Sunday, May 8, 2011

F Comic Books Day

You know me. I hate comics. But because I'm the type who not only likes to pick at the scab, but jab at it with a fork for a while, I sometimes sneak into the comics shop. I say sneak in because I try to avoid making eye contact with comic shop clerks or patrons for fear that they might regale me with the plotline from the last 87 issues of She-Hulk. No matter how popular comics become, no matter how mainstream the fandom lifestyle, comics fans still behave like the loneliest people on earth. So I try to visit comic shops when they’re crowded, so I can slip in undetected, scoff privately at the unconsciously homoerotic fanboy pornography, and leave unmolested.

And that’s why I like Free Comic Book Day. The shops are packed with Dorkus Fanboyus in all its varieties, too busy with their debates about utility belt maintenance and zombie disposal methods to notice me laughing derisively in the corner. This year threw me no curves. As soon as I walked in, I heard one of the artists on hand to provide free sketches engaged in a loud argument about George Lucas’ skills as a director. In the back of the store, where the gamers converged, a bearded doofus in a bowling shirt with kung-fu dragons on it loudly exclaimed, “A teleportation pod is all you’d need to take care of those werewolves!” This species never changes, and I take some comfort in that.

I’m generally only interested in the moldiest newsprint available in these shops. So I’m usually digging through the dollar boxes, looking for comics from the Count Dante era (if you don’t get that reference, I doubt we can find much common ground in a discussion about super hero comics). Free Comic Book Day gives me the rare opportunity to engage with new material - specifically the new material publishers are most eager to promote with a free giveaway. So, assuming you comics fans are interested in the perspective of a hostile outsider, I thought I’d give my impressions of a few of the promotional comics I picked up today. Shops were limiting the number of comics patrons could snag this year, so I had to visit more than one of these dank pits to get a reasonably wide selection of free crap. Then I lost a considerable number of brain cells reading this junk. You’re welcome. Let’s look at my stash:


“Caught in a mysterious explosion, mild-mannered Dashiell James has become top NASCAR driver Jimmy Dash.” Is it just me or does that first line of this comic suggest that brain damage made the guy want to become a NASCAR driver? As it turns out, that explosion gave practically every character in the comic super powers, none of which are exhibited in stories where everyone just drives cars all the time. The main villain of this series, Jack Diesel, “had aquired (sic) the most powers of all.” Did this evil mastermind use his vast power to take over the world? Worse, he used them to “cheat in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.” The bastard!


The title here is pretty confusing since none of the Marvel Super Hero Squad use their PCs or iPhones at any time. Basically, the plot of this comic is just as stupid as a classic Stan Lee comic, but everyone has horrifically malformed bodies. When I was a kid, I always found efforts to make my favorite super heroes big-eyed and cutesy-poo to be extremely insulting, so I assume any self-respecting kid would today. Hideous, toy line tie-in deformities aside, this is actually one of the more coherent and inoffensive comics in the bunch. And one of the ads featured a cover illo I thought was kind of neat:


I got real confused when the art suddenly got better on page 9. Then I realized this was actually samples of five different Green Hornet comics. Which begs the question, do we need ONE Green Hornet comic? Especially one written by the staggeringly talentless Kevin Smith? The opening sequence features a device fanboys just adore: a hackneyed action sequence with dialogue that sarcastically points out how hackneyed it is. This, I suppose, takes the sting out of realizing you’ve just watched a guy in a cape beat up a group of stereotypical comic book thugs in a grimy alley for the four trillionth time. Seriously, gang, I’ve got nothing against the Green Hornet, but history has shown us, time and time again, that Batman’s infinitely superior car, costume, and ass-kicking renders GH completely superfluous.

The same goes for this desperate attempt to make The Phantom “extreme”…

...or this effort to encourage readers to wonder what the Black Terror might be brooding so intensely about after sixty years. (Can I just add that Alex Ross makes me physically ill? No? Okay, nevermind.)

While I’m scanning the ads in this one, what sort of aerobics dance is Red Sonja doing here?

Judging from the looks on their faces, that dump Kato is taking on the roof must smell pretty bad. Green Hornet is doing what here? Reaching for the throat of crime?

G.I. JOE #155

It takes an especially psychotic brand of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to figure out what’s going on in this one...or to care. That’s assuming you’re over the age of eight, when keeping track of the subplots of 657 action figures seems dreadfully important. The fact that none of the characters in this comic have faces isn’t helping me give a shit, either. There’s an attempt to make the actions of these cartoon super villains politically relevant on page five, and I just find that adorable.


The creative team here is finding out the hard way that updating Richie Rich with robots, martial arts, and super villains just makes it exactly like every other kiddie property in the country. This is what Big Boy comics were like, fer crissake. The series is described as “a mix of James Bond and Indiana Jones (two TOTALLY different genres) with the bank account of Donald Trump.” Because nothing appeals to children more than billionaire real estate tyrants.

(I can’t bring myself to actually read the Kung Fu Panda comic on the flipside. I’m sure it’s excellent.)


“Senator Muggletop has escaped from Argtile Seven with secret plans for Princess Ummahooten’s Council of Drakuu, while Darth Ved has stolen the Grauvagnian Warships to rendezvous with General Zamplepants and blah blah blah blah blah……”


Don’t you wish Akira had the X-Men in it? Well, wish no more.


Like most modern super hero comics, this one is pulsing with so much pubescent testosterone the art looks like one, big, candy-coated erection. As if the grimacing, flexing, contorting, and tight camera angles weren’t enough to reveal severe sexual frustration, there’s this full-page introduction of “Carol:”

This is what fanboys think an adult woman in a white collar profession looks like. Why? Because their reference material for drawing women comes from All Anal Secretaries Part Six.


This is actually pretty decent. It made sense when I realized Roger Langridge wrote it, because I know him to be a sharp cookie. Really good art in this, too. It’s SO nice to see a modern comic without full-bleed panels for a change. Kid-friendly and fun, but with a backup story by some other creative team that’s completely illegible.


Another case of hackneyed action scenes with dialogue sarcastically pointing out how hackneyed they are. But it bothers me less here because Spider-Man has always been a raging smartass (it’s no wonder he was my favorite growing up), and because, frankly, this whole comic is completely insane. Between the awkward distortions of the artwork - which I like a great deal - and the dopey, irreverent script, this book is like a weird fever dream. Take a lesson from this one, super hero writers. When your genre is essentially one big fight between super powered mutants, you can’t take this junk seriously.

And that’s my attitude overall when it comes to comic books. This type of super hero/sci-fi/phantasy stuff is monumentally stupid, and is only successfully handled by creators who can acknowledge that stupidity. This material is fine for kids – I’m all for youngsters indulging in fun fantasy garbage. But any grownup who reads super hero comics at the exclusion of adult reading material is an emotional retard, and way too much of this comic book porn reflects that retardation.

So I was happy seeing so many kids scamming some free comics, and relieved that a few of those comics seemed geared towards the youngsters in an entertaining way. But I’m still uncomfortable with kids being inducted into the comic shop cult, seeing all these warped, thirty year old junkies so desperately in need of fresh air and natural light. We really don’t need another generation of creators and fans whose only understanding of storytelling forms involves kicks to the head.

So next year, as a service to my community, I’ll be in the parking lot of Warp Five Collectibles with a shredder, giving these FCBD comics a chance to increase in value by destroying the bulk of their print run. The remainder of the worst offenders will hopefully be slabbed in lucite, never to stink up the culture with their inflated anatomy and flexing “intensity” again.

And of course, I’ll be passing out Chick comics to save the children’s souls.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Marriage of Convenience Stores

Also from expert web surfer Jeremy Pinkham (hmmm - maybe HE oughta be running this blog), healthy suggestions for the construction of prefab wedding cakes:

Who Needs School?

Cultural commentator Jeremy Pinkham reminded me of this instructional toy this morning. Leave it to the corporate sector to provide educational toys that actually prepare kids for the real world. Parents, quit fooling yourself with those microscopes and erector sets and start teaching junior something he needs to remember: the difference between McNuggets and McRibs.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Imponderable Hulk

In the Incredible Hulk comic books of my youth, the Hulk could speak.
In the late '70s, Lou Ferrigno, a bodybuilder who couldn't speak very well because he was deaf, played the Hulk on television. This Hulk couldn't talk, so all they required of Ferrigno was his bitchin' bod.

Years later, they made an Incredible Hulk tv cartoon where the Hulk DID speak. They cast Ferrigno to do his voice.

Think about this until your head explodes.

This Ain't Yer Daddy's JC Penny Logo

JC Penny reveals it's new logo. Behold:

Stop the presses! Wow. Why such a lifeless, boring, limp excuse for a logo, you ask? Because it was  “endorsed by thousands of consumers through extensive research”. In other words, the typical results of democracy in action.

The logo was designed by a third year graphic design student, which tells us A: that JC Penny paid very little for it, and B: it takes three years of training to learn to design something dull enough to appeal to JC Penny.

"How much is a mint condition Zuckerberg #1 going for?"

Because no bid for publicity is too desperate for the sad and lonely world of comic books, here comes another waste of trees that no one demanded. Yes, Mark Zuckerberg joins the ranks of Mr. T and The Human Fly as a real-life comic book character destined to litter 25 cent boxes for decades to come.

According to the comic book's author, Joe Maida, "This is a fantastic story. Think about it. Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire on the planet and created something that has already had a profound impact on the world. Yet hardly anyone knows much about him. It’s amazing.”

Is it possible that the world knows hardly anything about Zuckerberg because he's boring as hell? Hey, I appreciated the filmmaking skills that went into The Social Network, but I'm no more curious about an overpriviledged computer nerd riding yet another internet bubble than I was before I saw it. How about films and comics based on the life of the guy who created Frogger? You say you don't care? That's funny - neither do I!

The Hacienda Tragedy

As usual, one of the few times advertising agents come up with an idea that's actually funny, the public is outraged. Actually, as is typically the case, only one, whiney consumer complaint was enough to pull the plug on this campaign.

Now, I'm on record as advocating that all billboards be burned to the ground and their creators subjected to demoralizing community service of some kind (I hear cleanup at the SPCA works pretty well). But look, if we can't make fun of dizzy religious nuts who off themselves because Simon Says, who CAN we make fun of?

Ah, well. The only thing better than an ad campaign that fails is an ad campaign that explodes like the Hindenburg, in my opinion.

The story, courtesy of G.K. McAbee, is here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's People!!!!!!!!!!

This American Life reportedly discovered the top secret recipe of Coca-Cola and whipped up a batch. Turns out it's the same seven herbs and spices the Colonel has been using all these years. (Okay, not really, but I'll bet there are an equal number of carcinogens in each.)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Down with the Clown

Terrorist groups could learn a thing or two from these hooligans. If you want attention, don't kidnap foreign ambassadors or journalists, make threats against America's beloved corporate mascots. The story, including McDonald's humorless response, is here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Is This Thing On?

Leave it to the retail clothing industry to see the humorous side of a violent political revolution.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Geez, I Can't Believe Lucas Sold Out!

Admit it. You were kinda hoping Lil' Vader got run over by the car at the end, too.

It's a Smut World After All

Everyone seems to have a raunchy appreciation for sexualizing children's toys when the kids aren't watching. Up to a point, this is probably healthy. After all, the first thing any child does with a Barbie and Ken combo is whip their pants off get a gander at their privates (or lack thereof). And we've all known that wisecracking adult who won't stop riffing on Barbie's secret affair with GI Joe and other such hilariously taboo topics (we'd kill that guy if he wasn't the boss's nephew). It's the same collision of pornography and children's entertainment that made Hot Topic shoppers mistake Team America and Wonder Showzen for humor.

The fact that this is such time-tested material for overgrown third graders makes me wonder about products like this:

It's hard to imagine this going through the process of design, approvals, and manufacture without someone noticing that this Disney Princess (Ariel or Amethyst or Koriander or whichever the hell one this is) has a giant, plastic shlong. And that consumers are going to suck on it. In fact, I can practically hear the stunted toy designers giggling like farting choir boys during every stage of its development.

It's especially odd coming from Disney, a company so protective of their public image they make L. Ron Hubbard look like Courtney Love. I mean, how could a product with such wide distribution and promotion as this:

...make it past the top dogs at Disney without anyone questioning how the Pez pellets will look popping out of the dwarfs' pee holes? It's just not fathomable. Much more likely that a couple of mischievous Pez employees are high-fiving each other every time they see this on the shelf at Target.

There are plenty of examples, and one you've surely seen by now is this:

It's understandable that you think this is just some pervy Photoshop prank, but nope:

 To be fair, I don't think the revelation that a super-powered mutant's wang is made of chewy plastic should be a huge surprise to anyone.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Behind the Scenes in Hell

Also courtesy of Jeremy Pinkham, a short instructional film on how to brainwash children:

Where For AREN'T Thou, Alfa Romeo?

Courtesy of Jeremy Pinkham, a promotional video promoting a very persistent advertising robot:

It's telling that the polite people of Belgium featured in the video seem only slightly bemused by the rolling ad, rather than having the predictible American reaction of kicking the shit out of it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

We're Gonna Have a TV Party Brought to You by General Motors and Monsanto Tonight - Alright!

Henry sounds a little "fucking" defensive here on the set of his corporate-sponsored cable tv show (said Mr. Holt on his Google-owned blog). What I find most telling is when Rollins poses the question of whether generic music in a car commercial would be better than hearing your favorite rock tune - as if NOT watching the car commercial at all couldn't be an option. Even given his limited perimeters, he's a little quick with his foregone conclusion. He completely bypasses the problem of commercial context by reducing the argument to a simple question of money and exposure. "Don't you want your favorite bands to make money? They're gonna show the commercial anyway, isn't hearing a cool band there better than hearing something boring?"

Since the official hipster position on corporate culture has been refracted and reversed through the lens of modern, "I like Gilligan because I hate it," irony so many times, it's difficult to imagine a context for artistic expression that isn't neck-deep in corporatism, even among those who profess to have "punk" sensibilities. We're conditioned to expect branding and advertising to intrude on artistic expression on some level to even imagine it can survive at all in the marketplace. So it may be inevitable that we adopt the perspective that Henry has. That is, choosing to believe that the artists are somehow empowering themselves by "partnering" with some giant, corporate enterprise, all the while enduring the taunts of the insufferable (and unsophisticated) idealists who cry, "Sellout!"

Far be it for me to suggest that an artist shouldn't be able to do whatever they want with their work, including whoring it out to anyone who'd like a go at it. But context still matters, Henry. It has a significant influence on how the content of a work is perceived. And there are some of us in this noble republic who remember art, music, and literature that benifitted greatly from being free of a blatantly commercial context. These benefits might hard to explain to most Americans today, having never lived any part of their lives logo free, but they were commonly understood at one time.

Rollins may believe that we should celebrate when Black Flag's "TV Party" is used to advertise NBC's Friday night lineup (and I'm certain this or something very similar has happened by now). But I'll side with the dissillusioned Black Flag fan of old on this one - the disgruntled teen who relied on punk rock anthems like that one to feel he wasn't alone in his disgust over the emptiness of mainstream culture. He felt that Henry and his band were not only critics of the Capitalist Overlords, but provided the alternative as well, hustling their LPs through their own SST records, bypassing the major labels and MTVs that insisted a band couldn't survive without their advertising machine. Now Henry's telling that guy he should just be happy that Black Flag is making some money, no matter what that money represents. Forget the opposition we pretended to stand behind. We just wanted corporate approval like everyone else. How dare you get pissy.

Well, this is why we get pissy, Henry:

A musical statement representing the hopes of a generation that yearned to be free of corporate culture completely destroyed in under a minute by the same business criminals Janis was trying to ridicule.

But hey, I'm just happy her corpse made some money.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wear Yourself

Halloween came and went months ago, so I'm not sure why this crossed my mind.  But if you were like me, a kid in the '70s, you hated those Ben Cooper and Collegeville boxed costume sets - the ones with the cheap, plastic mask and the jumpsuit with your character's name and/or image silkscreened on the front in day-glo ink.

And if you're anything like me today, your appreciation for these tacky outfits has blossomed in your old age.

That's why I'm thinking it would be a goldmine for whomever could recreate these dopey old images on t-shirts.  Or has someone already thought of this?

I'm generally anti-t-shirt, but hey.  I'm not completely immune to pop culture nostaligia.

So if somebody out there manages to get a project like this off the ground, let me know.

Cuz I'd buy a shirt with the old Ben Cooper Spider-Man design on it in a heartbeat.

Garbage Diet

Contents of a gull's stomach, found in the North Pacific Gyre, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This is the swirling mass of ocean where much of of our discarded plastic goes to NOT die. Amazingly, adult gulls will actually feed their babies these chunks of Dasani and Mountain Dew bottles until they croak.

A pretty fair methaphor for modern consumerism, come to think of it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Only 100 Tokens

Variety reports that a film based on the '80s Atari game Missile Command is in the works.  My favorite bit in this story is the suggestion that a script will be "adpated" from the game.  I assume this means the main characters will be allowed to die three or four times before the end.

And please tell me they'll have a "Game Over" title before the end credits.

One thing that did find interesting in the story is the news that a View Master movie deal is also under consideration.  I can't imagine the horrors this would result in, but it made me think how wonderful it would be if someone could utilize today's 3D technology to project slideshows of the classic View master reels of old.  I'd pay real money to see big screen presentations of some of those great 3D puppet scenes.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Truth in Advertising

While enjoying one of my many visits to a doctor's office, I discovered Spartanburg Today, a throwaway adzine that has become my new favorite publication. Nothing else I've seen better captures the true horror of Sparkle City in all it's full-color glory.

Take, for example, this ad for Ike's, a local institution long beloved by crooked politicians looking to mingle with the Southern vote. I ask you, does anything make a meal look more appealing than styrofoam plates? How about backing a truck over the food a few times before shooting the photos? Look delicious? Hey, if that award-winning logo is too tough to figure out, you better not bother with the menu. Just tell Skeeter you's hongry.

I Have Two Questions:

1: Do the folks at Welch's really expect people to lick a page from People magazine?

2: Is this behavior we want to encourage?



Believe it or not, this incredibly frightening object is a toy.  Parents actually purchased this instrument of terror and handed it willingly to children in the 1950's.  It's the Popeye Bubble Maker, and that disturbing device in Popeye's gaping maw that looks like a death ray apparently produced delightful bubbles.  To my eye, this beast looks better suited for a Ray Harryhaussen film, destroying the city while emitting mechanical shrieks.  The town is ablaze, pedestrians flee.  Finally, the heroine's scientist father has an epiphany.  "Salt water!  We must alert the Navy!"