Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween! And… Boo!


Happy Halloween!  ...And, for your treat, here are a few comic covers I like!

...Oh, yes!  Boo! 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Comic Book Review: ACTION COMICS (Series Two) # 1 (2011).

ACTION COMICS (Series Two) # 1 (2011)

Cover Date: November, 2011. Published by DC Comoics.

Beginning a (possible) series of looong Comic Book Reviews by Joe Torcivia – and with the title that “began it all”!

Superman Versus The City of Tomorrow” 28 Pages.

Writer: Grant Morrison. Penciller: Rags Morales. Inker: Rick Bryant.

But, first… some historical perspective. The first “Crisis” (of the “on Infinite Earth’s" variety) shook the DC Comics Universe throughout the year of 1985, modifying, or outright nullifying, decades of prior continuity with it.

From that point on, periodic “Adjustment Crises” would take place, from “Zero Hour” to “Final Crisis”, each in its own way (all together now) modifying, or outright nullifying, the adjusted continuity that developed in the interim.

But, could even the World’s Greatest Superheroes be prepared for the seismic shock that occurred in September, 2011! For, DC Comics would cancel its entire line… and begin anew.

Calling their stunt “The New 52”, 52 DC titles either began or restarted with Number One issues.

If the inflated prices for certain issues offered at this past month’s New York Comic Con were any indication, the move has resulted in some initial success. But, as with all things in the comic book industry, it will eventually “cool”, and things will return to normal.

Two ironies that result from this move is that

(A:) the DC Universe of this new continuity has NEVER experienced a “Crisis” -- it just all rebooted without all the wrenching trauma of a “Crisis” (… or WAS THERE a “Crisis” after all, and they characters simply don’t remember and, thus, do not reflect it in the new continuity)

(B:) I had walked away from DC Comics completely in the last 2-3 years, and this stunt was enough to draw me back in for a limited peak.

And, there was no better place to begin that “limited peak” than with the brand spanking new ACTION COMICS # 1) cover dated not 1938, but November, 2011!

The creative team of – not Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster, but Grant Morrison and Rags Morales, sure made it interesting. Honestly, it was not the greatest comic book ever (I never expected it to be!), but it was the equal of a good nineties “Elseworlds”.  And, by today's standards, that's good enough!

As is our custom in our DVD Reviews, we’ll inaugurate this new series of Comic Book Reviews by breaking it down into CONS and PROS.


3.99 Cover Price: Now, really! Isn’t FOUR BUCKS a little much for…

A Small Piece of the Story: Yeah, I get it. This IS how modern comics are done, and the aim is to bring you back for more next month. But, if only for the stunt of STARTING THE ENTIRE DC COMICS LINE OVER AGAIN, perhaps they could have TRIED for a more single issue / done-in-one approach in tribute to the way these things were done in ages past. Ahhh, I can’t be too hard on them for this.


It’s Superman: No matter the era. No matter the format. No matter the cover price and bite-size pieces of story. Superman is still the greatest superhero of them all! And, at least for now, we get an ongoing saga of his earliest days reimagined for modern sensibilities – yet, simultaneously remaining “classic".

It’s Grant Morrison: Since the mid/late ‘90s, few writers have turned out as many interesting (if not outright fascinating) stories as Grant Morrison. From his amazing run on ‘90s JLA to the 21st Century’s ALL STAR SUPERMAN (the latter adapted for a direct-to-DVD production by Bruce Timm and Warner Bros. earlier this year), Grant Morrison stands above the modern-day pack. In a time where I find myself enjoying the work of modern comic book writers less-and less by the HOUR (let alone by the day), Grant Morrison has become a precious resource – if not an outright “national treasure”!

It’s Rags Morales: Let the cover art and interior page sample speak for themselves. No, we’ll never have Curt Swan back (more’s the pity), but this is great stuff – in an “Image Comics” sort of way. And, best of all (beyond the “Image” influence, it seems more influenced by the great Brian Bolland than by Anime and Manga. That’s a good thing ANY day of the week!

It’s 28 and not 22: At least we get 28 pages of story (and not the standard 22) for that 3.99!

Not that the ad content is deceased by any means. This issue (and presumably future ones) has 40 interior pages, rather than the traditional 32. I guess the comic book as we know it will be subject to constant “re-jiggering” of its page count and content until it someday disappears altogether.

It’s Action # 1: Now, I can say I own “ACTION COMICS # 1"!

You can say it too! We can ALL say it! It’s kinda like when Oprah Winfrey gave everyone a car!


Superman plays ROUGH! He puts guys through WALLS! And he still LEAPS, rather than flies.

We are in a world not yet used to super-beings. The cape is mistaken for a “red parachute” (presumably seen that way as the downside of a mighty leap!)

Cop: “How do you do this to a gun?” (seeing it mangled)

Lead Cop: “We used to have LAWS in this town – like GRAVITY. You remember GRAVITY, right?”

The Superman costume is not yet complete. Clark wears jeans – not trunks and tights.

Is Luthor a businessman or has he reverted to a scientist? Can’t quite tell yet.

Clark works for the Daily Star – and George Taylor, as he did in the very early Golden Age!

Jimmy Olsen is STILL “Superman’s Pal” and Lois Lane (NOT Mrs. Clark Kent) is classically reckless in pursuit of her story. They work for the rival Daily Planet.

A magnificently handled runaway train sequence.


The bottom line is that I was more impressed than I expected to be!

Given this, I’d say they are off to a good start.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Comic Book Review Coming!

That is ONE LUCKY KID, wouldn’t you say?

Considering that “The Issue At Hand” APA and Fanzine column originally began back in 1994 as a Comic Book Review column, we don’t do nearly enough of that at this Blog.

I’ll have to do more – both old and new comics.

And, we’ll start this week with one of the newest. Check back later in the week, won’t you.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

New York Comic Con 2011

October 13-16 was New York Comic Con… and the proverbial “good time was had by all”. Indeed, how could you NOT have a good time at this spectacle of a show!

As Comic Con International San Diego once was for me, so is New York Comic Con today!

It’s the chance to see old friends, make new friends, attend panels, and (of course) buy comics. And, thanks to my Disney comic book work with Gemstone and Boom!, I get to attend as a Pro – with all that entails.
Ah, the joys of hanging out with, or just speaking to: (in approximate order of appearance) David Gerstein, Ryan Wynns, Gemstone Editor-in-Chief John Clark, a cameo or two by Jonathan Gray, Aaron Sparrow, dealer friends that I’ve known from other shows, Bugs Bunny Director Greg Ford, former Lobo artist Val Semeiks, and two very charming young ladies named Kathy and Ashley – for whom David and I autographed copies of our Boom! Disney comics. …And everyone else who came together to make the experience great.

My comics purchases become fewer and fewer every year. 4 Dells (Including one I've waited many years for!), 1 DC (At last, the origin of Bat-Mite!), and 1 Harvey in old comics, and 4 additional contemporary DCs that I failed to pick up at the comic shop. And absolutely no bootleg DVDs this time!

I even won an undisclosed DVD prize from Warner Bros. At least I hope so. I sent an e-mail as instructed. We’ll see what returns… besides spam, that is.

But the most fun is always the conversation, interaction, joking, and general mutual appreciation of the comic book. For example: John Clark saying his favorite issue of WONDER WOMAN was when she had a date with an amoeba (!!!). And, I thought Johnny Bravo (and Seth MacFarlane’s) “Date with an Antelope(Warning: You Tube Link with SOUND!!!) was wonderfully bizarre. And, all I had to offer was when WW was on THE VIEW. Though, if I HAD the “Amoeba Date” comic, I’d probably have named that one too.

David Gerstein showed several uncharacteristically violent FELIX THE CAT covers, where a mouse named “Skidoo” does some particularly sadistic things to Felix – in the vein of “Itchy and Scratchy”. 

It got to the point that, for each one he showed me, I sang the “Itchy and Scratchy” theme song and added “Today’s Episode: …(fill in)”

For a cover where Felix was skin diving and Skidoo poured salt water down his air hose… “Today’s Episode: Voyage to the Bottom of Deceased”.

Another had Skidoo placing lit dynamite sticks atop Felix’s birthday cake… “Today’s Episode: Six-Scream Candles”.

You get the picture. …And Felix got “the business”! 23… um, Skidoo!

Fun, fun, fun… and I hope we all get to do it next year.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

DVD Review: John Wayne Triple Feature (1932).

John Wayne Triple Feature (1932)

(Released: 2006 by The Warner Home Video)
Another looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

Summary: Hit the trail with Leon, The Duke, and “The Other, Original Duke”!

What we have here is NOT “a failure to communicate” as Strother Martin might say, but a trio of dusty old John Wayne B-Westerns, made at the very beginning of “The Duke’s” career – years before boarding the… um, “Stagecoach” that would make him a star!

That alone should mean SOMETHING, with regard to entertainment value, even if the impetus amounts to nothing more than curiosity.

But, there are aspects to this that are far more fascinating!

John Wayne may have starred in these films, but he was not yet “The Duke”. That name was reserved for his HORSE!

Yes, really!

Duke” was the name of John Wayne’s HORSE in this series of short films – each lasting close to one hour in duration. Honestly, I never knew this until learning of this series of films by watching several trailers of them included as an Extra Feature of the “Rio Bravo” DVD set – which I only purchased due to hearing that “Rio Bravo” was John Wayne’s answer to Gary Cooper’s classic western “High Noon”.

The story of how the horse’s name attached itself to John Wayne remains a mystery to me – though, I’m certain SOMEONE out there can shed some light.

The trailers not only seemed to introduce “Duke” (the horse) as nearly an equal co-star to John Wayne – but they seemed to be almost “funny”, in a fast-motion, manic-range-riding sort of way. This is especially so for that for “The Big Stampede”.

These trailers may have piqued my interest in those early western curiosities, offering an very early look at a Hollywood legend and lots of fast-paced action – but it was catching a glimpse at the name of the PRODUCER that sealed the deal for me…

…Would you believe LEON SCHLESINGER?!

Leon Schlesinger… the man behind the Warner Bros. series of LOONEY TUNES and MERRIE MELODIES theatrical cartoon shorts!

Leon Schlesinger… Who appeared as “himself” in the Porky Pig and Daffy Duck cartoon “You Ought to be in Pictures” (1940), and who appeared in the second issue of the LOONEY TUNES and MERRIE MELODIES comic book in 1941!

Was Leon Schlesinger -- THAT Leon Schlesinger – in some way instrumental in giving world the immortal John Wayne – and giving John Wayne his immortal nickname?
Eh…. Could be! (…As they might have said in one of his classic cartoons!)

The films contained herein certainly make the case! Let’s look at them, shall we…

“Ride Him Cowboy” (1932) Runs 55:17.

Duke (the horse) is on trial for his life, after being framed for a violent attack on a ranch hand! (Again… Yes, really!) Actually, Duke was protecting the hand from the thieving gang of “The Hawk”, a shadowy bandit who strikes at night against honest ranchers.

John Wayne (as “John Drury”) rides into town in the midst of these proceedings and, as is his wont, comes to the aid of the horse – just before he is condemned to death. He claims that if he can break and ride him, that Duke will be a danger to no one. Rancher’s daughter “Ruth” is overjoyed and grateful when Drury backs his boast, saving Duke from his unjust reward – and takes the expected “shine” to the handsome stranger.

The rest of the plot lies in deducing the identity of “The Hawk” (Pretty obvious, I’d say, even by 1932 standards – just look for the most vocal anti-Duke voice at the “trial”!), and that guy’s attempt to leave Drury to perish on the desert and frame him for murder. I’d probably not be spoiling much by saying that Duke saves “The Duke” – and the two appear to form a “beautiful friendship” that carries over into subsequent films, such as…

“The Big Stampede” (1932) Runs 53:21.

At the “intersection” of Arizona and New Mexico (marked by a signpost resembling a corner street sign, in a frontier sort of way), settlers are warned to turn back or face the lawlessness of the New Mexico Territory. New Mexico Deputy Sheriff “John Steele” (Wayne) is dispatched to the scene, and finds that “respected rancher” Sam Crew (Noah Beery) and HIS er, “crew” is the chief desperado and rustler. Crew intends to take the cattle of an approaching caravan of settlers, as he has often done before.

Complicating matters is a SECOND band of rustlers, Mexicans led by “Sonora Joe”. Actor Luis Alberni, as “Sonora Joe”, steals the picture (as well as a few head of cattle) with nearly all of the film’s best dialogue:

There is the old saying… When the cat, she works – the mouse, she steals the cattle!”

Already, too many rustlers in these hills! Pretty soon, we cannot make an honest living!"

Where there is smoke, there is fire… from Sonora’s guns!”

Steele converts Sonora Joe and his men to the side of the law, and they are instrumental in bringing Crew’s murdering henchman, “Arizona” to justice.

There is the expected wild shootout in the dark, a precocious kid with a slingshot, his older sister who (all together now), takes a “shine” to Steele, and the wonderful stock footage, fast-motion, titular “stampede” that Steele turns in an unexpected direction that kills Crew!

Oh, yes… and what of Duke? John Wayne’s equine co-star does not appear until 17:33 of the 53:21 film, but he makes the most of his screen time. In short order he:

• Herds cattle.

• Shoves bandits.

• Knocks on a door to provide a diversion.

• Sees Steel get ambushed, and gallops off to get help!

What a horse!

“Haunted Gold” (1932) Runs 57:28.

We begin, rather uncharacteristically, with an ANIMATED BAT (…and a cartoony one, at that) flying directly at us, over the opening credits sequence. “John Wayne and Duke in Haunted Gold” is our title, and done-up in something resembling a horror-like dripping effect. Five more animated bats accent the list of players and other credits, finally dissolving into the image of a black hooded and cloaked “Phantom”. Again… Yes, really!

This time, Wayne is “John Mason”, Duke is still “Duke”, and they are joined by his hand “Clarence” played by actor Blue Washington, as an unfortunately stereotypical black character who exists to be scared by the horror trappings of the piece, employing the expected wide-eyed wild takes. Indeed, one wonders if there were no wild, scared takes to be done, would the character of “Clarence” even BE in this film.

Alas, as expected, Clarence gets to deliver lines like: “The SPIRIT am willin’ – but the FLESH am stallin’!”

While John Wayne gets the more stalwart lines like: “Looked to me like somebody was getting’ a dirty deal – thought I’d CUT IN!” (Sigh!) That’s Hollywood in the ‘30s.

That aside, and I fully realize that not everyone will be able to put that aside, “Haunted Gold” is actually a fun picture, full of “fast action silent-era stock footage”, old buildings with sliding panels and secret passages, a creepy old mine, a would-be heiress who (once again) takes a “shine” to John Mason, a slimy villain, and (best of all) the aforementioned black hooded and cloaked “Phantom”! …No animated bats appear anywhere in the film – more’s the pity!

If anything it takes a cue from the 1930 Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse newspaper strip continuity “Race to Death Valley” – and is more in a “Dell Comics Adventure” mode than any John Wayne vehicle has a right to be.

Indeed, THIS 1950 Dell comic book may very well have been influenced by “Haunted Gold”. …And Porky Pig WAS created on Leon Schlesinger’s watch!

Oh, and as for “Duke”, he merely saves John Wayne TWICE, tips Clarence off to where a gang of bandits is holding Wayne, goes back to the ranch to get additional help – and dives a bad guy off the edge of a cliff, where he falls to his death! Not a bad day’s work for a movie “wonder-horse”!

As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS.


An Absolute Lack of Extra Features: Okay, so we DO get THREE John Wayne movies for about 12 bucks, but NO Extra Features whatsoever? At this time, Warner was pumping out lavishly loaded sets for the “Big Pictures” – and even for some of the “Not So Big Ones”, so why is not as much as a trailer for each film included here? Too bad, because, as anyone possessing the “Rio Bravo” set will attest, these are VERY entertaining trailers!

My standard for a movie DVD’s Extra Features is the inclusion of a theatrical trailer for the film, a commentary track, and “making-of” or background featurette. Despite some good entertainment value for the dollar – especially as it is from a major studio then known for its copious Extra Features – John Wayne Triple Feature (1932), nevertheless, receives a major CON for its “Nega-Trifecta” in this area.

The closest this package comes to supplying any information on these films is a paragraph of TEXT on the rear or the package:

Twenty-Five Year old John Wayne saddles up in three of six early 1930s shoot-‘em-ups made for Warner Bros. and previously filmed with silent-screen cowboy Ken Maynard. [ The three films are described in one-sentence synopses ] Billed with Wayne in each of the three films is the white stallion Duke (chosen to match Maynard’s horse in intercut footage from the earlier films).

Given the future mega-stardom of John Wayne, not to mention how Duke the Horse came to give Wayne his name, let alone the near-forgotten live action productions of Leon Schlesinger, the lack of such features to discuss these aspects is regrettable indeed.


It’s John Wayne: See the future legend as a young “rookie”! The qualities he rode to stardom were present even then!

It’s Leon Schlesinger: You could just imagine what Tex Avery or Bob Clampett could have done with these very same plots, just a few years later, in the service of Mr. S.

It’s Duke the Wonder Horse: Watch Duke undo a saddle, run off his competition, rescue John Wayne – do everything but TALK! We’ll have to wait until “Mister Ed” for that! That is ONE SMART horse!

It’s Hand-Cranked, Artificially Sped-Up, Silent-Era Action: With all that collection of descriptive words entails! …And, we’d never know, if not for a paragraph of text on the box!


John Wayne and Duke made these three “Cowboy-Quickies” in 1932, and made three more in 1933. They are marvelously entertaining for what they are, and give us an early view of “The Duke” that one hardly ever sees! …And a view of “Duke” (the horse) that, outside of those six pictures, no one ever sees!

In addition, the films are cleaned-up and remastered to an amazing degree! Great job by Warners!

John Wayne Triple Feature (1932) is recommended for fans of John Wayne, old western films, trick-horses, hoary western plots with lots of fast action, campy western characters – both slimy and of the comedy relief variety, Old Warner Bros. films, Leon Schlesinger and the early Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies he produced… and the curious! Perhaps, most of all “the curious” – like me!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Teaser, Teaser, Pants on… um, er, … Freezer?

I’m offering up one last teaser for the third and final of my “Different Genre DVD Reviews”, coming by the weekend.

The GENRE is one not generally associated with yours truly, though I enjoy it more than even some of my closest friends might suspect. (So, all would-be “Blog-sleuths” can eliminate animation, sci-fi / fantasy, anything '60s, and Depression-Era gangsters and crime!)

The STAR is a very well-known star. (Lotta ground to cover, there!)

The actual CO-STAR would be regarded as having been lost to history, though the NAME of this co-star has lived on in an unexpected way. (That’s all I’m giving you for now, folks!)

Finally, (and, to me, the greatest surprise of all) the PRODUCER is a name you’ll know, but would never associate with this particular area of entertainment! (Again, that’s all, folks!)

…Though there MIGHT be a hint about some aspect of this, lurking within in these words!

You’ve been warned… er, teased!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Blink and You Miss It! Great Music Gags!

The DVD set “The Cleveland Show: The Complete Season Two” (Released September 27, 2011) leads off with a great episode in which Cleveland Brown becomes the manager of a character voiced by music star Kanye West.

As West’s character’s hit climbs the charts, we get these great glimpses of those very charts. Thanks to DVD Freeze Frame, we can see what we missed on TV.

Note to Mark Arnold, check out the guys from “Total Television” associated with Hanna-Barbera's “Hong Kong Phooey”!

Not to mention multiple references to The Simpsons!

And, in this second one, note references to The Jetsons, the Chuck Jones/Michael Maltese Warner Bros. cartoon “One Froggy Evening”,  The Flintstones, South Park, Futurama, and more Simpsons! 
Blink and you miss it! I’m glad I didn’t!

Sound Advice!

Stewie and Bender have an important message for you.  ...And, if by "Stewie and Bender" I actually mean me, well... you decide! 

Be honest now… How many of you access the Internet – and, for the sake of this argument, read Blogs – in places and situations where you shouldn’t?

ALL of you? Good! I’ve always known my readers are honest ones.

That said, I’ll digress and say that “The Spoiler Warning” may be one of the great inventions of our time.

So, why not carry this a step further and institute “The SOUND Warning”!

It would certainly prevent you from clicking on a Blog link at work, in a doctor’s office, or anywhere else that a sudden burst of sound might be inappropriate.

See this section from my recent post on “The Thing From Another World”. After reading my warning (seen in red below), you are free to click at your own risk – or the risk of your job… or general dignity.

The nature of the respective "creatures" differed (An alien "vegetable" vs. a sentient "flame-creature"), but EVERYTHING else was the same. A deadly creature frozen in polar ice, and the conflict of pragmatic military vs. obsessed scientists / stalwart Seaview crew vs. Alfred Ryder’s insanely single-minded guest-scientist Dr. Bergstrom (WARNING: This link is to a YouTube video with SOUND! You should know this, if you are reading this Blog at work!) on how to handle the situation – to the point of reckless endangerment and total destruction.

Instituting such a rule among us Bloggers would only benefit us all in the long run.