Saturday, May 28, 2011


So I've been doing some traveling the last couple weeks, with more to come, and I am getting pretty weary of the entire strip-search airport routine. But I've learned to deal with it and have the process down to a science, more or less. Dump keys, phone, glasses and anything else metal into computer bag. Pull out laptop and any other devices, take off shoes and belt and jacket and place on conveyor. If I'm flying alone, prepare for additional search of bags. If I'm flying alone on a one way ticket, prepare for a double search. Then once I'm through, allow five minutes to pull everything together again.

Part of me is okay with this. When I fly, I'd just as soon have some assurance that the guy next to me isn't packing heat. But it does seem invasive, and I am a little irritated at how passively I've accepted this new protocol.

I was an airport yesterday and watched an older fellow refuse to accept the protocol. He did not want the infamous "crotch search" and was making quite a scene. At first, since this was holding up the line, I was a little annoyed. Then I caught myself and sort of admired the guy for standing up for his rights. Though as I was leaving, he was being mega-wanded for metal so I'm not sure exactly what his protest gained him... but crotch searches? Really? *Sigh*...

Friday, May 20, 2011

Archie Archives! I Don't Get It!

Time to lighten things up a little... or is it?

ARCHIE ARCHIVE SERIES Vol. 1 (Dark Horse): So now even the venerable Archie franchise is getting the super deluxe hardcover treatment. I suppose I risk the denunciation of Archie fans everywhere, but I have read several dozen Archie comics during my comics-loving life and can't remember ever cracking even a smile over a single story. Clearly I just don't have the "Archie gene", since these characters have been around since the 40's and continue to be published today. So I preface my comments by saying "I just don't get it." And after flipping through this book? I still don't. At the very beginning Archie was more of a dick (who insisted everyone call him "Chick") and there was a hint of Tex Avery-ish anarchy at play, but I find the artwork dull to ugly and the stories completely predictable and tedious. Whoa, new lifeguard Archie slips on a banana peel rushing to a rescue and crashes through a canoe! Archie accidentally splashes mud on Reggie and Reggie gets mad! Perhaps time has not been kind and this was knee-slapping hilarity back in the day, and/or sex-starved youngsters were into the occasional cheese-cake of Betty and Veronica. (Veronica is actually topless, albeit in shadow, in one panel, which was hot stuff back in the day.) The unfortunate racist blips are a product of the times so I won't hold that against them. But I'm afraid someone will have to explain the simple pleasures of Archie because, like opera and country, it's not for moi.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

More On Black Eye And Canada's Odd Customs

Seems like the happy-go-lucky Canadians would have more important things to do than confiscate potty-mouthed comic books (see my Black Eye review in a post below), but nope! Do they honestly think they can keep this material out of Canadian hands in this glorious internet age? Evidently they intend to try!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Few New Items Worth Discussing...

Or are they? You be the judge!

ALEX TOTH: Dean Mullaney, who edited the recently reviewed Alex Toth volume (see earlier post), wrote in response to my mild complaint that there wasn't more "later" Toth work in the book. To my delight, there are going to be two more volumes in the series, one collecting a bunch of Toth's 60's/70's work, and another volume covering his animation work. Fantastic!

HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN: Well, no one can accuse the filmmakers of false advertising. This low budget spectacle can be found on various pay-per-view venues and I believe it has had a minimal theatrical release. Spinning off a faux Grindhouse trailer, Rutger Hauer plays said hobo with a firearm. He has arrived in the most violent town ever put on film, where hoodlums clamp manhole covers around victim's necks, drop them into manholes then rip their heads off in the middle of the street. A manic criminal family seems to "run" the town by beating, screwing and/or killing anybody they see (sometimes not in that order). The Hobo rescues a prostitute with a heart-of-gold and then decides to clean up the town, with predictably violent results. It's wildly, gleefully over the top and packed with vile language and images. I kind of liked the anarchic spirit of the whole thing, and I'll watch Hauer in just about anything, but this tries to be offensive on almost every level so beware!

BLACK EYE: A brand new comic anthology financed through Kickstarter contributions, including a few bucks from yours truly. Black Eye is a collection of "black humor" that makes Hobo With a Shotgun look like it was adapted from Highlights For Children. There is a cool interview with Mad editor and EC artist Al Feldstein (whose best work in my book were his insane sexy-teen comics for the Fox publishing company) and a look at the writings of Michael O'Donahue, but the comics are the draw here and they are a truly dark collection of scribblings. We were regaling one another with "dead baby" jokes back in junior high ("What do you a dead baby on your doorstep? Matt!"), so bleak for the sake of bleak isn't exactly new or daring for moi, but the art is good and anything that's busted by Canadian customs for obscenity deserves an A for effort. Plus I'll buy anything by Ivan Brunetti.

BLACK DEATH: Continuing the cheery theme of this round-up, Black Death stars Sean Bean as Ulric, a religious warrior in 13th Century England determined to find the neuromancers and witches responsible for the spread of the bubonic plague. 'Cause you gotta blame somebody, you know! He takes along a young monk (Eddie Redmayne) as a guide and leads a motley crew of killers and torturers toward a village that has somehow been spared from the plague's wrath. Many twists ensue that would constitute major spoilers, so I'll just note that I was taken with the look of the film, the acting is uniformly excellent and it's fun to see a movie that tries for a "Conqueror Worm" sort of authenticity, as opposed to arch or camp. There's a really well done sword/bludgeon/knife battle in the middle, too. Definitely worth checking out...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Emergency Elvis Costello Alert

Caught Elvis Costello's "spinning songbook" show at the Wiltern Theater last night, one of the best nights of concert fun since the LAST time I saw him do the spinning songbook, way back in 1986 (!). Go-go-dancer, check, audience participation, check, the Imposters playing full tilt, check check check. To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, "great show, or greatest show ever?" I've probably seen EC twenty-five times and this one certainly rises very close to the top.

Even better, Costello was in amazing voice... he did a version of the lovely "All Grown Up" that sent a shiver up this old spine.

Tour is making its way around the country "as I type", so if you have any interest in Costello's music, this is a can't-miss show!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Falling Skies: Early Reviews!

Early reaction to the press kit, which included the first seven hours of Falling Skies season one!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Crowded House And The Beatles: Aural Fun!

CROWDED HOUSE: The fine folks at are once again releasing dozens of live shows from last year's Crowdie tour, and of course all right-thinking Americans should have the entire set. But those looking for one good sampler should give Kufala's "Travelogue 2010" compilation a shot. Three CDs, 49 tracks, all in spectacular sound. This may still be available at some record stores (it was issued for Record Store Day a few weeks back) or at the Kufala site.

THE BEATLES: Just received Beatlefan #189, a bi-monthly magazine that covers the Fab Four in depth. Yes, you read that right, it's issue #189. How, you may wonder, do they continue to find magazines worth of material forty years after the band dissolved? Beats me, but they sure do, and anyone with an interest in the Beatles, both together and solo, and/or Apple and its associated bands will definitely find something of interest here. Beatlefan, PO Box 33515, Decatur, GA 30033, or go to and paypal a subscription!

I Am Now Tweeting

Yes, I have joined the ever-lovin' twitter-verse. I can be found offering the occasional short remark at @markverheiden. Now if I can only learn all the peculiar abbreviations that make twittering so twitter like...

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Falling Skies At The Paley Festival 2011

This should be fun... the Paley Festival will be hosting a special screening and panel discussion of Falling Skies. I'm sure we'll be discussing all things skitter and mech, so get in line for your tickets now!

Doesn't look like tickets are on sale yet, but frankly I didn't look very hard, I think I'm being comped on this one. But the official site is:

And here's the Falling Skies line-up:

Tuesday, July 19 at 7pm: Special screening of Falling Skies, featuring Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Drew Roy, Sarah Carter, Darryl Frank, Justin Falvey, Mark Verheiden, and Greg Beeman.

Alex Toth: Genius Isolated

Alex Toth - Genius Isolated: Yet more proof that we live in the golden era of comic book journalism. This massive volume collects a wealth of Alex Toth's art, much of it shot from the originals, as well as presenting a well researched biography that explores his complicated life.

Toth's work was a stylistic wonder. Often with just a few lines and a scattering of black, he created dynamic images with more power than a gazillion over-rendered lines. But for all his immense talent, Toth was also legendary for being "difficult", which sometimes meant he refused to suffer fools, often in the most self-destructive way imaginable. The authors recount when Toth, fed up with a particular editor at a California based comic book company, drafted a list of reasons why the editor was incompetent, collared the editor himself so he could hear it, then read the list to the editor's boss. Needless to say, Toth's freelance career at that particular company came to a dramatic close.

When he turned his wrath against editors and writers it meant his business life suffered, but sadly, he would also turn on family and friends at the drop of a mercurial hat, ending years-long friendships permanently over even the hint of a perceived (but never intended) slight. He was the classic angry man, frustrated by life and his own demons. I think Toth was an artist trying to find fulfillment in a field where "artistic integrity" would often collide with deadlines and editorial fiat. But he loved comics, so that and animation were his worlds.

Anyhow, it's a great book. If I have any criticism, it's that I wish there had been a little more later "pure Toth" presented. A lot of his 50's DC work was heavily inked, but when left to his own devices (like his occasional post-70's work for DC, his stories for Warren's Creepy/Eerie books, or his humor stories for Drag Cartoons) he was at his finest. My guess is those were difficult to license, and it is a minor caveat indeed!