For those who came in late: Well, hello there! After a nice half-year nap, I’ve gone back to the magic keyboard to unleash my innermost thoughts onto a weary public, now, here on this fabulous new site Pop Culture Squad! I have some concept of what’s likely to happen at PCS – we’re in “soft launch” mode right now and lots of weird and synapse-melting things are coming down the pike, particularly in the realm of multimedia.
If you’re new to my sundry waxings, you’ll catch on pretty quick. Brainiac On Banjo is a line the late great Vivian Stanshall uttered in the song “The Intro and the Outro” on the very first Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band album, and that’s the same record that gave Death Cab For Cutie its name.
As one might infer, Brainiac On Banjo is about the ever-broadening world of comic books and related media. I’ve had some experience laboring in those fields forever and ever – if we haven’t already, I’ll probably have something of a bio up on PCS soon, as in “after I’m told to write one.” I’m also involved in lotsa other shit, like the Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind radio show (see below), and I’ll indulging in my most offensive political fantasies right here on Pop Culture Squad starting this Thursday.
Be warned. It’s been quiet out there.
I’m going to kick off the return of Brainiac On Banjo by doing something that might confuse or even startle long-time readers: I’m going to praise a DC Comics production without once writing about their unrequited passion for slapping the reboot button like a monkey in a crack experiment. Nope, not even once. Really.
Last week I read one of the best-conceived and best-written Batman stories since about the past four reboots since Steve Engelhart met Marshall Rogers. Yes, I know, this Batman-marries-Catwoman storyline has been hogging our Bat-attention spans for a few months now, and this book, Batman #49, is part of all that. Yes, I know, this Batman-marries-Catwoman storyline has been well-telegraphed, culminating in the wedding issue, Batman #50, which will be released this Wednesday. Yes, that’s the fourth of July. But if you work at a comic book shop, you know this because selling this comic will be what you’ll be doing instead of hanging out with your family and friends, doubtlessly counting thumbs before and after the fireworks. If you haven’t realized where DC’re headed and you’ll be busy this Wednesday, Sunday’s New York Times already outed the finale. Spoiler Alert: it’s right here.
Jeez, you just couldn’t wait, could you?
But let’s go back to the previous issue of Batman’s semi-monthly eponymous title. The one I’ve come to praise, not bury.
Written by Tom King and drawn by Mikel Janin, perhaps the coolest part of this story is that Batman does not appear in the story. It’s mostly a brilliant and revealing conversation between The Joker, who lusts to be Batman’s best man, and Catwoman, The Joker’s occasional partner-in-crime. Both are incapacitated, both are on the verge of bleeding out. While trying to out-game one another despite their circulatory issues, we learn a lot about what makes both characters tick.
They also spend some on-panel time discussing their fellow villains and the relationships they have had with them. Both bleeders talk about their take on such characters as The Penguin, Two-Face, and The Riddler – experiences they’ve had, impressions they’ve gathered, attitudes they’ve developed. To my sensibilities, these were the most interesting aspect of the issue by far.
Were they lying or exaggerating? Who knows. They are who they are. And I would say it doesn’t matter in the long run, but I already committed to not discussing those crack monkeys, remember?
Tom King has become the King of the Mountain of contemporary superhero writers, a mountain that is quite slippery and has been known to quickly turn to mud. He deserves the accolades – not only for this issue and this story arc, but for his work in general and, in particular, on the current Mr. Miracle twelve-parter.
You do not have to have read the preceding stories that lead-up to Batman #49, nor will you need to read Batman #50 if you don’t want to. This was a risky and challenging issue, something that one rarely sees in the midst of one of those Major Story Crossover Events (careful, Mike; you said you’d lay off those crack monkeys!) and it stands alone quite nicely.
Next week: I dunno. Maybe I’ll write about Nancy.
Our award-winning and creepy contributing editor Mike Gold also performs the weekly Weird Sounds Inside The Gold Mind ass-kicking rock, blues and blather radio show on The Point, www.getthepointradio.com and on iNetRadio, www.iNetRadio.com (search: Hit Oldies). Well, sort of. It’s been on hiatus for a while because shit happens. Weird Sounds will return with all-new shows streaming its heart out and your ears off starting, give or take, late this Sunday, July 8. He might explain what he meant when he said shit happens, and, maybe, why he persists on writing about himself in the third-person. Gold also scribes another weekly column for PopCultureSquad.com, Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind (get it?) each Thursday and, be warned, it’s chock-full of yummy political histrionics.