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Monday, October 31, 2005
My Favorite Monsters #1: Gef, The Talking Mongoose
In 1931, on the Isle of Man, the Irving family received a strange visitor. Strange animal noises began coming from the attic, but no animal was found. Soon, the noises started to resemble words and phrases spoken by the family, in much the same way that parrots imitate human speech. In a short period of time, the source of the noises introduced himself to the family. He was a mongoose, and his name was Gef.
Gef turned out to be a very talkative houseguest for the Irving family, though very elusive. He declined to be seen, but he did once let Mrs. Irving stroke his fur. He also had a penchant for sneaking into the homes of the neighbors and reporting all the juicy bits of gossip to them. He was also not overly fond of strangers, making a habit of telling guests to the house to "go to hell." Apparently his high, squeaky singing voice made up for his insolent behavior, and the Irvings enjoyed his renditions of popular tunes.
Gef became a minor celebrity, much to the consternation of the locals, who didn't care for him one bit. He was also the subject of investigation by many of the leading psychic researchers of the day. Sadly, when the Irving family moved in 1937, Gef vanished as mysteriously as he arrived. In 1947 a strange creature was shot by another local farmer, but it was never conclusively proven whether or not it was Gef.
I love Gef. Gef is my favorite monster of all time. Oh sure, to a person of skeptical mind it sounds like a harmless prank thought up by a child, perhaps the daughter of the Irving family, that spiraled out of hand, with the family perhaps enjoying making fools of people with a little innocent trickery. But, c'mon...it's a talking mongoose! How is that not the coolest thing in the world? It has to be true, it simply has to be! I don't want to live in a world where there's no such thing as a talking mongoose!
To quell some of the concerns I've noticed a) yes I'm leaving the glamorous world of comics retail by choice and b) no, I'm not ending the blog. I also don't have new work to immediately jump into. After five years of work with only two weeks off, I think I deserve a day or two of blissful unemployment before I return my nose to the grindstone.
Countdown to Midnight: The Phantom of the Paradise
Who wants nostalgia anymore?
For me, Phantom of the Paradise represents the pinnacle of the midnight movie school of film-making. It combines the trappings of a horror film with the sly comedy of a satire, all rolled together into a rock musical. It also gives you the combination of Paul Williams, playing against type as a Faustian record industry executive, as well as writing the songs, and Brian dePalma as screen-writer and director in full-on "I want to be Alfred Hitchcock" mode. He pulls out all the little cinematic "tricks" he can think of: split screens, mirror shots, point of view shots, high angle shots, over the shoulder shots, superimposed images, long tracking shots. It all...sort of works...as an homage to dePalma's favorite director, but what really pulls it together is the songs and slightly mocking performances of the cast.
The plot is almost an afterthought in a film like this. It opens with some faux-fifties greasers circa the mid-seventies singing in a club somewhere. All we see of Paul Williams as Swan, head of Death Records, a record producer so successful he attempted to deposit his gold discs in Fort Knox, is a pair of white-gloved hands emerging from the shadows. Then William Finley, as Winslow Leach, a brilliant composer with an anger problem, comes on as the inter'acte. His music is perfect for Swan to open his new rock palace, the Paradise, with. But Winslow...not so much. So Swan's major domo, Philben, arranges to get Winslow's only copy of his "rock cantata" telling the story of Faust. "What labels he on?" is Philben's response. After a month with no word from Swan, Winslow breaks into Swan's offices, and then his home, determined to speak with Swan. At the "Swanage" he meets the sublime Jessica Harper as Phoenix, the only singer at the audition for the "back-up singers" with any actual talent. He's immediately smitten with her, but shows all his usual wit when he fails to realize that, talented as she may be, she's clearly hoping to use him to get a leg-up on the competition. A comedy of errors follows in which Winslow dresses like a woman, gets beaten, framed for being a drug dealer, sentenced to life in prison and has all his teeth surgically removed and replaced with metal dentures as part of a "dental hygiene" project sponsored by the Swan Foundation. We also get our first full glimpse of Swan, as Paul Williams emerges from a cloud of red smoke, in a mirror shot, clad in silk Chinese pajamas.
Winslow escapes from prison (Sing Sing, appropriately enough), when he hears that Swan's pet band, The Juicy Fruits (the same faux-greasers who opened the film), will be recording a live version of "Faust" at the opening of the Paradise. Winslow's tender song about Faust's love for the woman he sacrificed his soul for has now been transformed into a song about drag racing and the delights of expensive upholstery. He smashes Swan's office and sabotages the Death Records press, getting himself shot and horrendously mangled in the record press, before apparently drowning in the river. Shortly after Winslow's "death" a frightful apparition begins haunting the Paradise, clad in a black leather costume with a strange bird-mask to cover its face. After the Phantom's unsuccessful bomb attempt on the lives of the Juicy Fruits (shown in a brilliant one-shot split screen sequence), he makes an attempt on Swan, who figures out that the Phantom is really Winslow, who somehow cheated death. He makes a deal with Winslow: stop terrorizing the Paradise and Winslow's version of Faust will be produced. The deal is sealed when Phoenix shows up at the audition and Winslow selects her to star in the production. "She could be my voice now" he tells Swan, in a manner that doesn't at all suggest a creepy fixation on a girl he barely knows. Swan persuades him to sign a sinister contract in blood and Winslow begins writing.
Winslow throws himself into re-writing Faust, thus leaving Swan to relegate Phoenix to nothing but a back-up singer. "You know how I despise perfection in anyone but myself," he tells a confused singer. He auditions new leads and eventually selects Beef, played brilliantly by Gerrit Graham as a mincing caricature of every glam-rock star of the seventies. Beef changes Faust around a bit to play it to his strengths, quite sensibly too as it was clearly "scored for a chick." After getting the last of the music from Winslow, Swan has him bricked up inside the recording studio hidden inside the Paradise. Winslow escapes, and after a Grand Guignol production of Beef's Faust (done in a German expressionist style that inspired at least one Halloween costume from me, as well of dozens of wannabe punk bands), electrocutes Beef in front of a packed theater. In a panic, Phoenix is thrust out into the crowd, in an effort to calm them and to appease "the Phantom" before he kills anyone else. Swan then casts his eye on Phoenix, towards sinister purpose. He tells her, and the world, he plans to turn her into a star and marry her, but secretly he plans to have her assassinated during a live, world-wide broadcast, in an effort to duplicate the "smash success" of Beef's on-stage death. Winslow, heart-broken, follows Phoenix and Swan back to Swan's estate, where he attempts to kill himself, only to discover that the contract with Swan has made it impossible for him to die. He attempts to kill Swan as well, only to discover that Swan is under contract as well. Back at the Paradise, Winslow breaks into Swan's secret room, where he uncovers hundreds of video-tapes, including the filming of every contract Swan has signed someone to. He discovers Swan's contract, in which Swan was persuaded against killing himself by his reflection and exchanged his soul for eternal youth. But, when the contract goes, Swan goes. Winslow also, finally, learns of the assassination plot against Phoenix, so he sets the video-room on fire and races to save Phoenix. He arrives in time to stop her being killed, but not in time to prevent anarchy from breaking out on stage. Swan's true face is revealed to the world and his and Winslow's contracts expire. Swan is carried off by the throng, bleeding to death, and Winslow dies in Phoenix's arms.
So, what's the appeal of the film? Why do I think that this film, above all others, is the best midnight movie. It blends the genres so well. You've got comedy and horror together. You've got good songs that fit sensibly into the film. You've got grand stagings and peculiar costumes. And you've got that story. Equal parts Faust and The Portrait of Dorian Gray, dePalma packs as much symbolism, metaphor and import into it as he can. And he apes Hitchcock spectacularly as well. With slightly more restraint, you could almost have supposed that Hitchcock himself got it into his head to make a rock-horror-comedy. You've got Paul Williams, who is always appealing, playing an against type villain, in addition to some of his best songs. You've got Gerrit Graham's sublime performance. You've got Jessica Harper. I mean really, that alone should be enough. Jessica Harper! And you've got absolutely nothing in the way of "audience participation," or attempts to encourage it, or opportunities to do it. It's one of those very, very rare films of the type that you can actually sit back and just enjoy on its own merits.
The Juicy Fruits
The Juicy Fruits, redux
The Juicy Fruits, final
And though your music lingers on, well all of us are glad you're gone...
Yesterday, of all days, I failed to take notes on the thoughts that occurred to me as I was breaking down boxes of the new comics. And I really wish I had, because I have this vague memory of this week's comics making me very angry, and now I can't remember, precisely, what it was that angered me so.
Well, a new issue of Wizard came out, so that might have been it. That's always good for a mix of anger, annoyance, and plain old confusion as they try desperately to spin for DC and Marvel, while filling up the magazine with two to three page articles with only a tangential relationship to anything going on in comics right now. I especially liked how they spoiled a particularly important plot point about the upcoming Superman movie on the cover.
There was also the new issue of Solo, with a focus on Mike Allred. That one actually made me a little bit mad at comic fans, especially those with blogs. See, I remember a few people getting in a huff because DC "wouldn't let" Allred do an Adam West Batman story. This opinion was based solely on the fact that the cover as solicited wasn't the same cover that it was printed with. Well, the issue shipped, and lo and behold, there's an Adam West Batman story in there. And the people who complained should be really happy, because the meat of the story is that if you don't like silly, goofy Silver Age super-hero comics, you're a bad person. You know, I like silly, goofy Silver Age super-hero comics a great deal myself. But I don't think whether or not you like them is any great indication of moral virtue. And I certainly don't need a lecture on the topic in comic book form. So while I mostly enjoyed the rest of the issue, that particular story left such a bad taste in my mouth I'm very unlikely to ever pick up any more work by Mike Allred.
Which actually led me to remember something else that annoyed me recently: the lament that DC and Marvel should only publish collections of their old material, since the people making the lament apparently find everything they publish now distasteful. Because, as we all know, wallowing in nostalgia is exactly what the comic book industry needs right now.
There was one bright spot with this weeks books, Myths of the Modern Age, Win Eckert's new collection of Wold Newton scholarship. I've always enjoyed the Wold Newton work of Philip Jose Farmer and others, because it's a fun game of literary scholarship, emphasis on the word "game" there. I strongly recommend the book to anyone who enjoyed Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and are curious about what Moore ripped off shamelessly was partly inspired by.
And to show you all that I'm not really as grumpy/angry/pissed off as I may sound, I leave you with this: Have you ever said to yourself, "Self, I really wish there was a Quicktime movie I could watch featuring three white guys rapping about the history of video games?" Well now there is.
Dark Horse Please, seriously, stop publishing these manga novels. Yes, I realize they're big in Japan. But they're a weird hybridization that neither satisfies manga fans nor novel readers.
Also, all these horror titles you plan to publish? Yeah, you had just better hope that the current Asian horror fad lasts another year or two, or you're going to be left holding a lot of devalued licenses.
Ah, and Space Pinchy? No, make it go away.
DC/CMX Hmm, maybe these would be selling better if DC had a stronger focus to their imprint other than "edited mature readers titles" and "the shojo titles we could afford." I mean, Chikyu Misaki and Musashi #9 are good, but they're not exactly flagship titles, are they?
Del Rey The nice thing about this line was that it was modest, so I felt more confidant in finding the good material and the material that would sell. With eight titles scheduled to ship in December, the lines growing to the point where that's harder to do.
Dr Masters I just plain don't like the production quality on these books.
Tokyopop We've cut orders on all the original titles down to one. We could probably not bother to order any of them at all and not have to worry about losing out on any sales. Our customers just plain do not want them. And frankly, having been unimpressed with most of them, I don't blame our customers for not showing any interest. In most cases, the quality simply isn't there. Oh, and the Cine-Manga titles? Ugly. God, they're ugly. I cringe every time I open one up.
Viz Stop trying to be Tokyopop. You're better than that. Besides, the last thing we need is a Viz/Tokyopop publishing duality in manga to rival the DC/Marvel one in monthly comics.
For my second favorite monster, we get a bit of a departure from what has gone before. For one, it's a European beast, rather than one haunting the Americas. Two, it has an historical pedigree rather a bit more convincing than a few blurry photographs, unconvincing eyewitnesses and a dead goat here and there. There is ample historical evidence surviving from the period to indicate that there truly was some kind of animal in the County of Gevaudan that killed nearly one hundred people and was seen by dozens of eyewitnesses. There's even a...well, we'll get to that in a minute. Third, the Beast of Gevaudan is one of the very few monsters out there to be regarded as female. It's La Bete to the French, and don't you forget it.
The broad facts of the case are fairly easy to relate. In the wolf-haunted southern county of Gevaudan in mid-18th century, starting in the summer of 1764, a wolf-like beast the size of a cow began to attack people. A few survived, but most who saw the creature were killed by it. La Bete's reign of terror continued for several years, attracting the attention of all France, including worrying Louis XV a great deal. Several likely candidates for the beast were killed by hunters, but deaths continued shortly after each proclamation that La Bete was dead. Popular opinion started to sway towards the belief that La Bete was a judgment sent from God against the wickedness of the people. The English insisted that it was some large baboon escaped from a menagerie. Finally, Jean Chastel, using two silver bullets made from a melted down medallion of the Virgin succeeded in killing La Bete once and for all. The carcass was sent to the court of the king.
I mean, it sounds like some sort of fairy tale, and in other circumstances it would be hard to credit. It sounds more like yet another regional French monster, such as the tarasque (and damn you D&D players for filling up the internet with page after page about your stupid made up monster, thus making it difficult for me to find one about the actual tarasque!). Plus, it makes for an odd little footnote to history; that in the midst of the Enlightenment, France was gripped by a monster panic. A compelling counter-argument about the universal good that was brought about by humanism and Enlightenment philosophy, as it were. Except, of course, for the pesky fact that almost a hundred people were killed by La Bete. It may be tempting, in our comfortable 21st century homes, to dismiss the people living in rural France in the 1700s as backwards, superstitious peasants who merely mistook some wild dog for a horrible monster, but it strikes me as a very arrogant thing to do.
The Wiki, with a nice shot of one of the memorials to La Bete.
Oh, and that thing I said I'd get to in a minute...well, the carcass of the creature killed by Jean Chastel was sent to the National Museum of Natural History, where it was misplaced sometime after 1819. But it had been positively identified as an example of Hyaena hyaena, or the striped hyena. See, I just gave you a monster story with a resolution.
Countdown to Midnight: The Rocky Horror Picture Show
Work that bird, grease that pole, eat this donut!
Now, it just wouldn't be a midnight movie list without having RHPS on it somewhere, now would it? I'm sure it will come as a complete surprise to all of you to discover that I'm something of a Rocky Horror fan. I mean, just because I have, within easy access to where I sit now, the film soundtrack on vinyl and CD, the Roxy cast album, the "New Broadway" cast album, the Shock Treatment soundtrack, a disc of punk covers of Rocky Horror songs, "Songs from the Vaults" a collection of rare Rocky Horror related tracks, "Rocky Horror International" which compiles the best of the international cast albums (including the songs cut from the film soundtrack) and the audience participation album. Not to mention a couple of books about Rocky Horror, the comic book adaptation and my personal scriptbook compiling the best lines from the cast I used to be in, casts I've seen perform and online scripts.
Tim Curry shows his stuff.
There's probably not much point in going over the story of the film, but for those unfortunate few who have not had the pleasure of seeing the film, it goes something like this: giant lips appear on screen and sing at you. Brad and Janet go to a wedding then sing at you. Brad and Janet get a flat tire then sing at you. Brad and Janet come to a house filled with freaks and weirdos, and then they sing at you. Franknfurter appears in drag and sings at you. Then the exposition happens and Frank brings Rocky to life, who then sings at you, followed in rapid succession by Frank singing at you, Eddie singing at you and Frank singing at you again. Then Frank has sex with Janet, Frank has sex with Brad and Janet has sex with Rocky, while she sings at you. Dr. Scott shows up, everybody has dinner, and Dr. Scott sings at you, followed by Frank singing at you. We take a quick break for people to yell at one another, then the entire cast sings at you, followed by Frank singing at you. Then Riff and Magenta kill Frank and, depending on which version of the film you're watching, either Brad and Janet sing at you or Charles Gray sings at you.
In other words, what little plot the film has primarily exists to get you to the next song. So, what's the appeal. A lot of people just don't "get" it. Or they think the appeal is just in dressing up and yelling things in a theater. Well, sure, there's that. But that alone doesn't explain the popularity of the film for so many years. There's a certain cathartic anarchism to the film. For a lot of folks, especially gay kids or the freaky kids, going to Rocky Horror is the safest way for them to revel in their outsider status. It's a big party and no one really cares what you're into or who you want to sleep with, because all that really matters is that you come up with a clever line or two every once in awhile or are willing to get up and dance in the aisles.
They're coming to get you Janet!
There's also the fact that, honestly, the film is pretty good. The songs are fun. Say what you will, it's hard to dispute Richard O'Brien's skill as a song-writer. The performances are good as well. The film is most successful in striking the right notes of camp and irony, while still avoiding making a mockery of itself, and a lot of credit for that goes to the actors. Richard O'Brien as Riff, Nell Campbell as Colubia and Patrica Quinn as Magenta do their parts as the domestics pefectly, fading into the background when necessary but surfacing at just the right moments to communicate the menace of their roles. Barry Bostwick is clearly having a ball with his role, and he gets thoroughly into character. Susan Sarandon occasionally stumbles, occasionally gives the impression that she finds herself above this film, but oozes charm all the same. And Tim Curry...most of the credit for the popularity of the film has to go to Tim Curry. He takes the perfect approach to the role. He's hamming it up spectacularly, and he gives these perfectly timed looks to the audience as if to check up on whether or not we've gotten the joke, but still manages to imbue the character of Franknfurter with an equal dose of sinister charm and sympathetic appeal. When Frank meets his fate we feel sorry for him. That's not something you can say about many sexually promiscuous flesh-eating alien mad scientists.
Which isn't to say that the flaws of the film aren't there. Filming in old Hammer sets gives the film a cramped, dingy feel that doesn't always work in its favor. And its hard to tell what they were thinking in letting Charles Gray play the Criminologist. He's clearly in some studio somewhere, months after the rest of the film was shot, with no clue what the hell kind of film he's in.
Boom Studios sent out some preview copies of the new Steve Niles and Nat Jones comic Giant Monster, and I was one of the folks who got one. Now, to be perfectly upfront, I haven't really been taken with much of Steve Niles' work in the past. It's not that the works of his I read were bad, they just weren't my thing. So I wasn't quite sure what I was going to make of this book. It's fun. I giggled at several points. It's big, mad, stupid carnage with a giant monster on a rampage eating people and wrecking things. And Niles is able to straddle that line between silly and horrific quite well in this book. Yeah I laughed at the wholesale slaughter, because a giant monster eating people is something I find funny. But the horror of the situation comes through as well. Credit for that goes as much to Nat Jones as Niles. Jones gives the monster a disquieting and unsettling appearance, based on the terrible transformation undergone by the man who becomes the giant monster. My only gripe is that the book is too short. The story ends half-way through and we have to wait for the conclusion. It would be a more satisfying read in one big chunk.
Speaking of Steve Niles and horror comics, the most recent issue of Comic Buyers Guide came out yesterday, and as usual, it said much about CBG. It was the horror comics issue, so of course Batman was on the cover. And above the picture of Batman was a banner which read "Exclusive Interview with Batman writer Steve Niles!" Well, yes, technically I suppose that is true, he has written a Batman comic. But that's not really what he's known for. And if you wanted to use his name to sell your magazine, you might have wanted to emphasize the works he's built his fanbase and reputation on. But then, I don't give a damn about how much CGC-graded comics sell for on eBay, so I'm not the target audience for CBG.
Apparently slapping Seth Green's name on your comic is only good for two issues of sales, if the sharp decline in interest in Freshmen at our store is any indication.
I had one of those people looking for super-hero merchandise but not comics the other day. Conversation went largely like this: "Do you have any Wonder Woman action figures?" Not at the moment, no. "Any pins or buttons with her on them?" Sorry, no. "Any posters?" I may have a door poster for about $20. "Nah, that's too expensive. How about any puzzles or games?" Er, no. "Hmmm. Say, you sell comic books, don't you?" Well, yeah. We're a comic book store. "Was there ever a Wonder Woman comic?"
The first batch of Go!Comi books reached the store yesterday, and I liked what I saw. Production values were nice. Paper was crisp and white, art reproduction was good, lettering was clear and easy to read, translation (at my brief glance) was free of typos and spelling mistakes. All in all, just a good package. I'm glad to see that newer manga publishers are still striving for good quality products, unlike some publishers who put out work during the initial manga boom who didn't give a damn about quality and put out books on bad paper, full of terrible spelling and grammar errors. Or, ahem, one or two of the "established" manga publishers for whom quality of product is largely an afterthought. Plus, Cantarella and Crossroad look really, really good.
Head-scratching publisher move of the day has to go to IDW, who put out an introductory priced Transformers comic (with variant covers...) that doesn't actually have any giant robots in it. Oh sure, there's a talking car and an evil plane, but neither of them turns into a big freaking robot.
Something Mike and I discussed: these rumors that DC is going to kill Wonder Woman in Infinite Crisis. I seriously doubt it. Killing off a major character and replacing them with the former sidekick in a book with the words "Infinite" and "Crisis" in the title very much has a "been there, done that" feel. And in the particular case of Wonder Woman, I'd be very surprised if the Moulton estate doesn't have some sort of clause in their contract with DC stipulating that Wonder Woman is Diana Prince. Likewise, Warner Brother's licensing and marketing departments would have a fit if anything other than a cosmetic change happened to Batman or Superman, so don't expect major changes there either.
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Oh sure, we've all seen by now the various columns and blog posts on the topic of "Hey Nerds! Now that you've found a woman desperately lonely enough that she's willing to overlook your personality defects, lack of socialization and poor hygiene to date you, now you need to passive-aggressively manipulate her into reading comics!" We've even seen a few "Hey gals, want to get your guy to read your manga, but don't want to have to explain to him that those characters are actually both guys, or what they're doing to each other?" type writings here and there. But what we haven't seen, and what we really need, is a guide for men who read comics and want their boyfriends to read comics as well. And this is that guide.
Step One: Set The Mood You can't just expect to shove a comic in a guy's face and expect him to want to read it. No, first you have to open up the possibility of reading a comic to him. Making sure that the decorations are right in your place when he comes over for the first time is important. Take down those framed Abercrombie and Finch ads and replace them with some Tom of Finland drawings. You still have pictures of naked men up on your walls, but now he knows you're interested in art, not just twinkie boys. A couple of well-placed action figures are a good step as well. Make sure that they're actually figures that could be considered "cool" or "knowingly hip" or "ironic." This will keep him from being completely scared away. Nobody wants to sleep with a nerd. Star Wars and Transformers are right out. You might be able to get away with G.I. Joe or He-Man, but make sure that they're posed in a sexually suggestive manner.
Step Two: Build Up To It Make sure all those Marvel Essential paper-backs are off your side-table in the bedroom. You want to slowly get him used to the idea of dating a comic book reader. Start him off easy by taking him to see comic book movies. You don't have to tell him that this is because you need to check the film-makers adherence to continuity. Tell him that you just think Hugh Jackman is hot. If he doesn't decide to dump you for your terrible taste in films, start leaving a couple of the artier and more intellectual "graphic novels" around your place. Dear God, don't call them comic books. They should have a spine and, for preference, reviews from real magazines and newspapers somewhere on the cover. No, Wizard doesn't count. The Comics Journal does, but only because of the word "journal." If he asks about them, simply say "Oh, I've had an abiding interest in sequential narratives for quite some time. Didn't I mention it before?" This will make you seem smart and imply that you have better taste than you actually do. Try to let him "catch" you reading one from time to time. If he still shows interest in you, it's time to bring out the big guns.
Step Three: Acclimating Him To Super-Heroes Okay, those Tom of Finland drawings? Take them down and replace them with framed Alex Ross prints. Alex Ross has a very old-school, American-illustrated-magazine, commercially appealing style that non comics readers respond to. It looks enough like real art that they can overlook the fact that they're just fetish pictures of people in convention costumes, basically. When he asks what's up with the constipated photo-realistic Batman, tell him that there's a lot of sophisticated and engaging dramatic serial storytelling in monthly comics periodicals, and that you enjoy them as well, particularly the better illustrated ones. For God's sake, don't call them comic books. Start leaving a few super-hero comics here and there. The coffee table or the bedroom are good places, as those are the places he's most likely to have some time alone from you for a brief period. Give him time alone in these rooms with nothing to do but read the comics. Don't put them in the bathroom, you don't want them to get wrecked, do you? And if you put them in the bedroom, make sure that they're not on the same end-table as the condoms and lube. Now, the kinds of comics you leave are very important, and it depends largely on what kind of guy he is. Here's a simple chart with suggestions by gay "type":
Boy Next Door--Superman or Spider-Man Military--Captain America or Sgt. Rock Queer Activist--Authority or Young Avengers Flaming Queen--Wonder Woman or Supergirl Muscle Queen--Warlord or anything by Bart Sears Leather Daddy--Batman
Step Four: Encouraging Him To Read More Okay, so with any luck he hasn't left you for being a hopeless nerd wasting your life reading comic books. With even more luck, you might have actually managed to get him to read a comic book and come to the conclusion that it isn't completely stupid juvenile pap for sub-literates. So now you want to find him something that he'll enjoy on his own so that he'll stop folding back the covers of your books and trying to open your CGC cases. This is where it pays to pay attention to his personality and pre-existing interests. You can't just hand him Watchmen and expect him to enjoy it. Likewise, you should probably avoid any of the comics that have been highly praised by comic book readers. Steer him clear of Swamp Thing, for example. He'll have no idea who Alan Moore is and will only remember the terrible, terrible movies. Likewise, don't hand him Sandman. You're gay, not a goth. Don't hand him Preacher because he'll think you're a serial killer. And avoid anything written by Grant Morrison unless you want him to think you're on seriously good drugs. Frankly, there's really only one way to help him find what he likes to read and that's to move on to the next step...
Step Five: Taking Him To The Comic Book Store This is the make-it or break-it point, really. Either he'll find something interesting or he's dumping you because you're a sad, pathetic freak. So, a couple of things to prepare for, since this will be a trying experience for both of you. Yes, he will laugh at the store. Either at the sun-faded posters in the window or the Michael Turner covers or the Magic players or something with Power Girl on it, something will make him laugh. He can't help it, it's going to be an involuntary reaction. Actually, it's a good sign. It means he's finding at least some entertainment value in the outing. The bad sign is when he looks around the shop and sighs. Of course, since you just walked in with man who isn't a comic book fan (we know our own...) or obviously related to you, you've probably just outed yourself to the entire store. As we all know by now, comic book fans hate anything that is different to themselves, almost as much as they hate change, and so be prepared to be treated like Bill Bennett at an NAACP meeting by the staff and other customers from now on. He's probably going to be confused by the displays of new comics. Gently guide him through them. Patiently explain the difference between Fantastic Four, 4 and Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four. Be prepared to explain why Wolverine is on the cover of every comic published by Marvel this week and on the covers of Wizard and Comic Buyers Guide. Try not to roll your eyes when he asks if people actually think Jim Lee is a good artist. If the notion of monthly comics overwhelms him, you might try showing him the trade paperbacks. Tell him that you get a better bargain here, since you can read the incredibly decompressed stories in which nothing happens in one inexpensive volume. Assure him that, yes, actually, people do enjoy reading five issues of filler on Ultimate Spider-Man in one go. Again, be prepared to patiently explain why the world needed an Essential Human Torch book, or a Marvel Visionaries: Chris Claremeont. If possible however, try to steer him towards the monthly books. You don't want to date one of those people who are killing the industry, do you? Under no circumstances should you permit him to even glance at the manga. You have to have some standards, after all, and the last thing in the world you want is to be dating somebody who actually likes that crap.
Step Six: Exposing Him To The Comics Internet Don't.
Step Seven: Sharing Comics Together If all has gone according to plan, you've now managed to find him one or two titles he grudgingly admits to liking. Oh sure, he may just be saying it because he doesn't want to hurt your feelings, but the point is, you've now made him one of us! But how do you share your interests together? Compromise is the word to focus on here. When you spend the money that should have gone to this month's car payment buying 9.8 CGC graded Jim Lee variant covers on e-Bay, be sure to point out that he didn't really need to fly out to visit his dying grandfather, so he has no room to complain about your spending. When his plans and your plans conflict, look for creative ways around the problem. For example, have you ever noticed how often gay events are scheduled for the same weekends as comic book conventions? Tell him that you'll let him whip you in the street all morning at the Leather Festival if he'll go buy Silver Age back issues with you at Super-Ultra-Con in the afternoon. You don't even need to change clothes in that case. Just tell the folks at the con that he's Grimbor the Chainsman and you're Cosmic Boy!
Yes, you can successfully build a two-comic-reader household if you follow these simple steps. And why wouldn't you want to? I mean, who ever heard of a successful relationship in which both partners are accepting of each others interests?
One night, in a shack out in the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, a woman was giving birth. No one was quite sure if she was a witch or not. And she'd had many children before and this was unlucky number thirteen. When the baby was born, it was a grotesquely misshapen monster, with cloven feet, bat wings, a forked tail and the head of a horse. It beat the midwife and flew away through the chimney. For a time it visited its mother every day like a dutiful child, until she got fed up with it and chased it away. Now it haunts the forests of New Jersey, letting out blood-curdling screams in the night and staring in to people's houses with its glowing red eyes.
I have no excuse for my fondness of the Jersey Devil. At the root, like many of my favorite monsters, I like him simply because he looks cool. I probably first became aware of him in an old elementary school book of monsters, illustrated with wood-cuts (which even at the time I found fascinating), including many period newspaper illustrations of the Jersey Devil. That's probably what did it for me. The old newspaper articles, with their illustrations that were far more compelling than their yellow journalism prose, made it seem as if people were genuinely panicked over a fanciful creature out of American folklore. And that's probably the other thing that drew me to fellow. He's quite obviously a creation of early American myth-making, that's survived into the present day. No one takes wooly snakes or jackalopes seriously anymore, but the Jersey Devil is still sighted to this day. It just makes me, somehow, glad, to think of the goofy looking guy out there when so many of the other creatures of the early American period are now only found in dry academic texts about "Post-Revolutionary Folktale Types: An Overview and Bibliography."
The inevitable Wiki, and is it just me, or do the Wikipedia entries on monsters not enter into the proper spirit?
So, now that the NDA has been lifted, I can finally talk in public about City of Villains and my participation in the beta-test. If you're familiar with City of Heroes, you already know the concept of COV. Only this time, instead of good, noble and pure defenders of right in Paragon City, you're dastardly ne'er-do-wells in the Rogue Islands. Gameplay is very similar to COH (okay, it's identical), but there are some really well-done new graphics sets, powers, tons of new storylines, an insane number of new costume pieces (including a stunning new variety of capes), and five all new archetypes for characters. You've got the Brute-a vicious fighter whose damage increases over time, the Stalker-a stealthy assassin, the Corrupter-a ranged damage dealer who can help his allies or hinder his foes, the Dominator-who backs up the ability to hinder foes with impressive melee attacks (okay, it's basically just the Controller from COH), and the Mastermind-who summons minions to do his bidding.
The overall feel of the game is similar in tone to villain focused comics like Secret Society of Super Villains, Villains United, and such. You spend about as much time fighting turf wars with other villains as you do fighting good guys (or nuisance groups that are merely interfering with the long-term goals of Arachnos, the main villain organization in the COH/COV universe...a lot of enemies fall into this category-neither really heroes or villains, just sort of...in the way of Lord Recluse's plans). I was greatly heartened to encounter a hero organization loosely inspired, it seems, by the views of the Knights Templar popularized by occult historians and conspiracy theorists. The Legacy Chain are essentially knights and mages trying to stop the use of evil magic and protect valuable artifacts. My main villain, a science-based corrupter, truly loves pounding on "magical" heroes.
Mission-wise, it seems that a lot of hard lessons have been learned from COH. There are many new mission types, with more varied goals than simply go to Location X and beat up Person Y and click on Object Z. There's plenty of of that still there, but the newer mission types help break up the monotony that frequently occurs in COH. One of my favorite new missions was the Cape Trial for villains. COH's Cape Trial is rather dull, consisting mostly of fighting past enemies and then beating up a small group of them before they can destroy a destructable object. In COV's trial you must sneak into Paragon City, either go on a killing spree against the hero group Longbow or sneak your way around them, destroy several memorial statues to fallen heroes and fight a Paragon City hero and steal their cape to prove to Arachnos that you're worthy of wearing one. It's a dynamic mission that gives you options on how to complete it, and manages to surprise you with well-timed ambushes from heroes and actually challenging enemies.
Another big change is the introduction of player-versus-player zones. I'm not a big fan of PVP in on-line games. It tends to encourage munchkin players with min/maxed builds who display unsportsmanlike behavior, but I may give it a shot with COV because the PVP zones actually have storylines associated with them and give you things to do other than beat the tar out of other players. There's also a mix of free-for-all PVP and faction-based PVP zones, so those of us who really hate free-for-all PVP can at least give the faction-based approach a try.
My main villain, a science corrupter. Note that you can now make male toons with body hair. Oh sure, you have to be a fan of the cave-man look, but at least it's a step.
An alternate costume. The new variety of capes are truly impressive, including split capes, shaped capes, tattered capes, scarfs and fringe. In this picture you also have a better look at the sardonic expression on my guy's face. I love that the villains actually look more smug than the heroes.
The new physics engine for the defeated enemies makes for a nice and often surprising variety of poses for fallen foes. A lot of thought went into behaviors and animations for both player-villains and enemies. Oh, and just be glad I didn't get a good screen-shot of the new female additions to the Freakshow gang. Truly horrifying.
You can make truly inhuman looking characters now. And they can wear top hats. And surf the internet between missions.
Both male and female toons get pirate-themed costume pieces. And female toons can wear fishnets. And yes, top hats are also available for the female toons. You wouldn't believe the number of Zatanna-inspired toons running around in the beta servers. No kilts yet though. Dammit!
Thank God! You can now actually sit down! Do you have any idea how many months my heroes have been forced to stand up all the time? They only ever get to even lie down when they've been defeated.
The vagaries of my e-mail for this site means that I sometimes don't see important e-mails. So, I sort of missed the message from Scipio of The Absorbascon, one of my favorite blogs, about his new enterprise Big Monkey Comics. There's an e-Bay store, Cafepress shop and on-line radio station. So go check them out. They're approved by me (or, go check them out despite that).
It's a natural, natural, natural desire! Meet an actual, actual, actual vampire!
Ah, The Apple. How to begin to describe you. Why, it's almost as if two vaguely right-wing Israeli film-makers saw the success of The Rocky Horror Picture Show on the midnight movie circuit and said to themselves "Hey! We can do that too!" Only their version included heavy-handed religious symbolism and a strong dose of anti-Americanism. It's produced by The Canon Group of Golan and Globus, who never saw a successful American film they couldn't mass produce rip-offs of on the cheap. Oh, wait, no...that's exactly what The Apple is. But I fear I may be underselling it.
In the long distant future of 1994 (I know, it's hard to conceive of something happening so far ahead of the present day), the entire world is captivated by the Worldvision song contest. Yes, even America. This may be because Dandi and Pandi are going to be performing a song in celebration of their recording company, BIM (Boogalow International Music). The song itself is sort of a disco version of Seig Heil, with lots of fascist imagery and people raising one handed salutes to the dancers. Because, you know, American pop music is all about Nazi ideology...And the song is a hit. What a surprise, a song about the company that paid for the contest turns out to be the big contest winner. But what's this? Two young folk singers from Moose Jaw are singing a love song? But those are so last year! Nobody likes those anymo-oh crap, the audience is responding to this song more than the one that would kill an epileptic, better sabotage it...and sign the singers to an exclusive contract!
It's more or less at this point that the villains of the piece are introduced. We have Mr. Boogalow, a vaguely satanic agent/record producer, his effeminate black right-hand man, Shake, his extremely effeminate marketing director Ashley, Dandi and Pandi his pet singers, and a couple of body-guards with tusks. (Boogalow is more than a tad effeminate himself, but it's in that weird European way that doesn't really count. It's that Euro-trash vibe that sets off a false reading on gaydar sort of way.) Struggling against them are folkies Alphie and Bibi. Bibi wants so desperately to be a rock star that she takes drugs, makes out with Dandi at a party where all the guests spontaneously break out into perfectly choreographed song and dance numbers, and eagerly signs the contract with Boogalow. Alphie refuses. It's never quite clear whether it's because he's jealous of his gal making time with the dull as dishwater Dandi (which is surprising, since all Dandi has going for him is a blond perm and a British accent, whereas Alphie is more than a little woofy and keeps taking his shirt off and wearing tight pants which show off his impressive ass), the hallucinations of hellfire and damnation he keeps having around Boogalow and his people, or that Alphie is, frankly, just kind of a jerk.
In any case, Bibi signs the contract and is turned into a star in a musical montage about how great slavery is (yes, the black cast members sing along...let's hear it for the racial sensitivity of Golan and Globus). Her big break-out song is another weird little disco-fascist number in which Bibi and a bunch of leather daddies sing a song that's either about America's dependence on oil, or drugs, or possibly both. "America needs more...speeeeeeed!" is the gist of it. Alphie meanwhile, in between groping his Jewish landlady, is trying to sell songs about how that bitch Bibi broke his heart, but strangely, no one's interested in buying them. It's then that we discover that the wearing of BIM merchandise is now compulsory, as is taking an hour every day at 4PM to dance to the BIM song. It's the kind of weirdo religious paranoia crap about "the number of the Beast" you usually associate with Jack Chick comics, not a big sci-fi musical. And yet, after we get Pandi trying to seduce Alphie with a subtle song called "I'm coming" ("I want it harder and harder and faster and faster and I'll drain every drop of your love"), the religious allegory pretty much takes over the film and it becomes "Godspell." Alphie drops out of society and joins a hippie commune, Bibi eventually leaves the BIM empire to join him, and when Boogalow and company track them down, God comes down in his flying car to take all the hippies away to a better world. Man, I wish I was making that last bit up, but no, that's actually how the movie ends. Were I a cynical man, I'd suggest that maybe ending your film with "all the hippies go away forever" doesn't exactly mean "the rest of you are screwed" to the average person, but there you go.
It's hard to describe exactly where the film goes wrong. Oh sure, there's the blatant attempt to encourage an audience participation cult, with dances that can be performed from theater seats and the cheapest props and costumes imaginable. Basically, all you need to do to "dress up" for the film is put a triangle shaped glitter sticker on your face. Voila! You're up for a midnight screening of The Apple. The songs are fairly dreadful, though a couple of them are okay, in the context of "this song is bad but faintly amusing all the same." Big chunks of it appear to have been filmed in an empty airport lobby. Not exactly an acoustically smart place to film a musical. And it's vision of the future is...odd. Cars with fins and bubbles, square motorcycles, triangular baby carriages, huge lapels, loads of silver lame and tons of eye make-up and glitter (and that's just on the men). It's got your old guys who don't get it bashing of pop music, a strong implication that gay=evil, and weird, out of nowhere anti-American sentiments. And did I mention that it's done on the cheap? Well, pretty much every crowd scene features the same set of dancers. Oh sure, the make-up is slightly different, but it's the same dancers. And despite its futuristic trappings, it's very much an artifact of its time. Of those self-same dancers, I saw fewer clones the last time I was in the Castro district, and that's pretty much the last place on Earth you still find clones. And did I mention the silver lame? Whoo-boy...lots and lots of silver lame. Truly, everything is showbizness in 1994!
The mandated BIM dance.
The fascist police state doing the BIM dance.
Extravagant musical numbers performed in the Delta lounge!
Okay, maybe a little explanation is required here. It's not funny because a guy just got shot in the head. No, I find it funny because it's a good illustration of what's wrong with the Hard Man school of comics writing.
"There! I just shot the suspect in the head as soon as he gave us one useful piece of information in the interrogation! This will show everyone what a Hard Man I am."
"Yeah, but...I don't suppose there's any other information he might have known which would have been helpful to us, is there?"
"Doesn't matter. For I am...a Hard Man."
"But, look, we don't even know for certain that the information he gave us is current, accurate or reliable. For God's sake, how many fingers did you have to shoot off before he gave us one name? You don't think he was trained to withstand horrific torture?"
"Hard Man talking here..."
"I mean, we don't even know for certain that the he knew the actual truth of what was going on. For all we know he could have been fed false information in the hopes that we would capture and interrogate him."
And this is speaking as someone who likes almost everything Ellis does. But this Jack Cross book...I'm sorry, it's just coming off as a sloppy Tom Clancy pastiche.
Infinite Crisis comes out today, and I don't know about the rest of you, but I can't wait! Not because of the actual comic so much (though as a DC fanboy I suspect I'll find something to like about it) as the great entertainment value I suspect I'll have in watching the usual suspects get bent out of shape about it.
I can't wait for the hair-rending and gnashing of teeth when a C or D list character who hasn't had more than a brief guest appearance in ten years gets killed off.
I can't wait for the hysterical, over the top denoucements of the book and how it "disrespects" the characters.
I can't wait for the page by page, and panel by panel "attack" reviews by people who think they're being clever but really just need to go find a new hobby if they have that visceral and negative a reaction to something as trivial as a comic book.
So, this is the great American graphic novel? This is the best comic ever created? Man, those dicks at DC must think we're fucking stupid or something if we'd actually think this shit is any good. This is, without a doubt, the worst fucking comic I've ever read. We're talking Skate Man bad here.
Chapter One Pages 1-4: A fucking pan up? Lazy. And what's with the nine-panel grid? Boring. The whole damn book better not be like that. What a way to insult the audience right off, with the dullest, most pedestrian page layout possible. It shows a complete lack of imagination.
And what's with the cops? This is a super-hero book, not some damn cop drama. Let's focus on the actual characters.
Pages 5-8: God, I hope Moore isn't being paid by the word. No dialogue. Not even a damn thought-balloon. What kind of comic is this?
Pages 9-13: If Moore is pulling the kind of crap I think he's pulling he should be ashamed of himself. This is a completely disrespectful way to treat characters of such depth and complexity and rich history as the Blue Beetle and the Question.
Page 17: Okay, Moore doesn't get it. Peter Cannon would not call the Peacemaker a Nazi. No, no way. This is shit and completely disrespectful.
Pages 20-23: Either Moore or Gibbons must be a fag, because I can't imagine why so much attention is being paid to making sure we see that Captain Atom is naked.
Pages 27-32: More laziness. Apparently Moore isn't a good enough writer to think of a way to include back-story in the comic itself and had to put a damn "supplemental guide" into the book. LAZY!
Chapter Two Pages 6-7: Fucking disgusting! Not only is this completely unnecessary, but it's offensive. Rape has no place in a super-hero comic. I read super-hero comics to escape from reality, not to wallow in filth and perversion. Maybe Moore gets off on this sort of thing, but he's clearly a pervert.
Pages 9-18: And Moore hates America, apparently. Not only is this a complete and total disregard for the actual nature of the Peacemaker, but this is just stupid, liberal, anti-American propaganda. Hello, we were in Vietnam for a reason people. The commies weren't just going to give up on their own!
Chapter Three Pages 1-3: More of characters completely unimportant to the narrative given attention. And what's with this pirate comic. Why would kids want to read pirate comics? Oh sure, maybe a pervert like Moore likes them, but real Americans won't. It's completely unreal.
Page 13: Three issues in and this is the first real action sequence we get? And it's interrupted by more anti-American propaganda by Moore.
Page 20: Fucking disgusting. Penises have no place in super-hero comics. Clearly this is an adults-only comic, but it's not labeled as such. DC should be ashamed of themselves for publishing this filth.
Pages 29-32: Okay, this is getting fucking ridiculous. More background that apparently is necessary to the story that Moore couldn’t' find a way to work into the narrative. And this is after how many pages of Captain Atom just walking around and not doing anything. Lazy, lazy, lazy!
Chapter Four Page 3: I am so sick of comics writers trying to talk about physics as if they understand anything. Like some watch-maker is going to understand the theory of relativity. Completely unrealistic and throws me out of the story.
And the sad thing is, this would be a perfectly acceptable new origin for Captain Atom if it wasn't tainted by the sex and perversion and anti-American propaganda. But it should have been the first issue, not number four.
Chapter Five Page 7: Child murder. More filth and perversion.
Page 9: More pirate shit. Why does Moore keep insisting on interrupting the flow of the story with this pretentious, extra bull-shit?
Pages 14-15: It takes all this time for something to break up the damn nine panel grid. Gibbons must have gotten sick of following that ego-maniac's Moore's directions.
Page 20: Enough of this pirate shit!
Pages 29-32: Goddamit! Moore is gay for pirates! This shit adds nothing to the story! It's just Moore' ego forcing his pet projects into the story.
Chapter Six Pages 1-32: This is just filth. Never have I seen such a willful disregard of a creator's purpose. This is not the Question. This is some rabid anti-American pervert's filthy distortion of a living creator's greatest work. This is disgusting and reprehensible. Moore and everyone at DC owe Steve Ditko an apology. They are not fit to lick the dirt from his shoes, and yet they go and distort his work to make it into this ugly, lewd traitorous condemnation of American values and decent, God-fearing morality.
Chapter Seven Pages 1-10: I'd almost think this was good, if it wasn't done to death and completely unnecessary. So Blue Beetle and Nightshade talk about Beetle's equipment. Great. This sort of thing is more appropriate to a paragraph or two in Who's Who than ten pages in a comic.
Pages 23-26: Well, it's about damn time one of the super-heroes in this comic actually did something super-heroic. Somebody in DC editorial must have forced this scene into the book so that Moore wouldn't completely pervert all of the Charlton characters into disgusting caricatures.
Page 27: Oh, ha-ha, an ejaculation joke. I guess Moore just couldn't resist putting more perversion into the comic.
Pages 29-32: Again with the nonsense that doesn't add to the story at all. And why would the Blue Beetle give a rat's ass about fucking owls?
Chapter Eight Pages 1-28: Eight chapters before the plot actually has anything happen in it? I've heard of padding for the trade, but this is fucking ridiculous. So the first seven chapters were all, what, prologue? See, if Moore were a good writer everything that happens in this chapter would have been spread out over the first seven. But no, he spends seven chapters on his liberal propaganda and perversion before he starts running out of issues and actually has to have the story start.
Pages 29-32: And yet more anti-American propaganda. This cartoonish caricature of real American values is insulting and infuriating. I'm sorely tempted to forward a copy of this trash to a real American like Bill O'Reilly. I'd like to see Moore try to defend his filth against a real intellectual might like his.
Chapter Nine Pages 1-28: And all that momentum built up in the last issue spoiled. Just a long look at a secondary, D-list character like Nightshade. I mean, you've only got twelve issues, and you've already padded it out, not to mention filling it with filth, and then you go and waste an issue with Captain Atom and his side-kick talking about her feelings. Waste of paper.
Chapter Ten Pages 1-28: Christ! How much padding did Moore do? This entire issue is nothing but Blue Beetle and Question moving from one location to another. With, of course, plenty of interruptions from that stupid pirate comic that nobody cares about! And then to set-up Peter Canon as the villain? How stupid is that? Moore just doesn't get. He. Just. Doesn't. Get. It. This isn't as serious as the disgusting changes made to Peacemaker and the Question, but it is part of a pattern. He just hates super-heroes. He has no respect for them. Why on Earth DC would give a man like that the opportunity to write a super-hero comic escapes me.
Chapter Eleven Pages 6, 9, 13, 20, 23: More of this nonsense with characters that nobody cares about and that stupid, pointless pirate comic.
Pages 7, 8, 10, 11: Moore clearly rushing to get out some sort of "important" information. If he's just done the origins of the characters at the start of the series, like he should have, and paced himself better instead of continually padding the comic with stupid, extraneous information that nobody cares about he wouldn't have had to so badly rush everything at the end. This is not just laziness, this is bad writing.
Pages 18, 19, 21, 22, 24-26: This is just a colossal insult to the intelligence of the reader. It reeks of comic book clichés. If Peter Canon is the big villain (and it makes no sense at all that he would be), why waste all his time explaining his plan to the Blue Beetle and the Question? It's stupid. It's the worse cliché in comics. And people think this is good writing?
Page 27: And this is even dumber a revelation. "Oh, I already did it. Nyah-nyah-nyah! You can't beat me!" It's a juvenile cop-out and further evidence that Moore is just an adolescent mind spitting on the noble legacy of the Charlton characters simply because he happens to personally not like them.
Chapter Twelve Pages 1-6: Six splash pages! What is this, an Image book? I'm surprised I didn't have to turn the page side-ways for any of these panels. Clearly Gibbons was just trying to sucker his pans out of more money by making some extra splash pages he can sell at conventions.
Pages 17-20: And this is completely implausible. Peter Canon's plan made no sense, and it's just a cop-out to have it "work." It just gives Moore an excuse to end the story without any of the characters facing any consequences for their actions and just serves as a further example of his disregard for the characters and their creators. Moore doesn't like super-heroes, and he doesn't respect the creators, so of course they have to lose. Juvenile bullshit.
Pages 23, 24: And this is the final insult. Moore perverted the Question into his pet anti-American stereotype, and so the lone voice of morality must be killed. Honestly, there was no point in finishing the book at this point. I don't care how it ends. This was just insulting.
For about a year in the late 60s, the city of Point Pleasent in West Virginia was terrorized by a strange beast. Mostly it seemed to just chase people around in their cars or look in windows at them. It was described as a bird-like creature as tall as a man, with glowing red eyes in its chest. The incidents probably would have been largely forgotten by history as just another example of the weirdness scares that seemed to pop up regularly during the height of Cold War paranoia, except for two things. One, paranormal journalist John Keel went to investigate the sightings and became intimately involved in the events (one could almost say to the point of tainting any possibility of real research ever getting done) and two, in December 1967 the Silver Bridge collapsed, killing forty-six people, an event believed to have been "predicted" by the Mothman. The explanations for what Mothman were range from the terrestial (a mutant owl), the extra-terrestrial (Aliens!), and the other dimensional (beings from a higher plane of reality inserting themselves into our three dimensional time space continuum in order to conduct experiments on us--and, oh man, do I wish I were making that last one up).
It's all bunk, of course. Oh sure, something happened in Point Pleasent. But what we're probably looking at here is the most well documented case of mass hysteria affecting a small regional area, egged on by a glory-seeking "investigator" desperate to become part of the story, and people traumitized by a disaster searching for some kind of rational explanation for what befell them. He looks really freaking cool though.
A Mothman retrospective, with a gallery of covers of Keel's book The Mothman Prophecies (I have the one with the Frazetta cover) The only problem with this site is that it seems to think that the damn book is any good at all. It's not.
"Five years later" era Legion Grant Morrison's Seven Soldiers of Victory (particularly Klarion) Re-Animator (or at least Herbert West, holding up the syringe. Mike in particular demands that somebody make these) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (or just a figure of Donald Sutherland pointing and screaming) David Bowie (oh sure, the Ziggy Stardust figure would be the big seller, but I want a Thin White Duke staring menacingly at me from my toy-shelf) And if we're going to get David Bowie figures we need Velvet Goldmine figures as well. I need a Maxwell Demon figure. And one of that character Christian Bale played. Equilibrium (because we need more Christian Bale action figures) Labyrinth (see, yet more Bowie figures) Dario Argento films (we need a chimp with a razor figure, from Phenomena.) Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, not the Beatles version, the film version. Steve Martin as Dr. Maxwell. You know you want it. Little Shop of Horrors. Just a big articulated Audrey II that comes with people you can feed it. Howard the Duck: The Movie Freddie Mercury (I suppose we could settle for a Queen box-set) Devo It's so obvious I'm surprised they don't actually exist, but Fight Club Mike insists they make Deep Throat figures League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (the comic, not the film) League of Gentlemen (the Tubbs figure simply must have a soundchip) Motel Hell (just the gal wearing the pig head) Cabin Boy (again, Mike wants these. His aesthetics are not to be trusted.)
There's just something that feels...right about going to see a movie at midnight. On the one hand, it's because you know it's going to be fun. Oh sure, there are lots of movie theaters, usually near college campuses, that show deadly serious and oh so important films, because those are the kinds of films you're supposed to watch if you want to be taken seriously as an intellectual. Well, you know, I went the intellectual route. And while Alphaville is a good movie, I'll take Repo Man over it any day of the week. The whole point of going to a midnight movie is to have spent a good portion of the previous part of the evening boozing it up with your friends in the nearest dive bar, then swaning over to the theater in good spirits to hang out with all the other freaks, drunks and insomniacs to watch a film that, intellectually, you know isn't going to be any good. Because that's not why you're going. You're going because you want to be drunk and hang out with freaks.
Now, given that I'm generally gayer than a gay thing that's gay, it really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that my favorite midnight movies are actually of the musical variety. I just love coming home at 2AM with a buzz wearing off and humming a barely passable tune. And so, in that vein, here's the films that don't quite make the cut for "Favorite Midnight Movies." They may be good, they may be bad, and they're all worth your attention (if for no other reason than inflicting them on unsuspecting friends), but they just don't quite rise to the level of the three films I will be looking at in-depth.
Xanadu: Oh, how could a film starring Gene Kelly, Olivia Newton-John and the music of ELO go so deliriously wrong? Newton-John stars as a muse who comes to Earth in order to inspire a night-club owner and an artist to build a roller-derby disco. Now, you all know I like high-concept, and that should be brilliant. But no, it all comes crashing down. It's a shambles. Newton-John's career never really recovered (her next film would be a tepid remake of Faust costarring John Travolta called Two of a Kind...that didn't help either). The two most successful numbers are a merging of a 40's big band love song and dancers with a "punk" hard-rock ballad and dancers, and the big final number, with ELO dueting with Newton-John on a song about how great Xanadu is while all the other muses roller-disco in tight pants.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch: Now, this film really is good. And the songs are fantastic. It's the story of a botched transgender operation, rock stars, and revenge. It's simply fantastic, everything you could possibly want in a film. And, until recently, it was actually attracting regular midnight showings with full casts and a definte "RHPS"-esque ambience...than the distributors pulled the theatrical release rights in favor of cable rotations. Bastards.
Shock Treatment: The semi-sequel to the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The songs are actually quite fun, and the story doesn't totally suck. But man, Cliff DeYoung and Jessica Harper don't quite have the charisma or appeal of Barry Bostwick or Susan Sarandon, and the loss of Tim Curry was devastating. There were just no other returning cast members with the ability to focus a film around. "Oh God...character actors" as the script itself notes. Still, it has its charms, despite being filmed entirely on unfinished sound stages and the many, many deliberate attempts to encourage audience participation.
I was going to say something about the comics that came out yesterday (and risk being called "negative" because of my observation that, luckily, all the really pretentious comics sold by the end of the day), but instead I'll talk about the ad that came in this mornings paper, featuring costumes that amused and/or angered me.
Remember when you could get pirate costumes that weren't just rip-offs of Johnny Depp's look in Pirates of the Caribbean?
Or, you know, they could have just called it a Princess Ai costumes, since I'm reasonably certain I've seen that exact same outfit on one of the dolls/posters/keychains/posters. Or actually in the comic even.
"Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog."
I do, however, suspect that the problem is with Blogger, not Haloscan.
Death Note Vol. 1 by Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata
Light Yagami is a bored teen genius who finds a notebook on the street. According to the instructions on the notebook, if he writes a person's name in the book, they will die. Out of boredom, he decides to test it. And thus begins a very strange contest of wills. I'm almost surprised at how much I enjoyed this. I expected a darkly comic teen angst story, and what I got was surprisingly sophisticated given its subject matter. On the one hand, there is the surface level story here of Light's attempts to make the world a better place by killing off those he considers undesirable, and the conflict that results between the equally brilliant and unseen detective L, who is determined to bring the mysterious mass murderer to justice. There's also, I detect, a mind-boggingly subtle satire of how teens view the world and their place in it. Light, it must be said, may be a genius, but he's also an egotistical megalmomaniac with a God complex and a sociopath. I almost can't help but read him as an indictment of the narcissim and self-centeredness of your average teenager. Which is one of the places where the "horror" element of the story comes in; the realization that anyone else in Light's position would almost certainly end up using the notebook for themselves as well. The other horror element is the inclusion of Ryuk, the shinigami (or, death god) who dropped the notebook in the first place. As drawn by Obata, artist on the popular amongst bloggers Hikaru No Go, he looks a bit like a figure from the cover art for a heavy-metal album, but he's surprisingly likeable and appealing a personality. Like Light, his primary motivation was boredom. He deliberately dropped his notebook into the human world to see what would happen. It's curious that the inhuman monster is more personable and likeable, and less monstrous, than Light, the supposed "hero" of the book.
Ghost Hunt Vol. 1 by Shiho Inada, from the novel by Fuyumi Ono
This was a very light read. The art was appealing, and it would make a good horror manga for a younger reader, lacking some of the more extreme art and relationships that tend to pop up in many other horror manga titles. The lead heroine, Mai, suffers a bit from "shojo manga girl syndrome" in that she keeps falling for the "bad boy" who doesn't treat her very well. And the male lead Kazuya Shibuya is a by the numbers "bad boy" lead. There is a large supporting cast, but they don't much rise above their stereotypical personality traits. In short, it's an inoffensive manga title, but nothing exceptional. If Del Rey hadn't released it so close to Halloween, I expect it would very quietly disappear without much comment.
The Wallflower Vol. 5 by Tomoko Hayakawa
The prior volume had a fun little Halloween themed story in it, but I just didn't want to miss mentioning this title had a new volume out, as it's one of my favorites and it doesn't seem to get much attention. In this volume, goth-girl Sunako's father comes by for a visit, anxious over this rumor he's been hearing about his little girl dating the violence-prone Kyohei. We also get a flash-back story detailing the days when the boys first come to the manor, and learn that Sunako isn't the only resident being groomed into a more socially presentable form.
And, of course, a new volume of Yotsuba was released. But you shouldn't need me to tell you how good it is.
See, I told you the monster count-down wasn't going to be what you expected...
I'm just not that into the traditional horror monsters. Vampires, zombies, ghosts, witches...they just aren't that scary. They're too strongly rooted in various folk traditions to strike me as anything but quaint. (I will confess to having a fondness for werewolves, but that's purely a symbolism thing, and nothing to do with the fact that werewolf movies generally have lots of male nudity.) Plus, they're too human. Let's face it, monsters should be strange, alien and weird. They should be outside human experience, not just a dead guy in a bad tux.
And so, El Chupacabras. I first became aware of him in the mid-90s. In Southern California we have a lot of slow news days, and a large Spanish-speaking population, so we started to hear about the mysterious creature in Puerto Rico killing livestock early on. It was mostly in a highly suspicious, "it's the Mexican version of Bigfoot!" style of reporting, but never outright saying that of course the animals were just attacked by wild dogs. I just thought it was a really cool looking monster, just preposterous enough to be really enjoyable. And those rows of spikes are so distinguished looking.
Wikipedia's Chupacabras page, notable mainly for explaining the entomology of the word and explaining why it looks like a plural in its singular form.