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Saturday, November 30, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 7 - The Eternal Shriek

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The Good Place
Chapter 7 - The Eternal Shriek
Season 1, Episode 7
October 20, 2016

Janet's imitation of human crying is hilarious. So is the failsafe mechanism at the reset button, with her begging for her life. And the faceplant when she is shut down is great. Especially when they call back to it with the montage of resets in season 2. And the casual references to Janets updating with each reset, which becomes important later

First Chidi flashback, with the story of the ugly boots, and how everyone hates moral philosophy professors. Chidi's flashbacks are a lot more understated than the rest of them, without the cartoon extravagance of Tahani's life, the insane version of Jacksonville in Jason's or Eleanor's basic rejection of common manners, but they were still enjoyable, and might end up being more important to the big picture than expected.

"Can we somehow throw Tahani under the bus? That would be a classic two birds with one stone scenario. Plus, I'd get her house. Three birds". I love the delivery of "three birds".
And Eleanor's confession at the end opens up a whole new act for the show, right in the middle of the season.

Podcast for this chapter is Marc talking with D’Arcy Carden and writer Megan Amram. D'Arcy has one of the weirder casting stories, since the character was so nebulous in concept from the beginning.

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Friday, November 29, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 6 - What We Owe to Each Other

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The Good Place
Chapter 6 - What We Owe to Each Other
Season 1, Episode 6
October 13, 2016

The "sexy mailman" became a surprisingly persistent running joke.

Michael faking a breakdown is always funny. I like the bit where he talks about one of the rocks hiding something, mocking him, is really him talking about himself.

And of course the Eleanor teaching Michael to relax and going to karaoke is classic.

The whole subplot of Chidi trying to keep Tahani from finding out about Jason isn't my favourite, it's more of a placeholder until they get where they're going, but there are always some good gags. Jason thinking Tahani meant Frank Caliendo when talking about "impressionists" is just the right level of dumb.

The Eleanor dog sitting flashbacks are pretty funny. The "Wow, I'm ready to be a mom" line takes on new meaning when we finally get to know Eleanor's mom.

Podcast this time is Shawn (he's played by Marc) talking to writers Josh Siegal & Dylan Morgan. Lots of general topics, including how hard Michael Schur and the other writers pushed to have Josh play Glenn.

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Thursday, November 28, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 5 - Category 55 Emergency Doomsday Crisis

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The Good Place
Chapter 5 - Category 55 Emergency Doomsday Crisis
Season 1, Episode 5
October 6, 2016

First flashbacks to Tahani's life and how her sister Kamilah and their wanker parents shaped her. Those are always enjoyable, sort of like the exact opposite world to the Jason flashbacks.

That's a lot of frozen yogurt flavours.

First reference to Donkey Doug. Also first "Ya basic".

The scenes with Bart and Nina are funnier when you've seen the later call-back on them from the demon perspective.

Podcast for this chapter is Marc interviewing Kristen Bell and producter/director Morgan Sackett.  We get the casting story from Kristen, talk about having to keep the secret for the first season and some early talk about David Niednagel's preview effects using his kids.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 4 - Jason Mendoza

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The Good Place
Chapter 4 - Jason Mendoza
Season 1, Episode 4
September 29, 2016

Obviously Jason gets the focus this time, as well as the first Earth flashbacks from anyone but Eleanor. He's pretty epic in his stupidity. Sometimes in the future the writers get a little too extreme in how stupid they present him, so you wonder how he's able to function in society at all, but this time they strike a good balance. Plus, obviously, they place him in this cartoon version of Jacksonville where stupidity is a requirement.

The "Bud-hole" line never fails to amuse the 8-year-old in me.

Just noticed that they foreshadow the Jason/Janet romance with Jason's quick aside asking if Janet is single.

The Tahani subplot, planning the party at Good Plates, was pretty fun, especially given how much the whole party planning thing became both a weakness and a strength for her in later seasons.

Podcast episode for this chapter is Marc Evan Jackson interviewing Manny Jacinto and writer of the episode Joe Mande (also later playing Todd the lava monster). Lots of great stuff, including how Joe had to beg to include the "Bortles" line when Jason tossed the Molotov cocktail, which is funny given how iconic it's become, and since this was taped in 2018 by that point the two of them had already been to Jacksonville to see the Jaguars in the playoffs. Interesting to hear how much of Jason's character, like the dancing, came after they cast Manny.

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Howard Cruse, R.I.P.

Very sorry to hear about the passing of Howard Cruse at age 75. Of course that top image is presented somewhat ironically, since Cruse was primarily known for the exact opposite style of work from the average superhero story, but he did do a good job one major foray into the field.

Cruse is best known for STUCK RUBBER BABY, which is just a remarkably complex work about sexuality, homophobia and race relations in the 1960s American South. Still powerful and relevant today, all the moreso when you look at what else was being published back in 1995 when he created it. It was the peak of a long career in comics as a prolific creator in underground comics, with books like BAREFOOTZ and WENDEL, and the founding editor of GAY COMIX. I'd see his work quite frequently in various anthologies, where it was always a highlight and memorable.


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 3 - Tahani Al-Jamil

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The Good Place
Chapter 3 - Tahani Al-Jamil
Season 1, Episode 3
September 22, 2016

We start to get to know the rest of the cast a little more now, with Eleanor going off to try to prove Tahani isn't as perfect as she appears, while Michael tortures Chidi by getting him to explore other options to his endless dissertation in the afterlife, while Janet tries on a few alternate personalities.

I really liked this one. It was great to see Eleanor and Tahani play off one another, with Eleanor being exactly the two-faced and duplicitous phony that she accuses Tahani of being. I especially liked how she drops the act and can't help but show her real attitude every time Tahani turns away.  And Kristen Bell doing the exaggerated British accent is hilarious.

The prop of the plant that Tahani gives Eleanor reflecting their relationship is pretty funny, especially when it bursts into flames ("Huh. What do you think that means?"). Even funnier when you watch it knowing it's part of Michael's torture matrix.

Tahani's name dropping continues with her time as Baz Luhrmann muse and her diary with an introduction by Malala Yousafzai and Kylie Minogue. That's quite a combination.

I love the running joke about Chidi's dissertation that start here. The whole b-plot is pretty funny, with Janet trying on various personalities, giving D'Arcy Carden a lot more to do than she had in the first two episodes.

And of course at the end we have the revelation of Jason. Unfortunately as I watched this out of order the first time I already knew it was coming, but it must be quite a surprise to those who come in unspoiled. I'm still not sure I buy Jason being able to pull off the silent monk act for as long as he did, with what we see of his impulse control and intelligence later on.

Podcast for this chapter is MEJ interviewing Jameela Jamil and set designer Camille Bratkowski. Jameela is always delightful on these, especially in the ways she deviates wildly from Tahani, and the look behind the scenes of TV production we get from the production people is fascinating, especially as Marc seems genuinely curious about it all.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Doctor Strangefate #1 [1996] (Random Comics Theatre)

Random Comics Theatre

Doctor Strangefate #1 [1996]

This one probably needs some background explanation. Well, not "needs", but I feel like giving it.

Marvel and DC have a historical relationship with ups and downs. From 1976 to 1982 they were friendly enough to manage four crossovers, then the delayed production of a fifth led to a collapse in the relationship, mostly blamed on abnormally large editor-in-chief.

Some welcome changes in management later and they got on well enough to reprint those earlier crossovers in the early 1990s, and then a few years later began to do some new ones. After a few one-shots they went all-in with a 4-issue DC VERSUS MARVEL series, and for various story points that I'm sure make perfect sense if you read the whole series (which I didn't) in the week between #3 and #4 both DC and Marvel released six one-shots each under the "Amalgam Comics" label. These comics presented a mixed universe where everything is combination of something from each company.

(to quickly finish the history, they continued to get along well enough for a second wave of Amalgam one-shots the next year, as well as various other crossovers, culminating in the much delayed JLA/AVENGERS in 2004. Don't think they've done any since, and they don't seem to be able to work together enough to even keep collections of the books in print. You'd think with Avengers and Justice League both being in the titles of big budget movies in the last decade the owners of a book called JLA/AVENGERS would want to have it available to sale)

Anyway, twelve one-shots released in one day. I only picked up two initially, SPIDER-BOY by Karl Kesel and Mike Wieringo and SUPER SOLDIER by Dave Gibbons. The second wave the next year was much more to my taste, with five bought new. I picked up a few more over the years, including this one from the first wave.

The lead of this comic is, of course, a mixture of DC's Doctor Fate (created by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman) and Marvel's Doctor Strange (created by Steve Ditko). Yeah, some of the amalgamated names are clever, some are like this. I almost picked this one up new because of the artwork by José Luis García-López, one of my favourite classic super-hero artists, who did relatively few full length comics of interest to me in the 1990s (he was primarily used by DC for their merchandising artwork and style guides). To add to that, he was inked by Kevin Nowlan, I think for the first time, another great artist whose style works nicely with JLGL. But the solicitation made it clear its plot was heavily intertwined with the crossover, as opposed to the goofy one-shot flavour of most of the other books, and the writer wasn't someone I tended to read.

Seeing it around over the years, the price eventually matched my interest in the art.  And the art was pretty good.  The character has most of Fate's costume, with the helmet, mixed with Strange's cloak of levitation and the Eye of Agamotto inside the amulet. The background is a mix of the Egyptian iconography of Fate and the distinctively Ditkovian elements from Strange, so you get that iconic Strange window from his Greenwich Village brownstone on the tower hq of Fate.

The secondary mixed characters don't work quite as well. For some reason the Hulk is mixed with Solomon Grundy as the Shulk. Doctor Strange's assistant Wong is mixed with Mister Mxyzptlk as Myx. The Scarlet Witch and Zatanna somehow combine to become Wanda Zatara, the White Witch (a different White Witch from the long-time Legion of Super-Heroes member), who at least has a good visual, but acts like neither of the source characters I'm familiar with. The story, such as it is, has Strangefate, being one of the few characters aware that they're in a combined universe, trying to capture the new MacGuffin character introduced in the main series, Access. He succeeds, but then Access escapes, and we get the revelation that Strangefate is in fact Charles Xavier (created by Jack Kirby). This is presented as a surprise ending, though the fake letter column makes it clear it's the established identity of Strangefate in the hypothetical Amalgam universe.

So, y'know, worth it for the artwork, JLGL and Nowlan make a great combination. It's especially interesting to see JLGL doing some Marvel characters. He's been pretty much exclusive to DC since the mid-1970s (with a few exceptions) after some early work at Charlton and Gold Key, and I don't think he's ever worked directly for Marvel, so the only times he's drawn their characters are the cross-company books he did, this and the 1981 BATMAN/HULK book.

That kind of makes me think, how many other creators have only ever worked for either Marvel or DC in their careers, not both. Eventually it seems almost everyone goes crosstown (or now cross country) between them. Even Stan Lee eventually wrote some stuff for DC, after all. I guess Curt Swan is the biggest one, I don't think he ever did anything for Marvel, not even any of the crossovers. I guess Sheldon Mayer, maybe some of the other old-time humour book artists. Doesn't look like Joe Shuster ever worked for Marvel. And Bob Kane, if you consider him a major artist. Hard to think of any major writers. Maybe John Broome. And it looks like Paul Levitz hasn't written for Marvel, which makes sense since he was an employee of DC from a young age until recently. Hm, I might have to research this some more to see who else qualifies.

Well, that's a digression. Anyway, some decent art, well worth a dollar, maybe don't go much higher than that, and just be aware the story won't make much sense without the surrounding crossover, and maybe not even then.

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 2 - Flying

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The Good Place
Chapter 2 - Flying
Season 1, Episode 2
September 19, 2016
It occurs to me re-watching this now that it may have been a mistake for them to air the first two episodes as a one-hour block. I think they work much better if you have some time to sit with the first episode in your head for at least a day, maybe ideally a week, before getting some more. Of course, now that it's going to live forever mostly on either on-demand streaming or physical media, instead of scheduled broadcasting, most people will probably watch the first few episodes without even so much as a commercial break between them.

So I didn't like this quite as much as the premiere, but still enjoyed it.  It's mostly elaborating and expanding on the premise, and then moving it quickly forward with the cliffhanger of the mysterious note.

After hearing later podcast episodes, I do have a greater appreciation for some of the visual touches, like the yellow and blue outfits all being specially tailored to match the styles of the normal clothing of the characters, just made of the custom fabric they had made.

We see the beginnings of Tahani's name dropping in this episode, with her godmother Diana. Doesn't really matter what she's the princess of, not really important.

Still can't believe they had Ted Danson kick a dog into the sun...

It's always kind of weird on re-watch to see the other Good Place residents and their cartoon cheeriness now knowing that they were demons putting on an act.

Podcast episode for this chapter is Marc Evan Jackson (he plays Shawn) speaking with casting directors Allison Jones & Ben Harris and writer Alan Yang. Some good stuff about how the actors were chosen that would get elaborated on in later episodes, and about how Michael Schur explains the concept of the show to people. Also the first hints that Schur could start a cult if he was of a mind to, given how the loyalty and admiration he inspires in his people.

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Sunday, November 24, 2019

TV - The Good Place - Chapter 1 - Everything Is Fine

As I write this, THE GOOD PLACE is on a hiatus, leading up to the final four episodes starting early next year. There's just enough time for a more-or-less daily re-watch of the series to date (with the holidays in there I'm sure there'll be some skip days and catch-up days). So why not? Normal posts will probably be shorter than this one, maybe there'll be a post every few days covering multiple episodes. Note, there will be spoilers as far the the most recent episode ("The Answer"), and maybe eventually up to the series finale.

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The Good Place
Chapter 1 - Everything Is Fine
Season 1, Episode 1
September 19, 2016

I have to admit, I watched this the week it came out and wasn't sold on the show. I liked a lot in it, but I don't think I saw how the concept could sustain a series. So initially I didn't continue past the second episode (broadcast the same night as this). But it stayed in my head, and a few weeks later, as every other new series of the season failed to impress me even more I went back to it (fortunately I kept it on my DVR schedule), liked the later episodes a lot and went back to catch up and wondered why I wasn't all-in from the start.

It's pretty impressive, in retrospect, how much is in the first 23 minutes. We get a lot of Eleanor, of course, and that makes sense since we now know that she is the answer. All the selfishness and arrogance and ability to cover it up with endless charm, scheming and quick thinking. I love some of the facial expressions Bell pulls off. For Michael, it's impossible not to see it now with the knowledge that he's putting on an act, and how it informs the choices that Danson makes in subtle ways. We get enough of Chidi, with the stomachaches and everything, though it would take a few episodes to flesh him out. The rest do enough to be interesting, although they'd have to wait for their focus episodes to really come together.

Some other things.

Once you find out (from the podcast) that Ted Danson pronounces it "Eleaner", but didn't know he did, it's hard to un-hear it. It's very obvious in these early episodes.

Eleanor on her parents: "Maybe they're being used to torture each other. It would work." Wow, talk about telegraphing the ending...

The jokes that need freeze-frame start early, with Michael's film about the points system. Which we now know he was just making up.  I'm sure in the real system using "Facebook" as a verb costs way more than -5.55 points. And the substitute swear words are there from the start. And the audaciousness of the absolutely insane chaos sequence at the end is a good declaration that this isn't a normal network show. It's hard for me to believe that I didn't love it from the start.

Podcast episode for this chapter was Marc Evan Jackson (he plays Shawn) interviewing creator Michael Schur for almost an hour, released June 1, 2018, so from the perspective of having finished filming most or all of season 3. Lots of fascinating stuff on the genesis of the series and evolution of the characters.

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Saturday, November 23, 2019

Gahan Wilson, R.I.P.

Just wanted to note the passing of Gahan Wilson at age 89. Not sure where I first starting seeing his work, probably some of his magazine illustrations back in the 1980s. He was a long-time regular cartoonist for PLAYBOY, NATIONAL LAMPOON and THE MAGAZINE OF FANTASY & SCIENCE FICTION, as well as a lot of book covers. Below are samples from all of those, plus a few other interesting bits. There are a few pin-ups he did for DC's SANDMAN related books, bringing his style to the characters created by Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg. When First Comics revived the CLASSICS ILLUSTRATED line in 1990, the book they chose to open with was Wilson illustrating the selected poems of Edgar Allan Poe, starting with "The Raven". Wilson also did a lot of writing and art for the Paradox Press line of "Factoid Books" that DC published for a few years, including writing all of THE BIG BOOK OF FREAKS (drawing a few chapters himself but mostly with other artists, including Frank Quitely, Russ Heath, Bryan Talbot, Rick Geary and dozens more) and drawing short chapters for many of the other books.


Monday, November 18, 2019

Newly acquired books 2019.11.18

And another batch of old paper, new to me.  This time courtesy of Mile High Comics of Denver.

Looked back at some of Tom Veitch's other prestige format mini-series at DC, THE NAZZ and MY NAME IS CHAOS, and I liked those, so picked up the first issue of the middle one, THE CLASH recently. Seemed interesting enough, so finishing up the run.

Not usually into stray Wildstorm books, but picked up a few issues of the Barbara Kesel written SAVANT GARDE and it seemed fun, so now I have the rest of it.

ADVENTURE ILLUSTRATED was a 1981 anthology meant to be on-going but only lasting one issue. But look at that roster. Don Heck. Pat Boyette. Mike Sekowsky. Bill Sienkiewicz. Mark Evanier. Ditko's Mocker would have been in #2.

Last issue of ACTION COMICS WEEKLY I needed to finish the 42 issue run. Some great stuff in there. Lots of really good. Quite a bit of not so much. But let's focus on the good...

Last CBLDF benefit LIBERTY ANNUAL I needed. I think this one was briefly hot because of the WALKING DEAD story.

One more CRITTERS non-anthology issue, four more to go. Although the "Birthright" issues I don't hold out much hope for finding, so really one more to go.

I don't think I even realized for a long time that these last few issues of TROLLORDS existed, but they did. Surprisingly long running indy comic by Scott Beaderstadt and Paul Fricke.

Handful of Mike W. Barr comics. Original OUTSIDERS run finally complete. DOC SAVAGE series complete. Need one more MAZE AGENCY.

Didn't like the Kurt Busiek / James Fry SHADOWHAWK series enough to keep getting it back in 1995, but I picked up a few more recently and kind of liked it. So now I have a full run.

Handful of early BACCHUS issues from Eddie Campbell. I have most of the comics in one form or another, but I do like the covers and back up material, so I figured I might try to get a full run of this. Only 47 more to go!

I somehow missed that Dwayne McDuffie finished up this run of FIRESTORM, with a Fourth World related story. Well, better late than never.

The first issue of the long-running MS. TREE. I had the early stories in a black and white reprint, but recently found a few of the original colour issues and figured I might as well finish up the set.

Yeah, I have another edition of the DeMatteis / Williams BLOOD: A TALE, but this Vertigo series has different covers, and some things I just don't mind having multiple editions of...

A few issues of CYBERNARY, a comic Steve Gerber wrote for Wildstorm/Image in the 1990s. Never really heard much about it, but I was on a Gerber kick a few months back and threw just about everything he wrote I didn't already have on my wantlist. One more on the way and I'll read it then.

Another Jerry Ordway / Peter Krause SHAZAM issue I thought I had but couldn't find. Now to read them and decide if I want to get the last 30 issues of the series.

Somehow missed these last two issues of Eric Shanower's AGE OF BRONZE a decade ago. Hope he comes back to the series someday, either in the original form or the new colour editions he's doing.

Never cared much about CrossGen, except ABADAZAD, but I picked up a stack of them I was mildly interested in really cheap last year, and these three are a few random holes in those sets.

A few more BORIS THE BEAR issues, closing up the holes in my collection. When I get around to reading them I'll decide if I want the last six issues of the series I still need.

The first issue of Ty Templeton's STIG'S INFERNO. And yeah, I have the collection, but this has some back-ups not reprinted. Stop looking at me like that!

Been seeing BOZZ CHRONICLES ads in Epic books of the mid-1980s for years, and it seemed like it might be interesting. Found #1 recently, it was interesting enough, picked up a few more but couldn't find these two. So there's another one for the never-ending reading pile.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

"..and meet the sun" (reprise) (reprise)

Just to update a recent post, the latest reprint of the 1980s SWAMP THING series is out now, in DC's deluxiest format, so let's see how one particular page looks...

Well, that's definitely one way to go...

So the words are there, moved around a bit, and they added a hard border to the previously free-floating caption. I might quibble that since the caption is Alec Holland narration, it should be in the iconic crusty format, not a rectangle. Or just leave it as and where John Costanza lettered it. Though I don't mind the correction of the opening ellipsis to the proper three dots.

Now, about that new colouring... oops, outta time, gotta go.
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