Archive for September 2010

Just a reminder

September 29, 2010

For those of you keeping score, I’m still on jury service through next week. Hence, the paucity of posts.

That’s all that’s going on. I’m perfectly fine. And it’s not that I don’t love you, honest. (Well, perhaps one or two of you. You know who you are.) So, please don’t worry.

I’ll get back to a more regular update schedule once the trial is over.

In the meantime…

…how about those Giants?

Comic Art Friday: My favorite changeling

September 24, 2010

It’s no secret that I have a thing for Isis.

Isis, pencils and inks by comics artist Gene Gonzales

For those of you who missed the 1970s, The Secrets of Isis was a live-action TV program that ran on CBS Saturday mornings from 1975 to 1977. Isis ran as half of a package with Shazam!, which featured the adventures of comics’ original Captain Marvel. (I say “original” because there have been several comic book heroes and heroines named Captain Marvel, spanning 70 years of comics history. But that’s a tale for another time.)

The basic premise of Isis was reiterated in the melodramatic narration that began every episode:

“O my Queen,” said the Royal Sorcerer to Hatshepsut, “with this amulet, you and your descendants are endowed by the goddess Isis with the powers of the animals and the elements. You will soar as the falcon soars… run with the speed of gazelles… and command the elements of sky and earth.”

Three thousand years later, a young science teacher dug up this lost treasure, and found she was heir to… the secrets of Isis!

And so, unknown to even her closest friends, Rick Mason and Cindy Lee, she became a dual person: Andrea Thomas, teacher… and Isis — dedicated foe of evil, defender of the weak, champion of truth and justice!

As highfalutin as all that sounds, the real attraction of The Secrets of Isis was its star, JoAnna Cameron, a charming actress who cut quite a fetching figure wearing Isis’s quasi-Egyptian miniskirt.

JoAnna Cameron as the mighty Isis

Cameron, who appeared in tons of commercials and guest-starred on several TV series and in telefilms throughout the ’70s, never had another role as prominent as Isis. By the end of the decade, she had left show business and moved on to other careers.

I’ve contributed in my own small way to keeping the legacy of Isis alive by commissioning several artworks featuring my favorite Saturday morning heroine. The drawing shown above, created by the talented and affable Gene Gonzales, is the most recent addition to my Isis gallery.

Ironically, Isis came into existence only because Filmation, the studio that produced both Shazam! and The Secrets of Isis, refused to pay DC Comics for the licensing rights to Mary Marvel, Captain Marvel’s sister and the character originally planned for the distaff half of the Shazam! TV hour.

Mary Marvel, pencils and inks by comics artist Gene Gonzales

Instead of shelling out the dough, Filmation created a new character based on the same general outline — a young woman who speaks a magical phrase (instead of “Shazam!” Andrea Thomas intoned, “O mighty Isis!”) and transforms into a superhero with powers derived from ancient mythology. DC ended up using Isis themselves, as the star of a short-lived comic series based on the TV show.

Isis, by the way, was the first female superhero to star in her own live-action program on American network television. All of the powered heroines who followed her to the small screen — from Wonder Woman and The Bionic Woman to Dark Angel and Witchblade — owe the Mighty Miniskirted One a debt of gratitude for kicking down the door.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

Can I get some “Free Bird” up in here?

September 20, 2010

Leonard Skinner, the high school gym teacher from whom the seminal Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd borrowed its name, has passed away at the age of 77.

Skinner spawned the group’s peculiarly (mis)spelled moniker during a conflict with several long-haired male students at Robert E. Lee High, the Jacksonville, Florida school where he taught in the early 1960s. The students, irked at Skinner’s mockery of their flowing manly tresses, displayed their outrage by forming a band and naming it after Skinner. (Which leads one to wonder why more rock bands aren’t named after high school gym teachers. Not to mention mothers, neighborhood bullies, and ex-wives.)

What strikes me as ironic about Skinner’s passing is the fact that he survived almost all of the key members of the band that parodied his name.

Lead vocalist Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines, and backup singer Cassie Gaines were killed in an infamous 1977 plane crash.

Guitarist Allen Collins was seriously injured in an automobile accident in 1986, and died of complications from his injuries in 1990.

Bassist Leon Wilkeson died of chronic liver disease in 2001, at the age of 49.

Keyboard player Billy Powell died of a heart attack in 2009.

Guitarist and vocalist Hughie Thomasson, who joined a latter-day incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd after a long career as the leader of another influential Southern rock band, the Outlaws, died of an apparent heart attack in 2007.

I guess Mr. Skinner got the last laugh.

There is, apparently, no truth to the rumor that the current edition of Skynyrd, which retains guitarist Gary Rossington as the “sole survivor” from the original membership, is planning to release an album entitled Lynyrd Skynyrd Is Dead (And Most of Us Have Been For Some Time).

Aye, there be pirates here!

September 19, 2010

Avast there, ye son of a bilge-rat!

Ol’ Cap’n Swan ain’t here today. Out celebratin’ his favorite holiday, he be.

Aye, that’s right, me bucko — it be International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

September 19 be International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

So the good Cap’n says to raise a flagon o’ grog — preferably of the nonalcoholic variety, especially if ye be plannin’ to sail anytime today — and plant a smooch and a squeeze on the willing wench or sturdy swabbie (whatever be yer preference — Cap’n Swan don’t judge) o’ yer choosin’.

And stay off the poopdeck, ye slitherin’ sea snake, or the Cap’n’ll hoist ye up the nearest yardarm!

Comic Art Friday: Krypton Comet

September 17, 2010

Not too long ago, my friend Damon asked me how close I am to completing my Bombshells! project — my ongoing series of commissioned drawings featuring heroines from the Golden Age of comics (defined for the purposes of this project as any character who made her debut prior to 1960) in pinups modeled after vintage bomber nose art.

I told Damon that I’m nowhere close to the end. My Bombshells! to-do list still has another 64 heroines on it, and I probably haven’t unearthed all of the possible candidates as yet. Many of the names are obscure, but I still have a few that would be recognized by most knowledgeable comics buffs.

They don’t come more recognizable than this.

Supergirl, pencils and inks by comics artist Steve Rude

Supergirl devotee that I am, I was saving the Maid of Steel’s Bombshells! appearance for just the right artist. I don’t believe I could have made a better choice than Steve “The Dude” Rude, best known as the creator (with writer Mike Baron) of the long-running series Nexus. Rude’s retro style, influenced by such comic art legends as Jack Kirby and Alex Toth, suits Bombshells! wonderfully. His rendition of Supergirl could easily have appeared on a 1950s DC Comics cover.

The tagline used here is my inside joke to other Supergirl fans. In her earlier days, Supergirl was noteworthy for her menagerie of super-pets, including Streaky the Super-Cat and a flying Super-Horse named Comet. Rude took my idea and ran with it, depicting Kara Zor-El astride her missile just as she used to ride her beloved Comet.

I never quite understood why Supergirl would enjoy riding a flying horse when she’s perfectly capable of flying under her own power. But hey — that’s comics for you.

That’s also your Comic Art Friday.

The Verdicts are in: Why Did I Get Married Too? and Bill Maher: “…But I’m Not Wrong!”

September 15, 2010

My tenure as a juror began today.

Which makes this the perfect opportunity to promote the fact that I’ve published two — count ’em, two — new reviews this week for DVD Verdict, cyberspace’s premier hotspot for film and television criticism.

If you’re into romantic comedy with a message, you might enjoy my examination of Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married Too?

If biting, politically conscious stand-up humor better suits your tastes, check out my look at Bill Maher’s “…But I’m Not Wrong!”

Or, if you just want to kick back and relax with a couple of insightful critiques, you might as well read both.

Sometimes, I feel like the Morton Salt girl

September 9, 2010

When it rains, it pours.

Oh, don’t cry for me, Argentina. My problems — at least those of which I’m speaking here — are strictly of the First World variety.

For most of this week, I’ve been without Internet access here at Casa de Swan. After a few pointless calls to AT&T DSL tech support, I figured out a workaround that has restored my connection. I still am without wireless hookup, so I’ve resigned myself to being chained to my office for the nonce, but at least I can communicate with the universe.

I also had jury duty this week. A duty which resulted in my being selected to serve in a trial that begins next week. So if postings are sparse here for the next little while, I know you’ll understand.

And… boom goes the dynamite.

Schimmel: Censored

September 4, 2010

This morning I awakened to the news that comedian Robert Schimmel had died.

I’d heard that Craigslist was shutting down its “adult entertainment” listings. But this seems like a step too far.

Schimmel was, without question, one of the most “adult” (in the modern sense of the word) entertainers ever to gain a mainstream following. Like his idol Lenny Bruce, and his contemporary predecessors Richard Pryor and George Carlin, Schimmel described the oddities of life using the most scatological language that exists in English. There was no subject Schimmel wouldn’t address in his act — including the most deeply personal aspects of his own life — and no four-, five-, seven-, or twelve-letter word he wouldn’t use in the addressing.

If your average coarse-speaking comic is described as working “blue,” Schimmel was working the indigo edges of midnight.

Schimmel’s caustic comedy arose out of a life that seemed destined to catch every conceivable unfortunate break. The son of Holocaust survivors, Schimmel survived a heart attack, bouts with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and hepatitis C, the death of one of his children from cancer, the breakup of two marriages (just last year, Schimmel was arrested, but not prosecuted,  for assaulting his second wife), and a career that never took the next great leap into super-stardom, largely because his penchant for graphic verbalization made Schimmel anathema to broadcast television.

As is often true of great comedians, Schimmel aimed his humor at himself as often as he pointed it at others. He was fascinating to watch onstage — a slightly built, bald man who almost always performed wearing a suit and tie, Schimmel rarely made eye contact with his audience. (I don’t know whether Schimmel, like another deceased comic, Mitch Hedberg, suffered from stage fright, and avoided looking at patrons for that reason.) His deflected gaze and the defeated, world-weary tone of his voice and body language made his act seem at times like a tortured internal monologue. Watching Schimmel was, for me, like eavesdropping on a man in his bedroom talking to himself, liberated in his speech because he believed that no one else was listening.

It’s fitting of Schimmel that he died in exceptionally tragic fashion — the result of injuries received in an automobile accident in which his teenage daughter was the driver. Schimmel the comedian would have milked that situation for all the profane hilarity he could wring out.

Robert Schimmel was 60.

What’s Up With That? #85: Yes, Jacquelyn, there is a Santa Claus…

September 1, 2010

…but you are not he.

This weird tale comes to us straight out of the pages of EC Comics — or would, if EC Comics were still being published, and were based in Bakersfield, California.

The decomposing corpse of physician Jacquelyn Kotarac, MD, was found lodged in the chimney of her ex-boyfriend’s home, after the good doctor showed off her best impression of St. Nicholas on Christmas Eve.

This brainstorm came after Dr. Kotarac attempted unsuccessfully to break into Mr. Lucky’s bachelor pad last Wednesday evening, using a shovel as a battering ram. Kotarac then climbed onto the roof of the house using a ladder, and slid down the smokestack feet first, apparently unaware that the jolly fat man can only accomplish this task via the power of imagination.

Meanwhile, the ex-boyfriend slipped out the back door.

A woman who was weekend house-sitting for the absent Lothario discovered Dr. Kotarac’s remains on Saturday when she, as the Associated Press so delicately put it, “noticed a stench and fluids coming from the fireplace.”

Don’t jilted lovers just boil rabbits on the stove anymore?

Engineering consultant William Moodie, the ostensible target of Dr. Kotarac’s ardor, said of his departed paramour:

She made an unbelievable error in judgment and nobody understands why, and unfortunately she’s passed away. She had her issues — she had her demons — but I never lost my respect for her.

Issues? Dr. Kotarac makes Lisa Nowak — the infamous diaper-clad NASA astronaut who drove from Texas to Florida to assault her ex-lover’s new squeeze — seem positively sane by comparison.

Let this be a lesson to you medical students: Pay attention in anatomy class. Especially to the lectures on the limits of skeletal flexibility.