Brainiac On Banjo 042: This Joke’s On You

Brainiac On Banjo 042: This Joke’s On You

I just concluded a scientifically-ridiculous survey and the results are staggering. I still have not met a single person who is looking forward to WarnerMedia’s new Joker movie.

Reportedly, this latest incarnation of our favorite playing card-based villain has nothing to do with any other Joker in any version of the character in any manifestation of any of the overpopulated DCUs. The authenticity of that remains to be not seen. But it appears this DC-logoed movie has less in common with the comic book legend about to endure its 80th birthday than it does with James Bond playing baccarat at the Casino Royale.

That’s okay. The most overused character since Wolverine (who, I believe, showed up in a Planet Terry story arc), I can’t recognize The Joker from one bloated comic book story to the next. Great character, dumb character, confusing character… well, I never met the guy. And seeing that for the past 29 years Warners has been disinterested in making a Batman movie worthy of the cellulose acetate upon which it’s memorialized, I really don’t care. I’ve given up. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo 042: This Joke’s On You”

Brainiac On Banjo #043: We’re Not Getting Mad…

Brainiac On Banjo #043: We’re Not Getting Mad…

All your children are poor unfortunate victims of lies you believe / A plague upon your ignorance that keeps the young from the truth they deserve. – Frank Zappa, “What’s The Ugliest Part of Your Body?”

For those who have been following the long and lingering death of Mad Magazine, a couple days ago things took another turn for the worse when it was announced that after two more inventory-burning issues, the legendary publication would stop running new material.

That’s sad. 67 years ago Mad changed the nature of our culture, being the first comic book to confront our nation’s culture and its many foibles head-on. It was an important part of a vital movement in the 1950s spawned by innovators such as Lenny Bruce, Dick Gregory, Second City, Ernie Kovacs and Moms Mabley. Mad was all the more important by being the first specifically oriented to those not yet old enough to vote. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #043: We’re Not Getting Mad…”

The Weed of Crime Bears Bitchin’ Fruit

The Weed of Crime Bears Bitchin’ Fruit

Earlier this month the Illinois legislature passed and sent to the governor a bill legalizing the sale and possession of marijuana. Within 24 hours, I had received a half-dozen emails and texts asking me when I was moving back home.

I’ve been gone a third of a century, but – like most obnoxious Chicago ex-pats – the city remains imbedded in my heart. The people, the traditions, music and the folklore, and the highly dangerous but totally fabulous junk food that is all such an integral part of the city’s culture remains remarkably seductive. Continue reading “The Weed of Crime Bears Bitchin’ Fruit”

Brainiac On Banjo #041: It’s Not Easy Drinking Green

Brainiac On Banjo #041: It’s Not Easy Drinking Green

If you’re from the Midwest or you’ve spent some serious time there, you are about to understand why I am expanding the meaning of the phrase “pop culture.”

I had just turned 11. I know this because my Uncle Irv took me to Normie’s deli for lunch, and it was next door to Weiner’s Drug Store where I purchased Superman #149, “The Death of Superman.” Yup, that’s the way fanboys organize our personal histories.

I told Uncle Irv I wasn’t very hungry and he suggested I just order a plate of french fries. I didn’t know you could do that, so I was thrilled I didn’t have to waste stomach-space on stuff that inadvertently might be healthy. He then asked me if I ever had a Green River. I didn’t know what that was, so he ordered me a glass. Green River was – and remains – what we in the Midwest call “pop.” Some southerners call it “co-cola” (even if it’s Pepsi), and folks out east call it soda. That annoys me – in my world, “soda” has ice cream in it. Seeing that New Yorkers look down their nose at all things non-New York, I refer to the substance as “soda pop.” They scowl, but they don’t complain. Not if they know me. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #041: It’s Not Easy Drinking Green”

Brainiac On Banjo #040: Stream On, Big Media, Stream On…

Brainiac On Banjo #040: Stream On, Big Media, Stream On…

Frequent readers of Brainiac On Banjo (seriously; there must be something better for you to do) have been absorbing my incessant prattle about streaming media for a while now. Yeah, I think it’s important. Streaming is bringing about the biggest sea-change to the entertainment world since we dropped the atom bomb.

“Really?” you might ask. “Bigger than television? Bigger than VCRs/DVRs? Even bigger than microwave popcorn? Why?” Well, that’s a fair question, and thank you for asking.

It took television a while to become big. In constant dollars, tiny TV sets cost a lot of money, the image was low-resolution and often full of “ghost” images, and the youngest person in the room had to stand by the set holding the antenna in the proper position in order to watch anything. The sundry video recorders, mechanical and virtual, freed the viewer from a strict allegiance to the clock, and microwave popcorn saved Indiana from certain economic doom.

Steaming has taken time-control one step further: content creators no longer have to fight for a Donald Trump-sized handful of open slots on the broadcast networks. Cable television no longer is a monopoly unless it is your only source of wi-fi. It’s launched an employment boon for actors, producers, writers and other such entertainment reprobates. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #040: Stream On, Big Media, Stream On…”

Brainiac On Banjo #039: The Great Devon Avenue Comics Hunt

Brainiac On Banjo #039: The Great Devon Avenue Comics Hunt

I often wonder how new readers come across comic books. I wonder if new readers come across comic books.

Back in those thrilling days of yesteryear, my main supplier was a drug store about an eighth of a mile from my place. I already was into the stuff due to my sister’s persuasion, but this drug store also was an eighth of a mile from my grammar school and I was there plowing through the racks each and every Thursday by 4:00 PM. There were two other such drug stores within a half mile radius.

Damn near every Saturday my pals and I would bop on down Chicago’s Devon Avenue, hanging out, goofing off, lagging baseball cards, and stopping at seven different comic book racks during our half-mile trek — six independent drug stores and, of all things, a bicycle shop that for some reason (read: enforced inducement) was our major source of Charlton Comics. They received them en masse, in bulk, and infrequently. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #039: The Great Devon Avenue Comics Hunt”

Brainiac On Banjo #038: Different? HA!

Brainiac On Banjo #038: Different? HA!

Are you tired of all of those superhero shows on television? After a while, do most of them kind of drift together as though they were Avengers Endgame on the installment plan? Well, if so, I’ve got the television show for you!

As noted previously, The Doom Patrol, on the DC Universe service with all episodes now streaming (and Swamp Thing beginning next week), started out with the Big Bad, Mr. Nobody, masterfully portrayed by Alan Tudyk with a nod to Frank Gorshin, telling the viewers that this is not going to be in any way shape or form your father’s superhero television show. Now that the first season has ended, it turns out he was absolutely on-the-money. The television series has been uncontrollably batshit — completely unpredictable, true to the spirit of the Vertigo version of the team, often brilliantly performed (Diane Guerrero deserves a separate paycheck for each version of Crazy Jane she portrays), and with special effects that are unique from anything else I’ve seen on broadcast or streaming. Oh, and it’s got really first-rate and highly dangerous writing. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #038: Different? HA!”

Brainiac On Banjo #037: Everything You Know Is Wrong, part ∞

Brainiac On Banjo #037: Everything You Know Is Wrong, part ∞

Followers of this column, as well as its predecessor somewhere over there, are well aware of my observation that our friends over at DC have a tendency to hit the reset button as though they were voting against Trump. The latter is admirable. The former is… confusing.

Case in point: The Batman. Or, as more popularly known… Batman. This has been his 80th birthday year, and it’s being celebrated by the complete lack of a major motion picture showing at a theater near you. I’m not being sarcastic — at least, not in this instance. After the past decade’s worth of Batman theatricals, the most respectful celebration is sans-movie. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #037: Everything You Know Is Wrong, part ∞”

Brainiac On Banjo #037: Pat Mills and the Mitzvah Patrol

Brainiac On Banjo #037: Pat Mills and the Mitzvah Patrol

Back when books were still printed on papyrus, those of us in comics fandom did what the Ashkenazis call a mitzvah. We started honoring the men and women in the comics world shortly after the time they had been been identified by Congress, the Saturday Evening Post, Reader’s Digest and Dr. Frederick Wertham as something akin to child molesters. We showed these talented people that their work entertained us and maybe even inspired us, and that we appreciated them for those efforts. These were creative people who, at parties and family gatherings, would self-identity as “commercial artists” in order to avoid being ostracized.

Most of us continue to shed light on creators who have not received their proper due. One such gifted human is well-known in his native United Kingdom, but here in the States… not so much. He probably doesn’t feel wronged, and if I’m helping to strip away some of that anonymity, I owe him an apology. But, hey, he signs his work. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #037: Pat Mills and the Mitzvah Patrol”

Brainiac On Banjo #036: Women Unite — But In Mongolia, Hold The Soda!

Brainiac On Banjo #036: Women Unite — But In Mongolia, Hold The Soda!

Avengers: Endgame passed the $2,100,000,000 mark ten days after release, so in honor of that momentous event, here is a photo of my all-time favorite superhero team-up, even though it has yet to happen on-screen.

Now that the Avengers movies have made about as much money as your average Wall Street cocaine dealer, I think we can say the “women heroes don’t sell movies” bullshit is behind us. It’s time to do the A-Force movie.

Seriously. It’s well past time, but before this weekend the banks might not have financed such a film. I think an A-Force movie will inspire more young girls than a woman president, though that is not an either/or proposition. And the prospect of women getting their boyfriends to take them to a big super-hero movie epic is the very meaning of “turnabout is fair play.” Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #036: Women Unite — But In Mongolia, Hold The Soda!”