Mittwoch, 31. März 2010

Cannonball: Upward Trajectory

I first encountered Sam Guthrie, aka the once and future member of the X-Men known as Cannonball, in the pages of X-Force circa “The X-Cutioner’s Song.” The paramilitary teen X-team was in the process of being ditched by their mentor figure, Cable, and young Sam had already begun seizing the reins of leadership.

The Cannonball I met back then was a Southern gentleman to be sure, but more he was a self-assured youngster with strong convictions and a chip on his shoulder; he was a nice guy, but not too nice, and that quickly made him one of my favorite characters.

At the time, I had no idea that Sam Guthrie had not always been this way. As I was still a kid and yet to really delve into the dense forest of continuity, I had a passing awareness that Cannonball had been part of a younger, less intense team called the New Mutants at one point and from early issues of X-Force I found at my local store, I gathered his confidence and poise with his own powers was a relatively new developments, but I was certainly more familiar with Fabian Nicieza’s “angry young man” take on Sam than any other.

This is why I was so disappointed when Sam joined the X-Men post-Age of Apocalypse and somehow became this wide-eyed rookie in awe of his teammates and incapable of any real sort of competence. This was not the Sam I knew and loved.

Over the years I’ve gotten to know where Cannonball came from a little better, most significantly via the New Mutants Classics trade collections, and while I still don’t buy that Sam should have been quite such a screw-up during his first run in the big leagues, I get where it came from, and also see how the character’s evolution makes him somewhat unique in the Marvel Universe while also instilling him with a huge amount of potential that writers have only scratched the surface of in the three decades or so that he’s been around.

Chris Claremont’s original take on Cannonball in those first several years of New Mutants is one I look back at and can barely recognize as the hero of my youth. In his early days, Sam Guthrie was an awkward, overeager, clumsy and often downright nerdy country bumpkin who seemed in way over his head as a world-class hero. However, while Sam may have been gawky and not quite oozing cool in those initial appearances, the core characteristics that would make me a fan years later were there from the start: he was a true blue hero whose motivation for doing good came from the most pure and unselfish of places, and despite the fact that he may have been crashing into walls half the time, he was a natural born leader who commander the respect of his peers.

In re-examining the trajectory of Cannonball from wide-eyed New Mutant to almost world-weary X-Force leader and beyond, I realize that Sam Guthrie represents perhaps one of Marvel’s best examples of a character who has actually grown up over the years.

Over in the DC Universe, you can look at Dick Grayson and Wally West in particular as well as the original Teen Titans in general when seeking out examples of one-time youngsters who have grown and changed over the years, but there are fewer examples of that path at Marvel, with Cannonball being among the more pronounced. For those who have followed his entire comic book “life,” they’ve seen Sam Guthrie go from an awkward boy to a teen struggling to prove himself and most recently witnessed him blossoming into adulthood as a responsible soldier who guys like Cyclops put total trust in. Cannonball’s progression has been pronounced yet for the most part natural, and it’s neat to see the seeds that were planted way back when and the fruit they have born.

Dick Grayson and Wally West both grew up and assumed the mantels of their respective mentors; while Sam has yet to become the new Professor X--and likely never will--he has ascended from teen sidekick equivalent to fully-realized adult hero.

Another aspect that makes Cannonball so cool is something that used to get brought up a lot back around that era of X-Force I loved so much: unlike pretty much any other character in the X-Men Universe, Sam is a guy who received the tutelage not only of Professor X and his opposite number in Magneto, but Cable as well, providing him with training and a cumulative knowledge that could perhaps put Scott Summers to shame. There was always something neat to me that Cannonball is a character whose power is fairly pedestrian, but the strategic skills and ability to lead instilled in him by the most impressive and diverse collection of teachers any Marvel mutant could accumulate distinguish him. Again, there is so much potential in exploring a protagonist who has been exposed to three incredibly differing philosophies and perhaps is the only person able to balance them into the best possible course.

I really dig what Zeb Wells is currently doing with Cannonball in the current New Mutants series, highlighting him as, again, somebody Cyclops really sees the worth and value in as he works to safeguard the mutant race--and as a possible heir--while also showing he’s a strong leader who is not without imperfection. Surrounding him with his old friends adds an element I also enjoy as while Sam may be a soldier and a hero, there’s certainly a human element you never want to ignore.

I do still think there is much ground to be mined when it comes to Cannonball, not just in a team setting, but maybe as a headliner in his own limited or ongoing series. Really dig deep into the stuff I’ve written about here in regards to his evolution as well as his stance on his various teachers and I think you’ve got a strong foundation for something that could really take off (pun intended).

Off to Sakura-Con 2010 we go!

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, off to Sakura-con we go! We have packed 2 wheelchairs, (mumble) suitcases and some things to be signed by Noizi Ito (a favorite artist of mine, I even have an art doujinshi!). There is the World Premier of Trigun, 3 weeks before it opens in Japan, only so far… subtitles. Will keep hoping for subtitles.

We are all planning on going to the Masque Ball, and I am hoping to go to: Noizi Ito Autographing, Tea Ceremony, Kendo (martial art with bamboo swords – as shown in Bamboo Blade), Iaido (Martial Art), the Dazzle Vision concert as well as panels on various subjects. Jennie Breeden of The Devil’s Panties and Mayumi Tanaka, the voice of Pazu in Laputa: Castle in the Sky will also be there. So OFF we go (in 35 minutes!)

Özgür Erman covers Batman 21

Original cover by Dick Sprang; DC 1944. Özgür Erman's website is here.

Our Army at War #220

Our Army at War #220 (On Sale: March 31, 1970) has an awesome Sgt. Rock cover by Joe Kubert.

Our Sgt. Rock cover-story is "Stone-Age War" written and illustrated by Joe Kubert. This story was reprinted in Sgt. Rock #318. Next is "The Last Soldier" by Robert Kanigher, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. We end with a U.S.S. Stevens story, "The Idiot" by Sam Glanzman.

Edited by Joe Kubert.

Dienstag, 30. März 2010

Lynn Phegley Watches "Lost" - "Ab Aeterno"

My mom's name is Lynn Phegley. She teaches music to elementary school kids in Grand Blanc, Michigan. She likes classic Hollywood musicals, trashy romance novels and "Sex In The City."

And for some reason she's seen damn near every episode of "Lost."

Each week of the series last season, I'm opening up the blog to mom to share her thoughts on what happened. I guarantee that those of you who like to read blogs digging in to the metaphorical underpinnings of the show looking for clues and analysis will almost certainly get nothing out of this. And thanks to this site for the screencaps.

Let's begin.


"That was boring, actually. They were chained up in the pirate ship for way too long. They spend WAY too much time on that. Three minutes would have been enough. Then the benevolent Smoke Monster didn't kill him. Why didn't he kill him? I don't think the Smoke Monster had the authority to kill him because he wasn't really evil.

"If the end of it is 'Good and Evil,' that's just as bad as it being purgatory. You might as well have cowboys and Indians. But Good is supposed to win out, and there's not many redeeming qualities in this story.

"Most stories are like this: the people are what they are. The people may appear to be different to the other characters, but as a reader you always know who's good and who's evil. Then, when you get to the end it all wraps up neatly. This story does not do anything neatly. This is the kind of story where I would skip to the end to read.

"They're trying to show the ambiguity of the dystopia or whatever that article you sent me was about. Anyway. I don't believe in that. I believe in utopia. There's heroes and heroines. I like that better. I don't care for this kind of genre."


"I don't remember the Man In Black being in this show before? Where was he?"

[I explain that MIB was most likely Jack's father in the earlier seasons.]

"How do we know that? I don't "infer." That's the problem with me and this story. There's too much inferment that has to go on. I go that he was the wife in that one scene, but it could be your imagination. I mean, there are a lot of things in this show that you have to double check with. I think half of the stuff is in those little pop up things, and you'd never have known it if you wouldn't have seen the pop ups.

"I said to a girl at work, 'Are you still watching Lost?' and she said, 'Yup. The only reason I'm still watching it is because I've invested all this time, and I want to see how it turns out.' Then I said, 'If it wasn't coming to an end, I'd have quite watching it.' It's true! And now they advertise, 'Watch this new show from the producers of Lost.' There's no way in hell I'd watch another show from them. I'd go, 'Oh, the producers of Lost? No thank you.'

"Is Jacob God? Because God gives free will. If this is supposed to be heaven or hell, then they're off track because these people have no free will."

[Me: Before Ben killed Jacob, Jacob told him he always has a choice.]

"Well, Ben said he didn't have a choice."

[Me: That's the whole question of the show then. Can anyone break the cycle? Some people have been broken by it like Claire or Sayid, but the main players still have a chance to change who they are if they want.]

"I don't know about that. They're not doing that good of choices in the sideways universe. Lordy. If this is all about good and evil, I can't wait until the religious people get to it. Maybe they're like that lady who wrote the vampire book. Maybe the person who writes 'Lost' is really a Utah Mormon. That'd be a thing to find out. If it's a religion story, I'm going to think it's dumb."

Orphan Elliott covers Adventures into the Unknown 2

Original cover by Edvard Moritz; American Comics Group 1948. Orphan Elliott's website is here.

If you say ‘Potato’, I’ll say “Potatoes’!

Thanks everyone who has taken that precious time from a life too hectic to read this post. It seems that we are at the future of Luc Besson's Taxi or like Harrison Ford in Blade Runner: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, barraged by images, messages, ads. Blogs now all require moderation due to spam and I get up to 40 spam messages to moderate a day (ug, no I don't want to know how to use escort services, thanks!). I use moderation not to ‘screen’ messages from people but because I find word verification difficult and I know others do as well. Also, being rejected and told you are spam by blogger when trying to comment BACK is humiliating. I am trying for a disability friendly blog.
I looked back a year and realized two things: 1) I am not responding enough to the comments that are made. I appreciate EVERY comment, and I try on alternating days to comment. I don't think that is enough, since many readers and commentors have chronic disabilities. So I am going to try to comment on every comment made AND I am going to try and blog more often, at least three if not more times a week.

I admit, these days (due to neuropathy) it takes an average of six hours to write a blog, which is 2/3rds of a day. Then add in a couple appointments and there goes a week. BUT, but YOU are the ones who are important. You are important to me, and what you think is important to me. So when you spend your time reading my writing, and writing something back I am going to try as hard as possible to respond.

b) There are a lot more personal messages. Hey, I love emails and PM because I am not exactly going out and about in the world anymore. Here a big day is when the guy testing for putting up the sling talks to me about how the beams in the ceiling either go this way or that way (honestly, that is what today was: I was in bed, with the full oxygen mask on, and he was on a ladder – but it was HUMAN CONTACT!). I looked back at the comments and realized, "Now that person emails, that person emails, that person emails, that person messages…”

The sad thing is that the more people email comments, the more hours I spend emailing back (even if only half, when an email takes about an hour). BUT, I want to be friends, and be there for people. And I will keep responding to emails. But to help ME, if you could, pretty please, split your message into a) comments on blog post – which I WILL try to reply to and b) an email – which I can try to reply to, but you understand that oxygen, hospitals and general funk sometimes delay this! While it looks like more work, it is actually the same, just part of the email is a comment (you can even cut and paste!), and the rest an email. While for me, I can use the time I save to make sure I respond to comments AND do more blog posts. Sounds like a win/win? Gosh, I hope so. Suggestions are appreciated!

And in closing, milk does a body good! Particularly if you are a cat girl (Linda has already asked to wear my cat ears for Saturday!).

Montag, 29. März 2010

Ben's 25 Favorite Wrestlemania Matches

Note: This should have gone up Sunday

Ok, so historically my posts about on pro wrestling on this blog have not really proven terribly compelling to anybody outside of me and pretty much guarantee me a reply from Rickey saying something along the lines of “I have no idea what you just wrote,” but heck, it’s Wrestlemania (I think you’re supposed to capitalize the “M” but I never do) Sunday, the card looks pretty darn good this year, and I’ve been inspired by the Mania countdown over at 4thletter! to believe perhaps there is room for wrestling on a comic-centric blog.

So here are my 25 favorite Wrestlemania matches of all time. Mind you they are not the matches I necessarily think are the best per se, but my personal favorites, often affected by my own inclinations towards certain competitors, the atmosphere where I saw the match, etc.

Also, of the 25 Manias to date, I’ve still yet to see XXII or XXIII, hence the lack of matches from those two cards (sorry, Bobby Lashley).

I don’t believe I’ve ever seen this one on any “Best Of” lists, but as Wrestlemania XIV in Boston was the only one I’ve ever attended live, I can say from experience that we were all going nuts in the Fleetcenter when Mick Foley and Terry Funk beat the stuffing out of the Outlaws and took their Tag Team titles in a Dumpster match.

Yes, the “match” was crap, but the entrances plus Gene Okerlund and Bobby Heenan making their WWF returns to do commentary make this an easy gimme.

Not sure how this one has stood the test of time, but Ahmed’s custom LOD shoulder pads and Hawk actually using a kitchen sink as a weapon were enough to wow me at age 15.

Sometimes you want a mat-based wrestling classic, sometimes you want a high-flying spotfest, and then sometimes you just want four bad dudes throwing each other around and beating the crap out of one another—this was the latter.

A true forgotten Mania classic, but being in attendance, I remember the crowd going nuts as these two flipped and somersaulted around and outside the ring with Taka’s Light Heavyweight title on the line.

The first time is generally the best in my experience when it comes to pro wrestling gimmick matches, and the inaugural multi-man Wrestlemania ladder match featuring Chris Jericho, Edge, Chris Benoit, Kane, Christian and Shelton Benjamin in 2005 remains a staple in my mind. The crazy stunts Benjamin alone pulled off with that ladder make this a classic.

At his advanced age, Ric Flair can’t exactly pull out five-star classics at will like he used to, but put him in the ring with a skilled buddy like Shawn Michaels and the old man can still go. The actual wrestling took a back seat to the drama in Flair’s “retirement match” though, with that unforgettable image of a defiant Nature Boy putting up his dukes and HBK mouthing “I love you…I’m sorry” before delivering the kill shot.

Impressive though it was that two non-wrestlers—one of whom was pushing 60 at the time—could go in the ring like the McMahon boys did, I actually appreciate how they utilized sideshow elements like Mick Foley as special ref, the Trish Stratus-Stephanie McMahon catfight, and Linda McMahon getting revenge on her husband to really garnish this one. And yeah, Shane’s version of the Van Terminator was rad.

A pretty good match, but considering that Shawn Michaels practically had a broken back going in, that alone is a minor miracle. Really it was the historical significance of Steve Austin taking his place as World champion and the fact that I was there live to see it that makes this one stand out to me.

Locked out of the World title picture in favor of Steve Austin and The Rock in 2001, Triple H and The Undertaker decided to go out and give stealing the show a shot, in a wicked all-over-the-place war with every stop pulled out and both guys hustling at a pace not everybody was sure they could pull off—but they did.

There was no earthly reason why at age 53 and several years removed from a full-time wrestling schedule Ric Flair should have been able to go out and throw down with The Undertaker in a helluva nasty brawl, but hey, that’s why he’s Ric Flair. From The Nature Boy gushing blood to Arn Anderson’s cameo spinebuster to ‘Taker needing multiple finishers to end things, this was just fun.

A slick, fast-paced confrontation that saw Eddie Guerrero retain the WWE title at the biggest show of the year, but I’ll always remember it for the classic finish where Latino Heat loosens his boot laces, suckers Angle into using the anklelock, then slips out into a rollup—vintage Eddie.

During a period when not many matches had that classic “big time” feel that qualified them as true Wrestlemania classics anymore, this one did. Hogan was way past his prime and Rock couldn’t carry him physically, but boy could these guys tell an epic story just in the way they stared one another down, and the hot Toronto crowd put it over the top.

Some call this “the match that changed everything,” as the fans turned Bret Hart heel and in the process made Steve Austin the unlikely candidate to be possibly the WWF’s all-time biggest hero. Aside from the cheers and boos, these two put on an intense clinic of a submission match, with blood pouring from Stone Cold’s forehead becoming a landmark image of the forthcoming Attitude Era.

I was so excited when Shawn Michaels returned from his four-year “retirement,” and probably my biggest dream match for HBK at the time was with Chris Jericho, the guy who had supplanted him as my favorite wrestler in his absence. They finally went one-on-one in a classic at Wrestlemania XIX that saw Michaels proving he could still hang, Jericho showing he could do anything HBK could do, and a great post-match cheap shot.

I remember this one less for the match, but more for the atmosphere, as an eclectic group of my friends from high school came over to my basement and we set up mats on my floor so we could drop each other with Rock Bottoms and Stone Cold Stunners between matches. My buddies were pretty split between who they were rooting for here, so the back-and-forth cheering, while it must have driven my parents nuts, made for a good time, capping off with Austin regaining his World title probably nearly causing my neighbors to call the cops.

Just watched this recently and didn’t feel like it quite lived up to the hype it got with way too many slow periods as both guys recovered from the beating they were giving their bodies for my liking, but it’s got my favorite wrestler ever in Michaels against another of the best in ‘Taker, plus the drama is through the roof; I wish I could have watched it live, as I feel like not knowing in advance that HBK would fail to break the streak would have bumped it up big-time for me.

I watched this match at my buddy Jay’s apartment with him and my friend Jordan our junior year of college and I don’t think we jumped as high off his couch or gritted or teeth as much with anticipation over any real sports game as we did here. From all reports, Angle’s neck was legitimately held together by a thread as he went into this and not only his career but life may have been on the line, but he still went in there and defended his WWE title in this brutal war with Brock Lesnar, the scariest-looking motherfucker we had ever seen. After Lesnar botched a Shooting Star Press, landed straight on his head, then got up and won the match, we decided he was clearly a robot and if we dropped him in Iraq, he’d have the place cleaned up overnight.

One of my very first memories of watching wrestling as a little kid is The Ultimate Warrior beating Hulk Hogan for the World title and feeling like I had just witnessed history; even two decades later, this match still feels more momentous than anything outside of Hogan-Andre The Giant and was also a really solid outing between two guys who didn’t always deliver in the ring but clearly could go when the chips were down.

I almost feel bad ranking this out of the top five, but the fact is that in the 15-plus years since Shawn Michaels challenged Razor Ramon for his Intercontinental title and the two of them revolutionized the Ladder match in the process, the gimmick has become both so improved upon and overlooked, it doesn’t have the same impact on me it once did. However, the groundwork they laid here can still be seen in any Ladder match you watch, plus I dig both guys as performers, so it still ranks high for me.

It’s not just hard to look back at Chris Benoit’s big World title victory without having the shadow of what he eventually became cast over it, it’s impossible. Nonetheless, even though I doubt I could ever sit through it (or any Benoit match) ever again, there’s no question that at the time, watching Wrestlemania XX at home in Newton during my spring break senior year of college, watching this incredible underdog somehow pull it out in probably the best three way match ever and then celebrate with his best buddy mid-ring was quite a moment.

Most people name Wrestlemania XVII’s TLC match as their favorite in the series of gimmick triple threats between these guys, but the original Ladder match for the Dudleys’ Tag Team titles at XVI (or “Wrestlemania 2000”) remains my favorite. At the time, stuff like Jeff Hardy doing Swanton Bombs off 15-foot ladders and Edge pulling out mid-air spears were fresh enough to be the high spots on their own as opposed to needing new and different takes. This match was innovative and I fondly remember watching it breathlessly with my high school buddies.

Decent enough wrestling with this one, but incredible storytelling in the finish and post-match antics make it one of my favorite bits of rasslin’ business. The Ultimate Warrior was the type of ridiculous, over-the-top character who could only excel in the cartoony WWF of old, but his persona worked perfectly here as neither he nor Savage could find a way to beat each other and he had to “look to his gods” for an answer, making for an absurdly awesome visual. However, nothing tops the newly-“retired” Savage being berated after his loss by his harpy of a manager, Sensational Sherri, then being saved by his former love and “wrestling’s first lady,” Elizabeth, a true Wrestlemania moment and, as Scott Keith put it (more or less): “Proof that it can be Shakespeare sometimes.”

Most purists will probably argue this as the match deserving of the top spot, and I wouldn’t argue from a detached and analytical perspective, but I barely knew what wrestling was in 1987 and have more respect than affection for the guys involved, so it barely misses on my list. However, it’s definitely a breathtaking piece of artistry to behold, and one of those matches you’d show a non-wrestling fan to prove to them there is indeed quite a bit of athletics involved. Both guys are incredible performers and the match itself is flawless, if a bit lengthy for my impatient tastes, and if I were dong a different sort of ranking it would probably be tops.

The top Wrestlemania match I could just watch time and time again is the opener of the show’s tenth edition featuring the Hart brothers putting on a seamless technical clinic that really showcased the “wrestling” part of the business. Some siblings or longtime partners prove a disappointing match once they finally lock up, but Bret and Owen were smooth as silk, busting out an exciting, compelling back-and-forth that told a great story over its course. The match definitely benefitted from Owen wanting to really shine in his chance to do so on such a big stage and Bret wanting to help his baby brother do so however he could. I also award my top marks based on the contest being the perfect length—not too long to let you get bored, not so short it didn’t seem to matter—and that for my money nobody ever did the tried and true “jealous brothers” storyline better than the Harts.

Paragraph (Plus) In-Flight Movie Reviews: The Blind Side

Note: This movie was viewed while on a plane--take that for what you will.

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

Make no bones about it, because it certainly does not: The Blind Side is very much a “feel good movie” of the highest order. On the one hand, it does weaken the film somewhat in a critical sense and in terms of the plot’s flow if only because every hurdle encountered is so easily and gleefully overcome by the protagonists that there is a definite lack of deep conflict or introspection. Also, given that the movie is based on a real and compelling story, it’s tough not to question how much is legit and how much has been punched up and simplified for Hollywood. On the other hand, like I said, this is not a piece that has any sense of denial about what it is and isn’t masquerading as high art—at least I didn’t get that sense—so if you choose to just sit back and enjoy as I did, you’ll find yourself getting engulfed in some good performances and a story that skips gleefully along, holding your attention with its whimsy.

Of course the most ballyhooed of those aforementioned performances is Sandra Bullock’s Oscar-winning turn as the fast-talking Memphis mom who brings a poor homeless black kid into her family. I enjoyed Bullock’s turn here tremendously and absolutely think she deserves the accolades she received; aside from the incredible energy she seems to effortlessly project, this role is such a departure from a lot of her stock characters, showing her range, but she also walks the delicate tight rope of portraying a strong, tough female lead who gets her way by being blunt and outspoken yet does not make her just another “bitch.” That you still find Bullock’s character likable through the rough exterior and bravado is an accomplishment worthy of being lauded.

However, Bullock does not do it alone, as her supporting cast was an extremely strong mix of talented young actors and seasoned pros willing to be in the background. Quinton Aaron as Michael, the boy taken in by the Tuohy family, is a tremendous find, an immediately endearing and sympathetic giant who does wonders just with how he chooses to carry his physique. Tim McGraw does a nice job of tethering Bullock’s Leigh Anne as her supportive and grounded husband Sean. Jae Head is also quite a scene-stealer as little SJ, the Tuohys’ young son, playing agent for his new “big brother” when college football scouts come calling. The only person I was a bit let down by was Kathy Bates, whose liberal tutor fell kind of flat, but that could also be simply because I expect so much from her (and her character did still provide McGraw with the opening for his great “Who’d have thought we’d have a black son before we knew a democrat” one-liner).

The Blind Side is a fun movie about issues that aren’t so fun with a good cast that seems to enjoy what they’re doing; I doubt it will change the world, but I don’t think it sets out to.

Lisa Hanawalt covers Fight Comics 20

Original cover by Dan Zolnerowich; Fiction House 1942. Lisa Hanawalt's website is here and you can purchase her original here.

the 1, 2, 3, of Anime Hair and Cheryl has a tree day

Due to every day being “Mission Impossible” I am exploded, I mean exhausted. Yup, Mission Impossible with parts of me going all odd or bursting into flame: “You will self destruct in 4, 3, 2, 1…” I pass out. That’s what A.A.N. is, an idiot of an autoimmune system hitting my self destruct button several times a day. So, after doing another three impossible things yesterday, and a couple the day before, apparently, it turns out (shhhhhh! BIG SECRET COMING!) I am (whisper..) mortal. So yes, that means my head flops over like an omelet going bad and I have days where the 100,000 little muchkins eating my nerves (which really hurts, REALLY), gets me down...on the a small puddle of my saliva. So more pictures than words today! Back to anime hair day!

Yes, hair cut with oxygen, please do not smoke during this…or use my head as an ashtray (really that last one goes for anytime, not just haircuts).

Ta da, the new me! Or so the salon would like to have me believe. It is a well known salon secret that this is the LAST time you will ever see your hair that good. This is due to various spells, potions and magnetized ions that all hair salons have. Once exposed to the harsh reality called “Earth”, you can kiss this look goodbye (unless you are a model or are getting married, or like to use enough hairspray to lightly coat the inside of your lungs). Notice the eyebrows – not red!

Now I am waiting for ‘threading’, the most painful word outside of ‘bikini wax’ and ‘high heels mandatory’. I am practicing ‘cleavage’. Just in case I need to distract someone for a moment while I bop them over the head just like one of the little field mice (bad little rabbit fufu!).

This is ‘threading’ from India where basically you take two twines of strong wax string and counter twirl them at speeds so they sound like a band saw cutting logs in half. Then they approach your face and do just that (only the ‘logs’ are eyebrow hair being ripped out by the roots at several dozen per second). It is one of the few times when I am actually whispering, “Go Go Gadget: peripheral neuropathy!”

Here is the post salon look, BUT I have nicely shaped eyebrows. Odd that while my hair falls out in bunches my eyebrows are thriving. I put it down to the fact that it might have to do with blood flow and blood to the eyes is considered important (by me, and my body thankfully).

Okay, arrived at park, I have the purple and red feather earrings and with the wind whipping, I have ‘Mt Fuji’ brow (this is a Japanese insult to women who had foreheads larger than about two inches I think). See, and you thought manga was useless – but now I can insult other women using five different cultures though ‘If ya going to run wi da boyas then ya can’t drink the sherbert’ might not be useful not that I have left a very particular valley in Wales (“Ack, my head is like a zoo on fire!”).

Here is Cheryl bonding with nature and with one of the Parks’ large trees. It is a very popular tree and seems to thrive despite being climbed all over day in and day out for several generations.

Douglas fir grows to over 200 feet, and since we are in the older part of town there are still a few trees like that around. The one house I was in, a heritage one, had Douglas Fir beams under the floors which ran the length of the house (50 feet?) and were 16 inches by four inches. The thought of the cost of that under - flooring is sort of staggering (which is why Japan buys all the temple beams from B.C., but they just take the WHOLE tree back to Japan).

And thus ends my tour of ‘Beths’ Big Hair Day’ with Cheryl and I looking into the bright shining future of Sakura-Con. Where all manga, binsen, doujinshi, and other delights await (oh yeah, and the demonstrations, and fashion shows, and masque balls and cos-play balls).

Sonntag, 28. März 2010

What's On Ben's Desk?

So as you guys may remember, Ben spent last week in the tropical paradise of Aruba on his Honeymoon, riding jet skis with laid back Jamaican men and playing beech volleyball until his skin boiled while doubtlessly stuffing some wicked spikes down the throats of various dweebs (Note: probably untrue). While it took the Morses a few extra days to get off the island thanks to some hi-larious airplane shenanigans, I'm assuming our fearless leader won't be back to his day job until at least Tuesday.

To that end, I figured I'd dust off a post that's been languishing in the blog editor since sometime last fall to remind Ben what he's missing during his Wrestlemainia catch up day day of well deserved rest. That's right, kids! It's time to play...What's On Ben's Desk?

Unlike Rickey's cube-a-rific workspace, Ben's outpost is inexplicably part of a swank corner office at Marvel HQ. Don't worry, his prime location along with Agent M and "The Cerilli" should not be construed as Ben having any real power at the House of Idea. It does, however, mean that I had to photograph his stuff a bit piecemeal what with the wraparoundy nature of his stuff.

Above, you see what I'm assuming Ben states at absent-mindedly when he's really tired of editing Kevin Mahadeo's copy: miniature toys! I know this photo turned out a little blurry and all, but I can't honestly figure out any real unifying theme for the figures under our boy's computer monitor other than "they're all tiny." Mostly it's a few Heroclix and some of those kiddie figurines whose official name I always forget and end up calling "preschool Hawkeye" or whatever. As far as I know, Ben doesn't play Heroclix or like children, so your guess is as good as mine here.

Now this? THIS is more like it, y'all! While it nowhere near rivals the ridiculously large collection of Flash figures that once adorned his Wizard desk, I was very happy to find a growing Nova collection at Ben's current home away from home. Does anybody know how many Nova action figures there are? Because I'm pretty sure Ben's damn close to all of them.

Watching over the Human Rockets is the only thing that could supplant them in Ben's heart of hearts: his lovely wife Megan (ain't she fierce?). And I can't be the only one take with the whole attempt at normalizing the workspace by placing some fake flowers in the Mar-Vell glass. I kind of love how Ben and I were both far too young to get those '70s Marvel collector's glasses whenever they were originally sold at Arby's or whatever but we both seem to know exactly what they are via some weird nerd osmosis. And it wouldn't really be Ben "I'm coming down with something" Morse's desk without some kind of antiseptic spray handy, would it? Punisher matchbook's a nice touch too, pal.

I'm fairly certain that the Nova bust over by Ben's phone is the second such statuette that our boy has owned in his lifetime as I vaguely recall him having one at Wizard where the red star brand on Rich Ryder's helmet kept falling off only to be lost one day (somewhat similar to the Flash maquette I broke and then replaced like an adult should when they break something).

Aside from the multiple Iron Man tchotchkes and the pen set his parents bought him when he graduated college, I think that's some kind of official Marvel Comics hacky sack on the table. Ben, if you've ever had to blow off some steam by going to the park and hackin it up for a while, you're a bigger hippie than I'll ever be.

You can't see it from the photos I have here, but the offices are actually choke full of some pretty impressive superhero costume replicas. But while Agent M and "The Cerilli" have rad numbers like an official Captain America shield and multiple life-sized Iron Man helmets, Ben has to make due with playing the part of Wal-Mart Hulk. Hey...don't laugh, you guys. Those hands made his company a shit load of cash.

Also: Ben, please don't tell me you went out of your way to own XFL merchandise.

While Rickey's window view allows him to see the life of a Children of the Corn-style soup spokesboy, Ben actually can't see out either of the window's to his immediate left. This is no big deal for two reasons: for one, I think across the street from Marvel Comics there's just a Lady Footlocker or something. For two, He has this rad Marvel Universe poster giving him a window into the early '80s glory of Jim Shooter's era as E-i-C. At least I think that's when this is from without googling it. Who drew this? John Buscema? One of you has to know.

We wrap our tour with Ben's corner of Misfit Marveldom. Aside from the dollar store Halloween Hulk bucket that in my mind doubles as an unwearable mask for the aforementioned office dress-up hour, we've got a pair of actin figures that Ben explained to me were given to him by officemates as a joke. Of particular note is the Ben Reilly dolly which Agent M went out of his way to put a sticky which read "Hey Ben – 'Enjoy' this 'awesome' Ben Reilly dolly." or some such. God, it must be so awful to be the Marvel Comics characters that Marvel Comics employees play pranks on each other with. Note to Ben Reilly fans: he's never going to be popular again because he was never popular to begin with. Give up.

See you next time!

Anthony Vukojevich covers Dungeon, Parade Vol. 2: The Day of the Toads

Original cover by Manu Larcenet; NBM 2007 (cover reprinted from Donjon Parade 3. Le Jour des Crapauds, Delcourt 2002). Anthony Vukojevich's website is here and you can purchase the original here.

Anthony Vukojevich covers Popeye 60

Original cover by Bud Sagendorf; Dell 1961. Anthony Vukojevich's website is here and you can purchase the original here.

Samstag, 27. März 2010

Dick Giordano, R.I.P.

Dick Giordano died this morning. I was re-reading Hot Wheels #2 (March 17, 1970) for this blog last night, late as usual, and thinking what a stupid and utterly lame idea for a comic book this was. And what a magnificent series this turned out to be and the reason it was not the disaster it should have been was Dick Giordano. As editor he pulled together an amazing team, from the actually exciting scripts of Joe Gill and Alex Toth and Len Wein to the wonderful covers of Neal Adams and Alex to the even better pencils of Alex and Ric Estrada and later Neal and the glue that held the interior artwork together, some amazing, just dazzling, inks by Dick himself.

Dick Giordano had his hands on more of the comic books that I loved in those important early teen years than any other person in comics. The Marvel people had Stan Lee, but I never felt welcomed in by Stan. Dick Giordano on the other hand welcomed me into his books and seemed genuinely interested in what I and other fans had to say and he was nice enough to actually thank us at the end of each letter column for buying the book and joining in on the fun he had a hand in creating. I felt at home at DC because Dick Giordano made me feel that way.

I feel a hole in my heart the size of a child's wide-eyed enthusiasm. Thank you Dick, but this one is not going to be a very good afternoon.

And I sincerely mean that thank you. Thank you Dick, for the best series I ever read, the Skeates/Aparo/Giordano run on Aquaman, a series that was likely to go anywhere at any time and always do it with style and the greatest of artistry, Thank you for the Secret Six, the Mission:Impossible of comics that made me appreciate the non-super-hero books for the first time. Thank you for The Hawk and the Dove and the Creeper and the excitement that Ditko brought to DC if only for a little while. Thank you for the Teen Titans issues with the Wein/Wolfman controversy, Wonder girl's uniform, the sexiness of uniformless heroes, and the great artistry of Neal and Gil and George and of course and always Nick Cardy. Thank you for Hot Wheels, the greatest TV show/Toy/Comic book cross-over ever. Thank you for mixing a little more humor into the horror with The House of Secrets and even more humor in The Witching Hour, those early issues being more fun than chilling.

Thank you for knowing when to stay out of the way and let your writers write and your pencilers pencil and your inkers ink and for letting Nick Cardy create one amazing masterpiece after another. Thank you for bringing us Steve and Jim and Denny. Thank you for proving over and over again the pencils do not have to be weak to be improved by the inker. Thank you for some of the better parts of my childhood.


Albert Calleros covers Hot Stuff 58

Original cover artist is unknown; Harvey Comics circa early 1960's. Albert Calleros's website is here and you can purchase the original here.
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