Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Requested Materials

You know how every piece of junk mail trying to get you to open a new credit card or buy something is disguised as an important document or free money? Huge red letters splash across the envelope, screaming “Important! Open Immediately!” or “Payable to addressee only~!

Well, I’ve noticed that when you’re actually receiving money in the mail, specifically in the form of a rebate of some sort, the sender seems to go out of their way to MAKE it look like junk mail, no doubt in the hopes that you will just toss it without opening it.

I got my $50 rebate check from Warner Home Video today, payback for being such a collector geek and buying too many TV DVD box sets. The return address simply states, “PO Box 848, Grand Rapids MN 55744.” There’s a postage paid stamp in the corner and a small notation on the back of the envelope that reads, “ Enclosed materials sent at your request question / concerns? (sic) 800-558-5745”

Luckily, I’m a cynical bastard who’s media-savvy enough to never be fooled by these fuckers, plus, I was waiting for this moolah, so I knew right away what it was. But I’m willing to bet that a lot of people who took the trouble to jump through the specific hoops required to get the rebate (cut out proof of purchase from the box, attach it to the receipt, circle the price, write a 200 word essay on the production values of the DVD in purple felt-tipped pen on the back of the receipt) tossed their check in the trash with the Verizon flyer, the Covenant House package and the Meet Singles in Your Area ad. And I’m also willing to bet that’s exactly what Warner is counting on.

I’m actually surprised that the goverment makes tax refund checks so easily identifiable, they’re fucking with us in every other conceivable way, you’d think they’d stick ‘em in a plain brown envelope with a red warning, “Gay, Liberal, Pro-Abortion, Soldier-Hating, Anthrax-Sprinkled Letter from Hollywood Enclosed!

I saw V for Vendetta yesterday and liked it. I’m no fan of the Wachowski Brothers (no, not even the FIRST Matrix film), and their action film mentality does dumb down Alan Moore’s comic. But I was amazed that the film is even as audacious as it is. From the whole theme of “Terrorism as Freedom Fighting” to (moreso) V’s literate dialogue and the very British esthetic, the movie completely mystified the ladies kicking my chair and talking through the whole thing, both to each other and on their phones (I know, I shoulda’ moved). My biggest beefs with the flick were Natalie Portman (another unremarkable Hollywood pretzel stick) and the fact that V has CAT POWER on his jukebox?!? (Julie London, yes, Cat Power, no)

V for Vendetta makes the fourth movie in a row that I’ve seen in a theater that’s (either directly or metaphorically) about how government is a corrupt entity that’s more about sustaining its own interests than advancing the interests of the people (following Why We Fight, Good Night, and Good Luck and Syriana). I think I’d be losing my mind were it not for movies like these as well as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, which, I believe time will show were the voices of reason and rebellion (far more than our news media) during this most damaging administration in American history.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have to write about horror/comedy hybrids and draw a comic strip about bar patrons at rock shows. And more. A shallow, busy life is mine.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Bronze Beauties #5: the Son of Satan

I actually never read this comic book, but man, do I love the concept. Marvel Comics' The Son of Satan first appeared in shadow in Ghost Rider #1 (Sept., 1973) and was fully revealed to the world in Marvel Spotlight #12 (Oct., 1973). Daimon Hellstrom, the sire of the devil, born with a big ol’ Pentagram birthmark, grew up and rejected the family business, opting to FIGHT evil instead! Times sadly change, and apparently Daimon's been updated into a character called “Hellstorm,” who’s not the son of THE Satan and now has long hair and wears jeans and a long black trenchcoat (yeesh!!).

I actually won a big lot of Son of Satan comics on eBay some years ago, but the books mysteriously never arrived at my doorstep....!!! Oooooohhhhhh.....

Here’s the covers to Marvel Spotlight #13 (Jan., 1973) by John Romita and #18 (Oct., 1974) by Gil Kane.

Oh, and Daimon had a sister (Marvel Premiere #27, Dec., 1975).
Man, the ‘70s were GREAT!!!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bronze Beauties #4: PLOP!

One of my favorite comics of all time, PLOP! was DC Comics' 1970s answer to MAD (the only remaining publication of DC sister company EC comics). Billed "The magazine of weird humor!," PLOP! used the same "borrowed" format as their mystery (not quite strong enough to be "horror") comics, THE HOUSE OF MYSTERY, THE HOUSE OF SECRETS, THE WITCHING HOUR, etc., teaming those books' hosts, Cain, Abel and Eve (a witch, not their mother) in introductory pieces drawn by the legendary Sergio Aragon├ęs. The stories would usually be morality tales with a sick, comedic bent in which the protagonist usually met an untimely end accompanied by the titular sound effect.

Sadly neglected by comics historians, PLOP! featured some truly stellar work by artists such as Berni(e) Wrightson, Alex Toth, Frank Robbins, Alfred Alcala, Ric Estrada, Lee Marrs and Aragon├ęs. Most issues featured covers by Basil Wolverton and Wally Wood contributed some as well. Early issues featured no ads and the back covers reprinted the front art with no text.

Unfortunately, the book's editor, EC alumnus Joe Orlando found himself too busy to continue overseeing PLOP! He was replaced with writer Tony Isabella, who didn't quite grasp the PLOP! esthetic. By issue 21, the book was increased to a giant sized comic, but was mostly filled with lame panel gags and other filler. PLOP! came to an end with #24, dated December 1976.

Someday perhaps some smart collected editions editor will put together a "Best of" book, but until then try to find those early issues on eBay (they usually don't go for much). Here are the brilliant covers to PLOP! #1 (Oct., 1973) and #2 (Dec., 1973) both by Wolverton.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

WATE-ON, Regular or Super

So, while putting a lot of comics up for auction on eBay today, I came across this incredible ad in a 1973 issue of the DC Comic LOVE STORIES (don’t ask) that shouts at the reader, “Don’t be SKINNY!” My, how times have changed.

According to the small print, WATE-ON is an “amazing new natural discovery” that “quickly fills out skinny figures without Pads, Excercise or Fishy Oils!” Wate-On (available in Regular and Super Homogenized Liquid Emulsions or Condensed Food-Tablets [Super or Regular]) “helps fill out cheeks, bust-line, arms, legs and entire body!”

WATE-ON (available at drug counters everywhere) also notes that “CONVALESCENTS recovering from colds, flu and other minor ailments usually find Wate-On’s extra calories beneficial.”

And as if that weren’t enough to pull you in, check out the groovy fruggin’ couple in the corner... The guy (who looks like Liberace wearing Cary Grant’s outfit from TO CATCH A THIEF) says, “Gosh, Jean, you sure are popular since you put on those extra pounds!”

Nicole, Lindsay, Lara Flynn, Courteney, pay attention!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006


Odd things happen when you take a TV show as “your own.” Especially since most shows don’t go too many seasons before they jump the shark.

Seriously, what the fuck is happening to GILMORE GIRLS? Luke doesn’t tell Lorelai about his daughter? And then won’t let Loreleai into her life once she finds out? Lane agrees to marry Zach? What the hell happened to Sookie and Jackson and Michel? Granted, there have been bright spots, like the genius Gilmore battle at the end of “Friday Night’s All Right for Fighting,” but for the most part, this season has been a colossal, frustrating, unbelievable letdown. And word on the street is that next season will be the last, and, worse, the Palladinos may not be involved.

But it’s still far better than most of what’s on the Tee Vee... f’rinstance....

Oh, that SNL Natalie Portman rap video.... why, why, WHY DO PEOPLE THINK THIS IS FUNNY? Maybe, MAYBE if it had been the first “really white person does gangsta rap on SNL video,” it might have been slightly.... SLIGHTLY amusing.... but, in true Saturday Night Live form, they took something that was funny once and are milking the humor right out of that fucker. I couldn’t even watch the whole Portman video. Halfway through, with nary a smile cracked, I clicked off.

And then there’s The Oscars.... which I did DVR and watched in about 35 minutes. I was almost embarrassed for Jon Stewart... it seems as if a lot of apologists are judging the job Stewart did in the context of other Oscar shows... fuck that. Jon Stewart is literally a hero of mine in these awful times. I expected more. He was just okay. I'm curious to see what Jon will say about his performance on THE DAILY SHOW tonight. About the only person who didn’t come off bad on the Oscars to my mind was George Clooney, on whom I now officially have a man crush. I mean, I've gone on record as saying that I think he's the closest thing we have to an old-fashioned movie star ala Cary Grant, and his grace, humor and humility Sunday night cemented that. I get it, ladies, I get it.

Crush. CRASH. Yeah. Reasons for the BROKEBACK snub aside (Hollywood homophobia? Or just too many actors voting for all their friends, dozens of whom comprised the cast of CRASH?), I was glad CRASH won. That film moved me in the end far more than BBM did (Get it? Moved me... IN THE END? Oh, I’m witty).

And finally, those Boost Mobile ads that posit what would’ve happened if Travis Barker would’ve become a weight lifter instead of a rock drummer.... ANYTHING that would’ve spared the world Blink 182 would’ve been welcome (and, I feel I must note that I had to Google "Travis Barker" to find out which shitty band he's in. The guy is hardly a rock star). I had a discussion with a 23 year old girl at the bar last Friday night about “punk” (shortly after the leader of the incredibly awful Bayside did his post-show railing against “fags”). She said that punk in the 70s was all about image. These days, she opined, it’s more about the music and deep meaning.

Uh-huh. Roll, Joe, roll.

Bronze Beauties #3: Swamp Thing

My mtv.com column this week is about movie adaptations (both made and unmade) of Alan Moore comics. Which forced me to go back and look at some stuff I haven't in a while. And as much as my mind was blown by Moore's SWAMP THING in the '80s, my heart still belongs to the Len Wein / Berni Wrightson Swampy comics of the 1970s.

At left are the stunning covers to SWAMP THING #8 (which I can still remember buying at the Pennsupreme drug store near my Uncle Ernie's house) and #10, both from 1974.