Saturday, May 26, 2007

"Memorial Day Weekend"

Back a good thirty years ago, I got an art table for a present (probably at Christmas). I think maybe an ex-wife gave it to me. If so I'm sure it was the only decent thing I ever got out of the relationship. But, any way...

Ten years or so ago I stored it down in the basement at my parent's house because I didn't have room for it in my apartment. I really hated to because I had used it for so many hundreds of illustrations. But I always had to keep it in a back room with no radio, stereo, t.v., etc. for background noise, and I opted for a smaller more convenient size board that I could just lay in my lap while working in the living room.

The art table gathered dust and got in pretty bad shape. The doors on the front somehow went missing as well as one of the interior shelves, but I was determined, now that I have a study of sorts, to bring it over to my house and restore it for use.

I renailed the back, reinforced the sides with more screws (as it was literally falling apart), straightened brackets that held the drawing top area and cleaned it up. That's it now pictured above. It was like renewing an aquaintance with an old friend. I composed and did all of my mini comics and digest size small press artwork on this table in the 1980's, dozens of various comic strips and single illustrations, and even used it for an eisle on more than one occasion when I felt like doing a painting.

It probably didn't cost over $25. back in the mid-1970's when it was new, and I've gotten 100 times that amount of use from it. I even bought one of those clamp-on overhanging adjustable lights for it, but after a few years abandoned it because even if you use a low wattage bulb in it, those things get hot working under one, especially in the Summer time. After an hour or two under the light on that one gets to feeling that he's being grilled by the cops (Not that I personally ever was!), so finally I replaced it with a small one that gives me just enough light at the right angel for work. It's one of those types that's used on sewing machines and such, and it worked (still does) perfectly.

So now here it sits in my pc room, where I have my music, my t.v. and DVD-VHS player, radio and whatever I need for background amusement when I try to work on new artwork, and maybe I won't find an excuse to not produce some new work.

This weekend is my first one off on both days this entire month. I was lucky not to have to work The Memorial Day weekend (although I will have to work Monday). Already I've crammed much into these rare days off.

I mowed all of my lawn as well as all of my parent's yard, and cleaned up more around their garage (a project I've been working off-and-on for a year now), and scraped-painted the under-eves of my house on one side. Cleaned off the sidewalks and got the drain gutter from the street cleaned/emptied which runs in front of it, plus I went by both flea markets here locally and one yard sale (didn't buy anything).

Recently as well I finally got to finish alphabetizing 30+ long boxes of comics (now just maybe I can find something when I need it).

A friend of mine is listing some of my stuff off-and-on on eBay under the user name of: mcskager (just in case anyone's interested in looking that over). He's listing different items every week, usually for three to five days and most of the time it's on either a Tuesday or Wednesday he begins them. There's several thousand items: comics, scifi paperbacks, toys, hardcovers, and all sorts of misc. stuff, a real "hodgepodge" of items (so it's not just comic books), and only a small fraction thus far have even been listed. (End of unabashed PLUG.)

My wife is coping as well as anyone who has long one of their parents here just a week and a half back. We want to thank all who sent us kind words of sympathy.

(And finally...)

This Memorial Day while you're all out having fun at a local lake or beach, or enjoying that picnic or cookout and just generally having a good time, please take a moment to remember what this holiday is all about, which is to honor all of the fallen in our Armed Forces who put down their lives to protect all of the freedoms in this country that you treasure. Say a prayer for our soldiers overseas (whether you believe in "the war" or not) that they may return home safely to their loved ones. This is not a time to debate whether our involvements on foreign soil is correct or not. Save that debate for another time, and remember kindly those who have volunteered to protect us.

Friday, May 18, 2007

"Movie & Comic Book Reviews"

I want to begin with the Spider-man 3 movie, so if you don't want just a ton of spoilers and wanna see this flick fresh, then here's your warning!

Okay. Let's begin with "Gwen Stacy". She looked the part, but the attitude was all wrong. Plus, she was dead and gone many a year before "Eddie Brock" was ever introduced into the Spider-man title, so she never could have been his girlfriend. Doesn't matter much, though and I can "forgive" that since they ruined all of the Gwen Stacy death scenereo back in the first Spider-man movie by having "Mary Jane Watson" in the same situations.

"Eddie Brock" and the whole "Venom" thing was done well. Venom could have been more bulky (as well as Brock), but he more or less pretty much looked like the character (s) and the special effects on Venom were good. The origin of the whole black costume was changed around, but that's understandable since then we'd have to have had at least three more flicks just to explain all of the "Secret Wars" storyline. I can understand the simplicity used in this matter.

How Spider-man got the black costume off of him using sound was very correct and well-played. But the effect that the Venom costume had on "Peter Parker" was a bit over-played (don't you think?), especially the scene in the Jazz Club where Peter takes gwen in to make Mary Jane feel bad. This isn't "American Idol", or "Dancing With the Stars", dammit! It's Spider-man!

And just how many people know Parker's ID as Spider-man now (or, at least know his face)??? Let's see...there's Norman Osborn, Harry Osborn, Mary Jane Watson, all the people on that train he saved in "Spider-man 2", Venom("Eddie Brock") and now the Sandman as well??? Who needs a new-ish costume? Give THAT guy a new face!!!

Any hoo..."Harry Osborn" becoming the NEW "Green Goblin" was done well. By killing him off, as well as destroying (?) "Venom", tied up any loose ends from previous movies, and gave Pete and Harry back their friendship, and made for a bit of a sad ending, but probably a needed one.

"Sandman": Oh, what a bitter seed.....ALL WRONG! It's not that Sandman didn't look the part, but the origin was completely off due to updating. Probably another necessity I suppose. I mean, just how many characters can get their powers through nuclear accidents without everyone thinking "hoo-hum...". But I didn't care for them making Sandman the killer of "Uncle Ben", and I didn't like the way they played up the sympathy angle, and I didn't like the fact that after he tried to kill Spider-man (who KNEW he was a murderer whether intentional or not) just let the villian escape. (Spider-man captures villians for Khrist's Sake.) The FX on Sandman were, however, top notch.

The flick was a bit long, but it was very fast-paced and there was just so much crammed into it that it passed well. And Stan Lee's little cameo was just fine. Pay that guy another $200,000. or "whatever' for his 5 seconds on the screen (again).

Although I still hold that the "X-men" flicks are the best written of all the Marvel Comics adaptation from the past several years now, Spider-man's are really the most entertaining, and I do indeed recommend to anyone who loves comics to watch it. I'll give it an "A"; better than the first two in the series.

And now, I'll switch over to a DC Comics review of "The Spirit" comic book (the cover to the second printing of No.1 shown above).

I realize that there have been other artists and writers who have written and drawn The Spirit besides Will Eisner. But there are just certain basics that you keep true to this character. You just don't show him without a mask (unless he's wearing sunglasses or some other disguise) and you definately don't refer to him as "Denny Colt"! Denny Colt died and The Spirit was born. This was the reason FOR The Spirit. He knew he could be more effective at tracking down villians IF they thought Colt was dead. Because of this I can't really forgive DC for doing just that very thing. So would sumbodi at the DC offices please READ one of those nice Archive reprint editions you've been publishing of the original 1940's comic sections? Otherwise the art and stories have been fine. I know it's difficult to update a character such as this because he is indeed a product of the WWII era, and few people run around these days with padded sholder blue suits and fedoras, and you can't have "Ebony" spouting off some ethenic slang due to political correctness. Such things worked fine 50 years ago; can't hardly make them relative to today's material. But let's keep the basic ideas of the Spirit intact, shall we?

Also I've read the first two TPB colections of DC's 2003-04 series written by Peter David : Fallen Angel. 'Been wanting to read this series for a while, but having not picked up issues of this originally I found back issues to be rather costly and opted for the collected volumes. Thus far by getting the first two TPBs I've read the first 12 issues of the DC series. There were 20 issues total by DC, later to be picked up by IDW Publishing (of which I've read none). What I've read of these so far I've really liked (but then, I'm a fan of David's work and not everyone is). The storylines are of a mature and adult level, and far from your regular capes & cowls sort of series. Plus it's nicely illustrated by David Lopez and Fernondo Blanco.

Despite comments from Peter David in an interview where he denied that the central character in this comic is just a continuation of his 1996 "Supergirl" DC series, there are so many comparisons that one would certainly think so. For one thing, she calls herself "Lee", which the "Matrix" Supergirl used ("Linda Lee") as her alternate identity.

She obviously has mental powers, which the Matrix-Supergirl had as well, and would seem to be able to fly, have super-strength and other such more-than-human-abilities that his former DC character had, plus---the Matrix-Supergirl was supposed to have been some sort of an Earth-elemental-angel. Whether or not David will admit that it's the same character, it doesn't matter because this series stands alone in quality.

Indications are that she's exactly what the title implies,i.e., a fallen angel, as she has long scars on her back where wings would have been, and she's stated that she is not on good speaking terms with Celestrial Powers these days. It would really fit in well with what David did in the '96 Supergirl series since that character abruptly disapeared from the DCU, making way for them to re-introduce another Kara-Jorel "Superman's cousin" version. In Fallen Angel, Lee just shows up one day in the city, "Bete Noire", and begins a fight against injustice. So if fans of his favorite character want to think they're the same character, so be it, because the conceptions can work either way.

Lee is certainly no "girl scout", however. She tortures one villian for information, for example. In fact, this whole series is very dark. She's been known to seek aid from known drug dealers (but always seems to screw them over or destroy their wares in the process). But she cuts no deals with any of them, at least, ones that she keeps. Her agenda is justice, sweet and sure, and she uses her special abilities, whether it's as a super-powered being, or as a woman, to secure that. Not recomended for a younger reader, but for the older more open-minded adult, I would indeed give it an "A+". I look forward to reading more issues in these series.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"R.I.P.: Bill Gibson"

My father-in-law, William P. ("Bill") Gibson, passed away last night. For those who regularly read this blog you'll remember that he's been battling cancer for well over a year now. In fact, one year ago last April he was given only a few months to live. His will and determination kept him alive and with a strong, clear mind up until only a couple a days ago. He will be missed.

Bill outlived Susan (who also died of cancer), his wife of many years, by over 7 years. He is survived by three daughters, Deborah, Lynn and Kimberly, 6 great nieces, several grandchildren, two sisters and many other relatives. Visitation will be at Brown's Funeral Chapel in Elizabethtown, Kentucky tomorrow, followed by the funeral on Friday.

Bill served in The Navy in the 1950's, and was known as a builder of many houses in the Elizabethtown area (as well as his own). He was an avid collector of antique automobiles and love to "piddle" with them and fix them up, and did so up until his seventies until his illness prevented him from doing so.

He loved to travel and meet new people, and didn't have an enemy in the world. He had many, many friends who will all be saddened by this loss.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

"Always Reasons"

Yes, I know that this year is flying right on by and my posts seem less frequent, but there are these reasons...

Foremost is the health of both my wife's father as well as my own father, both of who are currently in nursing homes and neither it would seem with any chance of ever coming back home.

My father-in-law, of course, has cancer and it has progressed to the point that he needs around the clock care. In fact, at the moment he's been moved from the nursing home and into a hospital and his doctors give him no more than a month to live.

My father, at 87, has Alzheimer's Disease and has had recent strokes and can't walk. Sometimes he knows my mother and myself and sometimes no. At times he's coherent and other times he's living in a world somewhere else. My mother is 84 and fragile, and both my wife and I work all the time, and he finally got to the point that we couldn't take care of him. Fortunately he's in a nursing home only 2 miles from our houses (my parent's house is located in the same town and street as I) so we get to see him with great frequency. Piled upon this now as I, being the only child in my family, have certain responcibilities that take up about any time in which I'm not at my full time job. I have to keep their large yard mowed (as well as my own), run errands, keep track of my parent's health, legal matters, etc.,etc. I know I don't post much regarding my family and personal matters, but most of these are just that,i.e., personal, and I'm sure everyone has their problems and obligations, but I just wanted to let everyone know why I don't have that "extra time" these days as I used to when I first started this blog site.

Another reason you haven't seen me here for a while is due to problems I've had logging into this blog to post. For no real reason and just all of a sudden, Google wouldn't accept my password! In fact, I finally had to sign up for a "G-Mail" account before I could post this blog tonight. Maybe things are okay with it now...we'll "see". But thinking perhaps I'd never be back here (here at almost the 3rd. Anniversary of "Elmo's Junction" and with right at 10,000 unique hits) I eliminated my photos. So...okay, we'll just have some new ones and maybe a little different look to this whole blog soon.


While I'm here, I'll post a few opinions of recent acquisitions and movies that I've squeezed in some time to watch.

Movies I've viewed in the past few months include: the latest version of "King Kong", "TMNT", "Smokin Aces", "Bridge to Terabithia", and "My Super Ex-girlfriend".

KONG is a movie that should never have been remade to begin with, as there as certain movies that were done perfectly the first time around. Such flicks as "The Adventures of Robin Hood"(1938), or "The Bride of Frankenstein"(1935) are prime examples of movies that just could not have ever been made any better than they"why" do people always seem to think they can improve on perfection? Alright, so the answer is money (just plain ol' merchandising). It's not that the actors didn't do as good of a job as they could or that the special effects could have been better. It's just that you don't try to rewrite The Bible when it comes to a classic film. The best thing I could say about this remake is that it's better than the sad attempt made in the mid 1970's.

Okay. So I'll watch just about anything with Uma in it. "MSEGF" is one of those "watch-it-and-forget-it" type of flicks. Good for a few chuckles in a single viewing. Sorta neat seeing her as a super-heroine.

"TMNT" is exactly what one would expect. It's all about the Eastman/Laird creations started in 1983 which boomed to being on everything from lunchboxes to shoelaces. Can't say that I have ever been a huge fan of "The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles". Thought that TMNT #1 should have been a one-shot only as it was a great parady and tribute to comic book creators such as Jack Kirby, Frank Miller, Stan Lee and Bill Everett, but anyone who was "into' comics back in the 1980's certainly knows what this book led into: a brazillion imitations and a flood of alternate press releases of which only maybe 10% were any good (and less of that percentage which has survived to this day). But as a Turtles' flick, it's perfection for what it is, and the computerized animation couldn't be much better; a good flick to watch with your kids as long as you know it's on a PG-13 type rating, and it beats the heck out of any previous movie adaptation of the characters.

"Bridge to Terebithia" is the winner of all of these flicks. A combination of fantasy, tragedy and adventure for two pre-teen children, and not just a kiddie flick but something as an adult you'd want to watch probably more than once, or even share with someone just because it is that good. My highest recommendation.

I couldn't even finish viewing "Smokin' Aces". It was boring, erratic, and looked like some combination of "Pulp Fiction-The Godfather-& David Copperfield".

In current comic books, DC's 52 #50 (geez, it it already up to #50!?!) has the defeat of "Black Adam" and the beginnings of DC's "WWIII" storylines, plus a one panel cameo of my fave DC team, "The Doom Patrol". As usual, a great book no matter who says otherwise.

Justice League of America(DC) #8 begins a new "JLA/JSA" team-up and has an appearance of The Legion of Super-Heroes' member, "The Karate Kid". This book just keeps on pluggin' nicely along and this issue has a Mike Turner cover.

Otherwise for the LOSHs, The Legion of Super-Heroes in the 31st. Century(DC) #1 is nothing more than what it's supposed to be and that being an adaptation of the animated series, which I like, but not this comic in particular.