The Other Side Of The Fold : Robb Mirsky’s “The Lemonade Brigade”

The “tag line” above the title of Robb Mirsky’s new self-published mini The Lemonade Brigade tells you right away that he gets it : why do kids in the suburbs tend to get themselves into any kind of trouble they can find? Because they’re bored — and they damn well should be! When you’re surrounded by people (or, in this case, lemons) who have traded in happiness for the single-dullest approximation of security one can imagine, people who are literally running out the clock on their own lives, you’ll do anything to relieve the tedium. Especially, I suppose, if those people are your own parents.

To that end, most of the juvenile delinquency on offer in these pages is as utterly pointless as such acts of quasi-rebellion tend to be in real life : nobody’s got the brains or ambition to really throw a spanner in the works of the system, so they just “tag” the same walls with graffiti over and over again (among other ultimately pointless endeavors), not so much actively hoping to get caught as they are not really giving a fuck either way. After all, the question of “Why did you do it, son?” is one that only has one answer in suburbia : “Because it was something to do.”

So, yeah, apart from the fact that these comics feature citrus-based life forms, they’re eminently relatable to anyone who either had or is having a standardized, routine upbringing in a consumer-driven community centered around the principle of protracted soul-death on the installment plan. I laughed at something on every page, and that’s basically a Mirsky staple — even if this comic, for entirely practical (yet no less innovative for that fact) reasons actually has no staples. Ya see, what it has instead is something much better : a “B”-side comic of the following strip presented in fold-out form :

Okay, fair enough, it’s a gimmicky idea — but that doesn’t preclude it from being a cool one. Which is also a feature common to all things Mirsky : he has a habit of reminding you why you like certain things simply because he does them so damn well. “Old hat” ideas like muck monsters and anthropomorphic stands-ins for human beings seem fresh, new, and fun again when he’s doing them because he has an uncanny knack both for zeroing in on why these sorts of gimmicks (there’s that word again) were both fun and effective in the first place , and for tossing aside the extraneous baggage that they’ve been saddled with over the years that’s sapped all that fun and effectiveness out of them. They say that everything old is new again, and I suppose that’s true or they wouldn’t keep saying it, but it takes a special talent to make a reader glad that it’s new again. I humbly submit that Mirsky is, indeed, a special talent of precisely that sort.

Looking at things more broadly, it’s fair to say that slapstick gets a bad rap in these pseudo-sophisticated and painfully self-aware times we live in, but when it’s done smartly, and has a point? It’s not only still funny and salient in equal measure, it’s also fiendishly clever, especially when it’s of the painfully obvious “I wish I’d thought of that — in fact, why didn’t I?” variety. All of which is to say that the observations at the beating heart of these gag strips well and truly don’t require any sort of special level of insight — but they most certainly do require skilled comedic timing and a mastery of “Comics 101” visual storytelling basics in order to land properly. If, then, you’re the sort of person who values and appreciates sheer old-school cartooning skill, you’ll find this charmingly unassuming mini to be one that you derive a fair amount of honest-to-goodness joy from.

And speaking (again) of muck monsters, Mirsky has also just released the latest and greatest issue of his infectiously likable series Sludgy, which is #4 to be precise, and you don’t want to pass on that, either. I have, however, talked about that title plenty in the past, so I made it my goal this time out to demonstrate to you, dear reader, that this guy is much more than some one-trick pony. He’s the real deal, and he’s making some real good comics.


The Lemonade Brigade is available for $3.00 from Robb Mirsky’s website, My Moving Parts, at

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The Great Missouri Raid (1951, directed by Gordon Douglas)

During the Civil War, brothers Frank (Wendell Corey) and Jesse James (Macdonald Carey) leave the family farm and fight as Confederate guerillas under the leadership of the infamous William Quantrill.  When the war ends with the Confederacy’s defeat, Frank, Jesse, and their friend Cole Younger (Bruce Bennett) return home to Missouri and discover that their town is being ruled over the tyrannical Major Towbridge (Ward Bond).  With their farms in ruin and having little opportunity to make honest money, the James Brothers and the Younger Brothers soon resort to robbing banks and trains.  It’s their revenge against not only the soldier occupying their land but also the bankers and land barons who have been taking advantage of their friends and family members.  The James-Younger Gang become heroes to economically oppressed people everywhere.

From the minute that they arrive home, Towbridge is determined to imprison the James brothers.  Not only does he distrust them because of their past with Quantrill but he also blames them for the death of his own brother.  Towbridge becomes so obsessed that he even leaves the army so that he can pursue Frank and Jesse as a private detective.  Even as it appears that Jesse might be on the verge of settling down and abandoning his criminal life, he still has to deal with unexpected visitors like the Ford brothers.

The story of Frank and Jesse James inspired several films, some of which were better than others.  Directed with a good eye for detail by Gordon Douglas, The Great Missouri Raid tells the familiar story with enough skill to be watchable but it never reaches the classic status of Walter Hill’s The Long Riders. 

The main problem is that both Wendell Corey and Macdonald Carey come across as being almost too civilized as the James brothers.  The film is obviously sympathetic to the James brothers and, as westerns tended to do in the 50s, it ignores some of the less heroic details of their lives of outlaws.  (The film, for instance, doesn’t mention that the James brothers were probably already outlaws before the Civil War started and it’s doubtful that a modern film would be as sympathetic to two men who left home to fight for the Confederacy.)  Usually, though, even the most sympathetic film portrayals of the James brothers still portray them as being the type of people who you wouldn’t necessarily want to meet while riding the trail.  Wendell Corey and Macdonald Carey play Frank and Jesse as being so nice that it’s hard to believe that they could have even rode with Quantrill, let along the Younger brothers.  They’re the most reasonable outlaws this side of the Mississippi.  Bruce Bennett and Bill Williams are more believable as the rough and tough Cole and Jim Younger.

Not surprisingly, the film is stolen by Ward Bond.  Bond usually played reasonable authority figures for John Ford and Frank Capra.  As Major Towbridge, though, he’s cast as a martinet who allows his obsession with James brothers to turn him into a fanatic.  For those who are used to only seeing Bond cast as a fair cop or a tough-but-fair military officer, his performance in The Great Missouri Raid is a revelation.

The Long Riders is the best movie about the James Gang but, for western fans, The Great Missouri Raid should be entertaining if not definitive.

TV Review: The Dropout 1.8 “Lizzy” (dir by Erica Watson)

(Below, you will find spoilers for the final episode of The Dropout.  I would recommend not reading this post until you’ve watched the episode.)

After all the drama and the deception, The Dropout ended the only way that it could, with Theranos in ruins, Sunny out of Elizabeth’s life, and Elizabeth still unable to comprehend why everyone got upset with her in the first place.  While George Schultz tries to come to terms with his mistakes and Erika Cheung worries about whether or not she’s ruined her future career by coming out as a whistleblower, Elizabeth tries to do damage control by forcing Sunny out of Theranos and then going on television for a cringey interview that pretty much seals her fate.  Both David Boies and Linda Tanner (Michaela Watkins, who became the unexpected heart of this episode) tell Elizabeth that it’s important that she come across as being contrite and sincerely “devastated” by Sunny’s actions.  Elizabeth, however, can’t do it.  As she explains to her mother, Elizabeth has been locking away her emotions for so long that she no longer knows how to express or even feel them.

The end of the episode finds Elizabeth finally pursuing the life that she would have led if she hadn’t dropped out of Stanford, started Theranos, and gotten involved with Sunny.  She’s dating a younger man.  She’s going to Burning Man.  She owns a dog.  She’s ditched the turtleneck.  She’s let her hair down.  She’s speaking in her real voice.  She’s going by “Lizzie.”  She’s reverted back to being the somewhat flakey child of privilege that she was at the start of the miniseries.  Even while Linda Tanner confronts her with the number of lives that she and Theranos destroyed, Elizabeth doesn’t break her stride.  Elizabeth has decided that she’s moved on, even if no one else can.  It’s only when she’s alone that she briefly allow her composure to crack, just long enough to scream into the void.

Of course, the final title card informs us that it doesn’t matter how much Elizabeth wants to be Lizzie, the girl who goes to Burning Man with her boyfriend.  Having been convicted of defrauding her investors, Elizabeth Holmes is currently awaiting her sentencing.  She could end up spending the next twenty years in prison.  And, just as Phyllis Gardner predicted in the previous episode, Elizabeth has made it difficult for other female entrepreneurs to find success in Silicon Valley.

As the episode came to a close, with Elizabeth walking through the now empty offices of Theranos with her dog and an increasingly agitated Linda, I found myself thinking about how those offices progressed through the series.  Theranos went from a shabby office building in the worst part of town to being the epitome of Silicon Valley chic.  In the early episodes, the cluttered Theranos offices and labs were disorganized but there was also a very sincere earnestness to them.  Men like Ian Gibbons actually believed in what they were doing.  By the fourth episode, Theranos transformed into a secretive place that was fueled by paranoia.  With each subsequent episode, the offices became a bit less individualistic and bit more joyless.  In the final episode, the offices were dark and deserted, as empty as Elizabeth and Sunny’s promises.  Looking at those offices, it was hard not to mourn the lost idealism of those early days.  Sunny may have never shared that idealism.  The miniseries suggests that Elizabeth lost her idealism as soon as she finally started to get the positive publicity that she craved.  But the people who were there at the beginning believed in Theranos and its stated mission.  Even Elizabeth’s early investors were taking a chance because they thought she could make the world a better place.  In the end, Elizabeth and Sunny betrayed all of them.  As I said at the start of this review, The Dropout ended the only way that it could, with an empty office, a lot of broken hearts, and Elizabeth Holmes convinced that the world had somehow failed her.  Viewers may never fully understand what was going on in Elizabeth Holmes’s mind but they’ll never forget her or the story of Theranos.

The Dropout was a good miniseries, probably the best that we’ll see this year.  This is a miniseries that better be remembered come Emmy time.  Amanda Seyfried seems to be a lock to at least get a nomination.  Naveen Andrews deserves consideration as well.  The supporting cast provides an embarrassment of riches.  Sam Waterston, Dylan Minnette, Kurtwood Smith, Michaela Watkins, William H. Macy, the great Stephen Fry, Camryn Mi-Young Kim, Kate Burton, Anne Archer, and Laurie Metcalf, all of them are award-worthy.  Give them the Emmy campaign that they deserve, Hulu!

Music Video of the Day: Back to the Cave by Lita Ford (1989, directed by ????)

At the risk of getting called a nerd by our readers, when I came across this video and I saw that the song was called Back to the Cave and that the video was released in 1989, my initial thought was, “I didn’t know Lita Ford was on the Batman soundtrack.”

I didn’t know that because she’s not.  The song has nothing to do with Batman.  The title is Back To The Cave, not Back to the Batcave.  The Batman soundtrack was pretty much dominated by Prince and Danny Elfman.  All of this, I should have been able to figure out on my own without resorting to Google and Wikipedia.  Excuse me while I hang my head in shame.

No, this song isn’t in any ways connected to Batman.  Instead, it’s just Lita Ford doing what Lita Ford does best.  The video doesn’t need any gimmickry.  All it needs is Lita Ford being a guitar goddess.