As a kid, I feasted on comic books. I followed the multi-layered storylines of Marvel’s superhero lines, as well as the sharp, snappy, inventive comics in the DC line.
So any time a new Marvel or DC motion picture or television series debuts, I have to give it a chance. Whether it’s the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the ones that Disney puts out), the DC Extended Universe (the ones that Warner Bros. shows), the DC Berlanti Universe (all the superhero programs on the CW), the Spider-Man Extended Universe (the films that Sony produces) or the X-Men Expanded Universe (20th Century Fox holds on to those rights), I need to watch them. For me, it’s a reconnection with my childhood – or at least the pleasant and least violent part of my childhood.
Everybody loves Beetle Bailey, the military comedy comic strip about life at Camp Swampy. You know – Beetle Bailey, Sgt. Snorkel, General Halftrack, Ms. Buxley (on Wednesdays), all the fun stuff.
In addition to 65 years of newspaper comics, Beetle Bailey was also made into a series of animated cartoons in the early 1960’s.
Okay. As we can see from these cartoons, the world of Camp Swampy is a humorous locale, similar to the pen-and-ink locations of dozens of newspaper comic strip neighborhoods. And the storylines in Beetle Bailey are supposed to be humorous and funny, similar to the “Humor in Uniform” features in Reader’s Digest.
Well, apparently someone didn’t get the memo. And this someone wrote a letter to his local newspaper, the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel. And based on the tenor of this letter, methinks the letter writer must have taken these comic strips just a smidge too seriously. The letter is reprinted here verbatim from the newspaper’s website.
As a retired member of the U.S. military I am concerned about the impression left by the cartoon “Beetle Bailey” carried by your paper. Readers of the cartoon could possibly get the impression from the cartoon that it is acceptable for a senior noncommissioned officer (as depicted by Sarge) to physically assault a junior enlisted man.
It seems that quite often the story line of the cartoon depicts Sarge brutalizing or threatening to brutalize Beetle. I am aware that the cartoon has been around for quite some time and it was based on the U.S. Army during the time frame of around the Second World War, but even then, it was something not sanctioned or tolerated by the military. If any concerned family members were to take the actions depicted in these supposedly funny frames as the norm in the U.S. military, then the Walker family is doing a disservice to our military members.
I certainly wouldn’t encourage any son or daughter of mine to become a member of such an organization. The truth of the matter is that any officer or noncommissioned officer found to be physically abusive to a junior enlisted man would be up on charges and, at a minimum, demoted if not removed from the service. I am sure that there have been instances of abuse at times in the military service, but the habitual abuse depicted in the cartoon would not have been tolerated. When Gen. George Patton slapped an enlisted man back in World War II it caused an outrage that almost ended his career.
If the Walkers can’t find a different story line for their cartoon, maybe they should end it. In my years in the military I never met a senior staff NCO or an officer who didn’t treat junior enlisted men with anything but care and concern. Even when trying to push men to test their ability to withstand pressure that nowhere near replicated combat, which included plenty of pressure and loud voices, it never included the kind of beatings that are commonplace in the cartoon “Beetle Bailey.” Hopefully readers recognize this as fiction.
Anthony W. Gensic
Okay. I guess I have to clear up a few things here. Sir, I understand that you might take offense by some of the actions in the Beetle Bailey comic strip, but you can rest assured that the storylines are fictitious and satirical. In fact…
Just so we’re clear…
Schroeder cannot play full-fledged symphonies on a toy piano.
Dagwood may not be too effective in his job, but he is at least a capable enough employee that Mr. Dithers does not fire him on the spot.
Neither Bucky nor Satchel can speak to Rob. At least not in English.
The tiger does not come to life; it only appears to do so in Calvin’s imagination.
Zonker has not overdosed.
There are not little “Ida Know” and “Not Me” ghosts floating around the Family Circus.
I don’t know why Mary Worth has to butt into everybody’s business.
Cats do not normally eat lasagna.
Little Orphan Annie really does have eyeballs.
There is no crocodile-only fraternity of Zeeba Zeeba Eata.
Zippy really is the smartest character in the comic strips.
Billy and the Boingers really are reuniting.
You know… just in case you need to correct the comic pages for any other errors or transgressions or slights. 🙂
On September 26th, the largest and most important 75th-year retrospective exhibition of original comic art from Will Eisner’s The Spirit will go on display at Geppi’s Entertainment Museum at Camden Yards, Baltimore. More than 50 pieces of Eisner’s rare original art have been curated for the event, which runs through March 7, 2016. Some of the artworks are from actual editions of The Spirit, while others document Eisner’s pioneering work in the graphic-novel format.
Completely unprecedented in its scope and content, the exhibition is timed to coincide with the Baltimore Comic-Con and Baltimore Book Fair so as many comic-art fans as possible can have access to the unique archive.
“We think those attending the Baltimore show and the book fair will want to take advantage of this unusual opportunity to view the genius of Will Eisner through his original art. His influence on future comic book creators and cartoonists was profound, and it also went far beyond his obvious artistic talent,” said Melissa Bowersox, president of Geppi’s Entertainment Museum. “When Mr. Eisner started in the business, comic book artists were not held in the same regard as comic strip artists. During the Depression, there were twelve comic strip millionaires, but that wasn’t the case for comic book creators. Eisner became a leading advocate for creator rights and graphic novels, and his impact is still being felt today.”
From June 2, 1940 to October 5, 1952, Will Eisner’s The Spirit appeared in a comic-book-size insert in local newspapers around the country, including in Baltimore. Noted for its inventiveness, wry send-ups of the superhero milieu, and its succinct, seven-page lead stories, The Spirit featured a never-give-up title character, strong females ranging from childhood friends to femme fatales, and creatively designed title pages that worked the title into the art.
Escaping from the perceived second-class world of comic-book art and into the lucrative world of comic strips, Eisner built The Spirit sections into a calling card and never looked back.
Eisner introduced comics to the U.S. Army as an instructional tool for vehicle maintenance (in P.S. Magazine), presciently adapted his work to a graphic-novel format with A Contract With God (and many others), and taught at New York’s School of Visual Arts. He remained vibrant and fully engaged with the creative community until his death in 2005, at age 87. In a single night, he won separate Harvey Awards for work created five decades apart, validating his foresight and enduring influence on those who followed in his footsteps.
There will be no additional charge for museum visitors to view 75 Spirited Years: Will Eisner & The Spirit; it will be included in the regular admission charge of $10 for adults, $9 for seniors (55+), and $7 for students 5-18. Children 4 and under are admitted free.
Geppi’s Entertainment Museum is located at Camden Yards, 301 W. Camden St., Baltimore, MD 21201. Hours: Tues.-Sun. 10-6. Closed Mondays. For additional information, call 410-625-7060 or visit www.geppismuseum.com.
Saturday morning. I really wanted to see the new movie Avengers: Age of Ultron, but I had other plans Friday night. No problem, I figured I’d catch a Saturday matinee showing of the 2015 summer blockbuster.
A few years ago, I saw the first Avengers movie at Latham Circle Mall’s theater complex. Yeah, at one point in time there was a theater complex at Latham Circle Mall. Heck, at one point in time there was a Latham Circle Mall. The total in attendance at that midnight showing? Ten people, including me.
Yawn, rise and shine, Saturday morning. I checked the movie schedule. Crossgates Mall had a 3-D showing of Avengers: Age of Ultron at 8:30 in the morning, and if I hurried, I could get there in time for the opening previews.
I arrived at Crossgates Mall, and discovered that my usual route to get to the movie theaters – enter through the fitness center entrance and ride down the escalator – was blocked. The escalators were disassembled. No, that doesn’t mean that they just became stairs. The stairs were missing, too. I had to walk halfway down the mall to find another staircase, and even then I was walking through some renovation / re-tiling program in the mall. Well, at least I’m getting my daily exercise fix…
Ticket purchased. Snacks purchased. And if you haven’t bought food at a movie theater lately, be aware of two things – (1) you will undoubtedly pay more for your snacks than you did for your ticket; and (2) the snack counter attendants offer more upsells than your local post office counterperson. Oh well, that’s what a Regal Club Card is for, get those points and eventually you an earn a free small popcorn (and by “small,” you can actually count the kernels in the bag without traveling too far into double digits).
Okay. Ticket taker takes my ticket stub (theater 4) and gives me a pair of plastic 3-D glasses. “Don’t forget to recycle them afterward,” he smiled at me. Heck with that. For what I paid in tickets and in food, I’m keeping these shades until the next 3-D movie. Nobody opened a “Rent-a-specs” center in Crossgates.
I arrive at the theater. Nobody’s there. Great. I get the pick of the seats. Sweet. Center row, halfway in. One cupholder for my drinks, one cupholder for my popcorn and my cellophane-wrapped 3-D glasses.
I sat through the previews. Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Yes. Pixels? Maybe. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice? Really not feeling it. Fantastic Four? Front row baby.
Hmm… nobody else is in the theater. Come on, this is supposed to be a billion-dollar-blockbuster, where is everybody?
And as the opening credits for the film appeared… the flip-through animation of old comic book art and the big red MARVEL logo shone gloriously upon the cinema screen…
I realized that I was going to see this film all by myself. No one else in the theater.
Hell, I turned off my cell phone to make sure that I didn’t have any interrupting calls – who the hell would I interrupt?
About twenty minutes into the picture, I saw a theater usher waving his red flashlight around the walkways. I thought that maybe he would lead some last-minute stragglers into the auditorium. Nope. He was probably checking that someone didn’t buy tickets for film A and sneak into A:AoU instead.
Honestly, this provided me with a rare and amazing opportunity. I now had the chance to do my best Mystery Science Theater 3000 / Rocky Horror Picture Show call-and-response routines. You know, things like singing the old “When Captain America throws his mighty shield…” every time Captain America threw his shield on the screen. Things like shouting and clapping, “Where’s your wimple, clap clap clap-clap-clap” every time the Scarlet Witch used her hex powers. Or shouting, “Hey, Evan Peters, you had some face work done” every time the character of Pietro Maximoff did something amazing (yes, I know that the Evan Peters-acted “Quicksilver” is in the X-Men / Fox Marvel Universe, and this Quicksilver in the Avengers film is acted by someone different). Or shouting out, “Hey Grandpa, what’s for supper?” at the obligatory Stan Lee cameo appearance (you won’t miss it, it’s probably in the first ten minutes of the film).
Oh yeah, fun stuff like that. Who’s going to stop me?
As for the film itself, it definitely had its high moments and its draggy moments… all the technobabble mumbo jumbo about Tony Stark building Ultron gave me a serious headache… and they spent an inordinate amount of time setting up what promises to be the next two Avengers films, as well as the premise that could form the Avengers lineup (bordering closely towards the “Cap’s Kooky Quartet” lineup).
Oh yeah, and the over-under on hands getting chopped off by energy bolts (a la Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back) is at least two. You’ll see them.
Stay through the credits, you’ll get at least one stinger scene (same guy who was in the stinger scene in the first Avengers movie). There were no additional stinger scenes after that – no scenes of Avengers eating burgers or playing poker or wondering how come nobody told them that Phil Coulson is still alive and is doing a heckuva job stopping HYDRA with his own team…
And I saw the whole thing by myself, uninterrupted, no one else in the theater. Private showing. And this weekend, I would wager that I was maybe the only person in the Capital District who was NOT employed by Regal Cinemas to achieve this little miracle.
So I’ll tell you right off the bat. If you ever want to have an experience like this, get up on Saturday morning and check the local movie theater schedules. Look for the earliest matinee you can find. Odds are that you’ll have enough space for your coat (left chair), your snacks (right chair), and your feet (hang ’em over the chair in front of you, natch).
Now in a couple of weeks when Mad Max: Fury Road comes out…
I’m standing in line with everybody else. That film is one that definitely NEEDS a shared viewing experience.
I walked through the convention area, looking at the various artworks and bagged comic books and sculpted figurines and costumed characters – by the way, this year’s cosplayers represented Doctor Who, some Ghostbusters, and I think a couple of Final Fantasy characters.
Of course, I’m looking around – maybe I’ll purchase something, maybe I won’t – and then, as I walked past one of the display stands, someone said to me…
“Hey, would you like to play in our trivia competition? It starts in 20 minutes, and you can win prizes.”
The booth was sponsored by a comic fan collective called The Brotherhood of Evil Geeks, and among the prizes they were offering in this trivia competition was a black-and-white drawing of Wolverine. Nice. I don’t know what I would do with the Wolverine drawing, but hey I’m up for a game of trivia.
“What kind of trivia questions will be asked?”
“Oh, different ones – mostly television, comic books, movies, science, genre, that kind of thing.”
I scribbled my name on the sign-up sheet, then walked around to visit some of the other booths and kill some time.
I returned a few minutes later. The signup sheet had a few more autographs on it. Okay. Fair enough.
“Scuse me,” one person said, looking in my direction. “Do you play trivia at Brown’s Brewing?”
“Uh hun,” I replied.
“Aw, crap. Everybody else go home. This guy’s going to win,” he said, grudgingly pointing at me.
Apparently the naysayer was a guy named Tony, he played trivia at Brown’s a few times. I didn’t recognize him, but apparently he recognized me.
“You don’t know,” I replied. “These questions might be in your wheelhouse. You might know more about this stuff than me.”
Another person approached the booth. “Is it time for the trivia game?”
The booth host nodded. “In a few minutes.”
“Good,” he said. “We play competitive team trivia, too.”
“Where do you play?” I asked.
“Applebee’s in Utica. We’re the top trivia team there.”
Okay, Chuck. You know that urge to make the joke about what time the Utica Zoo closes each day? You know, the joke where the punchline is 5pm so that everybody can get their dogs and cats out of the cages? Yeah, don’t make that joke. Oops. Too late.
The game began. The format was simple. Single elimination – two contestants approached the table, the first person to get a question right moved on to the next round. When there were two people left, it would be a best-of-three final round.
Tony looked at me. “I hope we’re not in the opening round together,” he sighed. “You’ll beat me.”
“Again,” I replied. “You don’t know that.”
Tony’s name was called. He won his opening round.
My name was called. The question – “On Game of Thrones, what character is known as the Kingslayer?”
My hand went up. “Jamie Lannister,” I blurted. Yep. On to the next round.
In Round 2, Tony won his round – ironically, it was against the guy from Utica. Oh well. Back to Oneida County you go.
My next round was against a cosplayer who was dressed up as the Tenth Doctor.
The first question involved Arrow, a TV show I don’t normally watch. I said to the kid, “You take this one. You get first crack.”
He didn’t know.
Second question involved who did the artwork for Spider-Man 1 in the 1990’s.
My hand went up. “Todd McFarlane.” Answer correct. Sorry, kid. But at least you get to go back to Amy Pond or the like.
Eventually Tony and I ended up in the final round. Best-of-three questions.
“Who were the first original seven members of the Justice League of America?”
Tony answered. “Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and Green Arrow.”
Nope. He missed someone.
I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to answer and guess wrong; I wasn’t sure if Snapper Carr was considered an official “member” or not at that time.
Second question. “On what TV show might you find a character named Jonas Grumby?”
My hand went up. “He’s the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island.”
Nailed it. One more and I win.
Third question. “Who is the current host of Cosmos?”
My hand went up. “Neil DeGrasse Tyson.”
And finally… I won.
So what do I do with this Wolverine artwork?
At that time, I had three choices. I could either:
(A) carry it out of the event, holding it over my head like a ring card girl, gloating and smiling all the way.
(B) find a box of Crayolas and try to color in the picture. And remember to stay within the lines.
The other day, my girlfriend Nicole and I watched the final few episodes of the Fox genre show Sleepy Hollow. And I have to tell you, we’ve been hooked on that show since day one.
Yeah, a program about a reincarnated Ichabod Crane and a police lieutenant fighting supernatural demons in the Hudson Valley, along with Walter Bishop from Fringe and one of the comedians from Mad TV… Makes perfect sense.
Anyway, the show is a great thrill ride of a program, and we can’t wait for next season to start.
Especially when the last fifteen minutes of the final episode…
Oh no. I’m not spoiling it for you. Suffice it to say that we had these shows on the DVR for a few days, and I was specifically avoiding any spoiler alerts. You people who watch Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad and Dexter know exactly what I’m talking about. You want to experience that “holy smokes how did they pull that one off” moment.
It’s tough these days to have one of those “no one saw it coming” moments. Fans immediately rush to Twitter after they’ve seen an episode and announce that they’re in shock over what happened. Yeah, maybe they’ll post the words “SPOILER ALERT” afterward. Oh my God, Matthew Crawley died in a car accident. Oh my God, Walter White dies at the end. Trust me, if we had the internet and Twitter and Facebook back in the 1980’s, we’d have hashtags #MoldavianMassacre and #KristenshotJR all over the place. Yeah, I could see it now. #ApesBlewEarthUp #DamnYouAllToHell
But when it’s done right – as it was on Sleepy Hollow – the surprise ending is absolutely amazing.
I’ve seen other attempts at surprise endings, and the few that actually work for me – the ones that make sense and turn what might be a humdrum product into a “holy crap this is an awesome move” include –
The Thunderbolts. The Thunderbolts were a superhero team – okay, yeah, there’s been superhero teams from the Justice League of America and the Avengers, all the way back to maybe the All-Winners Squad and the Invaders in World War II. But the twist about the Thunderbolts – which was carefully concealed and only revealed in the final pages of the first issue of the comic book – was that the superhero team were actually villains in disguise. This made the Thunderbolts comic book a tale of redemption as much as it was a tale of superheroes. Wow.
The Sixth Sense. I blogged about this a couple of years ago, as part of my “Royale With Cheese Movie Club” of films that I never got around to seeing. And although I knew the twist ending (I mean, come on, you can’t keep that kind of secret for twenty years until I finally watch the film), I saw how there were so many instances in the film itself where the clues were right there for you to see – and those same clues were there for you to misread the entire scenario.
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. I remember actually seeing this film as part of a classroom audio-visual moment. If you’ve never seen this film – it was actually repurposed as a Twilight Zone episode – a Civil War prisoner is to be hanged off the side of a bridge. The rope breaks, he falls into the water and escapes, and with all the strength left in his body, he runs home… only to find…
Those moments – the anticipation that you’re watching something exciting or fascinating… and then the story changes and you’re thinking, “Damn I wasn’t expecting that. Not anywhere in the least.” Then you go back and you look for clues, look for things you might have missed, moments that screamed at you that the big twist was coming.
I’m sure you have some classic twist endings and “I didn’t see that moment coming” memories from your favorite books, TV shows, comics, movies, whatnot.
That’s why I have a comments section on this blog.
Comic books are an art form and they should truly be appreciated as such.
That being said, anyone who thinks that the only subjects comic books cover are superheroes, you need a refresher course.
And for evidence, I present this comic book.
What you’re looking at is an issue of Secret Hearts, a popular romance comic book from the 1960’s. These comics featured tales of unrequited love, star-crossed romances, painful breakups and the eventual happy endings. Trust me. If you can handle those chee-zee Harlequin Romance novels and sappy wish-fulfillment episodes of The Bachelorette, you can handle an issue or two of Secret Hearts.
These titles actually made a lot of money for the comic book companies, as young teen girls purchased these titles as fast as they hit the newsstand shelves. The artwork was stunning for the time period, and although the stories and plotlines in these romance comic books seemed to repeat themselves ad nauseum, the purchasing audience didn’t care. And because these comic books were produced under the auspices of the Comics Code Authority – see that little postage-stamp-shaped icon in the upper right corner of the issue – none of these comic-book couples were going to progress any further than first base.
Now this issue of Secret Hearts is a very special issue among comic book collectors. Why? Because of one of the stories printed in that issue – a story called “Run For Love!”
Gotta love that splash page. And no, the reference to “splash page” wasn’t intentional.
In this “Run For Love!” story, the girl in the water sees herself as an ugly duckling in a family of swans. She falls hard for a boy named Mal, but something happens in their relationship. Every time she tries to get closer to Mal, fate seems to block her path. And because of this, we get this opening panel, where she’s drowning in an ocean, her boyfriend Mal is holding on to the fin of a capsized boat, and she’s thinking, “I don’t care if I have a cramp! – I’d rather sink – than call Mal for help.”
That’s pretty deep stuff. Especially in the romance comic book genre.
And if this were just another romance comic book story, that would be fine in and of itself.
That was until Roy Lichtenstein entered the picture. Lichtenstein, one of the legends of the “pop art” movement, crafted several different artworks by repurposing scenes from comic books into single-panel emotional bombshells. He mined romance comics and war comics and pulled out the best imagery and iconography in them, and created fantastic art pieces that today sell for millions of dollars worldwide. Millions. With a capital M.
With that in mind, Lichtenstein appropriated the image of the suffering brunette from Secret Hearts #83, cropped out Mal and the capsized boat, modified the splashing waves around her submerged body, and changed the words in the girl’s thought balloon.
Gone are the backstories about the girl who was an ugly duckling and thought herself less than worthy of dating anybody. In its place… is a single panel about a girl who is down to her last breath, her last ounce of life, with big white waves crashing all around her… and all she can think of is that she would rather drown in that murky cold water… “than call Brad for help.”
“Brad” is a reference used in several Lichtenstein artworks; so I would suspect that Lichtenstein simply thought that “Mal” was less of a “manly” name, while “Brad” was more generic in its context.
I really like this artwork, and for a while I actually owned a reproduction print of it. The piece I owned was an advertising poster for a Lichtenstein retrospective at an Australian art gallery; there was no money in my budget that would allow me to spend the $40 million it would cost to purchase an original print of The Drowning Girl. And I don’t think you would loan me the money if you had it, either.
Anyway, when I received the reproduction poster, I discovered that the artwork was more than eight feet in height. This poster was most likely used for the side of a bus station, not for hanging in a house. Framing this thing would be way out of my budget. I thought about tacking it up on the wall with thumbtacks, but changed my mind. It wasn’t worth all the trouble. I glumly stuffed the poster back in its mailing tube, thinking that someday I would actually hang it up. Someday. Any day.
And when I eventually moved to the Town and Village, I did consider hanging the poster up in the new place. But then I started hanging other things on the wall – photos and artwork and Dream Windows – and the Lichtenstein artwork stayed in the shipping tube. And it’s still there today. I might give the picture away to a friend at some point in time, I might just donate it to an art collector. All it’s doing is gathering dust. Or puddles. I mean, it is an artwork of a drowning girl, not a girl that’s buried in the Mojave.
And truly, I don’t think people realize what artworks like “The Drowning Girl” and other “pop art” examples did for the art world and for art appreciation. For me, “pop art” showed that there was beauty and wonder in the most everyday objects – Lichtenstein’s comic books, Andy Warhol’s soup cans, Keith Haring’s spraypaint graffiti. Art didn’t have to be a painting of a bowl of fruit. Art can evolve.
It can even evolve from the pages of a comic book, to the walls of the most revered galleries in the world.
And through all that, she’s still not wanting Brad’s help.
Maybe if Brad did rescue her, the value of the painting might plummet.