Thursday, October 28, 2010

Not Overly Feeling Like Writing

I suffer from what's commonly known as a "Hero Complex." I wrote about how much of a pain in the ass it is to live with WAAAAAY back in my MySpace blogging days.

Long story short, I have an obsession to be THE guy that gets things done, the one people look to, the one who's know to be reliable. It drives to places where I feel trapped, unable to fix all the problems I see around me, and unable to accept that they won't be taken care of. I tend to feel guilty when it's (whatever it is) not done, terribly guilty. Painfully so.

I'm endeavoring to change this. Part of my "Be Selfish" program.

But, in thinking about this, I think I understand why I like this song so much.

Pearl Jam - The Fixer

Pearl Jam | Myspace Music Videos

The Fixer

Yeah, hey, hey
When somethings dark, let me shed a little light on it
When somethings cold, let me put a little fire on it
If somethings old, I wanna put a bit of shine on it
When somethings gone, I wanna fight to get it back again

yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, fight to get it back again
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

When somethings broke, I wanna put a bit of fixin on it
When somethings bored, I wanna put a little exciting on it
If somethings low, I wanna put a little high on it
When somethings lost, I wanna fight to get it back again

yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, fight to get it back again
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

When signals cross, I wanna put a little straight on it
If there's no love, I wanna try to love again

I’ll say your prayers, I’ll take your side
I'll find us a way to make light
I'll dig your grave, we'll dance and sing
What's saved could be one last lifetime

hey, hey, hey
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, fight to get it back again
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
fight to get it back again, yeah, yeah, yeah
fight to get it back again, yeah, yeah, yeah
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah

-Eddie Vedder

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Song For The Day


Yes I understand that every life must end, aw huh,..
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, aw huh,..
I’m a lucky man to count on both hands
The ones I love,..

Some folks just have one,
Others they got none, aw huh,..

Stay with me,..
Let’s just breathe.

Practiced are my sins,
Never gonna let me win, aw huh,..
Under everything, just another human being, aw huh,..
Yeh, I don’t wanna hurt, there’s so much in this world
To make me bleed.

Stay with me,..
You’re all I see.

Did I say that I need you?
Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t now I’m a fool you see,..
No one knows this more than me.
As I come clean.

I wonder everyday
as I look upon your face, aw huh,..
Everything you gave
And nothing you would take, aw huh,..
Nothing you would take,..
Everything you gave.

Did I say that I need you?
Oh, Did I say that I want you?
Oh, if I didn’t now I’m a fool you see,..
No one know this more than me.
As I come clean.

Nothing you would take,..
everything you gave.
Hold me till I die,..
Meet you on the other side. 

-Eddie Vedder

New Comic Day 10.27.2010

Only 3 today. I have to say, I'm relieved that both DC and Marvel have announced that the $3.99 price point is going the way of the Dodo....EVENTUALLY.

Detective Comics #870 ($3.99)
Written by DAVID HINE

The battle lines have been drawn. The insane Impostor Joker will lead his army of Jokerz against the imposing Impostor Batman and his Guardian Bats – and the battleground will be the Gotham City World's Fair. The only hope Gotham has is The Dark Knight himself, but can even Batman stop both Impostors before more blood is shed? All will be revealed, including the mystery behind the Impostors, in this shocking and horrifying conclusion to "Batman: Impostors"!

Well, as I've said, this isn't the most original story, borrowing liberally from Chris Nolan's Batman films, and Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, but, once again, I tell you. David Hine is doing it well. The storytelling is rock-solid, and I'm dying to see how this story wraps up. Also, Peter Nguyen has become one of the best cover artists in the business. That's a solid piece of work, there.

Captain America #611 ($3.99)
Daniel Acuna

The Trial of Captain America begins here! Nothing will ever be the same again, and this time we mean it. Award-winning writer Ed Brubaker and acclaimed artist Butch Guice continue to take Captain America to new heights!

Does this mean we're going to get rid of Bucky, and get Steve Rogers back in the costume where he belongs? Hmmm....Nah, I guess there's still nine months before the movie comes out.

Y'know, it's not that I hate Bucky. His run as Cap has been interesting and well written. It's just that Captain America: Reborn sucked ass, and then didn't even deliver what was promised.

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man #15 ($3.99)

Poor Peter Parker. All his friends hate him, his girlfriend has stopped speaking to him and to top it off, the whole world despises Spider-Man. What's a dude to do?? How about save the world and maybe meet the new love of his life? Fan-favorite BRIAN MICHAEL BENDIS (NEW AVENGERS) and rising Ultimate sensation, SARA PICHELLI (RUNAWAYS) bring you a new and exciting Spider-Man story you don't want to miss!!

So, let's see...Bendis, you seem to have undone everything that was imposed on your series during that God-Awful Ultimatum "event" mini-series. You've also done it while upending the status quo on your series in new and vastly interesting ways. Good job, Brian.

God, I am dying to know what's going to happen now that Jonah Jameson knows Peter is Spider-Man. Yeah, that's a spoiler, but the book came out a month ago...if you cared that much, you'd have read that damn thing.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sitting Here Thinking....

...And Thinking.

...And Thinking.

...And Thinking.

I really don't know what the hell to write today. It happens, I guess. Well, hell, I know it does.

I'm sure I'm not alone in wondering what my legacy will be. Not that you wonder about my legacy, but in that we all wonder about what we will leave behind. It's so funny, I have found myself, in recent years, damn near obsessed with the idea that I want to leave something behind, about leaving my mark on the world. What was my primary choice for that? Theatre. The most transitory and impermanent of all art forms. It's there, then it's gone. The script can live on, be remounted, but the actor? It's gone never to be seen again.

It's funny, but I think I'm also starting to feel it's a bit sad.

I was at a callback on Saturday, and I ended up talking to an acquaintance about a production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest that went up here in Chicago over the summer, I think, maybe late spring. She had auditioned for that production, and had contacted me about a copy of the script. I had been in the show in 2007, for Open Eye Productions.

I knew several people who, ultimately, were cast in that version of the show. People who, very strongly, encouraged me to come see it. I tried to, in every case, politely beg off. You see, I was very, very proud of what we did as a cast and company with our Cuckoo's Nest, we got some very nice notices (see above), and it's a very precious memory for me. I can watch Nicholson play it, because, well, it's Nicholson, but I don't have any need to see anyone else do it.

No, I don't feel like I own the part. It's not mine. However, my memories are mine, and I don't want to spoil them. In my heart, Anne Sheridan Smith will always be Nurse Ratched, Andy Lawfer will be Billy Bibbins, and Manny Sosa, may he rest in peace, will be Chief Bromden. The entire cast, too many to lay out here, were amazing and fun to work with, and Chris Maher, as director, made it all such a joy. It's a pure memory, and an experience that felt fulfilling personally and professionally. In my experience, that's a rare thing.

It also gave me a lot of things I wanted. Earning the role of McMurphy wasn't about my physical look, Hell, I was as tall as, or a bit taller than Manny as Bromden. I fought for it, through six glorious hours of auditions. I read, and read, and read, I didn't even know how tired I was until I was walking back to the train. When Chris called me to offer the role, I felt completely justified in my elation. I had taken what I wanted. It had also been a good, long while since I had to carry a show like that. It was a challenge, and something that I knew I could identify with. I could make it work, but I would have to work my ass off for it.

So, with all due respect, I don't really want to see your version. I'm not badmouthing it, as I didn't see it, but my experience on that set, with that cast, is something pure and golden for me. That's why I doubt I'll ever see the show again.

Then, on the other's gone. It's not coming back, there will be no remount, and Manny has left us, anyway. So, I shouldn't hold it so close as to not be open to new things.  It's fading, and certainly no one but those of us who were there in it remember it fully. I mean, I get a few "you were in that Cuckoo's Nest , weren't you?" once in a while, but the worm has turned, and that day is done.

That, I'm not at all afraid to say, makes me sad. I also know that's what this business is. Not even the biggest "hits" live on for more than a year or two, and we didn't even sell that well.

I guess it all comes back to that "I want to matter" thing. Which is horribly selfish, and I also, objectively, know that I do matter. My life is not all what I do on a stage, I have a loving wife, family, and good friends to attest. Even if it was, lots of people see my work, in any number of shows, and have a great experience. Lots of people have told me how much they enjoyed The Sound of a Yellow Flower, and that is precious to me. Any compliment is precious to me.

I also, flat out, don't believe it 70% of the time, but that's my own self-doubt in play.

It's all so transient. It becomes a game of trying to convince yourself that what you're doing matters. If we get down to brass tacks, it doesn't. In one hundred years, ain't nobody gonna remember my name, and, if they do, half of them will just talk about what a jerk I was.

So, what's the point, y'know?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Monday With The Boss - Part 10: Lucky Town

Going hand-in-hand with my post from last week, today we'll take a look at Springsteen's other release from March 31st, 1992, Lucky Town.

As we talked about in regards to Human Touch, that album was supposed to be the "soul" album, and Lucky Town was going to be the "rock" album. In reality, they both pretty much sound like Springsteen, but it is possible to detect the different forces that are applied to each record.

As a whole, I do like Lucky Town more than Human Touch, and I think that's the general opinion of most fans. Personally, I see this record as possibly where Springsteen's reputation as a influence on the "Alt Country" movement begins. There's a definite country vibe to a lot of these tunes.

When it comes right down to it, a lot of the same comments I've made about Human Touch can be applied to this album. The lack of E-Street Band involvement is keenly felt, the albums feel like a much "fuller" experience if you take them together, etc. (Quite honestly, I probably should've combined Parts 9 and 10 of this series into a single entry, and covered both albums together.)

Like Human Touch was about change, and upheaval. Lucky Town seems, to these ears to be about rolling into a bright future. A future where things may be different, but that's not always a bad thing. I mean, when an album opens with a track called Better Days, you're looking at a pretty positive feel. The album is simply fun to listen to, even the moments of slightly darker introspection, like My Beautiful Reward, still promise something hopeful.

There are tracks here that I absolutely adore, The aforementioned Better Days always puts a smile on my face, and Local Hero is such a light-hearted shot at Springsteen's own fame an image you can't help but give a chuckle. Living Proof is simply a joyous ode to the birth of Springsteen's son.

I've grown very, very fond of that last song. The last Springsteen concert I attended (Bradley Center, Milwaukee, WI, Nov. 15th, 2009), during the "requests" section, a man held up a sign that had a picture of a baby, with a onesie that said "Future Boss Fan" and "3 weeks ago I found Living Proof" written on it. The band scrambled, you have to remember this was a non-E-Street record, and they NEVER play songs from Human Touch or Lucky Town. (Which is a damn shame) Bruce got the band in line after some work, and it really turned out to be a beautiful version.That's my primary memory of that song, and I treasure it.

There is joy aplenty on Lucky Town, acceptance of risk, as in Leap of Faith, and commitment, as in If I Should Fall Behind. It's not hard to see that this is Springsteen's album about his commitment to Patti Scalfia, and joys he found in their life together. After the uncertainty and turmoil on display on Human Touch, it feels like coming out the other side, and see that, yep...You did pull it off. It's liberating and joyous. I smile a lot when I listen to this album.

I think Bruce smiled a lot when he wrote it. It feels looser and less calculated than it's sister release. I think Bruce just started having fun making music again. That, my friends, is something that's always great to hear.

Then, of course, he flipped it back the other way....

Friday, October 22, 2010

Christmas is Coming...

Ah, hell...I probably buy it for myself, anyway.

Stuck in My Head for Friday

Sorry the video is only a section...I couldn't find the full song.

You'll Be Comin' Down

White roses and misty blue eyes
Red mornings, then nothin' but gray skies
A cup of coffee, a heart shot clean through
The jacket you bought me gone daisy gray-blue
You're smiling now but you'll find out
They'll use you up and spit you out now
Your head's spinnin' in diamonds and clouds
But pretty soon it turns out

You'll be comin' down now baby
You'll be coming down
What goes around, it comes around and
You'll be comin' down

Easy street, a quick buck and true lies
Smiles as thin as those dusky blue skies
A silver plate of pearls my golden child
It's all yours at least for a little while
You'll be fine long as your pretty face holds out
Then it's gonna get pretty cold out
An empty stream of stars shooting by
You got your hopes on high

You'll be comin' down now baby
You'll be coming down
What goes around, it comes around and
You'll be comin' down

For a while you'll go sparklin' by
Just another pretty thing on high

Like a thief on a Sunday morning
It all falls apart with no warning
Your cinnamon sky's gone candy-apple green
The crushed metal of your little flying machine

You'll be comin' down now baby
You'll be coming down
What goes around, it comes around and
You'll be comin' down

You'll be comin' down now baby
You'll be coming down
What goes around, it comes around and
You'll be comin' down

- Bruce Springsteen

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is Frank Miller Crazy?

Go to any comic book website, and you'll see it...Endless bitching about Frank Miller. It really does feel like he's risen to some from of Anti-Christ in the comic book world. I'm thinking, at this point, anything he releases, no matter how entertaining or well done, will be hated.
It's almost difficult to imagine his status in the late 80's. He was right up there with Alan Moore. The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen were considered the pinnacle of comic book art and quality.

Certainly his track record was near-perfect. His classic and rightly acclaimed Daredevil run, which really established the character in a way that everyone has followed since. His art and plotting work the first Wolverine mini-series with Chris Claremont, which is still my favorite take on that character. The stunning Ronin. That's not even going into his Batman work, the aforementioned Dark Knight Returns and Batman: Year One, which, again established a tone for that character that was unchallenged for over 20 years. We can't forget his brilliant Martha Washington collaborations with Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons, or Hard Boiled with Geoff Darrow.

Not to mention his creator-owned Sin City. The multiple Sin City mini-series created an "comics noir" environment that few others would have the audacity to commit to 100%. Miller committed to it 150, even 200%. These books really, still to this day, encompass the best of what Miller can do. They're huge, epic, operatic, and not afraid to get down and dirty. In a lot of ways, I think the world of Basin City is where Miller would, ultimately, like to live. A tough, gritty, violent, sexy, un-PC world in his beloved black and white, with flashes of raw, emotional color.

Yet, I think it's this love of the Sin City world he created that has ultimately been his undoing. Since he tasted the freedom of creator-owned work, and this world, and style, that so perfectly reflected his own passions, he's been trying to apply those rules to everything he's worked on.

Take, for example, the long-awaited sequel to The Dark Knight Returns, The Dark Knight Strikes Again.  This 3-issue mini-series was released in 2001, and almost immediately hailed as a huge disappointment. Part of the reason had to be that the artwork didn't reflect the moodiness of the 1986 original, but rather the psychedelic spray of color that defined the last (to date) Sin City 1999 mini; Hell and Back.

Rather than feeling we were revisiting the Batman of the urban hellhole Miller had shown us in 86, he found Bruce entangled with the whole of a Justice League. It featured holographic Presidents, alien worlds, a weird mid-air sexual escapade between Superman and Wonder Woman, and other far-flung elements. This fit Hell and Back, which honestly read like the protagonist was fighting his way through an acid trip, but Batman, especially as we had always seen him from Miller, seemed to demand something more grounded.

I actually enjoyed The Dark Knight Strikes Again. (No, I really did.) Yet, I never thought of it as a sequel to Dark Knight Returns. I always look at is as a sort of The Justice League Returns. It's a bizarre tale, and that can be appreciated. Mainstream success was not, however, ever in the cards. It's just so far outside the realm of what we expected, there was no chance it would be accepted.

It only gets worse when we have Robert Rodriguez approaching Miller about a highly faithful, panel-for-panel adaptation of Sin City to film, with Frank Miller, himself, as Rodriguez's co-director. I enjoyed the movie, no doubt, and it was a faithful translation. However, to my thinking, it also pointed out some of the more silly and overwrought elements in Miller's work.

...But it was hugely successful. It's easy to see why, Miller's visuals, faithfully reproduces are incredibly striking, and unlike anything that had been seen on the screen, at that point. The sheer amount of digital manipulation that could be done to make Miller's visions "real" was now at a reachable state. We also had a great cast, perfectly matched to their roles. Mickey Rourke's Marv, for example, is the perfect execution of what Miller put on the page.

So, the film is a triumph, but it also did a really, really awful thing. It propagated the image of "Frank Miller: Visionary." That reputation was only fueled when Zach Snyder's adaptation of Miller's 300 hit two years later.  Miller suddenly had "clout," and clout far beyond just being a legendary comic creator, he had Hollywood clout.

This is when things seem to really spin out of control.

First we had Miller's collaboration with artist Jim Lee, All-Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder. This series was announced as a monthly title, free of continuity, in which these two superstar creators could craft a "definitive" version of the Batman mythos. Fans soon found this series not to their liking.

First off, over the course of 3 years, only 10 issues made it to the stands. One particular issue was over a year late. A whole year elapse between issues. It's, bluntly, inexcusable. That particular fault I, personally, lay at the feet of artist Jim Lee. Lee seems, in recent years, wildly disconnected from the concept of upholding a commitment. That's what it is when you say a title will be monthly (which Lee did, repeatedly), it's a commitment.

For his part, Miller gave us a Batman that was more extreme than anyone expected. "I'm the Goddamn Batman!!," a particularly reviled line from the series, became a running chat board joke. In his defense, Miller always said that he was writing "his" Batman, and frankly, the Batman of The Dark Knight Returns wasn't exactly family-friendly. Miller's Batman has always been an extreme version of the character.

I would never call All-Star Batman and Robin "definitive," but I have to admit I found it intensely entertaining. As the issues wore on, two things became evident, the plotting was off, and I think that's because Miller expected a monthly series (as Lee said), and was getting what amounted to an annual one. What also became obvious was that Miller was having a grand ol' time pissing off fanboys. "I'm the Goddamn Batman" started showing up in almost every issue, and I cackled every time.

I also have to say the Batman/Green Lantern confrontation Miller dreamed up was possibly one of the greatest Batman moments, ever. It reiterated that Batman was always the smartest dude in the room, and that a weakness to the color yellow is, bluntly, dumb.

All that aside, it was clear that this series owed more to Sin City than any Batman work Miller had ever done. There was an inherent ugliness that kept creeping in. A sexuality that seemed out of place (we know Miller's Batman likes to do it with the costumes on...which, if you think about it, does explain the Catwoman thing.), and female characters that all fell into the "femme fatale" type. All of these elements certainly can be mined with Batman, but Miller seemed to just be going from his Sin City playbook, and, entertaining as I found it, it didn't read as a great Batman story. It read as a Sin City story, with character that looked like the DC Comics icons.

But that wasn't the worst, as far as I was concerned.

I am a big fan of Will Eisner's The Spirit. Eisner was an undisputed genius, and the creator of the "graphic novel" with A Contract With God. (If you're a comic fan, you need to read it) He also was the creator of the "daylight noir" The Spirit, which found a Denny Colt, who had been "killed," but risen form the grave to do battle with criminals.

Notice the description "daylight noir." Eisner's Central City in The Spirit wasn't a dark and foreboding place. Yes, there were noir elements, but the pages literally burst with color, and The Spirit, himself, was a generally chipper guy, with a great sense of humor, a quick smile, and an eye for the ladies. When I started thinking about how the property could translate to film, in my mind's eye I saw a Raiders of the Lost Ark in an urban setting. A roguish, devil-may-care hero in a pulpish adventure.

But, somehow, due to his "Hollywood clout," they gave it to Miller, as his solo directorial debut, and we got this;

Ah, yes..."My City Screams. She is my lover. I am her Spirit." Which is total Sin City stuff. Wrong. Wrong.

This is The Spirit:

Not this:

"I'm gonna kill you all kinds of dead." Again, a total Sin City line, but, Frank...The Spirit is not Sin City. I know you were friends with Will Eisner, as evidenced by the fantastic Eisner/Miller book. I'd even agree with the assertion you made that Will would've wanted you to do The Spirit your way, instead of just aping him. If you did a Spirit mini-series I'd be all over it...

...But when you do a movie, you have some responsibility to try to capture the, well...spirit of the thing! Miller's The Spirit wasn't even in the same hemisphere as Eisner's stories. Eisner's gift, be it in his graphic novels, or in The Spirit, was to portray the life that was going on around him. Some of the most classic stories were about normal people caught up in extraordinary events.

Miller doesn't give a damn about normal people. He cares about Gods among men. He's said in interviews, he doesn't give a damn about personal lives and mundane things. He works in massive, broad strokes. There's nothing subtle about his stories or characters. There's no shading or compromise. Just like Miller's ultimate art style, it's black and white. No gray.

When The Spirit and The Octopus starting throwing each other around like the battles in Superman II, it's wrong, wrong, wrong. The Spirit is human, he may have "risen from the grave," but he's a normal guy with quick wit and quicker fists.



I, honestly, have a lot of respect for Frank Miller, and I think that, even now, he's one of the finest comic artists at work in the field. Yet, I live in abject terror of the rumor that he'll be making a Buck Rogers movie next. Buck Rogers isn't even on the same planet with Sin City.

I certainly don't think he's crazy. I do, however, think he's lost within the world of Sin City that he has created, and I will always want to see what he will do in that world. It's a vital and exciting place for exactly the kinds of stories Miller likes, and wants to tell.

However, what he has lost, I think, is the ability to work with other people's characters and worlds. In his Daredevil days, he could take his sensibilities and use them to enrich the traits of the character as it existed. Now, he feel the need to throw out established elements, so that these characters can conform to his personal fetishes.

I'll always pick up his work. I owe him that loyalty, as a reader who got a lot of enjoyment from his work, but I'm gonna speak up when it just...doesn't work.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fogerty - Longshot

Today's song that's stuck in my head.


And I ain't no doctor and I ain't no nurse
Ain't gonna love you babe and nothin' could be worse
Ain't got no aristocrat a hangin' in my tree
So tell me little momma why you messin' with me

Looks like a lo-o-o-on-ng longshot baby
Lookin' like a lo-o-o-n-ngshot baby to me

I don't walk with the president I don't mess with the prime
Ain't got no big shots baby workin' for me overtime
I can see you're sophisticated a with your goody two shoes
So tell me are you're slummin' baby I got nothin' to lose

Looks like a lo-o-o-on-ng longshot baby
Lookin' like a lo-o-o-n-ngshot baby to me

An I ain't no sinner and I ain't no saint.
Ain't no hipocrit baby 'cept most every day
I ain't got no religion a-clouding up my brain
So tell me little mama, why you jumpin' my claim

Looks like a lo-o-o-on-ng longshot baby
Lookin' like a lo-o-o-n-ngshot baby to me

Looks like a lo-o-o-on-ng longshot baby
Lookin' like a lo-o-o-n-ngshot baby to me

-John Fogerty

New Comic Day 10.20.2010

Oh boy...big week. Should'a seen it coming, with the last several weeks being fairly light

Batman and Robin #15 ($2.99)

1:25 variant cover by FRAZER IRVING

In the final chapter of "Batman Must Die," all is lost and everything has gone to pieces! Is Dick Grayson alive? Will Damian make a pact with the devil? And what will happen after the final confrontation with Dr. Hurt?

So, we're hurtling toward the return of Bruce Wayne. I'm really hoping they keep this title active. I'm sure they will, what with Bruce apparently trotting the globe in Batman, Inc. setting up international "Batman Franchises" like some sort of crime-fighting McDonalds, leaving Gotham City to Dick and Damian.

God, I wish they'd take Grant Morrison off the Batman titles...put him on Justice League, for God's sake..He's already proved he's made for that.

Brightest Day #12 ($2.99)

Written by GEOFF JOHNS
1:10 Variant covers by IVAN REIS

Don't miss the hottest event in comics as the biweekly BRIGHTEST DAY continues with the return of the Black Lanterns! Has time run out for our resurrected heroes? Plus, you must not miss the stunning origin of the new Aqualad, the battle between Aquaman and Black Manta, and the bizarre journey of Jason Rusch and Ronnie Raymond as they delve into the inner workings of the Firestorm matrix and uncover its secret!

So, here we are, twelve issues into a series that, I still say, could've been wrapped up in a 5-6 issue mini-series. I dunno what to say anymore, honestly. I am interested, otherwise I wouldn't be buying it, but fer Christ's sake, can't we move it along a bit? At every point where I feel like we're set up to resolve something, they cut away to another story, and, when they finally cut back...start building again.

Tell the story, let it be as long as it needs to be. Then END it. This did not need to be, in any way, a year-long bi-weekly.

Justice League of America #50 ($4.99)
Gatefold cover by ETHAN VAN SCIVER
1:75 "DC 75th Anniversary" Variant cover
1:10 Variant cover by MARK BAGLEY

Jade is plagued by the remanants of the Black Lantern, and Dr. Impossible and his group's machinations unleash the Crime Syndicate upon the JLA's Earth as BRIGHTEST DAY continues shining! What are their true plans? And can the World's Greatest Heroes handle these evil incarnations – or is the entire Multiverse doomed?

It's "do or die" time for this title. I'm sticking to my guns, if #50 isn't a home run, or at least a solid triple, I'm out. It pains me to drop a title Mark Bagley is drawing, but this book has been so, just...nothing.

Justice League ought to be a flagship title for DC, it ought to be a place for the top characters in huge stories, but it's just been hamstrung, left and right, by these stupid crossovers. Then when Dwayne Duffie dared to actually admit that point, which we all knew anyway, they fired him. Stupid. This could be a top-notch title. Bagley is the right artist for it, but Robinson is not the writer, and you need to let the "big guns" out to be part of it. This title reeks of mediocrity, because DC Editorial won't let it be anything else.

The Spirit #7 ($3.99)

Written by DAVID HINE
Co-feature written by JAN STRNAD
Co-feature art by RICHARD CORBEN
Cover by LADRĂ–NN

"Frostbite" concludes with all-out gang war in the streets! Just how far will the Octopus go to take back control? You won't believe your eyes – and neither will the man on the receiving end of the Octopus's fury!

And in the SPIRIT: BLACK and WHITE co-feature, Jan Strnad and Richard Corben bring you a Halloween treat – Central City's favorite dead man battling a werewolf!

I'm really liking this new "Next Wave" version of The Spirit, mainly because it really seems to have nothing to do with the rest of the atrocious "Next Wave" titles. Seriously, DC should be embarrassed to have published the first two issues of Doc Savage. The main teams have found a nice way to keep the "classic" Spirit feel, while being obviously modern, as opposed to the highly-stylized world that Darwyn Cooke created for the character in the last series.

You also have the excellent "Black and White" tales as a back-up feature. Top-notch teams playing with Will Eisner's creation with no continuity restrictions. This is one back-up feature I'm going to be very sad to see go when DC drops the $3.99 price point.

The Stand: Hardcases #4 ($3.99)


In a house in the newly established Boulder Free Zone, behind closed doors, seven soul survivors are holding a clandestine meeting. Their agenda: Saving a disease-decimated country and protecting themselves against the threat of the dark man. But what are they missing? Harold Lauder, who is biding his time and plotting his revenge... And Mother Abagail, who is having a crisis of faith and coming face-to-face with her personal demons... Hold your breath and say your prayers, True Believers, as we head towards the final conflict!

The quite good adaptation of Stephen King's novel continues. Again, all I can really say is, if you're a fan of the book, it's worth a read. Quite enjoying it.

Ultimate Comics New Ultimates #4 ($3.99)


Thor's reborn and on a rampage! Finally freed from Hela's clutches, Thor reunites with his teammates only to discover Loki's wicked betrayal. How will the Ultimates be able to stop an Asgardian gone wild? Join superstars JEPH LOEB and FRANK CHO as Thor makes a thunderous return to the Ultimate Universe!

I'm actually surprised to see this issue, it's been so long since the last. I mean, it's not unexpected, Cho is notoriously slow, but the results are usually quite spectacular. Now, I just have to remind myself of what, exactly, is going on in this series. Times like these I wonder if waiting for the trade isn't the smartest choice.

And from the "Maybe" file:

Ragman: Suit of Souls #1 ($3.99)

Rory Regan has long struggled to reconcile the burden he carries as the Ragman, protector of society's forgotten, with his own strained faith.

Could the souls he has consigned to redeem themselves within his mystic suit have the answers he needs about what lies beyond — and about the mysteries kept from him by his own father? Christos Gage (STORMWATCH: PHD, Avengers: The Initiative) and Stephen Segovia (Wolverine) provide a look inside one of the DCU's most peculiar Super Heroes in this standalone one-shot!

Huge Ragman fan from way back. A deliciously weird concept, with a heaping helping of Jewish mysticism. With this being a one-shot, I am likely to pick it up, but I'll probably thumb through it before making the call.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Kind of Director I Would Die to Work With

Those of you out there who are cinephiles probably already know this, but there's a new edition of Apocalypse Now out. The Three-Disk "Full Disclosure Edition," Which includes the original 1979 cut, the 49 minute longer Apocalypse Now Redux from 2001, and the absolutely essential, completely brilliant documentary Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse. This is the first time all of this material has been presented together, and the first time the original aspect ratio of 2.35:1. (Francis Coppola and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro personally created a 2.20:1 version for home video)

This is the first time to see the full 70mm scope image at home. I've never seen Apocalypse Now projected, so this is the first opportunity to see the full image, for me.

Long story short, I NEED to order this. I'd figured to put it off, but the reviews I'm reading as so very glowing, and the package is so lovingly created...Now that it's streeted, I'm wondering why I didn't pre-order.Stupid.

Francis Ford Coppola is one of those filmmakers that I admire so very, very much. It's not just for the films, themselves, but also from watching behind-the-scenes footage. Hearts of Darkness, which is based on footage shot by his wife Elanor while they were in the Philippines shooting Apocalypse Now, is a portrait of an artist under siege, yet, through it all you admire the tenacity, and vision of the man. He knew what he wanted and he went after it, no matter what the cost, financial, physical or mental.

Of course, Apocalypse Now was a worst-case scenario. Although, Coppola has a habit of over-extending himself, with audacious productions and attempts to turn his American Zoetrope company into a full-fledged movie studio. His motto, which I'll paraphrase here is, seems to be, "I don't have a lot of money, but if I use it audaciously, I can make it seem like more money."

Not that Coppola hasn't had money. He became a multi-millionaire by making The Godfather and it's sequels. The first two films in that series are widely considered among the greatest movies ever made, The Godfather is #3 on the AFI's 100 Years, 100 movies list, and moved up to #2 on the 10-year anniversary of that list. Of course, since then, in the process of trying to get American Zoetrope off the ground, and self-financing movies to maintain creative control, he's gone bankrupt several times.

Coppola operates on a level that seems beyond these monetary concerns. It's driven partners, like George Lucas, who was a co-founder in the late 60's, and directed THX-1138 for the company, crazy, but not one of these people ever speaks of Francis with anything less than respect. Lucas and Coppola are still close friends, for example. Coppola seems driven by artistic concerns, no matter what the cost, in fact, he seems almost oblivious to the cost.

But therein lies the genius. Therein lies the reason why I would die to be directed by this man. He comes from a theatre background, and embraces things like rehearsal. I love watching footage of him working with the Godfather or Apocalypse casts, in a room, hashing out scenes. mixing and matching parts for casting purposes. He seems to respect and nurture actors, while being able to give a clear vision of what the ultimate goal is. It's why, I feel, his films all seem so unified in tone and style, while allowing the casts to grab their moments to shine and really reveal parts of their characters. It almost seems (admittedly from the outside) that Coppola starts with insisting that his actors take ownership of their characters, and then molds from what they give him.

I love it.

On top of this...just look at the man's filmography.

If he'd only made The Godfather, his place in film history would be assured. Let me offer a few of my favorites;

The Godfather

 Nothing but genius here. If you haven't seen this series, you are in desperate need of a screening. A must-see for anyone who considers themselves a "movie fan." Even the third, while not as good as the first or second, is far better than most movies you will see, and provides a satisfying ending to the tale of Michael Corleone.

The Conversation

A horror movie the likes of which we hardly ever see. Possibly the single greatest performance Gene Hackman ever gave on film. Watch as Harry Caul comes apart at the seams, all because of the fears and paranoia within himself.

One From the Heart

A fairly bizzare, yet intensely beautiful film. Basically the project that brought down American Zoetrope. The Tom Waits songs are haunting and incredible.

Apocalypse Now

Genius and insanity all rolled into one. A stunning film experience, at once totally removed from the reality of Vietnam, yet...possibly the only time anyone has ever tried to put what it felt like to be there on film.

Tucker: A Man and His Dream

Beautiful, brilliant, heartfelt. Sheer perfection on screen, highly theatrical and cinematic all at the same time. A criminally overlooked Jeff Bridges performance. This is MY favorite Coppola film, and I absolutely implore you to seek it out, because it's so very rewarding. A bit cornball, but so was Preston Tucker.

They're all great, in one way or another. They're all worth seeing, and, even if some of these aren't without flaws, they're all great bits of American cinema history. All made by one great filmmaker, Francis Ford Coppola.

Really, see Tucker. Please. It was made for Gio, who loved cars.

Monday, October 18, 2010

A Great Song, Hands Down

...And a question that everyone asks themselves in their darkest moments.

How Many Friends 

I'm feelin' so good right now
There's a handsome boy tells me how I changed his past
He buys me a brandy
But could it be he's really just after my ass?

He likes the clothes I wear
He says he likes a man who's dressed in season
But no one else ever stares, he's being so kind
What's the reason?

How many friends have I really got?
You can count them on one hand.
How many friends have I really got?
How many friends have I really got?
That love me, that want me, that'll take me as I am?

Suddenly it's the silver screen
And a face so beautiful that I have to cry out
Everybody hears me
But I look like a fool now
With a cry and I shy out
She knows all of my friends
But it's nice to find a woman who can stay home late
Now I think I've reached the end
I wonder in the dead of night - how do I rate?

How many friends have I really got?
How many friends have I really got?
How many friends have I really got?
That love me, that want me, that'll take me as I am?

It's all like a dream you know
When you're still up early in the morning
And you all sit together to watch the sun come through
But things don't look so good
When you could use a bit of warning
Then you know that no one will ever speak the truth about you

How many friends have I really got?
How many friends have I really got?
How many friends have I really got?
That love me, that want me, that'll take me as I am?

When I first signed a contract
It was more than a handshake then
I know it still is
But there's a plain fact
We talk so much shit behind each other's backs
I get the willies
People know nothing about their own soft gut
So how come they can sum us up
Without suffering all the hype we've known
How come they bum us up

How many friends have I really got?
Well, you can count 'em on the one hand
How many friends have I really got?
How many friends have I really got?
That love me, that want me, that'll take me as I am?

- Pete Townsend

Monday With the Boss - Part 9: Human Touch

March 31st, 1992 was kind of a big day for Springsteen fans. It had been five years since The Boss released a studio album, and the waiting was going to yield us two full-length studio albums. This came with some melancholy, as they were also the first releases from Springsteen after he disbanded the E-Street Band when the "Tunnel of Love Express" tour came to an end. He had cut ties with that band permanently, at least for the time being.

I'm going to tackle this as they are listen on the official website, which appears to be alphabetically. So, we start with Human Touch.

It is kind of difficult to talk about these two records separately. Yes, they were two separate albums, but the same-day release, and similar design schemes, do indicate they are supposed to be parts of a whole. Much like, when I think the Guns 'N Roses Use Your Illusion albums, which came out around the same time, I tend to think of them as a double album you could buy in two parts.

Much like the GN'R releases, these Springsteen offerings tend to come off better if you look at it in terms of being one statement. A long, kinda rambling statement, but then, most double albums are. That said, there's much more in the way of "individual identity" between the Springsteen records than the Use Your Illusions.

Human Touch was the "soulful" side of the equation. Coming out of the huge boost in fame from Born in the U.S.A., and the confusion and upheaval of his marriage, divorce and beginning a family with Patti Scialfa (Son Evan was born in 1990), it's my impression that Springsteen wanted to change everything. Or at least try to. Part of that was removing himself from the safe confines of the E-Street Band, and attempting to embrace the sounds of the Motown and R& B artists he admired.

Human Touch is that attempt. You can hear it in the excursions outside the typical Springsteen seaside rock idiom. Thing is, full-out soul is not the best place for Bruce, his voice just isn't strong enough for it, for one. Not that any of these tracks really gets to full-out soul. I actually find that a positive about the record. You hear the influence, but it doesn't overwhelm who Springsteen is.

The lyrics also dance around this idea of new beginnings. Pretty much across the board, the songs are about upheaval, for both good or ill. On one hand, you have the apocalyptic craziness of  57 Channels and Nothin' On (which a lot of people hate, but I tend to enjoy as a weird left-turn), on the other the uplifting "time to start again" hope of Roll of the Dice. Heck, he even includes a lullaby written for his first-born son, Pony Boy. Can't get any more "new beginnings" than that. Springsteen was fully aware that he was letting go of a lot of things connected to his past (even moving to California), and trying something new. Human Touch knows that this is a dangerous point, filled with fear and hope, yet it was a change that Bruce felt he needed to pursue.

The choice of moving away from the E-Street Band (with the exception of keyboardist Roy Brittan, who, with Springsteen, Jon Landau and Chuck Plotkin, produced the album, and co-wrote some material - Oh, and, of course Patti Scialfa is on the album) is also indicative of this desire to "start fresh." Yet, it's really not all that successful. Mainly, I feel this is because the session musicians he brought in were so adept at embracing the "Springsteen Sound." They just plain sound like a highly skilled cover version of the E-Street Band. Why just bring in a bunch of people who sound like a copy of the original, when you have the original at your disposal?

When you come right down to it, Human Touch isn't a "go-to" Springsteen record for me. It's not one I'll immediately think of when I want to listen to the boss. However, I'm always amazed how much I enjoy it when I do listen. There are some real gems on this album. I Wish I Were Blind ought to be an out-and-out classic. All or Nothin' At All rocks in all the right ways, and the title track is really nice.

The soul experiment was not a rousing success, and, while every other Springsteen album gets mined liberally during live shows, tracks from Human Touch, and it's companion release, are rarely, if ever, played. That's a shame. However, the soul influence is always on display when Springsteen plays live. The "soul revival" has become such a centerpiece of the entire Springsteen persona, it's amazing to me that so many fans rejected (and still do) his, admittedly imperfect, attempts in that direction on record.

Of course, I think a lot of that still, to this day, has to do with dismissing the E-Street Band.