“Goat Song” Hits All The Weird Notes


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Cartoonist Larkin Ford’s 2018-published Birdcage Bottom Books mini, Goat Song, isn’t just a curious beast in and of itself — it’s also, at least partially, about a curious beast. Who’s brought into the world by an even more curious birth. And if you’re getting the distinct vibe that we’re kind of in Eraserhead territory here, pat yourself on the back because you’re absolutely right.

In purely physical terms, it’s sort of a gorgeous-looking little comic : riso-printed in rich black ink on aesthetically pleasing cream-colored paper stock and featuring coolly intriguing shades of blue on the cover, it’s a suitably raw and unvarnished item to hold in your hand, but it’s quality is also such that it almost borders on the lavish, the overall sensation not being all that unlike riding around a worn and scuffed old Rolex or Omega watch on your wrist. It’s rough around the edges…

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A Book About Itself And Everything Else : Keren Katz’s “The Backstage Of A Dishwashing Webshow”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

As far as studies in contrasts go, you could make a pretty compelling argument that cartoonist Keren Katz’s latest book, The Backstage Of A Dishwashing Webshow, is precisely that : matter-of-fact, minimalist text (and even more minimalist dialogue) juxtaposed with and/or against kaleidoscopic, fluid, complex, symbol-laden artwork that eschews borders and panels because it simply can’t be contained within them, either physically or conceptually — but a few pages in is all it really takes to disabuse you of that notion at least partially, as it’s the interplay between the two that lends this entire work the distinct flavor of a “tone poem,” albeit one cleverly disguised as a linear (enough) narrative. Possibly.

Released around the middle of last year by Secret Acres, it’s taken me this long to get around to reviewing this one simply because it’s taken me this long to really absorb it in its totality…

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Shaker Run (1985, directed by Bruce Morrison)


Judd (Cliff Robertson) is an aging stunt driver who has been reduced to doing minor car shows in New Zealand.  He’s having trouble paying the bills and his young mechanic, Casey (Leif Garrett, looking like he’s a few days away from checking into rehab), is on him to do something — anything — to bring in some extra cash.  The opportunity presents itself when the duo are hired by an enigmatic woman named Christine (Lisa Harrow) to drive across New Zealand with a mysterious package hidden away in their trunk.  Christine will be accompanying them on their trip.  Sounds simple, right?

The only problem is that Christine is a research scientist who has developed a deadly new virus that she doesn’t want to get into the wrong hands.  She fears that the military might want to use it as bioweapon.  It turns out that she’s right and no sooner has Judd tapped the accelerator than they’re being chased across New Zealand by different factions, all who want the weapon for themselves.

Usually I love car chase scenes but Shaker Run didn’t really do much for me.  Some of the stunts are impressive but there’s also a lot of slow spots, especially at the start of the movie.  As I watched the chase scenes, I wondered why, if Christine is trying to sneak the virus out of the country, she would be stupid enough to hire someone who drives an incredibly conspicuous pink race car.  It’s not as if it’s going to be difficult for anyone to spot them on the road.  As well, one of the biggest chase scenes takes place during the dark of night, making it next to impossible to discern what’s actually going on.  The film also features Leif Garrett, giving a performance that’s obnoxious even for him.  What’s bad is that Garrett’s character probably could have been removed from the film without it making much difference.  If you’re going to put Leif Garrett in your movie, you better have a good reason.

One thing that the movie does have in its favor is Cliff Robertson in the lead role.  Robertson was a good actor whose career as a leading man was pretty much topedoed in 1977 when he discovered that David Begelman, who was the head of Columbia Studios, was using Robertson’s name and forging his signature to embezzle money from the studio.  Though the studios pressured Robertson to keep quiet, he went to the police and later spoke publicly about the incident.  Though Begelman was the one who had committed the crime, Robertson was the one who was subsequently blacklisted.  While Begelman paid a fine, did some community service, and remained a member of the Hollywood community, Robertson was blacklisted for five years.  When he finally did start appearing in movies again, it was almost always in supporting roles.  Shaker Run gave Robertson a rare leading role and, even if the movie isn’t good, Robertson is still good in it.

Unfortunately, even after people finally started to acknowledge that Cliff Robertson was mistreated, it still didn’t do much for his career and he continued to be cast in mostly forgettable movies.  Fortunately, before he died in 2011, he did get offered one iconic role and, as a result, a whole new generation of filmgoers got to know him as Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben.  If anyone could make you believe that “with great power, comes great responsibility,” it was Cliff Robertson.

The Covers of The Phantom Detective


by Rudolph Belarski

From 1932 to 1952, the Phantom Detective fought crime and had adventures in his very own pulp magazine.  Released shortly after the first issue of The Shadow and a month before the first issue of Doc Savage, The Phantom Detective was the second pulp hero to get his own magazine and also one of the most successful.  With a 170 issues, The Phantom Detective had the third-highest number of “official” adventures of any pulp character.  (Ahead of him were, again, the Shadow and Doc Savage.)

Much like both the Shadow and the soon-to-be introduced Batman, the Phantom Detective was a playboy by day and a crime fighter by night.  Richard Curtis Van Loon may have begun life as a member of the idle rich but, after experiencing the horrors of World War I, he found it difficult to return to his former lifestyle.  So, he became the Phantom Detective and used his powers to solve mysteries, fight crime, and protect the public.

Given the magazine’s long run, it’s no surprise that many different artists did covers for The Phantom Detective.  Below are just a few covers from his original run.  Where known, the artist have been credited.

Artist Unknown

Artist Unknown

by Bertram Glover

by Emmett Watson

by Rudolph Belarski

by Rudolph Belarski

by Rudolph Belarski

by Sam Cherry

Unknown Artist

Unknown Artist

Unknown Artist

Unknown Artist