All posts by Elias Richarts

For now we see through a glass, darkly – Part 2

Drax the Destroyer. DRAX THE DESTROYER. At that moment it was no longer August, 1985 but February 1973. American POWs were released by the Viet Cong, the US and Red China established diplomatic liaison offices, and in domestic matters I was continuing my never ending role as sparring partner for DeWayne Bell, Buddy Green, Eric Anderssen, and Michael Colobussi.

Looking back on it now, I still can’t figure out why I bought that particular issue of Iron Man. It sure as hell wasn’t the cover. But from the moment I saw the first page I was hooked.

Iron Man

Iron Man was not a big draw for me as far as comic buying habits went. I seem to remember him most from reading a reprint story from Strange Tales when he kicked the crap out of the Crimson Dynamo (the Commie imitation, who, naturally, was no match for Yankee know-how and ingenuity). In an act of mercy, Shell-head let CD escape. After failing his mission, he returned to his rendezvous point with a Soviet sub and they let him drown, stating that failure could not be tolerated. For a kid, that was pretty heavy stuff so maybe that’s why I picked up #55, plus it had a green guy a la The Hulk on the cover.

Continue reading For now we see through a glass, darkly – Part 2

For now we see through a glass, darkly (Part I)

Back in the halcyon days of yore of my misspent youth when life was simple (see IRON CURTAIN), one of the few haunts where I sought solace from the dreaded linked list, relational database, homogeneous diff-e-Qs (as opposed to heterogeneous diff-e-Qs which are currently lobbying for heterogeneous diff-e-Q marriage) was The Closet of Comics. I also was known to frequent licensed shebeens but that’s another story for another time.

The Closet of Comics was a nondescript little store located in the basement of a building next to a major shebeen on Route 1. Which is probably how I discovered it. I had been out of the comic-reading business since roughly the age of fourteen. By then the callipygian assets of Linda Guadanole had captured my imagination. Anyway in I walked and I was greeted by the proprietor and his large black Lab-mix dog Rhoda. I took a look around and my eyes fell upon the cover of a comic that brought it all back. The Life of Captain Marvel. I mean that’s it. Right there. All in one little package. All the wonder, excitement, and joy of comics came rushing back in an instant.

Captain Marvel

Continue reading For now we see through a glass, darkly (Part I)

Falco’s Greatest Hits

Falco's Greatest Hits

Parental Advisory – This review was written at 2:55 AM. And while the album was being listened to after sitting on the shelf for two months.

A) Classic 80’s techno pop backed by incomprehensible German lyrics.

Examples – Amadeus – I always thought he was singing “Rock me I’m a danish” – as in pastry.

“Der Komissar” – I had an advantage on this one. I had the 45 and copied it on cassette when the record first came out. Later that year, I was living with Guido who, like me, is Italian and German, but being from Europe, spoke both languages, as well as English (ok, close enough on English). He said the lyrics were, “Don’t look over your shoulder, the commissioner is sneaking along the street.” Somehow I think something got altered in translation.

“Vienna Calling” – See A.

Continue reading Falco’s Greatest Hits

HOLY BAT-TOON!

Batman

There’s a not-so-new cartoon gracing the glass teat on Cartoon Network. “Batman: The Brave and The Bold” is based on the old comic book of the same name. The Caped Crusader teams up with a different hero from the DC universe each week to fight for the forces of goodness and niceness. The tone is a lot lighter than the Batman animated series of the 90’s and the Justice League ‘toons of the early 21st but it doesn’t venture into jackassery. The teaser features Batman and another hero in an unrelated takedown of a villain before the main adventure. The heroes and villains are generally depicted in their Golden / Silver Age representations. You won’t see any of the biggies (no Superman here folks) which I find refreshing. The guest good guys and baddies have included Green Arrow, Plastic Man, Etrigan, Adam Strange, Kammandi, the Golden Age Flash, Gentleman Ghost, Scarecrow, Black Manta, Gorilla Grodd, and Babyface. The only drawback is the Blue Beetle who makes several appearances in the role of “teenage sidekick.” The animation is good, the stories clever, and Batman’s wit is dry as a martini. Check your local listings.

WHY I WON’T SEE THE WOLVERINE MOVIE (AND OTHER RANDOM RANTS)

X-Men 2 stunk.

X-Men 3 stunk on ice.

And I HATE prequels. The legacy of George Lucas and Jar Jar Binks lives on.

Another piece of ammo is the merchandising campaign. One piece of brummagem junk that is being pushed on kids (at $14.99 to $23.99 a pop) is the Wolverine Electronic Battle Claw (wow!). For your hard earned bucks your kid only gets ONE claw. What kid is going to want to be a one-clawed Wolverine?

Bob Dylan’s new album, “Together Through Life” is out. Bob, (or Robert to your mother), you’re a great songwriter but you’ve never been any great shakes as a singer. This album reaffirms that fact.

Lastly, but not least, the series finale of Battlestar Galactica – major disappointment. In my humble opinion the series jumped the shark early in the third season and after the “Planet of the Apes” – style ending of the first half of the fourth season I stopped watching. So I missed the second half of season four except for the series ending. I didn’t miss much. And the finale had more WTF moments than Cylon models. Let’s see, Col. Tigh’s wife was the 12th Cylon, the Colonials go “back to nature”, Baltar walks off scot-free, Starbuck is an angel, and that’s just the beginning of the jackassery.

This has been a public service announcement.

WATCHMEN: There must be some kind of way out of here

Watchmen

Marshall McLuhan said, “The medium is the message.” If that’s true, in the case of Watchmen the message should be, “stick to your medium.” Because if you haven’t read the book, don’t waste your time. If you’re reading this I’m not going to belabor the backstories of the graphic novel and the movie directed by Zack Snyder. In the event of an emergency the oxygen masks will deploy from the overhead compartments. And Awaaay We Go!

First the good. The visual effects are probably the best literal translation of the comic book panel since the “ZOK!” superimposed over the fight scenes in the 1966 Batman TV series.

Second the bad. The acting is atrocious. Defendant number one, Malin Akerman. I’ve seen particleboard with more emotive ability. There is a scene of coitus superherois between Akerman and Owl Man (Patrick Wilson) in the Owlmobile that I think is the sole reason Akerman was hired. And Wilson displays all the depth and range of paint drying. Mathew Goode, the anti-hero hero is right up there with gypsum board. The rest of the cast is burdened by makeup that they cannot overcome with their limited abilities (acting, not superhero).

Next the ugly. The absolutely gratuitous, pointless violence with compound fractures and blood squirting captured in glorious slow-mo close-ups a la The Matrix to inspire the next generation of Gary Ridgeways whose parents are too lazy or too damn dumb to know that an R rated movie like this is inappropriate for kids under 18. (It really should have been rated NC-17, not R). And did we REALLY have to see multiple shots of Dr. Manhattan’s MIRV?

Now the blasphemous. They changed the ending – and it was better!

Finally the point. Watchmen was a originally drawn and written as a graphic novel and is a master of that medium known as “panel art” to the Upper West Side (Dr.) Manhattan crowd and “comic book” to the Great Unwashed. While individual scenes and sequences may have been translated literally (or as best as possible) to the moving image, it is simply impossible to take an art form which is a stationary medium and translate ALL of it literally to the moving screen without the result resembling Rorshach’s ever-changing blobular mask. – in other words a confused, incoherent mess.

The bottom line. Contrary to the fanboys, film students, and critics, Watchmen is NOT another Battleship Potemkin (let alone Star Wars). However it is NOT League of Extraordinary Gentlemen either. It is an interesting failure. Should you spend your hard earned $7.50? Only if you can see it in a theater with five other people like I did. Wait for the dvd. The theatrical version, not the “special director’s nine millionth edit” release they are planning. Cuz crap with a cherry on top is still crap. But it’s not TOTAL diarrhea. Confused? So am I. Said the joker to the thief.

Saucy Visions of Dangerous Jack

Dangerous Visions

Recently I read three short stories. Although written by two different authors more than twenty years apart, they shared one common theme: Jack the Ripper. Unlike David Berkowitz, Eileen Wuornos, and Gary Ridgeway, Jack the Ripper was never caught and so he did not lose his infamous moniker like the others. Which is probably why the man who brutally murdered women in London over a century ago remains so fascinating for us. Gary Ridgeway’s crimes were more horrific, at least in numbers of victims, but does anyone believe that 120 years from now, he will be the subject of a horror fiction story? Jack the Ripper’s anonymity allows writers a canvas upon which to paint suspense, fear, and nauseating horror.

And that’s exactly what writers Robert Bloch and Harlan Ellison have done with their trio of stories, “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper”, “A Toy for Juliette”, and “The Prowler in the City at the Edge of the World.” Bloch wrote the first story for Weird Tales in 1943 and adapted it for the TV series Thriller and Star Trek. He wrote the second for Ellison’s 1967 anthology Dangerous Visions.

At the time, Dangerous Visions was heralded as revolutionary and in retrospect, it was. Written at the height of the “new wave” movement in speculative fiction that sought to move the genre from space opera and the stigma of second rate offal to mainstream literary art, Dangerous Visions contained stories from established masters like Bloch and Philip K. Dick to then-beginners Roger Zelanzy and Samuel R. Delaney. In fact, Ellison encouraged his contributors to break their own rules and submit stories that could not be printed in the science fiction magazines of the day. As for the stories themselves, Bloch’s are the first two acts in this three-act play. They are well written and original and the basis for Ellison’s which is the best. But be warned, “Prowler” is NOT for the faint of heart. There are passages that can literally be stomach-churning although they are probably tame to a generation raised on CSI.

You can find “Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper” in The Dark Descent edited by David G. Hartwell. Dangerous Visions can usually be found for a reasonable price on eBay or in a good used bookstore. The last two stories can also be found in the July, 1968 issue of Adam magazine. One other note: Ellison recommends reading “Toy” and “Prowler” as one continuous bloc with their introductions and afterwards. Elias recommends reading all three stories seriatim sans intros and afterwards. Read them first, then go back and read them per Ellison and you’ll see why.