Category: Featured

Brainiac On Banjo #060: Crisis? Make Room! Make Room!

Brainiac On Banjo #060: Crisis? Make Room! Make Room!

Too many people going underground / Too many reaching for a piece of cake / Too many people pulled and pushed around / Too many waiting for that lucky break – Paul McCartney, “Too Many People”

OK, superhero television fans. Take your gloves and socks off, there’s math on this test.

Which project has more superheroes – Avengers: Endgame or next month’s Crisis on Infinite Earths?

Sorry; I’m being a prick. That was a trick question. We won’t know for a bit because the Crisis announcements are still barreling down the pike. It appears that some or maybe all the cast members of the Titans program on the DC Universe streamer will be deployed in the big caped clusterfuck. And, hey, go figure, the second season of Doom Patrol starts filming this week. It’s alleged they will be doing a fly-by as well. Yow! I wonder if Stargirl will be getting some love here.

Hell, this might be the first major DC event in decades that doesn’t include the Joker – or at least a Joker; it’s so hard tell them apart. Is it time for Mark Hamill to match his face with his voice? I’m not excluding the possibility. Maybe Harley will drop by. One of them, at least. Maybe all of them, who knows?

And will John Diggle become the next Green Lantern? That show goes up on the new HBO streamer next year or so. Or maybe John is the Green Lantern of Earth-90. This was teased before, when The Flash of that Earth, played (of course) by John Wesley Shipp, said to Diggle “Hello, John. You’re not wearing your ring… Things must be different here.”

Crisis On Infinite Earths – The TV Event certainly is shaping up to be quite a mammoth production… but, of course, not all “events” are worth following. We shall see, and I strongly suspect a whole lot of us will see. I also suspect this will be an all-or-nothing thing: it will either be very good and characters will not be tripping over one another (think Avengers: Endgame), or it will be one 270 minute mess with a bunch of long, mournful death scenes. Having actually met “people,” I strongly believe some will love it, some will hate it, and those who worked on it will simply be glad it’s over.

If Crisis With Infinite Costumes is as successful as DC-WB-CW wants it to be, history tells us there will be many more such “Crisises” to come. In addition to resurrecting one or two of the corpses from this one, who could they add to surprise us next time around? Space Ghost? Jonny Quest? Norville Rogers? That’s technically possible, you know. Keith Giffen could work that one out with ease.

Or maybe the Big Bad will be Mister Mxyzptlk. If he’s not too busy writing the thing.

The author would like to thank noted writer/artist Harry Harrison for the title to this here column. And maybe Edward G. Robinson as well.

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #064: A Priest, a Rabbi and a Minister…

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #064: A Priest, a Rabbi and a Minister…

This week’s off-off year election continues the trend that started a couple minutes after it became clear that the Electoral College was going to appoint the Great Orange Liar to the presidency. This quaint little anti-democratic system of ours has been kept in place for the past 154 years because some of the people who live in the Confederate States think they might have a shot at bringing back slavery, this time confiscating Hispanic and Muslim lives to fight it out with the Africans for the last bit of stale, moldy bread that once was America.

But it appears the worm might be turning, at least just a bit. 154 years ago, Virginia was home to the Confederacy’s seat of power. This week Virginia became as blue a state as Massachusetts with the governor’s mansion, the state House of Delegates and the state Senate all in the hands of the demon Democrats… which the Trumpublicans in both America and in Russia have defined as a bunch of commies. Both of their Senators are Democrats, as are seven of their 11 Congresspeople. Virginia is so blue now that even dogs can see it shine. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #064: A Priest, a Rabbi and a Minister…”

With Further Ado #067: Gramercy Park

With Further Ado #067: Gramercy Park

Last week in this column, I celebrated Halloween with a look at the latest Yoe Books collection, GHOSTS: Classic Monsters of Pre-Code Horror Comics by Steve Banes. It features a smorgasbord of creepy comics from the 1940s and 1950s.  This week I need to tell you about another treasure, a just-published comic that takes place in the 1940s and 1950s. And in stark contrast to those old comics produced domestically, this a translated European comic. I started out kind of liking it, but by the end I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.

Gramercy Park, written by Timothée de Fombelle and illustrated by Christian Cailleaux, is a comic that the rest of the world will definitely feel more comfortable calling a graphic novel. It’s tight and clever, scattering just the right amount narrative breadcrumbs to keep the reader involved. Author de Fombelle mixes intriguing characters and thoughtful dialogue that rope you in. I had planned, in fact, to just read a few pages at a time. But at one point, about halfway through, the creators had me and wouldn’t let me go.  Continue reading “With Further Ado #067: Gramercy Park”

Brainiac On Banjo #059: Four-Color Audio!

Brainiac On Banjo #059: Four-Color Audio!

In certain circles, I am known as a radio drama fanatic… and, of course, in certain pentagrams as well. Not just the old stuff whose echoes faded as television became a thing, but the new efforts as well. Even more so.

Full-cast audio means exactly what it’s labelled. Gather up a bunch of perfectly-selected actors, give them a well-written script, an awesome array of appropriate sound effects, a digital recording facility with more computing power than the Mars Rover, a director to beat the band and a producer whose pen ever runs out of ink, and together they tell fantastic stories into the microphones.

The listener provides the visuals. As such, the crew is ripping your sense of wonder out of your very soul and encouraging you to paint all those pictures within the comfort of your very own brainpan. As such, this is a perfect medium in which to grow heroic fantasy. Here, all the work percolates in your head and you become such a vital part of the production team that, really, you should ask for royalties. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #059: Four-Color Audio!”

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #063: Presidential Mathematics

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #063: Presidential Mathematics

Another day, another moral dilemma.

Soon, our Senators will be asked to vote on the fate of the current occupant of the White House. According to FiveThirtyEight.com as of October 14, 50.3% would like to see Trump removed, as opposed to 43.8% who want to see Trump stay in office. These number are somewhat volatile depending upon the day’s news, but the removal-to-remain arrow has pointing towards the exit sign since September 29.

America is not a democracy; it is a republic. We elect people to represent us by voting their conscience, but many of us are not stupid enough to expect they will. Those who think this man has been dangerous to the health and security of our nation would like to see him gone as soon as possible. Those who would like to see our government undue that damage want to see the Democratic party take the House, the Senate and the White House next November. These two are not necessarily compatible. Continue reading “Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #063: Presidential Mathematics”

With Further Ado #066: Spooky Reading with Ghosts

With Further Ado #066: Spooky Reading with Ghosts

Happy Halloween!  Have you been partying at Halloween Parties all weekend? Are you ready for trick-or-treaters tomorrow?  And what do you hand out to the kids? Candy? Comics? Anything’s fine by me, as long as you’re not one of those dentists that gives out dental floss. What a bummer that is.

There’s something about that quaint, retro-spookiness of Halloween that makes it all so much fun. I especially applaud the hard-working entrepreneurs of Retro-Go-Go and all their wonderful Halloween merchandise. There’s such a charm in that idealized notion of Halloween that their creative seasonal merchandise evokes.   Continue reading “With Further Ado #066: Spooky Reading with Ghosts”

Brainiac On Banjo #058: The Writer That Devoured Cleveland!

“Kick ’em when they’re up / Kick ’em when they’re down / Kick ’em when they’re stiff / Kick ’em all around.”

-Don Henley and Danny Kortchmar, Dirty Laundry

Popular culture is a living thing. It grows like amoebas on Viagra, constantly mutating into new life forms. This gives us an endless supply of new things and new people who create new things. Some of those folks last, others wish they didn’t take out that seven figure mortgage.

Brian Bendis was one of those new forces. He’s defied the odds — to say the least — by being on the comic writer’s A-list for, well, damn, over two decades. That’s quite a feat; but the fact that a dozen newer writers subsequently have joined that same A-list without pushing him off is nothing short of remarkable. He started out with the “independents,” went to Marvel, earned his way into getting screen credit for about a million movies and television shows while creating all sorts of cool characters, and then left the House of Mouse for Kryptonian pastures.

Anybody who can jilt Mickey like that deserves a guest shot on South Park.

I thought he had a slow start on the Man of Steel, but instead of annoying me (which is very easy to do), I was fascinated. He was taking risks and stepping on Superman’s cape — declining to adapt to overworked standards while working with the flow to scrape the barnacles off Superman. Watching that has been an interesting experience. Last week it all come together for this jaded reader.

Action Comics #1016 (whole number, 1016) is all about Superman’s losing his battle with a fairly new villain, the Red Cloud – not to be confused with either of the Red Tornadoes. The Daily Planet’s reporter / gossip columnist Trish Q is on the story, canvassing the neighborhood and interviewing those who saw the conflict. This is and of itself is pretty cool – as far as I can tell, the Daily Planet invented newsroom cutbacks 60 years ago by limiting Perry White’s on-panel staff to Clark Kent, Lois Lane, maybe Jimmy Olsen (who may or may not be the staff photographer who may or may not write stuff), and occasionally Steve Lombard and Cat Grant. Of course, lately Lois has been hiding in a very expensive Chicago hotel, doubtlessly searching for the world’s best Italian beef sammich like the rest of us. Trish is a very interesting character, and I hope she sticks around.

About two-thirds of the story is told through the comments made by Trish’s interview subjects. There’s nothing new about this storytelling technique, and it makes good use of Bendis’s gift for expository dialogue. But it is out-of-the-ordinary to tell the story of Superman’s defeat in battle in such a manner; writers usually focus on the flow of action with dramatic close-ups of the hero’s face being beaten to a pulp. In his “telling-through-interview” style, Brian is showing us the faith the citizenry has in the Man of Steel while avoiding the limp, overworked cliché of the masses turning on their champion for failing to defeat every evil that is foisted upon them.

In other words, this is a story about faith. It’s somewhat subtle, but faith is a subtle thing.

Bendis introduces his creation Naomi to the Justice League, creating another opportunity for him to play a bit with the world’s most psychotic costumed family jewel, the ubiquitous Batman. In the real world, such as it is, Bruce Wayne would be shackled to a wall in Arkham Asylum. In Bendis’s world, Batman is fleshed out a bit around the edges, giving purpose (legitimate or not) to his massive assholery. I’d read the story for this alone.

Much praise has been heaped on Brian Bendis over the past decades, and that, of course, makes him target for terminally obese trolls who dirty their own laundry. That’s how fame works. But if you think this guy didn’t earn his chops or that he’s past his prime, check out Action Comics #1016.

Special thanks to M.G. Krebs for the title to this week’s masterpiece. Brian Michael Bendis, like Jerry Siegel before him, is from Cleveland. To the best of my knowledge, neither are monsters… in the classical sense.

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #062: Cow Belches

Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mind #062: 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 #062: Cow Belches”

With Further Ado #065: It’s 1986 All Over Again

With Further Ado #065: It’s 1986 All Over Again

As I recall, 1986 was a great year. I was in Boston at that time and had just started a career in advertising. Boston was a glorious place; I enjoyed every minute of my time there. I especially enjoyed the town’s many comic shops – including Million Year Picnic, New England Comics and Newbury Comics- they were all in Harvard Square (if you can believe that) near where I lived.

It was good to have so many shops nearby because it was also a great year for comics. But in some ways, 1986 seems to echo through today with the resounding and triumphant evolution of Geek Culture.

I thought a lot about that as I was reading the big Sunday NYTimes article(s) on the new HBO Watchmen series.  The show looks interesting, but I couldn’t help but think how wonderfully odd it is, even today, to see Dave Gibbons’ panels in a major newspaper.

Watchmen debuted in 1986. We tend to forget, but right when we were all hooked, the twelve issue comic series started shipping late. It was a drag, but so worth the wait. And of course, those intricate Alan Moore stories could be read and re-read, and new meaning could be found each time while we were awaiting the conclusion.

One of the most satisfying parts of Watchmen used to be that it was finite. The comic series was a cohesive and comprehensive story. Like Casablanca, you kinda wanted to know what happened to those characters afterwards, but it was all so perfect that there was a “let’s just let it be” attitude. 

Buuuut… we’ve had a lot of new Watchmen adventures over the years. The series has been reprinted in many formats many times. (And that’s a whole ‘nuther story right there.)  And the Zach Snyder movie brought Watchmen to the big screen in 2009.

There have been new adventures in the comics too. I just rescued a few random Before Watchmen issues from the bargain box in Oswego’s A Comic Shop on Saturday. I was that guy who went into the store five minutes before their official closing (hey, I happened to be in the area). I wanted to be respectful to the owner (more likely than not it had been a long day for her) so I quickly grabbed those comics. Plus, my wife was waiting in the car.


DC Comics is currently publishing The Doomsday Clock series by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. It’s a gorgeous-looking book that weaves the Watchmen characters into the modern DC mythology.  Frank’s artwork is stellar, and kudo’s to Johns for his characterizations of Don McGregor’s Nathaniel Dusk and the new heroes/villains, Marionette and Mime.

More 1986 in 2019

  • Just last month, Art Spiegelman charmed a full house at the Rockwell Museum event hosted in Corning, NY.  Spiegelman, still best known for his ground-breaking work on 1986’s MAUS, was fascinating and intriguing. It was hard to even think that all years had passed since 1986, except for the fact that Spiegelman has produced such an impressive body of work since then.
    • And as an aside, boy does that guy know his old comics. We had a ball at the after party talking about artists like Bob Powell and Dick Briefer!
  • The Mike Gold-edited Green Arrow series, debuting in 1987, actually started with a graphic novel called Green Arrow: The Long Bow Hunters. Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance’s adventures then continued in the first of many long-running Green Arrow monthly series. One can argue that without that series, there would be no CW superhero shows like Arrow or The Flash.
  • I tend not to keep up with all the CW shows, but the many ads/coming attractions I’ve seen teasing the crossover Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline again reinforces the 1986-ish-iness of modern pop culture.
  • And one could argue that new Batwoman TV show owes quite a bit to the 1986 thriller by Frank Miller, The Dark Knight Returns.  This gritty reimaging of the Batman legend is a nice adaptation of those luscious Greg Rucka/J.H. Williams comics, but it does owe quite a bit to Miller’s Dark Knight series. I guess so many comics today do.
  • Of course, some ‘ground-breaking’ series from that time aren’t remembered as vividly.  When Howard Chaykin reimagined The Shadow in his 1986 mini-series, it was deliciously subversive. Even to a longtime fan of the traditional Shadow adventures, like me, it was an urgent must-read.  For the world-at-large of today, it somehow just doesn’t quite enjoy the long-running traction of Watchmen or MAUS.  But at that time running with the big dogs.

Comic fans, by their nature, are always glancing over their shoulders to the past, while paradoxically always looking to the future – anxious to find out “what’s next”. We didn’t know 1986 would be a big deal then. We certainly didn’t think it would still be a big deal in so many ways.

Brainiac On Banjo #057: Create A Better Universe

Brainiac On Banjo #057: Create A Better Universe

You might have missed it – there’s a lot going on these days that sucks all the oxygen out of every room – but we celebrated National Coming Out Day on October 11th. You might have missed this as well: this was the 31st anniversary of the event.

That last bit surprised me, but my personal relationship with the time/space continuum always has been a bit iffy. A quick run through Wiki showed me NCOD is also observed in Ireland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. It remains slightly controversial, both within the LGBTQ communities and without. That’s because every political activity is controversial, and that’s not entirely bad. Occasionally, people of differing opinions raise some interesting and useful points. Nothing ever pops out of the brainpan fully formed.

This year, our friends at Archie Comics joined in the effort. This is not a surprise: Archie long has been platforming educational issues, and, of course, writer/artist Dan Parent – heir to the Bob Montana chair of outstanding Archie talent – is the creator of Kevin Keller, the first openly gay character in the Archie Universe. That was a big deal in 2010, and it remains a big deal today. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #057: Create A Better Universe”