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Friday, September 30, 2005

ISB Mailbag: He Hate Me

Ladies and gentlemen, I have arrived.

Yes, I finally feel like I've made it in the world of writing on the internet, because today, I got my first ever hate mail. I'm pretty excited about it, so I thought I'd share it with you people.

Today's epistle comes from "Mike," and it's in reference to a post from last week where I talked about a cardboard cut-out of Natalie Portman and its adventures in the store. It's a piece that got linked from a couple of places, and may actually be the most-read one I've done. And someone out there hates it.

Subject: Okay, just read your blog dude, you need help man

First off, I don't know your sexual orientation but I have yet to meet a straight guy who uses the word "creepy" as much as you. Little 3rd grade girls use the word when frightened of Count Chocula on the fucking television.

Okay, I don't know what your thing against this dude is - who is obviously fucked in the head a little. But your paranoid ass behavior made me wonder about your sanity as well.

You must be one of those unstable assholes who has to attack other people to try and keep his mind off his own insanity. Take my advice dude:

1) Stop using the word creepy

2) Stop working in a comic shop

Who the fuck do you expect to come into a comic shop? Millionaires? Losers and weirdos like yourself and that other guy obviously do because they have no other calling in life.

Quite sad actually.

I know, it's awesome. And yet, after reading it, I still didn't think I'd done anything wrong. In fact, I was pretty sure that I'd done something right to get this kind of response to something I've written.

How about I break this one down piece by piece?

First off, I don't know your sexual orientation but I have yet to meet a straight guy who uses the word "creepy" as much as you. Little 3rd grade girls use the word when frightened of Count Chocula on the fucking television.

You know why I like this guy? Besides the fact that he's the first person to actually send an email in reference to the ISB, I mean. He's the kind of guy who doesn't wait for the end of the email to bust out the allegations of homosexuality. Brother, if only you knew. Right from the start, I can tell that I'm dealing with a master of logic. I think it was Plato who first came up with the "if you don't agree with me you must be into dudes" argument in one of the Dialogues.

And man, comparing me to a girl? That's harsh enough, but a third grade girl? You, sir, go for the jugular.

Okay, I don't know what your thing against this dude is -

That's weird, I thought I was pretty thorough with that in the original post.

who is obviously fucked in the head a little.

Considering he told other human beings that he wanted a mindless clone of an actress that he could rape at his leisure, I'm going to go ahead and upgrade that to a lot.

But your paranoid ass behavior made me wonder about your sanity as well.

I'm not exactly sure what behavior he's talking about here, since I don't remember writing anything I'd call "paranoid." It's not like I think the guy's out to get me or anything, I just don't want to deal with his nonsense. Rude? Yes. Paranoid? I don't think so.

You must be one of those unstable assholes who has to attack other people to try and keep his mind off his own insanity.

In all seriousness, he's got me here. I haven't been what anyone would call "stable" since Terror, Inc #4, and I think we can all agree that I'm prone to violent outbursts against things I don't like. Then again, I don't send hate mail to people I disagree with on the internet, so I can't be too far gone. Maybe I can get Trey to give me a clean bill of health so I can become a productive hate-mailing member of society.

Take my advice dude:

You are the new Buddha and I will follow your path.

1) Stop using the word creepy

2) Stop working in a comic shop

3) Devote your free time to emailing people about stuff on the internet that you don't like.

And seriously, man, what is your deal with the word "creepy?" Did a Warren magazine mug you when you were a small child? How the hell else am I supposed to describe somebody who gives me the creeps?

Who the fuck do you expect to come into a comic shop? Millionaires?

Look, chief, I'm fully aware that I'm going to have to deal with all manner of social deviants in my line of work. It's part and parcel of the job, and I knew that when I signed on. But the flipside of that particular coin is that they're the ones who have to worry about some unstable asshole getting on the internet and making fun of them. It's the world we live in.

Losers and weirdos like yourself and that other guy obviously do because they have no other calling in life.

Wait just one second. He's emailing me to tell me I "need help" because I make fun of a guy for being a loser and a weirdo, but he himself refers to him as a "loser and weirdo" in the email! This is like one of those "the enemy of my enemy" things that I just can't figure out. Are we actually on the same side? Do I get to send him an email calling him gay now because he made fun of the guy?

Anyway, here's my favorite part:

Quite sad actually.

How awesome is that? I get this image of a guy with a monacle and a handlebar moustache sipping his tea and dashing off a quick missive about how gay I am for making fun of someone.

"Nigel, come quick! I've cast aspersions onto this chap's love of buggery! It's spot-on!"

It's a nice thought, and it made me chuckle. But then again, it's far more likely that he finished up the email and went back to looking for screencaps of Closer to spaff on.

To each his own.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Week In Ink, 9/28/05

You know what?

A whole frigg'n lot of comics came out yesterday. I mean, it's ridiculous: I bought a hundred dollars worth of new comics, before trades and merch even figured in. Admittedly, I read a lot of comics, but still.

Here's what cracked my bank account this week:


ABC A-Z: Tom Strong & Jack B. Quick: A word to the wise: Never, never miss a chance teo read a story about Jack B. Quick. It may actually be the best moment in the entire ABC line when he discovers the secret of anti-gravity by putting butter on cats' backs, since toast always lands butter-side down and cats always land on their feet. Throw in Kevin Nowlan's superb art, and that's reason enough to pick up what's essentially an ABC Comics Secret Files, even before Chris Sprouse is factored in.

Action Philosophers #1 and Action Philosophers #3: Self Help For Ugly Losers: I missed out on Action Philosophers #1 when it first came out, which is a shame because it's brilliant. Fortunately, there was a second printing. If you're not aware, every issue Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey take three famous philosophers and do a comic strip about each one featuring a biography and an explanation of their particular philosophy. All the information presented is historical fact, but it's history viewed through the eyes of a really good Mr. Peabody and Sherman cartoon, which makes learning fun! Seriously, it's great, and Van Lente also created the new Scorpion, which I think is the reason I like her so darn much.

Adventures of Superman #644

Angel: The Curse #4

BPRD: The Black Flame #2

Defenders #3: I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before, but I like Kevin Maguire's art a lot. The last thing anyone needs is someone else talking about how great his facial expressions are, but with other folks who might be named David Finch out there just photocopying the same panel over and over during those unnecessarily long Brian Bendis "talking heads" sessions, it's worth mentioning that he's a guy who actually works to add something to those scenes. Can't say I'm fond of his Silver Surfer, but he's a damn fine penciller nonetheless.

Invincible #26: Admittedly, I'm a fan of the senses-shattering hyperbole associated with cover blurbs, but month-to-month, Invincible actually may be "probably the best superhero comic book in the universe." Another solid issue from Kirkman and Ottley, but the real treat for me was the pin-up in the back by Chris Giarrusso, one of my absolute favorite cartoonists. Seriously, I just stopped writing for fifteen minutes while I checked out the "sketches" section on that site. Take a look at his classic cover tributes; you won't be disappointed.

Jack Cross #2: It's Warren Ellis, it's fun and interesting, it's got a protagonist with severe emotional problems. What more do you want? Gary Erskine--who is not, as some would have you believe, Chris Weston--does a better job with this issue's pencils, but Cross still looks goofy and slightly dispeptic during the big action sequence. That said, I really like the x-ray shots of the gun and the way the pages are laid out quite a bit. It's no Desolation Jones, but it's worth a read.

AND I'LL HIT HIM AGAIN, TOO!JLA #119: Page three, panel five. Batman fucking clocks Hal Jordan, which is something I've been wanting to see for about three months now. There's also a nice uppercut on Hawkman later on in the issue that I feel pretty good about. Batman may be a total dick to the rest of the DCU lately, but he's let a lot of people punch him over the past couple years. I've been keeping track. Also, it's nice that this sort of makes sense with Zatanna's support group meeting over in Seven Soldiers, where she's not running around with giant crazy earrings.

JLA: Classified #12

Traitor!Legion of Super-Heroes #10: All told, I bought twenty-nine comics yesterday, and I can say unequivocably that this was the single best one out of all of them. There were about eight different things that got me excited in this issue, not the least of which is that amazing Barry Kitson cover. Suicide bombers, characters dying left and right, the Legion Clubhouse under seige, and Invisible Kid getting a stern talking-to from Karate Kid? Come on, folks. What more could you possibly ask for?

The Losers #28: Andy Diggle can write a hell of a heist book. This particular issue concludes the "UnAmerica" storyline, and also has my favorite death scene in quite some time. Unfortunately, Josh and I might be the only people reading this book. Pick up the trades.

Manhunter #14: Okay, I've ragged on this book pretty hard in the past, but you know what? I really like it. Kate Spencer may be one of the most improbable and worst superheroes in a good long while, but she's trying, and she's pretty likeable, all things considered. Plus this issue features one of my favorite all-but-forgotten mid-90s characters, Cameron Chase. She was Kate's old roommate in college, which probably means they, you know, had pillowfights and practiced kissing each other and stuff. Okay, that may be dangerously close to fan-fiction, but that sort of thing happens all the time. You probably haven't seen it, but there's video evidence of college girls going wild. Just sayin'.

Neverwhere #4

New Avengers #11: In case you haven't read it, I won't spoil anything, but Bendis is finally getting around to explaining who that guy on the cover of #1 is eleven issues into the book, now that nobody really cares anymore. Still, I'm sure that it's going to "crack the internet in half" if it actually turns out to be who it looks like, which would mean Dave Finch really needs to start looking at peoples' hands before he draws them. Sheesh, man. Also in the story, Matt Murdock (whom everybody knows is Daredevil) is kicking it in a park with Captain America (whose identity everybody knows) talking about how he doesn't want to be an Avenger while talking about Spider-Man, whom he refers to as Peter Parker. In public. Like that guy doesn't have enough problems...

New X-Men: Academy X #18

This comic book is awesome, and that is a fact.Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Alternate Universes 2005: There's some neat stuff in this one, including the "official" designations for each universe, which as near as Scott and I can tell, are based off of when they were created if they hadn't previously been mentioned. And sure, it's got Here Comes Tomorrow, Mad Jim Jaspers, and Doom 2099, but honestly, the real reason you need to go out and get this is an appearance by Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, who is every bit as awesome as Captain Carrot. I mean, he hangs out with GOOSE RIDER, for God's sake, and if the cover to the left doesn't make you smile, then you, sir, have no joy in your soul.

I think you know who he is.The OMAC Project #6: The second Infinite Crisis series ends in a fairly pleasant fashion, but my favorite part is when Batman tells Green Lantern to get as many heroes as he can in one place to lure in the OMACs. So how many heroes does Hal get? About thirty guys, featuring the John Byrne Doom Patrol and The Ever-Lovin' Freedom Beast. The Freedom Beast, man! That's exciting reading.

Martial-Arts Encrusted Sports FablePeng: Remember when I said Legion of Super-Heroes #10 was the best comic of the week? This is the very, very close second. Peng is one of those rare comics that's just a joy to read. If there was a problem with Sharknife, it was that the digest size made the frantic art a little too cramped, but Peng, as a full-size comic, doesn't suffer from that and comes out great. Plus, guest stars. It makes me really want to be Corey Lewis's friend.

Plastic Man #18

Red Sonja #2

Revelations #2: Fresh from his appearance in the pages of New Avengers, Paul Jenkins continues his Vatican Murder Mystery, and I love the hell out of it. It's got my favorite line all week: "There are even stories of secret cults and devil worship." "In the Vatican?"

Shaun of the Dead #3

Silent Dragon #3

Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #34: I've explained myself on this one before, and I'm sure I will again, but wow. This issue's just... Wow. How do I even begin to explain this issue? Do I start with the naked guy in the letter column? Do I try to wrap my head around the lesbian catgirl sex scenes? Do I even approach the erection jokes made by what amounts to a bunch of Jim Balent's friends who make an appearance? No. I tell the tale that I heard told. Mithridates, he died old.

Ultimate Secret #3: Incredibly fun stuff from Warren. Iron Man hitting on hot underage Sue Storm? Priceless. Tom Raney's pencils are sharp--I like that guy a lot, and it still took me half the issue to realize he wasn't Steve McNiven. All in all, it's shaping up to be a lot better than Ultimate Nightmare, and I think it's clear that Warren's having a lot of fun with it.

Young Avengers #7: I liked this issue a lot, which was a relief since the last one left me feeling pretty cold. Andrea DiVito is a fantastic penciller, and Alan Heinberg threw a lot of nice scenes in this one. Isaiah finding out about Eli made me smile, and the beautiful homage of the last page restored my faith in the book. It's a good one.


Showcase Presents Green Lantern v.1 and Showcase Presents Superman v.1: I can't seem to find a picture of the actual trade dress for these things, which is a shame, because they're gorgeous. Seriously, they are beautiful books. That's all I wanted to say about it, but Kevin has some nice words about them that pretty much encapsulate my feelings. Ten bucks each. Buy 'em!


Union Jack Mini-Bust: Okay. Here's what I know about Union Jack: a) He fights vampires. b) He was the inspiration for Jack Staff, who is quite possibly the best comic book character since OMAC. c) The bust of him looks awesome and was designed by John Cassaday. That's pretty much it. But man, check out how good this thing looks:

Oi!  I'll slot you, mate!

Total badamadeuce.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

He Was a Pupil of Mine... Before He Turned to Evil

Lately, I've taken to listening to Air America--the liberal AM talk radio station--on my drive home from work. Considering that I work in a city that was mentioned most recently on the news for one of our residents who claimed that God sent Hurricane Katrina to smite New Orleans because of their policies on abortion, it's nice to hear the opposing viewpoint.

Plus, they've got Jerry Springer on in the mornings, and I frigg'n love that guy.

But when I tuned in tonight, I noticed that "Majority Report" host Sam Seder seemed uncharacteristically happy, especially considering that he was talking about Tom Delay. This could mean only one thing.

Something bad had happened to Tom Delay.

Now that's the kind of thing that'll pique my interest. Unfortunately, I'd been dragging around 25,000 paperback sci-fi and fantasy books at work today and hadn't had a chance to catch up on the news, so aside from a few comments a caller made and Seder's jokes about Delay wearing an orange jumpsuit, I was in the dark. So--much like I do when I need some information on how the Darksoul works--I called Scott.

As it happened, Representative Tom Delay (Republican, TX) has stepped down from his post as House Majority Leader after being indicted by a grand jury on a felony conspiracy charge for funnelling corporate money into a political action committee.

Scott and I agreed that this was good news, although Scott was quick to add that he was amazed that Delay was getting indicted while Karl Rove--a man that I find despicable for a litany of reasons--was still allowed to walk around free. I mean, if the guy didn't get locked up for leaking the identity of an undercover CIA agent, the whole smear campaign about John McCain's "illegitimate black baby" should've gotten him at least a punch in the face.

Actual quote."Hey, slow down, Scott," I said. "We've got to get through Grand Moff Tarkin before we take on the Emperor."

Scott laughed for a minute. "You know," he said, "that's a pretty good analogy for those guys. Rove, Delay and Bush really are like the Emperor, Tarkin, and Darth Vader."


"Sure. I mean, Bush is the guy that you kinda want to like, right? It's just that he's been manipulated by all these evil forces into becoming a bad guy. And wouldn't it just be awesome if it was like Return of the Jedi, and Karl Rove got indicted and they called Bush to the stand, and he stood up and said: 'I can't lie for this man any more!'"

"What, you mean like throwing him down the shaft in the Death Star?"

"Exactly! And then you'd see him standing all blue and translucent with Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Because really, if anybody's Yoda out there, it's Jimmy Carter."

As always, Scott had completely blown me away.

"Hell, Scott. I think you just made me like the Prequels."

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Special Guest Update: BeaucoupKevin Presents a "Humorous" Interlude

"So that's two things right there I don't get. Erotic Fanfic and Scientology. And they're converging on your weblog."
--Mark Hale

Yes, friends, the stars are right, and the ISB is at the eye of the storm. Just take a look at today's search results:

Sadly, everything else is normal fare.

Unfortunately, that was the most exciting thing that happened to me all day. So for tonight's comedy gold, I'm happy to welcome Kevin and his newfound love for making photostrips. If you enjoy it, there's plenty more over at his site.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The Savage World of 1984!

Tonight's ISB Selection: Badass Panels From Captain America #194

THE MADBOMB!  It can destroy the world!
This was the first Marvel comic I ever read, and when I was four years old, it terrified me. I finally got around to re-reading it Saturday after nineteen years, and was only mildly frightened.

That dude's a one-man army!
Here's what's going on: Attempting to track down The Madbomb!, a device that drives anyone within its range into a psychotic rage, Cap and the Falcon have been ambushed and captured by an underground militia bent on eradicating the US government and replacing them with an entrenched aristocracy, installing a series of hereditary leaders from rich families and therefore subverting the ideals our country stands for.


Hi, I'm completely insane.
Uh, anyway, they bust out of the prison that holds the Elite's failed experiments--because it just wouldn't be a Kirby book without some Hairies, or Weirdies, or Un-Men, or whatever he wanted to call them this week--and meet up with insane aristocrat daddy's girl Cheer Chadwick, who takes a liking to our heroes and leads them to see the machinations of the Elite's Master Plan, including their "love machine."

Not exactly what WASP was singing about.
That's the part that scared me as a kid. At four years old, I apparently had a severe phobia of fascist mob violence. And besides...

All Hail Republican Max Headroom!
Try telling me this guy doesn't give you the jibblies.

Damn, girl.
If I'd been a little older, I probably would've stuck around to get terrified instead by Tinkerbelle, a large angry black woman who takes out Cap AND the Falcon in between rounds of the Elite's favorite competitor sport, which also gives me my absolute favorite "next issue" blurb of all time:

Holy Crap!

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Dollar Comic Review: Terror 101

I mentioned a couple days ago that when I saw the cover for December's Marvel Team-Up, I got pretty excited. The fact that not two, but eight third-string Marvel characters are going to get together for a throwdown makes me happy in ways that I can't really express on the printed page. The only thing it's lacking is the new Scorpion, a character that I inexplicably have a lot of affection for.

I was so excited about this issue that I decided to find out all I could about the only character on the cover I didn't recognize--The Terror. You might be tempted to do the same, but for the love of God, don't. I've spent my entire day reading all thirteen issues of Terror, Inc and it almost killed me. So why did I do it?

So you don't have to.

Welcome to 1992, readers.  Hope you survive the experience.

Terror, Inc. 1-13
Writer: DG Chichester
Pencillers: Jorge Zaffino (1-7) and Richard Pace (9-13)

The Basics:

Remember when you were in the third grade, and you made up a super-hero in the back of your notebook when you were supposed to be learning about fractions? Well say hello, because he's back, and this time DG Chichester's at the helm.

The Terror, our protagonist, is an amoral hitman whose superpowers go out of their way to not make sense, which isn't helped by the fact that their mechanics aren't explained at all until he fights Wolverine in the basement of a funeral home, and y that time we're six months into this trainwreck. Essentially, he can rip someone's limbs off and attatch them to his own body, thereby gaining the skills associated with that appendage that the person has. In the series, I've seen him use a gymnast's legs for acrobatics, a sorceror's arm to do some conjuring, and a marksman's eye to assassinate a gangster. He has access to a surprising array of specialized body parts, which is explained away by his goth-girl corpse supplier Boneyard, who speaks with some sort of accent.

In sitcom terms, she's the "wacky neighbor" of the series, and considering that the Terror himself is verbose to the point of ridiculousness, it's an easy metaphor to make. Rounding out the cast is the Terror's personal assistant, whose name is (I swear to you) Alexis Primo. Her function is to make sure that the Terror--a consummate businessman in his own right--collects his fees on time, and she also makes a lot of uncomfortable innuendo about Luke Cage in #11.

The Rundown:

The series starts off with the Terror doing his darndest to kill this arms dealer, but the guy's made a deal with Satan to make him immortal, and you know how tricky those can be. Fortunately, this is the same Satan that has a son, Damion Hellstrom, running around. But don't get excited just yet, Hellstrom fans. Even more fortuitous, he has another son, one Mikal Drakonmegas--the names alone are like a brick to the skull with every new character--a noted occultists who has a lot of questions about his father.

I can't believe I'm typing this, but the Terror deals with the whole situation by ripping an evil soul out of a snake worshipped by an Eastern death cult and putting Drakonmegas's dead mother's eye into his head to find out how Satan does so well with the ladies. Along the way, he stops off at Alcatraz to utterly ruin Drakonmegas's life by giving him the Darksoul (?!) and turning him into a guy called Hellfire, then drags him down to hell to confront his pop and thus find a way to whack the gun runner.

It's a process that takes five issues.

And then the Punisher shows up.

Somehow, the box missed this oneI hate to say it, but there's not a whole lot to talk about for the next four issues. The Punisher stuff goes about like you'd expect--Frank shows up with a mad-on to kill Piranha, some metal-toothed legitimate businessman, but oh no, the Terror's been hired to ice the same guy! Throw in a henchman named Cockroach, whose name nobody can remember despite the fact that he's dressed like Huggy Bear and covered in cockroaches, and a twist ending that it's actually the gangster himself who hired the Terror, and you've got yourself two issues.

There's also a scene where the Terror, finding out Piranha's plan, agrees to kill him in exchange for one dollar for himself and an exorbitant sum to be given to charity. I imagine it's supposed to show us that the Terror actually does have feelings, but being that it comes about twenty pages after the Terror rips a librarian's eyes out to make searching newspapers on Microfiche easier, it rings a bit hollow.

9 and 10 have Wolverine, and are probably the best issues of the run, even though they still don't make a whole lot of sense. The biggest bright spot is a scene where the Terror tells Wolverine: "I'm the best there is at what I do. And what I do makes even your routine look nice." Come on, that's pretty good.

By the time 11 and 12 roll around, though, you're wondering why they're even bothering. I mean, when you end up in a six-part crossover event with Silver Sable and Luke Cage, it's probably time to hang up your hat and get out of the whole mercenary game. Especially when you're teaming up to fight Priapus, a Greek god known primarily for having a gigantic wang.

I swear I'm not making that up.

The litany of guest stars continues to #13, where Ghost Rider shows up to shed some light on the Terror's mysterious past. I read the page three times, and I'm still not sure what his deal is, but when he starts tying back his little spike-whiskers in a little ribbon, it's hard not to think he's adorable. Rotting green face aside, I mean.

Also in the final issue, he takes on a cultist who threatens him with "Infernal Magicks," to which the Terror responds by asking if that's "magic with a K," then opening up with a submachine gun, screaming: "I hate archaic spellings!"

You know what? Screw it, that makes this my favorite book ever.

Discussion Questions:

1. DG Chichester wrote the "Fall From Grace" story arc in Daredevil. Did you enjoy that? Was it good enough to warrant over a year of Terror, Inc? Why or why not?

2. Luke Cage is ridiculed for having an "exaggerated physique" by Silver Sable. Explain how this represents irony.

3. In 1992, if the Punisher and Wolverine couldn't bring sales up, did they really think Cage and Silver Sable were going to do it? I mean, honestly.

Friday, September 23, 2005

The Scholar's Tea

Believe it or not, I actually clawed my way past the icy jaws of Death himself and left the house today. My excursion was prompted by my former English professor and noted fan of Minneapolis Dr. Kunka, who invited me to attend a lecture he was giving.

The lecture turned out to be USC's Scholar's Tea for Fall 2005, an event thrown to recognize a particular professor's contributions to academia, featuring--and this is the important part here--free refreshments.

The talk focused on his research methodology and how it relates to his upcoming book on the incidences of shell shock in World War I and how they impact narrative theory, but I was far more interested in the massive stack of Scientologist propaganda he got in the mail a few weeks ago.

There was a free copy of Battlefield Earth, with the movie-themed trade dress of course, a hardcover coffee table book celebrating the life and works of L. Ron Hubbard, and assorted teaching materials. These, my friends, were things of beauty, including a DVD lecture for classroom viewing, a lesson plan for teaching Battlefield Earth that included discussion questions and a vocabulary list, and my personal favorite, a form for evaluating the course and requesting additional information.

He's reluctant to fill it out, fearing that he'll get on their mailing list, but I think it'd be a great idea, if only for the reason that there's a section marked off for "any additional comments." Brother, additional comments are about all I have.

Um, is it just me or is Terl's package huge?Sadly, Dr. Kunka didn't address these topics in his lecture, even though it's clear to me that a term coined in 1914 to represent the severe mental disorders produced by industrialized warfare could easily be applied to Terl's subjucation of the human race in the year 3000. I mean, could you blame a guy for having a breakdown if he was confronted by a 9-foot tall John Travolta?

Despite that, it was a pretty fascinating subject. Especially when he got around to talking about Dr. Lewis Yealland, who was essentially the Granny Goodness of World War I. They'd send him the soldiers that were suffering from obvious and outwardly displayed effects of shell shock, like being unable to speak, and he'd strap them into a chair and shock them with electricity, burn them with cigarettes, and generally berate them until they were able to tell him to knock it off. He never once experienced a failure, returning all of his patients back to the front, where they could Die For Darkseid. I'm not sure, but I'm guessing he did it in green chainmail.

There were plenty of stories of torturous treatment and insidious hypnotism. Like I said, it was fascinating.

But I've got to say, it left me feeling pretty empty. I mean, I sat in a highly uncomfortable chair and paid rapt attention to both the lecture and the slides, but in the entire hour of discussing World War I, not once did he mention Enemy Ace. Nor did he share the version of the Aristocrats that he allegedly thought up featuring the Fantastic Four.

What a gyp.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Week In Ink, 9/22/05

Not even the fact that I've apparently contracted the Clench (#2 on my countdown of the Five Best Diseases In Comics) can stop me from clawing my way out of my deathbed to review this week's comics.

I'm an unstoppable machine.


Batgirl #68: I wasn't a big fan of Anderson Gabrych when he was writing Detective Comics a while back, but except for one rough issue a few months back, his run on Batgirl's been almost as enjoyable as the Kelly Puckett/Daimon Scott issues that started the series off. I like Cassandra Cain as a character a lot, and while her internal monologues come off as a little wonky, they're fun to read--especially when she was fighting Deathstroke and the Ravager a couple issues ago. And let's be honest, Ale Garza and Pop Mhan are pretty much the perfect guys to draw this book. Very enjoyable. Although I'm still not sure how I feel about having a character named "Krunk."

Hot.Birds of Prey #86: I think we all know by this point how I feel about Gail Simone, but my intense crush on her is nothing next to the reverence I hold for Bruce Timm. It's no surprise, then, that I really enjoyed the second of three stories in this book, wherin Timm draws Black Canary fighting the Prankster and a bunch of henchwenches in faux-Aztec garb. Not that the rest of the book's a slouch, either. I like the Mafia storyline with Huntress quite a bit, and Gail really manages to make a book that's all womany and full of feelings that still has people getting kicked in the face. I really hope that ends up as a pull-quote on the trade.

Captain America #10: It's a fine issue and all, don't get me wrong, but House of M has kept me from this for a month longer than I want to wait. Holy crap that cover's awesome.

Conan #20: "Know, O Prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the rise of the Sons of Aryas, that there were a bunch of dudes that liked to wear tiny, tiny loincloths. Fortunately they also cut off darn near everybody's head, so it remained a very manly time." --The Nemedian Chroniciles

Best Team Ever.Day of Vengeance #6: The first Infinite Crisis tie-in ends, and as much as I liked it, I was actually pretty surprised that something actually happens at the end. I was thoroughly pleased with this series entire. Like I said before, it very pleasantly reminded me of Suicide Squad, and while I'm not too keen on the name "Shadowpact," the fact that it's a team with Detective Chimp, Ragman, and the fucking Night-Master teaming up to fight the Wrath of God makes it pretty much okay for them to call themselves whatever they want. Also, I still have the vague hope that Infinite Crisis is going to have forty-nine super-heroes (seven teams of seven) fighting the Sheeda Queen, and since the Shadowpact has seven members if you count Black Alice, well...

It's not going to happen, is it?

The Goon #14: I like this book so much that I'm getting a fifty-dollar hardcover of issues I already have. I mean, not only does this one have four stories, but there's a picture of a girl eating hot wings off a stripper's ass in the letter column. I DEFY YOU to ask for more!

Hellblazer #212: Mike Carey's run on Hellblazer is great, despite the fact that I don't think anybody's actually reading it. The first trade just came out, and it's well worth picking up, and this issue has Carey's best "deal with Satan" scene since My Faith in Frankie, the romantic comedy he wrote about a girl and her own personal god.

What are you, retarded?  I'm the Goddamn Power Girl.JSA Classified #3: I've talked about how Geoff Johns writes for the last page, and it's true: You can get all you need to know about this issue from the cover and the last two panels. Now, that's not to say that the rest of the issue doesn't have a lot of good stuff in it (minus most of the melodrama of the past couple issues, like Power Girl explaining why she likes to show off her cash 'n' prizes), and that the last page isn't intriguing. Plus, it's got all those pretty Amanda Connor pictures, and the cover made me laugh aloud, so it's worth a read. One thing though: Is Ultraman the Earth-2 Jack Knight? That might be kinda awesome.

New Avengers #10: "Hi, I'm Steve McNiven, and I draw pretty, pretty pictures of pretty, pretty people, including Paul Jenkins." "Hi, I'm Brian Bendis, and in order to keep up with my busy writing schedule, I write characters with no discernable voice other than my own, meaning that the usually adroit and classy Emma Frost says things like 'it's going to feel like you took the biggest dump of your life' in my comics." "Hi, I'm Chris, and I'm pretty sure this story doesn't make any frigg'n sense."

Robin #142

Runaways #8

Seven Soldiers: Mister Miracle #1: While this one doesn't grab me as much as Guardian did, the concept alone is incredible and the last page screams "Jack Kirby" while simultaneously smacking me in the face with a generous serving of awesome sauce. And it's got the Black Racer. I like Pasqual Ferry's artwork a lot, too--Adam Strange was a darn fine looking book--but he's not going to be finishing out the series now that he's gone Marvel Exclusive. That makes me wary about the rest of the series, if for no other reason than I don't want an awesome Grant Morrison script to suffer from rushed art.

Teen Titans/Outsiders Secret Files 2005

Temporary #4: I'm not sure why, but I really like this series. "Quirky" seems to be the right word for it, and I get the feeling in certain parts that the creators are shooting for that goal a little too hard, but when they've created a character as phenomenally self-destructive as kleptomaniac schizophrenic Envy Saint-Claire, it's an easy goal to reach. This one's my favorite issue of the series so far.

Ultimates 2 #8

Wolverine #32


Wonder Woman, Volume 3: Beauty and the Beasts: When I needed something to cleanse the palate after reading the first four issues of Terror, Inc today, I turned to the first ten issues of George Perez's Wonder Woman run. It's good stuff.

This one time, he kicked Thor in the FACE.Essential Ghost Rider, Volume 1: I've found that you can pretty much judge the quality of an Essential by opening it up to a random page and reading the first panel that catches your eye. I tried it with this one, and got the splash page for Ghost Rider #8, with the Ghost Rider facing off against a thirty-foot tall horned demon, with copy reading: "Too long have you defied my power, Johnny Blaze--far too long. And though you have bested two of my servants, your fate is sealed, for this time you face... SATAN HIMSELF!"

Holy crap that is awesome. And not only that, but the back cover has Ghost Rider tearing ass past Spider-Man and Hercules while blasting the Thing with fire from the pits of hell itself. DON'T ASK! JUST BUY IT!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Six Stories About Chris

The Diagnosis

I've been sick for the past week now, which is a condition of mine that's not exactly unfamiliar to the readers of the ISB. I haven't noticed, but today Rob Lindsey, my most erstwhile and loyal reader, informed me that not only am I sick a lot, but I also write about it a lot.

Not me... I'm in my prime.Point being, I'm a frigg'n mess.

I was under the impression that I was dealing with some sort of lingering head cold, but last night I decided not to take NyQuil since it makes me oversleep, and ended up a coughing lump of misery, staying awake until six in the morning hacking up my lungs, a process that has led me to re-evaluate my current status.

As it turns out, I'm dying of the Goddamn Consumption.

Dream a Little Dream, Part One

So at six in the morning, I get up, pop some DayQuil, and drop back into my bed for two hours of sleep, during which I dream a movie trailer.

I'd like to thank Tom Bergeron...The movie's called The Trap, starring Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg, and it's a psychological thriller about a man who not only sees things that aren't there, but he doesn't see some things that are. He has conversations with nonexistant people, doesn't respond when people talk to him, and in one scene, he's drinking at a bar and looks up in the mirror, only to realize that unbenknownst to him, he's covered in blood and dirt and looks like he's been in a fight.

Then, at one point in the dream of the trailer, he suddenly goes: "Aha! The writers!" After which he bends out of the shot, leaving the camera to pan down to see just his head gliding across a checkerboard floor, its eyes slowly being replaced by deep black holes.

Unusual, even for me. But even moreso was the fact that the dream was so vivid that when I woke up, I wondered why I dreamt such an odd ending for a trailer that I thought actually existed until halfway through my shower.

Wait, HOW Does He Work?

Yeah you heard me.  DARKHAWK.We spent a good bit of time at work today looking over the new Marvel and DC solicitations, and I just want to say one thing: I may just be able to die happy now that I've seen Phil Hester draw Darkhawk, Sleepwalker, Dagger, Araña, Gravity, Speedball and X-23 having the biggest C-List team-up since the Champions disbanded.

There was one guy on the cover I didn't recognize, but fortunately Tug was there to set me straight about Terror, Inc. Not only did he explain his powers--the uncanny ability to attach your limbs to his own body and thereby gain your powers--but he also helped me put together a run.

Am I going to read it? Of course. Hell, the Punisher's in 5 and 6.

Dream a Little Dream, Part Two

The night before last, also under the influence of cold medicine, I had a dream where I was having a party with the Woggles at my grandparents' house.

Why exactly the Band From Below the Sweet Tea Line™ and I were kicking it P. Diddy style at Grandma's, apparently at Christmas, which is how I picture the place in my memory, I'm still not quite sure, but I do know that the Professor of Rock 'n' Roll gave me two hundred and fifty bucks and told me to get him some drinks from the kitchen.

So I head down the hallway to where the Professor of Rock 'n' Roll--whom I presumably just left--is selling drinks out of a cooler on my grandmother's table. So I hand over Professor A's money to Professor B, and buy a drink made of whiskey and orange juice, and a small 8-ounce can of Tab. Not only was this weird enough to wake me up, but when it did, I actually said aloud: "Do they even still make Tab?"

Surprisingly enough, they do.

Deal of the Century

My main man Rob Lindsey has recently been rocking a temp job at the SC Surplus Warehouse, which is apparently where the government liquidates a lot of its property to you, the consumer. The details aren't important. What is important is that Rob was able to buy a bag of knives for ten bucks.

A bag... of knives.

When he said it, it was like music to my young ears. I had assumed it would be some kind of deal like the one they have over at BudK, the fine people who send us catalogs specializing in the finest cutlery and Nazi paraphenalia (for historical purposes only, according to their disclaimer), but as it turns out, it's even MORE awesome.

For ten bucks, Rob was able to purchase a bag containing seven knives that had been confiscated at the airport. Now if that doesn't make you proud to be an American, I don't know what will.

Gigolo Sam: The Musical

So I'm doing inventory tonight at the store, and Tug walks by, so I yell out his name to get his attention. Much to my surprise, a shout of: "WHAT?!" comes from behind me, over on the new comics wall, which is not where Tug is. Now it's not a common name, so I take a peep over my shoulder and see none other than our very own Gigolo Sam standing three inches away from the new comics.

In case you're not familiar with my tales of customer woe, he's standing that close because he's legally blind, which is unfortunately not an assett in the world of the minight cowboy.

I decide to ignore him and yell for Tug again, and Gigolo Sam (whose real name, for the record, sounds nothing like "Tug"), and he goes:

"Man, I don't know WHY you keep CALLIN' me."

He says this to no one in particular, still nose-to-nose with this week's issue of Conan.

After he left, I ended up complaining about the guy to Chad, bemoaning the fact that even beyond just being rude, the guy can't see OR hear worth a damn.

"Yeah," says Chad, "but have you ever seen that motherfucker play pinball?"

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Craze That's Sweeping the Nation

Thanks to Kevin, this is all I've been able to think about all day:

Who the hell do you think I am?

And that's real

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Ballad of the Cardboard Portman

A guy walks into the store this morning and asks me about the price of a cardboard Natalie Portman stand-up from Episode 2. It's up on top of a display case and the price is at the top, so I grab the stepladder, climb up there and--while feeling both high and mighty--tell him it's $24.95.

"I'll take it," he says. "Why not, right?"

Why not? Well, sir, allow me to explain.

For one, that particular piece of merchandise was once showered with bacon-scented kisses back when we kept it on the floor near the register. They came courtesy of an overexcited fat woman who came in one day and decided that it'd be a good idea to simulate sex acts with a a cardboard cutout that was on sale at a retail establishment. I wasn't at the store when it happened, which is good, because chances are you would've heard about my reaction on the evening news. My dragon punch is unstoppable.

So if I wasn't there, you might be asking how I know the offending customer was of sizeable girth. Well, because she left two greasy lip-prints on the stand-up, which, while faint, were still visible when I sold it this morning. One on the left breast, and one smack dab on the crotch.

You understand now why I hold so much contempt for the people who walk through the doors at work.

As for the other reason, ownership of a cardboard Amidala stand-up makes you look that much more like a sex offender waiting to happen. There's just something about Natalie Portman that breeds this sort of maladjusted behavior, and I'm pretty sure it has to do with the phrases "Pretty Girl" and "Star Wars." Even so, it's a dark place that you don't want to go, and it's all personified in a customer we had that was only known as Creepy Natalie Portman Guy.

I call him a customer, but the truth is I never actually saw him buy anything. Mostly, he just loitered, looking twitchy and occasionally taking a sip from the Starbucks cup he always carried, which I'm pretty sure was actually the same cup every time he came in.

He was one of those guys that always looked like he'd just been in a fight. His wrist was always in a brace, and there was a mark on his face that made it look like he'd been busted open by someone's left hook. He dressed fairly well, but his clothes were always dissheveled. He had a pretty creepy vibe to him just standing there, and that was before he started talking about breeding Natalie Portman Sex Clones.

I'm dead serious.

He would go on about the subject at length, explaining the cloning/brainwashing process and asking if we sold them. I told him we didn't, and he told me he'd heard we had some "in the back."

If he was joking, the guy had a stone face Medusa would've been proud of, deadpan like Jack Webb on quaaludes, but with an undercurrent of excitement like he really expected us to lead him to our Illegal Sex Clone Farm behind the dollar books. Me, I favor the more likely explanation that this dude was bat-shit insane.

I came to this conclusion because when he wasn't telling us about his highly disturbing Amidala fetish, he'd tell us about how he'd set up his Star Wars figures on top of his Playstation and play through VR Missions in Metal Gear solid while pretending to be each action figure in turn, competing in some grand bounty hunter tournament.

Let me break that down for you: The dude was playing video games while pretending to be IG-88 competing against Zuckuss, whom he was also pretending to be.

Those tiny little pops you hear are my brain cells exploding one by one.

I haven't seen the guy in a while, which I'm pretty sure is my own fault. Last time I saw him, I made sure I was ready. It was the day I'd made a flail out of a toilet plunger handle, a couple rubber bands, and a Spider-Man Mini-Basketball, an act which--now that I think of it--seems about on par with pretending to be 4-LOM while playing video games. I caught him out of the corner of my eye when I was testing out the tension on the rubber bands, and as soon as he came up to the counter, opening his mouth for some stalker-ish nonsense about Natalie Portman, I slammed the flail down on the counter and did my best to look menacing.

He shrank back like a wilting flower, and I haven't seen him since.

Score another one for the good guys.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Must Be a Full Moon

Let's talk about the people who write fan-fiction for a moment.

Now listen, I've been around the internet, and I've come to the conclusion that by and large, these people are completely insane. It's not something I'm against as a concept, you understand, but so much of it is so adamantly wrong-headed that it's bred a firm and undying chunk of contempt in my soul. For example, I've personally thrilled my friends with the aneurysm-inducing scribblings of one "Omega Phallic," whose magnum opus is an incredibly long tale of Rogue and Lady Death being horrendously violated in a charming sports-themed epic called "Slutball." It's even worse than it sounds.

But it's not just the final product that gives me the insight into their mental states. Working where I do, I've run into these folks time and time again, from the regular Warhammer-player who wrote about his adventures in the world of the Tiny Toons to the guy who ground our comics club meeting to a halt by talking about the relevance of Dark Knight Returns to his Plastic Man fan-fiction.

But towering above them all is one customer, known only as Crazy Fan-fiction Lady. Predictably, she really, really likes Gambit and Rogue, and was heard to exclaim "How could they treat Remy like that?!" when she saw Rogue kissing Wolverine on a cover.

Her current project is a Batman/Wonder Woman romp, wherein they get married and Wonder Woman subsequently gets pregnant. This was the one she was telling me about when she explained that the crux of one of her stories was that Ra's al-Ghul finds out Batman's secret identity, completely forgetting that that's Ra's al-Ghul's entire deal already.

There was also a funny bit where she talked about the Joker kidnapping Wonder Woman, which I explained to Scott later that day. He said that was like Alex, Ben's six year-old son, kidnapping one of us. "We might go along with it for a while, but sooner or later it's time to work, and that'll be the end of that."

She's still working on that series, apparently, since she stopped by yesterday to pick up some research material on Wonder Woman's pregnancy.

She was accompanied by her husband, and, of course, her dog. Maybe it's jst me, but I'm really bothered when people bring their dogs into retail establishments. One time there was a very boisterous woman in the store with a chihuahua shoved down the front of her overalls, and the poor thing just looked terrified. Moreso than usual, I mean.

Either way, it's not cool. If you're going to bring a pet into a comic book store, at least make it a badass pet monkey.

But back to the people. They seem like nice enough folks, and they're always polite, but in conversation, they're just slightly... off. She's one of those ladies that giggles uncontrollably while talking about her highly improbably fan-fiction with the same reverence that most people reserve for the works of the Apostles. Her husband, on the other hand, usually carries the dog around. He won't blink for minutes on end, then the floodgates'll open and it's like he's got sand in his eyes. Also, he constantly asks the same question over and over, centering this time on whether or not we carried the novelizations of the Friday the 13th movies.

We don't.

It was when I was helping his wife with her search for issues of The Kingdom that he walked over to me, holding the dog up. It was chewing on one of the rubber corner-caps we keep on the sharp edges of the dollar book tables, and he seemed pretty upset. The guy, not the dog.

"I don't know where he got it," he said, steaming, "It's.. it's so stupid!"

I explained what it was, and his wife went to retrieve it from the dog's mouth, pulling back when it started growling at her.

So there he stood, holding the dog, looking almost frantic.

"Well it's not my problem if he wants to do that," he said. "I mean... he's the one who looks stupid, not me."

After a few tense minutes, we finally made it up to the register, and he started marveling at how good the Star Wars Holiday Special is.

I'm going to say that one more time, in case you missed it: He was marveling at how good the Star Wars Holiday Special is. For the uninitiated among you, I'll just say this: It's got Chewbacca's dad Itchy, his son Lumpy, and there's a cantina musical number sung by Bea Arthur. Bea. Frigg'n. Arthur.

Anyway, that's when Fanfic Lady and her husband got into a little argument. He asked me whose fault it was that it had never been out on DVD--our store's bootleg notwithstanding.

"George Lucas," I said.

"Well to me, that makes George Lucas kind of an asshole."

Even I raised my eyebrows at this.

"You should email him," his wife chimed in.

Then they argued about whether or not Lucas would care about one guy's email about the Star Wars Holiday Special, finally turning to settle it.

"Do you think he'd care if I emailed him?"

"No," I said, "Probably not. I mean, that guy's rich."

"Yeah, you're probably right," he said. "I mean, he makes like... a million dollars a year!"

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Week in Ink, 9/14/05

I've had a bit of a head cold for the past couple of days, so if I'm not funny, that's probably why. But I will soldier on, despite the hardships.

Last night I had a dream where I was the Breach. Not only that, but I was totally about to hook up with this hot chick, which meant I was trying to get out of my containment suit, but we had to swing by a fast food restaurant first.

Two things about that:
1. Mixing cold medicine and comics will always produce unusual results.
2. If that dream comes true, I'll be frigg'n surprised.

Here's what I bought this week:


All-Star Batman & Robin, The Boy Wonder #2: When Chad walked into work this week, he asked me if this one picked up any from the first issue. "No, man," I said, "it picked down." I went to bat for the first issue around the shop, and I probably liked it more than anyone I work with, but man. This one was pretty awful. The dialogue seems really awkward in parts, and between killing a bunch of cops and giving Dick Grayson five across the eyes, I can't get a handle on Batman or his motivations. I'm just not sure what Frank Miller's trying to get at with his script, but I'm pretty sure it's awful. Maybe I'm being a little unfair, but considering that Jim Lee and Frank Miller will never, ever read this, I'm comfortable in saying it: This book sucks.

The Breach #9: Only two issues left for the Breach, which means I'm anticipating a 44-page throwdown beginning next issue. I'm hoping the Breach will come back and have a big impact in Infinite Crisis, but I'm sure that's a pipe-dream. Javier Pulido--the Pulido that I like, incidentally--pencilled this issue, but his art is similar to Marcos Martin's and equally enjoyable.

Daredevil vs. Punisher #4

Desolation Jones #3: This is the feel-good comic of the year. For instance, it's comforting to know that Warren Ellis thinks about porn as much as I do. For half the issue, he made me feel vaguely uncomfortable and guilty about the uncounted gigabytes I've downloaded over the years, but the punchline to it on page eleven made the whole thing worth it. JH Williams draws beautiful fight scenes, and the fact that it goes black and white when Jones breaks the guy's nose reminds me of The Street Fighter in a very happy way.

Fables #41: I haven't really talked about Fables much, but it's the most consistently enjoyable comic I read. Every time it comes out, it amazes me with how good it is, so it's hard to pick a single thing about a particular issue that I like. This issue wraps up the "Homelands" storyline, which has been my favorite so far, what with all the vorpal swording and revealing the identity of the Adversary. It's solid.

Franklin Richards: Son of a Genius: I almost bought every issue of Power Pack to get these stories. It's essentially Chris Eliopolis doing Calvin & Hobbes with the Fantastic Four, and if you can say no to that you're a better man than I. Plus, on the inside back cover, you get an ad for the Human Torch Dress-Up Kit, which--astonishingly enough--has still not been pulled out of stores, despite being both horrendous and potentially deadly. I'm excited about it, and you should be too.

JLA #118: Look, I know there's a storyline reason for the Justice League to put stuff to a vote, but I can't be the only one to realize this: If Superman doesn't want you to do something, there's not a whole heck of a lot you can do to make it happen. On the art side of things, Chris Batista does a good job of drawing pretty girls in fishnet stockings, and although it's a little odd that most of the women in this book choose to stand around in sultry poses most of the time, it's certainly enjoyable. Plus, it's got the Justice League fighting a big pink guy who shoots laser beams out of his third eye, and that always gets me excited.

JSA #77: I'm just really surprised Hal Jordan didn't punch Airwave in the face and tell him to man up.

New Thunderbolts #12

Rann-Thanagar War #5: This has been my least favorite of the Countdown tie-ins, but I liked this issue a heck of a lot. To be honest, the first four issues bored me, especially considering the constant pace of the action in Andy Diggle's Adam Strange, where even a guy laying unconscious in space had an air of urgency to it. I'm still not sure what Kyle Rayner and Kilowog are up to and why exactly it matters, but there was a lot of excitement in this one.

Thor: Blood Oath #1: I really liked Michael Avon Oeming's "Ragnarok" story arc on Thor, which surprised me since I hated Hammer of the Gods. Blood Oath starts off pretty strong with the Warriors Three, and it looks like it could be a pretty fun story, but Stormbreaker looked like it was going to be fun, too, and that one turned out pretty rough. I'm looking forward to the rest of it, though.

Ultimate X-Men #63


Cartoonist v.1, Cartoonist v.2, Undercover Genie, and The Cowboy Wally Show: My Kyle Baker reorders finally came in, and now I'm sure of it: The man's a genius. His artwork can be intricately detailed without being cluttered, and his writing delivers a hilarious punchline every time. In Cowboy Wally, there's a joke that makes me laugh on every single page. Heck, even the guy's press releases are comedy gold. It's gotten to the point where I'm thinking about breaking down and getting Birth of a Nation, even though it was written by Hollywood Hudlin.

Ronin Hood of the 47 Samurai: You know what I like? Full-color original graphic novels that cost less than ten bucks. Ronin Hood was exactly what I wanted it to be, and delivered a fun story with decent art at a cheap enough price point that I wouldn't have felt all that bad if it wasn't that good. But let's be honest here. I bought this thing because the writer's daughter is totally hot.

Now, back to bed.

So A Guy Walks Into a Talent Agent's Office...

I finally got to see The Aristocrats tonight, and it was everything I'd dreamed of.

Literally, as it turns out.

Allow me to explain. As I wander through my life, doing my best to dodge the Cap'n's World War II-inspired nonsense, I'll occasionally get a profound sense of déjà vu accompanied by the feeling that I've done or seen something before in a dream. I don't know if this is a common thing or what, but it happens a lot. And considering the kinds of dreams I have--my all-time favorite is the one where I meet Mark Waid at a big convention where the urinals are filled with Rob Liefeld comics and then Gollum steals my sandwich--it can be very disconcerting.

A few weeks back, I mentioned that I had a dream about seeing The Airstocrats that involved my old English professor, a double-decker bus with movie theater seats mounted on the inside, and a high school party. This, oddly enough, was not the dream that inspired my eerie sense of familiarity. For that, I have to go back about six months to a weird dream I had about going to see a movie at what turned out to be a porno theater on the roof of a building. There were more twists to it, but that's the high notes.

Anyway, as we're walking into the Regal 7, down the long hallway that leads to the very last theater, I suddenly realize that that is the hallway from my dream. Combined with the fact that the Regal is on the roof of a mall, and that the theater was a dead ringer for the one in my dream except for the placement of the projection booth, and it was a surreal experience.

Fortunately, no monster trucks busted into the theater during the third act, so my dreams of prophecy remain at least partially unfulfilled.

As for the movie itself, it was brilliant.

I love stand-up comedy. I mean, I buy more stand-up albums than music, which I'm pretty sure is weird. But a movie where around a hundred comedians talk about and tell their versions of a single joke--even though that sounds terrible--is amazing to watch.

At one point, they have a lot of the comedians talk about the first time they heard the joke, which in the world of stand-up comedy is like picking up that issue where Batman throws a car battery at that guy. The first time I heard it was online, in a recording of a bit that Matt Stone and Trey Parker did in character as Cartman and Kyle from South Park. It ranks as one of the most offensive--and consequently hilarious--versions of the joke I've ever heard, and it blew my mind. It's included in the movie, complete with animation.

For a documentary about a dirty joke, it did a good job of meeting all of my high expectations. I remember hearing about it from my pal Chan after he saw it a couple weeks ago. "Chris," he told me, "Sarah Silverman tells the funniest version of the joke while lounging on a divan."

If that doesn't pique your interest, nothing will.

And her version is great, building to an unexpected punchline that--and I'm serious--made me cry with laughter. Another standout was Bob Saget, who tells it so well that there's an entire bit with other people talking about how well he does it, and, much to my surprise, Gilbert Gottfried, who is hilarious.

It's the most beautifully obscene movie that I've ever seen, and it's delightful.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The Eight Diagram Forms of Tai Chi

You know what the problem is with daytime soap operas? There's not nearly enough seven-level pagoda deathmatches.

Fortunately for people like me, who are fans of both Stefano DiMera and kung fu ass-beating, Yuen Wo Ping--the guy who did fight choreography for Kill Bill, Iron Monkey, Kung Fu Hustle, and a dozen others--has rectified the situation with a little thing called The Tai Chi Master. It was brought to my attention by my friend Billy, who I don't get to see nearly as often as I'd like, due to the fact that we work diametrically opposite schedules. Every now and then, however, he'll drop by with something that's too awesome to ignore.

He will punch you in the face.This time, it was The Tai Chi Master, which to my understanding originally aired on daytime television in China, but was recut for its special bootleg DVD release as a feature-length movie. The weirdest thing about it is that even while guys are using their mastery of chi to beat the hell out of each other, it still looks like a soap opera, which can be very disconcerting.

The plot is as follows: It all starts, as so many of these things do, with a deer-huntin' misunderstanding. Lord Tun and his crew are out hunting a deer, and happen to run across Chan, the Tai Chi Master. They fight, and even though Tun's kung fu is strong, Chan defeats him and Tun is forced to let him go or risk having his ass kicked in front of all of his homeys.

Cut to a few years later. Tun's been searching for Chan because he wants a rematch; Chan's the only one to ever beat him. Meanwhile, at a nearby funeral, a fight breaks out and Yang--Our Hero--shows up and meets the master of the Eight Diagram Forms, who tells him that he has potential, but that he can't train Yang right now. So Yang follows Siu Kay, a guy who's obviously a girl, and learns her family's secret Tai Chi. He also eventually finds out she's a girl when they're sparring and he makes fun of her because "your chest muscles are too soft," and they fall in love.

So totally not a man.Aww.

Tun eventually finds Chan, and sends his henchmen to deal with him. They are, of course, slapped down by his powerful Tai Chi. Eventually they get tired of getting thrown around and just threaten to burn the whole place down unless he goes with them.

Eventually, Yang hooks up with the guy from the funeral and fights him for three straight days to show his mastery of Tai Chi--including a fight under a net with a hundred dangling swords on ropes. Then he ends up fighting Tun in Chan's place and--not to ruin anything for you--totally beats him down.

But that's not all. The centerpiece of the movie comes after Chan's been captured, when Yang and Siu Kay go to seek the help of (I swear this is her name) Princess Wing Ling. Due to a series of complicated events involving yet another kung fu transvestite (a girl disguised as a man yet again), Yang ends up having to fight her six bodyguards in a Pagoda of Death.

His kicks can kill LIONS and BEARS.You know how I know that was awesome? Because they introduce the master of each level with a little voice-over and text piece like a video game, and the first guy Yang fights has "kicks that can kill lions and bears."

Holy Crap.

That guy's kicks are the coolest. And according to Billy, his eyebrows are also "captivating." Anyway, Yang makes his way up the Pagoda Game of Death-style, fighting a wrestler, a drunken monk, a guy called "The Magic Pole of the South," a guy whose chi is so powerful that he has an "invincible body and fists that can shatter gold and stone," and a frigg'n ninja. Eventually he makes it up to the top level and Princess Wing Ling. She's a doll. As Billy said, "her shoulderpads are a force of nature."

It's officially the most awesome soap opera ever made.

Except maybe Passions. Maybe.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Six of One...

[Note: Tonight's ISB is going to be on the political side of things. I realize that this isn't really my idiom, so I very rarely stray into that area, but considering that I found Air America on the AM dial this morning and nobody came in babbling about X-Man to distract me from it, it's been on my mind. Feel free to skip this one, but please enjoy these awesome Sgt. Rock covers instead.]

My mother voted for George W. Bush in the 2004 election. I remind her of that simple fact every time I find out something like how John Ashcroft gave an interview in a magazine that sold pro-slavery t-shirts--yes, I said pro-slavery t-shirts--where he said they get a lot of things right, and she hates it. When I asked her why she did it if she doesn't want him to be the President, she told me that she just completely lost it in the voting booth, but that she thought he handled the aftermath of 9/11 well. At first, anyway.

I mention this because my mother's a shining example of someone who bought into the campaign hype about how George Bush was the right choice to lead us out of a devastating event. Which he clearly wasn't, as we can see in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And it's not just me saying this. I mean, the guy did publicly take responsibility for the federal government's abysmal response today.

The fact that he actually did come out and cop to screwing up is one of the reasons that I, unlike a lot of other folks who vehemently disagree with the current President's policies, don't actually hate the guy. He seems like a decent enough fellow to catch a movie with or shoot some pool, and I'm sure that he firmly believes he's doing what's right for the country; I just think he's phenomenally bad at his job.

He has, however, surrounded himself with people that I abhor. Between Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, and that wretched little halfwit Ashcroft, the Bush Administration is more like a rogues gallery than a group of people who should be in charge of the country. I mean, I'm not saying that Karl Rove is the devil, but I did hear that he can only cross running water if he's encased in a sarcophagus carved from the blackest wood on a moonless night. Just sayin'.

So despite his mea culpa, it's not just Bush himself that I blame for the monumental fuckup that was the Hurricane Katrina relief effort. But the interesting question for me is not how it happened, but rather why the leader of the most powerful country on the face of the earth allowed it to happen.

The way I see it, there's two options:

Option 1: Kanye West is right, and George Bush really doesn't care about black people. He simply did not care enough about the suffering of the poor and disenfranchised and was so annoyed at having his vacation cut short that he just said "the hell with it, Trent Lott can get a new house," and wrote the whole thing off as something that'd get Iraq off the news for a couple weeks.

It seems to be supported by the fact that he didn't really know too much about the hurricane until four days after it happened. To be fair, I was only dimly aware of it until they had CNN on at Blimpie during my lunch, but then again I'm not the fucking President of the United States. What really clinches this one for me is that the guy apparently found out by watching a DVD someone made of cable newscasts on his plane. Which means that not only did he not know the details, but a) he had to get them from CNN, and b) he couldn't actually watch it himself, he had to get someone to make him a mixtape of Natural Disaster Greatest Hits.

At the very least he comes off as apathetic, at most he comes off as downright evil and uncaring for the plight of people who are already disenfranchised by his policies. Throw in the fact that there are asshole conservative Christians--Bush's core demographic--claiming that God smote New Orleans with his mighty wrath for being a sinful den of hedonism, and there's a lot going for the theory that these guys are just dicks.

Option 2: On the other hand, maybe noted conservative and gameshow host Ben Stein is right, and Bush did everything he could in the face of unbelievable destruction that no one could've predicted.

... Which would mean that he completely failed in his campaign promises to protect us from unbelievable destruction that no one can predict, like the kind we had, oh, about four years ago now. If this is the best that the government can do for its people, if this is the best effort that a concerned and motivated president can bring to his people, then he is truly inept at dealing with a crisis.

Admittedly, there were failures beyond those of the Bush administration, on both the local and state level, but when there's a disaster that affects multiple states, then it really ought to become the province of some sort of agency designed to manage emergencies on a federal level.

Fortunately, we have such an organization. Unfortunately, the guy in charge was a friend of Bush's whose last job was supervising horse-show judges, which is a little different than supervising a massive rescue organization in the face of destruction on a biblical scale. The fact that FEMA is now under the direct control of the Department of Homeland Security, would be cynically ironic if it wasn't so terrifying.

To be fair, from all reports, the Coast Guard did an exemplary job.

So those are the two options on why this happened. So which one is it, guys? Evil or inept? Assholes or Idiots?

Hang on... I just found out that Mom also voted for Nixon in '72. Jesus, Mom. Just... Jesus.

Monday, September 12, 2005


I have been watching Smokey and the Bandit since 10 PM, and therefore my mind has been blown by sheer car-crashing awesomeness.

I am in no state to write tonight, but to make up for it, I will bestow Forbidden Knowledge upon you:

This is the second most awesome thing ever.

This is THE most awesome thing ever.

That is all.

(Props to Kevin for originating the Forbidden Knowledge. Now give me that trade, you cretin.)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Top Five Terrorists in Comics

Cut off one head and two more will take its place!#5 - HYDRA
Leaders: Baron Von Strucker, Viper
The Deal: Ah, Hydra. The standard by which all other terrorist organizations must be judged. Snappy green outfits, a crazed Nazi leader who sports a monacle, a hot chick with green hair, and a memorable slogan. Heck, that's more than most terrorist organizations have going for them. Anyway, Hydra's been a thorn in Nick Fury's side for years, but lately they've cropped up everywhere, from using a third grade geography lesson and a team of ersatz Avengers to vex Spider-Man to allying themselves with an ancient Ninja clan, killing Wolverine, and using him to take on the rest of the Marvel Universe. Now that's somethin' real for your ass.
Why They're #5: While they're better than, say, the Jihad or Flagsmasher's ULTIMATUM (the Undergound Liberated Totally Integrated Mobile Army To Unite Mankind), they're still not very good at the whole global terrorism thing. I mean, their big secret weapon? Zombie Northstar. I'm not sure they could conquer Canada with that guy.

Holy Crap, that guy's awesome#4 - ADVANCED IDEA MECHANICS
Leaders: MODOK
The Deal: Despite the fact that these renegade scientists apparently serve no other purpose than to keep Captain America's fists from getting tired, AIM occasionally comes up with a plan to take over the world in some convoluted manner. One of my favorite comics as a kid was an issue of Marvel Team-Up where Spider-Man and Wolverine stumble across an AIM plot that involves a deathtrap-filled castle on tank treads in the middle of a forest. I'm not sure how exactly that would help them in their goals of world domination, but hey, I'm not part of a secret organization that issues bright yellow beekeeper helmets to its membership, so what do I know? Recent plots include using the children of agents as brainwashed sleepers, leading to SHIELD's recruitment of feisty, midriff-baring Carmilla Black, the new Scorpion. She's the hot green-haired choice of a new generation!
Why They're #4: In its illustrious history, AIM has never successfully completed a single mission. But that can be forgiven, for they gave the world the Mental Organism Designed Only to Kill, and we all know that he is the most awesome comic book character of all time.

Leaders: Cobra Commander, The Baroness, Destro
The Deal: Part pyramid scheme, part anarchist military group, Cobra was deemed such a threat to the government that they had to form an entire task force equipped with unlimited resources and guns that shot nonlethal red laser beams. Ah, Reagan's America. It says a lot about Cobra that they were able to amass the kind of fanatical troops, high-end technology, and the sheer number of hidden island fortresses they had under the leadership of a guy in a black v-neck leather vest and metal facemask and a former used car salesman who--rumor has it--was once a man. Cobra's greatest hits include an entire town full of sleeper agents and worship of a Snake-God cloned from history's greatest warriors.
Why They're #3: Admittedly, Cobra beats even AIM in the number of foiled plots, but they outrank them for two reasons. One, while they never have gotten a successful plot, the plots they do have are so bat-shit insane as to be hilarious and terrifying. Getting Burgess Merideth and Ninja Hawkman to turn people into snakemen? Sure. Convincing the government to stop funding GI Joe by claiming not to exist while simultaneously stealing "explosive gas?" Hijacking a space laser to carve your face on the moon? Why the hell not? Trust me, that's the kind of crazy you don't want to mess with. And the second reason, the Baroness, who combines glasses, an accent, black leather to make international terrorism seem hot.

That 'stache is ILL.#2 - THE LEAGUE OF ASSASSINS
Leaders: Ra's al-Ghul I, Ra's al-Ghul II, Talia
The Deal: Aside from being, you know, an entire league of assassins, these guys are probably the most successful terrorist organization in comics, despite their employment of Merlyn, the evil Green Arrow. Under the leadership of Ra's al-Ghul I, they unleashed not one, but two plagues into Gotham City, robbed the entire world of language causing widespread destruction, and did a fair job of taking out the entire JLA. Recently, al-Ghul's daughter Nyssa took over his job and title after killing her father and torturing Talia to the point of insanity, and started consolidating her holds on similar organizations, including HIVE.
Why They're #2: As long and drawn-out as it was, the Clench (and its sequel, Clench 2: Ebola Boogaloo) actually did what Ra's al-Ghul wanted them to do, which puts them way above the other groups on the list. Plus, that guy was a total badamadeuce who could pull off a Fu Manchu and made the "three-piece suit and cape" bit work for him. Also, Talia combines Viper's hairstyle and Baroness's accent to achieve previously unheard of levels of hotness, and this one time she had Batman's kid.

And Finally...

Oh man.  That guy's awesome.
#1 - KOBRA

The Deal: Take the evil worldwide organization of the League of Assassins, the fanatical death-cult of Cobra, the sleeper agents of AIM, and add Jack Kirby to the mix and you've got KOBRA: The Deadliest Man Alive. He's taken on the Suicide Squad, the JLA, heck, this one time he killed the Flash! Unfortunately, their leader--worshipped as a God by his warrior-cultists--was killed by occasionally mohawked former JSA member Atom Smasher a couple years back, but the organization continues to grow, recruiting new members from superpowered prisoners.
Why He's #1:


Snap Your Fingers

I came to the depressing realization tonight that even if I make it as a successful writer, I will most likely never get to throw fake blood at my audience and then scream "NOW I WANNA BE YOUR DOG!" into a microphone. But that was pretty much balanced out by the hard rockin' I did tonight down at the Art Bar.

These guys rock.The fake blood was a product of the Spooges, a local Iggy and the Stooges tribute that I've seen before, and the intense rocking I got was courtesy of The Woggles, who are unquestionably the single greatest rock band to perform in electric blue chef coats.

Also appearing was Hockey Night, a band out of Minnesota that was described by the Free Times as "current darlings of WUSC." I wouldn't know, since I spent their entire set talking about how awesome Guardian #4 was and speculating on the true identity of Mockingbird. Still, what I heard over my rampant geekiness was pretty good.

Before the Woggles actually got started playing, I picked up a t-shirt and three of their CDs, since I've been waiting since the last time I saw them to get some merch, and I ended up having a conversation with the Professor of Rock 'n' Roll for a few minutes. He was a good guy, which was cool, because I've been trying to imitate this dance move that he does for about nine months now, and if he hadn't been so darn nice, I would've felt silly. They're great, and if you get a chance, go see them.

Longtime ISB readers might remember that I have a certain knack for invariably ending up out at the bar in a t-shirt that features Batman's smiling mug (and I don't even want to talk about the FCBD shirt incident), but tonight I managed to dodge that fate. It was thanks largely to a plain black shirt that I've taken a liking to ($6.49 at your local Wal-Mart, if you're into patronizing evil corporate megastores), but what made it even sweeter was that one of the guys I knew at the bar was sporting Frankenstein's Monster in livid green on black.

It was exactly what I needed after a long eleven-hour day of actively avoiding doing any real work while learning to lose at HeroClix.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Week in Ink, 9/8/05

I posted on The Engine, Warren Ellis's new online non-superhero comics community. I also posted a link to the ISB, so assuming anyone actually clicks on those things, I might get a few new readers.

The downside? All the cool kids are going to find out how much I love the Punisher.

Here's what I bought this week:

The Bakers #1: Kyle Baker is one of my favorite comics creators, and I will buy pretty much anything that guy puts out. This one's a quick read, a collection of short comic strips about family life that manages to be roughly eighty-five thousand times better than Family Circus, even the ones with Jeffy walking on the dotted line.

Yes.  For the dog.Fell #1: I'm not sure if he's still calling it "The Dose" or not, but Warren Ellis's two-buck comic-and-text format makes me a happy boy. Even though the story's only 16 pages, it feels like a good long read, thanks largely to Ellis wrangling it into a 9-panel grid. Templesmith's art comes off as moody and really enjoyable to look at. It's a shame he's not doing Ghost Rider, as those few images he did looked really good. Speaking of...

Ghost Rider #1: At least he's not wearing a turtleneck and riding a scooter this time. Ennis has some good ideas--I like the race for the gates of Hell every night--but between Crain's style and the usual bag of Ennis tricks ("He shoved that guy's head up his own ass! That's edgy!"), there's a lot standing between me and my enjoyment. But it's good enough to keep me buying for now.

Gotham Central #35: Excellent as always, but I think I might be the only one who wants a solo ongoing series starring Stacy, the girl who answers the phones and turns on the Bat-Signal. She's awesome.

Marvel Team-Up #12

Noble Causes #13: This is the book that completely changed my opinion of Jay Faerber, and I love it to pieces. Also, it has the hottest last page of this week's books. For the gents, anyway. Don't worry, ladies, you'll have yours at the bottom of the list.

The Punisher #25

Serenity #3

This is the best comic ever printed.Seven Soldiers: The Guardian #4: I'm going to go ahead and say it: I want to get married to Grant Morrison. Guardian #3 (pictured at right) is one of my favorite comics ever, and this one's no slouch either. Between the secrets of the Newsboy Army, the terrifying evil of the Time Tailor, and the most "Hot damn!" inspiring last page this week, my love for this comic cannot be expressed by words.

Villains United #5

Y - The Last Man #37: This one's for the ladies. Annnnnd go! Cocky hero Yorrick Brown makes like a private dick, trying to solve the mystery of where his girlfriend's gone. Unfortunately, he pulls a boner and gets the shaft from some prick in a story you'd have to be nuts to miss. Also: Manberries.

And that's this week's comics. Do me a favor and leave a comment if you read this, wouldja? I'm trying to figure out how many people actually read this thing and how many are just here for the Marla Sokoloff pictures.