With Further Ado #96: Heavy Metal – Your One Way Ticket To Midnight

With Further Ado #96: Heavy Metal – Your One Way Ticket To Midnight

Way back in the 80s, when I was in college, it wasn’t really cool to read comics. Of course, I didn’t stop reading them. Occasionally, I’d lend my comics to my classmates so they could read them, but for the most parts, Marvel-type superheroes were viewed as silly or childish by many college students.

It’s funny, but I still remember having to scold Brian Winke (he lived down the hallway of dormitory) when he bent back the cover of my copy of Avengers #217.  I gave him a friendly lesson on the tragedy of spine roll and how it destroyed the condition of comic.   Clearly, comics were important to me, cool or not.

The one comic that I was never paused to read ‘in public’ was Heavy Metal. It was filled with strong art and adult themes.  Although, to be fair, “adult themes” often translated simply to excessive violence and topless robot girls.

The story I really enjoyed back then was Jim Steranko’s adaptation of Outland. That was a science fiction movie starring Sean Connery that was essentially High Noon in space.  It was serialized over a few issues, and Steranko was delivering stunning top-of-his-game pages each and every time.

But I inevitably drifted away from Heavy Metal over the years. Somehow, I’d categorize it as something adjacent to comics, but not really include it as part of my core comics purchases.

Now, in 2020, that might all change.  There’s a new sheriff in town.  Matt Medney is the new Chief Executive Officer of Heavy Metal. I caught up with him and he pulled back the curtain to share his vision and his plans for Heavy Metal. Continue reading “With Further Ado #96: Heavy Metal – Your One Way Ticket To Midnight”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #065: Grinding My Gears

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #065: Grinding My Gears

I recognize that having column inches such as I do grants me a public space to air my grievances. A place, in plain sight, to shoot straight and vent with hope in finding sympathetic ears. Such as it were, we all have these spaces — take the social media platform of choice, and let loose. But here, on Pop Culture Squad, I’m given a bit more leeway to stretch a would-be status message and let it get some height. Normally I’d save my ire for something specifically in the pop culture space (#relevancy), but, here I am stuck in quarantine — a nebulous vacuum of pop culture at present. So, I’m detailing several things in my life that are at very least pop culture adjacent that have been grinding my gears. Hopefully with a little venting, this tightening in my chest might relieve itself a bit. On with the ranting!

1. Virtual Events

With remote learning, and businesses needing to flock to tele-meeting spaces like Zoom, Facebook rooms, Skype, and the like… the population is tired of virtual fraternization. Save perhaps the concerts being put on by various musical artists who all happen to have sophisticated recording equipment in their homes… Zoom and the like are fast becoming tiresome. Yes, we all get it. You throw on a normal shirt, and keep the pajamas on under the gaze of your web cam. Ha ha. Woo. But every virtual event remains the same. We speak over one another, or have dueling monologues. Our kids crash in, and suddenly we’re juggling staying engaged, and remembering we’d literally like to be anywhere else. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #065: Grinding My Gears”

Everything We Read This Week – 5/20/20

Everything We Read This Week – 5/20/20

Welcome back to Everything We Read This Week. This is the place that we make our weekly trip through this week’s pull-list. It features mostly spoiler-free brief analysis and commentary of each book.

It has been two months since we got new comics in comic shops, and we are so excited to #BackTheComeback. Our local comic shop was only open for curbside delivery this week, but we eagerly put on our masks and headed out to get new comics.

We reviewed books from DC Comics, Boom! Studios, AfterShock Comics, AWA Studios, and Image Comics this week. It was a light week as Marvel Comics will resume their new comics next week on May 27th. As always, we hope you might find what we say interesting enough to try some of these comics. Don’t forget we welcome comments on these and any other comics that you read. Feel free to leave a comment and get the conversation moving.

And here are the books we read in alphabetical order:

Continue reading “Everything We Read This Week – 5/20/20”

Brainiac On Banjo #086: We Can Be Heroes

Brainiac On Banjo #086: We Can Be Heroes

There goes my hero / Watch him as he goes / There goes my hero / He’s ordinary — “My Hero,” written by Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel and Pat Smear, 1995.

Memorial Day, which we celebrate today because usually more gasoline is sold over three-day weekends, was still called Decoration Day when I was a child. It didn’t become a federal holiday until 1971, even though Decoration Day became a thing after the first U.S. Civil War. According to History.com, one of the earliest Memorial Day remembrances was organized by a group of freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina less than a month after the Confederacy surrendered in 1865.

In recent years, the definition of Memorial Day has grown to include all of those whose lives were sacrificed for the greater good. Today, we tend to call these people “heroes” and that would be okay had our definition of hero not been allowed to expand to those who do what all humans are supposed to do: help out those in need. That’s where I get a bit cynical. I’ll go along with the hero thing as long as we come up with an equally descriptive term for those who could but maliciously refuse to help out those in need.

I think you know the people I’m talking about.

Yesterday, the New York Times ran the front page I reproduced above. The story, of course, was continued on interior pages but I’m sure you get the point. This was one of the most appropriate front pages I’ve seen, and I’m the type of history freak that reads old newspapers for fun. I rarely go out of my way to praise the NYT, but fair is fair. It would take the effort of a much better writer than I to make the point any sharper.

Yesterday, I had an online conversation with a friend who is a veteran of our recent middle eastern activities, who, by the way, was wounded in the war. I don’t think he is a hero for having been wounded. I think he’s a hero for having been there in the first place.

Be that as it may, we discussed the Times’ use of the word “incalculable.” Obviously, if there’s a list, the number is calculable. That’s true, but I don’t think that was the point. I said it was the loss itself that was incalculable and not simply the number who have died thus far. For every name listed, there are an incalculable number of people who are severely impacted: friends, co-workers, family, online correspondents, vendors dependent upon their business, brothers and sisters in arms, teachers, nurses and physicians and others who have been there in your support system for years, and so on. The impact is truly overwhelming, particularly as it’s all been within the past ten weeks or so.

His initial thought was significant: we should be specific in our rhetoric. Damn near everybody has suffered a loss in this pandemic, and most of those who haven’t probably will before it’s all over. We bitch about our inconveniences, but we are still here to complain. In no way does that make the rest of us heroes. We are survivors, and we should be proud of that. Or, at the very least, appreciative.

We are living through a history we will tell our grandchildren about. My maternal grandfather died of the Spanish influenza that followed World War I, when my mother was about three years old. It took me quite a while to piece together that story. Today, history is no longer written by the winners — history is written every moment of every day, in print and online, with audio and video to flesh out the static pictures and provide a more accurate view, in the aggregate, for future generations.

I am fond of quoting philosopher George Santayana’s well-known aphorism “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I say “well-known,” but I remain amazed by how often I read the words of people in power who simply do not get that. I can’t understand why. Maybe power tends to erode reason.

Maybe it’s more the quest for power that erodes reason, particularly when that power is defined by money.

Yesterday, the New York Times made Memorial Day all the more memorable. Maybe we can’t avoid such disaster, but there is a great, great deal we can do to minimize the damage.

True to the present name for this holiday, we must never forget.

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #064: Dear Mr. Cornette

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #064: Dear Mr. Cornette

Dear Corny,

Can I call you Corny? Probably not. I don’t know you personally. But I address you as such because you’re undeserving of a more formal address like Mr. Cornette.

I wanted to write you today to specifically respond to a few of your opinions you’ve infected the world with lately. Specifically these:

On WWE’s Becky Lynch (Rebecca Quinn):

“This is a multi-million dollar talent and she tells me she’s pregnant? What the fuck?” Cornette continues. “This is like one of the boys breaking his leg on purpose while he’s on top. You can control this, this is not like a fuckin’ injury. This could have been controlled. It’s not like I don’t never want them to have children, but when both of you have top spots where you can make seven fuckin’ figures a year and blah, blah, blah. Wait three years and have a fuckin’ baby.”

And on WWE’s Dana Brooke (Ashley Sebera):

“Her entire face looks like it was remodeled after somebody set fire to it and put it out with an axe. What the f**k has happened? Did she do that on purpose or was she in a horrible accident? What the f**k?”

Well, Jimmy? Let’s get a few caveats out of the way. You’re entitled to hold any opinion you want. You’re more than welcome to spread that opinion on any platform willing to present you. And folks who follow you have the right to agree with your musings. Cool? Cool. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #064: Dear Mr. Cornette”

Weird Scenes #089: Suicide Is Painless

Weird Scenes #089: Suicide Is Painless

That game of life is hard to play / I’m gonna lose it anyway / The losing card I’ll someday lay / So this is all I have to say / Suicide is painless / It brings on many changes / And I can take or leave it if I please — Suicide Is Painless (theme for movie M*A*S*H), written by Johnny Mandel, 1970

As tempting as it is, we just cannot go around saying “100% of us believe…” or “everybody feels…” We know that’s ridiculous; there are 7.8 billion people on this planet as of this writing, and most of us couldn’t agree on where to go for lunch.

So I will not state “100% are stir-crazy and would gnaw our right arms off to leave the house and go to…” whatever. However, I would not be the least bit surprised if 99% of us felt that way. Maybe we can get together and T-P the houses of that other 1%.

No. Wait. Is there still a toilet paper shortage? I wouldn’t know. I haven’t been permitted to enter any building other than my own for… jeez, about 10 weeks now. I did drive around the neighborhood last week, just to give my car some reassurance, and I was surprised at how little had changed. But I was more surprised at how few cars were on the road, how empty the parking lots were, and how easy it would be to park at the train station.

I’m also surprised at how clean the air seems. This figures — with fewer people driving, we have less ground dinosaur bits clogging our atmosphere. This latter fact frightens the crap out of the oil and gas industry, which has been hell-bent on choking us to death in the name of dividend checks and nine figure annual employment packages. Some of these greed-driven killers are down to their last 50 million bucks.

I have little doubt that this is one of the chief reasons we are being pushed over the brink of insanity with constant reminders of how wonderful it will be to get out of the house and go to restaurants, sports events, family reunions, and, I dunno, maybe orgies. Don’t forget your condoms; you wouldn’t want to catch a disease, would you? Continue reading “Weird Scenes #089: Suicide Is Painless”

With Further Ado #95: Go Big [or Go] and Stay Home

With Further Ado #95: Go Big [or Go] and Stay Home

We all know that phrase: Go Big or Go Home!  It’s a clarion call to seize the day and to live large. It’s not always the best advice, but sometimes it’s just what’s needed.  So during this crazy lockdown time, let me call your attention to a few treasures that literally decided to “go big!” while we all stay home.

 

Joker/Harley Quinn Criminal Sanity
Written by Kami Garcia
Art by Mico Suayan and Mike Mayhew
Black Label, an imprint of DC Comics

While I’m generally not a big Harley Quinn fan, I’ve been a big Mike Mayhew fan ever since his days on Topps’ Zorro and Lady Rawhide with the incomparable Don McGregor.  Mayhew has gotten even better over the years, and today he entertains readers with his off-the-charts artistic talent in the new Joker/Harley Quinn series.

This story is a multi-part series told in thirty-two page increments in DC’s oversized Black Label format. To me, it has the feel of a European comic. Much of story is told in B & W , and that makes it so very, very  evocative of an old Warren or Marvel Magazine.

The “other artist” Mico Suayan, is just fantastic. I’ve enjoyed his work on Valliant’s Bloodshot. Suayan unfurls his artistic wings with majesty and grace in this larger-than-usual formal. Continue reading “With Further Ado #95: Go Big [or Go] and Stay Home”

Preview Review for the Week of 5/20/2020: Disaster, Inc. from AfterShock Comics

Preview Review for the Week of 5/20/2020: Disaster, Inc. from AfterShock Comics

Welcome to the latest installment of Preview Reviews.  This is where we give advanced glimpses at some of the comics that will be coming out this Wednesday.

There are new comics in comic shops TOMORROW!!!

Since it has been a while, here is a reminder for you. Here at Pop Culture Squad, we are decidedly Anti-Spoiler.  We feel that ruining someone’s experience with something for the sake of getting a scoop or clicks is the wrong thing to do. Therefore, we have decided to publish this column, as necessary, with mostly spoiler-free reviews of upcoming issues.  Hopefully, the information that we share with you will increase your excitement for these books.

This week we feature a new book from AfterShock Comics. It is Disaster, Inc. #1 by Joe Harris and Sebastián Piriz and lettered by Carlos Mangual.

You can find Disaster, Inc. at your LCS on May 20, 2020.


Disaster, Inc. #1
AfterShock Comics
Written by Joe Harris
Art by Sebastián Piriz
Letters by Carlos Mangual
Cover Art by Andy Clarke with Jose Villarrubia

Original Solicitation:

In 2011, the worst earthquake in Japan’s history (and the catastrophic tsunami that followed) breached the costal Fukushima Daiichi power plant, causing three of its four nuclear reactors to melt down. Forced evacuations followed as the event released enough radioactive material into the air, ground and water to force officials to set up an “Exclusion Zone” for only the second time in history after the Chernobyl disaster, effectively sealing off the land for what may well be the rest of human history.

But that’s only if you don’t have the right connections, the right people to pull the strings, and the desire to experience catastrophe, failure and misery as it really is! Enter DISASTER INC., an underground tourism outfit intent on helping people of means, secrets and agendas explore the dark corners and off-map attractions typical tour groups won’t go to (and various laws don’t allow). Only Fukushima, known for its famed warrior class and their protection of the land and people dating back to ancient times, is full of deadly surprises and old ghosts.

Writer Joe Harris and artist Sebastián Piriz begin a disaster tour checking out the worst places on earth while digging up more trouble than they can probably handle. Then, in a world on fire and rife with calamity, catastrophe, war and unrest… you’re going to need the right guides to see it for yourself!

PCS Review:

This book is gripping and bold. The premise is intriguing and innovative while at the same time taking aim at some familiar themes. Joe Harris has the pacing set excellently. The unfolding events of the conflict are captivating, and the characterization of the individuals has the reader wondering just how weird this thing will get.

Sebastián Piriz does an excellent job in this book of visualizing a beautiful yet scarred landscape. The character designs are lovely and expressive. This is just a gorgeously rendered book. The color work that Piriz employs is well rendered and there is a lightness to this first issue that the reader expects to change as this series moves along deeper into the story. Carlos Mangual letters this book in a smart and effective way. His lettering is a major asset to the storytelling.

This is a fantastic debut issue to a captivating story.

 

You can also check out an interview that we did with Joe Harris here.

Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Writer Joe Harris

Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Writer Joe Harris

Welcome back to another spotlight interview. In this session, we spoke with award-winning comics creator and screenwriter Joe Harris.

Joe has a written a new comic, Disaster, Inc., debuting this week from AfterShock Comics. It is drawn and colored by Sebastián Piriz and lettered by Carlos Mangual.

He has written for Marvel, DC, Image, IDW, and Storm King Comics, among others. He is well known for shepherding the return of The X-Files to comics at IDW beginning in 2013. Some of his other titles include: Great Pacific, Snowfall, Rockstars, Slingers, and Surviving Nuclear Attack.

Harris also wrote the screenplay to Sony Pictures’ Darkness Falls. His style is very character centered and his creator owned work tends to cling to the horror or speculative fiction genres.

We were excited to get a chance to talk to him about his writing process and also how he is dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic while living in New York City.

You can find the audio recording of our discussion below, and we transcribed a big portion of it for you as well.

We hope you enjoy the conversation.

DOWNLOAD

Pop Culture Squad: So, thanks for doing this. Before we get into anything, how are you feeling?

Joe Harris: I feel good. I’m looking into getting an antibody test soon. So, I can know, one way or another, if I have had COVID-19 or not. I was symptomatic a few weeks ago. I think you remember. So, who knows.

PCS: Well, I am pretty confident that you had it based on the symptoms you were describing. You documented the illness while you were in isolation, and then you sort of disappeared for a day. It’s scary, and it is a scary time for everyone. For all those people who are down playing the seriousness of it, people are dying. You live in the center of the worst of it.
What’s that like being in New York right now?

JH: Um, Kind of surreal. I mean, at this point, it’s kind of shocking at how normal everything has become… There are things you’ll probably get angry about this stuff no matter where you go. You probably see somebody not wearing masks. You’ll see people that aren’t keeping adequate distance, but for the most part New York, I think, by and large, considering how big it is, has done a decent job.

I don’t know how that comes out in the wash when you think about the amount of dead and the number of infected, but it seems like at least for a stretch the city was doing what it could. It is a little less desolate now though. I can hear more people out on the street. I don’t hear as many ambulances.

Which makes sense considering, that the emergency rooms aren’t has overrun as they apparently were. I don’t know when we come out of this. It’s been a little surreal. So, it’s hard to imagine how everything goes right back to normal. That much I don’t see; I don’t know what would looks like or what that will feel like. The city just kind of adapts. I haven’t been down in the subway in months, and I expect it will be sometime before I am again.

PCS: Let’s get into some comic stuff. We know that Disaster, Inc. is the first book that Aftershock is going to be shipping through Diamond when the restart happens on May 20th. So, what do you want to tell people about the book? Continue reading “Spotlight SquadCast Interview with Writer Joe Harris”

Brainiac On Banjo #085: Crossing The Stream

Brainiac On Banjo #085: Crossing The Stream

Star Wars! / Give me those Star Wars! / Nothing but… Star Wars / Don’t let them end — written by Nick Winters, 1977

With all the streaming at our fingertips, the entertainment business is making a lot of headlines promoting what they’re going to do once Earthlings return to mobility. But don’t get excited just yet: the only cameras operating right now are working Zoom and not Studio Binder. When Keith Richards self-quarantines, everyone should self-quarantine.

Next week’s launch of HBO Max has turned up the heat. Clearly, studios are concerned about competing for subscribers with promises of new content, which, at best, won’t appear until after the winter solstice. My take on HBO Max is simple: it’s goddamn expensive, and right now they’re running little but reruns. It’ll probably work out because they’re not promoting that fact. But reasonable bean-counters understand that few people are going to maintain subscriptions to HBO Max, Disney+, AppleTV, CBS All Access, Peacock Premium, and Amazon Prime – to name but a very few – all at once. That’s a lot of money, and it’s also more programming than one can handle. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #085: Crossing The Stream”