Cold Hands, Warm Hearts

I’m glad but a little surprised that Frozen is doing so well.

Elsa in dress, cloak, and tiara standing in a stark, icy setting as it snows
Image © 2013 Disney Enterprises.

Which probably says more about my critical eye and very specific tastes — a mite too critical and crazily specific, I’ve been told — than with the quality of the film or the general public’s own appetites.

Frozen’s other pleasant surprises:

They’re Magically Suspicious

Loki Charms / Photo of Tom Hiddleston as Loki behind bowl of cereal on mocked-up box / General Mills' 'Bifrosted Loki Charms' 'Oat cereal plus delicious chunks of the Rainbow Bridge!' 'Marvel Studios Limited Edition'

Update: The image above with Loki from the Avengers film has been joined by Jack Kirby (& Dick Ayers) and John Buscema (& John Verpoorten) “Pop Art” variants, seen thumbnailed below, on my Tumblr log. My hands were really bad when I got the itch to do these and I’d love to be able to rework them but I’m probably better off devoting that energy to other stuff — unless someone wants to actually hire me to design fake cereal boxes...

Here Am I Sitting in a Tin Can,
Far Above the World

Gravity was spectacular.

I saw the film two weeks ago, and whenever it’s brought to mind I’m right back in the absolute sense of wonder I experienced in the theater.

Sandra Bullock looking out from environmental helmet in close-up against black void with movie title, credits, and release date

Starring the quietly magnetic Sandra Bullock as a civilian mission specialist sent up
to work on the Hubble Space Telescope and George Clooney as the veteran commander of her shuttle, Gravity demands to be seen not only on as big a screen as possible but in
3D. If you’ve heard me talk (or read me write) about 3D, you know that I seldom recommend it.

Breakfast Antipathies

I checked out @Midnight on Comedy Central and its Hashtag Wars segment looks to
be a veritable fount of springboards for Top X lists. While neither my favorite category nor my best work, for instance, since I’m kind-of rusty I riffed on the latest category to come up with…

My Top Ten Bad Cereals

10. Foot Loops

9. Loogie Charms

8. Bounced Chex

7. Raisin Brain

6. Substandard K

Deft Wonk

Stephen Colbert at his desk on set

John Oliver wasn’t the sole member of Comedy Central’s late-night team giving
us process junkies a peek behind the curtain in the past couple of weeks. Stephen Colbert was interviewed by Paul Mercurio, who does warm-up for The Colbert Report, over nearly an hour on a variety of topics — but mostly about the Daft Punk fiasco. You can listen to the podcast free.

John for Jon

John Oliver, a white man in glasses wearing a dark suit and blue tie with tousled dark hair, on set

Jon Stewart will return to The Daily Show next week following a sabbatical. He
was in the Middle East this summer directing a film called Rosewater. For the eight weeks out of twelve after Stewart’s departure that the show was not on hiatus, writer/correspondent John Oliver stepped in to host in his stead.

New Dream Titans

One fringe benefit to migraines — which to be clear, I would gladly do without if it meant the migraines would stop too — is even more, and more vibrant, dreams than usual.

Two weekends ago I had a nasty, persistent episode come on that meant by the time I crashed I’d been awake for well over 24 hours and then ended up sleeping for close to 12 hours into the evening the next day when I needed to get stuff done. At least a couple of memorable experiences resulted from the ordeal: First, I had an adventure in outer space during the Blackfire / Gordanians arc in Marv Wolfman & George Pérez’s classic New Teen Titans run (not the only time it’s figured into my dreams). Later, I attended a dance recital where someone was attempting to fix me up to the frustration of my good friend Nick Offerman, in character as Ron Swanson, who had accompanied me and thought I was going to show him around Philadelphia.

After sharing the above on Facebook, I received sympathy, of course, along with suggestions on dietary changes that might alleviate migraines, a Little Nemo in Slumberland reference, and the revelation that a certain friend never dreams when enduring migraines — except for infrequent ones in which she has a splitting headache and wakes up with, naturally, a splitting headache. That’s happened to me too but thankfully quite seldom.

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Stars Are Out

Howard Cosell in shades, loud gold-mustard jacket and patterned tie, with ABC microphone speaking to Gabe Kaplan in tennis gear
Photo crop of Howard Cosell and Gabe Kaplan at the first BOTNS © 1976 ABC.

I was checking TV listings to see when the Home-Run Derby would begin on ESPN tomorrow night and discovered that at the same time, 8-10 p.m. EDT, ESPN Classic
will be showing an episode — or maybe a greatest-hits package — of Battle of the Network Stars. This made me unreasonably happy. After I punched in the channel number on my remote, however, I got a message saying that I don’t have something called Sports Pass. This made me unreasonably sad. Just not quite sad enough to subscribe to Sports Pass.

Nothing Special

If you’re disappointed in, or simply growing numb to, this summer’s would-be blockbusters — The Lone Ranger, World War Z, Man of Steel, Pacific Rim — I have
the solution: Joss Whedon’s adaptation of Much Ado about Nothing.

A man with head and one hand above water in a lake, wearing goggles and snorkel, holding a half-full martini glass

You may be skeptical of a film that can be promoted as “from the director of The Avengers and based on the play by William Shakespeare” but Whedon’s Much Ado is just that. And it’s a delight.

Splice of Life

There was a producer who had two films only partially completed when the financing fell through on both. One was a domestic drama starring Cher; the other was a fantasy in which Johnny Depp played the mythical Yeti (or “abominable snowman”) of the Himalayas.

It occurred to her that perhaps there was a way to pick up a few additional scenes on a shoestring budget that would stitch the two movies into one.

Somehow it came together. The producer screened the result for Hollywood friends, and following the show a director not involved in the undertaking approached a cinematographer he recognized.

“Did you work on this?” the director asked.

“Yes,” the cinematographer responded.

“Those icy landscapes were beautiful,” said the director.

“Oh, I can’t take credit for that,” replied the cinematographer.

Ante Heroes

I didn’t create this Man of Steel / Dark Knight mashup, but when I shared it from
a friend’s page on Facebook I did come up with some dialogue for the scene.

Henry Cavill as Superman, Christian Bale as Batman, and Heath Ledger as Joker seated at table in police interrogation room with cards and poker chips

Joker: “You wanna know how I got these scars?”

Kim Thompson 1956-2013

Early yesterday, Kim Thompson died at the age of 56.

I never met him but do know that you’d be hard-pressed to find a better friend to comics literally worldwide. North American readers were grateful to him for having exposed them to work from Europe, and European creators were grateful for that exposure.

El on Earth

How did I like Man of Steel?

That’s... a good question. I’ll be taking part in a roundtable discussion at Forces
of Geek
soon, helping me further hone my thoughts for a proper review. What follows below is bereft of spoilers.

Superman flying above the Earth's atmosphere against the blackness of space
Man of Steel image © 2013 Warner Bros. Entertainment. Superman ® DC Comics.

I went into the 12:01 a.m. screening last Thursday night with hope and tempered excitement.

AC Does It

Astro City returned last week after too long an absence.

Caped figure of Samaritan flying, backlit from above by the sun, crowd below pointing up at him Samaritan opening doors leading to reader's POV, other superheroes behind him

The reviews, judging from links at the series’ new Facebook page and general chatter, are good. I haven’t read the new #1 yet myself but wouldn’t expect any different.

Gift Rap

“Okay. Here’s the situation.”

To a large swath of Generation X, at minimum, it’s danged near impossible to hear those words and not feel the urge to reply “My parents went away on a week’s vacation.”

Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd as police detectives looking into camera

To a decidedly smaller segment of the population — we few who recall the music
video for “City of Crime”, a track played over the closing credits of the 1987 Dragnet movie — a similar trigger is provided by an even simpler and more mundane phrase: “Excuse me.”


Here we go with a good old link-blogging post for the first time in too long.

Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy in conversation

I know it’s been making the rounds at warp speed the past few days, but Zachary Quinto and Leonard Nimoy in Audi’s “The Challenge” has at least one moment too priceless not to keep sharing. It’s a commercial, obviously — so if you have a hard policy against watching such things, here’s your warning. [2:56]

The Man in the Iron Mask

I found Iron Man 3 a fine kickoff to what Marvel Studios is calling Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — Phase One having culminated in the assemblage of nearly every superhero thus far introduced to the MCU in 2012’s The Avengers.

A scarred, cracked Iron Man helmet in close-up held by Tony Stark

Given that it builds deliberately on what’s come before, Iron Man 3 isn’t an optimal entry to the series; a familiarity with the characters and their milieu is recommended.
If you’ve enjoyed the previous films, however, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark in particular, grab a ticket. For darn sure it’s better than 2010’s Iron Man 2, although certain flaws of that movie are revisited. The way in which 3 gets to jump straight into its world, history established, might even make it more fun than 2008’s original. In that regard (and in some aspects of the plot) it’s not unlike an installment of the Bond franchise, a parallel driven home at the very end and made explicit too in press interviews by co-writer/director Shane Black.

So there’s a quickie assessment. I’ll add spoiler commentary after the next graphic.
Join me below if/when you’ve seen Iron Man 3 or just don’t care...


Panel of Lois Lane meeting Superman from Action Comics #1 © 1938 DC Comics.
Script: Jerry Siegel. Pencils, Inks, Letters: Joe Shuster. Colors: Unknown.

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Roger Ebert 1942-2013

Roger Ebert standing with arms rested on a stack of books atop a desk amidst many colorful items and walls covered in film posters

Just yesterday I was reading Roger Ebert’s “Leave of Presence” post, addressing the discovery of more cancer in his body — this, after he’d endured so much — and his promise to write about what he could, when he could, during treatment.

Identity Crisis

The Bourne Identity, which introduced Matt Damon as human weapon Jason Bourne in 2002, was very good. Its 2004 sequel, The Bourne Supremacy, was great, as was 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum. Last year’s The Bourne Legacy, a spinoff focused on another agent played by Jeremy Renner, was not as good as any of them but had its moments nonetheless. I’ll expound a bit, without spoilers, after the poster.

Jeremy Renner in 'The Bourne Legacy' poster

Why Is This Joke Different
From All Other Jokes?

Fake book cover for 'Pesadick Tracy and the Case of the Missing Manischewitz — by Chester Gould - A Kosher-for-Passover Caper' with signature profile of Dick Tracy in yellow trenchcoat and yarmulke

More years ago than feels possible I drew up a cartoon like this for a Hillel seder in college. I’ve yet to come across it in my files but with today’s technology I was able to rebuild the thing better, faster, and stronger.

Not that I’m about to do a whole strip, but I kind-of want to read this.

Related: Bits o’ Matzah They’re Magically
Nice Day for a Sprite Wedding

Five to Stream Up

Promo image of Spock, Kirk, Bones, and Scotty with the Enterprise above them

Hulu began streaming all five live-action incarnations of Star Trek today. You can watch The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise free through March 31st.

A ’Ship at Sea

I’m not sure what I can say about Celeste and Jesse Forever without giving too much away.

Celeste and Jesse, played by Rashida Jones and Andy Samberg, are best friends since college who married and then amicably separated while remaining buds. The entire plot revolves around whether they reunite and/or how they cope with drifting apart.

If I tell you Forever is a comfort film — not that I’m doing so — you’d probably guess that there’s a happy ending. If I tell you Forever should only be viewed if you can handle relationships going south — not that I’m doing so — you’d probably guess that there isn’t. If I tell you that Forever is good enough to withstand either the cliché of the happy ending or the bummer of the alternative, well, I’d be speaking untruth, albeit not of great magnitude; Celeste and Jesse Forever is good, just not quite good enough for me to honestly say I enjoyed [whatever happened].

Continued with spoilers after the poster, then...

Flow Rider

Promo image of Hushpuppy, running on grass holding sparklers, with movie title and blurb 'A blast of sheer improbable joy'

Beasts of the Southern Wild, a mystifyingly beautiful work of life and loss,
was one of my favorite movies of last year.

Never Mind the Bollocks

As great as the political satire on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report is, sometimes the shows’ finest comedy is wrung out of human-interest stories on a very modest scale.

large white bucket labeled 'formaldehyde' with skull and crossbones

On Monday Colbert led off with an installment of its occasional series The Enemy Within about misplaced scallop gonads in Maine. It’s a great mix of making fun of these kinds of field pieces on the one hand and on the other simply letting the ridiculous nature of the incident speak for itself. You’re guaranteed to laugh or the next post on this blog is free. [Warning: Scallop gonads, in case you missed that, but they’re really just the MacGuffin. And... Update: The link is dead now that the show’s over.]

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Hide and Sneak

Is Argo worth a watch? No doubt.

Was it worth an Oscar? Not given its competition, in my eyes, as I wrote at the end of my post-Oscars post last week. But the fact that Argo is merely one of my top five or so movies of 2012 rather than the number-one pick ain’t bad. Some thoughts on it that include mild spoilers follow.

'Argo' poster with title and images from the movie

7 for 007

Dr. No UK movie poster

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Exit from Eden

What follows are some thoughts on nostalgia and how it may blur critical assessment, prompted by yesterday’s post on this year’s Oscars show.

I’d like to preface them with a quote from an interview that Stefan Blitz (now founder/editor-in-chief of Forces of Geek) and I conducted with comics writer Brian Michael Bendis back in 2001 for my magazine Comicology. After I stopped myself literally in the middle of referring to Stefan as a DVD connoisseur, Stefan made my point for me — by admitting that he owned the 1983 movie Krull.

“You know what’s funny about that movie?” said Bendis. “I remember seeing that
movie [at 15] with my mom and my brother, and sitting in the movie theater having
my first realization that movies could suck.”

The Bloom Is Off the Gilded Lily

I wasn’t going to write about The 85th Annual Academy Awards.

'The 85th Annual Academy Awards' graphic card with statuette

Really. Not outside of some comments on other blogs, anyway. And it ain’t because producers attempted to chuck the formality and rebrand this year’s show purely as “the Oscars”. I’m not above a linguistic gotcha; however, this is not such a gotcha. I honestly expected to be too fatigued and just plain iffy about the telecast that I was happy thinking about not writing about it.

But last night’s Oscarfest, hosted by Seth MacFarlane, was so disappointing that I
kind-of can’t help it.

I don’t have much to say about the content of the show. My anticipated mixture of indifference and irritation was pretty spot-on. It’s that during the telecast I finally came to — hmm... not a realization or epiphany, exactly, more of a rubicon I suppose — a rubicon in terms of my relationship with the annual event. I found myself curiously indifferent about my irritation.

Pre-Oscars Post

As you might’ve heard, the Oscars are tonight.

long, narrow photograph of the site of the 35th Academy Awards from 1963

The big show starts at 8:30 p.m. ET / 5:30 p.m. PT on ABC — whose Go site has a complete list of nominees. If you’re into seeing Oscar hopefuls, presenters, and other celebrities on the red carpet, you’ll want to check those good ol’ local listings.

I’ll probably pass on a review of the show; then again, I’ve thought that before and yet — after a bout of Oscars poetry in 2009, when the blog was all of a few days old — I ended up doing post-Oscars posts in 2010, 2011, and 2012.

What Lies Beneath

'Skyfall' movie poster with Daniel Craig walking through the barrel of a gun in standard Bond opening-sequence fashion

James Bond celebrated his 50th anniversary on the silver screen last year. Dr. No
hit theaters in 1962, based on the 1958 Ian Fleming novel of the same name (sixth in the Bond series). It made Sean Connery a star, launched a slate of films that would position Bond as a global icon for generations to come, and kicked off a spate of imitators capitalizing on the spy craze — some of which, like Mission: Impossible
and Get Smart, became icons of a certain size in their own right.

Was Skyfall, now out on home video, a worthy way to commemorate Bond’s golden jubilee?

Mail Model

Bully the little stuffed bull, with help from his friend John DiBello, ran a DC subscription ad from 1972 the other day on his blog Comics Oughta Be Fun! as part of the 365 Days of DC House Ads feature.

'Sorry -- I Have No More DC Comics!' / Kids discuss subscribing by mail after newsagent tells them he's out of DC
Ad © 1971 DC Comics, f.k.a. National Periodical Publications. [enlarge]

I wasn’t quite reading comics at fourteen months old in December 1971, when the
issue from which this ad was taken — Batman #239, cover-dated February 1972 — was published. But I’ve seen it in back issues acquired since then and I know that it was repurposed, directly as well as in concept, over time.

Stan Musial 1920-2013

A dream personified for both those who love seeing poetry in their statistics and those who love seeing the game played the right way, Stan Musial left this mortal coil on Jan. 19th at the age of 92.

Stan Musial smiling in uniform for St. Louis
Trading-card photo © 1953 Bowman Gum.

Wise to the Wordle

For some time now I’ve been planning to add a Wordle graphic to the blog. The one below, set in a font called Enamel Brush, has at this writing just been slipped into the sidebar between my general and exhaustive lists of post labels.

Subjects in varying sizes of cursive script including comics, television, movies, weirdness, blogging, wordply, music, life, kids, and dozens more, some illegibly small

Wordle is an online application created by Jonathan Feinberg. You enter a bunch of text into its box and it produces a nifty “word cloud” out of that, customizable in typeface, color, and (to an extent) layout, with the size of each word or phrase based on the frequency with which it appears in the source.

The bad news is that it doesn’t work quite as easily as I thought it was supposed to work.

Mean and Done

If you’ve ever left a comment on a blog, you may very well have come across “word” verification.

On blogs hosted by Blogger, as elsewhere, the author can select an option asking
people commenting to type a seemingly random bunch of letters to prove that they’re actual humans rather than automated envoys of mischief or malevolence. This used to take the form of a single nonsense string that almost always could be a real word, but wasn’t; then, last year, the hosting service joined the ranks of websites using heinously jumbled-up, visually skewed mixes of characters. Previously the nonsense “words” tended to have vowels and consonants placed in such an order that they were pronounceable, leading me to invent definitions for them based on actual words, morphemes, and phrases they suggested.

I took to sharing those definitions in comments, when they came readily to mind, then filing them away and periodically presenting batches here on my own blog. It was an endeavor not unlike Sniglets, which Rich Hall popularized on HBO’s Not Necessarily the News and in a series of books back in the ’80s, except in reverse. I’ve laid absolutely no claim to being either the first or the best at this, but I’ve been told I’m not bad at it either, and I’m genuinely sorry that the absence of that older format of word verification has led to a near-total shutdown in new definitions.

cztory — [ztoh ree] n. A Slavic tale.

ermend — [uhr mend; ee ahr mend] v. Fix someone up in the trauma center.

archMC — [artch em see] n. Preeminent (or sly) rapper.

It Won't Be Long

Fringe 5.11 The Boy Must Live / Photo of Michael Cerveris as September / Donald with Spencer List as young bald Observer boy Michael

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Clash of the Toy Lines

I dragged some old stuff out of the basement during my sister’s visit with her kids last summer.

Various action figures including Hulk, lying under the front of the Batvan, and Batman himself

My nephew Ishmael (real name classified) had gotten a Batman figure for his birthday — I believe from the 2008 Dark Knight movie line, although I was happy to find one with a gray-&-black motif rather than the solid black seen in the films. He told me that he “really, really wished” for a Batmobile and he thought that we could find one. Aware that no Batmobile per se was in my stash but having discussed with my sister giving him my Kenner Star Wars figures, I decided to literally dust off a couple of great Mego items for him: the Batcave playset and what was officially titled the Mobile Bat Lab; I liked to call it the Batvan.

Future Tense

Art of older Wolverine and Kitty/Kate Pryde cornered in front of a wall, spotlight on them and the poster behind them listing mutants who have been captured or killed, from the cover to 'X-Men' #141 with new text reading 'Welcome to 2013, X-Men... Hope You Survive the Experience!'
Art from cover of X-Men #141 with text based on the cover
to X-Men #139 © 1980 Marvel Comics. Pencils: John
Byrne. Inks: Terry Austin. Colors: Unknown.

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