Sketchin’ 90

If you’ve followed my art presentations, you’ll see that sometimes I get hooked on a particular genre and keep at it until its time to move on.
In that spirit, we have here a third piece presenting the Universal Monsters of the past, this time 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein.  Present is Elsa Lanchester as the “Bride” and Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein.
Interestingly, reading up on the movie I found out Colin Clive suffered a broken leg shortly before filming bega.  He is therefore mostly seen here either sitting or standing still to compensate for the injury.  Mr. Clive would pass away only two years later at the very young age of 37, a victim of pneumonia which was exacerbated by a long history of alcoholism.
Very sad indeed.

Obituaries in the news…

Over the weekend the biggest news was the passing of Senator John McCain.  He’s been a fixture of the news for many years, becoming all the more well known during his failed campaign for the presidency against Barack Obama.

Like all too many, I personally never knew the man but his background and service during the Vietnam War, at which time he sustained considerable injuries and was captured and held prisoner for a number of years, refusing to be released early until his fellow prisoners were first released, is the stuff of legend.

His personal life afterwards and his political career, however, gives me pause.  He proposed to his much younger current wife while still married.  His ties to the Keating Five is worrisome and during his presidential run he ultimately chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, a decision which very likely hurt his campaign but which hinted -and perhaps encouraged- some of the same far right know-nothings to keep working at taking over the Republican party… which they essentially have today.

Worst still, even though he had painful first-hand experiences with war, when he became senator he was a strong proponent for war against Iraq (he would, practically on his deathbed, acknowledge it was a mistake).  He was also infamously caught mock-singing “Bomb bomb bomb, bomb Iran” at a function…

Certainly these things, among others, disturbed me but even having listed these examples, one can’t help but admire him as well.  One simply cannot sweep under the carpet the literal hell he went through in Vietnam.  He also engendered considerable respect on both sides of the political aisle and, while many of his political leanings do not follow my own, he seemed respectful of others views and was willing to defend his opponents when he felt they were being maligned…

Hard to imagine Donald Trump would show a fraction of the decency of this moment.  In fact, as I write this (at 8:40 am, the day after the announcement of Senator McCain’s passing), the flag over the White House is no longer flying at half-mast and Trump’s only reaction to the Senator’s death was a tweet directed at the family which -of course- never mentioned the Senator by name and -of course, part deux- showed a photograph of Donald Trump himself.

Mixed feelings though I have about the Senator, I respect his service and will miss his presence.

Rest In Peace, Senator.


Senator McCain’s passing all but eclipsed the passing of another very prominent person: Playwright, screenwriter, and author Neil Simon.

Known for creating many memorable stories which made their way to Broadway, television, and film, perhaps his most famous work wound up being this one…

Famous as the movie was, the TV show based on it, featuring Tony Randall and Jack Klugman, was an incredibly big follow up hit.

The Odd Couple would be reworked many, many times in many other ways, including a recent TV series featured Thomas Lennon and Matthew Perry.

One of my personal favorite of his works was Murder By Death (1976).  In some ways, this film predicted the arrival of Airplane! a few years later.  While Airplane! was a hilarious take on the then popular airline disaster/general disaster movie genre, Murder By Death amusingly took on all the major crime/detective works released up to that point.  It featured quite the cast, too!

Rest in Peace, fellows.

Rest in Peace.

End of an era

Way, waaaaay back in the very early 1980’s and after a period where I had -*gasp*- given up on comic books, I was in Jacksonville and in High School and reintroduced to the comic book world via a friend at the dorm I was living in.

This could have been around 1983 or 84 and the book that got me back into comics was The Saga of the Swamp Thing #16, the first issue featuring the artwork of Stephen Bissette and John Totleban.

Image result for saga of swamp thing 16Though I didn’t know it, at that point in time, the book was running on fumes.  Writer Martin Pasko started the series, the second featuring the character of Swamp Thing, an early favorite of mine in its original series created by Len Wein and Berni Wrightson.  This new series was kicked off thanks to Wes Craven’s 1982 directed Swamp Thing movie.

But the team of Martin Pasko and Tom Yeates, both quite talented, didn’t set the comic book world on fire and by issue #16 Yeates was gone (though he did continue to do covers, including the one presented above), and Martin Pasko was on his way out too.

By issue #19/20, Martin Pasko was ending his run and a new writer was on his way to take over the series.  Though his first officially written issue was #21, this new writer had worked in conjunction with Mr. Pasko on his final issues which involved the return, for the third time, of Swamp Thing’s nemesis Arcane.

The writer would go on to bigger things.  That writer was Alan Moore.

But those final issues officially written by Martin Pasko and deliciously drawn by Mr. Bissette and Totleban, had my full attention.  I LOVED the character of Arcane and I was breathless to find out what became of him.

When issue #18 or #19 of the series was about to be released, I was away from the boarding school and the local comic shop I frequented up there and searched for a comic book shop in my local environs.  The one I found was a small shop called Starship Enterprises.

I picked up the then latest Swamp Thing issues and looked around for other books I wanted to catch up on.  This period of time was, for me, a new golden age of comic book discovery.  I loved the rise of the Independents, I loved the rise of more “serious” works.

And for a while Starship Enterprises was my go-to shop for these books.

So into comics and back issues was I that I searched for other shops and, eventually, Starship Enterprises was no longer my go-to shop.

But the years passed and most of the other shops I frequented closed down.  Starship Enterprises, I found, was sold off to another person and renamed Superheroes.  I once again started to frequent the shop and got to know its owner, Glen, well.

Over the years, I headed to the shop every week or every other week and checked out the latest releases.

Over the years, there also came the rise of digital media.

Bookstores, once frequent in my area, were suddenly gone, and the worst thing was that I didn’t miss them.  I could/would go to Amazon and buy whatever books I wanted, first the physical copies which would be sent to me, then moving on to getting digital copies which I would read on my Kindle or iPad.

But Superheroes, then later known as Villains, continued.

In conversations with him, I suspected Glen knew he was living on borrowed time.  The fact of the matter is that new comic books -pretty much all comic books- are finding their way to the internet.

You’re interested in reading the latest issue of Batman?  Do a quick google search and you may find someone has posted it online.

It’s illegal.  It sucks, but like pirated movies and books, its a sad reality of today.

Just before I headed out to California, I visited Villains and told Glen I’d be gone a couple of weeks.  I told him to hold on to anything that I might like.

Yesterday, after returning to Miami, I headed over to the store to see what I’ve been missing.

I found the store was closed and empty.  A “For Lease” sign was on the window.

Villains is no more.

Photo of Villians - North Miami Beach, FL, United States
Villains, taken from its Facebook page and while still in business

Were the digital issues I noted above to blame?  Did Glen simply have enough of this business and decided to move on?  Had he experienced some health problem which precluded him from continuing?

When I last saw him just before going on my vacation, Glen gave me no indication that he was about to shut the store down, so I do worry that maybe something serious happened in the interval which forced him into this shut down.


But the bottom line is that a store that has existed in one form or another for some 34+ years (at least that was roughly the first time I went into it), is now gone.

And that saddens me tremendously.

Here’s to you, Starship Enterprises, Superheroes, and Villains.

And here’s to you, Glen.

You’ll be missed.

Some stuff I’ve read recently…

Because of several big time recent sales, I’ve picked up a number of graphic novels via Amazon/Comixology and am working my way through them.

Some thoughts/brief reviews:

Moebius Library: The World of Edena by [Moebius]

Jean Girard, aka Moebius, was a French artist whose artwork, IMHO, is absolutely stunning.  Through his life/career, he worked on many genres, including westerns, but is primarily known for his science fiction.  The World of Edena presents the complete saga of Stel and Atan, two spaceship “mechanics” who wind up experiencing a very strange series of adventures indeed.

The saga began as a small story featuring our mechanic protagonists and was followed by another story which was a contracted promotion for the car company Citroen before expanding into a larger and larger saga involving these at first sexless characters returning to their humanity, their awakening sexuality (including, sadly, an attempted rape, a sequence that might have worked back when this was originally released but today is… well… difficult to take), their breakup, and, eventually, the corrupted society they face and must defeat.

I was familiar with the early chapters in the book but as I went along found myself reading “new” material, including the last few chapters and conclusion to this saga. As it turned out, it was the second half of the series where I felt Mr. Moebius’ writing failed him and the way the saga ends was, IMHO, particularly disappointing.

What isn’t disappointing is the artwork, which is simply stellar.  Even when his story goes off the rails, and I do believe it did somewhere around that half-way point, one can’t help but admire Moebius’ artistic skills.

Highly recommended for fans of Moebius’ artwork but don’t expect the story to grab you as strongly.

Image result for prison ship esteban maroto

It feels like I’m about to offer the very same essential review of the Doug Jones written, Esteban Maroto Prison Ship as I’ve just written for Moebius’ The World of Edena.

In Prison Ship our protagonist Faye (this is her name in this compilation), is flying a group of criminals from one planet to another when her spacecraft is apparently hit by a meteorite. She is knocked unconscious and, when she awakens, finds her prisoners, who were in some kind of cryogenic units, have escaped.

Faye’s spacecraft is locked in place and programming within it will not allow her to return home until she collects the escaped prisoners, alive or dead.

The concept, as presented, is intriguing but the story, alas, is pretty nonsensical.  For example, the big crisis for Faye is the fact that she cannot use her spaceship to return home until these prisoners are captured, and one gets the sense she’s on an island and will be unable to move until this mission is accomplished.  Yet she gets into a smaller shuttle craft and goes from planet to planet without any particular difficulties.

Faye is also a rather typical Heavy Metal/1984 type female protagonist: Sexy and sexual yet not terribly deep beyond that.  Yes, you will find her presented in various states of undress while as the story progresses, we come to a whopper involving the identity of one of the escaped prisoners which was beyond silly.


That artwork is terrific.  Yeah, the story doesn’t hold up but in this case, Prison Ship is worth picking up for that alone.

Image result for shadow fire of creation

I’m a fan of The Shadow’s original pulp novels.  The character, and those novels, were very clearly influential in the creation of The Batman.  Over the years, many artists and writers have taken on The Shadow with varying degrees of success.  To me, the most successful works are still those by Dennis O’Neil and Mike Kaluta.

The Shadow: The Fires of Creation is written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Aaron Campbell and the overall product doesn’t quite reach the levels of O’Neil/Kaluta and ultimately falls somewhere in the middle.

Lamont Cranston aka The Shadow and his right hand woman Margo Lane are on the hunt for two Japanese nationals who are, in turn, seeking out “magic rocks” and will kill anyone that stands in their way.

Again, a decent read and certainly not a bust, but there have been better Shadow graphic works.


More to follow!

Led Zeppelin Songs ranked…

A while back I found a list which ranked all The Beatles songs in order from worst to best (you can read that list here).  The list had a whopping 213 songs on it, a tribute to the fact that in the seven years they were releasing albums (from 1963’s Please Please Me to 1970’s Let It Be, which was actually recorded before 1969’s Abbey Road), The Beatles released an insane amount of songs -so many of which were of such high quality- that it truly is hard to create a list such as this.

Welp, I stumbled across another list a few days back, this one devoted to ranking all the Led Zeppelin songs.  The group released albums from 1969 (Led Zeppelin) to 1982 (Coda) which means they were “active” and releasing albums for thirteen years versus The Beatles’ seven years.  One could quibble about that time frame as Coda was an “odds and ends” album comprised of stuff left over in the studio from the previous years.  Their last “real” album was 1979’s In Through The Out Door, so take that as you will.

Regardless, though together a longer time they released some 92 songs.  This is not a knock against Led Zeppelin, whose music I REALLY like, only pointing out the incredible industry of The Beatles.

Anyway, without further ado and written by Michael Gallucci and presented in

All 92 Led Zeppelin songs ranked worst to best

Unlike The Beatles, I’m not quite as familiar with Led Zeppelin’s tunes to the point where seeing a title instantly makes me know the song.  Some had titles that don’t necessarily follow the song while others are only too obvious.

With this ranking, I have to admit I was scratching my head at the placement of some of the selections, perhaps moreso than with The Beatles list.  But as with The Beatles list, I’m going to add my own .02 cents and present what I think are the 10 best Led Zeppelin songs, in no particular order…

Stairway to Heaven.  What more need be said about this song?  It’s transcendent and classic.

Immigrant Song.  Another one of those songs whose driving music and wonderful singing by Robert Plant propels it into the stratosphere.

Communication Breakdown.  Love, love, love this hard crunching, almost metal song, found on their very first album.

Hey Hey What Can I Do.  Never formally released on an album, this “B” side of Immigrant Song may well be one of Led Zeppelin’s all time best songs ever.  A real curiosity that it was never put into a formal album!

Kashmir.  Another one of those instantly identifiable Led Zeppelin songs.  Some may complain it goes on too long, but I feel it goes on just long enough.  Chilling.

Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid (She’s Just a Woman).  Yeah, I know, they’re two songs actually mashed up together but I’ve always viewed them as intertwined and, therefore, one work.

Whole Lotta Love.  Another of those songs that is intricately tied to Led Zeppelin.  Great tune.

Black Dog.  Yet another song that is soooo Led Zeppelin.  Opening song on their famous fourth album.

What Is And What Should Never Be.  From their second album and featuring yet another incredible Jimmy Page riff.

Ramble On.  Led Zeppelin were very much into J. R. R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy/The Hobbit.  Here’s a song that most certainly makes allusions to it.

Ready Player One (2018) a (mildly) belated review

One of the nice things about going on a trip like I did (sorry for sounding like I’m rubbing it in… I honestly don’t mean to!) is that if you’re lucky and, like me, you travel via “regular” class (ie, not first class), you’ll find yourself traveling in an airplane that offers individual monitors filled with diversions during your long trip.

That was the case on the way to California: Each seat had an individual monitor on which you could watch TV shows, movies, play games, etc. etc.  The first film I saw via this device was A Quiet Place (reviewed here).  The trip proved long enough to allow me to see another recent release, the Steven Spielberg directed Ready Player One.

Based on the 1980’s nostalgia heavy novel by Ernest Cline, the movie is filled with references to -natch- movies, TV shows, video games, and general pop culture, much -though not all- of which is heavily 1980’s oriented.

If you’ve read the book (I have not), there is an interesting review quote on one of the edition’s covers…

Image result for ready player one matrix meets willy wonka

I know it’s tough to see, but on the upper left hand corner of this cover is the following quote from USA Today:

Enchanting.  WILLY WONKA meets THE MATRIX.

This quote essentially gets to the heart of what Ready Player One, the movie, is.  Here’s the trailer:

Tye Sheridan plays Wade Watts, a young man who looks curiously like a young, beardless Steven Spielberg…

Related image

…who, in the year 2045, lives in your typical concrete and metal degrading city-hellscape and, like most of the people, longs to live there as little as possible.  Like many, he often heads out to the “Oasis”, a virtual reality playground wherein people can do all sorts of things with their Avatars, from playing games to participating in any sort of events (nightclubs, dances, romance, etc.).  This, obviously, is the Matrix-like part of the movie.

Oasis, we find in an exposition heavy first 10 minutes or so of the film, was created by an eccentric -and deceased- man by the name of James Halliday (Mark Rylance) who has hidden in this vast virtual playground 3 “keys” which, if found, will entitle the person who gets them control over Oasis.  And there, ladies and gentlemen, is your Willy Wonka element.

As you can guess, Wade Watts and his friends wind up chasing down the keys while an evil/no-good/bad industrialist tries to get the jump on them.

And… and…

It’s okay, I suppose, but the movie, on a whole, left me more underwhelmed than it should have.

That’s not to say there aren’t some delightful sequences, the biggest/best of which involves the hunt for the second key.  I won’t give the elements of this away, but it involves recreating key sequences from a very famous film originally released in 1980, a film which was directed by a person many, including myself, feel is one of the greatest directors there ever was.  I’ll say no more.

The problem with Ready Player One is that the film moves along at a rapid pace but doesn’t allow us to get sufficiently invested in the characters.  The fact of the matter is that they’re barely that: They’re the “good guys” and that’s that.  They’re up against the “bad guys” and that’s that.

Yet as a viewer I never felt they were in any big danger.  The film simply never makes us feel like there are real stakes involved, even though some ancillary characters are eliminated in “real life”.

Again, though, the film isn’t a total bust.  Along with the hunt for the second key, I did find myself laughing at a few sequences/jokes here and there, and it was kinda fun to try to spot all the “easter eggs” this film is filled with.

I also thought it was kinda fun that the film’s climax makes reference to the very first video game that did indeed feature an easter egg (as a long time video game player, I was aware of the game and the egg, so this stuff wasn’t a huge surprise to me).

Yet I can’t help but return to my main complaints: The movie never drew me in as much as I would have hoped and there is never a proper sense of suspense regarding the adventures shared.  We’re also, unfortunately, dealing with characters who are two dimensional and hard to care for.

(I could also get nitpicky and note the way the first key is found seemed waaaay too easy, especially when the movie notes how for so many years people going to Oasis were unable to “solve” it.  Considering the types of easter eggs found by people in all sorts of video games -some deviously well hidden, including that “first” easter egg- this “solution” was… lame).


The bottom line is: The film has its moments and, as spectacle, is interesting.  But it could, indeed should, have been more.  I’d recommend it to those who are fascinated with video games and general pop culture.  Others may want to stay away.