odds & ends

A snow day and a two hour delay. An entire day in school given up so the students could have conferences with their guidance counselors about schedules for the 2011-2012 school year. Yes, you could say this week was a bit of a waste, school-wise.

For anyone who is interested in dishy entertainment drama, Bill Carter’s The War for Late Night is a really gripping read. I was a fan of Carter’s first look at the world of late night, The Late Shift. Acting as a sequel to that book, The War for Late Night focuses on the tumultuous goings-on between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien of last year.

It’s an interesting read for many reasons, but I especially enjoyed the perspective that Carter gives from folks who didn’t have a true stake in the Conan/Leno battle. Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels’ perspective is welcome and interesting, given some of the battles he previously fought over SNL… and Jerry Seinfeld makes some very interesting points about the very nature of late night toward the end of the book.

As a (and it makes me a little sad even now, as I type this) ex-New Yorker, my allegiance will forever be toward David Letterman… however I’ve been a fan of Conan’s since high school. I can distinctly remember sitting on the school bus with my friend John and wondering why all the newspapers were giving O’Brien a hard time- we thought he was hilarious. I’ve never been a Leno fan, but I understand his appeal to the masses, I suppose.

Anyhow: good book. Check it out.


One of the things I most enjoy about about superhero comics has been pretty much lost in the last twenty years, and that is their ability to take a goofy or, let’s not bury the lead here, a stupid idea, and play that idea out with complete and total seriousness. The genre already demands so much suspension of disbelief… piling crazy idea on top of crazy idea is just more of the same.

I don’t know that anyone’s going to mention DC Comics’ rerelease of the rerelease of 1978’s Superman vs. Muhammad Ali in the same breath as Marvel Comics’ recent Punisher run titled Franken-Castle, but together they embody what I like best in my superhero comics- unapologetically dumb stories that take flimsy premises and see them all the way to their conclusions.

In particular, I want to heap praise on the Franken-Castle trade as it’s a real spit in the eye to anyone who was already a fan of Marvel’s oh-so serious gun toting “hero”. In this collection of issues, The Punisher, a Charles Bronson-esque street vigilante,  is fashioned by processes too strange to summarize in one sentence, into Frankenstein’s monster. Dubbed Frankencastle (The Punisher’s real name is Frank Castle, natch) he fights against and with other monsters like Dracula, Werewolf by Night, and Man-Thing.

It is a gloriously stupid idea… and completely fun. It’s the kind of fun that comics do best- taking big concept ideas and folding them into already-existing characters to get some new weird amalgam. It’s not high-minded comic art… it’s a Frankenstein guy beating up robots. Writer Rick Remender should be commended for pulling this off with a straight face, and the artwork is a mixed bag of genius with the lion’s share of work being done by Tony Moore. I don’t find a lot of modern superhero comics get me very excited in the past ten years, but this one was so head-scratchingly weird that I completely dug every issue.

Similarly, 1978’s Superman vs. Muhammad Ali was recently re-released in an oversized hardcover, replicating the experience of the original oversized presentation. For fans of superhero artwork, the huge reproductions of Neal Adams artwork is spot-on. I have NO idea what crazy confluence of events birthed such a weird paring, but its’ utter strangeness sort of beautiful.

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