Sunday, October 29, 2006

A touching story

Today, my 6-month-old daughter was sitting on the couch. I was sitting on the floor, face to face with her. All of a sudden, she smiled and leaned forward with her arms outstretched, like she wanted to hug me. Then she burped in my face, sat back and smiled some more.

It was so touching. Now I've got teach her how to play "Pull My Finger."

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Chiller Theatre- October 2006

Well, it's the weekend before Halloween, which can only mean one thing- Chiller Theatre! I look forward to this event every year (actually every 6 months- they do a slightly smaller show in April)- I'm a geek, and I guess collecting autographs is my geeky hobby.

This year's show was a little chaotic. They had about twice as many guests as normal- most were to be in the hotel, the rest were set to be in a large tent outside. Unfortunately, torrential rains and 60mph winds made the tent a no-go, so everyone was crowded into the hotel. I spent the first half of the day just trying to get from room to room to see who was where. It wasn't until late in the afternoon that the crowds thinned out enough to give some breathing room. Hopefully, with subsequent shows, the weather will cooperate.

Anyway- here are my prizes from this year's show:

First up- Juliet Landau (Dru from Buffy the Vampire Slayer):

Next is Coleen Grey, who starred in one of my all-time favorite movies, Nightmare Alley. She also had the distinction of starring in two movies that were slammed on Mystery Science Theatre 3000- The Leech Woman and Phantom Planet.

And what would Chiller be without some Playboy Playmates?
First, DeDe Lind (Miss August, 1967)

Next- Tiffany Taylor (Miss November, 1998)

Not a Playmate, but could definitely have been one- Aria Giovanni:

Finally, the coolest reason to see the show this year- The Warriors came out to play!!

First up- Brian Tyler (Snow)

Next- David Harris (Cochise)

Terry Michos (Vermin)

Roger Hill (Cyrus- Can you dig it?)

Deborah Van Valkenberg (Mercy)

And, last but not least, Michael Beck, aka Swan:

The Warriors reunion was definitely cool, and caused me to part with a large part of my cash. The only disappointment was PeeWee Herman- he had a huge line that stretched outside. I stood in it for an hour without moving too far. The winds were horrendous, and you can see I was not dressed for cold weather. At 4, he came out and apologized to everyone, and said he was going to eat dinner. I decided to cut my losses and go back inside- I got a chance to see the man up close, even if I didn't get his autograph. Maybe if I wish real hard, he'll be at another show.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

First Years- of Terror

Thepicture above is one of my 6-month-old daughter's favorite toys- it's a star put out by First Years. Each arm has a different fun feature- the orange is corduroy and has a squeaky in it, the purple and yellow has some crinkly material in it, and the blue is rubber and perfect for teething.

It all seems pretty innocuous and fun, right? Maybe, until you notice that the blue leg is imprinted with many copies of the First Years' logo-

I don't know what you see, but it looks to me to be two big kids jumping up and down on a smaller kid, possibly after having administered a severe beat-down to him.

And they say videogames have violent imagery.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Dark Knight Departs

DC Comics is doing the world a great favor printing their Batman Chronicles books. These are inexpensive trade paperbacks that reprint the Batman's adventures in chronological order, starting with his first appearance in Detective Comics #27. Volume 1 covers Detective 27 - 38, and Batman #1.

Among the milestones in this volume are the first appearances of the Joker, the Cat (who later became Catwoman), and Robin. It's the latter's appearance that inspires this little column.

The mythology of Batman comics is that our hero was originally some hardcore loner, who moved in the shadows and dispensed his own unique brand of vigilante justice. However, some time in the 50s, he turned into this cheery guy who was seen in the daytime and palled around with Superman. It wasn't until the late 60s that he returned to his roots.

For an example of the vigilante, check out the last panel of "The Batman Meets Dr. Death" (Detective 29):

Yup- his third appearance, and he takes the villain's suicide in stride.

In part two of "Batman Vs. The Vampire" (Detective 32), he's a bit more pro-active in seeing his enemies off:

So, yeah, this is really the Dark Knight of mythology.

But how long did this dark period last? Not having access to the complete Batman library, it seemed that he was like this for quite a while and had built up quite a library of these moody stories. The myth was that the comics code of the early 50s ruined Batman, and that Neal Adams brought him back when started drawing the comics in the late 60s.

Having the Batman Chronicles was like a splash of cold water on my face- because Batman doesn't even make it to the end of the first volume before he becomes wussified. In Detective 38, Batman witnesses the murder of young Dick Grayson's parents, and becomes the boy's ward. Dick becomes better known as Robin, and Batman loses his dark aura. Here's the panel that signals the new, lighter, Batman:

Look at it- he's smiling, and calling Dick a "reckless young squirt." Not only that, but he's a bit of a nag, too:

So much for "Death to Dr. Death" Batman. Say hello to "Reckless Young Squirt" Batman. And how long did it take to make the transition? Less than a year- Batman debuted May, 1939 and Robin popped up April, 1940. A 12-month golden age.

It wasn't until 1968 that we saw this Batman again:

So- one year dark, 28 years light. Quite a ratio, eh?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Boys Will Be Boys

Wildstorm has released the newest title from writer Garth Ennis- The Boys, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

The basic premise is simple enough- The Boys are a team of normal humans who are tired of being pushed around by super-powered beings. Check out this opening sequence from the first issue in which we see "Wee" Hughie and his girlfriend come between a superhero and his prey. (Sorry if it's too small to read the text, but I haven't figured out how to do that "click on the picture to see a bigger version" thing. I think the pictures tell the story pretty well, though.)

Thanks to this little encounter, Hughie is recruited by Billy Butcher to join "The Boys", a CIA-sponsored group whose mission is to keep an eye on super-powered beings, and use whatever means necessary to "dissuade" them from using their powers.

The whole Hughie sequence came out of the blue- it was completely unexpected (in the book, the two pages weren't facing each other- you had to turn the page to see the bloody outcome, making it that much more startling and- dare I say it?- hilarious.) The book's first two issues are very darkly humorous, and have me waiting anxiously for the next one.

I really like the idea of a book from outside the POV of a superhero, where we can see how their actions affect the "little guy." I've always been able to suspend my disbelief for a lot of what goes on in comics- flying, time travel, super-strength, etc. One thing that has always bothered me, though, is the rampant destruction that goes on in most titles. In the Marvel Comics world, Manhattan seems to be under constant attack- the real estate surrounding Avengers Mansion alone must be pretty much uninsurable. Yet, we are supposed to believe that the average citizen takes it all in stride- that the major destruction that even a run of the mill battle between superbeings can lead to doesn't phase them. They rebuild the block, and move on.

Marvel addressed this issue in regard to The Hulk- that his city destroying rampages never killed or seriously harmed any civilians because they were always able to evacuate the city in plenty of time to get them out of harm's way. I call BS on that- it's just a convenient way to direct attention from the fact that in the real world having a superhero in your city would be more a curse than a blessing.

It would be nice if The Boys addresses this issue, but I have the feeling it won't get too deep into it- Ennis seems to be going for more a dark humor vibe than a think piece. Still, so far, two issues down, and I'm waiting for more.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

What Was I Thinking?

In the spirit of my previous post, I decided to open myself to a little more embarassment by presenting a few records that I bought during the 80s that make me wonder "Why?"

In Visible Silence by Art of Noise- It had that song featuring Max Headroom (how 80s!) and apparently they scored a major coup by getting Duane Eddy to play on "Peter Gunn." But, for the most part, this is just boring electronic/synth music tarted up a little to get the dance crowd interested.

Door to Door by The Cars- I'm not sure if it's cool to like the Cars again. Their debut album was one of the first records I ever bought, and made feel all cool and with it. I listened to it to death. Same with Candy-O. I saw them perform live at the Spectrum twice. I looovvved The Cars, despite the fact that each album after Candy-O was slightly worse than the one before it. And then came Door to Door, which was a lot worse than the one before it- in fact, it was so bad I turned it off about halfway through and never listened to it again. So, I'm not sure if I should list this or not, because I never liked it, but it was, for a while, part of the record collection.

Magic Touch by Stanley Jordan- I caught this guy on Carson one night and was blown away by his playing. He was playing two guitar parts at once with his tapping technique. I had to have this album! He was so cool, so innovative, so... bland. Yes, the technique was cool, but his song choice was so boring. "Eleanor Rigby," "The Lady in My Life," "A Child is Born." Next to him, Kenny G. was a swinging jazz hep-cat.

Flash by Jeff Beck- when I was in high school, I took guitar lessons, and my teacher introduced me to the music of Mr. Beck. I could never on my best day play anywhere near as well as him (Beck, not my teacher), but I became quite the fan. And then this came out- I had to buy it- it was Jeff's first album in years. And it sucked. It took a while for that fact to sink in, but sink it did.

The Golden Age of Wireless by Thomas Dolby- We all remember "She Blinded Me With Science." I still think it's an amusing single. But the rest of the album was somewhat disappointing (and by "somewhat" I mean "extremely", and by "disappointing" I mean "horrendous.") A couple of mushy songs, some studio tricks, and that was it. He tried to capture the magic later with "Hyperactive", but we all saw through his shtick by then. (And how sad is it that I know the name of his follow-up song?)

There are plenty more embarassing albums from my collection- Susan Vega, Tracy Chapman, Yello, J. Geils, but that's a post for another day.