Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Ten Comics That Changed My Life--Part 5

Walt Disney Comics Digest #7

Even without it, the memory of some comic books linger, even after they have been lost or thrown away. This is one of those for me. I wish I could show you the cover for this comic, but it is either rare or those people who have copies just haven’t gotten around to scanning it into a Website for my use. I know I saw this comic in Woolworth’s in downtown Milwaukee. Unless I looked it up, I couldn’t even tell you what the other stories were in the book, but there was one story included that introduced me to Carl Barks, “The Good Duck Artist.”

The story was Barks’s “Gyro Gearloose and Gus Goose on the Dream Planet.” Gus, Grandma Duck’s lazy farmhand, describes to Gyro the planet of his dreams where the denizens are all as lazy as he is and none the worse for it. Gus even points out where it is in the sky. Gyro, being an inventor, has a rocket capable of the flight; soon, he and Gus are on their way. Upon their arrival, Gus is delighted, and Gyro disheartened, by the laziness of the citizens—who are very goose-like in appearance—beings who refuse to make a minimum effort for anything. For instance, after Gus plops himself down under a tree to join in on the laziness, the person next to him says he is hungry. As luck would have it, an apple falls from the tree within an inch of the beings hand. Gus points out that he could reach out and pick up that apple. The response is that that would be too much work, soon enough, an apple will fall into his open hand.

Gyro, in a naïve effort to help progress along, picks up a fallen tree branch and uses it to shake an apple-bearing branch. So many apples fall that they carry Gus’s new buddy-in-lolling off and into a river. Though wet, he sees that the apples helped him do less work because he didn’t have to walk to the river (plus it allowed him to get a drink without having to wait for it to rain). First, apples are used for transport, but pumpkins as carriages quickly replace them and then gravity is replaced (movement was limited to just rolling downhill) as the new automobiles are powered by rubber band engines. As Gus watches his utopia slip away, he and Gyro see the telegraph, telephone, and rockets invented seemingly within moments of the original apple roll into the river. Worn out by just watching all the activity in the name of doing less, Gus tells Gyro it is time to go back to Grandma’s farm. Gyro agrees, taking the branch that started it all with him. As they head back, Gus takes the branch, leans it into the floor, and rests himself into its crook. On response to Gyro, Gus says that at least he can still dream of his dream planet.

I was around eight years old when I first read the story and probably beginning to truly understand differences in quality of a comic book based on just looking at the art. I mean, I was aware that Batman was drawn in Justice League was different from how he was drawn in his own comic, but until I read this story I never been viscerally affected by the differences. There were other stories in that digest featuring the Duck characters, but I just wasn’t as engaged by those as I had been by “Dream Planet.”

There were other Disney comics around the house, but now I only enjoyed the Duck stories by whoever (alone or in tandem) had written and drawn “Dream Planet,” the unknown “Good Duck Artist.” I was twelve or thirteen when I read The Comic-Book Book and learned that the writer/artist was Carl Barks. When I was eight, however, I didn’t need to know the name because it was the stories he created that mattered.

On a larger scale, I can mark this story as being the one where I started to be discriminating. Not that I wouldn’t have read every comic book printed if possible, but unless the art or story weren’t where I expected them to be, even at eight or nine, I was disappointed. For example, it appears that everyone else who was reading comics in 1969/1970 worships at the altar of Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams, first for their work on Green Lantern, then for their post-Batmania Batman. I felt cheated when I read any of those comics because I thought the stories boring and had trouble following the art. At nine years old, I was an opinionated comic fan. Thank you, “Gyro Gearloose and Gus Goose on the Dream Planet,” for starting me along that path.

By the way, while I have grudgingly accepted O’Neil’s and Adams’s work with Batman, I’ve yet to find anything in their work with Green Lantern. Green Arrow gaining a beard and an attitude doesn’t make up for my nine-year-old self not getting to read more stories by John Broome and Gil Kane. But that’s just me.

Monday, January 30, 2006

One More Interruption

ToyFair 2006 opens in two weeks. We'll soon have hundreds pictures of the new toys (read: "those toys that are related to comic books, i.e. action figures") that should be released through this year and into the next.

The UK ToyFair was last week and there were three items that I thought to be interesting. (All images from Action-Figure.com, specifically starting from this page.)

Marvel Legends Young Avengers Box Set
If you'd ask me to predict which team would be getting a box set, I would have predicted the Thunderbolts because of time in service, if nothing else or hoped for a Golden Age Marvel set featuring the Invaders and the Liberty Legion. That ToyBiz had the Young Avengers on display means that Marvel must understand that the word of mouth about Young Avengers has been better than the buzz for New Avengers.

Here's a picture of the figures in the packaging:

Here's a close-up, less the glare of the previous picture, that show off the characters better:

From left: Iron Lad, Patriot, Hulkling, and Asgardian

Marvel Legends Monsters Box Set
If you told me that ToyBiz was going to release a Champions box set, I'd have believed that before believing a Monsters set was on ToyBiz schedule (and then a Monsters set that didn't include a Man-Thing repaint, to boot). Here's the set:

Here are close-ups of the four figures:Clockwise from upper left: The Zombie, the Monster of Frankenstein, Werewolf by Night, Dracula.

I know that there are going to be complaints that the Monster and Werewolf figures don't resemble Mike Ploog's art, and that the Dracula sculpt wasn't based on Gene Colan's work. I can understand those complaints. However, the Monster figure does look like it was based on Boris Vallejo's cover paintings from Marvel's old black & white magazine, Monsters Unleashed,

while the Dracula figure looks like it used the Neal Adams-drawn cover for Tomb of Dracula #1 for inspiration.

Marvel Legends Masterworks
I hate pre-posed action figures; they might as well be statutes. I hate the high cost of the statues that have come from DC and Marvel; I'd rather buy the unassembled, unpainted resin pieces and make the statue like a model. However, this set looks like it could be both a display piece and a toy that can be played with:
We really are living in a golden age of comic books and comic book-related merchandise.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Comics In My Future For March 2006 (conclusion)

Continuing with my March DCBS order:

X-Statix Presents Dead Girl #3

Spider-Girl #96
Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane #4
The pessimist in me keeps me buying these comics. We don’t have any kids, but even if we have a child in the next year, I don’t have any assurance that comics will be printed in the traditional format within the next five, let alone that there will be any comics from the Big 2 that are child-safe or that would appeal to a little girl. I also read these and will miss Spider-Girl when issue #100, its last, comes out. I likeMary Jane too, and I admire it for basically being a teen drama with Spider-Man in a supporting role.

Apart for Squadron Supreme #1
I’m giving it a chance even though I’ve been caring less and less about this title as it petered to an end as a Max title. Unless something makes it stand out, this could be gone before the first arc is completed.

Captain America #16
Captain America 65th Anniversary Special
I’ll still lukewarm about Captain America (and I may be the only person who no great feeling about the title who wasn’t angry about “Winter Soldier”), but I’ll stay with it for a little while longer. Since Miller crushed the joy out of Daredevil and he can’t fill the role, I wouldn’t mind a Cap title that was just bounding with the energy it had forty years ago when it shared space with Iron Man in Tales of Suspense.

Fantastic Four #536
Someday, Karl Kesel will get the full-time writing gig on this title, but until then I’ll bide my time reading about child services trying to take the kids from Reed and Sue.

I (Heart) Marvel: Masked Intentions
I still don’t understand the point of these I • Marvel comics, but they look fun and the daughter who is just a twinkle in my eye, might like them.

Iron Man #6
Wow, a monthly Iron Man mini-series that will end before the one-year mark.

Marvel Team-Up #18
I think this isn’t selling better because the stories actually move along and that confuses people. Robert Kirkman has to start writing multiple talking-head scenes that fill up space and don’t move the story.

Marvel Adventure Spider-Man #13
Marvel Adventures Fantastic Four #10
If you read interviews with fans from that time, the Silver Age Marvel comics written by Stan Lee were then considered suitable for adults and daring. Now, stories told the exact same way are appropriate for children in a way current Marvel comics apparently are not. There are a couple of problems in that scenario that I think are part of the reason comic book circulation isn’t any better.

New Avengers #17
New Magnaverse #3
Nick Fury’s Howling Commandos #6
Pulse #14
I bash Bendis because I love and I don’t think I’ll be buying this any more after he leaves with this issue.

She-Hulk 2 #6
Thing #5
Thunderbolts #100
Young Avengers #11
Ultimate Extinction #11
I cannot believe I’ve stayed with this since the story began in Ultimate Secret five hundred years ago, but I’m stubborn that way.

Ultimate Fantastic Four #28
I’m loving the stories and as individual pictures, I enjoy Greg Land’s art. However, can anyone honestly say with a straight face that the art is nothing more than a series of models posing? I’ve never been one to care one way or the other about how women are drawn in comic books, but even though Land understands anatomy better than other artists, he still shows the lack of common sense when it comes to clothing female characters poorer artists showed in the ninties. Look at the cover for this issue below.

If Reed Richards is the smartest man on earth, why the hell would he let his girlfriend go out to do battle with the Super Skrull in a halter and open jacket? You can’t even use the old “distraction” excuse because one would think that mammalian secondary sexual characteristics would mean nothing to a reptile. I don't care if she can create invisible force fields, even in a tank, you where your helmet.

Ultimate Spider-Man #s 91 and 92
I have a love/hate relationship with this comic. I find it very slow and it reads way too fast, but then every once in while something happens, like Peter dating Kitty Pryde, that makes it worthwhile. More than any other Spider-Man title, this is the one where Peter should tell his aunt about Spider-Man and it is frustrating that he doesn’t. Still, Bendis and Bagley, long ago, said they wanted to stay on this title as long as Lee and Kirby stayed on Fantastic Four, which means, barring something amazing, come #103, I’ll drop this title.

Powers #18
Still the comic that Bendis writes that I enjoy the most and the letters page never fails to make me laugh hard.

Marvel Masterworks Golden Age Marvel Comics, vol 2.
After playing a far second when it comes to reprinting its past, Marvel has come on strongly with its latest reprints of its Golden Age material. Unlike DC, Marvel took a chance and reprinted complete original comics, not just the stories of individual characters. Thank you, Marvel.

And The Rest
Victoria’s Secret Service #4
This comic is what I thought it was going to be—for some reason I thought it was going to focus on a group of female secret agents who worked for Queen Victoria—but the first few issues have been inoffensive, so I’ll at least finish the first story arc.

Bongo Comics
Simpsons Comics #116
Futurama Comics #24

Boom! Studios
Hero Squared Ongoing #1
I hope “Ongoing” is going to be an ongoing part of the title.

Gemstone Publishing
Donald Duck and Friends #338
Mickey Mouse and Friends #287
Uncle Scrooge #352
Walt Disney Comics & Stories #667

Heroic Publishing
Flare #33
Roy Thomas’ Anthem #2
Roy Thomas writing a comic set during World War II. I hope he’s done enough research on the era.

MR Comics
Big Max #1
If you can only buy one comic book featuring a super-powered gorilla, it might as well be the one written by Dan Slott.

Revolution on the Planet of the Apes #4

Speakeasy Comics
Black Coat: Call to Arms #1
What was the last comic book you bought that was set during the pre-American Revolution America?

Kingdom Hearts, vol. 3

Comic related items
Action Figures
From DC Direct, the Manhunter Robot and Saalak Green Lanternaction figures

Back Issue #15
TwoMorrows published this and Alter Ego are two of the best comic history magazines around. I’d order Alter Ego if I wasn’t already a subscriber.

The Ultimates: Tomorrow Men

Here endth the March order.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Comics In My Future for March 2006

I'm taking a break from comics that changed my life by inserting another series of posts. Because I get all my comics at the end of the month they are released, I don’t have the luxury of talking about them when they are released. However, with my January order due in to DCBS in a couple of days, I can at least discuss that in a timely manner. As of now, here’s the order that I'll be placing:

Dark Horse

A very slim month for Dark Horse from me, but most of their books don’t really interest me. I’d been buying the Little Lulu trades and enjoying them, but unemployment has forced me to make some choices, so Lulu was one of the titles that went.

Hellboy Makoma #2


“One Year Later” starts with this month and I’m adding some titles. However, it isn't because I'm interested in how OYL has changed them, but rather because there are books I’ve wanted to read (or start reading again) but the creative teams weren’t doing anything to make the books appealing.

Batman #651
Detective Comics #817
Apart for Batman Strikes! I haven’t made an effort to buy an ongoing Bat-title in a long time; I just can’t respect the Batjerk DC has been allowing into print since the early nineties. However, with James Robinson writing both titles for three issues (and Paul Dini scheduled to take over Detective after Robinson) I guess I’ll be back, but carefully. The first time Batman treats a peer as a lesser, uses body blows as a substitute for detective work, or can’t see past the border of Gotham City, I’m dropping both titles.

Batman Annual #25
I’ll get it because I’m a sucker for annuals. In the eighties, the only time I ever bothered with some books was when I bought the annual. However, Judd Winick writing anything but his Barry Ween character scares me, because I know that all too soon, HIV will enter some character’s life and Winick will be on his soap box again.

All Star Superman #3
Take Frank Miller’s crapfest that is his version of Batman (apart from what he did in The Dark Knight Returns #2, divide it into the number one, and you have an idea of how much I enjoy this comic.

Superman #650
Action Comics #837
With Kurt Busiek and Geoff Johns, I have to think (hope) the stories will be more about Superman and less about Lois Lane’s bitchiness/randiness. However, I can only hope that Pete Woods’s art is a match since I’ve never seen it.

Supergirl #7
I have to admit that I haven’t liked Loeb’s writing on this book—in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever liked his writing—but I’m not sure Greg Rucka would have been my go-to guy here. My first choice would have been Gail Simone. I’m not crazy about Ian Churchill’s art, either. I’ll give this one a chance, but it’ll probably be among the first to go.

Superman/Batman #25
Thank you, Jebus! Jeph Loeb is finished writing this comic book and I hope he is taking “Lantern Jaw” Ed McGuinness with him. I don’t remember who is taking over the writing, but I hope whoever it is either does away with the internal dialog captions or has Superman and Batman admit their love. I really hate those captions.

Showcase Presents The Superman Family, vol. 1.
I bet I have at least half of the stories in this book in other reprint collections, but even at full price it is worth to read even one classic Jimmy Olsen story I don't own.

Superman Archives, vol. 7
Money is tight and I should pass this up, but the stories in this series have been getting better, so what the hell.

Infinite Crisis #6
I might as well see where this is heading; plus, I’m a sucker for the damn thing. If only the problems that were seething below the surface of the DCU hadn’t had to come to a head because of Identity Crisis.

Omac Project Identity Crisis Special
Aquaman Sword of Atlantis
Buying it for Busiek; I’ll see if I buy into the concept as a whole and stick around.

Birds of Prey #92
If only the Dodsons did more than the cover art for this comic.

Blood of the Demon #13
Green Lantern #10
Hawkgirl #50
I stopped buying Hawkman long ago, but the creative team of Walt Simonson and Howard Chaykin intrigues me enough to give the “OYL” version a try.

Manhunter #20
JLA Classified #s 18 & 19
JSA #83
Even if I wasn’t already pledged to buy this until the day I die, I’d have to buy it to see if Paul Levitz still has his writing chops.

JSA Classified #10
Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #16
A book I’ve been getting, but I have to admit that the “Supergirl” portion of the title has me excited just because it harkens back to the good old, pre-Crisis On Infinite Earths days of SuperBOY and the Legion of Super-Heroes

Even with Barry Kitson drawing it, I still don't like this version of Supergirl's costume.
Showcase Presents Teen Titans, vol. 1
Teen Titans #34
Seven Soldiers: Bulleteer #4
Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #4
Seven Soldiers: Mr. Miracle #4
I have to admit Grant Morrison’s pulled Seven Soldiers off so far while staying coherent. I didn’t think he’d do it.

Spirit Archives, vol. 18
The American Way #2
Desolation Jones #6
Ex Machina #20
Fables #47
Y, the Last Man #43
The best news I read this week is that this series has a definite ending around issue #60. Good. I don’t hate it, but it is becoming boring and I would have considered dropping it. Actually, a new story begins in this issue; maybe I will drop it and wait for the trade, even if trade collections go against everything that is good and pure about comics.

The Batman Strikes #19
Teen Titans Go! #29
Cartoon Network’s canceling of this show was really dumb, but understandable. CN needs the time to show such classic cartoon features as Snow Day.

Justice League Unlimited #19
Would that the mainstream DCU be half as intriguing as this cover or half as fun as this comic book in general post-Infinite Crisis.


Truth, Justin, and the American Way #1
Gun Fu trade paperback
I missed this the first time around and the description in Previews makes it sound like fun.

Retro Rocket #1
I’m a sucker for giant robots and clean art. Shoot me.

PVP #25
And I’m a sucker for comic books that are funny.

Fear Agent #6
Girls #11
You know, I didn’t like this comic’s first issue; I thought it was going to be another “relationship” comic like the brothers Lunas’Ultra had been. Boy, was I wrong. This is a creepy science fiction mystery that I really surprises me and I am looking to see where the characters will be when the story is told. ABC’s Invasion should be this good.

I never thought I’d say this, but I am actually enjoying something Joe Casey is writing. I guess a hundred million miracles do happen every day.

The Intimidators #4
Savage Dragon #124

Tomorrow, the rest of the order.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The Ten Comics That Changed My Life--Part 4

4. Avengers Annual #2: “And Time, the Rushing River"

There are some comic books that once you see the cover, you have to have them; this is one of those for me. I’ll admit it, I’m a sucker for covers showing heroes battling heroes, especially in configurations like this where the then current Avengers battled the original Avengers.

I remember the day this one was bought for me. In downtown Milwaukee, there was exactly one traditional news stand by the mid-1960s, but what a newsstand. It had the shape of a large triangle. one side was all magazines, I don't think I looked there a total of ten times my whole life, while the other side was predominantly comic books with the assorted racing form (though Milwaukee didn't even have legalized horse racing) and Sporting News racked above and below them. The owner was a dwarf, who had at least one normal-sized sone that helped him run the stand, usually at night. My clearest memories of either of those two men is seeing one or both of the huddled in the doorway of Walgreen's, trying to keep warm in the winter or dry when it rained.

Making trips to that newsstand was one of the great joys of my life. There were stores in my neighborhood that sold comic books, but especially as I got older, I learned that if I wanted to make sure I got the next issue of a continued story, a trip to the news stand was required. In that respect, I appreciate the convenience of a comic book store, but I miss the newsstand. I miss the excitement of surprise the news stand offered, going there and not knowing which comics will have new issues or actually seeing a cover that makes you want to buy the comic. Even before the Internet, the surprise was going out of buying comic books because of the direct market. When you have to buy a catalog three months before the comics inside are released so that you can pre-order the comics you want, that pretty much takes away the mystery no matter how hard you try.

Apart from the cover, Avengers Special #2 makes the list because it was the first comic I can remember confusing me. I was seven when I got the comic and I could read, but those two things do not necessarily add to understanding. When this comic was published, I had at least a passing knowledge of some of Marvel's characters and continuity cobbled together from cartoons and other comics I'd looked at, so you'd think I’d be able to follow the story.

However, this is the first Roy Thomas-written story I can admit to reading and, let's face it, those who have read any amount of his mainstream super hero work knows continuity matters to him. What that meant is that a seven year old had dumped headfirst into a story that leaned heavily upon past events. Like Mighty Crusaders #4, this comic is chock full o’ heroes, villains, and plot. There’s time travel, parallel dimensions, and flashbacks to foreshadowed events. Even the Watcher shows up in the end to explain a Scarlet Centurion-Dr. Doom-Rama Tut connection I wouldn't have even known existed had Thomas not decided to tell me about.

Did I run from comic books after this one because of my confusion? Was I fearful of trying another Marvel comic for fear of feeling left out? Of course not, if for no other reason that there would have only been four comics that changed my life.

This comic showed me that there was a bigger picture to comic books than just the one I had created piecemeal from my relatively few sources; the world of Marvel comic books was bigger than just the comic was holding at any particular moment. Without understanding the concept, or what it would eventually mean to mainstream comic books within the next few years, I began to figure out that Marvel comic books required you to know inter- and intra-title continuity.

Armed with this knowledge, I began to seek out old comics whenever my parents went to rummage sales. I became the target audience for reprint comics, obtaining an oversized reprint book whenever I could talk my parents into paying a whole twenty-five cents for a new comic whichever parent I was with when I was bought Avengers Special #2 must have been in a particularly good mood. I wonder how my parents would react if I told them that there was a time I paid (pre-Internet) fifty dollars a shot for hardcover reprinting of comic books? I probably shouldn’t; they aren’t young and many was the time they would choke at the thought of paying a quarter.

Oh, and there was a strange parody story here, too, showing the behind-the-scenes machinations of the Bullpen as they put together the latest issue of Avengers, complete with pint-sized super-heroes running amuck. You know what, I still don't know what the hell is really going on in that story.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Ten Comics That Changed My Life--Part 3

3. Mighty Crusaders #4: ”Too Many Super Heroes!”

By the time this comic book came out, the word was out that I loved the comic books. (Actually, with publishers dating comic books three months ahead of the month they are released, there is a very good chance that this comic, dated “April,” was actually released in January 1966, the month Batman premiered. With the word out, assorted relatives—well, probably just my mother and grandmother—started to buy them for me unbidden.

However, unless I was there, I had no assurance that I would be getting anything that I would actually want. I obtained many a Casper, Dennis the Menace, Hot Stuff, and Archie that way. Now, I admit that I looked at everything I was bought—and Istill have a fondness for Silver Age Casper and Hot Stuff—but given the choice, I would have chosen Doom Patrol over Casper's Ghostland any day.

Eventually, my family began to realize that it was super hero comic books that I really wanted. That resulted in an increase of Detective Comicsand Tales of Suspense coming into my possession. It also resulted in my seeing some less familiar super heroes like Gold Key’s Owl and Magnus.

(I’ll be honest and say that when I was a child I really disliked Gold Key comics that featured realistic humans, as opposed to cartoony humans like Elmer Fudd. I hated the covers, whether painted or, in the case of adaptations, repurposed publicity photos. I hated the stiff art and, when I learned how to read, I hated the stories because they felt pointless. I really only began to appreciate some of these comics within the last fifteen years beginning with Valiant’s reprinting Magnus, Robot Fighter and continues now with Dark Horse’s reprinting of Magnus , Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom, and M.A.R.S. Patrol Total War. If Dark Horse decides the market would support it, I’d like to see a reprinting of Space Family Robinson, which was Lost in Space long before the television series of that name was a twinkle in Irwin Allen’s eye. I still can’t bring myself to pick up the recent reprints of Gold Key’s Star Trek, though. This site provides the story of the relationship between the comic book and television series.)

As I was saying, I was beginning to see super heroes that didn’t come from Marvel or DC. It was during this time that I first looked at Mighty Crusaders #4; like the others, it was a comic that just appeared. I looked at it occasionally, but it never really sparked with me then. The comic languished in the comic book box, a big brown cardboard box in the closet where my brothers and I tossed the comics when we were told to put them away; I use proper comic boxes now, but still eschew the use of bags and boards.)

For anyone who hasn’t heard of this series or comic, Mighty Crusaders was published by Archie Comics under the guise of the Mighty Comics Group. During the Golden Age, MLJ Magazines—the company that would evolve into Archie Comics after the company realized which of their characters was buttering their bread—published straightforward super-hero comic books featuring the Shield, the Web, Hangman, the Comet, the Black Hood, and many others, but dropped them in favor of Archie and his friends by the end of World War II. In the late fifties, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby landed at Archie and produced two new comics, The Adventures of the Fly and The Double Life of Private Strong, the latter a reworking of the earlier Shield now in a Captain America mold.

By 1964, Jerry Siegel and Paul Reinman were working on the super hero line. In his writing, Siegel showed an amazing ability to predict trends as his stories were campy seven months before Batman was on television. He also, in what may have been an attempt to emulate the crossovers Stan Lee was doing at Marvel (in fact, a lot of the trappings of the Archie super-hero line at that time could be construed as having been crafted to copy Marvel), began reintroducing Archie’s Golden Age heroes. In his first issue (#31) of The Adventures of the Fly, now re-titled Fly-Man he brought back the Comet, the Black Hood, and what appeared to be the original Shield (he was actually his son). Those three, along with Fly-Man and Fly-Girl, formed a team, the Mighty Crusaders. After meeting for there for three more issues, the group was given its own title.

The story in Mighty Crusaders is incredibly simple, written by Siegel in his best “coincidence mode.” On the splash page, the Mighty Crusaders are gathering for a meeting, which is going to be broadcast on television, when an enemy attacks them. It is just the first of many such attacks from many different villains that were beaten back by the Crusaders and, my hand to God, every single super hero Archie published during the Golden Age. Alone and in pairs they arrived, for twenty-four pages, many choosing that day to come out of retirement, all of them demanding to join the Crusaders. In the end, none of them joined and the story ended as it began, with the Crusaders needing to hold their meeting.

In retrospect, I don’t know why I didn’t like this comic right away as it as everything I want to in a mainstream super-hero comic: action, soap opera melodrama disguised as character development, and the reintroduction of Golden Age super heroes. Thinking about the comic right now, I wish I had access to my copy so I could read it again, but at the time it did nothing for me. What changed my feeling toward the comic was that by the seventies I was reading books like All in Color For a Dime that introduced me to comic book history. Where else but Mighty Crusaders #4 could I actually see a clear picture of characters like Steel Sterling, Roy, the Mighty Boy, and Bob Phantom?

In that context, “Too Many Super Heroes!” retroactively became my “The Flash of Two Worlds”: It gave me access to “forgotten” characters in a way like no other comic I owned. I know that this comic is the one that helped foster my interest in the history of comic books and for “forgotten” characters, those characters published no longer or sporadically. To this very day, I am still a sucker for every character revival, JLA/JSA team-up, or reprint that comes down the pike and I know a great part of that is due to Mighty Crusaders #4; quite a feat for a comic I didn’t really have any opinion one way or the other when I first read it.

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Ten Comics That Changed My Life--Part 2

2. Superman #193

There were other stories in this issue, but only one has stayed with me since 1967 is the original, classic “The Death of Superman.” (A quick check of The Greatest Superman Stories Ever Told shows that this story was originally presented in Superman #149, 1961.) I was six when I came across this book and I was probably at exactly the right age to fall under the spell of the writing style editor Mort Weisinger championed among his writers. I know that every CHOKE!, GASP! and zee . . . zee . . . zee make post-modern comic fans wince with embarrassment. Personally, I think that such shorthand helps convey a story to those who are “age challenged” and helps keep a story in a manageable package, as opposed to, oh, let’s say, a two-part story stretched into a four-part arc, just the right size for a trade paperback reprinting.

Superman #193 (above) reprinted "The Death of Superman," which was originally printed in Superman #149 (left).
(Images from Grand Comcs Book Database

Fittingly, Superman co-creator, Jerry Siegel, wrote the story. To a comic fan that started reading comic within the last eighteen years or so, I’m sure the story is terribly presented and incredibly hokey; the story doesn’t progress because of character motivation as much as a series of events occur. A Superman story from the Weisinger era often feels as though they were written to the tempo of The Saber Dance. I can even almost see Weisinger standing behind his desk, snapping his fingers as he gives each order ala James Cagney in One, Two, Three, telling Siegel to move on.

Beyond that, however, this was the first comic book story to affect me. I mean really get to me. I knew Superman wasn’t dead, if only because there were other Superman stories in the comic book, but I was still able to understand how important it would have been had Superman really died.

The story draws you in slowly. Maybe Luthor really does want to reform. He cured cancer, for goodness sake, and later he stood up to criminals threatening him with death if he didn’t play ball. Maybe only a child, or Superman, could actually believe that someone so evil could really reform. Then comes Luthor’s betrayal and Superman’s slow death at his hand by kryptonite poisoning, Luthor turning the screw by forcing the hero’s dearest friends to watch.

The third chapter is where I completely bought into the story as we are shown the world mourning Superman. The opening mini-splash alone convinced of how important this story was because not only was Batman in line to pay his respects as Superman lie in state, but Aquaman, Flash, Green Arrow and Wonder Woman where there, too. Batman was known to be Superman’s friend, they were in a comic book together, so for other heroes to show up underlined the importance of the event.

(I know that even as a young pre-reader, it was never a problem that aliens would invade Flash’s home city, for instance, yet Superman never showed up to help out. Maybe because I was learning about comic books on my own, I easily was able to keep each character in his or her little comic world. Flash stories were over there and Green Lantern stories over there and Justice League adventures in a third place and there was no intersection--or as we call it now, "continuity"--unless it was necessary. Like in “The Death of Superman.”)

In counterpoint, Luthor was celebrating with the underworld cronies, gangsters and molls from this side of The Adventures of Superman. As Luthor gloated and lovingly retold the tale of his triumph to his admirers, a statue and a painting depicting Superman’s final moments, loom behind him. He had killed Superman and, subconsciously, I was becoming aware of how potent a medium “comic books” could be, if you were willing to let yourself believe in the story.

Then, magnificently, Superman returns! He crashes through a wall, rubble flying, surprising the gathered criminals! Of course, he’s alive; Superman can’t die!

In the second panel, Superman ends Luthor’s celebration as the criminal scientist’s compatriots turn on him verbally. Then, in the next panel, we see that it isn’t Superman, but Supergirl in disguise, revealing her existence to the world by capturing her cousin’s murderer.

Supergirl flies Luthor off to Kandor, the Kryptonian city shrunken and preserved by Brianiac before, now safe in Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Luthor will answer for his crime before a tribunal of Superman’s fellow survivors as the world watches. More knowing, I can now see the parallel between Luthor’s trial and the post-World War II war crime trials.

Throughout this story, the art of Curt Swan, with George Klein inking, has been wonderful, as always. Others may favor Swan teamed with Murphy Anderson, or Joe Shuster, or Wayne Boring, but to me the perfect Superman art team was Swan and Klein. Looking at Luthor as he stands trial, you can see the muscles in Luthor’s face radiating his arrogance, the contempt he feels for the Kandorians palatable.

His contempt grows from his belief that he is still in control of the situation, that no sentient being is truly honorable. In exchange for his release, Luthor offers to enlarge Kandor again, something Superman had promised to do for his fellow Kryptonians. To his surprise, the tribunal rejects the offer and Luthor is sentenced to death, one more humane than what he caused Superman to suffer.

The story ends with Supergirl and Krypto (“Now I belong to . . . Supergirl,” the dog thinks) patrolling the skies, taking up Superman’s never-ending battle. In the final panel, a ghostly, heroic shade of Superman waves his down upon the two from the heavens (or Heaven), wishing them well.

How in the world could a kid not want to keep on reading comic books after a roller coaster ride like that? They don’t write them like that anymore; they probably don’t dare. I don’t know how kindly the comic fan of today would take to an imaginary story breaking up the “flow” of continuity. I think that fans cheat themselves out of some great stories because they want every issue of every continuing series they buy to be a required piece of continuity. Not that imaginary stories aren’t being written anymore, but they are usually presented as expensively packaged mini-series that don’t sell as well as they could.

This story showed me that the basic underlying theme of any, what we would today call “mainstream,” super hero story should be hope. Superman died, but his killer was captured and punished. Maybe more importantly, Superman’s legacy continued. For a young child, the world is black and white and I think it should be for as long as possible. Shades of grey will come soon enough, sometimes it seems sooner than it had for the previous generation. Had I been six years old and the story I’d read been ambiguous story (or just one part of a year-long event), I can’t say that I would have wanted to read other Superman comic books.

This story stays with me, who age and experience have pushed toward pessimism, still if only because it is unashamedly optimistic, allowing for hope in the most dire circumstances. And I’m secure enough to say that I like that outcome still.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Ten Comics That Changed My Life--Part 1

Until I ran out of time because of law school. I was a subscriber to Jim Kingman's old-school fanzine, Comic Effect. One continuing feature is a series of articles titled, "The Ten Comics That Changed My Life." In each article a different comic book fan described the ten comic books that, if not literally changing their lives, had some affect upon them.

In the summer of 2003, I submitted my contribution and it was accepted (though I cannot remember the issue number). Anyway, in keeping with my desire to present more comic-book-focused material, over the next ten days I'm going to present one of the ten comics (with some rewriting for clarity along the way).

I have always had trouble making lists of favorites. To pick just ten (ten!) comic books that have affected my life is, I think, as difficult a proposition as asking a maker of M&Ms to pick his ten individual favorite candy-coated chocolate pieces from the last year’s batch. Reviewing the memories of thousands of comic books looked at, read, even absorbed since I was about three years old is, as silly as it sounds, hard. I could have settled for the by now almost cliché choices of Watchmen or The Dark Knight Returns, or included more modern comics as Bone or Powers. In the end, I just made a list of the first ten titles that came to me, comics that really helped create the comic book fan I am today. Unfortunately, the list of ten contains sixteen titles, but I was able to categorize. I apologize for the lumping where it occurs, and ask for forgiveness.

1. Batman; Superman-Aquaman Hour of Adventure; and
The Marvel Super Heroes

And then, to make matters worse, the first items I list aren’t even comic books. Well, I guess Marvel Super Heroes was not far removed from the source material. (In case you did not know, panels from actual Marvel comic books comics were photocopied and cut up. Then a key character (or to truly keep costs down, a key body part of a key character) was manipulated to provide an illusion that there was actual animation going on. In comparison to the work produced by Grantray-Lawrence Animation, and Krantz Film Productions for the series, the concurrent cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera were fully animated.) Still, I ask your indulgence.

For some reason, there never was a time in my life when there were not comics around. While that may have been a common occurrence back in the 1960s, in retrospect it seems strange because a) I was the first born so there were no hand-me-down comics and b) my parents never had an interest in them. Family legend has it that my father bought me my first comic book from one of those comic book vending machines to keep me occupied while my parents were shopping; however, they were so ubiquitous in my life, even before kindergarten, that it sometimes seems I was given a Casper, the Friendly Ghost comic in the hospital nursery.

So it was, aged four, that I knew of comic characters in January 1966, but I cannot say that I had strong feelings towards them one way or the other. However, I was in the perfect place at the perfect age when my life would actually change and I would start to pay attention to comic books. All it took to change my life was being lucky enough to watch a comic book come to life when on Wednesday, January 12, 1966 at 6:30 P.M. Batman premiered.

Batman (Adam West) and Robin (Burt Ward).; Image from This Is Pop! at This Is Pop!: 02/25/2005

I cannot begin to find the words to tell you how the Batman show affected me. Be small minded if you must and mock the show for what you think it is or how you perceive today forty years later, but to me it was Batman and because of it, my life would never be the same again.

Batman was everything to me. There was no comedy in the show and surely no mocking of comic book conventions as I saw the program over the next few weeks. That Joker scared me more than Nicholson’s version ever could. The Batcave entranced me. When the Dynamic Duo fought on the show, I battled around the room (eventually getting so out of control that I my mother forbid to watch the show for a week—a truly horrible punishment!—is it not amazing those things that affect us enough as children to remember into adulthood). I was consumed by the show and from that, wanting anything with Batman on it, especially comic books.

Then, in quick succession, two more shows arrived that solidified my love of super heroes. First, The New Adventures of Superman on Saturdays and followed by the daily The Marvel Super Heroes.

Superman (left), Superboy and Krypto (right). Images from Rob's Superfriend's Fan Page! at The Filmation DC Heroes.
For my super-hero hungry self, the Superman show would peak in the fall of 1967 when it expanded into The Superman-Aquaman Hour of Adventure. With that permutation, every Saturday was the lottery and I was always a winner. Not only would I get two Superman cartoons, a Superboy, and an Aquaman, the middle of the program featured a rotating character. Which hero would get the call this Saturday? Would it be a Flash cartoon, or an Atom? Maybe I would hit the jackpot and they would show a Justice League cartoon the members being Superman, Hawkman, Flash, Atom, and Green Lantern (or Superman with the rotating characters).

Clockwise from upper left: Aquaman, Flash with the Atom, Hawkman, and Green Lantern. Images from Rob's Superfriend's Fan Page! at The Filmation DC Heroes.

As I child I never could reason why Batman was not a part of the JLA on television, or Robin shown to be one of the Teen Titans, but even at six years old, I thought it was strange that Aquaman wasn’t on the team. Even Aqualad was a member of the Titans. I kept hoping that a Metamorpho cartoon would show up, like the DC inside-the-front cover ads of the time promised, but that never happened. In the end, I did not care because all it really meant was there were super heroes on television.

Clockwise from upper left: Kid Flash, Wonder Girl, Speedy, and Aqualad. Images from Rob's Superfriend's Fan Page! at The Filmation DC Heroes.

The lottery I mentioned actually ran six days a week. Though I’ve since read that each of the five characters, Captain America, Hulk, Thor, Sub-Mariner, and Iron Man, featured in The Marvel Super Heroes were each featured on their own day, when I watched the show three different characters were featured. For those who have never seen the show, each character’s story was broken into three parts, so when I watched the show on a random Monday, I might have been shown the first parts of a Hulk, an Iron Man, and a Thor cartoon. You never knew which characters would show up, hence the lottery. (The second and third parts were shown on the following Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, the first parts of three new random cartoons would air with the conclusions on the following Monday.) I loved all these characters, though given a choice I would have watch a Captain America cartoon every day.
Clockwise from upper left: The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, The Mighty Thor, and Captain America (Not shown, Sub-Mariner).; Image from The Big Cartoon DataBase at The Marvel Super Heroes Show.
It is easy to pick on the flaws in all three of these shows, but I think the harder thing to do is examine them less cynically and, dare I say, appreciate them for what they were, not denigrate them for what they are not. Did it matter so much that there was no real animation in The Marvel Super Heroesmovement or that art styles could change (Kirby to Tuska back to Kirby) with each cut in a scene? So what if Green Lantern had a blue-skinned alien friend in the Pieface role or that Hawkman had a bird for a partner like Birdman? Hearing his maniacal laugh, did it matter that Caesar Romero’s was plainly visible under the Joker’s whiteface or that the bat-shield was way too big to feasibly fit into Batman’s utility belt. Who cared that Fantastic Four #6, “Captives of the Deadly Duo,” was essentially rewritten into a Sub-Mariner story and the FF was replaced by the X-Men; the theme songs alone made up for any flaws. What mattered that I was five years old and super heroes were on television six days a week.

I had not yet developed the jaded eye of stereotypical comic fan, eager to find the problems when comics were transferred to other media so to be among the first to mock them and to complain about them. All I knew was that there were shows and characters on television that excited me, that made me happy and gave me something to look forward to every day. I wanted to feel like that all the time and the fastest route I could think of was through comic books. I wanted to have as many comic books as possible; I wanted to read them and, though at five I did not think in that term yet, I wanted to learn the mythology, the history of the characters.

These shows were what made me want to have comics in my life. I have stayed with comics long past the cancellation of these shows,; I have probably stayed long past the time when contemporary mainstream comics could make feel me the emotions I was seeking at four and five. I read many comics books still and, barring the marketing-driven, written-for-the-trade stories that come from the big two, I recognize the honest statement that the stuff of comics currently being published is better than anyone this side of Will Eisner could have ever conceded as a possibility.

I don’t feel that same excitement anymore, but I do, happily, remember it. Has there ever a time to be any happier and excited about the sheer adventuring fun of super heroes than 1966-1967?

(Addendum: Robby Reed at his Dial "B" for Blog site, recently had a six-part series covering the development of Batman before it went on the air. It is some interesting reading, especially if you are one of those people who are capable of loving the show without having to apologize for it. The first part is here, with a link to the next at the bottom of the page. Caution: It is very graphically intense.)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Comic Books

To understand me, there is one thing to know: There are very few things more important to me than comic books. Now, I'm not saying that I am to comics the way the hardcore music fan is to music or the hardcore movie fan is to movies, in fact nothing gets under my skin more than the loud, know-it-all comic-book guys (especially when they don't) that inhabit the comic store on new comic day and/or Friday night and/or Saturday. You know the kind of person I am talking about, the one who confuses his opinion with the truth.

There are two kinds of comic book readers, I think: Those who starting reading them as children and those who start reading them in high school or college. I also think that tension between those two camps is never going away because neither side will ever accept the other's point of view. For myself, I don't begrudge more mature titles and themes appearing in the comic format, but I also don't think that the mainstream comics should move too far away from being accessible to kids. In my world, Batman and Detective Comics, for instance, would always be suitable for kids, while a more mature version of the character would appear in a special line available only in comic shops.

You see, what I am is a person who fell in love with comics at a very young age and I've never forgotten that feeling; I'd go so far as to say that my continuing reading of comics is because I am trying to capture that feeling again. What feeling? The feeling of excitement and wonder that was promised in ads like these:

(Images from Dial B for Blog.)

So, if I am not getting that feeling from mainstream comics why do I still buy them? Because I love them. I love the fact of them. I love them for the same reason Uncle Scrooge loves all the coins in his money bin: It is all about what they represent?

What do they represent? I never could explain it, it was an ephemeral thing that I thought only another person who started reading comics early could understand. Then Tom Beland in his excellent comic book, True Story, Swear to God, encapsulated the reason perfectly. TSSTG explores the true romance between Beland and the love of his life, Lily. In the page excerpted below, from TSSTG #9, Lily has just gone to the comic book store with Tom for the first time:

Now, I'm not saying that I saw my parents die of cancer, but I think each of us has something from our childhood that we cling to because we don't want to lose the memories or feelings that thing, possibly subconciously, stirs up. For me, it is comic books. All comic books that meet my standards of "good."

All that was a lead-in for a change of topic here. I like popular culture, but comic books are the one thing that make me happy even when they depress me. Starting with a change in the title on Blogger to "Just Imagine," I'm going to post about comic books predominantly. I may not be able to be as current as this week's comics, especially since I get my comics once a month, but I will address comic books on the whole on a more regular basis. I'll still address other topics, but comic books will be the raison d'etre for this blog from now on.

Stick around, if you like. To quote Bill Cosby, "If you're not careful, you might learn something."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Odds & Ends

As I prepare for a refocusing of this blog, let me clear out my inbox.

1. Clerks 2 has a trailer of sorts here. Either you love Kevin Smith's work or you don't, there doesn't seem to be much middle ground with his movies. I don't think I've disliked any movie he's made, though I found his Degrassi: The Next Generation not to be my cup of tea.

I really liked Jersey Girl. There is nothing funnier than watching Ollie (Ben Affleck) and his seven-year-old daughter, Gertie (Raquel Castro), reenact the opening number of the second act of Sweeny Todd and George Carlin has never been better as an actor and not just playing "George Carlin." While I am happy that Smith is returning to his View Askew-verse, it is a shame that he let the "poor" box office of Jersey Girl keep him from moving into other movies. That the movie didn't meet expectations was more an artifact of (a) the Affleck and Jennifer Lopez coupling and (b) Gigli. (Smith supposedly told Sony to hold Gigli back until after Jersey Girl was released. They didn't, so both movies suffered, even though Jersey Girl is the superior film.

Anyway, the Clerks 2 trailer is there. I hope the movie does well; I want to see the animated Clerks movie we were promised during the commentary on the DVD for Clerks: The Animated Series. Besides, Rosario Dawson deserves to be in as many popular movies as possible, not just because she's nice to look at, but she was the only Pussycat in the Josie and the Pussycats movie who understood what the movie was and what it shold have been. Just for that alone, she deserves to be in more Sin Citys and less Alexanders.

2. I found this great time waster over Christmas. I can't even describe what it is, but once you start playing with it, I think you'll understand why it is indescribable. I think there is something calming about it (though I wish there were more options) as you try to create something out of what you are given. Just so you know, if you scroll down to the bottom of the page there are variables that you can control; my one complaint is where the controls are located. In a perfect world, everything would fit nicely on the screen, but "game" is free, so who am I to complain. By the way. one suggestion: You'll be much calmer if you click on "NAMEKUJI" to make the bouncing thing stop or disappear. While I understand that destruction/entropy follows creation, it is unpleasant to have it happen in the moment.

3. I'm not big on the Sudoku like everyone else appears to be even after someone finally explained in simple terms how the puzzle works. After that explanation my first statement was that it should be possible to write a program that solves every possible Sudoku since there are only a finite number of ways the numbers can be ordered in the grid. Well, someone did and here's a link to a free Sudoku solver. I've tried it a few times and it works, plus you can't beat the price. The even freakier original version, complete with zombies, may be found here. That version reminds me more of a circle of hell, but watching the zombies bounce and bob like those giant air-filled pseudo-balloon men is rather entrancing.

4. In the sixties and seventies, one of the best things about being home from school sick (apart from being home from school) was getting to watch interesting daytime television, i.e. game shows. Those days are long gone, but this site will tell you more than you ever want to know about The Price is Right. Some interesting things I found was this page showing clips from the first five episodes. Watch the opening of the first one to see how strangely quiet the audience is compared to the show today. On the front page, be sure to click "Check out this priceless moment from 1982!" to see cast openly and honestly tipsy. (Windows Media Player required.) After that, be sure to scroll down the page to see how skeletal Bab Barker has become in the twenty-three or so years since that clip.

5. Some incredibly beautiful images taken by the Hubble telescope are posted here. Don't be surprised at the amount of time you'll lose gazing at these pictures.

6. If you have a blog, through alogrithms I don't care to learn about or understand, you can go here to find out how much it is worth. On the Internet as in real life, I am a hundred-aire.

7. One of the greatest cartoons ever made is Chuck Jones's and Michael Maltese's One Froggy Night. This site gives you all the background you'd ever want to know about the songs Michigan J. Frog performs for his solitary audience of one.

8. I can't even find the words for these quizzes. Suffice to say, forget anything about science, which God gave us the ability to divine, at the frint page.

9. A site that doesn't seem to get enough recognition is The Internet Archive. As the project describes itself:
The Internet Archive is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that was founded to build an ‘Internet library,’ with the purpose of offering permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format.

In other words, whenever you see a dollar DVD of Bugs Bunny cartoons, you can find them at The Internet Archive for free. Explore to your hearts content.

10. If you were born after 1970, you probably never listened to a children's story record and if you did the were probably hand me downs. This site has taken it upon itself to perserve just a fraction of these recordings, one a week during 2005 and 2006. Browse through the listings for a memory or two or to hear what was a very common recreational activity for kids not so long ago, but is now being relegated to hoop rolling and mumbleypeg.

11. Admit it. Like me, you've probably thought about disappearing and starting over with no baggage. This site tells you how to do, though I don't think it provides an explanation on how to find the courage to follow through with cutting off all ties and starting over.

12. To help keep viewers from changing channels when a show is finished and allow more time for commercials, the networks have been decreasing introductory titles and theme music. If you are like me and enjoy cartoon themes. Toon Tracker provides a whole slew of them from the forties to the eighties. I don't know about you, but I can never hear the Rocket Robin Hood, Mighty Hercules, or The Mighty Heroes enough. Where are those DVD collections?

13. Finally, we, my wife and I are at a time in ouut lives when out thoughts turn to having children. Beyond the normal things one thinks about that lead up to that moment, other things make themselves known, such as what to name the baby. Your tax dollars at work, the Social Security Administration provides this site, which provides statistical data regarding the most popular names for babies. This site provides the same information, but in a much more fun and dynamic way.

14. Hopefully this week will see more posts on my most favorite topic of all. To get you ready for the future, here is a site where the owner has taken it upon himself to discuss and post the Jack Kirby-drawn monster stories from the pre-Marvel Atlas Comics. Once you've had your fill of such delightful creations (written by Stan Lee) as Monstro,

the Insect Man,


and Fin Fang Foom,

you can ponder when comics took the ugly left turn that made such creations less palatable.

Monday, January 09, 2006

For Those Who Came In Late . . .

Aware that the address of this blog may be offputting, it would probably make sense, once a year or so, to repost my explantion of the title from my first post on July 3, 2005:

I guess the title of this come's off as argumentative and maybe it is -- What are you going to do about it?

Here's the meaning: I feel like a complete idiot all the time. In general, learning new things or doing just about anything is incredibly difficult for me and always has been. I basically peaked academically when I left the third grade and my report card showed that I'd also completed the sixth grade reading level. It has been downhill ever since.

Of late, things have improved thanks to television PSAs, testing, and medication, however, that does not remove the fact that for the bulk of my life I have felt like a complete idiot. During that same timespan, I always felt that since I'm an idiot, the little bit I know and understand can't be difficult, so why doesn't anyone else. As such, I, in general, have always been disappointed with people because most of them come off at least as idiotic as I am.

Now, if I know you and you are offended by that statement, get over it: If I have a personal relationship with you, I obviously think you aren't any more idiotic than I am. I don't need a person to know everything (that is the unreasonable expectations of voters during presidential candiates; I don't need a president with every answer at his fingertips, I just need a president who knows where to go for the answer), just know some things and be able to be logical about the rest. Or don't be a jerk. That makes up for a lot of sins.

There you go, the title explained. It isn't as bad as you thought, is it?

A Cat Tale

Ya see, we own cats. I never wanted cats and would have been happy with just some feeder goldfish in an aerated tank. However, my wife wanted a "real" pet, since she grew up in a home where animals weren't looked on as companions, so we got a cat. From that one cat we expanded to owning six cats, which is where we stand now.

Before I owned a cat, I didn't like them. That was truly a prejudice born from ignorance. They have more personality than I had expected and not as aloof as a non-cat owner would think. I admit that they don't listen and it is a rare cat that recognizes his or her name, but I'm glad we have them.

There is a site called Kitten War. As may be divined from the title, the site allows kittens to "fight" over who is the cutest: Pictures are presented of two kittens and you are supposed to choose which you think is cutest. After looking at the site for a while, we submitted pictures of the new cats from two-and-a-half years ago. Only one was accepted and it can be viewed here. (Kemper is the upside down one.) If you want to decide a battle or two, scroll down to and then click on "Start a new kitten battle!" I'll warn you, the site can eat up your time.

If you want to see something that only a cat owner has ever seen before, go here, but you've been warned. It is as equally a captivating time waster.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Movies I Have Seen 2005 Edition

Two years ago in his bi-weekly column in the back of Entertainment Weekly, Stephen King mentioned in passing that he keeps a movie journal where he records all the movies he has seen. For some reason, I loved that idea and began keeping one, too (and wishing I'd started one twenty-five years earlier). Without comment, here is the complete list of every movie I watched this past year and, yes, I did watch some movies more than once.

1: Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
3: Pride of the Yankees
The Magnificent Ambersons
Of Human Hearts
The Gorgeous Hussy
State Fair (1945)
4: The Ice Follies of 1939
10: The Many Loves of Edgar Allan Poe
12: Finian's Rainbow
15: Finding Neverland
16: Beau Brummel
20: The Cookout
Pride and Prejudice
21: Little Black Book
Napoleon Dynamite
25: The Story of Alexander Graham Bell
28: Million Dollar Baby
29: De-Lovely

5: Are We There Yet?
7: 12 Angry Men
11: Hitch
12: The Wedding Date
The Jazz Singer (1927)
White Banners
Little Caesar
13: Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde (1931)
16: Longitude
. . . And Justice For All
18: Raintree County
25: Forbidden Planet
General Spanky
26: Constatine
28: Cleopatra (1934)

8: Funny Girl
10: Cimarron (1931)
In Old Chicago
12: Be Cool
13: The Great Ziegfeld
19: Lives of a Bengal Lancer
22: Between Two Worlds
King's Row
25: Guess Who
26: Julius Caesar (1953)
30: On the Waterfront

1: Sin City
Beauty Shop
16: The Stand-In
17: Twelve O'Clock High
27: Captain Blood

7: The Story of Louis Pasteur
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
13: XXX 2
14: Kingdom of Heaven
15: Hell is for Heroes
16: Dodge City
17: How the West was Won
18: Alleghany Uprising
19: The Revenge of the Sith
20: The Died with Their Boots On
25: Our Town
26: The Cocoanuts
27: Madagascar
28: Black Narcissus
Gentlemen Jim

2: Objective Burma
3: The Longest Yard (2005)
5: The Kennel Murder Case
The Bishop Murder Case
8: Nick Carter, Master Detective
Dick Tracy (1937)
10: Cinderella Man
12: Destry Rides Again
14: The Secret Garden (1949)
17: Batman Begins
18: Becky Sharp
Ah, Wilderness! (1935)
23: Beyond the Sea
25: Bewitched
28: The Caine Mutiny
A Few Good Men

1: War of the Worlds (2005)
7: Gabriel Over the White House
9: Fantastic Four
12: Raintree County
15: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
17: Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet
28: Sky High
Must Love Dogs

2: Yankee Doodle Dandy
3: "G"-Men
5: Ride the High Country
13: The Wedding Crashers
20: March of the Penguins
23: Mystery Science Theatre 3000: The Movie
Words and Music

2: The 40-Year-Old Virgin
9: The Man with the Screaming Brain
10: So I Married an Axe Murder
24: Bobby Jones
Just Like Heaven
25: Boogie Nights
30: Serenity

1: A History of Violence
7: Battle Circus
8: Crash
Fever Pitch
9: The Upside of Anger
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
14: Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
17: The Strawberry Blonde
20: tom thumb
21: Young Tom Edison
The Incredible Shrinking Man
20: The Legend of Zorro

3: War of the Planets
From the Earth to the Moon
13: Caddyshack
18: Walk the Line
Harry Patter and the Goblet of Fire

4: Luther (1973)
5: One of the Hollywood 10
6: Holiday Inn
7: Good Night, and Good Luck
9: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
16: King Kong (2005)
30: The Ringer
The Cooler

There Comes a Time When You Have to Accept Things As They Are

Basically, if I want to have any kind of Internet life I have to accept the fact that, for whatever the reason, I am going to be disconnected from a/the DNS server requiring me to reboot my modem and router. It makes no sense that I have to do this since our home network worked fine for years, but if I have to, I have to. It is easier to do that than to fight a battle with my provider over an event that they seem to not appreciate or are unwilling to admit occurs. Besides, over Christmas, I was looking at the forum for another provider when I was in Pittsburgh and their customers have the same problem. I guess I found inner peace knowing that I am not alone.