Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dizaines d'une sorte: Ten Lords A-Leaping

Batroc the Leaper'Allo, all you silly Americain pig-dogs! It is I, Batroc ze Leapair, bounding into your world and into ze heart of your lovely ladies. Ah, I zhall make the sweet love to zem, I zhall, because...'ow you say?...I am not merely Batroc ze Leapair...I am alzo Batroc ze Lovair.

Now zat mon respected and honored comrade-in-arms, ze late Capitaine America, is, 'ow you zay...kaput?...Batroc, he feels safe in taking over ze Ten of a Kind feature and making it 'is own in honor of today, ze grande Bastille Day! Yes, 'Appy Bastille Day to you all. Zo now in ze zelebration of ze Bastille Day, we shall look at ze ten covairs with yours truly, Batroc ze Lepair. And afterwards? Ah, but ma petite! As a countryman of mine says, "In the Bastille zhere is no 'afterwards.'"























Now, please to 'ave zome Frainch fries and Frainch dips sandwiches on ze Frainch bread in 'onor of Bastille Day! While you ingest ze finest cuisine zis side of zat Paris kitchen infested by ze comic rats, with zheir petit wiggling tails and zheir pink snouts, pour chance you shall watch ze very popular Batroc ze Leapair cartoon d'animation show! Pay no attention to zat star-spangled kniggit...he is not ze true star of ze show:



Did you anjoy zat? Trés bien! And now, for ze encore, Batrock ze Leapair zhall make away with your beautiful jewels and your women, and...'ow you say...no one may put ze stop upon Batroc ze Leapair!

WHOOSH! CHUNK!

Zut alors! I am pinned to ze wall by a large, round, metal-like disc! It is decorated with ze Ztar and ze Ztripes! Can it be? Can mon old enemy 'ave returned? Is zis truly ze end of Batrock ze Leapair?

Oh....merde.


Separated at Birth: Does whatever an iron can

Tales of Suspense #39 and Iron Man #191

L: Tales of Suspense #39 (March 1963), art by Jack Kirby and Don Heck
R: Iron Man #191 (February 1985), art by Luke McDonnell, Ian Akin, and Brian Garvey
(Click picture to Stark-size)


See also.

PS: I was lying about there being no Iron Man content today. Ain't I a stinker?


Saturday Morning Cartoon: Float (My Electric Stargirl)


"Float (My Electric Stargirl)" (2006) by Atomic Swindlers,
directed by Joel Trussell



Wednesday, July 11, 2007

In today's Avengers, the role of Quicksilver will be played by Tom Cruise

I'm off for a few days to the sunny, wide-open Pacific Northwest, where the grass is green, the seafood is succulent and where I'm not bringing my laptop, so no updates until Saturday, Bully backers. I'll see ya on that day with the usual "Saturday Morning Cartoon" and "Separated at Birth" (guaranteed 100% Iron Man-free!)

In the meantime, why not relax, kick up your heels, slap some chillin' Miles Davis on the reel-to-reel, rap with a member of your family, and curl up with a good book, just like cool cat Pietro Maximoff here:
Avengers #99 panel
Panel from Avengers #99 (May 1972), written by Roy Thomas, art by Barry (Windsor-)Smith and Tom Sutton.


Wait a minute...what the heck book is Pietro reading, anyway? Let's zoom in through the magic of Marvel Essential-vision:
Avengers #99 panel


Hoo boy. You know...that explains a lot.

See you on Saturday! be good to yourselves and others.

EDIT: Quicksilver Kevin Church beat me to it many, many months ago. I actually commented three times on his post and don't remember a thing. I plead swiss cheese memory. I also blame society. I will now take his original color panel and alter the shades and tones of it, infuriating him until he tosses his whisky bottle at me. Tee hee.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

I CAN HAS ZERO PERCENT INTRODUCTORY APR?!?

In the mailbox back home in Brooklyn today, a little piece of mail specifically for me:
Yes...it's a pre-approved credit card application from the Bank of America...addressed and sent to a stuffed animal:
Credit Card Address


Why, thank you very much, Bank of America! Dylan's Candy Bar, here we come...and in the words of Betty Rubble and Wilma Flintstone...CHARRRRRGE IT!


Museum of Character Archetypes, Exhibit A

Display No. 1: Team Leader. Redhead. Energetic. Bossy. Spirited. Commander and the leader:
BlossomGinger Spice


Display No. 2: Team Powerhouse. Brunette. Muscled. Tomboy. Feisty. She is the toughest fighter:
ButtercupSporty Spice


Display No. 3: Team Heart. Blonde. Bubbly. Babyish. Innocent. Talks to squirrels. She is the joy and the laughter:
BubblesBaby Spice


Oh, like you've never thought the same thing.


Monday, July 09, 2007

A Wodehouse a Week #11: The Small Bachelor

A Wodehouse a Week

"America, I Like You" declared P. G. Wodehouse as the (alternate) title of last week's "Wodehouse a Week," and it's in great evidence here in this week's foray into the wonderful world of Mister W: 1927's The Small Bachelor. It's set entirely in New York City and Long Island, my stomping grounds, and if it doesn't happen to venture into Brooklyn, my favorite and home borough, well, that's just about the only fault I can find with it.

There's a two-page introduction by Wodehouse in my tattered paperback edition, undated but obviously not original to the first edition (it mentions Wodehouse's personal pleasure with the writing of Thank You, Jeeves, which was published in 1934) and probably dates around the 1960s or 70s. In the introduction he cheerfully recounts his early days between 1909 and 1914 where he lived in Greenwich Village, rather uncharacteristically turning into a curmudgeon when he comments "I have not visited it for fifty years and everybody tells me it has been ruined by hippies and drug addicts." I enjoy rambling around the twenty-first century Greenwich Village and despite the plethora of Starbucks and other chain stores I think Wodehouse would, too.

He writes in the introduction of the curious genesis of this book: it is based on a musical comedy he wrote with frequent collaborators Jerome Kern and Guy Bolton called Oh, Lady! Lady! (Wodehouse refers to it as merely Oh, Lady in the introduction), and cheerfully discusses how different it turned out than the original text, being vastly expanded ("I wrote 50,000 words of the Small Bachelor before I came to the start of Oh, Lady,") and how many new and different characters he introduced. Could this make P. G. Wodehouse the father of the novelization? Even more so, with all the extra material he puts into his novelization, does this make him the early twentieth-century Alan Dean Foster?

The Small Bachelor is light and perky and you can see the Broadway origins in it if you look carefully, sure enough. There's a hero (George Finch, the titular small bachelor), a heroine (lovely and swoony Molly Waddington, with whom George has fallen head over spats in love—at first sight, natch), an eccentric millionaire, his stony second wife, assorted criminal butlers, a best friend who vows to never fall in love and yet has his heart thumping through his waistcoated chest by page 62, a fortune teller, a lovely female pickpocket, a brawny policeman, a thwarted wedding at a Long Island estate...this one's got the full magilla, brother, and that ain't just whistling Dixie.

it's set during the years of Prohibition in America, but everyone except New York Policeman Garroway is cheerfully swilling down pots of the stuff (literally—a speakeasy serves up whisky in coffee pots to allay suspicion), and for a moment Prohibition as a plot point appears is a good enough reason for Wodehouse to set the book in America instead of England. Look carefully and closer, however, and you can tell there's no real reason why Manhattan shouldn't be London and Long Island shouldn't be Shropshire, and Prohibition could simply be a raided London nightclub...no, The Small Bachelor didn't have to be set in New York City, but it's the grander for it. Wodehouse clearly loved this city, much the same way I do: she's a frustrating and bewildering town, but there's magic around every corner, where fortune tellers and cops rub shoulders with the hoi polloi and the girl you spot sitting across the aisle from you on the bus might just be the love of your life. I wouldn't get as fed up with Manhattan so frequently if I took a deep breath and looked around me to see the beauty and the eccentricities of Wodehouse's New York that still exist today: modernized, yes, maybe even computerized, but there are still pretty girls riding buses, and that makes it all the worthwhile.



And it doesn't hurt that Wodehouse is cracking away merrily on all cylinders in The Small Bachelor. The plot is a slow roller coaster that builds and builds, with a lovely centerpiece of a wedding ceremony that doesn't quite happen in the middle and a frantic chase around the rooftops and apartments of Greenwich Village in the last few chapters. And of course, the usual sparkling and polished Wodehouse writing;
The policeman touched his cap. He was a long, stringy policeman, who flowed out of his uniform at odd spots, as if Nature, setting out to make a constable, had had a good deal of material left over which it had not liked to throw away but hardly seemed able to fit neatly into the general scheme. He had large, knobby wrists of a geranium hue and just that extra four or five inches of neck which disqualify a man for high honours in a beauty competition. His eyes were mild and blue, and from certain angles he seemed all Adam's apple.
...or this face-off between social fat cat and Western-obsessed Sigsbee Waddington and his snooty butler Ferris:
Sigsbee Waddington thought Ferris was an over-fed wart.

Ferris thought Sigsbee Waddington ought to be ashamed to appear in public in a tie like that.

But thoughts are not words. What Ferris actually said was:

'A cocktail, sir?'

And what Sigsbee Waddington actually said was:

'Yup! Gimme!'
Let's see anyone do that scene quite as effectively on the stage!

Wodehouse is up to many of his usual tricks in this one: the exponential series of coincidences that draw everyone together is as clever as usual. He was a knack for creating a cascading stream of coincidences-that-aren't-quite-coincidences, making you nod in approval that he hasn't completely suspended disbelief. Why yes, it's no coincidence that Hamilton Beamish, self-help pamphlet magnate, would find himself on the same bus as future love, the fortuneteller Madame Eulalie (née May Stubbs). It's even less of a coincidence that she turns up at the same doorstep at he does, since she's Mrs. Waddington's palmist. You find yourself nodding comfortably and agreeing, "Well, now, that's not a coincidence at all; that makes perfect sense." And then Wodehouse swings for the fences and makes May from the same small Idaho home town as George Finch, and just when you're shaking your head and saying, "Well, Wodehouse, I'll allow it," we find out that May is George's former fianceé. Wodehouse throws so many coincidences into the blender and churns them up so fast it's hard to keep track of them, and the only thing to do is go along for the ride and salute him for his devilish daring. Tip your homburg at him; with his light touch and swift pace he makes you forgive outrageous plot turns better than any other writer, and that includes Shakespeare's crazed fifth-act deus ex machinas.

Silver Cow Creamer There's also a MacGuffin in here—what I have earlier termed a S.C.C. (Silver Cow Creamer)—in the form of the Waddington family pearls, which old Sigsbee had swapped with fakes some time ago to fund and hide a foolish stock market decision of his, and which he now plots to have stolen to hide their untruthiness from his shrew of a wife. Luckily there's a criminal butler and his pickpocket fianceé about to crash the wedding and pocket the pearls...for a while, at least, until they get shuffled around from person to person towards the final chapters of the book. In the end, as with many S.C.C.s, it really doesn't matter who's got 'em or where they went: their purpose was to kickstart a intricately dovetailed subplot, and like all S.C.C.s, the pearls perform like a champ.

Wodehouse isn't above going for the audience-pleasing joke, of course. I can see this scene—with Molly Huddington, her dad Sigsbee almost channeling Lord Emsworth here, and her caustic stepmom—getting big laughs at the Princess Theatre:
'Engaged to George?' said Molly. 'Yes, it's quite true. I am. By the most extraordinary chance we met this afternoon in Central Park near the Zoo...'

'A place," said Sigsbee H., 'I've meant to go to a hundred times and never seen it yet.'

'Sigsbee!'

'All right, all right! I was only saying...'

'We were both tremendously surprised, of course,' said Molly. 'I said "Fancy meeting you here!" and he said...'

'I have no wish to hear what Mr Finch said.'

'Well, anyway we walked round for a while, looking at the animals, and suddenly he asked me to marry him outside the cage of the Siberian yak.'

'No, sir!' exclaimed Sigsbee H. with a sudden strange firmness, the indulgent father who for once in his life asserts himself. 'When you get married, you'll be married in St. Thomas's like any other nice girl!'

'I mean it was outside the cage of the Siberian yak that he asked me to marry him.'

'Oh, ah!' said Sigsbee H.
There are so many of Wodehouse's romances...so many of his books, with the general exceptions of some of the Jeeves and Bertie and the early schoolboy rugby yarns, circle around love. Love, love, love. Love is all you need. I've drawn comparisons between the dialogue of one of my favorite screenwriters, Richard Curtis (Love, Actually; Four Weddings and a Funeral; Notting Hill) and if you heart melts when Anna Scott confesses "I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her," well then, hoo boy, have I got a passage for you:
Women's intuition is a wonderful thing. There was probably not an alienist in the land who, having listened so far, would not have sprung at George and held him down with one hand while with the other he signed the necessary certificate of lunacy. But Molly Waddington saw deeper into the matter. She was touched. As she realised that this young man thought so highly of her that, despite his painful shyness, he was prepared to try to worm his way into her house on an excuse which he must have recognised as pure banana-oil, her heart warmed to him. More than ever, she became convinced that George was a lamb and that she wanted to stroke his head and straighten his tie and make cooing noises to him.
Ah, love. Ain't it grand? It truly does makes the world go round. And like he always is, Wodehouse is right there, spinning it for us.



I've only got one edition of The Small Bachelor in my collection, an oddity of a mass market paperback printed in 1971 by the mysterious defunct "Beagle Books: An Intext Publisher" about which I can find nothing on the internet. (They were based at 101 Fifth Avenue, a M2 bus scoot-ride down the avenue from where I work at a publisher). There's an oddly severe art deco-lookin' illustration on the cover that doesn't quite fit the frothy tone of the book. I much prefer the cheerful, vibrant, and very representative cover of the current Penguin edition, which you will surely want to buy now by clicking through the Amazon.com link on the right. It's only eight bucks, so why not? Curiously, the Beagle Books edition actually features no obvious price on the cover (although if you know the book trade you can spot it at the end of the coded ISBN number on the spine: 95¢). I'm wondering if Beagle Books were some kind of book club or specialty rack items, not unlike the mysterious and baffling Top Comics. Then again, it may just be another long out-of-business mass market publisher. Who knows? The joy isn't in the mystery, it's in the book itself. I highly recommend this one folks, especially if you live in New York City. Take it out in your pocket on a bright and brilliant summer day, plop yourself on a bench in Washington Square and dive in. But don't forget to look up over the pages at the pretty girl on the bench across the path...see her over there, reading The Small Bachelor too? Love of your life, right there, pal. Love of your life.. Put down the book, go over, say hello, and fall head over heels.


San Diego Comic-Con 2007

The listing of panels and media events for this year's San Diego Comic-Con International is now posted (Here's Thursday's; click on the colored buttons at the top of the column to get other days). As always, it looks like a smorgasborg of entertainment, education, fun and larfs for the entire con-going family: truly something for everyone.

Except...

Isn't there a panel for and about comics bloggers? Wasn't there one last year? I was tied to my booth all last year at the Con and unable to attend any panels, but I was most specially looking forward this year (since I'll be ably assisted in the booth by the talented Miss Jenn) to bein' able to catch a few and raise my little fuzzy hoof and ask some questions. But aside from a Saturday panel titled "Meet the Press: Writing About Comics," there don't seem to be any comics blogger-specific panels. Was I just imagining there was one last year?

Ah well, whatever the venue, I'll be there. Start packing now, and c'mon by and see me in booth 1714. I'll be the one wearing a nose ring.


Sunday, July 08, 2007

Ten of a Kind: Will You Please Pick Up Your Dang Clothes?!

We're all familiar with this iconic full-page panel from Amazing Spider-Man #50:


Brilliant, brilliant image. Take a bow, John Romita. Doncha think this woulda made a great cover?

Or...ten covers?:





















(More Ten of a Kind here.)