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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

MY LATEST PWCW PIECE IS UP

My interview with legendary HATE creator Peter Bagge is now up over at PUBLISHERS WEEKLY COMICS WEEK, so check it out!

BIRTHDAY WEEKEND HOO-HAA!!!

This year's birthday weekend was marked by some unusual weather phenomena, such as the clouds over Brooklyn displaying an odd hue and looking like the gods took the sky and turned it upside down.

Friday night, 5th Avenue and 20th Street in Brooklyn: the upside down clouds.

I don't know what that was all about, but I'd say it was a good omen.

Yer Bunche in the can at Quarter, mere hours before hitting the big four-four.
On Friday night I made my way south of the Vault, down Fifth Avenue to Quarter, one of the classier local watering holes about a stone's throw from where the venerable barbecue joint used to be, for a celebration of my buddy Soren finally returning home after nine months of physical and speech therapy following a stroke. But before the festivities really got well and truly under way, my diminutive and distracting pal Jill (who one of these days I intend to draw as her anthropomorphic equivalent, namely a cartoon otter) snagged some yummy (and cheap) eats at the old school Mexican joint across the street. This eatery is customarily shunned by the local white people in favor of more upscale places, and more's the pity because they don't know what they're missing.

When Jill and I entered the restaurant, there were perhaps five other people seated within, all Mexican, with a cook at work in the no-frills kitchen while a short and corpulent woman stood behind the counter ready to take our orders. Once we made our choices, Jill and I waited for our meal to be prepared and we looked around at the place's sparse decor as a waaaay wasted guy sat at a table across from us, clutching a half-finished Corona in his right hand as he slowly began to sink to the table unconscious. I whispered to Jill, "Hey, There's your new boyfriend!" and just after I said that the woman behind the counter walked over to the drunk guy, picked him up from under the arms, and tired to sober him up by walking him around. That little scene reminded me of similar sights from my barbecue joint days, and I felt a teeny twinge of squalid nostalgia for Greenwood Heights. Soon enough or meal was ready and Jill and I made our way across the street to Quarter, but not before each snagging one of the real Coca Cola's in the green glass bottle that you can use as an ergonomically-handy bludgeon when you've finished its contents. These were the Mexican Cokes that still use cane sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup, and can only be found in the area in Mexican restaurants that are run and frequented by actual Mexicans, or, as is the case around the block from where I live, Hispanic delis/meat markets. If you can get your hands on one of these marvelous elixirs and are only familiar with the far less satisfying American garden variety Cokes, you're in for a revelation.

Out-of focus and Coked-up Jill.

As we entered the darkened confines of Quarter, there were Soren and his inamorata, Velma, holding court over a number of well-wishers.

A study of Soren and Velma (or how to save a poorly-lit shot by fucking with the exposure and getting it to look "artsy").

This was the first time I had seen Soren in some time, and I was stoked to see how much progress he'd made by way of recovery. Sure there was some speech aphasia, but he was light years improved from where he was not so long ago, and while he still has a good deal of striving yet to endure, I have to say I greatly admire both his indomitable strength and sheer willpower to have made it to his current state. But then again I expected no less from one of the fiercest minds I know and a guy who would haul his ass out of the ashes of such a debilitating situation solely to spite the stroke that attempted to kick his ass and so spectacularly failed. And lest anyone incorrectly think I was neglecting Velma's role in his recovery, let me say that I hope if I ever have to go through what Soren did that there will be a warrior made of stuff as simultaneously compassionate, loving, and of steely resolve to rival that of Velma.

Appropos of nothing, but seen hanging over the bar.

At the start of the evening, Soren did the smart thing and staged a pre-emptive strike against the yuppie/trust fund kid vermin who infest most of the halfway decent bars in the area by loading the jukebox with seventy-five songs of his exacting choosing, and since our musical tastes are within not dissimilar realms I thanked him for that. There was much chatting and merriment all around, and I saw some mutual friends whom I had also not been in touch with for quite a while.

Velma registers interest as Pazuzu speaks through his earthly vassal, Jill.

But, fun though all of that was, I was delighted to discover that the bartender, a guy named David who went to college with Jill, can actually make a Vesper. The James Bond fans out there know a Vesper is the famous cocktail Bond invented in the very first 007 novel, CASINO ROYALE (1953), in honor of his ill-fated lover Vesper Lynde, and I have always wanted to taste one. Mixed drinks have never been my thing — I'm a beer and/or shots man — but since this opportunity was at hand why not take advantage of it? I asked David to work his cocktail-mixing magic, and in no time there was a long-sought-after James Bond cocktail awaiting me.

The cocktail glass awaits its foray into Ian Fleming territory.

David stirs carefully.

The lemon peel garnish is added.

The fully blended libation is poured.

And, voila! An actual Vesper.

All that was left was the tasting, and I was overwhelmed with anticipation after some thirty years of curiosity.

With Vesper in hand.

Yer Bunche sips it...

Hmm...Not bad!

The evening ended somewhat early —Midnight, after a full week of work for all — so I went home to watch THE JUNGLE PRINCESS, the 1936 flick that launched Dorothy Lamour's career, and rest up for the next night's birthday party lunacy.

Considering how mild my drinking was on Friday night, I spent a surprising amount of time in bed and asleep on Saturday, finally rousing myself just before 6PM so I could eat and make myself all purty for the party I was sharing with Zena Metal at O'Connor's pub.

O'Connor's: swiftly becoming my default birthday party location.

As I headed south on Fifth Avenue, it was evident that it had rained during the forty-five minutes between the time it took return to to my apartment and eat half of the small pizza I'd stepped out to order, and in the wake of that brief shower the way to O'Connor's was actually pointed out by a spectacular and enormous rainbow that illuminated Flatbush Avenue.

A magical portent of the drunkenness to ensue.
Arriving at O'Connor's shortly after the designated start time of 7PM, I caught up on my reading until the first of the guests arrived, namely Russ Braun. Russ and I have known each other for just under twenty years now, back when the two of us were both breaking into the comics-biz.

Russ Braun, the first of the evening's attendees.

Russ is a talented penciler whose work has graced the pages of the Jamie Delano-scripted run of ANIMAL MAN, and more recently Garth Ennis' THE NIGHT WITCHES as well as a regular gig on JACK OF FABLES, and I'm glad to see his years of hard work and perseverance are finally paying off.

As the evening progressed, the other birthday kid, Zena, showed up and things kicked off in earnest.

Yer Bunche and Zena Metal, the birthday kids.

Guests from all over the place began to trickle in, and in no time I'd begun distributing stupid hats that make for ludicrous photo-ops.

With Tim Regan, a treasured friend from our growing-up days in Connecticut, now a Tai Chi-instructing sumbitch. He also brought along the toothsome "She Who Cannot Be Named," a female highly-rhythmic individual whose stories of growing up in Weston, a quite similar burb located right next to my hometown of Westport, echo my own war stories, but I unfortunately didn't get any shots of her. That's an error I'll definitely correct when next I see her.

Here's me with the largely like-minded Xtina, former Marvel Bullpen colleague and frequent concert companion. If she lived in my neighborhood instead of maintaining a residence in Queens, I would never get anything done.

Longtime friend Sara and her soon-to-be-hubby, Pat. I met Sara nearly twenty-four (!!!) years ago, back when she was a high schooler who was dating one of my college buddies, and we've been tight ever since. I couldn't be happier to see her getting set to marry Pat, also a survivor of the poison that is Connecticut, and a guy who is in no way a douchebag.

Otter-girl Jill, cuteing up the place.

(L-R) Jimmy Palmiotti, Jill Friedman, Amanda Conner, Russ Braun, Steve Dillon. Vile comic book vermin, the lot of them.

My dear friend Suzi raises a toast with Ken Applebaum.

The lovely Jimmy Palmiotti.

A study in contrasts: some of Xena's crew (not including Pondscum as a representative)...

...and an assortment of my troop of comics-biz monkeys.

The checkerboard hotness of Suzi and Lauren.

Me and Jimmy Palmiotti, modeling our ensembles for the following day's Pride parade.

Good ol' A.C., proving once more that damned near everyone I know is a shameless ham.

As if Zena weren't metal enough, Pondscum and John Czop represented on behalf of King Diamond.

In from the U.K. on the convention circuit and doing charity gigs for the Hero Initiative, Steve (PREACHER) Dillon kindly graced the party with his presence and always welcome sense of humor and revelry.

Since my sixteenth birthday I've genuinely felt that the yearly celebrations of my continued existence kinda suck without my old friend Amanda — better known on this site as A.C. and the illustrator of such wastes of trees as POWER GIRL and THE PRO — and I'm glad she was in town for this one. Here we see myself and A.C. thirsting for a drink from the skull of a fallen enemy while Xtina admires Amanda's knockoff Rocketeer helmet.

Jimmy feigns blindness and discovers some steamy braille.

Among the last of the diehards: John Czop, Pondscum, Ace MacDonald, and Yer Bunche.

Considering how everything else under the sun has been remade or is in the process of a reboot/re-imagining, why not Jimmy Palmiotti as Bugs Bunny? Think about it. It's a no-brainer!

A.C. and the Otter.

A.C. and Jimmy depart as Sven (to the right, lurking in the shadows) arrives.

Sven and the lovely Monica.

It's 3:12AM and the birthday kids made it through to the end.

So when all was said and done, I'd say everybody had a great time, especially me and Zee. Hell, I can hardly wait until next year and the big four-five! (NOTE: I'm the one who's over forty, while Zena remains a tender, sweet young thing. Just so you're clear on that.)

Monday, June 29, 2009

WHAT IS THE WORST MOVIE YOU EVER SAW IN THE THEATER?

Bad movies are one of my life's most fervent passions, and I relish them in the way my buddy Jared worships at the altar of the Superbowl. Flicks like PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, SORCERESS, THE OSCAR, and the incredible DEATH WISH 3 make me glad to be alive thanks to their simultaneous staggering stupidity and through-the-roof entertainment value. But then there is the other kind of bad movie, namely total and complete wastes of celluloid and the audience's time and sanity. I'm talking about movies that do not entertain one iota, not even with their own ineptitude, and leave the viewer feeling drained, bored, and possibly irate at the end of the running time. To me a true "bad" movie is one that offers a moviegoer nothing whatsoever by way of entertainment, and whose visual thrills may as well be those of an airport hangar wall that had just been hit with a coat of gray primer and was being left alone to dry.

With that in mind it's time to ask a question I periodically break out in social gatherings, and the resulting answers are often enlightening and downright amusing. What I wanna know is this: what is the absolute most rock-bottom unwatchably bad movie you ever paid money to see and endured in a movie theater? It can be totally obscure or a Hollywood blockbuster, but I would love to see a detailed answer that fully conveys the pain and suffering you went through while experiencing said film, so please write in. I'm beggin' ya!!!

By now you may be wondering what movie holds this less-than-lofty place of dishonor in my own personal moviegoing experience, and I can tell you without hesitation that that film is 1984's projected endurance test, FLESHBURN.

It's about an Injun Viet Nam vet (Sonny Landham, who, if you ask me, would have been a letter-perfect Wolverine) who got sent to prison for some reason or other, and once released he kidnaps the people who convicted him and strands them in the middle of the desert, proclaiming they must survive by the ways of Injun survival techniques or something, after which he disappears for the majority of the movie's running time.

Sonny Landham, the man who should have been Wolverine, as seen in PREDATOR, a film immeasurably better than FLESHBURN.

What follows is a boring-as-death exercise in hopeless attempts at survival as the kidnapped folks slowly roast alive in the shelterless desert heat. One of the guys in the group is half-Injun, so he of course knows exactly how to survive and does his bland best to aid his fellow victims. If this sounds in any way tense or exciting, I assure you it isn't, and when the 'Nam vet returns near the end to fight the ostensible hero, you just will not care. The only interest the film manages to generate involves pondering just how long until the damned thing finally, blessedly comes to an end, and long before that welcome moment of surcease arrived I felt like I had been put into a drug-induced coma. I will never sit through FLESHBURN again for any reason, and I dread the day when I encounter a film that outdoes it for sheer, utter boredom.

There. I've shown you mine, so now I wanna see yours.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

IT WAS A GOOD BIRTHDAY INDEED

Well, it's now the 28th and my forty-fourth birthday is offically over. I left the bar shortly past 3AM after having paced myself all night and not becoming the sloppy drunk I once was, and all the guests that Zena and I invited had a great time. (Sadly, Cat could not make it because no baby-sitter was available to take care of Cleo.) I'll have a report up by some point on Monday. So thank all of you who attended, from both me an Zee, and other than not ending up with a toothsome lady-friend to join me between the covers, this was quite a terrific birthday indeed.

I'm slowly approaching sleepiness (I made sure to sleep for much of the day) and I'll finish the day by finally making it all the way through THE JUNGLE PRINCESS (1936) starring Dorthy Lamour.

Good night and sleep tight.

-Yer Bunche

EMPOWERED VOL. 5

Adam Warren's excellent EMPOWERED is back with this latest all-new graphic novel, and the eight-month wait between doses was once again totally worth it.

Picking up immediately after the events at last volume's superhero awards ceremony, our heroine's life continues to spiral down the shitter while some very interesting plot developments occur. You know how when you read any superhero comics series regularly there is the occasional issue where nothing much happens, but the character stuff that takes place in lieu of world-shattering action or spandex-clad punch-ups is every bit as compelling as gratuitous sex and violence? This volume is one of those issues, and it's a 208-page tour de force of character development and simply gaw-juss artwork that more than justifies its $14.95 cover price.

This volume can't really be discussed in detail without ruining its fun, so here's as much as I can say without doing much spoiling:
  • Elissa (Empowered's real name) continues to evolve as a hero and a person, and while she's still pretty damned insecure, she's getting her shit together (somewhat) and discovering new powers generated by her flimsy super-suit.
  • Emp (and by association, the readers) get some very valuable lessons regarding duct tape.
  • Supporting character Ninjette just gets better and better.
  • The Caged Demonwolf steals the chapter entitled "When Titans Fornicate" by relating a vigorous cosplay sex session between Emp and Thug Boy in a florid style that would make Stan Lee envious.
  • The "naughty librarian" returns.
  • We learn more about Sistah Spooky and while I always thought she was a bit of a needlessly mean-spirited cunt, I am now firmly convinced that the bitch is actually crazy. And not in a good way.
  • Adam Warren is a genius for utterly subverting the tired manga/anime clich√© of the cute "cat-girl" in the person of the kinky and avaricious Ocelotina. She's obnoxious as hell and she cracks me the fuck up.
  • The blacked-out "censored" profanity is so profuse this time around, the book at times resembles a particularly strange edition of MAD-LIBS.
  • We learn quite a lot about Mindfuck, the telepathic sole full-time resident of the Superhomeys' orbital space station, and in the process of reading about her she has done the nigh-impossible and eclipsed Ninjette as my favorite supporting character.
  • Major Havoc of the Super-Homeys sinks to new lows of abuse toward Emp, and all I have to say is that the wheel of Karma can be one major-league bitch...
  • Balls-out insane and literally skull-fucking fire elemental villain Willy Pete returns and shows us just how fuck-all powerful and frightening he really is. Let's put it this way: does six-figure heat-generation mean anything to you? Johnny Storm, you are now officially a punk-ass bitch.
Again, this one's mostly character stuff, but it all culminates in a final chapter that is both totally shattering and a testament to Emp's evolution as a superhero. This one ups the stakes tremendously and despite a few moments of much-needed levity, it's as serious as a heart attack. Definitely a fucking huge TO BE CONTINUED, the months of waiting can now commence and they will be agonizing. Adam Warren, you rule. You completely fucking rule. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

FORTY-FOUR YEARS OF BUNCHENESS

It's 2:08 AM on June 27th, 2009, and as of this minute I am forty-four years old. So happy birthday to me!

STEVE DILLON AT JIM HANLEY'S UNIVERSE-6/24/09

PREACHER's Jesse Custer. (art by Steve Dillon)

Wednesday night's signing by Steve Dillon — he of PREACHER and THE PUNISHER fame — went found the man signing individual comics issues and collected editions while practically giving away sketches at a mere $15 a pop for charity.

The fans await an audience with Steve.

I'd guesstimate about slightly over thirty people showed up to wait on line for signatures and sketches, and while it was totally cool of Steve to do sketches for cheap, everyone and their mother wanted one, so instead of asking people if they wanted a sketch or just signatures, the system instead was handled on a person-by-person basis. Not the most efficient way to handle such things because it takes mere moments for signatures while sketches can vary greatly in length of execution, thus dooming the signature-seekers to wait for immense lengths of time when they could have breezed in and out, but I'm at a loss for coming up with a better solution.

Steve sets up.

I witnessed a number of people wait on the line and finally give up and leave (including my pal Suzi, who bought six of the collected PREACHER editions), and let's face it, a comics store book-signing is not a place where artists usually do sketches. Sketches are almost always a convention thing and are often regulated by the artist's manager, or else it's up to the artist to handle it as they see fit; my pal Amanda makes a point of having those who want signatures come up and get their stuff signed first so she can get down to the commission pieces once that bit of business is taken care of, fielding the signing of later individual items as they come while she's drawing. But that's what works for her.

Anyway, when I finally made it up to Steve we chatted briefly as he signed my books and he said he might be making it to my birthday shindig this Saturday, so it was all good. As I picked up my signed items and bade him farewell as he resumed the sketching, I made my way out to meet Suzi uptown and realized I had been on line for two and a half hours, during which time the fans remained well-behaved and polite, unlike some similar scenarios I've seen at conventions. My flat feet screamed as I made my way over to Penn Station and the train to the Upper West Side. But who gives a fuck about my feet? The awesome thing here is that Steve is such a trooper, he kindly sketched and signed for everyone who remained on the line, staying well past his scheduled two-hour appearance and making sure his fans were happy and satisfied. There are some "big" names in the comics-biz who regularly demonstrate what amounts to open contempt for the people who made them famous and often wealthy, and I'm glad to report that Steve Dillon is not and never will be one of them.

Steve draws the Saint of Killers for a fan.

Oh, before I forget to mention them, you just have to give it up For Jim Hanley's Universe staffer
Russel (with only one "l") and his six-week-old daughter, the adorable little Dinah.

Tiny Dinah and her big, bearded geek of a dad.

Yeah, you guessed it: her geeky daddy named her after the Black Canary.

The Black Canary, aka Dinah Lance.

Once I made my way uptown I met up with Suzi at the House of Brews on West 51st Street, where she was holding court with a bunch of computer folks, some of whom she worked with and others she hoped to scope out as possible recruits to her legion of technocrats. They may have been heavy-duty computer types, but us geeks recognize one another despite whichever tribe we represent for, and in no time we were having a blast. Suzi's one of my favorite human beings on the planet, so I guess I should not have been surprised by the quality of company she keeps. And among this amiable rabble was one Charles Novick, a sweet guy who turned out to be the designer of the Stray Cats' first U.S. album, "Built for Speed" (1982).

We got on like a house on fire, and I hope to see him also at my thing on Saturday. Just goes to show that you never know who'll you meet in the wacky ol' Big Apple.

Yer Bunche with Charles Novick.