Saturday, August 16, 2014

#1 Songs on My Birthday: 1997-2006

The third installment of this series: am I happy with the song that was #1 on my birthday, or is one of the adjacent tunes more my style?

5/24/97 Hanson "MMMbop"
6/14/97 Puff Daddy & Faith Evans featuring 112 "I'll Be Missing You"
8/30/97 The Notorious BIG featuring Puff Daddy & Mase "Mo Money, Mo Problems"

I don't know, it always seems kind of ghoulish to me. Like more of a business decision than a tribute. I remember that it led to a lot of DJs playing "Every Breath You Take," as though they'd ever stopped... I hate the Hanson song; I mean, it's harmless, but it was everywhere to the point of nausea. So was the Puff Daddy song. I much prefer "Mo Money, Mo Problems."

5/23/98 Mariah Carey "My All"
6/6/98 Brandy & Monica "The Boy Is Mine"
9/5/98 Aerosmith "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"

Was it really necessary for this to be the number one song through the entire summer? It's barely a song. This is the kind of nasal-breathy ooh-ooh drum machine with buried vocals warbled under it that I got so damn tired of hearing over and over again at this point in history. This is just not for me. Boring, emotionless pap. Frankly, I don't like any of these songs.

6/12/99 Jennifer Lopez "My Love Don't Cost a Thing"
7/17/99 Destiny's Child "Bills, Bills, Bills"
7/24/99 Will Smith featuring Dru Hill & Kool Mo Dee "Wild Wild West"

I like some Destiny's Child songs, but this isn't really one of them. Boring, boring, boring. I never really got the point of Jennifer Lopez' singing career; middle-of-the-road music for a middle-of-the-road time, though I, uh, loved watching the music videos. I guess I'd pick the Will Smith song from this trio, if only because it liberally samples Stevie Wonder's "I Wish," which is a great song. I remember Wonder being in the music video. The movie it accompanies, though, was one of the times I was most disappointed by a movie in the cinema. You know that feeling where you're excited about something, and then you realize it's bad, and then you realize it's not going to get any better, so you spend the rest of the time just squirming and hating it but still not leaving, I guess, just in case? Yeah, that's Wild Wild West. And only a year after I had powerfully felt the same way during The Avengers and Godzilla...

6/24/00 Enrique Iglesias "Be With You"
7/15/00 Vertical Horizon "Everything You Want"
7/22/00 matchbox twenty "Bent"

This song sounds familiar. Like it was in the background of something, a TV show or something. It's okay. Okay in the background. Don't know the other two at all.

6/2/01 Christina Aguilera, Li'Kim, Mya & Pink "Lady Marmelade"
7/7/01 Usher "U Remind Me"
8/4/01 Destiny's Child "Bootylicious"

Aw, now, see, that's a Destiny's Child song that I really dig, though admittedly that's in large part because of Stevie Nicks (who is in the video). And "Lady Marmelade" is the only thing that came out of Moulin Rouge that I like at all, and I actually love that song. That's probably my favorite pop song of 2001. But I just miss either song for an Usher song that I don't remember at all. It's okay.

4/20/02 Ashanti "Foolish"
6/29/02 Nelly "Hot in Herre"
8/17/02 Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland "Dilemma"

Wow, America really loved Nelly in 2002. "Hot in Herre" was number one for a month and a half, and "Dilemma" was number one for another two months. I like both, so I'm fine with this. Weird Al did an okay parody of it. I don't remember the Ashanti song at all. I remember her and her videos, but I can't recall any of the songs. Was this the video with the elephant in it? Because I liked that video.

6/28/03 Clay Aiken "This Is the Night"
7/12/03 Beyonce featuring Jay-Z "Crazy in Love"
9/6/03 Nelly, P. Diddy & Murphy Lee "Shake Ya Tailfeather"

I love this song. I love this album, actually. I remember the first time I saw the video it was kind of exciting, especially compared to a lot of what I was seeing. I just got so into the music. Still like, it, too. I never liked anything Beyonce did as much as I liked this song the first time I heard it, and the album the first time I listened to it. I don't know the Clay Aiken song. I remember not liking the other one (it was from a movie... Bad Boys 2?), but I can't remember what it sounds like now.

5/22/04 Usher "Burn"
7/10/04 Fantasia "I Believe"
7/24/04 Usher "Confessions Part II"

I couldn't recall this song from memory. Hearing it now, eh. They write something sappy like this for every American Idol winner to sell. It's manufactured for sales, and it shows. That was the third season of American Idol, which I stopped watching after my favorite, Jennifer Hudson, was voted off. I've never liked Fantasia Barrino. It's funny, I stopped watching American Idol years ago, and now I remember almost no one from that show, but I remember being so incensed that Jennifer Hudson was voted off that I just stopped watching that season. I see Fantasia was a brief interlude in America's love affair with Usher. I remember his album being pretty big, but I honestly don't remember how either of those songs sound.

6/4/05 Mariah Carey "We Belong Together"
7/2/05 Carrie Underwood "Inside Your Heaven"
9/17/05 Kanye West featuring Jamie Foxx "Gold Digger"

Ugh, American Idol strikes again, with more pap delivered through someone overrated. This time it's bookended by two songs that I actually like. I love "Gold Digger." The Mariah Carey song is one of the few songs by her I like, but I remember perving on the video for sure. Her videos got so cheesecakey. I don't remember if I've ever heard this Carrie Underwood song--I'm sure I must have--but listening to it now makes me want to go into a coma.

6/31/06 Taylor Hicks "Do I Make You Proud"
7/8/06 Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland "Promiscuous"
8/19/06 Fergie "London Bridge"

Yay, I get to end this installment on a positive note, narrowly avoiding more American Idol crap (though at least this particular piece of "good enough" garbage yielded a hilarious Weird Al song) and narrowly avoiding listening to that dopey Fergie song. I dig the hell out of "Promiscuous." That Nelly Furtado album was a blockbuster, and it totally delivered. That was probably my favorite album that year.

Glad to end with that one.

Next week, we limp to a conclusion. God, I hope I don't have any more American Idol songs...

Friday, August 15, 2014

8-Bit Matrix

Thursday, August 14, 2014

80s Revisited: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
Directed by Steve Barron; screenplay by Todd W. Langen and Bobby Herbeck; produced by Simon Fields, Kim Dawson & David Chan.

This one showed up on Disney XD over the weekend, and I hadn't seen it since I was in high school, so why not?

I've always liked the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Turtlemania was huge when I was a pretty decent age for it. I was only vaguely aware of them from too much time spent at comic book stores when the original cartoon miniseries aired in 1987. I loved it right away. In fact, digging it right off is one of the many things I was teased for in sixth grade, when all of the other sophisticated 10 year-olds were eschewing things like cartoons, comics, toys and, I don't know, fun. Little assholes.

I stuck with the Turtles for years. I had a lot of the action figures--in fact, it's probably the last action figure line I really collected and played with as a kid. Not quite as seminal to me as G.I. Joe was, but something I really loved. I collected the cards and once actually got arrested stealing a few packs of them. (Kids, don't shoplift.) I tracked down the original comics and/or collections of them. I once recorded an entire episode of Murphy in the Morning on Chicago's Q101 because cartoon voice artist Rob Paulsen was guesting in character as Raphael, the voice he performed on the show, and I had to go to school. I loved the arcade game from Konami so much that I was actually trying to figure out how to buy one. And I was sure excited when this movie came out; I had the stickers, I had the trading cards, and the soundtrack album was, believe it or not, the first rap album I ever owned.

So, yeah, I was a Turtlehead.

And right now the current comic book incarnation, published by IDW, is one of my favorite comic books. So I guess I still sort of am.

Despite the powerful presence of TMNT in my life, this movie hasn't really stuck with me over the years. I always found it somewhat forgettable. I've heard people praise it for 24 years now (even Kevin Smith called it one of the most faithful comic book adaptations), and I've always sort of shrugged it off as something I liked once but never really needed to see again. But I knew it would probably be on somewhere over the weekend, what with the new movie coming out, and my curiosity was killing me: how had the movie aged for me?

Honestly, it's something of a mixed bag.

First, I want to mention the Turtles themselves. The Turtles are pretty well-done. They were created by Jim Henson's Creature Shop (which is why he's in the picture at the top of this post, along with the film's director, Steve Barron, who had also directed three episodes of Jim Henson's The Storyteller around this time), and they're very sophisticated for the time. They're not perfect--some of the facial expressions are wonderful, but sometimes the masks aren't quite expressive enough to be convincing in more dramatic scenes. Yes, yes, they're obviously men in suits, but so what? They're fun and they're charming.

I also love the characterizations and the voices. Though they litter their conversations with surfer slang, they're more out of the original, darker comic books than they are out of the very popular cartoon.

The whole movie's like that. The film's story is an amalgam of several comic book stories, and the film is surprisingly dramatic and, for a lot of people, violent, though it takes a lot of the more colorful elements and humor from the cartoon. I think that took a lot of people by surprise at the time, which led to a lot of heavy criticism. It's almost funny to look at this movie now and think that so many adults attacked the film for its violence, when it's more or less like anything you'd see in a Jackie Chan movie.

One complaint I have about the story: what the heck are the Foot doing with all of that stuff they're stealing? It seems like they're stealing anything that isn't nailed down, but to what end? To make a really bitchin' hangout for kids with a chip on their shoulder? There's nothing else going on? I know the Shredder has some vague "Take over the city" plan, but it's so vague as to not even be window dressing.

The cast is alright. I couldn't get too invested in at-risk ginger Danny and his arc from sullen kid to kid who cares, but I liked Judith Hoag as April. I actually still love Judith Hoag. From Halloweentown to Nashville, Judith Hoag is my lady. Elias Koteas is a lot more fun than I remembered as Casey Jones. And Toshishiro Obata as the Shredder's lieutenant, Tatsu, is a more compelling presence than Shredder himself is.

I'm surprised, seeing it now, at how sloppily made the film is. Not Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves level sloppy, but there are a lot of errors and goofs. This flick was going to make money no matter what--I saw it a couple of times, and it was packed every time--but it looks like such a rush job in places (and that's with three editors, including Sally Menke). I also don't like how dark it is. I understand that it's to hide some of the deficiencies of the puppets, but even the daylight scenes are hazy and murky. It's not pleasing to look at. (Though, funnily enough, it does conform to the look of New Line films, which used to have that rough look. New Line released the film in the US, but they didn't produce it.)

Overall, I enjoyed the film, both as a Turtles fan and as a fan of creature movies. Although there's a lot of comedy, there's a lot of drama, and it treats the Turtles and Spinter as credible characters rather than jokes. There's a lot of emotion that the filmmakers and the puppeteers pull out of them, and that's special. It's not really a defining movie of my lifetime, but it was a really nice walk down memory lane. I was going to say it's harmless, but that's dismissive, and I don't feel like dismissing it.

What it is, is shameless, silly fun. It's not a great movie, but who cares? It's a good time, and I won't apologize for having a good time.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

E Is for Eric the Parrot

There are surprisingly few Muppets whose names begin with "e," unless I want to tackle some of the bigger name Muppets, like Elmo or Ernie. ("Ernie" was my first word.) But I wanted to talk about this guy, whom probably no one remembers, because he had a role in one of my favorite episodes of The Muppet Show. Actually, two.

The first one was one of the entire series' best episodes: the second season episode starring John Cleese.

There's Eric in his first appearance, as pirate John Cleese attempts to take over the Swinetrek in a "Pigs in Space" sketch (which you can see here). I figure that's where the name Eric must have come from--as a Monty Python reference to the "Eric the Half-a-Bee" sketch--but I can't find any definite confirmation of that. There's a great moment in that sketch where Cleese directly references the classic "Dead Parrot" sketch by asking the mouthy bird: "How would you like to be an ex-parrot?" I love the interplay between Cleese and Jerry Nelson as Eric. "Belabor the punchline!" "We already did that!"

Eric appeared in the background, unnamed, in other sketches throughout the show's run, but the one showcase he really had was on the fifth season episode hosted by Glenda Jackson, which is fantastic. In the episode, she reveals herself to actually be a pirate and sneaks in a crew of pirate Muppets (including Sweetums, who returned to piracy in Muppet Treasure Island) and attempts to take over the show. Eric appears first as a penguin, which turns out to be merely a disguise.

Eric even gets a number to himself, which includes an appearance by the Swedish Chef.

Eric never got a line again. After this, he only appeared in the "Rainbow Connection" finale of The Muppet Show--as did nearly every extant Muppet at the time--and then disappeared into the past.

ABC Wednesday

Film Week

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

KICK-ASS 2 (2013)
I liked the first Kick-Ass quite a bit. Though it wasn't the interesting deconstruction of superheroes it pretended to be, it was kind of witty and stupid-fun and the stuff it played for shock value actually worked. It wasn't good, exactly, but it wasn't a waste by any means. This grim sequel is far easier to despise. It loses the wit and shock value of the original, and instead contains numbing, ugly violence in the extreme. It plays a rape scene for laughs (and actually suggests that being unable to get the erection to rape a woman is unmanly) and tries awkwardly to balance death scenes we're supposed to be shocked and affected by with death scenes played for bizarre humor. This is the kind of film that uses the death and rape of others to motivate its heroes to be more violent, a bizarre set of tropes that comic book writer Mark Millar just can't outgrow. And it's all in the service of nothing, really. It's just another Millar project that exists to pretend its empowering the comic book fans that it takes twisted pleasure in insulting.

Other than the performances of Jim Carrey and John Leguizamo--which really amount to extended cameos--the only other thing in the movie of any value is Chloe Moretz. She has a storyline where she tries to go to school and be a "normal" kid and give up her Hit Girl persona, and that was the only part that really pulled me in, except that gets pretty ugly and graphic, too. There's a bit where she goes out with the school's football star but, at the behest of the mean girls, he ditches her out in the woods to teach her, I guess, not to be so good at dance squad. Given the tone of the rest of the film, I'm surprised (but relieved!) they didn't have the football team gang rape her instead. It's humiliating, but mild compared to the rest of the film. And then, of course, her retribution is extreme: she hits the mean girls with a weapon that makes them vomit and shit themselves at the same time. It's another bit that's supposed to be funny but is actually just cruel and awful. It's that kind of movie.

But here's the thing with Hit Girl that bothered me, and this is actually what offended me most in this terrible, tone deaf movie. She's played as, basically, an abuse victim. Intentionally or no, the movie is drawing the parallel of what happened to Hit Girl to girls that are abused by their own family members. Morris Chestnut, playing the family friend raising her after her father's death in the first movie, keeps saying things like "Your father stole your childhood," and it's uncomfortable and kind of gross. And the way her story plays out, it's like the film is telling every abused person out there that they can never fit in, never mainstream themselves. You'll always be different, the film seems to be saying. You can never be "normal" again because someone made you something else, but if you just give in to it and be the thing you were turned into, that abusive experience is ultimately empowering. That's the sick message they're sending with her: embrace your abuse, because you'll never be happy any other way.

Thankfully, the only thing anyone's going to remember this mirthless, witless, misogynistic film for is the controversy of Jim Carrey refusing to do any press for it after the Sandy Hook massacre. He made the right choice. No one in their right mind should have supported this. *

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lauren Bacall 1924-2014


Yesterday's therapy exercise was "Name a color that describes your personality."

I like to wear charcoal shirts more than any other, but I never thought about why. And when I thought about it, I suddenly realized it's because it's not bright enough to draw attention to me (I'm very uncomfortable with that, even with my... humanity, I guess, being acknowledged) but not so dark that I disappear (which is part of a whole other deep issue with not mattering or not being acknowledged at all, ever).

Someone told me she saw me as tangerine. I asked why, and she told me "Because you're always sitting there and you're so calm and so friendly."

Those are two words I never would use to describe myself, and I was very touched by that.

I spent a lot of time last night thinking about Robin Williams' suicide and why it made me so sad, and this morning I saw that Roger had commented on my post: "You relate, I relate to that SOMETHING that would allow one to kill oneself." I certainly do, and that's what I told my wife last night. I'm going through one of my depressive periods right now (they happen every six or eight weeks, and nothing really triggers them; my therapist is considering an added diagnosis of depression), and I'm working hard to try and understand it and push back against it rather than just giving in and giving up and doing nothing for the next few weeks, which is what usually happens.

I told Becca that the suicide of Robin Williams scares me because, even though I have no idea what his situation was and what the specifics were, I know what it's like to be in a position where something inside you is telling you that the only peace you're ever going to have is that. You convince yourself that it's not only reasonable, but preferable, and that's pernicious. That's why I urge anyone struggling with it to seek professional help. I didn't know how deeply-rooted my issues were, or just how far they went, or even why they became so prominent over the last five years. And even knowing those things isn't enough. But at least I know them now, and that's because of professionals.

I'm in a bad place today, but I don't want to be, so I'm going to push back.

I'm going to be tangerine today. I feel charcoal, but I'm going to be tangerine.

UPDATE 2:30 PM: Nope, never mind. I dared to relax for a little while, so of course something bad happens. Sorry, universe, that was totally on me. I stupidly forgot. Fuck everything, I just want to sleep for a long, long time.

Don't pay attention to what I say because I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about.

UPDATE 11:54 PM: I was just reading that there's a spike in suicides when a famous person dies under these kinds of circumstances. That makes a lot of sense. Mental illness can be a hard battle, and it's one I came very close to losing today. Today was hard. My wife is probably getting tired of having to wrestle sharp objects out of my hand. All I can do is try and do better tomorrow. The fight is ongoing.

UPDATE 8/13: My wife and I talked some more about this last night, and I think yet another reason why I felt so stunned, so in despair about Robin Williams is that it's a reminder that what I'm struggling with is never going away. There may be periods where it has much less of a hold on me, but it will always be there in some way, even when I'm 63, assuming I live that long. That scares me. A lot.

Marvels: Tales to Astonish #51

"Showdown with the Human Top!" by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby & Dick Ayers
(January 1964)

Still smarting from not being able to capture the Human Top, Hank is still trying to improve his speed. But when he faces the Top again, it's the same story as before.

This power is so useless, Hank. Somehow it's way more useless than being Ant-Man.

Hank can catch the Human Top, but he can't hold onto him.

The Top has stolen strategic defense plans; they're outdated, but the Department of Defense offers to help Giant-Man. The Top contacts Soviet spies to sell them the plans, and Giant-Man and the DOD use that as a trap, blocking off a long city avenue with fences. Then the Human Top, trying to flee, tires himself out enough so that Giant-Man--glue on his hands--can stop the thief and apprehend him.

Glue on his damn hands, man.

Stray notes:

:: There's a little two-page interlude that happens here for no real reason except, I imagine, to pad the page count, where a cluster of students rush into Hank's lab and start taking pin-up pics of the Wasp for their school magazine. Apparently they're part of some Giant-Man fan club, which I have a really hard time believing is a thing that exists.

:: The Human Top might be one of my favorite villains so far just because he's such an overconfident dick to Hank. "If you're gonna catch me, catch me! It gets drafty spinning around this way!" "Are you sure you're not walkin' in your sleep, chum?" "Speed it up, will ya?? You're not the only guy I wanna make a fool out of today!"

:: God damn it, Stan.

You can be more, Janet. You can be more.

:: Hank's lab is in New York now. I wonder why he left New Jersey.

:: The Giant-Man stories are still running 13 pages, so Tales to Astonish is still running two back-up stories of five pages each. This issue has the first installment of "The Wasp Tells a Tale," which is pretty much the same deal as the "Tales of the Watcher" I mentioned in this month's Tales of Suspense: the kind of short sci-fi/horror twist-ending stories that have been in these books regularly, only these are narrated by the Wasp, telling her tale to orphans or wounded vets or whomever.

It is kind of neat to see Larry Lieber draw someone from the Marvel Universe...

...but unless they somehow affect the Marvel Universe, I'll be skipping past them.

Next time: Beware of the Blob!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams 1951-2014

I'm rather surprised by the depth of the emotional reaction I'm having to the news that Robin Williams is dead, apparently having committed suicide. I've been watching him my entire life. I used to watch Mork & Mindy when I was a kid. I saw Hook about a dozen times as a kid, and as unwatchable as I find it now, it shaped me a lot in the years after my parents' divorce. Jumanji was a movie Becca and I loved in the theaters. Even now, in the Night at the Museum movies, whatever you may think of them, he's my favorite part. There's just something about Williams that I've always responded to and always recognized.

And of course he was funny. I had one of his albums as a kid that I laughed at for years and years. The man was brilliant. He wasn't a comic, he was a comic artist. Just a few months ago, I listened to his album Reality... What a Concept for the first time, and was blown away by his ability to create characters and his prowess with words. I remember laughing so hard at a particular moment in Good Morning, Vietnam that my Mom came back into my room to ask if there was something wrong with me.

The list of movies I liked him in is long and varied, from The World According to Garp to Aladdin to The Fisher King. I often liked him even when I didn't like the movies, unless he was with a director that leaned to hard on the "earnest" or "whimsy" buttons.

But the movie of his that probably will live the longest in my heart is Mrs. Doubtfire. That movie came along a few years after my parents had divorced, when I was 16. That was yet another movie about a man who takes extraordinary measures to win back his wife after their divorce, and it doesn't work. Rather than being yet another slice of Hollywood BS about divorce, it was the first movie I'd really seen that argued that divorce wasn't a tragedy that ruined your life forever; even if, at the end, Robin Williams spoke directly to the camera to tell the kids in the audience that sometimes parents divorce and you can still be okay, it was exactly what I needed to hear.

And for that alone I'm grateful to him. The countless hours of entertainment that come with it are a bonus.

I'm so sorry he died, and in the way he did.

If you're struggling with depression, please seek professional help, I beg you. If I hadn't done so when I did, I wouldn't be alive right now.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Song of the Week: "No Control"

Songs for Becca #19. When David Bowie's Outside was released in 1995, Becca and I had been dating for just under a year. I bought it the same day we drove up to Gurnee Mills, the gigantic mall, and Becca and I both discovered that I had an incredible fear of being driven in unfamiliar places. That was a tense day, but also a good one, because we were together and we were listening to Bowie's first new album in a few years. We both loved it; in fact, it was the last time Becca loved a new Bowie album. That night, we went to the theater to see Strange Days, a movie I still love but which was such a flop that it was out of theaters by the next weekend.

This is Becca's favorite song on Outside, and the song that always reminds me of that day when I just sort of fell apart and, not for the last time, Becca helped put me back together.

Marvels: Tales of Suspense #49

"The New Iron Man Meets the Angel!" by Stan Lee, Steve Ditko & Paul Reinman
(January 1964)

These panels up here are about all you're going to get in the way of subtle plot machinations. It's like no one really cares what happens in this story, and it's so bad and perfunctorily written, that you shouldn't, either.

How's this for story? Stark Industries is performing an atomic bomb test right there at their facility in the middle of New York. Angel happens to be flying by, and Iron Man tries to stop him from getting too close to the explosion. The entire Eastern seaboard is too close to the explosion, Tony! Iron Man's armor shields him from the effects of the atomic blast, but Angel gets caught up in it and instead of, I don't know, dying instantly or dealing with his flesh sloughing off his body, he... turns evil!


So he goes back to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters and tells them all to shove it because he's joining up with these Evil Mutants we keep hearing about, and then Iron Man decides to fight Angel, and that's all that happens here. It's mostly just to show off Iron Man's new suit some more and throw in some of its various capabilities, and also to try and get Iron Man fans to read X-Men. There's a general tone here that if Angel is evil, we should all be terrified, but guys... he's the Angel. His whole power is that he has wings. That is literally it. And while, only two issues in, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby have been very creative in finding ways to use them to fight enemies, all it should really take for Iron Man to take this knucklehead out is a well-timed energy beam. Angel doesn't have super-strength, and he's not exactly a genius, he's just a handsome rich kid with wings, end of story. Put up a window and see if he flies into it, but don't waste my time with what is clearly meant to be an epic battle, but is actually supremely boring. Sub-Mariner vs. the Human Torch this ain't.

Iron Man defeats Angel by appealing to the good that's still in him; he stays in the air fighting Angel until his boot jets run out of juice, and then simply falls to his death. At the last minute, Angel realizes he's a good guy after all and saves Iron Man from hitting the ground.

Not worth your time, yet it goes on for 18 excruciatingly long pages. It's probably not the worst Marvel Comics story we've endured so far. Probably. I can't think of another one, but...

Stray observations:

:: Hey, it's the Iron Man 3 poster.

Everything in superhero pop culture was invented by Jack Kirby or Steve Ditko.

:: Stan is clearly overworked. So is Steve Ditko, although his art doesn't suffer, I just don't think Paul Reinman is the most expressive inker for Steve's pencils. Stan once accidentally refers to Anthony Stark as "Anthony Blake." He's also apparently forgotten or doesn't care that the Hulk isn't in the Avengers anymore, as he's one of the team members Professor X attempts to call for help.

:: It really is sad how hard this story tries to pull suspense out of this battle and totally fails to be anything more than irritating. The creatives really want us to worry that Tony's going to die, but it feels more like an 18-page plea to give X-Men a chance.

:: Hey, did you know inker Paul Reinman's career stretches all the way back to the Golden Age? I don't know if I've mentioned that before. He was inking Human Torch comics in the early days of Timely. He also drew the Tarzan comic strip for two years.

:: This issue features the first story in a series called "Tales of the Watcher." Do you remember how in old horror comics like Tales from the Crypt, the Crypt-Keeper would introduce and narrate all of the tales? This is like that. Tales of Suspense remains an anthology book, but someone (I assume Stan Lee) has decided to dust off this device and frame the back-up stories that usually appear here as stories being told to you by the Watcher. It's to get those who might skip them to read Larry Lieber's twist stories about aliens and stuff, by nominally putting them in the Marvel Universe. Unless they directly impact the Watcher himself or events in the Marvel Universe, I'm going to skip these stories as I've been doing already.

Bad issue all around, guys.

Next time: back to that fight between the Human Top and Giant-Man.