Saturday, June 28, 2008

Anyone up for Terror?

This week the Paramount is showing:

Frankenstein, Revenge of Frankstein, and The Haunting.

If you're up for it, I'm looking for movie going buddies. Here's the official Paramount schedule.

Monday: Frankenstein 7:00, Revenge of Frankenstein at 8:50
Tuesday: Revenge at 7:00, Frankenstein at 9:05
Wednesday: The Haunting 7:00
Thursday: The Haunting 9:10

I might try to go see Mary Poppins on Sunday. I love Mary Poppins.

Friday, June 27, 2008

My first Batman Comic!

About a year ago I was digging through some back issues at Austin Books and I stumbled across Detective Comics #519.

Detective Comics #519 is the first Batman comic I ever recall reading. I think my dad bought it for me and just dropped it on me at some point, right about the summer before third grade. I remember this for a somewhat specific reason, which I'll get to in a minute. It was also the only Batman comic I would read between 3rd grade and 5th grade.

The issue's writing is handled by two of my favorites from pre-Crisis DC. Gerry Conway on plot. Paul Kupperberg on script. Pencils are by a "Don Newton". I don't know Don's work, but its really, really nice. Well rendered in an illustrative style. I don't think this cover is Newton. It might be Aparo, but I have no idea.
(update: The cover is Aparo. And, sadly, it seems Don Newton died suddenly in 1984. Here's a web-gallery of his work for you to enjoy.)

The story is the second half of a tale (which began in the previous issue) wherein Batman confronts a terrorist holding Washington DC hostage with exploding blimps. Its actually a pretty cool story, with Batman unravelling the villain's scheme.

The problem: Not only is our terrorist wearing a grape-colored chauffer's outfit, his nom-de-crime? Colonel Blimp.

Not exactly a name geared toward striking fear in the hearts of the populace. And a little on the nose, I think. I am unsure why Conway and or Kupperberg slacked so badly on the villain's name, but there you have it.

Blimp is also awesome enough to give his henchmen themed outfits.

I can't tell you how much I would pay for exactly that same shirt.

Part of the plot includes Blimp's henchmen trying to hi-jack nuclear subs in the arctic. Robin heads off to run interference, which seems short-sited with his perpensity of wearing green undies and precious little else south of the equator. Fortunately, the Bat-team seem to have ready-to-wear bat-onesies.

Robin looks adorable in his little outfit.

I was especially impressed by a "Batman escapes from the exploding blimp" sequence. Well rendered, well-framed, and with the appropriate sense of tension. Jack Bauer, eat your heart out.

click on these panels for full detail

Now, THAT is an explosion. Well done, Don Newton! It's almost like you didn't use Hindenburg photo reference.

Now, why was this my last Batman comic for a while?

Back in the 80's, DC had opened the door to writers using the words "damn" and "hell". At the Steans house, profanity was taken with all seriousness. We could see movies with "dirty words", but it wasn't until the Eddie Murphy incident of 1984 that blue language began to creep into our household's entertainment with any regularity.

Marvel always substituted words like "blazes" for "hell". And in the X-books, people couldn't make a cup of coffee without telling someone "it hurt like blazes" or to "go to blazes". And I think, honestly, it was part of why I started reading Marve before DC. That, and Marvel was never was all-out weird and apocalyptic as DC could get.

Anyway, all I could recall about this comic 20-odd years later was that it had a swear in it somewhere. Lo, those many years ago I'd been pretty scarred by stumbling across a swear in my funnybook.

In fact, when my third grade teacher put some comics on a shelf for us to enjoy during quiet reading time, I was horrified to see the image of Colonel Blimp and Batman on one of the comics and made a special point of telling Ms. Martin that those batman comics were for older kids because they had swears in them.

After scanning the comic, this is the only use of any four-letter word in the entire comic:

Wow. I was a sensitive kid. My parents didn't even have to find this smut themselves, I was so busy self-censoring.

It was TWO YEARS before I read Batman again. And I honestly have no idea what happened to that copy of this comic. Just as I have no idea where my Bugs Bunny comics, etc... went.

But I don't think Ms. Martin ever pulled those comics off the shelf, for which I salute her

I don't think we ever saw the likes of Colonel Blimp appear again in the Batbooks. Perhaps because it was just a little tough to take even our Dark Knight seriously when he's delivering lines like:

So a salute to sweet, sheltered little Ryan and a life before he used swears with all kinds of regularity. And a salute to this comic, which is still really good after all these years.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

a TTSNB special: If I had a million dollars!

I may be jobless, but if I had me a million dollars, I know what I'd buy.

First, I'd get this, this and this. Then this. And then, improbably, this.

But after that...

Is an original Barris Batmobile too much to wish for? If so, I will take this.

The great thing about this $100 lawn ornament (2 feet tall) is that when Jamie would complain about it, I could tell her she was crazy for believing in Bigfoot Lawn Ornaments. I could pat her hand and tell her that maybe she'd seen a bear lawn ornament or something.

I found this in the SkyMall catalog while flying to Costa Rica, and its been on my mind ever since. But to dwell on the items of the SkyMall catalog is to invite madness.

"Suffering from head-weight exhaustion? Seeking better neck health? Noted Phrenologist Professor Poppycock's amazing new Spine-o-Extractor has already led to rejuvenation for others. Why not you? Only Professor Poppycock's Spine-o-Extractor provides the proper amount of lifting power necessary for the correct separation of vertebrae of the human backbone, which allows the nerve clusters to oxygenate. Enjoy better neck and head health! Professor Poppycock's Amazing Spine-o-Extractor is to the skull-support area what Cod liver Oil is for the humors of the human food-tract!"
Yes, I found this in SkyMall, too. $55 before S&H.

This really isn't that expensive if you have a job, but I don't. When it come to Trek, I'm Trek Classic all the way. And while I think phasers and communicators are cool, Tricorders are simply awesome. Buy me a tricorder here. And, yes, i would walk around with it in the background on all of your away missions.

This things is, like, 7 feet high. And costs $2500. Here's a link, if you want to buy it for me. I think it would look awesome in the corner where Jamie keeps the piano.

I have a Wii. Jason has an Xbox. There is no GTAIV for Wii.
I want to rob people and take their cars and go on shady missions around Liberty City.
But I, otherwise, really am happy with the Wii. But if I had a million dollars...

Mattel does a tip of the hat to Hitchock and Hedren. It's kind of weird, but... you know, if you're going to have really random crap in your millionaire mansion, why not this? Buy here.

Also, this Wonder Woman Barbie. No, seriously. I want a Barbie for the first time in my life.

While the arm in the photo in no way resembles The League's own guns, why not the Hammer of Thor?

You don't actually need to be worthy to lift this hammer, but you're going to need about $450, plus S&H.

Yes, truly I would impress all in an interview when they would ask for one of my strengths, and I would hold Mjolnir aloft and call the thunder down upon their brow.

While, of course, wearing my official Thor helmet.

Arden: The Abstract Impressionist of the Seas

A while back, Arden sent an original piece of artwork to the League of Melbotis.

I've been meaning to share since, oh, March. But I was getting a glass of water and looking at the picture as it was placed (by magnet) on our fridge. And it occured to me that I could get this thing posted.

Anyhow, here's Arden's depiction of a Blue Shark. I think its pretty good. The kid is either going to be a marine biologist or the next Monet.

Arden is, by the way, Jill and Jess's kid. He lives in Michigan, where there is a tragic lack of narwhals.

And, yes, if you send me your kid's drawings, I will post them.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A meandering post

Sorry about the lack of substantive posting. But, you know, not a whole lot to report. Jamie and I have been sticking close to the homefront, and not much has been going on.

Mer B.

Facebook is a strange and funny place. Thanks to Facebook, I think Jamie's circle of high school pals is having an impromptu reunion of some sort this fall.

But, I am not without people who once liked me.

This evening an old High School Chum called. For those of you KOHS folks, it was Meredith B., now married and still a Meredith B. Mer sounds great, and it was fantastic to catch up with her. And, yes, she'd found me on Facebook.

In high school I adored Meredith. She was smart, funny and if you were looking for someone to make spot on observational snark, she was your gal. We were in drama together, and were in plays from "The Crucible", to "All My Sons". And she a good actor, too, if I recall.

Meredith's moment of "the show must go on" took place when, in the middle of a show, she was supposed to be breaking ice with an ice pick and neatly stabbed her hand, just above the thumb. Meredith, being Meredith, just stuck her hand in the ice to slow the bleeding and then carried on the scene and then the play. Just one of many, many reasons why I tip my hat to the lady.

She's now in N. Carolina, married to a great guy and mother to three boys. My, how life marches on.

Bagging and Boarding

As for me:

I've been bagging, boarding, boxing and inventorying about 8-9 months worth of comics. Not all bad, but a little tedious. I've also set aside a stack of comics I've decided not to keep in the collection. Not bad stuff, just... it doesn't need to disappear into the closet in a polybag. I can share the wealth, if anyone wants me to send them some comics.

I'm increasingly of the opinion that I need to find a process for shedding some of the stuff I like reading, but won't ever return to. I will want to hang onto Action Comics and Superman, but the stack of Fantastic Four and Black Panther? A good read, sure... but I'm just not all that attached.

I am increasingly more pleased with my Superman comic collection, but its also true that it is a teeny, tiny fraction of the total published Superman comics over the years. There's just so much out there. And so little of it in reprint. With back-issues costing more than a new comic, my purchase of the back issues has to be managed. Lest Ryan go broke and crazy.

Still, it makes it a hobby, I suppose. If I could get my hands on all that stuff easily, what would be the fun?

Web Comics

Which makes me really, really wish Marvel and DC would get their @#$% together on the whole digital comics thing. How wasteful is it to have trees cut down and pulped, paper printed (using noxious chemicals), shipped (using fuel), and taking up space on a shelf, shoved in a plastic bag to take home, and then read in about fifteen minutes or less? And for obsessive guys like me, a ploybag and board?

Digital comics, DC and Marvel. Oh, I'll still pick up my paper copies of my collector titles (Superman, GL, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc...). And I might still pick up trade collections of series that were really good which I'd read online.

I want to love you, monthly installments, but you're killing the earth. You'd be cheaper if you had no physical form until I say you do. I do wonder what the tipping point would be for DC and Marvel before the cost of printing was high enough, and the cost of shipping impacted cost enough that retailers couldn't move the product...?

I wonder how strong web comics proponents (like Lea Hernandez) foresee the whole web-comics thing, if and when it plays out, affecting retailers?

I'm not trying to put the Direct Market out of business. That certainly seems like it would be an unintended side-effect. But I also wonder, if the cost were right, how that might affect the number of actual readers per comic.

Keep in mind, comics used to be shared and traded by kids, so the publishers saw only the profit of one purchase to something like 5-10 actual readers.

I'm just saying.

Ub Iwerks

Also watched a really good documentary on Walt Disney collaborator Ub Iwerks I recorded off Ovation, The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story. If you don't know who Ub Iwerks is/ was, I highly recommend reading up on the man. His contribution to animation is incalculable, and he later turned that same genius to film technology.

The documentary is well done, but seems cleaned up by Disney to make the history fit a little better into Disney's version of things ( I believe they produced or released the doc).

Anyhow, I'm going to be looking at those DVD collections of really inexpensive cartoons to see if they have any of the Iwerks non-Disney cartoons available.

Read here
and here
and here

Completely inappropriate Superman link

Whatever you do, do not click through to read the following article. Especially you, Mom. DO NOT CLICK THROUGH. DO SO AT YOUR PERIL.

Sent, of course, by Randy.

Superman Birthday #2

I'm not sure how many fictional birthdays Superman gets, but with 70 years of comics under his belt, it seems the Man of Steel has more than one. If you recall, February 29th has often been sited as Superman's birthday.

According to Comic Mix, apparently there's a pre-Crisis Superman birthday that falls on June 25th.

Go figure.

I like Superman and all, but I'm not getting him a present for every birthday he's going to have across the Multi-verse.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Stan Winston, RIP

I didn't go to film school so I could make movies about people feeling things deeply. I wanted to work on movies with shiny metal robots, gruesome aliens, fearsome dinosaurs and maybe a gorilla or two. The only director/ producer I ever wanted to be was, maybe, the Coens.

But, really, I wanted to be one of five people.

1) Chuck Jones
2) Early career Walt Disney (as I've aged, I see the appeal of being late career, crazy, world-building Uncle Walt.)
3) Rick Baker
4) Stan Winston
5) and, upon occasion, early career Lucas

I don't think it will come to surprise you that I watched a lot of sci-fi and genre movies. And at the conclusion of those movies, I would see the words "Stan Winston" related to the picture in some way. And I think if you check out a lot of great movies, you're going to find Winston's name somewhere in an IMDB listing.

Terminator. Predator. Aliens. All came out of Stan Winston's shop. And a whole heck of a lot more. For me, being able to bring those things to life always seemed as interesting, if not more so, than a lot of the rest of the movie-making process. Even if the movie wasn't all that great, Winston and his shop's FX were always amazing (ex: Congo).

I'm sorry to hear that Mr. Winston has passed away. I am certain that Mr. Winston's contributions to cinema will never be forgotten. He, and his team, have simply changed the way movie special effects, make-up, etc... work and how the audience can relate to special effects as characters in their own right.

Winston was part of the generation who took their artistry to the next level, turning B-pictures into blockbusters, and who understood how to blend how to blend fantasy and reality seamlessly within the frame.

We'll miss you, Stan. May your workshop carry your vision forward.

Monday, June 23, 2008

For JimD

This is exactly the sort of thing that make JimD embrace George Lucas and the Star Wars universe with both arms and give them a big hug and a sloppy kiss.

Olympics are coming...

We did absolutely nothing this weekend. Money is tight, and so expenditures need to stay low.

Saturday and Sunday, NBC was showing Olympic trials for "women's" gymnastics. And we also ended up watching some diving trials.

I confess, as I'm growing old and cynical, I'm increasingly skeptical of the whole Olympic enterprise. And poor Jamie, who loves the Olympics, is probably tired of hearing it, but...

The modern Olympics were sort of a friendly match of upper crust gentlemen meeting and playing some games, giving each other medals and going home. Today its been turned not just into a weird sort of opportunity for McDonalds to get their BigMac ads in between pole vaults (which is actually pretty understandable), but any notion that this is "friendly" competition seems naive at best, and propaganda at worst.

Somehow we've morphed what was amateur competition into young people loading themselves up with steroids (Ex: Marion Jones), and the weird mix of children who show promise and who are lucky enough to have stage parents who get their kids to practice 12 hours per day, almost every day in some gym so they can get their fifteen seconds. And forget the methodology employed in other countries where things are a little less democratic.

How many athletes don't we see who don't make he cut and make it to the Olympics and are still a part of the culture of doping and, (depending on how you think of it) exploitation of children, all we ever see are the folks who make the cut. Even the NBC coverage of the trials only focuses on the few who the NBC producers assume will make it. And, really, if you listen to the commentators, there's so much that's assumed about the trials, one has to wonder about how much is determined by scores and statistics, and how much is subjective in sports where winners aren't determined by things like "who threw the shot put the furthest", but by a squad of judges using some odd, indecipherable alchemy.

Perhaps its a blind spot in my make-up. I have no idea.

But I'll tune in. There are too many other sports and athletes who aren't pumping themselves (to the best of my knowledge) with HGH. There are sports that don't have a weird culture built in of judges, coaches and parents all wrapped up and making decisions that affect the outcome of the competition. And athletes I don't look at and wonder how much is weird parents, coaches, etc... trying to gather a bit of the glory, and how much is athletes trying to please those same people when that's the life they've known since they were eight or nine.