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Monday, February 28, 2005

Dollar Comic Double-Shot!

I spent much of last night writing a longwinded and completely pointless defense of my assertion that Superman/Batman #13 is the worst comic of 2004 (although I have to say, on reflection, NYX comes awfully close). One of the responses to my vitriolic rampage was that it was weird to hear me say that Batman can't do something.

He is my favorite character after all. Why else would I be doing a Two-For-One Dollar Comic Review about him? On with the show!

Down you go......and down they come!
(Click to Bat-Size 'em!)

"The Diplomat's Son" / "Consequences"
Batman #424 / Batman #425
October-November 1988
Writer: Jim Starlin
Pencils and Cover: Doc Bright

These comics are awesome, and that's a fact. Neither one is the first comic I ever got, but I'm pretty sure they're like third and fourth, respectively. They're the ones I carried with me wherever I went, and when I drew a comic where Batman fought Dhalsim from Street Fighter, I ripped the plot off this one. It really shaped the kind of comics I like to this day, and at last year's comic book club Christmas party, I gave copies away as the Grand Prize (along with Original Ghost Rider Rides Again #1 and Green Lantern Mosaic #7), I think to Jim. He'll back me up on this: They're great.

The Cover:
Holy Crap, is that Jason Todd throwing a guy off a building?! And Batman in iminent danger of being crushed by cars in a junkyard? Why yes it is, kiddo, and that's just where the awesome starts. And I think it's only fair to warn you: These scenes DO appear in these comics.

The Plot:
Ever see Lethal Weapon 2? Good, makes my job easier. Swinging around the city one night, Robin (played here by Jay to the Tizzle himself, pre-crowbar) hears a scream and crashes through a window to investigate, with Batman right behind him. They get into a fight with a charming lowlife named Felipe, who has kidnapped, beaten, and possibly raped a model that Felipe used to go out with. Needless to say, they beat up his lackeys and haul his ass downtown.

But what's this? Felipe's father is the ambassador from Bogatago? He has diplomatic immunity? Curses! Luckily, he's also a coke fiend, and Batman contrives to catch him "holding" and send him back to the old country in shame. But after they do it, he ends up calling Gloria, the girl he beat up, and she hangs herself. So Robin dumps him off a high rise and six year old Chris's mind is blown forever.

Cut to next issue. Felipe's father, Jose, does what any grieving parent would do after the death of their only child: He talks about the magic of the movies, and how Felipe'll never experience his first heartbreak. Just kidding, Porto! He actually does something much more sensible and kidnaps Jim Gordon and drags him to a junkyard to lure Batman into an ambush.

This issue's basically just about how cool Batman is and how he can beat the hell out of like fifteen guys like it ain't no thing. Jose ends up getting crushed by a stack of rusted-out late model Chryslers and Batman makes Jay feel bad about it.

The Highlights:

  • Batman, after seeing Felipe's handiwork in the form of Gloria's black eye and cowering demeanor, decides that the best course of action would be to catch him doing drugs so that "he'll have to return home in disgrace, with no hope of ever following his father into the Diplomatic Corps." Seriously, he says that's the best thing he can do. Really, Batman? Really? Better than tying him up and hanging him by his ankles from a skyscraper? Come on, you can do better.
  • Batman's able to tell that Felipe was on cocaine by his "hyperactivity, shaky hands, and pin-point pupils." I could tell because he was wandering around Five Points at two in the morning asking for cigarette money.
  • As a special bonus, Batman #424 includes an ad for the John Ostrander Deadshot miniseries that absolutely terrified me as a kid. I'm pretty sure it was the guy with the weird 'fro on the cover of the fourth issue combined with the fact that I was an easily terrified kid. Other childhood horrors include the "What's Wrong?" puzzles on the back page of Highlights magazine, which STILL give me the chills. Anyway, looking back, it's a great ad.
  • Holy Crap, Jason Todd kills a guy. Yep, it happens on Page 20. After finding Gloria after she hanged herself, Robin flips out and goes to visit Felipe, who's maxin' relaxin' on his balcony. The next thing we see, he's screaming on his way to the sidewalk. Batman shows up and asks if Felipe fell... or if he was pushed. Robin's cold-as-ice response? "I guess I must have spooked him. He slipped." Man. Running around stealing hubcaps, committing murder, and lying to Batman? He had to go.
  • On to Batman #425, which opens with Batman reading a letter he gets from the police station. He mentions that it was addressed directly to him, and that after checking it for explosives, he promptly forgot about it until the next morning. Yeah, what with all the Jokers and Riddlers running around, I'm sure there wasn't anything important in that letter...
  • Seriously? Batman rolling through a junkyard in the middle of the afternoon picking off fifteen thugs one by one is awesome. Two of them shoot each other after Batman manages a six-foot vertical leap, but the others he just beats the hell out of, hard. It's great.
Defining Moment:
Most people would point to Jason Todd's cold-blooded murder as the heart of this story, but when I first read it, that's not what affected me the most. What got me was, as Scott says, Batman doing stuff your dad does: Busting through drywall and pulling stuff out of car engines. I'll explain.

In "Diplomat's Son," when Batman first shows up to help Robin fight Felipe's thugs, one of them runs at him with a knife while Batman stands there looking all cool. Flip to the next page, and there's the caption "Twenty seconds later..." Batman's standing there in the same pose, but the thug's bent backwards through the wall. That's hardcore. It's what comics are all about. It doesn't matter how he did it, just that that guy's not going to be getting up, walking, or eating solid food anytime soon.

"Consequences" has one that's even better. While picking off the hired goons, Batman comes up on one and says: "This one doesn't look as professional as the others. I figure I can get a bit fancy with him. Maybe get a little improvisational." Batman's idea of fancy improv? He opens up the hood of a junked car and rips out the battery, and then just THROWS it at the guy.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, THAT is how Batman gets fancy.That's the moment that made me want to read comics for the rest of my life.

Batman standing there with the big "DIE HARD" logo on the battery gritting his teeth, and the big shot of the thug going down hard with a huge "KA-TUNK" sound-effect. Now it doesn't hurt that when I was six, I thought he was pulling out the entire engine, but it's still bad ass, and it's the kind of meanspirited brutality that has no other purpose than to just make that criminal hurt--and that's his idea of fun. Even more than the detective aspect, that's what I like about Batman. He's mean.

By coincidence, I found a copy today at the store (I bought the last ones we had to give away at the party), so if you're in the neighborhood, it's available for you to own. And trust me, you DO want to own it.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

No Desperate Housewives or Boston Legal Makes Chris A Dull Boy

Right now I'm watching Voltron breakdance. Excuse me... I... I have something in my eye. It's just so beautiful..

I forgot to mention it on Friday, but I finished up my script for Gone To Texas, Phil Looney's Western anthology. The artist for the story is J.M. Hunter, and so far he's been great to work with. He's been really open to my art suggestions, and he's even helped out with some rough dialogue I wasn't satisfied with, so I think it's going to work out okay. Hopefully I'll have some concept art soon, and you can check it out here on the ISB.

The story's called "The Wages of Sin," and it's about a bad guy who becomes the sheriff of a small town out west, but then his past catches up with him in the form of a gunslinging Pinkerton detective. It's pretty cliche, I guess, but what're you gonna do with six pages? There are a couple bits of dialogue in it I like though.

Writing a six-page mini-comic was pretty hard for me. It's not a lot of space to work with, especially since it's a mini-comic (about half the page size of a regular comic). Warren Ellis once mentioned a rule Stan Lee came up with about not having more than twenty words of dialogue per panel, so I tried to stick with that since I don't want to cover up too much of the art. Also, I tried to keep to a six panel grid (usually four square panels and a fifth one running the width of the page) so there'd be enough space for Hunter to work. If nothing else, it'll give me an idea of how much I can cram into the comics page.

Before I wrote it, I watched Yojimbo, on loan from Chad (Criterion Collection, biznatch!). Since it was remade as A Fistful of Dollars (and is itself apparently an uncredited film version of Dashiell Hammet's Red Harvest), it had a definite western feel to it, and some awesome dialogue. For example:

SANJURO: Get me a coffin.
GONJI: Don't give up yet!
SANJURO: I'm not dying. I have quite a few men to kill first.

That is bad ass.

I wanted to put The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly on while I wrote to have some appropriate background noise, but the DVD I had of it didn't work. Wouldn't even load up a menu. Hopefully, I can exchange it for the special edition, which I believe contains over twenty-three restored minutes of Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef staring each other down.

Man. That movie's awesome. When Lee Van Cleef walks into that guy's house in the beginning and just sits down and starts eating the guy's soup like it's no big deal... I believe the phrase I want is "super-pumped."

Oh, and while we're on the subject, does anybody out there know what the name of this page's music is? I frigg'n love that piece, but I have no idea where I can find it. I'm pretty sure it's Ennio Morricone, and I've seen it used in everything from Kids in the Hall to, well, Red Dead Revolver, but I've never seen the title. It's driving me nuts.

Also, I'm thinking of adding a "Best of the ISB" links section to the sidebar there. Best being a relative term in this case. Thoughts?

Saturday Night's All Right

It occurs to me that I might be able to shake my frigg'n cough if I didn't spend every Saturday night in a smoky bar.

What started as another attempt at Dragon Bowling Night turned into yet another Saturday night spent at a fine alcohol dispensary with MG3. I've been wanting to take a break, but I'm pretty easy to coerce. I'd be a terrible recovering alcoholic.

Anyway, true to my plans, I was not at the Art Bar. I was at Bar None down in Five Points, which is completely different. They don't have live music, but they do have food and a Shuffleboard table. I was looking forward to giving that a try, but the table was dominated for the entirity of the night by two guys who looked like they just came from the Gap and stopped off for four hours of shuffleboard before their Texas Hold 'Em game with the other frat boys.

So mostly we just sat around eating bar food and talking about how awesome Rocky is.

Also, in today's installment of What Not To Say, here's a conversation I had at work that repeats itself ad infinitum every day. It's important to know for this one that the store's sign reads "COMICS, GAMES, TOYS, FUN!" That is, after all, what we sell. And hell, if you come in when Chad's talking about Hooper, the fun's free. Regardless:

"Hey, y'all sell Xbox games?"
"No, I'm afraid we don't sell video games of any kind."
"What?! Well what kind of games DO you have?!"
"Card games, roleplaying games, and board games."
"Sports games? Like on the Xbox?"
Now what did I just say? They're like fucking goldfish, I swear. "... No, board games. We don't sell video games of any kind."

I need sleep.

Friday, February 25, 2005

What Not To Say, Redux

Yeah, I took last night off. The footclaws were simply too much for me. Luckily I've been able to laugh again.

So yesterday this guy comes into the store and tells Tug that he had pretty much every Marvel comic produced between 1961 and 1965, all in Near Mint, many of which were signed by Stan Lee, but that his wife had put them through a paper shredder.

Clearly, this man was insane.

The logisitcs involved in shredding 400 Silver Age comics and his constant ticcing aside, the story just doesn't hold up under any kind of scrutiny. Look, buddy, it's okay that you have a box of New Mutants and early '90s X-Men. You don't need to impress us.

It's one of those weird things that happens when people come into the store. Like Chad said yesterday, "There's three things in comics we never need to see again: Superman's origin, Batman beating up Superman, and some old dude talking about how his mom threw his shit away."

So in the spirit of things we never need to see again (ie, footclaws), here's a list of my favorite customer quotes I could do without:

  • "Do you guys buy comics? Because I've got some old ones, man. Like ten years old And they're in mint condition! Still in the plastic!"
  • When looking at any comic priced at over fifty bucks: "I had that when I was a kid."
  • "What do you mean you don't want to buy it? It's a NUMBER THREE."
  • "I've been out of comics for a few years... What's been going on with the X-Men? Is X-Man still around, because you know, he was the most powerful mutant in the world. He had the power of the Phoenix!"
  • "Who do you think could win in a fight between the Punisher and the Silver Surfer? Okay, okay... but the Punisher has a rocket launcher."
  • "X-Men 2 was based on my fanfiction I wrote 15 years ago on Prodigy. I can't believe they didn't credit me."
  • "See, my fanfiction is all about Batman and Wonder Woman, and they get married, and Thor performs the ceremony, and then the Joker kidnaps Wonder Woman, but he doesn't know she's pregnant, and then later on, Ra's Al-Ghul gets up in the mix! He finds out Batman's secret identity!" (But wait, I say, Ra's Al-Ghul knows Batman's secret identity. That's his deal!) "Oh... Well, I guess he forgot. But then he finds out again!"
  • Come to think of it, any sentence involving the word "Fan-fiction."
  • "Do you have Superman vs. Batman First Edition?"
  • "How much is the first ever Superman comic worth? Because I have one." (No, I'm afraid what you have is either one of several reprints or Superman #1 by John Byrne from 1987.)
  • "I've got this comic I want to know the value of. It's GI Joe... From June 1985. What? Issue number? Where's that? No, it doesn't have one. "

And then my personal favorite:

  • "I remember when Wonder Woman didn't have tits."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Footclaws! (Or: The Worst Character Ever)

All right, I know it's still February, and I said I was going to talk about things I love instead of things I hate, but I just can't hold out any longer.

X-23 sucks.

Yeah, I said it. She's horrible. And while she's not the worst new character of 2004, she edges out AraƱa to take her rightful place as the worst character in the history of Marvel.

Worse than Maggot. Worse than Adam X. Worse than Ravage 2099.

"Chris, that's pretty extreme," you're probably saying, although depending on how pun-savvy you are, you might go with "x-treme" instead. Regardless, you're probably wondering why I seem to have erupted with hatred for X-23. Well, allow me to explain.

The logical place to start would be her origins. Originally created for the X-Men: Evolution TV show (which places her right alongside Spyke, who sported a fresh Wesley-Snipes-In-Demolition-Man haircut), X-23 first showed up in comics in the ridiculously overvalued NYX #3. NYX is rough to say the least. Despite some good art by Josh Middleton, it managed to remain completely wretched and unreadable for its entire run.

A few years back, Marvel EIC Joe Quesada decided that there would be no smoking in Marvel comics, since that sets a bad example for the kids. Wolverine and Nick Fury haven't been seen with cigars since. NYX #1, written by Quesada, opens up with a teenage girl doing ecstacy in a filthy bathroom. She then goes on to steal cigarettes from a friendly shopkeeper and run away from home to live on the streets for six months, which she refers to as "the best time of my life." We never actually see her smoking, though, so I guess giving handjobs in an alley so you can afford to eat doesn't count towards setting a bad example.

Needless to say, I hate that book. It's a urine-soaked barely-coherent amoral slice of hell featuring unlikable characters with no redeeming qualities. And it was late.

Into this mess strides X-23 as an underage prostitute, keeping it clean for "the kids" by walking around topless for most of the issue, just in case the tangental relationship to Wolverine didn't insure success. And the fact that she's not even the first whore-turned-superhero should give you an idea of the level of originality surrounding her.

With the debut of her own title, we finally get X-23's origin story. Raised by David Cain to become the perfect assassin, she never even learns to talk! She feels profound remorse after killing a man at a young age, then flees to become--Oh. Wait. That's the new Batgirl from five years ago. Oh well, if you squint, it's virtually the same.

X-23's a result of the Weapon X program, a bunch of surly Canadians who just haven't learned their lesson yet. She is, of course, a clone of Wolverine. Oh, Marvel. You're like retarded labrat in an electrified cage. Haven't we learned our lesson about clones yet? Anyway, through a convoluted and illogical series of events, this scientist impregnates herself with Wolvie-Juice and pops out a surly future prostitute who pops her claws immediately upon exiting the womb. God, I wish I was kidding.

They never explain why they didn't just go find the kid from that time Wolverine porked a native chick in the Savage Land.

And while we're on the subject of her popping babyclaws, remember when the x-gene didn't activate until you hit puberty? Remember when that was a rule? Hell, remember when there were rules?

Nothing about her origin story makes anything remotely resembling sense, including the fact that bonded adamantium to her bones while she was still growing (although that keeps her jailbait appeal viable into the future, I suppose). The Billy Tan art doesn't help any--although he's better than Philip Tan, who drew the stomach-turning Chuck Austen storyline "The Draco," which I think was in continuity for all of three minutes.

Anyway, all of this would just add up to a bad, unnecessary character that didn't make any sense (Cannonball, I'm looking at you) that wouldn't bother me nearly as much as X-23 does. But there's something about X-23 that pushes her over the edge into the realm previously reserved for Green Lantern's Pal Terry Berg. And I'll tell you what it is.


Wolverine's claws are problematic enough, but X-23 pops two out of each hand and one on each foot. It's just... It doesn't make...



Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I'd Buy That For A Dollar: Punisher War Journal #19

Shaka loaned me the Punisher video game for PS2 yesterday, so Frank Castle's been on my mind lately, and I've come to a conclusion: The Punisher has been in more bad comics than any other character.

It's not that there's anything wrong with the Punisher, it's just a question of numbers. Big Frank reached the height of his popularity in a little thing called The Boom, when any half-retarded troglodyte who could figure out how to hold a pencil was creating a tiny empire in a corner of the Marvel universe. With seven volumes of the Punisher under his belt, along with Punisher War Journal, Punisher War Zone, and fighting ULTIMATUM (the United Liberated Totally Integrated Mobile Army To Unite Mankind) in issues 6 and 7 of every Marvel comic launched in the early '90s, the odds are stacked against him.

By the way, don't get the idea that I hate the Boom. I mean, I was a kid then, so I look back on it with a lot of nostalgia. It was, after all, a time when you could go down to the local comic shop and buy the Punisher Back-to-School Special, which included a section on his favorite automatic weapons. That's the Back-to-School Special, in case you missed that.

Regardless, with a resume like that, who better to be featured in a new series on the ISB where I review comics from the dollar stock that you have to see to believe? Today's subject: Punisher War Journal #19:

KISS THAT BABY GOODBYE!(Click to Punish-Size it!)

"Trauma In Paradise"
June, 1990
Writer: Carl Potts
Pencils and Cover: Jim Lee

The Cover: I could go on about this cover for hours. First, we have the Punisher steering his jet-ski one-handed with a ridiculously large gun in the other. I'm pretty sure if he fired that thing, the jet-ski would immediately pull a 180, which is a fun idea. Also, I think that's one of the all-time best non-Kirby cover blurbs: "You just rented a jet-ski to the Punisher. KISS THAT BABY GOODBYE!" It's a blurb that goes so far as to create a fictional world in your imagination wherein you're a jet-ski rental guy, and then it totally burns you.

The Plot:
The Punisher's gone to Hawaii to save Microchip from getting his ass kicked. Micro, you might remember, is an overweight computer programmer who helped Frank out before Garth Ennis took over the book, and he's decided in this issue to take on a group of drug dealers by himself. Picture the fat guy from your company's IT department mounting a one-man commando operation against a group of hardened criminals, and you'll have a good idea of how that works out for him.

So Frank goes to keep Micro from getting killed by the dealers who kidnapped some relatives of his, hoping to do some killing of his own with the help of a local shaman (or "Kahuna," according to the story) who's there to counteract the Kahuna working with the drug runners. There's a lot of Hawaiian mysticism going on in this book, which is what leads to Micro's big plan to take out the drug dealers: He sets something on fire and then runs at them in blackface.


Needless to say, Punisher kills a lot of guys and Micro doesn't die for another few years.

The Highlights:

  • When he's hanging out with his new pal Edith the Kahuna, it's revealed that the Punisher--scourge of the criminal underworld--is afraid of water. Afraid. Of. Fucking. Water. So if you've ever wondered, yes, Aquaman would kick his ass. Needless to say, Edith helps him out, and he overcomes his fear of water later on in the story.
  • When Micro finally goes up against the drug runners, he mentions that he's using one of their own guns against them. That means that in addition to his obvious setbacks, Micro didn't even bother to bring a gun for his attempt to kill these guys.
  • Just in case you're one of those hippies who doesn't hate drug dealers, two of them argue over who gets to rape one of their captives first. The Evil Kahuna takes time out from coordinating his headband, vest, and leather pants to call them idiots and rough them up, keeping this book Code Approved.
  • The Punisher actually does rent a jet-ski in the story, but ironically, he returns it right on time and lets the renter keep the deposit while he runs off to do some more killing. What a guy!
  • Shortly after Micro fights the dealers with the power of blackface, the Punisher squares off in an epic battle with the Evil Kahuna, wherein he claims to be a god and uses "basic psychology" to freak him out before he chucks him off a cliff. Sacrilicious!
Defining Moment:
At one point in the story, the Punisher passes by a guy buying a boogie board. We get a closeup of him, along with a thought balloon that reads:
"The Punisher does not know that my mission is to guide him--to show him that he must fulfull the grand-master's last wish and become the western world's greatest ninja!"

Later he gives the Punisher the boogie board, since he's not afraid of water anymore.

Wow. The 90s. Goodbye sense, hello awesome.

So that's War Journal #19, available for a buck (or less!) at your local mega-store. Check it out, and like the last page says: "Be here in one month--when the Punisher joins the French Foreign Legion!" If that's not worth a buck, nothing is.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Dragon Bowling Night

So tonight was Dragon Bowling Night, and it was supposed to be awesome.

It all started Saturday, when Scott mentioned that he'd recently been bowling, and Matt G jumped on the idea. A group of us immediately decided we should make an outing of it.

Here's a little known Sims fact: I love to bowl. I absolutely suck at it, but it's a lot of fun. I even have my own ball, shoes, wrist guard, and even a black satin shirt with Big Daddy embroidered in red on the back. And it is tight, yo.

I haven't been in a while, though. Inspired by the best movie ever made, I used to hit Gamecock Lanes all the time with my friend Jennifer, but over the past few years, I haven't gotten down to the alley too much. So needless to say, I was pretty excited about busting up some pins with my homies.

This morning, I dusted off the ol' bag that holds Rolling Thunder, practiced my best "Lemme tell you something, pendejo," in the mirror, and set off for Dragon Bowling Night.

Really, with a lineup featuring me, Matt G, Scott, Chad, and Shaka B, how could you go wrong?

Well, I'll tell you. You could walk into bowling alley on league night and try to grab a lane. Not happening, bro.

What did happen was that we waited around for a while in the alley's overpriced arcade, where I played Marvel vs. Capcom 2 with Shaka and Chad.

For the record, Shaka obliterated me, but he was using cheapass Cable, so I think I got the moral victory. The lineups were varied, and included appearances by Megaman, Jill (from Resident Evil), Shuman Gorath, Iron Man in his little-seen Silver Centurion/Football Pants armor, and of course, Li'l Boneclaws.

But alas, even Strider Hiryu going toe-to-toe with the Juggernaut was not enough to keep our interest for the two hours we would've had to wait to get a lane, so Bowling Night was pretty much killed before it even got off the ground. We split up, and Matt and I waited around a little while, but decided against sticking around the alley.

And when I got in the car, I swear to God, Danny Boy was on the radio. Poor Bowling Night.

But don't worry, chums, we're going to try next week on a non-league night. And when I got home, there was a nice email about the Western Project waiting for me, and I'm starting to get excited about that.

So keep your ears to the ground, because when it's all said and done, you might just hear Rolling Thunder make its way down the lanes... once again.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Indisputable Facts, Volume 1

After I totally ripped the lid off it with yesterday's post, I'm back! As is my cold, which continues to linger despite the best efforts of the Avengers AND the Fantastic Four.

Now, most people would read the ISB and mistake me for a comic book store employee/amateur humorist, but brother, those people would be wrong. What I am is a purveyor of absolute facts. I've gathered a lot of them in my time, and keeping this thing running is my way of bringing them to you, the public. So tonight, I'm going to eliminate my usual formula of couching them in anecdotes and bring you the facts, directly.

Now, you might be tempted not to believe these, but I put the ISB guarantee on each and every one. They're the facts, yo, and I'm offering them as a public service.

  • Rob Lindsey's dulcet tones are scientifically guaranteed to get you laid.
  • This one time, Tom Cruise ate a baby. He can unhinge his jaw like a python.
  • If you ever go to a Super Wal-Mart that has a McDonald's inside, and they have the option to order something from the McDonald's at checkout, and you order a soda, it will be the hardest you've ever worked to get a soda in your life.
  • Benjamin Franklin porked a turtle.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man is quite possibly the worst superhero in comics today (This is controversial, but it is a fact. You can tell because the only other superhero who runs home and cries in his basement at least has a special basement that cost billions of dollars and probably has a room especially for intense action crying).
  • Strip clubs are not nearly as fun sober as they are when you're drunk.
  • In a fight between Ming the Merciless and TV's Alan Shore, the winner would be... the fans.
  • This picture is the best thing you or anyone you know has ever seen.
  • Number Six would kick James Bond's ass.
  • People who buy my crap have, in long-term studies, been proven to lead happier lives, get lower interest rates on their mortgages, and experience the thrills of sexual pleasure. It's science.

So, uh, yeah. The well of my writing talent has official dried up. Come back tomorrow, there might be something funny here.

Friday, February 18, 2005

The Joker's Massive Boner

Yesterday I paid professional Web Designer Scott Simmons upwards of sixty dollars to create a new tagline for the ISB, so new visitors would be able to know what this page is all about. His creation:

Invincible. Super. Daily.

Now, while that's a fine slogan (and you can get yours for that same low cost too!), I think that today's post is going to render it obsolete. From now on when anyone asks what the Invincible Super-Blog is all about, I'm just going to show them this post.

In addition to getting the Bad Signal, I've started frequenting WarrenEllis.com to see what else he's had to say. He's been posting a lot of his old Bad Signals that I wish I'd saved (hey, remember when I was talking about the Ass Milkshake? Now YOU can know about it too!), but he's also got a section on his site called "Old Comics Zen," where he pulls out panels from silver-age DC comics, completely out of context, for the amusement of his fellows.

Well, there were a few that I just can't pass up reposting over here for anyone who missed them. In the words of J. Kern, I wept with the joy they brought me:

Ahaha. I'm sorry, it's just... "a big boner of modern vintage." Man.

Thank you, Warren, for making us laugh about love. Again.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

What Not To Say

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that no one in America ever needs to go into a comic book store and say: "I remember when these things were ten cents/a quarter/fifty cents each!" ever again.

It's one of those phrases that you hear all the time working the counter, always uttered by someone apparently under the impression that they're the first person over the age of fourteen to enter the store, and it makes me wonder if they do that in other places. Do they wander around grocery stores talking about how much canned peas used to be in 1964?

One such guy was in the store today, and boy was he dropping pearls of wisdom like there was no tomorrow.

He was an older guy, I'd say about 70 or so, wearing a white t-shirt over a pot belly and jeans, and was standing with his grandson while the poor kid tried to look through the con stock.

"I remember when funnybooks used to cost a nickel!" he shouted. I gave my standard response to this statement, which is pretty much composed of half nod and a shrug with a polite eyebrow raise. Most people would take the meaning to be "I really don't have much interest in what you're saying," but it never fails to convey "Please go on at length about a topic of your choosing" to these cats.

The old guy looked down at the boxes of comics and snorted. "Eight dollars? For a funnybook!" He shook his head in disbelief.

Right away I knew he was a winner.

My suspicions were confirmed after he left for a few minutes and then wandered back in and up to the counter with a new query.

"What kinda business is that next door that all those black people keep goin' into?"


I honestly didn't know what he expected me to say after that one, so I went with the truth: "Uh... CDs."


"CDs. It's a music store."

"Oh. That explains it. They're flockin' in there like birds."

I shrugged. "Everybody loves music, sir."

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Chris vs. The Cold: Round 3

All right, I'm man enough to admit when I'm beaten, and I'll be honest with you: This cold has well and truly kicked my ass. I really think that this virus was rocketed to earth from a dying planet to thrive beneath Earth's yellow sun.

As a result of my cold's Gamma-Ray powered invulnerability, I've stayed home from work a couple days this week. I've been having trouble sleeping, too, so for the most part I've just been laying in bed slack-jawed watching TV. And that--aside from actually being sick--might be the worst part of being sick.

TV during the day is rough. Oddly enough, the early mornings aren't bad at all. FX shows two episodes of Buffy and then follows it up with Boston Legal's forerunner, "The Practice." On the two days that I've called in sick, I managed to catch a cannibal, an accused rapist with an evil twin, the main character shooting said cannibal three times in the chest, and no less than six pounds of Aircraft Aluminum in Camryn Manheim's right ear. Also, I got to see a cameo appearance by TV's John Larroquette, playing sinister mastermind Joey Heric. "The Practice" rules.

Anyway, after "The Practice," The Daily Show comes on, but that's pretty much the end of TV for about, oh, eight hours.

Hey, been worrying that you don't have enough Kelly Clarkson or Green Day in your life? Get a cold. I saw 'em back-to-back twice flipping past MTV, and you will too. It's guaranteed in the fine print. Read it sometime.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Seriously, What the Crap?

Still sick. And it's no wonder why.

Last week at the monthly post-Comics Club Denny's dinner, I was sitting in a stall in the bathroom in an attempt to avoid a cramped and painful trip home when Tug walked in. "Hey," he said through the partition, "Did you use one of those paper seat-covers?" I said that I didn't.

"You should. They let crackheads in here, you know."

Crackheads. That's the only explanation I can think of for the state of most public bathrooms I've come across. It's ri-goddamn-diculous is what it is.

Now I'll admit, I'm one of those people that has certain issues with public bathrooms. I hate 'em, and tend to only use them as a last resort (or only if I've checked them out previously on several occasions. I'm weird like that). And I'll be the first to admit that the cleanliness of the shop's bathroom is somewhat below the level that we'd all prefer. But at least we make up for it with colorful pictures of Wolverine.

Tonight I stopped at a gas station on the way home (O! the folly!) to fill up, and while I was there went to their--ahem--facilities. And Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, that place was the pits.

The previous occupant had pissed all over the seat. And when I say all over, I mean it. This wasn't just a case of a few missed shots, it was a deliberate act of malice that violated the social contract on a rudimentary level. It was like the guy had been challenged to a test of skill: unload without a single drop hitting the frigg'n bowl. And to top it all off, there was a fucking pube on there, too.

Un. Mutual.

And while we're on the subject, what the fuck is up with the people who don't flush?! Look, you want to leave a pot o' stew cookin' at home, fine. I salute your quest to lower your water bill. But here in what we call civilization, don't do that! I mean, really, what kind of low-class jerk just leaves one sitting there? Probably the same guy that's carving the racist epithets into the wall.

Anyway, that's all you're going to get out of me tonight. Why don't you go read the latest Dollar Movie Review of Blade 3 while I go down a handful of NyQuil tablets and go back to bed?

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Cop-Out

No update today, as I am incredibly sick. How sick you ask? Sick enough to have eight hours of Prisoner-inspired fever dreams in lieu of sleep.

But that doesn't change the fact that it's Valentine's day, or as you might call it when you've been 1700 miles away from your girlfriend for the past six months, "Chad's Birthday." The point of today's update was just going to be me writing about how much I love Melanie, which probably would've been terminally boring for anyone who is not me or Mel.

Anyway, I love that girl a whole lot.

But now I'm going back to bed.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

We Are The Future, Charles... Not Them!

My self-imposed daily update schedule can, at times, be a cruel mistress. I've been writing for years, I've never even kept a diary, let alone a diary that is on the internet, so coming up with a fresh topic every day can be pretty difficult at times. But then sometimes, every now and then, you get one that practically writes itself.

This is one of those.

One of the weirdest things about working at the shop is the bizarre mail we get. I guess it comes with being a massive store that stocks what appear to be completely random items. For instance, we're regular recipients of the BudK catalog, the world's foremost mail-order knife and sword retailer. These guys are what you might call "awesome."

You can get everything you could possibly ever want from BudK. Need a jar full of folding pocketknives? A set of brass knuckles? A tye-dyed t-shirt that features lightning, a wolf, and a confederate flag? They've got it all! They even feature a fine selection of cutlery emblazoned with Swastika, just in case you misplaced yours after the last Hitler Youth meeting. (I feel compelled to note, at this point, that every appearance of Nazi paraphenailia there's a disclaimer explaining that they're only offered for historical purposes).

Still, that's hardly the strangest thing the mailman's dropped off, but nothing could've prepared me for the postcard we got a few weeks ago.

Feast your eyes, my friends, on the Brotherhood Tarot.

Finally--finally--a gay spirited tarot deck! The masses can cease their clamoring. No, it's not a way to tell your future alongside Magneto, Pyro, Toad, and Mystique, it's even better. Some genius found a way to take tarot cards and make them even gayer.

Let's examine that picture in-depth, shall we?

Recently on Arrested Development, David Cross's character became an understudy for the Blue Man Group, and was constantly painting himself blue in case he got the call. I'll be damned if our friend the Two of Swords over there isn't a dead ringer for him, right down to the way he blued himself. Still, it doesn't do a lot to hide the copious amount of body hair he sports, but that might be part of the "gay spirited" theme that I'm just not familiar with.

I do, after all, love the ladies.

Anyway, back to Deuce McSwordy over there, check out his left-hand weapon (try not to be distracted by the bitchin' medallion). Why, is that an officially licensed Lord of the Rings movie replica of Sting? And where do you suppose they got that from, hm? And that's how we tie that shit together.

The back of the card is no less mystifying. I'm hoping to get a little more insight into it once I get back into college and sign up for Gay History Before 1800. Also, it includes the term "Radical Faerie," which just makes me think of an ill conceived "edgy" TV ad campaign for homosexuality. You know, "Man on man sex is RADICAL!"

I wish I had more information, but the sad fact is, after thoroughly checking the thrice-accursed Internet until I got bored and went to go watch TV, I was only left with one impression.

The card "Ace of Rods" is woefully misleading.

The Effing Time Warp

Another Saturday night in the Capital City, and surprise surprise, there I was at the Art Bar with Matt G.

After a completely uneventful day at the shop, I'd gone out with him because a few friends of ours were going to be performing. The show in question was a tribute to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which I cannot stand, but more on that later. First, let's take things as they come.

The opening act was a band called The DiMeras, who I can only assume named themselves after this guy.

That cool-ass motherfucker is one Stefano DiMera, the mastermind archvillain of TV's Days of Our Lives. Now I'm not a fan of the soap opera--I prefer my melodrama with a chance of devastating injury--but on the few I've seen, Stefano is the unstoppable life destroying Dr. Doom of Salem. But I don't think he ever covered Jamiroquai, so I'm not sure how he ties into the band.

Still, they did have a girl rocking with an electric cello, and as I said to Matt, I like a little electric cello. I like a little upright bass.

Because they don't go like this: --
They go like this: I

And that's probably a lot funnier with the hand motions. Regardless, by the time I said it, Matt was already telling me about his Drunken Boxing, which was, to quote: "BAAAAAAAAAD-AAAAAAASSSSS!"

And about that time was when the Rocky Horror tribute started. I'll be honest with you: I fucking hate the Rocky Horor Picture show. Maybe it's got something to do with my sister making me watch it when I was nine, I can't stand it. I think my feelings were best summed up by Simon Pegg on an episode of Spaced:

"I hate it! It's boil-in-the-bag perversion for sexually repressed accountants and first-year Drama students with too many posters of Betty Blue, the Blues Brothers, Big Blue, and Blue Velvet on their blue bloody walls!"

So yeah. Not exactly my thing.

Now, that said, the show was really good. I was expecting everyone to do a good job, but I figured it would be akin to seeing an exceptional performance of, say, Kickboxer 2, but to my pleasant surprise, it was pretty enjoyable. Everyone in it did a great job. My peoples were pretty good, as were the ersatz Tim Curry and the cellist from the band, who pulled double duty as Riff-Raff and Columbia. I really doubt, however, that she's going to go far enough in her method acting to cameo in Dungeons & Dragons: The Movie, which is probably for the best.

But the question remains, if I hate Rocky Horror so much, why did I even bother to go in the first place? Well, there's something you should know about me, kiddo.

I will do anything--anything--to see a hot girl in her undapants.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Failed Attempts at Commerce

It's Friday, and normally that would mean that you'd be reading this week's edition of the Warren Report. But really, despite 12 bad signals, Ellis hasn't been that interesting this week. They can't all be about mid-90s bestiality, I guess. Anyway, if you're in the mood for more of his particular brand of all-ages fun, try out his website, which functions as a blog about a thousand times better than mine does.

What I was in the mood for today was video games. Through a series of events involving a harrowing trip to the mall on Christmas Eve, I ended up with some Gamestop store credit, so I decided to use it. Specifically, I was looking to buy Demon Stone for PS2, because, as you know, I like them Forgotten Realms guys.

What I'd failed to take into account, though, was how much the local mall sucks ass.

Seriously, having store credit at that place is like knowing a guy down at the flea market who owes you a favor. A couple years ago, I was at that shop when the guy working there was telling a poor, harried-looking mother about the upcoming PS3, due out "Sometime in 2004."

"It's going to have awesome graphics. Did you see The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers? Exactly like that. And they've been doing these experiments with kids in Japan where they use those, whaddayacallem... Electrodes? They hook it up to their brain. You don't really control it with your thoughts, but the way you're thinking changes the game."

Oddly enough, when I asked Rob, who runs the EB near the shop, what he thought the PS3's features would be, the words "neural interface" never came up.

Suffice to say, they didn't have the game I wanted, so I left, and was hit up by a local rap group outside the pretzel stand. Apparently they have a new CD out, and are takin' it to the streets by loitering in the food court and spreading the word to whoever walks by.

You know, I call it a food court, but ever since the Orange Julius closed down, it's just not the same anymore. God, that mall sucks.

So it's been a rough day for both sides of the Free Market, and I was on the verge of giving up on capitalism altogether until I got home and saw the greatest television advertisement in the history of the world. It opens up on this couple sitting around, the husband reading a newspaper. The wife looks at the camera and says: "Keeping a marriage going is hard work."

Then she pulls out the bottle of KY Warming Lubricant.

Holy Crap, I thought I was going to die I started laughing so hard. I didn't even know they bothered to advertise. Apparently it "creates a gentle warming sensation," a fact that is met with an extremely interested eyebrow raise from the husband. I swear, if that commercial would've been ten seconds longer, I think they would've just shouted: "Hey! You can use this for butt-sex!"

HeroesCon '04: The Untold Story - Part 2

When we last left our heroes, they were swooning over the best-looking man in comics. But little did they know that the real action at HeroesCon would be off the floor... and after dark.

For some reason, at both the cons I've been to, our booth always gets parked across from a guy selling bootleg DVDs, and both of these guys--who were completely different--seem to be extremely averse to hanging out at their booths for extended periods of time. Suffice to say, our crew got a lot of "Hey, could you watch this stuff for a minute?"

As a result, Josh was cut a deal by the friendly, if highly illegal, proprietor: Half price on the Paris Hilton Sex Tape.

Now, being that this is the internet, I'm going to go ahead and assume that you've all seen it. But on the off chance that you haven't, do not, under any circumstances, pay ten dollars for it and then waste twenty minutes sitting around Tug's portable DVD player while Rick Solomon grunts and thrusts like a failed audition tape for the Bang Bus.

It is rough.

The first bit isn't too bad, but I mean, it's a pretty girl walking around in her underwear. It's almost impossible to screw up. But once the actual sex starts, and you realize that Paris is as bad an actress in the bedroom as she is on TV, you've already caught about five minutes of out-of focus close-ups on her boyfriend's wang. He's the real star of the show, since he constantly focuses the camera on himself. He's always checking to make sure he's centered in the shot and coming out with creepball lines like "Look at you... nineteen years old" that make it obvious he's been watching a lot of internet smut to glean the best techniques that make amateur pornographers so popular. Absolutely wretched.

But still, half off. That's a deal you can't say no to.

Still, I doubt we would've encouraged him to buy it if we would've known about the hot action just down the stairs in the hotel bar. Here's something you might not know about comic book pros, kids: they love to drink. Which means the bar at the hotel closest to the convention center is usually a good place to go if you want to spot a few after hours. Which is exactly what we had in mind when we went down there.

What we got... was Drunk-Ass Katie.

Katie (whose name I remember because she handed us her driver's license) was from somewhere up north--Pennsylvania or New York or something--in town for another event, and already drunk by the time we got there. She was a trouper, though, and didn't let a minor inconvenience like complete and total fucking inebriation stop her from drinking. The long couch she was sitting on was the only unoccupied seat in the bar, so we ended up at the other end, talking amongst ourselves and keeping an eye out for the pros.

I think it's important at the story that I clarify how drunk Katie was. The word that comes to mind is "astonishingly." She was drunk enough to tell us no less than six times that when she was a kid, she liked to watch "He-Man and She-Man," though to her credit, she did realize we were comics fans.

She started out talking to this other guy, who in my memory is oddly motionless and silent, who had probably been supplying her with the booze in an effort to get her in bed. Shoulda stuck around, pal. Every few minutes she'd turn to us and ask a question, and we'd do our best to answer it, since we're so darn polite. But that was before she spotted Josh's hat.

I've worked with Josh for more than a year now, and I've only seen him without his hat maybe five times. He's a hat guy. It's his thing. Superman's got a cape, Wolverine has claws, Josh has the hat. I don't begrudge him that. But Katie sure as hell did.

"Heyyyyy," she slurred, "Take yer fuckin' hat off."

This was a sentiment she would revisit approximately three hundred times over the next two hours. At this point, her would-be paramour realized that she had become fixated on us, trapped in a loop that inexorably wound up back on the subject of Josh's headgear, bolted, pawning her off on us.

She kept on with it ("You're in the fucking WESTIN, Josh... take that fuckin' hat off an' let me see you") for a long time, steadily moving closer and closer to us, inching her way down the couch. More accurately, she was inching her way towards the member of our crew who had the good luck to sit closest to her: Me.

Now I'll be honest: Despite being, oh, ten years older than me, Katie was not unattractive--or rather, she wouldn't have been if not for the complete and utter drunknenness and the way she prowled towards me like a farm animal ready for insemination. But the fact of the matter was, I was tense and extremely uncomfortable when she settled herself into the couch right next to me, staring around the room with glassy, unfocused eyes and telling Josh how cute he'd be without that damn hat.

When she grabbed my thigh, Tug knew it was time to leave.

"I'm going to go close out my tab," he said, with disgust just dripping from his words. I tried to brush her hand off nonchalantly, and she didn't seem to notice. Tug got up and strode away quickly, leaving me to stare, wide-eyed and panicky, at Josh. He stared back with a similar She can't be reasoned with! look on his face and gave the slightest of shrugs.

Okay, I thought. Tug's paying at the bar. He'll get back soon and we'll get the hell out of here. Good plan, but I'd misread his actions--there was no tab to close out. He'd grabbed the first excuse he'd thought of and was around a corner, waiting for us to manufacture our own. We were each committed to waiting each other out.

Katie leaned across me, and I knew she was coming in for the kill. Oh dear God, I'm going to be this chick's midnight snack! I clenched my fists and dodged backwards into the cushions, the fumes coming out of her mouth distorting the air like the heat from a forest fire. She settled back in, completely nonplussed and oblivious to my discomfort.

"Do you guys like.. you know... Batman?"

"Hey, big day tomorrow. Time to go!" Tug had walked back over and Josh and I bolted out of our seats, bidding Katie a hasty good evening. Once we were safely in the elevator, putting as much vertical distance as possible between us and her, we had a good laugh, but my mind was elsewhere.

If only you had a night vision video camera, I thought...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

HeroesCon '04: The Untold Story - Part 1

That title's a pretty big misnomer, since these stories have been told many, many times. Still, if you're new, you might not have heard them. So by popular demand, here is the whole sordid story of HeroesCon '04 (with a few names removed) in a special two-day ISB event!

The whole thing started when the boss recruited me, Tug, and Josh to work the booth at HeroesCon. The last con I'd been to had been a lot of fun--it was a small show in Atlanta where we mostly goofed off and got roughly thirty-eight sketches from Phil "The Thrill" Hester. He's the nicest guy in comics, and if you haven't read the Wretch, you need to. So anyway, I was looking forward to it.

We'd agreed to take Josh's car, because he's got one of those little screens on the visor hooked up to a DVD player and an X-Box. Unfortunately, by the time we were on the way to the con, the screen wasn't working, along with the air conditioner. If you've been in the Dirty Dirty during summer, you'll recognize this as Warning Sign #1.

Regardless, we get there without too much trouble, and we get our first fun experience. It's pretty common for dealers (or their erstwhile employees) to wander around the floor and check out what other people are selling. We are, after all, usually looking to finish up a few runs.

So while the Boss is being hit up for a loan, this dealer comes over and starts prowling through our dollar book section, which at the time was made up of hot books we just had too many of lying around. Like, you know, full runs of Crisis and a ton of X-Men books. Now this guy is known for, shall we say, creative pricing. I've heard he was known to charge fifty bucks for Darkhawk #50, which I'm pretty sure is a sign of Madness on a Lovecraftian scale.

Anyway, this mug grabs a stack of books that we all know he's going to jack up and sell, and starts haggling with the Boss for them. The boss stands his ground, though, and gets him to cough up most of the cash before getting fed up and handing him off to me. So I go over and make a quick count of the books, which come to $47. So he drops 40 on the counter and says:

"Come on, man. What is seven dollars to men like us, eh? Come on."

That guy's a winner. He ended up paying the full amount, and we almost put a sign up that said: "Dollar Book Section! Books So Good Even ***** Paid a Dollar!"

A quick word about the Pros:

The creators I've met at cons have in general been overwhelmingly nice and accommodating (although Josh can tell you the story behind this picture with little to no coercion), and HeroesCon was no exception. Jason Yungbluth was a real standout. He'd done some cross-promotion with the store's website, and he was really nice. In addition to being exactly as I thought he'd be (and I mean that in a good way), he did some great, hilarious sketches for us, and he deserves as much success as he can get, which would certainly be magnified if you picked up Deep Fried v.2 #1 from your local shop.

There was one pro, though, who looked like he was about to snap at any second. I'm not sure if he was actually angry at someone (possibly me), or if it was just the way his face sits, but he looked like he was about four seconds away from leaping over his table and beating the next guy who asked for a sketch with a Bristol board. He was perfectly civil, though, and I'm still a big fan of his work, but those eyes... like a caged tiger.

I would be remiss, though, if I didn't talk about John Cassaday. He stopped by the booth before doing his big signing and did some great sketches for Tug and Josh. He was very polite, and I think he's one of the best artists working today, but what really struck me was--and this is going to sound incredibly gay--he is the most handsome man I have ever seen. I mean, seriously. It's astounding. That little picture they have in Wizard doesn't even come close to doing him justice, and if the other pictures on that page are any indication, he's probably the best-looking man in comics.

All right, so now that I've got some explaining to do to Melanie, I think that's a good place to wrap it up. Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story, featuring appearances by Paris Hilton and Drunk-Ass Katie, when HeroesCon gets.... a little sexy.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Tuesday is Filler Day!

The Brain Thinky Doctor himself, Trey, was back in town tonight, which was a better excuse than most for the Dragon staffers to go grab some dinner. It was fun. Trey's a stand-up guy, smart as a whip, and, as Chad said, probably didn't want to be somewhere else when he was hanging out with us tonight. He's been gone for a while, and since the last time I talked to him was on the phone when I was drunk at Scott's New Years Party, it was good to see him.

I also finished City of Towers today, and I was thoroughly pleased with it. It probably helps that I like the Eberron setting a lot, but it was a fun read. If you're like me, and you have a high tolerance for barons, kings, and elves, give it a shot. I mean, in an interview where they ask him how he became a writer, Keith Baker says "Wandering through the forest, I stumbled upon a crashed spaceship. The dying alien handed me his gleaming emerald word processor and made me solemnly swear to assume his post," and then goes on to list Raymond Chandler and Grant Morrison as two of his favorite authors. How can you not jump on?

But unfortunately, since I was out eating a meal I was forced to refer to as "Chicken Critters" and reading D&D novels, I don't have too much to write about tonight. So how about some reader response?

Jim S. in Columbia, writes: "What do you think of the new chick on Monk (the one who replaced Sharona?) Also, are you going to check out Kojak? It looks pretty good."

You want to know what I think of Natalie Teeger, eh, Jimbo? Well, it's like this.

A few weeks back, my good pal sent me a lecture series on detective fiction to help while away the long drive to and from work. I really enjoyed it. There were eight lectures in all, going from the innovation of detective fiction and the establishment of the English style (which oddly enough was invented by Edgar Allen Poe, although it was popularized by Brits like Doyle and Christie), and then onto the American style, with Dashiell Hammet and my homeboy Ray C.

So by the classification the lectures set up, Monk falls squarely into the English form--just like some other favorites, like Ellery Queen or that show where the singing teapot busts murderous philanderers. One of the main elements of this style is that the detective has to restore order in the wake of a chaotic act of violence, and one of the most appealing things about Monk is that he as a character literally creates order out of chaos with his OCD. It's a fun bit of literalism that I like for some reason.

As such, the focus for me is on the character of Adrian Monk, not the Watson-esque foil to whom he explains his thought processes. The challenge is then put on the writers to make the foil entertaining on her own, but not to overshadow Monk.

Sharona was a great foil for this purpose, since her personality was crafted to clash so utterly with Monk's, but still make her an endearing character. And while it's still pretty early, Natalie's doing an enjoyable job of it as well, without being a carbon copy of her predecessor, which I think would've hurt the integrity of the show. If there's been a problem, it's that there's been too much of an effort to differentiate the two--the episode where Natalie was pressuring Monk for a raise actually included the line: "Don't compare me to Sharona," although there was a joke made of it.

So yeah, I like Sharona a lot, but I've also seen about ten more episodes with her in them than Natalie. And the new season, especially the last episode ("Mr. Monk Gets Cabin Fever"), has been pretty awesome. I mean, two weeks ago, there were ninja involved. And you know how I like ninja.

As for Kojak, I'm pretty excited for it. Ving Rhames was the guy who delivered the phrase "get medieval on their ass" to an adoring public, after all.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Your Kung Fu Is Old. Now You Must Die!

All right, you vultures, I'm back, and nobody can stop me now--Not even the Devil!

So for reasons too complicated to get into, I was reading through Western Gunfighters #29 a while back and I came upon the greatest ad to ever grace the four-color pages of a Marvel comic.

Sea Monkeys? Don't make me laugh.
Build a nuclear submarine for $2? Man, please.
Charles Atlas: Hero of the Beach? Let me ask you a question, little miss sunshine: Did Charles Atlas ever kill a man with his bare hands?

Count Dante sure as hell did!

(Click for a larger and more badass image)

Look at it: That ad is a thing of beauty. I like it so much that I had it blown up to poster size, mail-in information and all. Count Dante makes Shang Chi look like The Glimmer Man with that pose, and the image is strikingly iconic. You get everything you know in a glance: Afro, mutton chops, eyebrows, and ten fingers of death. The pink background and cursive writing do absolutely nothing to diminish the fact that Count Dante looks like he's going to rip your throat out, Roadhouse-style. If anything, it sets you up for the blurb beneath the picture, which is so shockingly violent that it's bursting out of the page. Check out that jagged balloon, man!

For those of you who don't want to strain your eyes (and don't have a convenient poster), it reads, with my emphasis added:

"Count Dante is the undefeated Supreme Grand Master of the fighting arts. Count Dante has won the the World Overall Fighting Arts Championship (Master & Expert Divisions) after defeating the world's top masters of JUDO, BOXING, WRESTLING, KUNG-FU, KARATE, AKIDO, etc. in Death Matches. On Aug. 1, 1967, the World Federation of Fighting Arts crowned the Count 'THE WORLD'S DEADLIEST FIGHTING ARTS CHAMPION AND MASTER.'"

Holy. Crap.

In case you missed it, he defeated the world's top masters in DEATH MATCHES. Which, unless I'm mistaken, means he killed them with his unstoppable fighting style. That's the most badass thing I've ever even heard of.

But what makes Count Dante even better, what puts him over the top onto my list of the Most Awesome People Ever, was that his real life was every bit as bat-shit insane as his comic book ad.

Born John Keehan, he changed his name in the mid '60s to Count Juan Raphael Dante and explained it by saying his parents were exiled nobility who fled the Spanish Civil War to hide in America. And if you've ever done anything that cool, then thanks for reading the ISB, Bruce Campbell. He then founded the Black Dragon Fighting Society and invented a technique called the Dance of Death, which means he did three things that are cooler than anything anyone I know has ever even thought of.

Any normal person would have been satisfied with accomplishments of that magnitude under their belt, but for Count Dante, inventing new fighting styles and claming to be royalty was a slow Tuesday night. According to Massad Ayoob, Dante "developed an obscene fascination with the most brutal part of the martial arts," and that's from the guy who founded the Lethal Force Institute and wrote The Complete Book of Handguns. He blasted other martial arts instructors for teaching watered-down styles to non-Asian students (a claim also made by Bruce Lee), got involved in an incident called the Dojo War (SWEET MOTHER OF MYSTERY!) and was arrested for taping dynamite to a rival dojo while drunk.

You cannot possibly imagine how pumped up I just got writing that sentence.

Count Dante died in 1975 from hemmorhaging resulting from a bleeding ulcer, or at least, that's the cover story. But the legends say that if you send two dollars to a certain PO box in Chicago, you might just get a Black Dragon Fighting Society patch, along with a handwritten note telling the story of an exiled Spanish nobleman, and how his Dance of Death could not be contained by any force in this world... or the next.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Oi, Chummy! You're Nicked!

I'll admit it. I got nothin'. After thirty-one consecutive days of updates, the proverbial well has gone dry. I was going to write about how awesome Jack Staff is, but despite the fact that (as Chad says) "Tom Tom the Robot Man ain't no joke," the words aren't coming together. This has nothing to do with Jack Staff, and believe me, Paul Grist is a gift from God for superhero fans. But if it's okay with you guys, I'm just going to take the night off.

So why not check out the SomethingAwful review of Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave instead? It's a hilarious review of, according to SA, one of the worst movies ever made. It's one of several movies made after Bruce Lee's death that features a star who goes under a simliar name (Jackie Chan's talks in his autobiography about the sudden influx of guys like Bruce Li, Bruce Lei, Bruce Le, Bruce Table, Bruce Chair, etc.). It gets a score of -41 out of -50, which puts it in the same company as, say, Knight Chills, Captain America II, and The Horrible Dr. Bone$.

It's a good one. You'll enjoy it, and I'll be back tomorrow. Now get outta here, you crazy kids. Ming commands it!

UPDATE! As soon as I posted this, J. Kern told me about a flick called Bruce Lee vs. Gay Power. That title alone should get you to click on this link to an InsidePulse article about the Top Ten Most Whacked-Out Kung Fu Movies of All Time.

You're No Daisy, Sir

Tonight I found myself discussing Tombstone in one of a thousand Mexican restaurants called "Monterrey's." I was sitting across from Flake, whose most distinguishing characteristic is his penchant for referring to everyone as "queer," or, in Rob's case, "Jap." Now that may seem harsh when you write it down, but in reality it comes off as slightly endearing.

The path that led me to that situation was typical for a Saturday at the shop, and began with lunch at Wendy's where the conversation focused mainly on who could get out of the Village first: James Bond or Number Six (McGoohan takes that one, yo). The conversation then turned to weight, which, I'll admit, is one of the few subjects I'm a bit sensitive about. But it did give us the following exchange after Gossett said he'd never had to worry about his:

Me: Yeah, well when the next Ice Age comes, we'll see who has the last laugh. I'm prepared.

Shaka: Even the fat dinosaurs died, Chris.

Ouch! Hilarious, but ouch nonetheless!

So the day pretty much went on from there. I finally got the new Eberron novel, and I've been reading it. So far it's great. The tone is pretty similar to the story I was writing, but with a much better plot. Still, I've got to write more on it, if for no other reason than to get that damn fight scene out of my head. That's work for tomorrow.

So, to celebrate a further delve, I sold one of my D&D miniatures to Ben and used the money to go out to dinner with The Gamers.

For those of you who don't know how it works, I'll explain. The store closes at seven most days, but on Wednesdays and Saturdays, it's open until 9. Wednesdays are New Comics, of course, but Saturdays belong to the games. It is Ben's kingdom, and he rules like a fair-haired Conan, sullen-eyed and capable of great rolls or critical failures, and his subjects flock in for tournaments or trying out the new games. The power of the game room is so great that it'll occasionally snag a "comics type" like Phil or Tug for around of Versus, the gateway drug of superhero gaming. The game room is jumping all day long, and I get asked for the key to the bathroom more times than the rest of the week combined, which gives me a chance to see everyone on the same level.

I heard once on This American Life that Christmas is a time when most people are given what is essentially the same stage and the same props and how they act at Christmas is how they are, but moreso. For me, asking for the bathroom key is the same way. Everyone has their own approach, and they're almost all annoying.

It's a fairly simple task. You walk up to the counter and say: "Hey, could I get the key to the bathroom, please?" Simple, direct, polite. For the most part, that's what I get, so don't get the wrong idea, but there are a few out there that still haven't mastered it.

Some people feel compelled to say things like: "Can I have the key? I had a lot to drink today, and I really need to take a leak." Well, thanks, bro, I had no idea how the endocrine system works until you decided to take a break from Warhammer to inform me. Some people just stand there and point to the key without saying a word, or walk up and say "Key," as though speaking takes a great effort and they need to conserve their words whenever possible. These two are mystifying to me. I mean, who thinks that's the proper way to interact with someone? That's clearly in violation of the social contract, and I'm afraid I've got to declare those cats Unmutual.

Also odd are the people who meander up and request, under their breath and sometimes accompanied by a cover cough, the key to the "ahem, facilities." Nice job, chief. The Allies'll never crack that code.

And for God's sake, there's paper towels in there. There's no reason why I should be getting that key back wet.

It's like the comics people who ask if the latest issue of something is out. Well, by definition, the latest issue is out. That's what makes it the latest issue. What do you want me to say?

None of those people were at dinner. Well, except Flake, who asks for the key to the facilities before telling me how many sodas he's had today and always returns it wet. It's another of his many habits (such as flinging pennies at comic book store employees) designed purely for antagonism and which I can't help but respect.

Regardless, it all came down to dinner with the Gamers. And for the record, it was decided that Val Kilmer should've just made True Romance and Tombstone, and then faded away, never to be heard from again.

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Warren Report: 2-4-04

When I went to take a shower this morning, the water coming out of the faucet was the color of piss. Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a Bad Signal.

As such, I'm going to talk about some things that have been entertaining me before I get around to the Week in Warren. Here's what I've been reading:

Jimmy Olsen v. 1, The Forever People, and Walt Simonson's Orion - Trying to get a feel on Kirby and Kirbyesque books for when I finally dialogue the Kirby Project. So far, I just know I want him to say "Blazes!" a lot. I also did a mock up cover design and test-lettered Phil's first page. I'm pretty happy with it so far, and apparently Phil's trucking right along. We've even got a concept sketch of the cover from Chad, so it's really starting to shape up. Keep watching Phil's blog for more info and previews.

Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasin - Listening to this one, actually, as a book on tape on the long drive to and from work. It's the same way I read one of Hiassin's other novels, Lucky You, which featured a jaded reporter, two winning lottery tickets, a town built around religious roadside attractions, and two rednecks who comprised the membership of the "White Clarion Aryans." Skinny Dip is a bit more tame thus far, but almost as entertaining and very enjoyable.

Ghost World by Dan Clowes - I've heard nothing but good things about it, usually from Tug, so I finally got around to reading Ghost World on a slow day at the shop. Also got through Kyle Baker's You Are Here and the first few American Splendor strips, making Thursday "Indy Comic Day" as far as my reading habits were concerned. Thoroughly enjoyed all three, although Ghost World was the only one to make me laugh aloud with the scene where the Satanists buy lunchables. Maybe I should jump on Eightball?

Read a bunch of other stuff, too (though not that damn Eberron book, you bastards), and also watched four episodes of The Prisoner, three of Monk, and celebrated my mom's birthday today.

That said, it's amazing I've had time to keep up with the thirteen Bad Signals sent out this week. Jesus, Warren, take a breath, huh?

He was all over the place this week, from plugging Brian Wood and Reginald "Hollywood" Hudlin to further discussion of Fight Comics to a "Bible that explodes at the touch of a button," which would certainly get me back in church.

But really, that's par for the course for Warren, just like announcing Apparat 2 weeks after essentially going: "No there's not a sequel to Apparat! They're bloody singles, you tossers!" It makes me wonder if we'll be getting further adventures of Simon Spector and Frank Ironwine, or if it'll be four entirely new titles (two good, one mediocre, one rough).

What really stuck out to me from this week's massive amount of Ellis Brand Tomfoolery were two posts that were just funny. The first was about Warren turning 37 and feeling old (essentially the same Bad Signal as last year when he turned 36, according to Scott), and is deserving of quoting itself:

"Maybe that was the point where I should've waved my arms around and yelled "I'm becoming a magician!" like Alan. But Alan, bless 'im, was nuts long before that. As is Grant, but Grant has this wellspring of eternal youth. And Garth's always had the eyes of a slightly berserk teenager. And Millar's about eleven, deep down."
Is it just me or does that just make you think that every British comic book writer lives within three blocks of one another, and they all hang out at the same pub making fun of Alan Grant for living in a frigg'n castle? It'd be the best sitcom ever.

The other one that stuck out (oh, the puns return) was the one about the rapper who gouged out his own eye because he's fucking insane. For those of you keeping score, my link goes to the WarrenEllis.com page, and his links are (from top to bottom) a picture of the empty socket in question (for the love of God, do not click) and the news story itself (feel free to peruse). I really don't even have a joke about that one. It's just... wow. That guy's got some problems.

So that's pretty much the essence of Warren this week, boiled down into some sort of super-potent concentrate that, once consumed, will have you growing a beard and typing on handheld computers in pubs in no time flat. But before I go, I do want to talk about something I said last week.

There's a few of you that saw my comment about Ultimate FF (a book I do enjoy) last week and how they just stand around talking about their powers for 22 pages rather than, you know, actually using them. Admittedly, that's a dig, but the fact is that Warren has written and continues to write more comics I enjoy than I don't--that last issue of Planetary, for instance, was hellacious, even if it was Warren's "Lone Ranger Fanfic" (a comment I had a good chuckle about, by the way). But consider: Warren thinks about comics a lot, that much is evident. He looks at the market and he sees books getting cancelled because they're not "what the people want." He also sees Brian Bendis continuing to gain commercial and critical success despite not writing good comics since the middle of last year. You can't blame him for doing UFF in the style that Bendis set up, which is the style that Marvel obviously wants and is willing to pay for. He's a shrewd little Englishman.

Anyway, that's that. Now, my TV is currently showing The Avengers, or as I like to call it, "Not As Good As The Prisoner," a situation I intend to rectify immediately.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Jack Kirby: The Unpublished Archives

Despite the fact that I spent last night on a rant about Gwen Stacy's panties, action figure nudity wasn't the only thing that happened yesterday.

For one thing, Rob Lindsey finally posted some music on his website! I listened to most of it this morning before work, and I really liked it. Heck, I'm listening to it right now and I like it. Check out "Stages" and "Nashville." You won't be disappointed.

Also: someone's buying my crap! In your FACE, Poverty!

But the most important thing that happened yesterday (read: the one I can stretch a thousand words out of) was that I got a nearly-complete set of Jack Kirby trading cards. I got 'em from Chad, whose generosity truly knows no bounds, but they were originally produced in 1994 by Comic Images. Apparently those guys didn't realize that there's a potential market of about five people, and three of them live in Columbia.

They are, however, awesome. I really wish I had a scanner, because these things need to be seen to be believed, and with a few exceptions, pictures are impossible to find online. Mostly, they're designs Jack did for Ruby-Spears Animation, and they make Rubik the Amazing Cube look positively sane.

There's a story about Jack that goes like this: His wife, Roz, had to drive him everywhere, because he never got a driver's license. The reason he never got one was that he couldn't keep his mind on the road. The man had too many ideas. When you're looking at 90 trading cards featuring designs for stuff like a boat that a man wears like a suit, you start to understand how that could be absolutely true.

So what designs are featured?

  • Roxie's Raiders: Set in the 1930s, this is the story of Roxie, a beautiful spy, and her team, who go undercover as circus performers. This is pretty much their only option for cover, since the Raiders include Giraffe, the Human Periscope, with his elongated neck; Toad, who looks like Humpty Dumpty and rides a unicycle; and the appropriately-named Big Hands.
  • Time Angels: Three young women who go on missions and fight crime at the behest of a mysterious unseen benefactor. Sound familiar? Well how about I jack up the awesome factor with two little words: IN SPACE! Eat it, Cheryl Ladd!
  • The Warriors of Illusion: A team of magicians who, in addition to their boundless magical powers, have cars that turn into stuff. One, the "Magicmobile" can be covered with a sheet and turned into a tricycle in the event that enemies surround it. No foolin'. Also, out of all the absolutely insane cars in the trading card set, Warriors of Illusion's Deceptor has the best one. It looks like a '67 Impala had sex with a dragon. Wood side panels, whitewall tires... You can't deny, the man had style.
  • Skanner, the Last Private Eye: In the World That's Coming (now where have I heard that before), Skanner--the last PI left on Earth-- investigates "illegal aliens (cosmic types)," teenager abductions, and people who smuggle air from unpolluted environments. To do this, he uses a pair of gloves that turn into a shovel and a telescope. I would watch this show religiously.
  • Camouflage Corps: Probably the wackiest of the designs, this one features impossibly complex tanks and planes bursting out of things that aren't impossibly complex tanks and planes, such as townhouses or barns. There's even one where a train goes into a tunnel and "emerges as railroad artillery," something that Jack feels compelled to tell us is "an entirely different object." CC also features my second-favorite card in the set. It's divided into three different panels. 1: A passenger train is ambushed by some tanks. 2: The train's sides pop open revealing a row of guns which destroy the tanks. 3: A hundred-foot tall robot bursts out of the desert below the trains and crushes the train in its powerful claws. It's like he suddenly realized he had two thirds of the page left and had to top the cannons on the train with something a thousand times more awesome.
So if that's my second-favorite, what's my favorite? Well, in addition to the various show designs, there's a bunch of cards that are just weird ideas Jack had, like the Flying Knight (a knight who flies), a bobsled with a tower of weaponry on it, or a triple-decker bus that straddles the highway with an enormous bridge between the two halves. There's even one where "Master Computobots energize cavebots in their war to control humanity."

But they all pale in comparison to the best card in the set, and I do have a picture of this one. His name? Hidden Harry. Look at him! There is absolutely no attempt at an explanation given on the card other than "Wow. Jack Kirby was frigg'n nuts." It's terrifying and fascinating at the same time. I mean, look at those feet. They don't make ANY sense! He's also the shop's unofficial mascot, which goes a long way in explaining why we don't have any female employees.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Gwendolyn, Gwendolyn, What Have You Done?

[Note: Most of the links in today's piece are going to be unsafe for work, unless your boss doesn't mind you looking at pictures of action figures having sex. And if that's true, man, your job rocks.]

By comic shop standards, I'm not really into toys that much. I mean, I'm hardcore for MiniMates, and I like a cool-ass action figure as much as the next guy, but I don't go crazy for 'em. Still, I was pretty excited when Chad brought a box of random-ass action figures to the shop today to trade in. There were a lot of leftovers from attempts at customs, but most of them were in pretty good shape. So, being the people we are, we started playing with them. Josh, who got a bad sketch from David Mack at the last con he went to, had a lot of fun making the Hulk beat Kabuki with her own leg. Needless to say, the first thing I did upon seeing the box was have the Falcon finally get some off the Invisible Woman while Magneto looked on approvingly.

Well you've read the blog, what the hell did you expect me to do?

Then this little gem caught my eye:

It's a Gwen Stacy from a line Marvel did a few years back called Silver-Age Classics or something. I'd always wanted this figure since I've had a web-shooting Spider-Man and tons of shelves to toss her off, but never enough to actually buy it. Chad said we could have whichever ones we wanted, though, so I grabbed her.

That's when I noticed what is quite possibly the coolest action feature ever:

Yes, some genius toy designer thought it would be a good idea to give Gwen a removable skirt held on by velcro. Velcro! Yes, the removable skirt is the perfect compliment to Gwen's high-heeled black leather boots, skintight sweater and those hip joints they give all female figures that can only be used to spread their legs. The result? Most Awesome Toy Ever.

Really, it makes me wonder if the guys over at Toy Biz were psychic, or just really good guessers. I mean, just this year we got the story where we find out that the supposedly virtuous Gwen's teenage hormones were overpowered by Norman Osborn's manliness. Me, I think it was his disturbing, yet strangely alluring hair. Regardless, they got naughty... freaky naughty. And this figure's just corroborating what we've already seen.

But it raises even more questions.

I mean, after knocking pointy-toed boots with the Green Goblin, what could Gwen possibly do next? Would her taste for the exotic put her on the trail of someone socially taboo? A mutant, perhaps? Or even, dare I say it...

...a Canadian? Or does her dalliance with her boyfriend's greatest foe prove that the greatest aphrodisiac is power? Would Gwen be drawn to the type of strength and self-assurance that can only come from ruthless evil?

No man can truly say. But perhaps the greatest question is... What would her kids think?