Wednesday, November 30, 2005

What's Up With That? #27: Hot lips sink Pizza Hut's ship

A Pennsylvania woman and her husband are suing the Pizza Hut restaurant chain because she burned her chin on a hot popper.

(For the non-snack-savvy in our reading audience, hot poppers are jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese, battered, then deep-fried.)

The plaintiffs allege that Pizza Hut "failed to warn Sorana Georgescu-Hassanin the appetizers were hot."

Umm... they're called "hot poppers," right? What part of the word "hot" did Ms. Georgescu-Hassanin not understand? "When they said 'hot,' I didn't know they meant, like, you know, hot."

I know that "bad" sometimes means "good," and "wicked" sometimes doesn't mean "evil," but I'm unaware of any regional or colloquial usage in which the word "hot," when applied to food, doesn't mean hot, either with heat or capsaisin or both.

The ludicrous part of the lawsuit — as though it weren't risible enough on its face — arrives when the husband of the injured woman, Hatem Hassanin, wants the restaurant to pony up $25,000 for "the loss of companionship and comfort of his wife."

What "companionship" and "comfort" could this guy not get from his wife because she burned her lips on a stuffed pepper?


If husbands can successfully sue for the lack of that, I predict long lines at the courthouse.

And what's Mr. Hassanin going to do with the $25 grand? Hire the services of, shall we say, working professionals until his wife's mouth heals up? Is that even legal in Pennsylvania?

Chalk up another victory for creative attorneys, and knock a few more points off the collective American IQ.


Greasy palm gets slapped

To paraphrase the novelist Nelson Algren, there are three rules in life:

Never play poker with a man named "Doc."

Never eat at a place called "Mom's."

Never get into bed with a Congressman named "Duke."

Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-San Diego) got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, after accepting $2.5 million in bribes. Cunningham's indiscretion will likely cost him a few years in federal prison, as well as his office and most of his ill-gotten gain.

Yo, Duke, you didn't think anyone was going to notice the Rolls-Royce and the yacht?

On the radio yesterday, I heard a university professor psychoanalyzing the reasons why a guy like Cunningham, a decorated Vietnam veteran and a member of powerful Congressional committees, would go on the take.

Umm... how about money?

Does there always have to be some labyrinth of deep-seated pathology every time someone commits a crime? Maybe Cunningham just likes the long green, and a couple of defense contractors with a lot of it volunteered to share some with him in exchange for lucrative government appropriations.

Simple. If stupid. Had he quit Congress and become a lobbyist, Cunningham could have made several times as much money — legally.

But then again, if Duke were smart, he wouldn't have been a Republican.

Not the King of "Pop" after all

In an interview with an Irish newspaper, Michael Jackson's ex-wife — and doesn't that phrase look peculiar when you see it onscreen? — says the erstwhile Thriller didn't fondle his kids.

Oops.. sorry. Make that, didn't father his kids.

Glad we got that straightened out.

Now, what was I saying?

Ah, yes.

Debbie Rowe told the Sunday World that the two children she bore while married to the music legend — Prince Michael Jr., now eight years old, and Paris Katherine, now age seven — were actually fathered by an anonymous sperm donor.

I guess Jacko wasn't kidding when he told Billie Jean, "The kid is not my son." Not his daughter either, apparently.

In an odd way, I find this revelation comforting. Because frankly, the image of Freaky Mike and Debbie the Troglodyte doing the horizontal mambo is just... well... icky.

Just try to get that visual out of your head for the rest of today.

Arnold hears the lamentations of the chief of staff

With his approval rating plummeting like Thulsa Doom's head, the Governator has dumped his chief of staff in favor of a former staffer for Gray Davis, Schwarzenegger's unlamented predecessor.

It will be interesting to see the reaction from Arnold's conservative fan base. Susan Kennedy, the Governor's new right hand, was formerly Senator Dianne Feinstein's communications director, and is well known in Sacramento as a Democratic mover and shaker. She's also both a lesbian and a longtime abortion rights activist.

I can almost hear red necks chafing as I type that.

Schwarzenegger realizes that he has to make some bold moves to rescue his foundering popularity. He's not likely to do that in this state by playing to the far right. But if he runs too far to the left, he'll alienate a lot of the conservatives who've pumped cash into his reelection campaign, and who are counting on him to hold the state house next fall.

Meanwhile, I can just envision Susan Kennedy reaching her hand to the Governor and intoning, "Come with me if you want to live."

Monday, November 28, 2005

Gonna get my picture on the cover of the Rolling Stone

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Class of '06 was announced today. No one can say the RockHall isn't casting a broad umbrella with this motley crew. (Not to be confused with Motley Crue, who aren't in the RockHall, and never should be.) Anymore, it's looking like any group or performer that hangs around long enough will be elected to the RockHall, regardless of musical competence or quality.

In the immortal words of Jim Lange, "And he-e-e-e-e-re they are!"

Black Sabbath. There's a certain point at which "loud is good" proves to be the rule. Should have been docked a few points for foisting Ozzy Osbourne on an unsuspecting world, but most of Ozzy's infamous excesses — the bat-biting incident, that wretched reality series — had nothing to do with Sabbath. (One could make the case that, without Ozzy's post-Sabbath solo success, Sabbath would be a mere footnote. I wouldn't, but one could.)

Miles Davis. Stretches the definition of "rock and roll" beyond the breaking point, but Miles was so doggoned influential on musicians of every stripe that if someone decided he belonged in the Country Music Hall of Fame, or even the Polka Hall of Fame, it would be difficult to argue. Simply one of the greatest musical minds of all time.

Sex Pistols. Inspired an entire movement. (For me, mostly bowel.) They weren't half the musicians that other contemporaries — the Clash, for instance — were, and they weren't clever like the Ramones. But like 'em or don't, you can't dispute their influence. At least Neil Young got a good song out of Johnny Rotten.

Blondie. Always underrated, in my view. If there had been no Deborah Harry, there would never have been a Madonna, and probably not an Annie Lennox, either. One of the first white American bands to foresee the transition of disco music into hip-hop culture. Also one of the few so-called New Wave bands of the late '70s/early '80s whose music still sounds substantive and enjoyable today.

Lynyrd Skynyrd. I was actually a little surprised to learn that Skynyrd wasn't already in the RockHall. They've been eligible for nearly a decade now, and a lot of arguably less-worthy artists have been inducted in the meantime. Probably deserved the honor for "Free Bird!" alone — not the song, necessarily, but the running in-joke it became in arena rock circles. Once kept The Who from performing at a show at San Francisco's Cow Palace — Skynyrd was the opening act, and the fans simply wouldn't let them end their set. If you blow Pete Townshend and Company off the stage, you should get into the RockHall.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Common Elements

Today's Comic Art Friday is sponsored by Ocean Spray Jellied Cranberry Sauce. As my pal Damon says, there's nothing quite like cranberry sauce shaped like a can. It tastes mighty yummy with those Thanksgiving leftovers.

Speaking of tasty... let's take a look at some art.

As Comic Art Friday fanatics (and you know who you are) know, the signature gallery of my comic art collection is a series of themed, commissioned works that I call "Common Elements." For the benefit of newcomers: Common Elements art features two superheroes who are not otherwise related — in other words, they don't typically appear together in comic books, though in some cases their paths may have crossed at one time or another — but who share some factor in common. Sometimes the connection is obvious — a similarity in name or superpowers. Sometimes, the Common Element is as obscure as my twisted imagination can conceive.

As an example of the former: Here's a piece I've entitled "A Moon... A Girl... A Knight." The players are the Golden Age heroine Moon Girl, and Marvel Comics' man of mystery, Moon Knight. Artist James E. Lyle composed this piece in a delightfully classic style.

I'm certain you made the connection between these two immediately. Both characters share the "Moon" theme in their names and costuming. Aside from that, there isn't any tie between them of which I'm aware.

Moon Girl is actually a rather interesting character, if only because her existence occasioned one of the most awkwardly titled comic books in the history of the medium. Introduced in 1947 by EC Comics — the publisher whose graphic horror comics would raise a furor in the 1950s — Moon Girl (who bore some remarkable, but short of copyright infringement lawsuit-worthy, resemblances to DC Comics' Wonder Woman) first appeared as a backup feature in such EC humor magazines as The Happy Houlihans and Animal Fables. She quickly graduated to her own book, initially entitled Moon Girl and the Prince. The Prince being less of a potential draw, he faded quickly into the background, and the book's title changed simply to Moon Girl with the second issue. Five issues later, the title became Moon Girl Fights Crime, the additional words no doubt inspiring a hearty "Well, duh!" from the handful of readers who were buying the failing magazine by that point. At last, the book transmogrified into the unwieldy A Moon... A Girl... Romance with issue #9. After one final Moon Girl story, the book dumped the superhero theme altogether, and became entirely devoted to teen romance soap opera. By issue #12, it was canceled.

Why, you may wonder, would EC Comics go to such bizarre lengths to preserve some form of a title that obviously wasn't selling in the first place? I'm glad you asked. Back in the day, the U.S. Post Office charged magazine publishers an initial setup fee for each new periodical they mailed out. (They may still — I'm not certain.) For this reason, when companies wanted to cancel a magazine and start a new one, they often tried to avoid the new title fee by making the new publication merely a continuation of one being eliminated. Marvel Comics pulled this stunt frequently in the 1960s, as they phased out their science fiction and "giant monster" series in favor of superheroes. Journey Into Mystery, for example, became The Mighty Thor simply by continuing the numbering system of the previous title after Thor had been the headline feature for some time.

All right, so the Common Elements theme of our first spotlight artwork was rather transparent. Now try your powers of deduction on this one, drawn by Silver Age veteran artist Ernie Chan.

The characters here are Hawkeye, Marvel's version of the archetypical archer hero, and Lady Rawhide, the female counterpart to Zorro cocreated by one of my favorite comic book scripters, Don McGregor.

What's the common element? And no, it isn't that they both use archaic hand weapons, though that actually works also. (Hint: It will help if you know the name Hawkeye goes by when he isn't running around in purple and blue tights.)

Got it?

Give yourself a pat on the back if you figured out that the unifying theme between these two heroes is the name "Clint." Hawkeye's real name is Clint Barton. A certain ruggedly handsome actor named Clint Eastwood first came to national prominence on a television Western called Rawhide.

Oh, stop groaning. You're just mad because you didn't think of it first.

That's your Comic Art Friday. Now, back to the turkey soup.

One shopping month until Christmas

Let the insanity commence.

It's Black Friday, the busiest retail shopping day of the year.

Be careful out there.

Domo arigato, Mr. Miyagi

Tragic news to wake up to, on the morning after Thanksgiving...

Noriyuki "Pat" Morita, the actor best known as the soft-spoken Okinawan martial arts guru who turned Ralph Macchio and Hilary Swank into weapons of teenage destruction in the Karate Kid films, has died at the age of 73.

Although many people first became aware of Morita as Arnold, the drive-in owner on Happy Days, my earliest memories of the actor-comedian came from his appearances on Sanford and Son, where he guested occasionally opposite Redd Foxx as Fred Sanford's apoplectic Chinese neighbor Ah Chew. In those halcyon days before political correctness, Morita did a standup comedy act in which he was billed as "The Hip Nip."

But it was as the humble and wise Mr. Miyagi that Morita became a household name, as well as an Academy Award nominee. Ironically, the first Asian-American actor to be put forward for an Oscar lost the award to another Asian, Dr. Haing S. Hgor, who costarred in The Killing Fields.

After the first two Karate Kid movies, Morita starred in a short-lived TV crime series, Ohara. The show started with a lot of promise, then meandered to the point of banality in its later episodes. Morita did an effective turn as a police detective whose ethnicity, quiet manner, and small stature often caused suspects to underestimate him. Ohara was also noteworthy for its talented supporting cast, which included (at various times in the show's brief run) Robert Clohessy, Catherine Keener, Rachel Ticotin, Madge Sinclair, and Jon Polito.

Morita never became a huge box-office star, but he always lent sparkle to any film (and he turned up in a lot of lousy ones) or television episode in which he appeared. He gave perfect voice to the Emperor in the Disney animated film Mulan, and his cameo as a cab driver was one of the best things about Wayne Wang's The Center of the World.

Not bad for a guy born to migrant farm workers in California, and who spent several years of his childhood in an internment camp for Japanese Americans.

A sad loss. He'll be missed.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

SwanShadow Gives Thanks: The Sequel

Continuing a tradition we began here at SSTOL last Thanksgiving, the following is a far-from-comprehensive, alphabetical sampling of things and people for which I'm grateful on this Gorge-Yourself-on-Poultry Day.

Art of the comic book variety, and the gifted people who draw it and write the stories behind it. Thanks especially to all the artists who created art on commission for me this year: Darryl Banks, TGK Sangalang, Jeff Moy, Buzz, Ron Lim, Brian Douglas "Briz" Ahern, James E. Lyle, Christopher Ivy, Bob McLeod, Scott "Shade" Jones, Scott Rosema, Herb Trimpe, Robert Q. Atkins, Trevor Von Eeden, Michael L. Peters, Michael Dooney, Ty Romsa, Kyle Hotz, Steve Mannion, Cully Hamner, Ernie Chan, Chris Rich-McKelvey, Jean-Paul Mavinga, Ron Adrian, Rich Buckler, Bob Almond, Josef Rubinstein, Anthony Carpenter, and Michael McDaniel. My fantasy life is richer for your talents. (My wallet is another story.)

Buttermilk pie. I baked one for Thanksgiving dessert. Yum.

Christ, my Lord. It's a cliché, but it's true: Without Him, I'm nothing.

Dell. They make a fine, dependable computer product. The upgrade to a Dell system this year was money well invested.

The Elements of Style, one of the most indispensible books ever written.

FARK, where weird news goes to be disseminated. Duke sucks. Your dog wants turkey.

Geof Isherwood. More than just an amazing artist — a friend I've never met. My sincere appreciation for all the incredible art you did for me this year, Geof.

Health. They say you don't know what you've got until you don't have it. So far, I have it, and I'm grateful for it.

Ice cream. Dreyer's Home Style Butter Pecan, especially.

Jerry Rice. I'm glad he finally retired. Thanks for all the wonderful memories, Flash 80.

KJ and KM, my girls. It goes without saying, but it needs to be said anyway. Often.

Law & Order. "In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: the police, who investigate crime; and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories."

Mazda, makers of quality automotive transportation. Zoom, zoom, zoom.

Natalie Cole. Unforgettable, that's what you are.

Online poker. I'm SwanShadow at Come play with me.

Penn and Teller. Seeing their show at the Rio in Las Vegas on our 20th wedding anniversary was the entertainment highlight of the year.

My quartet, Shades of Blue. Throw our ace vocal coach/designated alternate into the mix, and I couldn't ask for four nicer guys to sing with. Jim, Jeremy, Eddie, and Unca Phil: Thanks for putting up with the prima donna every Tuesday night.

Ronin, still my favorite film by the late John Frankenheimer, with marvelously terse and evocative dialogue scripted by the incomparable David Mamet (using the pseudonym Richard Weisz).

"Stormy," the 1960s hit by the Classics IV, covered with smooth style by Santana on their 1978 album Inner Secrets. Bring back my sunny day.

, the Black Panther. Nice to see the King of Wakanda back in a monthly book, even if I don't always like the paces writer Reginald Hudlin puts him through.

The Ultimate Tournament of Champions. What a thrill that was — meeting a cadre of Jeopardy! legends, renewing some long-ago acquaintances, and strapping on the Buzzer of Doom one more time! The $41K was pretty sweet, too. Thanks, Sony Pictures, for the opportunity to prove that the Cardiac Kid still had at least one more rabbit in his hat.

"Viva Las Vegas," the strains of which introduce each week's episode of American Casino. It's 60 minutes of the most curiously engaging reality soap opera on television. I'll miss it when the last of the episodes plays out soon on the Travel Channel.

World Talk Radio, which brings me a new installment of Vincent Zurzolo's interview program The Comic Zone every Tuesday afternoon. Vincent is the world's most inept interviewer — he imposes his (often inane and ill-informed) perspective on his guests, ignores their answers to his questions, mangles their names (how many times did Val Semeiks have to correct him before he got it right?), and basically does everything an interviewer shouldn't do — but he always lands marvelous guests.

Xena, also known as 2003 UB313, the planet-sized body in the Kuiper Belt outside the orbit of Pluto. Its existence reaffirms the truth that we never know all there is to know.

Yan Can Cook. Because if Yan can cook, so can you.

Zeppelins, as seen in the splendiferous double-page splash from Doc Savage, Man of Bronze: Monarch of Armageddon #1 that adorns our living room wall. Beautiful linework by Darryl Banks and Robert Lewis. What else do I appreciate about zeppelins? Spongmonkeys really like them.

And as always, I'm thankful for you, dear SSTOL reader. You make the constant scramble for new material worthwhile.

I hope that you and your loved ones are enjoying a blessed and joyful Thanksgiving. Be sincerely grateful for all that you have.

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The honeymoon is over

Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey are divorcing.

Color me shocked. I haven't been this surprised since Ellen announced that she was gay.

Fortunately for Jessica, there's that old Tammy Wynette song, "D-I-V-O-R-C-E." At least that way, she'll be able to remember how to spell the word.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

I'll be stuffed for Thanksgiving

Here's a bulletin direct from the Department of Irony:

The inventor of Stove Top Stuffing has died, on the day before Thanksgiving.

Now, I mean no disrespect for the deceased. I'm sure Ruth M. Siems, a home economist who worked for General Foods for 30 years, was a fine lady, and a clever, inventive person in her own right.

But have you ever tasted Stove Top Stuffing?


Then again, the very concept of Stove Top Stuffing is flawed from jump street.

First, you can't make stuffing without a turkey. If you're not going to shovel it inside the thoracic cavity of a hunk of roast poultry, the food substance is called dressing, not stuffing.

Second, proper dressing (or stuffing) cannot be made on the stovetop. Or from a mix. Or from tiny little chunks of white bread, for pity's sake. (The only people who believe white bread belongs in dressing have a certain something in common with the bread, if you know what I mean, and I think you do.) Dressing must be made using corn bread as the basic material, and it must be baked in the oven.

Any home economist should know that.

But if you're reading this in the cramped living room of your double-wide, and you're bound and determined to consume Stove Top Stuffing tomorrow as part of your Turkey Day repast, then turn down the football game for a moment of silence, and raise your forty of Mickey's to Ruth M. Siems, who made the whole thing possible, before you cram a wad of the gooey mess down your gullet.

Or you could just suck on a bottle of Elmer's glue, and achieve the same effect.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

God doesn't like ugly, but He loved Sam

Some unpleasant news to report:

Sam, the World's Ugliest Dog, has died.

Excuse me. I need a moment. I'm a little verklempt.

Although he wasn't from here, Sam was something of a local celebrity in my neck of the woods. Three times, Sam won the official title of World's Ugliest Dog at the Sonoma-Marin Fair in nearby Petaluma. Anyone who saw him knew the title was well-earned.

Sam was so ugly that his owner's fiancé broke up with her just to keep from having to look at him. Now that's ugly.

Sad to say, the effects of decomposition being what they are, Sam is likely to just get uglier from this point forward.

It couldn't happen to a nicer dog.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Better golf through genetics

This past weekend, Tiger Woods and Annika Sorenstam both won the last big professional tournament of the year for their respective genders. No surprise there.

But I was thinking...

Since Tiger was going to marry a Scandinavian woman anyway...

wouldn't it have been wicked cool if he and Annika had hooked up?

Can you imagine the golf career that would await their offspring? They'd be shoving a driver in the kid's hand before he or she was potty trained.

I'd buy futures in that baby.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

$30 million: That's the name of that tune

Robert Blake missed the life sentence, but lost the bankroll.

The jury in Blake's civil trial found him liable for the death of his wife, Bonny Lee Bakley, and assessed damages in the amount of $30 million.

That's a lot of cockatoo food.

In a related story, O.J. Simpson decried the Blake verdict, saying that holding Blake civilly liable for Bakley's death after he had been found not guilty of her murder amounts to double jeopardy. And he should know.

You know, when you've got O.J. sticking up for you, you really can't feel all that solid about yourself.

Some savvy TV executive should create a new reality series, in which Blake and Simpson each hunt for the real killers of the other guy's wife. It would be the classic Strangers on a Train scenario, only in reverse.

That ought to be worth $30 million, easy.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Superheroism as team sport

This week's edition of Comic Art Friday is sponsored by the NBA's Golden State Warriors, who are finally beginning to look like something after a long, agonizing decade of frustration for fans. With the late-season addition of Baron Davis last year, and the continuing maturation of young stars Jason "J-Rich" Richardson and Troy "T-Murph" Murphy, coach Mike Montgomery's Warriors at last are living up to their shopworn tagline: "It's a Great Time Out."

While we're on the subject of teams, it was a great day in the history of comics when some wise soul decided that if one superhero was good, a whole gaggle of superheroes would be awesome. That wise soul was probably DC Comics editor Sheldon Mayer, generally credited with the creation of the Justice Society of America, comics' original superteam, in a 1940 issue of All-Star Comics. The JSA threw together such diverse second-string characters as the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, the Atom, Dr. Fate, and Hourman to deliver a fighting force such as evil had never before faced. As the group became more successful, even DC's Big Three — Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman — joined up. Over time, practically every hero and heroine whose adventures the company published hitched his or her star to the JSA. The abundance of characters made for some crowded panels, but also for terrific comics.

When DC resurrected its largely moribund superhero franchise in the late 1950s, one of the first orders of business was introducing a revamped version of the JSA, this time called the Justice League of America. The Big Three were back — unlike their JSA compatriots, Supes, Bats, and Wondy never totally went away — along with fresh takes on old heroes like the Flash, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow, plus newcomers Aquaman and the Martian Manhunter. Comics fans felt as though they got more bang for their dime with so many super-types cramming the pages, and the JLA books sold like the proverbial hotcakes.

Over at struggling Marvel Comics (or Timely, or Atlas, or whatever the heck their name was then), editor Stan Lee saw the JLA as the key to comics' future. With artist Jack Kirby, Lee co-created a new superteam, the Fantastic Four. And — as Stan himself might have written, — comics would never be the same again! Lee and Kirby followed up on the success of the FF with another hero group, the X-Men (whom Lee wanted to call "the Mutants," until convinced by his publisher Martin Goodman than no one reading comic books in the early 1960s knew what a mutant was).

To this day, superteams account for some of comics' best-known franchises. Both the Justice League and the X-Men have spawned a veritable plethora of splinter groups, and of course remain hit properties in their own right. The Justice League became a TV animation staple, first in the lovingly recalled Super Friends, and today in Cartoon Network's various Justice League series. The X-Men spun off a string of hit animated shows for the Fox network, then moved into the blockbuster live-action movies directed by Bryan Singer.

Even with all of this, the JL-whatever and X-infinitum represent but the tip of the supergroup iceberg: Avengers, Defenders, Champions, New Mutants, Power Pack, Outsiders, Birds of Prey, Youngblood, Gen13, WildCATS, Force Works... The list is endless and ever-growing. As they did in 1940, comics readers love to see a whole mess of heroes ganging up and getting their fight on, so the rise of the super-squads isn't likely to end anytime soon.

Since this is Comic Art Friday, let's get to some superteam art. First up, a gathering of X-Men, as drawn by the comic artist who calls himself simply Buzz:

Seen here, moving clockwise from the far left, are Gambit, the ragin' Cajun who energizes playing cards with explosive force; Phoenix, one of the incarnations of the character originally known as Marvel Girl, and now most often called by her given name, Jean Grey; Storm, the African demigoddess with the power to control the weather; the Beast, another of the original X-Men, though he's changed a good bit in appearance since the Kirby days; and Wolverine, probably the most influential character introduced during comics' Bronze Age in the '70s.

The artist Buzz is best known for his work illustrating another supergroup, the modern version of the Justice Society of America. I had an opportunity to meet the Burmese-born Buzz at WonderCon last February, and was both delighted by his engaging personality and awed by his tremendous talent. He is one of the most skillful brush inkers in the industry, as demonstrated by this portrait he created for me, of Mari McCabe, aka the Vixen:

The Vixen, DC Comics' first black superheroine, enjoyed her most visible role as a member of yet another superteam, Suicide Squad. Like many superteams, the Squad was comprised of misfit, B-level heroes and heroines, none of whom could sustain a solo series, but who made an intriguing contrast of supertypes. With cleverly plotted adventures written mostly by the husband-and-wife team of John Ostrander and Kim Yale, Suicide Squad remains a highly regarded cult classic among supergroup aficionados.

For roughly the last half of Suicide Squad's run in the late '80s and early '90s, SSTOL favorite Geof Isherwood was a key component of the series' creative team, first as inker over the pencils of Luke McDonnell, and later as primary penciler. Here, Geof reunites four of the Squad's pivotal members in a tension-fraught scenario:

Down front with the Vixen is the master of martial arts, the Bronze Tiger; up top are the mysterious Nightshade and the rogue warrior Deadshot. Isherwood's incredible sense of drama and deft linework, along with his obvious affection for these characters, make this pencil artwork one of my most treasured commission projects.

And that's your Comic Art Friday. Have your superpeople call my superpeople. We'll do superlunch.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Somewhere, Mary Kay Letourneau is shouting, "You GO, girlfriend!"

The first sentence of the Reuters story tells all:
A pregnant 37-year-old Georgia woman who eloped with a 15-year-old boy was in jail on charges of child molestation, authorities in the southern state said on Tuesday.
And people from the Deep South wonder why we ridicule them. Lovingly, of course. But nonetheless, we ridicule.

Apparently, Lisa Lynnette Clark (and didn't you just know her middle name would end in "-ette"?) has been schooling her teenaged beau in the ways of carnal congress for the past two years. In case you just wandered in from the Appalachians yourself, I'll help you with the math: The kid was 13 when Miz Lisa Lynnette, then age 35, enticed him into becoming her pederastic stud puppet.

At least, so far as one can discern from the news report, she wasn't a blood relative.

But here's the thing that strikes me most about this story. The fact that we can speak about this incident in anything approaching a mocking tone rests entirely on the respective genders of the participants. Were this sordid tale about a 37-year-old man and his pregnant 15-year-old child bride, we'd all be staring aghast at our monitors and calling for his statutory castration, instead of chuckling to ourselves.

That says something creepy about our society. Regardless of the part of the country we call home.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

I'm too sexy for my People

Every year, it happens.

Once again, I was passed up for the title of People Magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive."

I feel so disrespected.

Matthew McConaughey won. What's sexy about Matthew McConaughey? Greasy hair, five o'clock shadow, and a last name with so many unnecessary letters that no one can either spell or pronounce it? I'm not seeing it.

I'm always suspicious about the whole "Sexiest Man Alive" business anyway. Matthew McConaughey was alive last year at this time, if I recall correctly. Why didn't he win then? How did he miraculously increase his sexiness by a quantum leap during the last twelve months? Enzyte, maybe?

And what about poor Jude Law, whom People tabbed as "Sexiest Man Alive" last year? What, is he suddenly not that hot any more? His nanny thought he had it goin' on, didn't she?

The same query could be proffered about any of the previous Sexiest Men Alive. (Well, except for 1988 honoree John F. Kennedy, Jr., who no longer qualifies for the title. At least, not the "Alive" part. He still might be sexy in that sort of Jim Morrison-dead guy fashion.)

For instance, Brad Pitt won the SMA twice — in 1995 and 2000 — but apparently was lacking a little je ne sais quoi this time around. Hey, if Angelina Jolie thinks he's sexier than Billy Bob Thornton...

Forget I said that.

As for me, I guess I'll just have to wait until next year for my turn in the spotlight. Maybe I'll e-mail that McConaughey guy and see if I can pick up some pointers.

That, or it's back to the Enzyte.

Ned bleeds Dodger blue

As much as I hate to see anything positive happen to the Los Angeles Dodgers, I must admit — grudgingly — that the Demons in Blue made an excellent move in hiring San Francisco Giants assistant general manager Ned Colletti as their new GM.

Colletti has been an essential cog in the Giants' operational machine for more than a decade. Primarily responsible for negotiating player contracts, Colletti's contributions to San Francisco's successes during that time are incalculable. His savvy with the numbers and deft ability to work creative deals have enabled the Giants, more often than not, to acquire and retain needed on-the-field talent at a price the team's fiscally conservative ownership would approve.

It will be interesting to see what tricks in player assessment Colletti has learned in his years working with Giants GM Brian Sabean, a master at the art. But anyone who has heard Colletti interviewed on the Giants' flagship radio station KNBR 680 knows that Ned's one sharp cookie. He'll do a terrific job for the Dodgers.

Darn him, anyway.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Housewives aren't that desperate

Now we know why actor Page Kennedy got the bum's rush last week from his regular gig on Desperate Housewives.

According to the New York Post by way of the San Francisco Chronicle, Kennedy was fired for exposing himself to coworkers. The published report quotes a source as saying, "Kennedy may have had a problem with flashing people on the set."

Actually, it would seem more accurate to surmise that Kennedy's fellow cast members had a problem with him flashing. I'm guessing he didn't have a problem with it at all.

Maybe Kennedy thought that notorious skit aired during a Monday Night Football game last season, in which Housewives costar Nicolette Sheridan dropped her towel for the viewing pleasure of then-Philadelphia Eagles standout Terrell Owens, was a true-to-life portrayal of the way business gets done on the show.

Hmm... now both Kennedy and Owens are out of work, while Sheridan still has a job. I ask you: Is there no justice in Hollywood?

Wait. Don't answer that.

Never mind.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Cancellation: That's not a good thing

The Apprentice: Martha Stewart is going the way of all television series that no one wants to watch.

Producer Mark Burnett announced today that America's domestic goddess and jailhouse diva's turn as a Donald Trump wannabe will meet its end on December 21. No word on whether NBC's programming mogul Jeff Zucker sat Martha down and told her, "You just don't fit," or wrote her a sappy one-page kiss-off letter as Martha writes to deep-sixed contestants at the conclusion of each week's episode.

I still think the Apprentice format has expansion potential. Burnett's production team just needs to rope in celebrity executives better suited to the job than Martha Stewart has been. In case Burnett is listening, I have a few ideas in mind, along with each host's signature tagline in the mold of The Donald's "You're fired!"
  • The Apprentice: Hugh Hefner: "Your Viagra prescription is canceled."

  • The Apprentice: Michael Dell: "Dude, you're getting a pink slip."

  • The Apprentice: Ron Popeil: "I'm going to set you and forget you."

  • The Apprentice: George Zimmer: "You're going to like being unemployed. I guarantee it!"

  • The Apprentice: Bill Gates: "Consider your hard drive erased."

  • The Apprentice: James Dyson: "I just think things should work properly... and you don't."

  • The Apprentice: Ozzy Osbourne: "Get the &#&@ out'a here, you $*@#&?*$@&+&!"

  • The Apprentice: George W. Bush: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Can a man in a bear suit shake hands with a prince?

This just in, courtesy of the San Francisco Chronicle's ace investigative reporters, Phil Matier and Andrew Ross:
Grin and bear it: Prince Charles' visit Monday night to the new de Young (Museum) drew an army of police, a mob of press and one protesting bear.

Actually, it was somebody dressed in a bear costume with a sign that read: "God Save the Bear."

The bear, in this case, turned out to be a member of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (a.k.a. PETA), which had been dogging Charles and Camilla at every stop of their whirlwind Washington / New York / San Francisco journey in hopes of persuading the eco-friendly royal couple to do away with the traditional bear fur hats worn by the Palace Guards and switch to faux fur instead.

And while no change appears imminent, PETA press piper Matt Rice deemed the bear stunt a success.

Granted, standing outside the museum in the wind and rain and getting soaked was no picnic. But Rice said the weeklong vigil attracted plenty of attention to the cause — and that PETA's gritty persistence had won grudging admiration from the prince's security detail.

At Point Reyes, the faux bear even got close enough to briefly shake Prince Charles' hand.

"I had asked him to have a beer with the bear, but he politely declined," Rice said, then added: "He definitely knew we were there."
Sounds like a stunt from the David Letterman show.

When it comes to animals, PETA, I love 'em too. Most of 'em I love grilled. A few I love fried. Little ones from the ocean are especially lovable when sautéed in butter and garlic.

Some days you eat the bear. Some days, the bear eats you.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Sauce for the Senator's wife

You have to admire the "I got mine, to blazes with you" attitude of some of our public servants.

Take Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Santorum has twice led the fight for legislation that would limit a plaintiff's damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit to a maximum of $250,000. This despite the fact that, six years ago, Santorum's wife sued her chiropractor for $500,000... and won. (The judge reduced the actual award to $330,000.)

When confronted with this fact by a reporter from ABC News, Santorum's weaselly reply was this:
"Of course I'm going to support my wife in her endeavors. That doesn't necessarily mean that I agree with everything that she does."
Of course, Santorum overcame his disagreement with his wife sufficiently to testify on her behalf.

The moral of this story? You should only be able to sue your doctor for more than a quarter of a million bucks if you're married to a U.S. Senator.

I think that's an example of how the rich get richer, while you and I don't.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Read a comic, kiss a veteran

Today being Veterans' Day, we dedicate this week's Comic Art Friday to the fine men and women of the American armed services, past and present. If you're a veteran, thank you for your contribution to the cause of liberty. If you're not a veteran, maybe you could find one and give his or her hand a firm shake in gratitude.

In celebration of our vets, SSTOL is proud to present this gorgeous pinup of everyone's favorite star-spangled Amazon, Wonder Woman, rendered with patriotic splendiferosity by artist Darryl Banks. (And yes, we know that Wonder Woman is supposed to be of Greek origin, not American, but it's the costume and attitude that count.)

The military and comic books are inextricably intertwined in my childhood memories. As the son of an Air Force sergeant, I bought most of my comics in base exchanges around the world (and read many I couldn't afford to buy at the newsracks in those exchanges).

But to bring us into the modern day, here's a shout-out to five current comic series that are providing me nearly as much entertainment value as the comics of my youth:

Conan (Dark Horse Comics). My affection for the works of Robert E. Howard goes back almost as far as my love of comics. In the early 1970s, when the Conan phenomenon first hit comics via Marvel's Conan the Barbarian series, those two reading interests joined in wonderful synchronicity. The current Dark Horse book, written by Kurt Busiek and illustrated by Cary Nord, comes as close to capturing the flavor of Howard's work as any adaptation I've seen.

Thor: Blood Oath (Marvel Comics). Thor has never been among my favorite Marvel characters, though he's the one whose adventures I would most enjoy having the opportunity to write someday. (I'd be great at composing Thor's pseudo-Shakespearean dialogue.) Scripter Michael Avon Oeming seems to be having the degree of fun with Thor in this miniseries that I would have. Artist Scott Kolins is a practitioner of the kind of sketchy linework that usually turns me off, but oddly enough, he's well suited to Thor. I'll be quite sorry when this miniseries ends.

Invincible (Image Comics). I discovered Invincible when the character appeared alongside Spider-Man in the latest issue of Marvel Team-Up, a series written by Invincible co-creator Robert Kirkman. I was so taken with the young hero — who combines the personality of the early Spidey with the powers of Superboy — that on my next trip to my local comics shop, I bought every back issue of Invincible they had in stock. A great read, with Kirkman mixing in a healthy dose of Silver Age fun.

Defenders (Marvel Comics). The eccentric, dialogue-heavy, tongue-firmly-in-cheek style of writers Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis won't suit every taste — or every character — but they've taken this miniseries through some enjoyable turns. I miss frequent collaborator Joe Rubinstein's clarifying inks over Kevin Maguire's pencils — Joe tells me this book is being photographed directly from Maguire's pencil art, with no inking beforehand — but Maguire's deft and subtle character acting is still some of the best in the business.

Green Arrow (DC Comics). I still think of writer Judd Winick as the struggling cartoonist from The Real World's San Francisco season a dozen years ago, but if Green Arrow is any indication, he's developed into a first-rate comics creator. (Judd's also doing a terrific job scripting the current Superman/Shazam! team-up miniseries, First Thunder.) Green Arrow has been one of my favorite DC heroes since the iconic Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics of the early '70s, written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Neal Adams and, later, Mike Grell. I'm pleased to see that under Winick's direction, strident, self-righteous Ollie Queen still has some of the old fire.

Speaking of Mike Grell and Joe Rubinstein — and I was — this sharp (no pun intended) portrait of the Emerald Archer was penciled by the former and recently inked by the latter.

Grell's distinctive style strikes me as being rather difficult for an inker to match, but Rubinstein may well be the most chameleonic embellisher in comics, able to meld his personal approach with just about any penciler's. Both artists display the peak of their craft here.

And that's our Veterans' Day edition of Comic Art Friday. Semper fi, be all that you can be, it's not just a job — it's an adventure, and... umm... up in the air, junior birdmen.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Sometimes, I wonder

Because I possess one of the most mercurial minds on the planet — at least, that's what it says in the header, and since that's my story, I'm sticking to it — random questions without answers often pass through my brain on their way to Rhetoricaland.

A few paused long enough for me to jot them down:
  • Can you inject Botox into your butox?

  • Wouldn't King of Queens be a lot more fun if the show were performed in drag?

  • Speaking of drag, how can they expect men to race when they're wearing stiletto-heeled pumps? Won't they turn an ankle?

  • How does Victoria expect to keep anything secret when she's standing in the window at the mall practically buck-naked?

  • Why is Conan O'Brien a pale, skinny, red-haired comedian, and not a burly, swarthy, sword-swinging barbarian?

  • Why are most people named White black, and most people named Black white?

  • Why didn't O.J. kill Jessica Simpson? I mean... assuming he killed anybody. (Hey, I don't want him and his Bruno Maglis showing up on my doorstep with a machete.)

  • Speaking of O.J., wouldn't Bruce Lee have totally kicked Kato Kaelin's narrow behind for stealing his character's name?

  • Why are all the members of Destiny's Child adults?

  • If the best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup, why is the line always so long at Starbucks?

  • In those group shots on Justice League Unlimited, why isn't the Flash always way out in front of everyone else? If he's the Fastest Man Alive, how come Batman can keep up with him?

  • Can blue men sing the whites?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Hasta la vista, baby

The Governator got his steroid-inflated backside spanked last night, as California voters — including your Uncle Swan — just said nein to Arnold Schwarzenegger's special election propositions.

I not only voted against the four propositions directly supported by the Governor, but the other four statewide ballot measures also. Partly because I thought all of them were bad ideas, and partly because I think the entire initiative process in California is one of the stupidest possible ways of making new law.

Look, absolute democracy is a wonderful concept in theory. Let the people decide! say the initiative proponents.

That would be great, assuming the people understood what they were doing.

But they don't.

It's one thing to ask the general public to choose between Candidate A and Candidate B. Most people are capable of holding the two cheek by jowl and saying, "Yeah, I like this guy (or gal)" and "No, I don't like this guy (or gal)." And make no mistake, that is exactly how most voters make their decisions come election time. Do the majority of people select a candidate because they agree with that individual's approach to the issues of the day? No. In the main, voters don't have a clue what the candidates' positions on the various issues are. Instead, they make a gut-check emotional call: Like her, don't like him.

We might as well determine the outcome of elections by means of rho-sham-bo.

The initiative process is fatally flawed, because it assumes — falsely — that the American public will actually do their homework before stepping into the ballot box. Yeah, right. This is the same populace that makes hits out of trash TV shows like Fear Factor and Desperate Housewives and celebrities out of vapid losers like Paris Hilton. That collective is going to sit down and read, then intellectually analyze, the minutiae of public policy, and make a credible value judgment? Would you be interested in some oceanfront property with a view of Mount Rushmore?

Heck, even I'm not willing to work that hard, and I'm both reasonably intelligent and marginally interested in the political process. Should I expect Joe Lunchbucket sitting in front of the boob tube with a remote in one hand and a forty-ounce malt liquor in the other to be more diligent than I am? Perish the thought.

That's why we hire representatives. I don't want to do their job for them, and perhaps more to the point, I shouldn't have to. I wouldn't be good at it. Politicians get elected to make law. If they do the job poorly, let's fire them and get some fresh blood in there. But as long as they're there, let's not waste effort trying to micromanage a system we don't fully comprehend.

No one can be everything. I'm a writer. If I need a mechanic, or a plumber, or an attorney, I'll find someone who's an expert in that field of endeavor and hire them. The same is true of politicians. If my assemblyperson and state senator make decisions I think are errant, I'll vote for someone else next time. Otherwise, I expect them to do the work my tax dollars pay them to do.

The initative process demands that I do the legislature's job for them. If I wanted to make public policy, I'd have become an actor.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Another sign of the Bush apocalypse

If I were President Bush — and you and I are both eternally grateful that I'm not — I would now be officially worried.

When you have the Cato Institute, one of the nation's best-known and most influential conservative think-tanks, telling you that you should model your adminstration's crisis management approach after that of Bill Clinton, and the story is being broadcast on the Fox News Web site — the party organ of the American right — you have without question lost your grip on your support base.

Of course, you long ago lost your grip on reason, competence, and human decency, but that's another blog post.

Hoop dreams

The White Shadow: The Complete First Season launches on DVD today. Proving yet again that, if you wait long enough, every series in the history of television will eventually show up on DVD.

But in this case, that's not a bad thing.

For those of you who slept through the late 1970s — or who weren't yet born in that storied era of polyester shirts and platform shoes — The White Shadow starred Ken Howard (at the time, the son-in-law of newspaper advice columnist Ann Landers) as Ken Reeves, a retired pro basketball star of the Caucasian persuasion (we saw his career-ending knee injury played out in the opening credit sequence every week) who takes a job coaching at an inner-city Los Angeles high school. The storylines revolved around the efforts of the lily-white Reeves to fit in with the mostly African-American student body and administration at Carver High (hence his rarely-uttered nickname, "The White Shadow"), and to bring together the motley crew of young athletes who played ball for him.

The show was noteworthy for its attempt to portray — as realistically as possible on network television in the late '70s — the tortuous road of inner-city life and race relations in America. The Carver High basketball team didn't spend all of their time engaging in group hugs and choruses of "Kumbaya." There were conflicts, especially in the early going, between the black players and their teammates of other ethnicities. Reeves and his team members had to wrestle with the consequences of poverty, discrimination, drug abuse, gambling, gang violence, and a host of other social issues. Because this was television, the problems often got wrapped up in the space of an hour-long episode, but sometimes they didn't — as when player Curtis Jackson (played by Erik Kilpatrick) was shot and killed as he stumbled upon a convenience store robbery.

Like the classic smorgasbord-style casting of old war movies, the Carver High basketball team represented an all-too-convenient cross-section of iconic ethnic types, albeit with far more dark-skinned faces than we usually saw in similar situations. Although the teenaged student-athletes always looked suspiciously mature, especially toward the end of the show's three-season run, their characters were nicely fleshed-out. The show didn't always escape the lure of stereotype — the lone Jewish kid was the smartest guy on the team, the Italian kid was a slick-talking con artist with a Brooklyn accent, the Hispanic kid was a hothead, all of the team's most athletically gifted players were black — but the writers managed in most cases to present the guys as real, three-dimensional young people with realistic hopes, aspirations, and fears, especially when compared to the caricatures seen on such contemporary shows as Welcome Back, Kotter.

The cast added immeasurably to the show's positive character. Ken Howard was believable as the former Chicago Bull who truly cared about his young charges, but didn't coddle or patronize them. And, as testimony to their diverse talents, several of the actors who played team members went on to greater acclaim as directors: Kevin Hooks (sensitive Morris Thorpe) has enjoyed success helming feature films (Passenger 57, Fled) and is one of the most sought-after directors in television (24, Alias, Lost). Thomas Carter (team captain James Hayward) also became a noted filmmaker, whose Coach Carter, starring Samuel L. Jackson, was one of this year's most popular movies. Timothy Van Patten (hustler "Salami" Pettrino) directs episodes of HBO's cutting-edge dramas (The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Rome).

All good things come to an end, and The White Shadow burned out fairly quickly. The original cast members "graduated" after the second season, to be replaced by new, less intriguing characters in the show's final year. Byron Stewart later revived his character, center Warren Coolidge, as an orderly on the '80s hospital series St. Elsewhere.

So if you're bored with the slick, glossy soap opera that passes for teen drama on TV these days, hop into the Wayback Machine and keep it real with Coach Reeves and the kids from Carver High. You can bet your last money, it's all gonna be a stone gas, honey.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Imagine there's no talent

Here's a peculiar little tidbit of Hollywood casting news:

Two upcoming independent films about the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and John Lennon both will star the same actress: Lindsay Lohan.

Of course. Who wouldn't have thought of that?

I know that, for my own part, when I consider the amazing social contributions of cultural icons like Bobby Kennedy and John Lennon, Lindsay Lohan is the first name that pops into my head.

Perhaps Hilary Duff couldn't fit either project into her busy schedule.

Brown bunnies need not apply

[WARNING: Those of delicate sensibility may want to take a pass on the following post. The rest of you — and you know who you are — feel welcome to forge ahead. — The Management]

Is Vincent Gallo serious?

The actor and director of the decade's most controversial film, The Brown Bunny (in which Gallo received oral gratification onscreen from costar Chloë Sevigny), is selling off his reproductive juices for a million bucks.

Note a few of the highlights from the sales pitch on Gallo's Web site, with comments from your incredulous (and skeptical) Uncle Swan:
  • Mr. Gallo will supply sperm for as many attempts as it takes to complete a successful fertilization and successful delivery. Sperm is 100% guaranteed to be donated by Mr. Gallo who is drug, alcohol and disease free. (Chloë Sevigny and her ear, nose and throat physician will no doubt be pleased to hear the latter.)

  • If the purchaser of the sperm chooses the option of natural insemination, there is an additional charge of $500,000. However, if after being presented detailed photographs of the purchaser, Mr. Gallo may be willing to waive the natural insemination fee and charge only for the sperm itself. (Hey, Vince... looked in the mirror lately? The purchaser might want you to knock a few hundred grand off the price if you insist on doing the deed without a bag over your ugly mug.)

  • There are no known genetic deformities in his ancestry (no cripples) and no history of congenital diseases. (Vincent is, however, distantly related to James Watt.)

  • If you have seen The Brown Bunny, you know the potential size of the genitals if it's a boy. (Yeah, everything looks bigger on a movie screen, pal. Ask Mark Wahlberg.)

  • Mr. Gallo maintains the right to refuse sale of his sperm to those of extremely dark complexions. Though a fan of Franco Harris, Derek Jeter, Lenny Kravitz and Lena Horne, Mr. Gallo does not want to be part of that type of integration. (Apparently, Mr. Gallo is also a fan of David Duke, George C. Wallace, Orval Faubus, and Adolf Hitler. But not Strom Thurmond, perhaps.)

  • Under the laws of the Jewish faith, a Jewish mother would qualify a baby to be deemed a member of the Jewish religion. This would be added incentive for Mr. Gallo to sell his sperm to a Jew mother, his reasoning being with the slim chance that his child moved into the profession of motion picture acting or became a musical performer, this connection to the Jewish faith would guarantee his offspring a better chance at good reviews and maybe even a prize at the Sundance Film Festival or an Oscar. (I'm surprised he didn't mention control of the world's monetary system.)

  • To be clear, the purchase of Mr. Gallo's sperm does not include the use of the name Gallo. The purchaser must find another surname for the child. (Ernest and Julio just breathed a huge sigh of relief.)
Yes, I'm certain that all of the above is Vincent Gallo's twisted idea of a joke. But I've heard better.

Friday, November 04, 2005

I bless the rains down in Africa

Today's Comic Art Friday is sponsored by Burn Baby Burn Revolutionary Hot Sauce. Because you need a little Black Panther in you.

Speaking of the Black Panther, here's the King of Wakanda himself, as envisioned through the powerful pencil of Darryl Banks:

If you're an old-school comics fan and not already reading Marvel's current Black Panther series, you owe it to yourself to give it a whirl. Hollywood director and screenwriter Reginald Hudlin occasionally frustrates me with his character beats, but his scripts definitely keep the storyline lively and interesting. I like artist David Yardin's dramatic pencil work on recent issues far better than the more stylized output of John Romita Jr., who drew the first six issues of the series.

Yardin will also be the artist on the new miniseries featuring Storm, the weather-manipulating heroine of X-Men, that's being written by best-selling novelist Eric Jerome Dickey (author of Sister, Sister, Liar's Game, and Genevieve). T'Challa, the Black Panther, will play a key role in the storyline, which involves Storm and the Panther's long-ago romance. This series, which debuts in February, should be a book worthy of the anticipation.

The lovely line sketch of Storm shown below emanates from the pencil point of one of comics' current superstars, Adam Hughes. Best known for his covers on such series as Wonder Woman, Tomb Raider, and Catwoman, Hughes — who signs his work with the distinctive monogram "AH!" — is widely considered today's finest exemplar of the "good girl" comic art tradition pioneered in the 1950s by the legendary Matt Baker (Phantom Lady) and continued by such notable talents as Dave Stevens (The Rocketeer), J. Scott Campbell (Gen13), and Al Rio, whose work periodically graces this space.

As you can see here, Hughes is a master of using just a few well-placed strokes to create an image brim-full of charm and beauty.

That's a wrap for this Comic Art Friday. It's raining here in northern California's wine country, so let's be careful out there.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

You can do it. We can help.

Unless the help you need involves your butt and our toilet.

Then we can't help.

Bob Dougherty of Boulder, Colorado, got his hindquarters glued to a toilet seat at his local Home Depot store. Then, Home Depot employees refused to come help him for 15 minutes, because they thought he was playing some kind of prank.

This is the kind of story you know you shouldn't laugh at, because you know this must have been a humiliating and painful experience for this gentleman.

On the other hand...'s pretty funny.

In fact, this story perfectly illustrates the difference between tragedy and comedy.

Tragedy: You get your butt glued to the toilet seat at Home Depot.

Comedy: Bob from Boulder gets his butt glued to the toilet seat at Home Depot.

What's Up With That? #26: Hurricanes, and the people who don't avoid them like leprosy

Now that hurricane season is pretty well over, and time has extended us a modicum of distance from the horrors of Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma (and let this be a lesson to you people at the World Meteorological Organization — naming storms after one-hit-wonder pop singers, 1940s pinup queens, and characters from The Flintstones really sends Mother Nature off, so knock it off pronto), I believe I can say this without causing undue offense to too many folks:

People who live in places where hurricanes occur are crazy.


I could say the same for those who live in tornado-prone areas, but since we all know that tornados mostly strike at trailer parks and therefore are probably providing a valuable public service, I don't have quite the same complaint.

But you people on the Gulf Coast? Wackos.

Now, I can hear some of you bellowing, "But you live in earthquake country, you moron!" True enough. In fact, I live almost literally a stone's throw away from the Rodgers Creek Fault, which seismologists consider one of the most unstable and potentially dangerous faultlines in the United States.

But how often do major earthquakes occur? We last had one here in the Bay Area in 1989. My 16-year-old daughter was an infant then.

Hurricanes happen every year. Oodles of them. So predictably that they even plan names for them in advance. This year, they ran out of names, and had to resort to letters of the Greek alphabet, for crying out loud. The very same people in Biloxi and Key West and similar environs who were gobsmacked by humongous cyclones this summer can count on getting more of the same again next year. And the year after that.

Why don't you people move?

Just don't come to California.

Remember... earthquakes.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

They've got a plan to stick it to The Man

In case you thought the Black Panthers were merely a faded icon of the long-distant 1960s, think again.

The militant group's spiritual descendants, the Huey P. Newton Foundation, have converted from preaching revolution to hawking pepper sauce. According to The Smoking Gun, sales of "Burn Baby Burn Revolutionary Hot Sauce" will be used to raise funds for anti-violence and educational programs.

If you send an e-mail to the folks at The Smoking Gun before Monday, November 7, you could be one of five lucky folks who will each win a free bottle of the fiery condiment.

Mister Charlie, Jim Crow, and other known associates of The Man need not apply.

U Can 2 Touch This

Wanna buy 50% of the publishing rights to MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This" and "2 Legit 2 Quit"? Now you can, courtesy of the California State Bankruptcy Court.

But wait — there's more! Order now, and the court will throw in 15 pairs of neon orange parachute pants, absolutely free!

The assets of Hammer, whose fortunes have fallen hard in the dozen or so years since his days as a hitmaking rap artist, have actually been controlled by the bankruptcy court since 1996. A near-endless string of lawsuits relative to the rights to Hammer's music kept the court from selling off the intellectual property for the past nine years.

The auction of Hammer's catalog closes February 28, 2006, so bid early and bid often. Your mailbox could soon be filled with royalty checks and invitations to nostalgia parties.

Break it down one time!