Archive for October, 2013

Zen got third place!! And he nearly won a softball match!!!

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

Hooray, on Tuesday Zen took part in a talent show in his sixth grade class and he got third prize – this big hunk of junk food taped together. Nice one, Zen!

He also did a great job playing softball on Sunday – he was pitcher, and in his first game he only allowed one run (great fielding by the rest of the team too). And when he was at bat he hit a nice double; the kid that came after him also hit a double, so Zen got to run home and scored a point for the team. Final score – 1:1.

The second game was not so good – the team lost 14-0. They played after a downpour, so the ground was slippery, and neither pitching nor fielding nor batting was any good. Oh well – at least they had that first great game!!

Master Zen!!

Master Zen!!

Jack Kirby's The Losers

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013



Jack Kirby’s The Losers – In 1974 and 1975, Jack “The King” Kirby worked on The Losers, a World War 2 title, and for 12 issues he wrote and drew the adventures of four commandos – one from the Army, one from the Navy, one from the Air Force, and one Marine – cialis discount fighting on special missions like the inglourious basterds that they were. Nice. The stories are relatively sophisticated and there is poetry amidst the explosions and the mass executions. And in one episode there is even an insane killing machine like you’d expect in Kirby’s Fourth World, but it’s kind of silly and incongruous (but, hey – why not?). And, of course, there are lots of one-page and two-page spreads to really enjoy that Kirby drama and visual flair. Love it. WHUUMM! TZUM! FOOMP! POW! CRASH! And this is just on page five. The end-pages of some chapters are usually devoted to drawings of World War 2 equipment and uniforms, archival stuff.

The tale “Kill Me With Wagner” has a wonderful “Ride of the Valkyries” moment-of-irony at the end, as a sadistic Nazi general lies dying. “Bushido” has our boys up against a fanatical Japanese captain. “The Partisans” is a cool ghost story set in Yugoslavia. Then there are spies on Broadway. “Panama Fattie” is about a lady hijacker, a pathetic story drawn out over two issues. “Mile-A-Minute-Jones” is about a black sprinter who ran in the Olympics, meeting his German rival on the battlefield. Man, those boys can run!! “Ivan” is about a sadistic war profiteer, and this tale has our Losers undercover and dressed in SS uniforms (funny how everybody speaks English in DC’s Europe). “The Major’s Dream”, is a very strange one indeed – about a shellshocked British major who has nightmares that he’s being attacked by a Burmese Shiva. Getting psychedelic horror stuff here, though, amazing. The final story, “Gung Ho”, is about orphaned French boys being trained as marines. Interesting, unique, but not a fantastic story, as most of The Losers sit this one out.

Kirby fought in World War 2, so these more than any of his books are passionate and informed by experience. Very nice.

Here’s a great two-page spread:



Métal Urbain, Anarchy in Paris

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013



Métal Urbain, Anarchy in Paris – The Sisters of Mercy and Big Black were famous for having a drum machine in their rhythm section, and Métal Urbain are just the same, somewhat pre-dating both bands. The band also combines conventional punk guitar sounds with avant grade keyboard Eno-isms. Métal Urbain is also famous for being the first single issued by Rough Trade records. Anarchy In Paris collects all of the band’s various singles, plus unreleased tracks of demos and out-takes. And the songs are amazing in their originality – growled French vocals, a busy drum machine, cool guitar riffs, splatterpunk soloing… it’s all there! Fasciste!! Opening tracks “Panik” and “Paris Maquis” are hardboiled Métal Urbain, while “Hysterie Connective” is already a bit rockabilly (French rockabilly… with a drum machine). “Lady Coca Cola” is a bit more nutty industrial boogie. “Cle de Contact”, the flip side to Rough Trade single 001 “Paris Maquis”, starts off with pretty conventional punk guitar riffs… before the boogie drums come in! “Pop Poubelle” starts off with hillbilly guitar, with some Jesus And Mary Chain wall of noise, then gets into goofy punk; quite the blend. “Fugue For A Darkening Island” is a brilliant piece of noise-to-a-backbeat experimentation (love it!), while “Ghetto” is a punky riff with some great fast drum-machining. “Ultra Violence” is more down-played – the guitar is chilled out, and the drum machine is relaxed. “Futurama” chugs along nicely, as does “Snuff Movie”. “Numero Zero” is very goofy electronic, and electronic drum beats… more of the same, but with extra-strange sound effects. By “50/50″ and “Atlantis” the formula is really sinking in. “Anarchie Au Palace” starts off with a funky riff, and it’s more of a traditional punk song, with online canadian pharmacy the drum machine and keyboards more subdued (but cool sound effects when they do rise to the occasion!). “E 202″ is a cool punk song with a wild, needly little solo. “Crepe Salope” is something a bit different – the song actually has bass, it’s got gunfire sound effects (shades of “Friends Of Mr Cairo”, perhaps?) and the vocalist tries it in a different way. Very nice. “Hysterie Connective (Mix 2)” sounds like “Panik”, it’s nice enough. “Colt 45″ (like all the songs that follow it) is a previously unissued tracks; this one in particular sounds a lot like Suicide with guitar. It’s okay. “Train” is a very Suidice/Cramps-like cover of “Train Kept A-Rollin’” that’s actually pretty nice, even if it’s not what you’d expect of an old school punk band!! “Sweet Marilyn” is more of the same, although it has cool erotic singing, while “Little Girl Of Love” mashes everything together – rockabilly, drum machines, growling vocals and that darned drum machine!! “Tango Sudiste” is a bit more like a Skinny Puppy song with a prominent keyboard riff and a lack of guitar. “Panik (Instrumental)” is just that… and this version is just as good as the original, as it puts the riff (done with grungy keyboards) right up front. Nice!

The CD comes with a great booklet that has a six-page band history/essay of appreciation of their unlucky brilliance, a discography, a listing of the four classic 1976-1980 line-ups, a chronology of the same years, and track listings with credits. “With Eric and Zip at the helm and enough time to record and mix, it is an extremely well produced record and arguably one of the bests punk discs of all time,” it says, tongue firmly in cheek – or is it? The booklet defines their sound as robocore/spacepunk/terrorbeat, which I think wraps it up for me too!

Wednesday Comics

Saturday, October 26th, 2013


Wednesday Comics – This is a fantastic experiment in simultaneously breaking new boundaries and going back to the traditional adventure comic tabloid format, and the end result is stunning to look at – an enormous coffee table book of DC comic book stories, done in every storytelling style and artistic format you could imagine, carrying over a dozen stories of major and not-so-major DC icons, each with a story that only covers 12 pages (with appendix stories of one page each). What’s impressive about the collection is that each artist is supremely distinct from the other, ranging from the ultra-modern to the sedately ultra-conservative, from the cutesy to the cerebral. They even have a contribution from Michael Allred! And Neil Gaiman!! Wow!!!

The first story is about the Batman, and it’s a simple detective story, a whodunnit about an old millionaire with his young trophy wife as the main suspect in his murder. The color and the layouts are stunning, even if the story isn’t anything terribly special.

Kamandi is a bit better – great art, cool cliffhangers at the end of every episode (last panel) like the old comic serials, with Kamandi getting in a battle between the tiger nation, the lion nation, the gorilla nation, and the horrible rat raiders! Kamandi briefly gets a hint at other humans that are still alive – his own kind! It’s the series in a capsule, and a nice, tasty 12-page treat, even if the outrageous action is a bit implausible – who cares? Great art too!!

The Superman 12-pager has him fighting a three-eyed alien creature that spooks him when it says to him “you don’t belong, do you?” Great and layout – the artis makes fine use of the expanded real estate, and there’s a cool drawn-out battle, as supes gets whipped.

The Deadman story is fairly nutty, and involves multiple murders. Deadman goes through various dimensions, meets his benefactress, demons and wizards, and he solves an unlikely mystery. Great! The art is gothic Cartoon Network cool. Some pages have cool, trippy mass spreads – cool layouts indeed!!

The Green Lantern pages are totally gorgeous, and are crowded with 1950s chic, as a lot of the action takes place in a seaside diner, with an old cowboy western on TV. In the story, Hal Jordan thinks back to meeting Navy pilot Joe Dillon in some sort of Top Gun-like situation. Then, when Joe turns into a lobster creature on live TV, Hal flies off to the rescue. Funky indeed!

Next up is Metamorpho, the Element Man, who gets the Michael Allred and Neil Gaiman treatment. Our heroes are frolicking at the seaside, where Metamorpho saves spoiled billionaire’s daughter Sapphire Stagg from drowning – her foot is caught by a giant clam after the selfish brat tried to make off with a giant pearl, a very Allreddish episode (I also like how Metamorpho fends off a shark attack by turning into an iron chain. Billionaire tyrant Simon Stagg comes onto the scene, with his neandrathal manservant Java (!!!), and off they go to Antarctica (!!!) to search for treasure – the fabled Star of Atlantis!!!! Early on there are two great full-page splashes that are stunning, although they’re “complimented” by wacky commentary from fan kids (thankfully this only continues for two pages – it’s kind of lame). They come across Element Girl and have all sorts of zany adventures, there’s some hilarity with the French chefs that have come along, a zany Snakes And Ladders game, more cave action, and a goofy “move along the table of elements wordplay” twin page spread that’s pretty amazing to see! And in the end, there’s a clever twist as the villain reveals himself, and the mystery is solved. All-around Allred fun!! The episode ends with hints at more Metamorpho fun!

Meanwhile, the Teen Titans episode is done in a very stylistic, kiddy story that’s a bit silly and hard to comment on. At least the villain is cool – Trident!

Strange Adventures, being tales of Adam Strange, comes out looking very cool and retro, yet also inky and modern, as there’s all sorts of Zeta ray travel between Rann and Earth, where Adam Strange is an old man! Great royal mandrill monkey rebel general grotesquerie!! It’s all very much like Terry and the pirates, with unusual panel shapes. Nice!

Meanwhile, Supergirl has a silly adventure with her super dog Krypto and her super-kitty Streaky going berserk. The art is gorgeous, but a bit too cutesy. Besides a strange interaction with a bratty Aquaman, there’s nothing special here.

The Metal Men (and woman) tale is a nice one, because it’s just the way I remember it (I had one issue when I was a kid), and the art is big and brash. Nothing revolutionary or bold here, but certainly enough traditional stuff to keep fans happy.

Totally opposite of this is Wonder Woman‘s highly experimental avant grade entry, drawn as it is in fine detail and very small panels that flow in strange ways; lots of text, contextualized colors, and the story’s not too bad either – Wonder Woman has a crazy dream every night, the dreams link up, and somehow it becomes a real adventure: Wonder Woman versus Dr Poison and a few other baddies. And when the artist gets sick of drawing too many micro-panels… he tries big giant ones!! Hard to follow, but worth it for those who do. Look at the pictures too, if you can!!

Joe Kubert’s Sgt Rock and Easy Co is an ultra traditional comic, that simply blows up the standard 3×3 panel concept, passing up any of the advantages of this large format. Too bad, actually… missed opportunity to spread those wings, Joe. Brutal stuff, but also some humor – at one point Easy Co hits the ground when they see a grenade being lobbed at them, except that it turns out to just be a potato (they’re hungry).

The Flash/Iris West story is amazing – it’s supremely well-drawn, it’s sufficiently experimental, it’s got Gorilla Grodd, and it is wildly Liechtenstein-ish in parts (with the dotted colorings – nice). Also, interesting how General Grodd briefly gets his own part of the title, alongside Flash’s part and Iris West’s part. The ninth page is wildly experimental, integrating classic era comics (Peanuts, Blondie, Flash Gordon), as is the 11th page, with a crazy vortex drawing/layout concept. Amazing.

Walter Simonson’s telling of a Catwoman-meets-The-Demon adventure has the potential of good fun, but doesn’t really follow through (more Morgan le Fay… yawn). Given its subject of old England, the castle ruins, and the presence of gothic heroes, makes for a very Hellboy-ish theme, and Simonson sometimes draws a la Mignola (or did Mignola originally ape Simonson? I can’t remember…).

The final full tale is one of Hawkman. It’s drawn by wunderkind Kyle Baker, although I’m not really enamored with his style here. Hawkman fights alien skyjackers disguised as fundamentalist terrorists (he also fights a T Rex – wow, dinosaurs!!); unfortunately, it’s pretty silly, as are the one-page Plastic Man and The Creeper stories, although at least the former is pretty funny (the latter tries to get all poetic, man…).

The House Of Hades

Sunday, October 20th, 2013


The House of Hades, by Rick Riordan – Zen has been a massive Rick Riordan fan since he got The Lightning Thief at age seven, and he’s been reading all of the books over and over again ever since. He’s also read outside of the series on Greek and Egyptian myths, which I think is great, and has become the family authority on mythology as a result.

This book picks up where the previous cliffhanger ending left off – Percy and Annabeth have just plunged into the maw of Hell – so is probably one of the most highly-anticipated stories in the series, at least in my opinion (the climaxes to the first series, and the final book in the Kane Chronicles series, would be similar). It chronicles Percy and Annabeth’s journeys through Tartarus, as well as the voyage of the other demigod heroes into central Europe (Italy, Croatia, Malta and Greece). While Riordan relies heavily on caricatured gods and goddesses, this book is interesting in that he shows the human side to one titan and one giant who are not horrible monsters, and he does it in a near-believable way (at least in the case of the giant, who – as an opposite to the god of war Area – was built to be more peace-like than any giant really should be). He also brings out interesting aspects of complicated goddesses like Hecate, for example, intriguing us even further. And as if all this wasn’t enough, Riordan even goes out on a limb by showing one of the demigods coming out of the closet!! Wow!!!! It’s still treated platonically, and is more like “he has a crush on him” stuff, but it’s still quite a modern take on teenage life. Nice.

The ending of this penultimate book in the series leads up to the finale, and has less of a cliffhanger than the preceding book did (how could it top THAT???!!!). Nonetheless, I really enjoyed this book.

Toni Morrison, Song Of Solomon

Monday, October 14th, 2013


Toni Morrison, Song Of Solomon – I’ve had this book on my to-read list forever and ever, and I finally got to it! Yay!!! I wish I could say that I loved it, but… I didn’t. Somehow it seemed a lot like a historical novel that tried to self-consciously distinguish it from a historical novel by… inserting magic realism, and… creating poetic passages, and… cutting back on resolution of characters (for example – Macon Dead seems like a major character throughout the first 2/3 of the book, but he’s then abandoned completely in the ending part). Toni Morrison doesn’t do magic realism well, in my opinion, and more parts of the book struggle than really gel. Guitar’s motivation for seeking Milkman’s death, for example, is pretty silly, and having him attempt the assassination in the middle of a rural Virginian bobcat hunt is totally… INSANE!!!

Sorry, I’m not getting it…