Category: Brainiac On Banjo

Brainiac On Banjo #061: Charlton Comics Goes To War!!

Brainiac On Banjo #061: Charlton Comics Goes To War!!

The Unknown Anti-War Comics!, by Steve Ditko, Ross Andru, Joe Gill, Denny O’Neil, Pat Boyette and others, edited by Craig Yoe • Yoe Books!-IDW • $29.95, 226 pages

Back when the three of us were laboring over at the DC Comics factory, I was blessed with having my office between those of Denny O’Neil and Archie Goodwin, two of the finest comics practitioners in American history. If they were to be branded A-listers, we would need to invent a new first letter for our alphabet. I’m going to start with Archie, but don’t worry. Denny comes into this story later.

Back around 1992 and 1993, Archie and I started frequenting a swell midtown restaurant where New York Times executives often brought advertising clients. Remember, this was about 16 years before Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau put our beloved medium on the legit. Usually, our passionate conversations revolved around two subjects: frighteningly radical politics, and comic books; particularly EC Comics. To the chagrin of the over-wrought suits sitting within eavesdropping distance, we would conflate the two.

Of all of Archie’s massive achievements as a writer and an editor, my personal favorite is the four-issue run of Blazing Combat, the black-and-white war comic published by Jim Warren with the Frazetta covers and interiors drawn by Alex Toth, John Severin, Reed Crandall, Joe Orlando, Gene Colan, Wally Wood… you get the point. The series was influenced by Harvey Kurtzman’s Two-Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat for EC Comics, and all the above-mentioned artists had drawn stories for Kurtzman. Archie was too young to have written for them, but he was a member of the EC Fan-Addict Club (fan-addict > fanatic, get it?). Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #061: Charlton Comics Goes To War!!”

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!”

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.

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”

Brainiac On Banjo #056: “Wait Till They Get A Load Of…”

Brainiac On Banjo #056: “Wait Till They Get A Load Of…”

I really don’t like doing three columns in a row about the same subject, unless that subject is me. But some people are working hard to keep alive the spirit of Fredrick Wertham while exercising their unimpeachable right to be a self-righteous arbiter of what other people should enjoy.

Yes, I’m talking about Martin Scorsese. I love almost all of his work and regard him as one of the finest filmmakers in history, but that doesn’t mitigate against his talking anus. Worse, I now have cause to conflate Scorsese with Bill Maher.

Now, I like Maher as well and I’m with him on a lot of important issues. He does confuse me because our nation’s leading advocate for the legalization of marijuana really shouldn’t be so damn skinny. He should use more indica and less sativa, except on show days. But I digress.

Bill’s been rattling against superhero movies for many months now, and I think he continues this crusade strictly because us fanboys keep on getting in his face. This starts a vicious circle. Why is he still ragging on comic book movies when he should be in Washington getting arrested for fighting for what’s left of our the environment, like Jane Fonda? And now Marty Scorsese is in the frame.

My gripe is not that Scorsese and Maher dislike superhero movies. That’s their prerogative, even if they don’t see such movies. I don’t go to movies that seem unappealing, although if enough people whose opinions I respect suggest I check something out, I might.

Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #056: “Wait Till They Get A Load Of…””

Brainiac On Banjo #055: Send In The Clowns? Why So Serious?

Brainiac On Banjo #055: Send In The Clowns? Why So Serious?

I hope you had a great weekend. Mine came down to choosing between going to see Joker, going to see It: Chapter Two, or standing in line at Popeye’s for a chicken sammich.

Instead, I stayed home and wrote this.

I didn’t see It: Chapter Two because: a) I’m not interested; I already know clowns are disgusting and evil, and b) not having seen the first one, I’m afraid I’d feel lost. I didn’t see Joker because I’m a pathetic fanboy who is annoyed that this Joker isn’t THE Joker and, besides, if I want to see mindless violence I’d fly down to Texas and watch people shoot unarmed black boys who have the audacity to testify against a cop who murdered a peaceful civilian in his own apartment. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #055: Send In The Clowns? Why So Serious?”

Brainiac On Banjo #054: Masks Don’t Kill. Joker Kills.

Brainiac On Banjo #054: Masks Don’t Kill. Joker Kills.

As we await all the violence and mayhem at this weekend’s debut of Joker, theaters all across this great nation are advertising: “If you’re a dejected, pissed off incel who couldn’t get laid on the night they cure AIDS and you’ve got a gun, we’ve got the movie for you!!!”

There are problems we create, and there are other problems we create by trying to fix them. The law of unintended consequences reigns supreme, but that never stops us from baiting the tiger-of-the-month.

In anticipation of the latest DC movie that has little to do with DC Comics, movie theaters are banning their patrons from arriving in costumes, masks and/or make-up. As we all know, the mere sight of a Batman villain in costume causes Batfans to go batshit and reach for their AK-47s.

Now we see the gigantic and fan-favorite Alamo Drafthouse theater chain going to great lengths to promote how they’ll have “additional” security at their sundry Joker screenings. Yeah, that’ll stop shit just fine. A couple thousand people in a dark theater who are physically incapable of exiting the room in an emergency are going to be saved by a freshman rent-a-cop working for minimum wage. Happens all the time.

Give me a break. These measures are so insipid they don’t even qualify as band-aids. They address neither the problem of gun violence nor the problem of wandering vicious miscreants who are looking for an excuse to blow away the masses. All this so-called solution will do is promote the fact that the theater owners think this movie is so violent they should follow their insurance company’s orders and deploy useless measures that actually promote the anticipation of violence… and that little trick does more to foster evil than it does to prevent it while at the same time making a truckload of money.

Is Joker too violent? For that matter, what is too violent? We survived the genius of Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino, Walter Hill, Martin Scorsese, and John Ford. Their movies were violent. They keep on grinding out Evil Dead movies and RoboCop remakes. Brian DePalma hasn’t died for anybody’s sins. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #054: Masks Don’t Kill. Joker Kills.”

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?”

Brainiac On Banjo #052: Sidekick Bastards

Brainiac On Banjo #052: Sidekick Bastards

Shortly after Hitler invaded Poland, the powers that were decided Batman needed a sidekick. Not to prop up sales – by all indications, those early issues of Detective Comics were doing fine. No, the good folks at National Comics decided the grim and gritty pointy-eared crusader with the cape needed a young sidekick, someone with whom their young readers could relate.

Maybe. Batman had been a soloist for only one year, so we really don’t know. But we do know that Batman and Robin together were exceptionally popular. Therefore, Robin begat Speedy, Bucky, Toro, Sun Girl (who clearly was a young adult), Ebony White, Captain Marvel Jr., Kid Flash, Kid Terror, Aqualad, Supergirl, Mary Marvel, Dusty, Tiger, Wing, Sandy, Speedboy … I could go on and on, but I won’t because I like you. Well, most of you. Sidekicks became a real thing, an inseparable part of the American superhero myth for at least a half-century. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #052: Sidekick Bastards”

Brainiac On Banjo #051: The Challenge of Ideas

Brainiac On Banjo #051: The Challenge of Ideas

I just checked and I’ve decided I’ve got too many friends. Let’s see who I can offend today. But, first, a couple of disclaimers.

One: For decades I have been uttering I am a first amendment absolutist. There should be no roadblocks in the world of free expression. Yes, people need to stand behind what they say and I’m not at all opposed to laws that hold people responsible for malicious defamation. But there should be no roadblocks between the thought and its delivery. That’s free expression.

Two: I am a fan of Walter Mosley’s. I would have read every novel he’s ever written but for a couple decades he’s been in a Smith-Corona destruction derby with Stephen King. Had I been editing Fantastic Four, I would have found a way to get Mosley to write it. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #051: The Challenge of Ideas”