Back in the Day Cafe #3

bad mother fucker walletEach of us is driven by one dream… one drive… one ongoing overarching imperative. Mine seems to be accumulating pop culture barnacles the way Roseanne collects chili dogs.

As always, our premise: One of the minor plot points of the movie Pulp Fiction, is that the wallet carried by Jules Winnfield is adorned with three powerful words. Bad. Motha. Fucka. Only The Lizard King would ever think to ask:

Who Else is Qualified to Carry the Bad Mothafucka Wallet?

Without further ado, we bring you, The Lizard King’s BAD MOTHAFUCKA #98:

Bad Mothafucka #98: Inigo Montoya

bad mother fucker wallet“I do nut thing thet means what joo thenk it means…”

In this case, I might have to edit it to “Ye Olde Badde Mutterfuckere”. Inigo, aside from spawning one of the most quoted movie lines since “Frankly, Scarlett, I don’t give a damn,” stands tall among the greatest swordsmen of… where the hell ever, and chronologically speaking, may have actually invented the mullet! High praise indeed. So, what brings our errant Spaniard to the dance?

#1: Stick-To-Itiveness

Inigo spent over TWENTY YEARS searching for the sumbitch that killed his papa, foregoing any and all of the things that young men normally get involved in: sex, sports, sex, work, sex, money, sex, horseback riding, and sports. This is especially impressive in present company, where most of us have the attention span of a… um… whaddaya call that thing? That comes in herds across the plains of wherever? Boy, an eggroll would be good. Hey, did you read She-Hulk this… What? Oh, right. Inigo has FOCUS.

And the moment when he finally finds Count Rugen, after 20 years of fruitless pursuit… Bringing him to his knees, with the six-fingered man offering money, offering power, offering “anything he wants…”

“I want my father back, you son of a bitch.”

If that didn’t get you, then you’re dead, and should report for cremation right freakin’ now.

#2: He got SKILLZ, biotch!

Inigo fights a poetic ballet of blades and acrobatics, as much a dance as combat, as ever with the slight smirk on his face.

bad mother fucker wallet

Inigo Montoya: You are wonderful.

Man in Black: Thank you; I’ve worked hard to become so.

Inigo Montoya: I admit it, you are better than I am.

Man in Black: Then why are you smiling?

Inigo Montoya: Because I know something you don’t know.

Man in Black: And what is that?

Inigo Montoya: I… am not left-handed.

[Moves his sword to his right hand and gains an advantage]

Man in Black: You are amazing.

Inigo Montoya: I ought to be, after 20 years.

Man in Black: Oh, there’s something I ought to tell you.

Inigo Montoya: Tell me.

Man in Black: I’m not left-handed either.

The man redefined sword combat WITH HIS OFF HAND. I can’t even jerk off with my left.

#3: Sidekicks

bad mother fucker walletAs Mishi Kato once told Paul Reid “THIS is a sidekick!”
I am your partner!

Inigo has as his Boy Wonder (smile when you say THAT), Fezzik the giant, ably and touchingly played by the late Andre Rousimoff. Fezzik was many things, but above all he was a gentle soul who would not be best friends with just any schmuck with a grudge and a customized six-fingered blade. The loyalty of a man like that is a badge that puts Inigo Montoya above and beyond your garden variety mercenary. RIP, Andre.

(Next Time: To have or have not?)

In Roy We Trust Part 1

“In Roy We Trust.” This phrase is coming out of the mouths of Carolina basketball fans all over the country. In only his second season as head coach, Roy Williams has reestablished the University North Carolina Tar Heels back atop their pedestal as one of the nation’s top basketball programs. Why were they off that pedestal? It all goes back to the 1997-1998 season . . .

Head coach Dean Smith decided it was time to retire. The coach that holds the record for most Division 1 wins of all time has accomplished too much to list here. TarHeelBlue.com has accumulated a list of Smith’s accomplishments.

When Smith retired in October of the 1997 season, Bill Guthridge was handed the reigns of the Tar Heel program. Guthridge’s first season as the Tar Heel head coach was outstanding. The Tar Heels finished the season 34-4, won the ACC Championship, finished Number 1 in the Associated Press Poll, won the NCAA East Regional Title, and competed in the Final Four. Carolina also produced the National Player of the Year in Antawn Jamison, and they had two players selected in the top five picks of the NBA Draft for the second time in four years.

Guthridge won almost every coaching award possible that year. The Tar Heels went into the 1998-1999 season with a very inexperienced team. With four starters leaving from the previous year the Heels compiled a record of 24-10 and another berth in the NCAA Tournament. The season was a bust however, as the Tar Heels were upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Weber State.

The next season saw the arrival of superstar Joseph Forte. The freshman averaged 16.7 points per game and led the Tar Heels back to the NCAA Tournament. Carolina had impressive wins over Stanford and Tennessee until falling to Florida in the Final Four. Guthridge retired at the end of the season.

UNC Athletic Director Dick Baddour went searching for the next coach of the illustrious program. The target: the University of Kansas head coach and former University of North Carolina assistant coach Roy Williams. Williams decided that staying at Kansas for the time being was the best decision for him and his family. The search for the next Tar Heel basketball coach, led Baddour to South Bend, Indiana.

Notre Dame University’s head coach Matt Doherty returned to his alma mater as the new head coach of UNC. Doherty was a member of the Heels 1983 National Championship team. The Tar Heels won 26 games in Doherty’s first year, and he was awarded the National Coach of the Year award. Joseph Forte was awarded Co-ACC Player of the Year, yet the Tar Heels were upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Penn State. Doherty and the Heels realized that All-American Brendan Haywood would be graduating, yet they were not prepared for the loss of Joseph Forte.

The glitz and glamour of the NBA drew Forte out of college after only his sophomore year. After only two seasons in the NBA, Joseph ran into trouble with the law, and he was later cut by the Seattle Supersonics. Forte now plays in the NBA’s Developmental League.

The 2001-2002 season was the worst in North Carolina history. The Heels won only eight games that season and accumulated embarrassing losses to Binghamton and Davidson. Throughout the season and off-season, many Tar Heel fans and alumni called for the firing of Doherty, yet Baddour stood by his coach.

The Tar Heels went into the 2002-2003 season with arguably one of the most talented freshmen classes of all time. They opened up the season with big wins over Kansas and Stanford, but they quickly saw their season begin to unravel before them. After many embarrassing losses, Carolina did not live up to the hype. After being snubbed by the NCAA Selection Committee, UNC was defeated by Georgetown in the “Final Four” of the NIT Tournament. (Georgetown went on to win the tournament).

Shortly before the end of the NCAA Tournament, the University of North Carolina fired Matt Doherty as the head coach of their basketball program. The season before, sophomores’ Brian Morrison, Adam Boone, and Neil Fingleton transferred out of UNC citing Doherty’s temper. Rumors were spreading that freshman star’s Raymond Felton, Rashad McCants, and Sean May were going to transfer out for the same reason. Things began to look bleak in Tar Heel town, but Matt Doherty was always meant to be a transition coach . . .

Coming Soon: In Roy We Trust: Part II

Back in the Day Cafe #2

bad mother fucker walletOne of the minor plot points of the movie Pulp Fiction, is that the wallet carried by Jules Winnfield is adorned with three powerful words…

Bad. Motha. Fucka.

In an ongoing attempt to fill the world with meaningless, yet ever so cool, drivel… I put before you the question:

Who Else is Qualified to Carry the Bad Mothafucka Wallet?

Without further ado, we bring you, The Lizard King’s BAD MOTHAFUCKA #99:

Bad Mothafucka #99: Croyd Crenson.

bad mother fucker walletI hear a voice from the gallery… “WHO?”

To which I respond, “I never said this was gonna be mainstream, biotch!”

The Wild Cards novels were a shared universe experiment that grew out of a role-playing round. Superheroes as imagined by some of the finest Sci Fi minds around. And the powers were as bizarre as you might expect. Witness… The Sleeper.

Croyd Crenson was 8 years old the day the Takisian gene bomb went off… Jetboy had failed, and young Croyd’s world was about to change forever.

They call him The Sleeper, so named due to the nature of his power; whenever he falls asleep, his body changes into a new form. Usually, he sleeps for several weeks, and then awakens, sometimes staying continuously awake for several weeks.

The Sleeper has a new body each time he wakes, sometimes a monstrous “joker” form, othertimes superhuman powers, in the novel’s idiom, an ace. Due to the nature of his powers, the Sleeper fears sleep. He is terrified of eventually waking up in a hideous joker body that will either die before he sleeps again, or that won’t need to sleep at all. He pops pills constantly, and will usually turn into a ravening, paranoid maniac before crashing at the end of his waking period. What makes our Croyd Wallet-Worthy?

bad mother fucker wallet

#1: Moral Ambiguity

Like Jules himself, Croyd trafficks on both sides of the law, equally. In his many appearances (Indeed, Croyd’s most impressive power is the ability to ALWAYS be where the action is, throughout the Wild Cards novels…), Croyd has shown that he is, at best, unpredictable. At worst, he’s a danger to life, limb, and the pursuit of loose women.

And like as not, he’ll end up fighting AGAINST the other characters, in a speed-induced haze.

#2: Algebra

One of Croyd most humanizing and endearing traits is his own self-knowledge. Though quite streetwise, he is not an intellectual. He knows this, and regrets. Often times, as he slides into a amphetamine-fueled haze, Croyd begins lamenting how he never learned Algebra, and how he wishes he had finished school…

This touch makes a bad mothafucka a real person, as well

#3: SPEEEED!!!

Abolics, Amyl nitrite, Alpha-ET, Amidone, AMT, Fentanyl, Reds, Yellowjackets, Black Beuties, Barbies, Methcathinone, Batu, Bazooka, Mescaline, Dexmyl Spansules, Benzadrine, Black And Whites, Bombers, Blackbirds, Mollies, Blue Bullets, BOLIVIAN MARCHING POWDER, Brain ticklers, Hydrobromide, Brownies, Bumblebees, Dimethyltriptamine, Peyote, Cacti Joints, Cadillac Express, Cannabinol, Crystal Meth, PSILOCYBIN (WOOOO!), Chalk, Chicago Black, Chiefs, China Girl, Chinese Dragons, Chocolate Escobars, Christina, Isobutyl Nitrate, Coast To Coasts, Benzocaine, Crank, Mannitol, the Criddy, Crisco, Crisscross, Dimethyltriptamine, Double Cross, Ebombs, Eightballs, El DIABLOOOOOO, Embalming fluid, Fire Ups, Fives, Fizzies, Flat Chunks, 45 Minute Psychosis, French Blues, Fry Daddies, GHB, Methcathinone, Geezin a bit of dee gee, Glass guns, Grimmies, G SPOT TORNADO Half moons, Hearts, Hop hops, Horse heads, Ice, Idiot Pills, Inbetweens, INSTANT ZEN (OOOMMMMM.), Jackpots, Jam Cecils, Jellies, Jefferson Airplane, Jelly bean, Jelly baby, JET FUEL, Joy juice, Juan Valdez, Jugs, Ketamine, Kaleidascope, Kibbles And Bits, Knuckle Sammiches, LA Glass, Lidflippers, Lightning, Alpha-Ethyltyptamine, MDMA, Marathons, Mary and Johnny, Modams, Monkey Tranks, MOOON, Morotgara, Murder 9, SHROOOOOMS, New Jack Swing, Nitro, Nix, Oranges, Owsley’s Acid, P-Funk, Pakalolo, Paki Black, Pangondalot, Peaches, Peanut, Pearly Gates, Pee Wee, PHAT RAILS, Piedras, Proviron,

PURPLE (urpleurpleurple)

MICRODOTS (adotsadotsadotsa),

Pure love, Quads, Quicksilver, Quinolone, Racehorse charlie, Ragweed, Red Devils, Reeksticks, Regular P, Road Dope, rocket Caps, Rocket Fuel, Roples, Ruffles, Russian Sickles, Sative, Scuffle, Seggy, Sernyl, Seven Up, Shaman, Shighty, THE MIGHTY MIGHTY LEMUR, Shotguns, Sightballs, Skids, Skeeball, SLICK SUPERSPEED Smack, Smoochywoochypoochy, Smoked Oysters, Snop, Snappers, Snowballs, Snow White, Speedboats, Special K, Spider Blue, Square Time Bob, Stat, Strawberry Fields, Takkouri, T-Buzz, Teardrops, Teddy Bears, Thai Stick, THC, Thrusters, Tic Tacs, Toncho, Torpedoes, TR-6’s, Turnabout, Twistums, Uzi, V, Valley Dolls, Viper’s Weed, Speedballs, Waffles, Wedding Bells, Wake Ups, Whack, White Cloud, White Cross, Wildcats, Wiches, Winstrol, WONDER STAR, yellow bam, MDMA, Yellow Sunshine, Yen Pop, Yen Shee Suey, Zacatecas PURRRPLE, Zambi, Zen, Zeroes, Zoomers, Neutron Bombs.

Uhh…

Drugs’re bad, mmmkay?

Ladies and gentlemen… I give you…. Bad MothaFucka #99.

(Next Time: You keep saying that… I do not think that word means what you think it means… )

Shut up and Listen…Bishop's Movie Article

Like a serial rapist, 2005 is upon us. And that’s a good thing, I think, especially movie wise. 2004 gave up some decent films, but for the most part, it was a series of good-but-not-great sequels like the Bourne Supremacy or Spiderman 2 (bite my piece off for that one if you have to), straight up awful sequels like Shrek 2 and Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and warmed-over movies that featured such familiar sights as Will Smith saying “Oh Hell No.” 2005 is overing us… well, it’s a mixed bag. I will not introduce to you my top five most anticipated movies… one’s I’ll probably be in there opening day for… as well as a few I think are going to hit the ground like a bag of war cow farts thrown from the Empire State Building.

TEN MOST ANTICIPATED MOVIES OF 2005

1. SIN CITY

What can I say? Everything I’ve seen regarding this movie so far has blown me away. They’ve assembled some great actors (as well as Jessica Alba in buttless chaps, which is something I thought I’d never see) in three tales straight out of the Frank Miller series of the same name… the original “Sin City”, as well as “That Yellow Bastard” and “The Big Fat Kill”. What gets me is the atmospherics of what I’ve seen… how every character lives in the person who plays them. Particularly from what I’ve seen, Mickey Rourke (as Marv) is supposed to take us in, but it’s the hard-jawed good-guy personality of Clive Owen (as Dwight) seems the most outstanding. Bruce Willis hasn’t stood out in anything I’ve seen in the previews (which I’ve watched a retarded number of times), but I’ve learned never to doubt him. Also, we’ve got Benicio Del Torro as Jackie Boy, Nick Stahl (yeah, I dunno who he is either) playing the Yellow Bastard, and Elijah Wood as a serial killer cannibal. Interested yet?

2. BATMAN BEGINS

Batman’s cool. Anybody who can go from gay-ass pedophile in the 60’s to the murderous avenger of the night (and back if you’ve seen Batman and Robin) is cool in my eyes. After Schumacher treated the franchise like a Vice City hooker, I couldn’t help but feel depsondent. BUT THEN… BAM. We get the guy behind Memento and Insomnia to tackle this franchise…. to bring in Ra’as Al Ghul (most unappreciated Batman villian… ever) into the fray, plus the Scarecrow. But what gets me is this CAST…. this is a really amazing cast! Gary Oldman? GARY OLDMAN. Yeah, that’s right. Plus Katie Holmes, which is never terrible.

3. KING KONG

Peter Jackson is a hairy, sweaty, fat man. But he can make a mean movie. And when this filthy, rotund little mutant releases King Kong, I’ll be there. Know why? Because the man can truly turn fantasy into reality… and keep it so the average viewer can tell what’s going on. Can’t wait.

4. LAND OF THE LIVING DEAD

Night of the Living Dead is still the scariest movie I’ve ever seen. And Dawn of the Dead sometimes gives me messed up dreams. I’ve looked forward to this guy’s next entry, and from what I’ve heard, this is going to be a movie that will do things with this genre never thought possible.

5. MINDHUNTERS

I don’t care if the name’s retarded as the children of a imbred alchoholics who live under power lines. I want to see it. I dont’ give a damn what you think.

6. THE 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN

Steve Correll playing Richard Kane. Simply awesome.

7. CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY/CORPSE BRIDE

TWO mothereffin’ Tim Burton movies in ONE YEAR. What the hell did we do to deserve this? And both star Johnny Depp. I’ll admit the Charlie trailer did very little for me with its wierd wierdness, but that won’t keep me out of the theater. And Corpse Bride… well, I just have to see a major motion picture with THAT title, don’t I?

8. THE RING 2

Hey, remember putting that towel over your TV? Man, what a dork. Still, I’d like to see how they expand on this idea. Very curious about this one.

9. STAR WARS: REVENGE OF THE SITH

I don’t know why this is on here. They’ve disappointed me time and time again.

10. WAR OF THE WORLDS

Would be higher if the trailer didn’t blow like Paris Hilton after five hits of ecstacy. I have faith in that neutered old wiener Speilberg, and figure this’ll either be Jurassic Park or, at the very worst, A.I. Which is pretty damn bad.

TEN LEAST ANTICIPATED MOVIES OF 2005

1. THE PACIFIER

If I wanted to see bald men who appear to have down’s syndrome change baby’s diapers, I’d… I’d… well, why would I want to see that anyway? Why would ANYBODY want to see that? And why would anybody want to see this? Vin Diesel just sucks. I’m very sorry, but… I can’t think of anything to say that would spell it out any clearer. The fact movies like this get made gives me nightmares.

2. SON OF THE MASK

Yes, this is what we needed. A sequel to a movie that’s already as dated as a Duran Duran remix by fatboy slim. Not only didn’t they get any of the original stars yet, but they’ve decided to give us what the public has been asking for for as long as I can remember… TALKING DANCING BABIES! Awesome! This will be the best sequel since Baby Geniuses 2! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get a hot poker and Edward the Second myself.

3. XXX 2

Hint: If Vin Diesel wouldn’t do the sequel in your franchise, your franchise sucks ass. See Fast and the Furious.

4. BEWITCHED

Yes, there’s been a loud outcry for as long as I can remember for this movie. People just wanted to see a 50’s sitcom made into a movie. I mean, after the runaway success of Leave it to Beaver and Rocky and Bullwinkle, can Perfect Strangers be far behind?

5. CHICKEN LITTLE

Hey, Disney! Remember when you closed your animation departments to do computer animation? That was stupid. Let Pixar do what they’re good at. And don’t make your animators pay for your own sorry-ass business decisions.

6. MONSTER-IN-LAW

Oooh, Jennifer Lopez in a comedy. Can’t you just smell it already? Wait, that’s just J-Lo.

7. SAW 2

You know, I hate movies that mess up my perception of the original. But Saw was such a blazing, fly-covered piece of crap that this can only improve things. No Cary Euwels please. If I want to see bad acting, I’ll go have sex.

8. HERBIE: FULLY LOADED

Ah, Lindsay Lohan, she of the fake boobs and…

…um…

…Disney contracts suck a Persian dick, don’t they?

9. THE DEVIL’S REJECTS

Think Saw 2, but worse. Rob Zombie should not be allowed near any technology, ever. And Diamond Dallas Page? STARRING? Let me point you to “Ready to Rumble” to give you some idea of how bad of an idea this is.

10. FANTASTIC FOUR

I think they’re sort of gay… “Flame On!”… but I was willing to give them a chance, until the trailer gave me Catwoman vibes. Ouch. Here’s an idea, when you do a trailer with music, use COOL MUSIC. People might see your movie, then.

Well, that’s enough out of my ass. Enjoy the damn article.

-Bishop

Back in the Day Cafe #1

One of the minor plot points of the movie Pulp Fiction, is that the wallet carried by Jules Winnfield is adorned with three powerful words…

Bad. Motha. Fucka.

When Jules first mentions this to the Tim Roth character, he seems to think it’s a joke. When prompted, he finds the wallet, and seems a bit bemused by the fact that this man, THIS MAN, carries with him something that looks like an eighth grade summer camp project… Then he remembers the gun pointed at his balls.

In any case, I’ve wondered for several years now…

Who Else is Qualified to Carry the Bad Mothafucka Wallet?

bad mother fucker walletWell, I’m glad you asked, bitches… Sit your asses down, and don’t spam my damn topic or I shall be forced to revoke your L.A. priveleges.

Mind if I borrow some of your frosty beverage?

What?

Do they speak English in What?

ENGLISH, MOTHAFUCKA, DO YOU SPEAK IT?

Sorry… Sidetracked. Bygones… Counting backward on my incredibly overambitious idea, all the way to Number One!

Bad Mothafucka #100: Prickle the Dinosaur

bad mother fucker walletI know what you’re thinking. And you’re right. It IS true what they say about men with big… dorsal fins. Prickle is most notorious for being a cohort of Gumby, the Clay Boy, and Pokey the Big Ass Former Italian Pornographic Star Horse. His place within the Gumby Pantheon is that of the God Mars, The War Bringer.

While surrounded by silly morphing clay children, Prickle brings 3 things to the table…

#1: Voice characterization.

While every other Gumby character sounds like a ten year old sucking helium, Prickle sounds like Archie Bunker after a bad day at the plant. He’s got no time for bullshit, and isn’t afraid to say it. Prickle cuts to the point.

bad mother fucker wallet

#2: He ain’t cuddly

Them spines is Razor bleedin’ sharp. In a world made of goop, he’s the blade of truth and liberty.

#3: This exchange:

Pokey, Gumby, and Prickle are in the big city, amazed by the diversity and strangeness of it all. They’re on an elevator, alone, unable to call for help.

A menacing stranger enters, with a large vicious looking cur on a leash. The dog growls, the stranger approches… Gumby and Pokey shrink to the back of the elevator car.

Prickle… steps… forward… smoke rolling from his mighty nostrils. He quickly lets fly a bolt of pure hellfire from his flaming snout.

Prickle – “Call off your dog, Mister… BEFORE I FRY HIM!”

Bad. Motha. Fucka.

Daaaaaaamn Right.

(Next Time: Sleeper speeding, People Bleeding.)

Hyper-Realism and Cognitive Dissonance – OR: Why Alex Ross Must Be Stopped! Part 2

Welcome back, restrooms on the left, emotional baggage claim on the right! Last time around, I was ruminating about the things that have begun, over time, to bother me about the work of superstar comic artist/painter Alex Ross. Feel free to pop out and check part 1. I’ll wait…

Okay, you back? Are you sitting comfortably? Right!

The most problematic aspect that I discover with Mr. Ross’s (admittedly pretty) art: he draws from real-world models TOO faithfully. Check out this picture of Barry Allen.

Flash?

Looks remarkably like my Uncle Jerry on his way to a costume party. The overall costume is shiny spandex, the cowl puffs up in the middle (as though badly darted), and The Fastest Man Alive looks pudgy where his chin and cowl bunch up. It looks chintzy, it looks tacky, and quite frankly, it looks like Alex painted a self-portrait wearing his Comicon costume. (And hey, if you dressed as Flash at Comicon, more power to ya! I gotcher back! Please don’t hit me.)

Now, look here: Flash?

First off, I am aware that this is Wally West, Flash III, rather than Barry Allen, Flash II. The costumes have minimal differences. But look how VITAL, how SLEEK, how much this picture conveys the MOTION aspect of The Vizier of Velocity… This is a Flash in action, unlike the pudgy, shiny, flabby Ross version.

In his excellent volume, “Understanding Comics,” Scott McCloud explains why the shorthand language of American comics has evolved the way it has: “By stripping down an image to it’s central meaning,” says Scott, “[an artist] can amplify that meaning in a way that realistic art can’t.”

Alan Davis’ drawing takes liberties with perspective, with time and dimension, with anatomy and musculature, using the pre-existing language of comics (i.e. speed-lines) to make The Flash look… well… Flashy. The Ross painting, again, comes off as a still life, under harsh lights, and suffers by the comparison.

Another example: The recent cover of Wizard X:

Superman. Batman. Tubby. And Frozen.

Jim Lee, working alone on The Man of Steel:

Superman.

The collaborative Ross/Lee Superman looks very much like a waxwork to me. His coloration and depth are wholly out of sync with the simplicity of the form beneath. To put it bluntly, they’ve put hubcaps on a tractor.

Lee’s Superman, as seen below, is more iconic, possibly more “cartoony”, bringing with it a sense of tone, of the themes that Jim Lee wants to show with his work.

Is it George Reeves? Is it Kirk Alyn? Chrisopher Reeve? Tom Welling? None of the above. It’s Superman, end of sentence. Because we aren’t wasting nano-seconds of recognitive time figuring out WHO he is, we accept that he is Superman. Who he is, has become clear… The question now is WHAT is Lee’s art (and Brian Azzarello’s story) going to SAY?

Definition time! Cognitive Dissonance: ‘A condition of conflict or anxiety resulting from inconsistency between one’s beliefs and one’s actions.’ In this case, expanded (and possibly abused) to envelope my inability to accept that Alex Ross’s version of a beloved character is THE version of a beloved character.

Case in point: Reed Nathaniel Richards.

Mister Fantastic.

The one and only Mr. Fantastic, leader of Marvel’s flagship characters, The Fantastic Four. In some ways, I find I know Reed better than I know my online friends and associates. Reed and I have history. I’ve been interacting with Reed (admittedly, via a one way communications channel) for probably 27 years. I KNOW Reed. Alex Ross chose this man as a model for Reed:

Mister Fantastic?

I’ll say it right now. I love Gilligan’s Island! I do… But to MY MIND, Russell Johnson is NOT Reed Richards. So, every single appearance by Reed in Alex’s art, DRAGS me out of the enjoyment of the story, and forces me to be aware of the artist and his self-centered prediliction for stunt casting.

Anthony Stark. Iron Man. Captain of Industry. Two-Fisted Drinker!

Iron Man, Iron Man!

Alex’s pick?

Does Whatever An Iron Can!

A better choice, in my mind… But still, every time I see him, I am reminded of how he played a Nazi collaborator in the Rocketeer… How he’s James Bond… How he’s BLEEDIN’ IRISH!!!

The looser, more iconic form of, say, Jack Kirby’s Reed, or Bob Layton’s Tony, or even a quasi-photo-realistic interpretation like Matt Wagner’s Superman painting Seen Here.) give us a “blank slate” This allows EACH reader to bring a little piece of him or herself into the proceedings, to be an active participant in the book, in the experience of reading, rather than being dragged about, as if in a museum, being shown SOMEBODY ELSE’S idea of art.

Scott McCloud (him again?) opines that this precise theory is what makes children so receptive to cartoons. The simplicity of the drawing, the need to use YOUR imagination, makes the consumer a PART of the creative process. You fill in the gaps, in a way, BECOMING the character. A photo-realistic Star Spangled Kid makes me nervous, for her safety, for her parents, for my own ability to look at a 17 year old in skin tight costume without going to special counseling.

Simply put: When you look at a photo of a face, says McCloud, you see the face of another. When you look at an iconic/stylized/cartoonish face, you fill in the blanks, designing, participating; in essence, BECOMING the character.

Alex Ross’s artistic choices force the reader to draw himself or herself out of the story, to give up a bit of enjoyment by making them AWARE of their suspension of disbelief. Mr. Ross can be, in my opinion, a selfish creator, FORCING the consumer to accept HIS vision, rather than allowing his fanbase to participate and interpret the work through their own ends. Photo-realism, in this case, undermines part of the joy of comics, the vicarious thrill. A stylized, more abstracted work, like the Lee Superman above, doesn’t force a perspective on the reader, instead, it allows the reader to draw out of the story what he/she wants, and heightens the enjoyment of the overall process.

Enjoy The Silence 8

I just want my country back…

Today we live in a society that is more generous than it’s ever been in history. How many world leaders pre 20th Century would give millions in aid to developing and impoverished states? I doubt many would have given a damn. Today’s world leaders are about peace and equality (well, most of the time) rather than looking for a country with it’s pants down to invade.

However, are our own countries themselves suffering greatly for our own generosity? Alot of people in Britain believe so. Since the decadent era of the pre 1970’s British society perhaps looked down upon helping others, especially of other race or creed. Yes, even the land of hope and glory can hang it’s head in shame for how it looked upon the black and Asian community during this time. Now it would seem that things are heading to the other extreme. Taxes are higher than ever and the British Government whilst spending money on peacekeeping in Iraq for instance, we also spend billions on benefits for people who have entered the country either by Asylum or illegal means.

The Labour party who are currently in control of the British government under Tony Blair are keen to enter the European Union constitution (EU). This would mean Britain having tax rates, human rights and other legislation dictated by other European politicians. Our country would not be our own. That is the general consensus in Britain at the moment, that our Government welcome people from other shores with open arms, spend tax payers money to sustain them and leave Britons short-changed.

I’m sure this scenario is played out in other nations such as the USA and everyone is affected by it. Yes, we should support other nations in poverty, yes we should protect those being persecuted across the world by inhumane dictatorships, but at what cost?

Personally I would like to see our leaders get it right at home before trying to play fairy god-mother for other nations, and it hurts to see foreigners who contribute nothing to my nation enter our lands at a whim, who leech upon the resources available to immigrants and bad-mouth Britain behind closed doors. Certain groups of Islamics even managed to have Christmas carols/trees banned in some towns as they felt it offended their religion! GET THE FUCK OUT! Britain is a Christian nation, you are welcome to your religion but for fucks sake I’ll be damned if any believer of Islam puts a stop to our religion on our own shores!

I’m not naive enough to believe that all foreigners are bad and shouldn’t be here. If you have skills that we are short of you are welcome, if you are willing to live under and embrace a British way of live you are welcome. If you are here just because you married some desperate housewife, GET THE FUCK OUT, if you are here because we give too much money to immigrants GET THE FUCK OUT.

I just want my country back

WWE 2004: Year In Review

(Written on January 3, 2005)
Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) remained the top professional wrestling organization in 2004. This column is going to be the “Best and Worst of 2004” of the WWE.

This was a year of up and downs for Vince McMahon and company. Wrestlemania XX saw the crowning of Chris Benoit as World Champion and Eddie Guerrero retained his title, but we also saw Brock Lesnar and Bill Goldberg wrestle their last matches in the WWE. The year was marred with the premature pushes of John Bradshaw Layfield, Randy Orton, and Carlito “Carribean” Cool. However, I will give them credit for the gradual and rather impressive push of Batista these last few months. The visit to Iraq was a wonderful thing, yet they ruin it with Muhammad Hassan and the 9/11 remarks. Sometimes it seems as though Vince has absolutely no clue what he is doing. Well, let’s get to the awards.

Worst Female Wrestler – Lita

Lita racked in what had to be the worst year of all the female wrestlers. In my opinion, she’s lucky she was not released along with Gail Kim. After going through neck surgery that sidelined her for some time, her in-ring work greatly diminished. One of the major angles of the year was the pregnancy angle between Lita and Kane. The angle was absolutely HORRIBLY written and Lita’s ATROCIOUS acting did not help it either. The angle did bring out two bright spots for me though: Trish Stratus’s unbelievably good heel-side was brought out in her dealings with Lita, and Gene Snitsky’s terrifically bad, yet funny, acting. I thoroughly enjoy watching Gene Snitsky and hope he continues to grow in the ring.

Best Female Wrestler – Trish Stratus

For the last few years Trish Stratus had been the loveable, blonde damsel. In this past year, she took a major step forward in her career when she turned on Chris Jericho at Wrestlemania XX. Throughout the year, her mic and in-ring skills vastly improved. She is, without a doubt, the backbone of the women’s division in the WWE. With Trish’s skills improving, I expect her to have another big year in 2005.

Worst Tag Team – The Dudley Boys

The Dudley Boys ended 2004 as the worst tag team. Arguably one of the best tag teams of all time, the Dudleys, fell off the face of the earth in 2004. They had a brief stint as Spike’s “enforcers,” yet that didn’t last very long. The Dudley’s just aren’t the entertaining tag team that they used to be. I don’t know what is in store for this team in the year 2005.

Best Tag Team – William Regal and Eugene

I thoroughly enjoy watching Eugene in the ring, however, the “special kid” angle has been pushed way, way too hard. The thing I enjoy the most about Eugene’s matches is when he unleashes the Rock Bottom or the Stone Cold Stunner on someone. William Regal is finally being used to his ability as a gifted technical wrestler, and he and Eugene have gelled well together. The fans have fully backed them as a team, and I see La Resistance (Sylvain Grenier and Rob Conway) as the only team able to unseat them.

Worst Single Wrestler – Christian

“Captain Charisma?” You have got to be kidding me. Watching Christian wrestle is like listening to someone scratch their nails on a chalkboard. Christian is a tag team wrestler. He needs to stick to tag matches. In his short-lived feud with Sheldon Williams, Christian was really exposed for his bad technique and LACK of charisma. You do know the reason he calls himself “Captain Charisma” right? That’s because no one in their right mind would call him that. I enjoyed Edge and Christian as a tag team, but when they split to follow single careers it was obvious that Edge was the talent on that team. Hopefully the WWE will ease my pain and take Christian off of Raw.

Best Single Wrestler – Chris Benoit

Chris Benoit had a great year on Raw. At Wrestlemania XX, Benoit realized his dream of winning the World Title. At the Granddaddy of them All, Benoit defeated Triple H and Shawn Michaels in a great Triple Threat Match for the title. He carried Randy Orton through their World Title Match at Summerslam. Throughout the year (and his entire career if you want to be honest), Benoit has continued to produce great match after great match. Barring a serious injury, I expect him to have another stellar year in 2005.

Most Overrated Wrestler – Randy Orton

Randy Orton takes the cake in the Most Overrated Wrestler department. The guy definitely has mid-card skills, no doubt about it. However, he’s not up to main event level, and I believe the WWE realized it after awarding him the title over Benoit at Summerslam. A mere one month after defeating Chris Benoit, Randy Orton dropped the title to Triple H at Unforgiven. The WWE made the mistake of skyrocketing Randy Orton to the top before he was prepared. Finger of shame at the WWE for not developing Orton like they’ve done with Batista lately.

Most Underrated Wrestler – Chris Jericho

Y2J continues to be the most underrated and underappreciated wrestler in the entire WWE. He’s held every major title in the WWE (minus Cruiserweight), and he was the first-ever Undisputed Champion, beating Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock, arguably two of the greatest champions of all time, in the same night. He has carried Christian through a feud that has dragged on for too long. Jericho continues to put on amazing matches time after time, yet he never gets any love for it.

Worst Match of the Year – Bill Goldberg vs. Brock Lesnar : Wrestlemania XX

A majority of the fans in the arena knew that this was going to be both of these superstars last match in the WWE. With Goldberg not signing back with the WWE and Lesnar leaving for the NFL, the WWE was put in a horrible predicament. Who do you have win? They decided on letting Goldberg win the match, however; they allowed Stone Cold to deliver the Stunner to both men at the end of the match. During the match the fans showed both how they felt about them with loud booing and chants of “Boring” and “You Sold Out”, the latter directed mainly at Lesnar.

Best Match of the Year – Brock Lesnar vs. Eddie Guerrero : No Way Out

The WWE finally realized the tremendous fan support behind Eddie Guerrero placed him in the World Title match against Lesnar. The match was absolutely amazing from opening bell to pinfall. The interference by Goldberg added a great future feud between Goldberg and Lesnar as the Smackdown fans popped like crazy for Goldberg. Eddie capitalized on the interference and pinned Lesnar to win the match.

Well that’s all from me about the WWE in the year of 2004. Hopefully 2005 will be another good year. I also want to see how JBL continues to grow on the Smackdown side of things. He’s got some of the best mic skills on the Smackdown roster, and he seems to be developing into a true heel, as long as they keep him from getting too political. Hopefully NWA:TNA will continue to grow and actually put up a decent challenge to the WWE in the upcoming year so we can have some better all around wrestling action.

Conference With NOFX and Bad Religion

A few months back MR representatives, John Morrison and Christine Bell got the opportunity to participate in a press conference with Mike Burkett, (Fat Mike), front man of punk band NOFX and founder/owner of indie label, Fat Wreck Chords; and Jay Bentley of the punk band Bad Religion.

For the sake of the reader, we have edited some of the conference. We have done our best to maintain the context of both the questions and answers to fairly represent Mike and Jay and ensure that their statements are not misunderstood or ‘spun’.

Fat Mike of NoFXFor people that don’t know a lot about Warped Tour, and the meaning behind it, can you tell us something?

Mike: From behind the scenes, it sounds clichéd, but it’s punk rock summer camp. It’s the best time a band could possibly have, because your hanging out with 50 other bands everyday. There’s gambling and drinking and uh, barbecuing, yeah we drink beers or vodka. And you can’t have a better time, that’s why these bands keep doing the Warped Tour, that’s why it’s so successful, because the bands have so much fun. The other tours, it’s more about business. And even Kevin Lyman, the owner, he doesn’t make that much money, you know, he makes a living. But kids don’t get charged a lot, the bands don’t get paid a lot, it’s just a good time.

Why do you think Warped Tour succeeds where other tours, like Lollapalooza, fail?

Mike: Well first of all the line-up for Lollapalooza is terrible this year. Those head-lining bands are probably taking 250 thousand to 500 thousand dollars a night, where Warped Tour bands take between $200-$10,000; somewhere between there. Almost every band on the Warped Tour takes a pay cut to play the Warped Tour. But they do it because it’s fun and it’s cool. But the other bands on the other tours, they do it for the money and the promoters do it for the money. That’s why the prices are so high and that’s why it’s failing. I think the kids know that the Warped Tour is fun and the bands are having fun. I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t fun. We’re here for us.
Jay: In our world of music, other tours that were out there folded, they couldn’t sell enough tickets to keep themselves going. This is the music that people who are buying tickets and buying records want to hear. This is, fortunately, a musical expression that speaks to them. I don’t know whether it’s the anger, the fear or just the over all sense of something exciting that gets people going. Speaking for myself, when I was 14, it was the fact that a band could speak to me about something other than girls. That was very important to me. I mean, it’s a 20 or 25 dollar ticket and there’s 50 bands….

Do you think that the reason there are so many more kids and so much more influence is because of mainstream punk bands like Good Charlotte and Blink182 that get radio play and get people into the scene?

Mike: Yeah, all those bands are helping a lot. Yellowcard, Ryan from Yellowcard announced Rock Against Bush: Vol. II, he said he’s going to be signing copies… and you know, suddenly there’s 500 kids at the Punk Voter booth buying this, because he said to. And, bands like Good Charlotte, Yellowcard and New Found Glory, they’ve all gotten tens of thousands of kids involved that we wouldn’t have gotten. So I’m all for it. They’re standing up, although Good Charlotte totally screwed me (laughs).

What do you think about the Sony BMG merger?

Mike: I have no idea, what’s BMG? I’ve heard of Sony but…

There are five major record labels now, and two of them are merging to become one, there are going to be four major record labels controlling 80% of the market, with only 20% independent.

Mike: They’re all going down, ‘dinosaurs will die’ I think all the major labels will get killed anyway. (editors note: “Dinosaurs Will Die” is a NOFX song about the death of the music industry)

What’s the best way to go, independent for everybody?

Mike: No, make you’re money now while you can, they’re all going down. You can only make money playing live for 95% of bands anyway. If you can sell a few hundred thousand records, you should go to indie.

What about Apple and iTunes and all of that, that is coming about now? You think that will save the music industry?

Mike: Downloading isn’t what is killing it, it’s people burning CD’s for each other… it’s so easy. Downloading is actually, well, kinda hard. I don’t do it. But you know, after losing three Nirvana Nevermind CD’s I finally burned one and kept one spare, so I wouldn’t lose it. That’s what’s killing it, it’s burning, it’s not downloading.

Is there a reason why Fat Wreck Chords isn’t on iTunes?

Mike: We’re working some agreement out, I don’t know why. We will be. I think it is a good service they do, I might get an iPod one day. But I don’t like music that much anymore.
(Editors Note: since this interview, most of Fat’s catalogue has been added to iTunes.)

Bad Religion and NOFX are two of the most successful punk bands, but you scarcely make an appearance on MTV or in a video, have you turned MTV down, or do they have no interest?

Mike: In the mid-nineties they wanted our video and we decided not to do it. It wouldn’t have made a difference anyway, we’re not a commercial band, that’s why we turned them down; it doesn’t make a fucking difference.
Jay: We made 20 videos and they were all terrible. It didn’t pan out for us.

Jay of Bad Religion Music has changed over the past 20 years. Do you think if you started out today you would be more mainstream?

Jay: We wouldn’t be very good (laughs).
Mike: Yeah, I think if we started out now we wouldn’t be very successful (laughs). The only reason people still like us is because…
Jay: That’s why we’re still here, there wasn’t much competition. This is just tenacity at work.

How do you think a band like Bad Religion has lasted so long with so little radio play?

Jay: Well we don’t make singles, so when a radio station starts to play our song it’s pleasantly surprising. I’m never disappointed because I figure no one is ever going to pay any attention to us, so yeah, it’s thrilling.
Mike: And the careers our bands (Bad Religion and NOFX) have had are so long, its ludicrous. We have no business doing what we’re doing…
Jay: At all! Come on hurry up!!! (laughs)
Mike: They’ve (Bad Religion) been around two years longer than us (NOFX)… When they say ‘we can’t do it any more’ we’ll say ‘ ok, we’ve still got two more years’ (laughs).
Jay: As long as we’re out here, you can still be out here. That’s a good rule.

What does college music mean to you guys?

Jay: Hootie and the Blowfish?
Mike: (laughs) R.E.M.?
Jay: Uhh… Phish. What’s with the Phish? College music is where we all got our start, believe it or not. Not that style of music! But college radio…
Mike: I started writing good songs in college.
Jay: I didn’t go to college, they wouldn’t let me….
Mike: No, but their (Bad Religion’s) singer, Greg Graffin went to enough college for everyone.
Jay: A ‘professional student.’
Mike: He still goes to college.
Jay: No he’s done, he got his PhD last year.
Mike: I did five and a half years of college… I was Bluto (laughs).
Jay: No, he (Greg) did like 11 years in college.
Mike: Wait until you try to get a job when you are out of college, boy are you in for a surprise!

What do you see yourself doing after this?

Mike: I’m loaded, I’ve got a record label (laughs). I’m fucking….
Jay: Yeah, after this tour… I’m going to [go to] my island and just do nothing.
Mike: He has an island….
Jay: Yeah, the Greek Islands, I have a giant bull…. oh wait, that’s not me. I live in Mattersville… that’s where I’m going, start building it now!
(Editor’s Note: “Mattersville” is a NOFX song about a fictional community of punk rock senior citizens)
Mike: Yeah, being on an independent record label in a punk rock band, we’ll probably get royalties for the next 20 years.
Jay: (laughs) I’ll do pretty well, I’ll stay in the business. I’ll manage his (Mike’s) bands, how’s that?
Mike: I’m going to have a career in poker. I’ve been killing it on this tour!
Jay: Yeah, he’s pretty good. He’s better than Mike Leonard. (yells) Fat Mike is better than Mike Leonard at poker!!!

Hyper-Realism and Cognitive Dissonance – OR: Why Alex Ross Must Be Stopped!

As a long-time comic book reader, I have come to realize that it (like most entertainment channels, really) is a cyclical game. In recent years, I have heard people refer to the new Renaissance in comics, with talented writers on long-since-thought-wrung-out characters… Moments like Actor/Director Kevin Smith taking over a written off character called Green Arrow. Moments like Scottish writer Mark Millar’s stunning “Wanted” series, apparently starring Eminem. Moments like writer Brian Michael Bendis single-handedly redefining the Avengers.

Inevitably, I think back to the LAST time I heard such high praise, such high hopes, such smoke blown up so very many collective glutei.

It was the early 1990’s, and comics were in a low period. (Alright, smarty, I hear the peanut gallery crying out “They can get lower?” Pipe down, you!) I clearly remember when a series called Marvels came out… Spider Man, The Hulk, The Avengers, The X-Men, all seen from the perspective of the proverbial “Man on The Street” with photorealistic painted art.

Marvels Cover

At a time with Marvel Comics (home of Spider-Man, The X-Men, The Hulk, and other future movie properties) was churning out utter drek at a staggering pace, Marvels was deftly written, with characters that long-time fans recognized, behaving in a manner that even the new “grim and gritty” crowd caught on to. I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY by the work, fully painted art, by a new kid named Alex Ross. I had seen his work on Terminator comics, but wasn’t really a fan (of the art OR the comics).

But his painting, combined with the masterful scripting of Kurt Busiek, really brought a whole new perspective to comics, and brought back to life concepts that Marvel was allowing to languish. The building blocks, if you will, of the Marvel Universe had been misused, abused, and otherwise mutilated, but Ross and Busiek were showing that they weren’t irrevocably gone. The showed what COULD be done. It may not have been Marvel’s “Citizen Kane,” but it was a good solid “Magnificent Ambersons.”

Busiek and Ross just… GOT IT. Observe:

Marvels #1
Marvels #3
Marvels #4

Looking back, now, I find myself troubled by the art. It’s not that the work ages particularly badly. It’s not really any more or less oxidized than anything else that came out during that, the Gilt Age of Comics. But as I view and re-view the art, I remember what I initially drew me to it: Dynamic perspective. Photo-realism. Light and shadow. Recognizable characters…

And yet… I like it, less and less, each time I see it. What once seemed fresh and new, now comes across as… forced. The Angel on the cover of issue #2, for instance…

Marvels #2

Obviously references to classical paintings, ala the wing placement, the noble curve of the chin, the soft lighting on the wing. Very Caravaggio. And yet, it’s lifeless. There’s no character, no life, no VERVE. It’s a very pretty snapshot of an ugly scene.

Alex is currently doing covers for one of my favorite comics of all time, a title called JSA. And each issue, I look at the covers, and I appreciate the craft behind the work… To be frank, I’m kind of jealous of the talent involved. But when I open the book, I find I can’t quite accept the covers at face value anymore…

JSA Cover

Wanna know why? See the girl in the right foreground? That’s Courtney Ross, the former Star Spangled Kid, now Stargirl… She’s approximately 17 years old, a teenager with braces, who is learning the ways of the superhero world from the veterans of the Justice Society.

Star Spangled Kid

That is how the original artist portrayed Star Spangled Kid, and how I see her. A spunky kid, full of attitude and sass, ready to wedge her Doc Marten in the pudgy ass of evil. A superhero who isn’t less cool because of her blonde ponytail and XX chromosome. Look again at the JSA cover. What do you see?

I see a kid. A real flesh and blood girl, whom I don’t want to see impaled on the Sword of Anubis, or punched by Black Adam, or god forbid, sliced open by a Joker-branded deathtrap. SHE’S TOO REAL!

The use of this unneccesarily more realistic image has actually distanced me from the story I enjoy, and from the comic that I usually love to death. It’s no longer Stargirl, kick ass hero. To my mind, it’s Courtney, the young girl who babysits down the street. Not someone I want to see in mortal danger.

And it’s more than just offending my macho BS sensibilities… The picture of the Stars and Stripes cover is ACTIVE, it’s DYNAMIC, it’s SSK about to kick you inna face! The Ross cover? It’s a still life. Beautiful, but essentially dead. It looks carved, forced… The characters look frozen, locked in a painstakingly drawn, but still mostly boring skyscape.

Another example?

Even setting aside how successful or unsuccessful the work is, it’s a very selfish, very self-aware, and a very one-sided communication model… More on THAT next time! Same Cobra time, same Cobra station!