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A Day At Wizard World Chicago

It has been more than a decade since I last attended a Comic Convention. Cons are a costly endeavor and given my constant state of being lite on cash, they rarely fit in my spending plans. I had the rare opportunity to attend one this past weekend, as Wizard Wold Chicago made its presence known and I had the chance to actually attend it. This was in no small par thanks to my dear friends Chris and Lauren and my dear girlfriend Jenn. Jenn was kind enough to pay my way, something I was not 100% comfortable with but accepted. So with girl on my arm and friends leading the way I embarked on this fantastic voyage.

Let me be clear, I do not really go to Comic Book shows for the celebrity guests nor do I go to see who is cos-playing as what. I go for the Dealers Room. It doesn’t matter the type of Con, the floor of the Dealers’ Room is where the real action of any Con is at. Huge savings on back issues, trade paperbacks and toys, its what every con-goer should spend the majority of their time on. That isn’t to say I didn’t see a few celebrities during my day trip to Chicago, as I had the chance to meet and shake hands with a few and thank them for entertaining me over the years. Bu they are not my focus for a con. The problem this year was I was exceedingly light on cash, with a mere $5 to my name. That $5 got spent wisely but we will cover that later.

The day of the con started with me and Jenn waking up at 5:30AM. This was not planned at all, as our original plan called for us to wake at 6:30AM. I had a restless sleep and Jenn just found herself awake. We were supposed to be at Chris and Lauren’s house by 8AM. Needless to say, Jenn and I had more than enough time to prep now. Prep for me was simply showering, getting dressed and having a small nosh before leaving. Jenn’s process was a bit more involved, as he had many comic books with her in a suitcase. She was contemplating getting some of them signed but wasn’t sure which artists were going to be there. Yes, I know Wizard World always puts their Guest List online, but she was too busy getting ready to have actual time to look. As Jenn got ready, I checked my email and correspondence. I had contemplated taking my trade collection of Crisis On Infinite Earths with me since I knew George Perez was going to be there. Then I realized that getting Perez to sign something would be more than the $5 I had in my wallet and left everything at home.

Jenn and I left my place at &AM and arrived at Casa Del Chris & Lauren at 7:25AM. Ominous sign number one was that Chris car was not in the driveway. I, being an eternal optimist, started thinking the worst that Chris and Lauren left without us. Jenn told me to stop being silly and just call Lauren. I called Lauren but no one picked up. I was right they did leave without us. We decided to wait in the driveway until 8AM and see what happened. Then my phone rang. It was Lauren, she was in the shower when I called and couldn’t answer. I let her know we were in the driveway and she dashed to the door to let us in. Chris wasn’t home yet, as he works a third shift job and usually didn’t get home until 8AM. The sad thing is, I knew this already, yet still went into my “optimistic viewpoint”. Lauren needed to finish getting ready so Jenn and I tried to find something to watch on TV1. Chris finally showed up and needed to shower2 and get ready. We finally got on the road a little after 8:30AM.

I could tell you about our ordeal to get to the con but that would be a Brave Blog entry unto itself. Let us just say there was traffic in Chicago. Lots of traffic in Chicago. I grew up in New York City and I NEVER saw traffic this bad. We finally arrived at the Con a little after 2PM. Toledo to Chicago should only take about 4 hours. I think you get my point.

So we finally stumbled into the Con itself. The first thing we saw when we entered made me kind of giddy. It was the classic Batman’66 Batmobile. This was not my first time seeing it, but every time I see it I get giddy. The Batman’66 Batmobile is easily my favorite live action Batmobile. It is just so freaking cool. It smokes any other version of the Batmobile put to film. There was also the Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters and while that was cool, it just isn’t the Batmobile. Now this was just in the lobby of the convention center. We had not even made it to the show room yet. When we did it was everything I remember about a Comic Con. Crowded, loud and lots of people pushing and shoving with nary even a simple “pardon me” or excuse me”. I was starting to remember why I hated going to cons.

After about 5 minutes Jenn and I broke off from Chris and Lauren. We had different agendas. Chris and Lauren wanted to chat some artists they knew and also to show off Lauren’s pretty dope Punisher costume. Jenn and I were on a search for toys, Kamen Rider toys to be specific. Along the way we got to see lots of people in various costumes. There was a Predator, a few Batmen3, a gaggle of Batman villains4, a pretty great Black Adam and even someone as Sailor Moon. One costume in particular caught my eye. For most of the day at the con I saw her go by, this bubbly blond who was traveling with a group of people. Toward the end of the day I finally went up to her and asked straight out “Pardon me, but are you dressed as Flamebird?”. She smiled and let out a grateful “YES~!”. Apparently she had been at the Con all day and no one knew who she was supposed to be. I guess that is the drawback of dressing as a lesser known Teen Titans character. She was just glad that someone knew. “Shit, I’m an old school Titans fan” I told her, “good job, that costume is dope!”.

When not hunting for toys, Jenn was busy with her camera trying to snipe pictures of a few celebrities. We were not in a position to shell extra money out just so we could wait in line like rubes and then pay extra money to have our photo taken with any celebrities. Hell the lines for Shatner an Stan Lee were insane. I’ve never met Shatner, but I’ve met Stan Lee on more than one occasion5. Jenn snapped pics of Kevin Sorbo, Lou Ferrigno, David Della Rocco and Sean Patrick Flanery6. We both went right up to Peter “Chewbacca” Mayhew just to say “Thank you” to him. I feel kind of bad we didn’t go up and do the same to Jeremy Bullock but c’mon, he was Boba Fett, one line of dialogue in Empire and a slapstick routine in Jedi does not a “Thank you” get.

Our quest for Kamen Rider toys was bust though. My love of Kamen Rider goes back 20+ years now and thank God my girlfriend was open-minded and geeky enough to get hooked on it too when we started seeing each other. We hit every toy dealer on the floor and not one of them was selling import toys. Well, except for Kotobukiya but I ain’t got that kinda money to blow on a hand sculpted Batman statue. It used to be any Con would bring out a few import toy guys but I guess they’ve all jumped ship to the Anime Conventions now and I just flat out REFUSE to go to an Anime Convention7. I thumbed through a few boxes of Trade Paperbacks that were 50% off. Man, I was $2 short of buying Showcase Presents: The Unknown Soldier!8

Jenn had her geek moment extraordinaire, as she got to meet Brian Pulido, creator of Lady Death, Jenn favorite comic. Now I’ve never been a big Lady Death fan, but Pulido is a guy I have immense respect for. Jenn geeked out hard and as she showed off her Pulido inspired tattoos. Mr. Pulido was wowed by this and even asked to get a few pictures of them for his website. He then signed a comic for Jenn and she was ecstatic. I have to say Brian Pulido is one class act. He was friendly and showed genuine enthusiasm toward this fan of his work. He made Jenn so very special. He gave off that vibe that he was as excited to meet her as she was excited to meet him and that is pretty awesome.

So after 2 or so of meandering we met-up again with Chris and Lauren. We all took a breather to sit-down. Jenn told them her story of meeting Brian Pulido, I told them all the different costumes I saw and celebrities we spotted . After thirty minutes of rest, we were all back on the hunt. Jenn and I had given up our hopes of finding Kamen Rider swag and now walked around with Chris and Lauren. In our wandering, I saw James Hong9 getting ready to man his booth and politely went up to him and told him “Mr. Hong, I just wanted to say I have loved you in everything I’ve ever seen you in!”10. I went to shake his hand but he waved me off and instead insisted that we fist bump. I was in no position to argue with the man. If James Hong tells you to fist bump him, then you fist bump James Hong!

I saw Renee Witterstaetter, who used to be editor of John Byrne She-Hulk book when I was in the mail room at Marvel. I quickly dashed over to her and said with a smile “Hey I just want to say, I used to deliver your mail for you when you were at Marvel”. Her reaction was totally great “No way! Well thanks for delivering my mail!”. I felt bad I didn’t buy anything from her. Chris and Lauren got into a conversation with J. O’Barr, creator of The Crow, who has always been a genuinely nice guy in the pat and continues to be a genuinely nice guy to this day. There were a lot of artists I wasn’t familiar with but whose artwork all looked pretty great.

I got to shake hands and say “Thank you” to Neal Adams, one of those artists who just still blows me away to this day. He was selling collections of his most popular work11 with the idea that fans could buy the collections and then have him sign at no extra cost. I really don’t have a problem with artists doing that. It is pretty how almost every artist supplements their per page rate in the comics industry. Besides, they are technically working the whole Convention, signing and sketching stuff for fans12. Some of the artists can definitely come off having attitude or give off that ever so faint air of douchery. Neal Adams did not. He was personable and friendly and seemed to understand my lack of funds. Besides, I’m really not in the collector’s game. I want to meet artists and writers I’m a fan of just to say “Thanks”.

Which brings me to my geek moment of geek moments at the Con. It was about 10 minutes until the Con shut down for the night at 8PM. I was waiting in line to see George Perez. Perez is one of my favorite comic artists of all time. I rank him right up there with Jack Kirby and Carl Barks,I mean he has always been so amazing. I had broken away from Jenn, Chris and Lauren about 20 minutes before. Everyone in line had cash for Perez so he could either sign something or sketch something. I was just in line so I could shake his hand and thank him for 30+ years of entertaining me. I watched him sketch Captain America for one guy and it seemed he did it in 5 minutes. What was even more amazing is that it looked exactly what you expect a finished Perez Cap to look like, minus the coloring. He just seemed to do it so easily. When it came to my turn all I said was “Mr. Perez, I have nothing for you to sign and no money to ask for a sketch. I just want to shake your hand and say thank you so much for all these years of great comics”. He cracked a smile and shook my hand as he said “Thank you, that means a lot”. Then I went on, “Actually, you may not remember but we met more than 20 years ago when I worked in h Marvel mail room”. That surprised him. “Really? You worked in the mail room?”. I then told him how it was 1991 and I was delivering mail to the office of then Hulk editor Bobbie Chase. Told him how I dropped off the mail and there he was, probably working on Hulk: Future Imperfect13. His smile got bigger the more I told him about it. Finally he asked me, with enthusiasmI wasn’t expecting “Hey, would you like to get picture with me?”.

In the middle of all this, I managed to spend my $5 on something worthwhile. Artist Dave Graham had several sketches on sale, including a one of Harley Quinn that Jenn had been eying but didn’t have the money to buy. I waited for Jenn to move on to the next artist and hung back. I cleverly negotiated $5 for the sketch and even got a personalized message with it. I surprised Jenn with it right away and, needless to say, Jenn was totally floored. It is always good to score points with the Girlfriend. It also helps that I love to see her smile and giving her that sketch brought a huge smile to her face.

I was blown away. Here was one of my idols wanting to take a picture with me and I didn’t even ask or expect it. Of course I said yes. Without hesitation he ran around the table, almost gleefully if I had describe it, and embraced me so Jenn could take a picture of us together. I thanked him again, because he really had made my day. Hell, he even made me forget how much my feet hurt. George Perez had made my day at Wizard World Chicago 100% worthwhile!

With that said, here is my lasting memory of Wizard World Chicago!

Me (Left) and the legendary George Perez (right)

1NEWSFLASH: Outside of News, there is nothing on TV at 7:30AM. We subjected ourselves to old Power Rangers episodes. Even worse, it was Power Rangers Ninja Storm!

2Thankfully Power Rangers was replaced with Phineas & Ferb

3Classic 70s version and Nolan-verse versions

4One guy had a perfect Penguin costume, right down to the nose, which I’m pretty sure was actually his.

5Having worked at Marvel had its benefits i n the long run

6Got to love The Boondock Saints, though Norman Reedus wasn’t there.

7Anime Conventions are just… creepy. American Otaku don’t get the point that being an Otaku is not a good thing.

8I’m sucker for DC war comics and even a bigger sucker for Joe Kubert

9He of Big Trouble In Little China fame

10Seriously, check his IMDB or Wiki entries. James Hong has been in everything!

11Green Lantern/Green Arrow and a plethora of Batman material.

12Not all of them do sketches though. Some strictly sign stuff and take pictures.

13He confirmed that he was indeed at that time

The Avengers or I Waited 5 Years For This?

BEHOLD! The WORST Movie Poster For A Major Motion Picture I’ve Ever Seen!

[Editor’s Note: “Oh I’m gonna write about Steven Seagal” he said. “Give you an in-depth analysis of ‘Above The Law’ he promised. Horseshit! Obviously our resident idiot forgot he was going to see The Avengers on opening night or else he wouldn’t have posted that last article promising everyone discussion of Steven Seagal’s early work. Fuck, we here at Brave Blog still are trying to figure out why decided to choose that as a topic for 4 more articles. It is like he wants to torture you people! Be warned, the idiot put some minor spoilers in this!]

I really wanted to love The Avengers, I really did. I went into it with a fair amount of excitement and optimism as Marvel’s track record on building The Avengers as a movie franchise has been pretty rock solid up to date. Alas, I just “liked” The Avengers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but when all the movies building up to it have been at the least in the “Very Good” to “Excellent” range and your payoff movie is just “Good”, well then there is a problem. Is it a major problem? Well, that all depends what your definition of “Major Problem” is.

The worst part of this movie is the dialogue. Having spent 35 of my 40 years on this planet reading comics and a good chunk of those comics being comics The Avengers star in, never have they ever been so snippy with each other. You want snark in The Avengers that’s why you have Hawkeye in there, the one guy who usually always had the dissenting opinion. But when everyone not named Captain America is more determined to have the last word in an argument it leads to all the other characters delivering zingers for the first 2/3 of the film. That isn’t real dialogue. That isn’t a conversation or meaningful dialogue amongst a group of people. Yes, a chunk of the story for the movie revolves around how The Avengers can’t get along to form a cohesive unit unless there is a major crisis but clashes of personality rarely manifest in a room full of people being perpetually sarcastic toward each other. One or two people sure, but everyone (again, save for Captain America) deciding they have to be as catty as Oscar Wilde is really kind of stupid.

This issue of dialogue shouldn’t be too much of a problem really, but it is like that for 2/3rds of the movie. It really makes everyone seem very petty and vain and that is not what I want out of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”. It doesn’t help at all that one of the main leads decides to mail in his performance. I’ve loved Robert Downey Jr. in both Iron Man and Iron Man 2. I always had issues with how it was written as “Ultimate” Tony Stark and not Marvel Universe Tony Stark, but our man Robert Downey Jr was just so damn charming in both of those movies that I could sit there and say “Not his fault it was written that way”. The problem here is that Downey Jr. seemed so disinterested, that Tony Stark’s arrogance and bravado isn’t nearly as fun this time. I really hope Robert Downey Junior isn’t becoming bored with Tony/Iron Man, because he really has made the character fun in its own franchise but if the upcoming Iron Man 3 has the Tony Stark featured in The Avengers then I’m not going to enjoy that movie nearly as much.

I’m still trying to figure out why they even bothered putting Hawkeye in this movie as he felt utterly superfluous in it. His entire role could have been replaced by using someone like The Taskmaster. Hawkeye gets brainwashed by Loki 5 minutes into the movie, shows up less than 10 minutes worth screen time before getting un-brainwashed and then gets more prominently featured during the last 1/3rd of the movie. The problem here is that Hawkeye is the least developed of all the characters introduced thus far in the build-up to this movie and thus actually NEEDED way more screen time and character development. Instead he effectively gets written out for the majority of the film and comes back for the grand finale. I want to care about Hawkeye but this movie gives me no damn reason to.

There is also some major problems with how Loki is written in this movie. The irony here is, Tom Hiddleston is so awesome as Loki at the same time. Having Loki play crazed world conqueror in so blatant a manor actually goes against both how he is portrayed in comics and how he was portrayed in the movie version of Thor. There are a few glimpses of him being a master manipulator, his little plan to cripple S.H.I.E.L.D. Is actually pretty damn brilliant, but this takes a backseat to him seeking to subjugate humanity through use of the Cosmic Cube. Early in the movie Loki all but preaches The Anti-Life Equation and I had a real problem with that and not just because The Anti-Life Equation is a Kirby New Gods concept. It is because Loki gets too much pleasure from toying with humans through his schemes to ever buy into the concept of Anti-Life. This movie tries to portray Loki as Darkseid but instead he comes across as a petulant child and that is a disservice to both Darkseid and to Loki.

OK that is the bad, so what is the good about The Avengers?

The last 45 minutes are EXACTLY what you want an movie featuring The Avengers to be. It has that classic Marvel feel of Superheroes throwing everything at the bad guys until the good guys win. Hell that has always been the mentality of The Avengers in comics. This isn’t The Justice League of America, there isn’t complex problem solving to beat the bad guys. The Avengers fight and fight and then they fight some more. Just some really great action and fight choreography fills the last 1/3rd of this movie. Every character gets their moments to shine. You get to see why Captain America is the second (or possibly third) best hand to hand combatant in the Marvel Universe, Thor brawls his ass off, Hawkeye shoots arrows (I mean honestly, that is what Hawkeye does) and Black Widow kicks even more ass than she did in Iron Man 2. It is an orgy of comic book violence and has those defining moments where the good guys stand triumphant multiple times. Amidst this you get defining moments for Captain America demonstrating why you absolutely would follow the man into battle. Most importantly, “Hulk Smash!”. In fact Hulk smashes in a major way that should satisfy anyone who grew up reading The Incredible Hulk in 1970s.

I also loved Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. In fact she rally is the best developed character in this movie, as we get more of her background and history. Johansson takes a second tier Avenger and makes her the most fascinating character. We get details about her relationship with Hawkeye and see why she is one of Nick Fury‘s best agents. She shows why Black Widow is a Maser level spy through sheer manipulation. She is no blunt instrument like James Bond, she is a master of manipulating people, as much as Loki is. Yet she is still the most “human” of the major players in this film, especially when she interacts with Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner. Johnasson makes Black Widow as believable as possible in a most unbelievable of movies. Throw Samuel L. Jackson in that boat for “Master Manipulator” as well. Sam Jackson may look like Nick Fury in The Ultimates but they very much play him as classic Fury, using anyone and everyone around him to get the results he needs. Jackson’s Fury has plots within his plots, like any good spymaster would. The more the movie unfolds, the more of Fury’s hand gets revealed . Hell we even get that wonderful old Stan Lee/Jim Sternako era Fury as he has to fight tooth and nail against the S.H.I.E.L.D. High Council to make sure his plans don’t get fucked up. Anyone who is a Nick Fury fan will walk away with a smile on their face with how well they handled the character. Hell it makes me wish they’d just do a straight up Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. Movie!

Overall, this is not a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, but like any movie not named Citizen Kane, it has its flaws. It doesn’t come close to being the greatest Superhero movie of all time but is completely NOT the worst. As far as great comic book movies go (i.e. not necessarily Superhero movies) it ranks right there below Ghost World and Road to Perdition, which is pretty good company to be in as it were. As far as great Superhero movies go, well it is better than Watchmen (I still loathe that movie) and any version of the Punisher put to film. It really doesn’t take much to be better than the Burton/Schumacher era Batman movies so even before I watched The Avengers, I knew it would be better than that tripe. It falls somewhere between X-Men and X-Men 2 probably. It is mainly hurt by weak dialogue and what seems to be Robert Downey Jr. sleep-walking his way through the first 2/3of the movie. Yet, the last 1/3rd is so much fun, one could almost forgive the the previous 2/3rd. Interestingly enough, this was longer than Iron Man 2 yet didn’t FEEL as long as Iron Man 2 was and since The Avengers clocks in at just under 2 and a half hours that is saying something. Everything followed a logical course and gave a more than suitable resolution. Simply put, The Avengers is a fine spectacle for the most part. It just could have been a better movie overall.

Now This? This IS The Avengers!

For Some Reason I Talk About Steven Seagal

Portrait of An Aikido Master As a Young Man

Action stars come and go, this is one of the rules of cinema. Sure some stay way beyond their expiration date. It isn’t like you want to see someone like say, Kevin Sorbo perform Death of A Salesman [1]. That is why the good action stars faded away and are now slowly making a comeback. It used to be so rare that we got an action movie star return to a popular franchise and make it work for the new generation. Sylvester Stallone is the exception to the rule, I mean there is no way that he should be making good action movies at 65, but he gave us Rocky Balboa AND John Rambo. Then there are the action stars who start strong and continue to have a career despite the fact that they have gotten progressively worse in every movie [2]. So with that in mind, the question posed in this Brave Blog entry is: When exactly was it Steven Seagal became the punchline of action cinema?

Steven Seagal was on the verge of true Super-Stardom in the early 90s. After a string mildly successful action movies he made Under Siege (1991) which should have sent his career to new heights. But in actuality, Seagal’s movies just got worse and worse. He kept cramming them full of environmental messages and situations that were so improbable that taking him seriously became a thing of a sheer impossibility. As an examplelet’s review the plot to Seagal’s truly ludicrous movie, The Patriot (1998). Seagal plays Dr. Wesley McClaren. Seagal is playing a medical doctor in this. I should just stop the plot review right there because the “Aw c’mon man really?” factor is just to damn high. Even better, he is playing a medical doctor who also happens to be a former Government Research Immunologist [3].

Where the hell was I?

Oh yeah, The Patriot!

Portrait of An Aikido Master As A Young Man After Discovering The Joys of Eating Bacon

Anyway, Seagal plays Dr. Wesley McClaren, a medical doctor in Ennis, Montanna. Dr. McClaren is a former Government Research Immunologist, who has a specialty in herbal medicine and self-defense. Seriously, how can you expect me to go on after that fucking sentence? I mean fuck, even Under Siege was minutely plausible. I mean I can believe a Navy SEAL gets busted down to Galley Cook and saves an aircraft carrier from being taken over. Wait, let me re-phrase that, I can believe a Navy SEAL gets busted down to a Galley Cook for insubordination. The whole ship taken over by terrorists and then saved by a Galley Cook and a stripper part, that’s where it gets ridiculous, but fuck it, its the last of the 80s style action movies that were still getting turned out in the early 90s. Under Siege just might be the last really great one too, as all the icons of that era started making some really awful stuff afterward. Stallone tried to actually act, Schwarzenegger delivered 2 good movies with James Cameron in T2: Judgement Day and True Lies but gave us lots of crap in Last Action Hero, Jingle All The Way, Batman & Robin and End of Days. As for Chuck Norris… well Chuck Norris never really made a great action movie so we can just skip over him.

Wait wasn’t I trying to explain the premise of The Patriot?

Okay, Steven Seagal plays Dr. Wesley McClaren, a local medical Doctor in Ennis, Monatana. McClaren is a former Government Research Immunologist with a specialization in herbal medicine as well as a weapons and self-defense expert. Things are afoot as residents of Ennis are being struck down by a mysterious disease that was unleashed by some local anti-government militia. This movie was made after the FBI kind of screwed up the raid on the Branch Davidian Cult in Waco, Texas and the Ruby Ridge militia case, so Hollywood wasn’t afraid to use crazy survivalist militias as fodder for action movies, no mater how ill advised it actually may have been. People dying, anti-government nut-jobs and a mysterious tea being he only thing that can stop the virus all come into play as Seagal plays the role of a Doctor with all the depth and caring as he did when he played Nico in Above The Law (1988). Let us be clear, this is NOT a good movie but should give you an idea of just how far Seagal had fallen from grace as an action star by 1998.

Compare this against his other contemporaries in the action genre. Arnold Schwarznegger stayed strong until 1996. His last good movie that he had the lead in was Eraser in the summer of 1996. Then came the Christmas of 1996 and Jingle All The Way, a movie which Arnold still defends to this day by pointing its box office success in many Third World countries. This doesn’t excuse it from just being terrible. He followed that up by delivering awful movie after awful movie. I mean from Christmas of 96 until he became Governor of California, Arnold made nothing but crap. After Jingle All The Way came Batman & Robin (1997) and the less said about that movie the better. Even worse is Batman & Robin isn’t the WORST of the pack as you still have utter shit like End of Days, The 6th Day (2000), Collateral Damage (2002) and the awful Terminator 3: Rise of The Machines (2003) [4].

The difference between Seagal and both Schwarzenegger and Stallone is that the latter 2 had an incredible run of great blockbusters to back them up. Seagal had one true blockbuster in Under Siege. He could have capitalized but kept following up with movies that the other 2 didn’t start making until their prime had already faded. After Under Siege Seagal delivered On Deadly Ground, a movie which has the honor of not just being an awful movie but also being an awful with Michael Caine. Shit, Seagal not only starred in this one but directed it as well, resulting in a movie about Alaskan Oil Rights, the plight of the Alaskan Esmiko [5] and (like so many Seagal movies) revenge. Now Michael Caine has been in a few bad movies, but he’s Michael Caine and can usually at least muster a performance that can make the average movie watcher say “This sucked… except for Michael Caine”. Well this is the movie where that doesn’t apply. On Deadly Ground is so bad not even Michael Caine is good in it. Stop and chew on that fact for awhile!

Steven Seagal or Jack Donaghey: You Decide!

Now I can go ahead and analyze every Seagal movie after Under Siege up until his pretty fun urn in Machete (2011) but what the hell is the point? For every good movie that Seagal was in I’d have to talk about 5 bad ones. Well fuck that noise son! I’m not going to do that to you, what few faithful readers I have. Most importantly, I am not going to do that to myself because, honestly, that is just too much for one man to sit through without taking up heavy drinking. No sir, what you can expect for the next 4 installments of Brave Blog are a very candid looks at Seagal’s first four major studio films in the order they were released so you can get an idea of where he was going before Under Siege made him a big star and yet simultaneously ruined his career. We’ll start in a week or two with his best overall movie Above The Law, which is really one of the most underrated action films of the 80s. From there we’ll dissect the rather absurd premise of Hard To Kill (1990). Then we’ll delve into Seagal’s first foray into failed social commentary with Marked For Death (1990) and then we’ll wrap it all up with the one of the most physically violent revenge films of the the last 30 years, <strong>Out For Justice (1991). What I hope the analysis of these 4 movies will do is try to figure out what went wrong with a man that was once on a promising road to action stardom and how it really could have been so much more than it ended up being.

So Bond up Son!

The Steven Seagal Super Cinematic Spectacular
is coming your way [6]!

[1] Provided, Kevin Sorbo’s major attempt at being an action movie star was Kull The Conqueror, a movie so bad I’m stunned Kull creator Robert E. Howard didn’t rise from the grave himself to cleave Sorbo in twain with a broadsword.

[2] This rule doesn’t apply to major action stars from Hong Kong. Jackie Chan turns 60 in 2 years and still won’t stop doing insane shit on film. The same goes for Sammo Hung (60) and Donnie Yen cetainly ain’t getting any younger (48). Thank God Stephen Chow (48) is slowing down and hasn’t starred in anything since his unexpectedly moving science fiction film CJ7.

[3] Amazingly enough Seagal as an ex-Research Immunologist is still more believable than Tara Reid as an Archeologist/Museum Curator in Alone In The Dark.

[4] His one redeeming movie was the remake of Around The World In 80 Days (2004), where he played against type as the comedic antagonist in a movie with Jackie Chan.

[5] I think I’m being redundant by saying “alaskan Eskimo”. I mean If I say Eskimo is someone online going to write me a nasty comment about the plight of the Portugese Eskimo?

[6] Not right away mind you… soon… or soonish is more likely…

Next Time: Above The Law!

Poetry Corner: Seven Lines of Sorrow

with James Harris

I wish I could account for every last little thought
But with time I lose focus of all that I have wrought.
Memories come and go, oft times they can slip away
Why even look ahead, when I can barely recall today?
Still now and then I can think of a pretty girl’s smile
I can try for the rest of her and flashback for awhile.
Thoughts of her fade, leaving me with a little thought
A gentle smile I see, to focus on all that I have wrought

Halloween Is Not Really My Thing

Mais Oui! Je N'Adore Les Halloween! FROMAGE!

I have never really liked Halloween and I mean never. The appeal of dressing up as something I’m not irked from a young age. I halways had enough trouble trying to figure out who I was so the last thing I wanted to do was be someone I’m not. I am truly stunned I didn’t end with some major case of Multiple Personality Disorder given how my my friends were alwways insisting I NEEDED to dress up for Halloween. Sure it was peer pressure or as I like to call it “Mental Extortion”, but I always dressed up to fit in.

The sad thing was I really didn’t fit in, I was the weird kid in my grade school classes. I was always kind of the outcast. I didn’t want to put on a costume or really go Trick or Treating. That is kind of weird, a kid not wanting to get free candy is not normal. I mean let’s face it, from a pure larcenous standpoint Halloween is the sweetest racket in town. Sure the “Trick” part of it is not nearly as played up anymore, but back in the day, oh back i nthe day my friends, Trick or Treating was the closest thing children had to the Cosa Nostra.

If you break down the dynamics of it, Halloween by the modern standard is nothing more than a protection racket. You get a bunch of kids together, dress them up in scary costumes and go from place to place demanding free stuff that you have really done nothing to earn. If one of the houses doesn’t turn over the schwag first you threaten o do damage to their property and if after that you still get your “cut” property damage ensues. I swear to God if that isn’t the equivalent of 2 guys named SAl and Joey going to a local merchant and shaking him down for “Insurance” then I don’t know what is!

I’ve struggled long and hard with my sense of identity. Actually given my current mental ailments, it is safe to say I am still wrestling with my sense of self. I amjust as anxiety ridden and neurotic now as I was as a child. So when you’ve got neurotic 5-12 year ol being told he has to dress up as something when he has no real desire to do so, well that leads to your previous anxiety ridden little boy into becoming a little bit of a bigger headcase. I didn’t wanto be anyone but me, hell I still feel that way. So when I get invited by friends to their Halloween parties and I’m told I have to wear a costume, I get kind of offended. Am I not good enough company on my own that you want me to be someone else?

This is why when I go to Halloween parties I put the minimum amount of effort into a costume. 3 year s ago a Scotch taped a rubber baby doll to my stomach and went as Kuato from Total Recall. The year after that I didn’t even show up in costume. Thiss was a party thrown by friends Chris and Lauren. Lauren swore if I didn’t show up in costume that she would put me in one herself. Needless to say I was in a red dress and black wig for the whole night, telling people I was Ann Wilson from Heart. Last year, I wore my Sinestro Corps T-Shirt and plastic Sinestro Corps ring and got away with being the laziest member of the Sinestro Corps. 3 Halloweens and the minimum effort to dress up was used on all 3 of them. I’m kind of proud of that fact.

There is a little bit of hiporicy here though. I claim to not like Halloween for the dress up aspect when I spent 10 years doing Medieval Re-enactment in the Society For Creative Anachronism. The SCA was neverreally about the dresing up aspect for me, though I maintain that a Kilt remains the most comfortable thing a man can possibly wear. The SCA was more about gomes with good people and maybe learning a thing or 2 along the way.I never really eveloped my SCA persona all that much, that wasn’t what it was about for me.Oh wait… you’re wondering what the fuck I’m talking about aren’t you? That will have to be another article for another time. I’m talking about Halloween dammit!

So yeah Halloween, not a fan. I can’t help it. It pushes all the wrong buttons for me. I hate dressing up, inauthenticity drives me crazty and worst of all, Halloween tends to be the one night of the year where 75% of adults think it is ok to act like every asshole frat boy they’ve ever known. I just don’t get why epeople get stiupid drunk in the middle of the street and decide to set their furniture on fire on the sidewalk. Hey asshole, you could’ve given the sofa to Goodwill or The Salvation Army! a large chunk of the adult population i nthe US to act total botards for no other reason than they think its ok to act liek a drunk 18 year old. It is a holiday that children use to bully and ostracize other childeren and terrorize senior citizens.Halloween is not for me. Besides, its just another holiday that got co-opted from the Jews. What? You never hear of Purim?

So summing up, Halloween is a great racket t encouragesif your a budding young “Entrepenuer” with drems of at least rising to the rank of Capo in the Luchese family. I

The “B” in B-Movie Is For Bad: Devil Dog The Hound of Hell

Devil Dog? Where's The Creme Filling?

My youth was spent watching Television. In fact a giant chunk of time was spent sneaking into the kitchen, after my bedtime, to watch the magic picture box. Before I discovered, or really understood, the genius of Johnny Carson, my main attraction was watching re-runs of classic Star Trek, The Honeymooners and especially the late night movie. Holy shit did I love late night movies. Every brand of crap got peddled to late night and I savored every drop of cinema like fine wine, or at least as close to wine as a kid between the ages of 10-15 can imagine.

I watched weird movies about kids traveling back to King Tut’s court, more than one Hammer Horror film and even Puma Man before it got to MST3K. It was on Late Night TV where I first saw the wretched Message from Space (the one Sonny Chiba movie I will never watch again, thank you very much) and first noticed Susan Lucci‘s neck veins when I watched Invitation to Hell. Yes, even back in the 80’s Susan Lucci looked like a Lich or at least The Crypt keeper.

But the one movie that sticks out more than any other, the one that terrified my 11 year old brain was Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell. It proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Richard Crenna, even in the 1970s, may have been the craggiest looking actor who ever lived. I mean if you think he looked craggy in as Col. Trautman in the Rambo movies, in this he looks like he was carved out of a desert peak from Death Valley.

"Fear My Hi- Pro Glo... OF SATAN!"

I mean read the title of this damn movie, Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell. How the fuck does this NOT capture the imagination of any 11 year old boy? I mean that is practically begging to be watched by every pre-teen boy that snuck out of his room to watch TV after bedtime during the 80s. I mean it is Devil Dog. That means it is either a Drake’s snack cake or a hound that will seriously suck your soul and fuck you up… possibly at the same time. Hell the second half of the title just inspires sheer awe, it isn’t just any Hound of Hell it is THE Hound of Hell. All other hell hounds are just posers man, this pooch is the real fucking deal! The title in its entirety is pretty much telling you “DO NOT FUCK WITH THIS DOG!”

I mean the movie starts off innocently enough. Craggy faced Richard Crenna plays Mike Barry, patriarch of the Barry Family. He has his loving wife Betty and his 2 kids Bonnie and Charlie.

Wait hold up!
Bonnie and Charlie?
This has got to be some kind of dig at the Scottish!

Anyway, The Barry’s are sad because the family dog just died. We, the viewer, are spared seeing a potential 20 minutes of exposition dealing with how the Barry’s go through the Kubler-Ross Model of the 5 Stages of Grief. Hint: I’m betting Betty develops a severe Valium addiction between her regimen of 5 champagne cocktails before noon. It’s just a guess. Anyway, the family Barry encounter a local fruit vendor who has a litter of puppies he is giving away. But this is no ordinary fruit vendor. No, this fruit vendor is a Satanist.

No shit, an honest to goodness fruit vending Satanist in Southern California. What the fuck are his biggest sellers? Apples and Pomegranates? (Editor’s Note: If you get that joke kudos to you. We needed to rifle through the Bible and Bullfinch’s Mythology to figure out what the fuck he meant. Then we all had a chuckle. Not a full on laugh, one of those condescending chuckles as if to say “Man do we hate the guy writing this shit”).

So our Satanic Fruit Vendor unloads one of the puppies on the Barry family. The Barry family are rubes of course because they don’t know our Satanic Fruit Vendor (I can never get tired of typing that), somewhere between spraying his fruit down with DDT and attending Black Mass, has managed to imbue this dog with a special kind of power. The power of love… OF SATAN!

"Can You Show Daddy Where Devil Dog Touched You?"

So the Barry family, in their all their Middle-Middle Class glory, bring Canis Satanicus home and decide to name him Lucky. Oh delicious irony, you are my favorite of all the flavors. Needless to say, home life becomes a bit livelier. First there is the Barry family’s Maid. Now this was made in 1978 so the Maid isn’t just Hispanic, she is a full on Hispanic stereotype, meaning she is completely Catholic, superstitious and naturally thinks the new family dog is Cucuy (Editor’s Note: Yup, had to look that one up too, don’t even ask where).

Well since superstitious Hispanics and dog’s given the power of Satan are natural enemies, Lucky uses his vast Satanic Powers to kill the Maid in a fire. Now Mike Barry has never had a Domestic die on the job like that, so naturally he suspects something is not quite right with the dog. Lucky knows the jig will be up if he doesn’t act fast, so he waits for Mike to mow the lawn. Using his vast Sith like abilities, Mephisto’s Dachshund turns the motor of the lawnmower on and tries forcing Mike to shove his arms into the whirring cutting blade. Needless to say Mike has become a tad concerned that Lucky is trying to kill him.

Foolish Mike, he isn’t the target, the rest of clan Barry is. Charlie is first, as the dog … I don’t want to say “seduces” him because that gives the wrong connotation, but that dog is definitely giving young Charlie a come hither look. So demon Rin Tin Tin makes Charlie his minion and evil ensues. Charlie frames his rival at school for theft during the class election. Young Bonnie is next, with Lucky giving her the look of love as he did to Charlie. Before you know it Bonnie, along with Charlie in tow, is breaking curfew and mouthing off to the ‘Rents.

Now any other parent would make a very logical deduction from this, namely that his once model children have started doing copious amounts of drugs. But not Mike Barry, the rebellious kids MUST be the dog’s fault. Well how does Mike explain it when his once perfect monogamous Wife starts screwing everyone in the neighborhood? Can’t be the fact he is a less than serviceable lover. God forbid it’s the husband’s fault. Must be the dog!

Family Portrait - Slut Mom, Future White House Advisor and Vicodin Addicted Daughter

I mean yeah, it IS the dog but the fact Mike Barry basically spends a large chunk of the movie telling anyone who will listen (not many do) that his dog is evil and ruining his family is so ridiculous it is great. It is like watching that season 2 episode The West Wing where Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) chronicles his mental breakdown to a shrink (Adam Arkin) with Richard Crenna in the Whitford role and all the dudes getting boinked by Betty (played by k it is OTHING like that Yvette Mimieux) as the rest of the Bartlett White House Staff. Lucky the dog is, of course, the music that drives Josh Lyman into the sweet world of PTSD.

Ok, it is NOTHING like that episode of The West Wing because put simply, The West Wing is great TV while Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell is barely serviceable as a 75 minute TV movie. The story moves on…

Mike, slowly losing his mind, decides he has got to kill this fucking dog that is destroying his once perfect family. He takes Lucky out to a pasture and tries to shoot him and… Aw fuck I can’t take it anymore. So much terribly weird shit happens in this movie that is so random and insane you have to watch the rest of it for yourself. I mean there is some cracked out prophecy involving Mike being “the Chosen One”, a trip to Ecuador to do research on what exactly Lucky is and some weird Incan/Aztec/Whatever comes from Ecuador Shaman drawing an ancient power symbol to send the most evil German Shepard ever back to hell!

Shit this movie has it all. Sex (Slut Wife), Politics (High School Election, I’m stunned Degrassi never did a “Satanist Running for Student Council” storyline), Satanism (DUH!) and Richard Crenna and his craggy ass face playing the most stressed Middle Management slob trying to kill a Satan possessed dog ever!

I mean Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell has it all. What’s stopping you from seeing it?

I mean yeah, its bad. I mean like, really bad. Ok it isn’t Zipperface bad, nothing can be that awful. Still, I expect better of Richard Crenna. I mean this is the guy who talked John Rambo out of wiping out the entire Pacific Northwest after all. When the tensest moment is Crenna trying not to put his arm in a lawnmower, well then should tell you the amount of effort that was put into the performance. Hell Lucky the dog is more convincing than almost the entire cast. I say almost because Yvette Mimieux plays a promiscuous housewife very convincingly. She could have been the next Erica Boyer!

So how do we actually wrap this up?
I mean do I recommend you watch it?
You’re damn right I do!

You NEED to watch Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell because it is just so deliciously awful, like having a diet coke with your 2 boxes of 50 piece Chicken Mcnuggets. Ah, there’s the analogy for this movie! Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell, The Chicken Mcnuggets of B Grade Made For TV Movies!

Until Next Time...

Making A New D&D Character or How To Not Make A Newbie A Total Pain In Your Ass!

Exasperated Nerds Of The World Unite~!

I haven’t really written about gaming in a while. This might be due to the fact that my regular Saturday Night gaming group collapsed in no small part to my inability to reign them in to focus on the game itself. One too many tangential conversations interrupted game-play and the fact I would get sucked into these conversations didn’t help matters any. Hell sometimes I even started those conversations. On average for a 3 hour gaming session only one hour to 90 minutes was spent actually playing. But these gripes aren’t the point of this article.

Now I’ve had a life-long love of Dungeons & Dragons. I mean of my 39 years on this rock I’ve spent 29 of them playing D&D in its myriad of incarnations. The problem is when you start playing and you’re the experienced player and there is someone playing for the first time. There is nothing as pathetic as newbie gamer at a table full of veterans. Hell they might not even have bought dice yet. Odds are that they also haven’t had the luxury of someone having handed them a copy of The Player’s Handbook. Any experienced player knows that dealing with a newbie can be the most aggravating thing a veteran dice-slinger can deal with. The hardest part though is always getting them through Character Generation.

Newbies have a hard time wrapping their heads around story based game play as is, so asking them to assume the role of a character for play can be equally anathema to them. Character Generation for newbies can be an absolutely hair-pulling endeavor. Just throwing a Player’s Handbook at the newbie doesn’t really help them either since the PHB starts by telling them about the rolling of stats and what said stats represent. Honestly, this is the worst way to go about Character Creation. Throwing a numbers game at a new player as the first step is the WRONG way to go. It is the responsibility of both the game Master and other players to walk the newbie through Character Creation. My belief is to start the new player out in either the Races section of the PHB or the Classes section after getting such matters as gender out of the way. Always check with the DM if you are starting with the Races section, especially if the GM is running his/her own original Game World. Starting with the races gives the player an idea of the flavor they want their character to have.

Now Starting in the Classes section has its own benefits as it helps set-up a concept of the character a little better as it gives the player a starting point for a profession. Using either Class or Race work toward that end and thus starting with one or the other is what I usually suggest recommend do. Only after both of those are selected should the new player even consider rolling stats for the character. Yes, stats are important but having a clear idea of who their character is more important in my opinion. Having an idea of the character and what they want them to be allows the player to Role Play more effectively as the character. This is at least my experience dealing with new players.

Now it is imperative that it is explained to the player that they are not playing themselves. It is quite the opposite. They are playing exactly what it says in the PHB, A Character. Too often new player’s play thinking they are just playing themselves in a Fantasy setting. This should be discouraged/ I had this issue with a group I was playing with where 4 out of the 5 players thought that was exactly they were doing. Add to this the fact we were playing Oriental Adventures. When I asked in the middle of a game for a player to describe his character to me I got the response “ell he’s me, only Oriental”. This brought my game to a screeching halt as I explained that they weren’t playing this game in order to be themselves but rather they were playing to escape from themselves.

This really is where the English language causes problems in Dungeons & Dragons. It is Role Play, i.e. you are playing a role as if you were in a play so knowing what you want from your character is very important. It is not Roll Play, yes dice are rolled during the course of the game but they should by no means dictate every facet of how a player controls their character. Every character you play is different, even if every time you play a Bard, Bard A is different entirely from Bard B and needs to be treated as such.

The best Role Players, in my experience, have a flair for the dramatic and play their characters up as much as possible. I mean it is called a “Character” for a reason. A new player needs to be encouraged to throw themselves into the character as much as possible. They need to become that character while still making sure that the character reflects them as a person as little as possible. Sticklers for dissecting the rules of the game tend to make lousy Barbarians just as a disorganized player tends to make a lousy Wizard or Sorcerer. Don’t discourage a person form playing any class but never be afraid to point them to something that makes it easier for them throw themselves into that character. This may seem contradictory but I assure it is not. It benefits a new player and the game a whole and in the end the game NEEDS to be fun for everyone.

Being the new player in any established gaming group can be enough of problem for both the new player and the group without the hassles of making a new character mucking things up. I honestly believe following these guidelines to character creation makes easier for everyone involved in the long run and the easier it is, the more fun everyone will have at the table.

Cooking: I Don’t Suck At It~!

A Book I Have Never Actually Read

My appetite was best described as voluminous when I was younger. When I was a teenager I would eat and brother could I eat. I wasn’t necessarily a glutton mind you but if the food was in front of me it would be a mere matter of moments before it was gone. I don’t think I ever really learned how to savor my meals. Mind you, a good portion of my teens was spent in boarding school. One might expect horror stories about food prepared at a boarding school but there was never a meal that was served to me there that I did not finish. Never once was I served liver, which is a dish that I find abhorrent, and if a dish had bananas, of which I am violently allergic, then I usually abstained. So the best way to describe my dietary needs as a teenager is simple, I devoured everything in my path.

Now of course all this devouring led to me being a tad on the pudgy side. I was 15 when I was shipped of to a certain school on Long Island and I was already 220 pounds. I am very grateful for my school’s athletic program as it got me down to 200, even lower than that during wrestling season, but I never stopped loving every morsel of food I devoured. It was definitely a balance of diet and exercise that pretty much prevented me from really ballooning to zeppelin like proportions. However, in all the time I spent eating I never really bothered to consider the other side of the equation, namely cooking. Sure I had experimented when I was younger by trying to make a spaghetti sauce one time in order to give my mother a break from cooking, but that little fiasco resulted in a red mess all over the kitchen floor. No, it wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I started to experiment with cooking.

I, of course, went to that most established of cooking academies known as the local Taco Bell. That was more an experience in “I really need to have this job if I want to make rent” as opposed to learning how to cook. Still, I learned that to get that unique Taco Bell flavor you relied on the magic ingredient of lard. I was glad to quit that job because it meant I would never have to see how the food at Taco Bell was made ever again. Still, working there got me the experience I needed to get other kitchen jobs. I have done morning prep and afternoon prep as well as made sandwiches, soups and salads. I have grilled, fried and broiled more than my fare share of meat. I know this much, none of my employers would say I was a great employee. It didn’t change the fact that I still managed to learn about how to cook. Every restaurant I ever worked at resulted a little bit of knowledge getting crammed into my head and then from there I would apply that to my own culinary adventures.

I have cooked on grills of both the flat iron and open variety. I have stir-fried in woks and regular skillets. I have baked bread and boiled meats for soup. I’ve fucked up my soup by putting in too much rice and yet still managed to salvage it by turning it into a chicken and rice dish. Of course I’ve also completely burned meat to the point of it being a mere cinder and inedible. I mean shit, I’m not infallible, only the Pope is that and since I’m a Jew I don’t give a fuck if the Pope doesn’t like my burnt meat. Unless he is, for some inexplanable reason, in my house expecting to be fed. Then the Holy Father, is getting him some damn fine home cooking, even if I have to improvise a ramen dish!

I know this much, after spending more than 10 years working in 6 different kitchens, I never want to work in a restaurant kitchen ever again. Shit, I’m almost 40 and I’ve got bad knees so spending all that time on my feet is murder. Add to that, my weight will fluctuate anywhere between 230-250 pounds and I’m carrying a whole lot of me around. For the record, 250 is not the heaviest I’ve been. Sometime in the late 90’s I had really let myself go and Super Sized myself to 375 pounds. The fact that I got myself down to the 230-250 range, fuck that was a miracle, but that is what being broke can do for your diet. I know I’m tipping closer to 250 these days in all honesty. I think I’m tipping over that right now but I’m too scared to even think of approaching that scale. So I’m trying to diet and it is kinda working since I don’t feel bloated when I get done eating.

Still, dieting is pretty fucking hard when you like to both cook and eat. Nothing makes me happier than cooking for my friends. I never really liked cooking a restaurant because to me it was work, it was what I was doing to survive. Cooking for people I actually give a shit about though? Now that is one of those things that makes me happiest. What I usually cook isn’t fancy and it is pretty much comfort food. Meatballs, Meatloaf, Soups, Burgers and things that really don’t my, or anyone else’s attempts to lose weight. But I love food. I love the smell of it cooking, the simple flavor of a roast chicken, the texture that perfect sandwich and that incredible smell and flavor of garlic since pretty much goes with anything.

Shit, sitting here writing this I’ve thought of at least 4 dishes I want to experiment with and 2 of those involve chicken. What? Who doesn’t love chicken? I mean besides a certain someone I know and vegans? Chicken is the world’s most perfect food because it goes with anything. Chicken soup, chicken stew, fried chicken, chicken dumplings… shit that is barely the tip of the iceberg to what you can do with a chicken. I’ll eat almost anything involving a chicken. Well, almost anything because chicken liver is gross and if you mix chicken and bananas I’ll pretty much die because I am deathly allergic to them.

Oh and I won’t eat duck!

I used to eat duck but I don’t anymore for a very geeky reason that I am not going to go into here. If you serve me duck I will be very polite and say “No thank you” and that will be that. It will be very civil and inoffensive as possible. As opposed to serving me a banana which would result in a me screaming at you and possibly me accusing you of being some sort of assassin.

Anyway, my point is this… I love food. I love cooking food. I love cooking food not just for myself but for everyone I care about. Telling me you enjoyed the meal I prepared for you equates to “Thank you James, you really are a good person” in my mind. For those of you who I’ve cooked for, I know you have appreciated it and I thank you for the honor of letting me prepare your repast. To those I’ve yet to cook for, I look forward to doing so and hope you will enjoy the experience. If it is any sort of consolation, no one I have cooked for has ever fallen sick. If that isn’t a ringing endorsement I don’t what is!

POW! Bi-Weekly Comics Review! 12/20/2009!

Never shall I besmirch the name of The United States Postal Service for despite the miserable weather they still delivered unto me… MY COMICS!

This week is a notoriously small list of titles. We have 1 DC, 1 Vertigo, 1 Marvel and… look at this Kodansha has reprinted Akira for all the world to enjoy. Well, Tis the season as they say. As always I’d like to thank Heavy Ink for getting my books to me and once big props to the U.S. Postal Service, who came through despite all the crazy weather. Let’s jump in with our pick of the Bi-Weekly shipping period shall we?

Power Girl 7

Hey look! It’s Vartox, an ex-Superman pseudo-baddie who just oozes late 60s/all of the 70s machismo all over the DC Universe. Well lo and behold, our most Connery-in-Zardoz-esque baddie determines that he must mate with our girl Kara Zor-l, or as we like to call her… POWER GIRL! See Vartox of Valeron is awesome because he is such an out there character, who basically got rolled out once in awhile during the Silver Age to play up his he-man status and try to get it on with Lois Lane and basically call Superman a pussy, or as close to calling Superman a pussy as the Comics Code Authority would allow. Vartox is awesome, this must be accepted as fact. I mean just look at the cover to Power Girl #7. As if he wasn’t Connery in Zardoz enough already, the fact that his spaceship is basically a giant floating head just seals the deal. Why does this have anything at all to do with Zardoz? Simple, the plot of Zardoz is basically this… Sean Connery runs around bare-chested and hairy in somthing that is almost but not quite a banana-hammock for 105 minutes of your life that you will never get back. Somewhere in there is a story about… something… and a giant floating head in space and… something else. Look, Vartox is essentially Zed from Zardoz. So you basically get Sean Connery trying, rather ineptly, to seduce Power Girl. This is why God invented comics people!

The Incredible Hercules: Assault On New Olympus One-Shot

Hey look, it’s The Incredible Hercules: Assault On New Olympus one-shot that was supposed to be out 2 weeks ago. Too bad I already read Incredible Hercules #138 and already know where the story goes from here. Still, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth reading. Basically, since Amadeus Cho and the Goddess Athena discovered Hera’s crazy plot involving the Olympus Group, they realize that only one dense piece of Marvel Universe muscle is going to be able to put Hera and her band of Olympians in their place. Of course that is Hercules, but he has other things on his mind… like asking the question “Why is that nerdy kid kissing my wife?”. Hold on there Herc, that isn’t just any nerd… that’s Peter Parker and that means we get a fun-filled little Herc v. Spidey throw-down. Vartox v. Power Girl? Herc v. Spidey? It’s like fight week here at POW… maybe in my new issue of Fables Princess Ozma will challenge Geppetto to a steel cage match…

Fables 91

Yeah no such luck kids, sorry. Where as Power Girl and the Incredible Hercules Special are about the glorious art of comic book smackdowns (and in Spidey’s case, smack-talk), the new Fables plays out more like Donahue back in the 80s. See Phil Donahue would invite guests on, have both sides of the argument present their case and then Phil would actually rebut both sides if they were talking out of their asses. Donahue was daytime talk for sophists. This month in Fables, we get to see Geppetto play politics amongst the Fablekind, as he proposes to lead that he should lead the magic council in order to defeat Master Dark. Well that is all very good and all but in case anyone forgot, Geppetto is a fear monger, much closer to a Mussolini than a Hitler mind you but evil is evil. Luckily, little Princess Ozma steps in to challenge Geppetto’s mad play for power by calling in a very specific and POWERFUL magical force who has a HUGE beef with the little old puppet maker. Also Generals Bufkin and Frankenstein‘s battle with Baba Yaga reaches its climax! Still that is secondary to what is about to happen to Geppetto because The Blue Fairy is back and she is ROYALLY PISSED~!

AKIRA Volume 1 - Kodansha Edition

I’ve now read Akira in a collected format from 3 different publishers. First was the old EPIC imprint from Marvel. EPIC digitally colored Akira back in its initial release and actually did an incredible job of it. Finding those single issues of Akira isn’t easy and probably would cost an arm and a leg today. Hell, even finding those collected volumes of the single issues probably would be a pain in the posterior since there was a pretty low print run on those. Dark Horse released Akira in 2001 or so and they did a great job of it. Now Akira‘s original Japanese publisher, Kodansha is re-re-releasing it and you know what? Akira just might be the greatest manga I’ve ever read. There aren’t a lot of modern manga that hold up to it too well. I mean most manga these days is very disposable and doesn’t have much depth. Akira has so much depth that I was just a few pages into it and felt like I needed scuba gear. Add to this Writer/Artist Katsuhiro Otomo being one hell of a draftsman, his images leap out at you and every emotion you want to hit you comes across the way you want it to. That and Otomo’s art-style is pretty much Anti-Manga, since most of his influences came from Europe (well all the influences not named Osamu Tezuka that is). I can rave about Akira all I want, that doesn’t mean you will go out and read it. Fuck that, go out and read it anyway. Go see and read one of the greatest works of science fiction of the last 100 years. Go in with a closed mind as to what you perceive manga and comics and in general to be. I can almost guarantee that when you come out, you will look at Akira as something completely brilliant, so much so that it belongs in the same breath as Maus and Sandman as a work that rises above the genre that spawned it!

Well this week was light, well kinda, what with Akira Vol. 1 being 350+ pages and all. Next installment will only feature 4 books as well, though nothing quite as epic in length as Akira. Hey look at that, Assault On New Olympus continues in 2 weeks in The Incredible Hercules #139. Nekron continues to rise and leave people asking “Who the hell is Nekron?” in Blackest Night #6. Madame Xanadu #18 continues to look into the swinging Satanists in the 1960s and its title character just might run into a certain green-skinned guy that shouldn’t be showing up in a Vertigo book. Last but not least, hopefully, in Wonder Woman #39, Princess Diana just might get her hands on the traitorous bald-bitch Alkyone, methinks we shall see the return of Donna Troy and Queen Hippolyta and one of those two will be showing up to make things worse for Diana.

I think the Bi-Weekly comics haul will get to decent sied proportions once the Holidays are over. But until then, fewer books means that I get to write POW! in less than 3000 words, so I ain’t complaining too much. Actually, I’m not complaining at all since I love to talk about comcis almost as much as I love to read them. So come back in 2 weeks time and revel in my adulation and love of comics. Come… Nerd-out with me then won’t you?

The Reuben – The Greatest Sandwich In All Creation!

The Reuben - The Greatest Thing EVER~!

Being both from New York and a Jew makes me quite fond of good deli food and sandwiches. This is a result of both upbringing and genetics obviously. New York City must have some kind of sliced meat/deli law that requires 50 of them to be packed in a 1 mile radius. You can’t spit in NYC and not hit a deli. Now this doesn’t have to be a Kosher deli. I’ve probably been served by more Greeks and Koreans than I have actual Jews when I was growing up. I mean no matter how you break it down Jews love a good deli and love a good deli sandwich even more. I mean what is a wedding, wake or Bris without a deli platter? In fact I’ve known people in my own family who have opted to skip special events and dinner parties based on the fact that their isn’t going to be a deli platter. I find it kind of funny, especially since there is always a Deli platter at every Bris I’ve ever attended.

Ah but my subject isn’t “Funny/Odd Things Jews Serve At Family Functions”. No, no, no we are here to praise that finest of sandwiches, loved the world over but especially by Jews from New York… The Reuben!

The Carnegie Deli Reuben!

A Reuben is my most favorite sandwich EVER! Corned beef piled high and topped with swiss cheese, sauerkraut and Thousand Island dressing between 2 pieces of rye bread? Fuck, I’d slap the president if I was promised a Reuben afterwards. Say where do they happen to make the best Reubens in the world perchance? Why in New York City of course! Take your pick between Katz’s, Carnegie and Second Avenue delis. They all have the Reuben on the menu and I always end up taking some of it home because their Reuben’s are like a Death Star composed of meat, kraut and cheese. Sweet fuck, if I return to New York City anytime soon I will probably go to Carnegie Deli first before I bother to let anyone I’m friends with know that I’m back and that includes my father. I know I’ll get a severe and grave stare from him when he sees me. The conversation will go something like this:

James: Hi Dad!
James Dad: Jamie! When did you get in?
James: Like 3 hours ago
James Dad: 3 hours? It’s only like 20 minutes to get to my office by subway. Why 3 hours?
James: Um… I went to Carnegie Deli first…
James Dad: [unamused, severe and grave stare] This is like that time [insert possibly traumatic event from my childhood that has nothing to do with what is going on] and this proves that you don’t care about your family!
James: [confused] Huh?

I’ve lived in Northwest Ohio for 15 years now and to date I’ve had some decent Rubens but only one truly great one. So stand up and pat yourself on the back Easy Street Cafe in Bowling Green, you just got the “Jew From New York” seal of approval for your Reuben. Now Easy Street has more than just a regular Reuben. They, my friends, have the 3D Reuben aka The Reuben of Death! What this is a triple-decker Reuben served like a club sandwich. This just might be the most perfect sandwich ever made not made in NYC. I mean, it is essentially a Reuben that can be used to club someone to death and that right there is frighteningly awesome.

See the problem out here in Northwest Ohio is, when you ask for Reuben, my experience is that they make the sandwich on Marble Rye. That loud thump you just heard was 200,000 Jews in Manhattan having strokes at their keyboards. You DO NOT make a Reuben with Marble Rye… EVER! A Reuben is a work of art dammit! It deserves the finest bread known to man and that bread my friends is hard Jewish Rye. Marble Rye? Seriously, what is wrong with you people in Ohio? Bad enough your pizza sucks but you have to ruin the Reuben as well? What the fuck have I ever done to any of you to be treated with such disrespect? Fuck… Marble Rye… just… just… FUCK!

I think the key to a Reuben lies in corned beef. You want that prefect cut of corned beef that hasn’t been overcooked less it be to rubbery. You also want it lean but not too lean. What does that mean exactly? No one but a Deli owner or butcher knows for sure. The corned beef has to be just right so you can bite into the meat cleanly and get the sour crunch of the kraut and and the tang of the cheese and Thousand Island dressing all at once. The kraut also can’t be too wet, in fact I am a firm believer in squeezing the kraut to wring the juice out first before putting it on the grill. Just because the kraut has been on the grill doesn’t mean it is dry enough to put on a sandwich. I mean who wants soggy toasted rye bread? Not this little black duck!

My love of the Reuben is eternal.True story time… When I was a lad at Boarding School, every now and then the kitchen staff would try to serve Reuben’s for lunch. These just might have been the WORST Reubens I’ve ever eaten. But you know what? I didn’t care because we wee getting Reubens! I may have been the only student at that school to be excited when Reubens showed up on the menu. I know the people at whatever table I was assigned to, dreaded it… well maybe not the other Jewish students, I mean there was only like 7 of us in the whole school if that!

I’ve conducted action figure trades at The Carnegie Deli while eating a Reuben. I’ve violated fasting on Yom Kippur so I could eat a Reuben. I bet you if Johnny Cash had been a Jew, he’d shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die and then he’d say “OY GEVALT! Someone get me a Reuben!”. Sadly Johnny would be somewhere in the deep South and would be unable to get a true, right and proper Reuben. Want to know why God rested on the 7th day after creating the Earth? Because he ordered a Reuben from Katz Deli! What? It’s Heaven mother fucker, you better believe The Almighty has Katz Deli to serve him up a 3 pound Reuben with Matzo Ball Soup! Who else is gonna make it for him? A Gentile?

Carnegie Reuben Part Deux -A Reuben So Huge It Demands A Sequel!

So in summation… The Reuben is a sandwich so grand in its… well… Grandness, that it can only be the greatest thing made in the history of man… EVER! Great Wall of China? Can’t compare, I mean it isn’t made with corned beef! Leaning Tower Of Pisa? Don’t make me laugh, my ancestors built the Pyramids, we’d never settle for a crooked building! Besides if the Italian’s tried to make a Reuben, somehow tomato sauce would get involved. Stonehenge? You really want to compare a bunch of rocks to the greatest sandwich, if not the greatest thing… IN THE UNIVERSE? Fuck the Seven Wonders Of The World I say! There is but one Wonder of The Entire Universe! It is made of corned beef, Swiss cheese and kraut piled high on HARD JEWISH RYE!

All hail the Reuben!

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