Saturday, August 22, 2009

Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters, and the Birth of the Comic Book

This is a meticulously researched and fascinating account of the origins of comics. It is part journalism, part social history, part biography, and part mystery. The connection between the comics, the pulps, pornography and organised crime is disturbing but like a road accident as much as it repels you, you can't look away. The human interest element lies in the tragic injustice perpetrated on Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster, the kids who created Superman and the disintegration of Seigel into old age, nursing anger and bitter resentment at the suits in the industry who ripped him off so badly. There's a screenplay hidden in here, if this could be given the kind of noir treatment found in the excellent biopic of TV Superman George Reeves, "Hollywoodland." There is some brief interesting material here on Marvel creators like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby but it's primary focus is on DC/National Comics. Once having read this it is hard to read a Golden or Silver Age comic as an innocent piece of naive entertainment. Once known, the human cost behind all that spilt ink is hard to shake off.

10 Life Lessons from Sam Raimi

WARNING: Oblique spoilers ahead!

1. Always be nice to old gypsy ladies and give them what they want.
2. Do not attempt to leave an underground car park on your own after hours.
3. Keep your air conditioning vent well closed when in the vicinity of cursed doilies.
4. Keep well away from the body when attending a wake.
5. Do not attempt to exhume human remains from a grave in a heavy downpour of rain.
6. Killing your cat will not appease the devil.
7. When attending sceances make sure you kill the goat.
8. When you have a chance to eliminate your competition at it!
9. Never walk backwards on a train platform.
10. ALWAYS check what's in the envelope!!

And one from me - Do not go see Sam Raimi's latest film if you have a weak heart or are easily offended by over the top "Evil Dead"-style gore. If you do not fit either of these descriptions go and enjoy a good scary laugh.

Movies A-Z: Action in the North Atlantic (1943)

This is not a bad actioner if you can get over the gung-ho propaganda. The special effects are good for the period. The strategy was so accurate this was used as a training film in the Merchant Marine. The problem is the film feels like a training film. There's some pretty snappy dialogue, but the relentless propaganda is so unforgiving that a sailor who simply expresses a wish to be home with his wife and family is made to feel like an unpatriotic coward. Needless to say he has a change of heart and signs up for another tour of duty. I actually preferred the brief civilian scenes when Bogie goes on shore leave and gets himself a wife after getting into a scrap in a bar with a poor bozo whose loose lips threaten to sink ships. Raymond Massey as the ship's captain hams it up considerably. There is a great funeral aboard ship where Bogie leads in the Lord's Prayer, reads from the Scriptures and says, "Now that's God's Word. And it's good." That's worth the price of the DVD! The cover said it was 102 minutes; it was actually 120 and it does drag a bit. Two and half stars from me. Here's the trailer:

Thursday, August 20, 2009


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