Muppet Monday

When these posts began their avowed purpose was to make sure the blog had some content while my focus was largely directed elsewhere, stoking my own and hopefully my readers' enthusiasm for the new Muppet movie.

Jim Henson surrounded by over a dozen of the best-known Muppets

These past few months have ended up being among the busiest on the blog, however, not only in terms of posts posted but viewers viewing them — one big reason why I decided to keep fresh content flowing, Muppet Monday included, even after the movie opened. I'll share an update on bloggy business down the road a bit; right now I'm wrapping up this feature with links to a half-dozen sites for Muppet lovers interested in further exploration, most official and most mentioned on the blog before.

I Melt with You

We've had this little travel-sized, traditional-styled Chanukah menorah for
at least as long as I can remember.

photo of a small traditional Chanukah menorah with melted candle wax in different colors all over it

I'm fonder of it with every passing year, not just for the memories but for how its collection of "battle scars" — the bits of leftover wax, never completely scraped off the arms and base or entirely gouged out of the little cups that hold the candles — have accreted over the years to give it extra character.


The last three movies I saw were about movies. As is The Artist, which I hope to
see next. I came to this realization walking out of a screening of My Week with Marilyn the other day, not long after having seen Hugo and The Muppets.

Williams as Marilyn sitting at vanity, its mirror surrounded by bulbs

While the Muppets actually put on a telethon in The Muppets, and the film's cornerstone reference is TV's The Muppet Show rather than the 1979 Muppet Movie, it's about movies in the way the characters make metatextual references to being in a movie.

Hugo could be said to be a movie about the moviegoing experience by virtue of the
way in which it takes full advantage of the medium of film — the 3D process in particular. Of course, Hugo is also about movies themselves in the very literal fact of its plot involving silent-film auteur Georges Méliès. The scenes of Méliès and company producing his early-1900s fantasias is a highlight of Martin Scorsese's masterpiece, as
is the opportunity to see actual clips from cinematic classics featuring Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, Louise Brooks, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin rendered in Hugo's surprisingly thoughtful 3D.

Muppet Monday

Jimmy Fallon returned to Saturday Night Live this weekend — and so did Horatio Sanz, Tracy Morgan, and Chris Kattan, to help him close out 2011 with a rendition of their old standard "Christmas Is Number One".

Horatio Sanz with Kermit, Fozzie, Animal, and Gonzo on the 'SNL' stage decorated with holiday lights

The last time the song was performed on the show, seven years ago, Sanz was the only one of the four still in the cast, and stopped the tune almost before it had begun when he realized there was nobody to back him up. Until, that is, Kermit the Frog popped up to tell Horatio that his friends would happy to join in... Here's the video from this past Saturday, to jog your memory, and the previous clip with the Muppets.

Related: Muppet Monday (Nov. 28th) Emerald Sit-In Stocking Stuff (2011)

Muppet Monday

Walter the Muppet

I figured that given how last week's installment was another long one — also that I've had trouble posting, with both that and this going up late — I'd keep today's Muppet Monday brief. A music video for the song "Man or Muppet" from The Muppets (performed by the new Muppet, Walter, and Jason Segel as his human brother Gary) has been released with clips from other parts of the film interspersed with the song's scene in the movie. For those who've seen The Muppets, the song is a treat to revisit, but there are some surprises spoiled for those who haven't seen it and plan to — like what's probably the funniest cameo in the film, even if like me you don't watch the hit show that made the actor in question famous.

Related: Muppet Monday (Oct. 17th) Heart, Felt Muppet Monday (Nov. 28th)

Ghosts in the Machine

Whether you're fortunate enough to still be in touch with your sense of wonder or
have lost it and thought it never to be regained, I beseech you: See Hugo.

Asa Butterfield as Hugo dangling from minute hand of giant clock reading just after 8:15
Hugo poster and stills © 2011 GK Films. Photos: Jaap Buitendijk.

Directed by Martin Scorsese from John Logan's screenplay, based on Brian Selznick's acclaimed book The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Hugo runs 126 minutes. About 120 of those minutes are pure cinematic nirvana. I'm almost mad, yet also strangely relieved, that no matter how many films I see as this stacked season progresses — and no matter that it's difficult to compare movies of wildly different styles, aims, and approaches — I've clearly seen the most fascinating, most captivating movie of the year... unless, almost ironically given their subject matter, The Artist ends up matching it.

I haven't yet read Selznick's book, although I plan to do so before I see the movie again. So I can't say how faithful the film may be; I can only tell you that Scorsese has delivered a masterpiece.

41 Favorites: #5

Cover to Edie Brickell album 'Volcano' showing her at the corner of two green walls kicking at some leaves on the ground

This post is currently down for maintenance.

51 Favorites: #1-3 | #4 | #5 | #6 | #7-9 ...

Muppet Monday

Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, and Animal all facing the viewer, severely lit from one side, the other side of their faces in shadow

Above is a neat homage to the iconic, oft-mimicked Robert Freeman photograph
used on the cover to 1963's With The Beatles and early the next year for the US release Meet The Beatles! It's from a recent Parade article titled "Meet the Muppets (Again!)" — which is also the general theme of this post.

Yucky and Mean

Since I'm under the weather and behind on everything, here's another batch of the word-verification definitions that I leave when commenting on other blogs. An explanation of what's going on and a collection of all the definitions to date can be found at the dedicated page I've set up for that purpose.

adynog — [ad ee nahg] n. (Spanglish) Having promotional material in one hand, a traditional Yuletide drink in the other.

britend — [brit end] n. 1. A bum (not a panhandler; rather, the buttocks region) in Merry Olde England. 2. The farthest point of the United Kingdom's territorial waters in the English Channel or Atlantic Ocean.

colifou — [koh ly foo] n. French bacteria strain that takes your sanity.

copone — 1. [kop wun] v. Get handsy. 2. [koh pohn] v. Make cornbread in tandem.

Exhiali — [eks hee ah lee] Alien race of heavy breathers.

Flumenta™ — [floo men tuh] The first FDA-approved treatment for psychic influenza.

grizato — [grih zah toh] n. Italian ice cream made from brown bears. [No animals were actually harmed in the creation of this definition.]

Look and Listen

Five members of Pentatonix on stage
Still of Pentatonix from The Sing-Off 3.11 © 2011 NBCUniversal. Photo: Lewis Jacobs.

Well, America got it right in voting Pentatonix winners of this year's edition of
NBC's The Sing-Off. I was a bit bummed that just about everybody turned in sub-standard performances on Monday night's live finale, when presumably viewership would get a bump from Dancing with the Stars' absence; maybe it was the lack of pressure, since voting was already closed, but more likely the crazy rehearsal schedule and holiday weekend are to blame. Friends who finally tuned in after hearing me rhapsodize about Pentatonix, Afro-Blue, and Urban Method have my apologies.

I complained in a post last month about the judges' surprising (to me) preference for certain groups over others — on the whole, traditional large university-based ensembles beating out more inventive, idiosyncratic but clearly cooler combos. Not that a cappella is all about being "cool", nor that I have an inherent dislike of the collegiate model; quite the opposite, in fact.

Muppet Monday

Since my review of the new Muppets film isn't done, I offer snippets of songs from the movie.

Jason Siegel, Amy Adams, and Walter in front of a veritable wall of familiar Muppets, including Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, Animal, Gonzo, Beaker, and Scooter

The scene in which Camilla the Chicken and friends sing — well, bwawk — the hit single known politely as "Forget You" is a showstopper. At my screening the audience was laughing raucously the entire length of the bit. While the clip on Disney-Music's YouTube channel incorporates other footage (and inserted audio) from the film, in the movie itself the scene is center-stage, uncut, and much the funnier for it.

Muppet Monday

Jason Segel was joined by the Muppets in his monologue this weekend on Saturday Night Live. The real highlight, though, was Kermit the Frog showing up during Weekend Update to join anchor Seth Meyers in one of my favorite recurring segments in all of SNL. Ladies and gentlemen: Really!?! with Seth & Kermit. Yaaayyy!!!

Kermit the Frog and Seth Myers in conversation at 'Weekend Update' desk.

I must say that Kermit oversold it at times, but at least they let the follow-up to the "sausage casings" line go with relative subtlety.

Related: Emerald Sit-In Muppet Monday (Oct. 17th) All Right
for Typing
Muppet Monday (Dec. 12th) Oliver & Company

If You Meta the Batman, Kill the Batman

The seemingly paradoxical nature of the Zen koan adapted for this post's title is reflected in its subject: Friday night's series finale of Batman: The Brave and
the Bold

Bat-Mite sitting at a laptop with 'Batman: The Brave and the Bold' on the screen
Screencap from "Mitefall" © 2011 Warner Bros. Animation. Characters TM/® DC Comics.

I expect that fans who loved the series loved the episode, "Mitefall", whose title is a reference to Bat-Mite, the magical imp who appeared regularly in the often-goofy Batman comics of the early 1960s, and to Knightfall, the grim-'n'-gritty Batman storyline of the early 1990s. (A Mitefall one-shot parodying that era was published in 1995.) It spotlights many of the show's most popular traits and co-stars B:TBATB's breakout version of Aquaman — less rooted in past depictions of DC's sea king than in his pompous Marvel counterpart Namor the Sub-Mariner, with a big nod to Gaston from Disney's Beauty and the Beast.

Muppet Thursday

While I ended my last post on an almost reverently expectant note, I'll admit to harboring a certain amount of dread that The Muppets will turn out to be unfulfilling or, worse, offensive in some way to its heritage. No matter how satisfying it may be on the whole it can't help but lack an essential ingredient.

Bert, Gonzo, Miss Piggy, Ernie, and Kermit huddled together reading script pages in TV studio in front of photo of Jim Henson

Of course, I'm speaking about Jim Henson — who invented the Muppets, performed Kermit the Frog among many others (Rowlf the Dog, as much his alter ego as the little green dude, included), and guided a sublimely creative, colorful enterprise for decades.

Muppet Tuesday

Next Wednesday The Muppets will be released by Walt Disney Pictures. I figure
that, since the countdown to the film was the impetus for this series of Muppet memories and memoranda, now is a good time to share looks at the numerous posters and links to the various trailers produced to date.

Muppet Monday

I'm very sorry that this post is going up late. And I realize that there was no Muppet Monday installment at all last week, although I'll try to make it right by doubling up on them soon. What can I say? Accidents happen. Things fall apart. If you don't believe
me, ask the cast of that hit musical Spider-Monster...

Grover, the fuzzy blue Muppet with big pink nose wearing a Spider-Man costume, including half-face mask, posing with arms out and mouth open against painted city backdrop

Related: No-Spin Zone  G Love Muppet Monday On a Boat
The Amazing Spider-Man Minus Andrew Garfield Plus Garfield

Jobs Report

I hadn't entered The Late Show with David Letterman's online Top Ten contest
[dead link] for several months before doing so this week. As usual, I threw in a couple of options that weren't stellar along with my personal favorite(s), because you never know what will ring the bell of whomever makes the selections. Even though I didn't submit very many, there was a winner among my...

Top Five Surprises in the Steve Jobs Biography

5. He slipped Bill Gates' barber a fifty every month for 30 years.

4. But for the flip of a coin, he'd have been wearing black pants and a denim turtleneck every day.

3. His kids had to show him how to program the VCR.

2. Ironically, he got the idea for the Apple when a book about Isaac Newton hit him on the head. (Think about it, people!)

And the Number One Surprise in the Steve Jobs Biography...

Hounds and Fury

What if Scooby-Doo was genuinely spooky... and every member of the Mystery Machine gang had paws... and, supernatural stuff aside, the setting was surprisingly realistic... and the end result was totally awesome?

You'd have Beasts of Burden, a delightful breed of horror stories featuring ghosts who walk, creatures that stalk, and most particularly dogs who talk (at least to one another), created by comics virtuosi Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson. I've blogged about both before, Dorkin briefly in April and Thompson back in May 2009 when I praised her bewitching work on Scary Godmother and Magic Trixie.

'Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites' hardcover

Vocal Opposition

Dozens of folks performing on the Sing-Off stage
Still from The Sing-Off 3.02 group open © 2011 NBCUniversal. Photo: Lewis Jacobs.

I've had to restrain myself from blogging on NBC's The Sing-Off each week. As I proved last year, I'm capable of going on at ridiculous length about the show, given my love for a cappella music and creative arrangements of pop songs in general. Until now I'd been successful, but my resolve finally broke last night after the latest in a string of confounding eliminations.

The Sing-Off upped its roster this year to an impressive sixteen groups, starting with two brackets of eight groups each. My early favorites in the first bracket were Afro-Blue, Delilah, and Urban Method, although Delilah soon proved uneven; second-bracket standouts were The Collective, Pentatonix, Sonos, and North Shore. It's curious to me that of these groups all but North Shore, a traditional male doo-wop quintet, and Delilah, an all-women's outfit based on the collegiate a cappella model, are smaller
and more experimental.

Muppet Monday

Halloween's only a week away, which means that it's time for Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker to perfect the Carve-O-Matic.

Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker with several pumpkins in lab adorned for Halloween

Related: Muppet Monday (Nov. 7th) Siteseeing Muppet Monday (Nov. 21st)

Jersey Boys

Isringhausen baseball jersey from behind

I didn't get around to publishing this during the regular season, and the Phils' early
exit from the playoffs left me too bitter to come anywhere near the subject of our national pastime. Since yesterday's unnecessary behemoth of a disquisition tied a belated bow on 2011 baseball for me, however, it's now or next year to discuss my favorite jersey accents.

We're not talking about Joe Piscopo, Danny DeVito, or Joe Pesci here.

Short Fall

The World Series began last night, with the St. Louis Cardinals taking Game 1
from the Texas Rangers. I didn't watch.

World Series Fall Classic 2011 logo with leaves, ornate yet tasteful design, and subdued forest colors of gold, brown, and green

I'm still bummed about my Phillies dropping to the Cardinals in the NLDS playoffs, which is a large part of the reason why. As I wrote in the last week of the regular season, 2011 was a banner year for the Phils — which makes it all the more confounding (if not ironic) that they didn't win a pennant. Charlie Manuel's team won a franchise record 102 games, by far the best mark in the major leagues, yet as more than one wag put it the team's ballyhooed four aces were beat in the first round of the playoffs by a wild card; none of the wags, as far as I know, referred to the Phils as royally flushed.

There are those — fans, journalists, and ballplayers, not necessarily in that order —
who believe that a stellar regular season is for naught if you don't make it to the World Series.

Muppet Monday

Just a quick (and late) link this week: OK Go's rendition of The Muppet Show's theme song, featuring the Muppets themselves.

Torsos of the OK Go quartet with Muppets Animal, Fozzie Bear, Kermit the Frog, and Gonzo beneath them as if puppeteering

The band's other intricate efforts are referenced. Don't forget to take it fullscreen...
And then check out a behind-the-scenes short. [Note: Links have been updated to YouTube since Vevo's website shut down.]

Related: Mup' Beat 3 for 3/3 Muppet Monday

Dead October

Group of 'The Walking Dead' characters in the woods

The Walking Dead begins its 13-episode second season tonight at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

Old and Mean

I'm not feeling particularly grumpy, nor am I going to wax philosophical about the passage of time here like I did in my last birthday post. Really the title is just to keep up the usual conceit of my word-verification definition offerings. For those not familiar with the phenomenon, I've explained it on the dedicated page that collects accumulated entries to date.

antick — [an tik] n. 1. Ye olde foolish behaviour. 2. Half ant, half tick.

bledlump — [bled lump] n. A smidge of clotted exsanguination.

botica — [bah tih kuh] n. The study of 'droids and other 'tomatons.

Clola™ — [cloh luh] Clam-flavored cola. (Don't knock it 'til you've tried it.)
(Uh... But don't try it.)

derbsaly — [durb suh lee] adv. About or referring to a horse race, or a sporting contest in general. "Derbsaly speaking, Kentucky is my favorite."

G Love

If your life was lacking Glee tonight due to baseball playoffs, maybe this will get you grinning again. Sesame Street has given us some great goofs on popular songs and TV series, from a Billy Idol lookalike Muppet singing "Rebel L" to the detectives of ABCD Blue. Now give it up for... G.

Muppet versions of 'Glee' characters

I got a grin out of Rachel's lines in the crowd noise that opens the skit, the bearded piano player who pops up out of nowhere, and more, but the grandest giggle goes to the amazing likeness of "Mr. Goo".

Related: Harmony and Irony Muppet Monday Brittality

Muppet Monday

Grover and I share a birthday, according to the 1972 Sesame Street calendar — Oct. 14th.

Medium close-up shot of classic Grover looking surprised
Image from Sesame Street 711 © 1975 CTW.

A prototype of Grover called Gleep appeared as early as 1967 on an episode of The Ed Sullivan Show. I get that info from the Muppet Wiki link at the beginning of this post, which is not to be confused with The Monster at the End of This Book (on which more quite soon). Nearly all proper nouns seen in blue hypertext during Muppet Mondays, if not otherwise specified, head over to that expansive and entertainingly informative resource.

All Right for Typing (Redux)

'Saturday Night Live' title card

The last time Saturday Night Live ran a Fox & Friends sketch, I transcribed the litany of "corrections" that scrolled across the screen and ended up with what was for about a day a very, very popular post. We've become used to being able to find almost anything we want on the Internet, quickly, so to do my part I've just repeated April's effort.

Once again, I've left all typographical conventions intact, from the line breaks to the occasional omission of a necessary clause-ending comma to the lack of italics around TV-series titles to the failure to properly hyphenate "Spider-Man" — except that I couldn't help but put in periods on the last few items, which as aired were missing, for consistency's sake. (To an inveterate copy-editor like me such restraint doesn't come easily, I assure you.) I had to go through the whole thing a few times from the start, since the DVR I'm using is actually less responsive than the VCR used last time around, but I'm pretty sure I got everything. The relevant text is copyright 2011 NBC Studios and reproduced as a public service.

You're welcome.

Muppet Monday

Don Sahlin, with think black hair and mustache, and Jim Henson, with brown hair and long scruffy beard, creating puppets from various materials on table before them

Here's a 15-minute segment featuring Jim Henson that aired on Iowa Public Television in 1969.

I thought about running it last week but decided to start my Muppet Monday posts
with more of a bang; while it'll surely suck in any Henson admirer, it's longer and slower-paced than your usual Internet video link. Henson is so mellow that he makes Mister Rogers look like Gilbert Gottfried.

Clocking In

Since I'm not finished converting my list of comics milestones to actual on-sale dates, the 25th anniversary of Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons' Watchmen is being observed late. The first issue came out in June 1986, three months before its cover dating. You can read about this practice at the above link, and expect more commemorative posts once I finally get The Comicologist online.

Cover to 'Watchmen' #1

The mid '80s were a renaissance era for the American comic-book industry, as the direct market of specialty shops led to a rise in alternative / independent publishers, creator-owned projects, and more sophisticated narratives.

Muppet Monday

This past Saturday would have been Jim Henson's 75th birthday.

Muppet with glasses, suit, and tie in front of black-&-white photo of Jim Henson on TV production set

Since I may well be stepping back from the blog come October, with the exception of publishing or re-publishing some backlogged material as time allows, I thought I'd set up a series of short weekly posts counting down to the much-anticipated opening of the new Muppet movie as a way of ensuring at least a bit of fresh content. It's just a coincidence that so many of my stockpiled links are perfect for such an endeavor.

Our first installment is a clip from a pitch that Henson & Co. made trying to sell a little something called The Muppet Show to CBS. Like many of my links it comes courtesy of Mark Evanier, who places it in some context.


I have my sister to thank for this most excellent video link featuring my favorite character on Glee, whose new season premieres at 8 p.m. ET tonight on Fox.

Heather Morris as Brittany, a young woman in red and white high-school cheerleader uniform with blond hair pulled up into ponytail gesturing at photos of herself in that same outfit on a wall
Video screenshot crop © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

Heather Morris does the voodoo that she does so well — and which I've praised before — in "A Day in the Life of Brittany S. Pierce".

Rock Doc

You’re cordially invited to experience "The Green Rock of Terror".

I've been a fan of Michael T. Gilbert’s for a quarter century now. My own personal
Silver Age of comics was aborning as the era of the independents caught steam in the mid 1980s, and features that pushed the boundaries of the kinds of superheroes that had mainly interested me until then — Gilbert's Mr. Monster, Paul Chadwick's Concrete, Scott McCloud's Zot! — in turn pushed me to explore new publishers, genres, creators, and styles. MTG's humor, versatility, and clear love of comics led me to seek out his stuff wherever it popped up; not only that, his obvious jones for collaboration introduced me to other creators when it wasn't just reinforcing my great taste in reading comics done by someone with such obvious great taste himself.

Likewise, I've admired Ken Quattro's Comics Detective blog since it debuted early last year, as I did his Comicartville site before it. Among my unpublished posts are more than one linking over to where Ken has unearthed plenty of absolutely fascinating material.

Michael has generously passed on the color roughs to this story — and its backstory — to Ken for presentation as a historical document. While a mere trifle compared to much of Mr. Monster and his nifty contribution to Legends of the Dark Knight, the 7-page "Green Rock" is sure to make you wish that the anthology for which it was commissioned had come to pass.

A Walk in the Park

Boy seen from behind in a red Phillies jersey watching baseball on TV

My family is full of special kids — funny, smart, good-looking. I'd expect nothing less from the Saner gene pool, really, but a small part of me figured that statistically there'd have to be one dud in the bunch, if only by comparison to the rest. So far, though, from the youngest up through the eldest, born my senior year in college and now a sophomore herself, the next generation is pretty universally awesome.

Ravi, however, is special in a particularly special way. That's in part due to his being on the autism spectrum, yes, but also because — to take the aphorism from Job out of context and turn it on its head — while the Lord taketh away, the Lord also giveth.

A year ago at a family dinner, I had a chat with Ravi to figure out a good book to get him for his impending 6th birthday, asking if he preferred history or fantasy (or liked both).

Ravi: "I prefer history and non-fiction to fiction."

Me: "Do you have a favorite period of history?"

Ravi: "About 4.6 billion years ago is the limit of my interest in history."

Me: "..."

Ravi: "That's approximately when Earth and the solar system were created."

There Are No Words

Of course I remember September 11th, 2001. Not a soul who was of age to
remember it will ever forget. And no matter what that day was going to be for them, when it started, it ended up different.

I was supposed to move that morning, only the truck broke down. We got a call quite early — at my mother's house, where I'd been staying between apartments — that the hauling of stuff would have to wait a day. Sure, I could have gone over to the new place and spent the night there anyway; the events that soon unfolded, though, called for family. I sat and watched Peter Jennings cover the unfathomable news just as I had 25 years earlier, home from school with the flu on the day the Challenger was lost.

That's all you'll hear me say directly about the grim scenes whose 10th anniversary we mark today because, really, there are no words.

What to do, then? How to do… something?

JL Bait

Group shot of Flash, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, and Cyborg flying or running forward under trade dress including series logo and 'The New 52!' banner
Standard cover to Justice League #1 © 2011 and characters TM/® DC
Comics. Pencils: Jim Lee. Inks: Scott Williams. Colors: Alex Sinclair.

This post is currently down for maintenance.

52 Geek-Out: Index

Here's a summary of the DC reboot I put together. For synopses of the 52 titles —
six posts on the 37 series in the main DC Universe line, plus one covering the 15 "Multiverse" projects — you can click through to each post. This was fun.

Swoosh emblem with stylized 52 logo

DCU Part 1

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi / Artist: Rags Morales
Writer: Scott Snyder / Artist: Paul Azaceta
Wonder Woman
Writer: Kathryn Immonen / Artist: Stuart Immonen
Writer: Greg Rucka / Artist: Steve Epting
The Flash
Writer: Paul Chadwick / Artist: Nicola Scott
Green Lantern
Writer: Robert Kirkman / Artist: Ryan Ottley
Writer: Kurt Busiek / Artist: Michael Gaydos

DCU Part 2

The Atom
— Writer:
Mark Waid / Artist: Chad Hardin
Green Arrow and Black Canary
— Writer:
Gail Simone / Artist: Amanda Conner
— Writer:
Will Pfeifer / Artist: Chris Burnham

52 Geek-Out: DCU Part 6

[continued from yesterday]

The Secret Six
Writer: Marc Andreyko / Artist: Stefano Gaudiano

Even among those beings of power and valor dedicated to patrolling the vast skies
and dank alleyways, few are aware of all that imperils humanity, peace, and the very existence of life as we know it. Yet through the ages demons and dark magic have ever lurked, and ever have six champions wielding sorcerous arts and artifacts been chosen by the mysterious Seventh to defend the world. The Secret Six follows the fractious endeavors of the latest such assembly, whose current membership consists of investigator Richard Occult; modern-day ronin Tatsu Yamashiro, alias Katana; the shaman known only as Doctor Mist; the enchantress named June Moon; the medicine woman called Manitou Dawn; and powerful but irreverent wizard John Constantine. Writer Marc Andreyko [DC's Manhunter, Image's Torso] and interior artist Stefano Gaudiano [DC's Gotham Central, Marvel's Daredevil], bring grim humor and grit to this crossroads of the literal and metaphorical underworld, with covers from The Unknown's Erik Jones.

52 Geek-Out: DCU Part 5

[continued from yesterday]

Action Comics
Writers: Bill Willingham, Jane Espenson, et al. /
Artists: Jesus Saiz, Amy Reeder, et al.

Metropolis has been ground zero for rapidly developing technology and metahuman activity since Superman's arrival. Action Comics is an anthology set in America's First City that explores the Man of Tomorrow's friends and foes, from Lois Lane to Lex Luthor, in a variety of features — fronted by a look inside the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit written by Bill Willingham [Fables, Shadowpact] and drawn by Jésus Saiz [Manhunter, Checkmate]. Among the first round of rotating backups is a Daily Planet dramedy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Jane Espenson and Madame Xanadu's Amy Reeder; Kane creator Paul Grist waits on deck with a story about Mr. Action himself, Superman's pal Jimmy Olsen, while Dan Panosian handles the covers.

52 Geek-Out: DCU Part 4

[continued from yesterday]


Writer: Landry Q. Walker / Artist: Zander Cannon

While numerous extraterrestrials have appeared on Earth following Superman's revelation to the world, none have concerned Kal-El more, in both senses of the word, than a girl named Kara. She claims to be the sole survivor of a Kryptonian lunar colony known as Argon, wiped out in the wake of Krypton's destruction, but there's no mention of Argon in what little information Superman has of his birthplace and the memory tapes in her spacecraft are Kara's only evidence. Americans, Amazons, and even Atlanteans — most especially her occasional boyfriend — have embraced her, yet for all her charm questions about Supergirl remain. Landry Q. Walker provided a delightful spin on Kara Zor-El in Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade; now he transfers to the brand-new DC Universe proper to teach some revised history. The Replacement God creator and Top Ten artist Zander Cannon handles the interior art with covers illustrated by Age of Bronze's Eric Shanower.

52 Geek-Out: DCU Part 3

I'm finally picking up the geeking out that is my DC reboot again with mere days to
go until the real thing hits. As I wrote in a preface two months ago in greater detail, I've gone for broke on a friend's challenge to come up with 52 titles and attendant creative teams relaunching DC's main superhero line just as the company itself is doing; I couldn't help devising springboard premises for many of them as well. My first and second capsule-bible posts covered 10 of the 37 series taking place in the new core DC Universe, while my third covered 15 mostly independent Multiverse projects. Another 12 of the DC Universe series appear today and tomorrow with the final 15, all anthologies or team titles, to be published as soon as possible.

Writer: Jeff Parker / Artist: Rafael Albuquerque

The Starman name first belonged to a second-string superhero and was then bequeathed upon a litany of lesser lights until a legacy was built around the label over
a dozen years ago. Now the newest DC Universe is seen through the eyes of its newest champion as another Starman is born at the hands of writer Jeff Parker [Marvel's Hulk and X-Men: First Class], who reinvented characters from a bygone era for DC's distinguished competition in Agents of Atlas. Rafael Albuquerque [Blue Beetle, American Vampire] applies his fluid yet crisp linework as interior and cover artist.

Post Crisis

25 years after Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC Comics is doing what many fans and creators felt it should have done back then: making a clean break with the continuity it's rewriting, streamlining, and/or leaving behind entirely by starting every pertinent series over with #1.

This isn't the post where I talk about that rapidly approaching "New 52" initiative from reading and retailing perspectives, however. Nor is it the post where I go all retcon scholar by tracing the history of DC's reboots, reimaginings, and reintegrations from the establishment of the Multiverse, through the 50th-anniversary event that could not long ago be shorthanded simply as Crisis and which had its own 25th birthday last year, on to Zero Hour and the dithering recent run of Infinite Crisis, 52, Countdown, Final Crisis, and, yes, this thing that's come after Final Crisis. Rather it's another stopgap post where I tell you that that stuff is on its way, fingers crossed, as quickly as possible, but, alas, not necessarily — oh, the irony she hurts — in time.

So I ask my fellow fanboys and fangirls who recall the prolonged dwelling on Crisis in the pages of All-Star Squadron to indulge me as they did Roy Thomas, who had Mekanique somehow stave off the merging of the known multiverse in Squadron's early-'40s setting for a spell despite the fact that the event basically occurred outside time and affected all of reality at once.

Superman DCC

Superman in flight holding Lois Lane, their free arms held palms out and legs awkwardly splayed, as friends look on from room of Daily Planet building
Cover to Superman #700 © 2011 and characters TM/® DC Comics.
Pencils, Inks: Gary Frank. Colors: Brad Anderson.

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The Clog

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Meaning, Muggled

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Play Right

Sorry, comics friends, but this has nothing to do with the Justice Society

The All-Star break seems like the perfect time to talk a little baseball.

I'm very happy that the National League won this year's MLB All-Star Game 5-1 — not just because the game decides home-field advantage for the World Series, a fact that I fervently hope affects my Phillies, but out of good ol' NL pride. National League baseball is real baseball.

Kudos to 2011 MVP Prince Fielder for his 3-run blast and letting his kids hold the trophy.

The Now 52

Flash speeding at reader head-on surrounded by lightning and motion lines
Art © 2011 DC Comics. Pencils, Inks: Francis Manapul. Colors: Brian Buccellato.

I guess the new "52" initiative from DC, which rewrites the continuity of its main superhero universe (again) together with setting up a comprehensive digital-release plan for its comics, gives another meaning to "downloading the latest version of

DC in '76

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I before Zzzzz

Last night my nephew "I", alias Ishmael for the sake of public sharing, arrived
with his sisters, "E" & "M", and their mother for their annual summer visit.

Mom-Mom: "Are you ready to get in your PJs?"

Ishmael, who turned four last week: "No!"

Uncle Brian: "I just heard Mommy tell your sisters to put on their pajamas. She'll probably be in here in a minute."

Ishmael: "Yeah... We're gonna have to hide."

Related: I Elephants An M and E Post What I Said

Go Cub Go

photo of snow-leopard cub being licked by its mother

You don't have to be a Mac user to appreciate this snow leopard.

But you do need some way of glomming onto cyberspace to watch 6ABC's video of
the newborn cub at The Cape May County Park & Zoo in Cape May Court House, New Jersey. It was born in May to 8-year-old mama snow leopard Himani and 11-year-old papa Vijay, almost exactly a year after Himani gave birth to twin boys Sabu and Kaba. Just last month, The Philadelphia Zoo's 3-year-old snow leopard Maya gave birth to a pair of cubs by 5-year-old Amga, video and photos of whom are also online. [Update: All but the zoo home-page links have gone bad.]

Related: Sweet 16 Brew Ha-Ha Ducks Uncovered

52 Geek-Out: Multiverse

[continued from yesterday]

I'm taking a break from listing the 37 main DC Universe titles in my DC reboot,
due in part to issues recovering files after the latest round of computer woes, to share the 15 series out of the overall 52 that are part of the non- or alternate-continuity DC Multiverse line-within-a-line. (As with the actual DC relaunch, my 52 titles only cover the core DC continuity dominated by superhero adventure, not the Vertigo imprint, licensed-property titles, titles aimed primarily at younger readers, and so forth.)

The first trio consists of series divorced from continuity with rotating features and creative hands. While everything after that — save for the last title — stands on its own, a couple of series are linked by virtue of being set in the same fictional reality. You can of course rest assured that all the old stories you love still "exist" somewhere out there as well...

My rationale for superhumans and even supertech in this new multiverse paradigm
is that when Kal-El's rocket arrived from Krypton its wormhole brought with it massive energy that over time accounts for the development or at least the gone-into-overdrive mutation of a metagene whose effects vary from enhanced intelligence to hardiness and longevity to staggering powers in a small but significant minority of the population. That's something I recall discussing with other fans way back when Crisis on Infinite Earths brought about the first intentional overhaul of DC cosmology 25 years ago; I don't remember at this point whether we came up with it ourselves or it was discussed by a likely culprit such as John Byrne, Marv Wolfman, or Len Wein in the comics press. The parallel realities in my multiverse differ in when or if a Kryptonian craft landed on Earth, with the debut of Superman or his analogue occurring in ways both strange and familiar yet always marking a kind of singularity in each reality's development of supernormal phenomena.

52 Geek-Out: DCU Part 2

[continued from yesterday]

The Atom
Mark Waid / Artist: Chad Hardin

Ray Palmer has disappeared and Ryan Choi aims to find him, but if, as Ryan suspects, his former physics professor has shrunk to submolecular size, that's like searching for a needle in a haystack among a nearly infinite succession of barns. Meanwhile, as The Atom, he's put through his paces as a fledgling superhero by master craftsman Mark Waid [Kingdom Come], who expertly probes the perspectives of those with seemingly impossible abilities, here joined by his Traveler fellow Chad Hardin [Countdown to Mystery]. The stunningly detailed Geof Darrow is on cover duty.

52 Geek-Out: DCU Part 1

I put up a substantial preface to this batch of posts on Friday, but to recap in brief:
DC Comics' May 31st announcement that it would relaunch its main superhero line
with 52 new or rejiggered titles come September prompted a friend of mine to put out
a call for folks to brainstorm a wish list of what those titles and their creative teams should be. I took up the challenge and, before I knew it, had premises for the whole deck of cards within a new paradigm.

The bulk of my line takes place within a "rebooted" DC Universe whose heroic age began at the dawn of the new millennium with the first appearance of Superman. A few of the series are showcase titles with rotating creative teams divorced from continuity, while a dozen more are largely disconnected but together can be seen as evidence of a wider DC Multiverse; we'll get to those shortly. I figured that it made sense to start with the big guns.

I did all of this save for some tweaking before DC itself had released much information on its actual slate of titles, by the way, so it's interesting to see how different and in a few cases how similar my imagined and DC's genuine rosters turned out to be.

Writer: Peter J. Tomasi / Artist: Rags Morales

Clark Kent is the Last Son of Krypton. He was raised by a good, kind couple in the heartland of the USA, but although he feels human he knows that, biologically at least, he isn't — that's as obvious from his amazing strength, speed, senses, and other super-powers as it is from the alien craft that bore him. For the past decade, since revealing his existence to the world as Superman, he's inspired others with special abilities to
join his never-ending battle against crime, hatred, and injustice, including some who are themselves from beyond the stars. And while his dedication as well as his very origins have prompted much of humanity to unite, looking at the cosmos in a whole new way, there are those (of pure and perverse intentions) searching for answers to why the 21st century has ushered Earth into the realm of what seems like science fiction. Peter J. Tomasi [Batman and Robin, Green Lantern Corps] pairs with his Nightwing cohort Rags Morales [Hourman, Identity Crisis] to begin an enduring legend anew. Jeffrey Spokes, who provided stunning variants for Boom!'s Irredeemable, handles the covers.

52 Geek-Out: Intro

The very day that DC let fly news of its plans, come Aug. 31st, to relaunch its main superhero line in the form of 52 first issues — and, not so incidentally, move to digital release simultaneous with print — my interest was piqued by my friend Stefan's invitation to pitch creative teams for any or all of the titles.

DC Swoosh emblem with stylized 52 logo

It was purely a fan exercise, to be clear. Stefan Blitz, of the Rhode Island Blitzes, is
a pal from our days working together at the fabled Philadelphia comics shop Fat Jack's Comicrypt and unlike at least three other friends I made during that time has not gone on to work for DC Comics. No-one had yet heard, 25 days ago, what these 52 titles were or what the state of the DC Universe would be. Stefan, in his capacity as editor-in-chief of Forces of Geek, was just asking a small circle of folks to brainstorm on a lark; then he'd post a slate of the most intriguing combinations. By the time he told me that he'd canned the endeavor I'd already put together an entire roster of 52 series within the framework of a targeted continuity reboot.

Yeah, I know.

In & Out

The blog's drought should be ending soon, as my computer is expected to come home in full working order tomorrow.

I feel awful about the lack of posts here in recent weeks and will do my best to make it up to you with as much material as possible published as quickly as possible. One silver lining in all of this — very long in coming, to be sure — is that while a tech at the local Apple Store was diagnosing my latest round of hardware problems he was finally able to replicate the connectivity issues that have plagued me for three solid years, so between our recent switch from Comcast to Verizon and the laptop's new WiFi card there will, fingers crossed, be a lot less trouble getting online.

Def. Jam

I have the blog's first stand-alone page up, a collection of my word-verification definitions (with an explanation for the uninitiated), so here's another installment of that series in celebration.

applayer — [ap play ur] n. Someone hooked on their smartphone games.

bedness — [bed niss] n. Whedon-esque term for sleeping: "After a night like that, I'm just looking for some quick snackage and the bedness."

boation — [bo shun] n. Movement on a seafaring craft.

End of an Origin

Tom Welling as Clark Kent dressed in black standing atop an mirror-like Superman emblem which reflects him up to his waist in the familiar blue suit, red boots, and cape

The series finale of Smallville repeats on CW stations tonight at 8 p.m. ET/PT. I watched it last Friday with hope, skepticism, and ultimately the same disappointment familiar to me from throughout the show's 10-year run.

My in-depth reflections on this controversial adaptation of the Superman saga have proven difficult to wrangle, and if they're not published soon they'll have to hang out on the burgeoning scrapheap of abandoned posts. I certainly hope to get a piece online by November, when Smallville: The Complete Series is released by Warner in a 62-disc collectible package with all 218 episodes and special features not available on the season-by-season boxed sets. I just wish the subject was worth the effort.

Related: El on Earth Box Set Full of Kryptonite Panel to Frame


May 1st is celebrated in various places as May Day with events greeting the season
of spring. The date has nothing to do with the international distress call "mayday" but seemed as good a time as any to offer some links for disaster relief.

Operation USA -- give and it gets there

I don't write much about real-world stuff here on the blog, with the exception of family anecdotes. For a while now, though, I've been feeling like I should address the tragedies wrought in recent months by natural disasters.

We've had a notable string of such events going for the past several years, in fact, perhaps due in part to climate change but according to many geologists and meteorologists largely due to the fluke of earthquakes affecting more populated areas than usual — even if the number of such earthquakes (and resultant tsunamis) isn't significantly greater than normal on a global average.

An M and E Post

When my niece E was quite little, she was fascinated with a book at my mother's
house on Louis Pasteur that Mom's husband had from his days as a teacher. It referred to germs as "the invisible enemies" but E kept calling them "the invisible anemones" — not realizing, of course, either her mistake or the fact that there were actually such things as anemones.

E and her younger sister M are older now, eight and six respectively, yet still delighted by books and still coming out with terribly funny things.

"Let's pretend we are in the olden days," my sister J overheard E saying to M recently. "Pretend it is 1980!" ("And no," J added, "she did not mean 1880; I asked.")

Chuck Still Not Up

Last year at this time I praised NBC's Chuck for its volley of satisfying finales, none
of which ultimately stood as a swan song.

Zachary Levi as Chuck facing Yvonne Strahovski as Sarah, holding a demi-tasse
Image from Chuck 3.14 "Chuck vs. the Honeymooners" © 2010 Warner Bros. Entertainment.

Season Two concluded by both wrapping up the current narrative satisfactorily and nodding towards the future. Chuck's original 13-episode order for Season Three did the same. And the next episode a month later — the first of an additional 6 that rounded out the season — served as a lovely coda, with the actual Season Three finale making for a fine farewell too. I felt back then that while I've enjoyed Chuck it would have been all right with me had any one of those chapters served as its final bow.

The Missing Links

Photo of Jay Walker's Library: Andrew Moore for Wired © 2008.

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Ducks Uncovered

I'm about to call a moratorium on posts beyond what's in the pipeline because there's so. much. to write. The 11 o'clock edition of Action News tonight, however, ran a story that just screams to be blogged on, both for what it said and for what it left out.

Mama and baby ducklings in makeshift nest
Screencap from Action News © 2011 ABC / WPVI Philadelphia.

The main thing that I was surprised anchor Jim Gardner didn't mention during the story was that today was the birthday of John James Audubon — which I'll admit I only knew thanks to the day's Google logo.

And one reason why the omission is surprising is that the story was about some
ducks hatching outside a fast-food restaurant across the bridge from Philadelphia in Camden County. In case you didn't know: Audubon, born Jean-Jacques Audubon in France, was a renowned ornithologist — Hello! — who became an American citizen right here in Philly during the War of 1812.

I also found it hilarious that the fast-food restaurant in question was a Chick-Fil-A. Propriety might dictate that a newsman not point out the juxtaposition of the newborn ducks yards away from an establishment whose business is serving up poultry to the hungry masses, but then again, knowing Jim, that ain't necessarily so.

The other reason the omission is surprising is that the specific locale within Camden County where all of this went down is the borough of Audubon. How the serendipity of a public duck nest in Audubon, New Jersey, doesn't get pointed out, even if you don't comment on the irony of the Chick-Fil-A or throw in the fact that it was the man's birthday, I have no idea.

Pennsylvania has a town called Audubon, too, by the way, home to a lovely museum and bird sanctuary. I think the little ducklings are cute and have nothing against them, but also by the way I'm rather surprised at how newsworthy the hatching was deemed, even from a light human-interest perspective. We must be even more divorced from nature than I thought for this event to be treated with that kind of "Did you ever see such a thing?" reverence.

Related: Go Cub Go What the Hell? The Birdy Bunch

Good Morning, Good Morning

And the end of Fringe Season Three, including what may be the final showdown in
the series' Two-Worlds War, begins.

I'm not sure how much there is to say about the events of...

Fringe 3.20 6:02 a.m. EST / photo of Walternate

... that won't be rendered moot by next Friday. So while I can't help but ask a few burning questions, I won't really try to answer them, either, instead sticking to some random reactions and tangential tidbits. Here they are in the order of their prompts throughout the episode.

Mind Games

Yes, "Mind Games" it will be, since "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" felt both a little
too on the nose and not really descriptive of ...

Fringe 3.19 Lysergic Acid Diethylamide / animated still of Leonard Nimoy as William Bell at the wheel of a ship

I'm going to try to blog weekly on Fringe, quite possibly my favorite TV experience
of the moment, as I said the other day in recapping the past couple of seasons. My oft-cited online problems and innately unpredictable abilities mean no guarantees, although I suspect that having gotten a new overview of the show out of the way will help. Now, better late than never, I offer my thoughts on one of the most intriguing
and most disappointing installments of this excellent series to date.

Letter Men

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Across the Universe

Olivia and her doppelganger next to one another, both with guns drawn, a small 'Fringe' logo oddly placed between then at waist level

I'd been planning to write up the last three Fringe episodes of this season, which reportedly form one continued story, both to quell persistent requests made by friends and as practice for potential weekly reviews come autumn now that Fox has renewed the show. A few things conspired to convince me that it was a good idea to start early with last night's episode. Here's a bit of background to save us all from recap fatigue in future chapter-specific editions.

My initial essay on Fringe — an earlier post on its glyphs notwithstanding — came midway through Season Two. While I'll run down some of the salient plot points that have taken center stage since then, it provides a good overview of my thoughts on the first half of the series to date. To folks reading this who are unfamiliar with the show: You're going to be confused, for sure, and you're missing an excellent television experience. I highly recommend catching up via downloads or DVD; both Fringe and Supernatural (which is nearing the conclusion of a welcome albeit weak-by-comparison season a year after many expected the series to wrap) are worthy successors to the very best of The X-Files and choice viewing not just for "genre" fans but for anyone who enjoys great character work played out through superbly inventive storytelling.