Saturday, March 31, 2007

Separated at Birth: Dress your family in iron and spandex

Iron Man #126 and Amazing Spider-Man #259

L: Iron Man #126 (September 1979), art by John Romita, Jr. and Bob Layton
R: Amazing Spider-Man #259 (December 1984), art by Ron Frenz and Joe Rubinstein
(Click picture to super-size)

EDIT on 4/14/07: D'oh! I have a little stuffed brain, 'coz conscientious commenter David M is spot on when he points out what I shoulda known right off: both covers are a take-off on the original first appearance of Iron Man, Tales of Suspense #39. Thanks, David!:
Tales of Suspense #39

Friday, March 30, 2007

Last week's comics, today

First of all, I want to thank everyone, from the bottom of my little stuffed red satin heart, who chipped in with cheer, encouragement, happy suggestions and over-the-internet hugs. You all helped make a very hard day seem a little lighter, and I'm very grateful. I especially enjoyed everyone's suggestions about things to help make you happier when you're ultra-down, and I'm jotting them down in my little Book of Happiness to remind myself of during a blue day. Like Woody Allen in Hannah and Her Sisters, I'm partial to settling down with Duck Soup and letting myself be swept away to Freedonia, and now I've got a lot of other ideas as well. (And I absolutely hooves-up agree with the suggestion of the early eighties pop music of Miss Tracey Ullman...especially her cover of the late great Kirsty MacColl's "They Don't Know." Sublime.)

Anyway, thank you so very much. You don't know how much it meant.

And now, let's talk comics!

52 WEEK 46: This comic is fun. Whoa, looks like Mary Marvel isn't the only one who takes the lightning of Shazam straight to the chest, huh? Egg Fu, Doctor Cyclops, T.O. Morrow, Dr. Sivana (and the rest of the eggheads on Oolong Island) batten down the hatches as Black Adam comes flying in...and he ain't selling magazine subscriptions! (Although that would kinda be an interesting issue, wouldn't it?) The mad scientists are all written with a quirky tongue-in-cheek that wouldn't be out of place in, say, an episode of The Venture Brothers, and even the slowwwwwwwest arrest in the history of Metropolis doesn't detract from the chuckles over a bidding war for Red Tornado on eBay.

52 WEEK 47: This comic is fun...sorta. Which leads us right into this week's book-stabbin', Robin-guestin', Animal-Mannin', Montoya-Questionin' installment of 52, which after the kick-ass action of last week seems to be spinning its wheels and biding its time. Maybe Messrs. Johns, Morrison, et. al. are just getting everyone onstage for the big Cossack number, but there's more setting and situation than conflict and forward motion in this issue. With five weeks to go, better ramp up the action, and fast: there's a lot to get in. But I am enjoying the concept that as the series spirals towards its complicated conclusion, more and more of the big players of the DCU are stepping back into the spotlight and getting ready to dust off their supersuits for One Year Later.

SIMPSONS COMICS #128: This comic is fun. The Simpsons comic tends to do straight parody more often than the TV series, but even when they're spoofing TV themselves, the four-color floppy does a solid job of providing some decent belly-laughs and a compelling and intricately-involved plot. This parody of 24 covers one hour in the life of Springfield per page, and there's at least one decent joke or sight gag on every page. All this plus a special guest-appearance by Jack Bauer! (And, if you don't blink, Bender's in this one too!) You'll enjoy this if you're a 24 or Simpsons fan, and if you like both, why, this is seventh heaven.

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #2: This comic is sorta fun. Since I'm a week late in reviewing this, I don't know what I have to add to the comments of everyone in the blogosphere that, geez, that is a skeevy scene, isn't it? While Supergirl in this issue is more cheerful and sunny than in her own weird-ass book, hoo boy, Hal Jordan don't need to share those thoughts with us, does he? Most of all, it colors a perfectly decent book with a fun updated twist on Haney- and Schwartz-era characters and concepts with a cheap suggestive snarkiness that doesn't add anything to the characterization or plot. As Captain America might say, "Eyes front, soldier...we've got a job to do."

THE SPIRIT #4: This comic is fun. Gorgeous design (a cover you might actually think is covered with sand until you try to brush it away), sharp and genuinely witty dialogue (now that's a way to do suggestion, guys. Also? Use adults.), the ever-intricate mystery of the Octagon and The Octopus, desert sequences so starkly lit you can feel the heat, and a battle of the sexes, The Desperate Ones-style, and one of Eisner's classic femme fatales extensively updated by Darwyn Cooke but never seeming out-of-place or untrue to the source material. And, like an Easter Egg spread out over two pages, Cooke continues his winning streak of innovative and beautiful splash pages with the trademark Eisner titles spelled out in the art (in this one, the wavering hazy shadows of desert cactus and our heroes spell out Denny Colt's alias.) There's a delight to this series all-too-missing from so many other monthly comics: check out the cocky grin on the Spirit as he surprises Silk Satin at a Mexican border hotel stake-out, or the charming snake oil of a slick villain with a heart of gold, or the calm confidence of Ebony zooming through back streets in his cab. Every issue is a sheer knockout, and while I would certainly forgive a slight slip in the excellence in this series, that's four Spirits a row that rack up the honor of the most fun comic of the week. And a fun comic like that...that will make you feel better when you're blue.

Thursday, March 29, 2007


I am sad today.

No fun today. I'm sorry. Maybe tomorrow. Things should be better tomorrow.

Please be good to yourselves and each other.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

With great appropriation of somebody else's catchphrase comes great misspelling of the source material

A good cause, but they spelled Spider-Man wrong

Now don't get me wrong—I'm a socially conscious and responsible little stuffed bull and I am horrified by what's going on in Darfur (educate yourself here), and I'm pleased some organizations have been set up to provide relief aid.

Therefore I honestly don't mean any disrespect over what is, in the end, a small piddling matter that pales before mass human starvation, disease, and genocide, but...

Would people in the general public please learn how to spell "Spider-Man"?:

Ahem. Sorry. That's a tiny and unworthy pedantic rant compared to the grave situation at hand. Sorry 'bout that.

So by all means, get the truth and get involved: please support the good work that organizations such as Dine for Darfur do. If you own or manage a restaurant, find out at their site how you can participate in fund-raising. If you just enjoy eating at restaurants, find out which and support those restaurants running the Dine for Darfur program. Or, do without that doughnut this time around and send the money as a contribution to Dine to Darfur.

Just tell 'em Spider-Man, capital S-P-I-D-E-R-HYPHEN, capital M-A-N, sent ya.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


So! I promised you all a wee peek into the life of a travelin' bull. Last week I went with John to Seattle (the bluest skies I've ever seen are there!) to help him sell some fine, fine books to the fine, fine people at Hi Mister Mulliner! Hi Mister Parsons! Hi Miss Mathisen! I had a dandy time helping sell you some books! Then we all went out to lunch.

All bookselling work and no exploring play makes Bully a dull bovine, however, so we took advantage of some free time to go explore. I didn't get a chance to go visit Internet pal o' mine Tegan (one of these days we gotta hook up, Laura, not least so I can meet the troll!), but inspired by a December post of hers, I conjoled and bounced up and down on the passenger seat of the rental car until John drove me to Redmond to The British Pantry, a dead brilliant (as I learned to say in London) British food and souvenir shop, with two, count 'em, two attached restaurants: a lovely tea and luncheon room and a proper British pub!

I had saved all my shiny Elizabeth-faced pounds and pence coins from my London holiday to buy myself a treat, but it turns out they took American money! I bought some Smarties and some lemon curd and that delightful sweet among sweeties, the delectible and fragile Cadbury Flake! The only disappointment was that although I hoped they would stock it, they did not carry Lilt, the world's finest soft drink, a light and sweet pineapple/grapefruit soda that is my favorite beverage of choice in London. Oh well! Another good reason to go back to London proper as soon as possible, or even to Manhattan's version of The British Pantry, Myer's of Keswick.

But going to The British Pantry was a bit of all right (again, as they say in London). Any place with a proper English pub is fine by me. One day I shall open my own, and I shall call it The Bull with Comics.

The next morning before I headed to the airport, I just had to stop somewhere I'd never been but which ever-hip Marty Gosser told me about: Downtown Seattle's Top Pot Doughnuts! Seriously, as much as I love sweetened fried dough, how could I have missed this place before? It is the doughnuttiest!

In my book, any place that has cool neon is okay by me, and that it also has doughnuts is a double-frosted treat of delight!:

From the moment you step inside and get in the busy but fast-moving line you know this ain't no ordinary Dunkin experience, nosiree Bob:

And if you think there isn't variety and choice, hoo boy, you got another think comin', pallie!:

I chose a warm apple fritter (fritterlicious!), the aptly-named Double Trouble (a chocolate frosted chocolate fried cake), and the Incredible Hulk of the Top Pot Doughnut Universe, the mega-sized Bavarian Cream! That's the B-Cream in the foreground, and lemme tell ya, that's not merely perspective that's makin' it dwarf the others. This thing is so heavy light cannot escape it. (Lucky I brought my flashlight!) If I had eaten the Bavarian Cream first I wouldn't have wanted the other two! Luckily I also got an uncannily appropriately-named cold beverage to wash it all down with.

However, Top Pot's doughnuts are not its only attraction. In the best tradition of "come for this thing and stay for this thing," you'll want to spend extra time exploring and surveying the two-level café because Top Pot's walls are lined floor to ceiling with bookshelves and books:

I mean, how you resist a doughnut shop that stocks both Ellery Queen and Zane Grey? I can't, that's for sure!:

I even found a book I think Clor would like!:

So, don't say "nuts to that"...

...say "I go nuts for doughnuts!" Top Pot Doughnuts! They're the delicious part of any trip to Seattle, I must say.

But all visits to fantastic doughnut shops must come to an end. As I mentioned, it was a short trip, or at least (I say with increasing drama) was supposed to be! (Have I piqued your interests yet, Bully-fans?) On Friday morning, there I sat in lovely Pacific Northwesty Sea-Tac Airport, home of a dandy fine food pavilion which is just like going to a very nice food court—um, except you have to go through security before you can eat. I don't mind going through security; I get to ride through the X-ray machine so all the secret intelligence agents can see I am just filled with fluff and beans and not actually sharp knives or needles or a Daisy pump-action airgun that you kids will put your eye out with. So after a delicious early lunch of fish tacos, I waited to board my Delta flight back across country to JFK airport, when the gate agent announced that the flight was overbooked, and anyone who wanted to volunteer to take a later flight would receive a $400 voucher for future travel. Well! I am a bull with a very good eye for value, and I scurried up to the desk quicker than anyone else and raised my hoof enthusiastically. Imagine my surprise when the deal, as Bob Barker might say, just kept getting better and better: not only was I offered a $400 travel voucher, but, as the next open plane was the following (Saturday) morning, I would get a free hotel room overnight, plus a meal voucher for that night, plus the seat the following day was in first class! To coin a phrase, hoorah! I'm all over that deal. So I had another day in Seattle (albeit one without a rental car), a lovely posh hotel room, a nice meal, and then wiggle-room in my wide first class seat all the way back home the following day. Mind you, it wasn't as high-class as my (bought with miles) business class flight to and from London, but hey, free orange juice! And in the end, I got back where I needed to go, if 24 hours later, and when I got in on Saturday night I hugged Gus the Cat and my sister Marshall and told them all about my adventures. May all your journeys be as full of delight, doughnuts, and first class upgrades. (And yes, Delta flies to Gatwick Airport in London, so I'm already eyeing that voucher. Hooray for travel!)

Monday, March 26, 2007

In which both Uatu and I make a promise to you.

Hullo, Bully fans! I'd hoped to fill you in today with a couple photo-filled adventure-anecdotes about my quick trip last week to Seattle, home of one thousand coffee shops (in the University area alone), but it's been such a long and hectic day and I'm just settling down to a little International Coffee* "me" time right now, so here's my solemn promise: short picture post today, longer photo post tomorrow or Wednesday. A little teaser for the moment: big-ass doughnuts!

And now, for something completely comics, The Unsettling Slang of Uatu:

Avengers #118 panel
Panel from Avengers #118 (December 1973), written by Steve Englehart,
pencils by Bob Brown, inks by Mike Esposito or Frank Giacoia

And he's a Watcher. You can take him at his word. Even if his head is an unsettling contradictory shape.

See ya tomorrow (or Wednesday) with Seattle photos, or at the very least another brief post tomorrow. I'm off to watch The Riches. I love Eddie Izzard.

*My favorite International Coffee joke, which probably few people will get: "Do you remember that charming café on Risa?...That android!...That Klingon!...That Captain!...Jean-Luc!" (This might explain part of the joke.)

Sunday, March 25, 2007