Category: Brainiac On Banjo

Brainiac On Banjo #100: Wonder Woman Saves Lives! Really!

Brainiac On Banjo #100: Wonder Woman Saves Lives! Really!

Make a hawk a dove, Stop a war with love, Make a liar tell the truth. Wonder Woman, Get us out from under, Wonder Woman. All our hopes are pinned upon you. And the magic that you do.– Theme from the Wonder Woman television show, written by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox

Yesterday (Wednesday, to the calendar-challenged), the folks on the Left Coast at WarnerMedia — those who still have jobs — announced that on Christmas Day they will be releasing Wonder Woman 1984 to those American theaters that may be open. This wasn’t a shock — it’s been in the can for about half of this year, and they’re probably tired of paying out all that interest. I don’t blame them one bit.

Surprisingly, they also announced they’ll be running the movie on their HBO Max streaming operation starting that very same day. They didn’t mention how long it will be available to pluck from the Cloud, but the media wonks feel that will be a month. Well, that’s damn cool. Happy New Year!

Shockingly, WarnerMedia also announced they will not be charging $30.00 for the privilege of watching the sequel to a movie that made almost nine-tenths of a billion dollars by putting people’s butts in theater seats. That’s how much Disney charged when they diverted their live-action Mulan to their Disney+ streamer, and they seem to have done pretty well with that.

So… get this! HBO Max will be charging absolutely nothing extra. They’re hoping they sell a lot of new subscriptions and renewals. I’ll bet right before Wonder Woman 1984 we’ll see a new trailer or three for their mostly-new five-hour “Snyder Cut” of the Justice League silver screen train wreck. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a trailer for their new Wonder Girl teevee series as well.

Like many others (including Pop Culture Squad’s HBIC), I would prefer to see Wonder Woman 1984 on a big screen. I loved the first one — it inspired a lot of little girls in the audience, and it gave me hope. Well, in that case it was hope that Warner Bros can make another superhero movie that’s at least half as good as those made by Marvel. But, hey, times suck and we’ve got to adjust. Personally, I’d also like to drive from Connecticut to Kansas for some barbecue, and right now that ain’t gonna happen either.

A lot of people will be driving during Christmas and New Years, assuming those mathematics-denying flat-earthers don’t kill themselves or others at their huge, indoor family-infested Thanksgiving dinners, believing there is some unstated provision in the Constitution that allows them to murder their friends and relatives while keeping the Covid-19 virus fat and healthy.

But, now, there’s an out for some of the more intelligent and reasonable folks in those families. They just might buy some holiday candy and stay home to watch Wonder Woman 1984. After all, not everybody is willing to risk their lives for the honor of watching a bunch of football games with people they really don’t like and dare not speak with. This will not only prevent or delay some spread of Covid, it will also reduce the number of family manslaughter arrests and, if we’re lucky, some DUI issues as well.

WarnerMedia might be taking a bath on the movie, but it’s quite likely their decision will lives.

Besides… those people who were planning on seeing Wonder Woman 1984 by gawking at their computer screens at a shaky camera-copy bootleg? Hey, Warners, you just did them a solid!

Seriously. AT&T, owners of WarnerMedia which, in turn, owns Warner Bros which, in turn, owns DC Comics deserves serious appreciation. They might be thinking they’re doing the only thing they can given the situation, but they should be aware they’re also doing the right thing.

Saving lives… in the spirit of Wonder Woman.

Brainiac On Banjo #99: A Master Leaves The Stage

Brainiac On Banjo #99: A Master Leaves The Stage

If Sean Connery had never made Dr. No, he would still be remembered as one of our most impressive actors. Except…

… Except if Sean Connery had never made Dr. No, it’s very doubtful that he ever would have been given the chance to make such movies as The Man Who Would Be King, Time Bandits, Robin and Marian, and The Wind and the Lion. Great actors are like great guitar players: for every Eric Clapton or Buddy Guy on stage, there are a thousand equally gifted musicians who never get out of the garage. It takes commitment, determination, and a very thick skin in combination with off-the-scale talent that brings about the possibility of success. Even then, the odds are against you.

Well, that’s show biz.

Prior to taking the James Bond gig, Connery had done a handful of appearances in movies and television shows, none that are well known. In 1957 he made his American media debut in a very brief appearance on The Jack Benny Program – “Jack Hires Opera Singer in Rome,” where he played a hotel porter. It’s in the rerun package and continues to be aired on one or more of those nostalgia decimal channels. It was Dr. No that brought him to the attention of the masses, to the surprise of the producers, to the studio, and to Bond creator Ian Fleming, who saw his master action hero as more of a Hoagy Carmichael type. After seeing the finished film, Fleming changed his mind… after counting his change.

(Note: In my opinion, singer/songwriter/actor Carmichael would have made an excellent James Bond, but he would have been a bit too old for the part in Dr. No and most certainly too old by the time United Artists made Thunderball. “What if” is the dross of all fandom.)

Cleverly, Connery parlayed his success as 007 into a career that proved he deserved to be in a paragraph that contained Humphrey Bogart, Robert De Niro, and Steve McQueen. He was courageous enough to take on roles that many found confounding – Zardoz, for example – and others where the “hero” proved to be less-than-heroic (my favorite Connery flick, The Man Who Would Be King). He showed his gentle side in Time Bandits, another of my favorites, and his age – something rarely seen from big movie stars – in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. He had no problem performing with actors who were equally gifted such as Michael Caine and Harrison Ford, and he never squeezed their screen presence.

Contrary to the position held by many otherwise reasonable people, James Bond is not an ideal. He’s a hero only because he takes his job seriously, thereby saving us from extinction. Bond is a killer; it is in his job description. His attitudes towards women, which mirrored those of his creator, were obnoxious from the very outset and ugly even in its time. Yet Bond is not a conflicted character. He knows who he is and how he’s supposed to execute his responsibilities to his employer and to his nation.

It took a very secure performer to make James Bond work on the screen, to get the point across where so many other talented actors in similar roles could not. Damn near each and every actor who succeeded Sean Connery in the role echoed the studio’s advertising claim – “Sean Connery IS James Bond.”

In Connery’s hands, 007 was the effective artifact the world needed to get through growingly conflicted times. It is very difficult to evaluate our past through contemporary standards, although it is vital we do so.

At the end of the day, Sean Connery’s varied roles were mostly strong, well-centered men who were slightly out of their time but, at that very instant, desperately needed. It’s heroic fantasy, folks, and heroic fantasy is very tough to make believable.

Sean Connery did just that.

Brainiac On Banjo #098: Zippy, Schlitzie, & Griffy

Brainiac On Banjo #098: Zippy, Schlitzie, & Griffy

Nobody’s Fool: The Life and Times of Schlitzie the Pinhead by Bill Griffith, 256 pages, Abrams ComicArts, $24.99 (print), $8.73 (digital)

Well, better late than never. When Nobody’s Fool was announced I got all excited, thinking this was a great idea from the one human on Earth best motivated to produce it. It came out about 18 months ago, I had ordered it from my friendly neighborhood comic book store, they never received it, and the whole thing faded from my brainpan. Maybe I was thinking I’d run into the editor Charlie Kochman at one convention or another — Charlie has no home and simply wanders from one convention to another.

Anyway, to make a long story tedious, I saw him a bunch of times but I didn’t put the arm on him, which is very unlike me. Finally, a little lightbulb lit above my naked pate and I went online and bought the thing. I read it yesterday, as I write this, and I’m writing this today. So you’d figure I must have liked it, right?

Well, I did. Books do not age, only readers do. But enough about me.

Almost 50 years ago, cartoonist Bill Griffith introduced his best-known and most beloved character Zippy The Pinhead in the underground comic book Real Pulp Comix #1; it was a romance story… kinda. I’d already been a fan of his work, and I thought telling a love story about a microcephalic was real gutsy. Of course, in 1971 we didn’t grasp the concept of political correctness the way we do today, but I’ll have more to rant about that anon.

The character took off and Griffith did a whole lot more Zippy The Pinhead stories. Fourteen years later, William Randolph Hearst III asked him to do Zippy as a daily strip in his San Francisco Examiner. This is amusing but not shocking; his grandfather (William Randolph Hearst-the-First) loved comic strips and was the guy who green-lit George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, which set the standard for non-sequitur humor.

Peculiarly, after Zippy’s inclusion the Examiner’s readers did not gather around the building with pitchforks in protest, so the following year Hearst-the-Third saw to it that his King Features Syndicate picked it up and pushed it nationally. Wiki says it’s in 100 newspapers, which is remarkable for a strip that doesn’t make sense to many and stars a pinhead. It’s also remarkable that there are 100 newspapers left these days, but that’s another story and a bleak one at that.

That same year I had moved to Fairfield County Connecticut, then the place to be for newspaper cartoonists. I got to know dozens and dozens of them, and I’d say these folks only had one thing in common: not a one understood why King Features picked the strip up. More than a few seemed resentful; the late great Gil Fox, one of the funniest and most courageous people I’d ever known to sit at a drawing board, once asked me to translate Zippy The Pinhead for him. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #098: Zippy, Schlitzie, & Griffy”

Brainiac On Banjo #097: Yeah, Baseball!

Brainiac On Banjo #097: Yeah, Baseball!

Steve Goodman

Give me a doubleheader funeral in Wrigley Field / On some sunny weekend day – no lights / Have the organ play the National Anthem / And then a little ‘Na Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye’ / Make six bullpen pitchers carry my coffin / And six groundskeepers clear my path / Have the umpires bark me out at every base / In all their holy wrath — Steve Goodman, A Dying Cub Fan’s Last Request, 1983.

One of the many differences I have with the Conventional Wisdom is that I see professional sports as part of our popular culture and not as a religion. If every player on the New York Mets were from New York City, and so on, that might be different. Root, root, root for the home team. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #097: Yeah, Baseball!”

Brainiac On Banjo #096: At Last – My Flying Automobile!

Brainiac On Banjo #096: At Last – My Flying Automobile!

Sweet birds are flying like the wings of my soul / The warm breeze / The eyes to the sky / Feel the even flow of the change in time — Trey Anastasio, Flying Machines, 2015

I blame Julius Schwartz.

Julie was a major editor at DC Comics from 1944 until he retired in 1986 and, before that, he was one of the nation’s first science-fiction agents. Julie represented — among others — Alfred Bester, Robert Bloch, Ray Bradbury, and H. P. Lovecraft. He co-founded the World Science Fiction Convention, and before that, co-founded Time Traveller, one of the first science fiction fanzines, partnering with Mort Weisinger and Forrest J. Ackerman. So when it comes to the realms of speculative fiction in prose and visuals, Julie was the nexus of all unrealities.

As a child, I grew up gawking at his science fiction titles Strange Adventures and Mystery In Space, which featured many of the top talents that would soon join him in creating what we refer to as the Silver Age of Comics. In true s-f faction, those stories thrilled us with tales about flying skyscrapers, flying gorillas, and flying cars. The first two were amusing but outside the bounds of likely possibility. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #096: At Last – My Flying Automobile!”

Brainiac On Banjo #095: Fair Play Is Terrific

Brainiac On Banjo #095: Fair Play Is Terrific

Middle fingaz in the air / We gonn make it multiplayer / If the game ain’t fair / Better play it multiplayer — Khontkar and Bixi Blake, Multiplayer, 2017

The first golden age comic book I ever purchased was Sensation Comics #7, 1942. It cover-featured Wonder WomanH.G. Peter and William Marston, of course — and it co-starred features of which I had never heard. I thought Irwin Hasen and Bill Finger’s Wildcat was a great character, and I still do. Shelly Moldoff and Gardner Fox’s Black Pirate was adequate but dramatically drawn. A remarkably bad series from Jon L. Blummer and Bill Finger called Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys lived up to the ambiance of its name, and that is a name you do not want to say too quickly. There was some filler material about stamps and things… and, oh yeah, there was a costumed superhero by Hal Sharp and Charles Reizenstein dubbed Mr. Terrific.

That was not exactly the best-named superhero on the block. “Mr. Terrific” smacked of desperation and lazy thinking, as if showrunners Shelly Meyer and Max Gaines said “Oh, screw it, let’s just call him ‘Mr. Terrific’ and hope for the best.” His abilities were negligible, and to draw attention to that his stomach was emblazoned with the legend “Fair Play.” This hardly was “Truth, Justice and the American Way” or “The Weed of Crime Bears Bitter Fruit.” This was just a wee bit better than “Sockamagee.” Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #095: Fair Play Is Terrific”

Brainiac On Banjo #094: Nyah Nyah, Nyah Nyah, Nyah Nyah!

Brainiac On Banjo #094: Nyah Nyah, Nyah Nyah, Nyah Nyah!

Well, I went to the doctor / I said, “I’m feeling kind of rough” / He said, “Let me break it to you, son / “Your shit’s fucked up.” / I said, “My shit’s fucked up? / “Well, I don’t see how / He said, “The shit that used to work / It won’t work now.” – Warren Zevon, My Shit’s Fucked Up, from the album Life’ll Kill Ya, 2000

This week we offer a three short subjects for our attention-span impaired friends…

ITEM 1: Beware of Falling Objects

A couple months ago, WarnerMedia announced HBOMax, the ultimate Warner Bros streaming service. And the most expensive, as I noted. They consumed their first Pac-Man, HBOGo. Go? Go know… I also noted, a few hours after the announcement, that there no longer was a way to keep their DC Universe going. I certainly wasn’t the only person who came up with this analysis — it was obvious, sorta like saying “that yellow thing in the sky is ‘the sun’” — but I blurted it out faster than a speeding bullet.

However, there was some significant collateral damage. The death of DCU (which, as predicted, will see its original programming going over to HBOMax) begat a very severe round of staff-hatcheting at DC comics. After moving 3,000 miles to new “state-of-the-art” facilities — they didn’t mention which art — their parking lot now can welcome more pigeons. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #094: Nyah Nyah, Nyah Nyah, Nyah Nyah!”

Brainiac On Banjo #093: “What the Hell Was That?”

Brainiac On Banjo #093: “What the Hell Was That?”

One day I feel so horny / Next night I feel so bleh / Guess well have to take the whoppee! / along with the bleh / Each night I ask the moon up above / Why must I be a septuagenerian in love? ––Tuli Kupferberg, “Septuagenerian in Love,” from The Fugs Final CD, Part 1, 2003.

Well, this is goddamned strange. Not at all what I expected.

It’s not that I’m big on birthday celebrations. I have a hard time remembering such events; it’s an often embarrassing failing. The only reason I remember my own is because I’ve renewed my driver’s license approximately 18 times, thereby making it a habit. Well, I’ve just put my new driver’s license in my wallet – which was kinda fun because I didn’t have to break quarantine to get it — so unless something terminal happens in the next 24 hours, I turn 70 tomorrow. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #093: “What the Hell Was That?””

Brainiac On Banjo #092: John Lewis – The Great American Warrior

Brainiac On Banjo #092: John Lewis – The Great American Warrior

Hound dogs on my trail / School children sitting in jail / Black cat cross my path / I think every day’s gonna be my last / Lord have mercy on this land of mine / We all gonna get it in due time / I don’t belong here / I don’t belong there / I’ve even stopped believing in prayer — Nina Simone, “Mississippi Goddam,” 1964

The first time I was able to have a conversation with the late Representative and true American hero John Lewis was about six years ago at the Baltimore Comic-Con. It was during set-up so the room was comparatively open and, as I was attempting to locate my booth I saw Representative Lewis behind a table. His name was on the sign behind his table — “Congressman John Lewis.” I did one of those patented Tex Avery eyeball takes.

I previously had been at the Heroes Convention at the Charlotte North Carolina Convention Center. A bunch of older white guys were walking around wearing suits that, each, could feed a family of four for three months. In the midst of that gaggle was Sarah Palin. I looked around to make sure I was at the right place because I could not believe these folks were there to add to their Funko Pops collections.

I was right; the state Republican Convention was upstairs and the comic-con was downstairs. The white men in their expensive suits looked disgusted but, to be fair, they always look that way. Sarah saw the cosplayers and beamed a megawatt smile. So you can’t say I’ve never said anything nice about Sarah Palin.

But this time, the statesman at hand was there for a comic book show. Considering he worked in Congress, seeing a couple thousand people dressed up as The Joker (including babies) was just another day at work. I approached him, he offered me a seat, and we chatted about the relationship between comic books and political organizing. It was one of those “holy crap” moments that make life wonderful.

Rep. Lewis did say I was the first to recognize him at the show. I laughed and said “Oh, just wait until the show starts.” He looked skeptical, but my prediction quickly came to pass: that was just about the only time during the show that I could see him clearly from the aisle. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #092: John Lewis – The Great American Warrior”

Brainiac On Banjo #091: DC Universe … From Streaming To Sinking

Brainiac On Banjo #091: DC Universe … From Streaming To Sinking

As of this writing, which is 9 PM EDT Sunday July 12, the DC Universe streaming service is still alive. It’s home to some of the most entertaining superhero teevee programing around, in my opinion. I can’t speak for yours. But that thing coughing up blood all over your Wi-Fi is, sadly, the DC Universe streaming service. And it’s the fault of their own artistic success.

Aside from hospitals, the only place that has had a worse month than the DCU has been the White House. In fairly quick order, the service lost future first-run episodes of Stargirl to the CW, saw The Doom Patrol multicast on the pathetic HBO Max sinkhole, Harley Quinn also airing on Syfy and Canada’s Adult Swim, and is thought to be migrating to HBO Max as well. Titans remains, but might be severely undermined by DC’s new Gotham City Police show (not necessarily the final title) spinning out of The Batman movie the now filming in Europe.

Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo #091: DC Universe … From Streaming To Sinking”