“What The Actual” Is Happening With This Comic?


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Not so long ago, I was pretty rough on the first issue of cartoonist Jai Granofsky’s self-published “solo anthology” series, What The Actual. I found it unfocused, uninspired, unfunny, and uninteresting. I took no pleasure in raking the book over the coals — I never do, particularly when it comes to “labors of love” — but I think (or at least I hope) that I avoided laying a “give it up and stick with the day job” type of trip on the artist himself. Certainly his solid “classical cartooning” style provides evidence enough that Granofsky has some talent, but my feeling was that his entire project was in need of a good, solid “re-think” from top to bottom.

Enter the just-released What The Actual #2, which isn’t exactly a complete re-tooling, but at least represents a kind of promising, albeit tentative, step in the right direction — and…

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West-Teen Angst: GUNMAN’S WALK (Columbia 1958)


cracked rear viewer

GUNMAN’S WALK may not be a classic Western like THE SEARCHERS or HIGH NOON, but it was entertaining enough to hold my interest. That’s due in large part to a change of pace performance by All-American 50’s Teen Idol Tab Hunter as a sort-of Rebel Without A Cause On The Range, an unlikable sociopath with daddy issues, aided and abetted by Phil Karlson’s taut direction and some gorgeous panoramic Cinemascope shots by DP Charles Lawton Jr.

Boisterous cattle rancher Lee Hackett (Van Heflin) is one of those Men-Who-Tamed-The-West types, a widower with two sons. Eldest Ed (Hunter) is a privileged, racist creep who’s obsessed with guns, while younger Davy (played by another 50’s Teen Idol, James Darren) is more reserved. The Hacketts are about to embark on a wild horse round-up, and enlist two half-breed Sioux, the brothers of pretty young Clee (Kathryn Grant,  young wife of crooner Bing Crosby).

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Film Review: Missing Link (dir by Chris Butler)


The year is 1886 and Sir Lionel Frost (Hugh Jackman) is the world’s greatest adventurer.

Or, at least, that’s what he says.  Actually, Sir Lionel may have made a name for himself and gained some popularity as a result of his many adventures but his fellow explorers and adventurers don’t take him seriously.  They view Sir Lionel as being little more than a self-promoter and they’re largely unimpressed with the all the time that he’s devoted to searching for mythical beasts like The Loch Ness Monster and lost lands like El Dorado.  Sir Lionel desperately wants to join the London-based Society of Great Men but the snobbish Lord Piggot-Dunceby (Stephen Fry) refuses to accept his application.

When Sir Lionel receives a letter from someone in America who claims to have tracked down the legendary Sasquatch, Sir Lionel and Lord Piggot-Duncey make a bet.  If Sir Lionel can prove that the Sasquatch exists, he will be allowed to join the Society.  Sir Lionel heads off to America while Lord Piggot-Dunceby promptly hires an evil bounty hunter named Willard Stenk (Timothy Olyphant) to prevent him from accomplishing his mission.  As Lord Piggot-Dunceby explains to his assistant, Mr. Collick (Matt Lucas), the world is changing too quickly.  If Sir Lionel isn’t stopped, people might start to believe in things like evolution or women’s rights.

When Sir Lionel arrives in America, he promptly starts searching for the Sasquatch and, amazingly enough, it doesn’t take him very long to find him.  It turns out that the Sasquatch — who Sir Lionel names Mr. Link — not only speaks remarkably good English but he’s also the one who wrote to Sir Lionel in the first place.  As played by Zach Galifianakis, Mr. Link is a rather laid back and good-natured Sasquatch.  In some ways, Mr. Link is surprisingly worldly and, in other ways, he’s rather naive.  He takes everything that he hears literally, which poses a problem since Sir Lionel has a tendency towards sarcasm.  It also turns out that Mr. Link is lonely but he thinks that he might be related to the Himalayan Yetis.  And Mr. Link thinks that Sir Lionel is just the man to help him get from America to Asia!

Sir Lionel reluctantly agrees.  Accompanying them on their journey is Sir Lionel’s former girlfriend, Adelina Fortnight (Zoe Saldana).  And pursuing them, every step of the way, is Lord Piggot-Dunceby and Willard Stenk.

Missing Link is an enjoyable and undeniably cute stop-motion animated film.  It was produced by Laika, the same animation outfit that previously gave us Kubo and The Two Strings.  While Missing Link is never as memorable or emotionally resonant as Kubo, it’s still a good-hearted film and entertaining enough that an adult can watch it without wanting to tear their hair out.  Blessed with impressively detailed animation and the comedic vocal talents of Hugh Jackman, Stephen Fry, Timothy Olyphant, and Zach Galifianikis, Missing Link has enough funny moments and clever lines that most audiences should be able to overlook the fact that the story itself sometimes feels a bit haphazard in its construction.  Much like the Sasquatch at the center of its story, Missing Link is a rather laid back film.  If Kubo was a carefully-constructed work of art, Missing Link feels like it was almost thrown together at random.  The film is at its best once it reaches the Himalayas, where the humor becomes very barbed and Emma Thompson steals the show in a sharp-witted cameo.

I enjoyed Missing Link.  It’s just too sweet-nartured not to like.

Video Games Are Not To Blame


When I was growing up, I used to love to play Castle Wolfenstein and Doom.  While playing those games, I fired every weapon that I could get my hands on and I killed a countless number of Nazis and demons.

In real life, I have never shot anyone nor have I ever been tempted to.

Later on, I discovered the Grand Theft Auto games.  While playing those games, I’ve stolen a countless number of cars and I’ve run down a lot of people.  Most of them I didn’t mean to run down.  Everyone knows how difficult it is to go in reverse when you’re playing Grand Theft Auto.

In real life, I have never stolen car and I’ve never never run anyone over.  Nor have I ever been tempted to.

That’s because I’ve always known that video games are not real life.  Even when I was a kid, I understood that if someone died in real life, they wouldn’t just respawn and continue playing the game.  I would say that’s true of 99.9% of all gamers.  As for the .1% that doesn’t understand the difference, they have problems that started long before the played their first game.

Whenever there’s a mass shooting or any other traumatic act of public violence, people demand to know how it could have happened.  Video games are always a convenient scapegoat.  Many video games are violent and gamers are easy targets for the media to pick on.  But this idea that little Johnny was perfectly normal until he played Call of Duty or Fortnite is ludicrous and everyone knows it.  When I hear about a school shooter who spent hours playing a violent video game, I don’t care about which game he was playing.  Instead, what I want to know is where were his parents while he was doing this?  Too often video games are blamed because no one wants to admit that they either ignored all of the obvious red flags or they didn’t have the courage to confront what they knew was happening.

Video games are not to blame and neither are gamers.  Using them as a scapegoat is not going to solve a thing.  People with a propensity for violence are always going to seek out ways to be violent.  Banning video games isn’t going to make that type of person any less violent.  It’s just going to inspire him to find a new way to express whatever it is that’s going on inside his head.

Until we get serious and stop looking for easy targets to blame, the shootings like we saw this weekend are going to continue and they’re going to keep getting worse.  Solely blaming video games — as if a mass-produced game is somehow more responsible for an individual’s actions than the individual himself — is not a serious response and anyone doing it is not a serious person.

Music Video Of The Day: Super Freak by Rick James (1981, directed by ????)


Today is the 15th anniversary of the death of Rick James.  Our music video of the day is for James’ biggest U.S. hit and his best-known song, Super Freak.

James shot this video during the early days of MTV, hoping that the network would put the video into its steady rotation and help the song become a hit.  However, MTV rejected the video.  In the early 80s, MTV was notorious for rejecting music videos from black artists.  However, Carolyn Baker, who was then director of acquisitions for the network, later said that, “It wasn’t MTV that turned down ‘Super Freak.’ It was me. I tuned it down. You know why? Because there were half-naked women in it, and it was a piece of crap. As a black woman, I did not want that representing my people as the first black video on MTV.”

(The first black group to get a video on MTV would be Musical Youth with Pass the Dutchie in 1982.  A year after that, Michael Jackson destroyed what was left of MTV’s color barrier with the success of his videos for Thriller.)

Even without the support of MTV, Super Freak went on to become Rick James’s biggest hit.  The song’s distinctive bassline was later sampled by MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This.  James had to sue to get credited for the sample.  Rick James would later receive his only Grammy when U Can’t Touch This won for Best R&B Song in 1991.

Enjoy!