Adventures in Sound #24

Posted: January 31st, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

Panel from Sshhhh!
Story and art: Jason

Movie Club reminder: Enemy Mine is coming soon!

Posted: January 28th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

Just a friendly reminder that the current selection for Great Caesar’s Movie Club is Enemy Mine, a sci-fi classic of 1985 featuring a hairy Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr.’s interpretation of an alien speech impediment. Join in the fun, won’t you?

Due date: Tuesday, February 1

The deal: Write a review of this months’ selection, link it back to me and I’ll link back to you. Send me an e-mail or drop it in the comments so I know it’s there. Eazy-E!

Make contact: maxoromero [at] gmail [com]

In praise of Johnny Storm – no, really

Posted: January 28th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »

By now we all know Johnny Storm – the Human Torch of the Fantastic Four – is the latest victim of a comic book killin’ over at Marvel.

In typical fashion, the Torch died heroically if somewhat pointlessly in issue #587 of the Fantastic Four. (I’ll spare the details just in case someone hasn’t read the issue yet, but seriously, if you read comics at all you’ve probably heard by now that he’s gotten the kibosh). Everyone knows it ain’t gonna stick, and in a year or two (if not sooner), Johnny will be back in all his flaming glory. It’s such a cliche that I felt cliched just typing that out.

The casual frequency with which superheroes get whacked at both Marvel and DC is just one of the reasons it’s hard for me to think much of the Torch’s death. Honestly – and I might get flack for this – I’ve never been that big a fan of the Fantastic Four. Sure, I enjoy reading an FF book now and then but I’ve never done it regularly, much less so in recent years (though I hear Jonathan Hickman has done a good job of bringing back all the elements that make the characters great).

Another part of it is – well, who cares about Johnny Storm? On top of being members of one of the premier super-teams in history, Reed and Sue have the dynamic of marriage and kids. Ben Grimm famously has a clobberin’ personality wrapped in the rocky shell of the Thing, which itself comes with its own particular angst.

But Johnny? Johnny’s a somewhat privileged, handsome kid who likes to drive fast cars, hit on women and lucked into super-powers that an android also called the Human Torch had about 20 years earlier. He also doesn’t need to work since his sister Sue married the patent-rich genius Reed. Mostly, he’s a glory-seeking goof.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized THAT’S THE POINT. Of all the members of the Fantastic Four, the Torch is the character people can most relate to, especially when you consider that at the time he was created most comic book readers were kids themselves. Johnny is the pure joy of being a kid with super-powers whose only responsibility is to go beat up bad guys with the help of a loving family. Talk about wish-fulfillment.

With that in mind, pour a 40 for our fallen homie and celebrate the comic book life of Johnny Storm and his adventures as the Human Torch with me. Every Friday I’ll be posting a scene featuring Johnny in action, in repose or at his philosophical best, and together we’ll see what made him such an important part of the Fantastic Four. At least until they bring him back or something.

For now, hold your cigarette lighters high and sing along – I can’t think of a better way to memorialize the Human Torch, can you?

Showdown at the discount store

Posted: January 27th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »

Somewhere out there, I’ve got a rival. I don’t know anything about this person – young or old, man or woman, douche or righteous dude.

All I do know is this guy is buying all my comics.

Besides regular trips to my comic shop. I also tend to hit second-hand stores, library sales and used bookstores. (I’m still waiting to find that mythical garage sale where I’ll find a box filled with old titles that the owner is just giving away. And then, THEN my geek fortune will be made! I’ll be a king among nerds! Bwa-ha-ha-haaa!)

One place I’ve been hitting lately is Savers, which is sort of like a nicer and better organized Goodwill. Someone must have just recently donated part of their comics collection because I’ve been finding the most unexpected books there lately. Y’know when you go to a coffee shop and then when you get there you find out they serve pizza, too? Like that.

If you’ve ever pawed your way through boxes and jumbled shelves of books, you know that finding a decent graphic novel or trade -  much less one that’s in good condition – can be rare. When my wife and I were in Savers a few weeks ago I was poking around the books when I noticed a nearly new copy of The Chronicles of Conan, Vol. 14. “Huh,” I thought. “That’s pretty cool. And it’s going for four bucks?”

A no-brainer, right? I must’ve been in a coma at the time because I passed on it. First, I thought, “Oh, c’mon, this will still be here next time. Who else is going to be looking for comics here?” EXCEPT THAT THERE WAS. And the next time I looked for the Conan, it was gone – along with a couple of other titles I was looking at. Someone else was trying to ride the sudden wave of comics, and from then on it was a race.

There’s also the added twist of the store’s wholly inscrutable tag system. It’s more complicated than I want to get into, but the important part is that on Thursdays items with whatever colored tag chosen for that week are a dollar.

One. Dollar.

So not only was my recently discovered trove of trades going for cheap, one day out of the week some of them were really cheap. No wonder the good stuff was disappearing!

After that, if it was Thursday I was at Savers. There were some books I picked up tag or no tag – my rival was out there, circling like a shark waiting to gobble up what he could – but I’ve still managed to load up on trades and graphic novels for a buck each.

Not everything on the shelf have been winners (a lot of it, honestly, is crap), and some of it – like Dan Slott’s run on She-Hulk and J.P. Stassen’s Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda – are books I already have. But what I have picked up is either something I was interested in or could replace singles squirreled away in longboxes.

So far I’ve managed to pick up:

Three Shadows – Cyril Pedrosa

Betsy and Me – a collection of Jack Cole’s syndicated newspaper strip, sadly cut short after just more than two months by the comic master’s suicide in 1958.

Red Eye, Black Eye – A chronicle of the cross-country Greyhound travels of K. Thor Jensen

The Amazing, Remarkable Monsieur Leotard – The amazing and remarkably beautiful book by Eddie Campbell and Dan Best.

Superman: The Bottle City of Kandor – ‘Cause Daddy’s got to have his Silver Age Superman.

Desolation Jones, Vol. 1 – Warren Ellis writing, J.H. Williams III. ‘Nuff said.

The American Way – An entertaining, if sometimes heavy-handed, superhero story set in the simmering American South on the edge of the Civil Rights Movement; written by John Ridley and penciled by Georges Jeanty.

Flaming Carrot Comics, Vol. 6 – Absurdity in its purest, finest form as rendered by Bob Burden. Don’t you judge me.

Lone Wolf and Cub, Vol. 2 – The second book in the iconic series by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima. I somehow managed to pick this up for just 69 cents.

All told I’ve managed to  bring a  little more than $140 worth of comics home for about 10 dollars. I love my comic shop, but there’s no way I could (or should – they have to make a living, y’know) get even two of the same titles for nearly that price. Besides, any money I save is usually destined for monthlies and other trades anyway, so it’s all part of the comic book cycle of life.

And in any case, like most unexpectedly rich veins of precious gold, this one is about to run dry. Trades and graphic novels are becoming harder and harder to find lately – I’ve even taken to squinting at the children’s and non-fiction sections just in case there’s a mis-shelved book. I may have to admit that I’ve had a good run, but the inexpensive fattening of my collection is probably going to be a lot tougher from now on.

At least I can comfort myself knowing that times are lean for my shadowy rival, too. And it’s not like I’ve been sharing this sweet spot with anyone el …

Ah, crap.

Some words about Arizona

Posted: January 10th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

This blog hasn’t been a place for lots of political discussion, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. But like many people, I’ve been thinking a lot about the tragic shooting in Tucson, Ariz.

As most of you probably already know, Jared L. Loughner is being charged with murder and attempted murder in the deaths of six people (including a nine-year-old girl) and the injury of 14, one of whom is Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Giffords was the first one shot, and is believed to have been Loughner’s primary target.

To say this incident is horrific is to understate it. To characterize Loughner as a monster is beyond dispute. To lay the blame at the feet of politicians who practice what amounts to thinly veiled hate-speech, as well as the irresponsible media that blithely repeats it without question, is more than justified. Seeing a member of the comic retail community taking apparent joy in murder is repugnant.

The whole thing is maddening, and disgusting, and more complex than I’m willing to get into here. It probably seems ridiculous to say a superhero comic book could have something to say about an incident like this, but I was reminded of a particular comic I first read years ago that has stuck with me for its basic truth. It encapsulates a small part of how I feel about guns, and the people who would use them to carelessly, callously,  strike out at others.

I thought I’d share it with you – three short captions that, years later, continue to have an impact and relevance.

Captions from Batman #369
Writer: Doug Moench

Movie Club: Like Oscar and Felix, but with meteorites

Posted: January 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »

Way back in 1985, cinema gave a hungry public a celluloid feast it didn’t even know it wanted, a movie that served up a buddy movie on a platter of sci-fi warfare and, inexplicably, threw in a dash of Odd Couple-style romantic comedy.

And you know what that tortured string of metaphor means:

Enemy Mine

Starring Dennis Quaid as a human fighter pilot and Louis Gossett, Jr., as his lizardly Drac counterpart, Enemy Mine tells the story of two combatants in an interstellar war who end up stranded on a hostile world together. Will they kill each other, or learn to survive by depending on one another? And does someone really end up getting knocked up before it’s over?

I ain’t telling, but as the original tagline teased: “Enemies because they were taught to be. Allies because they had to be. Brothers because they dared to be.”

Awwwwww, yeah! Enemy Mine is available on Netflix DVD and streaming, so put on your alien bug-shell hat and let’s do this.

Now showing: Enemy Mine (1985)

Due date: Tuesday, February 1

The deal: Write a review of this months’ selection, link it back to me and I’ll link back to you. Send me an e-mail or drop it in the comments so I know it’s there. Eazy-E!

Make contact: maxoromero [at] gmail [com]

Great Caesar’s Movie Club review: “A Boy and His Dog”

Posted: January 5th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 4 Comments »

Let’s get something out of the way right from the start: A Boy and His Dog – a 1975 film featuring the unlikely combination of Don Johnson, Jason Robards and a shaggy dog at the end of the world – is not a good movie. It is, however, an entirely AWESOME movie.

The scene is what used to be the American Southwest after both World War III and World War IV, the second being a nuclear war that lasted five days and covered the entire globe. As you might suspect, the place is a shambles.

As part of the war efforts, the various governments got into some kooky stuff including ESP and animal intelligence, which apparently gave the world Blood, a telepathic mutt who gives Johnson’s Vic tireless history lessons when he’s not bird-dogging chicks for him in exchange for food. Thanks to an unfortunate side effect of the genetic tinkering that gave him his powers, Blood has a complete inability to forage for himself.

Like most of the people who are left, Vic spends most of his time just trying to survive, stealing or scavenging food when he can and trying to hide from the many dangers lurking around the wasteland. Women are a rare treat for Vic, and through a combination of mind powers and a sensitive sniffer – and after first extorting a bowl of popcorn outta the 18-year-old horndog – Blood manages to pinpoint one at a local movie screening (good news, both popcorn and porn will survive the apocalypse).

Side note: Vic’s attitude toward women is, let’s say, fucked up. Early on in the movie he’s angry because a woman he finds in a bunker is too mutilated to have sex with; oh, and also she’s dead. However, it’s implied that the “dead” part isn’t necessarily what puts the brakes on Vic. Also, he’s a rape ’em and leave ’em kinda guy, so y’know, ick. Also also, Blood calls Vic “Albert” for some reason. Just thought I’d throw that in as a palate cleanser.

Back to the story: The girl at the screening turns out to be Quilla (Susanne Benton), and after following her into some sort of underground vault and finding out she’s Into It, the pair fight off some raiders before spending the night in a giant boiler hiding from something called Screamers.

The audience never see the Screamers, and it is one of the greatest things in the movie. From the dialogue you get the idea that Screamers used to be human, people who have been mutated by the radiation and, like the Man-Thing, make people burn at their touch. In the tradition of old B-movies with rudimentary special effects and limited budgets, the Screamers are never anything more than a vague green glow and an unholy moaning that relentlessly gets closer, and closer, and …

It’s surprisingly effective, and an imaginative way to give the audience a brief and sidelong glance at the larger world in which the movie’s set.

Back in the boiler, Blood (dryly voiced by Tim McIntire) is badly injured and takes an instant dislike to Quilla. Turns out it’s for good reason, as after spending a night of sharing bodily fluids and tales of her life in the underground town of Topeka, Quilla knocks Vic out and runs home.

Luckily, she leaves her access card behind (hmmm …) and Vic and Blood track her to the entrance to Topeka. Lured by curiosity and the promise of booty, Vic decides to follow her down, telling Blood he’ll be back with food and help. Blood thinks this a pretty bad idea, but Vic – as usual – doesn’t listen. It’s the same sort of hard-headedness that’s going to get him in trouble back in Miami.

Once in Topeka Vic finds out that – surprise – it’s all a trap. Quilla was sent as bait to bring Vic to the village because … well, Topeka needs men. Healthy, fertile men, which sounds great to Vic until he finds out inseminating 35 women is going to mean being hooked up to a sinister-looking machine and a lotta screaming. And not the good kind.

If Vic had been paying attention in the first place, he might’ve noticed Topeka is a menacing police-state (natch’). And if that didn’t give him pause, he really should’ve thought twice about the way the town looks as if it’s straight out of the 50s, with everyone wearing dungarees and face-paint that would make a mime shudder.

Topeka is so aggressively weird that it’s creepy, and nearly throws the movie off the rails by being a complete left turn from what came before. But somehow it manages to fit, and I have to give credit to Don Johnson.

(And there is a sentence I never thought I’d type.)

Johnson is bratty, crude and vibrates with an adolescent energy that borders on dangerous, and he carries it throughout and does his job – he carries the movie. It’s not an easy task, considering, but he pulls it off.

Running the show in Topeka is Jason Robards, who as Lou Craddock is kinda phoning it in but, hey, he’s Jason Robards so he’s still pretty excellent. Robards is the one who planned Vic’s abduction and is also Quilla’s father (dun DUN duuun!). When he’s not hooking kids up to insemination machines he seems to spend his day sending people to “the farm,” an unseen place that nobody ever comes back from. He does this with the help of The Committee and an unstoppable hillbilly killing machine named Michael.

Soon enough, Quilla has second thoughts and helps free Vic, who promptly goes about being a dumb-ass and wrecking the place instead of just making his get-away. Luckily, the two make it back to the surface, where they find Blood on the verge of dying. Because of his injury and non-existent foraging skills, Blood is starving to death. Quilla urges Vic to leave Blood, telling him how he’s practically dead anyway and that Vic needs to get crackin’ on being a provider for her. Blood’s voice is slowing fading from Vic’s mind.  He’s being pulled back and forth between the two and …

And then you get the craziest, wrongest ending ever. I’m not going to spoil it here, but Ho. Lee. Crap.  It’s a finale that will have you laughing and groaning at the same time, and it’s perfect. If for nothing else than the ending, A Boy and His Dog is worth watching and then inflicting on your friends – it’s that kind of movie.


Movie Clubbin’!

The United Provinces of Ivanladia


Note: A Boy and His Dog is based on a Harlan Ellison short story of the same name, and it’s definitely worth a read.

Keep an eye out for the next Movie Club selection – to be announced soon!

Ahem …

Posted: January 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: | No Comments »