Three guys talking about comic books, sports, movies, TV shows and the numerous other pastimes that make us Gentlemen of Leisure.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Retro Review: The Crepes of Wrath

Or the One Where: Bart goes to France.

The Setup
: Forced to clean his room, Bart discovers an unused cherry bomb he later inadvertently uses on Principal Skinner's mother. Fed up with his antics, Skinner approaches Homer and Marge with the option of deportation.

A Work in Progress: Principal Skinner's mother Agnes appears for the first time, though it will be awhile before she's given a first name and her acerbic personality. In this, she's simply a kindly old lady who refers to Skinner as "Spanky."

Favorite Lines:

Skinner: You wouldn't be getting a French boy, you'd be getting an Albanian.
Homer: You mean, all white with pink eyes?

Skinner: You might find his accent peculiar. Certain aspects of his culture may seem absurd, perhaps even offensive. But I urge you all to give little Adil the benefit of the doubt. This way, and only in this way, do we hope to better understand our backward neighbors throughout the world.

Adil: How can you defend a country where five percent of the people control ninety-five percent of the wealth?
Lisa: I'm defending a country where people can think and act and worship any way they want. Adil: Cannot!
Lisa: Can too!
Adil: Cannot!
Lisa: Can too!
Homer: Please, please, kids, stop fighting. Maybe Lisa's right about America being the land of opportunity, and maybe Adil's got a point about the machinery of capitalism being oiled with the blood of the workers.


Teebore's Take: Another first-season favorite of mine, this episode is notable for being the first of many plots centered around the idea of one character or the family visiting another place or country. The setup for Bart's trip to France is, like most of the first season, much more realistic and reasoned than some of the later excuses for trips to foreign lands (I'm thinking particularly of the "Simpsons go to Africa" episode). Also, this episode is the first time "The Simpsons" goes out of its way to mock another culture for laughs, in this case, the French. Combine all that with the contrast between Bart and Adil (the Albanian student the Simpsons host in Bart's absence)'s separate experiences and Homer's complete cluelessness regarding Adil's Communist mission (a plot that strikes the right note of zany for this episode), and this episode is a winner.

Classic:

The first "the Simpsons go to ____!" episode, the first time "The Simpsons" satirizes another culture, and funny to boot: definitely an all time classic.

Retro Review: Homer's Night Out

Or The One Where: Homer gets photographed dancing with an exotic belly dancer at a Bachelor party.

The Setup: After buying a mail-order spy camera, Bart takes the aforementioned picture, which quickly makes the rounds through Springfield.

A Work in Progress: After Lenny's debut in the last episode, Carl makes his in this one.

Favorite Lines:

Lisa: Mom! Bart was taking a picture of his butt!

Barney: If you get hungry in the middle of the night, there's a open beer in the fridge.

Marge: Homer, you don't even know why you're apologizing.
Homer: Yes, I do. Because I'm hungry, my clothes are smelly, and I'm tired.


Teebore's Take: On the heels of the last episode comes another Homer/Marge relationship episode, this one Homer-centric. Like the last episode, it's enjoyable and well-crafted though not necessarily laugh-out-loud funny. One of the things I enjoy the most about the episode is that by the end, Homer realizes the reason Marge is angry at him (he set a bad example for Bart) and why she's right to be angry about that, on his own, without Marge having to nag him about it or spell it out for him. It's the kind of subtle character work that has long since left Homer behind.

Classic:

Nothing particularly stand-out or memorable about this one, but another solid outing.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

X-amining X-Men #18

"If Iceman Should Fail--!"
March 1966

A Fair Story by
Stan Lee
Adequate Art by Jay Gavin
Tolerable Inking by Dick Ayers
The World's Greatest Lettering by Artie Simek (Marvel's Birthday Boy of the Month)

Plot:
Magneto hypnotizes Angel's parents into submission and sends them to bed while he first destroys Cerebro and then proceeds to enact his master plan: using Professor Xavier's laboratory and Angel's parents' genetic makeup, he intends to create an army of custom-made mutant slaves with which he'll subjugate normal humans and rule the world. As he works, doctors use an experimental treatment to bring Iceman out of his coma. Professor X, floating miles above the earth with the other X-Men and running out of air, manages to overcome the Mental Wave Distorter and telepathically sends the still-weak Iceman to stop Magneto. Meanwhile, he revives the X-Men and using Marvel Girl's telekinesis and Cyclops' optic blast, the X-Men return safely to the ground. They arrive back at the mansion just in time to help Iceman against Magneto, fighting a delaying action while Professor X telepathically summons the Stranger, who returns to Earth and re-captures Magneto. Angel's parents awaken, and one memory-wipe later, are none the worse for wear and pleased that Xavier and the X-Men have returned early from their "field trip."

Firsts and Other Notables:
This is the first issue lacking the involvement of Jack Kirby in any way, shape or form.

Professor X telepathically reads Magneto's memory of his escape from the Stranger. Basically, while the Stranger was out cruising the galaxy, Magneto and Toad were stuck on his museum planet. Magneto fixed a spaceship, abandoned Toad, and returned to Earth.

Magneto destroys Cerebro 1.0, marking the last appearance of the "radio in a desk with removable labels" version of the device.

This is the oldest single-issue of "X-Men" I own, thanks to a gift from Dr. Bitz, back in the day.

A Work in Progress:
Magneto uses his heretofore unseen power of "magnetic attraction" to hypnotize Angel's parents into doing his bidding. Also, this being the Silver Age, Magneto can basically do anything, so long as the word "magnetically" is stuck in front of it. For example, he's able to "magnetically" control ice.


Professor X is able to break free of the Mental Wave Distorter thanks to his great "counter ego" which is also, apparently, the source of his powers. You're just making this up as you go along, aren't you Stan?


Iceman has taken to calling Warren "Warrey". Apparently he was more ill than anyone thought...


Ah, the Silver Age: If Magneto's actions last issue were the stereotypical Silver Age villain approach to defeating his enemies (by placing them in an overly-complicated death trap instead of killing them outright) than his ultimate goal in this issue falls back on equally Silver Age-y pseudo-science to create an army of customizable mutant clones by scanning Angel's parents with a device he cobbled together on the fly from spare parts in Professor X's lab.

"Simplicity" is NOT the word I'd use to describe this scheme.

A doctor uses a Kirby-tech laser gun to inject Iceman with a drug.

It appears Marvel Girl is back at work in the kitchen by issue's end.


"Professor Xavier is a Jerk!": Professor X demands more space from the X-Men in order to...think.

"Back away"? You're all trapped in a gondola, Chuck. It's not like they can go hang out in the Rumpus Room...

And of course, the issue ends with Xavier wiping the Worthingtons' memories, because this is the sixties, and Xavier had yet to meet a memory he didn't want to erase.


For Sale: Look out or I might pull a fooler on you.


It's in the Mail: Steve doesn't want any of that mushy stuff mucking up "X-Men."


Whereas Robert wants to see Cyclops and Marvel Girl get married already (I wonder if he stuck around the thirty years or so it took for that to happen?).

While Fred wants better art, and more spankings.


Teebore's Take: This is a good old-fashioned rollicking issue, containing everything that makes the good Silver Age stories enjoyable: the main characters escaping a needlessly-complicated death trap, the villain working on an outlandish plan based on questionable pseudo-science, one outmatched hero valiantly standing against the villain, who ultimately gets defeated. The only thing that could have made it better is if some of Magneto's subservient mutant clones finished "cooking" in time to fight the X-Men. It may not be a terribly complicated or sophisticated issue, but it's fun.

Also, something that's amused me throughout the series thus far that comes to a head in this issue is the fact that Iceman is consistently referred to as the weakest member of the team due to his age, when, in fact, his power probably make him one of the most powerful, at least, theoretically: all he really does at this point is create ice walls and projectiles, but frankly, that's more useful than Angel and his ability to just fly. If anyone on this team, at this point in time, is a weaker fifth wheel, I'd say it's Angel, but the thus far, the stories have pretty much taken it as an accepted fact that it's Iceman.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brief Thoughts About Baseball (07/20/2009 - 07/27/2009)

1....mumble...grumble...Twins historic collapse...grumble...against A's...bumble grumble....Cuddyer was safe...

2....mumble...grumble...Supid hated White Sox...grumble grumble...Mark Buehrle perfect game...bumble grumble....historic...grumble...

3....mumble...grumble...Joe Nathan blowing a save...grumble grumble...fourth Twins loss in five games...bumble grumble....

4. Obviously I'm bitter about the Twins...and I hate the White Sox. I'll just say this, I was thinking that the Twins can't win the division without making a trade. But this week has proven that the Twins have too many holes to fill via trading anyway. So the Twins are down to just hoping the division is so weak that they can win by default.

5. Anyway, on Monday a 100 year old woman attended a Texas Rangers game. During an interview she said that Michael Young was her favorite Ranger. Apparently inspired by this, Michael Young does this.

6. What's worse, the fact that I was surprised to hear that an old lady's favorite player was African American (basically saying that I feel that all old ladies are racist) or the fact that I simply assumed Michael Young WAS African American....when in fact he's Caucasian.

7. This wasn't any more exciting than Chase Utley's.

8. Manny Ramirez was out of the Dodger's line up when he pinch hit with the bases loaded. Mr. I-Take-Estrogen-Pills did this. An interviewer of Manny said that that might have been the greatest moment in Dodger Stadium history. Someone needs a lesson about Kirk Gibson.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Retro Review: Life on the Fast Lane

Or The One Where: Marge falls for Jacques, a sleazy bowling instructor.

The Setup: Homer buys Marge a bowling ball fit for his hand, with his name engraved on it, for her birthday. Incensed by his selfishness, Marge decides to use the ball herself.

A Work in Progress: Helen Lovejoy, Reverend Lovejoy's wife, appears for the first time, as does Lenny.

Jacques, the bowling instructor voiced by Albert Brooks, makes his first, and aside from a few later background appearances, only appearance.

This episode is considered a favorite by many, and won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming Less than One Hour), the first for "The Simpsons." Matt Groening ranks it as his second favorite episode of all time. It's a good episode, but I don't hold it in the same esteem as Mr. Groening.

Favorite Lines:

Marge: What's Brunch?
Jacques: You'd love it, It's not quite breakfast, it's not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end. You don't get completely what you would at breakfast, but you get a good meal!

Marge: You certainly have a lot of bowling trophies.
Jacques: Ha ha...they're not for bowling Marge. You're so naive, they're for lovemaking!

Jacques: To the most beautiful moment in life, Better than a deed, better than a memory, the moment... of anticipation!


Teebore's Take: Though not as comical nor as surreal as the later examples it inspired, this episode is, in many ways, the first of the now-numerous "Homer and Marge have relationship problems" episodes. As such, it's the first episode to focus primarily on Homer and Marge's relationship, relegating the kids to the background for an episode. Homer forgetting Marge's birthday and giving her gifts he intends for himself is standard sitcom fare, but his gift of a bowling ball engraved with his name, and Marge's subsequent determination to use the ball herself puts a "Simpsons" edge on the proceedings. This is also one of the first episodes to use the device of having a plot thread in the first act that exists only as a lead-in to the main plot of the episode, a device that will become the standard as the show continues.


Classic:

No major new characters are introduced, but this is remains a highlight of the first season while serving as the first examination of Homer and Marge's relationship.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Brief Thoughts About Baseball (7/13/2009 - 7/19/2009)

Well, it's All Star week, so things were pretty slow, so I'll first start with some retro thoughts not confined to this week.

1. First of all, remember Justin Morneau did this to the Brewers?

2. Some people love their reality TV shows more for the "train wreck" factor more than anything else. But frankly, the most entertaining train wrecks out there happen at Cubs game, where they have guest celebrities sing "Take Me Out To The Ballgame." Like this or this.

3. I think that it's imperative that everybody know about this story.

OK, onto this week...

4. The Home Run Derby starts out pretty fun but it gets really boring as it goes on. MLB needs to find a way to shorten it.

5. Speaking of the Home Run Derby, after hearing all about Josh Hamilton last year in the derby, it was as if Justin Morneau didn't even exist. I think Morneau should've entered the contest just to remind everyone that he was last year's champion.

6. The all Star game was lacking in excitement, but was played fast enough to not being boring.

7. The most entertaining part of the All Star festivities, for me, anyway, has always been the Celebrity Softball tournament. I enjoy it much more than I should.

8. Jim Thome had a big day on Friday.

9. Which should get a pitcher demoted to the minors faster, this or this?

10. I knew the Twins were in trouble Sunday when they were going for a sweep. They love to settle for two out of three. Add to it the fact that I have no faith in the Twins once the game hits extra innings, and I wasn't surprised to see Ian Kinsler hit a two-run bomb.

11. In Saturday's Twins game, the home plate umpire took a foul ball directly into the nuts. He was down for a while and then had to leave periodically during the game for...unknown...reasons. Naturally, this is hilarious to everybody who isn't that ump. But MLB, in an effort to have "integrity" and to "take the higher road" did not post this video. Luckily, the Gentlemen of Leisure have no such restrictions, so in honor of that umpire, here are some videos of shots to the nuts:





Friday, July 17, 2009

Real American Heroes in Reagan's America

Life in the 80s was, in many ways, simple: greed was good, the Soviets were bad, and the military industrial complex was flush with cash, mute ninjas, and sassy redheads.

To celebrate the recently re-released GI Joe Season 1.1 DVD set by Shout! Factory, let's look back at Reagan's America through the prism of GI Joe's first adventure (all screen caps courtesy of the Joe Toon Archive).


In Reagan's America...

...spy satellites weren't very effective.

Osama bin Laden has managed to evade US forces for almost a decade thanks to a byzantine network of tunnels and caves, living on the run and relying on supporters that blend in with non-terrorist citizens. Similarly, Cobra, a "ruthless, terrorist organization determined to rule the world" avoided detection and a full out assault by the GI Joe team by stealthily hiding out in...an enormous castle, adorned with giant cobra heads.


...Halloween masks were much better.



...radiation was no big deal.

In their first big offensive, Cobra stole the MASS Device, a weapon that enabled them to teleport anyone or anything anywhere in the world, and used it to hold the world hostage. The MASS Device was powered by three rare "catalytic elements". The GI Joe team, in need of those elements to power their own MASS Device intended to counter Cobra's and Cobra, needing to restock their supply of the elements, raced each other to the elements' locations. One such element, radioactive crystals, was located in certain Arctic caves.

Snake-Eyes, trapped inside of such a cave with said crystals, is left for dead by the Joe team. He manages to emerge from the cave with a stock of the crystals, so irradiated that he is literally glowing.


After rescuing a trapped timber wolf and tussling with a polar bear, Snake-Eyes, who was presumably a few heartbeats away from going nuclear and eliminating any future protection via MAD, collapsed and was found by a kindly blind hermit. A few Arctic herbs, a bath and a load of laundry later and Snake-Eyes is as good as new.


...polar bears were enormous.


...the ocean floor was less hazardous.

Another of the coveted catalytic elements was heavy water which, not to be confused with the heavy water used in atomic experiments, was only found in a pool at the bottom of a deep ocean trench.

As the crushing pressure of the ocean depths is a recent occurrence, Joe and Cobra divers merely donned wetsuits and scuba gear for their journey to the ocean floor.


The water on the ocean floor was warmer as well, considering the divers didn't even need to wear gloves of any sort. Take that, global warming.


Though one did still have to worry about the giant tube worms.


...jet packs were plentiful, and existed.



...steroids were also plentiful.



...timber wolves could be domesticated.

Once an endangered species, in the 80s some timber wolves were apparently domesticated and inserted into military units, where they served with valor, often alongside mute ninja commandos.



...women were highly-regarded soldiers, fighting alongside their male counterparts.



But sometimes, they still got stuck cooking.