Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Happy happy joy joy

Happy Mardi Gras to those of you for whom that has significance. For others of us, every Tuesday is Fat Tuesday.

While we're in a celebratory mood, Happy Birthday to actress Rae Dawn Chong, who is not at all fat this Tuesday, but is most definitely phat every Tuesday. Who knew that stoned-out Tommy Chong would have something incredible like this locked away in his genetic code?

And Happy Fifth Birthday to my personal assistant Abby, who wishes I would just stop typing and give her a Milk-Bone, or better still, a crouton or tortilla chip. But I can't give her too many, or she'll get fat.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Arrivederci, Torino: You can go back to being Turin now

Thoughts that continue to rattle through my skull as we bid the 20th Olympic Winter Games farewell:
  • Ever notice how the athletes with the most commercial face time — yes, I'm talking about you, Bode Miller and Lindsey Kildow — always seem to suck out in crunch time? Funny how that works.

  • If I was Sasha Cohen, I'd think the Flying Tomato was stalking me, too.

  • The skeleton contestants need their heads examined. Seriously. You're going head first down an ice slide at 90 miles an hour, you wackos.

  • Heartbreaker: Watching short track skater Kimberly Derrick skate the women's 1,000 meters with tears streaming down her face, after her grandfather died of a heart attack preparing to watch her compete in her first Olympic games.

  • Michelle Kwan, we didn't even miss you.

  • Nominated for the Get a Grip Medal: Chad Hedrick. Hey, Chad: You don't have to win every medal. And we don't care if you think you should.

  • Who would win in a fight — Apolo Anton Ohno or Apollo Creed? The winner could take on Apollonia Kotero.

  • Is it over yet? Biathlon. Is that the dullest event of the Winter Games or what? No, sorry — forgot about USA hockey. At least the biathletes can shoot.

  • Coolest name of the Games: Ted Ligety, who went Ligety-split to win gold in the men's Alpine Combined before tanking the rest of the Games.

  • With thighs like that, where do speed skaters buy pants?

  • Evgeni Plushenko: The Ivan Drago of figure skating.

  • Young, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son: Ask aerials skier Jeret "Speedy" Peterson, who was sent home from the Olympics after participating in a alcohol-fueled bar fight.

  • When it comes to luge, Austrian brothers Andreas and Wolfgang Linger don't.

  • Hey, Johnny Weir: Stop the charade, dude. You and a summer frock have a certain something in common. Just be out there with it. UBU.

  • You do not want to get on the wrong side of Italian ice dancer Barbara Fusar-Poli. You do not.

  • Do they have AARP in Canada? 39-year-old skeleton winner Duff Gibson is the oldest individual gold medalist in Winter Olympics history.

  • Way to go, Shani Davis. Try not to be so grumpy about it next time.

  • If I ever needed to be rescued on the ski slopes, I'd want Janica Kostelic carrying me down the mountain.

  • What, no Jamaican bobsled team?

  • A couple of class acts: Speed skaters Cindy Klassen of Canada and Joey Cheek of the U.S. Hey, Chad and Shani: Were you paying attention?

  • Welcome to America, Tanith Belbin. Are there any more back home like you?

  • Michaela Dorfmeister and Alexandra Meissnitzer. I just enjoy saying their names.

  • You go, Shizuka Arakawa. They're proud of you in Japan, and they should be.

  • Do you suppose Irina Slutskaya has any idea what her name sounds like in English?

  • We're all glad you won, Julia Mancuso. But get over yourself. You're only permitted to wear a tiara on the podium if you're the Queen of England, or Wonder Woman.

  • I think that ABC Sports just replaced the "agony of defeat" guy with Lindsey Jacobellis. No, wait — that's "the agony of hubris."

  • Ricky Martin and Avril Lavigne at the Closing Ceremonies? Whose idea was that?

  • And just because we can: Dick Button.

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Death, Darren, and Dennis

Wow. First Don Knotts, then Darren McGavin, now Dennis Weaver.

It's true: Celebrities really do die in threes.

Although Darren McGavin is probably best remembered today as the father in the holiday perennial A Christmas Story, I still think of him as Carl Kolchak, the tabloid reporter with a nose for the supernatural, in the classic '70s TV movies The Night Stalker and The Night Strangler, and the short-lived but much-loved followup series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker. McGavin was also excellent in an uncredited role as Gus Sands, the gambling kingpin who tries to sway Robert Redford's Roy Hobbs from the straight and narrow in one of my all-time favorite films, The Natural.

The sad irony for me in Dennis Weaver's passing is that I'm currently writing a review of what now turns out to be his final work — the first season of the ABC Family series Wildfire. In fact, KM and I were watching a couple of episodes in the last 24 hours. But of course, in my youth Weaver was gimpy-legged deputy Chester Goode in old Gunsmoke reruns, and the forest ranger dad on Gentle Ben, transplanted marshal Sam McCloud in dozens of TV mysteries, and TV commerical pitchman extraordinaire.

I'll view the rest of these Wildfire episodes with a poignant air.

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

Mr. Chicken has left the henhouse

Now this is sad news:

Don Knotts has died.

Nerds, geeks, dorks, and dweebs everywhere are mourning the loss. As a self-confessed nerd myself, I'm verklemt.

Before Napoleon Dynamite, before Revenge of the Nerds, before Pirates of Silicon Valley, before Star Trek and comic book conventions, Don Knotts showed the world that you could be a geek and still be cool. Knotts's apoplectic portrayals of maladroit sheriff's deputy Barney Fife on The Andy Griffith Show and wannabe ladies' man Ralph Furley on Three's Company formed a template for generations of intelligent but awkward, socially inept but well-meaning guys trying to make their way in a world that never understood or fully embraced them.

My favorite memories of Don Knotts, actually, are from his film roles, not his iconic TV characters. Throughout the 1960s, Knotts starred in a series of hilarious comedies playing endless permutations of his signature mild-mannered, fumbling, hyperactive, rebel-without-a-clue character. Knotts was consistently brilliant as:Knotts was the rare comic actor who could repeat the same shtick again and again and get away with it, simply because he carried it off so well. He was the lovable underdog with whom we could all identify. Even now, long after his heyday, if you mention the name Don Knotts to most people, they immediately envision his face, his voice, and his appealing milquetoast persona.

Don Knotts was truly an original, and one of a kind. You don't see his like in Hollywood often. I'm sorry to see him go.

Somewhere, even Scooby-Doo is shedding a tear.

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Friday, February 24, 2006

The name is Barda. Big Barda.

After last Friday's boffo photo essay about WonderCon 2006, my creative well is running a trifle dry this Comic Art Friday. So I have just one new image to present today.

Speaking of the Winter Olympics — and we were — if I needed a female athlete on my Olympic squad, summer or winter, an excellent choice would be Barda Free, aka Big Barda, the powerfully physical bride of the original Mister Miracle, Scott Free.

Because when you're taking on the Russians and the Germans, a hypersteroidal woman wearing scale-mail armor and packing a Mega-rod is a good person to have on your team.

Comics über-creator Jack Kirby wasn't known for his outstanding depictions of female characters, but when he introduced Big Barda as a key player in his Fourth World saga in the early 1970s, the King made up for such watered-down superwomen as the Wasp and the Invisible Girl. Barda kicked butt, took names, and gave no quarter. She was one of the first superheroines who could not only go mano a mano with galaxy-class tough guys, but relished the opportunity.

Modern-day stylish Michael McDaniel does the Female Fury proud in the above portrait.

And that — short and sweet, like an Olympic figure skater — is your Comic Art Friday. Now go watch some curling or something.


The Verdict Is In: The Boy In Blue

With the Winter Olympics about to wind down, I think it's appropriate that the new review I've published at DVD Verdict today should cover a film about a world-class athlete. The Boy In Blue stars a young Nicolas Cage as Canadian rowing champion Ned Hanlan.

Okay, so rowing isn't a Winter Olympic sport.

Just go check out the review, and quit your grousing. (Please?)

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

In the News: Veteran anchorman retires

If you were a kid during the 1970s, you remember In the News, the series of current events features that appeared on CBS in between your favorite Saturday morning cartoons. If you're a commuter in most urban areas of the country, you may well spend a few moments of every day listening to the hourly CBS World News Round-Up on your local CBS Radio affiliate (here in the Bay Area, it's -- no surprise -- KCBS 740).

The golden voice behind both of those essential elements of broadcasting history retired today: News anchor Christopher Glenn, who is laying down his microphone after 35 years at CBS, and more than a half-century in broadcast journalism.

I still recall with great fondness those In the News segments he presented during my youth. These days, every weekday morning when my alarm clock goes off, the first human voice I hear is Christopher Glenn's. It was quite touching to hear him choke up a little bit this morning as he signed off the Round-Up for the final time.

Over these past many years, I learned a lot about the world, and what was happening in it, from Christopher Glenn. I'll miss him.

Enjoy your retirement, Mr. Glenn. You've earned it.

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American Idol '06: Sizing up the boys

Previously on SSTOL, we got in touch with the feminine side of this season's American Idol contestant pool. Today, it's the guys' turn under the microscope.

In appearance order from last night's episode, the 2006 edition of Ryan's Raiders includes the following personnel.

Patrick Hall. Patrick's like an older, scruffier, straighter Clay Aiken — a tall, gangly Southerner with a pleasant voice who seems a tiny bit flummoxed onstage. He's one of the better singers in this year's cast, but not the most scintillating performer. Like Clay before him, he may grow into the role as the season progresses.

David Radford. This year's Sinatra wannabe. For demographic reasons, the Idol producers love having one guy each year who thinks he's channeling the Chairman of the Board. David even has the look — he's a ringer for a young Harry Connick Jr. David can sing all right, though his Rat Pack-styled take on Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love" was ill-advised at best and ludicrous at worst.

Bucky Covington. Red meat for the redneck contingent. As difficult as it is to take seriously a grown man who calls himself "Bucky," the Buckster might actually be hiding a fairly decent voice in there somewhere if he didn't insist on overdoing the cowboy twang. Nah, probably not. Memorable mostly for mangling the lyrics to the Four Tops' "I Can't Help Myself" during Hollywood Week. Needs to get back in the General Lee and haul tail for home.

Will Makar. Will's a nice kid from all indications, but he's in over his head here. He might have a future as a wedding singer, but not as a pop star.

José "Sway" Penala. I have no idea why "Sway" is still on the show. His selection to the Top 24 was, for me, the biggest surprise of the season thus far. He can't sing, and the gangsta-cool persona he's fronting (what was with the pimp hat he wore onstage this week?) just makes him look silly. When the votes are in tonight, Sway should be the first of the guys to go.

Chris Daughtry. Staking out the hard rocker territory in this crew, Chris is this season's Constantine Maroulis. He's got the voice, with a truckload of gravel and grit stuffed into it, but his onstage presence is less than compelling. Has the tools to advance to the final round.

Kevin Covais. Every year, the Idol field includes a palefaced teenage boy with minimal talent, whose sole raison d'etre on the show is to give little old ladies at retirement homes across America a reason to tune in. This year, Kevin is that kid. I'm sure he's a sweetheart, but I'll be glad when we aren't being subjected to his wimpy singing any longer.

Gedeon McKinney. One of the better male performers, Gedeon seems much older than the 17 years he owns up to. Although he didn't impress me last night with his lame Jackie Wilson-inspired cover of "Shout," we know he's got the pipes and the energy. His speaking voice reminds me of Dallas Mavericks head coach Avery Johnson.

Elliott Yamin. This guy continues to surprise me. He's not much to look at — I keep getting him and Chris Daughtry confused — and he's extremely raw, with no real concept of how to use his voice properly. But with some quality vocal coaching, Elliott could develop into a terrific singer. I didn't like him that much when we saw his audition, but he's growing on me.

Bobby Bennett. A large kid with a larger-than-life personality, it's too bad Bobby doesn't have a large voice to match. But he doesn't. He's entertaining, and he has fun doing his thing, but this is a singing competition, and Bobby can't sing. Will probably be the one of the first contestants dismissed, along with Sway Penala.

Ace Young. Unlike the female contingent, whose top seven or eight members are more or less evenly matched, the guys have one standout player this year, and that man is Ace Young. Ace is the total deal — he has the voice, he has the smoking hot looks, and most of all, he oozes charisma. Unless he has a meltdown (or an as-yet-undisclosed skeleton in his closet) somewhere along the way, Ace will contend for the crown at season's end.

Taylor Hicks. I know, I know. He's working the shtick a little hard. And yeah, he's goofy, spastic, and crazy weird. But I've gotta admit, he's the one contestant I look forward to seeing every week. And I'm convinced that all the goofball stuff isn't just an act — this guy just loves to perform, and he's dancing to the beat of his own quirky drummer. I don't know whether he'll survive the cut to 12, but I sure hope he does.

All that said, here (in alphabetical order) are the six guys I'd hope to see still standing when the final cast is assembled:
  • Ace.
  • Chris.
  • Elliott.
  • Gedeon.
  • Patrick.
  • Taylor.
We'll see what happens.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

American Idol '06: Sizing up the girls

I don't usually pay much attention to American Idol until the field been narrowed to the final 12 contestants. As a singer and performer myself, I dread the early weeks of the show each season, during which the point is to see how bad many of the unselected auditionees were. Listening to people singing poorly is not my idea of entertainment. (This in contrast to my daughter, for whom the wretched audition shows are the best part of the series.)

This year, however, with a particularly strong and diverse group in the top 24, I wanted to take an early look at the competitors.

First, the girls, in appearance order from last night's episode.

Mandisa. My personal rooting interest on the distaff side of the competition, Mandisa's first song out of the box was Heart's "Never," and she flat tore it up. I like Mandisa's engaging style. I like her powerful voice. And I like the fact that she's a big woman who seems to be comfortable in her own body. If she continues to perform well, and the audience embraces her abundant physicality, she has the skills to go deep into the competition.

Kellie Pickler. I find her cute little Southern girl persona a mite too precious, and I really don't think she's all that much of a singer. (See: Kelly Clarkson.) On the other hand, she's fresh and seems genuinely charming, and those are pretty rare qualities on this show. Her baby-faced blonde looks will get her a long way when the voting starts.

Becky O'Donohue. There's something sinister and offputting about her. I don't care at all for the quality of her voice, and she has this sort of dark, ex-stripper vibe that's very unappealing. I have no fear that she'll make the cut.

Ayla Brown. A towering, willowy basketball player from Boston College, with a pretty voice and a gangly, awkward physical presence. I'm not sure exactly why, but I see a lot of potential in her. She isn't as technically polished as some of the other girls right now, but I believe that with the right coaching, she could actually develop into a solid talent. She has a really creepy smile, though.

Paris Bennett. Man, I hate perky. Paris is an effervescent little thing with a cartoonish speaking voice that sounds as though she's been sucking helium for hours. She tries to do too much with a limited vocal instrument, and her stage presence strikes me as immature and goofy. But she's likeably energetic, and the judges seem to enjoy her far more than do I.

Stephanie "Stevie" Scott. Another tall, skinny kid like Ayla Brown (Idol could field a decent women's basketball team this year), Stevie is a trained opera singer trying to cross over to pop music. So far, it isn't working. Boy howdy, is it not working. I suspect Stevie will be one of the first two girls eliminated.

Brenna Gethers. Over-the-top, overbearing, and misguidedly overconfident, given the fact that she's irritating and can't sing a lick. Her abundance of New York attitude and paucity of actual ability deserves a speedy exit.

Heather Cox. A attractive blonde who, to put it bluntly, doesn't belong here. She suffers from pageant mannerisms and a thoroughly unremarkable voice. She never shows even an inkling of genuine emotion when she sings. She'll get some votes just on looks, but I can't believe she'll survive another week.

Melissa McGhee. If the name of the show was Truck Stop Idol, Melissa would be the runaway winner. A mediocre voice and rough-hewn stage presence should send her packing quickly. But, like Kellie Pickler and last year's winner Carrie Underwood, she's got a bit of Kelly Clarkson's trailer-trash appeal in her, and that seems to count for a ton of votes on this show.

Lisa Tucker. My early favorite. She's the baby of the group at 16, but she possesses a mature talent that far outstrips her tender years. Lisa is the whole package — an incredible voice, compelling stage presence, youthful cuteness, and a sweet disposition. If her age doesn't catch up to her over the long haul, she should be one of the final four.

Kinnik Sky. Armed with a cannon of a voice and an unstudied elegance, Kinnik is one of the oldest female contestants at 28 (Mandisa is 29). She's one of the better singers in the group, but she isn't terribly electric. I could easily see her as the featured singer in a Las Vegas variety show, but not as the next American Idol.

Katharine McPhee. Her mother is a vocal coach, so it's no surprise that Katharine shows the most technical skill among the women. As good as she is, though — and she is very good — there's something indescribably eerie about her. She also tries much too hard to impress with unnecessarily flashy technique, rather than just performing the song. But she'll be around late in the season, no question.

If I were cutting the feminine field to six on the basis of the actual talent in evidence thus far, I'd choose (in alphabetical order):
  • Ayla.
  • Katharine.
  • Kellie.
  • Kinnik.
  • Lisa.
  • Mandisa.
If I had to bet whom the viewing public will vote into the final group, I'd stake my money on:
  • Katharine.
  • Kellie.
  • Lisa.
  • Mandisa.
  • Melissa.
  • Paris.
We'll pick apart the guys tomorrow.

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Merit badges of the Golden Age

I was never a Boy Scout.

For a few years, I was a Cub Scout. My parents were even Den Mother and Den Dad. But I quickly got tired of the charade — I wasn't a joiner, I hated camping, I despised having to accomplish meaningless tasks in order to advance in Scout rank, and I thought the uniforms were ridiculous. Plus, the Scoutmasters creeped me out — who are these guys whose whole agenda in life is hanging out in the woods with prepubescent boys?

So I bailed on the whole Scouting business a year or so before I was old enough to qualify for the Boy Scouts.

I was surfing the Web the other day when I stumbled upon a Wikipedia entry listing merit badges that have been discontinued by the Boy Scouts. For those of you not familiar with Scouting, merit badges are cloth patches Scouts earn by demonstrating proficiency in various areas of knowledge or activity. If you stockpile enough merit badges, you get promoted to a higher level of Scout. If you really get busy and amass practically every merit badge offered, you achieve the ultimate rank of Eagle Scout. Being an Eagle Scout puts you in the company of such outstanding Americans as serial killers John Edward Robinson and Arthur Gary Bishop, Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, Washington D.C.'s crackhead mayor Marion Barry, and John Tesh.

Imagine my surprise at discovering that the Boy Scouts once awarded merit badges in the following arts and sciences:
  • Blacksmithing. I presume that for this merit badge, you had to do a little more than merely stand beneath a spreading chestnut tree.

  • Small Grains and Cereal Foods. You ate a ton of Grape-Nuts and Cream of Wheat in pursuit of this coveted badge.

  • Seamanship. Think "In the Navy" by the Village People.

  • Cement Work. To earn this badge, you had to pour the Scoutmaster a new driveway.

  • Masonry. This involved building a brick garage at the end of the driveway you poured to earn the Cement Work badge.

  • Farm Arrangement. "Well, Buford, I think we oughta put the cows over yonder against that hillside, then maybe plant the cornfield next to 'em to kinda set 'em off."

  • Pathfinding. "Looks like trampled grass to me." "Found another one!"

  • Stalking. Replaced in 1952 by the Sexual Harassment badge.

  • Handicapped Awareness. "I never realized there were so many people in wheelchairs. I just wasn't aware, I guess."

  • Rabbit Raising. How difficult could this have been? Step One: Buy a male and a female rabbit. Step Two: Stand back.

  • Poultry Keeping. This was known in the Scouting trade as the Colonel Sanders badge.

  • Taxidermy. You earned this one automatically when you told the Scoutmaster to get stuffed.

  • Rock Lifting. Leave no stone unturned. There was persistent speculation for years as to whether God could create a rock so large that He could not earn this merit badge.

  • Signaling. Left arm straight out: Left turn. Left arm bent upward at elbow: Right turn. Left arm extended with fist clenched and middle finger upright: I believe you just crossed into my lane.

  • Fruit Culture and Nut Culture. Naaahhh, too easy.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Jeremiah was a bullfrog, but Nostradamus was a catcher

The world will end in six years. The Baseball Prophet has spoken.

Darren "Dutch" Daulton, the long-time catcher for the Philadelphia Phillies throughout the 1980s and 1990s, says that on December 21, 2012, at 11:11 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time, The Universe As We Know It will cease to be. The "chosen," claims the former All-Star backstop, will vanish from this plane of existence.

Why December 21, 2012? Because, Daulton says, that's the last day recorded on the Mayan calendar. Of course, the Mayans are long gone, so maybe they shuffled off this mortal coil while the getting was good.

Daulton has collected his prognosticative wisdom in a 32,000-word manuscript called If They Only Knew. Here's what we do know: the reason why catchers' gear is referred to in baseball parlance as "the tools of ignorance."

Because I don't know about you, but when I seek wisdom beyond human ken, I turn to the guy behind the plate. He knows things. At least, he did in Bull Durham. And in Major League.

Back in the summer of 1988, we arrived at our church building one Sunday morning to find a large cardboard box filled with dozens of copies of a booklet cryptically entitled 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988.

In a filing cabinet drawer in my office, I still have a couple of those booklets. Maybe I should send one to Darren Daulton.

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Monday, February 20, 2006

You have questions, he doesn't have answers

RadioShack's CEO, David Edmondson, quit his post in the wake of revelations that he fudged the educational background on his résumé.

Here's what I wonder:

First, when are people going to knock off the résumé-pumping? So many high-profile people in so many fields have been caught red-handed at this monkey business over the past few years that you'd think everyone would have learned by now.

Second, Edmondson has been working for the Shack since 1994. Twelve years, and they're just now getting around to vetting the guy's résumé? That doesn't speak well for the human resources department.

Of course, the story behind the story is that RadioShack is in the financial dumper — the company announced last week that it will close between 400 and 700 underperforming stores — and the board of directors needed a scapegoat. The fact that Edmondson was nailed recently on a DUI charge and is about to be dragged through the Texas legal system made him an ideal candidate, on top of the résumé fiasco.

You may be surprised to learn this, but I worked for Radio Shack (the public name was two words back then, and the corporate name at the time was Tandy Corporation) for almost two years just after college, managing retail stores in the Central California valley. I was a lousy salesman and an even worse manager — that admission, most likely, will not surprise you — but I had the good fortune to keep landing positions in stores where the previous manager was even more incompetent than I, so I looked good by comparison.

My résumé, for the record, was 100 percent accurate.

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Friday, February 17, 2006

What it was, was WonderCon

Previously on Comic Art Friday, I made note of the fact that I was spending last Friday at WonderCon, the comic book convention held annually in San Francisco. Here's a synopsis of my day in the big city.

Unlike last year, when it poured buckets, this year the weather was spectacular for WonderCon Weekend. The event moved this year to a different venue within San Francisco's sprawling convention complex, Moscone Center, and seemed a little cozier. (Translated: It felt more confined than last year.) One bonus was that the new building is immediately adjacent to the mammoth Fifth and Mission public parking garage, so finding a parking space was a breeze, and the stroll to the convention center was mercifully short for a middle-aged fat guy with chronically sore feet.

It was my perception that there were fewer exhibitors this year, though probably a few more ticket-buyers. Friday is always the day of least attendance, though, and I understand that the joint was packed to overflowing on Saturday. (In fact, the fire marshals closed the front doors for a time, because there were more people inside than the fire code allows.)

There were definitely fewer dealers selling art, and most of those seemed to be selling page art almost exclusively, as opposed to the pinup-style art I mostly collect. Anyway, I was on a strict budget this year, so I didn't browse too much.

I had only a few specific goals for Friday. There were three artists I wanted to get commissions from. (The list had actually been a couple of names longer, but two of the artists I planned to hit up scratched from the program.) I managed to connect with all three.

The artist known cryptically as Buzz asked if he could take the commission (a Ms. Marvel) and mail me the piece later, since he didn't want to do a rush job on it in the short time available. We struck an agreement for him to do that. Fortunately, I had in my portfolio the scrumptious Vixen piece Buzz did for me at WonderCon '05, and he obligingly posed for a photo with it.

I walked away with my other two wish list items, courtesy of the talented Alé Garza and personal favorite Ron Lim. Because it was the weekend before Valentine's Day, and because I'm looking eagerly forward to these heroes' costarring appearances in an upcoming Marvel Comics miniseries debuting next week, I decided to ask Alé to draw Storm of X-Men fame...

...and Ron to draw T'Challa, the Black Panther.

I had been looking forward to meeting the legendary Ernie Chan and thanking him in person for the four great commissions he completed for me during 2005. As soon as I walked up to Ernie's table and told him my name, he not only identified me, but remembered exactly how many commissions he'd done for me and what the subjects were. Here you see Ernie with two of his artworks -- that's Hawkeye and Lady Rawhide on the left, and Storm and Beta Ray Bill on the right.

The fellow in the background is Tony DeZuniga, another terrific artist originally from the Philippines, as is Ernie. I also picked up Ernie's new sketchbook, entitled Wench and Co., which is mostly pinup art in the sword-and-sorcery vein (no surprise, for the guy who did all those great Conan the Barbarian books).

I met and had a very enjoyable talk with a young writer named Raven Gregory, who is currently scripting a series for Image Comics entitled The Gift. As Raven explained the book's premise, it sounded a little like Marvel's New Universe or the Milestone Media universe -- what would happen if everyday, average people suddenly got superpowers? It sounded interesting, so I bought the trade paperback that incorporates the first three issues and asked Raven to autograph it.

I've since read issues one and two, and found the storyline quite compelling. Raven's writing style is literate and graceful, and the art by penciler Tyler Kirkham and inker Marco Galli packs a wallop.

I sat in on two excellent interview sessions. Cartoonist Scott Shaw! (yes, it's spelled with an exclamation point) interviewed Ramona Fradon, one of the relatively few well-known comic book artists of the feminine gender. In the 1960s and '70s, Ramona worked at various times as lead penciler on Aquaman, Metamorpho (whom she cocreated), and Plastic Man. Post-comic books, she spent a decade as the artist of the daily comic strip Brenda Starr, which was created and originally drawn by another outstanding woman artist, Dale Messick.

Interestingly, Ramona admitted that she hated drawing Aquaman — even though that's one of the characters for whom she's best known — because she disliked action comics in general and the superhero genre in particular. She enjoyed Metamorpho and Plastic Man because they were less action-oriented, more comedic and fun.

Ramona also wasn't thrilled about her brief stint working for Marvel Comics in the 1970s, because the so-called "Marvel Method" of comic creation (the writer gives the artist only a rough outline of the story, and the artist designs all of the pages him/herself instead of having a script to follow) didn't appeal to her. She did, however, concur with my observation that Metamorpho may have been the first DC Comics hero to incorporate the Marvel approach to more human characterization.

I was thrilled to hear Gerard Jones discussing his book Men of Tomorrow, about the origins of the comic book industry in general and of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's creation of Superman in particular. It was probably the best comics-related book I read last year, so I was looking forward to his session. Jones did not disappoint.

I also took my well-thumbed copies of Men of Tomorrow and The Comic Book Heroes (my favorite book on comics history, ever) for Gerard to autograph, which he did, most graciously and with a touch of humor.

There was a DC Comics panel in the late afternoon that I thought about sticking around for, but my dogs were barking and I had a rumbly in my tumbly. So, in the immortal words of Aquaman, I said, "Tadpole, let's head for home." Unfortunately, Aqualad — whom Aquaman often addressed as "Tadpole" — was nowhere to be seen, so I had to make the long trek to Sonoma County by my lonesome.

All in all, an enjoyable day. I'm already looking forward to next year's con.


The Verdict Is In: American Women

If you've dropped around for Comic Art Friday, hang loose — I'm preparing a report on my excursion last week to WonderCon, the big, boffo comic book convention in San Francisco. It'll be worth the wait, trust me. (And you know that anytime someone says, "Trust me," you can take that to the bank.)

Meanwhile, I've published a new review over at DVD Verdict. The film is entitled American Women. Actually, no, it isn't. Its true title is The Closer You Get. But apparently the marketing department at Fox Home Video didn't think that was juicy enough, so they saddled this sweet-natured (if not especially entertaining) film with a new, sexier title, and corresponding keep case artwork that makes it look like a low-grade, low-class sequel to Porky's. If that isn't redundant.

So go scope my American Women review, then hie yourself back here later this evening for your weekly dose of Comic Art Friday. You'll be thanking yourself all weekend.

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

No wonder Dorothy took off for Oz

The Kansas state house of representatives passed a bill this week that, if ratified in the state senate, would raise the minimum age for marriage in their state to 16.

Yes, you read that correctly: raise. Currently, the minimum is 12, with parental consent.

I'll say that again. Under current Kansas law, you can get married at 12, if your parents say it's okay.

What kind of parent would give permission for a 12-year-old child to get married? Apparently, the kind that live in Kansas — where 34 underage marriages have been performed in the past six years.

As though that wasn't weird enough, one Kansas lawmaker actually opposed raising the minimum marital age. Bonnie Huy, a representative from Wichita, "didn't want to limit Kansans facing the most important decision of their young lives."

Somebody please tap Bonnie on the shoulder and welcome her to the 21st century.


Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Dog gone!

Congratulations to Rocky Top's Sundance Kid — known to his friends as Rufus — for winning dog-fancying America's most prestigious title, Best in Show at the 130th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Rufus, a tan and white bull terrier, steamrolled a Dalmatian, a golden retriever, an Old English sheepdog, a Rottweiler, a pug, and a Scottish deerhound on his way to victory.

If the picture below is any indication, winning Best in Show at Westminster is a sure-fire ticket to scoring with the ladies.

Way to go, Rufus.

In other Westminster news, a whippet named Bohem C'est La Vie escaped from his cage at JFK International Airport while waiting for his flight home from the show. The dog is believed to be roaming somewhere on the airport's 4,900-acre grounds.

As they say in France when a dog escapes...

C'est la vie.


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Let me call you Sweetheart

For the third consecutive Valentine's Day, the quartet and I delivered Singing Valentines in support of the local barbershop chorus. Red roses and greeting cards were dispensed. Smiles were generated. Tears were shed. Hugs were exchanged. Warm fuzzies and affirmation of the joys of romance and friendship remain.

Today's itinerary took our intrepid foursome to:
  • A veterinary hospital, where we serenaded the receptionist, and the doctor took time out from aiding animals in distress to take our photograph with the lucky lass.

  • The county administrative offices, where the grateful recipient threw open the doors so that her coworkers could hear and share the magic.

  • A luncheon for the local Rotary Club chapter, where we held the roomful of sated Rotarians and their spouses spellbound for half an hour, and even taught everyone present a few lines of barbershop harmony.

  • A local restaurant, where we reduced a lovely grandmother to a puddle of mush, and made her love it.

  • A physician's office, where we reduced a young bride to blushing embarrassment on behalf of her loving hubby.
When four average shlubs like us can bring that much joy to people just by warbling a couple of venerable and syrupy love ballads, it almost gives one hope for the future of man- and womankind. Music may be a cheap gift, but its power is undeniable.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the weekend?

Whoooooo doggies, that was one hell-for-leather weekend. And no, I'm not just talking about my outing to WonderCon, which I'll tell you all about on Comic Art Friday.

To catch up on everything that's been everything over this Lincoln's Birthday weekend, hop on the SwanShadow Express for a whirlwind tour of the headlines:
  • Hey, Dick Cheney: Harry Whittington was only joking when he said, "I told you there weren't any WMD in Iraq, you stupid putz."

  • That, or maybe Dick the Veep thought he was supposed to be shooting Dan Quayle.

  • Now shut up and stick to skiing, Bode Miller.

  • Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws, passed away at the age of 65. You're gonna need a bigger coffin.

  • I'd feel sorrier for you, Michelle Kwan, if you hadn't weaseled your way into a slot on the U.S. Olympic figure skating team that didn't rightfully belong to you. You still owe Emily Hughes an apology.

  • Wouldn't you like to think that the Secretary of Transportation has more important things to do than worry about Britney Spears's driving habits?

  • Movin' on up: Franklin Cover, who played the white guy who married a black woman on The Jeffersons, died. In a parallel universe, he might have been Lenny Kravitz's dad.

  • I probably won't rush out to see Curious George anytime soon, but I'm thrilled to see a traditionally animated feature do well at the box office. Like many folks my age, I remember the Curious George books by H.A. Rey with a certain nostalgic fondness. More than those, though, I remember Rey's excellent guides for amateur astronomers, Find the Constellations and the more-in-depth The Stars. Those books were staples of my youthful library. I still imagine Rey's simple line drawings whenever I gaze up at the night sky.

  • I'm beginning to think there's a reason why they call that man Apolo Anton Oh, No!

  • Art Shell, meet Kim Mathers. I believe the two of you will have a lot to talk about.

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Wonder of wonders!

What would be more appropriate than to have this particular Comic Art Friday dedicated to WonderCon, the San Francisco comic book and fantasy convention, seeing as how that's where I'm spending my day today?

And since I'm off to WonderCon, what would be more appropriate what a bit of Wonder art? So let's crack open the archives and see what Wonders we can unearth.

We might start with Wonder Girl, depicted here in uncharacteristically voluptuous fashion by penciler MC Wyman and inker Keith Williams. For the record, this is the original Wonder Girl of the comics, also known as Donna Troy — not the current Wonder Girl, a blonde named Cassandra "Cassie" Sandsmark, or the bogus Wonder Girl of the 1970s Wonder Woman television series, whose name was Drusilla and looked remarkably like a young Debra Winger. Donna Troy long ago shed her Wonder Girl persona in favor of her own name (which is not, in fact, her real name, but that's a long story for another time) and a more dramatic costume.

Artist MC Wyman is something of a mystery figure. I've met plenty of people who admired his brief career in the mid-'90s, but almost no one (including his former art representative) seems to know much about him — including his whereabouts these days. Too bad, really, because I like Wyman's art quite a lot. His style reminds me of one of my favorite artists from the Silver Age of comics, John Buscema.

Keith Williams, by contrast, is one of those inkers who has worked on almost everything in comics at one time or another. In fact, just last week I picked up the preview issue of the new Buckaroo Banzai comic from Moonstone Books, and there's Keith Williams, striving mightily to spin gold out of some plug-ugly pencil art by some no-talent named Stephen Thompson. For more than a decade, Williams has been the regular inker on the long-running Phantom comic strip for King Features.

Where there's a Wonder Girl, there must surely be a Wonder Woman. The Golden Age-styled rendition above is the work of the amazing Ernie Chan. One of the many outstanding comics artists who hail originally from the Philippines, Ernie has created several fantastic commissioned pieces for me during the past year. This year, he is one of the artists in residence at WonderCon, and I'm looking forward to at long last meeting him in person to thank him for all of the beautiful art he has contributed to my collection, and to my comics-reading memories.

A funny story about Ernie Chan: For several years in the early '70s, at the beginning of his American comics career, Ernie's work appeared under the byline "Ernie Chua," apparently due to a typographical error on his immigration papers. Brian Cronin, over at the exceptional comics blog Comics Should Be Good, tells the complete story of the Chan/Chua debacle, and quite a story it is.

But enough stories. I'm headed for WonderCon, from which I hope to bring back an interesting story or two of my own to share with you.

What better way to spend a Comic Art Friday, than surrounded by comic art and the people who create it?


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Campbell's soup: Now with added protein!

An 89-year-old woman in Nashville claims to have found a mouse in a can of Campbell's bean with bacon soup.

Says rodent-phobic granny Pearl Parkey, "It's not like the finger that was in the Wendy's chili."

Of course not. (Snicker.)

According to her daughter, Grandma Parkey has been reluctant to eat since discovering the furry critter in her soup. I guess it's true: Once you've tasted mouse, you're spoiled for anything else.

The next time I hear a Campbell's commercial telling me that their soup is "Mmm... Mmm... Good," I'll know what that "Mmm..." stands for.

By the way...

Who eats bean with bacon soup?

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We'll always have Paris, but Brian won't

This just in: A Hollywood hanger-on landed a restraining order to keep Paris Hilton away from him.

Now there's a switch.

According to testimony in Los Angeles Superior Court, Brian Quintana, an L.A. party planner and promoter who introduced Paris to her latest boyfriend Stavros Niarchos, got threatening phone calls from the hotel heiress-turned-reality TV star because she believed he was trying to lure Niarchos back to his former flame, Mary-Kate Olsen.

Paris also allegedly shoved Quintana three times, and attempted to convince clients not to do business with him. The promoter also claims that Paris used ethnic slurs against him.

As interesting as this bit of trivia is, here's my question:

What's up with this Niarchos guy that he hooked up with both Mary-Kate Olsen and Paris Hilton? Does he have a jones for skanky anorexic chicks? Who's next on his hit parade... Lily Munster? Olive Oyl? Yzma from The Emperor's New Groove?

Memo to Brian Quintana: Dude, if the scariest thing that ever happens to you in Hollywood is getting manhandled by 97-pound Paris Hilton, consider yourself lucky.

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Savor the Flavor

Every man's closet contains a dark skeleton or three.

My name is SwanShadow, and I have seen every episode of Flavor of Love.

You are about to enter my secret shame.

Flavor of Love is train-wreck television. It's so awful that you can't bear to look at it, yet so compelling that you can't look away. It may well be the singularly most grotesque example of a grotesque genre: celebrity-based "reality" shows, or "celebreality," as the folks at VH1 like to call their offerings in that field.

But doggone it, Flavor of Love is more fun than "Take Home the Leftovers Night" at the all-you-can-eat buffet. And just about as nutritious.

In case you've managed to avoid viewing this sordid business thus far, I'll briefly synopsize the plotline of Flavor of Love. (I throw out words like "sordid" and "synopsize" just so you know I haven't completely gone down-market on you.)

Flavor Flav (real name: William Jonathan Drayton, Jr.) is a rap performer best known, before his flirtation with cathode-ray stardom, for his membership in the seminal hip-hop group Public Enemy. Flav, as he likes to be addressed (it rhymes with "rave"), pioneered the concept of the over-the-top "hype man" or caricature rapper with Public Enemy, serving as comedic relief and contrast to the group's politically vocal front man, Chuck D. Flav also played drums for Public Enemy.

A homely, scrawny, 47-year-old recovering crack addict with a mouthful of gold-plated teeth, Flav's outrageous stage persona derives from his garish attire -- he wears a wall clock (the round, boldly screenprinted kind typically seen in the bedrooms of teenagers) as a medallion, favors wild sunglasses that even Elton John would be embarrassed to be seen wearing, and sports neon-hued clothing -- and inane catchphrases, such as "Yeah, boyyyeeee!" and "You know what time it is."

Flavor of Love (actually the third "celebreality" show on which Flav has appeared, following The Surreal Life and Strange Love) plays like a psycho hip-hop version of The Bachelor. Flav started the season with 20 prospective female suitors — most of whom, judging from their demeanor and appearance, could previously have been located in trailer parks, bowling alleys, massage parlors, or perhaps the "for mature audiences" section of your local video rental joint.

Ostensibly, Flav's task is to select the woman "who loves Flavor Flav the best." Or, at the very least, the one with whom he would most like to get jiggy — which, for a guy who used to date Brigitte Nielsen, is no small challenge. Each week, our hero winnows the field of possibilities, searching for his true soulmate. (Or at least, a willing victim.) At the end of each episode, Flav dispenses his trademark clock medallions to the contestants moving on to the next round. The contestants getting the ax are told, "Your time is up," and sent packing.

One look at the show's star will tell you that the women contestants are here only for a quick grab at the brass ring of fame, not because they have been overwhelmed by the manly charms of Mr. Flav. For his part, Flav can't even be bothered to memorize the women's actual names. Therefore, on the first episode, he christened each babette with a nickname by which she would be known for the rest of her run on the series. Girls tagged with such colorful handles as "Bubblez," "Sweetie," "Red Oyster," and "Miss Latin" have already hit the bricks during the first five shows.

Thanks to the Super Bowl, there was no new Flavor of Love this week. (Perhaps there's too much crossover between the two audiences.) As we look ahead to the home stretch, the six remaining candidates duking it out for Flav's affections are:

Goldie, the most fun-loving and outgoing of the remaining contestants. Goldie seems to be having the best time of any of the women, which under the circumstances makes me question her sanity. A statuesque creature, she towers over...

Hoopz, an elfin, athletic woman who, as her nickname suggests, is fond of sports in general and basketball in particular. Hoopz is the least pretentious, most charming, and — in my opinion at least — the most conventionally attractive woman among the survivors. She'd be the one of the final six with whom I'd hook Flav up, because I wouldn't want to see him get stuck with...

Hottie, who either is the dimmest wit among Flav's Angels, or is willing to be relegated to that role. On a show when Flav challenged the women to prepare fried chicken for his mother, Hottie attempted to microwave a whole bird. Flav has kept Hottie around mostly in appreciation of her Brobdingnagian chest. I don't have a good reason for why he's keeping...

New York, an abrasive, whiny, nettlesome individual who seems to thrive on making life miserable for her sister contestants. Her role on the show is clearly that of the villainous instigator — the Omorosa to Flav's downscale Donald Trump. I think that if they turned off the cameras for an hour and left the women in a dark room with six Louisville Sluggers, the other five would beat New York to a bloody pulp. One of the bat-wielders might be...

Pumkin, a petite peroxide blonde and the lone person of the Caucasian persuasion remaining in the mix. Personable, engaging, and trailer-trash cute enough to place second in the Miss Monster Truck pageant — even if she's not exactly peaking the intelligence quotient scale — Pumkin would be my runner-up behind Hoopz if Flav let me do the choosing for him. But he hasn't asked me, so we move on to...

Smiley, an otherwise unappealing and unremarkable contestant who owes her continuation on the show to her forthright sexual aggressiveness. Of the final six, Smiley is the one whose antics in her one-on-one moments with Flav have pushed the broadcast standards envelope to its outer limits. If all Flav is after is a few quick rolls in the hay, he's probably going to wind up choosing Smiley.

If I had to make a guess, I'd wager that Flav will make his final cut between Hoopz and either Goldie or New York, the latter of whom I suspect will be kept around as long as possible just for the "what will she do/say next?" factor.

Time will tell. But then, you know what time it is.

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Stupor Bowl Xtra-Large

The Super Bowl is boring.

Yeah, I said it.

Too often, the NFL's championship game is a one-sided blowout. In the non-blowout years, we get closely contested but hideously played games like yesterday's Super Bowl XL.

Holy cats, that was one ugly football game.

A few random jottings...
  • Speaking of ugly, who designed the Seahawks' uniforms? Anyone with even a modicum of fashion sense knows that an outfit in which the shirt and the pants are identical colors looks ridiculous. The guys from Seattle looked like they were wearing baby blue nylon pajamas.

  • If you're going to have instant replay, at least have a replay official who can see the monitor with clear vision. The call on that phantom touchdown by Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger was insane. Stevie Wonder, who rocked the house during the pregame show, could have seen that the ball never broke the plane of the goal line until after Roethlisberger was down.

  • The NFL simply must invest the money in full-time officials. Far too many games are decided, completely or in part, on inaccurate calls by the zebras. The pass interference penalty that cost Seattle a touchdown was another grotesque example of clueless officiating. If you take away the points the Steelers were awarded on the non-existent TD, and give Seattle back all the points of which they were robbed by the referees, Seattle — as horribly as they played — would be football's world champions today.

  • I didn't particularly care which team won this year, but I was happy for longtime Pittsburgh head coach Bill Cowher and his retiring superstar running back, Jerome "The Bus" Bettis, and sorry for former 49ers assistant Mike Holmgren and his quarterback coach, Jim Zorn. Zorn was the only football player whose poster ever hung in my college dorm room. I wasn't a Seattle fan — I just liked knowing that somewhere out there was a left-handed quarterback whose last name sounded like a character in a Robert E. Howard sword and sorcery novel.

  • I hope when I get to be his present age in another 18 years, I have half the energy of Mick Jagger. Too bad Mick still can't get no satisfaction, but they have little blue pills for that now.

  • About the Stones, though: Do we really need to see craggy-faced semi-cadavers in their sixties prancing about on a public stage? And why do we keep getting British musicians for the Super Bowl halftime show? (Paul McCartney was the headliner last year.) I'll bet they don't hire Van Halen or Springsteen to play at the English soccer or cricket finals.

  • Usually the Super Bowl is all about the commercials, but I didn't see a single one that impressed me this year. The Dove Soap spot promoting positive self-image for young women offered a quietly powerful message, but to the wrong audience. They might as well have aired that ad on closed circuit TV at Hooters restaurants. I thought the costly Diet Pepsi spots with Sean "Just Call Me Diddy" Combs and Jay "Last Comic Standing" Mohr were insufferably lame.

  • Speaking of Jay Mohr, how does a weaselly dweeb like that land a fiancee like Nikki Cox? She must have a jones for obnoxious comedians — her previous boyfriend was Bobcat Goldthwait.

  • Tangentially related: Congratulations to Super Bowl color commentator and former Oakland Raiders head coach John Madden on his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Madden and his fellow inductees Warren Moon, Troy Aikman, Harry Carson, Rayfield Wright, and the late Reggie White comprise a worthy Canton freshman class.

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Saturday, February 04, 2006

What's Up With That? #30: Putting the "Ho" in Tamahori

Just when your Uncle Swan thinks he's heard everything there is to hear in the world of celebrity bizarreness, something like this leaps up and gobsmacks him.

Lee Tamahori, the New Zealand-born filmmaker who directed the most recent James Bond 007 film, Die Another Day, got busted in Hollywood recently for prostitution.

Not for seeking prostitution, mind you. For soliciting acts thereof.

According to a spokesman for the Los Angeles City Attorney's office as quoted by the Associated Press, the director of Mulholland Falls and The Edge...
...was dressed in a black wig and off-the-shoulder dress when he approached an undercover police officer in Hollywood on Jan. 8 and offered to perform sex for money. He was arrested for investigation of soliciting an act of prostitution and loitering with the intent to commit prostitution, both misdemeanors.
One can only hope that Tamahori was just doing research for an upcoming film project. You know, like Winona Ryder was when she boosted that gear from Saks.

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Friday, February 03, 2006

No time for love, Lady Croft

Today's Comic Art Friday takes note of yesterday's grand opening of the Hooters Casino Hotel in Las Vegas. The new House of Hooters is really just a revamping of the old San Remo Hotel, which sits just off the Las Vegas strip behind the Tropicana. Tight orange hot pants, spicy chicken wings, and... well... hooters will be on display in abundance.

Speaking of Hooters, let's take a quick peek at the action heroine that video games made famous: Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.

I never got into the Tomb Raider video game -- back when I was actively playing video games, the state of the art was Asteroids and Space Invaders, not buxom babes -- but I did enjoy the two Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movies starring Angelina Jolie, especially the second one, The Cradle of Life. The popularity of both video game and films led Lady Croft to a fairly successful run in comic books, most famously a series from Tow Cow Productions that in its later issues featured covers by Adam Hughes.

My small gallery of Lara Croft pinups is something of an anomaly in my collection, because, just as I never played the video game, I never read any of the comics either. One of the earliest pieces that I acquired when I started collecting comic pinup art was the Lara pencil sketch seen above. It was originally penciled by Dan Jurgens, and later beautifully inked by Joe Rubinstein. Jurgens, a popular artist who turned his hand to scripting, was the primary writer of the Tomb Raider comic series.

I bought this pinup for no better reason than I was captivated by Jurgens's interpretation of the character. In fact, I liked it so much that I ended up acquiring a few other Lara pieces to go along with it. For example, this powerful splash panel by the talented team of penciler Ariel Padilla and inker Ernest Jocson, in which Lara busts a few caps in some werewolves.

You can catch more of Padilla and Jocson's work in the current Maze Agency miniseries from IDW Publishing. Maze Agency, about the adventures of a female private detective and her crime reporter boyfriend, is one of the few "fair play" mystery series in the history of comic books. Each issue presents a self-contained mystery novella written by series creator Mike Barr and illustrated, in this present incarnation, by Padilla and Jocson. If you like mysteries -- even if you're not a comics fan -- Maze Agency is well worth sampling.

Then there's this stylish scenario penciled by Noah Salonga, whose art will be featured in an upcoming issue of Dynamite Entertainment's Red Sonja series. (A series, by the way, that I highly recommend to fans of the sword and sorcery genre. Although Dynamite frustrates me no end by making me choose from among multiple variant covers every issue. Grrrr.)

Frankly, if I were going on a tomb raid, I'd rather spend the day looking at the pistol-packing Lady Croft than, say, Indiana Jones. Your mileage may vary. But then, that's what makes Comic Art Friday.


The Verdict Is In: Asylum

Comic Art Friday is on its way, but while you're waiting, you could pop over to DVD Verdict and enjoy my review of Asylum.

No, this isn't the classic 1972 Amicus Pictures horror flick starring Peter Cushing. It's last year's creepy romance-slash-thriller set in a British hospital for the criminally insane. It features good performances by Natasha Richardson and Ian McKellen, and...


Just go read the review, will ya?

You'd be crazy not to.

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

And they say Republicans have no sense of humor

The Verdict Is In: My Date With Drew

My breakdown of the comic documentary My Date With Drew is today's featured review at DVD Verdict.

It's the story of an ordinary guy who decides to invest 30 days and $1,100 (he won the cash on a game show) trying to get a date with Drew Barrymore. Trust me — it's more fun than Punxsutawney Phil trying to locate his shadow.

Drew says you should totally check it out.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The cheese stands alone

In other Burger King news...

A woman who manages a Burger King franchise at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington, D.C. has won the World Grilled Cheese Eating Championship. Sonya Thomas slammed down 26 grilled cheese sandwiches in 10 minutes flat at the Planet Hollywood restaurant in New York's Times Square.

Lest you suppose that competitive gustation is the sole province of sumo wrestlers and thick-necked truck drivers named Moose, you should know that your newly crowned grilled cheese eating champ tips the scales at a petite 100 pounds when not stuffed to the gills with bread and cheddar.

For her efforts, Sonya banked a cool $8,000, a chunk of which will help pay for the ambulance ride and stomach pump that doubtless ensued after this event.

A veritable legend among trenchermen (trencherwomen? trencherpersons?), Sonya — known as "the Black Widow" in speed-eating circles — holds numerous other food-guzzling records. In various competitions, Sonya has tossed down:
  • 46 dozen oysters in 10 minutes.
  • 11 pounds of cheesecake in nine minutes.
  • 48 chicken tacos in 11 minutes.
  • 37 hot dogs (with buns) in 12 minutes.
  • 56 hamburgers in eight minutes. The Associated Press story does not indicate whether Sonya set this latter record using Burger King product.
Suddenly, I've lost my appetite.