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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

IT WAS A NOROVIRUS CHRISTMAS!!! (or WORST CHRISTMAS EVER!!!)

The mighty Norovirus: definitely not a bunch of Christmas candies arranged into a kicky sorta-elf's hat.

Let's skip the full details of the by now rote litany of how I was tormented by treacly enforced Yuletide "entertainment" that my mother annually tries (and fails) to make me enjoy — this year's electrodes-to-the-nuts being a back-to-back helping of the atrocious Radio City Musical Hall Christmas special on NBC and PBS' Boston Pops "best of" Christmas special, in other words two hours of basically the same songs on repeat with varying levels aggressive cutesiness that actually drove me upstairs into the confines of the living room like a torch wielded by a lederhosen-clad villager against the Frankenstein Monster — and cut straight to the account of how the single most boring Christmas I've ever experienced was accented by both my mom and myself falling victim to a virulent case of the dreaded Norovirus. I first heard of this foul disease by name a little over a month ago when informed of it by Jewish Warrior Princess as it ravaged the U.K., but never did I expect to be one of the legion of victims left throat-volcanoed and ass-blasted in its microscopic-but-powerful wake.

On Christmas Day my mom and I enjoyed a terrific dinner of an exquisite Harrington's smoked ham, mashed potatoes and garlic-sauteed spinach in a delectable Borsin cheese sauce, and about two hours later while seated in front of her new DVD of the first series of THE VICAR OF DIBLEY, mom got an anguished look on her face and announced she had major stomach cramps. I was reading as she mentioned it and I didn't really pay her all that much mind since she can be a bit of a drama queen (in case any of of you wondered where I got it from), but I knew something was up when my food-loving mom leapt from the couch like a kangaroo on Benzedrine and flew to the bathroom. Following the slamming of the door, the sounds of copious and violent projectile vomiting echoed as though occurring right next to me — it was more like eight feet away, really — and the assorted growls, yowls and other preternatural onomatopoeia were so fucking loud that it sounded exactly like a battle between Godzilla and Anguirus taking place for sole territorial dominion over a daikiju-sized thunder-bucket.

Godzilla versus Aguirus...in my bathroom, dude!

This apocalyptic voiding went on for a good two minutes, my mind conjuring up visuals that H.P. Lovecraft wishes he'd come up with, and when my mom wobbled out of the bathroom, sweaty and rather pale-faced — no easy feat since she has a somewhat brick-toned complexion — she collapsed on the couch like a sack of wet cement. From there things proceeded to shivering, more puking and her eventual heading to bed, there to find no sleep but many trips to the can during the course of a long and highly unpleasant night.

I took care of mom as much as one could when faced with an implacable scourge that would be gone in forty-eight hours, feeding her very bland wonton soup from a Chinese takeout place near the Fairfield border until she didn't feel so weak anymore and attempting to offer some sort of alternative to her MSNBC addiction by way of Animal Planet's usual iffy programming (I also managed to sneak in a viewing of the DEATH RACE re-imagining/remake with my pal Chris, but that's a tale for another post). I stuck around until Saturday afternoon, by which time she was more or less back to normal, and then hopped the insanely crowded Metro North train back to good ol' NYC. As I deposited myself in a seat next to a grotesquely obese kid who could not have been more than eleven years old and whose copious fat pushed the woman sitting next to him (and her minute Yorkie) nearly flat against the dirty window and myself out into the aisle, I settled in and closed my eyes in hope of a brief nap before arriving at Grand Central Station, mildly-R-rated visions of a green-eyed Internet goddess and her big-assed poodle cavorting about in my exhausted imagination...

Then, just before we hit Stamford, the stomach cramps began.

Thankfully I had not eaten a bite since my breakfast at 9AM, so, focusing on staying in a mellow state to control the escalating nausea, I kept my throat sealed for the next fifty minutes — the time it took to get from Stamford to Grand Central, and then from there the R train to the Union Street stop in Brooklyn — and when I walked through the door of my apartment I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience as I seemed to watch someone else in my form throw the deadbolt on my door and apply its chain, carefully place my luggage and prezzies out of the way, shed my clothing, and sit on the edge of the bathtub, where this curious lookalike then began to vomit so painfully and with such force that my perceptions were immediately shocked straight back into my uncontrollably heaving body.

For those of you who don't know me personally, I'm considered a big guy: I'm about 5' 10" to six feet tall (depending on who measures me), I average about 230 pounds and am mostly descended from people who were bred for hardiness and labor, so I can handle a lot physically. But let me tell you in no uncertain terms that in my forty-three years of assorted bugs and food-poisonings the fucking-up I received at the hands of the Norovirus was so bad that I nearly required someone to come and fuck me back down. Usually when confronted with even the most wrathful of viruses I can weather it by staying in bed and watching the TV or chatting on the phone, but this time out my senses were so unpleasantly overloaded that as of roughly 5PM on Saturday I made sure my apartment was as dark as possible and left the TV and stereo off, hoping to achieve what would in effect be the cheapest sensory deprivation tank possible.

What followed was a twenty-four hour period of shivering/sweltering and getting out of bed nearly every hour on the hour to expel waste from both of my tortured ends, eventually reducing the puking to nothing while the literally liquid "number 2" required the donning of undies "just in case" (and if truth be told, it was a very wise move). I made it clear to all my usual everyday contacts and cronies that I was ill and did not want to be disturbed for any reason until I advised them otherwise — all save JWP, of course — and they were kind enough to respect that, which was a good thing because by the end of the first twenty-four hours my sleep cycle was so out of whack that I had no idea if it was day or night, my existence having been altered to that of an explosively expectorating human cuckoo clock whose hourly appearances in no way bore the cute tones of the bird such devices are named for.

Hours twenty-five through forty-eight consisted of greatly-lessened trips to the now much-abused commode, several showers to wash away the sweat and other accumulated no-fun effluvium, watching episodes of SOUTH PARK I hadn't seen — "The Biggest Douche in the Universe" making me laugh and excrete at the same time, and I wasn't a bit mad about it; hey, sometimes in situations of helplessness you just have to accept the inevitable — , the Riff Trax versions of the horrendous WICKER MAN remake and the nauseating romance (among many, many other terrible elements) of STAR WARS-EPISODE II: ATTACK OF THE CLONES, both of which allowed me to briefly nap or hit the can as I found each necessary, and finally briefly rousing myself enough to take one final shower and get dressed (to say nothing of dropping of my bedding at the cleaners). I called mom to assure her I had survived, then I spoke with JWP before catching a bit of the Sunday night Fox network "Animation Domination" lineup and trying to sleep for a few solid hours at a time. By bedtime I felt I was more or less okay, but nonetheless opted to give work a miss and take it easy for one more day, which proved to be a good idea when I awoke at 2:30AM to talk to Chuck on the big white phone once again.

Monday morning I called in sick and allowed my aches and pains to die down, aided by yet more Riff Trax and the tawdry spectacle of THE MAURY POVICH SHOW, finally gathering the strength to once more leave the Vault and pick up some minor groceries. I was ravenous by the mid-afternoon so I stewed some chicken in a broth and cooked some basmati rice in it so the chicken flavor would be wholly infused, and starved though I was all I could manage was half a small bowl of the stuff, but to me it tasted like ambrosia straight from Mount Olympus. Secure in the knowledge that I was fully on the mend I went to bed, lulled to sleep by the Riff Trax skewering of 300, a film that seems even more bizarre and dreamlike when you're coming off of two days of reality-altering, bi-directional spewage.

But then, SURPRISE!!! I awoke bolt upright at 2AM to perch on my bathtub's edge once again and stare down into the Toilet Duck-cleansed maw of that damned manmade porcelain Charybdis, violently heaving up what little nourishment had reached my innards over the past two agonizing days. That dizzying task accomplished, utterly spent, wrung out and naked as the day I entered this miserable world of miserableness, I collapsed atop my thick comforter and my pores began to issue sweat like I was a bizarre novelty lawn sprinkler ("New from Ronco! It's the life-size Sprinkler Spook™! Just in time for Spring!"), flushing the last of the vile bio-toxins from my flabby, high-yella carcass as I fell into blessed unconsciousness.

Awaking in a more refreshed state than I'd been in for days, I came in to work knowing that it would be one of those classic holiday blowoff days in which a good number of the design 'ho house's staff would likely be out and my coming in would basically amount to me filling a seat for eight hours with little to do. My Christmas at home had been a thudding bore — although minus the usual dysfunctional Olympics, so at least that was something — except for when I was playing Florence Nightengale, and what remained of the weekend was consumed by a relentless microbe with a vicious sense of ballistic timing, but the one thing — the ONE GODDAMNED THING — that kept me going and gave me hope through all of it was knowing that I'd be seeing the Damned, one of my three favorite bands of all time, on New Years Eve...

Well, guess again.

Earlier today I received the following from an anonymous Vault-reader and double-checked it online. It's no cruel hoax:

DECEMBER 30, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

THE DAMNED FORCED TO POSTPONE NY & NJ APPEARANCES

Due to severe illness, The Damned will not be able to complete the North American dates of their world tour. The New year's Eve show at the Blender Theater at Gramercy and the January 2nd show at Asbury Park's Wonder Bar have been canceled. Refunds are available at point of purchase.

Since October, The Damned have been on tour throughout the US and UK in support of their latest album, So, Who’s Paranoid?, which was released in the United States on December 12.

At this time, the band wishes to extend their apologies to their fans and look to reschedule shows soon.

A publicist's number was included for further inquiries and I called to see if the tickets could be used when the band rescheduled, but the very nice publicist advised me to just get my money back because there was no way of knowing when the band would be back in the States.

With that blow, coupled with the aftereffects of the Norovirus — which is what the Damned have; I made sure to ask — and my state of mind in general following Christmas I'm just going to try and have as mellow of a New Year's Eve as possible. I'm going to retire to the Vault with a stack of DVDs and just say "fuck it all." Here's to 2009 being an improvement on this wretched year, and to the Yuletide of 2008, a time that may just live on in my memories as the WORST CHRISTMAS EVER!!!

The Damned on New Year's Eve... DENIED!!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

SICK DAY

Long story short: I'm sick as a dog with whatever virus it is that's going around, and it has done a real number on me. I feel like I've been kicked up every flight of stairs in the Empire State Building and while I'm doing better than I was when it started, I'm laid up for the time being.

Back when I'm not spewing stuff out of both ends.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

NO POST TODAY

There's been a lot going on (surviving the boredom of Christmas in Westport, Ct. would try even Golgo 13) so I haven't had time to come up with a proper post for today, and for that I apologize. But at least I'm back in Brooklyn and will hopefully have something for tomorrow, but until then I leave you with this shot of my third favorite band in the world, The Damned, whom I will be seeing on New Year's Eve.

For the most part 2008 sucked moose dick, so ringing in the new year to the velvet tones of my man Dave Vanian crooning two of the greatest songs ever recorded, "New Rose" and "Plan 9, Channel 7," will be a good way to launch 2009. Let's just hope that beret-crowned loon Captain Sensible will get naked as he usually does during their shows.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A GREAT CRAPPY MOVIE AD

Jesus H. Christ, do I miss the days when newspaper ads like this were commonplace:

Just looking at this you knew the movie would completely suck ass, but I'd be willing to bet the audience would have made it worth one's while. Plus Lo (5 FINGERS OF DEATH) Lieh's in it, so at least you get that, and it's in a double-feature with the laughably terrible THE STREET FIGHTER'S LAST REVENGE, by far the worst of the Sonny Chiba STREET FIGHTER trilogy. Bring a couple of six-packs and a like-minded date who enjoys having a hand down her jeans and we're off to the races! (Ah, memories...Brings me back to the Norwalk Theater days of the early Jean-Claude Van Damme movies and a certain fondly-remembered squeeze who dripped like a broken 'fridge when she sat through JCVD's films; I still owe Mr. Van Damme a letter of thanks.)

Friday, December 26, 2008

LET THE GAMES BEGIN!!!

Not a doctored photo: proof that Obama is indeed "magical" as the song title postulates?

The guy's not even in office yet and the American sense of inappropriate humor has already hit the launching pad, and I'm the first to admit I giggled when I read this. Hey, it could have been worse; at least the song wasn't entitled "Barack Me Amadeus" or some shit... From CNN:

RNC CHAIRMAN CANDIDATE DEFENDS 'BARACK THE MAGIC NEGRO' SONG
By Rebecca Sinderbrand CNN

(CNN) -- A candidate for the Republican National Committee chairmanship said Friday the CD he sent committee members for Christmas -- which included a song titled "Barack the Magic Negro" -- was clearly intended as a joke.

The title of the song about President-elect Barack Obama was drawn from a Los Angeles Times column. "I think most people recognize political satire when they see it," Tennessee Republican Chip Saltsman told CNN. "I think RNC members understand that."
The song, set to the tune of "Puff the Magic Dragon," was first played on conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh's radio show in 2007. Its title was drawn from a Los Angeles Times column that suggested President-elect Barack Obama appealed to those who feel guilty about the nation's history of mistreatment of African-Americans. Saltsman said the song, penned by his longtime friend Paul Shanklin, should be easily recognized as satire directed at the Times.

The CD sent to RNC members, first reported by The Hill on Friday, is titled "We Hate the USA" and also includes songs referencing former presidential candidate John Edwards and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, among other targets. According to The Hill, other song titles, some of which were in bold font, were: "John Edwards' Poverty Tour," "Wright place, wrong pastor," "Love Client #9," "Ivory and Ebony" and "The Star Spanglish Banner."

Saltsman was national campaign manager for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's presidential bid in 2007 and 2008. Before that, he held a variety of posts, including a number of positions under former Sen. Bill Frist of Tennessee.

HAPPY KWANZAA?

NOTE: this one's from last year, but I still stand by the sentiment. I know it's a rerun but it's okay to cheat during the holidays, sez me.

Okay, I have to ask: am I the only black guy who thinks Kwanzaa is a load of bullshit? Today's the first day of that annual celebration, and I just ain't feelin' it. Never did.

By way of explanation as to exactly what Kwanzaa's supposed to be, here's an excerpt from the good old Wikipedia:

Kwanzaa (or Kwaanza) is a week-long Pan-African festival celebrated primarily in the United States, honoring African American heritage. It is observed from December 26 to January 1 each year. Kwanzaa consists of seven days of celebration, featuring activities such as candle-lighting and pouring of libations, and culminating in a feast and gift giving. It was created by Ron Karenga, and first celebrated from December 26, 1966, to January 1, 1967, timed to coincide with Christmas so that it would be remembered. Karenga calls Kwanzaa the African American branch of "first fruits" celebrations of classical African cultures.

Karenga created Kwanzaa in 1966. Karenga said his goal was to "...give a Black alternative to the existing holiday and give Blacks an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history, rather than simply imitate the practice of the dominant society." The name Kwanzaa derives from the Swahili phrase "matunda ya kwanza", meaning "first fruits". The choice of Swahili, an East African language, reflects its status as a symbol of Pan-Africanism, especially in the 1960s, though most African-Americans have West African ancestry.

The official stance on the spelling of the holiday is that an additional "a" was added to "Kwanza" so that the word would have seven letters. The name was meant to have a letter for each of what Karenga called "The Seven Principles". Another explanation is that Karenga added the extra "a" to distinguish the African-American meaning from the African one. Kwanzaa is also sometimes incorrectly spelled "kwaanza".

Kwanzaa is a celebration that has its roots in the black nationalist movement of the 1960s, and was established as a means to help African Americans reconnect with their African cultural and historical heritage by uniting in meditation and study of "African traditions" and "common humanist principles."

In 1967, a year after Karenga proposed this new holiday, he publicly espoused the view that "Jesus was psychotic" and that Christianity was a white religion that blacks should shun. However, as Kwanzaa gained mainstream adherents, Karenga altered his position so as not to alienate practicing Christians, then stating in the 1997 Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community, and Culture, "Kwanzaa was not created to give people an alternative to their own religion or religious holiday."

So now you get the idea. (And you've got to give that Karenga dude points for the unintentionally hilarious "Jesus was psychotic" statement; makes John Lennon's "We're more popular than Jesus" pale in comparison, no?)

I dunno, the whole thing strikes me as an attempt to manufacture a connection to aspects of African culture that we, as American-born blacks, have no bond with save for our genetics (and even our genetics have been considerably mongrelized since we the day our ancestors first got here, making for too-sexy critters like meself) so why not instead come up with a celebration of our own thing, an American thing that recognizes the contributions that black American influences have made not only in this fair land's melting pot culture, but to that of the entire globe? (And don't hand me that "African-American" horseshit either; I am not African, I am an American. I was born here, I believe in the concept of a pan-ethnic society, and even though it doesn't always work I staunchly support the intent.)

And as for the "Seven Principles," they're all well and good in and of themselves and are an admirable list around which to found a philosophy:

1. Umoja (Unity) To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.
2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.
3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.
4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) To build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.
5. Nia (Purpose) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
6. Kuumba (Creativity) To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
7. Imani (Faith) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Having read and absorbed all of that I have to say that this list has very little to do with what I see happening in some realms of black American society. All seven principles fall by the wayside for me when I see blacks being our own worst enemy (don't forget who really allowed the slave trade to flourish on the African end of things), what with the staggering lack of focus on the family as a unit, the appalling dissemination of thug culture and behavior that was once known as "coonish," a focus on personal material gain and bling-bling rather than a concerted push for education and the arts... My list goes on and on, while the list of the Seven Principles is quite clear and concise in what it puts out there. If Kwanzaa is to have any real meaning for anyone, keep those precepts in mind year-round, and not just for a week.

Oh well, at least it's not technically a "religious" thing. And while I'm not down with much of the whole Kwanzaa thing, I do love me some Kwanzaabot.

Kwanzaabot (voiced by Coolio) and Bender Rodriguez, from FUTURAMA.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

SO MUCH FOR "SANTA BABY": R.I.P. EARTHA KITT (1927-2008)

Young Eartha Kitt, circa the early 1950's: fine as hell.

Eartha Kitt, the third of the 1960's Batman's Catwomen, is dead after losing her battle with colon cancer. I'll have more on this next week when I get back from the holidays, so consider this an FYI. (Thanks to Jewish Warrior Princess for the heads-up.)

MERRY CHRISTMESS 2008!!!

To all my dear readers-

have a most metal-licious Christmas and don't drive drunk.

-love,
Yer Bunche

HO-HO-HO: THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF CHRISTMAS PORNOGRAPHY

It's often been said that if you've thought of it, someone has made a porno about it, so does it come as any kind of a surprise to know that Christmas-related porn exists? Here's a sampling of that rarified genre, and I assure you all of it, including the written "plot" synopses culled from the packaging, is 100% the real thing.

This one was inevitable simply because of the title:

It's a Christmas tale with a true sense of giving. When Santa needs help delivering his gifts, the hottest babes come to fill his stockings. They're ready and willing to trim your tree, but just remember they want more than milk and cookies.

For those of you who protest the self-mutilating silicone route:


This holiday-themed homage to the petite rack features five gals who've had the good sense to stay away from the knife. In four festive scenes of Christmas debauchery, the compact gals get reamed by Santa and a leiderhosen-clad elf. Everyone is dressed like they should be adorning a department-store window. In the first scene, Angela Faith dreams of a Christmas boob-job, only to be rebuffed by Santa, who is dropped out of the sky by his reindeer to announce that he loves itty bitty titties. His red trousers fall to the ground to reveal a merry boner which he rams up the flat gal's rear end. Oh cum, all ye faithful!

Here's a little something for all the chubby-chasers out there:

Mommy gave Santa head and chugged down his milk. Then, Santa spread the joy like he spread her ass cheeks. Watch these hefty mommas rock the jingle bells!

One of the greatest titles ever:

Please Santa, cum down my chimney, All I Want For Christmas Is A Gang Bang! These Santas should be ringing bells outside the mall but instead they are ganging up and ringing the bells of these hot chicks. See these Santas put their North Poles in every hole these chicks have, now thats a present! So much cum you'll swear it's snowing.

Man, do I wish I'd thought up that last line!

This next one's nothing special, but the ad copy is worth a cheap giggle:

This Christmas Jessi Summers is unwrapping your package. This cum guzzlin' feature is packed with Santa's cock helpers sharing loads. We're taking it to the extreme for you perverts to spank your meat to.

And my favorite of the lot, THE TITS THAT SAVED XXX-MAS!

Like a live-action Rankin/Bass special gone horribly wrong, this one takes the oft-revisited plot of Santa needing help to save Christmas for whatever reason as its launching point, only I think the motivating factor here sure beats the living shit out of any of that Heat Miser and Snow Miser showtunes foofery. And how do you make the task of saving Christmas even more of a noble cause? By adding lots of tits, that's how! Where the hell was this special when I needed it during puberty? I can't answer that, but I'll see if this turns up in the Port Authority area's cutout bins after the New Year. Here's the synopsis:

'Twas the night before Christmas and panic reigns supreme at the North Pole! The magic is gone and unable to get his sleigh off the ground, Santa is about to cancel the world's favorite holiday. Lo and behold, luscious Mrs. Claus has an answer, but to perform a miracle she needs help from her husband's horny little helpers. Chloe Dior, Rebecca Love, Kiki D'aire and Ava Divine (as Mrs. Claus) star in this holiday romp. Curl up in front of the fire with four gorgeous, busty stars as they show you the difference between naughty and nice!


"And to all a good night," indeed!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

CHRISTMESS EVIL, 2008

"God-DAMN, Santa's raw flesh tasted great!!!"

Looks like it's that time of year again (as if the incessant Christmas music, commercials and out-to-guilt-you beggars weren't enough of a clue), and Yer Bunche is gearing up to survive the next few days. I'll be up about an hour north at my mom's house in Connecticut and I'm hashing out my game plan:

  • Leave work in time to make the train from Grand Central that'll put me off in my hometown of Westport, Ct. no later than 5PM.
  • Gather as many friends as possible from my growing-up years and spend Christmas Eve either at the movies seeing the reportedly ultra-violent and extra-stupid PUNISHER: WAR ZONE, or at home running a holiday-themed DVD mini-marathon featuring a lineup pulled together from such Yuletide heart-warmers as BLACKADDER'S CHRISTMAS CAROL, SANTA'S SLAY, BAD SANTA, THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT, CHRISTMAS EVIL and the timeless SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT, all while my mom is out at midnight mass.
  • Find ways to amuse myself for the remainder of my stay in Connecticut that will involve more than driving aimlessly around Fairfield County looking for something to do or sitting in front of the TV from the moment I rise until the moment my head hits the pillow.
  • See both THE WRESTLER and GRAN TORINO on the big screen.
  • Figure ot some New Year's resolutions that I will actually live by.
  • Finally get my mom to see CARRIE (it's already a done deal, provided we watch it during the daytime).
  • Drop by the Dairy King on Route 7 and chow down on their wondrous foot-long chili dogs, after which I'll trot across the street to Superior Oriental and see if they have a nice pair of octagonal Cocobolo-wood nunchaku. (I haven't bought a new pair of 'chuks in almost two decades and the ones I have are getting pretty worn out.)
That's what I've got going on so far, and it's by no means set in stone. Hope I get some good stuff this year...

THIS YEAR'S HOLIDAY CARDS

Every year I receive a number of seasonal greetings from friends and former colleagues in the comics biz, and 2008 proves to be no exception.

First up comes this terrific Frankenstein by Declan "the Mad Irishman" Shalvey, the illustrator of FRANKENSTEIN: THE GRAPHIC NOVEL. A great bloke and a talented illustrator, I can't wait to see Declan again when next he hauls his ass over here from Ireland, hopefully for February's New York Comicon hoo-haa.

This next one's from Greg Schigiel, a former Marvelite whose then-loose & doodly (and very charming) style has evolved considerably:

Rocking the serious horror, as is their much-appreciated wont, this heart-warming family portrait comes from Mike Lackey — former marvel Comics editor and star of the cult favorite STREET TRASH (1987) — and Anne O'Brien, two like-minded loons I need to reconnect with in a big way:

Here's this year's entry from Michael Golden and Renee Witterstaetter at the Eva Ink Artist Group (make sure to click on it to see all the detail at a larger size):

And rounding out this mini-gallery comes this one from Rick Veitch, one of my favorite comics creators who rocked hard on many titles including RARE BIT FIENDS, SWAMP THING, BRAT PACK, THE MAXIMORTAL, the vastly underrated CAN'T GET NO and the often laugh-out-loud funny (to me anyway) ARMY @ LOVE:
So keep 'em comin', folks!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

THINGS TO PONDER REGARDING A SEASONAL CLASSIC

Santa and Jessica read the script to their own special and are stunned by a budding stoner's interpretation of it.

One of the most cherished of the Rankin/Bass stop-motion animated holiday television specials is 1970's SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN, the first of two such specials to detail the origin of the jolly spirit of gift-giving (the other being the seldom-seen and rather pagan THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS), and I try to catch it each year when it runs. I missed it this go-round but I recently received an email from Lori, a friend from early in my misspent college years, that featured a Christmas card I made for her back in 1984 featuring some stuff I noticed about SANTA CLAUS IS COMIN' TO TOWN when seen from the point of view of a nineteen-year-old who had escaped the constrictive nest and had begun seriously sampling some of life's more questionable diversions. In other words, I saw Santa as kind of a conuter-culture stoner hero, and here are my observations of twenty-four Christmases past:

• Santa was an abandoned child (Was he illegitimate? Who were his parents?)
• He was raised at a matriarchal commune of elves in the middle of nowhere
• He was labeled as a hippie-type because of his “outlandish” clothes
• He gave away toys he made by hand (good ol' stoner creativity)
• He hung out with a penguin who wore a Doctor Who scarf (rather trippy)
• He could dance (as evidenced by his fancy footwork during “Put One Foot In Front of the Other”)
• He knew magic
• He had a gorgeous, curvy redhead for a girlfriend
• Said girlfriend never wore a coat in the snow, so you knew she was a hot woman
• He opposed an oppressive fascist state
• He was arrested for acts of sedition
• He’s an escaped criminal who was considered public enemy #1
• He gave drugs to reindeer
• He was forced to live undercover
• His disguise made him look sorta like Jerry Garcia

Not exactly comedy gold, but cut me some slack. It was twenty-four years ago.

Monday, December 22, 2008

WEREWOLF WOMAN (1976)

Original 1976 American release one-sheet.

There are those among the horror-addict fraternity who don't give a shit about how terrible a film may be reported to be, so long as they get to see a new movie about their favorite creepy-crawly. I have friends and loved ones who will sit through even the most wretched and boring waste of celluloid provided it gives them their ghost/vampire/slasher/zombie fix, and I'm the guy who's dumb enough to do likewise for werewolves. I’ve endured a number of those horrendous Paul Naschy wolf-man flicks (of which there are around a dozen), WEREWOLVES ON WHEELS, the HOWLING sequels, that THE COMPANY OF WOLVES bullshit, THE WEREWOLF OF WASHINGTON and THE BEAST MUST DIE, so I figure I can take just about anything offering the merest hope of lupine violence and despite its rather foul rep I’ve wanted to check out LEGEND OF THE WOLF WOMAN since I first heard about it just over thirty years ago in a CINEFANTASTIQUE review that gave it a sound panning. Well, that opportunity finally came when the movie was released on DVD in its uncut form (apparently the original U.S. release trimmed the movie by nearly a half hour) under the title WEREWOLF WOMAN, and while I’ve seen far worse I’ve also seen far better.

This bit of lycanthropic Eurosleaze stars French-born, ferret-faced Annik Borel — late of such classics as BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE DEVILS (1972) and the Isaac Hayes blaxploitationer TRUCK TURNER (1974) — a blonde with haunted eyes who looks like a fusion of Sondra Locke and Judith Light, a concept for more shudder-inducing than anything found in the film. As was the wont of Eurosleaze actresses of the period, Borel was in no way afraid of shedding her clothing, a point made apparent less than thirty seconds into the flick as she is seen completely bare-assed nekkid, gyrating in a circle of fire to cheesy voodoo drums by the light of the full moon.

This marvelously gratuitous nudity plays out in lots of close-ups as the credits roll, the camera occasionally getting so close to Borel’s gingerish pubes that I began to feel like her gynecologist, something I’m not used to outside of the context of straight-up pornography and am willing to bet was one of the elements edited when the film first hit these shores. This display of bump & grind is cut short when she lures a horny villager to his death, gorily planting an axe in his skull in what may be the first case of a werewolf committing an axe-murder.

Yes, this chick’s a werewolf, and her furry look can fairly be described as the makeup artist (overrated hack Carlo Rambaldi, just prior to his leap to international fame with the 1976 KING KONG remake) sticking a fake nose and some bogus teeth onto Borel, then painting the actress’ nekkid skin with an adhesive and having her roll about on a barber shop floor; perhaps the most bizarre aspects of this makeup are the werewolf’s blonde hairdo coupled with her otherwise brown fur and Borel’s pendulous breasts being stricken by gravity in such a way that they resemble the much-suckled-upon teats of a mother beast, capped as they are with nipples resembling black olives.

Anyway, the werewolf chick is abruptly seen trussed-up and ready for burning at the stake (we aren’t shown how this happens) and we skip ahead by about two hundred years to then-present day Italy where we meet Daniela (Borel), a mid-twenty-something dead ringer for the werewolf chick who was one of her ancestors. It’s not really made clear, but apparently Daniela summoned the spirit of her shaggy ancestor (that’s what the opening sequence was supposed to be, I guess) and is now possessed by it, giving vengeful power to her deep-seated hatred of men and the sex act. Raped in her early adolescence, she now lives in the country with her kindly and concerned father, but her now-possessed psyche goes completely around the bend when she witnesses her sister having sex with her new husband and lures the guy into the woods where she attempts to seduce him while stark naked and instead tears his throat out with her teeth before dumping his corpse down a ravine.

Driven mad by what she’s done, Daniela is institutionalized but soon escapes with the help of a friendly nymphomaniac (whom she kills with a pair of scissors), immediately embarking on a murderous spree, growling like a crazed wolf and ripping out throats willy-nilly before falling in love with a sweet and hunky stuntman who lives in an abandoned movie studio town once used for filming Spaghetti Westerns (no, seriously). Cured of her bloodlust after a month with this guy (and one of those soft-focus “romantic” montages common to Euro nudie flicks of the seventies), Daniela’s life starts taking a turn for the better. Well, that is until she’s gang-raped by three local scumbags during a home invasion, a trio of from-out-of-nowhere vermin who also murder her lover. NOTE: we are spared the “main event” of the actual gang rape but we do witness the preamble, a nasty bit of business very reminiscent of the most famous sequence in Sam Peckinpah’s STRAW DOGS (1971), and if you’ve seen that movie you know what I’m talking about, so keep that in mind before renting this on date night.

Finally driven irrevocably mad, Daniela decimates her attackers, somehow tracking down each of them despite having absolutely zero clue as to who they are or where they live and crushing two of them with a junkyard’s claw-crane that she learned to operate after watching it in action for about a minute. Catching up with her at long last, the hapless detectives who’ve fruitlessly tracked Daniela since she escaped the mental institution capture her at a remote location where she sits, open-bloused and titties-a-swingin’, sampling spoonfuls of stew from a cauldron (where she got it from is anyone’s guess). Now snarling and completely feral, Daniela is apprehended as a ridiculous voice-over informs us that we’ve just watched a re-enactment of “true” events that took place in 1968.

What?!!?

So those like me who love werewolf movies were suckered in by WEREWOLF WOMAN’s promise of a straight-up lycanthrope fright-fest, but instead we got a squalid piece of seventies Euro-sleaze exploitation featuring the so-called werewolf being seen only during the movie's first five minutes, minimal gore, no scares or suspense, a script full of ridiculous plot holes, and so much wall-to-wall nudity that I nearly got tired of staring at a naked chick’s bush (say it isn’t so!!!). Simply put, WEREWOLF WOMAN is kind of worth a look as a seventies curiosity that’s infamous for its general uselessness, but if you have something else to do rather than see it, by all means do whatever your other choice is. Believe me, you won’t be missing a blessed thing.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

HAPPY חנוכה TO RED SEA PEDESTRIANS EVERYWHERE !!!

As I write this it's not even noon here in beautiful Park Slope, Brooklyn, but in some places in the world it's sundown or later, so Happy Hanukkah to Red Sea Pedestrians everywhere! But my seasonal greeting is meant most especially to all Vault readers who celebrate the holiday, and Jewish Warrior Princess, a group and an individual without whom my life would be much poorer.

And some of you may be asking "Why the hell does Bunche have an image of Ben Grimm, the Thing out of the Fantastic Four, on a Hanukkah post?" What? You didn't know Ben's one of the Chosen? Read more comics, damn yer eyes! (I know there are those of you who favor Kitty Pryde as the Jewish superhero of choice, but if that's the case you just ain't read enough about Ben.)

AWESOME RETRO BUCK ROGERS FIGURE!!!

Wouldn't you know it? Just as I'm reeling from the annual wallet gang-rape that it Christmas gift shopping I discover that Go Hero has issued an incredible and accurate collectible figure depicting the comic strip version of good old Buck Rogers, seen as he looked in the early years (although if I can make a minor quibble, I wish they'd given him the inverse-gravity Jumping Belt rather than the later but more famous rocket pack). I mean, just look as this:

Now that's freakin' Buck Rogers! The 1:6 scale figure stands about a foot tall and is a triumph of sculpture and costume fabrication, accurate down to the socks (yes, it even has socks!).

Head-to-toe frontal view of the Buck Rogers figure.

The aforementioned rocket pack looks great and even included optional snap-on exhaust flames for added effect.

And he comes equipped with a space helmet for a little E.V.A. as needed.

Also included are a standard-issue atomic pistol and a removable leather-like helmet with lowerable visor, as well as gloves to complement the outer space gear.

And as if all that weren't cool enough, the figure also includes an internal audio device with remote control that allows the user to plug it into a USB port and download and listen to episodes of the 1930's Buck Rogers radio show. So if you ask me, it looks like Barbie's found a new boyfriend (although Buck's longtime partner and squeeze, Wilma Deering, may have something to say about that and blast that scrawny bitch to cinders with her atomic pistol).

As a huge freak for the old school Buck I could not help but go into a state of full-blown geekgasm when I saw this and I seriously pondered going into temporary pennilessness so I could snag one, but it's best that I wait and tally up my finances just after the new year. If I receive some of the annual holiday cash I usually get from relatives and make a trip down to Manhattan's Strand bookstore to do the trade-in dance with some of the mountain of books I have lying about, I can shell out the $175 asking price and not feel completely insane for having done so. It's limited to an edition of just 1000, so I hope they aren't sold out by the time I place my order.

When I saw this figure I immediately contacted the manufacturer and complemented them on a job well done, also asking if they'd be issuing a Wilma Deering that was just as good ('cause you just can't have Buck without Wilma) and I was pleased to hear that Wilma's just one of the Buck Rogers cast slated for the collectible figure treatment. Buck will look awesome hanging out on the shelf next to my foot-tall FIST OF THE NORTH STAR Kenshiro, so I'll just have to be patient and set aside the shekels.

So if you, like Yer Bunche, are drooling to own one of these magnificent "dollies" (as my buddy John's wife, Sue, would mockingly put it) head to the Go Hero site immediately and gaze upon the sheer 25th Century awesomeness. And for those of you who think Buck Rogers is a jazz-age pansy in jodphurs (and shame on you if you do!), the company makes an equally terrific Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon — priced at $145.00 — that looks like it walked right out of the screen from one of the classic matinee serials of the 1930's.

Head-to-toe view of the Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon figure.

It's appropriately romantic/fey-looking, so much so that if you did a little do-it-yourself modification it wouldn't take much to turn Flash Gordon into the late and loony performance artist John Sex, he of "Hustle With My Muscle" fame!

The late, great John Sex.

Flash also comes with a shitload of cool accessories, and you've just gotta love that big-assed rifle!

These may not be cheap, but at least they aren't nearly twice the price like some Asian-manufactured toys I can name.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

YER BUNCHE'S PICKS FOR THE BEST GRAPHIC NOVELS & COLLECTED EDITIONS OF 2008

I was recently asked to participate in a poll for reviewers and critics that asked for our list of the ten best graphic novels we read during 2008 and I'll post a direct link to that finished article when it hits the Internet in its finished form, but I thought I'd share my choices with all of you right now. It's a good bet that my capsule descriptions will be trimmed somewhat by the editor to make the published final product a manageable length (bear in mind that there are several writers contributing to it), but here's the full skinny in no particular order:

EMPOWERED Vols. 3 & 4

Loaded with charm to burn and bolstered by the singular talents of Adam Warren, this genuinely funny ongoing saga of hapless C-list superheroine Empowered offers risqué fun for mature audiences. EMPOWERED has it all: ridiculous superhero battles, genuinely funny dialogue, the best cast of characters to come along in ages, top notch anime-inspired art that's better than its inspiration, and a heroine with whom it is simply impossible not to develop a huge soft spot for.

I know I cheated by listing two volumes of EMPOWERED, but having recently discovered it and been totally kicked in the ass by love I say to hell with the rules of the poll! In fact, I'll take this opportunity to recommend the whole damned thing from Volume 1 up! Seriously, this series is so good, buying it isn’t even like spending money.

SCREAMLAND Vol. 1

The idea of classic movie monsters depicted as a minority — those from the Universal stable in particular — is nothing new, but this take on Frankenstein, the Wolfman, Dracula and the Mummy is the freshest working of the concept in decades and details the wistfully funny modern-day tribulations of the once-great movie fiends in a CGI-driven Hollywood that now shows them very little love or respect. The Frankenstein Monster's a borderline alcoholic who's been reduced to starring in nudie flicks directed by Ed Wood, the Wolfman's barely eking out a living on the convention circuit, Count Dracula's a closeted homosexual who must stay one step ahead of the tabloids to maintain his rep as a ladies' man, and the Mummy has gone AWOL in the wake of 9/11, but the monsters' fortune take a turn for the better when a new film potentially starring all of them, "Monsterhunter 3000," goes into production. But the film's director proves to be a douchebag of the first order and there's only so much a bunch of old school monsters are willing to tolerate... A real treat for fans of old school horror archetypes, this one comes from straight the heart and deserves more reader attention.

LA MUSE

An often-hilarious tale of what would happen if a young woman with the powers of a god set out to solve all the world’s problems. Visually appealing and funny as hell, this is well worth your time.

MISS DON'T TOUCH ME

Cartoony in visual style, serious as a heart attack otherwise, this excellent French import takes readers along on a young woman’s journey through the underworld of a high-class Parisian brothel in search of the killers of her best friend. First rate in every way.

HOWARD THE DUCK OMNIBUS

A heavy potential-murder-weapon of a tome collecting the entirety of the 1970’s Howard the Duck material, written by the incomparable Steve Gerber and featuring excellent art by Frank Brunner, John Buscema, Val Mayerick and former Daredevil artist Gene Colan turning in some of the finest work in his career. Absolutely vital for any serious collection and just plain fun for the curious, this was perhaps the most unique series from the 1970’s Marvel and should be read by all who suffered through the horrendous and justly reviled film version so they’ll know just how badly that filmic opportunity was squandered.

THE FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS OMNIBUS

The pre-Cheech & Chong bible of stoner humor, this massive collection is simply hilarious, with or without the aid of certain, er, “party favors.”

THE HERBIE ARCHIVES Vol. 1

A strong candidate for the title of “weirdest American comic book series of all time,” Herbie has been all but forgotten these days and must be seen to be disbelieved. The incredibly bizarre and genre-defying adventures of Herbie Popnecker, a “fat little nothing,” traverse all realms of the imagination and leave readers in incredulous awe at the sheer lunacy on display from panel to panel. If you have no idea what it’s about, pick this one up immediately and be prepared to be amazed.

THE COMPLETE RO-BUSTERS

One of the early classics from Britain’s venerable sci-fi weekly 2000 A.D., this series about the adventures of a “disaster squad” of robots who handle assignments that would make the heroes of Thunderbirds blanch is pure entertainment from start to finish and features early work by future Watchmen co-creator Dave Gibbons. Gibbons’ stunning art on the segment featuring sweet-natured giant robot Charlie’s savage defense of his harbor home of Northpool against a horde of evil and destructive “Terror-Meks” has heart to burn and is guaranteed to reduce the reader to unashamed blubbering by the story’s conclusion. Bet your ass that it's a total tear-jerker, and it's one of the most moving ever seen in comics. Available via import.

USAGI YOJIMBO Vol. 22: TOMOE'S STORY

Stan Sakai’s long-running funny animals/samurai epic may just be the finest ongoing American comics series, and this volume is a fine example of why that’s the case. Clean and accessible artwork, well-researched, culturally accurate depictions of feudal Japan and wholly-believable characters make this series tops in its field and you owe it to yourself to be reading it. Oh, and her name's pronounced "Toe-Moe-Eh."

BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25th CENTURY-THE COMPLETE NEWSPAPER DAILIES: Volume 1 1929-1931

Considered by many to be the most important science-fiction comic of all time thanks to it setting off shock waves of interest in the genre eighty years ago, this handsome edition collects the seminal series from the very beginning and will probably surprise readers with its initial post-apocalyptic setting and total lack of space adventure for nearly the entirety of its first year; the space stuff kicks in with the arrival of the Tiger men from Mars and only snowballs from there.