Andy’s Current Favorites: November 2018

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Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Andy Larson here, back for another exciting installment of the monthly column which my fellow podcasting Ghosts, Chad Smith and Rob Stewart, call:

“Hey look at Andy just writing about a bunch of random nonsense and calling it a blog. What’s next? What Andy had to breakfast this morning?? Riveting Stuff!”

I have often said that I should be thankful for those two as friends. I mean…I really should be. I mean thanks to them I often look much more handsome in comparison. That’s what happens when you are in a beauty match against a pair of river trolls…but I digress.

Long story short, regardless of what my companions might think about my monthly recap of some of the comics, video games, music, and media I’m enjoying, I’ll continue to deliver this to you the masses, for no other reason that it’s better than reading about Ultra-Man for half an hour. (Sorry, I promise to behave now.)

Anyways, on with the show for this November!

Current Book I’m Reading:

The Incredible Hulk, Epic Collection: Man or Monster?

If you haven’t noticed I’ve been on somewhat of a Jolly Green Giant kick as of late. I think it started with my enjoyment of the current Al Ewing’s Immortal Hulk book which keeps getting better every month. However, instead of talking about that book mainly because I’ve been gushing about it on the podcast every time we have a current events show, I thought I’d talk about this anthology of all of the Hulk’s most early adventures from not only his short 6 issue original series, but his appearances in the Avengers and in the Fantastic Four book around the same time.

As I’ve mentioned before silver age stories are some of my favorites to read before I go to bed. Always have been, probably always will. This is mainly because they are typically self contained stories with clear cut good guy/bad guy melodrama. Just something simple to read an issue or two of before falling asleep (it also doesn’t hurt that some of Stan Lee’s verbose narration could knock out a full grown bull elephant).

However, unlike some of my favorites like Spider-man, Thor, or the Avengers, silver age Hulk, especially in those early days is not exactly very good. That 6 issue original run is downright atrocious at times, with a meandering style that can be infuriating as they slowly figure out exactly what they want to do with the character: Whether it’s a monster book, whether it’s a superhero book, whether Rick Jones is the main character, or the Hulk is. How does the Hulk change? Why? How does he change back? Is he smart or dumb as the Hulk? Is he gray or green? All kind of questions and no real direction in answering them.

Now I understand from even a historical story perspective a modern Hulk fan could just simply say the character is all over the place because his body is still in flux after the gamma ray accident and as a result, his powers are manifesting themselves in different ways such as the gray or green color notion. However, that’s just a cop out.

The simple answer is they really had no idea what they wanted to do with the Hulk until Steve Ditko came on the book during the Tales to Astonish run and settled the character the hell down introducing the notion of that the Dr. Banner transforms when he gets angry, and with that simple fact, plus a more rounded supporting cast and interesting villains, the Hulk started to become exactly who we think of today.

Unfortunately, those issues are nowhere to be found in this collection, so it’s slim pickings for a while in terms of quality stuff when reading it. I will say though that this collections saving grace in the inclusion of the classic Hulk/Thing throw-downs from FF #25 and #26 as well as all of the earliest issues of the Avengers that showcase Hulk as a member or antagonist. In fact, one of my favorite comic issues of all time is included in the exciting Avengers #3, where the Earth’s Mightiest first try to capture the Hulk and bring him back into their fold, only to get caught up in a battle royal between themselves and a Hulk/Namor team up. Yep, that’s like Avengers vs. Defenders 10 years before it was a thing!

God, I love that issue! It’s one of the prized possessions of my comic collection!


Current Favorite Album While Reading Comics:

Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music

The man with the purest country voice in the world right now is Sturgill Simpson. Why this call back to the vocal stylings of Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard isn’t the hottest ticket in Nashville is beyond my comprehension. It’s probably a major reason when talking about country music I identify myself with the Alt Country folks. Pure Americana music, not that mainstream stuff they play on the radio that sounds more like pop music. All except for Chris Stapleton. He’s got the chops. He’s good in my books.

But regardless, Sturgill has had his fair share of difficulties getting over with the powers that be in the country music world and that’s extremely sad because he’s such a unique talent. I mean we are talking about the man that won the Grammy for Best Country Album at the 59th Grammy Awards while also being nominated for Album of the Year and yet the amount of people I meet on a daily basis that consider themselves country fans that haven’t heard of him is staggering. Something is wrong with this picture, folks, when the man beats out Keith Urban for a Country Grammy and nobody knows who he is.

I’ve had the privilege of seeing him twice in concert this year, once at Radio City Music Hall when he opened for John Prine with a completely acoustic set, and then again during Willie Nelson’s Outlaw Music Festival when he jammed so long and hard on his electric guitar that I thought he was the separated at birth from Gary Clark Jr. Both times I was astounded by not only what a genius musician he was beyond the incredible voice, but what a humble and dedicated family man he seemed. Really seemed like a genuinely nice guy, the type you’d go out and have a beer with after he helped you hang shingles all afternoon.

Personally, I selected this particular album because it’s a lot more mellow than his first  High Top Mountain which I honestly listen to more while doing other things, but is not as good for comic book reading. As I’ve mentioned before, with comic book reading I need quieter more introspective music to help me focus on the comic book itself. With great thoughtful tunes like Turtles All The Way Down the Line and The Promise, this album delivers just the right groove to read your favorite book…preferably with a glass of scotch whiskey and a roaring fire.

But don’t get me wrong it’s got it’s fair share of honkey tonk floor stompers like Life of Sin, which you haven’t lived until you have heard live!

Current Favorite Video Game:

Woah Dave!

While a lot of people switched over to the Nintendo Switch from the Wii U last year (for obvious reasons because it’s a dead system), I found myself embracing the poor bastard child of the Nintendo empire. This was especially true since all of their games when on sale super cheap so getting all 25 of the best ones probably cost less than the price of a Switch.

However, after I filled my coffers with a glut of cheap disc based games, I found myself wanting to flesh out the system a little bit more, so I started looking at the still robust Nintendo Eshop for some additional games. It was then that I found this month’s selection for my favorite game, which I will say I’ve had for a while now, but recently found myself playing a lot more of it with family game nights on the uptick given the cold weather.

As many will know I’m a sucker for Arcade gaming. In fact, I put out a list of my 10 favorite arcade games of all time so it’s no surprise that “Woah Dave!” with its classic arcade looking graphics, frantic action, and addictive soundtrack, would be a hit with me.

The deceptively simple, yet punishingly fast gameplay takes place on a single screen level where you control our hero, Dave. Dave must defeat a slew of monsters by throwing either eggs or skulls at them, but both will end up killing you if you hang on to them for to long by either exploding or hatching into these one eyed green beasties.  Killing an enemy results in a coin, and the goal of the game is to rack up as many coins as possible, so in essence it’s a true arcade smasher in that you only compete for high score.

What of course I love about the game is that anyone can play it, and given its colorful graphics and retro throwback style it’s a hit with practically everyone I’ve introduced it to. From my 6 year old son Jakob to his 60+ year old Grandpa, Woah Dave is definitely the type of game that brings families together and never gets old.

Oh and did I mention it’s co-op? Heck yes! Co-op Woah Dave is a 2 player competitive paradise! And it’s on iOS, Microsoft Windows, Nintendo, and PlayStation 4 so you can get your fix everywhere!!!

Current Favorite TV Show:

Mystery Science Theater 3000

It’s Turkey Day so anyone worth a salt in my life should know that it means one thing: MST3k!

Since their first ever Turkey Day Marathon aired way back in 1991 and the first episode I ever saw, Cave Dwellers, as a wee lad in 7th Grade, watching at least one MST3k episode has always been a part of my standard Thanksgiving day festivities. I will say its usually in the early morning prior to the football starting or in years before the 8pm game, it would happen in the evening. But regardless, every year I find this particular “Thanksgiving Hymn” that was recorded in 1991 I believe and sing along with Joel and the ‘Bots in all its wonderful glory. So with that, I share it with you all now…

Since the original series went off the air in 1999, also one of my favorite rituals was my annual selection of which episode I was going to watch. I will say that most years I stay away from those episodes on the All Time Favorite List as these would be episodes I would watch otherwise. Instead I often pick somewhat obscure episodes or ones that I might not have watched in a while. For example, last year I watched a Sci-Fi Channel era hidden gem called “Blood Waters of Dr. Z”, with one of the dumbest looking monster I’ve ever seen on this show. The year before that it was the Joel episode “War of the Colossal Beast” with the legendary bad short “Mr. B Natural”.

Now, in the past several years, Joel Hodgson has been hosting an online Turkey Day Marthaon, that my fellow MSTie in crime, JA Scott, watches religiously and has often gave me sh*t for not supporting with my viewership.  But I prefer to keep my celebration more personal, thus I watch my one or two experiments in the quiet of my own basement sipping a New Glarus Oktoberfest, while the turkey slowly cooks in the oven.

However, this year, it looks like things will be different as the new season of the relaunched MST3k show on Netflix drops….today!!!

Yes, the second season of the show that was reborn from the Kickstarter support of so many MST3k fans out there only a short couple years ago starring our new stranded in space host, Jonah, as well as new voices for both Servo and Crow starts today, so there’s no question what MST3k I’ll be watching.

I definitely am not going to binge watch the entire season, as I’m of the opinion most shows, but especially MST is better in single sittings where you can take your time and appreciate every riff without having them all smashed together. I will say that I heard that this season is going to take advantage of the Netflix model and attempt to have some sort of theme or common story link the episodes together, which I’m not opposed to. They did some of that with the host segments during the early Mike era on Sci-Fi so it’s not completely unheard of. Plus with a little more money and the improvement in the digital effects, perhaps we are in for a real treat.

All I want is some more cameos from old members of the crew. Joel to appear in some real capacity, or Servo to briefly cycle through is voice bank and it sounds like Kevin for just a few minutes. Anything that pays homage to the huge history this show has and pays us just a little bit of fan service. Yes, I know there’s a need to move forward and keep the new show growing for its own fans, but those little shout outs mean so much to all of us that have been gathering together to watch cheesy movies on Thanksgiving day since 1991…

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