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Tuesday, December 31, 2019


It's always sad when a beloved series' creators retire, die, or hand over the creative reins to other hands, so it is with great delight that I go on record as being pleased as Punch with the third volume of ASTERIX from its new creative team, ASTERIX AND THE CHARIOT RACE (2017), and the first that I've read since the departure of the creators. This 37th arc in the long-running Franco-Belgian adventure comedy set during the reign of Julius Caesar finds our Gaulish heroes engaged in grueling chariot race open to all comers from the known world, and the expected frenetic madness ensues. 
Now written by Jean-Yves Ferri and illustrated by Didier Conrad, this story is a letter-perfect replication of the flavor ad style of Goscinny and Uderzo, that — shockingly — restores the iconic characters ad their world to the lively, crazy fun that hooked me to the series some 46 years ago. I am DEEP into Asterix as a fan, so I know its tropes and stylistic touches inside and out, so it's no idle compliment when I say that ASTERIX AND THE CHARIOT RACE is a welcome throwback to the glory days of stories like ASTERIX THE LEGIONARY, ASTRIX IN SPAIN, ASTERIX IN SWITZERLAND, THE MANSIONS OF THE GODS, ad of course ASTERIX AND CLEOPATRA. The script wastes zero time in getting straight to the main action, pitting Asterix and Obelix (whom a soothsayer has prophesied will be a champion charioteer despite his complete and utter lack of experience with the sport) against an array of international competitors from within the Empire ad beyond, and while Conrad's illustrations hew clone-level close to Uderzo's signature style, he imparts his own sensibilities to the characters and their body language in subtle ways that Uderzo never achieved, and that aspect leads me to wonder if Conrad was an animator or if he simply studied and absorbed quality animation design to a comprehensive degree. The recurring cast all look perfect, though now featuring bits of gestural business and "chicken fat" that are likely only detectable to the veteran Asterix-junkie, and the new characters, each saddled with the groaningly-fun but horrendous punny names the strip is infamous for, are all memorable, with my favorites being Kushite charioteer team and princesses "Nefersaynefer" and "Kweenlatifer," who bear more than a passing resemblance to Venus and Serena Williams (respectively).
Bottom line, this one's a fast-paced hoot that has me eager for the next installment from Ferri and Conrad. Final Grade: A+

Obelix contemplates some checkerboard action with Kushite charioteer/princess "Kweenlatifer."

NOTE: The only caveat that I give in regard to this volume is the same one I give to pretty much all of the Asterix books, specifically the series' serial deployment of ethnic stereotyping. I look at it as a very Franco-Belgian exaggeration/caricaturing of all non-French people, done with zero conscious malice, but many others are likely to take offense, especially in today's climate, so keep that aspect in mind. To me, as with pretty much everything, it's a matter of context, but I fully understand why some would find it offensive in this day and age. That said, speaking as lifelong negro, a lot of us do indeed possess "liver lips," so dems da breaks.

Sunday, December 15, 2019


Drawn earlier this evening, off the top of my head and with zero reference, in order to prove a claim. 

A while back I told Charlie (my dear friend Lexi's brother and my chosen nephew) that when THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK came out I was bombarded by my 9th grade classmates with "Draw Yoda!!! Draw Yoda!!!" so I would oblige, and in the process I drew him so many times that I can practically delineate him in my sleep. 

Before tonight's dinner at Lexi's place, I was working out some head structure sketches for a character I'm trying to finalize the look for, and Charlie said "So, are you finally gonna draw Yoda for me?" When it had come up before I had neither pen nor paper, but this time I had my sketchbook with paper of preferred tooth and a blue pencils, so I set to it. What you see here is maybe two minutes of drawing that was interrupted by dinner being served, otherwise I would have finished it. It was sufficient to get across my point of being able to draw Yoda from memory, but I wish I'd had the time to finish it properly.

I've had a creative resurgence of late, something I have not felt in a shamefully long time, so I spent over $400 on replenishing my art supplies at this year's New York Comic Con, and I now take my sketchbook and a modest supply of drawing equipment with me in my regularly-sported back pack, thus facilitating drawing anywhere and at the drop of a dime. It feels good to flex these muscles again.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


From the website.

Well, dear Vaulties, your favorite Bunche will be participating in a panel regarding the special bond between the City and Comic Books, moderated by Paul Levitz, alongside fellow speakers Michael Uslan, Tom DeFalco, Steve Saffel, and Peter Kuper, at the Big Apple Comic Con. For more information, click here, and I hope to see you at the show!

Monday, December 09, 2019


The running red paint on the wrist, hand, and waist of this graffiti-tagging Santa Claus makes me wonder what bloody mayhem the right jolly old elf has been up to to accompany his vandalism...

Sunday, December 08, 2019


Rene Auberjonois, all but unrecognizable beneath his makeup as Odo on STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE (1993-1999), yet he made the character utterly memorable.

R.I.P. to René Auberjonois, best known to most as shape-shifting constable Odo on STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE. However, he will always hold a special place in my heart as the voice of Peter Parker on the classic 1972 children's album THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN: FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE. 

One of the defining albums of my childhood.
It was an excellent Spider-Man audio play, coupled with marvelously cheesy early-1970's "bubblegum"-styled rock songs (making the LP a self-proclaimed "rockomic") that actually accented and propelled the narrative, and it was also the place where I first encountered one of my eventual favorite heroes of all time, specifically Doctor Strange. 
The record also holds a special place in my memory as being a gift that was given to me when my family traumatically moved from South San Francisco to Westport, CT, just a week or two shy of my seventh birthday. I found myself dropped into an unfamiliar and quite hostile environment with no friends while my parents struggled daily with the misery of each other, so I spent many hours listening to this album, escaping from the shit show that was my 7-year-old life while accompanied by the trusted and beloved presence of Spider-Man, who was given a solid vocal performance by Auberjonois. And his back-and-forth interplay with Andrew Robinson and Armin Shimerman on DEEP SPACE NINE was one of the show's defining highlights, proving that the right actor can bring even the most unlikely and fantastical of material to entertaining and believable life.
With Armin Shimerman on STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE.
So, thank you, René, from the bottom of my heart. May you find well-earned rest and peace with the Founders.
The man behind the morphing.

Thursday, December 05, 2019


The thing I dread most about this time of year is the relentless onslaught of treacly Christmas music that can be heard damned near everywhere (and that forces me to resort to listening to more punk and metal than usual in an effort to exorcise its saccharine overload), but this year had been relatively merciful. 
While ordering a pizza at the local schmancy pizzeria, I endured the eight-jillionth repeat of Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song" (you know it, the one about Chet's nuts being roasted by over a campfire by cannibals or something), but the one that made me wat to core out my ears with a melon baller was Bing Crosby's ultra-nauseating triumph of fake "Irishness," "Christmas in Kllarney," which is full of the expected stereotypical "wheedly-whee" flavor that one comes to associate with old Hollywood's movies' trite invocation of Ireland. It's ultra-phony and, for me anyway, it's impossible to hear Bing Crosby these days without inserting my own lyrics about him merrily and drunkenly beating his kids, driving some of them to suicide. Seriously, how is this not horrible?
Come on, New Year's Eve...

Tuesday, December 03, 2019


I just got back from running errands that should have taken only fifteen minutes, but I ended up getting stuck for an hour with the chatty and curmudgeonly woman who now runs the little mom & pop mailbox/postal service that I use instead of bothering with the post office on 9th Street. She's a clone of her recently-deceased brother in every way, and while she's abrasive as fuck I do admit that she's a nice person.

Anyway, I stopped by the mailboxes shop to send off my rent, and she took the opportunity of having me as a captive audience to vent about her issues with the entitled, assholish locals. It wouldn't have been so bad if she weren't an aging hippie chick whose personal hygiene is questionable at best. As I approached the counter I noted a distinct too-human stench emanating from her direction, and upon being within maybe two feet of her as she manned the counter, I realized the waves of stank were coming from her. It was a miasma of very bad B.O. and teeth that probably have not been brushed in days, stale cigarette smoke, something akin to a rotten onion (if applied as a moisturizer), and something that hovered between rotting seafood garbage and two-day-old uneaten wet cat food. Her hair looked like it had not been washed in weeks, and her nails had black grime collecting underneath that was impossible not to notice. The place is basically a tatty allergen trap that looks like it should be in a condemned building (which has been the case for as long as I have lived here), but the accent of her grubby look and derelict stench gave off the air of full-on "Uncle Touchy's Naked Puzzle Basement." In a word, "ECCCH..."