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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

League Assignment: Comics!

I'm sure many a league member has much  more in depth, continuity driven and detail oriented posts about specific comics, graphic novels and superheroes.  I only dabbled in comics and even unearthed in my "geek confessions" that I never owned a true Superhero comic book ever if you don't count Spawn or Rob Lefield garbage.  Instead, I'd like to talk more about the phenomenon that is comics and comic culture. What is it about comics that have gained them such universal notoriety?  You really have to live under a rock to not know even the basics...Movies, games, television have all moved into bringing the world of comics into our popular conscientiousness.  Moms, Dads, Girls, Guys...it doesn't matter, you'd be hard pressed to find someone who never heard that Batman fights the Joker or that Superman is from Krypton.   Why is that?  When did these seemingly dubbed children's characters entered into the universal monomyth to quote James Joyce and become true world-wide archetypes who reflect the full spectrum of the human condition and the timeless struggle between good and evil?

Come to think of it, how do I know what I do about comics when I have not bought any comic since 2004?  How do I know about the Suicide Squad, the "new 52", the Court of Owls, Angela's re-emergence into the world of DC, Free Comic Book day??? Come to think of it, how does my wife know not only who Wolverine is, but that his name is Logan and his skeleton is made of adamantium!?!  I never told her this either, I swear to God and she never picked up a comic in her life!  Comic and Comic news is simply inescapable even if you aren't directly looking for it...it goes to show; if you are even slightly interested in pop culture, comics will find their way to you.   That really says something about the amazing occurrence and popular notoriety of what was long overlooked as trivial "kids stuff". 

That's one thing I loved about comic culture...you could never pick up an issue of Batman and still gather so many secondary details in all other entertainment formats which all take up realms of their own.  You have Mask of the Phantasm, the animated series, amazing video games from Sunsoft to Rocksteady, the Tim Burton and Chris Nolan renditions giving the Dark Knight a total flavor all their own...or maybe you're an Adam West fan...I'm not here to judge.  Clark Kent goes synonymously with George Reeves,  Christopher Reeve or Dean Cain!  Take your pick.

As opposed to Marvel and DC, I was first exposed to comics through the newer company of the 90's; image comics.  I remember finding an issue of Spawn number 11 and it just blowing my 10 year old mind...blood? guns? Super-detailed futuristic soldiers?  Glossy pages and bright colors? I couldn't believe it!  Granted, the series itself was nothing like this random-ass issue...I know, I collected 1-100.  But this really got me head-on into comics...I dabbled in all the image stock under the misguided idea that Image was somehow this adult format that had characters who swore, had scantily clad women and blood...you know adult the way we thought "Mortal Kombat" was the thinking man's game when we were 11.   I looked into Shadowhawk, Youngblood, Wetworks, Gen 13, and Team 7...I know a bunch of garbage but out of the trash came a real gem and that was the Maxx by Sam Keith... what a transcendentally amazing book with great content and even better art...the biggest shame was how the book fizzled out and how the MTV Oddities Cartoon left the series hanging right as the page-for-page cartoon was warming up.

Mainstream superheroes not your style?  Don't worry!  The world of underground comics, Zines and alternative press like Optic Nerve, Scud: The Disposable Assassin,  Iron West,  Jimmy Corrigan, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and  Lenore are all there for the picking!  What about the offensively hilarious works like Milk and Cheese or Hate Magazine?  You could traverse Japanese anime and manga  by reading the expertly crafted stories like the cyber-punk noir tales of Ghost in the Shell or Akira or visit the post-apocalyptic world of Tank Girl from the U.K. All of these classic books where the things I looked into...I loved the painterly and crafted styles of Dave McKean and Ashley Wood, the painstakingly detailed look of Geof Darrow or Ulysses Farinas, and the graphical styles of Rob Schrab, Doug Tennaple and Jim Mahfood.  Allen Moore revolutionized the anti-hero to a whole new level with the Watchmen.  We then had the modern sagas that also snowballed into their own sub-genre's like Walking Dead and Scott Pilgrim, both of which stand out much better as graphic novels than the live-action translations they spun off into.

Some comics broke new ground winning numerous accolades and achieving acclaim within the highest echelons of academia like the epic works of Art Spiegelman's Maus, Joe Sacco's "Footnotes from Gaza", the coming of age tale of the Iranian Revolution "Persepolis", the adolescent story of coming out of the closet in "Likewise" or the online politically drenched what-if saga "Shooting War" by Anthony Lappe.  This all came from a genre that was potentially banned by the insanely anti-communist/anti-"subversive" congress of the 1950's who created the totalitarian Code Authority banning everything from the world "Zombie" to the existence of an "inter-racial relationship"...and go figure...because of that, we owe comics as we know them today to Mad Magazine...what a saga.

Retro Toy Safari takes comics to the furniture!

Kal at the Kave of Kool highlights some majorly impressive comic memories!

Fortune and Glory Days takes us around the block with the Man of Steel!http://myvintagetoybox.blogspot.com/2013/04/league-of-extraordinary-bloggers-comic.html

Monday, April 29, 2013

League Assignment: Slumber Party!

The League poses the question from last week; what pop culture home would you want to spend the night in?

Some of these seem like no brainers but I didn't want to be too obvious....I already talked about vacationing in Dark City and the Deitz House but that would be for simple sightseeing...I wouldn't necessarily be comfortable staying there...I mean really...Pee Wee's playhouse is fun but like, where would you go to the bathroom? Wayne Manor would kick ass just to hang out but does this imply that Bruce would just let me into the Batcave?  Is he home? Is Alfred my butler too?

Freaking Awesome!

The place I'd love to stay the night for comfort sake and to take it all in would be from two Wes Anderson films.  Steve Zissou's Ship, the S.S. Belafonte and the Tenenbaum mansion are neck and neck.  The Belafonte reminds me of drawings that smart (well, at least imaginative) kids did in art class packed with amazing details and almost neurotic intricacies.  The ships design weaves a tapestry that one could get enjoyable lost in and you would never be short of good company...strange how I love this movie and I absolutely hate pirate radio.

The Tenenbaum house weaves another lovely tapestry of gorgeous detail and encompasses everything one could want in a house.  I've gone through viewings of this movie to just look at the architecture and catch the plethora of detail festooned about this literal "storybook" of a home.  The question is, what room would I stay in?  You actually could take a look at the real out of doors setting of the Tenenbaum House on 339 Convent Ave. in NY as opposed to 111 Archer Avenue in the NY of Holden Caufield or whereever Wes Anderson lives in his head.

League Assignment: First Impressions

I had a couple ideas for strong first impressions but I'm about a month late and alas, Unicron, the opening Star Destroyer Crawl in New Hope and Mario 3's intro in the wizard were all taken...you snooze, you lose, right?

I consistently gravitate toward video games so quite a few introductions came to mind since (especially now) as games become more cinematic they need to draw their audiences in with a strong introduction.  Some instances come from my high school years and the playstation era with your classics like Final Fantasy VII, Metal Gear Solid and later God of War and Shadow of the Colossus. But for a true pop culture introduction and first impression, I'll hearken back to the good old SNES and the Final Fantasy Series. 

Both Final Fantasy II (IV) and III (VI) absolutely blew my 10 and 12 year old mind when I was first exposed to these masterpieces with amazingly epic soundtracks that pumped you up like "Rise of the Redwings" in II and the dramatic, slow and deliberate trek through the snow in III on the way to Narshe village.  These both set the mood expertly and gave games with simple (great for the respective system) graphics the ability to show exactly what the console could do and do something that was unheard of in a old school game...create a true atmosphere.  There was something bigger about these games.  Something that made them seem adult or that this wasn't a story for children, like one's first novel or classic piece of composition they are exposed to at a young age.

Can't ask for anything more from this masterpiece.

Unfortunately, I feel like the limitations of the earlier systems are where this game was truly able to shine and once the seemingly limitless capacity for technical flare and graphical bells and whistles kind of blows the lid of and endlessly flows the paint saturating the canvas.  Final Fantasy worked best when it had technical limits so the non-graphical things could shine like character development and story.  I may not enjoy where the series has since gone over the past 25 years but boy, did I love its beginnings.


League Assignment: HATED IT!

Hmmm...I really had to think about crazes, toys and pop culture to think about the stuff I didn't like to think about as a child.  As with most things, I always kinda came around to give everything at least a chance but there were some things that just never got a pass with me.

someone enjoyed this enough to make a movie, eh?

1.  Garbage Pail Kids.  The stuff out of nightmares and not the good kind you have fun talking about the next day or drawing in art class.  These abominations were just awful in every respect.  I hated the art style, the stupid, gross out humor and the unfunny write-ups along with the possibly most offensive and vile movie ever made that I would choose kidney stones over. I know the point was to be icky and I dug the whole slime craze and the Dr. Dreadful/Creepy Crawlers angle but there was absoltuley no redeemable quality in these things nor did I like the Cabbage Patch Kids they were supposed to not-so-covertly lampoon.

STDs are easier to get rid of than these things.

2. Pogs.  I thought these were a waste of money even as a 12 year old and this was from a kid who liked the "Food Fighters" and "Barnyard Commandos".  Really cheesy, unoriginal stock art? Check. No place to put them? Check.  No one who cares after a week? Check.

Fetching prices of 5 whole dollars a figure today, how wouldn't feel good about collecting these things???

3. Starting Lineup.  I bought a few of these guys to try to convince myself that I gave a shit about sports which I didn't.  They didn't do anything.  Barely articulation.  Generic faces.  The only "toy" the cool kids would be seen with...Kenner, how could you??? Whatever. Go to hell, Starting Lineup.