Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Comics Canon Question

PaulT (aka: @placeslost) forwarded me a very interesting article.  Its a discussion of how a canon of known, quality comics is sort of percolating with folks during urbane drawing room conversations (I guess.  This has never happened to me.).  Whether or not there's an agreed-upon core group of classics in comics at this time is an interesting question, especially in a medium so young that seems to change tastes and values about every 10 years.

I'm going to risk some flames here and say the following:
Dear former Lit Major, 
I am so glad you read Ghost World that one time, and that thanks to the movie and profile you read somewhere, you're passingly familiar with Marjani Sartapi.  Because its now "hip", you'd like to talk comics and you know I read comics.  While I appreciate your background as a reader of Jane Austen and The Canterbury Tales, reading two or three comics and having a former boyfriend who was "really into Batman" makes you an interested tourist, and I welcome you, but please be patient (and, yes, we're all already aware of the homosexual undertones of Batman and Robin, so, thanks).   Also, please stop correcting me.  It's rude and weird and that person writing the article you keep referring to about "important comics" was also clearly new to comics to those of us not new to comics.  I am sad to say that what you saw there was a lot of enthusiasm, not the voice of experience.  Pop culture writers suddenly compiling lists online - especially about comics - doesn't actually mean anything.   
Trust me.
There's a lot that's going to go into a comics discussion that will, likely seem befuddling and not necessarily make sense.  Especially when we start talking about the relative merits of Jimmy Olsen comics or talk about Scrooge McDuck as a major literary character.
Comics are not books anymore than oil paintings are sculptures or a photograph of a horse is a horse.  I beg your patience.  Things are going to get weird.

The writer of this article seems like a semi-serious reader and lists his top 5 - seemingly off the top of his head - picks, and its an interesting assortment.
  • Maus: A Survivor's Tale
  • Preacher
  • The Sandman
  • Transmetropolitan
  • Watchmen
I'm not sure I'm in agreement, but what the list did do was get me to think a bit.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

No Post Friday - Pam Poovey

The past year, I have become a fan of the FX after-9:00 PM cartoon Archer.  If you haven't caught Archer, well, I pity you.

Normally when I didn't feel like posting because its a Friday and I've already said my piece for the week, I'd go dig up a picture of some lady film star of days gone by.  But I didn't find any new Marie Windsor pictures, and I don't feel like I know Audrey Totter well enough to start obsessing yet, so today we're talking Pam Poovey.

Pam is, of course, a cartoon and the HR Director at ISIS, a sort of freelance spying...  oh, forget it.  She may not be the buxom field agent of the show, nor voiced by the incredible Jessica Walters, but Pam Poovey is my kind of lady.

Also, start watching Archer.  Its really pretty funny.

The Signal Watch Presents: What I Do Meme - The League

We love a good meme around here, and since nobody gives a @#$% what I do for a living (thanks for that), here's a look at that same meme from the point of managing my unstoppable media presence over the past 9 years.*

click for depressing full-sized

*yes. 9 years. In April.  God have mercy upon my soul.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Signal Watch (Finally) Watches: Some Like It Hot (1959)

While your faithful blogger has seen many, many movies and some movies many, many times, we also have huge holes in our mental inventory of flicks.  Not the least of these areas I need to take care of is pretty much everything directed by Billy Wilder.  No, I don't know why.

I especially don't know how I missed something starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.  Anyhoo, I finally watched Wilder's Some Like it Hot.

Yes, this is the one where Lemmon and Curtis (in terms of the film) successfully pass as women for an extended amount of time, and which spawned a million knock-offs like Bosom Buddies or Tootsie.

The pair play down on their luck musicians in 1929 Chicago who become accidental witnesses to (spoiler alert) the St. Valentine's Day Massacre (/spoiler alert).  Fleeing Chicago to avoid the mob, the two find work in disguise in an all-girl band.

Of course Monroe is the ukulele player/ vocalist in the band, and that's just going to be a problem when you're trying to keep anyone from figuring out that you're a dude.

The movie more than earns its reputation, and I can see why its a favorite.  I suspect that when this hit, it pushed as many buttons and was as "edgy" as current comedies like The Hangover that play with social mores and steps just enough outside of the expectations of an audience that the laughs come from the sheer surprise.  Of course, some of that's dated now (there's a bit about "why would a man want to marry a man?"), but actually very little, which is part of why I think the movie holds up well.  Its also plenty risque.

I suspect most of you have seen the movie, but I said I'd talk about every movie I watched in 2012.   I won't go on too long, but if you haven't seen it, I recommend.  Lots of great performances, and an oddball of a happy ending.  Frankly, Tony Curtis isn't someone whose work I know terribly well, mostly just a few viewings of Spartacus, so it was great to see him in top form here, and I'll be trying to learn his accent (you know the one) just to annoy Jamie.  And special props to Joe E. Brown.  He is terrific in this movie.

Monroe is particularly hilarious in this movie, and you can see how (aside from the visual cues) she was at the top of her game in this movie.  But, man, some of the dresses...  I don't know how they pulled that off.  Billy Wilder, you mad, mad genius.

Great movie.

Late edit:  San Diego's famous Coronado hotel does exteriors for a good part of the film, doubling for Florida.  J__Swift reminded me of this.  If in San Diego, I highly recommend a visit out there. 

Hey, let's talk about that whole Ghost Rider thing and how comics rely of the Gray Market

I've never understood exactly how the comics convention industry works.  But more than that, I haven't understood how, the past few years, its become increasingly popular for folks to take to Etsy or to some other place on the web and sell non-licensed images of licensed characters.  Heck, I'm not clear that some of the published material in a few artists' sketch books I've bought were reproduced and sold to me legally in the strictest sense.

What seems to have brought all of this to a head is that former comics artist Gary Friedrich, the man who (sort of, maybe not) invented the motorcycle-riding, flame-skulled character Ghost Rider for Marvel has sued Marvel (now owned by Disney) for one reason or another, and Disney counter-sued with a $17,000 lawsuit at Friedrich for the proceeds he's earned by attending cons and selling sketches of Ghost Rider.  (See the very clever Ty Templeton cartoon for a rebuttal).

I point you to this article, because it echoes a lot of what I'd always wondered about how the industry has been  more or less ignoring the very real problem at the center of the Con and Commission Sketch sub-industry in comics.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dames Going Straight For the Heart

Don't worry, lonelyhearts. Some of our favorite Dames here at The Signal watch are here to wish you a happy Valentine's Day.

the always effervescent Ann Miller

Ms. Cyd Charisse and cellophane

perhaps Clara Bow needed a running start

Monroe takes the direct (and AMERICAN) approach

St. Valentine's Day (Massacre)

It ain't all roses, hearts and chocolates.

On February 14th, 1929, 7 men of the "Bugs" Moran Gang were brutally murdered by what is now believed to have been possibly Capone's gang dressed up as cops. Prior to the Massacre, Chicago had been a bit loose with their gangsters, treating them a bit like celebrities who provided jobs and booze in the era of the Volstead Act.

A bizarre but telling detail of the incident:  One victim (with 14 bullets in him) was still alive when found. Asked by the cops who had done the deed, he said "Nobody shot me".

Wikipedia has a phenomenal amount of info on the gruesome crime.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day to my best girl and our dog(s).

this probably captures our situation a bit better

Sunday, February 12, 2012

So, I went to a big, splashy Broadway musical (Wicked)

I don't remember not liking The Wizard of Oz.  The movie, anyway.  I've never read the book.  I don't know that we watched it every year when it came on TV as kids, but I've seen it often enough, including in film school and then several times afterward.  We've got it floating around on DVD here somewhere.

That said, I didn't make it through the Fairuza Balk starring Return to Oz, nor a recent SyFy Channel attempt at an update.  

And while I don't talk about it much, I more or less grew up going to the theater all the time, going to see musicals, drama, comedy, what-have-you, in venues from college campuses to community playhouses to the bigger venues in Houston (no, we didn't fly to New York to see shows).  In addition, I did a bit of my own "acting" back in high school, but wasn't actually any good.  In general, though, all that left me with a soft spot for live performance.  

Here's the deal:  going to see plays is @#$%ing expensive.  I tip my hat to my folks, because I only understood in the abstract what a big deal it was to include their stupid kid in outings to what had to have been pretty pricey shows.  Most of which I very much enjoyed, but, still.  Now that I'm paying for it, I better see a flying monkey or two for my dollar, and I'm not going to wind up going all that often.

I was a bit torn about going to see Wicked as I'm never really sure what I'm getting with a touring Broadway Show in the era where Lion King is a big draw (I am the one person in America who was sort of non-plussed with the magic of Julie Taymor's puppets when I saw the show in Arizona) and Spider-Man with a soundtrack by U2 seemed like a good way to fill seats.  Basically, I sort of think of musicals as a showy stage production more than I think of them as a particularly powerful way to communicate a narrative.  There's a hell of a lot of difference between a revival of The Music Man and By the Skin of Our Teeth.  But it can work.