Wrapping My Head Around Eleanor Davis’ “Libby’s Dad”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

If there’s one comic this year that’s taken me the greatest number of readings to fully process, it’s Libby’s Dad by the incomparable Eleanor Davis, which technically came off the presses in late 2016 as part of the monthly co-publishing venture between Box Brown’s Retrofit Comics and Big Planet Comics, but didn’t reach subscribers’ eager hands until January, so hey — that makes it a 2017 release in my book, regardless of what the copyright indicia says. Beyond that admittedly arbitrary judgment, though, firm decisions are a tricky thing to come by in regards to this book.

Don’t get me wrong : I knew the minute I finished reading it that first time that I liked it a lot, and in some respects it’s sort of a shame that it’s now viewed as something of a “stop-gap” release between Davis’ much-lauded Fantagraphics collection, How To Be Happy, and…

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Ride Away: John Wayne in John Ford’s THE SEARCHERS (Warner Brothers 1956)

cracked rear viewer

John Ford’s  THE SEARCHERS is without question an American Film Classic. I’d even go as far as saying it’s my second all-time favorite film, directly behind CASABLANCA. Every shot is a Remington Old West masterpiece, every actor perfect in their role, large or small, and not a minute of footage is wasted. The film has also stirred up quite a bit of controversy over time for John Wayne’s portrayal of the main character Ethan Edwards.

The plot is structured like Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey”, but let’s get it out of the way right now: Ethan Edwards is no hero. He’s a mean, bitter, unreconstructed Confederate who’s been on the shady side of the law since war’s end. When he returns to his brother Aaron’s homestead, he makes no bones about his distaste for “half-breed” Martin Pawley (really an eighth Cherokee). His hatred of Native Americans even extends to their dead, as…

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A Movie A Day #244: Death of a Gunfighter (1969, directed by Allen Smithee)

At the turn of the 20th century, the mayor and the business community of Cottonwood Springs, Texas are determined to bring their small town into the modern era.  The Mayor (Larry Gates) has even purchased one of those newfangled automobiles that have been taking the country by storm.  However, the marshal of Cottonwood Spings, Frank Patch (Richard Widmark), is considered to be an embarrassing relic of the past.  Patch has served as marshal for 20 years but now, his old west style of justice is seen as being detrimental to the town’s development.  When Patch shoots a drunk in self-defense, the town leaders use it as an excuse to demand Patch’s resignation.  When Patch refuses to quit and points out that he knows all of the secrets of what everyone did before they became respectable, the business community responds by bringing in their own gunfighters to kill the old marshal.

Death of a Gunfighter is historically significant because it was the very first film to ever be credited to Allen Smithee.  The movie was actually started by TV director Robert Totten and, after Widmark demanded that Totten be fired, completed by the legendary Don Siegel.  Since Totten worked for 25 days on the film while Siegel was only on set for 9, Siegel refused to take credit for the film.  When Widmark protested against Totten receiving credit, the Director’s Guild of America compromised by allowing the film to be credited to the fictitious Allen Smithee.

In the years after the release of Death of a Gunfighter, the Allen (or, more often, Alan) Smithee name would be used for films on which the director felt that he had not been allowed to exercise creative control over the final product.  The Smithee credit became associated with bad films like The O.J. Simpson Story and Let’s Get Harry which makes it ironic that Death of a Gunfighter is not bad at all.  It’s an elegiac and intelligent film about the death of the old west and the coming of the modern era.  It also features not only one of Richard Widmark’s best performances but an interracial love story between the marshal and a brothel madame played by Lena Horne.  The supporting cast is full of familiar western actors, with Royal Dano, Harry Carey, Jr., Larry Gates, Dub Taylor, and Kent Smith all making an impression.  Even the great John Saxon has a small role.  Though it may be best known for its “director,” Death of a Gunfighter is a film that will be enjoyed by any good western fan.

The Alchemy Of The Mundane : Why Keiler Roberts’ “Sunburning” Is One Of The Best Autobio Comics You’ll Ever Read

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

I couldn’t do it, and not only because I can’t draw to save my life — nope, the whole notion of giving perfect strangers a warts-and-all look at my life is just something I’m not psychologically equipped for. And yet for decades now, “first-rate” cartoonists from Justin Green to Mary Fleener to Joe Matt to Chester Brown to Seth to Gabrielle Bell to Julie Doucet to both Crumbs have made the autobiographical strip an essential part of their repertoire, while for authors such as Harvey Pekar and Dennis Eichhorn, committing their lives to paper for “all-star” collections of artists to run with and illustrate was their bread and butter — and while there’s less autbio/memoir going on in the world of “alternative” comics than there was, say, 20 years ago, it’s still an active genre with some truly notable talents both working within and (crucially, in my view) redefining

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Music Video of the Day: Let There Be Rock by AC/DC (1977, dir. ???)

How did I let it happen? I went through 421 of these posts, and it took till now to do one for a song on Jeff’s hit list.

You remember Jeff from Rock: It’s Your Decision (1982), right? He’s the kid who had decent taste in music, but was then red-pilled by reading The Big Beat: A Rock Blast by Frank Garlock, which turned him into a raving homophobic bigot with a persecution complex who treated his friends like trash and gave an insane sermon condemning rock music. During that sermon he finally named names of what songs and groups were evil. Of course AC/DC was specially mentioned with a list of some of their hits. This was one of them.

While I’m sure Jeff never saw this video, I like to pair the following images and think that he was just envious that he couldn’t pull this off as well as Scott did.

Rock: It’s Your Decision (1982, dir. John Taylor)

The video features Bon Scott as a preacher who delivers the lyrics like a sermon. We get occasional cutaways to members of the group who are choirboys, because what else would you expect members of AC/DC to be dressed like. Eventually, Scott decides to take off clerical clothing after a video effect.

Then Scott takes a flying leap that according to the Young Brothers, injured Scott.

I didn’t need Wikipedia to tell me that something went wrong. You can see that he missed the mark and fell offstage. Credit to Scott and the band for not only leaving that in, but not appearing to react to it happening.

I really like this video. If I had one complaint, it’s that it appears that Scott is screwing up his lip-syncing. You can see the difference when you watch him perform the song live. I noticed the same issue when I watched the officially posted version of Highway To Hell. I refuse to believe that Scott was this bad at lip-syncing. I think I know what happened. It’s the only explanation that I have.

The song is supposed to introduce light before sound in the pre-chorus. That is the way it was done on both the album and in the video. They fixed that in live performances, like the one below:

I have a feeling they overlayed a slightly different studio recording onto the video in order to make it sound better. You see this done on unofficially posted music videos all the time. I can see this throwing off Scott’s timing just enough that it’s noticeable. You can still see that he is reacting and making the right lip movements. They just seems to miss the mark.

This video is a perfect example of why I put AC/DC right alongside the other 1970s music-video pioneers like ABBA, Sweet, Golden Earring, Kate Bush, Hall & Oates, Funkadelic, Alice Cooper, and other musicians from that period that I haven’t covered.