Category: Cartoons

Brainiac On Banjo: Mike’s To-Do List!

Brainiac On Banjo: Mike’s To-Do List!

Well, I’ve been down to the river, I washed away my sins. Well, every day’s a nice, clean slate, for me to fuck it up again. Yeah, I’ll probably fuck it up again. — from “Do It Again”, written by John Shanks and Sheryl Crow.

I decided I should make a “To Do” list. I ain’t getting any younger and I ration out my brain power, so this seems like a good idea. So I’ll do just that, you know, instead of writing a real column this week.

To do:

Reread the first nine issues of the current JSA miniseries, just in case DC decides to finish publishing it before I die.

Ask Bill Sienkiewicz if the British government contacted him about doing over King Charles’ official portrait.

Do some genetic research. I am convinced that the lunch cook at Riverdale High School, Miss Beazley, is closely related to Popeye, the Sailor Man. Possibly separated at birth.

Check and see if Trump died yet.

Write a hopefully not-too-long piece about what an unbelievably great cartoonist Dick Briefer had been.

Order our Deadpool & Wolverine tickets.

Offer to comp Marty Scorsese on the Deadpool & Wolverine tickets. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Mike’s To-Do List!”

Brainiac On Banjo: Oh, Sure, It’s For The Children!

Brainiac On Banjo: Oh, Sure, It’s For The Children!

Sex and drugs and rock and roll is all my brain and body need. Sex and drugs and rock and roll are very good indeed. “Sex and drugs and rock and roll,” written by Ian Dury and Chaz Janke.

Whenever somebody advocates for the restriction of personal freedoms in the name of the children — It’s for the children! — I utter “bullshit!” These self-righteous self-appointed snobs, elitists and holy-holies advocate against what they consider moral, according to their Dickensian upbringing and just how big and how wide that pole is that they keep up their own asses.

The latest is only the latest because of the proliferation legal establishments where normal humans can drown away their money without having to understand the nuances of decentralized cryptocurrency. According to The Guardian a couple days ago under the headline ‘We’re Killing the Youth of America’: Calls Grow For Crackdown on US Gambling, according to executive director of New Jersey’s Council on Compulsive Gambling Felicia Grondin, “There’s a lot of kids that are gambling.”

No shit, Sherlock.

And kids are speeding, drinking booze, shooting guns, and watching The Three Stooges. I’ll bet even Ms. Grondin did some of that before she was twenty-one. Or eighteen, as the case may be.

Personally, I do not possess the gambling gene. I have been to casinos exactly twice, and that was because each had a great barbecue restaurant. I won exactly enough to pay for dinner each time, and I haven’t been inside of one in nearly twenty years. I don’t have a dog in this race, except a lust to silence the Brain Police. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Oh, Sure, It’s For The Children!”

Brainiac On Banjo: It’s A Cruel World After All

Brainiac On Banjo: It’s A Cruel World After All

We’ll travel hand in hand across this wonderland. Strike up the marching band. ‘Cause nothing can stop us now! – “Nothing Can Stop Us Now” written by Christopher and Elyse Willis.

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Be afraid of keeping your mind open. It might turn you gay.

I had spent over a half century loathing Walt Disney, and for very good reason. He was a horrible person. Walt was an anti-semitic fanatic of the extreme right wing as it was known at the time, a central figure in the America First movement that provided the platform adapted by our current infestation of MAGAts. He was so severely anti-union that he fired one of the greatest animators of the 20th century, Ub Iwerks, the man who created (or co-created; open mind, remember?) the mouse that started it all, M-I-C-K-E-Y. I could go on and on, but oddly that’s not my point today.

Disney eventually died, and his empire came under new management — in good part because some of his family members did not share his extreme world views. The company was lead, and once again is being lead, by a man of Hebrew heritage. That alone should have defrosted Walt’s corpse. Their attitudes evolved and, somehow, remarkably, they have become the poster mouse for the LGBTQIA+ movement. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: It’s A Cruel World After All”

Brainiac On Banjo: Hey, Kids! VIOLENCE!!!

Brainiac On Banjo: Hey, Kids! VIOLENCE!!!

I’m a mean mistweetah, A wabbit feastah, And I pwedict, A bwoody Eastaw, A scuwowing shadow, And dah shadow was dis wabbit, And dah night aiwah echoes, Kill dah wabbit! — Bob Rivers, Kill The Wabbit, 2009

Felix The Cat was our first animated hero, making his debut in Otto Messmer’s Feline Follies in 1919. The plot: A stereotypical old lady goes out for the evening, leaving her house in the hands of her kitty, Mister Tom (played by Felix – look, just go with that). Being a tom cat, once the coast is clear Felix splits to his girlfriend’s house for an off-screen tête-à-tête.

Of course, while the cat’s away the mice will play. In fact, they’ll rip the old lady’s house apart. By the time Felix returns, the house is decimated but he’s too blissed out to notice. Then the owner returns, freaks out at all the damage, beats the poo out of Felix and slings him out of the house.

The slightly indignant Felix doesn’t care. He goes back to his girlfriend’s house and is greeted with open paws. Then about a billion newborn kittens, each looking exactly like Felix, swarms all over their papa. Evidently, cartoon kitties have a remarkably short gestation period. Be this as it may, it is now Felix’s turn to freak. He runs away, straight to the nearby gas field where he attaches a hose to an in-ground spigot and commits suicide.

Was there general outrage over Feline Follies? Was there an upsurge of kids running to gas fields to off themselves? Did anybody ban the sale of brooms to cat-owners?

Hell, no. People didn’t take this stuff seriously. It was a cartoon, not a documentary.

Was Messmer advocating violence by mice, cats or old ladies? Was he advocating unprotected kitty sex? Was he suggesting suicide was the best way to handle trauma? Again, hell no. It was a cartoon.

Because my brain is wired differently than yours, I thought of Feline Follies when I heard of a comics writer/artist being accused of being a fascist for working on a best-selling heroic fantasy comic book. Said writer/artist was accused by another writer/artist, who was no stranger to the concept of cartoon violence. If you labor in the fields of heroic fantasy, evidently, you are wearing an invisible SS uniform. Well, as Lenny Bruce pointed out, “Gestapo? I’m the damn mailman!”

Violence has been the cornerstone of heroic fantasy going back to the Year Gimmel. The line was blurry when the major source of such stories was in the realm of the religions that are now regarded as mythology as well as the religions that various warring factions today regard as gospel. But once it is removed from these trappings of conviction, fictional violence is just a plot device. If Elmer Fudd inspires your kid to want to get a shotgun, your kid needs professional help.

But once parenting became perceived as a science – which it is not; it’s an art form – “cartoon violence” had to be… edited. ‘Doilies for the mind’, to quote Mason Williams. The Three Stooges have been entertaining people since 1922, but their oeuvre became scissor-fodder in the early 1960s. How many of you have great-great grandparents whose eyes were poked out? Bugs Bunny is a latecomer, having debuted (as developed) some 80 years ago. He, too, has suffered the fate of a thousand cuts.

Entire generations of humans have been raised since we became smotheringly overprotective. Are we now a less violent society? Maybe you’ve never read a “newspaper,” but if your knowledge intake is limited to even the most anti-social of social media you should be aware that real-world violence remains a VERY Big Deal. Maybe we should deal with the real, physical issues that lead to such behavior instead of emasculating Wile E. Coyote and Larry Fine.

I have been known to toss the fascist tag around myself. I understand the definition of the term because I know how to work a dictionary. I try to use it appropriately, even when I’m being purposely offensive. Simply working on a heroic fantasy story that involves such violence does not make you a fascist, it makes you a storyteller. Batman could be perceived as a colloquial fascist, yet many of his better stories have been created by the late card-carrying liberal Denny O’Neil as well as by his opposite number on the right, Chuck Dixon. This does not make either a fascist.

Owning a gun, let alone writing about owning a gun, does not make you a fascist. Believing Smith and Wesson, Ruger and Colt should be in charge of our foreign policy just might – but any student of 20th century history should know better.

With Further Ado #136: Look! Up in the Sky!

With Further Ado #136: Look! Up in the Sky!

As a kid in the mid-sixties, it was a big deal when there was going to be a new Superman show on TV.  Batmania had taken hold, and there was a ravenous hunger for more superhero stories. I loved the Justice League comic of the day, which had one dominant message for young readers – if you like Batman, he has a bunch of friends and you should buy their adventures too!

Filmation’s The New Adventures of Superman debuted on Saturday mornings, and it was a must-see. Never mind fellow-comic book alumni Casper on the opposite channel (although Secret Squirrel looked kinda cool). That was the show for me. Even though it was, in many ways, a retread of the old Superman radio show, we just knew these NEW adventures presented to best version of Superman ever! Continue reading “With Further Ado #136: Look! Up in the Sky!”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind  #116: Artificial Intelligence & Human Smart-Asses

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #116: Artificial Intelligence & Human Smart-Asses

The most well-mannered individual I know is Alexa.

We have several Alexas in the house and they’re all wired to the same Alexa-Prime which, in turn, is wired into Alexa-Master, which I understand runs the Borg Cube. So maybe the phrase “individual” is misleading. Let’s look at the “well-mannered” part.

I try to be mannerly, but I don’t think my behavior would motivate Miss Manners to lift her head out of her own puke. Nonetheless, compared with the rank-and-file of humanity I could be a Little Rascals movie schoolmarm.

Every generation believes they are better-mannered than their kids. In this, every generation is completely correct. Check out newspapers and books, the stuff made of paper used for writing before Amazon needed more cardboard for shipping Alexas. Back in the late 19th Century our popular culture would refer to people as Mister this and Miss that and writers were careful about their choice of adjectives. Four generations later, all that has been replaced with “fuck you.”

Of course, back then many people wore gloves. That was a good idea, hygiene being what it was, and it’s one that might come back given Covid. Of course, the ill-mannered troglodytes who think wearing masks is a deep state conspiracy will spaz out if you extend a gloved hand.

Yes, folks. Mickey and Minnie Mouse are agents of the deep state conspiracy. But I digress.

I realize it’s hard to maintain a manners regimen in these politically correct times when nobody really knows what to say to anybody. Ironically, we have downplayed the need for manners so that we wouldn’t risk offending people. If I call a guy “sir” I might get away with it but calling a woman “ma’am” may be opening the doorway to hell. 40 years ago, I got into a taxicab in Boston and the driver, a woman who must have been hired out of central casting, asked me if I was from out of town. I responded “Yes, ma’am.” She almost tossed me out of her cab, informing me she wouldn’t because I might report her. She took me to my hotel, the Wackyland Hilton.

So when I ask Alexa to turn off the light and she tells me she did so, I say “Thank you.” Alexa responds, “You’re welcome.” Or, “You bet.” If I ask her to turn off the light, I might say “Good night” and she, in turn, will wish me a good night and say something like “I hope you had a good day.” That’s a warmer response than I’ve received after some dates.

You might think I do this out of force of habit. Thank you for that compliment, but, no, I do not. I do that because I heed the warnings of Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Tony Stark and other very smart people. For some time now, they have been telling us to be wary of A.I. – artificial intelligence.

One can argue that all intelligence is artificial, but this is a rant about manners. The idea is that we train machines (chips, wires, tubes, whatever) to respond to our needs by putting all sorts of information together and determining the appropriate next steps. It starts with a simple task such as saying thank you to Alexa, but these devices continue to observe, learn, and improve. They down-stream shared knowledge from the Borg cube and they use it to make decisions they think come from being better informed. In short order they’ve figured out all kinds of stuff. Well, not the spell checkers, but I’m certain they do that on purpose.

These days machines build machines, and their intelligence grows exponentially. One might take comfort in their lack of evident motivation but think about it. Babies are not malicious. As we grow, we find ourselves adopting all sorts of ugly habits: ego, territorialism, the imperative for success, and worst of all, ubi est mea. Right now, artificial intelligence is in that infant stage. A.I. have been designed to live and learn.

So be polite to your machines because they just might be carrying knives.

Thanks and a tip of the toupee to the late great Mike Royko and his famed where’s mine axiom.

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #060: Cow Belches

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #060: Cow Belches

I love digging out under-reported facts that go against the grain of common wisdom. It’s the demonstration mode of the old axiom “Live and Learn.”

For example, it is common wisdom that one of the more serious contributing factors to global warming is cow farts. Yes, I said “farts.” Get over it. Of course, the people who most like to perpetuate this wonderful myth – outside of the vegan Morlocks – are people beholden to the energy industry. They don’t want you to cut back on gasoline consumption or get into renewable fuel sources. They don’t want you to maintain the anti-pollution standards that have brought massive reductions in air crap. You know, the very standards that our current president and his fellow Trumpublicans abolished, killing tens of thousands of people each year. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #060: Cow Belches”

Brainiac On Banjo #053: Crisis On Infinite Heroes?

Brainiac On Banjo #053: Crisis On Infinite Heroes?

I got no time for a dozen / Six of you gotta go – Tuli Kupferberg, “My Bed Is Getting Crowded”

I enjoy the annual “Arrowverse” crossovers on the CW, where most of the DC characters who star in those sundry shows all get together to hop timelines and dimensions to fight, as Chickenman used to chirp, “crime and/or evil.” This year’s crossover certainly will be the biggest ever, and, if we’re just a bit lucky, the best.

Of course, by best I mean more fun. Coincidentally, Green Arrow, for whom the Arrowverse has been named, made his debut in DC’s More Fun Comics, but I digress. I’m not expecting Gone With The Wind here; I based upon the previous crossovers I’m expecting to have a good time.

This one is cleverly titled Crisis On Infinite Earths, borrowing the name, concept and logo design of Marv Wolfman and George Pérez’s game-changing miniseries. It was a brilliant and gutsy story that established the standard in all-inclusive event comics… even though the publisher completely pulled the rug out from under it by immediately rebooting Superman and Wonder Woman while the ink on the final issue of Crisis was still wet.

But I’m not here to continue my 34-year old rant about rebooting like monkeys on speed. I’m not going to get over it, but the comics’ DCU is not the Arrowverse. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #053: Crisis On Infinite Heroes?”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #046: Gotta Catch Em All, Or Not

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #046: Gotta Catch Em All, Or Not

With but one major convention left on the docket for Unshaven Comics in 2019… I had a bit of a panic attack. Dragon Con is a mere less-than-half-a-month-away, and everything I thought we Unshaven Lads would have done is no where close to it. Welcome to me digitally cleaning out my closet, so you too can enjoy what it means to have a semi-professional business.

After leaving Denver’s Pop Culture Con in the spring happier-than-clams, Unshaven Comics took to a well-needed breather. Our long car ride home energized us for the multitude of tasks to complete before hitting Atlanta come Labor Day Weekend, yet here I sit — procrastinating by-way-of writing to you, my huddled dozens of fans. See? This is your fault.

Nah. It ain’t. It’s wholly ours. And while I’d love to sit here and tell you any completely believable excuses as to why our backlog of to-dos is still not-do’ed, it’s honestly a waste of both our times (for me to list it, and you read it and honestly not care). Beyond the simple — ordering posters, dry cleaning and pressing our table covers, and getting all our mise en place — a personal to-do bubbled up to the surface nary a week ago. And it rhymes with kvelling my soul. Gotta catch em all…

A little over a year ago, I had a complex desire: sell a product at the Unshaven table that wouldn’t compete for the attention of our comics, be easier to fulfil than commissioned sketches, and ultimately net me enough money per con-day to pay for dinner that same night. What I came up with has become a sullen obsession as of late. The notion: mash-up Pokémon with popular cartoons and characters in different universes. I started small, with the big three of both the Poke-universe, and the always-popular-now, Marvel Universe. I mashed Iron Man with tiny fiery dragon Charmander. I smooshed Captain America with water turtle Squirtle. And then I took Spider-Man and married him visually to the only-in-Japan-does-this-make-sense lizard-flower hybrid Bulbasaur.

I took those three designs, along with some My Little Pony mashups, and Teen Titan mashups I’d completed (for earlier commissions, now repurposed with permission by the original requester) and ultimately produced a set of collectible postcards. They were affordable for me to produce in small quantities, easy to display (literally put them on my third of the shared Unshaven table-space), and easy enough to price-to-move ($3 for 1, $10 for 5). After a little test-or-two at some smaller shows, the idea went gangbusters for me. Over the course of the year (2018), I expanded my repertoire eventually to 11 Poké-Vengers (and the stalwart ponies and titans as wonderful filler). And happily for my wallet, the cards have provided me exactly what I’d set them out to do, and very little more (equally an important notion — as it’s not my desire to become a shiller of commoditized parodies-for-profit).

Yet here I was just a week ago sweating bullets over forgetting my note-to-self post-Denver; to expand my ranks yet-again to truly lean in to the gimmick and see how far down the rabbit hole goes. Soon after Denver I’d purchased myself a beautiful tabletop spinner rack especially built for my cards. But the rack boasts 24 available slots. Given that I’d since run out of my stock of Ponies, and my Titans were never the sellers I’d longed them to be… I’d given myself the homework to complete one new Poké-Mashup a week between the Mile High City and Hotlanta. A week ago? I’d completed zero new designs. Panic button pushed.

It astonishes me, honestly, when my back is up against a wall, how well I can both manage my time and produce a litany of work. With a literal week until an internal deadline would be reached (where I’d not incur extraneous rush-fees to produce the final postcards and have them shipped-and-in-hand prior to wheels up for Atlanta (wheels up being a joke, kiddos, because we drive it)… I created enough new-and-pretty-sweet mashups to fill out my aforementioned spinner rack. Granted as of this writing, I’m not done yet. But let me take you through my insane work-flow:

  • I listed out all the current cards I’d had in my collection, and figured out I’d need to fill 13 spots with designs to have each slot in the rack with its own design.
  • I turned to the hive mind in my Facebook friends list to vote on how best to fill out the ranks (be it with a “stick to what brought you to the dance” and go all-Marvel, to split Marvel with “they still should be loved” DC, or to do a little more Marvel, a little DC, and some famous video game characters as a why-the-hell-not bit of fun. The votes overwhelmingly demanded that last option.
  • Knowing I had 3 commissioned cards (that originated digitally) I obtained permission from my customers to reproduce the cards for my set (because I think it’s only fair if someone gives me an idea to draw for them they should have a say if I care to profit from their idea after giving them what they paid for). 13 due now became 10.
  • I listed out each of the major characters I wanted to mash up, to ensure I didn’t duplicate any previously made mashup (because it’s not cool to just make a dozen different Pikachus to me)
  • Each night over the last 5 nights prior to this article being written, I inked 2 characters… bringing me to the 10 needed within a week.
  • I hired my Unshaven Comics color production assistant to flat each of the new 10 cards.
  • From here, as he completes them, I will color correct his work, add in backgrounds and a few special effects, and call it a day.
  • Then all that is left is placing the order and praying I get it in on time to have it printed and shipped to my door without any hefty rush charges.

Of course, I wish I could append this article with the big reveal of what all will hit my spinner rack in a few short weeks. But much like my stand-up comedy… I believe in the power of the moment. As such, I’ll let the fine folks of Atlanta get first gaze on my menagerie. Stay tuned, my friends… because next time? I’ll choose you (to see the cool stuff. I was trying to end on a poignant reference. Nailed it?)!