Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review: Three Stooges Merry Stoogemas

The latest issue of The Three Stooges, the fifth issue, aka Merry Stoogemas, opens with a new story, "A Three Stooges Christmas". Written by Mark Arnold, a typical Christmas Eve with the Boys is presented, featuring malapropism, using candy canes as weapons, and presents from Santa Claus. Brendon and Brian Fraim turn in their usual excellent artwork.  The second story, "Have Yourself a Meowy Little Stoogemas", is written by SA Check, with art by Bill Galavan, who turns in very Norman Mauer inspired art. The plot deals with the Boys working at a pet store where they sell an ugly cat to a man who wants to give it to his daughter.  The cat escapes the cage, and the Boys chase the man to get the cat to him, in the process going thru a mall, and taking the place of an inner-city Santa.  The third story is a reprint from The Three Stooges # 7 from 1953, by Norman Mauer.  It's kind of a strange selection, considering Mauer's heel character Benedict Bogus takes the spotlight, with Moe, Larry, and Shemp reduced to supporting roles. The issue closes with a detailed full page ad for the Three Stooges reprint trading cards, a text piece on American Mythology's first year of publishing, and mock Stooges movie poster.  Oh, look.  The back cover has an ad for the TPB reprinting of this Stooges series.  Hey... there's a quote from me!  That's it... I made the big time!  This issue "earns an A".  Actually, it earns a B, but the back cover earns an A.

By the way, be sure to check out The Three Stooges Fan Club, which I have been a member of for a very long time.  Membership info can be found at
Some of my reviews may be reproduced in the Three Stooges Journal, the fan club's quarterly newsletter.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Review: Batman '66 meets Steed and Mrs Peel #6

The final issue picks up with the Cybernaughts, who look like Marmaduke Ffogg's crime school cuties, attacking our heroes. Miss Gough also apparently throws her two cohorts, Ffogg and Mr Freeze, under the bus as the Cybernaughts attack them also. There is a little more flirting between Robin and Mrs Peel. Batman makes a reference to The Shadow, and helps Freeze, whose suit is damaged by one of the Cybernaughts. The heroes, with Ffogg and Freeze, escape only to find even more Cybernaughts waiting for them. Then the plot twist (SPOILER ALERT): the computer program controlling the Cybernaughts is actually the digitized brain waves of its creator, the disembodied head of  Professor Armstrong.  Miss Gough is actually his daughter... but it turns out she's really a Cybernaught herself.  Upon learning she really isn't human, she electrocutes herself, short circuiting the brain wave computer.   Batman and Robin then get to meet the Queen before returning home.

Written by Ian Edginton, the first 2/3 of this issue, like the previous issue, seems repetitive, further illustrating how a 4 issue miniseries would be much more appropriate than padding it to 6 issues. Then the last 1/3 crams in all these plot twist and revelations. Matthew Dow Smith again turns in amazing art.  Overall the final issue earns a B-.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Review: Batman '66 meets Steed and Mrs Peel #5

This issue picks up right where the previous one left off, with our heroes about to be ambushed by the Cybernaughts. They are quickly thwarted as Robin and Mrs Peel use tanks of coolant to freeze the robots. The heroes then arrive at Ffogg Hall, only for Batman and Peel to fall into a death trap by Lord Ffogg, and Robin and Steed to fall into a similar predicament by Mr Freeze.  With the help of the utility belt, Batman and Peel get out of the soup and capture Ffogg, while Robin uses his batarang to force Freeze into pulling himself and Steed out of the cold, and Steed's umbrella blocks Freeze's freeze gun. With both villains captured, Batman attempts to radio Inspector Gordon, but Michaela jams the frequency, and locks the heroes in with four more Cybernaughts, this time exact doubles of Ffogg's crime school academy wenches. Ian Edginton's script gets a bit repetitive with this issue, as its another go around of Cybernaughts trapping the heroes, escape and repeat. As with the other Batman '66 miniseries, I think it would be better suited as 4 issues rather than 6, as at a certain point in all the miniseries, it starts to feel padded. At least this last time, the Cybernaughts are made to look like Ffogg's villainous school girls, which is a nice change of pace. Matthew Dow Smith once again turns in excellent art. This issue earns a C+.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Review: Three Stooges Curse of Frankenstooge

The Three Stooges #4, or The Three Stooges: Curse of Frankenstooge #1 (same comic, two titles, don't ask) opens with the PSA advising kids not to imitate the Stooges on the inside front cover (it was the final panel in the previous issue). The first story, "Scaredy Stooge", written by S.A. Check with art by Bill Galvan. The plot has the boys as videographers who have taken a gig at what appears to be a haunted house. From there we get parodies and references to contemporary horror franchises like Child's Play and Scream, but the highlight of the story is the shocking last page cameo by.... spoiler alert.... Shemp! The art in this story is a bit more cartoonish, somewhat reminiscent of The Three Robonic Stooges. Anyone remember that cartoon? Next up is the title story, written by Christopher Hill with art by the Fraim Brothers. The boys never did do a parody of Universal's Frankenstein movies, but this story shows us what it could have been like.  Moe is the mad scientist, Curly is his hunchback assistant, and Larry is the manservant of Moe's blonde betrothed (no kidding) who gets turned into the monster. This story has an epic look and feel to it.  Next up are some coloring pages (I'd like to see more of Mark Wheatley's art in this series, as he really nailed the Boys' likenesses), and a Halloween themed reprint from issue 24 of the Stooges' Gold Key series, with Joe DeRita as the third Stooge. As usual the reprint has a decent script but crude art.  The issue ends with a nice text piece on the Fraim Brothers.  This issue earns a B+.   One more note, also out this week is a free Comic Fest Halloween Hullabaloo issue.  It has one new story, "Trick or Eat" written by James Kuhoric with art by Adrian Ropp.  The Boys decide to dress up and go Trick or Treating to get free candy.  It's a brief 4 page story, and the art is in a very modern animated style.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Review: Three Stooges Red, White & Stooge

The Three Stooges #3, aka The Three Stooges: Red, White and Stooge #1, features two stories instead of three like the previous issues, but that is to its advantage.  The title story is longer, and better for it. Written by S.A. Check, this time he gets a solid balance between classic Stooges and a modern interpretation, where his previous scripts tread too much on the lackluster Farrelly Brothers movie. Due to the longer length, there is more of a plot than previous issues. Senator Ted Snedly (a nod to Stooges creator Ted Healy?) is running for president but needs a running mate.  He sees the Stooges at a parade saving a young girl.  He latches onto the boys in hopes his poll numbers will go up, but due to the boys, er, best efforts, including this series' first major pie fight, the polls go in the opposite direction.  Snedly drops out, and the Stooges fill in the political vacuum to emerge as a force not seen since Donald Trump.  Brendon and Brian Fraim's art is excellent as usual.  The second story, "Beach Boo-Boobs", is a reprint from issue 44 of the Stooges' Gold Key series, with Joe DeRita as the third Stooge. As with the reprints from the previous issues, it has a good story featuring the boys taking jobs as lifeguards, but crude artwork. The last panel is a PSA warning kids not to imitate the Stooges' slapstick. This issue earns an A.

Review: Batman '66 meets Steed and Mrs Peel #4

This issue opens with Batman and Mrs Peel via Batplane, and Robin and Steed via Batcopter, in hot pursuit of Michaela Gough and Lord Ffogg via airship.  Peel deduces Batman is really Bruce Wayne, and Michaela sends her flying Cybernaughts into a dogfight with our heroes in a spectacular action sequence.  Robin reconfigures the tracking device to short circuit the Cybernaughts.  Michaela contacts Mr Freeze to help set a trap. Bruce and Dick, incognito via false mustaches and a toothpick, arrive in London to meet Steed and Peel with Inspector Gordon (Commissioner Gordon's cousin) at the Tower of London.  We are introduced to Michaela's unseen and mysterious father, as she and Freeze set a trap involving the White Star diamond. At the Tower of London, our heroes are ambushed by the Cybernaughts, posing as Beefeaters, with Michaela and Freeze electronically communicating with them through the Cybernaughts. Matthew Dow Smith once again turns in a stellar job on art, and Ian Edginton continues with a quality script, the highlight being the airborne dogfight, although the plot really isn't advanced in this issue. This issue earns a B.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review: Three Stooges Stooge-a-palooza

The Three Stooges #2, which is really The Three Stooges: Stooge-a-palooza #1 because this is a series of all number ones instead of a consecutively numbered series, is the second issue of this volume even though it is a number one and if you understand that, then point to the right.  Even my comic book store is thoroughly confused thinking these are all variant covers to a single issue, which is why I'm a month or so behind in getting these comics. The issue's first story is "Stooge in a Box" written by S.A. Check with art by Brendon and Brian Fraim. As with Check's story in the last issue, it seems to be in the mold of the Farrelly Brothers movie, setting the Stooges in contemporary times and situations.  The boys land jobs at a burger joint and create chaos. There are a few good gags, but overall I prefer the Stooges to be in a more timeless and unspecified era.  The art is very good, but unlike the Fraims' work in the last issue, which had a tone reminiscent of the two-reelers, their art in the context of the script has a contemporary tone. After a fake Fruit Pie ad, the next story, by the same team, is "Night of the Living Stooge". It has the boys having jobs as mall cops (and they happen to be living in the mall as well). A funny gag has Larry looking like Richard Simmons, but overall this too has a modern trendy feel, with the boys encountering zombies.  Then there is a two-page spread which seems to be a fake movie poster. Up next is a reprint from Dell Four Color #1170, "Boobs in the Woods" written by Jerry Belson with art by Sparky Moore, and featuring Joe DeRita as the third Stooge.  As with the reprint from last issue, the script is good, and has more plot than either of the two new stories, but has weaker artwork.  It seems to be loosely based on the two-reeler "Idiots Deluxe", where the boys go camping and encounter bears, rangers, and geysers. The issue closes with a text article on the annual Stooges convention in Philadelphia. This issue earns a B-, a slight step down from last issue.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Review: Batman '66 meets Steed and Mrs Peel #3

The third issue picks up at the Batcave as the double Dynamic Duos are invaded by the Cybernaughts, who followed them to the Batcave via a homing transmitter in a fountain pen planted on Steed. The foursome fight off the robots, with Batman permanently ending the conflict by using the Batcave's atomic pile to create an electromagnetic pulse. The heroes then use the homing transmitter planted on Steed to trace it back to the nefarious newbie calling all the shots. Predictably, it turns out to be Michaela Gough, who with the help of Lord Marmaduke Ffogg, escapes when Ffogg fills the lair with African Death Bees. Mrs Peel leads the Dynamic Duo and Steed in a ritual dance, that "speaks" to the bees, allowing them to get to safety. Ian Edginton's script continues to capture the flavor of both shows well, and injects absurdist moments, like the dance escape from the bees, and a cutaway to Aunt Harriet in the Wayne Manor living room during the Cybernaught fight down in the Batcave causing the living room floor to rumble, and also a seemingly budding mutual fondness between they Boy Wonder and the older, widowed Mrs Peel. Matthew Dow Smith's art continues to be the measuring stick for the Batman 66 franchise, and it's high point.  This issue earns an A-.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Review: Three Stooges #1

This one flew under the radar.  I had no idea a new Three Stooges comic book series, published by American Mythology, was coming out until I saw it at the store.  So, of course I had to pick it up.  But what's more confusing is, after I got it I did some online research, and it appears this will be a series of one-shots, all labeled as #1.  So, I think I did see the second issue at the store, and according to the website it should be out now, but I didn't pick it up because it was labeled as issue #1 and I thought it was just another variant cover.  So I will have to pick that one up next time - the second issue #1, which is really issue #2, but since this is a series on one-shots, all issues will be issue #1.  Huh?  I think I got it.  Maybe. I think this may actually be a test run for DC's next reboot.  Make every issue a #1.

So anyway, on to this issue, the first issue #1 (not to be confused with the second issue #1, which is really issue #2, which may also be out as I write this). Oh, look!  On the inside front cover, it lists this issue as "The Three Stooges: The Boys are Back" #1. It contains three stories.  The first is "Triple Knuckleheader" written by S.A. Check and art by Bill Galavan. The art is very good, very reminiscent of Norman Maurer's artwork on the original Three Stooges comics of the 1940s and 50s.  The story, however, seems to be heavily influenced by the mediocre Farrelly Brothers movie.  It puts the boys in a modern setting with modern references to T-shirt cannons and Johnny Depp pirate movies. It's basically a comic strip's worth of material padded out to 8 pages.  Then there is a fake add for "Stooge-Monkeys".  They misspelled Monkees. The second story, "The Big Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk" fares much better. Written by J.C. Vaughn with art by Brendon and Brian Fraim, this story is inspired by the original two-reelers.  A film noir detective story where a beautiful dame hires the boys to get some photos back from a gangster. The art is very good, capturing the Stooges' likenesses and establishing the right tone for the story.  Next is a "Stooges Fun Fact" article that is little more than a cut and paste from Wikipedia. The final story is a reprint from "Dell Four Color" #1170, from 1961 (misidentified as 1942, although that's the year the "Dell Four Color" series started). "Midway Madness" written by Jerry Belson with art by Sparky Moore, features Joe DeRita as the third Stooge. The art is pretty bad and crude, but the story is decent, perhaps better than the lead off story in this issue. But what I find amazing is there is more plot in this 8 page story from 1961 than there is in the other two stories combined... dare I say more plot than a typical issue of a current DC comic. Overall, this issue earns a B and is a must have never-the-less.

Friday, August 12, 2016

A kind of, sort of, Shazam movie update

A few months after Hiram Garcia offered a barely existent update on the Shazam! movie, his sister Dany Garcia, ex-wife of Dwayne Johnson, and manager of both Johnson and Henry Cavill, offered a similar not-much-of-an-update update as an "Exclusive!" to Newsweek.

Regarding the perceived failure of the DCEU thus far, she says, Shazam! is to live in the same world [as the other films] but we have incredible autonomy over this brand and franchise. We are working with a different team, different producers, directors… it’s a different set-up. We don’t feel fettered by, or constrained by, the successes or failures and challenges of the other projects. That was a key component to our participation—that we be able to control the tone and the voice, and do it the way we want to. It needs to be of the world. You’ve got Justice League, Wonder Woman with a different director, so you’re going to see different points of view. I think by the time we land with [Shazam!] we’ll fit nicely within the world that’s been created, but not such a shorthand relationship. [It’ll be] enough that people say, ‘Oh, this is within the family,’ but the culture will be a little different.”

Regarding the on-going development of the film, she says, “We’re getting [script] drafts in… it’s important to make sure we get the tone right for Black Adam, which is Dwayne’s part. We don’t mind taking our time. We’re being very careful with each act and scene to go back and layer in as much as possible. We’ve got so many wonderful superhero franchises out there… we don’t need to run away from them and say ‘we can’t be that,’ but it’s important to understand what are the best aspects of a Batman [movie] versus Avengers versus Deadpool? What are the elements people are responding to? We want to move the needle.”

It can be interpreted that previously announced script writer Darren Lemke may be off the project, considering she implies they are getting multiple script drafts in, presumably from different writers, in a lottery to choose the best script. Or perhaps Lemke's script needs tremendous rewrites, again possibly from various and different writers or script doctors. What is also telling is it seems the number one priority is to get the Black Adam character perfect, with everything else allegedly taking a back seat.  Not exactly something a Captain Marvel fan wants to hear, but I bet Geoff Johns is tickled pink.

Friday, August 5, 2016

movie review: SUICIDE SQUAD

Let me preface this review by saying I was never a fan of Harley Quinn. I always thought she was a one-joke character, kind of a parody of the interchangeable molls that used to accompany Cesar Romero on the Batman TV series.  I also thought she was a rip-off of Prank, The Trickster's (played by Mark Hamill, no less) moll from the short lived Flash TV series from 1990.  For whatever reason, Harley found favor with the producers of Batman The Animated Series. They kept using her over and over until the fan base got brainwashed into loving her. When she got so popular and DC incorporated her into the proper continuity, my reaction was, "Really?  We need this?"

Let me also say I was an early supporter of Margot Robbie being cast as Beautia in the upcoming Captain Marvel movie.  She was on my short list of top 2 or 3 choices.  When it was announced she was cast as Harley Quinn instead, my reaction was, "Really? We need this?"

So, after watching Suicide Squad my overall impression is that Margot Robbie was the highlight of the movie and she made me a Harley Quinn fan (or more accurately, a "Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn" fan). Her scenes are the most interesting of the film, and when she is on screen, no matter who the focus of the scene is, she commands the viewer's attention.  The bad part is, Margot Robbie is not the star of this movie.

The main characters are clearly Deadshot and Rick Flagg.  Joel Kinnaman plays Flagg with the right amount of sympathy and charisma.  Will Smith does a great job playing Deadshot, making the character more than a one-dimensional villain, although at times it seems like there is too much Will Smith at the expense of the other characters. Jay Hernandez as Diablo is the other character that stands out with an intriguing story arc. Captain Boomerang, Killer Croc, and Katana are portrayed as background characters, each with a moment or two to shine, but otherwise just there to fill out the ranks. Slipknot is there just to be killed off, showcasing the bomb-injected-in-the-neck gimmick of Amanda Waller's.  Speaking of Waller, she is played by Viola Davis, who does a decent job, but... OK, I'm going to get politically incorrect here. Amanda Waller in the comics is a big fat Mabel King type of woman. Of all the live action versions of Waller, from Smallville to Green Lantern to Arrow to this movie, we have yet to see such a Mabel King type actress given the role to shine in.

The script is very straightforward, unlike Batman v Superman, where the first two reels we are introduced to the characters with some background flashbacks (including cameos by The Batman and The Flash, and for the true Harley fan, her original animated costume), while setting up the motivation for creating Task Force X.  Carla Delevingne's June Moon/Enchantress goes rogue and the Suicide Squad have to bring her down.  There is a dominate soundtrack to the film, which didn't really bother me.  In fact, without it, I think the film would have dragged in spots. David Ayer's directing brought the right balance of humor, which Zack Snyder's efforts lack, and a full color pallet, again unlike Snyder's muted colors. Overall somewhat better than Batman v Superman in certain ways, but not nearly as epic.

And then there's Jared Leto's Joker.  All the promotion and trailers for the movie mislead us into thinking the Joker will be a major force in this movie.  Not quite.  It's little more than a glorified cameo.  He gets just slightly more screen time than Batman, which is odd considering Leto gets second billing in the credits. Perhaps Leto's best scene is where a gangster kisses the Joker's ring, and Joker's response. According to new reports, the majority of Leto's scenes were left on the cutting room floor.  I know of at least one scene I saw BTS clips of where Joker is confronting Dr Quinzel on a street, at one point putting a gun to his own head, when a trucker enters the scene and Harleen grabs the gun from Joker's hand and kills the trucker. It's not in the final cut. Because of this, I really can't judge Leto's performance as the Joker.  The things that really stood out to me was his physical appearance- a cross between Billy Idol and David Bowie in a pimp's wardrobe, with punk rock green hair, heavy metal tattoos, and a rapper's grill. The other thing is that the Joker comes off as a love sick puppy chasing after Harley, while Harley is the dominate member of the coupling--essentially the opposite of the original dynamic from Batman The Animated Series. Another odd thing is that it seemed Harley has more chemistry with Deadshot than with the Joker.

But for me, although Margot Robbie didn't get the most screen time, this was her world and everyone else was just living in it.  I would have liked to have seen more scenes with her (and Joker), perhaps a little less of Deadshot. Of the DCEU to date, Cavill's Superman was lackluster, Affleck's Batman has potential, Gadot's Wonder Woman was a surprising delight, but it's Ms Robbie's Harley Quinn that really brings the A game.

If you consider Man of Steel is a strike, Batman v Superman is a foul, then Suicide Squad is a base hit.  Depending on how Wonder Woman does, the future of the DCEU in order to salvage it, may have to be centered on Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. Now, that's a laugh and a half.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Review: Batman '66 meets Steed and Mrs Peel #2

This issue picks up right where issue 1 left off. The Cybernaughts are trying to abduct Catwoman from the Gotham City Jail. We see there is a mystery woman controlling them. Batman and Steed are successful in thwarting the abduction of Catwoman. Using a can of Bat-Rust (and a call back to a line from Batman Forever) the heroes capture one of the Cybernaughts. Lord Marmaduke Ffogg is revealed to be working with the mystery woman, and uses his Ffogg pipe to help the other Cybernaughts escape. Back at Gordon's office, they interrogate Catwoman, and the heroes get a report that Michaela Gough, who appeared at the beginning of the first issue, was kidnapped.  Could she be the mystery woman calling the shots?  Steed and Peel explain to Batman and Robin the origin of the Cybernaughts. There is a lot of dialogue in this issue. In a way, it captures the spirit of 1960s adventure shows, which tended to be more talk than action due to budget restraints. The heroes head to the Batcave, after putting Steed and Peel under the effect of Bat-Gas, to study the captured Cybernaught, but several more Cybernaughts have trailed them to the Batcave.  How could Batman not know that a homing device was incorporated in the Cybernaught... or does he know?  Writer Ian Edginton's script is dialogue heavy, but captures the tone of both shows perfectly. Once again, the highlight is Matthew Dow Smith's art. If only the regular run of Batman '66 had such amazing art instead of the weak lampoonish art that it suffered with for too many issues. Issue 2 earns another A-.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Review: Batman '66 meets Steed and Mrs Peel #1

The latest Batman '66 miniseries teams up the Dynamic Duo with the British Avengers, in the form of John Steed and Emma Peel, British secret intelligence agents. The script, by Ian Edginton, is rather simple and straight forward, despite having Alfred suit up as Batman and having a couple call backs to the Tim Burton Batman films. It serves as an introduction to the characters and sets up the premise by having Catwoman, during a routine robbery, foiled by Steed and Peel before Robin and Batfred get to the scene. After she is put into a holding tank at Gotham Police Headquarters, she becomes the object of a prison break kidnap attempt by mysterious Cybernaughts.  The real piece de resistance is the artwork by Matthew Dow Smith. Where as I often complained about the artwork from the Batman '66 franchise taking on a Mad Magazine satire look, Matthew Dow Smith's artwork is exactly what I wanted to see in this franchise. It is stylized, specifically in the backgrounds, while still exhibiting a photo-realism.  It can be described as an epic, big budget version of the artwork from the Batman View-Master booklet. This is some of the best illustrations in this franchise. Kudos to Matthew Dow Smith. This issue earns an A-.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Scotty Moore, R.I.P.

We have lost a legend.  Scotty Moore, one of the inventors of Rock 'n Roll, and Elvis Presley's guitar player, passed away on June 28th 2016, at the age of 84. Scotty, an inventive guitar player, virtually invented Rockabilly licks, helped to create Rock 'n Roll, and helped make Elvis the King.

Winfield Scott Moore III was born Dec. 27, 1931, and began playing guitar at the age of 8.  After a stint in the Navy, and taking a gig in a Country Swing band called the Starlight Wranglers, Sun Records owner Sam Phillips assigned Scotty to evaluate a new kid named Elvis Presley.  Together with Starlight Wranglers' bassist Bill Black, the trio created history by recording "That's All Right".   Scotty remained an integral part of Elvis' band throughout the 50s and 60s, even appearing in some of Elvis' movies.  In Jailhouse Rock when Elvis is by the swimming pool singing "(You're so Square) Baby I Don't Care", you can see Scotty in the background playing guitar, with his sunglasses disappearing and reappearing between different camera angles, a continuity error Scotty got a big kick out of.

After Elvis' 1968 Comeback Special, Scotty retired from Elvis' band, and started a second career as a recording engineer. But he would also often dust off the Gibson to perform on various records and concerts for the rest of his life, often in conjunction with Elvis drummer DJ Fontana and the Jordanaires.  One of Scotty's last appearances was with DJ on the TV series Larry's Country Diner on RFD-TV in 2015.

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

Friday, May 27, 2016

Review: The Monkees "Good Times!"

My track by track review of The Monkees' new album, Good Times! produced by Adam Schlesinger. It is the group's 12th studio album, and 3rd for the Rhino label.

"Good Times" - The album kicks off in a unique way. An old demo by the late Harry Nilsson, produced by Mike Nesmith (who also plays rhythm guitar on the track) is layered with new vocals by Micky, and a new lead guitar instrumental.  The curious choice of letting Nilsson sing the second verse solo instead of limiting his vocal to harmony with Micky might be seen as questionable to those fans who feel the late Davy Jones should have had a bigger presence on the album. But overall, this funky tune gets the album off to a great start.

"You Bring The Summer" - This song, written by Andy Partridge, if you go by the lyrics, seems like it would be more appropriate for the Beach Boys than the Monkees. But musically, it sounds nothing like a Beach Boys song. Sung by Micky with backing vocals by Mike and Peter, the first part of the song is a good example of what Micky refers to as "jangle pop". But then the second part of the song delves into a psychedelic fade out reminiscent of  "Auntie's Municipal Court", a Monkees track from 1968. This is a great Summer hummer and should become an annual Summer anthem.

"She Makes Me Laugh" - Written by Rivers Cuomo, this was the first song to be released from the album. To be 100% honest, the first time I heard it, I thought "it's OK... not great, but not a disaster".  But then I listened to it a second time, and a third.  I began to like it more with each listen. I began to take notice of the lyrics... something about them.  Could the song really be about a father and his daughter, rather than a typical boy-girl song? Others began coming to the same conclusion.  I read some on line stories of men with daughters who began to get choked up listening to the song, remembering the good times they shared. This song could very well end up becoming one of the most requested songs at father-daughter dances. Micky's vocal is spot on, and it's so great to hear Mike's harmony with him (which actually gave me goosebumps!).  Peter also pitches in on backing vocals and contributes the banjo on the track. The track also includes an electric 12 string guitar riff, something that has become synonymous with The Monkees, even though in reality, the classic riffs from "Last Train To Clarksville", "Mary Mary", "Pleasant Valley Sunday", and others, were actually played on a 6 string with added reverb.

"Our Own World" - Written by the album's producer Adam Schlesinger (who, by the way, was responsible for "That Thing You Do" from the Tom Hanks movie of the same name), this song has more of a 1970s flavor, somewhat reminiscent of  Sheena Easton's "Morning Train". Micky sings lead with Peter and Mike on backing vocals, and Peter on keyboards. Great song.

"Gotta Give It Time" - Like the title tune, this one is more on the funky end. Written by Jeff Barry and Joey Levine, it features an old, unfinished backing track augmented with some new instrumentation and lead vocal by Micky with Mike and Peter on backing vocals. Another great track.

"Me & Magdalena" - This song, written by Ben Gibbard and sung by Mike with Micky on harmony, slows the pace and changes the tone of the album by being a more reflective song. A kind of slow tempo, bare bones country number, it has received rave reviews by many people.  I'm not as enthused by it as some other fans, but it's still a good album track. Perhaps it could have used some Headquarters type pedal steel guitar accents. (Note: I heard version 2 of this song, which has a stronger, driving beat and fuller instrumentation. I kind of like it better than version 1. I would have put version 2 on the album as it seems to be a better fit with the other songs, and I would have released version 1 as a single intended for country radio airplay.)

"Whatever's Right" - This initially unfinished Tommy Boyce-Bobby Hart tune is a real gem.  Micky brings the goods with his vocal, with killer background vocals by Mike, Micky's sister Coco and Bobby Hart, and Peter contributing some soulful keyboard work. The bridge is nearly identical to the bridge of "Apples, Peaches, Bananas, and Pears". One of the album's highlights, and that's saying something considering how high quality the whole album is.

"Love to Love" - I have to say this might be the album's weakest track. I understand the need to include a track representing the late Davy Jones. I would expect there should be one. But I think "Love to Love" was the wrong track. Not exactly an unreleased track, various mixes have been issued since the 1980s. In fact, the only difference in this mix is Davy's vocal was not doubled as in the other mixes, and Micky and Peter provide some minimal backing vocals. Although it was written by Neil Diamond, and I suspect that is the main reason it was included, it is a weak offering.  What I would have preferred (and perhaps this could be done for the next album) is to take Davy's vocal of "My Share of The Sidewalk", a tune written for him by Mike Nesmith, and remix it to include the breezier and more sweeping backing track from the Instant Replay Super Deluxe box set. Or, for a more innovative idea, take Davy's long forgotten 1970s solo cover of Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Who Was It" and build on that.

"Little Girl" - A completely different song than the Dolenz penned version from the 1969 album The Monkees Present.  This one, written and sung by Peter is kind of bluesy with a mixed tempo/beat. Peter, who is known for not really being the best vocalist of the group, turns in an excellent performance. Supposedly, Peter says he wrote this song back in the 1960s for Davy as a sequel to "I Wanna Be Free", although lyrically it doesn't seem to follow the earlier song's story line.

"Birth of an Accidental Hipster" - Many have stated this Noel Gallagher-Paul Weller penned song is the album's masterpiece. Sung by Mike with Micky and his sister Coco on harmony backing vocals, it starts out a lot like "Sweet Young Thing", but then evolves into something very reminiscent of the Beatles/Sgt Pepper/Magical Mystery Tour in sound and spirit only to again fade out with the "Sweet Young Thing" type rhythm. An amazing track.

"Wasn't Born to Follow" - This Carol King-Gerry Goffin track is another unfinished backing track from the 60s, with Peter adding banjo and his vocal. Great soulful performance by Peter, who has a long history with this song. Apparently he recorded a version with his post-Monkees band Release to be used in the movie Easy Rider (produced by Raybert, the creators-producers of The Monkees), but the version by The Byrds ended up being used instead.

"I Know What I Know" - Wow.  This track, written and sung by Mike is simply beautiful. The lyrics and melody transcends rock 'n roll or pop music and goes to a whole new level, right up there with Cole Porter or Irving Berlin. One of the best tracks on the album.

"I Was There (And I'm Told I Had a Good Time)" - The closer is a song written by Micky with Adam Schlesinger based on a one-liner Micky has been using for several years. Like "Hipster", this song seems to have more of a Beatles influence, and could be seen as a novelty track (although it's no "Gonna Buy Me A Dog" or even my pick for a Monkees novelty track, "The Curly Shuffle"). Micky plays drums on this bluesy number and exclaims at the end he dropped his stick. A great way to end a fantastic album.  I can't wait for the next Monkees album!

There are three other bonus tracks I should briefly mention.  The best of the three is "Terrifying", a jangle pop tune written by Zach Rogue and sung by Micky, that is almost as good as all the other songs. I wish it would have been included on the album proper. Initially, it was listed as being on the album, but it was later dropped. On the other hand, Peter's "A Better World", written by his brother Nick, is a pleasant enough song, but has a "We Are The World" complex.  Perhaps the weakest of the three is "Love Is What I Want". It has a good production and vocal from Micky, but the problem is with Andy Partridge's lyrics and tune, which has too much of a nursery rhyme sound and cadence to it. The chorus sounds like a rip off of "Red Rubber Ball" by The Cyrcle. Micky singing his classic "Randy Scouse Git" during the fade out is priceless though.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review: Batman '66 meets the Man from UNCLE #6

The final issue of this miniseries begins with our heroes still trapped by the octopus. Hugo Strange then puts them back into brainwashing for several days.  The heroes seem to be moving toward compliance. But then Batman plays a recording he made of the brainwashing sessions where Strange tells the heroes they will be officers in his cause and the villains will be their henchmen.  The villains get upset over this. (Why? Most of them are C and D listers who make better henchmen than supervillians anyway.) One glaring mistake in the script has Mr Freeze referring to himself as Victor Fries.  The 1966 Freeze's real name was clearly revealed as Dr. Shimmel on the series. Batman and the others then bamboozle the villains into an alliance to take down Strange.  As the alliance's plan begins to unfold, Strange brings Batman back into a brainwashing session, and tries to get him to reveal his true identity. (Why not just take off his mask?) But it's Poison Ivy to the rescue, as the plan goes into effect, as Batman turns the brainwashing device onto Hugo, and Solo and Kuryakin take out Hugo's men. But then the villains double cross the heroes as they leave the THRUSH base.  Giving chase via submarines, the villains seem to be escaping until Kuryakin reveals, as a precaution, he let Hugo's giant octopus escape, where it has detained the villains' sub. Jeff Parker's script seemed to slightly run out of steam as the story reaches the end. There is a nice exchange between Batman and Solo, where Solo suggests using the Bat-Submarine's nuclear engine to destroy the THURSH base, but Batman protests as that would kill several people.  There is a sly ending, where Solo and Kuryakin hint that they know Batman's Bruce Wayne mask was a ruse, and that he really is Bruce Wayne. Pasquale Qualano drew the first half of the book, with David Hahn drawing the second half.  Both turned in excellent renderings, with Qualano's half having a slight Neal Adams look. This final issue earns a B-.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Shazam movie update

One of the producers of the upcoming Shazam! movie, Hiram Garcia (VP of Seven Bucks Productions, the company making the film in conjunction with New Line Cinema), in an interview with gives a much awaited update on the project.
"We're a good way into development. We're expecting a next draft soon which I think is really gonna put us in the zone that we're hoping for... the great thing with Shazam for me as a fan, I was always a fan of Superman and his mythology as I grew up. I remember it was Alex Ross's Kingdom Come that was the first time that ever made me look at Shazam just differently. I just knew of Shazam, you know the name, you knew the word, but I thought Alex Ross... He portrayed him and drew him in that epic kind of conflict that him and Superman ultimately had. It just made me look at Shazam in way like this is a bad mf'er."

OK, hit pause. First he refers to Captain Marvel as ShazamCrap.  Bad sign. "You know the name".  Yeah, but it's the wrong name. Then he calls Captain Marvel a "bad mf'er". Uh.... no... just no. Captain Marvel is a hero full of hope and optimism. Batman is a "bad mf'er". Captain Marvel is Americana wish fulfillment. As for the name conundrum, if "Captain Marvel" simply cannot be used, don't use any name.  Diana was never called Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman. Selena Kyle was never called Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises. We know who Captain Marvel is, so there is no reason to use any name in the dialogue (in the credits, he can be called "World's Mightiest Mortal").  If and when Captain Marvel Jr comes around in a sequel, it just takes a little bit of creativity to work around it.  As the injured Freddy lays dying, Captain Marvel tells him to "say my name", and we cut to a very wide shot where we do not hear what Freddy says, but we see the effect of thunder and lightning.

Garcia continues, "That whole world, as well as Black Adam as you start looking into Black Adam, so our take on that world is first and foremost, movies like that can be grounded and can have real stakes but can still be fun. That's the place we always want it to come from. We have a character in Shazam that is a boy who is in this man's body who is having the ultimate fulfillment that I think all comic book fans and everyone can associate with. Like, what if you wake up one day and you can just do all this great stuff? And then on the other side, you have this force of nature who is really anchored by what he lost in his family and that thread that he's bringing with him throughout this journey. There's a real grounding there. That combination of youth and enthusiasm and being in new to a world and then the place that Adam's coming from. It makes for a great dynamic that not only allows us to have not only real stakes, real story, and real emotion, but a ton of fun in the process. There's no reason that there should ever be a version of this story told that's devoid of that. That's our goal in doing this: following the path of the films that have been coming out and have done such a good job. Marvel has, everyone knows, really locked into that place where they're able to tell you really grounded, rooted stories that have real repercussions and there's a real wake that's left after what's the done but while through the whole process they still acknowledge that, you have a blast while you're watching that. They find the moments where you're constantly having fun and you're able to go on the ride and that's the place we're gonna be playing in." 

OK, this is good. He admits Marvel Studios will have more of an influence than Synder's films. But I'm concerned he wants to ground this film in a form of reality that leaves behind the uniqueness of Captain Marvel's world consisting of evil alien worms, talking tigers dressed in plaid sports coats... a world where a homeless boy not only gets the power to be a superhero, but also works his way up to becoming something of a child celebrity... a world where your mad scientist arch enemy happens to have a hot blonde daughter who has a crush on you.  In other words, I fear Garcia just wants another generic take on Superman done in a Marvel Studios style.

Garcia adds, "I promise you dude, we're not gonna f-- this up! My vision is so clear for this story and this movie. As story tellers, you sometimes get on projects but this has always been a priority. I've been carrying the Black Adam torch for so many years before we finally locked it in and I'm telling you we're gonna knock this thing out of the park. It's gonna be a blast and it's gonna be a dope ride, so get ready!"

Well, dude, I have no doubt your main priority is to get Black Adam right, but my concern is that your dope ride leaves Captain Marvel on the side of the road to hitch hike. You need to get Alex Ross on board as a creative consultant. 

Consider me officially concerned about this project.

Popeye artist George Wildman, RIP

George "Geo" Wildman, best known as the main Popeye comic book artist through out the 1970s, passed away on May 22, 2016 at the age of 88.  In addition to his Popeye work, he was also a managing editor at Charlton Comics.  Wildman's Popeye art graced the pages of the series at Charlton and Gold Key/Whitman, as well as story books and coloring books produced at that same time. He was known for working the name "Karl" (his son) into the art of all his covers.  After the Popeye comic book series ended in 1984, Wildman continued to do freelance art featuring Loony Tunes, Hanna-Barbara, Harvey, and Disney characters in addition to Popeye.  In later years, he was a regular guest at the annual Popeye Picnic in Chester IL.  Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, let perpetual light shine upon him, may he rest in peace.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


As a DC guy, I hate admitting it, but Captain America: Civil War is everything Batman v Superman could have and should have been. From a well written and coherent script, to spectacular and flawless action sequences, to character development, it outshines BvS. The one area where BvS trumps Civil War is in the visual presentation. BvS looked like a live action comic book, where Civil War, like the Nolan Batman movies, has a real world tone, but otherwise directors Joe and Anthony Russo have blown away Zack Snyder.

The plot deals with Captain America's loyalty to his buddy Bucky Barnes, aka The Winter Soldier, to the point it divides the Avengers. The United Nations, after reviewing the collateral damage and political repercussions the Avengers have caused on various missions, want the team to answer and report to a committee. Tony Stark, on a guilt trip, agrees big government is the answer.  Steve Rogers says screw that bureaucratic red tape, the best government is a tiny government.  When Bucky is set up to take the fall for bombing a UN meeting, rifts begin with the Avengers picking sides between Iron Man and Captain America. Eventually, after roller-coaster rides of action sequences, Tony learns Cap was right, Bucky was framed, but then the film's "villain", Baron Zemo,  although "mastermind" might be a more appropriate word, reveals a dark secret to Stark about his parents' deaths.

Unlike BvS, there is a legitimate reason for the heroes turning against each other, unlike Batman's random and often unascertained hate for Superman.  And unlike BvS, there is no ridiculous "hey our moms have the same first name, let's be best friends" resolution. In fact, there is no true resolution to the divide among heroes. It is something that will need to be resolved in subsequent films. Marvel knows how to build these things, where DC seems trying way too hard to play catch up.

The introduction of Spider-Man into this universe is just one of the film's highlights, although the sight of Tony Stark flirting with a very MILFy Aunt May is something I never thought I would ever see. After the dismal Andrew Garfield Spider-Man movies, the Russos have brought Spidey back on track in a stellar introduction. Add to this the introduction of Black Panther, and the introduction of Wonder Woman which was one of the best parts of BvS, perhaps even the MVP of that film, begins to look a little lightweight by comparison. The Russos were also able to balance drama, fun, humor, and action, again besting Snyder.

Going in, I thought this would be an Avengers movie mistitled as a Captain America movie.  Various Avengers do get moments to shine (the previously mentioned Spider-Man, Bucky, Scarlet Witch, and Ant-Man top the list, as does agent Sharon Carter, and the always dependable Black Widow), and in some spots Cap does seem to get lost in the shuffle. There's lots of Tony Stark, but very little of him suited up as Iron Man.  At the end, it does seem like Cap's show. As far as MCU movies go, Civil War doesn't quite top The Winter Soldier, but it comes in a strong second place on the list.  Ten years ago, who would ever have though Captain America would have the two best movies in the MCU?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Review: Scooby Doo Team Up #16

I'm reviewing this issue solely for the Marvel Family appearance. The script, by Sholley Fisch, is typical Scooby Doo fare, but Fisch scores big by creatively making the entire script a primer for the classic Fawcett continuity. By reading this issue, you essentially get the entire history of the Fawcett Marvel Family without even realizing you are being schooled.
E. Nelson Bridwell would be proud. Not only that, but in this issue, you get an appearance by Fawcett era villain Mr Banjo.  I believe this is his first appearance in a DC Comic.  The art, by Dario Brizuela, is very slick and fluid. It doesn't quite match the character designs used for the short lived 1981 Shazam! cartoon by Filmation, nor does it resemble an Alex Toth Super Friends design by Scooby Doo's parent company, Hanna Barbera. It looks like Brizuela was trying to create a unique Scooby Doo design for the Marvels that still was grounded in C.C. Beck's art.  In that, it was very successful, although I noticed Brizuela followed Cameron Stewart's lead in giving Freddy Moe Howard bangs instead of his more traditional Elvis-looking hair.  At least he's not blond. This issue scores an A.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"You Bring The Summer", another new Monkees track.

Unbelievably, just four days after the Monkees released their new single, "She Makes Me Laugh", they have released another new song, "You Bring The Summer", written by Andy Partridge. Perhaps, this is meant to be the B-side, as in classic vinyl singles.  Once again, Micky on lead vocals with Mike and Peter singing backup harmony vocals. Mike is also on rhythm guitar and Peter on organ.  Enjoy!

Friday, April 29, 2016

"She Makes Me Laugh", The Monkees' new single

Here's The Monkees' new single, "She Makes Me Laugh", from their upcoming new album, Good Times! 
A catchy song that has a retro-60s sound, similar to their 1986 tracks, "That Was Then, This Is Now" and "Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere" .  If it gets radio airplay, it could be a big summer hit.  Micky is on lead vocals, Mike is on harmony vocals and acoustic guitar, and Peter is on banjo and background vocals.

Mike introduced the song on his Facebook page by commenting, "Welp. Here we go -- remember there are all kinds of immortality and this one looks pretty happy. :)" 

I can't add more than that. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review: Batman '66 meets the Man from UNCLE #5

This issue opens with the mysterious Corvid being revealed to be Arkham's Dr Hugo, who turns out to be really Professor Hugo Strange. The C and D list villains seem to be a little peeved that they have been working for the doctor that has held them in Arkham, but Strange quickly talks them down by revealing his taking the position at Arkham was for the goal of recruiting THRUSH agents. Strange them leads his captives and reveals his plans to make the world a utopia via psychological manipulation. The heroes and UNCLE agents are gassed and Strange attempt to brainwash them to his side.  The first brainwashing session seems to have no impact and the captives attempt to escape only to fall into the clutches of a giant octopus. The script by Jeff Parker stays the course. His sequence of Strange attempting to brainwash Batman and the others seems to drift more into Batman The Animated Series territory than the 1966 TV series. David Hahn again turns in very good artwork.  This issue earns another B.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Monkees v Beatles: Dawn of a Perspective

With the Monkees' restored HD Blu Ray box set and new album, Good Times, about to be released on this 50th anniversary year, I thought I would offer this perspective.

First a disclaimer.  This is not a thoroughly researched doctor's thesis.  My doctor can research his own thesis. This is just my perspective from when I was growing up when the Monkees TV series was a staple of UHF stations, and their Greatest Hits album was in every neighborhood kid's record collection.

What I seem to recall is that us guys seemed to be bigger Monkees fans, while the girls seemed to prefer the Beatles.  The obvious reason for this could be the TV series.  Much like The Three Stooges, which is considered "a guy thing" that girls never got, the Monkees TV series, with it's fast paced comedy, drew the guys in while the girls shrugged at the whole notion.  But I think it went deeper than that.

After doing a quick analysis of both groups' songs, I came to this conclusion. The Beatles catalog, for the most part, was aimed at girls.  The majority of their songs, although there were certainly some exceptions, dealt with peace and love and happiness and romance.  The Beatles were a chick's group.

The Monkees, on the other hand, had the majority of their songs aimed to a guy's life experiences. In the Monkees' music continuity, girls were not the objects of happiness and romance to be adored and put on a pedestal like in the Beatles' world.  In the Monkees' world, girls were most often backstabbing heart-breakers ("She", "Mary Mary", "Stepping Stone", "Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day", "Gonna Buy Me A Dog", among others),  people not to be trusted ("The Girl I Knew Somewhere", "You Told Me", "Forget That Girl", "Cuddly Toy", "Words", among others), and selfish users ("Star Collector", "She Hangs Out").

While in the Beatles' world, the goal was to hold hands and have a relationship, in the Monkees' world, the goal was to be friends with benefits ("I Wanna Be Free"). 

I was listening to "Sunny Girlfriend", thinking it was a typical teenage love song.  The whole song is about saying how great this girl is.  But then the final line reveals the truth- no matter how wonderful you think this girl is, and how much you're in love with her, "she doesn't really care".  That kind of songwriting speaks to pre-teen and teenage guys.

Even in the Monkees' more traditional and optimistic love songs, the guy seems to be falling in love against his will, if you really listen to "I'm A Believer" and "Love Is Only Sleeping" and "Look Out Here Comes Tomorrow" and "What Am I Doing Hanging 'Round".

So, my unscientific conclusion as to why, when I was growing up in my Midwest neighborhood, the guys were Monkees fans while the girls were Beatles fans, is that the Beatles tailored their songs to girls, and the Monkees tailored their songs to boys.  Just don't ask me why then Monkees concerts are loaded with girls in the audience. But then, why should I speak, since I know nothing?

Monday, March 28, 2016

movie review: BATMAN v SUPERMAN

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is all at once grand and epic, yet a little bloated.  The latest Batman movie... and yes, this is definitely a Batman movie with ties to Man of Steel, and not a Superman movie that features Batman... has director Zach Snyder succeeding in bringing, perhaps the closest thing this generation will ever see to a live action adaptation of Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns graphic novel. While all Batman movies made by Warner Brothers, since 1989, have had various degrees of inspiration and nods to the legendary graphic novel, this one has a record number of scenes and lines of dialogue directly lifted from the source material.  The film opens up with a flashback to the Wayne murders, inter-cut with the funeral where, young Bruce runs off and falls into the future Batcave (not unlike a similar scene in Batman Forever).  However this time, we see a swarm of bats literally levitating Bruce up out of the cave, setting the tone that this is a more fantasy-based take of Batman, after over 20 years of more or less realism-grounded interpretations (Burton and Nolan more, Schumacher less).   From there, we get the film's major plot line set up: the final fight between Superman and Zod from Man of Steel, from Bruce's point of view, fueling Wayne's rage over the kryptonian, and his perceived legacy to keep the world safe. The plot then splits off into many directions, dealing with the Government's concern over Superman, Lex Luthor's obsession with meta humans, the mysterious Diana Prince's search for a World War I photo.

We get the epic battle between the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel, like so much of Batman's part of this movie, lifted nearly verbatim from the graphic novel.  I was expecting a 10 second cameo by Carrie Kelly, suited up as Robin, to assist in this battle, by igniting one of Batman's kryptonite gas bombs on Superman.  Alas, no such scene.  If I may digress a bit, there is a Robin costume on display in the Batcave, as we've all seen in trailers.  We've also all seen the set photo of Dick Grayson's tomb. We've also heard rumors that Jason Todd is the deceased Robin, and Dick is referenced as Nightwing. The film itself, from what I have seen, gives no clarification who exactly this Robin was. This mystery is still unsettled.  More blatant is Jimmy Olsen introduced and killed off in a single scene, and the voice of the president sounds like Donald Trump. There are cameos of the other future Justice League members, most notably by The Flash, who is trying to give Bruce a message, but realizes he's "too early".   This scene would have had more impact if Grant Guston was playing the Flash.  I know, I know, no cross-continuity between DC TV and movies, but at this point, Grant Guston is The Flash, while Ezra Miller is still an unknown entity. The way the Batman v Superman fight ends, though, is one of the corniest spectacles put on film. Superman mumbles that Lex is going to kill Martha.  Ben Affleck then does a Razzies worthy rant, screaming like a madman, "why did you say Martha?", perhaps the movie's unintentionally funniest moment.  Batman realizes his mom and Superman's mom have the same first name. Suddenly, these guys are best friends. The film winds down with shoehorning Doomsday in, complete with the shocking end result of the comics its based on, with Snyder sneaking in out of left field the story line Warners has been attempting to do since 1995 on the big screen.

Ben Affleck takes on the role of Bruce Wayne and Batman, and frankly does better than I thought he would. He's not as good an actor as Micheal Keaton, who was able to disappear into the role, and he's not as unknown as Christian Bale was, so at times you don't see Bruce Wayne, you see Ben Affleck playing Bruce Wayne.  But he does have the potential to be a really good Batman.  The scene where Batman rescues Martha Kent is perhaps the greatest Batman fight-action scene ever captured on film... and again, much of the action and dialogue is lifted verbatim from a similar scene is the Miller graphic novel, and granted, Affleck probably had little to do with it, Batman being played by stuntmen and CGI for the scene.  His Batman costume is far superior to the motocross inspired outfit Bale wore, and his Batman voice is also far superior to Bale's "frog with throat cancer" voice, although some lines of dialogue sounded as if they were auto tuning Batman's voice, which is not a good thing. The biggest setback in Affleck's performance is how Batman kills so casually without remorse or regret. Jeremy Irons play Alfred, again, much better than I thought he would.  Early photos of him had me thinking he would be more suited as Jim Gordon, but he pulls off the Alfred role better than Michael Cain did.

Jesse Eisenberg's Lex Luther plays more like a Batman villain than a typical Superman villain. He has just enough touches of Jim Carrey's Edward Nygma, fleshed out with a sense of insanity that really pushes him into the Batman column for villains. The jury is still out as to whether this is good or bad.  Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman was another casting concern, but I think she pulled it splendidly considering her character was more of an enigma, with just enough screen time to keep both Bruce and us in the audience intrigued.

The weak point of the film may actually be the returning Superman characters. Henry Cavill is just kind of there as Superman. In Man of Steel  all he seemed to do is scream and cry. In this one, he doesn't even do that. In one scene, as Clark, he shows some passion trying to convince Perry White to let him do an article on Batman, and later in the movie he threatens Luthor when he's told he kidnapped Martha Kent. Otherwise Cavill is kind of like a mannequin.  His wooden acting and reciting of dialogue may be the reason, in contrast, why both Affleck and Gadot shined in their roles more than expected.  One other note regarding the kidnapping of Martha Kent. The fact Luthor knows Clark Kent is Superman is just presented in a matter of fact way with no real shock or amazement that Luthor figured out the secret identity.  Amy Adams fared better as Lois, but again, just seemed off, not to mention that she has no chemistry at all with Cavill. One wonders if it would have been better if she were cast as Rachel Dawes in the Nolan Batman trilogy (as she did the screen tests for it), and someone like Mila Kunis were cast as Lois in the Snyder movies.

As with the Nolan trilogy and Man of Steel, the musical score - or more accurately, instrumental sound effects - is instantly forgettable.  The one exception is the Wonder Woman theme.

The other thing that bogs this movie down is the running time. At two and a half hours, you start to feel that it should have been streamlined by about 30 minutes.  As cool as the desert Batman scene was, and the other Bruce and Clark fantasy scenes were, they weren't needed for the plot, and maybe should have been cut.  Likewise, something that bothered me a bit about this take on Batman, Snyder made him a bit too cold blooded. By Frank Miller's sequel, Dark Knight Strikes Again, Miller had Batman killing people without flinching, and Snyder is taking Bruce down that same path.  Another flaw, in my opinion, is that Snyder took the whole project a little too seriously. There should have been a little more space for fun, for a sense of wonder. But on the whole, Batman v Superman delivered a decent... or at least adequate, superhero epic.

UPDATE: Having viewed the "Ultimate Edition", I found it to be more bloated and plodding than the theatrical cut.  However, I will say there are some scenes in the Ultimate Edition that should have been in the theatrical cut, such as Lois' investigative work on the framing of Superman, and her discovery that the bomb in the wheelchair was encased in lead, and after the bomb explodes, Superman flying the casualties out of the wreckage. I also think there are scenes in the theatrical cut that should have been left on the cutting room floor, such as the entire subplot of Batman branding criminals so they will get killed in jail, all the fantasy dreams (desert Batman, Martha's tomb monster, Clark and ghost dad), and trim all the fight and action scenes so Batman isn't such a cold-blooded serial killer. A two-hour re-edit might be a good movie, but the two versions we have now can't live up to the hype.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Review: Batman '66 meets the Man from UNCLE # 4

This issue is a step up from last issue, which seemed like filler. The story picks up moments after the conclusion of the last issue where Batman revealed himself as Bruce Wayne. As he explains it, Batman already made plans with Wayne to masquerade as Wayne via a lifelike Bat-synthetic mask, to infiltrate the THRUSH agency. The Terrific Trio and UNCLE agents attend a party by the Royalty of Monaco, to discover the B, C, and D list Bat villains are now part of the cabinet, thanks to The Siren's manipulation of the prince. Wayne allows himself to be captured and the heroes trail him via the British Batmobile, and then a yellow Bat-submarine. At THRUSH's underwater HQ, the heroes invade, Wayne reveals he's really Batman in disguise, and after a fight, they discover the mysterious Corvid  leading this operation is.... I won't spoil it until the next review, but the reveal is a let down.  I thought it would be Penguin.  It's not.  As stated, Jeff Parker's script is an improvement over last issue's filler story, and David Hahn and Pasquale Qualano once again share art duties, each drawing half the issue. This issue brings the grade back up to the consistent B the series has been earning.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Johnny "Robin" Duncan passes away. RIP

Johnny Duncan, a one time member of the East Side Kids, and Dick Grayson/Robin in the 1949 serial Batman and Robin passed away on February 8, 2016 at the age of 92.

Duncan started out as a dancer, then segued into acting. He appeared in several East Side Kids films in the early to mid 1940s, including playing the title character in Million Dollar Kid, and one Bowery Boys movie.  In 1949 he was cast as Dick Grayson, Robin the Boy Wonder.

In a 2005 interview, he explained how he was cast as Robin. "Bob Kane was with Sam Katzman at Columbia Studio there. And they wanted a boy sixteen years old, and Sam knew me and thought of me for the part when Kane first come up...about the project. But Kane wanted a kid sixteen years old, and at that time, I was twenty-six years old. So he said, 'Oh, no, I don't want a guy twenty-six years old, you know, that's as old as Batman.' So anyway, why, they looked at, gosh, kids and kids and kids and kids, and finally they couldn't find anybody—Kane didn't like 'em, so Sam called me and he says, 'Hey, John, you know, wear some jeans or somethin' and a sweater and look as young as you can and, for God sakes, don't comb your hair or nothin', you know. Just come on over.' So I did. And so when I walked in the door, before I was even introduced, Kane says, 'Hey, that's Robin.' So that's how I got the part." 

In recent years, Duncan would attend comic book conventions proudly wearing curved sunglasses like a Robin mask.

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

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Zilch podcast reveals details of Monkees' new album

The "Zilch" podcast has an interview with John Hughes from Rhino to talk about The Monkees' upcoming new album, Good Times! One of the highlights is that he clarifies Mike Nesmith will be a full participant on the album.  Listen to the full podcast at

Friday, February 5, 2016

Monkees to release new album

It has been announced The Monkees will release a new album in the Summer of 2016, titled Good Times! Like The Monkees’ first two albums, and their ill-fated 1987 album Pool It, the new album will feature tracks written specifically for the band by some of the music world’s popular songwriters, including Rivers Cuomo (Weezer), Ben Gibbard (Death Cab for Cutie), Andy Partridge (XTC), Noel Gallagher, and Zach Rogue (Rogue Wave). Unfortunately, as of now, nothing new from vintage Monkees song writer Bobby Hart. In addition, some incomplete songs from the 1960s will be augmented and remixed, including "Love to Love" featuring the late Davy Jones' vintage vocal, and the album's title tune "Good Times" from a Harry Nilsson demo. The album cover art and a partial track listing has been unveiled, a release date is set, but amazingly nothing has actually been recorded yet.  Micky Dolenz commented, "[Rhino executives] John Hughes and Mark Pinkus both said they wanted us to make a new album, and they spelled out the exact kind of album that would go down well with the 50th anniversary and with our fans...I realized that the whole indie rock scene is all about recapturing that 1960s jangly guitar sound of the Monkees... One reason we don't have a final track listing yet is because once we put the word out all these people said they wanted to get involved... My job is just to come in and sing lead vocals. It's no different than the old days when we had to get everything done in three-hour sessions... Frankly, we don't even have a recording schedule right now!"
Even more amazing is that the album, despite not being recorded yet, is already racing up Amazon's best seller's chart!

I am having mixed reactions to this news. While I love the idea of a new Monkees album to celebrate the 50th Anniversary, this album sounds like it could easily end up being Pool It II. On the other hand, if more care is taken with the song selection and backing tracks, it might be as great as the 1986 tracks "That Was Then This Is Now" and "Anytime Anyplace Anywhere".  I remember when their 1996 album  Justus was released. I thought it was great, a far superior effort than Pool It.  I was actually shocked when I was lurking Monkees threads on the Hoffman Forums to learn many Monkees fans hated Justus as much or even more than Pool It. For better or worse, Good Times! at this point will not have that pure Monkees-as-a-group vibe that Headquarters and Justus had.  I just hope the songwriters and musicians contributing to this album have a better sense of The Monkees than the crew who worked on Pool It did. One other thing that kind of puzzles me is the inclusion of remixed and augmented tracks from the 1960s. I'm sure "Love to Love" is included because it was written by Neil Diamond, and it is a way to include a vocal from Davy.  Or perhaps they will get Jimmy Fallon to do the vocal.  But that song in question has been released several times since the 1980s, and frankly isn't one of the better Missing Links from the vaults. I would much rather see them finish incomplete tracks like "She's So Far Out She's In", or have definitive Monkees versions of "Different Drum" and "Good Looker".  Or for Davys' vocal, an augmented and remixed "My Share Of The Sidewalk", that maybe mixes the second, breezier backing track from the Instant Replay deluxe box set into it.  And that brings up another concern.  How much involvement will Mike Nesmith have? As of now, he is only slated to contribute one song, a newer composition titled "I Know What I Know".  But in true Nez cryptic style, when this news broke, he posted the video to his song "Rio" on his Facebook page, which has the appropriate lyric, "It's only a whimsical notion to fly down to Rio tonight, and I probably won't fly down to Rio, but then again, I just might."

I remember when The Monkees had their big resurgence in the mid to late 1980s. I truly believed that they should have covered "The Curly Shuffle".  I had a gut feeling, had they done so, it would have been a top 10 hit for them. There has been an unspoken link between the Monkees and the Three Stooges where that both properties were produced by Columbia Pictures and were filmed on many of the same sound stages. There are even several props used in the Three Stooges' two-reelers that were also used on the Monkees' TV series, most notably the bunny pajamas the Stooges and Peter Tork wore. On a more subjective side, The Stooges two-reelers and The Monkees TV series are similar in that I could and do watch them over and over and never get tired of it.  I still believe The Monkees should cover "The Curly Shuffle" on Good Times! albeit not so much as an intended hit single like it could have been in the 1980s, but more along the lines of the album's novelty track, a la "Gonna Buy Me A Dog" and "Your Auntie Griselda".  But what do I know?  I'm just a fan.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Review: Batman '66 meets the Man from UNCLE #3

The third issue of this miniseries has some highs and lows. THRUSH continues to use Batman's B and C and a couple D list villains as agents, and the mysterious ringleader is revealed as Corvid.  But who exactly Corvid is has yet to be revealed.  The second half of this issue seems like filler. Via a video conference between the Batcave and UNCLE HQ, a brief history of UNCLE and THRUSH is given, and then a recap of a heist earlier in this very same issue. The heroes and the agents then meet face to face to plan their next move, and Batman unmasks! Writer Jeff Parker slips a little this issue.  Two-thirds of the book are drawn by David Hahn then Pasquale Qualano steps in for the final few pages.  The change in art style isn't quite seamless, but it's not very jarring either. This issue earns a C.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Review: Batman '66 Meets the Man from UNCLE #2

Before I get to this issue, I just have to make a comment about the cover.  It is very striking, and perhaps one of the best covers I have seen from the DC Batman '66 franchise. By regular cover artists Michael and Laura Allred, they based it on David Mazzuchelli's iconic Batman Year One promotional art, and the Man From UNCLE logo.  On to the story itself, written by Jeff Parker with art by David Hahn. It picks up with Batman interrogating the captured Penguin, who turns out to be merely a pawn... or is he?  At UNCLE HQ, where some kind of promotional film is being shot by an Agent Donner (Richard, perhaps?), recreating the first season "long opening", the agents soon discuss the escape of several B and C list villains, and Batman in Gotham City. They produce Bruce Wayne as a possible suspect, and plan to attend a party he's throwing to launch his new aerospace project.  As it turns out, Mr Waverly and Alfred are old colleagues. The Gotham villains, now THRUSH agents, crash the party, and we get our first team up of the UNCLE agents with Batman, Robin, and Batgirl.  I wonder when or if agent April Dancer will join the party?  Parker's script continues the excellent level begun in the previous issue, and Hahn's art is very slick and clean. As for the reason some of the likenesses are less than perfect as I mentioned in my previous review, Mr Hahn himself supplied a comment in my previous post:  "For legal reasons, we could not use the exact likenesses of McCallum and Vaughn, so my take with the art was to get them close, but not exact likenesses."  So, thank you, Mr Hahn for supplying that bit of insider information. It is greatly appreciated. One other thing I want to comment on.  I have been watching  The Man From UNCLE on Me-TV, airing on weekends. Currently they are near the end of the third season, coincidentally as this miniseries is being published. The third season was known for becoming more Batman-like, but the most striking similarity is that Nelson Riddle did the musical score for that season, and many of his cues are similar to to his Batman score.  It is quite something to be watching The Man From UNCLE yet hearing distinctive Batman musical cues.  This issue exceeds the expectations the first issue set, and earns a B+.