Thursday, July 31, 2014

Heavenly Body of the Week: Altair IV

"In times long past, this planet was the home of a mighty, noble race of beings who called themselves the Krell. Ethically and technologically they were a million years ahead of humankind, for in unlocking the mysteries of nature they had conquered even their baser selves, and when in the course of eons they had abolished sickness and insanity, crime and all injustice, they turned, still in high benevolence, upwards towards space. Then, having reached the heights, this all-but-divine race perished in a single night, and nothing was preserved above ground." 
-Dr. Edward Morbius

1956 saw the release of one of the greatest science fiction films of all time. Based on Shakespeare's The Tempest, Forbidden Planet was the first Hollywood film to take place entirely on a different planet. Oh, and speaking of heavenly bodies, there's also Anne Francis, and, let's say her space wiles. ed. note: see pic below to find out just what Leslie Nielsen and his space-weary crewmen found behind the local planetary flora.

Check out the Heavenly Body of the Week Space Database
That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Comic Stripping: I'll Be Seein' Ya in the Funny Pages

Hiya, and welcome to the first in a series where I will take a look at some comic strips (and maybe some comic books too), from throughout history. I have always been a fan of the so-called funny pages, and some of my fondest childhood memories are lying on the living room floor, newspapers spread out all around me, reading the latest exploits of Beetle Bailey and Broom Hilda and Hagar the Horrible and Marmaduke and Blondie and Dagwood and Redeye and Funky Winkerbean and Prince Valiant and The Wizard of Id and Charlie Brown and the gang, and all those others who to name here would make this list go on forever. Now here we are forty some years later, and I find myself still obsessed over those aforementioned funny pages, adding such stalwarts as Zippy the Pinhead, Calvin and Hobbes, and those wacky denizens of Bloom County and Pearls Before Swine to my roster of comic strip BFFs. Even delving back to before my time, and to such classics as Krazy Kat, Terry and the Pirates, and Lil' Abner. This series is simple. Just some random thoughts on some random comics, with no real rhyme and/or reason behind any of it. Just a look at whatever comic strips (and the occasional comic book) that seem to be making me happy (or angry) at the moment. Simple as that. Now sit right back, and you'll hear a tale. A tale of some comic stripping.

Fist off, let's take a gander at that oh so beloved classic of the funny pages, Charles Schulz's Peanuts. Good a place as any to start, eh? And if we're starting with Peanuts, and good ol' Charlie Brown, and this is acting as an introductory edition to my Comic Stripping series, then we should probably start with the very first Peanuts strip, from waaay back on October 2, 1950. Granted, there has always been a lot of hidden (and sometimes not-so-hidden) existential angst in the pages of Charles Schulz's classic strip, but this first strip really hits hard on that angst...and some sort of pent-up anger as well. That being the case, I really like it, and consider it one of Schultz's subversive masterpieces. Check it out below.

Good ol' Charlie Brown...yes, sir! Didjya know that Charlie Brown was actually created in 1948, in Schulz's comic, L'il Folks? This strip, often just one or two panels, but sometimes as many as three, ran in Schulz's hometown newspaper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, from 1947 to 1950, and can play out as if the embryonic state of Peanuts. There was even an unnamed puppy that looked a whole hell of a lot like a certain beagle we would come to know a few years later. Seventeen of these strips, mostly the one panel ones, appeared in The Saturday Evening Post. Here is one of these early, oh so obvious Peanuts-esque strips, showing am oh so obvious Snoopy-esque dog.

After two years of trying to get this strip syndicated, the cartoonist took his best panels and sold them to the United Feature Syndicate, and a classic was born. The only problem was the name. Being too close to the Al Capp's L'il Abner and a strip called Little Folks, the syndicate came up with the name Peanuts, based on the Peanut Gallery. To his dying day, Schulz hated this title. A huge influence on so many cartoonists (Bill Watterson based the look of Calvin and Hobbes on Schulz's strip) Charlie Brown and his gang were always one step ahead of all other strips, in their take on politics, social events, racism, sexism, and good ol' existential angst, and this first strip, showing Shermy hating on good ol' Charlie Brown, started it all. But enough of all this Charlie Brown angst. Let's move on to some other kind of angst. Some good ol' Woody Allen angst.

That's right kids, from 1976 to 1984, playwright, cartoonist, and children's book author, Stuart Hample drew a strip all about Woody Allen. Written by a series of different authors, Inside Woody Allen took a look at the writer/director's most noted onscreen personality, the nebbishy, neurotic, angst-ridden intellectual. I sort of remember this from my younger days, but only barely. There is an animated segment in Allen's 1977 film, Annie Hall, which uses Hample's artwork. Never mind about what Mia Farrow, Susan Sarandon, and other naysayers say about the guy. I like the guy and I like this strip. So there! And since we're on the theme of angst here, let's give a shout out to that angsty, chubby little girl we all know and love. Nancy first appeared in the strip, Fritzi Ritz, waaay back in 1933. Eventually, Fritzi Ritz, the strip about a floozy flapper, changed its name to Nancy, and poor Fritzi became Aunt Fritzi, and was relegated to supporting player in the life and times of Nancy and her BFF, Sluggo.

As you can see from the above strip, cartoonist Ernie Bushmiller worked with more than just mere storytelling and gag writing in his strip. He would constantly break the fourth wall, and use meta humour in his work. A strip, much like the contemporary Krazy Kat, well ahead of its day. Bushmiller had a quite absurdest slant to his cartooning. Eventually Nancy would grow up, abandon her life with Aunt Fritzi and Sluggo, and move into the Village, becoming a whole new person. This new life can be seen in the below panel. Granted, this may not be an official Nancy comic strip (in fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say it most definitely is not), but it does show the often overlooked secret life of the beloved funny pages eight year old. We'll get to the strip on the right in just a bit.

Yeah, so just like the Nancy above may not be a real Ernie Bushmiller, the Family Circus next to it may not be a Bil Keane original either. Any self-respecting comic book reader and/or red-blooded Marvel kid, will surely find this unofficial Family Circus/Uncanny X-Men hybrid quite heee-larious. And speaking of Bil Keane and his Family Circus, I spent many years despising this seemingly insipid, one panel strip, until one day I looked up and saw that one of my favourite cartoonists, Bill 'Griffy" Griffith, creator of Zippy the Pinhead, was actually a fan. And more than that, he actually drew up some Family Circus-inspired Zippy strips, as well as collaborated with Keane on Family Circus. Here is one of these, complete with a nod to Nancy & Sluggo. See how everything comes full circle 'round here?

So, there ya go. If Griffy and Zippy like Billy and Jeffy, then who am I to argue. Zippy's never been wrong before. Then again, he is kind of an idiot. An intriguing idiot, but an idiot nonetheless. But, I digress. Since we are suddenly on a nonsensical bent (aka, a Zippy bent) and therefore have no real reason to make the next strip follow logically from the above strip (though, please do notice how well I kept that going through the first bunch of strips), I suggest we move on to something less acerbic, something a bit less esoteric. Something a bit, punk, shall we say!? Yeah, something a bit more punk!! Let's take a look at something a bit more punk, baby!

So there ya have it! A bit more punk, indeed. One of the greatest rock bands of all-time, the Ramones found themselves the subject of a fresh new comic book, called Weird Tales of the Ramones, an over-sized comic book that accompanied the 2005 DVD box set of the same name. The comic book had a bunch of different artists among its pages. One of these artists was Bill Griffith, creator of Zipp...hey, wouldjya look at that? I suppose everything ties in after all. Ain't life grand? Anyway, let's move on from the Ramones and from Zippy & Griffy and from Nancy and good ol' Charlie Brown (How I hate him!) and from Bil Keane's rounded off Family Circus as well. Let's go back to the early days, the Golden Age if you will, of television. That's right kids, it's time to take a look at I Love Lucy - the comic strip!

Lucy's show was so popular (it still holds the record for highest average rating over it's seven seasons on CBS) that she began hitting other media outlets as well. Dell put out a 35 issue I Love Lucy comic book series, and King Features syndicated a comic strip even. The strip ran from 1952 to 1955. And speaking of I Love Lucy...the weekly network series ended in 1957, with another three years of hour-long specials. When the show finally went off the air in 1960, it immediately went into rerun syndication (the first show to do so) and to this very day, there has never been a time that I Love Lucy was not airing somewhere on TV in the US. Including the show's initial run, that is 63 years and counting. Not too shabby. But enough TV talk, this is supposed to be a post about comic strips. With that in mind, I offer up this next strip.

Yup. That is Dr. Strange, done to the tune of The Wizard of Id. As a fan of both the comic book, and especially Marvel Comics (I have always been a Marvel Kid), and the comic strip (duh, look at what this post is all about) I love when the two are mashed together. This particular strip is by Daniel Irizarri Oquendo (check out his other stuff here). And yes, it is comedy gold. Of course, if you don't read comic books, then maybe it's not so goldish after all. But what kind of sick, twisted bastard doesn't read comic books!!? But I digress. Since we got to check out the first appearance of good ol' Charlie Brown earlier in the post, why not take a look at the first appearance of another iconic comic strip character...but not as most people know him.

That's right, for the first six months of Beetle Bailey's existence, he wasn't the sad sack private from Camp Swampy that we have all come to know and love, but instead a college freshman at Rockview University. When Beetle debuted on September 4, 1950, Mort Walker, recalling his own university days, placed him smack dab in the middle of rip-roaring college life. Six months later, as the Korean War heated up abroad, Beetle caved into peer pressure, and enlisted in the US Army. The rest is, as they say, history. And since we're on the subject of Beetle Bailey's early, pre-military days, didjya happen to know that Beetle's sister was one Mrs. Lois Flagston, nee Bailey, who a few years later would get her own strip, also scripted by Walker (Hagar the Horrible's Dik Browne did the art), called Hi and Lois. Howzabout that!? But enough of this, without further ado, I give you the last strip of this inaugural edition of Comic Stripping.

Yup. This is my blog and my post, my house and my rules, so yeah, I'm closing with my very own strip. Granted, I have been more than woefully lacking in my cartooning duties as of late, having not done a new La-La & Lu-Lu in months (it used to come at a 2 or 3 a week clip) but it's still my strip, and my baby, so here it is. And, continuing with the first appearance thing we got goin' here, this was the very first La-La & Lu-Lu that I ever did, making it's debut, via Brain Tumor Comix, on July 17, 2013. A link to take you to the official La-La & Lu-Lu page can be found right here. And maybe we'll see a brand new La-La & Lu-Lu (or two or three) sometime soon. Keep your eyes peeled. But let's move on. So, that thing you just read, was the inaugural edition of my latest regular feature, Comic Stripping. What do ya think of that title? Oh who cares. I'll be back with another edition of Comic Stripping sometime in August. Keep your eyes peeled for that as well. To close, here's a panel of Mary Worth diving into a pool, wearing a nightgown. Why the hell not!? That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Duck(ish) Tales: The 10 Best Huey, Dewey, and Louies

So, it would seem that Donald's color-coded nephews are not the only important Huey, Dewey, and Louie's around these parts. That being so, I figured a fun top ten list could come out of this, so here ya go. I did it pretty fairly too, including three Huey's, three Dewey's, and then four Louie's (or Louis' as the case may be). Granted, the Louie/Louis ones were a bit easier than the Huey's and Dewey's. There is one major Louis/Louie I did leave off the list, which is an extra surprising omission considering my love of classic cinema. That omission is MGM head honcho, Louis B. Mayer. Sure, he is (semi) responsible for some of my all-time favourite films, but come on, the guy was a real asshole. Granted, there are a couple assholes who did make the list (judge for yourself, which ones these are) but none of 'em were as big of assholes as King Mayer was. Just ask the pill popping Judy Garland about her childhood. Well, if you could, that is. You get my meaning. Anyhoo, let's get on with this list dammit!! WE have ten (or eleven) Huey, Dewey, and Louie's to countdown.

And awaaaaaaay we go...

Special Mention: Louis Garrel

To keep peace at home, I had to include one of my lovely wife's favourite actors somewhere in here. Is special mention good enough? I hope so. Actually I like M. Garrel perfectly fine, but I do have fun mocking him to my lovely wife. I mean he is your typical French bohemian, which means he is arrogant, rude, and probably bathes very little. Okay, other than the not bathing part, that pretty much describes me, so I suppose he isn't half bad after all. I did quite like him in The Dreamers, although I was probably watching Eva Green as his sister, a bit more closely. But hey, he does have pretty awesome hair.

10. Louie Louie by the Kingsmen

Noted for people not understanding the lyrics, and some even thinking they are dirty and/or subversive, this song, covered by tons of artists, from Toots and the Maytals to Otis Redding to Iggy Pop to The Pretty Things to Black Flag and Motorhead even, is just a fun little diddy about not much of anything. Musically speaking is was quite innovative though, but it wasn't until Iggy and his Stooges added filthy lyrics in their cover, did it ever get actual subversive lyrics. So there!

9. Dewey Dell Bundren

Definitely the most obscure Huey, Dewey, and Louie on the list. Well, unless you happen to be a book nerd and/or are into William Faulkner. As Faulkner is considered the greatest American author by my lovely wife, I suppose this entry will get me even more points than the aforementioned M. Garrel. One of the characters from Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, Dewey Dell isn't exactly the happiest of fictional characters - even by Faulkner standards. Living in a world she describes as a "tub of guts," poor Dewey Dell is living an ugly existence, and is one of the more tragic heroes of literature - even by Faulkner standards. The above pic is of Ahna O'Reilly, who plays Dewey Dell in James Franco's 2013 adaptation of the novel.

8. Bell UH-1 Iroquois Helicopter, aka The Huey

Once the elite flying machine of the US Army, the Huey helicopter, first flown in 1956, and put into production in 1960, was the chopper that helped the US win the Vietnam War. Well, okay, I suppose the term "win" is a bit of a misnomer. What if I were to say, the Huey helicopter was the fast swirling monster machine that helped the US slaughter lots of innocent Vietnamese, all in the name of whatever bullshit excuse the government came up with for being over there in the first place. Too soon? Anyway, as long as Flight of the Valkyries is blaring from the choppers, it's all good.

7. Louis CK

There are a handful of comics out there who make me literally burst with laughter. Seriously,I have had to have emergency surgery on several occasions. Anyhoo, while I have, of course, laughed at many a comic, there are only a few who do the whole side-splitting thing for me. Denis Leary is one, Ricky Gervais is another, and in case you didn't already figure it out, Louis CK is another. With his acerbic, fuck-you-all wit, he is most certainly one of the best Huey, Dewey, and/or Louie's out there.

6. Dewey Beats Truman

Perhaps the most famous, and most ridiculously screwed up newspaper headline of all-time. You see, back in the 1948 Presidential election, New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey apparently beat out incumbent President, Harry S. Truman, to become the 34th President of the United States of America. At least that's what the Chicago Tribune read on the morning of November 3rd. Only problem was that Dewey did not beat Truman, and Harry S. would remain the President for another term. See, even before the hanging chad, some people had a problem counting votes.

5. Huey P. Newton

Huey P. Newton was a political activist from Monroe, Louisiana. In 1966 he, along with fellow activist (and future Chicago 8 defendant) Bobby Seale, founded the Black Panthers. Newton was a tireless activist for black rights, and is a hero among as many as he is a villain. In 1989, after fights with former Panthers, Huey P. Newton met with one of these former allies on a street corner, for a supposed shoot-out. Newton told the man "You can kill my body, and you can take my life, but you can never kill my soul. My soul will live forever!" Newton was then shot and killed by the murderer. Huey P. Newton was not armed.

4. King Louie

Ever since I was a wee kid, my favourite Disney character has been King Louie, the King of Swing from the 1967 film, The Jungle Book. I remember having a Disney movie album as a kid, and one of the songs on it was "I Wanna Be Like You," sung by Louis Prima as King Louie. Hey, look there! Another Louie/Louis! Actually, according to legend, the folks at Disney (this was the first film made after Walt's death) had wanted Louis Armstrong for the part, but thought better of what could happen if they cast a black man as an ape. But not to worry true believers, I'm pretty sure Mr. Satchmo is coming up soon on the list. At least, he should. Who would be stupid enough to do a list such as this, and NOT include Louis Fucking Armstrong!?

3. The Dewey Decimal System

As any book nerd or librarian knows, the Dewey Decimal System is the one and only, top of the heap, A #1 way of cataloging books. Pretty much every single freaking book in existence! First implemented in 1876, by Melvil Dewy, this system is the way we classify all our books. Anyone old enough should still remember the card catalogs in their school libraries. I loved those things. Anything that catalogs something else, is just alright with this quite nerdy boy. Of course, nowadays it's all done on computers (duh!) but those cards will forever live in my memories. Thanks Melvil.

2. Huey Lewis & the News

The five greatest albums of all-time are, in no particular order, Revolver by The Beatles, Led Zepplin IV, Kind of Blue by Miles Davis, The Velvet Underground & Nico, and Sports by Huey Lewis & the News. Okay, perhaps one of these are just in jest, but no matter, because I do love Huey Lewis & the News. Okay, perhaps love is a bit strong of a word. Maybe I like them a lot is a better term. Maybe not. Who the hell knows. What I do know is that, for about a seventeen month period back in the 1980's (from about February of 1984 to sometime during the Summer of 1985) Huey Lewis & the News were the veritable shit. The Power of Love, indeed!

1. Louis Armstrong

See. I told you someone would have to be pretty stupid to make a list such as this, and NOT include Louis Fucking Armstrong. So here he is, taking his rightful place at number one. Atop all the Hueys and all the Deweys, and even all his fellow Louies. One of the greatest Jazz musicians, hell, one of the greatest musicians of all-time, Pops also had a voice that is pure, raw power. When Louis blows his trumpet, you know it, and when he scats and sings, you know that too. His versions of Mack the Knife and Dream A Little Dream, are things of pure beauty. Ain't nobody gonna outdo Satchmo. Ain't nobody!!

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Alphabet Game: Beasts of the Earth Edition

Hello, and welcome to The Alphabet Game, where I take a look at 26 different things in one common category. This edition is all about those wacky wild animals, and why we call them animals. Have fun...

A is for Annie's Boobs - That's right kids! This ain't your grandpappy's Alphabet Game! We're starting off with Annie's Boobs, and we're not about to apologize for it, either! For those of you not in the know, and that would be anyone who does not watch Community, Annie's Boobs is actually a Capuchin Monkey on the NBC (soon to be Yahoo Screen) show. You can see the cute little guy in the pic to the right, high fiving with his namesake, Annie, played on the show by Alison Brie. Annie's Boobs, was the pet of fellow Community school mate, Troy, and was named such after a contest on the monkey's Twitter account. Needless to say, the rather innocent Annie, was not thrilled by the monkey's moniker. Annie's Boobs was played by Crystal the Monkey. In an interesting coincidence (if such things actually exist), Crystal the Monkey appeared in the film, The Hangover, which also co-starred Community cast member, Ken Jeong. So there ya go - A is for Annie's Boobs. Ain't we off to a great start!?

B is for Badger Badger Badger - Ever since I was a young boy, I played the silver bal..wait, that's Pinball Wizard. Let me begin again. Ever since I was a little kid, my favourite animal has been the badger. Sure, anyone can love penguins or dolphins or giraffes, elephants, and bald eagles, but those are so obvious choices to have as a favourite beast. No sir, not me. I'll take the badger any day. And I'm not talking about that fucking honey badger that thinks he's all that and a bag of chips. Fuck him. I'm talking the true old school badger here. Hell, there's even a rather famous internet video thingee involving the badger badger badger.

C is for the Ceti Eel - This is a disgusting, parasitic space worm that crawls into your ear and will eventually eat your brain and kill you. I've heard it's quite excruciating. If you don't believe me, just ask Khan Noonien Singh's dead wife, or the late Captain Terrell of the USS Reliant. Yeah, that's right.

D is for that Baby Eating Dingo - Now I don't know how often Dingos eat babies, or if they even eat them at all, but thanks to Meryl Streep's Oscar nominated performance in A Cry in the Dark, where she played couldbe child killer, Lindy Chamberlain. Now yes, technically the actual line from the film is "The dingo took my baby," but like many other film lines ("Play it Again, Sam" or "Luke, I am your father"), the misquote has outdone the real quote, and thanks to such misquoted appearances in shows like The Simpsons and Seinfeld, we will forever think of that dingo eating that little bitty baby.

E is for Eddie Rabbitt - Sure, the guy's not an animal, so much as a guy with an animal's name, but I do love a rainy night, so on the list he goes, cheesy beard and all. And yes, it's his real name. I don't really have much more to say about the Rabbit(t) man known as Eddie, but nonetheless, the guy is here at the letter E. Oh yeah, he sang the theme to Every Which Way But Loose, too. So we have that.

F is for Frank the Bunny - For anyone who has seen the cult film Donnie Darko, they know full well how goddamn frightening Frank the Bunny, or Rabbit if you will, happens to be. I mean, he's almost as scary as Eddie Rabbitt. Almost. I gotta admit, I'm not that big a fan of the film, but I do like Frank, so here he is, making the list like a superstar. The fun fan art pic of Frank is courtesy of Norwegian artist, Elise Marie Syvertsen.

G is for Gadfly - Animalistically speaking, the gadfly is a livestock-biting fly, such as the horsefly or the warble fly. In the rest of the world, it's a pest of a person who goes about town challenging others into fights and frays, by criticizing them or taunting them. Plato famously called his mentor Socrates, a gadfly. Like Plato, I have my own gadfly. His name is Zuky, which isn't the guy's real name, but protecting the innocent and all that kind of jazz. But anyhoo, Zuky is my gadfly (and my wife's gadfly) as he buzzes all about town, causing trouble wherever he happens to go.

H is for the Hodag - The Hodag is a so-called mythical beast from Rhinelander, Wisconsin. The little guy, something of a pig sized, lizard-like mammal thing with fangs and horns and spikes and shit, is a member of folklore in this northern Badger State territory, and even though his existence has never been proven (which does not, by any means, mean he does not actually exist!!!) he is still a local legend of sorts. The Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce has erected a statue, and the high school's mascot guessed it...the Hodag. Go Rhinelander Hodags!!

I is for Indiana Jones - Yup. Dr. Henry Jones, Sr. named the dog Indiana. Dr. Henry Jones, Jr., better known to the world as archaeologist-cum-adventurer, Indiana Jones, never liked being called Junior, so he took the nickname of Indiana. The only problem with that is the family dog. You see, his dad named the dog Indiana. So this entry is not so much for Indy himself, though people are part of the Animal Kingdom, but for his dog, Indiana. Oh yeah, and another cool thing about Indiana the Dog, is that he actually existed. He was George Lucas' Alaskan Malamute, and was the inspiration for a certain Wookiee named Chewbacca. Howzabout dem apples!? And speaking of dogs...

J is for Jack Pug-A-Wow-Wow - What exactly is a Jack Pug-A-Wow-Wow, you ask? Well, it happens to be a very special breed of dog. There are only five known to exist in the world. One of them is our little Marcy Proust. Look how cute she is in the pic, with her Batman sweater and little pink booties. Freakin' adorable. Marcy is 1/4 Jack Russell, 1/4 Pug, and 1/2 Chihuahua. Of course, when talking about her breed, one must emphasize the huahua part as a porno music sounding wow wow.

K is for the Komondor Dog - You know which dog I mean. He's the one that looks like he has dread locks. The one that when he marches onto the screen during the Westminster Dog Show, everyone watching begins to yelp and yelp, and saying how cool that dog is. Yup. I would put a picture of this fun guy up, but I already have the world's cutest puppy picture up and running just above, so...oh wait, maybe I'll ad this guy at the end of the post. I guess you'll find out when you get to the end. But for now, let's move onto the letter L...

L is for Leo the Lion - The proud and majestic MGM lion is easily one of the most recognizable symbols/logos in all the world. Granted, he hasn't always been called Leo. For a while the studio's mascot went by the name of Slats, Jackie, and Tanner. If you don't believe me, then listen to this guy, who wrote the post titled "The Lion, the Witch, & the MGM Logo: An Irreverent History."

M is for Merrick, John Merrick - Oh wait, that's right, he's not an animal. Supposedly he's a human being. But hey, we're already here, so we might as well keep going. Oh, okay, we're let poor Mr. Merrick alone for now. Let's move on to the letter N...

N is for Narwhal - And speaking of cool animals (we were talking about cool animals, somewhere back there) this is a doozy. It is basically part dolphin and part unicorn. That's right, it is that awesome. Trust me. In fact, check out this video. It kinda rips off the aforementioned badger badger badger one, but it's still pretty groovy. So yeah, a dolphin/unicorn beast of the great oceans. That's why this big guy is on the list.

O is for Opossum - Seriously, why is there an O at the beginning of this animal's name? I mean, why the hell is this thing called an Ohhh-Possum? Ohh ohh ohh! Most people just call this funny looking little guy (though cute in its own way) a possum, especially those southerners who make him into stew. Some even say that the ohh ohh ohh is silent, and he should just be called possum. You know, like Pogo the Possum. But I say we bring back the ohh ohh ohh. Hip hip hooray for the Ohhh-Possum!!

P is for Platypus, the Majestic Platypus - The platypus. The mighty, majestic platypus. Oh you lovable, adorable little freak of nature you. Some say the platypus, with the body of a beaver or otter and the webbed feet and beak of a duck, is proof that nature or god or whomever you choose, has a sense of humour. I think the bastard's cute as hell.

Q is for the Quahog Clam - Yeah, it's a clam. But more than that, it's the home of Peter, Lois, Brian, Chris, Stewie, Joe, Bonnie, Cleveland, Quagmire, Mort, Muriel, Neil, Tom Tucker, Diane Simmons (RIP), Ollie Williams, Mr. Herbert, Angela, Tricia Takanawa, Bruce, Carl, Consuela, Connie D-Amico, Horace, sometimes James Woods, Mayor Adam West, and...oh yeah, Meg.

R is for Rocky Raccoon - Poor Rocky Raccoon. He loses his girl, he loses his manhood, he loses a fight, and all he has to show for it is a copy of the same damn book you can find in 99.999999% of hotel and motel rooms across the nation. This Paul McCartney creation (first appearing on The White Album in 1968), besides being a hapless, ring-tailed cuckold (her name was Magill, but she called herself Lil, but everyone knew her as Nancy?? What kind of shady shit is that!!?), was also the inspiration used by Bill Mantlo when he created the Marvel Comics character, Rocket Raccoon. But do not call that guy a raccoon. You will not like what happens next.

S is for Squirrel Girl - Forget Jean Grey and Emma Frost. Forget about Wonder Woman and the Scarlet Freakin' Witch. Hell, even forget about Harley Quinn and Catwoman. Hands down, the sexiest superhero to ever grace the pages of a comic book, is Doreen Green, aka the lovely, fuzzy-tailed Squirrel Girl. Yup, that's right. This former Great Lakes Avenger is hotter than any of 'em. After all, she did once land Wolverine. Seriously, apparently she and Wolverine have had relations. She may or may not have been with Deadpool as well. And yes, the tail is real...and it's spectacular.

T is for Tapir - This big guy is like the black and white cookie of the animal kingdom. I remember when I was a kid, I used to study the mighty Animal Kingdom. This was well before the internet gave everyone instant all-knowing information at their very fingertips. This was back when you had to open up a book to find out your information. Or maybe grab up an info card set that you could send away for, and receieve a bunch every month in the mail. Ah, the god old days. Anyway, I digress. As I was getting around to, one day I came across a picture of the tapir. This half black, half white hippo looking beast immediately became one of my favourite animals. Well, next to the aforementioned badger, of course.

U is for the Under Toad - "And Garp and Helen and Duncan held their breath; they realized that all these years, Walt had been dreading a giant toad, lurking offshore, waiting to suck him under and drag him out to sea. The terrible Under Toad." Yesiree, the under toad is a very mysterious creature, indeed.

V is for Vagina Dentata - Yikes! I mean, yikes!! Okay, this may not be an animal in the traditional sense, but it does have teeth, and does most definitely bite. Oh, and in case you do not know what Vagina Dentata is, may not actually want to know, but here it is anyway. Vagina Dentata (to all those in the audience with a penis, get ready to squirm) is the folkloric (we hope folkloric) monster that dwells in the hoo hah of some women. It is basically a woo woo with teeth. Yeah, that's right. Yikes!! If you want a closer look, without ever actually getting a closer look (I seriously doubt you would want such a thing as a real closer look) check out the cult film, Teeth. Actually it's a pretty damn fun film.

W is for Womp Rats - Luke knew that bulls-eyeing womp rats in his T-16 back home on Tatooine was a fun thing to do. I mean really, what else is there to do when you live on a moisture farm in Beggar's Canyon? But seriously, was he really just bragging about killing these animals for fun. Stupid cocky teenager. I guess douches are douches no matter where they come from...even a planet with two suns. And hey kid, ya kissed your sister. Womp rat killer.

X is for the Xylophone Cat - So, when I was searching for just the right X animal, I could have gone many interesting ways. From the X-Ray Tetra to the Xanclomys to the Xantus Leaf-Toed Gekko to the Xerarthra. But no way. Not me. I decided to go with the famous Xylophone Cat. Elusive as all get out, the Xylophone Cat is one of the most unique...and most real...creatures on the face of the planet. And he is cute as hell too, as anyone can see from this extremely rare photo of the extremely rare feline.

Y is for Yeti - The snowbound cousin of the North American Sasquatch, or Bigfoot if you will, this Nepal and/or Tibet native creature, is also sometimes called the Abominable Snowman. You may have seen the classic stop motion portrayal of a Yeti, in the 1964 Christmas special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Both Scooby-Doo and Bugs Bunny may have had run-ins with the Yeti, as well. All hail the Mighty Yeti!!

Z is for Zonkey - They have been called many things, from a zebroid to a zorse to a zedonk and a donkra, but my favourite name is the zonkey. But what are these freakish hybrids, you may ask. Well, they are half zebra and half horse and/or donkey. Maybe a mule too. Anyway, they are half zebra, half other equine creature. They go far enough back that even Darwin was talking about 'em back in his day. So, to end this edition of The Alphabet Game, let's all cheer from that half striped bastard known as the zonkey. A zorse is a zorse, of course, of course.

Thanx for enjoying this latest edition of The Alphabet Game. And yes, I know you enjoyed it, so don't even try denying it. Anyhoo, The Alphabet Game will return next month, with a special situation comedy edition. For now though, that's it gang. See ya 'round the web. Oh, and yeah, as promised above, here is the dread locked Komodor Dog.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Heavenly Body of the Week: The Moon, in Honour of Apollo 11

It was 45 years ago this week that man first walked on the Moon. Well, at least the first we know of. So even though we've already done the Moon as a Heavenly Body of the Week twice (the Georges Melies version in week seven and the green cheese version in week fifteen), we head back up to Lady Luna in honour of those magnificent men in their flying machines. Granted, one of them, Michael Collins, was screwed out of walking on the Moon. I mean really? Neil Armstrong couldn't have sent Buzz Aldrin back up and said, "why dontchya have Mike come down here and hit a few golf balls with me?" To the Moon, Alice!

Check out the Heavenly Body of the Week Space Database.
That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Hard Day's Night in 50 Years or Less

He's very clean. I remember being a little kid back in the early 1970's. I was probably 3 or 4 or so, when I heard my first Beatles song. Thanks to my mother and my aunt, and their love for the Fab Four (as well as Elvis), my childhood was filled with the vinyl swirlings of Let It Be, The White Album, and Rubber Soul. Yeah, that's right...vinyl! Granted, I do remember having both Let it Be and Hey Jude on 8-track, but the records are what I really remember - and remember loving. Sure, I still hadn't even turned three yet, when the band decided to do the whole break up thing (they were still young too, with the eldest band mates, Ringo and John, just 29 when they went splitsville) but the biggest musical influence on this little kid, were those four lads from Liverpool. This is why, when hearing of the 1964 in Film Blogathon over at Hitchcock's World, I leapt at the chance (serious, I actually jumped up and down several times) to write something up on one of my favourite films of '64, and my favourite all-time rock & roll film, A Hard Day's Night. So without further ado, here it is.

Now, I'm going to take a slightly off-kilter approach to talking about A Hard Day's Night. I mean, anyone can talk about the movie itself. That's easy peezy, lemon squeezy. Any ole blogger can go on and on about how it not only helped to introduce The Beatles to a world that up until then had only heard them on records or the radio (or maybe saw them on their tiny tube television sets when they were on Ed Sullivan's show), but also reinvented the musical film for a new generation, and spawned the quirky rock and roll films that came after it. Any writer can talk about how the music from the album, with that incredible opening note that changed music as people knew it at the time, was transformed into one of the most fun films ever put on the big screen, or how the film helped to highlight each band member's own personality, as well as the band's wacky persona as a whole. Anyone can blather on about how A Hard Day's Night was both the aforementioned wacky beast that it most certainly was, and one of the most groundbreaking albums and films of all-time. Yeah, anyone can ramble on and on about such things. Hell, I just did it, without actually doing it. But that is not what this blog post is about. Instead of using my so-called talents as the film critic I once claimed to have been (a decade plus in the game, so there!), I am taking a more personal look at this oh so great film from fifty years ago.

Now, I have already spoken of how I grew up with all those Beatles albums (and a coupla 8-tracks) and how they influenced my childhood, and eventually the adulthood with which I might one day finally come to grips. I even once came up with the idea for a novel (that I never did write) about a famous rock band falling to pieces. It was highly (obviously) influenced by stories of The Beatles, but I digress. Just how else has this film (and the band behind it) touched my life? I'll show you on the Ringo doll, just where it did touch me. Seriously though, this film does keep popping up in my life now and again. I remember, when I was seventeen, I made the first major purchase using money I actually earned on my own. That purchase was a VCR. Hey, it was 1984. VCR's were all the rage. Oh, and for all you kids out there who have no idea what a VCR even is, first of all, learn something about the world from before you were born, for christ's sake. I mean, there is a past out there, and it's full of a lot of great things. One of those things is the VCR. Just Google it guys. Then after that, come back here and read the rest of this post. Anyhoo, when I bought my VCR, back in the hey day of the home video revolution (so quaint sounding these days, eh?), I also went and bought a few VHS tapes to go along with said VCR. The first one I bought was Citizen Kane. The second one was...ta da...A Hard Day's Night. I watched the hell out of that tape!

Later on in life, long after those VHS tapes went the way of the dinosaur, the public telephone, and Joe Piscopo, A Hard Days Night popped up again, and this time I actually got to touch the film itself. You see, there was once this place called Midtown Cinema. Opening in 2001, it was the first arthouse cinema in my hometown of Harrisburg, Pa. I even ran the place for a while, from 2009 until last year. Shortly before taking over the place though, the manager before me held a music film festival. One of the films played during that festival guessed it...A Hard Day's Night. And it played in 35mm even. A thing that sadly does not happen that often any more. So yeah, I got to touch the print. Take that! I may have even licked it, but let's not open that can o' worms. Anyway, the best thing about A Hard Day's Night playing at the cinema, other than being able to watch it up on the big screen (and the possible licking of the print), was the one day a dad and his little six year old kid came in. This kid, much like another wee Beatle lovin' kid we may have read of (wonder if he has Let it Be on 8-track), was so so so excited about seeing A Hard Day's Night. So so so excited. Yup, that is one cool kid...and that is one hell of a parenting job, if ya ask me!

So there you go. Some of my personal ruminations on A Hard Day's Night. Perhaps this isn't the most cinematically informative of posts (my old film critic skills are left wanting tonight), but like I said earlier, any ole blogger can give you the facts and figures (Phil Collins was one of the screaming teens in the film) or talk about the film's influence (can we say The Monkees!?), or toss out any other random facts about the film in question (George would meet his future wife, and Eric Clapton's future wife as well, Miss Pattie Boyd), but only this one can give you these personal ramblings. So there! To close, I would like to thank the fine folks over at Hitchcock's World (which is actually just one person, who may or may not be named John Hitchcock), for allowing me to be part of their 1964 in Film Blogathon. I hope they like my contribution. Or not. What do I care. They're not the boss of me. Anyhoo, I'm going to sign off now. Probably go watch me a little Beatles or something like that. I'm still trying to figure out why Paul was so concerned with his grandfather being so clean. Actually, it was due to actor Wilfrid Brambell, an already established British TV star on the show Steptoe and Son (the show upon which Sanford and Son was based) who was often referred to as a 'dirty old man' on the show. But enough of these actual film history facts. That's not what this is supposed to be all about. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Monday, July 21, 2014

See ya in the Funny Pages: My 10 Favourite Comic Strips

Everyone who knows me, knows full well of my love for comic books. But what of comic strips? Yeah, I like those too. Hell, I remember reading the likes of Charlie Brown and Hagar the Horrible long before Spider-Man or Batman made their debuts into my world. There have been more than a mere slew of comic strips lo these past 120 years or so since their invention with the Yellow Kid (shown to the right), but I somehow managed to whittle this myriad of funny page panels down to my ten favourites. I would like to toss out the names of a few that, alas, did not make the list, but are still quite fun comic strips. These are, in no particular order, Beetle Bailey, Red-Eye, Broom Hilda, Hagar the Horrible, The Wizard of Id, Mutts, Bringing Up Father, Andy Capp, Lil' Abner, Pearls Before Swine, Gasoline Alley, Little Orphan Annie, Popeye, Blondie, Flash Gordon, Alley Oop, Terry and the Pirates, and Funky Winkerbean. I could have tried to look all sophisticated and political, and included Doonesbury, but hey, they just did not make the final cut, so I guess I'm not all that sophisticated after all. There are also several fun web comics out there. Granted, they are well hidden inside the 99.9999% of crappy web comics, but they are in there. Two that come to mind are R. Stevens' Diesel Sweeties and Kate Beaton's Hark, A Vagrant. Then there are also the web based meta comics, This Charming Charlie, wherein Lauren LoPrete takes Peanuts panels and introduces Smiths lyrics into them, and Garfield Minus Garfield, which is exactly what it sounds like. Notice there is no mention (except this one) of Mary Worth or Mark Trail. Yeah, that's on purpose. There is also Charles Addams' iconic New Yorker cartoons of The Addams Family. One final shout out to the WWII era Batman strips. I have a giant hardback complete collection of these on my shelf at home, and they are a nostalgic blast. But anyhoo, let's get on with the countdown. Oh, and to all the creators of the forthcoming strips, I hope you don't mind my using images of your comic strips for my little countdown here. No disrespect or exploitation meant. I just admire your work, and wanted to share it in this top ten list. But enough of that.

And awaaaaaaay we go...

Special Mention: La-La & Lu-Lu

Ya know, since this pop culture heavy black and white strip is written and drawn by yours truly, it would probably be wrong to include it on the list proper. But then again, I couldn't give up the chance to promote my strip, so here it is as a special mention. Created in July of 2013 (yeah, it's barely a year old) this strip, a sort of blend of such influences as Matt Groening's Life in Hell and David Lynch's The Angriest Dog in the World, is a pun-fueled, Mary Worth-hating, satirical take on all things pop culture-y. The images of the 4-panel strip may be the same each time, but the words are where it's at, baby! So far, I have only created 42 strips over the past year, but more are coming soon (I hope). To catch 'em all, head on over to My Official La-La & Lu-Lu Tumblr. Page, and peruse to your freakin' heart's deeelight.

10. The Angriest Dog in the World

The dog who is so angry, he cannot move. He cannot eat. He cannot sleep. He can just barely growl. Bound so tightly with tension and anger, he approaches the state of rigor mortis. A big influence, at least visual repetitiveness, on my own comic (as was mentioned above) this strange little comic strip is from the strange little man who also gave the world such strange little films as Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, and Mulholland Dr.. Actually I quite love David Lynch, and I quite love the strange little man's films, and obviously (it is on this list, after all) I quite love his comic strip as well. Conceived in 1973, when Lynch was apparently quite angry, the strip would eventually run in the L.A. Reader, from 1983 to 1992. Great, stupid, existential stuff, indeed.

9. Spider-Man

There have been several superhero comic strips. I gave a shout out to the Batman ones in my introduction, and Superman had a daily strip for a while, but it's Spidey that was the best. Began in 1977, the strip was originally written by Stan Lee himself, with art by John Romita, Sr., eventually being taken over by Stan's brother, Larry Lieber. Over the years, the strip has given many great out-of-comics-continuity moments, including one where after a year or so of Peter Parker suddenly being an unmarried college student, he wakes up one day, a la Dallas' famous Bobby's alive shower scene, to find it was all a dream, and Mary Jane is still his hot ginger wife. In fact, it is only in this daily strip, that one can still find a happily married Peter Parker. 

8. Peanuts

It's hard to make a list like this and not include this great Charles Schulz classic. I mean, you have Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy van Pelt, Peppermint Patty, Pig-Pen, and Snoopy and Woodstock. What's not to love!? Begun in 1950, Peanuts was a highly influential strip that helped make the four panel gag strip the next big thing in comics. I've always considered myself a Linus kinda guy - sensitive and artsy, but also kind of nerdy, so I do have some sort of affinity with Peanuts. From the obsessive desire of Charlie Brown for that oh so elusive red-haired little girl to Lucy's equally obsessive desire to thwart Charlie Brown on the football field, to Marcie's even more obsessive desire for Peppermint Patty, Peanuts was a grand old time of obsessive comedy. And we got a World War I flying ace as well.

7. Pogo

We have met the enemy and he is us. Created in 1941, by former Walt Disney cartoonist Walt Kelly, Pogo the Possum made his first appearance in the Dell comic book Animal Comics #1. Eventually Pogo, along with his cigar chewing swamp pal Albert Alligator, moved into the newspaper comic strip world in 1948, and would stay there until 1975, two years after Kelly's death (Kelly's widow, Selby, would draw the comic for it's final two years). One of three predominately political satires on this list, and with his Faulkner-esque dialect language, Pogo was a a huge influence on everyone from Bill Watterson to Jim Henson to Robert Crumb to Jeff Smith, who pretty much admits to his Bone character being mainly influenced by Pogo. Even Alan Moore wrote a Pogo homage while doing The Saga of the Swamp Thing run for DC Comics.

6. The Far Side

Easily the most nonsensical, ridiculous, and wackiest strip on this list. Consisting mostly of one panel gags, often quite absurd and/or surreal in nature, these anthropomorphic gag panels were the brainchild of Gary Larson, first appearing in 1980. Involving many jokes about strange social behaviour and puns on classic parables, often involving talking chickens and snakes  and cows and fat, stupid children. Larson eventually stopped doing the cartoon in 1995, claiming he wanted more time to take up the trombone. The Far Side is probably one of the most successful comic strips of modern times, being reprinted in tons of collected editions, and a perennial favourite in the calendar biz. Too bad the guy had to quit doing the strip. Wonder how good he is at the trombone these days?

5. Zippy the Pinhead

One of the gaggle of underground comix creators of the late 1960's and early 1970's, cartoonist Bill Griffith created Zippy in 1971, and would turn him into a daily strip in 1976. I first came across the surreal pinhead back in 1988 when I was first working at a place called Encore Books. Eclectic and often absurd beyond belief, Griffith's famed pinhead is the kind of character that is either gotten or isn't, with no inbetween. Last year, I did a La-La & Lu-Lu strip (see the special mention above) that was an homage to the Zipster. I sent the strip to Bill Griffith, and he actually said he liked it. That was more than enough for this lapsed cartoonist, and I immediately added an "endorsed by Griffy" banner on the strip. What more could a boy ask for?

4. Bloom County

Created by Berkeley Breathed, this socio-politically slanted strip ran from 1980 to 1989. A real child of the 1980's, satirizing everything about the Reagan era America, Milo, Opus, Cutter John, Steve, Bill the Cat (who incidentally ran against Reagan for president in 1984) and all the rest of the Bloom County family were much preferred by this guy, to that droll, snooty Doonesbury gang over on the editorial page. Breathed even won a Pulitzer in 1987. Yeah, I know, Trudeau won a Pulitzer in '75 for his Doonesbury (and was even nominated for an Oscar once) but I still much prefer the denizens of Bloom County to Trudeau's bunch of rabble rousers. Okay, actually I do quite enjoy Doonesbury, and almost made the list, but I'm supposed to be talking about Bloom County here. Breathed had some great, and sometimes controversial, storylines going on throughout the decade long run of his strip. I remember picking up the first few collected edition trade paperbacks back in high school, and really digging them. These were probably the first more mature comic strips I discovered, and were most likely an influence on the rather Leftist political bent which began to materialize in me around this time. Eventually, Breathed would get back into things with sequel strips Outland and Opus. A great comic strip indeed, but now onto number one...

3. Nancy

In 1922, Larry Whittington created a daily comic strip called Fritzi Ritz. It was about a ditzy, man-hungry flapper. In 1925, 20 year old Ernie Bushmiller took over the strip. In 1933, Bushmiller added the character of Nancy, Fritzi's precocious niece, and she took off so much that in 1938, the strip was changed to Nancy, and poor Aunt Fritzi was turned into a sensible bore, and relegated to a minor character. Fritzi still did exist as the star of her own Sunday comic until 1968, mostly drawn by various ghost artists, but in the pages of the daily strip, from then on, it was Nancy and her BFF Sluggo who ran the show. Over the years, Nancy has been a bastion of not just funny gags, but also often a home for surprisingly absurdest comedy. Mark Newgarden and Paul Karasik wrote in their "How to Read Nancy" essay, that Bushmiller's gags "have the abstract feel of math, and Nancy was, in fact, a mini-algebra equation masquerading as a comic strip." That's pretty cool. And why not check out the American Heritage Dictionary's entry for comic strip. Guess what strip they choose to show as an example. Yup.

2. Krazy Kat

The oldest strip on this list, first appearing in 1913, Krazy Kat is also one of the most influential comic strips ever made. Created by George Herriman, Krazy Kat was a nonsensical, absurdest comic, that was done in a myriad of different styles over the years, often in strange and unusual manners. For a while it even ran vertically down the side of the newspaper. Backgrounds would change from panel to panel, there would be panoramic shots, and one never knew what was coming next. The strip was so popular (ee. cummings was a fan even!) that there was a series of animated film shorts, and even a TV show years later. In 1944 Krazy Kat ended, and the world of comic strips was a lesser place because of it. After decades of so-called standard panel construction in the comic strip world, Bill Watterson (probably Krazy Kat's number one fan) would bring back Herriman's Krazy panel deconstruction with his Calvin and Hobbes, but more on those wacky kids in a bit. Oh, wait...

1. Calvin and Hobbes

Seriously, who could make a list like this, and not have Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes at the top of said list? No one in their right mind, that's who! As I said above, Watterson was highly influenced by George Herriman's Krazy Kat, and would do quite amazing things with his panel construction and storytelling. Watterson's strip, which began in 1985, was a groundbreaking work. His esoteric take on the comic strip form, and his ability to deconstruct the genre, make his strip the most creative, most intriguing, and the best damn comic strip ever. At the height of his fame, he was powerful enough to take on the comic strip syndicators, and demand that his strips be printed without any editing, which until then, was a common practice among the newspaper syndicates. He actually changed the way things were done, and gained more rights for him and his fellow cartoonists. Watterson would call it quits in 1995, after just a mere decade of Calvin and Hobbes. Earlier this year, Watterson guest starred on the strip, Pearls Before Swine (which just missed out on making this list) and may very well get back into the daily strip game very soon.

That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.