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Wednesday, April 30, 2008


From my former colleague at Marvel Comics, Glenn Greenberg (don't worry; no spoilers):

Saw it on Monday night. Here's my take, in a nutshell:

This is NOT the ultimate super hero movie ever made. I wouldn't even necessarily put it in the top 10. There are others that I prefer more.

I have some story problems with the second half, and some of Obadiah Stane's dialogue during the big battle towards the end gets a bit too hackneyed and "comic booky." Certain characters' motivations are a little unclear or muddled, and, in my opinion, the stakes aren't high enough when the movie really kicks into high gear.

Also, I felt that the film lacks a strong emotional core that was so present in SUPERMAN THE MOVIE, BATMAN BEGINS, and the first two SPIDER-MAN movies. It's not that Favreau and co. don't try--actually, some of the stuff between Stark and Pepper Potts is quite good. But I didn't feel myself get pulled emotionally into this film the way I did with the ones I mention above.

The soundtrack — consisting mostly of heavy metal music — is occasionally too loud and distracting. It drowns out some of the dialogue. Speaking of which, there are moments when Robert Downey Jr. is almost indecipherable, talking too fast and too manically to be understood (at least by me).

That said, the cast is wonderful. Downey is perfect as Tony Stark. Gwyneth Paltrow is lovely and radiant and completely believable. Terrence Howard almost steals the movie. And Jeff Bridges brings a strength and a sense of gravitas that benefits the movie greatly. They're all taking their roles seriously, committing themselves to the characters and bringing a sense of realism and, just as importantly, RESPECT for the subject matter.

The special effects are fantastic. The humor works, for the most part. The in-jokes are very clever--and you really have to be sharp to get them all. I know I didn't!

It's not a GREAT movie. But it's a GOOD one. I didn't walk out with a sense of great elation and excitement like I did when I saw BATMAN BEGINS, or the first SPIDER-MAN, or X-MEN 2. But I also didn't walk out wanting to put my fist through a wall like I did when I saw X-MEN 3 or DAREDEVIL.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Special thanks to fellow daikaiju enthusiast Mark G for bringing this to my attention.

According to the good folks over at WIRED, today is the forty-forth anniversary of the release of Ishiro Honda's MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA, considered by many (including Yer Bunche) to be the best of the old school Godzilla flicks.

Original Japanese release poster.

One of the most fondly-remembered of the series, this one was originally released in the US as GODZILLA VS. THE THING, a name no doubt familiar to all of us 4:30 MOVIE disciples.

Poster from the original US theatrical release.

That title confused the shit out of us monster kids before we actually saw the movie, and it made me wonder just how the fuck an eight-foot space-carrot stood any kind of a chance against Godzilla, a monster almost ten times the size of the not exactly diminutive King Kong, whose size was supplemented with the ability to breathe and rather accurately direct intensely radioactive fire.

James Arness as the title character in THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (1951), aka simply THE THING, emphatically not the "thing" in GODZILLA VS. MOTHRA'S American title. A match for the Big G? I think not.

When finally viewed by us awed monster kids, the Thing turned out to be none other than the incredible Mothra — "Mosura" to us hardcore daikaiju goons — the elegant and kite-like goddess of tropical Infant Island, first seen in what I consider the finest of all the Toho monster flicks, 1961's MOTHRA. That film was both a giant monster genre masterpiece — right up there with KING KONG, from which it cribs certain plot elements, and the original 1954 GODZILLA — and a visually beautiful fantasy piece that had something for everybody, so it was only a matter of time before we saw more of the majestic moth deity. Since Godzilla had already carved a special niche for himself among the Japanese screen's fantastic menagerie it seemed like a good idea to pit the seemingly-delicate bug against Big G's brute force for what would be the first of the Toho universe's ongoing crossovers of its monster stars, and the results are simply glorious and remain unequaled over forty years after the fact. There are those who prefer GHIDORAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (also 1964, making it a damned good year for giant critter movies), MONSTER ZERO (1965) — aka INVASION OF THE ASTRO-MONSTER — or the all-star monster fest DESTROY ALL MONSTERS (1966), but while fun, none of those equals MOTHRA VS. GODZILLA for quality of story, filmmaking, and sheer, balls-out clash-of-titans fun.

The plot is simplicity itself: in the aftermath of a typhoon, a gigantic egg washes up on the shore of a humble fishing village and the locals wonder just what the hell it is (they obvisously never sat through MOTHRA).

If only they had enough ham to go with it...

A douchebag entrepreneur shows up, buys the egg from the villagers and immediately sets out to exploit it, continuing his avaricious schemes even after being told that it's Mothra's egg by the goddess' twin faerie priestesses (Emi and Yumi Ito, reprising their beloved characters from MOTHRA). But whereas Mothra was once a mighty and literally unstoppable force of nature, her life cycle is almost at an end and she is too weak to make the trek from her island to retrieve her egg. And as if that doesn't suck enough, Godzilla erupts from the ground after a period of dormancy (after the previous movie's idiotic wrasslin' matches with "Kimono Kong," that duck-looking monument to bad ape suits)

and immediately strolls through heavily-populated areas.

Godzilla: the worst nightmare of real estate owners and architects.

As the military's efforts prove once more to be worth fuck all, the hapless human characters appeal to the faeries to enlist Mothra in aiding them, which Mothra does at the cost of her own life while defending her egg against Godzilla's onslaught.

One of the great things about this film: you really get to see the enormous scale of the monsters as the widescreen cinematography ("Tohoscope") is used to full advantage.

As Mothra croaks and kids everywhere cry, the egg hatches and two gargantuan Mothra larvae crawl forth and somehow kick Godzilla's ass, utilizing the terrifying offensive capabilities of a steady stream of cocoon silk (that looks a hell of a lot like cotton candy). THE END.

Not exactly SEVEN SAMURAI, but it sure as hell is a lot of fun, and if you haven't seen it you owe it to yourself to see just how good a Godzilla movie could be before they were diminished by ever-declining budgets and a studio directive that aimed the latter half of the original series — the "Showa" era, roughly the films made between 1954 and 1980 — at the kiddie audience. Godzilla is not the anthropomorphised protector of the earth that he would eventually become, and is seen here as a fearsome leviathan that man's pitiful weaponry cannot hope to overcome, a somewhat ironic point since man's fucking around with atomic weaponry created him in the first place (or, more accurately, mutated a pre-existing dinosaur).

And whatever happened to the other young Mothra?

Mothra's babies: and then there was one...

There's only one in evidence after this, so did it leave Infant Island and perish in the sea, leaving a corpse that looked like the biggest "floater" you've ever seen? Some things man was not meant to know...

Monday, April 28, 2008


From the genre of "point and click" humor that spawned DATE MOVIE, EPIC MOVIE, and MEET THE SPARTANS, but thankfully not made the same group of talent-free fucksticks who made those abortions, comes SUPERHERO MOVIE!, a film that while nowhere near as bad as its predecessors still pisses me the hell off for a number of reasons.

SUPERHERO MOVIE! attempts to parody the whole of the titular genre while sticking close to the basic plot of the first Spider-Man movie, and while the script would seemingly benefit from actually following a coherent plotline, the film hews so closely to Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN that it's pretty much a scene-for-scene remake, only with a ton of sub-par jokes thrown in. Just take the SPIDER-MAN script, cross out "Spider-Man" and replace his name with "the Dragonfly" and there you have it. There are also brief nods to BATMAN BEGINS, the Fantastic Four movies, and the X-Men flicks, but those bits are there solely so the writers can say they "parodied" more than just SPIDER-MAN, and they offer only the slightest diversion from the "been there, done that" proceedings. The jokes are so feeble that while sitting through the film I actually wondered if I was supposed to be laughing; for my money there were exactly two sequences that made me laugh, one involving the downside of being the Human Torch and the other involving Marion Ross (Mrs. C. from HAPPY DAYS) in the Aunt May role farting like an extra from BLAZING SADDLES' campfire scene, creating such fouls chuffs that the Mary-Jane character reaches into her purse and pulls out two tampons which she immediately stuffs up her nostrils as a makeshift air filter. And those bits weren't hilarious by any means but when a film that's supposed to be a comedy gives viewers nothing to laugh at or with, you'll take whatever paltry scraps of humor you can find.

What offends me most about this film is the degree of laziness on the part of its creators insomuch as they basically expect us to pay for a barely feature-length remake of a far superior film, and deliver virtually no entertainment value. DATE MOVIE and MEET THE SPARTANS were both balls-out terrible but DATE MOVIE is at the very least fascinating in its awfulness, providing a textbook example of exactly how not to make a comedy, while MEET THE SPARTANS was simply so awful that I found it hilarious in parts thanks to the sheer balls it took to put such an epic mess onto the screen. I can offer no such dubious praise to SUPERHERO MOVIE! and, much like EPIC MOVIE and MEET THE SPARTANS, I'm glad that I didn't waste what would have been twelve (!!!) bucks to see it in a NYC theater, instead seeing it via a reviewer's copy DVD. With the galloping horseshit spewed forth from this "references rather than jokes" school of humorous cinema making shitloads of money thanks to an audience that clearly doesn't care about the contempt that these alleged filmmakers so blatantly have for them, the end of this trend is nowhere in sight, and if not for the efforts of the likes of Judd Apatow and Tina Fey, I would almost be ready to say that American comedy is dead, positively tits up and rotting, with maggots crawling from its fetid asshole. Where once we got stuff like YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, THE KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE, NATIONAL LAMPOON'S ANIMAL HOUSE, and even BACHELOR PARTY, we now get this, and that, dear readers, makes me weep. TRUST YER BUNCHE and skip this turd. Although do check out MEET THE SPARTANS when it hits cable. If you, like me, thought 300 was crap, you may have fun with MEET THE SPARTANS in the same way that it was once fun to play with dog shit by flinging it at other kids with a stick. C'mon, you know you did that...

Sunday, April 27, 2008


After years of hearing about it, I’ve finally seen director John Flynn’s ROLLING THUNDER, one of the better-regarded B pictures of the 1970’s, and was surprised by what it had to offer. Often lumped in with the ultra-violent action movies that played in the seediest of grindhouses, ROLLING THUNDER comes off as a breed apart from its contemporaries by virtue of being a film that Sam Peckinpah happened not to make. Possessing far more emotional depth and introspection than you’d expect thanks to Paul (TAXI DRIVER) Schrader’s bleak script, as well as cribbing liberally from Peckipah’s THE WILD BUNCH, STRAW DOGS, and BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA, the film enjoys a certain cult status yet remains somewhat obscure for no adequately explained reason.

William Devane stars as Air Force Major Charles Rane, freshly returned home to 1973 San Antonio, Texas after seven years of traumatizing abuse as a POW in Hanoi, with fellow soldier Corporal Johnny Vohden (Tommy Lee Jones) at his side. During his time in captivity life in the States continued, and Rane’s wife, accepting the possibility that her husband was most likely dead, found love with a local policeman, and being only sixteen months old when his father left for Viet Nam, Rane’s son came to view the cop as a surrogate father, so when faced with the sudden return of the husband/father the worlds of all involved become a quietly-tense emotional hell. Rane’s experiences in Hanoi have left him with deep psychological scarring and a sense of having no idea what to do with himself, but accepting its inevitability, he’s set to grant his wife a divorce but refuses to let go of his son. When his wife’s lover (the cop) shows up to talk things out with him, Rane reveals how “institutionalized” he is in the wake of years of incarceration and torture, demonstrating a masochistic pleasure in reenacting a nasty rope torture and explaining his philosophy toward those who tortured him: “I learned to love ‘em.”

When the town honors the Major for his service to his country, he’s presented with $2555 in silver dollars, one silver dollar for each day he was a captive, by Texas belle Linda Forchet (Linda Haynes), an attractive blonde who wore a bracelet in his honor for the past seven years. As his alienation from his family worsens, Rane again runs into Linda and as the two share a drink at the bar where she waitresses, Linda, a self-professed “groupie,” throws herself at the Major, but Rane politely declines her invitation. Upon returning to his home, Rane finds his home invaded by a group of lowlife redneck thugs — including James Best, aka Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane from TV’s THE DUKES OF HAZZARD — and some Mexican muscle who try to coerce him into handing over the silver dollars. His years of abuse have steeled Rane against getting roughed up, and when he stoically resists their violent efforts, including holding his fist over an open flame, the thugs force his right hand into the kitchen garbage disposal, reducing it to so much chopped meat.

If you have a phobia about losing your hands, it may be advisable to give ROLLING THUNDER a miss.

At that point his wife and son come home and are threatened with death if he doesn’t give up the cash, but Rane’s son takes the bad guys straight to the silver dollars in an effort to save all their lives. That plan backfires when the thugs shoot all three of them, killing the mother and son while Rane somehow survives. Following weeks of convalescence, with the doting Linda a constant presence and the acquisition of a hooked prosthetic to replace his mangled mitt, Rane hops into his red convertible, with an unwitting Linda in tow, and heads off to Mexico to exterminate the killers, with no more of a plan than to shake up local beer joints in hope of finding his quarry. Meanwhile, the cop realizes what Rane is up to and launches his own search for the whereabouts of the criminals, a search that results in the deaths of several bad guys and himself. But Rane is unaware of the cop’s fate, and after meeting with disastrous results in his own search Rane leaves a sleeping Linda (who has turned out to be a crack shot with firearms) in a fleabag motel and enlists the aid of Johnny Vohden, who is also having difficulty readjusting to civilian life and seeks to reenlist for ten more years for want of anything better to do with himself. Once again having a mission under a leader he respects, Vohden dons his uniform and displays a sense of happiness and purpose for the first time in the film. Armed for bear, the two track the villains to a Mexican whorehouse and sort the place out in a hail of bullets straight out of Peckinpah’s THE WILD BUNCH, and scripter Schrader’s own finale from the previous year’s TAXI DRIVER.

That’s the basics of the story, but the narrative is compellingly driven by the character studies of people who are tortured in both the literal and figurative senses of the word; Rane’s situation, Vohden’s need for purpose, and Linda’s history are all fascinating and elevate the material far above its perceived grindhouse categorization. If you’re looking for a vengeance yarn full of wall-to-wall carnage, you may be disappointed by ROLLING THUNDER, especially considering its reputation, and while it does have a couple of nasty moments and the Peckinpah-esque conclusion, the film has for more human concerns on its mind. All of the performances convey fully fleshed people rather than action movie clichés, and when stacked against many of it shooting gallery cinema contemporaries, ROLLING THUNDER is something very special indeed. I found my copy of it at the NY Comicon, obtained from one of the usual handful of dealers in hard to find movies, and I would have gladly paid to buy a legitimate DVD, with the hoped-for extras of commentary and such, but as of now the film is not available on disc. Hopefully that glaring omission in DVD availability will eventually rectified, just after the long-MIA ISLAND OF LOST SOULS.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I just got done handling a design 'ho house task that was so up my alley it wasn't even funny.

Everywhere I go I let my geek flag proudly fly and here at the extremely comics-friendly design 'ho house I'm known for my knowledge of pop culture minutia, especially when it comes to comics, so I'm frequently consulted on projects that need the input of someone who's not a casual observer. One of our designers came to me about a half hour ago and described a project in which the company will be composing a Fantastic Four poster featuring significant covers from the series' classic era (roughly 1961-1970), all drawn by the incomparable Jack Kirby. He asked me which covers I would choose, with the exception of issue #1 since that was a given, and he requested a brief note explaining to the company we're doing it for why the covers I would choose count. Well, I had a pretty good idea of what I would use right off the bat, but I checked over the covers just to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything and made my list, giving good reasons for my choices. Good thing I reread the first sixty or so issues a few weeks ago, in those big, honkin' omnibus editions... Anyway, here's what I came up with:


#3-This issue introduced the FF’s uniforms and their signature vehicle, the Fantasticar, so as of this issue they look like conventional superheroes. Everything a reader needed to know about the characters from a visual standpoint is clearly conveyed here.

#5-While he looks a bit primitive, this is nonetheless the first appearance of Doctor Doom, so it’s rather significant.

#25-The second of the Hulk versus Thing stories, this story is a real crowd-pleaser and the cover displays Kirby’s signature dynamism to great advantage.

#33-A terrific story where the FF aid their enemy, the Sub-Mariner, and the cover features an early example of Kirby’s collage technique.

#36-This one features the first appearance of the Frightful Four, the FF’s bad guy analog. A showcase for the villains, this features a great composition, especially the image of the Trapster descending into the frame while hanging from Medusa’s hair.

#39-The FF get blinded by Doctor Doom, so sightless superhero Daredevil shows up to lend a hand; a good story, and a great sinister image of Doctor Doom looming over Manhattan.

#45-the second chapter in the arc that introduced the Inhumans — one of the all-time classic FF stories — this features a crisp Joe Sinnott ink job over Kirby’s pencils, a welcome change from the butchery committed by Vince “the man who erased armies” Coletta, offering up one of the definitive cover portraits of the FF as well as giving us a look at the still-mysterious Inhumans in the background.

#46-This one gives us our first cover image of the fully revealed Inhumans and the definitive image of their king, Black Bolt.

#49-The first cover appearance of Galactus. That’s all I need to say.

#51-“This Man...This Monster,” the definitive Thing story and a downright iconic image of the character. This image has been referenced countless times since it first appeared; next to #3 and the Galactus cover, you will find no more iconic Fantastic Four cover.

#52-This story’s merely so-so, but it’s historically important to the Marvel Universe and comics in general for featuring the debut of the Black Panther, the first black superhero. The character has since gone on to considerable popularity, enduring to this day and carrying one of Marvel’s more popular contemporary titles.

#55-A beautiful cover for one of the last truly great stories from the original FF run, featuring the finest Kirby-drawn cover image of the Silver Surfer, one of Marvel’s most popular characters.

NOTE: after issue 55 Kirby still turned out some memorable covers, but by that point the stories began to suffer as he became demoralized by his treatment at Marvel and lost interest in the series. Avoid using the rest because they are little more than window dressing.

That last note may come across a bit glib, but it serves to clue the client in on what was what; if you look at those later covers you can really see the wind has gone out of Jack's sails, and while still basically good, his heart just wasn't in it.

So there you have it. Do any of you have a list that would better serve the purposes of this project? If you do, please send it in, but stick strictly to the Kirby stuff.

Man, I need to get me some pussy. Immediately!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Thanks to a surprise eBay search launched by Frank, the owner of the barbecue joint, I was able to bid on this classic item:

Yes, you read that right: it's the infamous GERONIMO AND HIS APACHE MURDERERS, a strong contender for the dubious honor of being the most offensive comic book of all time, and I won it for $9.27, including shipping. The second this arrives in my hands I promise to scan the "highlights" and post them here on the Vault!

Happy, happy, joy, joy, joooooooy!!!


4/18/2008-Tucked away in an obscure room on the Javits Center’s E level, Steve “the Dude” Rude imparted his philosophy on painting to an audience of roughly twenty rapt attendees.

Rude, perhaps best known as the co-creator and artist on the highly acclaimed science fiction/superhero series Nexus, began the seminar with his imposing frame almost towering above the blank canvas awaiting the caress of his brush, and over the course of the ninety-plus allotted minutes covered everything from the basics of properly setting up a palette and choosing the right tools for the task of crafting a painted piece to gems of hard-earned wisdom culled from over twenty years before the easel.

The blank slate.

Working from a live model — the lovely Susan —

Rude composed her portrait and expounded upon his theories of the mental approach to painting, rather than the physical, more technique-oriented approach, and those in the audience hung on his every word, occasionally interrupting with thoughtful questions.

While discussing his own journey along the path of attaining his painting chops, Rude stated that there comes a point in one’s life when there are no more excuses to prevent the creative individual from doing what must be done to attain their desired proficiency in their chosen form of expression, concluding that “Not knowing was far more painful than what I’d go through to get the knowledge.”

Rude’s words held the effortless gravity of a master illustrator, a description that certainly fits a man whose perfectionist’s attention to the quality and craft of his work is evident in every image he creates, from his pen-and-ink comics work to his more ambitious fully painted cover and poster work.

His calm, cool speaking voice and concentration on the artistry involved in painting rendered the seminar a real art class rather than a forum for discuss of the comics process of fannish minutia, so those who are fortunate enough to witness one of Rude’s demos are advised to show up with notebook in hand and their minds in a place ready to absorb refined knowledge straight from the creative tap.

When asked by an audience member if he always worked from a set palette, Rude paused before answering and then replied, “A set palette is for a set mind. See what’s in front of you first, and adapt to that,” a nugget of truth that makes unimpeachable sense, and echoes some of Bruce Lee’s theories on the martial arts found in the late martial artist/philosopher’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do.

Self-admittedly never content, such sentiment is appropriate for an artist unsatisfied with allowing his skills to rest on their laurels, instead striving for self-improvement through his art.

The features start to come together.

The finished portrait.

My buddy Ed Murr chats with the Dude.

“A set palette is for a set mind. See what’s in front of you first, and adapt to that."
-Steve Rude, 4/18/2008


The following photos cover the on-the-floor tumult on the main exhibition floor at the Jacob Javits Center from Friday the 18th through Sunday the 20th in no particular order, so use this as a field guide on what to expect if you attend a big comics convention.

The sun was shining and seemed to shoo away the usual Manhattan haze/pollution, perhaps as a result of Nature herself being a comics geek and seeking to grant con-goers a lovely weekend in which to enjoy the gathering of fandom's many diverse tribes.

The entrance to the main floor of the Javits Center: gateway to paradise for some, an entrance to a living hell for others.

While traffic was handled much more efficiently than in the previous two years, the place was
nonetheless mobbed on all three days.

Yer Bunche, knee-deep in the hooplah.

Some cherished friends and colleagues from my days in the Marvel Bullpen: (L to R) John Babcock, Larry Hama, Marie Javins, and Michael Kraiger.

I had intended to have my pal Eddie get a shot of me giving this life-sized statue of Superman
a righteous beejay, but there wasn't enough time. Next year, I promise.

This life-size animated Princess Leia should have served as a harbinger of the legion of fans
decked out in Star Wars outfits.

My first of many Star Wars costume sightings.

A comicon mainstay: Wolverine.

Yorick Brown and Ampersand, from Y: the Last Man.

Wee Supergirl and gigantress Poison Ivy.

Two-Face and a very accurate Killing Joke Joker.

The first of several live-action Supermen (this one I would not feign a beejay upon).

Swiftly becoming a ubiquitous convention presence in the wake of 300, the ancient Greeks strutted their stuff, considerately sparing us the painted-on abs.

The Smallville versions of Clark Kent and the Green Arrow: points given for authenticity, but points detracted for being nowhere near homoerotic enough.

The Smallville Green Arrow with the Golden Age Green Lantern, Alan Scott; the guy in the Green Lantern outfit gets extra credit for actually making one of the goofiest of the classic-era superhero costumes look cool. Considering that the character's footwear was originally a pair of what appeared to be ballet slippers with laces that went up his calves, the boots are a major improvement. (Special thanks to my work colleague Steve Talaba for this shot; I somehow missed Golden Age GL, and when Steve told me he had a shot of him he kindly agreed to let me post it.)

I unintentionally irritated the shit out of this Wonder Girl by praising her for making the fifties-era version look good as a live outfit; she "corrected" me that it was the Wonder Girl from the original Teen Titans lineup, to which I said, "No, the Wonder Girl you're thinking of, Donna Troy, always ran around in shorts until she got that kickass red number, while the Wonder Girl who wore this outfit was the teenage Diana, aka Wonder Woman. She wore the star-spangled skirt." At that Ms. Thing sneered and departed, secure in her ignorance. If there's one place not to get into a geek fight, it's a comics convention swarming with hardcore geeks who've been reading the shit since before you were born, little girl, and for the record you can consult The Brave & The Bold # 60 (June-July 1965) and witness the hot pants for yourself.

The issue in question: The Brave & The Bold #60, first appearance of Donna Troy. Them's hot pants, not a friggin' skirt. Get in a geek fight with me? A staunch supporter of DC's Amazons, even when their comics have sucked out loud, like Amazons Attack? I don't think so, kiddo.

Futurama's intergalactic asshole, Zap Brannigan.

I love it when the young geeks represent. Gives an old man hope for the future.

Chris Weston, sickeningly-talented illustrator of The Filth and The Twelve, my favorite Englishman next to 007, and of of my favorite human beings, period. I genuinely wish he'd pull a "German" on Her Majesty on live TV so he and his family would get kicked out of the UK and be sentenced to live in Brooklyn so I could see him more often and hang out, but that ain't gonna happen... Or is it?

And while we're on the subject of things British and comics-related, also fast becoming a convention fixture in the wake of a big-budget movie is V from V For Vendetta. I'd say his ubiquity was inevitable once the movie-tie-in masks hit the market.

One of the hottest comics heroines from the moment she first graced the page back in 1964, Zatanna the sorceress is a favorite of magic-lovers and fishnet stocking fetishists everywhere (Yer Bunche definitely included!). This gal is hands down the most toothsome live Zatanna I've ever seen, and many con-goers and comics biz pros second that statement. Well done, lady. Well done indeed!

Continuing the focus on hot comics chicks, here we have Zena Tsarafin, Amanda Conner, and Jill "Me and My Red Stapler Against the World" Freidman. Believe me, guys, these are three lovely, smart, talented and downright hilarious women, and you definitely want to party with them.

The White and Black Queens. Mutant costumes have been popular among female convention-goers since the early-1980's, but if only an ambitious group of girls would show up and represent as the Stepford Cuckoos...

A retro-1960's living doll: good old Captain Action, vastly improved by being portrayed by a woman. Damn, I love chicks in superhero and military gear!

Chris Weston and Lee Bermejo, drawing sketches for the fans. Poor Chris had to make do with the overpriced American tea on hand at the Javits Center, and having had the real deal British
tea while visiting him for the 2005 Bristol Con I can tell you from experience that switching suddenly from British tea to our domestic equivalent is like switching from pure China White to shooting up with powdered confectioner's sugar (NOTE: I've experienced the shocking difference in tea quality, but am using the narcotics reference as a metaphor. Remember, kids, stay away from horse! Look at what that shit did to Speedy!)

"Bad" Mary Marvel; what was done with her in Countdown was yet another example of some creator's creepy need to unnecessarily "darken" characters that were geared to kids in the first place in an attempt to make them fit in with other characters from the same era — Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman & Captain America, to name a few — who have successfully managed to appeal to today's comics audience comprised mostly of grownups, but I never felt that such an approach could work with the whole lot of Shazam-family heroes. But I must say that if Mary can't be seen in her traditional skirted girly version of her big brother's red gear, I rather like her capeless fascist bitch look. She looks like she could have fronted a kickass metal band.

Briefly popular as a couple of mini-series events and a vastly inferior followup regular series in the mid-eighties, V is largely forgotten today by all but sci-fi TV geeks who saw it as high-schoolers and early-twenty-somethings. This guy rocked a very accurate Visitor uniform, and gets extra points for having a "mousie" snack at the ready for photo ops.

Those who regularly read this blog know of my love for Big Barda, by far my favorite super-woman and easily the legendary Jack Kirby's greatest female creation, so imagine my joy upon seeing this stunning prototype for the Barda figure from the upcoming New Gods toy line, due out in early 2009. The rest of the line were equally good, but Barda's the only one I really want on my shelf.

This upcoming Big Barda blows away the one from a few years back. A 10 out of 10!

AC signs a sketchbook for a young Themiscyran.

From the "elephant balls" department: "This Is My Costume." Rock on, dude!

Artists Alley, "a wretched hive of scum and villainy."

AC brandishes her parents' guest pass badges. Note the names.

AC and her parents, Al (Sean Connery's stand-in) and Eulayla: I love these two loons more than the majority of my own blood-relatives.

Another recent addition to the Comics Convention Hall of Ubiquity: Tattooed-Ass Chick at a booth.

Very impressive All-Star Superman Lois Lane as Superwoman outfit.

I love this Supergirl's Chuck Taylor boots.

This Joker turned out to be a fellow oo7 hardcore who excitedly recognized the SPECTRE emblem on my shirt.

A word of advice to male wearers of tight costumes: invest in a dance belt, guys. Or go the opposite direction and proudly sport a foil-wrapped cucumber.

More Star Wars folks.

It was only a matter of time before the ladies started rocking this movie-related outfit: Leeloo from The Fifth Element.

The Ray, one of the stupidest-looking costumes of all time. The guy does get points for accuracy, though.

From the booth of legendary Playboy illustrator Doug Sneyd. I've loved this guy's work since the day I got my first in-depth look at the magazine some thirty-three years ago and I would have loved to purchased one of his originals, but the most inexpensive of the lot started at $8,000 so I had to settle for a signed copy of his book of rejected gag roughs, a fun compendium that Mr. Sneyd was kind enough to grace with a sketch.

Black suit Spider-Woman strikes an action pose.

Considering the anticipation for the upcoming Watchmen movie, I was surprised to see only this lone Rorschach representing for the landmark graphic novel.

Former Marvel Comics editor and art rep of the stars Renee Witterstaetter and illustrator Mark "Tex" Texiera strike a power pose.

A terrific Power Girl who even did her boots from scratch. I'm hoping that someday some woman will have the stones to do Power Girl with grossly-exaggerated fake, gravity-stricken tits and a camel toe you could park a bicycle in, just like AC drew her. If you're gonna go there, go there sez I.

Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy. I love the look of appropriate misery of Peter's face.

I was very relieved to find a bunch of old school Star Trek fans representing amongst the ocean of Lucas groupies. When I finished taking their picture I commented, "Thank God for you guys. I swear, if I see one more fucking Star Wars costume, I'll eat my own asshole on live television!" That statement was overheard by a Jedi knight standing behind and to the left of me who reacted with a loud "HEY!!!"

The Perez-era Nightwing...

...and companion. Is the guy in black supposed to be a specific character, or does he just rock a mean corset?

Modern-era Nightwing.

Modern-era Nightwing and Death. I was both surprised and relieved to see only one or two convention-goers dressed up as Death, a character who was fun when first seen nearly twenty (!!!) years ago, but who inevitably got overexposed and played out as the whole "Goth" thing got co-opted into more-or-less mainstream culture. But, as Death herself would no doubt have said, "All things must pass."

Nelson (just the one name, like Cher) and Jimmy Palmiotti, two of the funniest characters in the entirety of the comics biz. Here we see Jimmy giving as good as he got from fellow Brooklynites who gave him shit for hanging out in the Sunshine State, derisively dubbing him "Florida."

Mystique, Lois Lane, Smallville Clark Kent, and some guy nobody's ever heard of.

Okay, I have to ask: what the fuck is this guy supposed to be? John Wayne Gacy? With all the little kids around, this was too damned creepy.

Mister T in da house!!!

"Mistah J" and Harley Quinn. Someday I hope to find some obliging cutie who'll engage me in some merry slap & tickle while she's rocking the jester headgear, mask, and makeup...

Yer Bunche and Chris Weston.

Me and Chris again, shopping at the Jim Hanley's Universe booth.

Yer Bunche and Declan Shalvey, a proud member of the Irish contingent whom I met during my journey to the Bristol Con back in '05. Dec's a great guy and one hell of an inker, so to any editors who may be reading this: show him some love and hook him up with a steady gig, already!

This silver-haired guy is Frank McLaughlin, longtime DC Comics inking mainstay and creator of Judo Master, as well as being my first martial arts and cartooning instructor. A total sweetheart, I always seek him out during these NYC shows.

Lois Lane and Poison Ivy. I never would have guessed that Poison Ivy was so popular among the geekesses, but there were several in full leafy regalia at this show. And Lois Lane gets extra points for rocking the '40's-style wig. You can't go wrong with the Fleischer look!

A very tall Princess Leia and a Stormtrooper.

One of the last anime characters I expected to see: a very accurate rendition of Kid Muscle, aka "Kinnikuman."

Pre-teen Harley Quinn. Indoctrinate 'em early, sez I!

A very elegant Joker and Mister Freeze.

Poison Ivy, Catwoman, and harley Quinn; extra points to Catwoman for being the Julie Newmar '60's version, the first woman who ever made the wee Bunche's pee-pee stand at attention (I was five). "Meeeee-Yow!!!"

Just in time for the latest installment in the franchise: Indiana Jones, his dad, and a Nazi swine.

Harley Quinn, with mallet.

A classic combo: the Green Arrow and a tasty Green Lantern.

A couple of very game Gotham Gals. And check out the emblem on Robin's chest.

A trio of glorious geeks.

More glorious geeks.

The Green Lantern and an Polaris.

Gambit, and the Hulk, who apparently got hit with a shrinking ray.

The delegates from Central City arrive.

My favorite costume of the entire weekend: Fatass Colossus. Seriously, you have no choice but to respect this guy.

Fatass Black Suit Spidey and his girlfriend shop for back issues.

Ebony Princess Leia, or The Empire Strikes Black.

Domino, the Black Cat, and Gwen Stacy.

Best use of a Star Wars character I saw all weekend.

Justice League: New Frontier artist/writer Darwyn Cooke draws a commission sketch of the Flash.

The sketch, up close.

Just in time for Hellboy II: Nazi killing machine Karl Ruprecht Kroenen.

See? I told you Cap's not dead, so there!

Buzz inks a Man-Bat/Batman commission piece.

Most original costume of the Con: the Burger King Stormtrooper.

His royalness, Prince T'Challa, better known as the Black Panther.

Best hard-to-realise costume of the weekend: the fearsome Black Manta, with the torn tunic and stolen belt of a vanquished Aquaman as trophies.

Black Manta, rear view.

The biggest goddamned Jawa you'll ever see.

It's good to see the kids have someone they can believe in these days.

For those not in the know, "yaoi" is the manga sub-genre devoted to gay themes. I love the bravado of the sign, and that huge, phallic ear of corn sends the display right over the top.

The best of the many Batmen in attendance.

Life-sized plastic Batman, poised to fist any willing to sit on his forearm.

A second Fifth Element Leeloo, played, I think, by the girl who was the tall Princess Leia on the previous day.

An exhausted AC displays her wares, including the cover from the Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special, a Power Girl print, and a color Starfire commission sketch.

Me and Darwyn Cooke, bringing back sexy.

The finished Starfire commission.

From the Heroclix line of gaming figures, the impressive in-scale replica of Starro the Conquerer. I'd love one for my shelf, but that $75 price tag renders it a must-miss.

Is it just me, or does this Superman's outfit seem to be crafted from Fruit Roll-Ups or unblown Super-Elastic Bubble Plastic? Seriously, what the fuck is this made of?

Tex has a stroke while drawrin' a pitchur.

On the final day, Superman prepares for takeoff, propelled by gaseous emissions brought on by eating some $4.25 hot dogs and vending cart street meat. Up, up... and Awaaaaaay!!!