Category: Brainiac On Banjo

Brainiac On Banjo #016: Is Batman Damned, Or Are We All?

Brainiac On Banjo #016: Is Batman Damned, Or Are We All?

Yup. This is another one of those pieces about how the controversy surrounding Batman Damned #1 is no big deal.

Except… According to everybody’s pal Rich Johnston, still columning for Bleeding Cool, there was a CGC-rated 10.0 copy of the first issue that sold for big bucks on eBay. So much money, in fact, that I figure Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark got into a bidding war.

Yes, dear friends, Batman Damned #1 CGC 10.0 sold to Florida’s Blaze PC Collectables for $1800.00.

Go back and read that again. It is not a typo, but it should be. There are a number of reasons why this is absolutely ridiculous. There’s a point where real-world values should exceed comic book values. Puerto Rico is still bleeding, undreamed of hurricanes are continuing to wreak damage and kill people, there are more worthy and needy causes than there are grains of sand in the Sahara, and we’ve got the biggest fight in American history coming up in a mere three weeks and if you’re interested in not seeing the United States of America turn into 1941 Belgium I’ll bet there’s a worthy candidate not far from you who can use a contribution.

Besides, I started buying comic books when they were a dime. I wince at today’s $4.00 cover price (admittedly, ten cents in 1960 would be worth… well, 84¢ today – and don’t get me started on explaining William M. Gaines’ hot dog index!). But $1800.00 is just a bit egregious.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #016: Is Batman Damned, Or Are We All?”

Brainiac On Banjo #015: Doctor Who – Without A Punny Headline!

Brainiac On Banjo #015: Doctor Who – Without A Punny Headline!

The Doctor: Why are you calling me Madam?
Yasmin Khan: Because… you’re a woman?
The Doctor: Am I? Does it suit me?
Yasmin Khan: What?
The Doctor: Oh yeah, I remember! Sorry, half an hour ago I was a white-haired Scots man.


Jodie Whittaker/Doctor Who
at Comic Con 2018 Photographed by Andrew H. Walker/Shutterstock for Variety

We don’t know how to handle pronouns these days. That’s a transitional process as we evolve our language to more inclusive and less presumptuous forms. In the case of Doctor Who, that’s not as much of a problem. There have been 13 Doctors thus far — give or take — and the new one is the first to be a woman, at least as a matter of outside packaging. We really don’t know how Gallifreyan genders work, and their men and women alike are mostly brilliant and largely insufferable.

Yesterday, Jodie Whittaker debuted as our current Doctor, and did so pretty much all over the world, at pretty much the same time. Now that’s the way to launch a series. OK, I’m a fanboy and I’ve been watching the show since it first crossed the Atlantic. I haven’t seen an actor turn in a less-than-great performance in the lead role, even in spite of some less-than-great stories. More to the point, I haven’t seen a transitional episode where one Doctor regenerates into another that was less than entertaining by the standards of its time. In these two considerations, Whittaker fits in perfectly.

Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #015: Doctor Who – Without A Punny Headline!”

Brainiac On Banjo #014: Should We Ban Banned Books Week?

Brainiac On Banjo #014: Should We Ban Banned Books Week?

Do you remember all the way back to last Tuesday, when the Washington Post still was referred to as a “liberal” newspaper? Many people believe that. The following day, Wednesday September 26th, was the day the Post just might have turned the corner.

Ron Charles, the Post’s book critic, opined we might not need Banned Books Week any longer. “I just wish Banned Books Week didn’t appear to exaggerate a problem that’s largely confined to our repressive past… Are we winning any converts with this annual orgy of self-righteousness?”

He contradicted his point when he reported how many books were, indeed, banned last year. The label of self-righteousness rarely is self-imposed.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that, over the years, I have edited or contributed to a decent number of “banned books” and have been railing against banning books for, damn, a very long time. When it comes to the Pop Culture Squad, well, suffice it to say I am not alone.

Mr. Charles states, among other things (and I urge you to read his piece, to which I conveniently posted the link in my second paragraph), “Doesn’t Banned Books Week carelessly lump together the interested mother with the book-burning Nazi?” Well, part of the parenting process is the unfortunate imposition of mommy and daddy’s more disgusting values onto their children. Such is life, and many kids challenge those “values” as part of their maturation process. But my blanket response to this sort of challenge is “If you don’t want to be conflated with book-burning Nazis, stop acting like a book-burning Nazi!”

I am opposed to removing any book from any library or any bookstore. The librarian and the bookseller have no right to impose their self-indulgent mores upon an unsuspecting audience. By removing that which they find objectionable, they believe they have the right to transplant their views and politics onto everybody else. They most certainly do not.

For the record, I would not even ban Mein Kampf. Indeed, I encourage teenagers to read this book and to discuss it from both the moral and the historical perspectives. As I often do, I once again quote George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Arguably, that is the most important aphorism of all time.

You may ask “OK, smart-ass. Would you edit a graphic novel adaptation of Mein Kampf?” I’m hardly your go-to-guy for far-right-wing subject matter, although I have proudly worked with many conservative and right-wing talent and I never interfered with their points of view. Adolf Hitler… well, my own backstory just might get in the way of that.

In the hands of the right creative team, a Mein Kampf adaptation might work. But it most certainly would not get racked in libraries or placed on Apple Books.

Librarians are teachers and… well… teachers teach. That means discuss, exchange points of view, and listen. Point out the problems with allowing a person with a small gaggle of follows to shove his or her will down everybody else’s throats. That’s particularly important these days, no matter what your worldview might be. If we don’t keep these discussions going, the next thing we’ll see is these same librarians and teachers cart away all the copies of the greatest American novel, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. Actually, we’ve been seeing this for a while now, but most of these culture vultures seem content to merely censor the hell out of the book – thereby voiding the author’s point.

I understand his concerns and I think Mr. Charles’ piece was well-written and rather clever. But when it comes to bringing attention to censorship and the imposition of limits to the acquisition of knowledge, his heart is in the right place but his head’s up his ass.

I say that with respect.

Seriously.

 

Brainiac On Banjo #013: This Joke’s On Us

Brainiac On Banjo #013: This Joke’s On Us

Perhaps the most often-asked question by superhero movie fans is “Why do most of the DC movies suck?”

The “most” part is about the one truly great DCU movie made during the past decade, Wonder Woman. Thus, every time I reference the DCU movies I’m excluding Wonder Woman. Oh, and the Lego Batman Movie, which, in my opinion, is the best Batman movie ever.

These movies have been very disappointing for DC fans. After all, Marvel Studios keeps on knocking them out and knocking them out of the park. My enthusiasm for their upcoming Captain Marvel movie is quite strong. My enthusiasm for DC’s upcoming Aquaman movie is hidden behind a humongous growth in my cynicism gland.

Don’t get me wrong. Every time Warner Bros. is about to release a new DC movie (and, for the record, I am not referring to their direct-to-home video features) I hope for the best. And, with a few significant exceptions I am almost always disappointed. For example (WARNING: NAME-DROPPING ALERT!), at the World Premiere of Suicide Squad I sat between John Ostrander and Jim Lee. John created the version of the Squad that was seen on the screen, is a Pop Culture Squad columnist, and remains my oldest living friend. Jim is among the very best artists around. He was elevated to the position of DC’s co-publisher and chief operating officer. I’m a big fan of his – at one point much earlier in his career, DC’s e-i-c Dick Giordano and I (at the time, First Comics’ e-i-c) were discussing the idea of a Batman / Jon Sable crossover written by Mike Grell and drawn by Jim Lee. That project remains very, very high on my lengthy “I’m still pissed that these projects never happened” list.

At the end of the Squad flick, Jim asked me what I thought. My response: “I liked it a lot, compared with Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice.” Talk about damning with faint praise. I mentioned several scenes I really liked – and still do. I enjoyed about half of the movie, maybe a bit more. But, jeez louise, I’d still put nearly all of the Marvel Studios movies ahead of it, were I destined to be washed-up on that fabled desert island that somehow has electricity.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #013: This Joke’s On Us”

Brainiac On Banjo #012: Streaming The Universe

Brainiac On Banjo #012: Streaming The Universe

The streaming service called DC Universe is up and running. Sort of. If you’re looking to discover why Robin angrily said “Fuck Batman!” you’re going to have to wait about a month, or fly to New York City, sneak into the New York Comic-Con (by all means, do not give those bastards your money), stand at the back of a cramped overstuffed under-air conditioned room and watch Titans about a week early.

Wow. I actually digressed in the lead paragraph. I’ll get back to my intended rant now.

The world of “television” changes every day, and where it’s heading right now seems to be an environment where you are getting a lot more entertainment and a lot more choice of where you want to get it. You also have a lot more hassle, signing up for Crom-knows how many streaming services. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Sling, HBO Now, DirecTV Now, Showtime When, Playstation Vue, Acorn, WatchTV, CBS All Access, ESPN+, Cinephiles, YouTube TV, NuMedia, Mubi, Fandor, Sundance, and now DC Universe… I’m sure I missed a few. Hell, before I did my research I hadn’t even heard of six of them. But even if you have, do not relax: there are plenty more coming your way, including Disney, which may or may not include Marvel and/or Star Wars and/or Pixar and/or Fox.

Each of these services run between about $5 to $50 a month and while there is some overlap, you’ve got to join – and pay for – each one separately. I’ll bet dollars to donuts that we’ll see mergers and washouts and aggregating services to lighten the load. But it’s unlikely there will be a service that lets you triple your available viewing time.

OK. “It’s a brave new world, yadda yadda yadda.” Every day it’s a goddamned brave new world. No wonder our attention spans have been reduced to that of kittens.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #012: Streaming The Universe”

Brainiac On Banjo #011: Death of A Super-Hero?

Brainiac On Banjo #011: Death of A Super-Hero?

He rides through the jungle, tearin’ limbs off of trees Knockin’ great big monsters dead on their knees The cats don’t bug him ’cause they know better ‘Cause he’s a mean motor scooter and a bad go-getter He’s the toughest man there is alive Wears clothes from a wildcat’s hide He’s the king of the jungle jive Look at that cave man go!

Way back in May 1960, the ABC network purchased a Chicago-based rural-oriented radio station from the Prairie Farmer magazine, not because they wanted to aid corn-growers but because it was a 50,000 watt “class A” radio station. That meant it was received by listeners in about 33 states, much of Canada, and, if you lived next to their transmission towers, probably your dental fillings as well.

In other words, they wanted a money machine. Pursuant to this, WLS changed format from “music to milk cows by” to that nasty-ol’ rock’n’roll. ABC thought the farmers wouldn’t appreciate the musical musings of Chuck Berry, Brenda Lee, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and the ever-frightening Elvis Presley. So, in order to clear the field, they chose one song to play over and over and over for a few days. Their disc jockeys were a talented group of kids including the legendary Dick Biondi and Bob Hale, who a year previous had emceed the Iowa concert where Buddy Holly, the Big Bopper and Richie Valens performed their last. Those jocks were the heart and soul of the station. They announced that song under various contrived titles. The farmers quickly found something else to listen to, and the kids were brought in through word-of-mouth generated by their redundancy programming.

That song was Alley Oop, performed by The Hollywood Argyles and written by Mort Shuman and Doc Pomus, two of rock’s most important writers. For the record, it debuted on WLS a month before official release. The song was based upon the brilliant newspaper comic strip of the same name – which, unless I’m mistaken (it happens), was not published in any of the five major Chicago newspapers at the time.

Oh, wait. This isn’t about rock’n’roll radio. It’s about an obituary. Well, maybe not. Hopefully not.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #011: Death of A Super-Hero?”

Brainiac On Banjo #010: The Defenders Drop Five

Brainiac On Banjo #010: The Defenders Drop Five

My favorite Marvel characters, thank you for asking, are a bunch of characters that have a tough time holding onto their own titles. They started out their solo adventures in the 1960s split-books Strange Tales, Tales To Astonish, and Tales of Suspense. No, I do not count Journey Into Mystery because when the other titles dropped their mystery stories JIM actually became a Thor title.

So there. I’m a fanboy. I get to be anal retentive. It’s in the job description.

To narrow it down, those favorite characters of mine are, in no particular order, Nick Fury, Sub-Mariner, and Doctor Strange. In other words, two-thirds of the original Defenders, plus Nick Fury – who now disappears from my rant. When Marvel wanted to launch a new super-team book, they reached to the Sub-Mariner and to Doctor Strange, adding the Hulk to the group to provide necessary muscle and humor.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #010: The Defenders Drop Five”

Brainiac On Banjo #009: The Four Million Dollar Fan

Brainiac On Banjo #009: The Four Million Dollar Fan

I’m going to start with two facts.

Fact #1 – The first big-ass comic book convention that attracted lots of people from beyond its immediate environs was the 1964 New York Comicon. It, in turn, led to thousands of comic book conventions, many called “comicons,” “comic-cons,” and similar-sounding derivatives.

Fact #2 – There is a difference between law and ethics. Our laws usually try to be precise. Ethics tend to vary a bit from person to person and, certainly, from time to time. One person easily could steal from another – particularly in the area of intellectual property – and be cool with our laws.

All of this comes to mind because there was a verdict last Thursday in the case of the San Diego Comic Con versus the Salt Lake Comic Con. San Diego said they trademarked the term, and this is so. They didn’t create it, they weren’t even among the first to employ it, but they did trademark it. And so, last winter, San Diego won a $20,000 judgment against Salt Lake for trademark infringement.

I’m thinking of trademarking “U.S. District Court…” but I digress.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #009: The Four Million Dollar Fan”

Brainiac On Banjo #008: Fake Covers

Brainiac On Banjo #008: Fake Covers

Every several years I find a brand-new way to enunciate my firm belief that in order to sell more comic books, publishers should seek to produce better comic book stories and take their feet off of the stunt pedal. Well, it’s time once again to play that great all-American game, To Sell The Truth!

If you are in the habit of memorizing every word I have ever written (please stop that; you’ll hurt yourself!), doubtlessly you recall my ragging on and on about the stunt covers of the mid-1990s. Foil covers, bagged comics, holographic covers, 3D leather embossed covers… a whole lotta gimmicks were in vogue, each for nanoseconds. At least lenticular covers did some good – they taught a lot of people the meaning of the word “lenticular.”  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #008: Fake Covers”

Brainiac On Banjo #007: Disney Bites Mickey’s Nose

Brainiac On Banjo #007: Disney Bites Mickey’s Nose

When I was a kid, about every couple of days my mother said to me “bite your nose to spite your face.” I’m sure she had her reasons. What happened at Disney reminded me of this phrase, as last month the Mouse House fired director James Gunn from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

In case you just got back from somewhere off-planet, Gunn was offed because he published a bunch of bad taste jokes on Twitter back in 2008 – that’s ten years ago, for those who lack sufficient digits. Of course, bad taste is in the mouth of the beholder, but even Gunn had second thoughts and he apologized for his sophistry quite some time ago. But those prone to outrage often find their vexation quickly calcified, and so they created a big stink. And by “some people,” I’m referring to the gaggle of giggling digerati reactionaries, including god’s gift to right-wing nutjobs, the Breithbart News Network. Evidently, they are offended that Gunn’s political values differ from theirs. Whatever.  Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #007: Disney Bites Mickey’s Nose”