Andy’s Current Favorites: October 2018

Hey Kids! It’s your old pal, Andy Larson, back for another quick glance into the things I’m into at this moment in life. However, before I get to that, I wanted share a random comic book panel that I came across the other day while I was paging through some back issues in the 50 cent box at my local comic shop.

This one comes from the Spidey’s Super Stories series, which for those of you not in the know, was a comic book written for wee little ones as a supplement for those watching his adventures on the old PBS program, The Electric Company. Given that these stories were supposed to teach kids about phonics and reading, obviously the dialogue is somewhat rudimentary. But sometimes it can be downright silly!

So without further ado, Today’s lesson answers the age old question:

How does Spider-man really view the world?

image

Yep, evidently, old Web Head categorizes all living creatures into how many hamburger patties you can make out of them. Doesn’t matter if its a cow, bison, gorilla, or gigantic dinosaur, it’s just about your flesh to bone ratio that really matters to Spidey.

Who knows, maybe Peter Parker missed his calling by going into photography or super science. He should have been a butcher at the local deli, carving up fresh apatosaurus steaks for Alice from the Brady Bunch. You know he saves those lean cuts just for you, baby.

Anyways, on to the nerd talk for today, with my “Big 4” for the Month of October!

Current Book I’m Reading:

Spacehawk by Basil Wolverton

Like so many of the comic books that I showcase on this section every month, they are usually some sort of anthology or collection that is so hodge podgey in its subject matter that it would be difficult to do an actual read pile review of it. Plus, they are usually books I can read a story here and there as I’m falling asleep without getting dragged into a larger narrative. Spacehawk from Basil Wolverton is no exception, a beautiful Fantagraphics reprint collection of an obscure late 30s/early 40s space themed superhero from the Golden Age of Comics.

On the surface, Spacehawk looks to a fairly routine space opera-esque melodrama akin to something like Buck Rogers which was extremely popular at the time. In fact, most of the actual stories presented are repackaged tales of human greed or shifty political power grabs dressed up with pseudo scientific mumbo jumbo and weird alien races to make them seem more intergalactic. Even Spacehawk, who initially is cloaked in mystery eventually becomes more or less a “Superman” like clone, using his nigh invulnerability and almost laughable superhuman perfection to defeat the same crooks and criminals that you’d find on Earth except drawn like monsters instead of humans.

However, sometimes despite what seems to be a terribly bland and hackneyed premise can be saved in the delivery, and this is one series in which the method is so much more important than the message. To say it bluntly, the art is tremendous. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and I dare say might never see again. It’s trippy and near psychedelic, like some strange cross between Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon and the famous Beatles movie, The Yellow Submarine. Everything is incredible in it’s detail from the rivets on the ships or sublime shading in the far out planetary settings. The colors are beautiful, the pacing crisp, and everything is delivered in an almost dreamlike quality which compels you to keep reading.

Eventually, after about 15 or 16 stories, this series leaves it’s outer space setting forever and becomes another war time comic in which Spacehawk fights for the Allies against the Axis forces of WWII. And it’s at that point, that I really stopped reading it.

For one thing despite the quality of the art continuing, all the fantastical vision and avant-garde whimsy of it is drained by the lack of the sci-fi setting which seemed to be a perfect match for the far out quirky artwork. The other factor is that really those War issues and their depiction of the Japanese is downright racist at this point, and can make for more than a couple uncomfortable moments for more modern audiences.

Still, if you are a true comic book fan, I really recommend reading a story or two of the early Spacehawk stories collected in this reprint just for the art alone. It’s a truely unorthodox, ultramodern treat for the eyes.

Or in other words to use a corny cliché, it’s out of this world!

 

Current Favorite Album While Reading Comics:

The Wallflowers: “Breach”

Y’know, I take a lot of shite from people that get after me for still liking Jakob Dylan whether he’s solo or with the Wallflowers. Either some people say I only like him because he’s Bob’s son and I’ve drank the Kool aid on everything about Bob is awesome. Or they say “Do you have Bringing down the horse? Then that’s all you need”.

Sure, Jakob hasn’t had crushingly great mainstream success really since One Headlight, but I’ll be damned if that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still write outstanding songs. I mean really, I listen to them and say I have no idea why people wouldn’t like these. In fact, I’ll have a song on in the background and someone will say “This is catchy…who is this again?” I’ll say the Wallflowers and they will just brush me off. Seriously, they can’t get any respect.

Personally, Breach is probably one of top 25 favorite albums of all time. For years it was one of the only albums I could listen to from beginning to end and enjoy every single song on it, and that included some “greatest hits” albums which were only supposed to contain those types of songs. From “I’ve been Delivered” to “Up from Under” to “Witness” and “Letters from Wasteland”, it’s still an album I can just put on in the background and know I’m going to be enjoying the tunes uninterrupted for 45 minutes or so. Whether it’s driving or reading comics, the ability of an album to deliver the goods in a way that allows you to focus more on whatever task you are doing versus futzing around even briefly with the radio to find a new song so rare that it’s importance should not be underscored.

So from that perspective it’s actually a better one than the Bringing Down the Horse that everyone and their brother owned. Damn Wallflowers haters. They can go squat on a cactus.

Current Favorite Video Game:

Zelda 2: The Adventures of Link

Did I ever mention that I’m a huge fan of replaying old NES games? I guess anyone that reads this blog regularly would have figured that out given that most of my favorite video games were ones that released decades ago. Plus the Top 10 NES games list was probably another clue. What you might not know is that I have figured out ways to play NES games while working out on my  elliptical machine. I think I mentioned this a couple months back when I said my favorite current video game was Ninja Gaiden 3.

Since that post I did get some private questions about how I could play a video game while I was on an elliptical machine without falling off and killing myself. The answer is: very carefully. Plus it doesn’t hurt to have decent core muscles to help stabilize your balance as you button mash while running in place. I might have to post of a video of me doing this some day on our YouTube page…

In any case, the long end of the short story is that I use the time to play games that I should have beat when I was younger and never got around to it. Zelda 2 I feel is the very epitime of that as I have gotten deep into this game several times over the course of my live and yet have never sealed the deal.

I gotta say though every time I restart the quest to beat it, I end up forming a new found appreciation for it. The difficulty is pretty crushing at times, and although many have decried it as the black sheep of the Zelda games due to it being a platformer for the most part, there’s a lot of interesting game play ideas at work. I may even say at times I like this game more than the original Zelda. Blasphemy I’m sure for some, but it really does have some much better RPG elements to it than the first. Plus there’s those boss battles. Intense to say the least. Especially Iron Knuckle. On a horse. Eating a sandwich of plague rats and fear.

Current Favorite Movie:

The Bride of Frankenstein

It’s October so anyone worth a salt in my life should know that it means one thing: Classic Monster movie time! I just can’t get enough of them. Whether it’s the original Universal collection, or the later Sci-fi infused movies of the 1950s, while most others are rewatching slasher pics or gory over the top murderfests, you can find me every Halloween season with a bowl of popcorn and these Black and White beauties of classic cinema.

In particular however, I make it a point to rewatch one movie every single year, regardless of whatever others might populate my late night viewing. It’s like my “Miracle on 34th Street” of the Spooky season: Bride of Frankenstein.

For those of you not in the know, The Bride of Frankenstein was made in 1935 as the first sequel to Universal Pictures’ 1931 hit Frankenstein. It is considered like Empire Strikes Back to be one of the few sequels to an all time classic film that is even better than the original film on which it is based.

As with the first film, Bride of Frankenstein was directed by James Whale and stars the iconic Boris Karloff as The Monster. The sequel also features Elsa Lanchester in the dual role of both Mary Shelley at the beginning of the film and the Monster’s mate at the end of the film. Most people recognize immediately the design of the Monster’s mate with the electrified bee hive hair do which was courtesy of the visionary input of both director James Whale and Universal make up artist, Jack Pierce. In a nice piece of continuity with the first film, Colin Clive reprises his role as Henry Frankenstein although he’s actually much more normal than the obsessed mad scientist we see in the original film. Finally,  Ernest Thesiger plays the role of Doctor Septimus Pretorius, who more than makes up for Dr. Frankenstein’s near “face” turn in the film with his devilish and even more sinister performance as a truly evil and manipulative puppet master.

The movie starts right where the original movie ends and is used to explore a subplot of the original Mary Shelley novel, Frankenstein, in regards to Dr. Frankenstein’s quest to create a mate for his monster. Of course in the film, we get a more subdued and chastened Henry Frankenstein who seems to have seen the error of his ways and wishes to abandon his plans to create life. But the villainous Dr. Pretorius, obsessed with becoming god, forces Frankenstein into constructing a mate for the Monster, who simply is so desperate to be accepted by someone and therefore is willing to team up with Pretorius to ensure Frankenstein’s cooperation.

What I truly love about this film is that it’s the first to treat the Monster as the victim. He’s an unwanted outcast unloved by his father, rejected by his wife, hunted by his peers. He contains such raw power and strength yet he never uses it for good because he’s never been given chance to. He’s hated and feared universally as a monster, yet he really only acts “monsterous” in self defense or in reaction to that fear. In fact, when he finally meets the blind hermit in the picture and enjoys the safety and security of acceptance by another human being, he openly weeps like a scared child would upon finally receiving a reassuring hug from a parent, and I have to say even after seeing this scene so many times, it still gets to me.

Plus there’s that ending. One of the great lines in all cinema where the monster proves his worth as the true hero where he sacrifices both himself and his dreams of living a normal life for the sake of ending a nefarious ill conceived experiment that should have never existed to begin with.

“We belong dead.”

 

Just Great Stuff. If there are any comic fans out there that are fans of the Hulk or other misunderstood monster related titles, this movie is the granddaddy of them all. You owe it to yourself to watch it.

 

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