Category: Brainiac On Banjo

Brainiac On Banjo: Superman and the Dingleberries of Society!

Number forty-seven said to number three: You’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see. I sure would be delighted with your company, Come on and do the Jailhouse Rock with me. — “Jailhouse Rock, by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, 1957.

Bill Maher has a segment on his show called “I Don’t Know It For a Fact, I Just Know It’s True.” Here’s my contribution.

The smaller your mind, the more likely it is to fall out your nose. This is why you’re called “blowhards.”

Case in point: the pathetically predictable response to Jon Kent’s coming out as bisexual. You’d think they discovered a couple dozen missing votes for Trump.

Ignoring the facts that Jon Kent is a fictional character, that the audience is familiar with the concept of bisexuality and aren’t likely to “convert” anybody just because a comic book character kissed a member of his own sex, and that the only thing that noticeably drives comic book sales is its perceived collectability, it’s kind of amazing that so many fools totally lost their little minds when they heard this story.

Don’t get me wrong: I enjoy watching people like Tucker Carlson go apeshit over “dog bites man” stories, although it’s becoming as boring as it has been predictable. If they think this is a recruitment issue for the White supremacists that are in our face 24/7, they’re preaching to their own choir. To be fair, these self-absorbed dingleberries of society are indeed the only ones who would listen.

Since I love tossing rock lyrics around, let me assure you Pete Townshend was right. “This is no social crisis. Just another tricky day. You’ll get through.” I don’t think Warner Media execs or even AT&T stockholders will, to quote Flo and Eddie, “pull their heads out of their own puke” over this one. It won’t kill their Discovery deal.

These toadlickers are still pissed that Heimdall has been played by a Black man in the Marvel movies for a bit more than a decade. To them, that’s heresy… which is weird, as American White supremacy is a movement that appears to mostly attract Christians (but no, not the other way around; give me a break). However, every controversy is fraught with comedic potential: I explain to these numbskulls that, given the turf and the times, Jesus Christ absolutely had to be Black — so why not Heimdall? Then I watch the nuclear cloud blow the top off of their bald, teensy brain pans.

Yet, somehow, these same neverlaids get stimulated by Joan Jett’s cover version of “Crimson and Clover.”

My advice to Jon Kent, who I remind you is a fictional character, is to fly above the bullshit. You know these psychopaths are simply jealous.

And, yes, my tighty-Whities. I did start this one with a Bill Maher reference just to piss you off. Like I said, you’re pathetically predictable.

(Mike Gold will be joining our own Bob Harrison as guests at the Baltimore Comic-Con, October 22 through 24, at — go know — the Baltimore Convention Center. If you would like to discuss the above words of wisdom, remember: you’ll be in public, even if you’re wearing a mask.)

Brainiac On Banjo: Del Close! Holy Shit!!!

Back in the day I was involved in producing a comic book called Wasteland. This effort led to the one question I have been asked most often in comics, particularly by my fellow field laborers. That question is “how the hell did you get DC Comics to publish that book?”

I was surrounded by a lot of talent who are as incredibly gifted as they are unique. This is a matter of fact: they unleashed some truly brilliant, emotionally terrorizing stuff. Artists William Messner-Loebs, Ty Templeton, Don Simpson, David Lloyd, George Freeman, Tom Artis and Tim Dzon, Lovern Kindzierski, Timothy Truman, William Wray, Michael Davis, Rick Magyar, Tom Ziuko, Joe Orlando, Tony Salmons. Writers John Ostrander and Del Close. Associate editors Robert Greenberger and Brian Augustyn. And a cast of dozens.

Working with these folks was an absolute honor and a joy.

Now, there’s a documentary about Wasteland called “For Madmen Only: The Stories of Del Close,” directed by Heather Ross and written by Heather and Adam Samuel Goldman. No kidding. It’s got an iMBD page to prove it.

The whole idea of using Wasteland as the basis for doing a documentary about Del is, if you’ll forgive me, dazzling. Hey, it wasn’t my idea; I’m just in it. Heather’s the one who pulled it off and it took her years to do so. That requires a lot of energy with an attention span to match. Del’s been subject of several biographies that are quite good – in fact, Howard Johnson’s is quite great – but revealing the marrow of that man to a 2021 audience is no easy trick. His days as a performer, a Shakespearean actor, a teacher and a director are well noted, particularly his long association with Second City, the iO (a.k.a. improvOlympics), the Upright Citizens Brigade and Saturday Night Live.

I’ve long felt my pals in sweet home Chicago should build a statue of him and place it in Lincoln Park, close to Second City. Those of us who appreciate the history of American comedy would enjoy it, of course, and I think Del would appreciate his providing a place for the pigeons.

In order to have a documentary, you probably should have interviews with some of the people involved with Del (you’ll see just how they are involved in the documentary) and among those in For Madmen Only are Bob Odenkirk, Patton Oswalt, Adam McKay, Tim Meadows, Charna Halpern, Howard Johnson, Susan Messing, Alan Meyerson, Jason Sudeikis, Dave Thomas, Michaela Watkins, George Wendt, as well as John and myself. There are flashback scenes where Josh Fadem plays John, James Urbaniak plays Del, and Matt Walsh plays me. There’s a ton of real Del Close footage, as is only fitting as his name is there in the title, and much of that feature some of the other well-known legends that Del worked with, trained, and/or got into trouble with.

Holy shit. I just broke my own world’s record for name-dropping.

To be serious for the moment – don’t worry, it’s a one-time thing – this is an honor that shakes me to my very bones. Wasteland was, and still is, the most fun I’ve had in comics with my clothes on. I think we all knew we were walking a tightrope when we did the series, but I doubt many of us realized we’d finish falling up!

Plus… please allow me one more snatch of egoboo. Having Matt Walsh play me, for crying out loud, is mind-bogglingly amazing.

At the top of this piece I said I’ve been asked about how I got DC Comics to publish Wasteland. Well, it just so happens that this very Sunday, July 25th, at the San Diego Comic Con – which is once again on You Tube this year because of the Plague – I’m on a panel where I reveal exactly that. It airs starting at 10 AM west coast time, which, for those of you who can’t work a slide rule, is 1 PM eastern time and 2:30 PM Newfoundland time. Hey, you never know. The You Tube link ishttps://bit.ly/3xTQHqj; the long link is https://youtu.be/7Xddm_N-djo.

OK.

We’re ready for our close-up, Heather!

 

Brainiac On Banjo: Screw The Sick

When the men on the chessboard / Get up and tell you where to go / And you’ve just had some kind of mushroom / And your mind is moving low / Go ask Alice / I think she’ll know – Grace Slick, White Rabbit, 1965.

I will freely admit that when I first read about the medicinal uses for psilocybin, I was more than just a bit surprised. I had taken the stuff in 1971, had a swell time, found it to be an exceptionally intense and pleasurable experience, and never touched it again. No reason not to; it was just a sweet “been there, done that” kind of thing. My usage was recreational, if you define “recreation” as sitting in a wicker chair for four hours listening to the Grateful Dead’s Live/Dead album on an 8-track loop.

Ah, hippies. Lovable people. Really. And psilocybin was one of our generation’s many gifts to you young ‘uns. You’re welcome.

Lately, psilocybin has been receiving a lot of publicity as an effective treatment for a number of serious medical conditions and is being studied and even legalized for such use in an increasing number of states. Of course, the feds continue to treat it as the stuff nightmares are made of, just as they still do with cannabis. In these endeavors, the Biden administration continues to assert its anti-science role as the nation’s Morality Police, defining morality strictly in Billy Sunday terms. “Screw the sick,” they appear to be advocating. “We don’t want nobody getting cured if might make them feel good. The diseased must be punished for their crime!”

So it comes as no surprise that the DEA – the pathetically inept and life-ruining Drug Enforcement Agency – reached into its suitcase of clichés to site the most hypocritical and asinine argument.

Well, of course. Legalizing currently controlled substances despite their medicinal value will have one extremely negative impact on our society. It might put the useless, obstructionist and disgusting waste of taxpayers’ money Drug Enforcement Agency out of business. As Governor Lepetomane famously said, and I frequently repeat, “we’ve got to protect our phony-baloney jobs!”

So the federal busybodies are telling us limited medical access could boost the illegal drug trade. This, of course, is a pile of hypocritical bullshit that is 90 years past its expiration date. You may have noticed alcohol and tobacco are available over the counter to adults. Have these substances drifted down to the under-aged and the legally sanctioned? Why, yes, absolutely. Just like guns, cars, prescription drugs, marijuana (in over half of the nation), and people who are not “this high” to get on the ride. We have a word for those who break the law and deliver such joys to children. We call them “criminals.” Sometimes, we even bust them for doing so. That, too, is rare, but it happens. The fact that it is so rare underscores the hypocrisy of denying such medical treatment to those who need it. If it makes you feel good and is not represented by a well-healed lobby, you can’t have it. Nayh nayh nayh nayh nayh.

If, assuming its benefits are scientifically confirmed, I am prescribed psilocybin for whatever my condition might be, our government has no right to restrict my treatment unless and until they declare war on me.

Which they have. They’re quite good at it, too. Just ask any woman.

That great American profit Mojo Nixon wrote “we gotta help the sick and the addicted, but we’re killin’ ourselves with the new prohibition. Our government’s try to tell you what to do; decide for yourself what’s right for you. If ya go too far and ya get outta hand,
then ya take a little trip down to prison land!” (Legalize It, 1985)

That is truth to power, Brother Mojo.

 

Brainiac On Banjo: No Lunch For Batman

Brainiac On Banjo: No Lunch For Batman

“Down on me, down on me; looks like everybody in this whole round world, they’re down on me.” Janis Joplin, Down On Me, 1967

Many years ago, the late and truly great Dennis O’Neil said that neither Bruce Wayne nor Batman had a sex life; he/they sublimated all such compulsions, folding them into the mission. Denny said that in the office that we shared, and, damn, it made sense to me. In fact, it explained a lot about the guy.

Mind you, as the writer or editor of a great, great many top-rank Batman stories over the course of five decades, I believe Denny knew more about what made Batman tick than Bruce Wayne ever could. However, this particular observation was not canonical. Bruce even fostered a son with his frenemy Talia al Ghul, and that child became the latest Robin — as of this writing, of course.

Let us now flash forward to the late summer of 2018 and the release of DC’s Black Label adults-only series, Batman – Damned. Created by writer Brian Azzarello and artist Lee Bermejo, the story ran three issues. It was the first volume that upset some people, as it had the briefest glimpse of a small part of Bruce’s penis. To be fair, it really wasn’t enough to be perceived as salacious by anybody but the most pathetically repressed — not unlike Janet Jackson’s nipple which evidently blinded tens of thousands of small children who were watching the Super Bowl but were thinking of dinner.

Oh, yes: it also bothered the bean counters at DC/Warner Bros/WarnerMedia/AT&T/Lucky Charms or whatever the hell they were calling themselves that week. Bean counters are the most paranoid people in the media businesses; it’s in their job description. People made such a big deal of it that the Batwang was, well, overly circumcised in the digital editions and in later reprintings. The parent companies were so offended that the whole thing had an impact on several careers. The whole thing had a short shelf-life as the object of snickering jokes on late-night television.

O.K. So “Adults Only” in DCland doesn’t include, you know, adult stuff. Lesson learned. And lesson repeated this month.

For over a year, WarnerMedia (now called Warner Bros. Discovery, at least as of this writing) has had this very expensive streaming service called HBO Max. It’s got a lot of original material, and much of it is generated by DC comics properties. These shows are not G rated, nor are they PG. Sometimes there’s a fine line between R and X ratings, and a lot of HBO Max’s DC stuff inhabits that zip code. This pace was set in the first episode of their first series, Titans, where Dick Grayson (a.k.a. Robin the First) shouts “Fuck Batman!” Holy Wertham, Batfans! WTF??

Titans survived and the third season goes up in August. Their second show, The Doom Patrol, has had actual on-screen sex, with naughty bits and more about Brendon Fraser than you might want to know. Their other Batman related show, the adults-only animated series Harley Quinn, is the most adults-only of the bunch, and the third season is now in production. But at least one scene won’t be completed — the one where Batman has oral sex with Catwoman. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: No Lunch For Batman”

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.

Brainiac On Banjo: Publish and Perish?

Brainiac On Banjo: Publish and Perish?

“I need you, but I hate to see you this way / If I were Superman then we’d fly away / I’d really like to change the world / And save it from the mess it’s in / I’m too weak, I’m so thin / I’d like to fly but I can’t even swim” — Ray Davies, (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman, 1979.

You might have heard the news. It’s been bombarding El Casa de Oro all week, and it’s been blitzing the interwebs to the point where I’m thinking of upgrading my dial-up. But just in case you’ve been away chasing after the Perseverance Rover, I’ll make my journalism teachers happy.

This past weekend, AT&T sold control and most of their ownership of their WarnerMedia division to Discovery Networks, owners of the many, many Discovery “cable” channels, HGTV, the Food Network, TLC, ID, Animal Planet, the Magnolia Network, and the Discovery+ streaming operation. They call this stuff “reality programming” but, as we all know, reality is in the mind of the beholder. As far as I’m concerned, that million-dollar vaccine lottery is the only reality show.

AT&T had only recently bought what they now call WarnerMedia — Warner Bros, CNN, HBO, Cinemax, the Cartoon Network, TCM, TBS, TNT, and a bunch of other stuff. If you can read the six-point type, you’ll discover they own some publishing as well, such as whatever is left of Mad Magazine and the meandering DC comics. Ma Bell went into so much debt to do this deal that, upon reading the report, King Midas reflexively picked his nose.

After acquiring that Denali of debt load, AT&T came down with a severe case of buyer’s remorse. I’m sure the stay-home-or-die principle that governed most thinking humans these past fourteen months did not help one bit, but it wasn’t a very good deal in the first place. After all, what does AT&T know about running the Home Insurance Building of media (sorry; “I.P.”) companies? Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Publish and Perish?”

Brainiac On Banjo: New York, Naked

“It trails me and it tails me down to Central Park. Even after dark, New York is my home. New York is calling me, and now I find the city never sleeps… it’s my state of mind.” New York Is My Home, written by Dion Di Mucci, Scott Kempner, and Mike Acquilina, 2016

Like many pop culture enthusiasts – we used to be called “fans” before cosplay became a big deal — my “top ten favorite movies” list runs a bit heavy. I recently took to creating an actual written-down list and, as of this typing, this effort has engorged to 66 films. I’m sure it will lengthen.

Among those works on film to which I am most endeared is a 1948 flick called “The Naked City,” directed by Jules Dassin and starring Barry Fitzgerald, Howard Duff, and Dorothy Hart. Despite its title, this brilliant and authentic action movie is not the least bit salacious. It most certainly is naked, in the sense that The Naked City is the most poignant portrait of New York City I have seen.

This is the New York City of legend, filmed on location. Well, 80% of it was filmed on location, and that certainly fits the definition of unique. No other movie had so much Manhattan footage, and the performers and crew were not limited to the types of cover shots we are used to seeing on shows like N.Y.P.D. Blue.

We are thrust into the real, heroic city of legend that is no longer with us, but unlike Camelot or Brigadoon this place was real and that is the stuff of this movie. It was the town many of our ancestors first saw when they came to America, the portal to a new world that offered the promise of fair play, opportunity, equality, and democracy. Those values may be fading rapidly as well, but that’s for another time.

As much as I love the work of Damon Runyon, the New York City seen in this movie is the real thing. There are no singing and dancing gangsters in this production. You can almost smell the sidewalk hot dogs, the sweat of the workers, and the stench of the tenements on a hot summer day — The Naked City was filmed in the very, very hot summer of 1947, and it shows.

Long gone are the Manhattan elevated trains and the Essex Street Market, the old Staten Island Ferry terminal and the real Penn Station, the ramshackle and often dangerous subdivided apartment buildings for those who dream, and the mom-n-pop stores that met their needs. Big-box chain stores and franchise fast food were almost unheard of. It was America’s portal to the rest of the world and, more important, it was the portal from the rest of the world.

The movie most certainly suffers from some of the constraints and attitudes of its time. There’s plenty of white ethnic diversity, and that’s about it. New York City is and always been a lot more than that, but in 1948 I suspect a lot of people wondered why they ever would be interested in seeing a movie about a bunch of Irish, Italians, and Ashkenazi… let alone about New Yorkers. The Naked City does not portray a lot of high falutin’ swells living in the vertical gated communities that line Central Park; this is the people of New York whose heads would explode at the thought of paying today’s $3,500 a month rent.

The original The Naked City movie, later remade as several television series and movies, is a breathtaking, highly detailed and emotionally appropriate record of the city that defined America. It is a 96-minute time machine that nails down the roots of our cultural heritage.

It’s also a damn good cop movie.

The Naked City is on HBO Max and, better still, the 23-minute Criterion documentary Uncovering The Naked City is there as well, although I do not know how long either will be streaming from that venue. Talk about Brigadoon… Of course, both are available from Criterion on home video and on the Criterion Channel. I say “better still” because The Naked City is shown on TCM with some regularity but the documentary is a mere seventeen months old and not quite as accessible. It’s a love letter to both the movie and to the city that made it… and, of course, to the people who made it as well.

As they said in this movie and its subsequent adaptations, “There are eight million stories in the naked city.” This has been the best of them.

The author dedicates this column to Howard V. Chaykin, the source of several of those eight million stories.

Brainiac On Banjo #110: With This Ring…

Brainiac On Banjo #110: With This Ring…

It’s gone away from me / The thrill is gone baby / The thrill is gone away from me / Although, I’ll still live on / But so lonely I’ll be / The thrill is gone – The Thrill Is Gone, Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell, 1951

Today, as we currently reckon time, is the day DC Comics launches a brand-new Green Lantern title. Have they done this previously? I mean, previously in 2021. I know it’s only early April, but every week they do not introduce a new Green Lantern title, or at least a new Green Lantern, seems to me to be a rare week indeed.

I’m not complaining about this new series. I haven’t read it. I haven’t even decided not to read it, but, as the song goes, the thrill is gone.

I clearly remember buying the first silver age Green Lantern in late July of 1959. I was a week shy of nine years old, and new superhero launches were very few and quite far between. I took to it as though it were a barbecue beef sammich. A rocket crashes (I’m telling you the short version) and inside the rocket is a dying alien. His ring — his ring! — sought out the nearest fearless person worthy of herohood and found a test pilot named Hal Jordon. Go figger; a handsome white American dude. He said “OK, fine, you’re worthy. Put on this ring and go figure it out. I’m dying here.”

It was really cool. The artwork, storytelling, and design work were stellar, and the new guy could do anything as long as he wasn’t using that ring on anything yellow. Yellow? Do you know how much stuff out there is yellow? For crying out loud, yellow and green are next to each other on the color wheel! Yet the stories were so compelling I accepted that, just the way I accepted his tedious, time-consuming oath. I eagerly followed the three Showcase issues, I was pleased to see he was in the original Justice League of America six months later, and then I was thrilled that he got his own series — all within 10 months!

In no more than a few years, Green Lantern’s bosses thought there should be a standby GL just in case Hal meets the same fate as his predecessor. Guy Gardiner wasn’t around all that much, but he was there when he was needed.

Several years after that, the little blue men with the Dr. Zorba haircuts decided the neighborhood needed still another backup Green Lantern. It was nice to see, John Stewart, a Black man get the gig, a very rare thing for 1971. But I got to thinking…

The little blue men, who took to calling themselves the Guardians of the Universe (the other Guardians have a tree), had divided all of the universe into 3600 sectors (that number later doubled; after all, the universe is ever-expanding). Each sector had its own Green Lantern. OK, initially that was really cool because most of the other GLs did not appear to be humanoid, and such diversity was not so fully embraced in the comics of the time. Hal, and Guy, and John all worked in Sector 2814 and by now all three were full-timers.

Why does Earth get three while every place else only gets one? There’s something really unfair about that.

Kyle Rayner became still another Earthman Green Lantern. That’s four from the same sector. In the ensuing years Simon Baz, Jessica Cruz and now Keli Quintela became part of this overwhelmingly Earthish group of heroes. Even the original-original Green Lantern, Alan Scott from the 1940s, got retconned into this horde, and others in history have popped up from time to time. Sojourner “Jo” Mullein is or was or will be a greenie as well.

Is Anya Savenlovich still a Lantern? Probably; in comics, nobody ever disappears forever. Does anybody remember Charlie Vicker? I think he grew up to be Ryan Reynolds. And then there’s Donna Parker, and I think Jennifer-Lynn Hayden, a.k.a. Jade — Alan Scott’s kid — is back on the scene along with her father’s increased exposure in the DC universe du jour.

I won’t go into the Green Lantern who appeared in last month’s Zack Marathon. That wasn’t a comic book, and if it was supposed to be it never would have been published.

To be fair, I don’t mind the GLs from those thrilling days of yesteryear. History goes back a bit, and it makes sense that the ones from the 20th century were not the first. But I’m not as certain about all those many Green Lanterns from the “future” that lurk around every corner.

The whole Green Lantern concept is no longer special, but, then again, I’m no longer nine years old, my behavior notwithstanding. Soon there will be as many Green Lanterns as there were Elvis impersonators — and Green Lanterns have a much longer shelf-life. Of course, now somebody is going to come up with an Elvis Presley Green Lantern, but I doubt AT&T will pony up the licensing fees.

You may very well be a Green Lantern. If so, please don’t take this personally — I’d take the gig too, if offered. But my power ring wouldn’t work on anything gray.

Brainiac On Banjo #109: What Jessica Walter Means To Me

Brainiac On Banjo #109: What Jessica Walter Means To Me

Don’t you ever miss your house in the country, and your hot little mamma too? Don’t you better get a shot from the doctor, for what the Road Ladies do to you? – Frank Zappa, Road Ladies, 1970

I was just 21¼ years old. Old enough to know better. And, well, I did know better.

I had started on the radio about two years earlier, doing freeform “underground” shows overnights on Chicago FM stations. Back in those days, FM wasn’t on most car radios and station owners bought them just so that their competitors could not. At that time, nobody made money on overnight FM except for those slots that were purchased — brokered — by churches, far-right-wing political howlers, and foreign-language shows. That is, nobody made money until we came along.

In short order, my peers warned the 19-year-old me that, from time to time, women would call the studio in the middle of the night and make it clear that a personal appearance need not involve guitars and amplifiers. Remember, this was during that hallowed time between the invention of the birth control pill and the onset of HIV, and it was a wonderful period to be a 19 year old with Y chromosomes that screamed louder than a pack of shock-jocks.

My peers pointed out that these ladies had never seen me, and that I had never seen them. All they knew was I was on radio which, admittedly, can be an intimate experience at 3 in the morning. According to my instructors, other than an hour’s pleasure nothing good could come out of such parlances… and quite often there’s a world of hurt around the corner.

Yeah. Right. I was pushing 20 and I was full of three things… one of which being myself.

I had just started at a station in Evanston, Chicago’s northern neighbor and their studio was along the Chicago River about two miles from the fabled “L” trains. As is wont to happen, one night my car broke down in their parking lot and I had to choose between a long walk or an even longer wait for repair. I was three hours into my five-hour shift and I knew that walk would be annoying. I mentioned my situation on the air. At three in the morning. Sadly, my “Uh-Oh Sense” declined to stop me. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #109: What Jessica Walter Means To Me”

Brainiac On Banjo #108: The Purple Zombie! – Women’s History Month

Brainiac On Banjo #108: The Purple Zombie! – Women’s History Month

Thanks to several decades of following Trina Robbins’ research, I’ve been a Tarpé Mills fan since… well, probably since dinosaurs started making oil.

Mills is best known as the creator/writer/artist of the costumed newspaper comic strip hero Miss Fury (1941 – 1949), which, for the record, debuted six months before Wonder Woman. But prior to that, she worked for a variety of neophyte comic book publishers, creating such features as Diana Deane / White Goddess (1936), Devil’s Dust, The Cat Man, Daredevil Barry Finn (1939), and The Purple Zombie (1940). It is this latter creation that now brings my fingers to the keyboard.

In addition to my affection for Mills’ work, I have a serious thing for stories that are insanely weird and bizarre. The Purple Zombie was so weird it makes Herbie The Fat Fury look like Mark Trail.

Here’s the short version: a pair of scientists come up with a way to create zombies, but one is an evil scientist and the other wants it to be used for the betterment of humanity. Zombies For Peace! Right on! The bad guy does not kill the good guy, although he does try. He gets killed in the process and P.Z. divines the good guy as his master. So, the good guy drafts P.Z. into joining the 1940 anti-fascist movement which, at the time, was pretty much limited to fighting Nazis and the Spanish civil war. By the way, in Spain the American antifa was called “The Abraham Lincoln Brigade.” Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #108: The Purple Zombie! – Women’s History Month”