Classic Comic Double Feature: The Rocketeer (1991) & Dick Tracy (1990)

rocketeer posterA few weekends back we found ourselves in the enviable position of experiencing a light snowfall without much else to do so we decided to scroll through our On Demand options for a family movie. As it turns out we have free Showtime for a bit and The Rocketeer was on there, so we decided to give it a watch.

I don’t remember if I saw this movie in the theaters when it came out, but we did subscribe to Disney Channel back then (long before it was free) so I remember seeing a lot about it and probably caught it on TV.

Set in 1938, it’s about a stunt pilot named Cliff who discovers a rocket pack in his plane, designs a costume and helmet and fights bad guys including local mobsters (lead by Pau Sorvino) and movie star Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) all while trying to keep things going with his girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Connelley).

Directed by Joe Johnston who went on to eventually helm Captain America: The First Avenger, the movie not only works as an action-packed superhero film, but also a fun period piece that references a number of classic actors, actresses and other historical figures from the era (including Lost star Terry O’Quinn as Howard Hughes!). Add to that that real-life elements like potential Hollywood stars working with the Nazis and mobsters refusing to do the same and you have a great film that holds up really well aside from a few clunky special effects scenes here and there.

As a kid, I had no idea who the Rocketeer was before the film hit, but now I know that it was an indie comic book created by Dave Stevens in the 80s during that boom. However, I never got around to reading the actual comics until last year when I got my hands on the IDW-published reprint of Stevens’ entire run, though I was more interested in the pictures. You really don’t need to read the words because the art is just so crisp, clear and expressive. Plus, the colors in that book are just amazing. I don’t know how they compare to the original, but imagine they’re much better given IDW’s reputation for doing super high quality reprints and today’s far better printing techniques.

Dick-Tracy-PosterWhile scrolling through the options to get to The Rocketeer, I also saw Dick Tracy as an option. I LOVED this movie as a kid and realized that, given the obvious similarities, it would make for an excellent double feature mate with Rocketeer.

Based on the classic comic strip created by Chester Gould in the 1930s, Dick Tracy was directed by and starred Warren Beatty as the yellow-clad copper. He’s joined by Charlie Kormo’s The Kid, Madonna’s Breathless Mahoney, Al Pacino’s Big Boy and a variety of others as Tracy attempts to bring the mob boss down while keeping his relationship with Tess Trueheart (Glenne Headly) together and figuring out what to do with his new ward.

The beauty of this movie is that Beatty went full boat when it came to recreating the look and feel of the comic strips on the big screen. The suits and cars are all wildly colorful, matte paintings give the world an ethereal feel and the bag guy make-up brings characters like Little Face, Flat Top and Pruneface fully to life. Add in the idea of a kid trying to constantly get in on grown-up cop action, the pseudo love triangle with Breathless and the mystery of No Face and you’ve got a super fun and compelling movie that doesn’t get enough kudos from the comic-loving crowd.

As I mentioned, I was a huge fan of this flick when it came out. I definitely remember seeing it in the theater and as scenes appeared on my TV I remembered them from that viewing experience as well as moments captured by the trading card set. That feeling has lingered to this day when I basically want an Apple Watch just so I can feel like Dick Tracy (anyone else remember the wrist watch walkie talkies they sold?).

My four year old daughter slept through most of the first film and was looking at Disney princess dresses during the second, but I’m not sure if I’d recommend these for kids her age. Given the presence of mobsters, shooting, concrete and Madonna’s crazy dresses, it might not be appropriate.

That reminds me. I’m not a fan of Madonna’s outside of this movie and A League Of Their Own, but man, she just KILLS it in this movie. I’m sure I was dazzled by her sheer dresses as a kid, but this time around I really found myself feeling bad for her when she was ever so desperately trying to convince Dick Tracy to love her. Her character adds an interesting intensity to this film that just adds to the overall unique nature of a project that could have easily become what all the terrible late 90s comic book movies turned into: exaggerated cartoons with no concept of what made the source material work.

So, while these might not be the best movies to show a couple of kids (like we did), they are a ton of fun and act as a kind of vanguard for quality comic-based films that would come a decade or so later.

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Toy Commercial Tuesday: Dick Tracy Figures & Walkie Talkie

As you will see in a post going up on Thursday, I was a huge fan of the whole Dick Tracy experience in 1990. I loved the movie, I picked up some of the toys, I collected the trading cards and I desperately wanted a watch that doubled as a phone.

In this spot, you can see some of those toys and a replica of the famous watch that basically just told time. If memory serves, there was a set of massive wristwatch walkie talkies you could buy as well.

The Trade Post: A Big Ol’ Pile Of Library Books

comic pileLongtime readers might remember a time when I was reading so many books a week that I would simply take pictures of them in a stack and do a quick hit kind of report on them. Well, I’m not knocking down nearly as many books these days, but I did read through a good number from the library and figured I’d return to that form for this post. Let’s hit it! Continue reading The Trade Post: A Big Ol’ Pile Of Library Books

Casting Internets

airborne vhs notebook

My pal Rickey Purdin did one of my all time favorite 90s movies Airborne over on his excellent VHS Notebook Tumblr.

My other pal Alex Kropinak did an amazing stop motion trailer for David Ezra Stein’s upcoming children’s book Dinosaur Kisses. The video’s above, see how he did it over on his blog.

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There’s going to be a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen show on Fox? Huh. (via TVLine)

Jon Negroni took a lot of time to come up with a timeline that supposedly sets every Pixar movie in the same universe. There’s some huge logical leaps many of which are based on the idea that Easter Eggs (visual or verbal nods to other films) mean something more. It’s fun and a little crazy, but also a lot crazy.

Hey have you seen the new action movie and video game news site called Explosions Are Rad? You should check it out.

There’s a Rambo video game in the works according to Topless Robot. I like the idea of this news, but I’m not sold on the quality based on this trailer. Still, if the mechanics aren’t terrible, I’ll probably dig the game.

J.W. Rinzler and Mike Mayhew’s adaptation of George Lucas’ original Star Wars script, called The Star Wars, from Dark Horse is something I will aim to read in trade. (via CBR)

THR reports the Duplass Brothers’ Togetherness got ordered to series for HBO. This is good news for the world.

There’s a Calvin & Hobbes documentary called Dear Mr. Watterson. What else do you need to know? (via The Mary Sue)

Fearnet did a cool list of George R. Romero’s projects that never actually happened. That dude was involved in a LOT of dead or morphed projects!

Tony Shasteen Vincent Price

Tony Shasteen’s Vincent Price art over on Ashcan Allstars is fantastic.

My fellow Happy Endings fans will be interested in reading this TVLine interview with the show’s creators who talked a bit about the end and where they would have gone next season.

Like a lot of people I watch most of Sharknado. Before the movie even hit, GQ did an interesting article on The Asylum as they were filming Atlantic Rim. Interesting stuff.

I’m not done with Sharknado links. THR talked to the film’s VFX supervisor and also analyzed of the film’s success and what that might mean for quality shows on the network moving forward.

I Tweeted this out, but while looking through my wife’s old Martha Stewart magazines I came across this ingenious idea for a hidden office space made out of two book shelves hinged together. I don’t even have the space for something this small these days, but if I did, I’d be all over it.

Rolling Stone talked to Pete Wentz about Fall Out Boy’s recording session with Ryan Adams. I need to hear those tracks.

The Fwoosh ran down the first wave of M.A.S.K. figures, if you were a fan of this line like I was, this’ll be a nice walk down memory lane.

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Tom Whalen‘s 66 Batman poster is fantastic.

My favorite news of the week comes from this ComicAlliance story explaining that Dark Horse is taking over the EC reprints. I adore the copy of Weird Science Volume 2 I have and want more!

Stacie Ponder analyzed the importance of landline phones over on her Final Girl blog. Entertaining as always.

Finally, I feel for Riley in this clip where she says that girls want to play with girl toys as well as boy toys. Can we finally cut this gender specific BS, please? Thanks to The Mary Sue for posting.

Strip Search: Al Capp By Michael Shumacher & Denis Kitchen (2013)

Al Capp By Michael Shumacher & Denis Kitchen I should probably stop accepting books from PR folks. The people over at Bloomsbury were nice enough to offer me a copy of Al Capp: A Life To The Contrary by Michael Shumacher and Denis Kitchen way back in January and promptly sent me the book when it was available. Here I am writing about it three months after the biography came out in late February, so I feel bad about that.

I was initially interested in this book because it covers an almost total dark spot in my historical knowledge of sequential storytelling. As a kid I loved the funnies and would gladly leaf through them in the morning and on weekends while eating breakfast, but aside from buying or borrowing a few collections here and there, my knowledge of comic strip history doesn’t go very deep. In the past 6 or so years I’ve tried to remedy that by snatching up classic collections, but my slow, sporadic reading habits have left most of them half-read. However, I felt the need to finally finish A Life To The Contrary so I made  a big push recently and cleared the last 100 pages or so over the holiday weekend.

Of course, the big question then comes, what took me so long to read the book, right? I knew absolutely nothing about Capp or his most famous strip Lil’ Abner going in, but the more I read the more interested I became in this man who was not only the most successful cartoonists of his day, but also one of the first to really capitalize on his popularity in the way that someone like Walt Disney was able to (both men inspired theme parks after all). And yet, I would put this book down for long segments of time. Part of that was my own desire to not read anything without pictures, but I think there’s also something about the book I can’t quite put my finger on that doesn’t fully draw you into the character of Capp.

I was contemplating this idea while reading through those last 100 or so pages recently as things were getting pretty exciting. Capp was hugely successful and had been for a long time. He even seemed to be doing pretty well with his friends, family and colleagues and then the 60s hit and I found myself liking him less and less (as did many people of the day). He’s one of those guys who claims to have been a liberal in the 50s, but switched to conservatism in the 60s (he and Nixon became acquaintances and often wrote letters to one another). Capp took it so many steps further by going on college speaking tours where he would spend his time haranguing the peace-nicks and protestors in the audience. He did the same on television, radio and in magazine pieces to the point where his meanness was making people not want to  bother talking to the once witty personality. Heck, he even traveled to John and Yoko Ono’s bed-in for peace just to give them shit. It basically sounded like he — a kid who connived his way through art schools thanks to his silver tongue — liked expressing his opinions, but wasn’t such a big fan of a younger generation coming along with their own.

And then it got so, so much worse when Schumacher and Kitchen drop the biggest bombshell in the whole book: Al Capp lured college women into his hotel room and tried to force them to perform sexual acts on or with him. He did this while on his college tours and it was apparently a pretty common occurrence with a half dozen cases mentioned in this book alone, plus instances of similar behavior with young starlets of the day like Goldie Hawn and Grace Kelly. He even wound up getting punched out by Harlan Ellison after Capp tried the same thing on a photographer friend of Ellison’s. Capp wound up getting outed by a scandal columnist and eventually going to trial, but it sounded like everything pretty much got swept under the rug because this was a time where that kind of thing was apparently tolerated.

Of course, I found this behavior repugnant and was instantly disgusted by the man to the point where I almost stopped reading. The news came as a shock to me because I knew absolutely nothing about Capp going in, so this was a whammy indeed. His story doesn’t end there, though. The man suffered personal tragedies in the form of family deaths as well as the decline of his creative work and the success of his strip until he wound up retiring. Two years later he died. As much as I was turned off by him as a person at that point, I did find it interesting that by the end he had basically turned into Ham Fisher the man who gave him his break in comics, at least partially inspired Lil’ Abner and eventually became his mortal enemy (these guys pulled some serious shady business on one another). At one point, before Fisher’s suicide, Capp said something along the lines of his nemesis being an example of evil old men just getting more evil and more old without justice ever being served. Some might say that’s the same road Capp set himself down.

I realized while gathering my thoughts to write this post that Schumacher and Kitchen might have purposefully kept the reader at arm’s length from Capp. I was pretty thrown when the full extent of his sex crimes was explained, yet I would have been thrown for a total loop had this been a person I really found myself invested in. I wonder if they chose language, situations and turns of phrases that didn’t overly ingratiate the reader to the subject for fear that either, 1) the reader might not be able to take the news or 2) they wouldn’t believe the news like many of the people of the day when it broke by way of scandal column. Either way, it was a difficult road creating a book about a man who clearly thought he was owed something by the younger generation.

I think I can recommend this book, though even though I have immense reservations about Capp. It’s impeccably researched with 16 pages of notes citing everything from articles in Time and Life to correspondences written by Capp to the people in his life. It also does a great job of painting a picture for the modern reader about how large of a figure Capp was both because of his personality and his fame, the former of which clearly lead to the latter. And even though I’m disgusted by Capp’s action and how they were handled by the colleges and local governments of the time, I do think Schumacher and Kitchen present all sides of the man, from the fast talking kid who hustled his way into cartooning to the dirty old man who used cartooning to hustle women. I might be disgusted by his choices, but the book paints a round, full portrait of a man who had hutzpah, artistic talent, jealousy, greed, a keen sense of humor, rage and a need to overpower those around him in all ways. For that, Al Capp: A Life To The Contrary gets a thumbs up.

Casting Internets

I haven’t read the Panels on Pages Wizard Alumni Where Are They Now interviews featuring Ben Morse, Chris Ward, Jim Gibbons, Brian Cunningham and Rick Marshall just yet because it looks pretty long, but I did skim it and yes, I did get mentioned and do appear in a photo or two, so it’s worth looking at.

Speaking of Wizard buddies, Josh Wigler has loosed himself upon the world of freelance again! I assume this will mean fewer jobs for myself, but he’s a good dude, so that’s okay.

One last plug for my friends, but world renowned toy animator and my number one walking-around-NYC-post-NYCC companion Alex Kropinak now has a blog. Go read it, fool!

There’s an “Avengers of horror” in the works starring Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, Mr. Hyde and  seven other horror icons. Could be interesting. (via THR)

Justin Timberlake’s records have never been as appealing to me as his SNL hosting gigs, but Jody Rosen’s Rolling Stone review of his new album The 20/20 Experience sounds more up my alley.

BTM-Budget-Travel-Mag-10t

I love me some eboy. His cityscapes are amazing and somewhere in the depths of my ToyFare-acquired toy collection I have a Hugh Hefner figure based on his artwork as well as a poster. I literally said, “Whoooaaaa,” when I saw this cruise ship image of his. Super neat!

Jack White talked to Rolling Stone about new solo tracks, new Dead Weather and the rad sounding blue Reissue series from Third Man Records. Give it a look.

THR says that Kurt Sutter of Sons of Anarchy fame is creating a horror/timetravel series at FX called Lucas Stand. I haven’t seen SOA yet, but have only heard good things. This sounds like an interesting concept and FX hasn’t steered my wrong yet, so I’ll give it a watch if it actually happens.

THR also made a list of 15 interesting bits of information discussed by the Big Bang Theory cast and creators at Paley Fest. There’s some fun stuff in there for fans.

beetlejuicevarlayered

I’m actually kind of happy these days when I see Mondo posters I’m not into because I know I probably wouldn’t be able to get one and don’t have the scratch to spend on one anyway. However, this Beetlejuice one by Ken Taylor as shown over on Bad Ass Digest is spectacular.

Sylvester Stallone tweeted that he wants more humor in Expendables 3. Not sure how I feel about that considering the hackie jokes were the worst part of 2. I’m still in, though, even more so if Jackie Chan’s involved. (via Collider)

Have you tried Nicolas Cage Roulette? It’s a website you can go to with many Nic Cage faces. You click whether you want it to chose any movie from the actor’s filmography (at least what’s on Netflix Instant) or just the action movies. I tried “All” four times and got Face/Off twice, Season of the Witch and  Adaptation. Fun stuff!

An album of Elvis Costello recording with The Roots sounds rad. Maybe THAT record will get me to finally get back to writing Supergroup Showcases. (via Rolling Stone)

superman silver age dailies

IDW’s collection of Silver Age Superman comic strips looks pretty neat. Looks like they’re also doing Batman and Wonder Woman strips. I didn’t even know there WAS a WW comic strip! (via Robot 6)

I’ve had this Boing Boing link about 22 Pixar storytelling rules saved for a while, but only recently read through them. It’s interesting how many of them I wound up following in my recent comic script.

This Toledo Blade article about some of the fancier restaurants from my home town’s past was incredibly interesting.

Esquire‘s right, Dubai’s weird you guys.

Ron Marz’s latest Shelf Life column over on CBR is about his one experience with comic writing stage fright, but he also talks about some behind the scenes stuff when it came to DC Versus Marvel and Amalgam, two ideas that captured my imagination when I was kid.

mignola tusken raider

My buddy Jim Gibbons reposted this rad piece of Star Wars Mike Mignola art over on his Pizza Party! Tumblr. So rad.

Casting Internets

I’ve been doing more off-line reading lately (hence today’s About A Boy review) and the kid’s been exploring her sleeping options lately, so I haven’t been sitting down and reading things on the computer as much lately. Anyway, here’s the things I dug from the past few weeks.

First of all, my wife made a fantastic photo collage for our daughter’s first birthday. I warn you, it’s 16 minutes. I won’t feel bad if you don’t watch…much.

I talked to Robert Kirkman about the 100th issue of Walking Dead, Geoff Johns and Jim Fletcher about DC Collectibles and Steven T. Seagle about Batula. My dude Rickey Purdin did such an awesome job with this Street Fighter piece over on the Sketch Attack job that I want it on my wall.

I enjoyed this Robot 6 interview with Kevin Huizenga.

Rolling Stone posted this 2006 feature about Fall Out Boy talking about them rising to stardom. That’s about the time I started listening to it, so it was fun reading it, especially now that they’ve broken up.

Chris Cornell talked to Rolling Stone recently about the upcoming Soundgarden record and the song they created for The Avengers. I really, really like this James Bond 50th Anniversary poster by Max Dalton (who sounds like a Bond character himself).

Get yourself frozen in Carbonite at this year’s Star Wars Weekend!

I’ve been catching up on every episode of The Nerdist Writer’s Panel which focuses on TV writers, so this THR photo batch about show runners was very interesting. Lots of crossover.

I just heard today that Van Halen cancelled the rest of their tour mysteriously. Glad my dad and I saw them when we did. Anyway, before all that Esquire did interviews with Eddie and Wolfgang Van Halen that I found enjoyable. I love these OMFG figures from October Toys.

I have a lot of ideas for a post about MCA’s passing, but while I’m still organizing all those thoughts, I really enjoyed Perry Farrell’s take on things for Rolling Stone. I am fascinated by that late 80s heavy LA club scene, man.

I’m not what you’d call a Gin Blossoms fan by any means, but I found lead singer Robin Wilson’s very realistic and honest take on the 90s nostalgia that he’s a part of refreshing (via Rolling Stone).

One more Rolling Stone link, Living Colour’s Vernon Reid started a jazz fusion supergroup with Jack Bruce, John Medeski and Cindy Blackman Santana. This makes me VERY excited. Oh goodness, Joao Carlos Vieira’s Spaceman Spiff drawing for Ashcan Allstars was AMAAAAAAAZING.

Wired‘s look at an old school fortune cookie factory was pretty darn interesting.

Neil Marshall is great, so I’m excited that he’s working on something called The Last Voyage Of The Demeter, which is about the boat that Dracula rode in to get from Transylvania! Sounds rad.  (via THR)

I will be studying Esquire‘s list of six summer cocktails, but I’ll probably just wind up drinking strange mixtures of whatever I have on hand.

Oops, here’s one more Rolling Stone link, apparently there’s a whole album of Joey Ramone tracks ready to be released called …ya know? I really like Don’t Worry About Me and of course everything Ramones, so this should be interesting.

Finally, Louis CK has some more awesome stuff on sale for $5, check it out!