Monday, October 14, 2019

Question After All These Months...

Does anyone come around this blog site anymore? I realize there is no impetus if I don't post, but... just curious. If there's interest I'll get back into it...

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Original Art Friday!!

For the last few months I've been quite busy producing the upcoming Swamp Thing live action series for the new DC streaming network, but that doesn't mean there hasn't been other nonsense on my mind. One of those nonsense bits is looking through some of the original comic book art I've collected over the years, in a feature I've been doing on Facebook called Original Art Friday. Knowing that not everyone is necessarily in the Facebook family, I'll start sharing those posts here as well.

As time goes on and I can reveal more Swamp Thing goodness, I will, but just to prime the Famous Mark Verheiden's Of Hollywood pump, here's my lastest, unfortunately acronymed O.A.F....

ORIGINAL ART FRIDAY 12/7/18

Facebook asks, "what's on your mind, Mark?" That, my friends, is a loaded question, having gotten in at 3:00AM after a full day and night of f****** S**** T****, and the "f" word over there is "filming", so knock that off right now... however, f****** takes a back seat in my brain this A.M., because it is indeed again time for ORIGINAL ART FRIDAY, the special day of the week when I unveil another masterpiece from the gallery of glorious comic book art amassed over the centuries by your humble author...

Today's piece is another beauty from one of my all time favorite comic book artists, Gene Colan, taken from issue #69 of one of my all time favorite characters, Daredevil, The Man Without Fear. Here, Mr. DD converses with a certain Black Panther about varied and sundry (including the Panther losing a shot at joining the Avengers -- it's okay, pal, your movie did just fine) while some nurses admire their good.... deeds.

It's not an action packed page and boy howdy there are a lot of words (as a reformed comic book writer, I apologize to artists everywhere for my verbosity), but it's still packed with angles, lovely figure drawing, and emotion conveyed through body language. I LOVE the panel with the Doctor in the center... even masked, you see the Doc's concern radiating.

This page was inked by the equally incredible Syd Shores, whose career went from the golden age and a long run on the 1940's Captain America series, into the silver age and work like this. Old school silver age fan that that I am, George Klein will probably always be my all time favorite Colan and Buscema inker, but Mr. Shores, at least here, is a close second. He captures Colan's pencils without totally overwhelming them, which is about all one can ask...

And remember this immortal line: "Daredevil's not exactly chopped liver himself --" Have truer sentiments ever been expressed?

 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

It's Screener Time! "The Post."

If you'd like to see something that reminds one of a time when people stood up to power and actually accomplished something, then "The Post" is for you. I was a youngun(ish) when the Pentagon Papers emerged, though old enough to have a draft card... long story short, I'd forgotten many of the details behind Daniel Ellsberg's taking of these documents and the drama behind their dissemination.

What's especially good about this film is that while there is much angst among the reporters about what they're doing and the risks involved, it isn't forgotten that the Pentagon Papers essentially said that multiple Presidents and their administrations knew Vietnam was a losing proposition, but they went ahead with the war anyway. At a cost of 50,000 + American lives, many more wounded, and countless Vietnamese dead.

Tom Hanks is good, though I have a hard time erasing Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee from All The President's Men. But Meryl Streep as Katharine Graham is amazing... and again her part illuminates a story I never really knew. There was a little "hey, who's that?" going on with the rest of the cast, populated with many familiar faces (from Bradley Whitford to Bob Odenkirk to Carrie Coon), but once things settled in that passed. Plus the press scenes reminded me of my days at the Los Angeles Times as a heroic classified ad taker. I give The Post my coveted 4 out of 4 special editions...

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

They Love Me In Poland!

Obviously, assuming anyone checks on this site anymore, my blogging has dribbled off a bit. Well, more than a bit. Time flies when you're having fun! Anyway, over the holidays I'll be presenting some of the greatest hits from my Facebook page and possibly even original material to dazzle and inflame!

First up, a recent Polish review of my first ALIENS graphic novel series, which was recently reprinted in fine form by those jolly Santas at Dark Horse.

The original is available at : http://artpapier.com/index.php?page=artykul&wydanie=338&artykul=6537

But the Google translate version of the article is below. Things I didn't know: Timecop was called "The Guardian Of Time" in Poland, and Aliens the movie was "Alien - Decisive Battle."

Przemysław Pieniążek,
WHAT WOULD BE, IF ... (ALIENS. 30TH ANNIVERSARY. THE ORIGINAL COMICS SERIES)
A A A
If you're a fan of xenomorphs (however it sounds), this exclusive, jubilee edition of the graphic continuation of the hit "Alien - Decisive Battle" (1986) by James Cameron is a position for you. Dated 1988, a comic sequel, which is also a spin-off of the above mentioned film (for reasons of marketing and legal in the illustrated series could not then appear Ellen Ripley, returning in later cycles from Dark Horse), to today read and watch with real pleasure .
Screenwriter, writer and producer Mark Verheiden - including the script "The Guardian of Time" (both his comic and cinematic version directed by Peter Hyams) and low-budget production "My Name is Bruce" (made by Bruce Campbell incarnating on the screen in himself) - he created a non-linear narrative written on several narrators, in which he presented the fate of Newt and Corporal Hicks. The author convincingly showed the influence of past events on the characters' psyche, despite the passage of years still struggling with the demons of the past that haunt their dreams.
Staying in a closed Newt factory and a disfigured soldier once again face the multiplying creatures of acid instead of blood, which after space travels finally reach Earth. Although xenomorphs have chaos with their proper grace, some representatives of homo sapiens are immortalized as predators on the pages of the work. Like James Cameron, Mark Verheiden resigned from the futuristic-gothic horror convention of Ridley Scott's "Alien - Eight Passenger Nostromo" (1979), realizing the comic equivalent of an adrenaline pulsing, explosive combat movie. Which does not mean that the reviewed album lacks a climate of horror and tension.
Presenting a dystopian, technologically advanced future in which religion, consumerism and the ubiquitous world of media collide with the idea of ​​the aliens (vide: the intriguing topic of followers of the Church of the Immaculate Incubation), the screenwriter also broadens the spectrum of knowledge about the developmental cycle / abilities of Aliens and their home planet. The plot could not be missing the theme of artificial intelligence, as well as (original, though in retrospect not completely fetched) analysis of the form of petrified Space Jockey.
An undoubted advantage of this publication is a memorable visual setting. Mark A. Nelson - a cartoonist and academic lecturer in one person - prepared suggestive illustrations with an impressive level of detail (scenographic nuances, space vehicle designs, xenomorphs) and skillfully built oneiric aura, blurring the boundary between wakefulness, nightmare and poignant reminiscences (in one from them even charmingly "censored" Ellen Ripley appears).
Although the faces of the protagonists do not seem particularly varied, the artist convincingly reflects the emotions of dramatis personae, underpinning the oppressive climate with spontaneous bloodshed and scenes of high octane action. It is worth noting that in the beautifully published jubilee volume (enlarged format, blackened edges of pages, gallery of sketches and tasty covers), the reader will find original black and white illustrations of Nelson (in later editions, color variants appeared) made on Duo-Shade paper, covered with special reagents that allow for the contrasts desired by the author.
The bestselling series, enriched with the relatively lucky novel "Szczęściarz" (showing the adventures of the resourceful scrapper and his tailed "companion"), is a real masterpiece that can be contemplated as a sensational storyboard of unrealized superproduction. Because even though the story written by Marek Verheiden was excluded from the canon after the movie "Alien 3" (1992) by David Fincher, he still has adaptive potential, introducing many interesting threads to (not only) the film universe of xenomorphs. I have no illusions that the creation of such a work is less than likely today, which is why I encourage you to reach for this publishing rarity appearing in a very limited edition. Well worth it!
Mark Verheiden, Mark A. Nelson: "Aliens. 30th Anniversary. The Original Comics Series. " Translation: Paweł Biskupski. Scream Comics publisher. Warsaw 2017.
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Saturday, December 31, 2016

FAST FORWARD REVIEW: Code of Honor

A special treat for New Year's Eve! My latest movie review!

TODAY ON FAST FORWARD THEATER: Steven Seagal in "Code of Honor." How could I not go for this after reading this overheated blurb on the the back of the (budget priced!) blu-ray box: "When his family is killed in a drive-by shooting, Robert Sikes (Steven Seagal, "Above The Law"), a former Special Ops operative, vows to rid his city of every last criminal." Every one?! Take my $6.99!

The movie opens with a lengthy sequence of a silent (and huge) Seagal perched on a water-tower, using a sniper rifle to slaughter a bunch of conveniently gathered mobsters/gang-bangers doing a drug deal. Slaughter over, in come the cops, who don't know if they should arrest the vigilante or "give him a medal." An FBI man (played by Craig Shaffer, a LONG way from "The Program") with ties to Sikes starts looking for him. Okay, time to FAST FORWARD.... Sikes goes to a strip club, smokes a cigar, then leaves and triggers a bomb that somehow kills a bunch of mobsters but only leaves cartoon-type soot on the strippers. FAST FORWARD... FBI Man Shaffer confronts Sikes, who in a weird Cajun-ish accent talks about being a hero. FAST FORWARD... Sikes shoots a bunch of drug dealers, including one who for some reason is playing next to a puddle with an electrical wire (!). He gets shot AND zapped! FAST FORWARD... Sikes lures a newsman and his cameraman into an alley by promising them a story. The cameraman looks nervous and Sikes says, "don't worry, I know you're just working for the man." Then Sikes pulls a knife and throws it into the cameraman's neck, killing him. The Newsman is upset, "you promised no weapons!" Ha ha, Sikes fooled him - he said no GUNS. He throws a second knife into the Newsman. No story tonight. FAST FORWARD... somehow everybody's wound up in a warehouse, where Sikes and FBI Guy Shaffer (who turns out NOT to be FBI, but a fake!) have the dullest knife fight in cinematic history... FAST FORWARD... Seagal has another bomb and blows everything up. Then for some story reason I missed in my fast forward frenzy, a hooker and her kid walk off into the sunset. THE END.

Code of Honor gets six FAST FORWARDS from me, which means I probably only actually watched about 25 minutes of it -- which is a better percentage than most of Seagal's recent pictures. If you crave a Punisher movie but hate character development, real action and have always wondered what a 400 lb. former Karate champ would look like in battle, this is for you!

Happy New Year!! 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tales Of McDonalds... Car-Wash Edition!

Like many young people (and, unfortunately these days, some not so young), my first job was working at a McDonalds franchise outlet, which for me meant a store in Beaverton Oregon. Other than picking strawberries in the summer, which I guess is considered illegal child labor now, I had no experience whatever, but that was not a problem.They needed cheap bodies (I started at $1.55 an hour) and being in high school, I needed a flexible schedule and a way to make a few extra bucks.

Note that I worked for McDonald's in prehistoric times, as in the halcyon pre-breakfast, pre-frozen fries (one of my jobs was slicing and "blanching" hundreds of pounds of potatoes daily) era. Just after the earth-shattering introduction of the ever popular Quarter Pounder. Ahh, for those simpler times.

It was all brand new to me. When I sat down for my job interview, the manager took notes on a specially prepared form, writing his name in the spot marked "manager": "Head." I thought he was joking or trying to make a point, like "get it, I'm the head manager", until I found out his name was actually Lee Head. I think he enjoyed my momentary confusion. Perhaps that very smart and smug young fellow is still working there. We can only hope.

I was also hired back when they still had the three color "hat system" that clarified your status within the McDonalds ranks. A white hat was a base trainee, unworthy of respect. A blue hat was for a trained employee, a status that mostly meant they took just a little less shit. A red hat was for managers.

Ahh, the managers. Now there was a bunch. When you're 16, 22 year olds in authority positions might as well be 60, but in fact, most of the management crew were indeed in their mid-twenties, maybe one or two in their late teens. Being it was my first job it was difficult for me to pass judgement at the time, but looking back? It's clear these people hated their positions with a red hot passion. There were also occasional visits from the owners (his name was "Ollie") and the district manager, a burly graduate of McDonalds University who liked to order trainees to get on their knees to scrub the floor so he could put his foot on their back. I am not kidding. 

Looking back, it's clear that some of their managerial methods would not pass muster in the modern work place. For instance, disciplining an employee by throwing a tray of hamburgers in their face. It happened to me one day when, after being accused of not fully cooking the burgers, I said "no, they're done." This particular manager clearly did not like being contradicted, which prompted the reaction, but that he did it in front of a crowd of customers seemed to a little over the top. Suffice to say, the gesture provoked one of the five times I quit the McDonalds empire (I can still remember stuffing my paper blue hat into the grill's grease trough), only to return months later to make some easy money...

But those are stories for another time. Today I'm going to talk about a car-wash. Specifically, the coin-operated hand-nozzle car wash that was located directly behind this particular McDonalds location.

Remember those hats I mentioned earlier? Well, at this particular McDonalds, the managers and long time employees had come up with a unique and rather sadistic way of celebrating someone's promotion from white-hat trainee to blue-hat regular employee. They would wait for the graduate's shift to end, then forcibly drag him to the car-wash, pump quarters into the coin-op and jam the nozzle spraying scalding hot water down the initiate's pants.

Remember what I said about managers making dubious decisions? I think this one qualifies.

So my graduation day finally came. I was about to dispense with my white hat and step up into the glorious world of blue. All during that shift, the managers and other blue hats were gleefully tormenting me about the hell to come. How there would be no escape. In fact, the manager asked me to point out my car so they could box it in, forcing me to stay on site until the deed was done.

I spent my shift wondering, is this was adult life is like? Waiting for a group of work-mates, most of whom I was friendly with, to turn into snarling animals so they could force the same humiliation on me that they themselves had suffered earlier? (The answer, of course, is yes, but I was still naive back then).

Anyway, the hour neared. Tension built. When quitting time finally arrived, I punched out at the time-clock and walked outside, where a small gang had assembled. "You're not going anywhere, Verheiden," the manager snarled. "Get him!" With a jolt of adrenaline (augmented I'm sure by the gallons of shitty Coca-Cola I'd been drinking all night), I bolted across the parking lot toward my car.

Which, by the way, was not the car they had blocked in. When asked to identify my car earlier that evening, I had, of course, pointed to someone else's weather-worn beater. That car wasn't goin' anywhere.

Me? I threw myself into my '66 Dodge Wagon, gunned the engine and burned rubber across the parking lot. As my headlights washed across the back of the store, I could see disappointment and anger welling on the faces of the mob. Because tonight they would be denied their victim! Enraged, the manager somehow grabbed a pan full of water-soaking dehydrated onions and threw it across my back window, a starry burst of white and wet, but it was too little, too late. I was in the wind...

I left those onions on the car, mostly out of sloth, but also as a badge of honor. I was still picking flecks off the bumper weeks later, and loving it, because this was a total victory. They only got one shot at the car-wash torture, that was also part of the graduation protocol. So I had beaten the bastards, and in the process learned an important life lesson. When someone asks you, "is that your car?", always lie.

I would enjoy another two years, of and on, of McDonalds glory... meaning, more stories to come!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Burger Continental R.I.P.



I had occasion to pass through my old stomping grounds of Pasadena, CA. recently and drove past the location of an old fave restaurant, Burger Continental. The elegant signage was still there, but the ominous "Farewell" poster over the door (which I only caught on the fly, driving past) suggested the B.C. was no more.

When I first moved to Los Angeles, I took up residence in an area called Highland Park (basically between downtown L.A. and Pasadena), where I lived in rather seedy apartment complex called "The Golden Palms." The G.P. (we used initials for everything back then!) had become a low-price hangout for students attending the nearby Art Center for Design. I came in toward the end of that era, and while I was not a student at Art Center, my reasons to be there were similar to the starving students, i.e., I had no money and the place was cheap.

Actually, it was even cheaper than it should have been. The building was under rent control, which meant rents could only be raised a set amount on current tenants. If a tenant moved out, the new tenant could be charged whatever the landlord liked. But somehow the residents remained remarkably stable during my time at the G.P., as in, my apartment was actually listed under another name. You would think that would raise an eyebrow from the owner, but turns out he was an absentee landlord named "Mr. Tung" (I'm not kidding) who didn't seem to care who handed him cash every month, as long as he got it. Mr. Tung used to walk the corridors of the building with a bag that literally had a dollar sign on it, like the Monopoly guy, collecting rents. Given this was a fairly gang ridden area, I was always surprised at his bravery, but as long as he didn't raise questions, que sara sara.

Anyway, groups of us would occasionally pile into a car and head over to the B.C. for Greek food (I know, "burger" continental, but what can I tell you) and beers. It was a friendly, open air place as I recall, and we spent many an evening arguing over art and love and God only knows what else after downing ten beers with our falafal.

But my fondest (sort of) memory of the B.C. came when I suffered a romantic set-back in my life and was really, really, REALLY down. My neighbors, who hadn't known me that long, nevertheless could see I was a mess. Maybe it was when they saw me staggering teary-eyed toward my apartment with a 12 pack of beer and a bottle of Jack Daniels. Anyway, out of the kindness of their hearts, they dragged me out to the B.C. so I wouldn't be alone. Those neighbors, as I recall (and things were a little foggy that night!) were James Gurney (yes, THAT James Gurney, the guy who later created Dinotopia) and Thomas Kinkade (yes, THAT Thomas Kinkade, later known as the "painter of light").

Much life has gone by since that evening, and Thomas himself passed away four years ago under unsettling circumstances, but that night was a moment of compassion that has stuck with me all these years. And it all happened at the Burger Continental...

By the way, when I got in front of the computer I decided to check see what exactly had happened to the restaurant. Well, hmm... turns out sanitary conditions had taken a turn for the worse, and after numerous warnings that evidently went unheeded, the place was shut down by the health department in 2015. An ignominious end, but so it goes...