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”

Brainiac On Banjo #050: Comics and the Cost of Doing Business

Brainiac On Banjo #050: Comics and the Cost of Doing Business

The price of a comic book jumped 267% during the 1970s, from 15 cents to 40. The pace slowed down by half between 2009 and 2018, from $2.99 to $3.99. It’s that last number I am going to discuss, and I’ll start with Stan Lee.

(For the record, price points differ between publishers and, sometimes, titles so the above reflects the “typical” Marvel/DC title. Your statistical analysis may vary.)

Back in the 1970s, Stan was making a signing appearance at my buddy Larry Charet’s iconic comic book store on Devon Avenue in Chicago. It was cool, as seeing Stan at a store back then was rare – so rare that it was long before people started charging for autographs and selfies. One fan asked the question “Why are comic books so expensive all of a sudden?” Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #050: Comics and the Cost of Doing Business”

Brainiac On Banjo #049: Pennyworth – Might See TV?

Brainiac On Banjo #049: Pennyworth – Might See TV?

Did you notice there are a lot of television shows based upon superheroes? Do you have a television set and an internet connection?

If you think it’s getting crowded, just wait. Disney announced a whole bunch of new Marvel shows, including Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, She-Hulk, Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel – and remember, Loki, WandaVision, What If…?, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier have yet to debut.

DC has Stargirl coming up soon, and they’re threatening to follow Arrow up with a new CW series – not counting Batwoman, which starts in a bit over a month. Watchmen starts soon (maybe it’s already on – I can’t tell anymore), and the Harley Quinn animated series is pretty much in the can. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #049: Pennyworth – Might See TV?”

Brainiac On Banjo 048: Tragedy, Horror and Justice Denied

Brainiac On Banjo 048: Tragedy, Horror and Justice Denied

 

I entered the first grade in 1956 and I graduated from high school in 1968. During those dozen years, I did not hear one word from my teachers about the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II. I did not read about it in any of my schoolbooks. I didn’t hear about it from my family, or from newspapers, radio, or television.

Being something of a history freak and heavily under the influence of George Santayana, I initially stumbled across this horror in fairly superficial terms. As time went on and we moved from incarcerating Asian-Americans in America to killing the natives of southeast Asia, I had been able to gather a great quantity of information about the internment camps… but, even so, I had only scratched the surface. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo 048: Tragedy, Horror and Justice Denied”

Brainiac On Banjo #046: Getting Mad For The Last Time?

Brainiac On Banjo #046: Getting Mad For The Last Time?

That Mad Magazine cover shot to your left (well, it’s to my left) with the old-timey Harvey Kurtzman logo is on what purports to be their final mostly new-content issue. If it looks familiar and you haven’t been to the supermarket in the past five days, you may have noticed it in Quentin Tarantino’s latest movie, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.

The movie is set in 1969 and it’s about a nearly washed-up television actor best known (in the storyline) for his headlining a black and white western show the decade before. That’s the movie actor Leo DiCaprio playing television actor Rick Dalton there on the cover; the movie also stars Brad Pitt as Dalton’s stuntman/best friend, and Harley Quinn’s Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate. Comics fans might be amused to know that it also costars the 1970s Spider-Man, Nicholas Hammond, as well as Riverdale’s Luke Perry in what is, if I’m not mistaken, his final performance. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #046: Getting Mad For The Last Time?”

Brainiac On Banjo #045: Prescient Murders

Brainiac On Banjo #045: Prescient Murders

You probably heard about the mass shootings in a El Paso Texas Walmart and in Northeast Ohio this weekend. Maybe not; these two were the third and fourth such slaughter this week, and we’re getting accustomed to it. As of this writing – Sunday evening – 29 bodies have been found and several dozen have been hospitalized. The alleged shooter in Texas is in custody., the alleged shooter in Ohio was killed at the scene.

Right now we have endured 2,191 mass shootings since the Sandy Hook Elementary School murders that happened on December 14, 2012. That was less than seven years ago. If that hasn’t provided us with sufficient warning, and even if they have, I would like to direct your attention to an amazingly prescient movie made in 1971, based upon a play that opened on Broadway four years earlier. Both were labelled as “black comedies” but that exposes the downside of prescience: what was black comedy a half-century ago has evolved into a documentary. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #045: Prescient Murders”

Brainiac On Banjo #044: The Old Defecator Speaks!

Brainiac On Banjo #044: The Old Defecator Speaks!

Tuli Kupferberg, 1999, premiering Why Must I Be A Septuagenarian In Love

Each night I ask the Satellite of Love / Why must I be an alter-kocker in love?

Long ago, I realized America is not a melting pot. It’s more of a smorgasbord. That’s the way it should be: we go from ethnicity to ethnicity sucking up what we like out of each culture while sharing our own. Even a hardcore white supremacist will scream at you to go back to where you came from while driving a Kia, listening to Elvis Presley and eating chimichangas.

Nonetheless, our American language has been quite an effective melting pot. For example, most Jew-haters will go Gestapo on your ass while shouting dialogue infused with many common Yiddish words that seem, to these goose-steppers, to be as American as corned beef on rye. That would be cute, if not for the hobnails. Sadly, the extremely useful phrase “alter-kocker” has not been as well-deployed as glitch, chutzpah, and klutz. Alter-kocker means an old man, and it comes from the German phrase for “old defecator.” You’d think our great American swastika lovers would enjoy that. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #044: The Old Defecator Speaks!”

Brainiac On Banjo #043: Adam’s Not Strange

I see that our friends at DC Comics are bringing back Adam Strange again.

Yeah, I know. He’s pretty much always been around since his creation 61 years ago. But with DC’s Escheresque approach to continuity, it’s hard to know for sure. It was announced last week that the space hero with the amazing pedigree will return next year in a new Strange Adventures series, courtesy of the team that brought us last year’s award winning (and deservedly so) Mister Miracle series, Tom King and Mitch Gerads, with Doc Shaner joining in on the fun. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #043: Adam’s Not Strange”

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”