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Thursday, February 28, 2008


There are certain questions that have plagued the minds of comic book readers for decades, queries guaranteed to spark hours of deep thought and drive most women from the room. Does Spider-Man have a Queens accent? Who’s stronger: Superman or the Hulk? Is Batman a homo/pedophile? Do Daredevil’s turds ever stink so bad that they overwhelm his super-sense of smell and knock him out cold? These and other head-scratchers go round and round, and today my old pal John Bligh brought up one of the all-time classic geekery arguments, namely who’d win in fight: Superman, the very archetype for all American superheroes to follow in his wake, or the Mighty Thor, Marvel Comics’ post modern Norse god and all-around powerhouse?

Yer Bunche postpones his research into curing Cancer and AIDS and solving world peace in order to ponder the really important issues.

To answer this poser one must have an understanding of both heroes and the attributes that make them what they are and what they aren’t. Superman is the extraterrestrial immigrant raised among us with good old American values instilled in him by his adoptive parents, and despite his vast and rather godlike superpowers he’s still very much one of us and loves and cares for the whole of humanity as though they were all his family and loved ones, which in essence we are. Thor, on the other hand, is an actual deity once worshipped by Germanic and Norse pagans, a major league kicker of ass proper for a hard and warlike people to hold in esteem. He's a warrior of outrageous power who defends both Asgard — the realm of the Norse gods — and Midgard — the Earth — from horrid beasts beyond imagining and all kinds of heinous crap in his current-day role as a bona fide super-hero, but his bashing of bad guys wasn’t originally motivated by altruism (and to be fair pretty much still isn’t).

But before I take this fun and goofy argument into territory better expounded upon by Joseph Campbell — check out the DVD release of THE POWER OF MYTH with him and Bill Moyers and get set to be spellbound — I’m bringing things firmly back to the geekery it was meant to inspire, and herewith provide a decent overview of the powers of our heroes as broken down on the mighty Wickipedia:

Powers & Abilities:
As an influential archetype of the superhero genre, Superman possesses extraordinary powers, with the character traditionally described as "faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound", a phrase coined by Jay Morton and first used in the Superman radio serials and Max Fleischer animated shorts of the 1940s as well as the TV series of the 1950s. For most of his existence, Superman's famous arsenal of powers has included flight, super-strength, invulnerability to non-magical attacks of ordinary force, super-speed, vision powers (including x-ray, heat, telescopic, infra-red, and microscopic vision), super-hearing, and super-breath, which enables him to freeze objects by blowing on them, as well as exert the propulsive force of high-speed winds.

As originally conceived and presented in his early stories, Superman's powers were relatively limited, consisting of superhuman strength that allowed him to lift a car over his head, run at amazing speeds and leap one-eighth of a mile, as well as incredibly tough skin that could be pierced by nothing less than an exploding artillery shell. Siegel and Shuster compared his strength and leaping abilities to an ant and a grasshopper. When making the cartoons, the Fleischer Brothers found it difficult to keep animating him leaping and requested to DC to change his ability to flying. Writers gradually increased his powers to larger extents during the Silver Age, in which Superman could fly to other worlds and galaxies and even across universes with relative ease. He would often fly across the solar system to stop meteors from hitting the Earth, or sometimes just to clear his head. Writers found it increasingly difficult to write Superman stories in which the character was believably challenged, so DC Comics made a series of attempts to rein the character in. The most significant attempt, John Byrne's 1986 rewrite, established several hard limits on his abilities: He barely survives a nuclear blast, and his space flights are limited by how long he can hold his breath. Superman's power levels have again increased since then, with Superman currently possessing enough strength to hurl a mountain, withstand nuclear blasts with ease, and survive in the vacuum of outer space without oxygen.

The source of Superman's powers has changed subtly over the course of his history. It was originally stated that Superman's abilities derived from his Kryptonian heritage, which made him eons more evolved than humans. This was soon amended, with the source for the powers now based upon the establishment of Krypton's gravity as having been stronger than that of the Earth. This situation mirrors that of Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter. As Superman's powers increased, the implication that all Kryptonians had possessed the same abilities became problematic for writers, making it doubtful that a race of such beings could have been wiped out by something as trifling as an exploding planet. In part to counter this, the Superman writers established that Kryptonians, whose native star Rao had been red, only possessed superpowers under the light of a yellow sun. More recent stories have attempted to find a balance between the two explanations.

Superman is most vulnerable to Kryptonite, mineral debris from Krypton transformed into radioactive material by the forces that destroyed the planet. Exposure to Kryptonite radiation nullifies Superman's powers and immobilizes him with pain; prolonged exposure will eventually kill him. The only mineral on Earth that can protect him from Kryptonite is lead, which blocks the radiation. Lead is also the only known substance that Superman cannot see through with his x-ray vision. Kryptonite was first introduced to the public in 1943 as a plot device to allow the radio serial voice actor, Bud Collyer, to take some time off. Green Kryptonite is the most commonly seen form but writers introduced other forms over the years, such as red, gold, blue and black, each with its own effect. Superman has also been regularly portrayed as being vulnerable to attacks of a magical or mystical nature.

Powers & Abilities:
Thor is the Norse god of thunder and lightning. Like all Asgardians, Thor is not truly immortal but relies upon periodic consumption of the Golden Apples of Idun to sustain his lifespan, which to date has lasted many millennia. The strongest of the Norse gods, Thor has performed feats such as lifting a portion of the World Serpent, hurling the Odinsword, an enormous mystical blade, through a Celestial, and matching other beings of enormous strength, such as the Hulk and Hercules. If pressed in battle, Thor is capable of entering into a state known as the "Warrior's Madness", which will temporarily increase his strength tenfold. He also possesses virtually inexhaustible godly stamina, high resistance to physical injury (eg. rocketfire, armor piercing rounds) and superhuman speed and reflexes.

Thor is a superb hand-to-hand combatant and has mastered a number of weapons such as the war hammer, sword, and mace. He is also very cunning and intuitive in battle, with many centuries of experience. Thor possesses two items that assist him in combat: the Belt of Strength, and his mystical hammer Mjolnir. The former item doubles his strength, while the second is used for weather control; flight; energy projection and absorption; dimensional apertures; matter manipulation, as well as the most powerful of his offensives: the God Blast, and the Anti-Force.

After his resurrection, Thor has accepted his heritage as a child of the Elder Goddess Gaea, and has demonstrated the ability to create country-spanning chasms in the Earth itself.

After Odin's death, Thor inherited his father's power, the Odinforce. Thor was then capable of feats such as reconstructing the Earth's Moon, willing the Asgardian monster Mangog into nothingness, successfully challenging and defeating an alliance of Surtur and Ymir and by focusing his entire power into a hammer throw even decapitated a Desak-occupied Destroyer. Thor later briefly acquired mastery of the Runes, and a level of enlightenment that allowed him to free Asgard from the eternal cycle of Ragnarok, becoming even more powerful than his father.

• By virtue of sheer hours logged in, Thor has the edge. The guy’s been putting his foot up asses since before surviving historical records.
• Superman, though blessed with great gifts, is not a trained fighter. He’s made the best of his vast strength, speed, invulnerability, and heat-vision, all of which would render most opponents about as useful as a truckload of dead rats in a tampon factory, but Thor matches him for sheer power across the board, coupled with the skills of a highly-trained and seasoned warrior. Thor has dealt with beings possessing super-speed by focusing his godly senses (and occasionally warping the effects of time and perception with his hammer Mjolnir’s mystical properties), and once he gets his hands on an enemy, it’s “Good night, Gunhilde.”
• Heat-vision would only annoy Thor. He's withstood the mythological inferno that is Surtur's realm, compared to which Supes' red-eye mojo is tepid at best.
• While Superman has a biological arsenal at his disposal, Thor’s hammer provides him with even more insane capabilities (not all of which are ass-kicking-related, so I’ll leave out the space-warp stuff and such). Can Superman create atomic energy? Not without some device wrought from Kryptonian super-science that he had the presence of forethought to bring with him before it’s needed he can’t, and neither can Thor without Mjolnir; he created some oddball form of fission/fusion field as part of his campaign that drove would be Earth-conquerers the Rigellians back where they came from (from the Kirby run, where else?), a one-man (god) ass-kicking of such magnitude that readers actually felt bad for the Rigellians. Anyway, the point is that Mjolnir is constantly within Thor’s grasp, ever ready to cave in a Jotun’s multiple skulls or spontaneously irradiate an alien armada. Oh, and make it rain.
• One odious aspect of Thor (to our modern cultural way of seeing things anyway) is his willingness to kill his enemies, should they pose severe enough a threat. That Viking-style hardness comes through in Thor’s tactics — most memorably seen during that Jim Starlin AVENGERS annual where he was seen really getting into hurling Mjolnir through the hulls of Thanos’ approaching space fleet of murderous alien bastards; a hull breach in deep space? You do the math — and the only thing that would save a defeated Kal-El from having his heart torn from his chest and eaten would be the Thunder God’s recognition of his fallen foe’s nobility and general awesomeness.
• And of course, Thor’s trump card: he’s magic, baby, and that shit fucks up Supes in a way second only to a Kryptonite enema.
• Extra credit: Thor survived years of being inked by Vince Coletta, “the man who erased armies.” Coming out of that kind of abuse proves conclusively that the big blonde badass is simply undefeatable. Quod erat demonstrandum.

So there you have it. And it's not like we haven't seen Superman get his ass decisively kicked; Doomsday springs to mind, but there was no worse street-fightin' ass-whuppin' administered to the Man of Steel than that handed out by a very angry, power-suited and aged Batman in Frank Miller's epochal THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS #4 (1986).

DAMN!!! Even I felt that!

"And that's for SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE, you @#$%*®!!!"

So let the geekery commence, and don't forget to alert your equally developmentally-arrested pals so they can pontificate on this vital issue!


While hitting the comics shop to pick up NEXUS #100 I perused the stands to see what else could have come out this week that could have held half as much interest for me, and my attention was caught by a comic entitled KICK-ASS. Written by Mark Millar (CIVIL WAR) and illustrated by John Romita, Jr. (MAN WITHOUT FEAR and WORLD WAR HULK), the book looked to be some kind of superhero parody. I mean, come on. Could a comic that was meant to be taken seriously be called KICK-ASS, and feature a cover image of some guy getting his moosh punched in while his head was put through a wooden door as the cover copy proclaimed "The GREATEST SUPERHERO Book Of ALL TIME Is FINALLY HERE!"?

So, thinking it was a goof, I made the mistake of purchasing the damned thing and I feel like a moron for having done so. KICK-ASS is Millar's attempt to tell the story of a non-powered superhero in a realistic context, something he claims has never been attempted before. Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't that what Bob Kane and Bill Finger did when they came up the Batman just under seventy years ago?

Though it bears the Icon imprint, KICK-ASS is just a Marvel MAX book in disguise, a point driven home its use of awkwardly-scripted and utterly gratuitous cursing (yeah, like I'm one to talk). The first issue is narrated by scrawny Dave Lizewski, the hero of the series — he doesn't identify himself by a hero name since he hasn't come up with a cool moniker at this point of the narrative — and recounts his loserly existence as a comics-obsessed, nebbishy middle-schooler who's a failure with girls (talk about playing to your audience with "a hero who could be me"). One day, while bullshitting about comics and superheroes with his friends, Dave decides to put on a costume and venture forth to fight crime. After weeks of parading around on rooftops he decides to make his first strike against the ills that blight society, in this case three stereotypical black kids spraying graffiti on a wall. Dave calls out the wayward highly-rhythmic trio, assaults them with a truncheon, and, in the most realistic moment in a comic purportedly about the superhero in a "realistic" context," gets the living shit stomped out of him, takes a switchblade deep in the ribs, and gets graphically hit by a car as he gorily staggers into the street. The issue ends with this idiot's bloody and broken body laid out in the middle of the tarmac.

In short, nothing happens. You get fuck all for your $2.99.

I know it's pretty much commonplace for a new Marvel book to open with a chapter that gives the reader bubkes, but for something that touts itself as "the greatest superhero book of all time," I see no evidence to support its boasting and feel more than a little ripped off. "KICK-ASS?" "ASS-KICKED," more like. Maybe this series will go someplace after everything is set up over perhaps six issues — something that took Marvel eight pages or so to do during the so-called "Marvel Age of comics" — but as it currently stands this is a perfect Exhibit A in the argument in favor of waiting for collected editions of ongoing comics, especially ones that are mediocre, or in this case just plain bad.

I don't fault Romita, Jr. for this mess since his art is not the problem (although for something striving toward realism his style is far too "cartoony" for the desired effect), but I do take Millar to task for crsnking up the Stan Lee-esque hyperbole and delivering absolutely nothing of value or interest. Not only do I feel profoundly ripped off, I also feel insulted as both a comics fan and a consumer. It's product like this — and I assure you, "product" is all that KICK-ASS is — that has largely turned me away from Marvel's output over the past decade or so, and while I can deal with the loss of three bucks I am less willing to write off what almost seems like a purposeful fleecing of the fanbase and an up-front "fuck you" to the reader's intelligence. I can assure you that no matter what I may hear from the fan press regarding this debacle, and there are plenty of good notices out there already, I will not waste another cent on the sorry-assed LICK, er, KICK-ASS. Not since the recent relaunch of THOR has comic book made me so irate, and the new THOR #1 comes off looking a hell of a lot better in comparison.

And, yes, I know that Batman very quickly fell into the realm of goofy villains and such, but it did start out as the story of a normal (?) guy in a suit who kicked ass on the criminal element of society. So there.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


So after all of my pissing and moaning about NEXUS #100 once more being late, I received notification from the mighty Harry at Jim Hanley's Universe that the issue showed up after the books usually arrive, taking everyone by surprise. I'm picking it up tonight and will get back to you dear readers with a review ASAP. But until then, here's the only image I could find by way of a preview:


Here's a shot of my pal Tracey the Waitress Goddess, proudly displaying her six-months-pregnant belly before a diminishing snowman whose state of meltage makes him resemble an ambitious (if somewhat stocky) phallic sculpture.

Sadly, you can't really see Tracey's beatific-yet-goofy expression or her belly. You've just gotta Trust Yer Bunche on this one.


In much the same way that those who follow the various Christian doctrines know that Sunday is the day of the week given over to showing devotion to matters spiritual, the comic book faithful know Wednesday is the day when the new comics come out and all is right in the world. We go to the comics shop of our preferred choice — aka "the pushers" — , shell out our hard-earned cash for a stack of four-color entertainment, and retire to wherever we go to read the stuff, content until the cycle begins anew the next week. I've followed that schedule for more years than I care to admit, and it's frustrating as hell when a book one's been jonesing for misses its solicited release date. That said, the long-awaited NEXUS #100 is now seven months late, perfectionist creator Steve Rude having once more blown his own self-imposed deadline.

NEXUS #100: will this comic ever come out?

As far back as October NEXUS #100 was announced for a January release, and I could deal with that because at least I had some kind of date to look forward to, but to the best of my knowledge the has been no update as to when the bloody thing is finally set to hit the stands, and I have bugged the lovely Julie at Jim Hanley's Universe every Wednesday morning for weeks, but to no avail (she's equally irritated at its no-show status). I'm sure the end result will be worth the wait, but this is just plain cruel.


A few nights ago I went to dinner with some friends at the Chip Shop on Fifth Avenue in Brooklyn, a Brit-syled eatery that doles out everything you could want in all its deep-fried glory (with the unfortunate exception of a batter-coated Nigella Lawson). The place specializes in fish & chips and other staples of the unfairly maligned UK cuisine, such as a truly fantastic plate of bangers and mash with an exceptional onion gravy (drooooooooool), and also stocks an modest assortment of English soft drinks. My friend Erin ordered a fizzy beverage called "Vimto," and when I saw its logo I had a sudden flashback to the anagram game played in both the novel and film of ROSEMARY'S BABY.

ROSEMARY'S BABY (1968), the film that established Scrabble as a vital survival tool.

In that story Rosemary and her friend Hutch are Scrabble buddies, and when Hutch susses out the Satanic plot to make Rosemary into the Devil's broodmare and subsequent mother of the anti-Christ, he sends Rosemary a parcel containing a bag full of Scrabble tiles and a book entitled "All of Them Witches" before his Mysterious demise. In no time flat, Rosemary figures out the implied connection between the marked pages of the book and the game pieces, rearranging the tiles until a horrifying truth is revealed (the secret of "Roman Castavet," anyone?). ROSEMARY'S BABY is my favorite horror flick for a number of reasons, and since first seeing it at age eight I think in anagrams when it comes to dealing with impending sinister shit.

So what does this have to do with Erin's fizzy soft drink? Look at the name:

Vimto is an anagram for "vomit." Vomit in a can, sold as a refreshment. You have been warned.

Monday, February 25, 2008


This year's Oscars have come and gone, and to tell you the truth I just don't give a fuck. After a lifetime of enduring the turgid awards ceremony and trying not to puke during the maudlin acceptance speeches and sickening performances of whichever song is up for the statue, I finally just said "no" and have accepted the fact that no matter how much I may wish for a miracle to happen there is not a snowball's chance in Hell that WAR OF THE GARGANTUAS or EIGHTEEN & NASTY VOL. 10 will sweep the Oscars as they rightfully deserve to, much less take home the prize for Best Picture. I'm tellin' ya, there just ain't no justice nowhere. And to celebrate my giving the Oscars the finger, here's a look back to my all-time favorite Oscars moment, namely when Robert Opel streaked behind David Niven during the 1974 show:

I will never forget that moment no matter how long I may live, and it was capped with Niven quipping something to the effect of "Isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?" My mother and I nearly laughed ourselves to death at that one, both of us nearly choking on the popcorn and soda we'd been feasting upon.

And now that NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN has won the coveted booby prize, mark my words that a porn parody entitled NO CUNT FOR OLD MEN will be unleashed fairly soon, hopefully starring Ron Jeremy and John Leslie in bad senior citizen makeup as two codgers who are refused pussy by every female they encounter — who instead opt to do other women who stroll into the scene for no reason — until they find a magic lamp or something that grants their wish. Trust yer Bunche, it's gonna happen, and remember you read it here first.


Darwyn Cooke’s graphic epic JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER was a loving ode to DC Comics’ Silver Age 1950’s ethos that focused on the meaning of heroism and gave fanboys everywhere a fun trip down Memory Lane, with Cooke’s stunning animation-style artwork being the cherry atop the superheroic cake. Comics fans everywhere showed it the love that it absolutely deserved, and when it was announced as part of DC’s ongoing roster of made-for-DVD features comics and animation geeks went wild with anticipation. Bruce Timm, mastermind behind much of the thoroughly entertaining DC animation of the past fifteen years or so, was involved so that was a good sign, and the voice acting ensemble featured some intriguing bits of name casting, so how could it be anything other than simply awesome?

Allow me to elucidate.

JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER was a truly epic comics work that unfolded over some four hundred pages, and its scope wasted not one of them in setting up its characters’ personalities, motivations, and what motivated them to become the Earth’s protectors, to say nothing of the passing of the torch from the heroes of WWII to those of the nascent space age. There was a hell of a lot going on, and there was just no way get it across with its depth intact within the seventy-five minutes allotted for the movie, and that’s a damned shame. If you haven’t read the source material or you aren’t possessed of an intimate working knowledge of the DC Universe from roughly 1954 through 1960 there’s much in the film that won’t make any sense to the layman, including dozens of characters whose unexplained walk-ons will make all but the fanboys in the room exclaim “Who the hell are these guys?” Such familiar faces as the Blackhawks, the Challengers of the Unknown, Adam Strange, and even the Green Arrow come off as a bunch of costumed eccentrics hanging around waiting for a fancy dress party to break out, only to have their gathering interrupted by the need to participate in saving the world from “The Center,” a gigantic sentient island that aims to destroy mankind (a villain quite reminiscent of “The Swarm” from the first two WILD CARDS novels).

What seemed to be a no-brainer piece of casting falls flat as my girl Lucy “Xena: Warrior Princess” Lawless essays the part of Wonder woman to zero effect; a trained musical performer, Lawless’s lilting and rather girly voice is simply wrong for Cooke’s interpretation of the character, a take ironically much like Lawless’s Xena persona. But as performed here, Lawless gives the Amazon princess an airy, light delivery that evokes none of Cooke’s ancient warrior-goddess in the Twentieth Century, a state that could have been remedied by having Lawless husky up her voice a tad (again, like Xena).

Kyle MacLachlan fares somewhat better as Superman,

Jeremy Sisto delivers an appropriately creepy Batman,

and Neil Patrick Harris hits exactly the right note as the Barry Allen Flash,

but the standout performances belong to David “Angel” Boreanaz as Hal Jordan (the Silver Age Green Lantern)

and Miguel Ferrer as J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter.

Both characters were in many ways the heart and soul of the graphic novel — Earthman Jordan being thrust into the cosmic, Martian J’onzz finding himself stuck on Earth and attempting to understand and assimilate into the human race — and both shine to great advantage as seen in the animated feature.

But when all is said and done, JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NEW FRONTIER is definitely worth seeing, if for no reason other than to see all of the colorful characters involved and for the enjoyment of a superhero movie geared to a more adult sensibility than is usually seen. It’s a fun way to spend seventy-five minutes, and I was definitely entertained, but don’t expect the grandeur and richness of intent found in Cooke’s original story to survive the translation. And, again, if you don’t know your DC Comics history inside and out, it can be a sometimes confusing and convoluted ride, so have a fanboy/girl at the ready when viewing. TRUST YER BUNCHE!!!

Friday, February 22, 2008


Not to go on All-Fours; that is the Law. Are we not men?
Not to suck up Drink; that is the Law. Are we not men?
Not to eat Fish or Flesh; that is the Law. Are we not men?
Not to claw the Bark of Trees; that is the Law. Are we not men?
Not to chase other Men; that is the Law. Are we not men?

-“The Law,” from “The Island of Doctor Moreau” (1896) by H.G.Wells

One of the problems facing the lover of movies is the surprising fact that many classic films are simply not available on DVD, for whatever obscure reason, so where does one turn to for the unavailable films one simply must have to round out their collection of favorites? The so-called “gray market,” that’s where. The “gray market” is that niche in the video/DVD-collector’s universe where, if you’re an enterprising hunter who’s willing to put up with possibly dodgy prints culled from privately owned prints or transfers from showings on Turner Classic Movies, you can find damned near anything you’re looking for (although a really good copy of GULLIVER'S TRAVELS BEYOND THE MOON remains elusive). Being the obsessive movie junkie that I am, it’s a given that I’d know where to find most of what I seek, and fortunately for me I live a short subway ride from a couple of gray market goldmines.

Today, during my lunch break, I wandered to one of the aforementioned shops and stumbled across one of my all-time favorite flicks, 1932’s (or 1933’s, depending on your source of info) ISLAND OF LOST SOULS, a fantastically sick and twisted little movie that got in there just before the infamous Hayes Code was instituted and took away all the really nasty sex, violence and evil shit that made moviegoing worthwhile.

Will H. Hayes: the douche who ruined old school Hollywood.

After the Hayes Code was in place, Hollywood cleaned up its act considerably, under threat of serious penalties, and didn’t really get its balls back until the 1950’s, a shot in the arm that lead to the freer expression of the sixties and seventies (and then, for the most part, films pussied-out again bigtime, but that’s a subject for another post).

Anyway, I first saw ISLAND OF LOST SOULS during my formative years, but I was too little to fully grasp exactly why it had been banned in the UK for some twenty-five years after its release. It was a black & white flick about some queeny guy with a mustache and a white suit who lived on a remote island and made really lame-looking human/animal hybrids. There was no graphic violence, no cussing, and certainly no naked ladies, so what was the big deal?

Oh, the wisdom that comes with growing up and seeing the same movie through eyes that had gone on to witness films such as DAS CAVIAR DINNER and BARNYARD BANG...

For those not in the know, the movie’s based the 1896 novel quoted at the start of this post, and it centers around a guy who gets unwillingly stuck on the island of one Doctor Moreau (Charles Laughton, burning down the house), a medical genius who has somehow managed to create a horde of grotesque and disturbing “men” from a variety of wild animals.

Doctor Moreau (Charles Laughton) and friend.

The products of apparently anesthesia-free radical surgery and ray treatments, Moreau’s creations are rather a sorry lot who have been conditioned to live by a series of laws intended to curb their innate animal behaviors and mold them into regular Joes. Don’t ask me what the purpose of such experimentation is; I guess simply to be able to say that he was able to do it? To fulfill some crazed need to play God? Fuck if I know, but one thing becomes clear very early on: Moreau is barking mad, his cultured exterior masking a whip-wielding psychotic who appears to get off on the suffering of his “children.”

Just another fun-filled day on the Island of Doctor Moreau. NOTE: the dude with the serious sideburns is none other than Bela "Pull the string!" Lugosi as the Speaker of the Law. Yowza!

Being stuck on Moreau’s creepy, vine-tangled and fog-enshrouded island is bad enough, but our uninteresting castaway is set to be married to an equally uninteresting fiancée (who of course sets out to find him), so Moreau decides to give his most successful creation a field test. The Doc unveils Lota (Kathleen Burke), a sultry brunette in a pre-Dorothy Lamour “exotic” island girl getup (this was back in the days when hot, non-white chicks were considered exotic) who has never seen a fully human male other than the Doc and his assistant (a big deal; those two seem like an obvious couple to me), and hopes sparks ignite between Lota and the stranded cipher.

Kathleen Burke as Lota, the Panther Woman: say hello to your grandpa's stroke-material.

As the viewers figure out before our boring hero does, Lota is revealed to have been altered from a panther into a prime piece of surfer-boy’s masturbation fantasy — no "pussy" jokes, please — but her shy and tentative attempts at “making friends” with the castaway go straight down the toilet once he notices her hands are reverting to their original clawed configuration and is understandably freaked the fuck out. Moreau orders poor, terrified Lota back to “the House of Pain” for a surgical touch-up, and awaits the arrival of the fiancée so he can turn one of his male hybrids loose on her. So not only do we get crazed punishment with a bullwhip and twisted medical experiments, we are also treated to Moreau’s intention to see if regular humans can successfully mate and possibly reproduce with his semi-human creatures, many of whom resemble a bunch of hairy, shirtless skells of the type that staff many restaurants in parts of Brooklyn and Queens. And when you think about, the castaway would have gotten off (pun intended) relatively easy in the bargain since Lota is a bit of a looker (though the scratches would suck), while his virginal fiancée would have been relegated to rape by a literal man-gorilla (or something; it’s not made fully clear just what the guy is). It’s just plain sick, offensive, and gross.

And I love it.

Can you imagine being in the theater in 1932 and having your sensibilities offended by sadism, unholy “scientific” delvings, and intimations of bestiality and rape? That stuff’s still heavy some seventy-six years on, so seeing ISLAND OF LOST SOULS in those days must have been a serious brain-melter. Even the Doc’s well-earned and horrifying fate comes off as weak in comparison (thematically, anyway; being vivisected by a bunch of clumsy manimals would really bite the big one).

Lesson to be learned: be kind to animals!

So when I found the gray market edition — in glorious Bootleg-O-Scope® — I snapped it up immediately and gave it a quick once-over on my office laptop, and I’m happy to report that the print is downright cherry. But it still sucks that there is no legit release on DVD. ISLAND OF LOST SOULS cries out for all the extras one can cram onto a disc, and I would love to see a “making of” and some commentary material along the excellent lines of those found accompanying the terrific Universal horror collections from a few years back. What’s the delay in releasing this dark and sleazy classic? Today’s youth needs to see that it wasn’t all Busby Berkeley creating a religion for the show tunes devotees or the Our Gang kids putting a positive spin on juvenile truancy, and that when their elders piss and moan about how today’s cinema is leading to moral turpitude they’re talking out of their asses. I’d love to see a contemporary director even attempt to go where this dusty old hairball did and not be publicly executed by watchdogs for decency in film. Good luck with one, bucko.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


I just received a pre-release copy of my man Jaime Hernandez’s latest LOVE & ROCKETS collection, and I have to say it was a lot like starting up with a soap opera you were once hooked on but left behind years ago, only to return and feel like you never stopped watching. I was hooked on the original run of L&R (1981-1996), and when it was over I didn’t feel the least bit saddened since it felt like it was coming to an end after naturally having run its course, plus the uber-talented creators — Jaime and Gilbert — were so balls-out creative I was sure I’d see much, much more from them in the years to come. That said, when Los Bros. Hernandez brought L&R back in 2001 I had little urge to return to my old friends in Hoppers and Palomar, so other than occasionally thumbing through an issue or two in the comics shop I didn’t buy any of the new material. It just seemed like more of the same.

And ya know what? That’s exactly what it was, as proven by this upcoming volume, but when “more of the same” means being reminded of exactly why I rate Jaime Hernadez as highly as I do in regard to across-the-board storytellers, I couldn’t be happier.

THE EDUCATION OF HOPEY GLASS trots out many of the characters familiar to longtime readers of Jaime’s “Locas” stories, with ageing punk-rocker/dyke Esperanza “Hopey” Glass taking the spotlight in the book’s first half, now finding gainful (if unlikely) employment as a kindergarten teacher. “Day By Day With Hopey” chronicles a week in our feisty heroine’s life that sees her transition from tending bar to shepherding wee ones while her low-rent personal life teems with lovers who come and go, with her lifelong friend — and former true focus of Jaime’s Hoppers epics — Maggie remaining the only constant.

NOTE TO MAGGIE FANS: Maggie figures only peripherally in this volume, so don’t come in expecting her usual circus of dysfunction and plus-size angst.

Not much really happens over the course of “Day By Day With Hopey” in terms of action or intrigue, but Jaime continues to spin narrative gold from the mundane straw of his protagonist’s existence, and Hopey’s awkward romantic and social tribulations remain as involving as they were when I last read about her in depth, some twelve years ago.

Serving as the bridge to the next story is “Angel of Tarzana,” featuring five mostly wordless pages of a fetching Latina jockette — who, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear was the daughter of “Locas” semi-regulars Penny Century and H.R. Costigan grown up — whom Jaime quite clearly has a ball drawing, showing her off to athletic advantage as she plays softball, competes in gymnastics and lifeguards. The character is infectiously charming, and just as you’re asking why this section, which comes off as little more than glorified sketchbook excerpts, was included, we’re immediately dropped into the deep end of a fifty-seven page narrative starring Maggie’s long-ago lover, Ray Dominguez, by far the most compelling of Jaime’s relatively few male leads. Now in his early forties and still carrying a torch for Maggie, Ray finds himself caught up in a maelstrom of murder, two-bit gangsters, titty bars, comic book conventions, and his lust for the drop-dead-gorgeous but borderline-psychotic and annoying Vivian, a zaftig aspiring actress known to many as “Frogmouth,” who herself has a bit of history with Maggie. And all of this is perfectly offset by the innocent intro featuring Angel, who ends up bonding a bit with Vivian as the story organically evolves.

Fraught with all manner of grimy intrigue that brings to mind a Chicano Mickey Spillane yarn, the second half of the book comes as an unexpected and pleasant surprise, fully reviving my interest in the now (mostly) middle-aged Hoppers cast and spurring me to order the previous volume. I very much want to have more of a handle on what makes the volatile Vivian tick, and I'd like to witness Hopey’s bartending stint — guaranteed to be full of divey squalor and wistful music recollections that us ageing punks/new wavers can relate to — so it’s official: consider me a born-again Jaime booster.

Oh, and the hardcover edition of THE EDUCATION OF HOPEY GLASS hits comics shops on April 23rd. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Ah, the things one does to keep warm...

This winter is flying by at a shocking pace and I haven't had anywhere near the time I'd like to post detailed accounts of my adventures, had I really had any to write about. The Kiss & Tell burlesque thing was great, but I need to get pics of that from outside sources, but that's the most interesting thing to happen of late. So what's a blogger to do to keep you readers entertained?

With that question in mind I'm going to share some random images that I snapped (or had snapped of me) and give you a minor travelogue of the Big Apple during roughly January through now.

Since 2008 dawned, the weather here in the five boroughs has been rather unpredictable, ranging within twenty-four hours from the low-sixties

to a bone-chilling, cold-enough-to-piss-sticks ten degrees, with wind chill bringing that down to a cruel near-zero.

I've more or less given up trying to stay ahead of the game and just stick my face against my window for a quick gander before leaving the Vault for work or carousing.

Every now and then I see something that could best be described as an exercise in sheer futility, and if this truck doesn't fall into that category, I don't know what does:

The existence of a "graffiti free" New York is about as likely to happen as the city becoming rat or cockroach-free. Good luck with that one, guys. Seriously, I waited for a half hour in the parking lot where I took this photo, waiting for some kid to sidle over and tag the van with a huge, silver "CHATO '97," garnished with a "KILL BLOOMBERG." And why eliminate graffiti when it can alert you to possibilities that you never even contemplated? Case in point:

While I was aware that certain cops are indeed traitors to the law, themselves and their communities, I had never previously imagined that I was a homosexual. Nice to have that cleared up!

And was there no one in the Domino's Pizza board meeting that approved this sale's name who knew "BFD" is short for "Big Fucking Deal?"

Ah, well. At least the wisdom of the ages is being passed on to a new generation.

And while I understand the love New Yorkers hold for pizza, this is a bit much:

But don't get me wrong; a walk down any NYC street can present you with unexpected culture. I was delighted to come across this group of Chinese lion dancers, supplemented by a cadre of drummers who were clearly into the who traditional thing.

A visit with two old friends yielded these photos of Yer Bunche playing with a couple of the prop guns they have lying about their studio for illustration reference.

I assure you I'm not practicing for some kind of "Kill Whitey" rampage.

And then, perhaps most random of all, I walked out of my apartment building two nights ago to run into this Bosco van.

First of all, I've never once seen Bosco chocolate syrup — the stuff Hitchcock used for blood in PSYCHO (1960) — on the shelf in any of the local supermarkets, so what the hell was a van promoting it doing near me? Secondly, the incredibly sleazy-looking driver parked in front of a hydrant for over an hour so he could hit on one of the underage hoochies who live next door, and possibly avail himself to the old school basement brothel not too far down the street.

So remember: always have your camera at the ready, because who knows what life may put out there?

Still Life with Sidewalk Fish.


I just saw this over on the WATCHMEN movie site , and all I have to say is, "Oh, yeeeeeeeaaah."


About a week ago the barbecue joint I used to work at was host to a meeting of the 20th Street Association, a group that periodically convenes to discuss matters of importance to that area of Greenwood Heights. It's pretty much what you would expect, but the barbecue joint's owner and my former boss, Frank, shared the following letter that he received anonymously a day or so after the meeting. What follows is transcribed verbatim, with only an address omitted (just in case, if ya know what I mean):

you are having a meeting about tree and other thing.

what you should be talking about is the drug sailing from the building (ADDRESS OMITTED) 20th strrrt. where is the super sdom are in involv..

I'm send a letter to the police dept and the narcotics as well


I'm willing to bet the cops will wonder if the person who wrote this hadn't been sampling some of the drugs "sailed" from down the street.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Looking for a worthwhile graphic novel? Well, my review for Mat Johnson's INCOGNEGRO can be found at PUBLISHERS WEEKLY,
just when you thought I hadn't done anything for Black History Month. Just you wait for my upcoming review of the infamous 1975 movie adaptation of MANDINGO!

Saturday, February 16, 2008


You know and I know that the internet is the place to find pictures of just about anything you’d want to see. A raccoon in assless leather chaps having a fistfight with a pregnant Asian Elvis impersonator? No problem. Dubya getting cornholed at Corey Clark’s Dude Ranch by Batman and Jesus? Absolutely. Michael Jackson pouring frothy champagne over the straining titties of some big-bootied ‘ho? It’s out there somewhere.

But good luck finding an actual photo of the CLOVERFIELD monster, a critter that my fellow student of all monsters gigantic, Mark G., assures me has acquired the nickname “Clover.”

The internet is a monster-lover’s paradise, allowing swift access to info and images of fascinating and beloved city-destroying behemoths, and even their more modestly-scaled brethren, but images of “Clover” simply aren’t there. I’ve managed to find a shot of the infamous giant rapist space-inchworm from GALAXY OF TERROR, as well as a Toho publicity still of what looks like Godzilla playing “anal intruder” with the lovely Kumi Mizuno, so why no Clover? I can’t even find a screen capture from a bootleg video for fuck’s sake, and that’s frustrating because you don’t get a very good look at it during its all-too-brief time on camera.

Then this morning I got an alert from Mark G. directing me to shots of the Clover toy — coming from Hasbro in October, featuring over seventy points of articulation, a selection of heads and parasites, plus a Statue of Liberty head, all for a list price of $99 (!!!) — and they match with what little is seen in CLOVERFIELD. Seriously, unlike images that have been posted for the past couple of months claiming to be of the Cloverfield monster, I personally assure you that the images posted here are what the damned thing looks like:

Yep, this is Clover, and these shots are a hell of a lot more clear than what you see in the film.

Oddly-articulated, pasty, and scrawny, combination that would totally sink this beast if not for its titanic size and accompanying destructive potential. And having finally gotten a good look at at, plus reading some notes on what the designer intended it to be, namely a confused juvenile of whatever species it is, I'm betting the sequel may try to pull a GORGO. If you've seen that movie, you know what I mean. If you haven't seen GORGO (1961), I highly recommend it; it's a British-made take on the Godzilla thing, and is also one of the ten best giant monster flicks ever made. No easy feat since the genre is almost completely dominated by Japanese entries.

You and your kids really need to check this out.

And while I still say Godzilla would make short work of Clover, considering what I now know about it I guess I should cut it some slack since it's a scared, confused (and hungry) baby. Plus it doesn't shoot lasers from its eyes, fire throwing stars from its temples, or fart thick toxic clouds like some of its cinematic predecessors, so all it can really do is knock down buildings and touristy landmarks, along with munching on obnoxious lower Manhattan yuppie vermin, which is admittedly pretty cool. But I still find the design to be rather lackluster.