Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dork Awards 2010: Best Writer

So we're getting close to the end of the Dork Awards for this year. After tonight, there'll be only one more Dorky handed out, with perhaps a few year-in-review highlights (and low-lights) to come over the New Year's holiday weekend. But for now, we move on from Best Artist to the other side of the funnybook equation...

Best Writer

As I said in my introduction to the award for Best Artist, true funnybook classics have great art and a great script. But for me, it always comes back to the writing. I can endure kinda crappy artwork (and have!), but without a worthwhile story, a comic just isn't worth my time. That's why this category is nearest and dearest to my heart, and why you get no pretty pictures to accompany the nominees. This one's all about the text! But speaking of the nominees, let's see them now...

Matt Fraction

Author of the most complex character studies in the world of corporate spandex, Matt Fraction produces books that I don’t mind spending four bucks on. This year, he continued his on-going portrait of Tony Stark’s addictive personality in Iron Man, and turned his sights onto Thor, giving that character the softest of reboots by putting some serious thought into both his aspect as a god, and as a Viking. His work on Casanova was stellar as well, but since it was 99.9% reprint… It doesn’t really count toward this year’s awards.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dork Awards 2010: Best Artist

Arguments abound over whether writing or art is more important to the creative success of a funnybook, and, much like politics, the industry tends to swing back and forth on a pendulum between the two extremes. We’ve been very much experiencing a decade of the writer in the last ten years, a sharp response to the decade of the artist we went through in the 90s. It’s always going to come back to the writing for me in the end, but honestly… I think it really takes good writing and good art to make a true funnybook classic. And tonight, we honor the artistic side of that equation with the Dork Award for…

Best Artist

Frazer Irving

Irving has a truly unique style, one that combines rock-solid cartoon realism with a love of inventive camera angles and a lush coloring sensibility that gives his line-art the feel of something painted. His primary work this year came on Grant Morrison’s Batman, with both the “Pilgrim Batman” issue of Return of Bruce Wayne and the closing story arc of Batman and Robin under his belt.

Dork Awards 2010: Best Single Issue

So it's time once again to return to the Dork Awards...

Best Single Issue

Crafting a great single issue of a funnybook series really is an art form, and one that’s increasingly rare in this era of multi-part stories and novelistic pacing. That’s my preferred sort of serial funnybook writing, too, which makes finding great single-issue comics that much harder. Still, I was able to pull together a list of issues that made me happy this year without too much difficulty. To whit…


Iron Man Annual #1
by Matt Fraction and Carmine DiGiandomenico

This story recreating the Mandarin as a villain for the 21st Century is perhaps Matt Fraction’s best Marvel work to date, and is almost certainly the best single-issue corporate spandex story of the year. It’s only competition, in fact, is…

Monday, December 27, 2010

Byrne Victims and Other Dorks of Note: Funnybooksinreviewarego!!

So the funnybook reviews have also fallen prey to my December work and holiday schedule, to the point that the nerd wranglers here on the Dork 40 are starting to give me crap about it. Which means that it must be time once again for some Quickies. But first, a slightly more in-depth look at a book I almost didn't buy...

Next Men #1
by John Byrne

I tried this book in spite of the fact that I've liked exactly nothing John Byrne's written in the last decade. But I remember the series fondly from its 90s heyday, and thought (after debating for a week) that I'd give it a try. Much to my surprise, it's actually pretty good. This first issue is mostly recap, but in this case that might be a good thing. I haven't read Next Men in 15 years, and so the refresher was most welcome.

Getting the series' entire story laid out all at once like this reveals some serious creative missteps along the way, but it also reminds me of something far more important: John Byrne's penchant for applying serious science fiction concepts to his super hero fiction. This was what I liked most about the man's work in the 80s: it often felt like a true updating of the Lee/Kirby/Ditko creative aesthetic, applying a touch of logic and a slightly more adult sensibility to things while still delivering on the high imagination of the originals. It was work that refreshed some already-great characters and polished them up for a new generation of readers. You could see it in his contributions to X-Men, his back-to-basics approach to Fantastic Four, and even his often-forgotten work on Namor. The same aesthetic powers his revamp of Superman, though that is in some ways his weakest work of the period, feeling almost hamstrung by a slightly more kid-friendly approach to the writing.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Dork Awards 2010: Best OGN

So the Dork Awards got a little sidetracked, I’m afraid. You know how it is. Work, visits with the family, playing with your Christmas presents, deciding that an actual vacation where you just relax is probably a really good idea before you drop in exhaustion… That sort of thing. But I’ve had all that now. I feel re-energized and properly vacated. So now it’s time for the Dork Awards to resume, with the award for…

Best Original Graphic Novel

“Original Graphic Novel” (or OGN, for short) is a high-falutin’ term for a novel-length funnybook story. One that’s created to be published in book form rather than as a serial for periodical publication. It sounds pretty technical, but it’s really not. It’s comics done the same way prose novels are done. Many say that it’s the real future of comics, and I can’t disagree. Much as I love my weird adventure serials, the allure of a story with a beginning, middle, and end is undeniable. And the preferred fictional format for most readers. That being the case, if comics really are trying to make their way back into mainstream reading habits, this would seem a natural route to take. So without further ado, let’s look at what the future brought us this year…

by Jim Rugg & Brian Maruca

Ostensibly a “Best Afrodisiac Stories Ever Told” reprint collection, Jim Rugg’s tales of a pimp super hero function as both a loving send-up of the Blaxploitation genre and of funnybook publishing trends in the 1970s and 80s.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Strange Case of the Night Before Christmas

So a couple of years ago, I wrote a short story as my Christmas card for family and friends. And, me being me, it was a dark and mysterious ode to Santa... and HP Lovecraft. It seemed like something I could share with a wider audience, and so, I hope you enjoy...

The Strange Case of the Night Before Christmas

It was snowing the last time I saw Santa Claus. I remember, because a White Christmas is so unusual here in the South. All the other times I’ve seen him, I’ve wondered if he was hot in his heavy arctic snow gear. But I suppose I shouldn’t worry. He’s an immortal magic elf, after all, and a 50-degree North Carolina Christmas should hardly be enough to do him harm. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I should start from the beginning.

The first time I saw Santa Claus, I was seven years old. I stayed up that Christmas Eve, specifically to see if he was real. I lay in bed waiting, struggling to stay awake, and finally, at midnight, I heard a rustling coming from the living room. I crept out of bed and into the hallway, peeking around the corner to catch a glimpse of his red coat over near the tree. But before I knew what was happening, there was a blur of motion and my eyes were filled with coal dust. Blinded, I fell screaming to the floor, tears streaming from my eyes. I blinked, and they cleared just enough for me to see a red shape shooting up the chimney. Then the living room went quiet, but only for a moment. Because that was when the creatures came crawling out of the dark corners of the room.

Tiny, dark and gibbering, with eyes that glowed like coals, they swarmed over me, grasping with clawed hands. Incredibly strong, they held me immobile while my hands and feet were tied. And suddenly, I was blind again. A sack had been pulled over my head, a sack that smelled of cinnamon, and of blood. I heard the front door open, and heavy boots trod across the room. A thick, calloused hand grabbed the collar of my pajamas and hoisted me to my feet.

“Looks like somebody made the Naughty List,” a rough voice said in the dark.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Andy Warhol's Batman

From an Esquire photoshoot in 1967, it's Nico and Andy Warhol as Batman and Robin! Really, what else can you say about that...?

I Believe

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fearless Vampire Santa

Danny Hellman

Introducing: The Dork Awards!

So the year's winding down, and that can only mean one thing: a list of the best comics of 2010! But here on the Dork Forty, a simple list of the year's best comics isn't enough. Around here, we say anything worth doing is worth over-doing! And to that end, we present to you...

The First Annual Dork Awards!

The Dork Awards, affectionately known as the Dorkies (if only to our own staff of professional nerd wranglers), are a recognition of funnybook excellence. The prizes (or, should we say, No-Prizes) are given based on completely arbitrary factors, mostly my own personal taste. This means that the nominations will mostly be drawn from the field of high-quality genre fiction, with little or no consideration given to things like neurotic drama or nihilistic comedy. If I didn't read it in 2010, it won't be getting a mention.

Rather than doing one gigantic post outlining all the Dorkies at once, though, I'll be awarding one Dorky at a time over the rest of the year, spread out between insufferable Christmas posts and the occasional Funnybooksinreview piece. Partially, this is because I hate bloated award shows, and partially because I haven't quite figured out all my categories just yet, and want more time to shape them into entertaining reading. That said, it’s time to get started with a category I do have figured out:

Best Mini-Series

Introduced in the very early 1980s, the comic book mini-series was an immediate hit with readers. It opened doors in the mainstream comics industry to tell more novelistic stories with a beginning, middle, and end, giving us both high and low classics in the form of Watchmen, Camelot 3000, and so many others. It was also a stroke of genius for corporate spandex publishers. Got a popular character that you’re not sure can support his own series? Give him a mini-series instead! And if that sells well, then you can commit to an on-going. Such now-venerable characters as Wolverine and the Punisher got their own books based on this model. The mini-series also gave us the line-wide crossover event series, in the form of Crisis on Infinite Earths and its inferior, rushed-to-production-to-make-it-look-like-they-had-the-idea-first retarded cousin, Secret Wars.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Santa vs the Devil!

Just a Christmas quickie, as my day job continues to kick my ass in ways I never thought possible...

It's Santa Claus showing us what a punk-ass the Devil really is when confronted with the unrelenting power of Christmas!

Taken, of course, from that insane Mexican Santa Claus movie they showed on Mystery Science Theater...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Movie Night on the Dork Forty: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

So here, as promised, is our Dork Forty Christmas movie spectacular: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians!

(But first, don't forget to scroll down a bit and watch the introductory cartoon: the ever-disturbin' Rejected! Funny how blog-time moves in reverse from reg'lar time, ain't it?)

First, a few words about tonight's film: This 1964 disaster is often hailed as one of the worst movies ever made, and was justly lampooned on the classic Mystery Science Theater 3000. Even for a kids' movie, this thing is mind-bogglingly awful. Which makes it just the kind of gloriously bad spectacle that's most worth watchin'! Also of note: this movie marks the film debut of 1980s flash-in-the-pan beauty queen Pia Zadora! And it features one of the most diabolically-catchy bad theme songs of all time! We'll be singin' this one around the nerd farm for days... and hatin' ourselves because of it!

So pull up a lawn chair, grab yourself a candy cane and some hot chocolate, and enjoy... after the jump!

Movie Night on the Dork Forty: Rejected

So it's been a quiet week around the Dork Forty. The day job's been keepin' me off the nerd farm lately; I'll try to fix that tomorrow, with some of my usual long-winded funnybook talk. But for tonight, I'm a little too tuckered out. So I thought we'd just toss the bedsheet over the barn door and settle in for another movie night. And since it's the Christmas season, I thought we'd bring you that heartwarmin' dork family classic Santa Claus Conquers the Martians! And we will! But first, a heartwarmin' family cartoon: Don Hertzfeldt's Rejected!

Now, Rejected ain't a Christmas cartoon. We should just get that outta the way right up front. But it is the inspiration for that awesome snowman picture we put up earlier in the week! And since we've had a couple of people ask what's up with that thing, we thought we'd answer 'em by showin' the source.

Special thanks to friend and honorary nerd wrangler Brian Crocker for remindin' us where the image came from, by the way; that caused us to look this cartoon up again and be reminded of its terrifyin' glory. Which you can also enjoy, in stunnin' HD... after the jump.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Movie Night on the Dork Forty: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

So it's time once again to hang the bedsheets over the barn door, pop some corn, and fire up the projector for Movie Night! Pull up a lawn chair and join us for 1921's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari! A classic of German expressionist filmmaking, this early horror film concerns the evil Doctor of the title and his sleepwalking fortune-teller, Cesare the Somnambulist! As played by Conrad Veidt, Cesare is a creepy sumbitch who's been inspiring goth and emo fashion for decades, and with good reason. I mean, just look at this guy:

Though, for my money, Dr. Caligari himself is far creepier:

Don't hate him because he's beautiful.

Of particular note here are the sets. Rather than trying to capture any sort of realism, all the action of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari takes place on purposefully-false and stagey hand-painted sets meant to evoke a sense of madness and fear. It's somewhat akin to seeing Edvard Munch's The Scream put to film.

It is, all in all, an astounding film experience. Which you can enjoy in its entirety... after the jump!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Visit Beautiful Frankensteinia!

So I've recently discovered Frankensteinia, a blog to satisfy all your Frankenstein needs! And considering how prodigious our Frankenstein needs are here on the Dork Forty... That's really saying something! Alongside articles on anything and everything related to Big Frankie, blogger Pierre Fournier also features some really great artwork and photographs. I've snagged tons of stuff from Frankensteinia for my screen saver, and I thought I'd present three pieces of it here for your edification and approval...

1. Disco Frankenstein! 'Nuff said!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gods, Mutants, and Freaks: Funnybooksinreviewarego!!!

So I wanna review some funnybooks, but my day job's still kicking my ass. What's the solution? Why, Quickies, of course!

Supergod #5 (of 5)
by Warren Ellis and Garrie Gastonny

A somewhat disappointing ending to what I've been considering Warren Ellis' best work of the year. [SPOILER] Normally, I'd be okay with Krishna fighting a weird-ass manifestation of Cthulhu on Judgement Day, but Cthulhu just doesn't make sense here. And the way that the ending hinged on what was essentially a rote Ellis one-liner was just annoying. [/SPOILER] I dunno. In spite of some imaginative work in the fight sequence, it felt like he ran out of steam with this issue. That's happened with a lot of his more interesting comics of late: they start out as genuinely fascinating genre explorations, then fall apart in the final act (or, in the case of Black Summer, the second issue) with the central premise only partially paid off. Supergod fares better than most on that front; its examination of man-made gods and the super hero as the divine was fully-explored before the blow-off. It's just that the blow-off wasn't very satisfying.

This cover, though, might raise the grade by half a letter, all by itself:

click to embiggen
It would have been even better if Jerry Kraven was drinking a Coke...

Grade: B+

Monday, December 6, 2010

More of the World's Finest Crap!

So once upon a time, on a nerd farm far, far away... We were en-gaged in an important piece of funnybook archeology: figurin' out, once and for all, whether it was Superman or Batman who had to put up with the most crap in their classic funnybook appearances. Then Halloween happened, and there was that whole "November" thing, and well... We just forgot about it. But today one of the new nerd wranglers (a Christmas temp) fell into the dig site. Turns out some of the boys had covered it with a tarp, hopin' to use it as a sorta... Burmese Tiger Trap? For wayward trick-or-treaters? And it just laid there gettin' covered up with leaves and snow til it finally caught itself a victim. We'll be sendin' his family a nice memorial fruit basket this Christmas, but in the meantime... Let's all go enjoy ourselves some Pure-T Classic Funnybook Crap!

Now, seein' as this thing's a competition, I thought it might be nice to lead off this round with a few covers featurin' Supes an' Bats squarin' off against each other...

1. Whether they were just brawling in general...

Real men battle with boulders!

2. ...fighting over the love of a pretty lady...

Somehow, I never pictured Supes as a size queen.

3. ...or over a love that can't be named...

Are cape rides a Boy Wonder fringe benefit?

...Superman and Batman's relationship was always a tumultuous one.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

We're Horrible Men

So the Dork Forty's been a little quiet this past week, I'm afraid. My real job's gotten pretty busy, and will probably stay that way for the next couple of weeks. So, just to keep the site from going totally silent, I'm gonna cut back on my usual long-winded ramblings in favor of simpler posts. Quickies, if you will. 'Cause everybody loves a good quickie! Like this one, for example...

Sometime during the original Universal Monster craze, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi appeared together on a radio show to demonstrate their singing talents! And tonight, we bring you that performance, through the magic of YouTube...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Why I Hate Green Lantern

So I got an interesting question recently: why don’t I ever write about Green Lantern here on the Dork Forty? It’s not an unreasonable thing to wonder about. Green Lantern is a truly significant book in the super hero genre, one of the most popular comics on the stands today, and considered by many to be the brightest jewel in DC Comics’ 21st Century publishing crown. And yet, I’m not sure I’ve ever even mentioned it here. Why is that? Well…

The first answer to that question is the simplest: I don’t like it. And while I’m not averse to writing negative reviews, I’m also not going to spend money on comics I know I don’t like. If I was getting paid to do this, I’d read and review all kinds of stuff. But in the absence of that, I’m quite happy with my amateur status. It does, however, put certain limits on the things I’m going to write about.

My second answer is a bit more complicated: I prefer to use the Dork Forty to accentuate the positive. As it says in the masthead, this place is part of my own personal nerd farm. It’s a place I come to share my thoughts on the dorky-ass stuff I like, the strange and obscure corners of popular culture that I dig the most. It’s as much about publicly enthusing about things as it is anything else. And while I’m always happy to state my opinion if somebody asks, I also don’t like to use this platform to go out of my way to crap all over stuff that other people really like.


The question that inevitably follows my statement that I don’t like Green Lantern is almost always an incredulous, “How can you not like Green Lantern?!” Which means that… Well… Somebody asked… So I guess it’s time to go negative…

"What the--?!"
First off, I should clarify that I like Green Lantern, the character, just fine. He’s one of my favorite super hero concepts, in fact. Space cop with magic alien ring? Of course I love that!

"Well, alright then!"
I just don’t like the current direction of the Green Lantern comics series. Or, more specifically, I don’t care for the writing of Geoff Johns, who’s been guiding the character’s adventures for quite some time now.

And at this point, in the interest of full disclosure, I should admit that, while I’ve read enough Johns to know that I don’t like his work, I haven’t read him since the earliest days of his Green Lantern run, and no longer own any of the Johns comics I have read. So I can’t give you much in the way of specific examples of the things I’m going to complain about, and any specific Green Lantern plot elements I do discuss are things I’ve gleaned by talking to people who have read the stories, and of course by hitting the Wikipedia in preparation for writing this. So, yeah. Just FYI. If you think that disqualifies me from expressing opinions on Johns’ work (a feeling I can certainly understand), just stop reading now. You probably won’t like what I have to say, anyway...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Batwomen, Demons, and Thunder Gods: Funnybooksinreviewarego!!!

So I thought I might do something a little different tonight, and review some week-old funnybooks. You know, just for a change of pace…

Batwoman #0
by JH Williams III, W. Hayden Blackman, and Amy Reeder

When the Greg Rucka / JH Williams Batwoman strip in Detective Comics ended earlier this year, both creators sounded pretty pessimistic about continuing with the character. Which made me sad, because that book was one of the best pieces of corporate spandex to come down the pike in a good long while, fairly standard modern super-heroics in some ways, but given layers of added depth by Williams’ visuals. But Rucka had a hand in planning that visual depth, so when the Batwoman on-going was announced, with Williams but not Rucka at the helm, I wondered how the new series would stack up.

Pretty well, it turns out. This zero issue is just an introduction to the character for new readers, and a chance for Williams and co-artist Amy Reeder to strut their stuff, but they do a nice job of it by and large. Williams and co-writer Blackman do take the shortcut of showing us Batwoman through the eyes of the recently-returned Batman, and on some level I feel like that’s a mistake. Having Batman express his admiration is a cheap way to establish the new character’s credibility. Rucka avoided that, generally preferring to let Kate Kane stand as her own character, inspired by Batman but not in need of his approval.

But Williams and Hayden still make it work for them. The way they’ve framed it, the story’s less about Kate seeking the Bat-Seal of Approval, and more about Batman’s obsessive need to know who this new cape is, and if she’s worthy of infringing on his gimmick. Also, by showing Kate to us through Batman’s eyes, they’re able to fill us in on her methods and backstory, and even her on-going plotlines, without it all seeming like rote exposition. Even though that’s pretty much what this entire issue actually is.

And artistically, of course, the book is just top-notch. Williams illustrates the sequences where Batwoman’s in costume, while Amy Reeder handles the Kate Kane scenes. They’re mostly working in two-page spreads, with Williams handling the top half while Reeder takes the bottom, or vice-versa as the script demands. Williams seems to have designed the layout on many of these pages; his jagged panel borders and diagonal page divides stand out from Reeder’s more traditional layout. In fact, I’m afraid that Reeder can’t quite hold her own with him in general. Her work is very nice, don’t get me wrong. She’s good with expressions, her staging shows some pizzazz, and her linework is some of the better traditional comics art out there right now. But next to Williams, it looks more than a little bland. Granted, about 95% of all funnybook art would. “Not as good as JH Williams” isn’t really much of a criticism.

So overall, I was pleased with this zero issue. It doesn’t promise a series as good as what came before it, but it still sets the bar pretty high. Looking forward to reading it for a good long while.

Grade: A-

Batman and Robin #17
by Paul Cornell and Scott McDaniel

It’s the first post-Morrison issue of Batman and Robin! And it’s… pretty okay! Cornell captures the glib façade of the Morrison run well, and Scott McDaniel’s a perfect sort of artist for something with that tone. His stuff is light and breezy and fun to look at, if not terribly… deep. And therein lies the problem with the book as a whole: it lacks depth.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Ten Dorky Things To Be Thankful For

So here we are at the end of Thanksgivin’ weekend. We’ve had a grand ol’ American good time the last few days, and now we thought we’d slow down a little and take stock. Think about the thing this holiday’s really s'posed to be about: the stuff from the precedin’ year that we’re thankful for. There’s friends and family and good health and all that, of course, but... Bein’ on the Nerd Farm really makes us think most about all the dorky crap we loved in 2010. So here, in no particular order, is our list of Ten Dorky Things To Be Thankful For…

1. Mythbusters

There’s nothing dorkier than science, and this show combines science with urban legends AND blowing stuff up! Could documentary television really get much better than that? Not in our eyes, my friends! From the ridiculous concepts, to the fascinating practical science of the experiments, to the genius hosting odd couple of Adam Savage and Jamie Heineman (pictured), we love this show deep down to the core of our dorky little hearts. Even with the cheesy fake enthusiasm of the back-up team (who I like, don’t get me wrong), Mythbusters is like some kind of dork wet dream, and we’re thankful that they’re still making new ones.

2. JH Williams III

The single-best artist working in mainstream funnybooks today. With his innovative layout, mutable style, attention to detail, and talent for visual symbolism, Williams has made every comic he’s worked on twice as good as it might have been without him. This year, that comic was Batwoman, which was to funnybook art what Grant Morrison’s Batman was to funnybook writing: head and shoulders above the competition in the world of corporate spandex.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Quick Word About Birth and Death

So things have been pretty quiet here on the Dork Forty in the back half of Thanksgivin' week. We had a big ol' time with family and friends, ate a lotta turkey and pie, and then settled back to take in the official sportin' event of the Dork Forty: the annual Punkin Chunkin' competition. It was either that or rasslin', and mama don't like the rasslin'. But while we been celebratin', two important dork events got past us, and we'd like to make mention of 'em tonight.

First, on a sad note, Hammer horror star Ingrid Pitt passed away this week. Among many other roles, the Polish-born Ingrid set many an adolescent pulse a-racin' in the films The Vampire Lovers and Countess Dracula. RIP.

But on a happier note, this past Tuesday would have been the 123rd birthday of the man who was arguably the greatest horror star of all time, Mr. Boris Karloff. I won't list Karloff's many achievements, but if you really don't know who he was and why he's so important, you can read about him on the Wikipedia. Karloff appeared in heavy make-up for all his most famous roles, but here he is looking more or less like himself in a promotional picture for one of my favorite obscure Karloff films, The Black Cat:

Happy birthday, Boris! Wherever you may be!

And now it's time to slip back into my turkey-induced coma for a while. But I might just be back later this weekend with a very late list of things that Dorks ought to be thankful for from the year 2010...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Love, Death, and Super Powers: Funnybooks in Review Are Go!!

So I’ve got this pile of week-old funnybooks sitting here on my desk, and I thought I might, like, review ‘em or something…

Highland Laddie #4 (of 6)
by Garth Ennis and John McCrea

Annie and Hughie talk things out a bit this issue, in another example of Garth Ennis turning in some really brilliant character writing. Though he’s primarily famous for extreme transgressive action/comedy, there aren’t many people in the business who write about normal human relationships as well as he does. He’s also making me like Annie January more with each passing issue. Her apparent naiveté has been slowly revealed as just a lack of cynicism, and she’s strong enough to fight for her relationship with Hughie even in the face of the frankly horrible melt-down that happened between them a few issues back. She’s also not going to give Hughie an out on the insanely hurtful things he said to her, which I was afraid she was going to accept as something she deserved. Between this, and her on-going loss of faith, Annie has become refreshingly complex over time, the best female character Ennis has ever written, and maybe the best period, of any gender. Doubly impressive coming from a writer better-known for his “guy” writing.

And she’s made even more interesting this issue, as we discover her “secret origin.” Born with super powers due to one of her parents having been exposed to Compound V, Annie grew up in a Vought-sponsored foster parenting program, and was subjected to the world of (for lack of a better term) “super pageants” as a child. It’s sort of like Jon-Benet Ramsey in tights. Except that, instead of lasting psychological scars, some of these kids wind up with melting eyeballs and such. Ugly. But also a fascinating look into the super-culture, and how Vought prepares and packages their supes pretty much from birth, but gives them zero guidance on how to conduct themselves. It’s no wonder so many of them are messed up. And amazing that Annie turned out as good as she did.

Annie’s also more than a little suspicious about how Hughie got the surveillance tape of the Seven’s HQ, so I suspect that we’ll be getting another round of confessions soon. She also brings up a really good point: Hughie doesn’t have it in him to say some of the things he said to Annie when they broke up. So… What, exactly, is going on here? The answer, for the reader, is obvious: Butcher. He wound Hughie up pretty badly just before the confrontation, putting Annie’s secret-keeping in the worst possible light and making Hughie seem like a gigantic fool for not seeing through her. And though I think Butcher believed every word he said, and that he thought he was doing it for Hughie’s own good… Damn. What a bastard. Hughie’s even seen through what he did, too: before leaving for Scotland, he asked Butcher, point blank, if he’d seen the tapes of Annie before he set Hughie up to find them. He took Butcher at his word then, but if Annie’s gotten through to him as much as I think she has… Butcher’s going to be dealing with a very angry wee man when Hughie gets back to New York.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Batman's Back And There's Gonna Be Trouble

Batman: The Return
Batman Inc. #1
by Grant Morrison, David Finch, and Yanick Paquette

Attention all crime-fighting bad-asses! Batman franchise opportunities are now available!

No, seriously. I mean… Batman just foiled the master plan of the God of Evil and his thematic reflections throughout the history of time itself. What’s he gonna do now that he’s back to his drab work-a-day existence? Go back to protecting Gotham City? Pssh! Hell, no! Gotham’s small potatoes to the Bat now! He thinkin’ bigger! He’s thinkin’ better! He’s gonna found an international brotherhood of crime-hatin’ motherfuckers! A real “Batmen of Many Nations” to protect his new turf: Earth! Or, as Bats himself likes to think of it: PLANET GOTHAM!

That’s the title of the story in the “Batman: The Return” one-shot, and it would have been a far better title for the comic itself. In fact, I think I’ll call it that from here on out. Planet Gotham. It’s a title that sums up Batman’s new crime-fighting philosophy in a succinct and stupid-awesome manner. He’s going global, and he’s not doing it alone. This comes as a direct result of his Thogal-inspired epiphany, his enlightenment to the Truth of the Batman: much as he once liked to think otherwise, he’s never waged his war on crime alone. He’s always had help. So why not reach out? Why not train and fund others to protect their hometowns the way Batman’s always protected his own? Sounds like a natural extension to me. And a great excuse to do a Batman team-up comic, too…

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Floppies for Trades: Two Americas

Captain America: Two Americas
by Ed Brubaker, Luke Ross, and Butch Guice

So THIS is the storyline that got the Tea Party’s panties in a bunch? Seriously? For a movement that’s all about individual freedoms, they’re certainly some thin-skinned SOBs. But as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself…

When the on-going Captain America series went to four bucks a pop earlier this year, I decided it was time to start reading it in trade paperback collections. I found the “Nomad” back-up strip pretty much unreadable, making its “added value” an actual detriment to my enjoyment of the monthly funnybook reading experience. And, since this isn’t a book that really needs my monthly support to keep going anyway… It seemed like a perfect candidate for trade-waiting. So here we are at the first of those trade collections, Two Americas. And, sure enough, it’s a better deal than the monthly. I got five issues of All-American Action and Political Subtext for 15 bucks. Which still seems a little steep, honestly, but which nonetheless feels like a better use of my funnybook dollar.

The story concerns “Bad Cap,” the poor bastard who became Captain America in the 1950s and was driven insane by the knock-off of the Super Soldier Serum they used on him. This character’s been knocking around for years now. Initially an attempt to explain the insane Commie-bashing Cap stories of the early 1950s (in which Our Hero did some decidedly Un-American things in the name of freedom), he’s since become a great doppelganger villain to toss out periodically, and remind everyone of just what the real Cap stands for. He was brought out of mothballs in Brubaker’s big multi-year Red Skull storyline (which name-checked pretty much every great Captain America story ever), and escaped into the American heartland to be dealt with here.

And Brubaker, of course, makes the most of it. Bad Cap returns to his hometown of Boise, Idaho, sees the unemployment and the erosion of American Values, and decides that he’s got to change things. And, since he’s crazy and super-strong and solves most of his problems by hitting things, he decides to form a super-militia. Or, rather… He becomes the leader of one that’s already in place: the Watchdogs. I‘ve never read a story with these guys in it, but they‘ve been kicking around since the 80s. They’re essentially a bunch of right-wing terrorist militia types with high-tech weapons and body armor, a perfect group to use if you want to discuss the current political climate in the guise of a super hero comic.

And this is where they got in hot water with the Tea Party. Upon arrival in Boise, Cap and the Falcon watch a protest rally made up of working class Americans:

Friday, November 19, 2010

Movie Night on the Dork Forty: Black Sunday

As we do from time to time, tonight we've decided to show a movie out on the Dork Forty. The bedsheets are hangin' over the barn door, we got the etherweb pro-jector all hooked up, and the popcorn is fresh and hot. So come on over! Pull up a lawn chair! Grab a refreshin' beverage! Help yourself to one of our Evil Satan Robes-- I mean, uh... Snuggies! And settle on in to enjoy that delightful 1961 family classic, Black Sunday!

Click to embiggen

What's that? You ain't never heard of Black Sunday?! Well! It's one a' them Eye-talian movies, the di-rectorial debut of Mr. Mario Bava, and the first starrin' role for the beatimous B-Movie horror queen, Barbara Steele! The film was (very loosely) based on the story "Viy" by that famous Rooskie author Nikolai Gogol (read a book!), but was really Bava's tribute to the Universal Studios horror classics of the 1930s and 40s. It's atmospheric, and just too damn cool. The story's about a witch (Barbara Steele) who's executed in one of the most inventively vicious ways ever seen on film, but not before she lays a curse on her oppressors and vows to return as a vampire to seek her revenge. Which (spoiler alert!) she does.

Now, this movie was considered pretty shockin' by 1960 movie audiences. The American edit had three minutes of violence and gore edited out, and they still didn't let anybody under the age of 12 in to see it! And it was banned in England til 1968, when it was released as The Mask of Satan! And that English print seems to be the one we got our hands on via the etherweb tonight.

So, without further ado... here's Black Sunday, aka The Mask of Satan... after the jump!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Dangerous Art of Frank McCarthy

So I've recently stumbled across the work of an artist named Frank McCarthy. A commercial artist and illustrator by trade, McCarthy spent a lot of time in the 1960s doing movie poster work, which is how I ran across him. In later years, McCarthy did more "fine art" style paintings, mostly with Old West themes. And I like that stuff alright, but it's his movie poster art that's been blowing me away. Here's his poster art for one of our personal favorite B-flicks here on the Dork Forty, Danger: Diabolik!

For god's sake, click to embiggen!

Holy crap! Does that not look like the most exciting movie ever?! And, honestly, this isn't even McCarthy's best work. But it does show off his specialty: summing up all the action of a film into one big image. Or series of images, as in the case of his poster for The Dirty Dozen:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Last Week's Comics Today!

Scarlet #3 by Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev

So sometimes I feel like a tool when I review the latest issue of a book I like and essentially say, “Another triumph!” But, man… Scarlet #3 really is another triumph for the Bendis/Maleev team. Scarlet continues her manipulation of the audience, which is still my favorite aspect of the book. I don’t know how I feel about all the things Scarlet’s up to, and she only confuses the matter, implicating me in her actions by virtue of the entertainment I gain reading about them. She also puts those same skills to use for the first time in-story, on her dead boyfriend Gabriel’s best friend, who she recruits to film the first public step in the revolution: [SPOILER] taking a sniper rifle and putting a bullet through the head of the Chief of Police. This isn’t a random killing, mind you. The Chief is the uncle of the cop who killed Gabriel, and the man responsible for putting that cop back on the street in spite of his drug habit. [/SPOILER]

She’s slowly expanding the ring of responsibility for Gabriel’s death. The question, then, is how far out can she expand that ring before she goes too far? I can’t answer that question just yet, but I’m really looking forward to seeing where I wind up drawing the line.

Grade: A

The Boys #48
by Garth Ennis and Russ Braun

As the action of Hughie and Annie’s oh-so-painful split moves over to the pages of Hughie’s spin-off mini Highland Laddie, The Boys series proper moves on to the new story arc “Proper Preparation and Planning.” We’re heading into the third and final act of the series now, and this arc seems to be about Butcher and the Homelander getting their pieces in place for whatever ultimate play each of them is going to make. And as worrisome as Homelander’s increasingly sociopathic behaviour is, it’s Butcher that’s really got me worried.

The Zombie Apocalypse Will Be Televised

So The Walking Dead has now gone from an indy comics slow-burn hit to the most-watched program in cable television history, and we’ve yet to say two words about it here on the Dork Forty. Which is odd, considering that our dual obsessions with funnybooks and horror border on the pathological. And I have been watching and enjoying the show, so… I guess maybe it‘s time to talk zombies.

In spite of the obsessions mentioned above, this really isn’t a show I should be all that gung-ho for. For one thing, I’m not a big zombie fan. Or, rather, I’m not a big fan of the zombie apocalypse, which is a slightly different thing. Zombies themselves I’m okay with. I mean, who doesn’t love a rotting corpse? It’s just when the zombies have over-run society that I start to lose interest. Part of the problem, I think, is that I‘m not real big on apocalypse fiction in general. Growing up in the third and fourth decades of the Cold War, I saw an awful lot of apocalypses in TV sci-fi. Those all seemed to mostly involve people running around in deserts and big fields of yellow grass, and uniformly bored the crap out of me.

While watching how a society collapses might fascinate me, the aftermath of that collapse leaves me cold. It typically only reveals ugly truths that I kind of take as a given anyway. Yes. Get hungry enough, or desperate enough, and the rules really do change for most people. That doesn’t tell me anything new or interesting about human nature. So it really does take a lot to make me enjoy Armageddon. Colorful characters help (“I Master! He Blaster!”). So do mysteries surrounding the cause of the apocalypse (such as the one Jeff Lemire‘s created in his Sweet Tooth comic). Or you could just write it so well that I can’t not read it (as in The Road).

The zombie apocalypse seldom gives me any of those things, though. Once you get past the first couple of Romero flicks, very few people (Romero included) have said anything new or interesting. I recognize, for instance, that 28 Days Later was a really well-made zombie apocalypse movie, and I can appreciate it on that level. But it’s still just the goddamn zombie apocalypse all over again. So I’m not a big fan. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to see more zombie apocalypse fiction that explores different themes, and I enjoy the few examples I’ve seen that have (Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, World War Z).

And we'll finally get around to talking about Walking Dead... after the jump!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bat-Finale II: The Next Day

So apparently, I’m a moron. I mis-read something pretty horribly in the finale to Grant Morrison’s Batman saga, something that alters my reading of the story quite a bit. My original reading still works, I think, but not in a way that makes me feel like I can claim any longer to have “nailed it” at all. Ah, hubris! Thy name is Dork!

And I mean it this time. This isn’t something as minor as mistakenly guessing that Alfred was dressing up as Batman, it’s a pretty fundamental breakdown of basic funnybook reading skills. I’m actually kind of embarrassed. But in the interest of honesty (and getting to write about Batman some more), I figured I should probably ‘fess up.

Here’s the crux of it: at the end of Return of Bruce Wayne 6, Bruce rips the Hyper-Adapter-infected future bat-suit off himself, it’s swiftly taken down by the JLA and tossed into a booby-trapped Time Sphere, which then activates and self-destructs. So far, so good. But I read the panels that followed as images of fractured time like the ones we get before and after, caused by the time-shattering effects of the Omega energy built up around Bruce in his trip through time. I thought we were getting some key images of the Hyper-Adapter’s past as it died in the destruction of the Time Sphere.

But then I made a trip to read the discussion of the issue at Rikdad’s Comic Thoughts (always a source of more sober insights than the Circus of the Glib approach we often practice here on the Dork Forty). And following a quick re-read in light of that discussion, it became apparent that those panels weren’t some crazy Morrisonian time fracture, but something much simpler: actual, linear funnybook storytelling. The Time Sphere activates, sending the Hyper-Adapter back in time, but self-destructing as it goes. The next panel shows Dick Grayson’s encounter with Barbatos in the Secret Batcave, with the added detail of the shattering “glass” of the Time Sphere as it breaks up. Then we get a page set back in caveman days, as a flash of light comes out of a cave mouth, followed by Barbatos (and, again, shards of Time Sphere “glass”) as it flies off to meet its death at the hands of Vandal Savage, as we saw back in the first issue of Return of Bruce Wayne.

And that sets up a whole different story than the one I’d been imagining.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Halloween at the Shiver Shack

So Halloween might be over, but that don't mean the Dork Forty nerd wranglers can't pull some more Halloweenie goodness out of the fields for your enjoyment. And tonight, they found us a doozy: Uncle Eerie's Halloween Shiver Show! We profiled Uncle Eerie in our run-down of the Dork Forty's favorite horror hosts last month, but in case you don't remember...

Though it just debuted earlier this year, the Shiver Show's off to a great start. Uncle Eerie himself has a really fantastic look and gimmick, and the show is, in general, a bit of a visual feast. The costumes and set design for this thing are really impressive, especially for a public access show. The Shiver Shack set is particularly nice, evoking "run-down hell-hole" while still being otherwise aesthetically pleasing. I dig on the Lite Brite set with "REDRUM" spelled out on it, especially.

Pretty as it is, though, the Shiver Show's comedy material can be a little hit-and-miss. It's very funny on the concept and character side of things, and I really like the 1950s documentary music cues they use. But some of the actual gags fall a little flat. Some of that's on purpose, I'm sure, corny gags being a horror host staple (Svengoolie, anyone?). Sometimes, though... I don't laugh when I think I'm supposed to. But it's early days yet for this show, and it's otherwise so good that I cut them a little slack.

And, I'm pleased to say, they got the comedy firing on all cylinders for the Halloween special. I laughed my ass off at this thing. The opening features one of my new favorite fake ads I've seen for anything...

(And Blogspot's acting up on us again, so please click through into the article to watch.)

HA! My favorite Halloween myth, brought to cheesy life!

(Because, yes, children: no police department in America has ever received a report of razor blades in Halloween candy of any type. No poisoned candy, either. It's an urban legend, folks! So feel free to take a delicious candied apple from the old lady at the end of the block next Halloween! Unless you hate candied apples, of course. In that case, chuck some eggs at the old bag's house and run like hell!)

In the second segment, Uncle Eerie demonstrates the true spirit of Halloween...

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Batman & Robin #16
Return of Bruce Wayne #6 (of 6)
by Grant Morrison, Cameron Stewart, Chris Burnham, Frazer Irving, Lee Garbett, and Pere Perez

So I have to admit: I over-thought things on this book. Seriously, I blew it. Morrison’s plot and theme have been so labyrinthine that I got lost in the maze, just another victim of the lit-crit minotaur lurking at its heart. So it is with hat in hand that I come to you this fine evening to admit my critical failure: it wasn’t Alfred in the Bat-Suit after all.

Click to Embiggen

Otherwise, though… I think I pretty much nailed it.

(Oh, and I suppose that now’s as good a time as any to let you know that this post will be ALL-SPOILER, ALL THE DAMN TIME. So stop reading now if you don’t wanna know…)

What was I saying? Ah. Yeah, I think I nailed it. Not in every detail, certainly, but on the whole. Hurt really was trying to take Batman’s place through communion with Barbatos, and didn’t realize that all he was actually doing was taking the place of the Joker as Batman‘s number one arch-foe. Or trying to, anyway. Because, let’s face it: in the field of iconic arch-enemies, Joker has had Hurt badly out-classed from the outset. Sure, Hurt’s a classic “opposite number” villain, and he’s got the weight of history behind him, drawing on all sorts of hurtful minutiae from Batman’s past. But that’s the sort of thing that only matters to comics historians and massive dorks like myself. Joker’s the real deal, the actual antithesis of everything Batman stands for. Plus, his gimmick’s all his own, no previous knowledge of Batman necessary. And he’s way-cool to boot, something Hurt just can’t lay claim to.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, aren’t I?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Wonder Wha--?!

So my planned look at Batman and Robin 16 has been delayed. My analysis got bogged down in subtext, and though I think I've got it figured out finally... I'm too damn tired to actually write it up. But I wanted to post something tonight, so I'll share this lovely photo of Lynda Carter that a friend of mine found recently...

Hmm. I don't know what's going on there, and I don't think I wanna know.

But, man. They sure did have some wild parties back in the 70s, didn't they? 

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Funnybooks of October, Part Two

So our marathon of Halloweenie goodness put us behind on everything but, well… Halloweenie goodness. We still got hours of new Fall TeeVee to watch, an embarrassin’ number of movies layin’ around, and a Lucha Libre pay-per-view! I never even finished that book I grabbed when my house caught on fire! Oh, and of course… a crap-ton of funnybooks to review. Tonight, it’s a cavalcade of corporate spandex, starting with my favorite cover of the month...

Strange Tales II #1 & 2
by Various

Marvel’s second indy-comics anthology mini-series is off and running, and it’s just as much a mixed bag as the first. Some of the stories are a lot of fun, while others just kinda fall flat. I suspect which stories are which will depend on your taste in the avante-garde edge of the funnybook business. For my money, the second issue is much stronger than the first, featuring both Hernandez brothers (!) and Tony Millionaire, and featuring a completely insane heavy metal Ghost Rider story by Sheldon Vella. The first issue can’t be counted out, though, as it features Jeff Lemire, Jhonen Vazquez, and my personal favorite story to come out of the Strange Tales project to date…

Rafael Grampa’s “Dear Logan.” This is a story about a future time when Wolverine founds and competes in a pro rasslin’ style super-bloodsport federation in which every competitor has a healing factor, and thus can be eviscerated and/or dismembered in the ring for the enjoyment of the fans. But it’s not just a super-cool paean to manly violence, oh no. It’s also about pain, and (as the title probably implies) how Logan’s addiction to it has driven yet another woman away from him. It’s hot stuff, drawn in Grampa’s signature sleazy-baroque cartoon style, and well-worth the cover price all by itself. And speaking of covers, Grampa provided that, too, as you can see above. Love his Wolvie there, but that Thor also kicks ass pretty hard. At any rate. I could read Grampa Wolverine stories forever, I think, but for now we’ve only got this one. Something I’d love for Marvel to fix as soon as possible…

Grade: A+ for “Dear Logan.”
             B for Strange Tales as a whole.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Funnybooks of October, Part One

So I’ve put this off long enough. The stack of comics I haven’t reviewed due to my October Halloween marathon has gotten out of hand. I’ve got two issues of some books piled up in there now, and I need to get it cleaned out. So without further ado… for reals this time… FUNNYBOOKSINREVIEWAREGO!!!

by Warren Ellis, Phil Jimenez, and Various

This is sort of an historic publication. Warren Ellis was just getting off to a good start on the Hellblazer series when one of his stories ran up against content concerns from DC Comics publisher Paul Levitz. It was a story dealing with school shootings, and something in it caused Levitz to pull it from publication at the 12th hour. So its publication now, in the wake of Levitz stepping down as publisher, has to be seen as a message to Ellis and anyone else that ran afoul of censorship issues in the Levitz era that DC’s current management is more open to extreme content.

I must admit, though, I spent most of the story wondering what the big deal was. It follows a government researcher trying to figure out what’s causing the rash of school shootings that were sweeping America at the time. It’s sad, sure, but unless Levitz was afraid of discussing the issue at all, I wasn’t seeing why it might have been killed. But then… [SPOILER] Ellis has been obliquely drawing comparisons to the Jonestown massacre throughout the story, but then Constantine shows up at the end, talking about his own investigations and how what he’s seeing are kids so numbed by their dead-end futures that they don’t even run when confronted with a gun. And it slowly dawns on me that Ellis isn’t even going for some kind of symbolic supernatural explanation here. He’s flat-out saying that the victims of these shootings, while not suicidal in the classic sense, were just waiting for someone to pull the trigger. [/SPOILER]

Well, okay then. I can see where that might have caused some concern.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Caprica: RIP

So you might have guessed, from my taste in funnybooks, that I was a big fan of Battlestar Galactica. Or you might not have ever given it any thought; lord knows I wouldn’t have if I were you. Regardless, though, my love of Galactica carried over to its bastard offspring, Caprica, which has recently been cancelled. Now, the writing’s been on the wall for that cancellation since the spring season wrapped. Ratings weren’t good, and they didn’t get any better when the show resumed in the fall. So we’re left to wonder why. It would be easy to blame sci-fi fanboys’ obsession with action-adventure material, something the deeply character-based Caprica lacked. But that’s too easy an answer, and so tonight I’d like to take a look at the show and what, exactly, might have gone wrong.

But maybe I‘d better outline why I like it so much first. Essentially, I just appreciate the sheer raw quality of it. Caprica, even moreso than Galactica before it, offers up a cast of complicated and deeply-flawed characters that I love to watch. The best example of this is probably Eric Stoltz’ Daniel Graystone. Arguably the series’ central figure, Graystone is the creator of the Cylons. He’s a driven visionary, a scientific artist and hyper-successful Type-A businessman. His genius and magnetic personality make me want to like the guy, even though he’s also arrogant and unthinking, and possessed of a ruthless practicality that drives him to intellectual (and literal) theft. I’m left riveted by him as he slowly learns that he’s not as good a person as he thinks he is. It’s a great look at the making of a villain, and one that keeps him more relatable than (though not as much fun as) JR Ewing.

Which brings us to the “Dallas” thing. Caprica was conceived as a science fiction family drama. In other words, a sci-fi nighttime soap opera. Or in yet still other words… Dallas in space. Robots instead of oil. Virtual reality addiction instead of alcoholism. But otherwise… pretty much the same thing. Now, times being what they are, Caprica was also conceived as the “quality drama” version of the nighttime soap. So the leering villains and bitchy heiresses have more depth, and the moral dilemmas are shaded with gray. I dig this aspect of the show, too. TV sci-fi (hell, sci-fi in general) doesn’t often venture into the realm of character-driven drama, where emotions are as important as plot, and character motivation isn’t always spelled out or easily-explained.

But Caprica jumps in with both feet and handles it well. Going back to the Greystone family for example, we have Daniel’s daughter Zoe, who’s a real piece of work. Raised by loving but neglectful parents, Zoe craves her father’s attention so much that she creates an AI program more advanced than anything he’s capable of (which he promptly steals as the basis for the Cylon brain). And her relationship with her mother, Amanda, is so far gone that she joins a monotheist cult out of disgust. Zoe’s motivations unfold over the course of the season, difficult to discern clearly because she dies in the pilot episode, but slowly revealed through the AI copy she made of herself. Until finally it hit me that the show’s major storylines, these things that so many grown men and women are willing to fight and die for, are only important to the story because of the pained and spiteful lashing-out of a petulant (if brilliant) teenage girl rebelling against her parents. Heh.

Though far from perfect, Caprica is for the most part a polished piece of dramatic writing, filled with complex and conflicted characters moving through a well-imagined, interesting, and most important of all relatable, science fiction culture. It’s well-written and -acted, has an interesting look and feel, and is directed with style and flair. It’s just damn good television.

So why did it fail?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Madblood Redux

So some of you may remember, back at the beginning of the Countdown to Halloween, me going on at length about the TeeVee horror host I grew up watching:

Doctor Madblood

The Doc's retired from the regular horror hosting gig now, but he does a Halloween special every year. And now this year's special's been posted up on-line by his station, WHRO. It's the show's 35th Anniversary special as well, chock-full of clips from past episodes and the usual Madblood goofiness. It's a great improvement over last year's special, as well, which I felt was sort of a long-time-fans-only sort of affair. The movie is Horror Hotel, (not)starring Christopher Lee.

So to get a full dose of Madblood goodness, complete with cheesy-ass movie, go here.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


So October was a long spooky month here on the Dork Forty, and the general macabre overtone prevented me from dealing with my usual business of reviewing my weekly funnybook haul. Except for Batman, of course. Because, as I said at the time… BATMAN. But now’s the time to rectify that. I’ve been keeping all my new funnybooks stacked up in a pile awaiting review, and it’s time to plow through it. So, without further ado… FUNNYBOOKSINREVIEWARE(once again)GO!!!

Powers #6
by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming

Even though Powers won the funnybook battle between itself and Batman, I didn’t feel compelled to break with the Halloween writing to cover it. And why not? Because, unlike Batman, Powers doesn’t call for in-depth analysis every issue. Not that there aren’t matters of character and technique worth discussing; far from it. But Batman’s a literary puzzle, written in such a dense and unforgiving style that each issue needs to be unpacked as you go. Powers is more sprawling, and lends itself to analysis better in the long-form. That more natural flow, with its accompanying reliance on a stronger balance between story and art, is what gave it the nod over Batman. But, you know… The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and all that.

ANYway… This issue begins a new arc of sorts, or at least a new case for Walker and Sunrise.

(And, geez… I know I’ve said this before, but “Enki Sunrise” is such a fantabulously horrible name that I find it difficult to even refer to her with a straight face. I mean, DAMN. Maybe I’ll just stick with “Enki” from now on. Though I can’t say that I like her enough to, you know, be on a first-name basis with the silly bitch. I mean, I LOVED Deena Pilgrim, and I still refer to her mostly as “Pilgrim.” Grr, Bendis! GRR!)

Where was I? Oh, right! New issue, new story arc, new case. I hesitate on the “story arc” label, though, because much of the issue was spent moving the third volume’s various on-going plots and themes forward. How many of you had forgotten that Enki (grr) was spying on Walker for Internal Affairs, for instance? I kind of almost had, and I pride myself on paying attention to things like that. Thinking back to that really awkward conversation she had with Walker back in issue one about partners and trust and all that… Well, it seems a lot less awkward now. She was, in a very unsubtle way, trying to pump Walker for information. Because Enki could give two shits about the sacred bond of cop partners. She only cares about outing corruption and getting to the truth of things. She’s said as much. So good on ya, Bendis! I take back any bad things I had to say about that conversation at the time.

But we were talking about the new issue. In addition to Enki talking to IA, Walker gets a call to go out and use those super powers he’s not supposed to have to stop some horrible alien things from wreaking destruction on the Earth. He takes Calista along, and so we’re reminded, in one fell swoop, that 1. Walker’s got alien-fighting powers, and 2. He’s training Calista to be the new Retro Girl. It’s one hell of a sequence, too. Walker goes down beneath an ancient temple in the Andes to fight these weird-ass alien lamprey-worm thingies and Oeming goes nuts with the giant splashy panels full of giant splashy action. It’s awesome. If Oeming drew Bendis’ Avengers books, I might still be reading them. The centerpiece of the sequence (and of the issue, I suppose) is a really nice two-page spread that gives the whole scene this feeling of Lovecraft filtered through Kirby, Steranko and MC Escher. No, seriously! Check it out:

click to embiggen

I suppose this is the point where I should say something about SPOILERS, isn’t it? Or was that back before I ruined the best spread in the book? Sorry. But this thing came out weeks ago. If you cared, you’d have read it by now!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween's Over...

...but wasn't it fun?

Personally, all of us here on the Dork Forty are just a teeny tiny bit... depressed... now that our favorite time of the year has passed. I mean, we did get to see the Great Punkin, and that was pretty great, but... I dunno. It's like somethin's gone outta life now that we've scared all the evil spirits away for another year. I mean, we gotta wait til next October 1st to really look over our shoulders in fear that some weird boogitty-man's gonna be waitin' there with a meat cleaver! And none of our non-dork friends will be willin' to put up with our Screamin' Lord Sutch records again til then, either! Not even when he's coverin' Little Richard! And god forbid you suggest watchin' another horror movie til anytime after Christmas!

Huh. I guess this is whatcha call post-mortem depression.

But anyway. It ain't all bad. Now that I don't feel compelled to post somethin' every single day, I can get caught up on my TeeVee! I actually filled my DVR with unwatched programmin' in October! I wound up deletin' my saved copy of The Incubus by mistake 'cause I got in such a hurry to make room for last night's Venture Brothers! OH the humanity! How long will it be before I get to see Billy Shatner talkin' in Esperanto again?!

But I can get back to my normal course of talkin' about the funnybooks again, too. Expect a mighty big "Last Month's Comics Today" comin' tomorrow night. And all this yappin' I did about Halloweenie things in the last month reminded me that, when I started this blog for the nerd farm, I'd intended to talk about more than just the funnybooks. 'Cause, seriously, we're really all-purpose dorks out here. We like the movies and the TeeVee, too. And the music and lord knows what all else. So I'll be writin' more about all that kinda stuff comin' up, as well. Not every day, mind you. 'Cause that near-'bout killed me...

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Great Pumpkin Sighted!

That sound you hear is the cheering of the Dork Forty Halloweenies. For we planted our punkin patch, and we nurtured its sincerity in the manner pro-scribed in the Great Book of Halloween. We Monster Mashed nekkid 'round the fire. We took heed to the words of Brother Vincent, and when he asked of us "Can You Dig It?" we responded unto him in the positive. We wore our shrouds emblazoned with the likenesses of Brother Boris and Father Rondo. We knelt at the Altar of Bela, and learned at the feet of good ol' HP. And when we were done learnin', we took our message to the people (that's you, son, so stand up straight). We shared our knowledge, our ob-sessions, and our pretty pretty pictures.

And tonight, it's all paid off. 'Cause just a few short minutes ago, out in our very own Dork Forty Halloween punkin patch, the Great Punkin himself appeared to us, bringin' candy and shrunken heads for all! His appearance was fleetin', as is his way. He was there and gone in a heartbeat, and his form shifted dependin' on who saw him. Some thought it was a be-goggled beagle. Others, an errant bowlin' ball. But we all knew him as our Halloweenie saviour.

And there was much rejoicin'.

And now, we wanna share that joy with you, via the wonders of the interwebs, with a few choice scenes from the first holy text of the Great Punkin... It's the Great Punkin, Charlie Brown. Like the Great Punkin himself, you can't see the whole thing at once out here in the wild. Just the key scenes, the good ones. The ones everybody remembers. Which you can see... after the jump.

No Service

So have you ever wanted to know what an individual blogger looked like? No? Me, neither. But that's not gonna stop me from making this post! Earlier in the year, I acted in a short student horror film called "No Service," in which I play a serial killer. I had a lot of fun, and I think my director got a good grade, and that's all that matters, really. But still. I hope you enjoy it...

No Service from Jeremy Hill on Vimeo.

Hey Hey Hey!

So the sun's gone down again, we got the razor blades in all the candy apples for Maw to hand out back at the house, and we're back to waitin' in the punkin patch. The Great Punkin might show up any minute now! We're so excited. But while we wait, let's check out the Fat Albert Halloween Special!

Made in 1977, this one's your typical 70s kids' cartoon for the most part. Cool as the Fat Albert gang was, that show got pretty damn preachy at times, and this Halloween special is no exception. Between all the awesome put-downs, it's really about Halloween safety, and how it's wrong to scare old people, and all kindsa weak-ass crap like that. But! There's a section right in the middle with Mudfoot talking about how much better (and more Darwinian) Halloween was when he was a kid, and that's worth sitting through the rest for. So... without further ado... I give you The Fat Albert Halloween Special!

Mars Attacks, Panic Ensues

So it's time for a dinner break. But while you wait... why not enjoy a real American Halloween tradition, and give a listen to this myterious radio broadcast from 1938, when the Martians attacked New Jersey. Just, please, whatever you do... DO NOT PANIC!

Keep your nerves steady, and start listening... after the jump.

There's No Escape...

So I was going to move on to EC Comics next in my cavalcade of comics covers, but then I realized that I'd forgotten one of the big DC horror books: House of Secrets!

The sister series to House of Mystery, House of Secrets has a similar publishing history, though it started publication in 1956, after the Comics Code went into effect. Initially presenting stories of suspense, mystery and the supernatural, it shifted with changing times to giant monster and alien invasion fare before becoming the home of recurring characters like Eclipso (half hero / half villain!) and Prince Ra-Man (super-mentalist). As sales dwindled on the Eclipso series, House of Secrets was cancelled, only to be brought back three years later in 1969 as part of the horror line. And, like the rest of that line, it was blessed with a series of great covers. Most of the early ones were by Neal Adams, starting with issue 81:

Not Adams' best, nor a particular high point for DC horror in the 60s, but still a striking cover image. You'll note the bearded fellow up in the logo? The one that looks like an evil Orson Welles? That's Abel, host of the House of Secrets and brother to the House of Mystery's Cain. Why they thought taking the participants in the first Biblical murder and making them horror hosts was a good idea is anybody's guess, but I must say that it worked. Abel was a less sinister host than Cain, or maybe just less mean-spirited. Abel was plenty creepy, though. Whereas I always got the sense that Cain would be a fun guy to hang out with right up until the moment he cut your throat, Abel always just seemed creepy to me. Like the sort of guy who might have the kind of van you really wouldn't want to climb into...

But, anyway. The covers! Adams didn't deliver such great work on his first few issues, but then, for issue 88, he turned in this stunning piece, which you can see... after the jump!

The Chicken Heart

So here's a Halloween classic for you, courtesy the classic radio program Lights Out: it's the spine-tingling tale of... The Chicken Heart!

Of course, just between you and me... I like Bill Cosby's version better...

Live Sutch!

For your Halloweenie viewing pleasure, here's a clip of a Screaming Lord Sutch performance from the 1972 London Rock & Roll Show. It's ten years after his heyday, he's playing to a festival crowd on a huge open-air stage, and he takes the opportunity to go completely, one hundred percent, batshit insane. There's gunfire, Sutch doubles, a giant white coffin, bikini-clad go-go dancing pall-bearers, and (I think) Alice Cooper. Complete Halloweenie insanity that seems to have perplexed the crowd of hippies that showed up to watch. The cops guarding the stage seem pretty entertained, though...

The Voices in Your Head

So it's not something we talk about a whole heck of a lot, but one of our favorite pastime entertainments here on the Dork Forty is role-playing games. No, we don't put on French Maid costumes for each other -- well, not as part of the official Dork Forty funtimes, anyway. What consentin' nerd wranglers do in the privacy of their own bedrooms is up to them. What I'm talkin' about here is the good ol' dorky table-top RPG. You know... Dungeons & Dragons and the like.

Now, most RPGs aren't particularly Halloweenie. Sure, there's that (non-sparkly) Vampire game and all the stuff that goes with it. And of course there's the ever-popular Call of Cthulhu. But beyond those, horror roleplayin' has never been all that prominent. It's usually more about killin' stuff in a heroic manner, rather than... you know... serial killer style. (Though there's a game in there somewheres, I just know it...) Part of the reason for this disconnect between RPGs and horror is, I think, the reliance on numbers and dice. Things are just a lot less scary when they've got hit points. There are ways around that if you're creative, but most RPGers just aren't creative in that way. So horror gaming tends not to work so well.

But I was pointed toward an easy (and free!) RPG recently that I thought had a lotta Halloweenie potential: Everyone is John. The premise is fiendishly simple: John is a crazy person, and everybody plays one of the voices in his head. Each player tries to get John to do what they want, in competition with everybody else. You get points for achieving your goals, and roll dice to maintain control. At the end of the evening, the player that's gotten the highest score wins.

Now, there are scores and dice and all that involved in Everyone is John, and I'll give you a link to the full text of the rules (which take up a single page) at the end of this post. But they don't get in the way of play, or in the way of any SANITY-BLASTING HORROR you might want to inject. And the potential for said horror seems pretty high to me. Get a group of like-minded individuals together, and this game could be one of the better exercises in horror roleplaying I've seen. We'll be playin' a around of this game while we wait in the punkin patch tonight, and I personally can't wait. I've had the opportunity to play a voice in someone's head before, and I've been looking for a way to get back to it ever since.

If you wanna give it a shot yourself... Just go here: Everyone is John. And if you want more free weird-ass RPGs, check out the parent page: Sandor at the Zoo.