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

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Retro Review: Stark Raving Dad

Or the one where: Homer meets Michael Jackson in an insane asylum.

The Setup: After wearing a pink shirt to work, Homer is committed to a mental hospital.

Notable Notes: Michael Jackson guest stars in this episode, credited as John Jay Smith for contractual reasons. Jackson approached Matt Groening about appearing in an episode, as he was a fan. While Jackson performed all of Michael Jackson/Leon Kampowski's spoken lines in the episodes, all the songs were sung by a Jackson sound-alike, Kipp Lennon. Reportedly, this was because Jackson wanted to trick his brothers into thinking the sound-alike was really him, for whatever Jacksonian reason.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lost 6x17-18: The End

A few paragraphs will by no means be enough to unpack the entirety of Lost, a point now reached thanks to its final, appropriately-titled episode, "The End". It will take quite a bit of time and rumination to come to complete conclusions about Lost, as a show and a complete narrative; all that exists for the moment are but immediate impressions. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

THE NERD WITHIN - The Brave and the Bold #31

I love comics.

In the past month I've attended my first comic book convention, been sniped on ebay several times attempting to complete my Gruenwald Captain America run, and spent an unhealthy amount of time reading the "funny" books on my computer and in print.

I'm a story guy.

Flashy artwork is nice while mediocre art can definitely hurt a tale, but if the story is strong, I'm more apt to remember the issue and even go back and re-read it.

For my money, I've always been a MARVEL guy. I broke into the habit by picking up G.I.JOE #97 at a drug store. The enticing subscription ads in the back compelled me to branch out to other Marvel offerings and soon I was becoming enlightened by the world of Captain America, the Fantastic Four, and the Uncanny X-Men.

DC never really did it for me.

Batman was cool but every time I picked up an issue of his he seemed to be gasping in a very un-Batman like expression.

I knew Superman from his movies but the comic character seemed so boring!

The Flash tv show was AWESOME but the comic seemed so confusing with Captain Chilly's ray gun or whateverTF he had going on.

However, then you have THE JOKER.

The Clown Prince of Crime is easily the most malevolent and memorable evil creation to ever grace our mischievous magazines. When done right, the Joker shows us a dark side lurking within our being and makes us ponder - all that separates us "normal" people from the criminally insane is one ReALLy bAd DaY!

Today, I stopped at Borders book store to kill some time while God's laser light show accompanied the angel tears pouring down from the heavens. While sifting through their cluster of recent back issues unsightly wedged in a wire spindle, The Brave and the Bold # 31 caught my eye.

I knew the title was a team-up of sorts and I knew The Atom was the DC version of Ant-Man (or vice versa. Does it really matter? Ant-Man was lame. My mind associated that lameness with The Atom. I was sure they drank from the same miniaturized SUCK fountain.) so why would an obvious villain like the Joker be teamed with a tiny good guy?

Then I saw the name of the writer. Stracynski. J. Michael Straczynski.

I loved Stracynski's run on Amazing Spider-man and was curious as to what he would do with a character like the Joker. I sat down and read it.

What he did was show us a side of the Joker I've never seen- his childhood.

What he did was show me that The Atom isn't lame but actually quite funny and human in the conflict and morality he needs to gauge.

What he did was make me want to read more DC comics, at least the ones he's writing.

I came home and jumped on Wikipedia like a mental trampoline. Seems JMS has been writing The Brave and the Bold since issue 27 ( the series is coming out with #33 soon) so I have a few dishes to taste from the JMS chef.

For those who like a tasty Joker tale, pick up this comic and give it a try. The story is superb. The artwork is wonderful. The Border's off Lyndale and 494 has comfy chairs and plenty of copies jammed in their spindle.

Friday, May 21, 2010

X-amining X-Men #41

"Now Strikes...The Sub-Human!"
February 1968

In a nutshell: The X-Men battle Grotesk, the Sub-Human.

Editor: Stan Lee
Writer: Roy Thomas
Penciller: Don Heck, Werner Roth (2nd Story)
Inker: George Tuska, John Verpoorten (2nd Story)
Lettering: Sam Rosen

Plot: Beast and Iceman are riding the subway with their dates when the train is attacked by a large sub-human. Slipping away under the cover of darkness, the two X-Men attack the creature, who takes the name Grotesk from Beast's description of him. They manage to chase Grotesk away. While fleeing, Grotesk recalls his origins, in which he was the prince of a warlike subterranean race before being mutated by radiation from atomic explosions that left him the sole survivor of his race and determined the destroy the surface world in vengeance.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lost 6x16: What They Died For

Lost's final penultimate episode, "What They Died For" made an effort towards replacing the vagueness and obfuscation of the previous episode with clarity and straightforwardness. Lost's pre-finale episodes have a history of, if not downloading significant mythological answers, at least making clear the final plot points of the season. While the answers here weren't multitudinous, they were, at least, comparatively straightforward, and there's a clear(er) sense of where all the characters are at and what they hope to accomplish heading into the finale.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Lost 6x15: Across the Sea

Undoubtedly, "Across the Sea" will go down as one of Lost's most divisive episodes, inspiring great affection in some, and utter disappointment in others. Where one falls in that spectrum will be determined largely by one's expectations going into the episode and how invested one is in the show's mythology over its characters. Implied by previews to be the long awaited "origin" of Jacob, the Man in Black, and the island, and falling as it does in the season, the last breath before the run up to the finale, this was the episode that was going to finally lay it all out. Or so it seemed.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Retro Review: The Simpsons Sing the Blues

Or the One Where: The Simpson characters sing R&B and rap songs.

The Setup: Released at the height of the Simpsons initial merchandising boon, intending to cash in on the similar growing popularity of rap and R&B. 

Notable Notes: Released in September of 1990, The Simpsons Sing the Blues reached #3 on the Billboard 200 chart (making it the highest charted Simpsons album; yes, there are more). In 1991 it was certified double platinum.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Lost 6x14: The Candidate

With the end in sight, "The Candidate" depicts the culmination of FLocke's long con: convince the remaining candidates he's a nice guy who just wants to leave the island and take them with him, all the while setting them up to kill themselves in one fell swoop. In the process, FLocke stands revealed, once and for all, as the villain of the piece. Not only has he purged any ambiguity in the minds of the audience, but by orchestrating the destruction of the sub, killing half the remaining cast in the process, FLocke has declared himself the villain to the characters as well. For the first time, the audience and the characters are on the same page: FLocke is the bad guy, and he has to be stopped. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

To Better Know A Hero: Black Widow

Real Name: Natalia Alianovna Romanova

First Appearance: Tales of Suspense 52

Nicknames and Aliases: Natasha Romanoff (Anglicized name).

Powers and Abilities: Heightened (but not superhuman) physical abilities, stamina and longevity thanks to an offshoot of Captain America's super solider serum; Black Widow is also an accomplished hand-to-hand combatant, marksman, linguist, acrobat and espionage agent.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mysteries of Baseball

We're a month into baseball season. The Twins are doing well in the regular season, my fantasy team is breaking my heart and we're months away from seeing the Twins get swept out of the first round of the playoffs. All seems right in the world.

But getting back to watching baseball reminds me of all its oddities that make no sense and just leave me scratching my head confused. So here are my top five mysteries of baseball: