A Crying Shame...

Guys (and femmes),

I'm upset. I'm miffed. I feel terrible. There's a great injustice happening right now, at corporate headquarters of music companies who wouldn't know good music if it bit them on the butt.

Anyone here heard of Manfred Mann's Earth Band? Yeah, they're a British prog-rock band that really started in the 60s with such hits as "The Mighty Quinn" and "Do-Wah-Diddy," but who changed their name (still keeping the name of the famous keyboardist who assembled the group) and attitude in the 1970s. They're probably best-known for their cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Blinded By the Light," which, yeah, it becomes apparent after listening to the original, they reshuffled, streamlined and butchered to death, brilliantly and all at once. "The Roaring Silence," the album from whence "Blinded" came, was the pinnacle of the band's U.S. success, and they've been all-but-forgotten on these shores. Little does everyone know that Manfred and his band have released more and more albums. I certainly didn't even know until I chanced upon their then-new release, "Soft Vengeance," whilst vacationing in Germany in 1996.

It's really fantastic music, with good lyrics, snazzy synthesizers, and the brilliant voice of Chris Thompson, who's been with the band since the 70s. And it's a crying shame that these guys haven't had a record contract over in the States since, yes, nearly 20 years ago. And seeing as there's no great movement to get their music a wider degree of proliferation in these parts, it'll probably remain Britain's best-kept secret until the band drifts apart.

I just bought Manfred Mann's Earth Band's latest album, "2006," off a retailer on eBay, and am waiting for it to come in. Not only that, I've got 14 of their albums coming on seven CDs, including the redundant "Roaring Silence," which I already have. If anyone reading this would like the extra album, then just reply here or e-mail me privately and it is yours.

Anyone else have any "best band nobody's heard" stories to tell? I promise not to laugh--hard.



Seventeen Sketches, in My Sketchbook Will Glow...

Sorry it's been a while, guys--I have been busy. Interviews are just the tip of the iceberg. The Pittsburgh Comicon was this last weekend, and I stayed up in town with a friend for easy transit and less waste of the precious gas. My buddy Rob of ComicMonsters.com warned his artist buds of my coming, and between meeting rising stars like Josh Medors, Chris Moreno, and Chris Burnham, and reacquainting myself with luminaries like George Perez, Gene Gonzales, and Tommy Castillo, I rounded up a bunch of autographs and nice sketches--seventeen sketches, in fact! That beats the old record by more than double, I think. Go ahead. Be jealous--hate me, just don't quit reading my blog! I'll make it worth your while by posting the sketches!

See? Neil Vokes doing Space Phantom. Fun!

More later!



If Anyone Cares...

Current news:

Still going to be doing reviews as soon as I'm able, which will be toward the middle of next week.

Cheer if you want to see me tear any of the following to shreds: The O.C., Veronica Mars, Alias, Tru Calling, Smallville, 24.

Monday I have an interview for a temp IT position up in Butler. Relax, guys, the job's in Wexford. Hopefully the job workshop I've been attending this week will serve me well. Wish me luck!

D&B hijinks forthcoming (I hope) this weekend.

Uhhh, anything else? Also being kept busy...mom chaining me to a desk and forcing me to help her with an MIS report. Oh, the agony!

More later.



Ruminations: The Incredible Hulk #80

(Note: Last month, I posted follow-ups to reviews of recent HULK issues at a comics review site that shall go nameless (let's just say they take their love of comics to an extreme level and leave it there). After last month's debacle, during which I had the audacity to compare the current work to writers & artists previous (as if that isn't somehow inherent in the current work--ha!), I got in a heap of trouble with the powers-that-act-like-fascists. So, I got out of said bad situation, y'know, with free speech being my bag an' all. I don't really wanna talk about it anymore; so now, without further ado, my unbiased and unedited opinion of HULK #80...)

"Tempest Fugit: Part Four (of 5)"
Writer: Peter David / Artist: Lee Weeks

After flirting with possible explanations for what the mysterious island is and what's really happening there, Bruce Banner inadvertently, finally sees the big picture...or does he?

Four issues into Peter David's second run on the title he made a tremendous success, it's apparent that it hasn't taken him long at all to get his "sea legs." In fact, if it's even possible to judge this new run in comparison with the quality of the one previous, I've got to hand it to PAD: he seems to have a clearer idea of who and what the Hulk character is, and what he represents--to the reader, to Banner, to others in the Marvel Universe. And I'm genuinely shocked to find the flavor of this storyline has mirrored the old Englehart/Thomas/Wein & Trimpe monster-fests of the 1970s (particularly in how quickly the metamorphoses seem to occur, and how infrequently Banner appears), but with a modern sensibility.

But first, let's get back to the flashbacks that introduce the Hulk as a force during Bruce's teenage years. Here, we're seeing the split between friends, as it were, where the relationship between personalities first turned antagonistic. It's fun, it's palpable, and the lead-in to what's sure to be revealed next issue is jarring and, let's make no mistake, very Columbine-esque. To the casual observer, Bruce Banner was a troubled teen. Is it really that much of a stretch to have this kind of scenario plant some real seeds of discord to mar Banner's life? It's quite inventive, and I'm finally settling into the idea of the Hulk "awakening" long before the Gamma Bomb detonated (even if I'm left scratching my head about how the Hulk really got his name).

Last issue, we got a rather unsatisfying explanation for what's happening on the island: it was a top-secret military project code-named SMASH. Eh. Here, as Wolverine attacks the Hulk, there's another, more comic-booky theory posed by a certain time-traveller who's crossed paths with the green goliath before: Kang (for those not in the know, check HULK #135 for that li'l encounter). It's clear that Bruce, good old reintellectualized Bruce, doesn't believe the line of horse-hooey Kang spews, and here I was pleasantly reminded of the strong characterization of Banner from Peter's old days on the book. Banner's no longer the spineless, average joe who slept with Nadia Blonsky and let her slip him special "vitamin" pills in the shower (under previous writer Bruce Jones). This is a Bruce Banner who knows the score in many a discipline and can outsmart nearly anybody. Bravo.

Of course, off the strange explanation of timelines in flux and a delightfully off-color insult that Bruce hurls Kang's way, another monkey wrench is thrust into the works, one that I was thinking might come into play and one that may well rile fans of the talents who scripted everything since David's last tenure. Has everything that happened to Bruce and Hulk since 1995 been a falsity, a delusion? I think not, but then again, I've been surprised before. Still, the strip is self-aware enough to give some genuine thrills and laughs, and for that, Peter gets major props.

So who's behind the Hulk's recent agonies? Well, just ask yourself: which of his villains is adept at casting illusions in the form of those the Hulk's encountered in the past, often using alien species around which to craft those illusions? I'm worried about the character as displayed in #78 as the architect of this adventure, but that aside, it looks like more fun with the Shaper of Worlds and his apprentice, Glorian. Looks like we'll see next month.

Rating: ****1/2 out of 5



Beware Tinky Winky's Purple Pen of Death

Hey there, caballeros:


Good f***ing grief, Charlie Brown. The sad state of education in the United States of Bush continues to go accelerate downhill at a rapid rate, defying all the laws of physics, and here, friends, is proof in lavender. For those of you who haven't heard, the color red is now a no-no when teachers grade students' tests and other papers. It's "too stressful" to those poor ne'er-do-well students, and has been vetoed, bumped out to the curb outside the school, right smack on its ass. The local 7-11 who made a mint on red ink pens is now being forced to carry purple pens or face a tragic loss of business. Okay, so maybe 7-11 doesn't supply schools with pens, but you get the idea.

Purple is the new red, and red is the new black, and black is definitely out when it comes to school fashions, pretty much always.

And parents have just been statistically proven to be frickin' insane.

Forget the obvious, that red is just plain easier to see than purple. Forget that red marks have pretty much always existed since there were red pens; in fact, I wouldn't be halfway surprised to learn red pens were invented for the sole purpose of grading papers. Let's go back to what colors mean. Yes, different colors mean something. Fact is, they serve pretty notable purposes. And red? It's a very emotionally intense color. It's a stimulant, enhancing human metabolism, increasing respiration rate, and raising blood pressure. (It also pisses off bulls something fierce.) It has very high visibility, which is why stop signs, stoplights, and fire equipment (all indicators of danger, generally speaking) are usually painted red. And blood is, of course, red.

By comparison, what's purple? Blue is stable, red is energetic; ergo, purple combines both. Back in the Middle Ages and before, purple was the color of nobility because it was so difficult to produce the color (as such, only the elite could have purple things). A number of things are said to be epitomized in purple: power, nobility, luxury, ambition, wealth, extravagance, wisdom, dignity, creativity, independence, mystery, and magic. 75% of pre-adolescents prefer the color to all others. Light purple is feminine; dark purple can cause frustration.

And, of course, the gay Teletubbie (or so the Right would tell you) is purple. Coincidence...?

Now, lest you think I've flipped and forgotten my point altogether, I'm aghast that the establishment would make this terrible move. Figure the old way: the more red marks on a paper, the more danger should be felt because not doing well in school is bad! Makes sense, doesn't it? Well, forget about it! With purple, students should feel regal and proud when many marks are strewn across a paper! Make failing students feel at ease! Why didn't I think of this before? Make students feel content, nay, privileged for reaching such depths!

Why not go all the way? Why not grade with a blue pen, and make failing students feel totally relaxed and calm? Remind them of heaven, not hell (as red may symbolize to some)? Blue symbolizes intellect and reason. It's cool and serene.

Why do parents want to make their kids feel more relaxed and calm, which in my mind produces complacency and inaction, when instead they should feel indignation toward doing such a piss-poor job in their school work? It's sending the wrong message and schools across the country should be ashamed of themselves. Encourage mediocrity, encourage failure, because you don't want kids feeling bad about themselves? Rubbish! Repeat after me, kids, with your red-penned papers in hand: "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" Get better grades by having that bright red failing grade leap off the page!

Why am I feeling like I've stepped into Bizarro-ville? And why do I feel like I'm the only one who's noticed?

Next up: tiger cubs nurse at fortysomething zoo worker's teat, film at 11...



Hey, Baby, I'm Flexible

So...what superhero are YOU?


Accursed Cliffhangers of Dracula

All this week, I've been in the process of converting a bunch of my VHS tape collection (well, what little remained after I threw 80% of it out) to DVD via my handy TiVo with burner. And after digging tapes out to convert, and doing some research on said programs, I gotta say: AAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!

Okay. Deep breaths. That's better.

Maybe I should start at the beginning: too many years ago to mention with a straight face, I watched a two-hour telefilm called The World of Dracula. It starred a then-young Michael Nouri (infamous for Flashdance, opposite Jennifer Beals) as the prince of darkness himself, who had become so disenchanted with his everlasting existence that he became a lowly history professor at a junior college (teaching, quite naturally, night classes). He was pursued by the grandson of his mortal enemy, Van Helsing, and his girlfriend Mary, whose mother had become one of Dracula's victims. I remembered quite liking Nouri as Dracula, with the right accent, and the right charisma (but that hair was all wrong!). And Carol Baxter as Mary was at least moderately yummy.

Only later did I discover that World was, in fact, not a "real" telefilm, but rather an assemblage of the pieces of an actual TV series called Cliffhangers!, created by Ken Johnson (who'd also been responsible for The Six Million Dollar Man and, of all things, The Incredible Hulk live-action series). The concept of the series was simple: conjure the feel of the old movie serials where every week's installment ended in a cliffhanger, to be resolved the next week. To that effect, three series each of distinct genres were created, with each having 20 minutes' screen time per week. Of course, TV watchers in 1979 weren't quite ready for a series that they had to watch every week, and the heavily-touted series not only premiered with abysmal ratings, they sank even lower and Cliffhangers! was canceled after only 13 installments. And where did World fit into the puzzle? Well, it (under its then-title, The Curse of Dracula) has the significance of being the sole series to complete all of its installments prior to cancellation, ten in all.

So, when I threw out old videotapes, I naturally saved World as a curiosity, and here I am after having converted it to DVD and re-watched it. And between my research online and watching the ending all over again, as the good Count might say, I have come to an inescapable conclusion: The World of Dracula tells only half the story! That's right: all these years, I was watching only the first five (apparently) installments of the series! Another telefilm, assembled from the remainder of the material, is out there: its name, The Loves of Dracula.

I knew the ending of the World telefilm wasn't pat at all, ending not with Dracula's death, not with a resolution of any of the main plotlines. In fact, it added a complication in the return of Mary's thought-dead mother, who instead had become a vampire, like Dracula. The thrust of the story at World's end was that Dracula was seducing Mary, like he did her mother, and she was but one bite away from becoming an eternal child of the night. Mary's mother came as a strange ally, to help Kurt Van Helsing in keeping Mary away from Dracula's sway long enough to destroy him and the remaining six boxes of Transylvanian earth the Count must have nearby.

So, now I'm upset at myself for not seeing the obvious sooner, and I'm seeking out that second telefilm. I hear both it and World were released on VHS in the early 1990s, but are long out of print. If anyone has 'em...I will gladly convert it to DVD for you and me both to enjoy. How's that for service?

Anyone vaguely remember what I'm talking about? Anyone else have any favorite vampire films? Bueller?




We Now Interrupt This Blog...

Go visit ComicMonsters.com, register and get some prizes! (Yes, I'm actively involved in the site--it's not spam.) I'll make a regular blog post tonight, honest! I've been busy! Without further ado...


For Immediate Release

April 1, 2005

ComicMonsters.com, the internets leading news and information site for horror and monster comics announces its April contest.

ComicMonsters.com and Chanting Monks Press president and horror writer Joe Monks are joining forces for a month long promotion that features an exclusive interview, special project announcements, and a month of giveaways of Chanting Monks Press prizes.

Week 1: Signed copies of Roadkills & The Night Terrors and a copy of Zacherley's Midnite Terrors #1

Week 2: Signed copies of Roadkills, Stuff Out'a My Head paperback and ZMT #2

Week 3: Roadkills, Stuff Paperback, and copies of Night Terrors and ZMT 1 & 2

Week 4: Roadkills, Stuff, ZMT 1 & 2 and Night Terrors with tee shirt

Week 5: ZMT 1, 2, and 3 signed, Stuff Out'a My Head paperback and copy of the Flowers on the Razorwire DVD.

For a chance to win any of the cool prizes involved in this promotion, all you will need to do is go to ComicMonsters.com and register, its free. A winner will be picked each Saturday. Use this link below to register for a chance to win: You will get an email confirmation of your registration that you will have to click to activate your membership.