Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween - Rescuing Halloween Cartoons from the Dustbin of History!: DTV Monster Hits

Halloween - Rescuing Halloween Cartoons from the Dustbin of History!: DTV Monster Hits This came in handy! Memories...If it wasn't for memories, I'd forget everything...;)

Joe & Nora's Halloween Playlist - Issue #13

Time to get my Halloween viewing list ready...

While everyone else is picking movies, I'm watching a collection of old tv shows/specials. Here's the list, in no particular order:

1) Garfield's Halloween Adventure

2) Witch's Night Out

3) The Great Bear Scare

4) Simpson's Treehouse of Horror - just a bunch of the earlier installments

5) It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

6) Bugs Bunny's Howl-O-Ween Special

7) Filmation's Ghostbusters - the dvd box set of this cartoon series was available in a number of DVD discount stores and I picked 'em up before they vanished. Good Deal!

8) The Batman vs. Dracula - spinoff of the underrated "The Batman" cartoon (2004-2008) which is actually a great Batman film and a great Dracula movie!

9) Ducktales episodes - Hotel Strangeduck, TheMasked Mallard and Ducky Horror Picture Show

10) DTV Halloween - part of a series of 80's Disney specials in which pop music was play over cartoon footage. Very YouTube before there was YouTube. The Halloween special is my favorite, but I don't have it complete (I had used the tape to record Ducktales episodes and the content erased the first 25 minutes of this special! The same fate happened with the Sport Goofy: Soccermania cartoon - which I would love to see on DVD or Blu-Ray some day)

11) Disney' Halloween Treat - I think I've got this on a tape's the only way - Disney tends to look forward - nostalgia is not te first thing on their plate. The tape might also have an episode of "Wonderful World of Disney" devoted to Disney villains. Hope I didn't erase that with some nonsense...

12)  MTV Celebrity Deathmatch Halloween Special - this is just great fun

13) Donald Duck "Trick or Treat" - great Halloween cartoon short

Cartoons, cartoons, cartoons, eh? Yeah, yeah, yeah...
I believe I've gone into overtime if I expect to watch all of this through the weekend at reasonable hours - I know there's lots more - maybe next year...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Graphic Blandishment featuring Superman Issue #1

My pet theory about the origin of the words "Graphic Novel", is that the word 'Graphic' came from Will Eisner's book, Graphic Storytelling, and the word 'Novel' came from DC Comics habit of refering to issue-length comic book stories as "Full-Length Novel". Feel free to quote me on Wikipedia.

This "Full-Length Novel" jazz reminded me of how the Charlie Brown TV specials would sometimes credit animators under the words "Graphic Blandishment" instead of "Animators"/"Animation By:". An average issue of a comic book - a novel? No,no,no,no,no. We need to wrap this baby in a card stock cover and add offbeat story content before calling it novel! Now, ain't that sumptin'! Oh, and quintuple the cover price. I think I would've just settled for calling an average comic a Novel and calling it a day. "Yes Mother, I finished reading the latest Little Dot novel!"

The library had a copy of SUPERMAN: KRYPTONITE NEVERMORE! by Dennis O'Neil and Curt Swan (and, I suspect, key plot assistance by editor Julius Schwartz). It's not very good, but I didn't hate it. The best moment happens early on, when Superman takes a bite out of a chunk of green K as if it were an oversize Cap'n Crunch Berry. The book collects stories that attempted to sharply redefine Superman, but rather than modify the approach to storytelling, they opt for taking away his often overused weakness, and take away the range of his powers. None of the foes from his rogues gallery appear. Instead, the only suspense comes from an eerie doppelganger/adumbration of Superman made from sand that's more powerfull than him, but that ends in a cop-out. It wasn't Superman the whole time! It was some befuddled chap from Quarmm. And with that all sorted out, Denny bids the books adieu, and this trickly experiment becomes the stuff of online blogs and back issue fodder.

It's as though Denny didn't have it all figured out, and his afterward in the book offers no insight into each of the stories in this collection, just that the top brass at DC was hoping he would trap lightning in a bottle again, the way he had done with Batman, but not like his revamp of Wonder Woman...or Green Lentern/Green Arrow (actually, the latter two have become cult fan-favorites, they were poorly recieved at the time and come off dated - an aquired taste). I thought he fared better writing Superman team-up stories in World's Finest and DC Comics presents, where the pressure was off and he was free to just tell stories. By comparison, the stories here read like they were re-written by the editor to fit the wants and needs. It doesn't read like an O'Neil's script, except for the small scenes with Morgan Edge, Clark's then-new boss at the GBS network.

What the comics in this collection did achieve was the staus quo Julius Schwartz used for Superman comics throughout his run as editor. Morgan Edge, Clark Kent: GBS news reporter, odd one-shot villains, unusual monsters, Superman's self-doubt, Batman cameos - all that stuff figures in the comics for the next 15 years! This experiment didn't wipe away Superman's powers and weakness for long, but it did set the pace of the comics themselves. For a while, anyway.. ;) If your library has it, check it out.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Batman Deux - Comic Book Rehab Issue #1, Volume Deux

I found issue #2 of Batman. Since I did not find issue #1, I have to go along with the old idea that every issue is accesssible, even in a chapter of  a long arc (it rarely ever is, only in the sense that you observed some things that have happened).

We get a new villain, The Court of Owls...that sounds more like a Daredevil antagonist to me - he has a villain named the Owl, and he could use better villains...why not The Court Of Bats? Whatever. They've got it in for Bruce Wayne, and we get a neat sequence where Bruce Wayne (Batman) gets pushed out the window of his office building (a location which is always featured in the comics but never used in the films or tv series, possibly because of its egg-shaped peak, like a kind-of rejected design for the Daily Planet building). He survives the fall in a way that pays off the wordy (in teeny tiny print) first page.

We get a interesting action sequence involving some stolen statues aboard a helicopter with Batman following on motorcycle that I guess the writer was bored with, because he ends it abruptly, but I thought it was more entertaining then this dull CSI scene with an autopsy that was run-of-the-mill, oh, and a Nightwing cameo (in which we are reminded that he still exists in this new continuity) and a very dull character named Lincoln March, who willl join Tommy Monahan in the Batman-villains-who-introduce-themselves-in-their-civillian-guise-first category - but if I'm wrong, then hats off to Scott Snyder.

What we're left with is mostly middle and set-up. I wonder if the 1st issue had anything going on at all - was it just Batman swinging around, doing his "I am the Night" schtick before finding a dead body on the last page? We get a preview of a Batman Graphic Novel, Noel, which reads like a story I might have read before, but New-er-er or "Like New".  What does work is the art. If the script seemed leaden, the art never lets on that it is, and Greg Capullo gives Gotham a look that reminded me of old Legends Of The Dark Knight comics from the late-80's-early-90's

I remember joking that once Grant Morrison was off the Bat-books, the tone and format of the comics would go back to the 90's Batman, which had him going after street gangs, ersatz Fu-Manchu/Mola-Ram types and beefed-up thugs with gimmick names...well, it's back, and we can expect a rematch with Bane next spring.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Yellow Journalism: Trouble on Mt.Olympus- Comic Book Rehab, Yellow Cover, Issue #1

Another year, another contract dispute. All the Simpsons cancellation rumors got me thinking about brushing up my Simpsons history, so I checked out a book, The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History.  Like an Apocryphal Bible, I dive in to read what I haven't read before.

Now it turns out the show has been renewed for two more seasons - what to do? Well, there is something amiss - a mystery! I'll solve it! Why do people complain so much about the decline in quality of the show? My only clue will be John Ortved's book.

Fact: The show's creator, Matt Groening, isn't quite as (or, to put it dangerously, never was) involved in the day-to-day output of the show's production. In fact, according to the book, he's much more involved in the cottage industry of Simpsons merchandising and stamping his signature on it. The book makes no mention of Bongo comics, the company he owns which has published Simpsons (and Futurama) comics and is currently approaching its 20th year in business. Next to Image comics, it is one of the few, true success stories of the comic book marketplace in the 1990's.

Fact: The job of showrunner (the top banana among the writers who serves as chief wrangler) has been held by Al Jean for nearly a decade, the longest time served in the show's history. In the past, showrunners served an average of two years. Mike Scully (who ran the show before Jean), served for four. Although it is a cartoon, The Simpsons is a show where the writers are the driver and engine, and the book hints that during Jean's tenure the quality of the scripts have softened the show's edge and the spontaneity has been lost. In the past, the show had a small, but talented circle of writers working in a single room. Today, the show has many writers working out of two conference rooms (between the lines, Ortved is hinting that the episodes now have a watered-down, written-by-committee feel that may be the real cause of what's happening).

Fact:  The upstart competition is outpacing the forerunners. Ortved is no fan of Family Guy, but he admits the show's popularity (and that of creator Seth MacFaarlane) are echos of The Simpsons glory days in the early 90's.

Fact,fact, fact,fact...

Conclusion: My conclusion is something that Ortved neglected to mention and is staring him right in the face. The Simpsons are no longer a gimmick. When the show premiered, people ooh and aah'd the return of the prime-time animated sitcom. When the show became popular in the early years, they had a merchandising feast and wow'd over that. When the show became a launchpad for a number of writers who went on to have successfull careers launching their own shows, the show became established. When the show spawned imitators, upstarts, rip-offs and parodies, the show became a class act. When Celebrities began appearing on the show (and never stopped), it became trendy to people in the mainstream media and no longer required persuasion to watch it. When the movie came out, people wondered what took so damn long.

We're waiting for something new to talk about - a new gimmick concern to lump the show under. I believe that a show's lifespan has its own rite of passage, and when it runs as long as the Simpsons, people begin to look at it as if it achieved Godhood - to cancel it would be unthinkable. Really Are we really bored with the show, or is the show bored with its audience?  That is the question...the question that has not been asked...the question that might bring the end of all things... yellow... ;)

By the way, I did enjoy the book, especially the profiles of Groening, Sam Simon, George Meyer and John Swartzwelder, whose books are hard to find (aren't hard-to-find books the kind that should be available in public libraries?). That is the question...the question that has not been asked...the question that might bring the end of all things...

I am curious (yellow)! ;)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

It's How We Play The Game - Comic Book Rehab - issue #1 (2nd printing)

I haven't reviewed any issues of the DC relaunch because I was away from the shops last month. I thought, "No Problem!, I can stop by anytime and they'll have SOMETHING." Boy, I was wrong.

I was right, too - there were plenty of comics to buy - just none of the DC #1's. Why is that?

No, it's not because everybody bought them - when you hear that a comic book sold out, they're refering to comic shops buying all the copies that were printed. All the sales figures buzzed about online are just that. So what's really happening? The shops are hoarding.

The way to increase demand on a large supply is to ration it and make it seem scarce, then create a demand for reprint editions to be printed quickly and sold quickly. The 1st editions can be resold as back issues for 2 or 3 times the cover price, depending on popularity. The little guys (us, the shoppers, the fans, the man in the suit, or the kid or parent thinking of this stuff as investments) won't mind because it only helps lift the value of what they have bundled and sealed or slabbed in their closet or drawer or trunk or wherever.

The flaw in this reasoning is that the market for comics has dwindled into a subculture. You can be a fan of these characters and still never have read a comic book. If the demand declines for various reasons, then the issues you've been hoarding in the back of the shop deteiorate into sales slime, and that's how you end up with brand new, pristine 1st issues in quarter/half-dollar/dollar bins at shops and conventions, or online sellers posting lots of copies in one bundle for auction.

Another problem - the values are for trade - you can still go to a shop and the owner will still offer to buy your collection for a dime per book. The numbers you hear about are the comics value bartered for stacks of  comics, plus some cash (if any) that adds up to that much. So, yes, it is possible that that copy of Amazing Spider-Man #1 from 1998 that you bought for $20.00 cash is actually what it trades for. Well, if you see something you really like...

So...if you're hungry for those new #1's that came out - as a reader, wait for the reprint edition. If you're a collector, you could save up to buy the original 1st edition #1's instead. This gimmick ... every new #1 issue offered never seems as old and rare as the first from long before our time...

See, this is why we need Lara Croft. The next Tomb Raider film should be about finding some cache of old comics...never mind dusty old temples of made-up gold. Actually that could be the plot of National Treasure 3 - Harry Truman's secret stash.