Saturday, August 04, 2007

Separated at Birth: Doom finds your lack of faith disturbing.

Super-Villain Team-Up #13 and Star Wars #4

L: Super-Villain Team-Up #13 (August 1977), art by Keith Giffen and Frank Giacoia
R: Star Wars #4 (October 1977), art by Gil Kane (?) and Dave Cockrum (?)
(Click picture to Death Star-size)

Saturday Morning Cartoon: Hamm's Beer Bear Commercial

Hamm's Beer commercial, circa 1950s
Read more about Sascha, The Hamm's Beer Bear Also, The Hamm's Beer Bear versus Rocky Marciano!

Friday, August 03, 2007

A public announcement

For the person who keeps Googling the phrase "comic story arc spider-man manhattan medieval bubble" and persistently clicks through multiple times to my site...

You want Uncanny X-Men #190 and 191. Trust me.

If you want the full story, read Marvel Team-Up #79 first:

Hope that helps. If you've never read these three comics, you're in for quite a treat.

That is all.

Friday Night Fights: The Real World

We in comic book fandom are used to seeing problems solved this way—with high kicks and fists of fury:
Catwoman #3

But does such a violent approach really solve your problems in the real world?

Why yes. Yes, it does.

Incidentally, Blue Beetle looks so happy just to be alive, doesn't he? The poor sap.

(Truth in disclosure: this photo is actually from San Diego Comic-Con 2006. Except for guys dueling by the pool of my hotel with lightsaber repros—and later breaking them doing so—I didn't see any fight scenes at this year's SDCC).

Bahlactus is always "keepin' it real".

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A Wodehouse a Week #14: Pigs Have Wings

This week's Wodehouse is one of my favorite of all his books, not just because I'm a big fan of all things porcine (that's "piggy" to those of you who don't have the Word a Day Calendar), and not even because it's another one of the wonderful whimsical Blandings novels (catch me on alternate days and I'll swear the Blandings novels are finer than even the Jeeves stories...of course, I'll vice-versa this depending on which one I've just read). I've bought this novel several times, not necessarily to collect but when I'm away from my collection and simply want something wonderful to read: it is, to me, the equivalent of comfort food. This book is also the genesis for "A Wodehouse a Week," the seeds of which were planted just slightly over a year ago today.

Yes, it's true: one year, a week, and a day or two ago, the day I arrived in San Diego for my first Comic-Con, I stood in front of the bookshelves in the Bookstar bookstore in Point Loma, California—a chain store owned by Barnes & Noble, yes, but worthy of a visit because it's actually based in an old-style California movie theater. (They've done a nice restoration on the outside of the building, and if you walk around and look carefully you can see how the movie theater interior was set up. Worth a visit!) Hmmmm, said I, on the fateful day in July 2006 before I took my first steps into the larger world of Comic-Con. I would like a book to read tonight...what shall I buy? I checked my little Hello Kitty change purse and counted out my coins and pulled a P. G. Wodehouse paperback from the shelf: yes, you guessed it folks, it was a Penguin edition of Pigs Have Wings. I chose it not only because it's one of my favorites, because I could remember directly from the title it was a Blandings story, but also because it was the thickest of the paperbacks on the shelf. Even then I was thinking: this is the best value for money.

The value of sheer entertainment and more pages per penny are a wonderful draw, of course, but even more so was the idea that kept racing through my head that night as I read Pigs Have Wings with my fish taco dinner: "I really ought to re-read every single one of Wodehouse's books." It took a while for that idea to germinate into "A Wodehouse a Week" but the seeds were planted there: that I wanted to read 'em all and share why I love them so much. So, if you enjoy this every-seven-day feature on my blog and you happen to be in San Diego, stop on my the Point Loma Bookstar and give them a big wet kiss for me, won'tcha?

Pigs Have Wings (1952) isn't all that different in structure and storyline from the other Blandings books: a young couple who are thwarted in their attempts to get married (lovely Penny Donaldson and easy-on-the-eyes detective novelist Jerry Vail, not to be confused with this guy); various plots to steal Clarence, Earl of Emsworth's prize-winning pig The Empress of Blandings by his arch-rival on the agricultural market circuits, Sir Gregory Parsloe-Parsloe; Maudie, the chipper niece of Blandings butler Beach and owner of her own private detective agency being called in to thwart the thefts; many pairs of old lovers reunited; several bottles of Slimmo, the miracle patent medicine for melting off the pounds, precariously likely to be guzzled by one or another of the fat pigs (animal, not human); cheerfully outrageous Galahad Threepwood matching wits with sister Connie and Wellbeloved, Parsloe's duplicitous pig-keeper. Did I mention the Empress of Blandings, the finest pig in all literature (Sorry, Piglet! Apologies, Napoleon! Nothing personal, Wilbur!)? Did I mention the Empress of Blandings and her opposite number, Queen of Matchingham, being carted higgledy-piggedly back and forth in wheelbarrows from sty to various hiding places, including the kitchen of Jerry's country cottage?:
From time to time as he moved about his new home, Jerry had been aware of curious noises, evidently supernatural. If asked by the Committee of the Society of Psychical Research to describe these noises, he would have been rather at a loss. Well, sort of grunting noises, he would have told them.



When you say grunting, do you mean grunting?

That's right. It doesn't go on all the time, of course. But for a while there will be a kind of lull, as if the spectre were thinking things over and resting its vocal chords. Then, refreshed, off it goes again...grunting, if you see what I mean.

Upon which, the Committee of the Society of Psychical Research would have said 'Well, Lord-love-a-duck!' grunting ghosts being new in their experience.

It was in the living room that the sounds were most noticeable. Back there now, he was startled by a series of five or six almost at his elbow. The poltergeist, for such he assumed it to be, appeared to have holed up behind the door that led presumably to the kitchen, the only part of the house he had not yet inspected.

He opened the door.
And...scene. Wodehouse ends the chapter section precisely on that line, leaving us to guess and only later find out what it was that Jerry came face to snout with. But really, the book's called Pigs Have Wings...what did you expect him to have hidden in his kitchen?

I've mentioned before the concept of The Silver Cow Creamer (or, S.C.C. for short): an overall name I've given Wodehouse's version of Hitchcock's MacGuffin, a plot element of object that everyone in the story is chasing which is, in the end, only secondary to the main plot. Same's true here, even with two enormous gigantic porkers being the book's S.C.C.s...the real focus of the action is, you guessed it, love, love, love. Jerry and Penny want to get married but need a dowry of two thousand quid in order to afford to live. Of course there's also the matter of Penny's actual fiancé Orlo Vosper (and it's a safe rule of thumb that if a Wodehouse's characters Christian, not nick-, name ends in an "O," he's at worst a rotter and at best a weed). Orlo's smitten, however, with his ex-girlfriend Gloria Salt, a rabid health and fitness enthusiast? Still with me? Good, because it gets more complicated. Gloria's engaged to Lord Emsworth's bitter pig-rival Sir Gregory Parsloe. Parslow, aptly nicknamed "Tubby," loathes the enforced diet his fiancéle Gloria has put him on and dreams of roast potatoes and cream pies. When Beach the butler's niece Maudie arrives at the castle to scope out possible piggery-skull-duggery, Parsloe is astonished to find that she's his ex-fiancée (they both accidentally jilted each other at the altar) and is smitten with her all over again. What a tangled web! Wodehouse's usual tight circle of relationships and almost mysterious series of coincidences may strain your brain trying to keep track of who knows who, who knows what, what happened when and where the heck those pigs are at the moment, but relax and just read on. Go along for the ride, because Pigs Have Wings features quite possibly one of the most outrageous love-crushes in all of Wodehouse: the absent-minded, lovingly-addled Lord Emsworth trying to woo Maudie:
Once again it was Lord Emsworth who broke the spell. Hopeful by now that his brother Galahad might have removed himself, he came out of the drawing-room to have another try for that tête- à-tête, only to discover that though the terrace was free from Galahads, it had become all stocked up with Penny Donaldsons. He paused and said 'Er.'

There was another longish silence.

'The moon,' said Lord Emsworth, indicating it.

'Yes,' said Maudie.

'Bright,' said Lord Emsworth, paying it a well-deserved tribute.

'Yes,' said Maudie.

'Very bright,' said Lord Emsworth. 'Oh, very very bright,' and seemed for a moment about to converse with easy fluency. But inspiration failed him, and with a 'Quite, quite, Capital,' he disappeared again.
Your heart goes out to him, but shed no tears for Lord Emsworth; he's happy of course at the end with the only being who truly deserves his full love: Empress of Blandings. Clarence's late wife is seldom mentioned in the Blandings saga (she's briefly alluded to in Pigs Have Wings) but I like to picture her as having been a very kind and very patient woman.

All's well that (chime in along!) end's well, par for the course in Wodehouse, though obviously not without twists and turns and pig-swapping and butlers falling off bicycles. Lovers swap partners (in an utterly clean and wholesome way) and everybody winds up with whom they long for at the end; Wodehouse shines throughout. There's a lovely extended passage at the beginning that sums up the characters and the situations so far in this, the seventh Blandings novel, by using the literary device of having one character explain it to another. Hackneyed and unbelievable, you say? P'raps...but when the person who needs it explained to him is Lord Emsworth, it utterly fits, and we learn along with him The Story So Far. It's quite a clever Wodehousean trick to use an easily-pig-distracted man as the reader's surrogate to get us up to speed. Here's a conversation between shrewish sister Lady Constance and Lord Emsworth that gets the ball rolling on the second page of the story (and please forgive me: I could quote Lord Emsworth scenes all day):
'Oh Clarence,' she said, 'have you seen Penelope anywhere?'


'Penelope Donaldson.'

'Who,' asked Lord Emsworth courteously, 'is Penelope Donaldson?'

Last Constance sighed. Had she not been the daughter of a hundred Earls, she would have snorted. Her manner lost its amiability. She struck her forehead with a jewelled hand and rolled her eyes heavenward for a moment.

'Penelope Donaldson,' she said, speaking with the strained sweetness of a woman striving to be patient while conversing with one of the less intelligent of the Jukes family, 'is the younger daughter of the Mr Donaldson of Long Island City in the United States of America whose elder daughter is married to your son Frederick. Frederick married the elder Miss Donaldson. The younger Miss Donaldson—her name is Penelope—is staying with us now at Blandings Castle—this is Blandings Castleand what I am asking you is...Have you see her? And I do wish, Clarence, that you would not let your mouth hang open when I am talking to you. It makes you look like a goldfish.'
See? All up to speed, we are. And this is the important part...Lady Constance is none the wiser that we are. You don't want to get on Lady Constance's bad side, take it from me.

That's the beginning. Brilliant and subtle. But that's nothing to match the final short chapter of the book, which sums up "what happened after all," and not even in Wodehouse's usual sharp and flawless prose, but in several dozen lines of rhyming verse. Here's merely a very short section of the poetry that rings down the curtain on Pigs Have Wings:
It isn't often, goodness knows, that we are urged to quit the prose with which we earn our daily bread and take to poetry instead. But great events come now and then which call for the poetic pen. So you will pardon us, we know, if dealing with the Shropshire Show, we lisp in numbers to explain that Emp. of Blandings won again.
Sheer joy.

My predilection for pulling Pigs Have Wings off a bookstore shelf whenever I need a pick-me-up or raising of the spirits means I have multiple copies: a 1977 Ballantine Books mass market paperback, the hardcover Everyman Library uniform edition, and two Penguin paperbacks, including the one I'm reading from to all my piggy pals in the photo above, the one I bought last year in San Diego. You, the lucky reader, can buy that exact same edition by clicking on that link to the right. But whichever edition you buy, every one of them has a piggy-wiggy on the cover. Accept no substitutes.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Watch this space

Seriously folks, I intended to have this week's Wodehouse review up tonight, but I'm still run down, drained, and suffering from severe post-San Diego depression. (Stormtroopers, I do miss you so!) Also, my ribs still hurt from coughing, coughing, coughing. When will this pestilent bronchitis leave me alone? I curse you, capillary infection!

Ahem. Anyway, "A Wodehouse a Week" #14 tomorrow, and #15 back on schedule next Monday. In the meantime, so you don't feel like you've come here for nothing, a lovely photo of me eating the famous San Diego fish tacos. Yummers! Enjoy, and see ya tomorry.

Monday, July 30, 2007

WiedlinWatch '07: Ten Minutes Later...

Ten minutes later, as Jane cuddles me in her arms while we wait for her plane...

"Hi!" says a familiar voice, and Jane and I look up to see John, smiling at us, with Wooly, in my sweater, in his arms.

"Hi again!" Jane says.

"I'm really sorry," John says, "But I think you've got my little stuffed bull and I've got yours."

Jane looks from me to Wooly and back again. "Oh my," she exclaims. "Yes, yes we do! How did that happen?"

"I have a fairly good idea," John looks at me sternly; I busy myself looking at my hooves. "Sometimes Bully gets crazy plans in his head. C'mon, Bully. You two change your sweaters back so we don't hold up Miss Wiedlin any more."

Wooly and I sigh as we pull off our fuzzy sweaters and exchange them again while John and Jane talk for a few moments. "Well," he admits, "it was a good idea."

"Thanks," I say, shaking his hoof. "You take care of Miss Jane, 'kay?"

"Yeah! You take care of your guy. He seems really nice." We look up at them, shaking hands and smiling at each other. I guess our parent trap got sprung pretty early, didn't it?

We both wave goodbye as Jane Wiedlin and Wooly step through the door down onto the jetway, heading back home. I look up at John. "But how'd you know it wasn't me?" I asked him.

John smiled fondly at me and gave me a little hug. "Silly little Bully," he said. "Of course I know you out of millions. You're my little stuffed bull." He takes my hoof and together we head back towards our gate, towards our plane, back towards Brooklyn, towards home.

"But now you'll never see Jane Wiedlin again!" I lament. It would have been nice to see John with Jane Wiedlin as a girlfriend, I think.

"Uh huh," John nods. "Do you like apples, Bully?"

"Sure!" I exclaim, looking around. I didn't see any fruit stands or produce stores in the airport, however. "May I have a Golden Delicious?"

"Um, no. I was going to say that..."

"Or a Granny Smith! They are tart and tangy. Do you like Granny Smiths, John?"

"Stay on target, kiddo. You said I'd never see Jane again...?"

"Uh huh. What's that got to do with apples?"

John grins and holds out a piece of paper. "I got her number, Bully. How do you like those apples?"

My mouth is watering again. "I don't see any apples," I lament. "An' I'm gettin' pretty hungry!"

He laughs and squeezes my hoof hard. "Never mind, Bully. I'll buy you an apple for the plane, okay? So you really don't want to go home with Jane Wiedlin after all, then?"

I shook my head. "She's cute. And very perky. But...rather go home with you, John." I said, looking up at him. "You're my best pal."

"You too, Bully. You too."

So we went home.

WiedlinWatch '07: Let's Get Together (Or: I Sure Hope Everybody Realized All That Was Gonna Pay Off With a Happy Ending)

All my bags are packed; I'm ready to go. My R2-KT and TARDIS USB and original art and contacts' business cards and all nine little bottles of shampoo from the hotel bathroom are in my little wheeled bull-sized suitcase, and here we are at the San Diego Lindbergh Airport, home of the seven-buck-fifty, three ounce espresso. Together John and I sit and twiddle our thumbs waiting for the plane ride home. I have my little sunglasses on to be ultra-cool. P'raps I will be mistaken for a Hollywood star.

The sun is bright through the big windows of the airport concourse until a shadow falls across me. It's a pretty pair of legs in a short skirt, followed by a wheeled suitcase. Both John and I look up (at the girl with the legs, not at the suitcase). She's frowning at her airplane ticket and tsking her tongue, looking around searchingly.

"Do you know," she says softly, with a melodic voice, "where the ticket agent is?"

The cat has got my little cloth tongue for once, but John smiles and points her to the service desk: "It's just across the way." "Would you please mind watching my bag for a minute?" she asks cheerfully, and before either one of us can answer, those cute legs are strolling away across the concourse.

"You know," I say to John, a little sternly, "you're not s'posed to let other people make you watch their bags. It's 'gainst the rules."

John smiles at me and ruffles my little fuzzy head. "Bully," he says quietly, "I think we can trust her." He points to the elegant leather luggage tag on the rollaway. Of course you all know what it said, but trust me, I gaped and stared when I saw the words


"Homina-homina-homina," I said, quietly.

"Yep," agreed John.

I spun around in my seat to watch Jane Wiedlin charm her way into the heart of the ticket agent, who was obviously swiftly moving heaven and earth in fixing whatever problem she had. I imagine that happens a lot when you're Jane Wiedlin. "Don't gawk, Bully," John gently chided me, and I slumped back in my seat and stared at her luggage instead. The side pocket was half-unzipped and what happened next was just casual, justifiable curiosity...okay, plain all-out noisiness. I poked my head in and peered into the darkness of the pocket.

"Hi hi hi!" said a voice in the darkness.

"Hi hi hi!" I said, before I could stop myself.

I jumped back in surprise, falling on my little stuffed butt on the airport carpet, when up from Jane Wiedlin's luggage pocket popped a little white fuzzy head. It had horns and big floppy ears and two little button eyes and a big white snout and a ring in the nose. He pulled himself out with his cloth hooves and tumbled onto the floor beside me.

We stared at each other. I raised one hoof. He raised the same hoof. I stepped to the right. He stepped to his left. I wiggled my tail. He waggled his tail. "Hi hi hi!" I said again. "I'm Bully!"

"Hi hi hi!" he replied cheerfully. "I'm Wooly!"

We walked around each other in two interlocking circles. He was identical to me, except he had a snazzy blue sweater instead of my stylish red sweater. Wooly was my identical twin little stuffed bull. I knew he was not my evil twin because he didn't have a goatee.

Well, it happens, you know? They say there is a double for everyone in the world. I was created in a factory in Hong Kong and I s'pose there are several million of me. We are a cuddly and cute soft toy, after all! But what are the chances that Miss Jane Wiedlin would carry another Bully around the world with her, just like John takes me wonderful adventurous places? A pretty wild coincidence, I surmised aloud. Very improbable, agreed Wooly.

Then I got an idea. A lovely idea. This little stuffed bull had a wonderful, lovely, fantastic idea! "I have a brilliant beyond brilliant idea!" I exclaimed. "Have you ever," I said slowly to Wooly, as we sat side by side on the airport carpet, "seen the movie The Parent Trap?"

"Dude." said Wooly, shaking his head. "I live with Jane Wiedlin. What do you think?"

We discussed for a few happy moments the relative merits of the Hayley Mills version and the Lindsay Lohan version (why, oh why did Lindsay Lohan ever grow up, we lamented together) until I remembered exactly why I had brought the movie up. "See, what happens," I explained, hurriedly, casting a quick glance back at the ticket counter where Jane Wiedlin was wrapping up her business with the enthralled clerk, "is we're identical..."

"I'm slightly cuter," said Wooly.

"Not as much as me...look, we don't have much time. We look pretty nearly alike. All we have to do is switch sweaters, and..."

"Jane says I'm not to trade my clothes with my friends anymore," Wooly said, looking a bit embarrassed.

"No," I said, swiftly. "We swap sweaters and then you look like me and I look like you and you go home with John and I go home with Jane..."

Wooly scrunched up his ringed nose and looked as if he were about to burst into tears. "But I don't want to leave Jane!" he sniffled. "She's my favorite person in the world! She takes such good care of me!"

"That's just what John does for me," I explained. "But it's not no how no where permanent! She takes me home and he takes you home and then later we can reveal we're not who they think we are, and when they get back together to exchange us again...well, maybe...maybe they will..."

"Oh ho," said Wooly, his eyes lighting up, starting to get it at last. "Is your John a nice guy?"

"The nicest!" I exclaimed. "Is Jane sweet to you?"

"The sweetest!" he cried.

"So they will be perfect together!" we squeaked together.

And it was only a moment's work to pull our distinctive sweaters off and for me to climb in to Jane Wiedlin's suitcase and for Wooly to shimmy back up onto the airport seat alongside John, who had been watching Jane so carefully he very conveniently hadn't noted our whole conversation and switch.

"Thank you so very much," smiled Jane at John, as she stepped back, and took the handle of her suitcase. "You're very sweet."

"It was no problem," John smiled back. "Have a great flight."

"You too!" Jane toodle-oohed over her shoulder as she strolled down the concourse, and I poked my head up and swallowed hard as seeing John disappear into the distance as I watched from the rolling suitcase. I was off to live with Jane Wiedlin, for just a little while, but with a plan in mind: within a few weeks Jane and John would be meeting to exchange us again. And of course, could wedding bells be far behind?

So, folks, I guess this means I will sign off from this blog for quite some time. I imagine Wooly will fill in for me while I'm gone. I sure hope he had some good things to say about comics! Well, knowing Jane's love for Star Trek and Star Wars, he can probably fill my hooves pretty well. Shhh, don't tell John right away that it's him?

"Well," Jane says, smiling at me. "Home we go, Wooly dear!" She bends down and gives me a little kiss on my fuzzy nose, and i go a little squishy inside.

The sight of John sitting in the airport chair disappears around a corner, and I wonder if I've made the right decision.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

WiedlinWatch '07: Was Never Ever Meant to Be

Now I hear the news second hand
What's become of you, I can't understand

And it breaks my heart, oh oh
That we've drifted apart, oh oh

You're not real anymore you're paper-maché
Whatever you were has long since blown away

Like a paper heart that's been tearing
You've got a paper heart and it's wearing out
And you can't kick, you've been down too long

Got a paper heart that's been ripped up
Nothing left up in you that ain't mixed up
And I can read it in your eyes that you'll soon be gone

San Diego Comic-Con Day 4: The Clouds Above

SDCC Sold Out logoOwie. My hooves hurt. Conventional wisdom tells us that Sunday is the slowest day of San Diego Comic-Con, but like Tony Stark, this year the Con answers to no man and obeys no human rules, because it certainly appears that Sunday is as busy, and at times, even busier than Saturday. Seriously, the crowds never never never stop, and on a quick foray out of the Norton booth it's like trying to roller-blade through molasses to get from aisle to aisle. (Mmmm, molasses.)

Miss Jenn and I are kept hopping in the Norton booth for most of the day but it's nice to have each other to take shifts and breaks. Jenn was able to meet and get autographs from the Fables team, which put her on Cloud Nine, but Cloud Ten awaited when she was at last able to meet Warren Ellis (by just walking up to him in the Avatar booth) and got her favorite issues of Nextwave signed. She came virtually skipping back to the booth with a gloriously delirious grin and a glowing happy light, and if that isn't a wonderful way to wrap up her very first Comic-Con, I don't know what is.

My personal high point? Well, despite the Bully change purse being slightly light on dimes, I splurged for one final but very vital purchase at booth selling original art and bought myself a page of Peter Snejberg art from one of the "Grand Guignol" issues of Starman: my favorite storyline in my favorite superhero comic book, ever:
I bought a piece of "Starman" original art by Peter Snejberg

Gorgeous. I’m so happy! As far as clouds go, I'm on Cloud Eleven after this. I will get it framed nicely and hang it on my wall and always remember this Comic-Con.

But was it busy today? It was busy. How busy was it?:

Busy busy
Busy busy busy
Busy busy busy busy There is a long line to buy comics
There is a long line to get lunch

But luckily, there are plenty of new friends to make:
So many new stuffed friends!

That's about it, really. We sold a lot of books today, saw some more friends old and new, shook many hooves, had a lot of laughs, and now we're about to wrap up and pack away the books and take down the posters, so I'd better get going. But for those of you hankering for more news, announcements, analysis and jus' plain personal memories of San Diego Comic Con, I highly recommend you check out some of my fave blogs covering the Prom: The Beat, Blog@Newsarama, and Comics Should Be Good!. I won't even attempt to do a more complete round-up of the others blogs and sites reporting on the Con, A) because I'm exhausted and my little hooves ache and burn, but mostly B) because Tom Spurgeon is certain to do another of his wonderful thorough "Collective Memory" round-ups over at The Comics Reporter.

So, that's that from San Diego Comic-Con. I feel like I'm forgetting something, though...something I was looking for and haven't found yet...

Ten of a Kind, San Diego Comic-Con Special: Comics Are Your Best Entertainment Value*

See also.

(More Ten of a Kind here.)

*No they're not.