Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Sneaky Pete

This Amazon original starring Giovanni Ribisi is a prime example of how not only has the way we watch television has changed, but so has the way it's made. "Sneaky Pete" has Ribisi doing his best Aaron Paul as a con man in a small town of seeming innocents, and feels like more of a long episodic movie than a series. 

Those who follow my reviews of "The Flash," "Arrow," "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," and even the last few seasons of "Doctor Who" know that these days the subplot and overarching story are far more important than any individual episode's A plot. In an age when David Lynch says that "Twin Peaks: The Return" is an eighteen-hour movie and not a TV series, this is pretty much standard operation. 

I found "Sneaky Pete" to be much the same.  The episodes, stories, and performances are compelling, but it was the subplots, the character bits, and the long game where the real meat was.  This was a single day's binge, ten roughly one hour episodes, that's how good this show was. 

The premise revolves around con man Marius, played by Ribisi, who is getting out of prison long before his oversharing and talkative cellmate Pete.  This Pete descriptively paints a warm and receptive picture of a loving family and home he hasn't seen in decades, with a jackpot to be had as well.  So when Marius gets out, needing a place to hide, he steals Pete's identity. 

The reason Marius is on the run? He got himself arrested to escape the wrath of gangster Vince, who wants his money back or he'll kill Marius' brother.  Vince is chillingly played by executive producer Bryan Cranston, using every bit of evil he never fully showed in "Breaking Bad."  If you ever wanted full-on hardcore Heisenberg, here he is. 

The series has been renewed for a second season on Amazon, so catch up while you can, it's well worth it, recommended.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017


Vertigo ~ On the last TCM Classic Cruise I saw Spellbound and didn't like it.  Yeah, I know, save it for someone who cares.  Anyway, at the start of this Cruise I saw Vertigo on the schedule and my addled mind got them confused, so I didn't go.  I regretted it after I realized that Vertigo was not Spellbound.  So when the second chance to see it popped up, I jumped on it.  No Kim Novak introduction this time, but still I got to see it on the big screen, and really, how can you beat that?  That aspect even made Vertigo better for me. 

Vertigo is one of Alfred Hitchcock's crowning achievements, and while I had seen it decades ago, it was at a time before remastering, before the restored soundtrack, and most importantly at a time when I had little appreciation for film, and only a black and white TV.  Believe me, that makes a world of difference.  For 1958, this film is brilliant, and for 2016, it's still brilliant. 

In this complex plot of deception and mistaken identity, Jimmy Stewart plays Scotty, an ex-detective with vertigo caused by acrophobia.  He's hired by an old friend to trail his wife, played by Kim Novak.  Things get even more complicated when Stewart falls in love with his target, and the madness spirals from there. 

The film not only features Stewart and Novak in some of their best performances, but has a (pardon the pun) spellbinding score, and masterful special effects enhancing the fear of heights and dizziness felt by the character Scotty.  The remastered vibrant 1950s technicolor also gives the visuals that extra kick. 

I love Vertigo, and after seeing it in this format, I love it more.  Now I'm kicking myself of course for missing it the first time with the introduction by Kim Novak.  Recommended, a must-see classic, it's not Spellbound

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Bionic Nostalgia - Bigfoot

Much like the Bionic Woman episodes of "The Six Million Dollar Man," I don't think I had seen "The Secret of Bigfoot" since it originally aired back in 1976.  This two-part episode, at the height of Steve Austin's bionic popularity, hit on so many power spikes of pop culture at the time, making it classic 1970s television. 

For all of you fans of "Ancient Aliens" or the real Coast to Coast AM with Art Bell who don't know, that whole cycle of strange phenomena began back in the 1970s.  From Erich Von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods? to the movie documentary The Mysterious Monsters, it was all hot at that time.  The commercial for the latter, which featured a Bigfoot's arm crashing through a window to grab its victim was pulled from television by parents' groups for scaring young children. 

That one struck a chord close to home for me, living so close to the Pine Barrens.  We didn't believe in the Jersey Devil, but we also weren't stupid enough to go in the woods at night, or sit on the couch with a window behind it.  Bigfoot was hot, aliens were hot, and so were earthquakes after the big disaster film.  A pop culture fuse had been lit and the folks behind "The Six Million Dollar Man" were going to get on board. 

"The Secret of Bigfoot" two-parter had it all - two geologists investigating the San Andreas fault, an ancient alien base, and Bigfoot, played by Andre the Giant himself.  It could only get better as Steve went to save the couple, and came face to face with Bigfoot, or as the badly stereotyped Native Americans called it, Sasquatch.  Only the stereotypes that date these episodes mar it.  Watching it again on Esquire recently, I found my childhood again. 

We were a little under a year away from the wave of jiggle shows of which Lee Majors' wife Farrah Fawcett was a big part of, and I hadn't discovered girls yet, so watching Steve Austin trade blows with the Sasquatch was a dream come true.  There is a good and lengthy fight with voiceover narrative by the aliens watching, until Steve pulls off Bigfoot's arm. 

The aliens have been there in the mountain for generations, guarded by the robotic Sasquatch.  Filmed in weird soft focus, they dress in leisure jumpsuits and a young Stephanie Powers is very interested in what makes Steve tick.  Bigfoot, while having some very cool facial make-up has an even worse wardrobe problem as he looks as if he's wearing pilly wool dreadlocked brown pajamas.  Sasquatch makes friends with Steve, maybe just to get fashion tips.  Throw in a massive Cailfornian earthquake and a nuclear bomb, and you've got a nail-biter.

In the original two-parter we get a few cameos of Jaime Sommers, a reminder of how closely linked the two series were.  As with anything so popular in pop culture, the Sasquatch kept coming back, but not always played by Andre the Giant. Ted Cassidy filled in a few times, and not as satisfactorily in my expert opinion.

The last time we see the creature, it's in the season five episode titled appropriately and simply enough, "Bigfoot V."  There's been a Bigfoot sighting and everyone is after him - anthropologists, hunters, opportunists, Rudy Wells, and Steve Austin and the OSI.  Other than some silly talk about the difference between space Bigfoots and Earth Bigfoots, this is pretty pedestrian stuff for the show, which had become mostly for the kids by this time. 

Of course, the show had such an effect on our culture that when many people think of Bigfoot, they see in their minds Andre the Giant rather than the ape-like beast from the famous Patterson-Gimlin film, and that's saying something.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Back in a Flash

Back in a flash, and gone in a flash as well. I haven't read a DC Comic in quite some time, maybe a year at least. There was a moment there, just a moment mind you, when there was interest, but the event fatigue that has almost killed Marvel Comics, drove me equally away from DC. Notice that the thrust of this single issue of The Flash I'm looking at today is pretty much following up storylines from my reviews a year ago, not cool. Whatever happened to one-and-done comics? Hell, one story in one issue could be the next hot gimmick - that's one gimmick I would gladly put my money down for.

Speaking of money, and I hope the powers that be are reading this, the first comic book I had to have, and actually sought out a comic shop to go and put money on the counter for was The Flash #22, and that was for Jay Garrick, the real Jay Garrick, the original Golden Age Flash. That's $2.99 sight unseen, from the shelf to the counter and out the door. Think about that, DC Comics, you put the real Jay Garrick in a comic book, and I hand you money. Otherwise, I'm not interested in your line for a year or more. Someone says there's a traditional hero from my childhood acting like a hero, and I'm a customer again. Do the math.

This issue is the fourth part of a storyline called "The Button," some hogwash trying to connect Watchmen to the DC Universe. I'm really not interested honestly. Watchmen's story is over. Anyone who read the acclaimed maxi-series knows this. Any further use of the characters, who are technically Charlton heroes and barely Alan Moore's creations, is just DC giving Moore the finger. So as far as any of this button nonsense goes, I really don't care. It's the Jay Garrick stuff I want to talk about.

Jay Garrick is the first Golden Age superhero from Earth-Two I got to know. I never had a problem with the multiverse, it's only DC's writers who had trouble with that. I was fascinated by this older Flash from another world, and as I got older, I grew to love those Golden Age versions of the heroes more than the rest – Green Lantern, Hawkman, Doctor Fate, they ruled, but Jay was the first and the best.

Jay Garrick is cover-featured on The Flash #22, shown burning through the original cover of Flash Comics #1 from 1940 to appear today. Nice effect, as if the book wasn't already sold on me. Sadly, Jay only appears on five pages of this roughly twenty-one-page comic. It was enough to make me cheer for a moment, but then again that's something Marvel hasn't been able to do for quite some time.

Batman and the Flash, the Rebirth versions of these characters, are in pursuit of the Reverse-Flash through the time stream. The villain is apparently destroyed by a force - maybe God, maybe Doctor Manhattan – that also leaves our heroes without their Cosmic Treadmill and swept away into the winds of time. Metaphoric and cosmic, but it's that kind of comic. Then they hear a voice, telling Barry to say his name, "Jay."

There's a weird Shazam! like vibe in that, but the name summons Jay Garrick, and he uses his speed to get Batman and Flash back to their universe, back to the Batcave, back home. He looks like our Jay Garrick, sleeker, maybe not as much of an old man, and the costume has a few tweaks, but nothing to complain about – shinier helmet, new boots, and his sleeves cover his hands more. It was still Jay, not that guy from that Earth 2, this was the old Flash I loved.

Jay mentions being free, perhaps from the Speed Force, or some other dimension, or maybe some other Earth invisible from the 52-Earth multiverse… or maybe from Doctor Manhattan himself. Like Wally West in DC Universe Rebirth #1, he tries to get Barry to remember him, to no avail, and he vanishes into oblivion. I got my five pages and DC got my three bucks.

The deal still stands however. Give me back my Flash, hell, I'll get greedy, give me back my Justice Society, and I'll give you my money, DC Comics, deal?

Roger Moore 1927-2017

Actor and humanitarian Roger Moore has died. His family announced today that he had passed from cancer after a lengthy battle with that and various ailments beginning with a diabetes diagnosis in 2013. He was most well known for his seven-film stint as James Bond 007 in the 1970s and 80s.

Last week when I reviewed Octopussy, I was not so kind to Sir Roger Moore, and while it's true he had (literally) become a clown in the role by that point, he did star in two of my favorites from the franchise Live and Let Die and The Man with the Golden Gun. Notably he was in the role for the most films so far, and is still the best James Bond for many fans. And for prepubescent me, he was my favorite Bond as well, but perhaps that shows where the movies were aimed at the time.

Bond wasn't all Moore should be famous for. He was incredible as "The Saint," also on TV, he was fun in "Maverick." In particular, he was a favorite of mine in the infamous but much fun Spice World, with the Spice Girls. Roger Moore was a legend and he will be missed. I'll be watching a few of his Bonds and raising a martini to his memory, shaken, not stirred.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis

Justice League: Throne of Atlantis ~ Throne of Atlantis is the first sequel to Justice League: War, which in turn was a result of the New 52 continuity created by The Flashpoint Paradox.  Confused?  Don't be.  Suffice it to say, the DC Comics Universe used to be different and fun, and now it's not.  These are the adventures of what passes for the Justice League in that new world. 

This is a Justice League that doesn't get together for meetings, doesn't look like themselves from the comics (or the ones I fondly remember), and doesn't particularly even like each other - except for Superman and Wonder Woman of course, who are romantically involved.  This team dynamic is a darned shame because the cast has great chemistry.  Nathan Fillian's Green Lantern joins Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman, Jerry O'Connell as Superman, and Sean Astin as Shazam (who is again sadly neither the wizard nor the real Captain Marvel). 

Thankfully this is not really a story about the Justice League, but more of a(nother) retelling of Aquaman's origin, something done much better in the comics, and in the animated "Justice League" episodes "The Enemy Below."  I really didn't care for the re-jiggering of characters like Mera, Black Manta, Atlanna, and Ocean Master however.

I liked the pseudo-anime style animation and the majestic score by Frederik Wiedmann, who had previously composed for "Beware the Batman" and the much-missed "Green Lantern: The Animated Series."  But that's really about it.  Like previous entries in this new series of animated features, there's a lot of violence, both bloody and lethal, not something I watch superhero cartoons for, at least not to this extent. 

Look for a cameo by pre-Steel as John Henry Irons and a reference to "Mercy Reef," the cool Aquaman spin-off from "Smallville" that never got past the pilot stage.  Not recommended unless a hardcore fan, or you like the New 52 Justice League

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Rest in Peace Chris Cornell

Soundgarden and Audioslave front man Chris Cornell took her own life last night after performing with the reunited Soundgarden in Detroit. I had been texting with a Facebook friend about the concert when it was done. He was telling me what a great show it was, and how bigger things were coming for the band. He texted me later, saying that Cornell was dead. He had hanged himself.

I admit, until last night, it had been a few years since I thought of Chris Cornell. I loved his "You Know My Name," the first real rocker to be a James Bond theme in decades. I was never really an Audioslave guy, but Soundgarden was on my playlists long before Cornell became one of the founders of the grunge movement in Seattle. I loved their cover of the Ohio Players' "Fopp" early on and played that to death on mixtape after mixtape. I stayed with the band through grunge success, and remember the summer of 1991 with Temple of the Dog with Cornell on lead singing "Hunger Strike," which whenever it came on the radio I would yell back, "Domino's delivers." Fun times.

Here's the part where I usually say we've lost a legend, and he will be missed, and we have, and he is, but there's just something missing there. My good friend, and a terrific writer, Jessica A. Walsh, posted something on her Facebook wall that says exactly what is really on my mind. Chris Cornell seemed okay last night, he seemed amazing, and now he's gone. Here's what Jess wrote:

"Chris Cornell's apparent suicide is another reminder that what people reflect on the outside may not at all resemble how they're feeling on the inside. You can work, laugh, play music, hang out on social media, have a loving family, and still be dying inside.

"That's why we need to spend more time communicating and building relationships and being of service to one another."

Thank you, Jessica. And if anyone out there is feeling this way, please talk to someone, talk to me, talk to anyone. You have friends, you have choices, you have life, and it can all work out.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Sonny and Cher on Television

There was a time back in the 1970s when variety shows were all the rage.  The closest thing we have these days are the contests like "America's Got Talent" or the late night talk shows, or the current godfather of them all "Saturday Night Live," but there was a time when they ruled prime time television.  There was Carol Burnett, Donny and Marie Osmond, the Captain and Tennille, Shields and Yarnell, Flip Wilson, even the Brady Bunch, there were dozens, and then there was Sonny and Cher. 

Cher, and her older mentor husband Sonny Bono came to prominence in the 1960s as the pop duo Sonny and Cher.  With their hits "The Beat Goes On" and "I Got You Babe" (each would later become their theme songs on TV), they were an odd coupling.  The hippies thought they were straights, and the straights thought they were hippies, giving them an almost universal appeal by default.  They began playing Las Vegas, where they developed the banter and chemistry that would make them TV stars. 

Their variety show ran for three seasons before their divorce ended it.  The next season featured two new shows, one for Sonny and one for Cher, followed in the next season by a new show featuring them both.  No longer married, but still friends and working partners, the jokes were a bit meaner and subtextual.  Audiences loved it in all its incarnations.  And while the pair were no longer making hits, Cher had several of her solo hits featured on the shows.

Recently a nostalgia network new to us in Florida, GetTV, has acquired the programs and have been running them.  I haven't seen any of them since they aired, and it was quite a surprise.  Less dated and more risqué than I imagined, I can only guess that puberty had not kicked in yet regarding Cher's scandalous outfits by Bob Mackie. 

The wardrobe, glam rock style aside, notwithstanding, wasn't the only thing that was edgy.  The humor is something that like Cher's dresses (or lack thereof, how did she get away with them?) was also a bit risqué.  I'm really not sure a lot of this would have gotten through censors today.  Not just dated jokes, but a lot racial humor and sexual innuendo, so in that way, these shows are an intriguing time capsule. 

Catch them if you can for a bit of nostalgia, a bit of social evolution, and a laugh or two.  And for those who did not live through the 1970s, don't laugh at us too hard. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Mary Kills People

No matter what your point of reference is - angel of death, mercy killing, DNR, assisted suicide - it all comes down to the same thing.  Someone, usually terminal, can't live with the pain of life and/or illness any more, and are unable or unwilling to do themselves in, and need a helping hand to end their misery.

I get it, I really do.  I can't imagine anything worse than the helplessness of a body that has turned against you and is killing you slowly and painfully.  The on-the-nose "Mary Kills People," a show out of Canada airing on Lifetime, is the fictional story of Dr. Mary Harris, played by Caroline Dhavernas, who also gets it, and is in a position to do something about it. 

Assisted by friend and ex-doctor Des, played by rugged Karl Urban lookalike Richard Short, Mary helps people in need of such things a painless peaceful send off.  Stalked by a pair of cops, a drug dealer, and raising out of control daughters make things a bit more difficult.

The cast and the story pulled me in almost immediately.  And despite the content, this drama has a touch of black humor that keeps it from getting too depressing.  I'm glad I found this show, definitely worth checking out.  Recommended. 

Monday, May 15, 2017


This is the "Doctor Who" spin-off that was originally planned for BBC's streaming access earlier this year. It has been broadcast after "Doctor Who" on Saturday nights after its mother show on BBC America. It's set in Coal Hill Academy (formerly School), the school that the original "Doctor Who" series began at, and recently returned to a couple seasons back.

The premise surrounds a group of students and teachers at the school, who all have their own various secrets and backstories. The school, as background of so many "Doctor Who" adventures, has become a structurally weak point in the universe, both dimensionally and temporally, allowing all manner of nasties to enter.

I was expecting something along the lines of "The Sarah Jane Adventures," a show about kids, for kids. I was very surprised at watching the pilot episode, which of course guest-starred Peter Capaldi as The Doctor, because it was so dark. And by dark I don't mean the monsters which were living shadows, this was a mature show. This is a mature show for mature viewers, much more in line with "Torchwood" than "Sarah Jane."

So you've got high school students, doing high school things, and mixing in with, and mixing it up with some pretty nasty aliens. Most of the kids for me are interchangeable. If I'm being honest I wouldn't know if they switched them around every week, but there is one character who does stand out. That's Miss Quill.

Teacher Miss Andrea Quill, played with precision and a bit of charismatic madness by Katharine Kelly, formerly of "Coronation Street" and "Mr. Selfridge." She is a shape-shifting alien bonded to one of the students, and she's smart and mean and infinitely watchable. Really Kelly is the only thing worth watching in "Class" as far as I'm concerned. Even the ongoing Shadow King subplot doesn't grab me, these monsters in particular are a bit hokey, reminding me of the clay people in Heavenly Creatures more than anything else.

If "Class" isn't renewed, I hope that Miss Quill might join The Doctor as a companion, or better yet, as an adversary. Until then, "Class" is really only worth watching for the most hardcore Who fans.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Blog March 2017: Not My President

So many folks use the term 'not my president' these days for Trump. I freely admit I'm one of them. I also must admit I was unaware it was a term some folks used for President Barack Obama during his two terms. I would disagree, Obama was my President, and I'll talk about that shortly, but first let's talk about presidents.

When I was growing up, in the days of Johnson, Nixon, and Ford (yes, I'm that old), the president was the enemy. Granted that impression was sowed and influenced by "Saturday Night Live," Mad magazine, and scores of counterculture sixties movies that I loved, but one thing changed that - it was truth, not media.

I used to walk home for lunch when I was going to elementary school, and while I was eating my sandwich and French fries I would watch reruns of "Brady Bunch." Then something happened that shattered that routine. Watergate. The hearings were broadcast live all day, everyday, and on all channels (of which in those days were few, maybe seven at most).

At first I was annoyed. I wanted to watch the Brady kids, and these hearings went on for seeming months. With no "Brady Bunch," eventually I began to watch the only thing on, and learned firsthand how evil and corrupt and hateful our leaders really were. This stayed with me, for decades, never completely trusting those in power, even after I had the power to vote.

That changed with Barack Obama. He was my age, he had my values, and he believed in the rights of all people. He was also a comic book reader, something that really resonated with me. As a Spider-Man and Conan fan, I knew Obama was aware that with great power came great responsibility, and that might didn't always make right. He appeared on talk shows, podcasts, and treated his staff to Five Guys. He liked TV, music, and movies I knew, and he cared about the issues I cared about.

These may all sound like small trivial things, but Barack Obama was truly my President. And when horrible shootings happened on campuses, in schools, in malls or on the streets – things which happen far too often – President Obama mourned with us. He came on TV and mourned with us. These events hurt him the way they hurt all feeling Americans, all human beings. This was a President, this was a man, who had a heart, and a soul. I don't know if I can say those things about the person who currently holds that office. The only emotions I have seen Trump have are those that harm others, he is not an empathic man.

Trump is not my president. A real leader does not joke about nuclear weapons, nor does he intimidate or humiliate women. He doesn't make fun of the disabled, or care about the size of a crowd. A real leader doesn't gloat about an election months afterward. He doesn't invite murderers to the White House and say he'd be honored to meet him. He doesn't take health care away from those who need it most. And he doesn't fire folks who may be investigating shenanigans in his administration.  Trump is not just not my president - he's a monster. And he is the worst kind of villain, the kind who not only thinks he's right, but also thinks he's the hero. Not my president, and shouldn't be anyone's president.

If you're not an official stop on the Blog March tour, do it anyway. Speak your mind, write your heart, and get the word out. Link back to us so we can help you spread the word.

Please join and/or donate to ACLU, vote, or register to vote if you haven't already, support People for the American Way, Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood, Lambda Legal, and Public Television.

Check out the next stop on the Blog March right here tomorrow, and here the next day. A full schedule can be found here. And thank you.

Thursday, May 11, 2017


Octopussy ~ Confession time, I've never seen Octopussy in its entirety until fairly recently. I didn't see it in the theater, even though I was in college by then and could have. I guess at that point I just didn't care any more about Bond.

By the time Octopussy came out I had spent the seventies watching James Bond on ABC movies of the week. I loved them, watched them every time, edited or not. I had even been lured to the library to read the source material by Ian Fleming, being chastised by the librarian, bless her heart, that I was too young (junior high school) for "that trash." Shame on me!

But as far as the movies go, I had long before figured out that Sean Connery was the man, and that Roger Moore in his ridiculous indestructible tuxedo was only playing it for laughs. That said of course, Live and Let Die remains a favorite guilty pleasure. It would finally take both Duran Duran and Grace Jones to get me into a theater with Bond and Moore in A View to a Kill, but I think we all know what a mistake that would be.

Like many Bond films 'based' on Fleming work, the jump from page to screen is just cray-cray. Only the title and character are lifted from the short story collection "Octopussy and The Living Daylights," although a scene from another story therein, "The Property of a Lady," is included in the film. Even as a sniggering teenager I thought Fleming's femme fatale names were a bit much, and 'Octopussy' was just waaay over the top.

The movie comes from a time when Bond was mad camp, constantly trying to one up itself from the last entry. Seriously one could put a bat-costumed Adam West in some of these situations and it would be more serious. A tale of Faberge eggs, killer circuses, and a smuggler named Octopussy, it just does not hold my attention well. I think I would rather watch the non-canon remake of Thunderball, Never Say Never Again, released in the same year, at least that was exciting. This one breaks a cardinal Bond rule - it's boring.

There are some spectacular stunts, some beautiful locales, and a better than average theme by Rita Coolidge, but it's just not good enough. Roger Moore is showing his years, his toupee, and his disdain for the role. Maud Adams doesn't have the charisma her character demands in all of her scenes. And Moore in the clown suit and the gorilla suit... is just shameful and embarrassing. I think I'll skip this one if it comes on again, a disappointment.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Freaks of Nature

Freaks of Nature ~ You ever have one of those moments where you're watching a movie on cable you really like, it ends, and then as another movie starts you realize you can't find the TV remote? Yeah, that's how I found Freaks of Nature, and I'm kinda glad I did.

We're asked to accept a lot in this movie about the teenagers and citizens of the town of Dilford. Here, humans, vampires, and zombies semi-peacefully co-exist. That is until the aliens show up and paranoia turns them all against each other. The vampires are evil and manipulating, the zombies are brain-obsessed eating machines, and the teenagers are, well, teenagers.

At its core, Freaks of Nature is a good old fashioned 1980s teen sex comedy in the mode of Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Better Off Dead, more about the kids and high school than any of its supernatural and science fiction trappings. No matter what camp you fall into, it's all about fitting in and dealing with parents and growing up.

As the aliens make their demands known and the factions in this weird town must come together, things get even weirder, but it was cool.  I actually enjoyed this a lot more than I ever would have suspected. And the supporting cast is full of great comedic actors including Patton Oswalt, Keegan-Michael Key, Joan Cusack, and Denis Leary. Recommended, if you can catch it on cable (or if you lose your remote), check it out.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

What Hydra Really Is

Those of you who follow my work know how I feel about the current comics situation with Captain America and Secret Empire. If you don't, my thoughts on Captain America as a Hydra agent can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here, and the new crossover event Secret Empire here and here. Suffice it to say, reality was warped and Captain America is, and always has been an agent of Hydra, and in Secret Empire he makes his move as a major super-villain and takes over the planet in the name of Hydra.

Much has been made of what Hydra is and isn't, with many folks equating this organization with the Third Reich and Nazism. When the group was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby for Strange Tales #135 in 1965, they were essentially a modern day group of adversaries designed for Captain America who could take the place of the Nazis he routinely trounced in World War II.

Later, in a series by Jonathan Hickman that retconned much of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s history as well as that of Hydra, the organization was described as ancient, East Asian, and having origins going back centuries before the Third Reich. Those of you who have watched "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." are aware of this retcon when the team fought the extraterrestrial creature called Hive. Hydra moved even farther from its Nazi origins when the Marvel Cinematic Universe made a point of referring to them as the science branch of the Third Reich which broke off into its own thing.

But even if you want to play this retroactive continuity game, here are the facts. Baron Zemo, Arnim Zola, Baron Von Strucker, and the Red Skull were all Nazis. They are all fascists, anti-Semites, genocidal maniacs, bent on world domination. They have all worn swastikas. Is it a coincidence they are also all founders of Hydra? If it quacks like a duck, folks...

So, anyone who knows what a metaphor knows what I'm talking about. Hydra equals Nazis, no matter what anyone says, and Marvel should be ashamed to have their symbol of freedom, the superheroic icon who began his career by punching Hitler in the mouth, become one of them. His creators Joe Simon and Jack Kirby would be sick over this, and Marvel should do what is right - apologize, and sweep this whole demented Secret Empire concept away and forget it ever happened. And pray that your readers forget it ever happened.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Free Comic Book Day 2017

Having recently moved to Florida from New Jersey and not getting that many comics any more, I was at a loss as to what to do for Free Comic Book Day this year. I dearly miss All Things Fun! up in my home state, along with Ed, Dina, and Allison, who I did the All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast with (which you can still see here), but it's just too far a drive these days.

The Bride and I decided to drop in at a newer comic shop here in downtown Lakeland, Uncanny Heroes. They had Darth Vader, Chewbacca, George Lowe from "Space Ghost Coast to Coast," and a DeLorean parked out front, I was sold, let's stay a while. Having Max 98.3 FM broadcasting live and barbequed hot dogs and burgers was just a bonus as far as I was concerned – Uncanny knows how to celebrate Free Comic Book Day. I picked up a handful of the free comics, a cool Krypto shirt, and Batman/Shadow #1. Here's what I thought of some of the books:

Batman/Shadow ~ I was wary of this one as my friend and podcast partner Ray thought I might like it. Anyone who listens to The GAR! Podcast knows that's never a good sign. I can't say I hated this, but I didn't like it either. The Shadow is the antagonist here, not the way I want it, and Scott Snyder and Steve Orlando get it right except which side of the law the Shadow is on, and I did love the Maniaks reference. This book earned a second issue and a second chance, but a tentative one.

From the free comics I picked up Riverdale, which was very readable but in the long run not as enjoyable as Archie Comics of the past. Very hooked into the CW show of the same name these two tales are set in that continuity. And if you dig the show, there's a cool character guide in the back of this one.

In anticipation of the upcoming live-action The Tick series on Amazon (I loved the pilot) I picked up that comic, fun but not as good as it used to be. Hmmm, seems to be a pattern. Underdog, from American Mythology, the company that currently publishes Eagle, was fun, with both a new story and an old one. I just may pick up the new Underdog comic based on this. And then there's Wonder Woman. I was not a fan of Greg Rucka when he wrote the character before and I remain unimpressed.

The Bride picked up a few of her own as well. The nice thing about Uncanny Heroes is they had no limit on how many free comics you could get. It's important to note that even though the comics are free to customers, the stores till pay for them, so remember that every Free Comic Book Day and buy as well as get free stuff. Jenn picked up four books from the FCBD selection.

The first was Avatar, which didn't do much for me, but I am excited for the film sequels and the new park in Disney's Animal Kingdom. The next one was also Disney-related, a manga version of Descendants from Tokyopop that was interesting, but I prefer the movie. Next was Doctor Who from Titan Comics with a fun tale of four Doctors that I dug quite a bit.

The Bride's final choice was All-New Guardians of the Galaxy as a dessert to seeing the movie the night before. The comic wasn't bad, pretty much in line with the real series of the same name, but what really irked me was the second story of this Marvel FCBD book - Defenders. So Bendis is writing a book called Defenders featuring the Netflix version of that team, nothing I can do about that, I guess, it's typical Bendis, but do they have to use the original logo? To me that logo means the real Defenders – Doctor Strange, Hulk, Sub-Mariner, Nighthawk, Valkyrie, Hellcat, etc., not these guys. How about a new logo, huh?

Marvel had two other offering for the day, one a reading chronology for the "All-New, All-Different Marvel" that is basically a glossy and pretty book of ads for Marvel's trade paperbacks – in correct reading order to be sure – but still a book of ads. And then there's Secret Empire, a heart crushing addition to the Captain America as Hydra agent saga where the villain (Cap, as hard as that is to believe) defeats the Avengers by wielding the hammer of Thor. Yes, it defies logic, like all of this story. Thankfully it's followed by a sneak peek at Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man featuring Spidey, the Vulture, and the new Trapster. That's kinda fun at least.

For the most part, a fun Free Comic Book Day, thanks to Uncanny Heroes.