Pulp Fiction #3: Batman At 80


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Whether you call him the Caped Crusader or the Dark Knight, it’s hard to believe Batman has been in the public eye for eighty years! Making his debut in Detective Comics #27 (cover dated May 1939) in a story titled “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” by co-creators Bill Finger and Bob Kane, Batman has gone from mere comic book crimefighter to king of all media! Not bad for a poor little rich kid from Gotham City!

BATMAN BEGINS 

Artist Bob Kane (1915-1998) had been toiling in the nascent comic book field for three years when DC’s superhero character Superman took off like a rocket. Comic houses were scrambling to compete in this new genre of costumed cavorters, and Kane came up with some sketches of a masked vigilante, basing his design on Lee Falk’s Phantom, Douglas Fairbanks’ ZORRO, and the 1930 horror/mystery THE BAT WHISPERS. Kane asked writer Bill Finger…

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Sabrina S2 Ep1, Epiphany, Review with Spoilers by Case Wright


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October came early this year! It’s time to once again get down with the baddest witch this side of Massachusetts.  As you know from my previous reviews of this show, I’m a bit biased: I am a fan.  In fact, I was looking forward to this next installment since October. Well, I can say without a doubt that the Season 2 Premiere of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, “Epiphany”, was an episode that was made.

A lot of shows go through a Sophomore Slump- the underwhelming return of a beloved show.  By the end of the episode, all the characters that were the most interesting were diminished.  It was still fun to watch and is very entertaining and it’s not Season 2 Stranger Things terrible, but I hold this show to a higher standard: and I mean it!!!!

Season 1 was all about failure and corruption.  Sabrina set out to save her town and herself.  Not only did she endanger her town, she became so corrupted by ego and hubris that the price was her very soul.  It was Shakespearean with a David Lynch vibe.  Season 2 was less than, not to say it can’t or won’t get back on track because it likely will, but this was not great.

The episode was written by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Showrunner) and directed by Kevin Rodney Sullivan who did ….. okay. The direction had the suspense of wet toast.  Not everyone can do suspense and horror and this was sub-awesome.  It sufficed as a recap episode, but not much more.

The plot is that Sabrina wanted to become the “Top Boy” of the witch academy and her love interest Nick is the favorite because he’s a dude.  Suzie who is now Theo wanted to try out for the all-boys basketball team.  I was excited to see them fight the patriarchy and all that, but they did so in the weakest way possible: they cheated.  Sabrina needed to complete three trials versus Nick.  The first one: she won because the Weird Sisters (including Zelda) who for no reason at all like Sabrina now and gave her the answers.  This really bugged because it was not fair to her character.  She’s Sabrina! She’s supposed to be this badass; anyone can win by cheating.

This theme is further reinforced by Sabrina fixing a basketball game so Suzie could win.  Suzie wanted to get on the boy’s team, which is a fair challenge and a good one for this show to tackle, but she was legit terrible at the sport and could only win because Sabrina cheated for her.  This is not empowering. It showed that Sabrina had no faith in Suzie and most importantly it made Suzie look stupid because she never noticed that she went from the beginning of the game from being the Generals to the Globetrotters?!  Suzie was diminished, Sabrina was diminished, and I was insulted by it.  It would have been so much better if Suzie was like WTF?! Why am I so great all of a sudden and then saw that Sabrina was cheating for her, the smile fades from her face, and then Suzie walks off the court.  This would have set up some good conflict with Sabrina, especially since she doesn’t really have any foes right now.

Roberto Sacasa needs to understand the characters he created.  Suzie, Ros, and even Harvey to a MUCH lesser degree were very aware of what was going on around them throughout season 1, making Sabrina’s unnoticed intervention on Suzie’s behalf a lot tougher sell.

There was a subplot of  Evil Three King Demons trying to mess with Sabrina because they were afraid she would ascend.  This could get interesting.  My hopes are high on that one.   This series is still fun, but if it continues down this lazy path it will be more of a guilty pleasure that I watch on the elliptical or something on while I fold the laundry.

 

 

Love On The Range: The Covers of Cowgirl Romances


Yee-haw!  It’s time to celebrate love on the range with Cowgirl Romances!

Cowgirl Romances was published by Fiction House, a publishing company that operated from 1938 to 1954.  Twelve issues of Cowgirl Romances were published between 1950 and 1952 and, judging from the covers below, it looks like they featured all of the dusty romance and hot cattle rustling that a girl could hope for.  All of these covers were done by Maurice Whitman, who understood that, on the range, guns and kisses go together like blacksmiths and horseshoes.  The other thing about these covers is that they show that real cowgirls can take care of themselves out in the wild, except for issue #10.  I don’t know how she is going to outrun a mountain lion in high heels.

Here are the covers of Cowgirl Romances:

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.

Face Front, Marvelites!: RIP Stan “The Man” Lee


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I know it’s popular these days among a certain coterie of Comic Book Buffs to bash Stan Lee’s contributions to the medium in favor of artist/collaborators Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko . You’ll never find me in that crowd. Not ever. I learned to read (with the help of my dad) at the tender age of three through comics… simple stuff at first, funny books like YOGI BEAR and BEETLE BAILEY. As I progressed into the realm of superheroes, my vocabulary improved thanks to writers like Gardner Fox, John Broome, and especially Stan Lee, who took me to Asgard and Outer Space with Shakespearean-styled dialog and college-level words that made me keep a dictionary always at the ready. Screw you, Dr. Frederic Wertham!!

The Titanic Trio: Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko

Stanley Martin Lieber was born December 28, 1922, the eldest son of immigrant parents (his younger sibling Larry…

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Rest In Peace, Stan Lee


In 1939, a 17 year-old aspiring writer named Stanley Lieber landed a job at Timely Comics in New York City.

At first, Stanley’s job was just to get coffee, make sure that the inkwells were full, and occasionally proofread copy.  In 1941, when the third issue of Captain American Comics needed a text story so that it could be shipped as a magazine instead of just as a comic book, Stanley was assigned the job.  Because the young man had an ambition to some day write the great American novel and felt that being associated with comic books would make it more difficult to convince publishers to take him seriously, Stanley Lieber wrote the story under a pseudonym, Stan Lee.

And the rest, as they say, is history.  Timely eventually became Atlas and then Atlas was rebranded Marvel and, through it all, Stan Lee remained at the company, providing continuity from one decade to another.  Ironically, for someone who originally feared being too associated with comic books, Stan Lee went on to become not only the face but, for several decades, the voice of Marvel Comics.

Among comic book historians, Stan Lee is an often divisive figure.  By his own admission, Lee loved the spotlight and it can be argued that he unfairly overshadowed his publicity-shy colleagues.  To solely give Lee the credit for creating characters like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four does a disservice to the work of artists and writers like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and so many others.  As a company, Marvel has a deserved reputation for not treating its artists with the respect or the financial compensation that they deserved.  How much of the responsibility for any of that falls on Lee’s shoulders is a controversial subject and will continue to be so for years to come.

What isn’t controversial was that,  whether he hitting the college lecture circuit, recording the introductions for the animated Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends TV show, or giving interviews with publications like Playboy and Rolling Stone, there was never a bigger cheerleader for comic books than Stan Lee.  At a time when DC comics was busy imitating the campy Batman TV show, Marvel Comics were, in their own way, dealing with world in which their readers lived.  From the platform of Stan’s Soap Box, Stan Lee spoke against racism and prejudice.  When the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare approached Lee to do a story about the dangers of drug abuse, Lee did it in defiance of the Comic Codes Authority.  Three issues of Spider-Man were released without the CAA’s seal of approval, opening the way for all comic books to deal with real world issues.

Stan Lee as Mr. Fantastic in What If #11 (as drawn by Jack Kirby)

For many comic book readers who might have otherwise felt that they didn’t fit in, Stan Lee said, “Here, you do belong.”  Today, it might seem easy to poke fun at Lee’s endless enthusiasm, his cries of “excelsior,” and the way that he called Marvel readers “true believers.”  But for many readers,  there was much comfort to be found in Lee’s corny sayings.  Lee had a way of making readers feel as if they were all in it together.  Whether you were a true believer or a member of the Merry Marvel Marching Society, you belonged.  For kids who felt like outsiders, Lee was there to tell them that everyone was capable of being a hero, whether they had super powers or not.

In his twilight years, Lee was rediscovered by a new generation of fans.  Spotting Lee’s trademark cameos became one of the pleasures of watching any Marvel film.  Sometimes, he was a postman.  In Deadpool, he worked in a strip club.  More than once, he was a janitor.  I once saw him driving a bus.  In the second Guardians of the Galaxy film, he was sitting on the moon and telling the Watchers about his adventures on Earth and it just seemed like he was right where he belonged.

Stan Lee passed away today at the age of 95.

I knew I’d have to write this some day but I always hoped it wouldn’t be any time soon.

Rest in Peace, Stan Lee.