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 #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?”

“So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man” #046: “Gotta Catch Em All, Or Not”

“So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man” #046: “Gotta Catch Em All, Or Not”

With but one major convention left on the docket for Unshaven Comics in 2019… I had a bit of a panic attack. Dragon Con is a mere less-than-half-a-month-away, and everything I thought we Unshaven Lads would have done is no where close to it. Welcome to me digitally cleaning out my closet, so you too can enjoy what it means to have a semi-professional business.

After leaving Denver’s Pop Culture Con in the spring happier-than-clams, Unshaven Comics took to a well-needed breather. Our long car ride home energized us for the multitude of tasks to complete before hitting Atlanta come Labor Day Weekend, yet here I sit — procrastinating by-way-of writing to you, my huddled dozens of fans. See? This is your fault.

Nah. It ain’t. It’s wholly ours. And while I’d love to sit here and tell you any completely believable excuses as to why our backlog of to-dos is still not-do’ed, it’s honestly a waste of both our times (for me to list it, and you read it and honestly not care). Beyond the simple — ordering posters, dry cleaning and pressing our table covers, and getting all our mise en place — a personal to-do bubbled up to the surface nary a week ago. And it rhymes with kvelling my soul. Gotta catch em all…

A little over a year ago, I had a complex desire: sell a product at the Unshaven table that wouldn’t compete for the attention of our comics, be easier to fulfil than commissioned sketches, and ultimately net me enough money per con-day to pay for dinner that same night. What I came up with has become a sullen obsession as of late. The notion: mash-up Pokémon with popular cartoons and characters in different universes. I started small, with the big three of both the Poke-universe, and the always-popular-now, Marvel Universe. I mashed Iron Man with tiny fiery dragon Charmander. I smooshed Captain America with water turtle Squirtle. And then I took Spider-Man and married him visually to the only-in-Japan-does-this-make-sense lizard-flower hybrid Bulbasaur.

I took those three designs, along with some My Little Pony mashups, and Teen Titan mashups I’d completed (for earlier commissions, now repurposed with permission by the original requester) and ultimately produced a set of collectible postcards. They were affordable for me to produce in small quantities, easy to display (literally put them on my third of the shared Unshaven table-space), and easy enough to price-to-move ($3 for 1, $10 for 5). After a little test-or-two at some smaller shows, the idea went gangbusters for me. Over the course of the year (2018), I expanded my repertoire eventually to 11 Poké-Vengers (and the stalwart ponies and titans as wonderful filler). And happily for my wallet, the cards have provided me exactly what I’d set them out to do, and very little more (equally an important notion — as it’s not my desire to become a shiller of commoditized parodies-for-profit).

Yet here I was just a week ago sweating bullets over forgetting my note-to-self post-Denver; to expand my ranks yet-again to truly lean in to the gimmick and see how far down the rabbit hole goes. Soon after Denver I’d purchased myself a beautiful tabletop spinner rack especially built for my cards. But the rack boasts 24 available slots. Given that I’d since run out of my stock of Ponies, and my Titans were never the sellers I’d longed them to be… I’d given myself the homework to complete one new Poké-Mashup a week between the Mile High City and Hotlanta. A week ago? I’d completed zero new designs. Panic button pushed.

It astonishes me, honestly, when my back is up against a wall, how well I can both manage my time and produce a litany of work. With a literal week until an internal deadline would be reached (where I’d not incur extraneous rush-fees to produce the final postcards and have them shipped-and-in-hand prior to wheels up for Atlanta (wheels up being a joke, kiddos, because we drive it)… I created enough new-and-pretty-sweet mashups to fill out my aforementioned spinner rack. Granted as of this writing, I’m not done yet. But let me take you through my insane work-flow:

  • I listed out all the current cards I’d had in my collection, and figured out I’d need to fill 13 spots with designs to have each slot in the rack with its own design.
  • I turned to the hive mind in my Facebook friends list to vote on how best to fill out the ranks (be it with a “stick to what brought you to the dance” and go all-Marvel, to split Marvel with “they still should be loved” DC, or to do a little more Marvel, a little DC, and some famous video game characters as a why-the-hell-not bit of fun. The votes overwhelmingly demanded that last option.
  • Knowing I had 3 commissioned cards (that originated digitally) I obtained permission from my customers to reproduce the cards for my set (because I think it’s only fair if someone gives me an idea to draw for them they should have a say if I care to profit from their idea after giving them what they paid for). 13 due now became 10.
  • I listed out each of the major characters I wanted to mash up, to ensure I didn’t duplicate any previously made mashup (because it’s not cool to just make a dozen different Pikachus to me)
  • Each night over the last 5 nights prior to this article being written, I inked 2 characters… bringing me to the 10 needed within a week.
  • I hired my Unshaven Comics color production assistant to flat each of the new 10 cards.
  • From here, as he completes them, I will color correct his work, add in backgrounds and a few special effects, and call it a day.
  • Then all that is left is placing the order and praying I get it in on time to have it printed and shipped to my door without any hefty rush charges.

Of course, I wish I could append this article with the big reveal of what all will hit my spinner rack in a few short weeks. But much like my stand-up comedy… I believe in the power of the moment. As such, I’ll let the fine folks of Atlanta get first gaze on my menagerie. Stay tuned, my friends… because next time? I’ll choose you (to see the cool stuff. I was trying to end on a poignant reference. Nailed it?)!

 

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”

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #039: Eulogy for Gotham

So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #039: Eulogy for Gotham

Oh Gotham, we hardly knew ye.

A bit late perhaps for someone to wrap up thoughts on a show that left the zeitgeist on April 25th, but who are we kidding… Gotham left the fans a few episodes into the first season and never looked back.

I myself have slogged through all 100 episodes (exactly! Who knew…) of the life and times of the denizens of one of pop cultures most well-known fictitious cities. Gotham itself was a 5-season experiment in schizophrenia. At times, it was a mostly realistic mafioso crime drama. At other times it was a CW tinged drama of angsty romantic desires. In the best of times, it was self-effacing dramedy with marvelous production designs and a few decent ideas. And in the worst of times, it was a supernaturally-charged proto-action cop drama / espionage / military / comic book nightmare of plot holes, character reimaginings, and dialogue that had to have been written by autocomplete set to mellowdrama. Continue reading “So Long and Thanks for the Fish, Man #039: Eulogy for Gotham”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swamp Thing From DC Universe Is Dark & Enjoyable

Swamp Thing From DC Universe Is Dark & Enjoyable

DC Universe launches its third live-action series, Swamp Thing, on Friday, May 31st. This April, the originally thirteen episode order was shortened to ten, mid-production. Rumors swirled about the impending demise of the DC Universe platform, but the alarms turned out to be unfounded as more content is added to the app.

The comic version of Swamp Thing has been retconned and rebooted several times, each with very different vibes. The original Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson Swamp Thing was a Mary Shelley on the bayou, while the Alan Moore version was Faulkner on bad mushrooms. I was curious which way the new series would lean, and while it will probably evolve as the series goes on, the producers have drawn on their horror backgrounds to make a gumbo of the two.  Continue reading “Swamp Thing From DC Universe Is Dark & Enjoyable”

Brainiac On Banjo #038: Different? HA!

Brainiac On Banjo #038: Different? HA!

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

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

Lions, Dragons & Wolves #007: GoT S8E6 Recap: Stark Relief

Lions, Dragons & Wolves #007: GoT S8E6 Recap: Stark Relief

Warning: This recap contains nothing but spoilers for the last episode of Game of Thrones. If you are reading this before seeing the episode “The Iron Throne” or whatever they’re calling it, you are doing it wrong.

[Editor’s note: Also this is being posted late because the PCS HBIC hadn’t seen the episode yet & editing a piece full of spoilers sucks but also it’s hard to spot errors]

Continue reading “Lions, Dragons & Wolves #007: GoT S8E6 Recap: Stark Relief”