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Friday, November 30, 2007
One notable on the hit list who refuses to pay up is Rene Vaubois, a high-ranking official in the French Deuxième Bureau, and when the extortionists dispatch assassins to kill him and thereby send a message to others who would not give in to their demands, they don't take one thing into account: Rene's close association with Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin. After Modesty and Willie thwart the attempt on Rene's life, the hired hands that survive the encounter describe the pair to their superiors, who, upon realizing just who they're dealing with, have the good sense to give Rene a miss and proceed to other victims. But if there's one thing we know, it's that once you fuck with a friend of Modesty Blaise you may as well start digging the hole and make sure it's deep enough for yourself and anyone else stupid enough to have pissed her off, so Modesty and Willie embark on a difficult quest to find the secret lair of the extortionists and put them out of business once and for all.
But things don't go as smoothly as planned, and Modesty finds herself the captive of her quarry, alongside her recent boyfriend, the frequently hilarious poltroon Stephen Collier (a series regular, here making his debut). Once at the villains' island stronghold Modesty enters the bizarre world of Lucifer and his twisted handlers (pornographic puppeteers the Seffs being particualrly nauseating and offensive), and must endure under threat of a diabolically escape-proof doom until Willie figures out where she is and comes to her aid. But with no coherent trail of clues the likelihood of rescue grows smaller by the day, and Modesty must figure out how to survive in a nest of killers and madmen, all while keeping the way-out-of-his-depth Collier alive as well. By any means necessary.
This third novel in the Modesty Blaise series has a lot of terrific character bits and the introduction of Stephen Collier is a great bit of fun, particularly the contrast of his nerves of jelly demeanor with the personalities of Willie Garvin, Rene Vaubois, John Dall, and damned near every other male in the story. The villains are suitably perverse and weird, the plotting is solid, and it all reads smoothly enough, but the introduction of Lucifer and his psychic powers takes the series too far into the realm of the fantastic for my tastes. Admittedly one has to suspend quite a bit of disbelief to enjoy any book in this series since between the two of them Modesty and Willie can do pretty much anything achievable within the realm of human capability and neither of them are even forty, but once you have a guy who has actual superpowers involved in the proceedings it somehow cheapens the overall effect. It's not that O'Donnell couldn't have come up a formidible enough villain, it's just that throwing our heroes into the ring with a character straight out of the X-Men is a genre mix that doesn't quite work. There are some fans of the series who rank this one toward the top of the list, but I have to disagree. It isn't bad by any means, but...
'BEAR' ASSES JAIL TEACHER
SUDAN: 15 DAYS FOR WOMAN WHO MADE A 'PROPHET' ON TOY
By LUKAS I. ALPERT
BEASTLY 'JUSTICE':Gillian Gibbons, here getting a bumpy ride in Sudan, was sentenced for the "crime" of insulting Mohammed.
November 30, 2007 -- Thousands of Sudanese, many armed with clubs and knives, rallied today in a central square and demanded the execution of a British teacher convicted of insulting Islam for allowing her students to name a teddy bear "Muhammad."
The protesters streamed out of mosques after Friday sermons, as pickup trucks with loudspeakers blared messages against Gillian Gibbons, the teacher who was sentenced Thursday to 15 days in prison and deportation. They massed in central Martyrs Square, outside the presidential palace, where hundreds of riot police were deployed, although they did not attempt to stop the rally. "Shame, shame on the U.K.," protesters chanted. They called for Gibbons' execution, saying, "No tolerance: Execution," and "Kill her, kill her by firing squad."
The women's prison where Gibbons is being held is far from the site, as is the Unity High School where she taught, which is under heavy security protection.
Gibbons, 54, had faced 40 lashes and six months in prison if she had been found guilty of the more serious "crime" of inciting religious hatred. A spokeswoman for Britain's Foreign Office responded to the verdict by saying, "we are extremely disappointed." "The Sudanese ambassador will be called in this evening to explain this decision," she said.
The protest arose despite vows by Sudanese security officials the day before, during Gibbons' trial, that threatened demonstrations after Friday prayers would not take place. Some of the protesters carried green banners with the name of the Society for Support of the Prophet Muhammad, a previously unknown group. Many protesters carried clubs, knives and axes -- but not automatic weapons, which some have brandished at past government-condoned demonstrations. That suggested Friday's rally was not organized by the government.
A Muslim cleric at Khartoum's main Martyrs Mosque denounced Gibbons during one sermon, saying she intentionally insulted Islam. He did not call for protests, however. "Imprisoning this lady does not satisfy the thirst of Muslims in Sudan. But we welcome imprisonment and expulsion," the cleric, Abdul-Jalil Nazeer al-Karouri, a well-known hard-liner, told worshippers.
"This an arrogant woman who came to our country, cashing her salary in dollars, teaching our children hatred of our Prophet Muhammad," he said.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
A while back I was talking with Jimmy Palmiotti about various horror-related subjects, and he mentioned that he'd co-written a FRIDAY THE 13TH comic with his JONAH HEX partner in crime, Justin Gray (with art by Adam Archer and Peter Guzman). I like their work on JONAH HEX quite a lot, but when Jimmy told me he'd been involved with something that adds to the mountain of useless shit featuring unkillable and nonsensical boogeyman Jason Voorhees — he of the hockey mask and huge fucking machete — I wanted to moan aloud and slap the taste out of his mouth. Knowing my simultaneous hatred for and fascination with the whole FRIDAY THE 13TH thing, to say nothing of probably noting the look of utter irritation on my face, Jimmy was quick to explain himself and assure me he wasnt just in it for a quick check; he'd always felt, exactly as I do, that Jason's steadily growing body count makes no fucking sense, and that if there was anything that the series needed it was some sort of quasi-logical reason for what he is and what he does, and he was determined to provide just that. Well, having read it for myself I have to say I should have trusted Jimmy, since the book delivers exactly what it set out to do, and does so with a palpable sense of carnage-laden fun.
This collection of the six-issue mini-series offers up the formula FRIDAY THE 13TH setup of camp counselors arriving at Camp Crystal Lake, ignoring the place's gory history, engaging in sex, dope-smoking, and drunkenness, all as a preamble to Jason showing up and rendering them into mulch. Exactly what I would have expected, but the real surprise here is the execution of the material, basically a "tale of the Hook" done right that actually gives us a bit more of a look into the machete-fodder's heads than previously seen in just about any installment in the Jason saga. The victims are not all necessarily likeable, but at least we get some clue as to their personalities and issues before they get the chop, and the explanation for Jason's rampage and unkillable physical state works, though presented with a brevity that's all it really needs; this is a story about a bunch of teenagers getting decimated by a savage, supernatural killer, so it sure as hell ain't William Styron, and the creators wisely chose to give the people what they want — gory murders by the assload — with the added bonus of actual intelligent writing for once.
I won't go into the details in case you decide to pick it up on my recommendation, and this definitely is a recommendation, but keep in mind that the material found between this book's covers is exactly how a FRIDAY THE 13TH story should have been told from the get-go, and if the filmmakers who foisted those wretched flicks on on us had done what was done here the series would still be handing out annual doses of good old-fashioned horror, rather than allowing that most American of bogeymen, Jason Voorhees, to slowly fade into the mists of our nation's pop culture and nostalgia. TRUST YER BUNCHE!!!
No matter who you are and in whatever circles you may travel, at some point you're probably going to come face-to-face with a celebrity. It may be Lindsay Lohan removing the hair from her naughty bits with a blowtorch behind the local Shoprite, or perhaps Oprah Winfrey sucking on a bag of pork rinds in order to get that last bit of deep-fried pork fat, and maybe even Bruce Willis trying on a purple Afro wig in some drag queen supply store on Santa Monica Boulevard. Anything can and usually does happen in this wacky world, so you'd damned well better have your camera at the ready. What follows is my own gallery of my brushes with greatness, most of which I was not expecting but happily have recorded for posterity through the medium of photography, so away we go!
Here's my friend Dawn and myself with Stan Lee at a Marvel Comics Christmas party, somewhere around 1993. Note the cracker crumbs around Stan's mouth.
And speaking of Marvel Comics luminaries, here's John Romita Sr. — considered by many to be the definitive Spider-Man artist — and his wife (and my one-time boss) Virginia. John's probably the only guy in the entire comics biz that no one has a single unkind word for, and I can tell you as gospel truth that he's one of the most talented and kind people I've ever met or worked with. The very definition of a professional. And the cool dude with the pompadour and shades in the background is none other than Jim Steranko, he of NICK FURY, AGENT OF S.H.I.E.L.D. fame, another alright Joe.
Here's my pals Eddie and Hughes on the night when we met Clarence Reid, the master of filthy musical parody better known as Blowfly, perhaps the only recording artist on par with John Valby for sheer raunchiness. The guy's a fucking genius, and came up with the immortal line "Now I want to fuck you from dusk 'til early morn/'cause I love pussy like a hog loves corn." (From the timeless classic "Show Me A Man Who Don't Want To Fuck You (And I'll Show You A Faggot")
Here's former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach. I would like to officially go on record and declare Bach to be the single nicest celebrity ever to visit the Marvel Bullpen. A total sweetheart who doesn't get half the respect he deserves.
The wooly-headed leviathan standing next to me in this one was probably the celebrity I least expected to meet. He's Danny Lilker, bass player for the seminal thrash-metal band Stormtroopers of Death, and he just happened to be among the attendees at a friend's birthday party when I worked at the barbecue joint. Another total sweetheart.
Pretty much unknown to recent generations, this is Geoffrey Holder, a famous Trinidadian choreographer, dancer, and actor who kids my age knew for his string of 7-Up ads ("The Cola Nut...and the Un-Cola NUt!") and for his memorable turn as Baron Samedi in Roger Moore's first outing as 007, LIVE AND LET DIE (1973). I just happened to run into him at a gallery show back in 2001.
Pro-Wrestler Hulk Hogan has to report to Marvel Comics each year to renew his licence on use of the name "Hulk," and here he is with me and my Bullpen brothers Ed Lazellari (front) and Dave Sharpe (the tall fuck in the back). As you can see, the reports of Hogan's height are somewhat exaggerated for TV, considering that I'm barely six feet tall.
And what better moment to end this stroll down celebrity lane with than the time I got my picture taken with the Pope of Trash himself, John (PINK FLAMINGOS) Waters? It wasn't the first time I met him, but it's nice to have a visual record of being in his questionable presence.
FELCHING WITH THE UNDERGROUND MASTER: A TRUE TALE OF ADOLESCENT CORRUPTION AND AN AUDIENCE WITH S. CLAY WILSON
Westport, Ct. 1979. A place and time of wonder and nostalgia for your favorite Bunche...not!
Back then I was but a callow student at Long Lots junior high school — it's Kindergarten through 5th grade nowadays — who was hating life thanks to being stuck in an asylum disguised as a place of learning, a three-year purgatory in which I had to fend off sadistic bullies, battle with my own raging hormones among an army of uninterested, ripening young women, and somehow not flunk out from the sheer, crushing boredom of it all. It was a deadening existence, livened only by my mildly-thriving racket of shoplifting porn and selling it to my schoolmates for a handsome profit (of course there was a profit; when the items are pilfered they don't cost the the pilferer a cent, so it was all gravy), and my not-terribly-unrelated interest in underground comic books.
Y'see, there was this used book store in the neighboring town of Fairfield called the Book Finder, a tiny hole in the wall that went unnoticed unless one knew it was there, and it had an amazing array of musty old paperbacks and hardcovers, as well as a massive selection of back issue comics at very cheap prices. Also among the treasures found there were assorted undergound comics such as ZAP COMICS, THE FABULOUS FURRY FREAK BROTHERS, JIZ COMICS, BIZARRE SEX, and many, many others, all of which the proprietor of the place was more than willing to sell to underage kids provided the kids had the scratch. Thanks to this questionable kindness I amassed an impressive library of the genre's classics, none of which raised suspicion in my house because they were "merely" comic books, and via them my adolescent mind was expanded in many none-too-wholesome ways.
As previously stated I was no stranger to pornography, so the sometimes crude doodlings of grotesquely exaggerated genitalia and impossibly-graphic acts of coupling between just about every type of imaginable character and an equally broad range of animals and objects didn't necessarily shock my young mind. Quite the opposite, in fact; I longed to experience the sweaty, fleshy arabesques that writhed on the black-and-white pages, two-dimensional acid-fueled fantasies drawn and extrapolated from what the creators must have gone through in real life to some small degree. I figured if anybody could depict greasy-looking penises plumbing the depths of cavernous vaginal expanses the way these guys did, images so utterly rife with detail that you'd swear you could smell the effluvium, there had to be some kind of truth behind all of it. But sometimes such imagery could prove problematic as the creators allowed their darker, more violent and misogynistic imaginings free rein, and one could often find images of rape and torture that were intended to be simultaneously titillating and humorous, a blend that I found frankly repulsive and that continued to survive well into the 1990's at least (HORNY BIKER SLUT, anyone?).
However, there were two artists whose work I enjoyed so much that in their cases I was willing to overlook the nastier aspects of their output. One was Robert Crumb, the underground realm's equivalent to Jack Kirby or Will Eisner in terms of his impact on the medium, and I honestly consider him to be one of the greatest cartoonists and social satirists of the past half-century (or ever for that matter). The other is less well known to those who've never dabbled in undergrounds, and that man is S. Clay Wilson, creator of some of the most disgusting and offensive comics ever committed to paper, and cited by Crumb himself as being a major liberating influence on his own work.
Wilson's comics are no holds barred, balls-out exercises in filth and depravity, seasoned with liberal lashings of lovingly-depicted ultra-violence of the sort guaranteed to piss off most women, even some of the more ribald and twisted females that I'm proud to associate with, and that's saying something. Wilson's work is unrepentantly offensive and even somewhat ugly, but its ugliness is actually a huge part of its appeal for me. His characters all look to be sorely in need of a bath and a shave — both the men and the women — and the landscapes in which they get up to no good brings to mind a twentieth century Hieronymus Bosch, dosed out of his fucking mind on homemade mescaline and airplane glue.
Stuffed to the gills with pirates, dykes, demons, and all manner of lowlife scum, Wilson's stuff was quite an eye-opener for me, and if I had to single out only one of his works as my favorite it'd have to be the vile stuff he spewed onto the pages of 1975's Chernobyl of bad taste, FELCH CUMICS #1.
When I first got my hands on this scatalogical masterpiece I was very much aware of what most sex acts were (in theory if not actual practice), but I had no idea what "felching" was. That question was answered by the image found on the cover, and also on damned near every interior page. In case you somehow made it to the stage in life where you actively read a blog like this one and have no clue as to what felching is, please allow me to enlighten you: felching is when a guy fucks someone in the ass, blows his load, and then sucks his own population paste from the receiver's now glazed butthole. In other words, as stated on the cover, felching is "a retrieval system," and every story in FELCH CUMICS #1 illustrates that as graphically and offensively as humanly possible. The whole thing is utterly foul and mostly hilarious — if you go in for this sort of humor, that is — but the prize for the most outrageous story goes to Wilson's "The Holy Virgin Mary Meets the Felching Vampires," in which the Blessed Virgin — you may have heard of her at one time or another — is assaulted by two incongruously erudite nosferatu who feast upon her blood and anally rape and impregnate her, thereby assuring that she gives birth to Jesus Christ via her tortured butthole, thus preserving her status as a virgin. This fantastic bit of blasphemy is illustrated with an image of a zonked-out-looking Mary rectally launching the Savior, umbilical cord and all, covered in shit, onto the manger floor. The story continues with the grownup Jesus's miracles being attributed to the fact that he's got felching vampire powers, but seriously, how do you top the image of Mary literally shitting out baby Jesus? Answer: you don't.
So imagine being a fourteen-year-old me and getting caught with this virtually radioactive piece of smut by my junior high school's dreaded vice-principal, Mr. Sullivan, a perpetually irate disciplinarian who many of us students figured would have greatly benefited from a couple of tabs of strong acid. Sullivan, a Catholic, was especially outraged by FELCH CUMICS's Virgin Mary story, and he was about to suspend me from school until I talked my way out of the situation by citing the works of William S. Burroughs and the allegedly offensive imagery contained therein. He was stunned by my argument since most of the kids in my school were still struggling with TOM SAWYER, and he eventually calmed down long enough to let me off the hook provided I never brought such "filthy material" to school again. I agreed and he confiscated the offending literature, probably to take home and whack off over while dressed in a nun's togs. I considered it a small price to pay to avoid suspension and the far more horrible threat of the wrath of my psychotically-menopausal mother, but what I didn't know was that I would never find another copy of FELCH CUMICS #1 for nearly thirty years, it being one of the harder-to-find examples of the more extreme underground comic books.
Skip ahead to the recent NYC comic book convention, and yours truly wandering the Penn Plaza Pavilion's second floor — and consequently mostly second tier — "Artists' Alley." For those of you who don't go to the unwashed geekfests that are comics conventions, Artists' Alley is where all of the attending luminaries of the comics biz are situated for signings, sketches, and the shilling of whatever they may have available for sale, and the "name" cartoonists are given the better locations. The second tier creators, some of whom may actually be A-listers but couldn't get squeezed in with the star group, usually find themselves relegated to some obscure corner of the convention hall, sometimes on a different floor altogether. The B-listers usually consist of bright-eyed amateur kids displaying their DIY comics without a hint of the weary bitterness found on the faces of the veterans who've been kicked in the mouth by the steel-toed boot of the biz, representatives of the steadily-dwindling survivors of the Golden and Silver age, the occasional writer or editor whose name is familiar from the credits, many of my former peers who are the inking and penciling cogs without whom deadlines would never be met, and maybe one or two "outsider" artists.
As I walked about on the glutted second floor, my delightful pal Jill at my side, I scanned the tables for familiar faces and former colleagues, saying "hi" here and there, before noticing a section populated by a bunch of funky-looking old geezers who seemed somewhat familiar. I soon realized one of them was an aged Spain Rodriguez, best known as the creator of leather-clad underground Chicano hero Trashman, and another was Kim Deitch, an underground comics legend and son of animator Gene Deitch, the guy responsible for some of the worst TOM & JERRY cartoons ever made (not meant as a swipe, but as a statement of fact because everyone I know who's ever seen any of them holds the same opinion as I do). And sandwiched between the two was a white-haired codger in shades and a leather beret, busily sketching on a piece of looseleaf note paper while engaging in curmudgeonly discourse for anyone willing to listen. I asked myself "Who the fuck is this guy?" and looked at the comics he had spread out in front of him in hopes of unloading them. As my eyes focused on the haphazardly strewn pile, I snapped to attention when I recognized copies of JIZ and PORK in terrific condition, and I plucked them up for careful inspection under my collector's gaze. But then my eyes nearly exploded out of their sockets, for there, lying on this humble and neglected table at a rinky-dink comic book convention, was a mint condition copy of FELCH CUMICS #1.
And the icing on the cake was that it was being offered for sale by none other than S.Clay Wilson himself.
Not since meeting Jack Kirby was I so overwhelmed with fanboyish happiness, and when I introduced myself I must have come off like a gushing idiot. I blathered to Wilson about how he was something of a "filth elder" or "smut mentor" to me, and that it was a debt I could never hope to repay, and I think he was genuinely touched. I also told him the story of my junior high brush with suspension for having FELCH CUMICS in my possession, and he beamed when he heard that his hideous influence had ruined yet another once-innocent youth. And when I asked him exactly how the fuck he and the other contributors decided to come up with a comic book solely devoted to the act of felching in the first place, he told me that they were inspired by a pal of theirs who was living in France at the time who filled them in regarding that most odious form of osculation. Wilson grinned like a Jack O'Lantern, rotting teeth in full display, and said his friend described felching as "when the buggerer cums inside the buggeree, then stoops to suck his own cum out of the buggeree's arse. It's a retrieval system!" Surprisingly, this was the only time I'd ever heard an American use the terms "buggerer," "buggeree," and "arse" at all, much less in the same sentence.
I swear to the gods I felt like I was listening to wisdom imparted by Obi-Wan Kenobi, only of a considerably more base variety than what that wussy Luke Skywalker ever heard. I was deeply honored.
Pleased as punch to talk with a fan who knew and loved his work, Wilson signed my copies of his work — which I'd just bought for $25 apiece; a bit of a gouge, but when would I ever find this stuff again, and much less be able to have it signed by one of my vileness idols? — and posed for a picture, taken by Jill, in which I got to simulate felching him.
So remember, dear readers, that senior citizens are a national treasure, and many of them may be a fuckload filthier than you think. And thank you, S. Clay Wilson. Thank you from the bottom of my raunchy little heart.
-Eiji Tsuburaya, CAPER magazine (1965)
If this post's headline got your attention and you know what "daikaiju" means, drop whatever you're doing right now and buy this fucking book immediately! It's a fully-loaded hardcover biography and career overview of the completely awesome Eiji Tsuburaya. Tsuburaya was the special effects god behind Godzilla and damned near every monster of note who ever trashed Tokyo, as well as being the creator of Japan's number one superhero, the totally fucking beyond words of appreciation Ultraman, and his interstellar brethren. If you love giant monsters like I do, your life is not worth living without a copy of this excellent book written by my man August Ragone, one of this country's preeminent scholars of all things geeky and Asia-related in TV and movies. If this guy writes about it, believe me when I say he knows his shit.
I can't praise this one enough, except to say that it may just be the daikaiju fan's answer to really good porno. No bullshit, if it weren't unnatural on several levels, I'd like to fuck this book. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!!!
Eiji Tsuburaya with the cast of ULTRAMAN (1966), the TV show that perhaps had the greatest influence on the imagination of the wee Bunche.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
SWEEPING SESAME STREET
The first episodes of "Sesame Street" have been released on DVD with a warning label: "These early 'Sesame Street' episodes are intended for grownups, and may not suit the needs of today's pre-school child."
Hey, what is this? "Snuffleupaguses Gone Wild?" "Bert & Ernie Teach You Four-Letter Words?" Hardly. In these shows from 1969 to 1974, Oscar was permitted to be Grouchy and the Cookie Monster...well, he craved and consumed a great many actual cookies. All of which today is viewed as too dangerous for little minds.
No, we cannot let kids be warped by a charmingly cantankerous, noseless, furry green puppet who lives in a garbage can and loves trash. As executive producer Carol-Lynn Parente told the New York Times, "We might not be able to create a character like Oscar now." Nor can we allow tots to be led to ruin by a blue, googly-eyed creature who goes mad only for cookies rather than also, say, cauliflower. And whose alter-ego Alistair Cookie, host of "Monsterpiece Theater,: smokes (horrors!) a pipe and then eats the pipe. Explained Parente: "That modeled wrong behavior."
How do you spell "dumb," children? D-U-M-B.
Monday, November 26, 2007
It's amazing how quickly things happen here in the Vault of Buncheness. My review of the gloriously crazy I SHALL DESTROY ALL THE CIVILIZED PLANETS! was up for only a couple of hours before the guy who compiled it, Paul Karasik, wrote in to thank me for my kind words and also to alert all fans in the Brooklyn area to his book signing at the comic shop Rocketship on December 8th at 7PM. I'm certainly going to attend, and I urge you to do the same. No bullshit, readers, you'll be glad you did!
Rocketship is located at 208 Smith Street in Brooklyn, New York, and you can call (718) 797-1348 or check out the Rocketship store blog site for more information.
Steve Reeves as Emiliano, soon to be better known as Goliath.
After the killing of his father (who was apparently some kind of high muckety-muck in the community, but the script’s a bit muddy on that) Emiliano adopts a ludicrous mask and fright wig and embarks on a campaign of murderous terror against his foes, bashing them in the head with a big rock on a tether, crushing their throats with a clawed gauntlet, or assaulting them with a massive club.
Any way you cut it and no matter what weapons are deployed, the guy kills a shitload of barbarians before the bad guys get sick of him having the nerve to defend the innocent, so he’s soon a wanted man. And for no good reason the barbarians think the masked raider is a monster and dub him Goliath. Don't ask me why.
During the requisite bouts of violence and homoerotic displays of greasy, straining thews and superhuman feats of strength, Londo, the incredibly hot daughter of one of the invaders, finds herself dripping like a broken refrigerator at the sight of our hero and in no time a forbidden love affair is in full swing.
Playing the haughty barbarian princess is Chelo Alonso, a Cuban/Mexican dancer and former star of the Folies-Bergères in Paris, and she is one thermonuclear warrior goddess whose look reminds me of Halle Berry.
Yeah, this one's got pretty much everything you'd want in a Peplum flick with the exception of a couple of rubber-suit monsters, and it's packed with enough action, romance and eye candy to make any audience happy. Now available in a gorgeous print as half of a Goliath double bill on DVD, GOLIATH AND THE BARBARIANS is a lot better than you might expect and is a terrific bit of Saturday matinee fodder that I enjoyed quite a lot. And while it can't hope to compete in terms of budget, in terms of solid entertainment this film beats BEOWULF by leaps and bounds. TRUST YER BUNCHE!!!
According to his son, Fletcher Hanks Jr., the senior Hanks was an abusive alcoholic, an aspect that I suspect may have had great influence on his comic book creations, because no sane mind could have come up with his stuff if and have it be taken as non-parody. Hanks' career lasted for about three years (1939-1941), and during that time he unleashed some of the most lysergic creations ever to grace a page, chief among which was Stardust the Super Wizard, a huge, impossibly buff alien hero who looks like an overgrown gay dude in a fabulous blue leotard.
In his initial appearance, the Earth picks up a transmission from space alerting the world to the impending arrival of Stardust, prompting a bad guy to say to his fellows, "Listen to this, you mugs! Stardust is coming to the Earth! He's the super crime wiz who is busting spy mobs on a lot of planets! Boy, will he have our necks!!" And he ain't kidding; Stardust is loaded with bitchin' superpowers, or as the text describes him, "His scientific use of rays has made him master of space and planetary forces — the gas of a certain star has made him immune to heat or cold — Stardust carries artificial lungs that enable him to breathe safely under any condition — he uses new spectral rays that can make him invisible , or as bright as the sun — he wears a flexible star-metal skin controlled through rays from a dsitant sun and rendering him indestructible by chemicals, or by electrical or violent force." And as if that wasn't enough, the fucking guy can fly at super-luminal speeds, control people's minds, manipulate gravity at his slightest whim, wield a magnetic ray and a "boomerang" ray, cause the skeletons of criminals' victims to appear and torment their murderers (again thanks to a special ray), can transform men into icicles that melt away, can return the entire population of the world to their exact original locations when crooks stop the Earth's rotation and cause everyone to hang suspended into outer space — I swear to God I'm not making any of this up — and in one memorable instance turns oddly-named fifth columnist "Yew Bee" into a rat with a human head.
All of that stuff happens in the first two eight-page stories, fer fucksake! And while we're on the subject of heads, Stardust causes villain Destructo's noggin to grow to enormous size and absorb his body,
then he hauls the head into deep space and lobs it into the "space pocket of living death" where "the hugest giant in the universe" dwells, a headless colossus appropriately named the Headless Headhunter.
The giant catches Destructo's pleading head, puts it on his massive shoulders and absorbs it into his torso.
These displays of over-the-top power reminded me a lot of Monty Python's Mr. Neutron, as played by the late Graham Chapman, only not intended to be funny.
Monty Python's Mr. Neutron: the most dangerous man in the universe and direct descendant of Stardust.
The completely one-sided adventures of Stardust occupy much of the book, along with Big Red McLane, a lumberjack who spends five pages violently beating the living shit of enemy loggers before the story comes to a jarringly abrupt halt, and an adventure of Buzz Crandall of the Space Patrol that may be the single worst space opera in the history of the medium. But the rest of the book is filled out with several chapters from the exploits of Fantomah, hands-down the weirdest jungle heroine of all time. With no explanation of how she got there or where her powers come from, Fantomah protects the jungle from assorted evildoing madmen with an array of powers perhaps even more bizarre than Stardust's, including her balls-out-looney ability to transform from a cute blonde in a black slip into a plus-size blonde with blue skin and a skull for a face, basically resembling Skeletor in drag.
There's no suspense to any of these stories since Hanks loads the heroes with abilities that make them pretty much gods, but the fun lies in seeing just how outrageous the stories get, each panel being more crazily absurd than the one preceding it. No lie, as I read this book I had a shit-eating grin on my face and actually laughed out loud several times, enjoying it so much that I read it a second time and am about to give it a third go-round when I take the subway home this evening. If you or anyone you know enjoys unbridled lunacy, I can't possibly recommend this book enough and strongly urge you to buy it. Considering the sheer entertainment value found in this book, it's not even like spending money. HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION!!!
I could never stomach "pop" metal, but if you're of a certain age you probably remember when it was ubiquitous on the airwaves and you also probably recall the balding frontman of L.A. band Quiet Riot, Kevin DuBrow. He'd sometimes don the outfit of the band's mascot in concert — straight jacket, iron mask — and screeched like a monkey, two acts that left an indelible mark on the memories of those who banged their heads in the 1980's.
Quiet Riot's 1983 album "Metal Health" was a huge fucking hit for no adequately explained reason, other than the possibility that young music fans desperate for metal didn't really make an effort to explore the genre past what was played on the radio or MTV, instead shelling out their paper route money for soon-to-be-classics of frat boy rock like "Bang Your Head (Metal Health)," shrill covers of Slade's "Cum On Feel the Noise" and "Mama Weer All Crazee Now," and the one song of theirs that I actually kind of liked, "Slick Black Cadillac." But after their meteoric rise Quiet Riot fizzled out like a bad fart, largely due to their fifteen minutes being up and DuBrow's famous mouthing off about other metal bands, his diva leanings eventually leading to his firing from the band. In the 1990's Riot rose from the rock 'n' roll grave, but lightning didn't strike twice.
DuBrow was found dead yesterday in his home, and the cause of death is undetermined at this time.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Taking the ancient poem-story of the Geat warrior Beowulf and giving it the 3D/CGI treatment, the film is visually spectacular, but if not for the 3D animation it would be just another sword & sorcery flick of the breed common to the Sci-Fi Channel. It's not bad by any means, but there's little real drama in this retelling of the tale of one man's hubris and how it ruins the lives of himself and the people he came to save. The basic setup has the kingdom of King Hrothgar (Anthony Hopkins) getting raided by the misshapen creature Grendel (peformed in signature howling-like-a-fucking-maniac style by Crispin Glover),
who apparently hates it when humans have fun, party, or rock out in any way (translation: he's anti-metal). Looking like a cross between a burnt lasagna, a flayed animal, and Michael Stipe after exposure to hard radiation, Grendel shows up during a rowdy night of revelry and kills several of Hrothgar's people, taking a few back home to his cavernous lair for later snacking. None too thrilled with Grendel interrupting his metal doings, Hrothgar closes down the mead hall and awaits a hero to kick Grendel's ass. No sooner than you can sing "The Immigrant Song," blonde badass Beowulf (definitely a defender of the metal way) arrives in a longboat with his small army of Thanes and sets up residence in wait for the beast. When Grendel shows up to take on Beowulf's loudly-partying band, he's confronted with a butt-nekkid Beowulf who engages him in brutal combat and rips off his arm, after which he returns to his lair and dies. This only serves to piss off Grendel's mother, a hot pice of ass of a monster played by and animated to resemble Angelina Jolie,
and she sets out to get revenge for her beloved, deceased baby boy with a plan involving Beowulf's Johnson...
That's pretty much it, although the proceedings are spiced with spectacular scenes of carnage and violence that greatly benefit from the 3D, especially a bit where Beowulf recounts the events in a swimming contents between himself and another warrior, a tale that has all the earmarks of complete and total bullshit, and the awesome dragon assault at the flick's climax. And I don't know if it's meant to be as funny as it is, but BEOWULF at times comes off like a Nordic sketch from MAD TV with overblown characters and situations straight out of an eight-year-old's backyard action figure play. But the silliest thing in the entire film has to be Grendel's mother not only being a walking inducement to priapism, but also having feet that feature built-in pumps. (SEE BELOW)
BEOWULF is pretty much what you'd expect from a Hollywood treatment of a piece of required high school reading (once considered "egghead" stuff), namely rendering it with the rote blandness of yet another adaptation of a piece of pop fiction and occasionally amounting to an action figure commercial (I want the caterwauling Grendel toy!). As I said, it's not terrible or even bad, but it's just kind of there and would have been helped immensely by the addition of a soundtrack stuffed to the gills with Motorhead, The Sword, Cirith Ungol, Saxon, and Manowar blaring from the theater's sound system; if you're gonna make a movie this laden with testosterone, you might as well go all the way with its manly excesses. And if you do decide to see it, shell out the extra cash for the 3D screening (yes, they charged three bucks extra for the 3D, bringing my own ticket cots to $12.75), because without the extra oomph provided by the visuals this is only worth matinee price at best. TRUST YER BUNCHE!!!
Friday, November 23, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
This second in the LEGENDS OF THE POISONOUS SEDUCTRESS series is not a sequel to 1968's FEMALE DEMON OHYAKU, instead starting fresh but once more starring Junko Miyazono in the lead. This time around she plays Okatsu, the adopted daughter of a master swordsman and next in line to inherit the head position in her dad's hardcore dojo, easily edging out her disappointment of a brother. (As you may know, back in the feudal days Japanese women weren't given much respect, so Okatsu's publicly-stated status speaks volumes for her prowess before we even see her kill anybody.) The incredibly classy Okatsu looks like every geisha fantasy come to life and her demeanor is that of a proper Japanese lady, so it's only a matter of time before an ambitious magistrate/balls-out-evil asshole takes a shine to her. Taking time out from his heinous abuse of the local peasants and farmers, the douchebag approaches Okatsu's dad about wanting her hand in marriage, but, knowing full well what a bastard the magistrate is, dad turns him down flat, thereby setting in motion an escalating series of exceedingly tragic events that inevitably force Okatsu to drop the geisha-cutie bullshit and get down the business of serious killing. Aided by the mysterious wanderer Rui (Reiko Oshida), Okatsu's journey of vengeance is a painful one, and the resulting film is a classic of the genre.
QUICK-DRAW OKATSU takes its time in setting up all of its characters and situations, so when the story really gets going the viewer is emotionally invested in Okatsu's plight, something helped immeasurably by star Junko Miyazono. Her poise and "normal person" good looks sell Okatsu's believability, and I don't know if she's a trained kendoka, but she handles a sword with commanding presence and deceptive ease.
Junko Miyazono as Okatsu: charming and girly as hell...until you fuck with her.
Equally good is Reiko Oshida as Rui, the more visually-archetypal of the two swordswomen, looking somewhat butch in her shabby traveler's garb and resembling Sanpei Shurato's classic manga hero, the apostate ninja Kamui.
But before you rush off to rent this flick I think it's only fair to warn you that this is one of the films that formed the template for the genre that would become known as "Pink" or "Pinky Violence" flicks, basically softcore porn that displayed acres of skin — but no bushola back in those days — and reveled in torture and cruelty, more often than not directed at the female characters. They eventually grew to become quite bloody, sadistic, and downright distastefully misogynistic in their obligatory rape sequences (an element that also mars many of the samurai flicks of the period), but as QUICK-DRAW OKATSU was one of the prototypes, things don't go so stomach-turningly out of control here. Yes, there's the requisite rape and torture — a scene in which some villains attempt to perform a crude abortion on one character against her will will have you wanting to dive into the screen and kick ass yourself — but there's no nudity shown and the swordplay bloodshed doesn't even come close to the arterial excesses found in the LONE WOLF AND CUB series (what does?). Oh, and did I mention that none other than Lone Wolf himself, the exquisite Tomisaburo Wakayama, turns up as a quirky bounty hunter? (He did a lot of fun character parts before gaining screen immortality as the "Babycart Assassin.")
So TRUST YER BUNCHE and give this one a look. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
The same shot from the DVD cover art, as seen in the actual film.