Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Review: Shazam! #1

The first issue of the new, ongoing Shazam! series, written by Geoff Johns with art by Dale Eaglesham starts with a quick recap of the origin. Then it skips to the present, where Billy and Freddy are on a field trip.   First thing I notice is Johns seems to have switched Billy and Freddy's personalities. Freddy is now the one acting like a jerk.  There is a blatant rip off of the Spider Man Homecoming scene where crooks in JLA masks bust in.  Billy changes to... well isn't this interesting... could it be a hint the name may change back to Captain Marvel???  More likely a cruel tease that will never amount to anything.  Suddenly the rest of the family pop in to help what's his name, but he seems annoyed by that.  Afterwards they get into an argument about who's in charge.

Later at the Vasquez home, with another Captain Marvel tease, they celebrate Billy's one year anniversary with the family. The kids go to the Rock of Eternity, which they have made their base, and they discover the mystery train, and that it leads to the magic lands.  Meanwhile back at the Vasquez's, an unexpected visitor drops in to see Billy.

The script by Geoff Johns isn't as annoying as his Curse of Shazam script was, but it does seem to be on a children's sit-com level.   The art is by Dale Eaglesham and is very good, if a little generic, but my biggest complaint is his Captain Whateverhisnameis has a face identical to Superman, with even the spit curl.

There is a second story, also written by Johns with superb art by Mayo "Sen" Naito that tells how Mary came to the Vasquez family and establishes her real family abused her.

All in all, this issue isn't as bad as I thought it would be, but it is still a far cry the the real "World's Mightiest Mortal". Mayo "Sen" Naito's art earns an A+, and the rest of this issue gets a C+.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The best Elvis songs you've never heard, part 2.

To celebrate Elvis Presley being honored by President Donald Trump with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, I thought I'd take the opportunity to add to my previous list of Elvis' best overlooked and under appreciated recordings.

Good Rockin' Tonight One of Elvis' Sun singles that just doesn't get enough love these days.

Milkcow Blues Boogie is another Sun single that seems to have fallen into the obscure, but has the great lyric "if you don't believe I'm leavin', you can count the days I'm gone".

I Was The One The flip side to Heartbreak Hotel, RCA initially thought it would be the hit.  A classic doo-wop ballad that set the standard for all doo-wop ballads that would come in it's wake.

Too Much is one of Elvis' hits from 1957 that sadly, is today mostly forgotten.

I Need You So is a blues style ballad that that has a beat and swings, with Elvis' vocal really selling it.

So Glad You're Mine is a honky-tonk blues tune written by Arthur Crudup (That's All Right) with some raunchy lyrics.

Is It So Strange is another ballad that Elvis' voice soars to another level.

When It Rains It Really Pours is a song Elvis attempted in the Sun years, but went unreleased.  He tried it again at RCA with a fuller sound (but less lyrics), and still unhappy with the performance, it went on the shelf for several years until finally getting released in 1965.
King Creole, the title song from one of his best movies, showcases Elvis with a bigger, Dixieland influenced sound that still rocks.

The Girl of My Best Friend is a bouncy song of unrequited love.

Reconsider Baby A track from the brilliant Elvis is Back! album is perhaps his finest blues performance, with a killer saxophone solo by Boots Randolph.

I Got Lucky  A song from the movie Kid Galahad, this mid-tempo number is all charm and happiness.

Your Cheatin' Heart  Elvis' super-charged cover of the Hank Williams classic rocks.

One Broken Heart For Sale is a quick but great tune written by one of Elvis' best songwriters, Otis Blackwell.

I Gotta Know is a mid-temp rocker with clever lyrics.

It Hurts Me is another great song where Elvis pleads for an unrequited love to give him a chance. Elvis also performed this song in a memorable sequence on his 1968 Comeback Special.

Night Life is an outtake from Viva Las Vegas. Its surprising it has never yet been used to promote Vegas tourism.

Down in the Alley is a great blues jam.

Tomorrow is a Long Time  Elvis sings Dylan.  'Nuff said.

Witchcraft  A completely different song than the standard made famous by Sinatra, but one that swings and rocks.

She's a Machine  A song from Easy Come Easy Go about a girl who is every boy's dream and every mother's nightmare.

Clean Up Your Own Backyard is a great tune accented by some fine resonator guitar riffs.

Polk Salad Annie  A song Elvis never recorded a studio version of, but the live version shows the energy of his concerts in the 1970s.

The Fool is a kind of funky Country track.

Funny How Time Slips Away has Elvis taking the Willie Nelson standard into a bluesy zone.

If You Don't Come Back has Elvis returning to the blues, recorded at the famous Stax studios.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Review: Three Stooges Monsters & Mayhem

The latest issue of American Mythology's series of Three Stooges one-shots is also the third Halloween special.  S.A. Check is back writing after missing the previous issue (and this may be his swansong, according to the not-quite-clear-as-mud intro on the inside back cover), and the Fraim Brothers are back at the art chores, but this is still in the new format begun in the previous issue of gray tones in place of color.  The first story is a bit of a send up of "The Raven", and works okay for what it is.  The second story is the third installment of the Frankenstooge saga that has become a tradition in these Halloween specials.  It, also, works okay for what it is.  Needless to say, the Fraim Brothers turn in glorious artwork as usual.  It is curious to note these two new stories are rather short, and it's the 1966 reprint that takes up half the issue.  Also the reprint is in black and white, even though it was originally published in color.  While I like the gray tones of the new stories, I'm less enthusiastic to see the originally color stories reprinted in a cruder Xerox-like form of black and white.  Overall this issue earns a B.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Review: Three Stooges Matinee Madness

The latest Three Stooges comic book from American Mythology features a change in format. The scripts are written to be more in line with the classic two reel shorts and the art work in toned in black & white.  The reprints are also reduced to single page strips.  The issue's two new stories, both written by Mike Wolfer are top notch.  He captures the tone, the characterizations, and the humor of the classic shorts perfectly.  Best of all, unlike some of the previous issues which seemed to be influenced by the Farrely Brothers movie, there is not a bunch of pop culture references to hit the reader over the head that this is 2018.   A good interpretation of the Stooges should be timeless.  There doesn't need to be an aggressive attempt to scream "hey, this is 2018", nor to scream "hey, this is 1938".  Just write the characters faithfully and put them in funny situations and don't worry about what year its supposed to be.  Wolfer succeeds with that in this issue. The premise  of the first story has the boys as exterminators who are mistaken for pastry chefs at a swanky party.  The second story's premise has gangsters hiring the boys to take them on a tour of a swamp where a scientist inventor is secluded. The artwork is by Eric Shanower, who with Jeremy Kahn's black and white tones, captures the atmosphere of the classic shorts. Shanower's renderings of the boys looks like it is more influenced by Norman Maurer's artwork from the '40s and '50s.  A bit more cartoony than the Fraim brothers artwork in previous issues, at least in regard to the Stooges, while other characters have a more realistic rendering.  Hopefully the Fraim brothers will get an opportunity to draw an issue or two in this new format.  Overall this issue earns an A+.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The first "Shazam!" trailer

This is it.  What we have been waiting for since 2002.  The Shazam! trailer.

I was completely underwhelmed by it.  Visually, it was too bland and generic. It looked like it was a big screen version of one of DC's CW TV shows.  Content was just as bad. It appears as if the studio is aiming for this to be a G-rated entry level film for children into the larger DCEU. There were a lot of attempts at humor, all of which fell flat. I didn't think any of the jokes were particularly funny. This is definitely not the G-rated version of Deadpool that word of mouth indicated several weeks ago. It's not even DC's version of Ant-Man.  If anything, this is more along the lines of Sky High.

I will say Asher Angel, as Billy Batson, impressed me.  I didn't think he could do it, but he was able to keep up to the level of the more celebrated and critically acclaimed Jack Dylan Grazer, as Freddy Freeman. Zachary Levi, on the other hand... well, let's just say he goes into full Freaky Friday mode, and that is not what Captain Marvel is about. But this movie is not about Captain Marvel.  It is about New52 Shazam, and the trailer looks as if it is going to be one of the most faithful adaptations of a comic book ever. If this trailer is any indication, the final product could be a live action version of a motion comic.  The big problem is, "Curse of Shazam" is the most wrong comic to be so faithful to. It is divisive, the antithesis of what the Captain Marvel character is, and the majority of long time Captain Marvel fans abhor it. I think the average viewer over the age of 17 will find Levi's performance obnoxious after about 10 minutes.  Plus there is the fact his face looks more like Dagwood Bumstead than any C.C. Beck drawing of Captain Marvel.

It's funny, a few days before this trailer dropped, I saw the teaser for Tim Burton's Dumbo.  It had the tone, the look, and the atmosphere I so desperately wanted for a Shazam! movie. After seeing the Shazam! trailer, I wish Tim Burton was signed to direct Shazam! and David Sandberg was signed to direct Dumbo. Even so, the biggest problem is that it's based on Geoff Johns' work, and you can add butter and garlic and seasoning to a plate of shit, but it's still going to be a plate of shit. And that is what DC is serving us.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

First "official" image from the Shazam movie

Unfortunately this is just further confirmation this is going to be Curse of Shazam: The Movie.

In the Entertainment Weekly interview, director David Sandberg mentions the costume's shorter cape, as if that is the thing that will keep us long time Captain Marvel fans happy and quiet: “It makes him feel a bit more Golden Age superhero, which is the vibe I’m going for.”  And yet everything else, so far, appears to be ripped directly from the New52 reboot, which the majority of long time Captain Marvel fans detest.

The first teaser trailer will be released next week.  It is going to have to be ... well, marvelous, to win me over.

UPDATE:  a second official photo has been released, also featuring Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer, confirming a thought I had when it was revealed the talented Grazer was cast as Freddy, while lightweight Disney Channel personality Asher Angel was cast as Billy: Freddy is going to get a lot more screen time than Billy.
And a new photo for the cover of EW, which is cringe worthy of where this movie is going.
Finally, a pic of Billy Batson (with Freddy Freeman) has been released.

Friday, June 15, 2018

D.J. Fontana, R.I.P.

Dominic Joseph "D.J." Fontana, Elvis Presley's long time drummer, passed away on June 13, 2018 at the age of 87. The trio of Elvis, Scotty Moore, and Bill Black met D.J. during their year-plus stint on the Louisiana Hayride radio program, where D.J. was a staff drummer.  He joined the group, which was informally known as "the Blue Moon Boys", and continued to play with Elvis until 1968.  Arguably the first rock 'n roll drummer, one of his best known drum fills is from Hound Dog.

Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, let perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace.