Category: Featured

Brainiac On Banjo: Cancel, Uncancel, Cancel, Repeat

Brainiac On Banjo: Cancel, Uncancel, Cancel, Repeat

“I blow thru here. The music goes ’round and around (whoa-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho) and it comes out here.” From The Music Goes ‘Round and ‘Round, written by Edward Farley and Mike Riley

It’s not that I have a long memory. I’ve simply lived through a lotta stuff and the goofy has a tendency to stick inside my brainpan.

For example, I remember when Marvel cancelled both Doctor Strange and She-Hulk. I also remember when Marvel cancelled both Doctor Strange and She-Hulk again. Indeed, I can remember a great many times Marvel cancelled both Doctor Strange and She-Hulk.

In fact, I could tell whenever Marvel felt competitive pressure from other publishers — and, yes, I was an “other publisher” so I have a few decades of skin in that game. The idea is, most readers will buy new Marvel titles before they would buy those of “the other outfits,” and they’d be sucking up all the consumer dollars like a cocaine freak at a new record release party.

It still isn’t bad logic, it’s just kinda dated and not as on-the-money as it used to be. Many readers have discovered there are a lot more comics out there that deserve both staples and their attention, and some of those books are absolutely great. Of course, your mileage may vary.

The big red flag on that operation had been Robert E. Howard’s Kull. Marvel would relaunch Kull every time they wanted more rack space. Think of Oreo releasing a Kull cookie; Mondelēz International’s lust for shelf space is gargantuan. But, hell, I dunno the rights situation regarding Kull these days. I know Conan the Character is up for grabs and I look forward to the day Erik Larsen teams the Savage Dragon with Captain Tootsie, the real Daredevil, and Conan the Axe-Dude. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Cancel, Uncancel, Cancel, Repeat”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #087: When Did We Become Old Men?

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #087: When Did We Become Old Men?

Welcome back to my infrequently populated (yes, I know, I’m sorry!) corner of the interwebs wherein I wax poetic about all things geeky in my life. That tends to revolve around a continuously dwindling amount of things: pro-wrestling, streaming mostly (now) older shows, and my not-so-secret-second-life as a comic book author/artist/entrepreneur. PCS’s resident curmudgeon Mike Gold simplified me down to “multi-hyphenate”, and now I’m a little mad because I’ll be damned if it doesn’t fit perfectly. Grumble grumble. I forever digress.

I’ve come out from hiding, halfway through the year, to go through a few big bullet points of Unshaven Comics’ 2024 thus far. When I last wrote in, I condensed our 2023 into a fine little recap. Since that write up, we’ve ventured to Indianapolis for PopCon Indy, Traverse City, MI for Cherry Capital Con, and now most recently Charlotte, NC for Heroes Con. We also went to Las Vegas — yes, for comic book related frivolity — but I’ll get to that in another column. If you don’t see that column in the next two weeks? I owe you a coke.  Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #087: When Did We Become Old Men?”

With Further Ado #303: Guest Columnist – Too Much Batman?

With Further Ado #303: Guest Columnist – Too Much Batman?

This week, I’m proud to present another student winner for our With Further Ado column: Aleks Maksymyshyn. Aleks is a powerhouse worker and a passionate fan. He is the type that always overdelivers – both academically and in planning/managing an effort like ITHACON.  And he knows his stuff too. I’m sure you’ll enjoy his article.


Step Aside Batman: DC’s Reliance on the Dark Knight to Sell Comics

By Aleks Maksymyshyn

If there is one thing DC Comics is known for, it’s being the publisher of Superman, Wonder Woman, Booster Gold, and a little-known character called Batman. Now, this phenomenon called Batman has caught on and had a lengthy run in TV, movies, and comics. Easily eclipsing all of the heroes above. “Wink.”

However, how much is too much? How much Batman can we have? Many of the most popular things to come out of DC are Batman related while other characters like The Question, Huntress, and The Doom Patrol seem to get side lined most of the time in favor of something more reliable. It seems like at this point, the entirety of the DC Universe revolves around Gotham City. Not a multitude of cities like Keystone, Metropolis, or Opal City. Gotham is the city getting all the major events, the newest villains, and the most attention by new writers and artists. It’s Batmania from the Summer of 1989 over at DC, and it seems to never end. We understand that Batman is DC’s most popular character. In fact, I grew up loving the character myself. Batman and Spider-Man were my favorites growing up, along with a bit of Scooby-Doo for good fun, but the overabundance of him feels like it’s hitting a saturation point. Marvel has promoted all their characters so much that everyone knows who Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, The X-Men, Spider-Man are. The diversity of their catalog is immense. So is DC’s, but they don’t seem to utilize it well. Continue reading “With Further Ado #303: Guest Columnist – Too Much Batman?”

With Further Ado #302: Go Ride Your Bike!

With Further Ado #302: Go Ride Your Bike!

For a comic lover like me, summer was the perfect time to dive into a stack of comics. I have vivid memories of reading comics on steamy summer days. I also have memories of my mom telling me to “Get out of the house!” and to “Go outside and play!”

I grew up in the quintessential TV sitcom neighborhood. Every day was a grand adventure for me and my buddies. And it often started with a bike ride. We did have a “need for speed”, as ridiculous as that sounds, but our bikes also gave us a certain amount of freedom. We could – theoretically – go anywhere.

I guess I wasn’t the only kid that felt that strongly about these two topics (comics and bikes) either. I’ve been digging through a bunch of vintage comics (more on this amazing collection gifted to me another time). I’m struck by just how many bike ads used to be in comics! Continue reading “With Further Ado #302: Go Ride Your Bike!”

Brainiac On Banjo: Who Dis?

Brainiac On Banjo: Who Dis?

Who are you? Who, who, who, who? Who are you? Who, who, who, who? Who are you? Who, who, who, who? — From “Who Are You” written by Pete Townshend. Of The Who.

Truth be told, I don’t think there’s a single person who’s been cast as the lead in Doctor Who whose work in that role I have not enjoyed. Double-negative much?

The writing, howsoever, is another thing. And before you overstimulate your hackles, I am in awe of the writing on this season’s run thus far. I am also aware of the controversy that surrounds this season, but I am hardly in awe of the incredible stupidity and hatred within all too many of those in the ethersphere who pound on keyboards with anger from the safety of their internet-given anonymity.

(That by-line you see on everything I write? That’s not simply my ego shouting at you; that’s also my sense of responsibility that I’m shoving in your face.)

The previous Doctor was a woman and the little bitty incel community (if, indeed, living alone in your mother’s basement makes you part of a “community”) completely lost their minds. Their petty, hate-filled minds only can handle binary decisions: man or woman, war or peace, conservative or Communist. They cannot process anything in between. They are so black-and-white even Ayn Rand would tell them to grow up.

Some blame it on their religion, as if hatred of those who don’t smoke the same brand of cigarettes as you matters in any way. If your Supreme Being is a hater, exactly what is it about him that you find so goddamned supreme? And, yes, I said “him” specifically.

But actor Jodie Whittaker and the rest of her talented cast deserved better scripts. Sure, I’ve lived through worse writing, but many of the stories during her run seemed illogical, unhappy and unending. There were a number of good villains, but that has been the case in the most poorly written seasons as well. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Who Dis?”

With Further Ado #301: Guest Columnist – Communication in the Unknown – A Shogun Review

With Further Ado #301: Guest Columnist – Communication in the Unknown – A Shogun Review

It’s another week and time for another winning entry from our annual student competition. This one’s a great read.

Communication in the Unknown
By Sean Tierney

You’re steps away from entering an unfamiliar building, surrounded by unfamiliar faces, in an unfamiliar land; it’s your first day at a new school and the only thing you know for certain is that you don’t. Now imagine we bottle up this tense sensation of being engulfed in uncertainty and crank the dial up to eleven, that’s the feeling encountering main character John Blackthorne in FX’s Shogun. A character who is not only navigating the trials and tribulations of an unfamiliar culture and language, but one who is also coping with the understanding that his life is in another man’s hands and even the slightest false step could put him six feet under.

While Blackthorne strives to understand the foreign land he has stumbled upon, even more is hidden behind the stoic expressions of the Samurai and their culture. Blackthorne effectively serves as a tour guide through this renowned culture as both he and the audience are uncovering the many layers all at once. There’s a notion surrounding film culture that exposition is cheap and film/TV should ‘show don’t tell’. By utilizing Blackthorne as a tour guide, Shogun subverts the need for exposition allowing the audience to see Japan for the first time through a newcomer’s eyes. That is the superpower of Shogun, the show’s ability to demonstrate rather than explain, utilizing its main character for both practical and impactful purposes.

Japanese culture has always seemed to have somewhat of an aura around it; there’s a natural intrigue surrounding the uniqueness of it, yet also kind of a mysterious nature surrounding their culture. The podcast Hardcore History, hosted by Dan Carlin, did a six-part series called “Supernova in the East” centered around the Pacific Theater during World War II. This series focuses heavily on the fanaticism of Japan’s culture and the prevailing narrative surrounding them is that “The Japanese are just like everyone else, only more so”. Continue reading “With Further Ado #301: Guest Columnist – Communication in the Unknown – A Shogun Review”

As Is: Maybe The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow…

As Is: Maybe The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow…

And the judge looked down at me and said, For getting smart, boy, gonna give you more than a lifetime. Murder in my heart for the judge. I’ve got murder in my heart for the judge — From “Murder in My Heart For The Judge,” as written by Donald J. Stevenson and Jerry A. Miller Jr. and presently performed by America’s best known felon.

I just had to make a difficult choice. Should I write about the final episode of Star Trek: Discovery under the “Brainiac On Banjo” banner, or should I write about how America’s treacherous ex-president finally got his comeuppance after 77 years of blustering, conning, extortion, lying, cheating and stealing under my even more political “As Is” rant? Bet you figured that out already.

I can always comment on boldly going where artificial intelligence has gone before. I should celebrate the light at the end of the tunnel, the forthcoming possibility that soon I will never feel the need to comment on the greatest criminal (and skankiest biped) in American history.

Coincidentally, I learned about the verdict coming in from one of the biggest Star Trek fans I know, and I happen to know one hell of a lot of them. I was resting and playing with Adriane’s cat Artemis while listening to music — Artie prefers Warren Zevon — when I received a phone call from comics writer/editor/legend Mindy Newell. She informed me the jury was coming in with the verdicts. “WTF,” I replied, albeit non-initialisticly. “They’ve been deliberating for only about a dozen hours!” “Nonetheless…” Mindy wisely replied.

So I fired up my monitor, hooked myself up to several real news services, and sat back to enjoy the show. As everybody who’s watched juries on television knows, such brief deliberations rarely inure to the benefit of the accused. So my happy-adrenaline started pumping madly like one of Harold Hamm’s oil wells.

And I was not disappointed. Everybody had their scorecard up on the screen. Even Fanduel is unaccustomed to displaying a loss of 34 – 0. The jury of Donald Trump’s peers — but, clearly, these folks were deliberative, focused, and honest so they hardly were Emperor Trump’s “peers” — were goddamned clear in their message. Continue reading “As Is: Maybe The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow…”

With Futher Ado #300: RIP My Comic Book Reading Dad

With Futher Ado #300: RIP My Comic Book Reading Dad

My dad just passed away, and we’re all dealing with the grief and the loss. I am struggling to write one of the eulogies, and I’m hoping that writing this 300th “With Further Ado” will be a good “warm-up” exercise for writing that difficult speech.

It makes sense to shine the spotlight (Batsignal?) on my dad as he really was a comic book guy. He grew up trading comics, as did many of those kids from late 40s and early 50s. He would tell me that his favorite was Crimebuster (and his monkey) from Lev Gleason’s BOY Comics. In fact, a few years ago, Joe Kubert gifted my dad with an autographed sequence from when he worked on that series all those years ago. It was a joy to buy him back issues of that series every time I’d stumble across affordable copies.

My dad also enjoyed reading The Phantom and Prince Valiant Sunday strips in the newspapers. He loved the sweeping adventures, and of course, the father-son themes of each strip made if fun for me to enjoy each one with him. Continue reading “With Futher Ado #300: RIP My Comic Book Reading Dad”

Brainiac On Banjo: A Magical Event? Uhh… Bite Me?

Brainiac On Banjo: A Magical Event? Uhh… Bite Me?

They push you to the ground. You’re lying in the mud. They bite your neck, and they drink your blood. You’re lying there alone, trying to catch your breath, trying to cancel your appointment with the angel of death. — From Lesbian Vampyres From Outer Space, by The Scary Bitches.

In conversation earlier this week, I was asked if I could list all of the comics event series that are going on right now. I thought for a second, came up with two, realized there’s more, and then I let out a quiet “No. No, I cannot.”

Okay. I’ve bitched and moaned about the Comics Event Trap before and those feelings haven’t changed — events are not events when everything is an event, damnit! However, the fact that I am of an honest persuasion begs me to admit there is one such series going on right now that I not only remember, but I actually like.

It’s called “Blood Hunt,” it’s from Marvel, and it’s all about a massive vampire assault on this here planet. You might think that alone would turn me off — the whole global monster-takeover thing has been done to death, be it zombies, werewolves, vampires, or MAGA. In each (save for the last) the outcome is predetermined. Eventually, humans get their planet back.

But Blood Hunt seems to avoid other aspects of the Comics Event Trap that annoy me all the way to my keyboard. I say “seems” because we’re about a month into it and, like all of us in the commercial pop culture racket, there’s always the opportunity to screw the pooch. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: A Magical Event? Uhh… Bite Me?”

With Further Ado #299: Guest Columnist – Let’s Look at Those Live Action Reboots

With Further Ado #299: Guest Columnist – Let’s Look at Those Live Action Reboots

It’s another week and time for another winning entry from our annual student competition. For the previous excellent submissions check here.:

Live Action
By Claire McGinnity

For the past nine years, it seems the biggest trend in entertainment has been reboots of older properties, especially live-action versions. This isn’t a new concept, live-action movies have been a consistent aspect of media properties, especially for cartoon shows or comic books, take the 1994 live action Flintstones movie or really any superhero movie, for example. However, there seems to be a rapid uptick in the live action reboots and, unfortunately, a notable drop in original or compelling content for them. The trend seems almost like a new “gold rush” that different studios are trying to capitalize off apparent interest instead of truly developing a story for the property that fits the media.

Starting with Disney’s yearly release of a live-action version of their classic Disney princess movies to today’s current live action tv show reboots like the recent Avatar, the Last Airbender are some of the main offenders of this issue. These properties have their origins in animation and are beloved by the public for their vibrant storytelling, fantastical worlds and characters, and beautiful artistic styles. Though not impossible, these aspects are very difficult to replicate in live action, and each release has seen varied success in doing so.

The live action versions also tend to lose some of the fantastical elements of the properties in order to increase the “realism”. It is unclear if this hyper-realism is an artistic choice by creators or just a downside of the medium of live action, but either way reveals a disconnect between this material and the reason why many fans enjoy the original properties. Additionally, many of these live-action reboots tend to just repeat the same story as the animated versions, which increases the accessibility of the content, but honestly does a disservice to the storytelling opportunities of each property. This isn’t to say that there is no value in re-telling a story in a different medium, in fact I believe that some of these reboots have had valuable updates to outdated stories and created space for previously underrepresented groups in Hollywood, like Asian representation in the Avatar reboot. Continue reading “With Further Ado #299: Guest Columnist – Let’s Look at Those Live Action Reboots”