Definitely A “Little Stranger” Than Most

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Talk about an eye-opener!

To date, my only exposure to the work of Edie Fake has been via his Gaylord Phoenix comic, which certainly doesn’t fit anyone’s definition of “conventional,” but which nevertheless is structured, albeit perhaps tenuously, along standard-issue linear narrative lines.

Not so with the book under our metaphorical microscope here today, Little Stranger, a multi-faceted, deeply emotive collection of short-form strips published a few months ago by Secret Acres that presents work culled from  Fake’s own ‘zines self- published between 2002 and 2017. Simply put — and I say this with utmost respect — most of these strips are just plain weird. Delightfully so, in most cases, but you have to come into this book prepared to do some serious interpretive work yourself, as many of them discard with the concept of “narrative” altogether, and those that don’t adhere to it very loosely.

From the “Clowns”…

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Game Review: Deadline (1982, Infocom)

Wealthy industrialist Marshall Robner has been found dead in his study, with the door locked.  The autopsy says that he died of an overdose of antidepressants.  Was it suicide or was it murder?  And, if it was murder, who was responsible?  That’s the mystery that you’ve been given a limited amount of time to solve.

In Deadline, you play a police detective who has 12 hours to investigate and solve the mystery behind the death of Marshall Robson.  The game starts with your arrival at the sprawling Robner estate.  Do you immediately start interviewing the suspects or do you look for clues around the grounds?  Do you attend the reading of Robner’s will or do you search the study where he died?  It’s up to you but just remember that the clock is ticking!

Written by Marc Blank and released by Infocom, Deadline is a classic text adventure from 1982.  From the minute, you enter the Robner estate, you are interacting with suspects like Robner’s adulterous wife and his irresponsible son.  Their actions and their responses to your questions are determined by how you go about investigating the crime and one of the joys of the game is seeing how people react to different approaches.  (When it comes time to read Robner’s will, one character will either show up early or late, depending on whether or not you’ve shown them a key piece of evidence.)

The mystery is complex.  I played through the game a handful of times before realizing that one thing that I felt was very important was actually just a red herring.  The mystery can be solved but you’re going to have to play the game several times and experiment with being in different places at different times and showing different clues to different suspects.  Or you can just type “Deadline Walk-Through” into Google like I eventually did.

Like many other good games from the past, Deadline can currently be found in the Internet Archive.

Artist Profile: Robert G. Harris (1911 — 2007)

A prolific pulp illustrator, Robert G. Harris was born in Kansas City, Missouri and began studying for his career as an artist while still in high school, attending night school at the Kansas City Art Institute.  He also studied at both Grand Central Art School in New York City and at the Arts Student League.  Over the course of his education, he was taught by renowned illustrators like Monte Crews, Harvey Dunn, and George Bridgeman.

His education paid off when Harris opened his own New York-based studio in 1933 and he quickly found success doing covers for both the pulps and for the leading “women’s magazines” of the time.  In 1953, he relocated to Arizona, where he spent the rest of his life.  After retiring from commercial illustration in 1961, Harris continued to be renowned for his portraits and his paintings of life in the old west.

Below is just a small sampling of his work.

Some Things I Liked In 2018

Since I don’t feel comfortable doing a traditional top ten list, I’m just going to list a few things that I liked in 2018.

When it comes to last year’s movies, my two favorite films were both comic book adaptations.  Black Panther and Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse both redefined what we traditionally expect from the comic book genre and they worked as both entertainment and as something a little bit deeper.

Among the other films I liked this year, Mission Impossible — Fallout reminded us of just how exciting a good action film can be while Game Night was hands down the best comedy of the year.  Deadpool 2 proved itself to be a worthy sequel while Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Three Identical Strangers, Free Solo, and Shirkers made this a great year for documentaries.

David Peisner’s Homey Don’t Play That was a fascinating book about the history of In Living Color, examining both the show’s tumultuous history and how it continues to be relevant today.  Also worth reading: Thanks A Lot, Mr. Kibblewhite by Roger Daltrey and Cult City by Daniel J. Flynn.

In a year that seemed to be dominated by adaptations of comic books, it seems appropriate that one of the best comics was about the history of the medium.  Written by Fred Van Lente and illustrated by Ryan Dunlavey and Adam Guzowski, Comics For All was the second installment in their Comic Book History of Comics.  No matter how much you think you may know about comic history, you’ll learn something new from Comics For All.

When it comes to the year’s video games, I’m torn.  Red Dead Redemption II is a totally immersive gaming experience that challenges much of what we’ve come to expect from video games.  On the other hand, Marvel’s Spider-Man is one of the most purely enjoyable games that I’ve ever played.  If I had to pick a best, I’d go with Red Dead Redemption but Spider-Man is the game that I’ll probably end up replaying a month from now.

On television, I continued to enjoy and occasionally be baffled by HBO’s Westworld.  I also enjoyed playing around with Netflix’s Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, an interactive program that introduces you to a likable game designer and then give you the chance to totally mess up his life.

In the States, BBC America televised the the animated restoration of the “lost” Doctor Who serial, Shada.  As an episode of Tom Baker-era Doctor Who, Shada was just as disappointing as many have warned that it would be, an overextended mix of inside jokes about Cambridge.  However, as a piece of Doctor Who history, it was priceless.

Finally, as far as the year in music is concerned, I recommend The Who’s fifth studio album, Who’s Next.  I know Who’s Next came out in 1971 but good music is timeless.

Music Video of the Day: Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins (1986, directed by Tony Scott)

For better or worse, few songs have come to epitomize a decade to the extent that Danger Zone has come to epitomize the 1980s.

The song was originally written by Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock for the Top Gun soundtrack.  When the film’s producers heard the demo (performed by background singer Joe Pizzulo), they knew they wanted the song but they also knew they wanted it to be performed by a big name artist.

The problem was that no one wanted to perform it.

Byran Adams thought that the song and its use in the film would glorify war.  (He wasn’t wrong.)

Corey Hart, best known for Sunglasses at Night, turned down the opportunity because he only wanted to record songs that he had written.

REO Speedwagon (!) declined an offer when they were informed that they wouldn’t be allowed to contribute any other songs to the soundtrack.

Toto came close to recording the song but their lawyers couldn’t come to an agreement with the production’s lawyers.  (Toto’s song, Only You, was also originally written for the film but was rejected in favor of Take My Breath Away.)

In the end, it was Kenny Loggins who finally agreed to perform the song and the rest, as they say, is history.  Not only was the film a huge hit but it spawned one of the best-selling soundtracks of the 1980s.  Fueled by the film’s success, Danger Zone reached the #2 spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.

As for the video, it was directed by Tony Scott (who, of course, also directed Top Gun).  The video mixes footage from the film with shots of Kenny Loggins deep in thought, which makes it appear that Loggins simply can’t stop thinking about the first time that Maverick and Goose met Charlie.  This video has been called “the most effective recruiting poster ever produced.”

For me, though, Danger Zone will always be the song that I used to hear while listening to the classic rock station in Los Santos.