Saturday, July 28, 2012

Enemy Ace and Why You Don't Take Your Puppy Up into the Killer Skies

I finally got a copy of Star Spangled War Stories #148.  It's a reader copy, not in terrific shape, but I can make a check mark on that particular collection.  And it's not like I don't have a copy of that story in both Showcase Presents and Archives formats.

You guys know I am firmly in corner of Von Hammer, The Enemy Ace. Yes, even as he's shooting down our friends from England and France in plane-to-plane combat, I'm still thrilling to his adventures as he takes his tri-wing Fokker up into The Killer Skies.

Signal Watch Watches: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

Good God, y'all.

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) is basically one long exercise in "Jane Russell or Marilyn Monroe?", and no one can answer that question honestly without risking a trip into madness.

Just when the answer seems "well, clearly Monroe" (she is, after all, Monroe), you kind of have to take a moment to pause and reconsider.  Because, well, Jane Russell.  Just when Monroe seals it up with "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend"...  Russell does her own version.

I suspect the pitch meeting went like this:

Producer:  It's two singing and dancing girls!  Leggy!  One is a gold-digger, the other doesn't care about money!  They get on a boat!  There's singing!  There's dancing! There's showgirl outfits! It ends with a wedding!
Studio Head:  Meh.
Producer:   We cast Monroe and Jane Russell!
Studio Head:  Can we see either of them soaking wet?
Producer:  We're throwing Russell in a pool RIGHT NOW!
Studio Head:  You've got yourself a picture!

Sure, it's a throwback.  But it's a movie that knows exactly what it's got on it's hands and doesn't make any bones about it - made in an era where women could be portrayed as knowing what they had without having to pretend to be unaware or be cast as the villain, and do it all with a wink.  It's a movie about a diamond-digging Monroe and her pal for whom money doesn't mean much on a cross-the-pond trip to France surrounded by men.  Hi-jinx ensue and a number of pretty good musical numbers.

The movie never equates beautiful with brainless.  Perhaps Monroe's Lorelei is a bit clueless or off in dreamland, but she has a certain brand of whimsical genius that's the ying to yang of the streetwise, smart girl who sees all the angles, played by Russell.  Both are great and really, really funny.  As is a lot of the supporting cast.

I hadn't seen the movie since high school, which means I hadn't seen it since I taped it off AMC back when the network was American Movie Classics.  Seeing the movie in HD on a TV screen that begins to do it justice really does show what color film was doing during the era and what Hollywood was bringing to the big screen with design and smart use of palette.  Of course the film is the work of the great Howard Hawks showing an eye for comedy and getting the hell out of the way when it comes to the musical numbers.

It's a fluffy, fun comedy and a classic for a reason.  Maybe not as quirky as you might hope for, but the dialog is refined to a razor's edge.  Good stuff.

And, of course, our leads.

Do I know why gentlemen supposedly prefer blondes?  No sir, I do not.  The movie never actually explains the title.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Happy Birthday to Judy, the Mother-in-Law

we're pretty sure this captures the spirit of our own Judy McB

Happy birthday to my mother-in-law and enabler, Judy.

I know all the old stereo-types about meddling or annoying mother-in-laws, but since Day 1, I've been pretty fond of Jamie and Doug's mom.  She's a lot of fun, totally supportive of Jamie and myself, and where 95% of mother-in-laws would (at best) just let the whole comics thing slide, Judy sometimes seems to enjoy my superhero collection in her own way and even adds to it from time to time.

She's a world traveler, a naturalist, a birder, and a small time gambler.  What's not to like?

Happy B-Day, Judy!  We'll see you this evening.

The in-laws, Dick & Judy, enjoy some BBQ at Central Texas' famous "The Salt Lick"

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gleiberman's article in EW on Pop Culture and The Dissipation of Empathy

NathanC posted a link to an Owen Gleiberman editorial on the Entertainment Weekly website in which Gleiberman, a longtime film critic/ reviewer for EW discusses his perceptions of the obsessions of pop culture and how they come back in mutated form in incidents like the one in Aurora, Colorado.

It's not a huge secret around our house that I don't hold Gleiberman's taste in very high regard, and you can pretty much count on his befuddlement when it comes to genre pictures (Jamie has had a subscription to EW since around 1995, so we've had opportunity to discuss the man's writing).

I won't say I don't echo some of Gleiberman's thoughts, but the more I thought about the article and it's constant accusations, backtracking on the accusations with a "I'm just saying" statement - the more I found it a bit disturbing.

I encourage you to pop over and read the article on your own.  It's free.

Let me clear the decks first and roll my eyes at Gleiberman's creeping assertions about fanboy culture and his ability to finally have a way to express his discomfort with the phenomena.  Exasperation with sci-fi/ comics/ fantasy and the culture around them has been an ongoing theme in his reviews for a decade.  He basically is both aware of and flustered by the fact that these people will not listen to reason when he can demonstrably prove his favorite Meryl Streep movie is of more value than Serenity.  So, in a way, I'm not all that surprised by the path he goes down here.  I'm more surprised that he bothered to point out so many other examples of media-influenced killers, basically only identified Holmes, and went on with the charge of associating fan culture with a breeding ground for mass killers.

That said, his definition of "fanboy" extends to "pretty much anybody with an obsessive interest in a bit of media".  Of course, he mentions local nightmare Charles Whitman in making the case, a person with no particular interest linked to any media, but who also killed a lot of people.  He dismisses the long history of disturbing, mass or serial killings (Devil in the White City, Lizzy Borden, the fact that modern police work, a lack of records and immediate communication meant people just used to disappear and nobody noticed, etc... et al....  anybody?  anybody?) believing that only Jack the Ripper ever got more than one person before 1950.

A couple of quick Superman Reviews: Superman Family #3 and Superman #11

Superman Family Adventures #3
by Baltazar and Franco

The fact that this book isn't moving 80,000 copies per month is a crime.  Good-natured, action-packed, zany, bizarre and purely in love with the Superman mythos, this book is a perfect comic to hand a kid as well as your hipster pal looking for a good laugh.  If you're into a balanced diet in your comics, this is sort of the lovely pudding you should save to savor at the end of the buy pile.  Or something.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Signal Watch Review: Masks & Mobsters (from MonkeyBrain Comics)

One of the great things thus far about MonkeyBrain Comics has been the wide variety of genre content coming from the publisher.  Last week saw tweaky hipster/ swords & sorcery strip Wander hit the internets.  This week MonkeyBrain rolls out Masks & Mobsters, a book that's pretty well set on the Signal Watch Venn Diagram as it's crime/ gangster comics set in a 1930's-era urban center with wiseguys starting to feel the heat from mystery men with strange powers.

The book's title page promises that this will be less of a straight narrative, issue after issue, as it announces it's an anthology title (ie: a fresh story with each issue, I'm guessing), so we'll see where the creative team is taking it from here (or if the same creative team will even stay around).

Sherman Hemsley Merges with The Infinite

Sherman Hemsley, a staple of television for the past 40 years and most famous for his role as George Jefferson on both All in the Family and The Jeffersons, has passed.  He was 74. 

Bit of Signal Watch trivia:  Sherman Hemsley also played Superman villain Winslow Schott, The Toyman, on  an episode of Lois & Clark.

Happy Birthday, Amelia Earhart

You don't hear the term "aviatrix" anymore, and that's a shame, because that is one awesome word.  "Pilot" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Born on July 24, 1897, Earhart would go on to become one of the most famous aviators in the world, her name still synonymous with pioneering and the adventurous spirit of the 20th Century.

Earhart was the first woman to cross the Atlantic by plane, an educator and a leader in the cause of women's rights.

She is, of course, equally famous for disappearing during her ill-fated flight over the Pacific Ocean while attempting to circumnavigate the globe.

We're still looking for you, Amelia.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Moving to Low Content Mode for a Few Days

I have nothing for you.
I've had a good time posting the past week, but I think I wore myself out a bit.  In the wake of what I consider to be a highly successful Bat-Week, I'm going to go into low-content mode for a few days and catch up on some things.  

In the meantime, here's Selina Kyle on a Batpod.

Sally Ride Merges With The Infinite

I am very sad to say that Sally Ride has passed at the age of 61 after fighting pancreatic cancer.

Sally Ride was not the first name of an astronaut I knew or heard (the first name I really remember is John Glenn.  I think the KareBear liked the cut of his jib or something).  But something about Ride stuck with me not just because she was the first woman in space, but because she felt always seemed like the embodiment The Modern Space Program.  She rode shuttles, not capsules.  She wore the blue jumpsuit.  She was a pilot, a space jockey and a scientist.  She was the Shuttle era and the promise it held.

We all grew up proud of the name Sally Ride, but it wasn't until I was older that I appreciated how amazing Ride must have been to actually win that seat on Challenger and the pressure on her to not just be as capable of her male colleagues, but much more capable lest anyone seize the opportunity to hold her up as an example of why giving her a chance was a mistake.  I cannot begin to imagine.

And Ride pulled it off.

She succeeded not just at NASA, but went on to teach at UC-San Diego, formed a company to create educational materials for young scientists, and served as a consultant in aerospace and defense arenas.

Here's to one of the real pioneers of the era in which I was raised.  You will be missed.


I completely forgot to post for Monday - Norma Shearer makes an appearance

I've been trying to figure out Spotify again, dealing with iTunes, messing with the pets, talking to Randy about Dark Knight Rises, looking at the Twitters and generally wasting time.

So, in the meantime, here's the great Norma Shearer.

that, people, is how your rock a look

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

I'm considering this post a "first take" review.  I'm stating that now partially because I do plan to see the movie again in the theater (and likely many times in the future) and partially because I've already seen how this plays out for me trying to talk about a Nolan movie on the first go-round and pretending like I got everything.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) has a tremendous amount of territory to cover, and contains a terribly ambitious film that I think, did modern movies not get capped at 2.5 hours as a run-time, could easily have fleshed itself out a bit more and run an even 3 hours or longer.  The movie has the task of laying out it's own story, giving a conclusion that satisfactorily resolves character arcs and plot threads from prior films, and digging far deeper into the thematic elements of the prior movies.

From a content standpoint, of course it's a mishmash of the entire scope of this thing we call "Batman", with the movie seeming to borrow plot from a few different bat-sources, including Knightfall, Batman: The Cult, The Dark Knight Returns and from No Man's Land- stories from different Bat-eras and varying Bat-creators, and but all sharing central motifs of a lost city.  But, that said, Nolan has managed to very much craft a new story, making this final installment feel very much like a section or book within the book and less like an episode.