Category: Movies

With Further Ado #175: Ed’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

With Further Ado #175: Ed’s 2021 Holiday Gift Guide

Have you been good this year? I hope not. I strongly suggest you get into mischief all year and then clean up your act during the 2nd week of December. That’s been my operating procedure for years and it always seems to fool Santa. Unless he’s reading this column. Ooops!

Well, regardless, it’s time for my annual gift guide, which many readers automatically subtitle as “stuff I want to buy for myself.” That works too. Let’s not be judgey, shall we?


Kiddie Cocktails

Did you ever buy a gift for a child, and then decide to keep it for yourself because it’s so wonderful? Don’t beat yourself up about it. It happens to all of us. And it will probably happen again with this clever new book from Korero Press.

Kiddie Cocktails has a wonderful retro vibe – it seems like it jumped off the screen of a 1960s Drive-In (during the intermission) and became this incredible book. It’s as if it all starts with Shirley Temples and then just blossoms from there. There are brilliant recipes for all kinds of child focused cocktails, including The Blue Lagoon, The Golden Cadillac, The Dreamsicle and The Elephant Charger. And so many more.

This might just be the book we all need if we all do Dry January again, in fact.

Kiddie Cocktails
by Stuart Sandler Author, Derek Yaniger Illustrator
Korero Press
112 pages
ISBN-10‏: ‎191274015X

 


Is Superman Circumcised?

I wrote about this engaging book earlier this year, and what most impressed me was author Roy Schwarz’s focused and fan-friendly recounting of Superman’s history. And it wasn’t the straightforward deep dive that entertainment folks often do – this was nuanced and thoughtful. For example, here Superman’s comics history didn’t begin in Action and end in Superman comics. Schwartz thoughtfully explores the character’s appearances in other DC titles like Justice League and World’s Finest.

And it’s just been announced the winner of the prestigious Diagram Prize for the Oddest Book Title of 2021. You can read all about it here.

Is Superman Circumcised?: The Complete Jewish History of the World’s Greatest Hero
by Roy Schwarz
McFarland
374 pages
ISBN-10: 1476662908


Pac-Man Birth of Icon

I was never that much of a Pac-Man enthusiast. In fact, I remember being impatient with my college pal, Dave Bloom, as he would always try to sneak in a “quick game” of Pac-Man before we’d go to Dunbar’s, our old “favorite bar”.

Likewise, I was perplexed when the new Comic Book Museum announced a Pac-Man exhibit early on. “Who cares?”, I thought. “It’s not really comics.”

After reading Terpstra and Lapetino’s new Pac-Man coffee table book I get it. This is an amazing recounting of the story behind the game. It’s a fascinating history of the video game business back in the day, as well as the entrepreneurial spirit of the developers to do create something new and different.

Pac-Man: Birth of an Icon
By Arjan Terpstra & Tim Lapetino
Titan Books
340 pages
ISBN-10: 1789099390


No Time To Die: The Making of the Film

The newest 007 thriller took so long to get into theaters. I remember showcasing this James Bond/Heineken Ad in class two years ago!  Some longtime fans, like my brother Colin and Professor Laurence Maslon, loved this movie. Others…not so much.

Either way- Mark Salisbury’s new book is sure to delight all fans. The pictures are gorgeous, and the insights are.. insightful. It’s always amazing just how much goes into a movie, a piece of entertainment that most of the world just focuses on for a couple of hours.  This impressive book helps us understand so many of the twists and turns that happened behind the camera.

This one is a perfect gift for anyone with room on their coffee table. Or maybe your own coffee table. But show a little class and don’t put your martinis on the book.  Use a coaster, will ya?

No Time To Die: the Making of the Film
By Mark Salisbury
Titan Books
192 pages
ISBN-10: 1789093597


Build the RMS Titanic

Let’s face it- some folks reading this column have too many action figures littering their homes and offices. And to be perfectly honest (after all, Santa is watching this time of year) I am guilty of that too.

Eaglemoss, the innovative company that you may know for their HeroCollector collections of things like Star Trek ships and DC Heroes, is rolling out something new.

It’s an authentic replica of the RMS Titanic.  It’s designed as an accurate 1:250 scale, and this is a build-up.  Each month, fans receive part of this massive model, and they build it bit by bit. Eaglemoss also sends a new Titanic magazine with every shipment too.

I love these Eaglemoss magazines, especially for Star Trek and Batman. They are always well-written and stuffed with engaging information.

The site explains how it all works here. I tend to like this kind of gift, as it “keeps on giving” all through the year.

Eaglemoss

LENGTH: 42.36 inches
HEIGHT (to top of funnels): 11.41 inches
WIDTH: 5.43 inches
MATERIALS: Wood, MDF, die-cast metal, brass and plastic

 

What The Heck Happened? Comics News for the week of 11/15/2021 – 11/20/2021

What The Heck Happened? Comics News for the week of 11/15/2021 – 11/20/2021

This is our roundup of news and press releases from the comics industry for this past week. There are some interesting comic projects coming in the near future, and you can find out about them here.

Z2 COMICS AND HIP HOP LEGEND THE RZA ANNOUNCE BOBBY DIGITAL: IN THE PIT OF SNAKE ORIGINAL GRAPHIC NOVEL 

The comic publisher continues to build its catalogue of graphic novels inspired by and created by music superstars. This latest addition by hip-hop artist RZA will be released in June 2022, and can be pre-ordered on Z2’s website  Now

From the Press Release:

NEW YORK, NY—Z2 Comics proudly announces the larger-than-life rapper, actor, and filmmaker is the latest artist to bring his storytelling skills to the comic book medium with the announcement of Bobby Digital and the Pit of Snakes, an original graphic novel to be released in 2022. 

The founding member of the multimedia supergroup The Wu-Tang Clan first introduced the world to his alter-ego with the 1998 album Bobby Digital in Stereo, with lush digital orchestral sounds and inventive beats, putting the rapper’s love of comic books on full display through its concept and execution. Now, exactly 23 years since its original release, RZA announces a partnership with Z2 Comics to give the character a story in the medium which inspired his creation!

RZA says “Out of all my creative personas and alter egos Bobby Digital is probably the best fit, for comics and graphic novels. It’s a pleasure for me to collaborate with Z2 Comics and bring this lush world of creativity into the comic space. The readers are going to be hit with something they never seen coming. Bong-Bong.”

Who are you, what is real? This is the question Bobby Digital is seeking to answer. Embracing his id, ego and superego he embarks on a quest to figure out the nature of his reality and himself. He will be ambushed by enemies unknown, he will be tried in ways most men can’t endure. Will he be victorious? Most of all, will he survive the Pit of Snakes?! From the mind of the legendary RZA, Bobby Digital and The Pit of Snakes will coincide with the relaunch of the iconic character and be synced to music that will melt your mind.


Oni Press announces the debut of LatinX series exploring heritage, culture, and magic in 2022

Family Magic and Cultural Lore Take Center Stage in this Action-packed Creator-owned Series from Oni Press

Season of the Bruja will be released as five issue series starting in March 2022. It is written by Aaron Durán with art and colors by Sara Soler and letters by Jamie Martinez. The concepts and preview cover art that we have seen make this a book to keep an eye out for. The press release is below:

PORTLAND, OR: Oni Press is pleased to announce the forthcoming Latinx single-issue series, Season of the Bruja, written by Aaron Durán, illustrated and colored by up-and-coming artist Sara Soler (Us), and with lettering by AndWorld Design’s Jaime Martinez, coming Spring 2022. 

“Season of the Bruja is an exploration of forgotten culture and heritage I’ve been trying to tell for years,” said Aaron Durán. “Working with Sara has been a dream; her art and energy elevated our comic to levels I would never have imagined, and Shawna [Gore, Oni Press senior editor] does what all great editors do: she found the strongest story within the pages and helped Sara and I bring it to life.” Season of the Bruja is Durán’s debut project in which he adapted much of the lore for the series from his own family’s traditions. 

Althalia Cabrera might seem like any other witchy Portland hipster whiling away her days behind the counter of a freaky occult museum, but there’s more to her whole deal than a trendy pursuit of the craft. Althalia is a bruja by blood—the youngest in a long line of powerful magic users from a long-ago culture indigenous to Mexico. In her twenty years, Althalia has studied with her loving abuela by her side, supporting and mentoring her use of the family magic, and protecting her from the darkest parts of their practice’s history. But just as Althalia’s inner light and power begin to shine, the darkness of the past finds its way into her world and strikes a tragic blow, testing Althalia in ways she might not be prepared to survive.

Sara Soler said, “Season of the Bruja is a story that vindicates culture and diversity, the fighting for one’s own rights and also of learning, forgiveness, and the love that you can find in the family, whether of blood or not. Aaron is an exceptional storyteller, not only because of how he tells the story, but because of the values with which the script has been infused. And […] I couldn’t have asked for a better editor! [Shawna] has fought tooth and nail to carry out this project throughout some of the most difficult years I can remember (Hi there, 2020!) […]. Aaron and Shawna have made Season of the Bruja the kind of project I’ve always wanted to be involved in!”

According to Durán, “Season of the Bruja is an ongoing journey of discovering our roots, and I think everyone will see a bit of themselves in the series.” 

Inspired by Aaron Durán’s lifelong love for his Mexican family’s cultural traditions and his devoted fandom of horror stories, comics, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season of the Bruja is a five-part series and will be available where comics are sold March 16, 2022. 


NEW REGENCY SIGNS EXCLUSIVE DEAL WITH GROUNDBREAKING COMICS PUBLISHER TKO STUDIOS TO ADAPT GRAPHIC NOVELS INTO TELEVISION SERIES

TKO Studios has been working with some extremely talented creative comic professionals in its short history and produced some great storytelling. Working with a studio like New Regency is an encouraging sign that if their stories are translate to a cinematic medium that they will be treated well. This is exciting news for TKO, their creators, and their fans.

From the Press Release:

Los Angeles – New Regency announced that it has entered into a development and production partnership with ground-breaking publisher, TKO Studios. Under the terms of the deal, New Regency will have the right to exclusively develop television projects from TKO Studios’ expansive library of IP. TKO’s Salvatore Simeone and Tze Chun will develop, produce, and package all shows with New Regency. 

Yariv Milchan, New Regency’s Chairman and CEO, stated, “Since the company’s inception, the team at TKO Studios have been innovators and leaders in their field and we have been longtime fans of their exceptional material. We are delighted to be partnering with Salvatore, Tze, and the rest of the team and look forward bringing their impressive collection of IP to television audiences all around the world.”

TKO Studios CEO Salvatore Simeone and President Tze Chun stated, “TKO is proud to partner with New Regency. Their track record creating groundbreaking film and television aligns with our history of publishing critically acclaimed thought-provoking genre stories. We feel our companies’ combined strengths make an ideal partnership and forges a new model for TV adaptation that will benefit all parties, including our incredible creators.”


Free Comic Book Day 2022 to Return to First Saturday in May

With the past two years of Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) being collateral damage to a worldwide public health crisis, Diamond Comic Distributors is bringing the fan favorite event back to its expected date on the calendar for 2022. This is traditionally one of the most important days for comic retailers across the country. The comic distribution process has changed drastically since the last May FCBD  in 2019. Diamond is not the only distributer in the game, and we will have to see how the event shakes out with some publishers no longer using Diamond for their distribution. Despite that we are excited to see this event back in its scheduled time. It is another sign of recovery and a return to a semblance of normalcy.

(Hunt Valley, MD) — (November 18, 2021)– Diamond Comic Distributors is pleased to announce that Free Comic Book Day (FCBD), one of the comic book industry’s most beloved and anticipated celebrations, will return to its traditional “First Saturday in May” date in 2022. The celebration is set to take place at local comic shops across the U.S. on Saturday, May 7, 2022.

“We are so excited for Free Comic Book Day to make its return to the first Saturday in May. We know it’s an event fans look forward to each spring, and we’re working with our retailer and vendor partners to make this year’s event one of the best yet!” said Free Comic Book Day spokesperson, Ashton Greenwood. “Free Comic Book Day is a great opportunity for newcomers to dive into the world of comics and for longtime readers to try a new title they may not have picked up otherwise. We encourage fans everywhere to visit their local comic shops on Saturday, May 7 to celebrate!”

Free Comic Book Day 2022 will feature forty-five free titles available at participating local comic shops. The titles will be comprised of eleven gold and thirty-four silver sponsor titles. Titles will be announced to the public in December and will appear in the January 2022 edition of the PREVIEWS catalog.


TOP COW COLLECTS THE ORIGINAL CYBERFORCE INTO A LIMITED EDITION 30TH ANNIVERSARY HARDCOVER EDITION VIA KICKSTARTER 

In a sign that I am getting old. There is a  30th Anniversary Edition for an Image Comics book. Unsurprisingly this book is already funded with 30 days to go. That means that there is no risk to backing this project if you are interested in getting your hands on this special edition.

From the Press Release:

November 18th, 2021 — Los Angeles, California — In celebration of Top Cow Productions/Image Comics’ 30thanniversary, CYBERFORCE is being collected in a special action-packed 664-page hardcover collection of the original stories that launched the Top Cow Universe. The original CYBERFORCE run features the work of legendary creators Marc Silvestri, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Walter Simonson, David Finch, Joe Chiodo, Scott Williams, Brian Haberlin, Joe Benitez and Michael Turner which has not been reprinted in any format since 1994. Top Cow is inviting fans to take part in the excitement and push how far the campaign’s exclusives can go via Kickstarter stretch goals. 

This exclusive CYBERFORCE COMPLETE COLLECTION VOL 1 Hardcover Kickstarter collection will feature the cover art by the original series creator and founder of Top Cow and Image Comics, Marc Silvestri with fan favorite colorist Bryan Valenza. In addition, every physical backer will receive a special edition bookplate signed by Marc Silvestri and Kickstarter exclusive dust-jacket!


Zoop campaign for John Paul Leon’s ‘THE WINTER MEN Artist’s Edition’ raises over $190,000 for late artist’s family

The loss of artist John Paul Leon this year to cancer has been a devastating hit on the comics industry and also to his family. Many of his friends and admirers contributed to a campaign on Zoop to create a special collected edition of John Paul’s only creator-owned work “The Winter Men”.  This type of creators supporting creators is an important aspect of the comic industry and unfortunately extremely necessary. We lend our full throated support to this news and any other projects like it.

Original Press Release:

Los Angeles, CA – Zoop is thrilled to announce that the fundraising campaign for John Paul Leon’s THE WINTER MEN Artist’s Edition has successfully been fully funded, with an astonishing 992 individuals pledging over $190,000 and claiming over 1,000 copies of the book, with all proceeds going to the late artist’s family. THE WINTER MEN Artist’s Edition is the most successful fundraiser to date on the Zoop platform.

Contributors included some of the renowned artist’s closest friends, including Tommy Lee Edwards, Bernard Chang, Bill Sienkiewicz, Lee Weeks, Duncan Fegredo, Sean Phillips, Walter Simonson, Kim Jung Gi and Peach Momoko, who created brand-new signed and numbered art prints for the campaign, which will also be featured in the edition. In celebration of the astonishing and inspiring body of work by John Paul Leon, THE WINTER MEN Artist’s Edition features 200 pages of full-size 12 x 17 scans of all of the original comic art pages, along with never-before-seen concepts, sketches, and unused art.

“On behalf of the Leon family, we want to express our heartfelt gratitude for all the love and support each and every one of you have shown in helping JPs dream come true. His legacy will continue to grow strong with the Artist’s Edition release
which commemorates one of his most celebrated accomplishments. We will never forget the amount of love and passion JP had in his work. We would also like to give a special thanks to all the personnel working with this project, who organized and dedicated their time and support in making it happen. Thank you, Bernard, Tommy, Scott, all the artists that have contributed, and last but not least Zoop,” said John Paul Leon’s wife Christina.

“JP gave all of us 30 years of his heart, soul, and talent. It’s so wonderful to see so many of you all giving some back,” said artist and contributor Tommy Lee Edwards, who was close friends of John Paul Leon.


Marvel-DC veteran Bobbie Chase will be leading Webtoon’s transition to print comics

Newsarama release the news that Webtoon Unscrolled will be led by veteran comic editor Bobbie Chase.

Webtoon Unscrolled is the print graphic novel imprint of the webcomic publisher webtoon.com and it will begin its twelve graphic novel per year release schedule in 2022. The genres will cover both adult and children’s books.

We are excited to see Chase in this role. Her expertise and reputation in the comic industry are unquestioned and while the webtoon platform has countless readers, being able to have a physical copy of the stories is definitely something that the fanbase is interested in. There are also plenty of comic readers who prefer hardcopies of their comics and this is a chance to reach those readers. We have no doubt that Chase will excell in this position.

According to the article some of the initial release will include:

  • Tower of God by SIU
  • True Beauty by Yaongyi
  • Doom Breaker by Blue-Deep
  • Boyfriends by Refrainbow
  • Cursed Princess Club by LambCat
  • Everything is Fine by Mike Birchall

From <https://www.gamesradar.com/webtoon-unscrolled/?fbclid=IwAR1kt6ljZmICvLtlNHcItvRIP1AzclXmL9-7Tvqywb7t0r_NzxLKvvGi00k>


New Archie Comics Anthology Delivers Heartwarming Rom-Com This February

Archie Comics announced a Valentine’s Day special this week. Releasing on February 9, 2022 is Archie: Love and Heartbreak Special #1. The one-shot comic will include the talents of Thomas Pitili, Stephanie Cooke, Sina Grace, Lisa Sterle, Iolanda Zanfardino, with colors by Matt Herms and letters by Jack Morelli. As the weather finally turns colder, this is heartwarming news and something that we look forward to:

Ride down the tunnel of love with the Riverdale gang in ARCHIE: LOVE AND HEARTBREAK SPECIAL #1, arriving February 9, 2022 from Archie Comics. Just in time for Valentine’s Day, the special one-shot follows Archie and his friends during a romantic night out at the Riverdale carnival as romances burn bright, while others fizzle out and some are just getting started.

Cupid has his eye on Riverdale as Archie and his friends find themselves embroiled in the uncertainty of young love. As Archie and Veronica hit a speed bump in their relationship, Jughead explains his unique philosophy on love to Betty, while Kevin finds himself in too deep on a date of his own! As new bonds begin to form, our key characters find themselves relishing in the high-highs and low-lows associated with young love in this rom-com one-shot spearheaded by Archie’s Senior Director of Editorial Jamie L. Rotante.

The modern-style anthology features a welcomed mix of beloved and unexpected pairings: Veronica and Dilton, Kevin and Devon, and Betty and Jughead. The special one-shot also builds upon the recent KEVIN KELLER CELEBRATION Kickstarter by placing Kevin right in the midst of his own romantic debacle alongside Devon, his boyfriend from the classic Archie comic series. Brought to life by writer/artist Thomas Pitilli, writers Stephanie Cooke and Sina Grace, and artists Lisa Sterle and Iolanda Zanfardino, the all-new romantic one shot is perfect for fans of the modern Archie Comics series.

“Coming off the heels of our 80th anniversary, we wanted to welcome fans of the modern comics back to the romantic core of Riverdale with this special one-shot,” explains Senior Director of Editorial Jamie L. Rotante. “Capturing the ideals of young love, readers get to experience firsthand the ups-and-downs of new relationships and what it means to discover yourself in a way we haven’t seen before in Archie comics. We hope readers see a little bit of themselves in each of these stories.”


Non-Comic News:

Spider-Man: No Way Home Trailer Finally Arrives

The eagerly anticipated trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home dropped this week, and it sent fans into a tizzy of speculation. The movie releases in theaters only on December 17, 2021, and while we know for certain that Tom Holland will be appearing as Spider-Man, the trailer gave theorists more ammunition for the idea that Toby Maguire and/or Andrew Garfield will also appear based on both what is in and what isn’t in the clip. Check it out for yourself and tell us what you think.


Cowboy Bebop is released on Netflix

The live action reboot of the fan-favorite classic anime Cowboy Bebop was released on Netflix this week and the reception has been mixed. Some fans are clearly not happy but what do you think of this series?

Here is an example of a thoughtful take on the show.


What Else Happened on PCS:

We had a review column of a bunch of good comics from last week.
Everything We Read for the Week of November 10, 2021

Ed Catto found a gem of advertising and comic history in a bargain bin at a show last weekend.
With Further Ado #171: Come Fly With Me

Mike Gold explored the DC Comics January catalog with a calculator and the numbers are batty in a dark and brooding way.
Brainiac On Banjo: How Many Batmans Does It Take To Screw Up A Catalog?

Brainiac On Banjo: Deep Waste. Nein?

Brainiac On Banjo: Deep Waste. Nein?

Errant words of wisdom from your humble correspondent.

Wasteland Forever!

Those of you who are regular denizens of this etherspace are well-familiar with the Heather Ross’s documentary about our little Wasteland comic book, For Madmen Only – The Stories of Del Close. This magnificent puppy features Del and (to name but a few) Kim Howard Johnson, Adam McKay, Tim Meadows, Susan Messing, Alan Meyerson, Bob Odenkirk, John Ostrander, Patton Oswalt, Jason Sudekis, Dave Thomas, James Urbaniak, Michaela Watkins, George Wendt, and your aforementioned humble correspondent. Indeed, I’m in it a lot – as myself, and I’m played by Matt Walsh in the flashback scenes. I can appreciate any consternation regarding my appearances, but Matt is fantastic and I want to be just like him if I grow up.

It’s been streaming for several weeks on several services, and now you lucky devils can buy your own copy on DVD/Blu-Ray so that you can continue to appreciate the film when that horrible day comes when For Madmen Only is no longer streaming. Seriously.

I’m very proud of being involved in this, and I’m very proud of you for buying it.

More Than Just Sports and Poe

The Hawkman panel at Baltimore Comic-Con 2021: Bob Harrison, Jerry Ordway, Robert Venditti, Jack C. Harris & Mike Gold.

Speaking of those of you who are regular denizens of this etherspace – get a life, folks – you may recall that my favorite of the larger long-form comic book conventions is the Baltimore Comic-Con, not just because it’s well-run, great fun, and features a lot of my friends, but because it is one of the very few larger long-form comic book conventions that actually is about “comic books.” Go know, right?

Well, after skipping last year’s show due to the plague and those virulent death-seekers who refuse to take precautions, the 2021 Baltimore Comic-Con resumed last weekend and it was typically terrific. Our pal and Pop Culture Squad comrade Bob Harrison hosted a bunch of panels, Gene Ha copped the Hero Initiative’s Humanitarian of the Year award, cosplay was more varied, and the living was easy.

But something happened to me on my way into the show on Sunday. A couple very nice people accosted me and stuck a needle in my arm. Yup, I got my official Fuck Covid booster shot – with my permission, although those without a vax card couldn’t get in in the first place. That is the best thing that ever happened to me at a comic book show, at least with my clothes on, and I thank promoter Marc Nathan and his crew and the Maryland Department of Benevolent Jabbing for making me a less infectious person. Continue reading “Brainiac On Banjo: Deep Waste. Nein?”

With Further Ado #169: The Vast of Night

With Further Ado #169: The Vast of Night

Halloween is time for scary movies. That’s part of the fun. My utopian Halloween would consist of kids trick or treating, going to a killer (not literally) Halloween Party, and then settling in with a classic monster movie, preferably something from Hammer or Universal’s heyday.

And while we “meant” to watch a lot more movies during the recent Covid-19 lockdown times, we really didn’t, just a few here and there. I’m a little disappointed in myself, if I am to be honest with you.

Having shared that confession, it makes sense we missed The Vast of Night at first. I’m elated we finally stumbled across it. This is a brilliant indie film set in the 1950s at the pinnacle of the scary “Flying Saucer craze”.  It’s both creepy and gorgeous, a tribute to both small town Americana and the fears that bubble up from rural communities.

The heroes are an unlikely pair: a plucky teenager with a part time job, played by former Disney Channel actress Sierra McCormick, and a cool-cat radio DJ, played by Jake Horowitz. These two are actors to watch.

I’ve been learning about Rod Serling and enjoy teaching a bit about him.  Nick Parisi’s brilliant book, Rod Serling: His Life, Work and Imagination provided me with a such a rich background and dialing into Tom Elliot’s The Twilight Zone Podcast adds to my Serling knowledge.  Even so, I was really surprised to find that The Vast of Night takes place in a small town called Cayuga, New Mexico.  As you might know, Serling grew up and eventually returned to the Cayuga Lake area. He even taught classes at Ithaca College, far above Cayuga’s waters. Continue reading “With Further Ado #169: The Vast of Night”

With Further Ado #162: I Miss My Old Pals From Shang Chi

With Further Ado #162: I Miss My Old Pals From Shang Chi

Is it ever permissible to review a movie before you see it? And if so, can I give it four stars ahead of time?

I have yet to see Disney/Marvel’s latest superhero movie, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings . But given the track record of Kevin Feige and his teams, I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.  It’s looks to be both fun and important.

And you know what? A mostly Asian cast is a good start to rectifying wrongs of the past.  This movie blew past all early estimates and scooped up in nearly $100 million at the U.S. box office over the Labor Day weekend. Its now one of the top-grossing movies of the year. Not too shabby, right?

My one worry is that this movie doesn’t seem to be about my old pal Shang Chi and his friends, lovers and antagonists. I am glad that this character is now given Cinematic Validations, but back in the 70s, Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu was one badass title. It quickly became a favorite and a must-read.  Like Conan the Barbarian, MoKF (as we called it back then) existed in its own corner of the inter-connected Marvel Universe, mostly independent of the usual cross-over nonsense. And it had a tone all its own.

Shang Chi was the protagonist, but he also served as our entry point to the ongoing spy stories. Shang would often refer to his adventures as “games of death and deceit”.  It was a sprawling engaging tapestry: a James Bond world with nefarious villains, creative henchmen (ala Goldfinger’s Oddjob) and over-the-top plots.  The love interest was the beautiful – but deadly – Leiko Wu and Shang’s comrades in arms were Brits like Black Jack Tarr and other spies – pulled from the pulps or created as offspring of famous fictional characters.

In this old comic series, Shang Chi was the wayward son of master villain Fu Manchu, a pulp villain.  As a kid, my local library, the legendary Seymour Library, had several Fu Manchu adventures in the mystery section. When I found them I thought I had discovered treasure. I loved reading them. Continue reading “With Further Ado #162: I Miss My Old Pals From Shang Chi”

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!

 

With Further Ado #155: Back to Normal? Conventions and Movies Are a Go.

With Further Ado #155: Back to Normal? Conventions and Movies Are a Go.

Slowly, ever so cautiously, things are getting back to normal.  This was a big weekend for movies as Marvel’s Black Widow debuted in both theaters and on the Disney+ Streaming app.  Variety reported that this movie generated $80 million in the theaters domestically (far beyond any other post-pandemic release) and another $60 million via Disney Plus Premier Access, where you had to fork over another $30 bucks.

That worked well for my brothers and their families, who are vacationing together and created a fun shared experience.

I have no idea what that bodes for in-theater movies vs. seeing them on streamers.  I will say it was a bit odd to see an ad for an Amazon series (Tomorrow War)  before the Black Widow theatrical movie that my wife and I attended.

But all in all, it felt really good to be in a theater again. Even the annoying people in the theater weren’t really annoying – it was so pleasant to be enjoying a movie in a social setting again.

“It was good to be back in a theater, in the dark, with a crowd. It didn’t matter what the movie was,” said Steve Rotterdam of AfterShock Comics and Bonfire Agency. It seems likes that was the overall reaction to seeing movies in the theater.

Professor Larry Maslon of the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University made it back into the theater too:

So, in the summertime, our family decamps to a small town on the North Fork of Long Island that has only one movie theater.  Until the summer of 2020, of course, we saw all our summer movies there, and that means opening day of all the MCU movies.  Last week, I took my 13-year-old Miles and his pal to see the opening of Black Widow. Unlike our MCU excursions in New York City, where there are hundreds of fanboys in the debut audience, this weekend I was the only fanboy in a small audience of, say, 25 (and Miles, but only sort of because he’s more grown-up than I).  When the requisite MCU fan-service Easter egg joke appeared halfway through Black Widow (no spoilers–figure it out yourselves, it’s a heck of a reference), I shrieked with laughter. 

After the movie, Miles was furious with me:  “Dad, you always do that at a Marvel movie–you’re the only one laughing at these in-jokes.  It’s so embarrassing.” 

“Yes,” I replied, “But you only noticed because we just started going back to the movies.”

Back to the CONS?

It was a busy weekend for me, as I also attended my first live comic con in forever too. Ken Wheaton, a comics pro who’s never lost his excitement for collecting, launched Rochester’s newest comic convention, The Empire Comic Fest.  Upstate New York has a rich history of wonderful cons, and there was definitely an impatience to get things going again.

Emil Novak of Buffalo is holding a convention there next Sunday, and long-time “Convention Maestro” Teddy Hanes has several conventions on the calendar too.

It was refreshing to be back at a convention.  This one was focused on back issues, with dealers selling high value books.  A strong retailer from Buffalo, Dave and Adams, also exhibited, and it was encouraging to see and hear their enthusiasm.

I found a few treasures there – two Big Little Books (I’ve been looking for that Space Ghost one for years and years) and on issue of DC’s Korak, Son of Tarzan. I do believe this issue is a bit of a landmark and I’m eager to write about it next week.

As you can see from the photos, a good time was had by all. And isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be at a local comic convention?

 


 

 

 

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.