Armagideon Time

Song for Sunday #115

November 23rd, 2014


Echo and the Bunnymen – Bring on The Dancing Horses

Silver Age Science Saturdays #42

November 22nd, 2014


(from “The Day the Earth ‘Dyed’!” by Gardner Fox and Murphy Anderson in Mystery in Space #64, December 1960)

It’s hard to tell from this panel but Mr. Sufferin’ Galaxies there is supposed to be a Grizzled Old Prospector of THE FUTURE, which provides context for but doesn’t really explain why there’s a pickaxe lying on the floor.

Maybe Fox had a premonition of the always-on, 24/7 nature of 21th Century employment, where getting away from one’s day job has become as quaint a concept as horse-drawn buggies and affordable medical care.

Intently tuning in on you

November 21st, 2014

BUZZWORD! GETCHA BUZZWORDS! CUTTING EDGE AND FUNKY FRESH! CAN’T START A CONSUMER CULTURE PARADIGM SHIFT WITHOUT YOUR BUZZWORDS!

I notice this sidebar from A Retailer’s Guide to Home Video Merchandising in the August 28, 1982 issue of Billboard left out the crucially important “planned obsolescence,” “bubble economy,” and “they threw a tarp over the sign at the Blockbuster Video in the Square and it’s now a payday loans place.”

Recommended listening: Stream a little dream for me.

Nobody wants you

November 20th, 2014

I was never truly a member of the metalhead cult. My flirtation with the handbanging scene was a subcultural transitional between 1960s rock enthusiast and punk rocker. Though it felt a lot longer from my teenage perspective, only four months elapsed between the time I asked a coworker at the hospital kitchen to dub me a copy of a Flotsam & Jetsam tape and my purchase of the Repo Man soundtrack.

I still purchased and listened to metal albums after that watershed moment, but with decreasing frequency. By the time I finished my first semester of college in the autumn of 1990, the metal-component of my commuting playlist was down to the mixed bag of the River’s Edge soundtrack and Slayer’s Reign in Blood. Neither survived the winter intersession break.

As far as moments to be caught up in the metal scene, the tail end of the 1980s was fascinating to bear witness to even as a semi-interested observer. The process of subgenre factionalism and balkanization of opposing scenes had shifted into semantic high gear, where differences in taste could — and usually did — lead to shouting matches. There was little solidary between the warring camps of glam metal gals, guitar virtuoso purists, aggro thrash kids, crossover-diggin’ skaterats, and so forth.

“Heavy metal is crap,” exclaimed the kid who sat in front of me in my algebra class. When I pointed out the Guns ‘n’ Roses t-shirt he was wearing, he shot back with “They’re not metal. They’re hard blues rock.” Of such points of order would countless Wikipedia pages later be made. Hell, before I fully alienated my high school best friend by embracing punk, we had multiple fights about the respective musical virtues of White Lion (which he adored) and Anthrax (which I did).

A Grand Unified Theory of Metal Fandom was a chimera at the glam/thrash high water mark of 1988. The notion was even more ludicrous at a time when those scenes had lost ground to birth-pangs of the 1990s alternasplosion, the mainstreaming of Metallica, the arrival of Nine Inch Nails and Ministry’s industrial-metal rebirth. Metal survived — just as would it survive its encirclement by the ironic/nostalgic camp crowd — but lost a good deal of ground when the adolescent masses embraced the prevailing trends of grungy-crunchy alt-rock and gangsta rap. (And post-Justice Metallica, which was already showing signs of the trainwreck to come.)

So of course someone in 1991 thought it would be smart business sense to couple a waning trend to extremely precarious speculative bubble…

…and thus the Megametal trading card set was born.

Bon Jovi! Skid Row! Slaughter! Judas Priest! L.A. Guns! Iron Maiden! I’m not sure who the intended market for these things was intended to be, but the producers really oversold the “metal” aspect of the project. (My guess it that “who can we afford an image licensing deal with?” was the primary criteria for inclusion.)

A couple of bucks would net you twelve cardboard reproductions of fresh-outta-Hit Parader publicity photos and the chance to nab a SUPER RARE hologram chase card. (Why, yes, the 1990s funnybook industry was heavily influenced by the trading card scene, and not for the better.)

A complete set of the cards can be found on eBay for under a twenty, along with cherry-picked bundles assembled around specific artists for slightly less scratch…

The best $3.25 you’ll ever spend.

Ultimate Powers Jam #32: Passover

November 19th, 2014

I hope you’re ready to hoof if, true believers, because it’s time to trot out another installment of…

Pre-kicked out for your convenience, mofos.

……in which I use the character creation rules in the Marvel Super Heroes RPG’s Ultimate Powers Book to roll up a random batch of powers and abilities, then sit back and watch as some incredibly talented folks work their creative magic upon the quantified chaos.

Today’s exercise in equestrian excellence comes courtesy of the mighty Mike Zeidler and the spectacular Kyle Starks.

My name is Pete, and I f&%@#$g HATE lizards.

Back before I became this monstrosity, I had a nice little office job at Wellesley Dynamics, a tech contractor for the Army. One day we were testing our all-terrain decoy out in the woods when we came across this glowing donut thing that the former owner of this body later told me was a Gebrochts condenser. Oh right, I should tell you that I didn’t always look like this. No, I used to be just an ordinary old Jewish kid, the kind most people would pass by on the street without a second glance, but now look at me, 6’ 3”, white as an albino (no offense meant) and a damn horse’s head and hooves.

Anyway, we didn’t know WHAT it was, so we had Robby, the robo-decoy, carry it back to the truck for us before we headed back to the lab. Everyone else left for the day when we got back, but being project lead, I wanted to pore over the feedback from Robby’s test run. Then the lizards showed up, “snarks” is what horseface called ‘em. I ducked behind the lab table and was shocked to be looking at what I’ve since gotten used to as my face.

I let out a little yelp, and “Kan’e” (I hope you’re happy, ship) clamped his hand over my mouth, shushing me with his other hand. The lizards had heard, unfortunately and were noisily making their way toward us. Kan’e reached up, grabbed the donut and pulled me out of the way, just as a lizard flipped the table over, exposing us. The lizards fired their guns, hitting the condenser, and suddenly I was leading the way. We both stopped, confused, and then I started feeling all tingly, and everything started getting fuzzy as this stupid, STUPID ship transported what it thought was its owner back to safety.

When I got on board, I immediately yelled to get sent back, but it was already too late, I was dead. That is, my body was dead, I was trapped in this freakish man-horse body. The ship pulled me back and I broke down.

That was eighteen months ago, since then I’ve set the stupid (Stupid, STUPID!) ship up to monitor my family members, so if anything were to happen to them we could go and help. Ship also thinks I need a superhero name because it’s been monitoring satellite TV feeds and become enamored with Captain America and the Avengers. Have I mentioned how stupid the ship is? It’s like a puppy, always wanting affection.

While it’s up there monitoring, I’ve settled on the only uninhabited island on the east coast. It was tough going at first, but I’ve gotten better at building the little “mud brothers” to help out around the island. They’re like golems, but because I can give them different powers, I only make them about a foot tall, so they don’t get out of hand. They used to be taller, but when I catch a glimpse of myself and remember what an abomination I am, they fall apart or, in some cases, explode.

(Words by Mike Zeidler and art by Kyle Starks. UPJ logo provided by Dave Lartigue.)

Are you an artist, writer, or terrifying combination of the two who’d like to try your hand at the Ultimate Powers Jam? Then drop me a line at bitter(dot)andrew(at)gmail(dot)com and I’ll commence the dice to rolling!

Sympathy for a brand mascot

November 18th, 2014

Just as every hot dog is a sandwich
Smeared with yellow paste
As deli-style is to Dijon
Just call me the Mustard Man
Cause I’m in need of pork to baste
So if you feed me
Have some condiments
Have some French’s, add to taste
Use all your culinary deference
Or I’ll lay your lunch to waste, yum yeah
Pleased to season you
Hope you picked my brand
Yum yeah

(with apologies)

There’s a pattern that you’ll see repeated over and over again in this feature: I bought a compilation featuring some familiar artist, discovered another artist I liked, picked up one of their albums, rinse and repeat.

So it was that Punk on the Road inspired me to seek out We Are…The League

….the 1982 debut LP of the Anti-Nowhere League, which I located for under a fiver at Second Coming Records in Cambridge.

The League’s gimmick was punk parody (intentional or otherwise) played straight with member names (“Animal” and “Magoo”), looks (Mad Max motorgang meets skinhead), and material that could have been plucked right out of the made-for-TV-sitcom “punk rocker” style guide. It’s the old Alice Cooper Conundrum, where the performer’s awareness of doing a controversial “bit” is inversely proportional to the audience’s.

They were ludicrous and absurd, but carried the routine with some amazing mid-tempo punk hooks and gleefully obnoxious posturing which hit the sweet spot for surly young dudes looking to shock and awe “the straights” through affected misanthropy (with ample lashings of facile misogyny and homophobia on the side). It’s a fairly typical, if regrettable, part of male adolescence and its abandonment is a marker of one’s passage into emotional maturity.

My love affair with the band was intense but brief, spanning a dozen of so weeks towards the end of 1991. It ended when I was kicked to the curb by an art student I’d been dating at the time, and my affected “punk rawk” obnoxiousness played a huge part her decision to end our relationship. The break-up didn’t cure me of my excesses (as you will see over the coming weeks), but the associative angst did induce me to shelve a number of albums (including My War and The Land of Rape and Honey), I’d been listening to during our time together.

Listening to We Are…The League these days feels a lot like eating some oversized fast food meatwad, where the initial hit of greasy gratification and belly-warming nostalgia quickly fades into a nauseous stupor and the realization that my capacity to digest such fare has long since passed.

Song for Sunday #114

November 16th, 2014


Sonny Russel – 50 Megatons

Silver Age Science Saturdays #41

November 15th, 2014


(from “The Reign of the Elephants” by Manley Wade Wellman, Jim Mooney and Frank Giacoia in Strange Adventures #11, August 1951)

This would come to be known as The Day Bob Really Wished He’d Taken Off His Ivory Cufflinks Before Entering His Suspended Animation Chamber.

Duck off

November 14th, 2014

It would be easy to dismiss the Howard the Duck movie coloring book as an instantly remaindered artifact from one of most baffling examples of unjustified hubris in cinema history, but it is also an invaluable source for illustrations of…

Off-Model Lea Thompson!

Off-Model Tim Robbins!

Off-Model That-Reknowned-Character-Actor-Turned-Registered-Sex-Offender!

Recommended listening: We may live in an age where contrarian scraping of the bottom of the popcult barrel has become a (marginally) profitable cottage industry but never, ever, EVER let anyone tell you this film is anything but cat shit pressed to celluloid.

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