Monday, January 31, 2011

Michael Jackson - Off The Wall

1979 - the end of a decade and the year I transitioned from Junior High School to High School. It was a time to start being more mature, more serious about my future - the last years of youth before approaching manhood.

It is only fitting, in a way, that Michael Jackson's Off The Wall came out that year. This album - which appears on "the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die" list and on Rolling Stone's Top 500 Albums of All-Time (it came it at #68) - was a coming of age album, if you will, for an artist who grew up in the public spotlight as I was going from a kid to a teenager. While not his first solo record (it was actually his fourth), it still was a big statement. This was his first huge, multi-platinum seller as an artist separate from the Jackson 5.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Pretenders - Pretenders

The 1980 debut album by the British new-wave band the Pretenders was a main-staple of the album rock stations growing up and rightly so. Chrissie Hynde and company came out of the gate with guitars a blazing, kick-starting the decade in just the right way. The album appears on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums of All Time and their 100 Greatest Albums of the Eighties. It also appears on "the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die" list.

the Go-Go's - Beauty and the Beat

In the 60's, we had the Shirelles, the Supremes and the Ronnettes.

In the 70's, we had Patti LaBelle with her Bluebelles, and Joan Jett and Lita Ford in the Runaways.

As the 80's began, a new age of girl-groups came into vogue and leading the charge were the Go-Go's.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Heaven 17 - Heaven 17 / the Luxury Gap

It was my senior year of high school (1982-1983). I would spend my Saturday afternoons listening to the local SUNY Fredonia college radio station - in particular a show called "Vito's Saturday Afternoon Tea Party". The DJ would play a lot of different things, including some new wave acts that weren't making much of an appearance on the mainstream stations. One such band was Heaven 17.

This synthypop trio immediately caught my interest. Their songs were full of catchy dance hooks and political lyrics. I immediately was a fan. It didn't take long for me to go to the local Record Giant to seek out any albums by this band. While their debut Penthouse and Pavement (1981) was not readily available in the US, they did have a self-titled platter that was most of the tracks of that debut album (slightly shuffled) along with two tracks from their second UK album.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Comics of the Week (1/26/11)

The racks of the comic shop are starting to look very cool now that we've hit the final week of DC's "white background" cover month. Neat effect. And good covers too.

Green Arrow #8 - tons of guest-stars in this issue. Tons so far since the run started (with previous months having Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, etc.). This issue there are three guest heroes, one supporting cast member, and that last page appearance for next issue. Okay, I get it. We want to show how the world is reacting to the mystery forest in Star City, but when will the guests stop? My guess is when Brightest Day ends in a few months and we get an answer to what is going on. It is starting to get old though.

Justice League: Generation Lost #18 - so Power Girl shows up end of last issue looking for a fight. That's what we get this time - an issue long fight. Lopresti's art sure made it enjoyable though. Now that we're 2/3rds of the way done with the story, I am so ready for Act 3. Let's get the battle to Max Lord, please.

Justice Society of America #47 - the "Supertown" arc continues. As I said last time, the story is interesting enough - it just does not feel like a JSA tale to me. Guggenhein does not seem to have the right "voice" for the characters for me, sadly. And what is with guest-stars Manhunter and Blue Devil? They're not traditional JSA material. Ah well.

Teen Titans #91 - I don't feel Krul has gotten his rhythm down yet on this title. The interplay between Robin and Ravager is nice, but the others just aren't there yet. Which is a shame since Krul did so well with the Blackest Night: Titans mini. Maybe it is this cast he has to work with. Not sure. I hope it picks up soon. Still, light-years better than the previous writer was doing on the book.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Comics of the Week (1/19/11)

Brightest Day #18 - first, a nice cover of Hawkman and Hawkgirl by David Finch. Inside, while the story touches briefly on a few of the cast, it mostly centers on the Hawks on Zamaron. And while they do win the battle, did they lose so much more? That last page is a shocker and makes we want to read more! Nicely done.

Justice League of America #53 - final part of the "Omega" storyline, which I am glad to see finish. While I've loved Mark Bagley's art on this run (this is his last issue), the story seems to have dragged too much for me. I hope I like the next artist who comes on board.

Legion of Super-Heroes #9 - another solid team cover and continued focus on the Durlan plotline. Unlike Adventure Comics last week, here we get a bigger focus on more team members. This is classic Paul Levitz writing - many subplots advanced along with the main plotline too. Brings me back to his writing run on the team back in the 80's - a run I enjoyed a lot.

John Byrne's Next Men #2 - after fifteen years hiatus, this title came back last month and I'm so happy he found a new home for the book at IDW! Byrne is one of those creators in my top-five, one who I'll give a chance on whatever he is working on. Here we have his original creations with this issue focusing on three of the cast lost in time. He handles the period settings quite well.

Star Wars Omnibus: A Long Time Ago... volume 3 - Dark Horse has been reprinting the classic Marvel Comics issues of Star Wars, with a volume coming out every three or so months. This one covers issues 50 to 67, plus annual #2. You get a lot of color comics for the price - less that what it might cost if you had to hunt down the back issues. The book is slightly smaller than the original comic size but so far everything still looks good at the slightly reduced size. This has been a fun return to those "in-between film" adventures of Luke, Leia, Han, Chewie and the droids. Good stuff.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Is Glee Just Popluar (and vice versa)?

These past few weeks I've been devouring one of my Christmas presents - season one of Popular, a high school comedy-drama that ran for two seasons on the WB Network from 1999 to 2001. I watched a good bit of this show back then (though some of these episodes I had missed) and enjoyed it a lot. The dark comedy often shown on this show appeals to me greatly. No surprise as it was the brainchild of writer/producer Ryan Murphy, the mastermind behind FOX's very popular Glee. In watching these episodes, I can't help but draw some comparisons between the two shows.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Comics of the Week (1/12/11)

Batman: the Brave and the Bold #3 - this issue Batman teams up with the Flash (which one? - we never know if it is Barry or Wally) as they end up through the Looking Glass (thanks to the Mad Hatter and Mirror Master). A fun but predictable issue. The attention to detail on the classic Lewis Carroll characters was nice though.

Birds of Prey #8 - a nice cover starts this one off (great team shot). Inside, I was more fascinated by the Penguin/Hawk subplot that the fight between the Birds and the Calculator's gang. The rhythm of the issue seemed a bit off for me - not sure why. Gail Simone usually pens decent tails but something about this BOP run so far hasn't clicked 100% of the time for me.

Booster Gold #40 - a lot of this issue recapped Booster's background, making it a good jumping on point for new readers. Since I've been a fan since his debut in the 80's, I found it all a little bit boring. And I'm not getting Rip Hunter's motivation at the end of the issue - to make Booster stand trial for his past/future "crimes". Weird.

Justice League: Generation Lost #17 - Again, this book seems like it is stuck in a muddy rut, spinning its tires. I get that the pacing needs to be there to spread it out across 24 issues but we don't seem to be making a lot of progress each issue. And just what is Max Lord's true plan? It seems to change all the time. I hope Judd Winnick knows where he is taking this as it seems off-track to me.

R.E.B.E.L.S. #24 - has it been two years already? Hmmm. I appreciate how Tony Bedard is trying to make the most of the DCU cosmic side in this book. We get Vril Dox, Blackfire, Lobo, Captain Comet, Starfire, Adam Strange, some GLs, etc. that give the whole book an interesting mix. But, we seem to be heading back to the well for another battle with Starro (the humanoid one). Really? Ho hum. I would prefer to see a new threat, not a revisit of an old one that has barely been out of the book. I also hear rumor that the title continues to have low sales. I don't know how I'd feel if it got cancelled.

Action Comics #896 - this isn't a book I normally get, but it came out a few weeks ago and leads into this week's Secret Six so I picked it up. There has been some buzz about Paul Cornell's run on the book with Luthor in the starring role. I had high hopes. Boy, was I disappointed. The dialogue was pretty weak, the pacing dull, and the cliffhanger very contrived. The art by Pete Woods didn't do much for me either. This was like reading some amateur fanfiction - some poorer quality fanfiction (I've read some good stuff over the years - any of those writers could have done better). I also had heard good things about the Jimmy Olsen back-up feature but this part didn't thrill me at all. Jimmy looked and acted like an immature brat - not at all the competent best-friend of Superman I've been a fan of for years. I guess they had to "relaunch" him too at some point, but I'm not impressed. I'd rather read his 1970's exploits. That was a competent character.

Secret Six #29 - so, after a horrible part 1, could Gail Simone pull it out with part 2? Not really. It was okay but not as good as the usual exploits this team is known for. I guess there was too much to come back from and to make it believable and in the vein of the book usual tone. This issue was a disappointment as well. And next month there is a crossover with the Doom Patrol book? Oh joy. Wake me up when all this "fill-in" stuff is over with.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What does MAD mean to me?

These past couple weeks I've been reading PDF files of MAD Magazine (gotten a number of years back from GITCorp on DVD-ROM) on my iPad (which I got for Christmas from my wife and I love it a lot!!). I thought I'd share my thoughts about what I liked over the years about MAD in particular.

I should note first that I mostly got into reading MAD during the 70's and early 80's. I would tend to pick up an issue now and again if there was a good TV and/or movie parody that I wanted to see. A lot of times I'd pick up the Super Specials since they tended to be more "theme" oriented and they were a good price for reprints of past articles.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Comics of the Week (1/5/11)

First new books of the year - plus DC Comics has this logo-characters-on-a-white-background cover event going for all January books. I really like how they looked this week.

Adventure Comics #522 - First, great cover with the Legion females. I liked it a lot. Sadly, none of them appear in the book in any kind of action. The issue is mostly a focus on the new power-ringed Mon-El. Not a bad issue, really, but I would have liked to see more of the team from the regular book. I am though fully in favor of two Legion titles a month.

Brightest Day #17 - Cool cover with Firestorm, but here too the cover character does little inside the book. Instead it has more focus on the Hawks now that they are on Zamaron, and more focus on Deadman (loved his scenes with Dawn/Dove and his grandfather). Issue seemed to go a little fast.

JSA All-Stars #14 - JSA women on this cover (great women week for teams!). Inside, I like how this issue was focus on setting up some character subplots. After the last two issues focusing just on Cyclone, this is a nice change of pace. I hope the writer continues to balance subplots with the main story-line. I want to get invested in the team characters, especially some of the newer ones in the title.

Starman/Congorilla #1 - a nice one-shot featuring two characters that have been absent in the recent JLA arc. This was an outstanding issue, focusing well on the two characters and featuring guest-stars that made perfect sense to the story. Long time JLI fans will want to pick this up for a return of an old hero (who I hope we see more of after this issue).

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Musical Passings - Gerry Rafferty & Teena Marie

Two music masters passed within the last few weeks, and I wanted to take a moment to pay tribute to them.

Today, Gerry Rafferty passed away after a long bought of illness. This Scottish singer and songwriter penned a number of songs that were heard often around the AM and FM dials in the 70's. My iPod has a dozen or so tunes by this man including "Baker Street", "Home and Dry" and "Right Down the Line" from his 1978 album City To City. Another favorite of mine from this era is "Stuck In the Middle" from 1973 which Gerry co-wrote as part of the band Stealers Wheel (I did not know this - so even in death I learn something about the man).

The day after Christmas, Teena Marie was found dead in her home. This phenomenal talent got her start on the Motown label in the late 70's working with super-producer Rick James. She was a rare breed - one of the few white artists on a label mostly known for black musicians. Still, she proved her ability and held her own, racking up a number of hits in the 80's including "I Need Your Lovin'" (1980), "Square Biz" (1981), "Lovergirl" (1985) and "Ooo La La La" (1987). One of my favorite tracks of hers appears on the Goonies soundtrack - "14K". I definitely plan to add more of her tracks to my iPod in the coming months (a number of her albums are on my save-for-later list on - just waiting to be downloaded as time allows).

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Comics of the Week (12/29/10)

The last comic book commentary for 2010 - let's get to them!

Batman: the Brave and the Bold #2 - The Caped Crusader is added by Captain Marvel as Psycho-Pirate causes Christmas chaos in Gotham City. The story was fairly straightforward but fun.

Flash #8 - the spotlight issues on villains continues with the "origin" of Professor Zoom, the Reverse Flash. I like these occasionally as Geoff Johns fleshes out the villains nicely. Interesting that despite his best efforts, Thawne could not change his fate to become a true villain.

Green Arrow #7 - the art on this issue was very nice, but the story seems to be dragging its heels. It seems as if this book has to run on a slow speed just so it can stay in tune with Brightest Day. I hope the pace picks up soon.

Green Lantern #61 - yawn. This Green Lantern issue was mostly a focus on the Red Lantern and the Spectre. Not a Green Lantern in sight. Not one I enjoyed at all.

Justice Society of America #46 - the "Supertown" story arc continues. I'm sort of on the fence on this one. It almost seems like the writer had a story in mind for a long time and the JSA just happens to be the super-heroes shoe-horned into it. This book may be a candidate for being dropped in 2011.

Teen Titans #90 - J.T. Krul has really turned this book around in a few short issues. I'm enjoying the new line-up with the addition of Robin (Damien). Now, if this storyline could pick it up a notch I would be happy.