat it like a "prestige" book and shelve it on our "stuff you should look at shelves" next to something like Flight or Project Superior we'll be able to move it.
Disney Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas Manga: Hoo-boy. We're going to need to order a healthy amount of copies of this book, but the gothity goth kids have shown some hesitance for manga in the past, so we need to be careful not to over-order.
Dr Masters The Chinese fighting comics have shed all their readers in our area, and the two new titles, Hanidori Girl and Stellvia don't really have strong hooks. They sound similar to too many other titles.
Evil Ink Second Stage Turbine Blade: First issue was a surprise hit for us. Who knew that adapting band lyrics into comics form would appeal to the hipster kids?
HK Comics Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-Revised and Expanded Deluxe Edition: We've actually got a modest following for this series, but I'm not sure any of them are the type to want a "special edition" of a book they already have.
Hyperion Books W.I.T.C.H.: I'm guessing that these are the English translations of the Italian comics that were big sellers in Europe. Being told something like that in the solicitation might have helped. We'll probably order these in very modest amounts, given that I think they're already in my local conglomo-chain book-store.
Infinity Studios Eh...nothing listed this month has thrilled me, and the first volumes were met with indifference by our customers...oh, and they're all actually resolicited from an earlier Previews. Not a good sign.
Nite Owl Comix Maxx Hamm: Fairy Tale Detective: This is great stuff.
Poison Press Cavalcade of Boys: More soapy gay romance comics. I really like Tim Fish's work.
Tokyopop Bizenghast: I suspect it will do well for us, especially if I don't shelve it in the manga section, but keep it with the other goth comics. But, I do find this passage of the solicitation unintentionally funny: "Goth is a rapidly growing section of American youth culture, as seen in fashion, art, movies and music." That's a remarkably...clinical statement.
Duan Surk: The solicitation text reads: "A thrilling manga novel series by an RPG fan for RPG fans!" And that's why we won't be ordering it! The worst fantasy novels in the world read like bad transcripts of D&D games, and there's plenty of those already in print without having to do a "manga spin" on one.
Blame!: It's got a strong cult following, but Nihei's Snikt! series was a flop for us, so we'll probably go conservative on this, and reorder quickly if there proves to be demand.
Honey Mustard: Sounds like another "girl makes bad romantic choices and is supposed to be a role model for it" story.
Rizelmine: Chobits aside, I generally find the whole "romantic relationship with a robot" genre of manga kind of creepy. But it sells like gang-busters for us, and I doubt the child-like appearance of the character will discourage that.
Saiyuki Reloaded: We'll probably match orders for the prior Saiyuki series, as it seems more likely that people will use the name change as an excuse to drop the title, rather than pick it up.
Scrapped Princess: I've heard good things about the anime series, and it has a following, so we'll probably order more than we usually do of a new Tokyopop series.
The rest of Tokyopop's solicits will probably get a short once-over at ordering time, and matched orders to prior releases, though we may need to start bumping up orders on Fruits Basket again. We need to give serious thought to cutting most of the Cine-Manga's from our ordering. Kids don't want the ones with photos of real people, and when those do sell, it's to men in their thirties and forties who don't have kids. I don't expect the Tokyopop Jr. books to sell for us at all.
Top Shelf The King: 3 Geeks never really did much for me, but Three Fingers was fantastic. I love that book. So I'm very eager to get a look at Rich Koslowski's new graphic novel.
Twomorrows I know at least one person who will be getting the Swampmen: Muck Monsters of the Comics book. I'd be tempted to pick up the Justice League Companion for Pete, but he's never really shown much interest in that kind of "behind the scenes" material. In fact, I just read the solicitation out-loud to him and his response was an emphatic "no."
Viz Oh good lord, not yet another Yu-Gi-Oh series! Did Viz learn nothing from their "flooding the market with Pokemon comics" years?
Midori's Days is about a boy whose hand transforms into a beautiful girl. Okay, the sheer creepiness of that concept aside, how am I not supposed to see that as a complicated masturbation metaphor? And, y'know, it'll probably sell well for us...
Tuxedo Gin: If I'm not mistaken, this is the penultimate chapter of this charming series.
Baron The Cat Returns finally gets listed in the big book, rather than in a Previews update. It's a very charming little one-off book, with some lovely art, and the story is significantly different from the film, so don't feel like you have to get one or the other. You're perfectly well off getting both.
Still no Cain Saga listed, which is odd, because I was under the impression that it was a prequel series to Godchild running in Shojo Beat, and that and Absolute Boyfriend are the SB titles I'm most looking forward to.
For the rest of Viz's output, we'll probably match orders for prior releases. Nothing has shown any notable growth or decline in sales.
Other Sections I only get Illustration when it has artists I like, so I'll probably pick up the Peter deSeve focused issue.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Elves and Fairies: I'm almost afraid to think about that...
Pete already has his copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince pre-ordered through our local conglomo-chain bookstore.
I wonder if we'll get our Spanish language editions of Sin City before Dark Horse can get the English editions back in print?
Doom trading cards? Can you say "throwing good money after bad?"
Looking at the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory merchandise and I really, really hope that I'm not the only person who thinks that this movie doesn't look good and is probably unnecessary and a bad idea. Has everyone already forgotten that the last time Burton tried to "improve" a film we got Planet of the Apes?
I'm going to get suckered into the buying the City of Heroes RPG material, aren't I? On the other hand, Super Munchkin should be fun, as long as it avoids the excesses that made Munchkin Bites unplayable. And even though I already have a Simpsons version of Monopoly, I think I must own Treehouse of Horror Monopoly.
Y'know, I never even bother to look at the Video section of Previews anymore.
I'm vaguely surprised to see Ant has made the jump to Image, but I probably shouldn't be. There's no indication in the solicitation if this is a new story or a republication of the original mini.
In fact, there's a bunch of first issues and OGN's listed here that could really benefit from more descriptive solicitations. Dusty Star, Ferro City, The Facless: A Terry Sharp Story, Indigo Vertigo, Seasons of the Witch and Wings of Anansi are going to be horrendously under-ordered with such sketchy info, especially since launching a bunch of new titles all at the same time doesn't work, as retailers get skittish. Add Image's stellar track record for getting stuff out on time, not to mention the rapid cancellation or disappearance that marginal selling Image titles tend to experience, and I'd say if you have any interest in these titles at all, you'd better pre-order.
Coyote joins the ranks of cult-hit 80s comics to get the republication treatment. All we need now are Whisper, Badger and Troll Lords to come out in new editions and it'll be like the last comics crash never happened
The Necromancer mini launches through Top Cow and you can also get a limited edition lithograph, a poster, and a pre-slabbed and CGC-graded copy of the first issue. And with that many merchandise tie-ins for the first issue of a comic from writers and artists I've never heard of, it's easy to see why "This is the jumping-on point for what will undoubtedly be one of the most talked-about series of 2005 and beyond-don't miss the magic!"
Mark Waid has apparently already jumped ship from the City of Heroes comic. And now's your chance to buy a special foil-enhanced copy of the first issue, bundled with the discs for the game. Because apparently somebody thinks that this comic will appeal to people who aren't already playing the game.
As for the rest of the solicitations the same old, same old from Image. Absolutely nothing I might be interested in from the looks of it, lots of art that doesn't appeal to me, and lots of concepts that are probably well past their "best by" date. I'm even thinking of changing my COH subscription to opt-out of the comic, this new version is so unappealing to me.
Batman: Journey into Knight: Anyone want to take bets on whether or not this title, Superman: Birthright style, will attempt to work non-comics material into the character's backstory?
Detective and Batman interrupt their regular storylines for a mini-crossover tying up loose ends from War Games. Given the number of titles that made up the War Games story, how can there possibly be loose ends? And why weren't they tied up at the time?
Robin's Golden Age solo stories get the Archive Edition treatment. Whose kneecaps do I need to break to get a Wildcat Archive?
Y'know, I don't dislike either Jeph Loeb or Ian Churchill but I really think that a heavy continuity Supergirl title is the wrong tack to take on the character. The character needs as few ties to the rest of the DCU as possible to appeal to anyone other than the already existing fan-base. I get parents in the store all the time looking for super-hero comics with female characters, but if I sell them a book in which they have to try to explain who Power Girl is, and what her relationship with Supergirl is, they're not going to come back for more. Whereas, if I sold them a book in which Supergirl just goes off and has an adventure, I'd probably get repeat business on the title. Plus, the cover strikes me as ill-conceived. Mostly because the peek-a-boo costume and the low-slung mini-skirt are over-emphasized.
The Warren Ellis and Gary Erksine collaboration Jack Cross launches. I was, for some reason, under the impression that this book actually takes place in the DCU, so I'm a little confused as to why that information was left out of the solicitation. Yes, Warren Ellis does have a following, and yes, smart retailers will order the book in quantities to satisfy the Ellis readers in their area but the other 90% of the retailers out there will probably only order this book in sufficient quantities if it has ties to the DCU.
DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories Ever Told is a great idea for a trade. I have no idea if it will have any appeal to anyone other than those who appreciate the goofier aspects of the Silver Age at DC, but I'll probably pick up a copy.
I'll be picking up Justice for Pete, as it is his sort of thing, and he liked Earth X from the same creative team. But I'm wondering did the world really need a grim updating of the Legion of Doom? Is Alex Ross determined to reimagine every single cartoon he ever watched as a kid into a more "adult" version just because it suits his sensibilities?
The unappealing Poser-esque covers continue on JLA: Classified. It's too bad they couldn't get Guice to do the covers. Meanwhile, in JSA: Classified, it looks as if Power Girl's origin may tie-in to the Legion of Super-Heroes in some way. Because tying her into any incarnation of the Legion is the most sensible way to streamline her backstory
Over in Seven Soldiers land, Shining Knight concludes, and Klarion makes it to New York. That Klarion cover is great, the use of the fish-eye effect really drives home the disorientation of Klarion.
Solo #6 features the art of Jordi Bernet, who I'm not familiar with at all. None of the writers are anyone whose work has really stood out for me in the past, either. I suppose I'll give it a shot, but the girlie shot on the cover doesn't instill me with much confidence.
Rob Liefeld is drawing the Teen Titans. At least it's a story about Hawk and Dove, giving the enterprise an appropriately nostalgic edge.
Wonder Woman #220 has a bondage cover. Trust me, that'll make it sell for some people.
I'm sort of starting to think that DC wanted to stake out the "mature readers" manga territory with their CMX line. Tesotarotho looks to be a fairly uninspired violent fan-service title. And while Planet Ladder did nothing for me, we had a strong following for it at the store, and so Young Magician should do well for us. Plus, that's a very pretty cover.
I think I may be the only person digging Musashi #9.
Ordering big on Wildsiderz will probably be a no-brainer for us, as Campbell has a strong following at our store, and there's been a lot of anticipation for new work for him, even from the people who find the concept of the new series a little goofy and would rather he just go back to Danger Girl.
The final Maxx trade is released, and it's a good thing too, as just recently have we started to see interest in the books. Prior to the last few months, when people would come in looking for Sam Kieth stuff they'd turn their nose up at Maxx I know, I don't get it either, the only explanation I can think of is they already have it. That, or the usual excuse I get, which is "but Wolverine isn't in this."
Im not familiar with Paul DiFillipo's work as a novelist, but I can't imagine he'd be too bad a fit for Top Ten, especially with Jerry Ordway on art.
For those who still care, the Adversary is finally revealed in Fables #40. And over in Y: The Last Man, we finally find out what's been up with Beth. And from the tone of the solicitation, am I supposed to think that Pia Guerra is no longer the regular artist on the title?
A hardcover edition of V for Vendetta is scheduled, along with the Absolute edition of Watchmen. To wring the last possible dime out of Alan Moore completeists I'd guess, as well as ride the hoped for movie gravy-train.
Some sick part of me is actually kind of wanting the newest DC Direct action figure sets. At least some of them. Dan Brereton inspired Batman and Batgirl figures sound really good to me. And I can't say I ever expected to get a Red Hood action figure. The method of "unmasking" Superman is kind of goofily fun as well. Heck, even the second set of Batman and Batgirl figures look kind of cool, in a nerdy sort of way.
Roxy's disc starts out strong with Harold Melvin's "Don't Leave Me This Way" and continues with Liam Lynch's "United States of Whatever" which is great in it's upbeat cynicism. "Girl Named Michelle" did nothing for me, however, just blending into the background noise. To be honest, it was kind of annoying.
"Sheep Go To Heaven" by Cake was fun and very silly, with the sense of humor I've come to expect from the other Cake songs I've heard. Liz Phair's "Polyester Bride" is up next. I've always enjoyed her work, but I've never gotten around to buying anything by her. I can't think of any way to describe this track other than "Liz Phair-ian."
Next is "Patient Boy" from the Misfits. It's hard to go wrong with the Misfits.
PJ Olssen's "Whistle Song" is very catchy, but it's naggingly familiar. I think it may have been in a commercial I really disliked, hence why it rubs me the wrong way for no good reason. Which is a shame, because if it wasn't so naggingly familiar I think I'd like it more.
"Six Underground" by the Sneaker Pimps started out well, but went on a little too long. I enjoyed it, then it got kind of annoying. I think it was the beats that just got too repetitive. But Mercury Rev's "Spiders" was a strong come-back. It's got a very big sound to it that I quite like. And Carbon Leaf's "On Any Given Day" is great, probably my favorite track on this disc. I really dig the singer's voice, and the lyrics are fun.
I generally like remixes, but the "Brimful of Asha" one hasn't grown on me yet. If I was more familiar with the original song it might mean more, but I don't think I've ever heard it, so I had to take this version on it's own merits. It's good, but it suffers from a lot of the problems that many remixes have...the beat gets to be over-whelming. I couldn't listen to "Camel Walk" by Southern Culture on the Skids. It just rubbed me the wrong way the first time out, and it hasn't endeared itself to me on any of my relistens. In a similar vein, I thought the songs from Moulon Rouge were kind of kitschy the first time I heard them, but once you get over the initial amusement at them, they just leave me cold, so I've been skipping "Tango de Roxanne" on my relistens as well.
I've never been a big fan of the Barenaked Ladies, but "Falling for the First Time" is enjoyable, surprisingly so. And it's hard to find a Morrissey song I don't like, so the inclusion of "Suedehead" works for me. Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" is very soft and mellow and liked it a lot too. Finally, David Carter's "Southern Cross" is a nice way to finish off the disc. Acoustic guitars almost always sound good to me, and Carter has a nice, bluesy voice.
I'd have to say I liked most of this mix. There was really very little that didn't work for me on some level on this disc.
I really should put some kind of spoken word track on my next disc. I've done it on discs for myself in the past, and almost everyone else seems to have done it...
"Flyswatter" by the Eels is gloriously demented. It's a great way to start out the disc and now I feel strangely compelled to find more of their music. "No Milk Today" by Herman's Hermits is very catchy, and the Hermits are one of those bands that it's hard to find bad tracks by. I've been seeing all these ads for the new Nine Inch Nails album, and I've been joking "New NIN album? How could you tell?" So, sorry, but I've never really gotten into the band, and most of their songs all sound too alike for me, and "The Hand That Feeds" is no exception.
"Baby Flies a Comet" from LS Underground caught me off guard. I liked the opening riffs, disliked the singer's voice, and then it grew on me and I ended up digging the song. Similarly, though I'd heard it before, I never used to like Nick Cave. Sometime around my 30th birthday he suddenly got good, because it couldn't possibly be that my taste changed enough in ten years for me to really dig a song like "There She Goes, My Beautiful World." In contrast, "Arching Heart" by Cush is the sort of thing I'd probably have liked much more when I was younger. It's not any one particular thing about it, other than it just strikes me as maybe a little too self-aware. "Like Titanic" by Damian Juarado and Gathered in Song has largely the same problem. I actually kind of like it, though, despite a really annoying feed-back like sound running through the entire song.
"Hey Man (Now You're Really Living)", the second track by the Eels is catchy, but not quite as demented as the first. I still really liked it though. And then there's a track by a female vocalist that doesn't seem to be listed on the track listing. It left me a little indifferent. It was neither good nor bad, just another alterna-rock girl group. The kind of thing that, had I heard it on the radio, I would have happily listened to as background music. "Jewel to Sparkle" by Juliana Theory has that same not-quite-describable quality to it of something I probably would have liked when I was younger. And I've never liked anything I've heard by the White Stripes, so "Black Math" left me cold.
Green Day is another one of those bands that it's hard to go wrong with, so "Give Me Novocaine" was welcome. Next up were "All These Things I've Done" by the Killers and "Evil" by Interpol. I haven't felt the need to buy the albums yet, but I've been enjoying the songs by both bands that I've been hearing, so these two tracks may eventually prove to be the impetus that I've needed to drop some cash. "When You Say Love" by Over The Rhine I've eventually come to like, but at first it just sort of blended in to the background and was too easy to ignore. And then we get another Eels track, a brilliant cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love."
"We Give We Take" by the Choir isn't bad, but it never seems to stay with me after listening to it. "Not Funny" by Starflyer 59 is another one of those tracks that I've just had to skip. The very beginning of the song just annoyed me for no good reason, and I haven't had the patience for it to give it a good listen. "Blow it Away" by The Lassie Foundation had much the same effect on me, though I found it more listenable. It just doesn't stay with me. And I'll probably be beaten soundly by many of my friends for this, but I've never cared for Joey Ramone's solo stuff very much, so despite my general enjoyment of covers, especially ill-conceived ones, "What a Wonderful World" didn't do much for me.
"Black Betty" by Spiderbait starts out with a really great guitar riff, then layers on some more. It's not at all the kind of stuff I usually like past that point, but I dug it anyway. Sometimes stuff I don't think I'll like sneaks up on me like that and I end up liking it anyway.
I'd like to say some words about "The Poison" by Pedro the Lion, but none of my CD players have been willing to play it or the final track.
All in all, I'd say this was a pretty good mix for me. About half of it I liked, and most of the rest was okay, just not anything of particular appeal to me.
Not too long ago, I participated in the mix-disc exchange LeftyBrown organized. I've now had a chance to listen to every participant's disc at least once, and I'm going to start offering up some thoughts on the songs I really liked starting tonight, but before I do that, I wanted to take some time to reveal what songs I put on my disc, and why.
Shirley Bassey, "Hey Big Spender (Wild Oscar Mix)": I could listen to this song all day. It's fun and energetic and just a little weird. I was racking my brains trying to think what song to start up the disc with. I wanted to do a "best foot forward" sort of thing and start off with a strong song, but I also wanted a song that would set the mood for the material to follow. So, it was natural that I come to this song. It's quirky and tends to catch people off guard, but when you give in to it it's really damn good.
Polyphonic Spree, "Wig in a Box": I love the sound of the Spree. It may surprise you, as I have a bit of a reputation as a dour guy, that I really like bouncy, upbeat and fun music. And that's what you get with the Spree. I particularly like this song, a cover of a tune from the film/play "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" that appears on the Hedwig tribute album, not only because of my general enjoyment of covers, the stranger and more eccentric the better, but because the Spree's, well, "happy" take on the song improves it.
Avenue Q Cast, "If You Were Gay": This was mostly me just mixing my weird sense of humor with my genetic love of musical theatre. I mean, it's puppets that sound vaguely like Bert and Ernie singing a song about how best friends will accept you no matter what, with a perfect imitation of a Joe Raposo melody backing it. How can you not fall in love with that?
Magnetic Fields, "I Thought You Were My Boyfriend": Tom's almost got it right, I do sometimes get really fed up with heterosexism in mass media, so I will seek out specifically gay music and musicians to counter-act it. That's partly why I chose this Fields song rather than any of their other songs. Of the songs on their newest album, it's the one I most relate to. Of course, I think all their songs are great, because this is another one of those bands whose sound I really like, so it's hard for them to do wrong by me.
Emilie Simon, "Flowers": One of my other musical weaknesses is French pop songs. There's a very distinctive sound to French pop that makes it unmistakable and unique. Simon has a crushingly beautiful and delicate voice, and this is a great "dis" song, a subgenre of anti-love songs that always amuse me, especially in the way it builds up to the dis after going on about how swell the guy is. It's a clever subverting of the form.
Robbie Williams, "Supreme": Again, I just like happy, unpretentious music most of the time, and it's hard to go wrong with just straight-forward, unapologetic pop music, especially when it's handled by someone like Robbie, who has a good voice (rare for pop music), a clever turn of phrase and a sense of humor about his work. I had lots of songs by Robbie to choose from, but I went with this one because it's got a big, "jangly" type of sound to it that goes well with several other songs on the disc.
Dolly Parton, "Jolene": And so we round off the "pain of love" section of the disc with my favorite work by Dolly. It's achingly sad and heartfelt, and it's got that incredible guitar back-up that just works so perfectly as accompaniment.
Phil Ochs, "Pretty Smart on my Part": This is another musician that I had lots of material to choose from, and I pretty much had to put a song by Phil on the disc, as he's my favorite singer/musician of all time. He's biting, and smart and cynical, and everything music with an opinion should be. I wanted to put a song of his that embodied that aspect of his music, that had a sense of humor and something to say, and it was pretty much a toss up between this and "Outside a Small Circle of Friends." I think, in the end, I chose this song because it is slightly shorter. This is also the song that I expected lots of "Dorian, are you feeling okay?" responses to, given the over-whelming sense of paranoia and violence in the song.
Hidden Cameras, "Doot Doot Plot": And despite what Tom may think about my choice of songs, this is probably the only non-gay song from the Cameras. I didn't want to over-whelm folks and all, so I chose a song from their latest album that, for the most part, doesn't deal with sexuality at all. Again, a band whose sound I really like, and I like the word-play and silly rhymes in this tune.
Peter & Gordon, "You've Had Better Times": This was more of a recent rediscovery of mine than a song I've been listening to a lot lately. The sound quality isn't very good because I ripped the MP3 from my vinyl album, which has seen better days itself. This was also a last minute replacement song, as I thought that all of the songs from George Michael's newest album that I tried to fit into this space were running a little long. But, it's from the very rare Peter and Gordon album "Hot Cold and Custard" and it's a very listenable song of the "frustrated love" genre, which is another genre I tend to respond well to.
Jeffrey Altergott, "Runt": I've got nothing too deep to say about this song. I like his voice, I like the music, I respond to this song and identify a bit of myself in it, and I like the guy who sings it. So I'm going to do him a favor and link to a way to buy his music.
Eartha Kitt, "I Want to be Evil": I love Eartha Kitt. I love her voice and I love the attitude she brings to her music. This is one of my favorite songs by her. It's just so wicked and funny and cruel. I mean, that line about "trumping an ace"...you have to be a real jerk to do that to your partner.
Nina Simone, "Pirate Jenny": I like Nina Simone a lot as well. She's almost like an angry Eartha at times. I also really like Bertholt Brecht's work, especially "The Threepenny Opera." So this song was a no-brainer for me. This is the other song I expected to get concerned e-mails about, since it's basically a graphic revenge fantasy from a maid in a whore-house.
Franz Ferdinand, "Michael": I've really been enjoying the debut album from Franz Ferdinand, and this is my favorite track off of it. Given the general state of rock music these days, it's remarkable for me to find a rock band that I like this much. It's fast and it's danceable and it has lyrics that don't mean much but sound as if they do. What more do you want from a rock band?
Paul Williams, "Phantom's Theme": From the film "Phantom of the Paradise", a great "bad" movie. I've always thought that Williams was a really under-rated song-writer, with excellent melodies and engaging lyrics and a pretty good, if a little raw, voice. His score for this film is excellent, with a great blend of drama and humor.
Scissor Sisters, "Backwoods Discotheque": My God, it's an actual B-side! This band shows up because I love their sound. And I chose this song because it's not on their album and thus had a good chance of being new to many people, even those who understand the appeal of the Sisters.
Johnny McGovern, "Soccer Practice": Okay, I admit it. This was just me being naughty and putting an incredibly dirty and naughty song on the mix just because I could. But, to be honest, as Mike said to me, this song pretty accurately sums up a lot of things about my taste in music, my sense of humor and my personality. I'm not sure if he was complimenting me or not.
Harvey Fierstien, "Love for Sale": I really like the song, and I like covers, so Harvey's version of the song from "Torch Song Trilogy" really works for me. It's funny and knowing, but it also works as a unironic sentiment. It's a song of many contradictions, and I respond to that.
Me First and the Gimme Gimmes, "Cabaret": Like the first track, I was trying to think of a good song to end the disc with. So this song came to me. I like covers a lot, so it needs to be an all cover band. And it needs to respond back not only to the first song, but to the album as a whole. So what better song than a punk cover, from a notoriously gay musical, about a drugged out and sexed up cabaret show? I mean, that's sort of the impression I take away from my little mix, why not drive the point home?
Secret Hidden Bonus Track It's a techno remix of the German version of the song "Rubber Ducky." It's meant to take you by surprise, and maybe make the world seem like a slightly more confusing place than you thought it was.
How to Sell A Comic: The selling point for Desolation Jones seems to be "Hitler porn." (I should get some very interesting search requests out of that...) And, maybe it's just me, but it seems like complaining about a cynical protagonist in a Warren Ellis story is sort of like complaining about assertive women in a Chris Claremont story or an over-sexed hero in a Howard Chaykin comic. It's sort of like complaining about all those trees that are blocking your view of the forest.
Phrases I Shouldn't Have To Find Myself Saying at Work: "Mike, would you stop reading my gay porn!"
Things I Say When I'm Feeling Very Cruel: "If you don't hate the new DC logo you're clearly some kind of commie!" "Something must be wrong with me, I didn't want to masturbate after reading the last issue of Green Lantern."
An Observation: There's no such thing as a bad tattoo decision. There are multiple bad tattoo decisions. And there are dozens of bad tattoo decisions. And there's apparently falling asleep in the tattoo parlor and being used as a doodle pad. But no one ever seems to stop at one bad tattoo decision.
One Way to Avoid Getting Mentioned on This Site: Please don't take a mind-altering substance before coming into the comic book store. As if the staring, the refusal to recognize other people's personal space, the hyperactivity and the incessant, inappropriate giggling weren't clue enough, we can also still smell the stuff you were smoking on you.
How to Make Sure You Get Mentioned on This Site: Ask me to let you have something for free because you really want it but can't afford it.
When Mike and I Think About Something Too Much Some characters seem to have outlived their fanbase. That is, the appeal of the characters is now too narrow for the current comics audience to really support titles featuring that character. A good example of this type of character is probably the Atom. He's just not unique enough to support his own book anymore. But I wouldn't mind seeing an attempt to do an Atom book that approaches the character from a new angle or tries to take him in an interesting direction. Use the episode of Justice League Unlimited that featured him as a spring-board: a super-hero who happens to be an aging, slightly jaded college professor. Of course, were someone to do that, it would almost certainly fail miserably. Because all the comic book fans would want to know is: "When are Chronos and the rest of the Atom's rogues going to show up?" And you know what I really don't need to see in a super-hero comic ever again? An extended storyline featuring appearances by every villain the hero has ever fought.
Things I Wish I'd Told the Customer: "Well, I'm glad you're willing to concede that the person you're shopping for might be a Supergirl fan. Because, honestly, I sincerely doubt that this non-comic reading friend of yours really and truly is a big fan of Superwoman. I'd be very surprised if someone who isn't a reader of super-hero comics had ever even heard of either the Elliot Maggin Superwoman character or the Earth-3 villainess of that name, much less developed a fanatical devotion to the character. I find it far more likely that this person is a fan of either Supergirl or Wonder Woman, and either you or your friend is mis-remembering the name. "Oh, and as usual, thank you for coming to the comic book store looking for any kind of merchandise except a comic book featuring the character in question..."
A Conversation I Did Have: Mike: Well, it looks like I'm going to have to start checking our stock of V for Vendetta for reorders every week. Dorian: Only until the movie actually comes out. Then you'll never need to reorder it again. (See also our conversations regarding: Elektra, Catwoman, Hellblazer, Hellboy, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, From Hell, Sin City and Fantastic Four...)
Do Cheap Comics Sell: The only way I've been able to unload any copies of Red Sonja #0 is to put them right by the register so that every single paying customer has to look at it and the big tag that says "Only 25 Cents!" And even then it only seems to be selling to people who feel the need to comment on her massive...personality. I've yet to sell a single copy of any of the 75 cent Alias comics, despite putting them in several prominent places in the store with big signs saying "Only 75 Cents!"
As a comic fan and as a horror fan, I've always been fascinated by the comics published by EC. The problem has always been getting my hands on them. As a young postmodern boy, some relative bought me several over-size reprints of vintage comics, mostly Disney, but a few samples of EC's output were included in the mix. Those reprints are now lost, and as an adult I've never come across them again. And as an adult collector, I've been frustrated by the lack of affordable collections of EC material, and I'm reluctant to devote the space to filling up a longbox with reprints. So Grant Geissman's biographic over-view of the EC artists is a very welcome reference material for my comics library.
After a short history of the publisher and the anti-comics hysteria that contributed to the line's decline, the book gets to its real purpose. Chapters are broken down into biographies of all the major EC artists, lavishly illustrated with many materials rarely seen outside the EC studio and work from the artist's later career, followed by a reprint of a story illustrated by that artist. It's a very good method to dealing with comics biography, and seems partly inspired by Art Spiegelman's Jack Cole biography. And unlike many of the biographies of comic artists I've seen, Geissman isn't afraid to discuss the negative personality traits of the artists in question, most notably in his discussion of Graham Ingel's self-destructive alcoholism and Harvey Kurtzman's egomania. The reproductions of the stories themselves are in the format of high quality photographs of actual comics pages. I realize that it's a method of reproduction that is currently in vogue with comic fans and historians, and on material like this it doesn't seem out of place, but each reproduced page is placed against a very busy background, when all white or one color backgrounds would have been preferable and less distracting.
There are a few quibbles I have with the book. As others have noted, placing Marie Severin in a "the rest" chapter at the end of the book is terrible minimization of her contribution to the company as an artist. Likewise the frequent slams at competing magazines and comics can get to be a little much, especially in the case of Cracked (curiously, though Cracked is mentioned in the piece about John Severin, it is without the obligatory preface of "inferior imitator" that all the other mentions of the magazine seem to require). And the very first page contains a dismissal of manga in its entirety, in terms very common to sentiments I've seen and heard expressed by many older comic fans and creators. These particular objections to manga always put me in mind of a dinosaur sneering at a mammal for its abilities to reproduce internally and adapt to changes in temperature. "Those things will never catch on!"
But, setting aside my personal objections to those elements, this is still an excellent and valuable book. The biographies are fascinating to read, and the reproduced stories can easily be seen as a "best of EC" collection. The entire package is well designed, and this is easily the best book on the history of comics to have come out in several years.
It's a good thing that most of those Alias books are cheap, because they just sat on the shelf all day.
The new "best of Kang" book from Marvel explicitly references Young Avengers in the back-cover copy. I don't know, is his presence in that title really feeding demand for more material with Kang?
The highly anticipated book that customers wouldn't stop hounding me for copies of these last two weeks finally shipped. No, not Desolation Jones, though we did order a large number of them and it really is quite good, and has so far been selling decently. No, it was a Marvel comic that ties in to a video game that was hotly anticipated by a good number of our customers. Because what the world really needed was more comics based on video games.
(Speaking of which, the grim and gritty vision for City Of Heroes that Mark Waid has really does not appeal to me as a player of the game. But slapping an Image logo on the cover tripled sales. Make of that what you will...)
Another surprise hit seller for us has been Second Stage Turbine Blade, a comic adaptation of the lyrics from a band named Coheed and Cambria. I've been assured by people "hep" to current music that the band is no damn good, but people can't seem to get enough of the comic.
Note to people trying to sell us stuff over the phone: When you tell me you have "really old" toys, and I tell you that we don't buy "really old" toys I'm not lying to you. We really don't buy old toys. You don't need to call several times in the hopes of getting a different answer. Your dogged persistence is not going to wear me down.
Here's the picture I wanted to post this morning, Teenage Lex Luthor making an editorial comment:
The official verdict from my doctor is that when I fell I fractured my elbows. Not seriously, and he doesn't think I need a cast, but he did warn me that I've got about six weeks of pain to look forward to while I heal. Fun.
Which pretty much killed my morning so I didn't have time to write up the reviews I wanted to. Instead, I'll leave you with this editorial comment I found posted on Sunday.
(It says "Pray"...pardon for the quality of my picture-phone)
For more pointed graffiti, I suggest you check out Psychbloke, he posts this sort of thing all the time.
Also check out Collected Editions, a trade paperback focused comic site done with some nice wit.
I've now got discs from Fred, Ken, Logan, Johnny B and Scott. I've listened to most of them at least once now, and I'll probably write more detailed responses to all of them starting a little later this week. I'll probably also disclose my track listing at some point and go into the logic behind it.
Pal John recently discovered the down-side of getting sent review copies: pushy PR people. I've not had to deal with that yet, but maybe I'll write a testimonial to Peter Coyote's career as well, if I do.
We've always had a certain number of "self-consciously hip" customers in our area. It's partly, I think, that we're just far enough away from LA that people have to go out of their way to advertise their hipster lifestyle, and partly that we've got an, ahem, "art school" in our area. Anyway, it's always interesting to note what the hip kids are buying, and how a critical mass tends to build for certain titles. Lately, all the cool kids are buying some sort of comic book adaptation of a goth band's lyrics...and Star Wars comics. I don't know whether they're being knowingly ironic or retro or if it's suddenly become cool to like Star Wars again.
Speaking of the cool kids...why is it that whenever I'm asked to get out the back issues of Kabuki the person doing the asking never actually buys any of them?
My favorite customer encounter of the last week: A friendly older woman walks into the store. I ask her if she needs help with anything. "Yes, my brother died in 1960." Oh...I'm sorry to hear that. "And he made some movies." Oh. He did? "Yes, that's what my other brother told me, but I don't believe him." Ah. "I was wondering if you could tell me the name of the movie my brother was in?" Well, since we don't really carry movies, and you haven't told me his name, probably not, no. "Oh, I don't want the movie he was in, I want the comic." The comic? "Yes. My other brother said that they made comic books about the movie my brother was in." Okay, let me see if I have this right. Your brother, who died in 1960, may or may not have been in a movie, and if he was, you want the comic book based on that movie, if such a thing exists. "Yes, that's it exactly. Do you have that comic?"
Well, I was in a good move, so I went on-line, went to the Internet Movie Database and put her brother's name in the search box. There was an entry under that name, but it was for a composer whose credits didn't start appearing until 1990. So not her brother. I'm glad that there was, eventually, a comic related point to her questions, but I really wish I knew why people see a sign that says "comic books" and think it means "we can answer any random question you may have."
Due to my change-over in web-host, I lost some data here and there. Some of the data I lost was my web-stats for the first half of April. So, I basically have just a couple of weeks worth of data to share.
I can tell you that it's pretty much a toss up between naked pictures of Jake Shears and naked pictures of John Schneider for most popular search term.
textual analysis wicker man Self-important piety will blind you to what's really going on around you, to your detriment.
how gay is podge on a 1 to 10 scale I need to know two things: who is podge? And which end of the scale is "most gay?"
value of 10 gambit action figures Ten times the value of one gambit action figure
spider-man anger porn So what you want to see are people dressed up like Spider-Man getting angry and having sex?
cliff notes on sin city Frank Miller read too much Mickey Spillane.
sonic the hedgehog tattoo I had someone come into the store yesterday with a miscolored Spider-Man tattoo. That wasn't as sad as a Sonic tattoo.
dumb girls in horror movies Well, if anyone showed even the slightest bit of common sense in a horror movie, regardless of gender, we wouldn't have a plot. "Hey, our car broke down...let's ask at that run-down building with no visible power or phone lines if we can call a tow-truck." "Sure, just let me push the car out of the way so that no passing law enforcement vehicles will take note of it and stop to investigate." "Should I put some clothes on, or go up to the house wearing my bikini?" "Bikini. And if the house is empty, let's be sure to have sex in either the basement or the attic."
american macho gay Wow, it's like you've known me my entire life!
where does postmodernbarney work As little as possible. Oh, you said "where" not "how."
boycotts against alexander film This was that thing about conservative Greeks getting pissed because they don't know their own country's history very well, wasn't it.
shower ymca naked new york west side I don't think this is the kind of site you're looking for...
how women help sell comics There is still a large number of comic buyers who will buy any book that promises them lots and lots of pictures of provocatively posed women in revealing outfits.
young avengers porn Yep, it's already out there.
northstar movie No, there's never going to be one, why did you think Marvel found him expendable?
I've become something of an old hand at quickly appraising the Free Comic Book Day books, having spent time each year taking the books and divvying them up into age-based groups to put into packets to give to customers. This year, as usual, we put the books into three categories: all ages, teens and up, and mature readers. The all ages books are fairly self-explanatory, but we put more of an emphasis on complete stories and color stories. We wanted each book kids got to be a full read, and black and white is often a barrier, we've found, for kids and comics. For teens and up we chose material that was still for a general audience, but wasn't quite intended for children. This was where some of the traditional super-hero material ended up, as well as most of the anthology titles. For the mature reader's packets, we picked the material that had either specifically adult content, or which for one reason or another wouldn't fit into any of the other categories. This is the most frustrating part of the process because material that is clearly intended for a general audience, such as Adventures of Paul, contains some non-exploitive and in-context nudity. We've had parents complain about sexual content in reprints of Ditko's Spider-Man, so anything even remotely suggestive on that score had to be bumped up to the adult pack.
As usual, I'm breaking my reviews into three categories. Get it for comics I think you should be certain to pick up, It's free for comics that aren't bad, per se, but aren't spectacular either, and Not even for free for material I found to be truly lacking in quality.
Adventures of Paul: Michel Rabagliati's stories of growing up in Canada in the sixties and seventies are both charming and realistic stories of boyhood, but they also have a deceptively simple and appealing line-work, reminiscent of many of the popular cartoonists of the period. His work would not seem out of place in a copy of the New Yorker from the period. Get it
Alternative Comics Presents: Another quirky anthology from the independent publisher. Derek Sakai and Jen Sorenson's work were the only things that really grabbed me in this installment, and in general I didn't feel like the quality of the art or stories were as strong as they've been in the past. Plus, the James Kolchacka cover freaks me out. It's free
Amelia Rules #0: I've seen work in this series that is entertaining and funny, but this issue seemed to lack a lot of the verve and appeal that this comic usually has. It's good, but it's maybe not the best material to get people interested in the property. It's intended as an introduction for new readers, but I didn't feel like I got a sense of who most of the characters are. The WJHC back-up would probably have been more entertaining if it had been a straight-forward introduction to the characters, rather than a marketing gimmick for libraries. It's free
Arcana Studios Presents #2: If you like dull and generic art used to illustrate stories that Chaos Comics would have thought too silly to publish, this is the comic for you. Not even for free
Batman Strikes: I hate to have to do this to a DC book, but despite my general like of the look of Batman at least, this was a terrible comic. Bad art, bad character designs for the villains and supporting cast, and a story that somehow manages to work a cheesy gimmick designed for the toy line into the narrative. Give this to a kid if you want to punish them. Not even for free
Betty and Veronica: I'm glad Archie decided to do a girl-centric comic, as I know from experience we get lots of parents looking for comics for girls, and Free Comic Book Day is one of those events that tends to draw them out. It's a little too girly, I think, with it's emphasis on fashion and modeling, and I think a more adventurous story might be better received. From a fanboy/gayboy point of view, it's nice to see Katy Keene back, though part of my mind is rebelling at the thought of the character being a contemporary of Archie and the gang. The art, however, is sub-par, very stiff and very dull. It's free
Bone Sharps, Cowboys and Thunder Lizards: You could just as easily describe this book as two-fisted tales of paleontology. It's got a fantastic cover, but the art inside and out don't match. Plenty of humor, but precious little science to be found, and someone is taking their cues from Walt Kelly for P.T. Barnum's speech balloons. Still, I would be interested in seeing more of the story, so it's a success on that score. Get it
Bongo Comics Gimme Gimme Giveaway!: I'm always a bit frustrated by the comics incarnations of the Simpsons and Futurama characters. They've clearly been softened for a more general audience than the television shows, and I think that costs them their satiric edge. The stories here are funny, and there is a nice variety of tales, even if the Doctor Strange satire is going to go over the heads of most of the intended audience. It's free
Buzzboy/Roboy Red/Major Damage Triple-Frosted Fun Comics: This book wants so hard to be an appealing all ages super-hero title, and there's a nice element of manic fun to the first story, but neither Major Damage nor Roboy Red did anything to interest me in those properties at all. Too much exposistion in Roboy Red, not enough in Major Damage seems to be the problem. It's free
Comic Festival: This is a fantastic collection of short stories, mostly one or two pagers, from primarily Canadian cartoonists. There's a wide variety of art styles and material here, and precious little I didn't enjoy. In fact, the only things I didn't enjoy were a couple of strips from one cartoonist that struck me as having a very "sour grapes" feel to them, but that may just be me being too aware of things the artist in question has said in interviews and on-line about other creators and the comics industry as a whole. Otherwise, this was a truly excellent sampling of materials from independent cartoonists. Get it
Flare #13: I have no idea who any of the characters featured in this comic are, what their powers are, or why I should care, and the writers clearly didn't feel that any of that information was important. The art is work-man like, but the cheesecake factor is completely lost on me. Not even for free
Flight Primer: I thought the two stories here were wonderfully illustrated and very charming. There's a sense of fun and innocence to both works that was quite appealing. Get it
Funny Book: There's some nice work from several Fantagraphics cartoonists in here, mostly reprints from other work, but the pleasure of those strips is diminished by the ill-conceived and frankly bothersome presence of work by both Sophie Crumb and Johnny Ryan, two cartoonists whose work repulses me. If you have more of a stomach for their scribblings than I do, than this book falls into the It's free category. If not, Not even for free
Devil's Due Free Comic Book Day: If I have to look in the indicia to find out the name of your book, you've done something wrong. I have no idea if the work in this comic is new or reprinted from elsewhere. The only thing that even remotely resembles an introduction to the characters or concepts is the Darkstalkers story on the back of this flip-book. Neither the GI Joe nor the Defex story take the time to explain what's going on, and neither gives us any reason to care about the characters or want to read more about them. Not even for free
Impact University: This is reproductions of pages from some of Impact's line of how to draw books. The subject is a bit of a sore point at work, as most of the time when someone comes in claiming to want art reference and instruction materials what they mean is they want something that's easy to trace. This looks to be more along the lines of actual art instruction, with an emphasis on anatomy, scale and perspective. As far as I can tell, this is a good sample of material for those looking for such a thing. It's free
Johnny Raygun Freebie: This was going along at a nice pace, with some engaging drawings and a subtle satire of super-hero comics while staying within the lighter side of a super-hero story itself, until a brutal and violent act completely destroyed the tone. I gather from context that the act in some way ties into events in the regular Johnny Raygun comics, but it seemed out of tone for this story. It's free
Keenspot Spotlight 2005: This has your usual mix of good art, funny stories, bad art and stories that think they're being funny. There was nothing that really grabbed my attention in this outing, save for the grimly funny Chopping Block, which doesn't really count because I was familiar with it already. But for sheer size, you can't beat this book (with my damaged wrists, it literally pains me to pick this book up). You're almost certain to find something you enjoy in here. It's free
Marvel Adventures: Whereas DC did just about everything wrong with the art and story on their book, Marvel, miracle of miracles, wonder of wonders, actually managed to do everything right. The art is lively and appealing, the story has some genuine moments of wit, as well as providing a nice breakdown of the characters. My only complaint is that it's yet another of Marvel's attempts to contemporize older stories. I'd much prefer if they would just tell new ones, rather than try to rewrite their older material over and over and over again. It's free
Mortal Coils Presents: I'm going to have to split the review on this one again. The two lead stories have dull, generic art and stories that are almost impossible to follow. "Pit Stop" at least makes an attempt to fill the reader in on who the characters are and what they're doing, but no such attempt is made in the lead story. So, for the first two stories I'm giving this a Not even for free rating. The Finder and Hero Happy Hour stories that round off the book, however, are genuinely funny and well-drawn, so those get the It's free rating, and they probably would have been rated higher if I hadn't had to read those two disagreeable stories to get to them.
Oni Fistfest: The "Hysteria" story by Mike Hawthorne cleverly used a macguffin to introduce all the characters who populate his high-energy, high mayhem universe. "Sharknife" was essentially just a fight scene. The art does nothing for me, and I don't think the story is as clever or as funny as it wants me to think it is. It's free
Owly: Splashin' Around: This is a wonderfully illustrated and surprisingly touching and affecting all-ages story. All the praise Andy Runton has garnered for his Owly stories is well deserved, and this story deserves to have a wider audience. If any book this year has strong break-out potential it's this one. This is the book for you not to miss this year. Get it
Runners: Remastered #1: Sean Wang's sci-fi series has some occasionally clever dialogue and original and visually arresting designs for aliens. The tone is a bit scatter-shot, and I'm not sure if this is meant to be a straight-up action book with humorous elements, or a humor book with action sequences. As an introduction to the characters it could have used a little more time introducing the characters. I'm still not sure if the ship's crew are pirates, smugglers or what, nor do I know why the human-seeming character has some sort of electrical arm. It's free
Ronin Hood of the 47 Samurai #1: Frankly, this was a bit much. I haven't been terribly impressed with any of Beckett's comics output, and the art here did little to leave an impression on me. No, it was the over-use of plot elements from the Robin Hood stories that killed this book for me. It just came off as silly and contrived. It's free
Star Wars: Any dramatic tension the story may have had is lost because we all know the eventual fate of these characters. So what we're left with is a well-drawn, but ultimately pointless comic containing nothing but fight scenes and false peril. It's free
Superior Showcase: Joel Priddy's' Onion Jack is the highlight of this story. With stick figures, he tells a blisteringly hilarious history of super-hero comics. The other two stories have their appeal as well, especially J Chris Campbell's manic story of juice-based super-heroes. Get it
Uncle Scrooge: It's hard to go wrong with a reprint of a Carl Barks duck story, and this reprint of "Only a Poor Old Man" is entertaining, and a good introduction to those who may not have ever encountered Uncle Scrooge before, but it's far from my favorite Scrooge story. I would have preferred a more adventurous tale of Scrooge and the gang, not yet another story of Scrooge trying to outwit the Beagle Boys, even if this story was the one that set the tone. It's free
Wizard: Top 100 Trade Paperbacks of All Time: This is a reprint of articles from issues of Wizard magazine. The lead story is all right, just a listing of 100 trades that Wizard's editorial department considered worthy of consideration. There's a bit too much emphasis on super-hero stories (unsurprisingly), and much of the non-super-hero material mentioned feels like it was done more out of necessity than any actual desire to promote that kind comic. The problem I have with this pamphlet is the second section, the "Comics Funniest Moments" story, which just made me embarrassed to be a comic book fan with its juvenile, scatological humor. I'm not sure who Wizard thinks would benefit from being exposed to this, as my suspicion is, were I to show this to a non-comics reader, the second section would make a more lasting impression on them than the first. Not even for free
Also, be sure to check out Johanna's FCBD reviews as well. She gives a much more detailed review of many of these books.
I had a bad fall at work yesterday and managed to injure my wrists and elbows on each arm, so only a quick update today, as it midly hurts to type for a long period.
I mailed off the last batch of Mixed Bag CDs on Tuesday, so those of you in California or nearby states may see the disc as early as today. There's at least two songs I suspect will convince everyone who listens that if I'm not insane, there's something seriously wrong with me. I'll leave you to guess which ones I mean.
The ever-increasing side-bar welcomes Hey Grown Ups-Comics! I especially like his rules for comic collectors (sensible advice there), and if I may interject, think he should stick with a local comic shop rather than a mail-order one. But that just may be my bias.
I've also finally remembered to put Comic Foundry on the side-bar. It's not a bad resource for aspiring artists, and the interviews with comics pros have a nice focus on craft.
And via pal JP, Le Chat, a French super-hero bearing a strong resemblance to Wildcat.
I'm intensely busy today, but if I don't review last week's books now, I'm going to have another one of those two or three week at a time set of reviews that I hate doing. So, this is me attempting to sum up my reactions to last week's books as succinctly as possible.
City of Tomorrow #1: All the things that make Chaykin's work wrong fun are here.
Solo #4: A brilliant collection of short works that deserves to be read by anyone really interested in the comics form.
Otherworld #2: A narratively and visually dense work that requires a great deal of attention and effort, but is well worth it.
Day of Vengeance #1: A big, dumb fun super-hero melodrama, with a drunken talking chimp makes for a very entertained Dorian.
Wild Girl #6: An ending that goes for suggestion and nuance when perhaps exposistion would have served better.
Superman/Batman #19: Apart from my dislike of elements of the Supergirl costume, which is going to make parents of children nervous, as the -Girl versions of superhero characters tend to attract young girl readers, this was in keeping with the tradition of amusing, if slight, tales for this title.
Adventures of Superman #639: Panty shots of Lois aside...a generally enjoyable Superman hits things comic. I'm always up for an evil Superman story, or a good fight with Captain Marvel, so I'm okay with this.
Legend #3: Some much needed maturity creeps into the lead in this chapter of Chaykin's collaboration with Russ Heath. An enjoyable work, but not the best work of either creator.
Supreme Power #16: Since this wasn't a very good issue, in keeping with the rhythm of this title, next issue should be fine.
Catwoman #42: Ultimately unsatisfying conclusion to a brutal story. Bring on Pfeifer and Woods.
Authority: Revolution #7: A very fun read, full of entertaining and compelling character bits for the various Jennies. After a bit of a slump, Brubaker is back on form for the book.
Ultimate Secret #2: Very funny, and a book willing to take the inherent silliness of the genre and setting and just run with it. "Ol Spidey's gonna have a little sleep now" made me laugh out loud.
Losers #23: More complicated and compelling espionage action.
Batgirl #63: I've been pleasantly surprised by Gabyrich's work on the title. Some nice character development has been going on here, balanced by more traditional super-hero action. And Deathstroke/Batgirl is a good fight set-up.
X-Men: Phoenix Endsong #5: I never need to read another story in which the problem is solved by yet another variation of the Care Bear Stare. It struck a sour cord with me after mostly enjoying the rest of the series.
Wonder Woman #215: Unraveling the various plots and counterplots of Wonder Woman's enemies in this title has been fun, and an extended look at the more mythical aspects of her world should also be fun.
Batman #639: Meta-plots in full force here, but I'm enjoying the twists of this book. And it's nice to have a superhero-y Batman book, especially one that doesn't have Hush in it every month.
I somehow managed to go see two movies last week. First, Pete and I took advantage of our one shared day off to go see Kung Fu Hustle, which Pete really wanted to see. I think he's started to develop a thing for martial arts movies, for which I have only myself to blame, as I'm the one who insisted we go see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and now he's hooked on the genre. The film was generally enjoyable, but I kept getting distracted by the notion that the translation in the sub-titles was not faithful to the original dialogue. I'm not sure why, I think there were just too many Americanisms in the subtitles for me. I understand the need to translate jokes into a context that the audience will understand, but it always sticks out to me and distracts me. The other thing that I thought was a little off-putting was that the film wanted to be two things at once. It wanted to be a satire of over the top martial arts melodramas, but it also wanted to be the type of film it was supposedly making fun of. Martial arts movies have an escalation of improbably fight scenes, and this movie had an escalation of improbable fight scenes. Martial arts movies have tragic deaths for sympathetic characters, and this film had tragic deaths for sympathetic characters. Martial arts films have unnecessary and tacked on romances, and this film...well, you get the idea. I thought the film was at it's best when it was at its most farcical and absurd.
And along with Pete, Pal Tom, Pal Ian and Pal Robert, on Sunday we went to see Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I thought was an absolutely wonderful film. Visually stunning and very funny. It's been years since I read the books, and I'm far from a devoted Adams fan, but I thought the film stayed true to the spirit of the original story while changing it enough to make it work in a new medium. It has a few flaws. The sequences on the Vogon homeworld felt a bit like an after-thought, almost a way to kill twenty minutes, and the middle portion of the film drags a bit. And I'm going to make myself unpopular and confess that, really, Martin Freeman's Arthur was a bit dull (I know, Arthur's supposed to be dull, but Freeman's Arthur is boring to watch as well), and Zooey Deschanel was equally uninteresting as Trillian. Which isn't really her fault, as in every incarnation of the story Trillian is mostly a cypher, primarily there just so that Zaphod has someone to get exposistioned by. The addition of a Arthur, Trillian Zaphod triangle gives her a little more to work with, but it falls flat for me because Arthur and Trillian only really know each other from spending a couple of hours together at a party. Arthur, it seems to me, really has more of a crush on her than anything that strikes me as a genuine romantic attachment.
In contrast, I thought Mos Def's Fore Prefect was very crucially and necessarily understated. You can't play Ford too broadly, because, really, he's got no chance of upstaging any of the other characters, and when he does do something genuinely weird it becomes even more affecting. But, of course, Sam Rockwell's Zaphod Beeblebrox is the star of the film. He's manic and loopy and inhabiting the role with such enthusiasm he can't help but steal every scene he's in.
And any film that gives us musical numbers like these, and inspires songs like this must, by definition, be good.
My favorite music magazine is Q. It's the only one in which, consistently, the editors and reviewers seem to share my taste in music. But I can only be bothered to buy it when they bundle a CD with it. And this month's issue includes a "Rule Britannia: 40 Years of Great British Music" disc that well justified the $8.75 cost of the magazine. Well, that and the fact that this is apparently the special "substance abuse" issue, with articles counting down the best songs about alcohol and the best rock-star drunks, and an article about why rock stars love crack (uhm...too much money and too many people whose job descriptions don't include saying "no" to the famous person?). There's only one track I really don't like, and now I'm very curious to hear more from Bloc Party. The disc also reminded me how good Suede's first album really was. I'm pretty sure I still have it, somewhere. If I can find it, I really want to listen to it now.
I'm also starting to get some more of the Mixed Bag discs. I will probably try to talk intelligently about them later. Well, except for Mike's, that one almost defies attempts to apply any kind of coherent or logical thought to it. I'm listening to Mercury X23's disc right now, and it's pretty good. A nice mix of stuff, mostly from people I don't listen to, or only listen to rarely, but in general the same kinds of music I usually like. Larry Young, that scamp, made his disc a soundtrack to Brian Wood's and Brett Weldele's Couscous Express. It's good driving music, by which I mean mostly loud, fast and angry. Or does that say more about the way I drive than I want to?
Before going to the movie, I killed some time in my latest mega-chain conglomo bookstore (Ventura doesn't have any independent bookstores other than the used variety). In addition to the issue of Q and a Lois McMaster Bujold book for Pete, I picked up The Black Stranger for myself, a nice edition of Robert E. Howard's "weird fiction" stories. I generally enjoy these works of Howard's the best. A little Conan, Kull, Soloman Kane or Bran Mak Morn go a long way, to be honest, and I've never really warmed to the characters in large doses. Well, except for Soloman Kane, but it's hard not to like a Puritan with big swords and big guns going around killing monsters.
Tangentially, I'm always vaguely annoyed by writers who seem to want to have Howard's characters meet each other. Never mind that they are all from different time periods and despite that though the worlds they all live on to more or lesser degrees resemble our own that doesn't necessarily mean they all live on the same world, the nature of each character is such that team-ups don't really make any kind of sense. The ones I especially find galling are the ones in which Conan meets Soloman Kane. Because the moment the word "Crom" comes out of Conan's mouth, Kane is gunning him down for being a blasphemous heathen and the story would have to end.
I also took the opportunity to look at noted gay homophobe Larry Kramer's newest book, The Tragedy of Today's Gays. I don't know if anyone even pretends to take Larry Kramer seriously anymore, but I doubt this latest book will do much to improve his reputation. And I say it's a book, but it's so slight and has such big print it's hard to accurately judge just how long it would really be. And it has lots of bolded passages without any apparent reason. And like 90% of books of this type, a good 20% of it is statistics without context. And, unsurprisingly for a man who makes Pat Robertson look the the guest of honor in the Gay Day Parade, pretty much every challenge facing gay men and women today is their own fault. AIDS? Gay men's fault. Anti-gay discrimination? Gay men's fault. Homophobic violence? Gay men's fault. Harassment of "queer" students in schools? Gay men's fault. High gas prices? Gay men's fault.
Since Larry was kind enough to send it, I thought I'd take another look at Couscous Express. In pre-blog days I bought this book off the rack and adored it. Wood's writing is sharp and cynical, though it lacks some of the polish of his more recent works. Weldele's art has a nice blend of expressionistic and "scratchy", raw styles. In comparison to the later Couriers books illustrated by Rob G, I think Weldele's page layouts and composistions are strong, but a little harder to follow, but I love his use of ink washes and zip-a-tone in this book still. The book's central theme, of Olive growing up and growing out of her spoiled brat phase, by being forced into a situation where she must fight for her family, is very strong and still appealing.
Since I already have a copy, I've decided to spread the love and pass on my copy to Kid Chris, a punk brat who this book is tailor made for.
I finally managed to finish Richard Matheson's Hell House. I found it more readable than most of the other Matheson works I've attempted, and I can certainly see why it has attracted the reputation it has, but at about the quarter mark it started to become really difficult to not see the work as a reaction to other haunted house novels. Specifically, much of the book feels like an attempt to masculinize the genre of the haunted house story in response to Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House. Where the exploration of the "most haunted house" in Jackson's novel is intuitive in nature, in Matheson's it's left up to men of science. Where the exploration of female sexuality in Jackson's novel is restrained and largely unspoken, in Matheson's we have naked women grabbing men and screaming obscenities. And where Jackson's central plot involved a woman trying to break free of her past and forge her own identity, in Matheson we get a man desperate not to be emasculated by failure.
Now, in general, I tend to think of the haunted house genre as a type of feminine literature, going all the way back to Horace Walpole's gothic masterwork The Castle of Otranto and it's preoccupations with heredity and sexual power-plays. On a very clumsily symbolic level, the home is generally the place where wives and mothers are in charge of the family, and so a threat to the home is a threat to the family, and by extension a threat in particular to the lead female character. Poltergeist is about a woman trying to protect her children, The Amityville Horror is about a woman trying to protect herself and her children from a potentially abusive husband (a step-father as well, if I recall, and we all know how well-ingrained in the popular consciousness is the notion that a step-parent is evil), The Entity is about a woman trying to protect herself from a sexual predator, etc. Even when violence against the family is not the central theme, a preoccupation with the idea of family is present. In Jackson's novel the house is haunted because, essentially, of a dysfunctional family, Eleanor is running from the memory of an abusive mother, and finds a new family in the house. In fact, when I stop to think about it, I can't really think of many works in the genre that don't have a woman at the center of the story.
Except, of course, for Hell House. It's no one thing in the novel that strikes me as a response to Hill House. I could be clumsy and point out that the initials of the house are the same in both. There is also the conceit of both books being about two men and two women investigating "the most haunted house in the world." And yet, despite the lack of overt references to Jackson's work, I still get the impression that, somehow, Matheson is responding to it by attempting to inject some testosterone into the genre. It's not that the novel is bad as a result. It's quite readable, has a trashy sense of fun to it, fails to take itself seriously, and is mostly worthy of it's reputation (thought it is not "the scariest haunted house novel ever written," despite Stephen King's thoughts on the subject on the back of my edition). It is simply that the hyper-masculinity of the book is so over the top they become distracting. As I said, naked nymphomaniacs throwing themselves at the men in the novel is something more akin to a Mickey Spillane novel than a supposedly scary story. Dr. Barrett's mid-life crisis attempts to prove the existence (or, rather, disprove...Barrett's methodology is rather muddled) of life after death, and the frustrated failures of that endeavor, are clearly rooted in some kind of emasculation fear. The book itself draws a direct analogy between the fact that Barrett is crippled in one leg with sexual impotence. Even the terrible secret of Hell House, the dark mystery that keeps Belasco imprisoned within in turns out to be so utterly banal and phallic. (Spoilers, for those encountering the story for the first time in IDW's comic adaptation) The revelation that Belasco is not "The Roaring Giant" of myth, but was actually short and had his legs surgically removed and replaced with longer artificial ones, I simply cannot find any way to read other than as a substitute for anxiety over a small penis.
So, it may be that the reason most good haunted house stories have a feminine tone to them is because that's what works within the genre, and injecting male anxieties and fears into that realm comes off as rather superficial and silly.
I've also been giving thought to horror movie trailers, as four have come around recently.
The new trailer for High Tension foregoes the very effective use of music and mood in the previous trailer for a slightly more plot-based approach, establishing the basic setting and set-up of the film, and also revealing that the film is, yes, going to be dubbed. I like the other trailer more, as this doesn't do much to distinguish itself from any other slasher films. But, any film that so clearly follows the rules of "the last girl" genre of horror is generally knowing enough about itself and the genre to be worth looking at.
Undead looks like it has an interesting visual style, with some apparent nods to Night of the Comet, but I'd have more enthusiasm for it it if it didn't look so annoying like yet another zombie movie.
I did not like House of 1000 Corpses. I thought it was an adolescent exercise in cinematic sadism with no merit or point to it at all. Which would have been fine, it if was the slightest bit original or entertaining. So The Devil's Rejects looks like more of the same, only without any of the pretenses to "humor" that the first film contained.
Nightwatch looks visually amazing, but I've been burned too many times by films that promised me stunning visuals and then failed to follow through with plot or story. And this "first film in an epic horror trilogy" nonsense has me very nervous that, potentially, the reach of the film-makers has exceeded their talent. Still, it does look very, very pretty and I will almost certainly make a point of going to see it in the unlikely event it plays anywhere near me.
I hate having to work on Sundays. But, Pete is out of town on a church retreat anyway, so I wouldn't have anything to do with myself, so I may as well make some extra money. Besides, I have to fill in for Kid Chris, who is spending the week-end at some sort of 80's flashback/Emo-kid convention/concert. Basically a bunch of kids standing around in a desert for two days, wearing dark clothing and long sleeves and inappropriate boots, all trying to outdo each other with how sad the music makes them, while the merciless sun beats down on them. Really, the mental image amuses me greatly.
Which reminds me, earlier this week, somehow, Kid Chris and I got into a discussion about an Emo-Bot, and how it is programmed to fill emotions, but all it can feel is sadness because it broke up with its girlfriend. These are the sorts of things we talk about on Mondays, while he's bagging back-issues and I'm doing cycle-sheets for inventory. I don't know whether you should fear or pity us.
I'm really enjoying the new series of Doctor Who. It's too bad I've had to resort to grey-market technologies in order to be able to enjoy it.
I will probably have my contribution to the Mixed Bag CD Mix project burned and mailed on Tuesday. I'm looking forward to every disc, really. The only one I've had a chance to listen to already is Mike's and, well...let me just tell those of you who are about to experience it for the first time, there's a reason why the phrase "There's something wrong with you, Sterling!" is bandied about so often at work.
BeaucoupKevin shares my love of goofy cover songs. My all time favorites are Tiny Tim's cover of Stairway to Heaven and Crispin Glover's These Boots are Made for Walking, for sheer inappropriateness (although Milton Berle's Yellow Submarine comes close). In terms of more legitimate covers, I'm still really digging the Scissor Sister's Comfortably Numb and Dolly Parton's In the Ghetto and, well, Stairway to Heaven. If I were a truly evil man, I would put together a mix disc of nothing but covers of Stairway to Heaven... I'm still sort of plotting to put together a themed disc of covers of Space Oddity, Ashes to Ashes and Major Tom. Yes, somewhere in my vast cd/mp3 collection I have someone doing a cover of Peter "David Who?" Schilling's "homage" to Space Oddity...wish I could remember who did it...
How on earth did The Shrew Review pass under my radar for so long? It's good, go read it.
On this site, in the near future, you've got my reviews of all the Free Comic Book Day books to look forward to, as well as my look at the manga titles from the May Previews. Truly, I am a glutton for punishment.