Armagideon Time

(from “The Terror of the Toad Men!” by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko in The Incredible Hulk #2, July 1962)

Thanks again to my little brother and his extensive collection of Silver Age Marvel material.

Ad aeternum

January 30th, 2015

My childhood was not ruined by a violently unstable mother or an alcoholic father whose parenting methods swung between capriciously cruel and manipulatively indulgent.

It was not ruined by bouts of extreme poverty, the taunts of bullies, a non-supportive educational culture, or the looming specter of thermonuclear annihilation.

Though these things left indelible marks on my psyche, they cannot diminish other fragments of distant memories.

My dad carving my name in the sand at Crane’s Beach.

My mother’s penchant for leaving artwork on the fridge for me to find when I awoke.

Eating a heaping bowl of Lucky Charms while watching Devlin on Saturday morning.

Reading and trading comics with my pal Brian in the backyard storage shed he appropriated as a clubhouse.

The sensation of future-now I felt the first time I dropped a quarter into the Pac-Man machine at the Boys’ Club.

Playing action figures with my little brother in our backyard.

Running riot on our fake BMX Huffy bikes around the old neighborhood.

Sitting in front of the family boombox, waiting for “Mr. Roboto” and “Come On Eileen” to pop up again on the Top 40 station’s playlist.

There are times when some stimulus jostles loose one of those memories, triggering a lucid flashback — for good or ill — of those times past. Actively pursuing those feelings, however, is a fool’s errand. They are distorted echoes. They are, in short, mnemonic ghosts which cannot be overwritten or resurrected.

The idea they can be retroactively tainted by some new iteration of some old intellectual property is laughably insulting, the notion of identity circumscribed by media consumption and embalmed stasis as an eternal ideal.

My childhood survived the recurring memory of my mother backhanding me across the face for being “irritating.” I’m pretty sure yours can survive a blockbuster movie you had no plans on seeing anyhow.

Dial it down and out

January 29th, 2015

Before the Architects of Evil perfected the deviously slow bleed of microtransactions, they had to make do with the blunt-force wallet trauma of 1-900 numbers.

Pay-for-play (with yourself) phone sex lines were the most infamous application of this technology, though the means for raking the marks were not limited to hollow eroticism. Interactive fiction, celebrity gossip, videogame “counselors” — all were available for the willing or oblivious to rack up a phone bill rivaling the GDP of Uruguay.

Some services attempted to sweeten the telecom honeypot by setting themselves up as contests, leveraging the promise of REAL CASH REWARDS against the two-buck-a-minute (with a six minute minimum) buy-in fee.

As luck would have it, I happened to unearth a list of some of the questions used in the above 1991 contest-slash-scam:

Which Supreme Court justice was fond of quoting lyrics from 2Pacalypse Now in their decisions?

Where does Richard Marx’s hair fall on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness?

What type of animal feces was in the brown paper bag Bono carried in the video for “One?”

How many ricos to one suave?

Which one was Jesus and which one was Jones?

What do you think happened to that one girl in your life drawing class who was really, really into Mary’s Danish?

By what percentage did tube sock and hand lotion sales increase after “I Touch Myself” broke big?

Name three countries the Rhythm Nation borders upon.

The one who has diamonds in his pockets or the one that would like to buy you rockets?

How many irritating motherfuckers “got into Japanamation” after seeing the video for Matthew Sweet’s “Girlfriend?”

What time is love?

Mighty tasty, too

January 28th, 2015

Allow me to sum up my life since Monday afternoon with a single videoclip from my childhood.

Oh, and that project I’m a part of got fully funded. So thanks to all the kind folks who chipped in and/or spread the word!

An important message

January 26th, 2015

Oh, the weather outside is frightful.
But comics are real delightful.
Since there’s no place to go.

Hey, I’m not begging you to help out, though I’d like to think that providing almost ten years of free content on a daily basis would generate a little goodwill among the faithful, right?

Song for Sunday #124

January 25th, 2015

Lene Lovich – Lucky Number

(from “If Iceman Should Fail –!” by Stan Lee, Jay Gavin, Werner “Jay Gavin” Roth and Dick Ayers in X-Men #18, March 1966)

(another submission from the Lil Bro.)

Rock the ka’athyra

January 23rd, 2015

Comes complete with songbook including such favorite tunes as:

“Feel Like Makin’ Pon Farr”
“Turbolift to Heaven”
“Sweet Home Beta Quadrant”
“All Along the Neutral Zone”
“Andorian Rhapsody”
“Comfortably Gorn”
“Ensign O’Reilly”
“It’s in His What Is Kiss?”
“Suite: T’Pring Green Blood”
“Don’t Fear the Mugato”
“I Can’t Drive Warp Factor 5.”

…and of course…

The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins

I did a street view search of Creative Guitar Studios’ address in San Diego, and it came back with an upscale ranch home in a residential neighborhood. The creation of authentic fake space harps was apparently a basement workshop affair, and fair fucks to the person who hit upon the gimmick. It’s not like anyone who purchased one was going to otherwise dedicate that cash to feeding the hungry or curing cancer.

I hope they’re living high on the fruits of their industriousness, well out of hearing age from the filk musicians who constituted their customer base.

Four for Thursday

January 22nd, 2015

There’s a #fourcomics hashtag currently trending on Twitter where participants post cover images of a quartet of funnybooks which have influenced them in some way.

Above are my four, reposted here because I’m too distracted by car issues to think of anything else to write about today.

UFO & Outer Space #14 (June 1978) was the first funnybook I can specifically remember owning. It’s a bunch of pseudo-science bullshit dredged up from Gold Key’s previous UFO Flying Saucers series and repackaged to cash in on the Close Encounters mania.

Zot! #28 (September 1989) was marked the beginning of the “Earth Stories” arc, where creator Scott McCloud shelved the action-adventure aspects of the series in favor of vignettes centering around the daily lives of the principal and supporting characters.

In hindsight, there’s a strong “Afterschool Special” vibe to the arc, but there was nothing else quite like it at the time — a thoughtful, beautifully illustrated exploration of adolescence which uncannily jibed with my own experiences in 1989.

Captain Marvel Adventures #100 (September 1949) – One of the earliest — if not THE earliest — examples of marking a numbering milestone with a full-length funnybook epic. It is everything a superhero story ought to be — well-illustrated, entertaining, and crammed from start-to-finish with improbable escapism (and Mr. Talky Tawny). It’s everything people think Silver Age Superman stories were like, only better.

I first experienced it through one of DC’s “oversized treasury editions,” which instilled a genuine affection for the old Captain Marvel material which has endured to the present day.

Baker Street #7 (1990) – I was initially wary of the series when I noticed an issue on a spinner rack at Newbury Comics. “Great, another jerk trying to bite on the punk scene.”

My puritanical punk paranoia was dispelled when I picked up this issue (along with the rest of the series to date) at one of the many here-and-gone comic shops which popped up in Boston during the early 1990s. Its mash-up of Holmesian London and UK82 seediness might not have been pleasant, but it was certainly more interesting than the moribund real world punk scene I inhabited.

Jox versus geeks

January 21st, 2015

Enticements from a forgotten past, excavated from the December 1990 issue of Starlog:

My memories of Robot Jox center around a college classmate who made it a personal crusade to get the Sci-Fi Club to screen it during one of our weekly “Let’s Watch a Movie” events.

Repo Man? Star Wars? Blade Runner? Mad Max? Nope, this dude was all about Robot Jox and Hellraiser II which were The Magnificent Ambersons and Citizen Kane to his genre-damaged gray matter. We did our best to resist his entreaties, but he eventually used his status as The Guy Who Borrowed The TV/VCR Unit From the AV Center to subject us to the film.

What I remember about it:

- It featured that Homely Rick Springfield Guy from the Alien Nation TV series.
- It was a bit like Rocky IV, but with iffy-looking stop-motion robots and interiors shot in some office park.
- It was the only time in my college career that I wished I had a late afternoon class to attend.

The World’s Biggest Robot Jox Fan was quite annoyed by our insufficient appreciation of the film. This, coupled with his hissy fit over the club’s decision to screen Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, led to his refusal to attend any future movie days.

He wasn’t missed.

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