Saturday, July 26, 2014

#1 Songs on My Birthday: 1976-1986

So, Roger did this post, and I'm borrowing the premise from him because it seemed neat-o.

It starts with this list of #1 songs going back to 1959. You can go there and discover what the number 1 song was on your birthday. Roger did that and decided to make a series of posts.

Here's the idea: I list three songs per year--the song that was number one just before my birthday, the song that was number one on my birthday, and the number one song after. I'm going to link to the song of my birthday. As Roger explains it, the goal is to decide whether I'm happy with my birthday song. He challenged himself but not listening to the adjacent songs, so I shall do the same. If I know what they are, would I have been happier with those songs? I dunno, but any excuse to listen to music and noodle around online when I should be doing other things is a-ok with me.

Starting in the year of my birth, 1976...

5/29/76 Diana Ross "Love Hangover"
7/10/76 Starland Vocal Band "Afternoon Delight"
7/24/76 The Manhattans "Kiss and Say Goodbye"

I don't know the Diana Ross song. I'm sure I've heard it but just can't recall it. Look at the dates, though: that song must have been exceptionally popular, it was the number one song for over a month. I've never heard the Manhattans song, either. I like "Afternoon Delight." It's kind of fitting that I was brought into this world when America's number one song was not only really cheesy, but a cutesy ode to daytime sex. I don't know, I can't help it. It's that kind of happy cheesy that makes me feel good because it feels like nothing is that serious.

7/9/77 Alan O'Day "Undercover Angel"
7/16/77 Shaun Cassidy "Da Doo Ron Ron"
7/23/77 Barry Manilow "Looks Like We Made It"

Ugh. I've heard this one before, and it's not for me at all. This is an example of a bad kind of cheesy: overly cute covers of songs from the previous generation. I don't know why those almost always sound condescending to me. Shaun Cassidy doing "Da Doo Ron Ron" with those orchestral overdubs... No, please. As bad as it is, the Barry Manilow song is worse (it sounds like a Lionel Richie song that was left out in the sun so long that the sincerity melted out), and I've never heard the Alan O'Day song, but if these two are anything to go by, it's terrible.

6/10/78 John Travolta & Olivia Newton-John "You're the One That I Want"
6/17/78 Andy Gibb "Shadow Dancing"
8/5/78 The Rolling Stones "Miss You"

Jeez. This is like going through my Mom's collection of 45s so far. Damn, "Shadow Dancing" was a big hit. You know, "Shadow Dancing" was the uncoolest kind of thing to like when I was a kid, but it's got Barry Gibb all over it, and I can't bring myself to dislike it. Damn. My Dad would be rolling his eyes right now. Okay, I'm happy with this one. Incidentally, "You're the One That I Want" is the only song I like from Grease besides the title song, and I also like "Miss You," the Stones' concession to disco.

6/30/79 Anita Ward "Ring My Bell"
7/14/79 Donna Summer "Bad Girls"
8/18/79 Chic "Good Times"

Disco is really in full force here. All three songs are pretty good, but nothing that I'm really in love with. Just an unobjectionable group of music.

5/31/80 Lipps Inc. "Funky Town"
6/28/80 Paul McCartney "Coming Up"
7/19/80 Billy Joel "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me"

Dang, I missed out on Billy by two days! That would have been my pick. I like all three of these songs, but the Billy Joel song is my favorite of the three. I linked the live version of "Coming Up." The song was the lead-off single of McCartney II, but the record company loved the live version with Wings and it was included as a B-side, but was arguably more popular on the radio than the A-side. It sounds better and fuller.

5/16/81 Kim Carnes "Bette Davis Eyes"
6/20/81 Stars on 45 "Stars on 45"
7/25/81 Air Supply "The One That You Love"

Ugh, I hate this frigging thing. I always have. That early 80s medley craze is just cloying, cutesy and irritating. I always forget it's so Beatles-heavy, which makes it even more lame that they did a pandering "Beatles Medley" separately. No. Just no. I would take either song over this one, and when Air Supply is the better alternative, you know things are bad. Honestly, I'd pick the Kim Carnes song, even though it's not even my favorite version of "Bette Davis Eyes." (I like Jackie DeShannon's Dixieland/swing-inflected original.)

5/15/82 Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder "Ebony and Ivory"
7/3/82 The Human League "Don't You Want Me"
7/24/82 Survivor "Eye of the Tiger"

At last, New Wave is here, and this song is a New Wave classic. I love this one. Much to my wife's annoyance, I also love "Eye of the Tiger," but "Don't You Want Me" is so great, a long-time favorite, and now one of those songs that make me incredibly happy just because it takes me back to being a carefree kid. I really hate "Ebony and Ivory." Anvilicious, as they say on TV Tropes.

5/28/83 Irene Cara "Flashdance... What a Feeling"
7/9/83 The Police "Every Breath You Take"
9/3/83 Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams Are Made of This"

This song has been stalking me for decades. For a while, I heard this literally everywhere I went. And if I didn't hear it there, I would hear it on the way there. Look how long it was number one; now that, kids, is a song of the summer. It's a good song--actually, all three are songs I like in a great year for pop music. But I do like "Flashdance" best. Because of course I do, it's the cheesiest one. But awesome-cheesy.

6/23/84 Duran Duran "The Reflex"
7/7/84 Prince "When Doves Cry"
8/11/84 Ray Parker, Jr. "Ghostbusters"

YES. I love this song, I love this album, I love Prince, this is perfect. This is a great summer for music. That feeling I discussed before, of a song making me incredibly happy because it takes me back, is what I sometimes refer to as "my 1984 feeling," because that was a really fun year for me. Or my "Raspberry Beret" feeling, because that's the happiest I've ever felt listening to a song. That's my "I need to feel better NOW" song. I can take or leave the Duran Duran song (it's no "New Moon on Monday"), but I love "Ghostbusters." But if you can get Prince on your birthday, you take him.

(Note: I didn't even bother with a link because good luck trying to find a Prince song on YouTube.)

7/6/85 Phil Collins "Sussudio"
7/13/85 Duran Duran "A View to a Kill"
7/27/85 Paul Young "Every Time You Go Away"

Now here's a Duran Duran song I love. Possibly the last one I love, and I love it. The other two songs I can take or leave. Actually, "Sussudio" I might just leave.

7/5/86 Billy Ocean "There'll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)"
7/12/86 Simply Red "Holding Back the Years"
7/19/86 Genesis "Invisible Touch"

Aw. man. I missed "Invisible Touch" by two days. That's a serious contender for my favorite album of the 1980s. That would be my pick of these three. The Simply Red song sounds kind of nice and nostalgic now; it got played for seemingly years, and it was just so depressing that I got very tired of it as a kid. Then again, times are about to get really depressing for me, so maybe I just consider the song too emblematic of a time when I felt too often the way this song feels. Can't really hold being "too effective" against it, can I?

Next Saturday, I'll do another ten. Check out Roger's original post!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Marvels: Amazing Spider-Man #8

"The Terrible Threat of the Living Brain" by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
(January 1964)

This is the issue where it finally comes to a head and we get the epic battle we've been waiting for. I'm not talking about Spider-Man and the Living Brain. I'm talking about Peter Parker getting in the boxing ring with Flash Thompson.

Tensions are really frayed this issue, with Flash bullying Peter especially hard, right from the outset. Flash even breaks Peter's glasses right away, and after that, a fight is unavoidable. They're ready to tear each other apart in class, but Liz Allan at least manages to make them agree to fight after school, instead.

Then Mr. Warren comes into the classroom to introduce Mr. Petty from the International Computing Machines Corporation, with their newest invention, a robot with "the greatest mechanical brain ever built," which ICM cheekily calls the Living Brain. The robot is so smart and has such computational power that Mr. Warren challenges his class to come up with a question to stump the Living Brain. Peter is given the honor of programming in all the pertinent data so that the Living Brain can answer the students' query: "What is Spider-Man's real identity?"

Peter's in panic mode as he waits for the Brain's answer. But it comes out in the form of a piece of paper that needs to be decoded, something Peter volunteers to do as homework so that he can buy himself some time to think of a way out. Flash volunteers to do it also, saying it's too important to be handed over to Parker, and the two blow up at each other some more, and that's when Mr. Warren, demonstrating the kind of old-fashioned thinking that would actually get you fired today, tells Peter Parker and Flash Thompson to go down to the gym and settle this in the ring.

Of course, you and I know that Peter can tear Flash apart handily, so the real tension here isn't who will win, but whether Peter can hold his super strength in check enough to not hurt Flash too badly.

The answer is no. (Great, great expression work by Steve Ditko in this story.)

Now, meanwhile, the two workmen who helped move the Living Brain into the school are duly impressed by how smart the machine is, and have decided to steal it for themselves. So that it can predict elections and horse race winners and make them rich. Because that's a great idea. No one will ever notice two rich day laborers who have a powerful (and missing) supercomputer in their hideout. Well, no one ever said the thieves in the Marvel Universe were smart.

They have a scuffle with Mr. Petty, and one of the would-be thieves backs into the Living Brain's control panel, causing it to go haywire in the middle of a crowded high school. A high school where, let's remember, two kids are boxing to settle a fight without any adult supervision whatsoever. The noise of the ensuing panic distracts Flash at just the moment where Peter throws a punch. It connects harder than Peter planned, knocking Flash unconscious. And do the kids at least give Peter credit for standing up to a bully? And for even doing it on the bully's turf, in the gym, where there's more honor in it than just getting into a fistfight at the bike racks or something? No, of course not. Instead, everyone calls it a cheap shot because Flash's head was turned.

Are you sure you really want the respect of these kids, Pete?

Well, no time for that now. Peter slips into his Spider-Man costume and fights the Living Brain. This entry's getting long enough, so I won't rehash the play-by-play, but it's another great, exciting battle in a Spider-Man comic. As the fight goes on, the Living Brain learns, and its speed is comparable to Spidey's, so it only gets deadlier and deadlier as the Brain tries to crush Spider-Man with a door, smash him against a wall, and ends the whole thing by rushing him and nearly knocking the two through a window. It's fantastic stuff.

In a nice, Archie-style twist, Flash Thompson winds up accidentally catching the thieves when they trip over him in the locker room and knock themselves unconscious on the floor. The students enter just in time to see him standing over them and assume he jumped them and saved the day. Peter uses this opportunity to declare that Flash Thompson must really be Spider-Man, laughing at how befuddled he is (and how readily the other kids believe it).

Great stuff. This is a fun story.

Stray observations:

:: Peter Parker doesn't ever wear glasses after this.

:: I don't know what the Living Brain's casing is made out of, but it sure is shiny!

In every panel, it's gleaming and glistening.

:: When the students are giving factual information they know about Spider-Man, Liz says "He's the most wonderful, heroic, glamorous man in the whole world!"

:: This is the second time, I believe, that Spider-Man's showed up at Midtown High. Couple that with Flash's assertion that Spidey's been spotted in the Forest Hills neighborhood a lot, and I'm surprised no one's really close to figuring out his identity without the Living Brain's help.

:: As much as I enjoyed this tale, it does bug me that it falls into that trope I hate where we invent artificial intelligence and then it turns against us. This has grown into such a tired cliche that we seem to now have the idea that it's a scientific inevitability (and a source of cheap, obvious jokes on apparently every science fiction news site I read now). It does get dull. How about exploring that in an interesting, meaningful way instead of just being depressingly robophobic? Come on, you're science fiction fans. Choose optimism.

:: Peter decides to throw away the piece of paper with the Living Brain's answer on it. I kind of wish they hadn't left that hanging. I mean, whether he shares it with the class or not, I'm just curious about whether the Living Brain actually figured it out!

"Spider-Man Tackles the Torch!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko

A six-page back-up story appears!

It's not very effective.

This is a cute filler back-up, a little nod to keep the rivalry between Spider-Man and the Human Torch going. In this one, Spidey shows up at Doris Evans' party and taunts Johnny Storm, and the two have a fight on the beach. After reading a story where Peter tried to hold back in his fight with Flash, it's interesting to see Spider-Man and the Torch just going full-bore at each other. I think there are at least three occasions where one of them could have killed the other. What starts of as pranks, wisecracks and one upmanship turns into just flat-out trying to murder one another. Teenagers are volatile, man.

The other members of the Fantastic Four show up to break up the fight, and Spidey retreats, leaving behind a heart made out of webbing for Sue.

Stray observations:

:: Sorry to be a fanboy, but Jack Kirby's Spider-Man still doesn't look right to me. Not as fluid as Ditko's. I think John Romita really split the difference between the two styles later. (Romita draws my favorite Spidey. I also love Ross Andru's.) For what it's worth, there's a letter this issue regarding Kirby's art in the Strange Tales Annual that agrees with me. And it's from Buddy Saunders, future Nebula nominee, Rocket's Blast contributor and Lone Star Comics founder.

:: The cover of this issue proudly declares Amazing Spider-Man #8 a "SPECIAL 'TRIBUTE TO TEEN-AGERS' ISSUE!!" I think Marvel was just thrilled to have characters that were big hits with teenagers. If you look back at the history of Timely Comics, you can see just how quickly superheroes burned out; by a year or two after World War II, most of their comics--Millie the Model, Georgie, Jeanie, Willie, Nellie the Nurse, Tessie the Typist, Junior Miss, Mitzi, Mitzi's Boyfriend, Oscar, Cindy, Margie, Frankie, Lana, Rusty, Patsy Walker--were aimed at teenagers. After the crime comic and horror comic boom of the early 50s was stomped on by Congress, Timely was forced to lay off almost all of their employees, leaving only a handful of books running. Some of the Westerns and a couple of the teen books were obvious sellers, and the horror comics got turned into science fiction comics. With Fantastic Four (and the attendant Johnny Storm stories in Strange Tales) and Amazing Spider-Man, Stan and Marvel had something that combined teen comics, science fiction and superheroes, and it was renewing the company. Now that Marvel had the teen audience again, you could bet Stan was going to be very careful to play to them.

Now if he could just figure out his problem with writing girls, we'd be set...

:: The special announcements section teases some upcoming features and changes, including officially making Doctor Strange the second feature in Strange Tales (with eight pages per story), the return of the Mole Man in Fantastic Four, my beloved Tales of Asgard stories, and a bunch more that we'll get to. It turns out that fan opinion on X-Men is sharply divided: "It seems like those of you who like it LOVE it--but those who dislike it LOATHE it!" Well, after that second issue...

But let's not worry about that now. In the next Marvels: the Sub-Mariner! The Hulk! Another epic battle awaits in Avengers #3!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Is Everything Alright in Here?

Yes. Yes, it is.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

B Is for Bobo

There were 27 years between The Muppets Take Manhattan and the quasi-reboot/nostalgia fest The Muppets in 2011. During that period of time, the Muppets moved on, and a lot of new characters were introduced... characters that became integral to the Muppets of the time (and allowed new performers to develop new characters of their own) but that I fear are being pushed aside now that the new series of movies is trying to more or less restore the original Muppet Show cast to primacy.

(That in itself leads to a criticism of the Muppets that I reject outright, which is that a lot of the Muppets "sound wrong" now; never mind that of the main Muppet Show performers who are still alive, only two--Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire--still perform their Muppets. And Whitmire had to take over Kermit the Frog!)

One of my favorite Muppet characters introduced in what we can probably refer to as the interim period of the Muppets is Bobo the Bear. He--or rather, his puppet--first appeared in The Muppets Take Manhattan as a generic bear performed by Jerry Nelson. After some slight modifications, the puppet was introduced by performer Bill Barretta as Bobo on the short-lived, underrated TV series Muppets Tonight (aka proof that, no, actually, you probably wouldn't watch a Muppet Show revival, because you didn't when you had the chance to 20 years ago... sorry, I get bitter about wanting a steady stream of Muppet entertainment).

Bobo was the amiable but bumbling security guard at KMUP, the fictional studio where the show was put on. He had me laughing right away with his attitude. Often, the show would open with the guest trying to get past Bobo in order to make his appearance on the show.

This clip is my favorite opening, with the Artist Formerly Known as Prince trying to sign in with security. ("Okay, Dr. Rorschach, I'll play along...") There were also great bits where Bobo would try to scam Rizzo the Rat out of food, or the episode where he fell in love with Cindy Crawford and attempted to woo her.

After the premature cancellation of Muppets Tonight, Bobo appeared in a substantial supporting bit as Rentro, the office assistant to Jeffrey Tambor's villain in Muppets from Space. This tiny little bit is one of my favorite things from that movie.


I don't know why that's so funny, but it gets me every time. Incidentally, Bill Barretta has told a story about this moment. His line "The Goat?" was ad libbed, and after Tambor corrected him "THE REMOTE!" they had to cut because Tambor was cracking up too hard to go on. Quite a coup for Barretta, since apparently Jeffrey Tambor never breaks up because of other actors ad libbing. Nice job.

Bobo made a number of other appearances as Bill Barretta's characters started to gain prominence in the Muppet ensemble. He's just too damn good a performer to ignore. (Big Mean Carl and another of my all time favorites, Pepe the King Prawn, are Barretta originals.) One of my favorite Bobo appearances is this Star Wars audition tape, done for an episode of the Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony webseries.

Bobo's major film appearances, though, were as a security guard (assisting a security guard played by Nathan Lane) in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa and one of the assistants to Tex Richman (played by Chris Cooper) who was the villain in The Muppets. It's a pretty good gig; Bobo is at his best when he's playing a low-level functionary who's jovial but not really very helpful. And the sight of him in a suit is somehow automatically hilarious.

Still, I feel like Bobo is falling by the wayside a little, again because The Muppets really sought to re-establish the original Muppet Show cast as the main ensemble. With Bill Barretta performing Dr. Teeth, Rowlf the Dog and the Swedish Chef, there doesn't seem to be as much time for Bobo. Most recently, he was seen in a cameo in Muppets Most Wanted. There was also a lovely little moment on Lady Gaga & the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular where my beloved Kristen Bell tried to teach him to dance.

Kristen Bell with the Muppets? I feel like I can ultimately die happy now.

All I ask is a little bit of Bobo every so often. Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled to have Dr. Teeth and Rowlf back--some of you may remember that Rowlf the Dog is my favorite Muppet--but a little bit of Bobo is a grand thing.

ABC Wednesday

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

THE BEST MAN HOLIDAY (2013)
I never really expected they'd ever make a sequel to The Best Man, much less do it almost 15 years later and Big Chill the thing a little bit. I was surprised how easily the characters came back to me (I don't think I've seen the original since it first showed up on video in 1999/2000) and how much I just enjoyed being in their world for a little while. The cast is great--I don't really get to see Sanaa Lathan, Nia Long or Regina Hall often enough--and the emotions are genuine. It's just a nice Christmas-themed movie. Oh, and excellent soundtrack. All Christmas music, natch. ***

42 (2013)
The reviews of this Jackie Robinson biopic left me pretty cold, for the most part; I saw it referred to as bloodless and impersonal, and someone even went as far as to compare it to one of those too-clean stories of the lives of some saint or other, like it was the Sunday School version of Jackie Robinson. I decided to give it a chance basically because it just happened to be on. I spent all of Sunday with my Dad, fishing on the lake for the first time since I was 12, and found myself home alone all Sunday night. Having had a great day (only caught two small fish--less than six inches, but they were bass, a least--but it was a real triumph for me in that I managed to be patient and engaged and not anxious at all) and a long bath, I decided to order a pizza and watch 42. I remember Roger saying he liked it, and I guess I wanted to watch something I felt like my Dad would've liked, and it's been on all the time on HBO, so I sat with it. And I loved it.

It's not bloodless or overly sanitized at all. In fact, the language is so rough it made me uncomfortable (it's supposed to, of course). In one scene, the language was so harrowing and cruel that I wanted to cry. In some respects, the film is deliberately old-fashioned; it takes it cues from great baseball pictures like The Pride of the Yankees. But it's absolutely the right decision to put the focus on Jackie Robinson's ordeal and what he had to go through to break the color barrier in Major League Baseball, even if it's somewhat at the expense of making Jackie's characterization more complex. It's not really a biopic; it's about social change.

It helps that a lot of the film rests with Chadwick Boseman as Jackie; he's a charming, personable actor giving a nuanced, sympathetic performance, and now I can't wait to see him play James Brown in Get On Up. I also liked Harrison Ford in the movie; I haven't actually seen him act in a long time, and he seems to be relishing the chance to ham it up without breaking the movie's reality. (There's a little bit of the baseball fan gee whiz to this movie that only adds to the charm of it.) And at the end, I found myself moved.

I'll be honest and admit that it's a solid three-star movie, but I'm going to give it an extra half because, let's be honest, your personal experiences always shade your feelings about a movie. Hey, these are reviews, not actual criticism. ***1/2 Glad I sat with it instead of dismissing it.

CONEY ISLAND (1917)
Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton are both after a married girl at Coney Island. I love seeing the Coney Island rides and attractions in old silent flicks. There's a lost magic to it. Fatty and Buster are on point, as always. ***1/2

LOOK PLEASANT, PLEASE (1918)
I'm not always the biggest Harold Lloyd fan, but TCM had some shorts on the other night that I quite enjoyed. This was the first, with Lloyd playing a hapless grocer on the run. He ends up standing in for a flirty (more like gropey) photographer who is dodging a jealous husband. Really, really tight pacing on this one, even though I still found Lloyd's personality a little cutesy. ***1/2

TAKE A CHANCE (1918)
The second Lloyd short; in this one, he's at the park trying to woo Bebe Daniels. Some fantastic physical gags in this one, including Lloyd's slide on a bar of soap. Great timing, great pacing. ***1/2

CAPTAIN KIDD'S KIDS (1918)
The final Lloyd short of the night. Not as good as the other two. The middle section here is Lloyd as a rich boy who gets captured by lady pirates. Some good gags, particularly the kitchen stuff. I just realized I'm really a sucker for kitchen sequences in silent movies... ***

Monday, July 21, 2014

Marvels: Tales to Astonish #50

"The Human Top!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Steve Ditko
(December 1963)

This one's a fun, breezy read. It's also everything I hate about Giant-Man & the Wasp stories.

First, the villain: David Cannon, the Human Top. He was born with the ability to spin around really fast like, well, the name's a give away. I guess he must be a mutant, since he was born with his powers, although the word isn't used. He's a bully and a jerk, and grows up to be a cheat; he gets in speed skating races and deliberately loses in order to drive the odds up, then easily wins as a sort of fix for the mob, because I guess the mob bets on the outcomes of speed skating races. Eh, gambling money is gambling money. His new plan is to get a job in a show at Danly's Department Store and rob the payroll.

Into this plot stumble Giant-Man and the Wasp, who are more or less insufferable in this issue.

First, we have Stan's usual go-to of flirty banter that basically amounts to Hank Pym using his "ew, girls are yucky!" attitude to deflect man-hungry Jan. It starts right from their first appearance in this story, after Hank calls Jan to remind her they're having a briefing this afternoon.

Let's remember the real victims of workplace sexual harassment in the Marvel Universe: male scientists who just want to do their jobs without being reminded that girls like all that mushy stuff. Which is too bad, because apparently all that mushy stuff is why a girl becomes a superhero herself.

The story's only 13 pages long, and ends on a cliffhanger, but a lot of pages are just this kind of filler, with the Wasp angrily insisting that handsome Giant-Man acknowledge her ceaseless flirtation. And apparently all he has to do is call her "honey" and she's over the moon. It's just really insulting and idiotic sometimes.

Hank learns about the Top's plans to steal the payroll, and he and Jan get jobs there to infiltrate and be ready. At least it's a little more believable than setting up your own jewelry store overnight to catch a robber.

Hank and Jan have been so insipid this issue that it's almost a relief when the Human Top shows up and just throws everything into chaos.

Not only is the Top snottier than Spider-Man, he's also apparently unbeatable. The guy with the power to spin around really fast is also the guy that Giant-Man can't beat. Gee, I guess being twelve feet tall isn't the best power in every situation.

This is what you get for those puke-inducing filler scenes of flirty banter that reads like it was written by children, Giant-Man! This is the funniest thing that's happened in a Marvel comic since this classic.

So, yeah, the Human Top gets away. And Giant-Man, humiliated, begins a combination of chemical tests and physical training in order to increase his speed so he can stop the Human Top's criminal rampage. But things aren't looking too good...

To be continued.

Stray observations:

:: The credits read "Illustrated by Jack Kirby, Rendered by Steve Ditko," which, from the looks of things, means Jack Kirby laid out the story and did some poses (lots of familiar Kirby poses in this issue), but Ditko did the finished pencils and inks. Marvel Wiki implies that Kirby did the pencils and Lee did the inks, but it looks a little more like Ditko's work to me. Hard to tell. I'm sure someone out there knows.

:: The ants still send messages to Dr. Pym about things that require his intervention. This is visualized like this:

I've long given up questioning why ants would even have the slightest interest in the affairs of human beings and their laws and their concept of good and evil or even their concept of the ways humans divide time. But who knew the ants thought in such legible script? And look, they have the concept of motion blur, too. Ants are much more sophisticated than we gave them credit for, apparently.

:: Ordinary citizens in the Marvel Universe are so stupidstitious.

*Sigh* Where were you when Atlantis took over New York, lady?

:: My wife: "How does the Human Top not just puke constantly? Even astronauts would be puking constantly!"

So, yeah, not my favorite issue here. Ever since Stan Lee took over this series and Ant-Man became Giant-Man, it just hasn't worked for me. I miss the old Ernie Hart & Don Heck Ant-Man stories. Alas, alas, etc.

This is also the last story in this Marvels series from 1963. But there are milestones galore in '64! (Sorry, wanted to see what it would be like to write for the bullpen for a second there.)

Next time: Stan Lee salutes the teenagers.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Song of the Week: "Are You Ready for the Sex Girls"

No one is ready for the sex girls.

I've always liked this silly, bouncy New Wave single. I first heard when I was a kid and saw Revenge of the Nerds, but I didn't encounter it again until just after high school when Rhino put out its Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits of the 80s. New Wave is the music I was sort of born into, especially the earlier sound that's still punky. But what I think of as punk, anyway; stuff like the Dictators that was funny and snotty and Mad type stuff. New Wave and Post-Punk are probably the sounds that defined my childhood and set the bar for all the other music I would ever like. (Well, let's be honest: those and any Muppet music. Boy, modern me makes a lot of sense when you consider the kind of music I loved as a kid...)

Anyway, I always thought this song was glorious in its silliness and its ridiculous lyrics. It's not surprising to find out that these two guys--Leslie Bohem and David Kendrick--were also members of Sparks, who had a very similar sound at the time (a period which produced two of my all time favorite Sparks songs, "Monster of Love" and "Tips for Teens"). Kendrick was later in Devo, too. I love how connected all of this stuff is.

But let's go even further with the connections I like to find. Leslie Bohem became a screenwriter. He's the guy who created the Steven Spielberg miniseries Taken, which is not only one of my favorite things of the last 15 years, it also reframed my childhood fascination with UFOs and introduced me to one of my favorite actresses, Dakota Fanning (who later went on to play one of my favorite people ever, Cherie Currie). He's also currently a writer on Extant, which I've been really digging (as you could probably tell from this week's Sunday Hottie).

Other than puppeteer/matte painter/model builder/creature designer/special fx guy, the other job I really dreamed of as a kid was astronaut. It was never going to happen; I was a terrified kid, and I never kept in shape, and I'm terrible at science. But the wonder's still there for me, and I'm still so into outer space, since before I can remember.

So I watch this week's great second episode of Extant, and what do I see? An astronaut on a space station listening to "Are You Ready for the Sex Girls." An episode written by Leslie Bohem.

I love life sometimes.

Here's the hilariously ironic video for a song I just love to death in its transcendent hilarity. The goat noises always make me laugh. The video is just the right kind of mocking. (And hey, their meringue didn't hold, either. I made two pies in the last two weeks that just collapsed. This is the right video for the right song at the right time.)