The Curator of Schlock #57: Lupin the 3rd (Farewell to Nostradamus)

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The Curator of Schlock #57 by Jeff Shuster

Lupin the 3rd: Farewell to Nostradamus

(That’s not the Japanese title!)

Lupin poster

The third theatrical Lupin the 3rd animated feature is Lupin the 3rd The Legend of the Gold of Babylon. I used to have it on VHS back the day and remember it to be quite excruciating to watch. Unfortunately, I got rid of my VHS collection ages ago and The Legend of the Gold of Babylon is not currently on DVD. Rest assured, it will be presented in this museum if made available again. It’s just as well. That’s a convoluted title if I ever heard one: The Legend of the Gold of Babylon. You lose interest by the time you get to Babylon.

So if you remember my blogs from the past two weeks, you’ll know that I had quite a time procuring Lupin the 3rd The Mystery of Mamo and Lupin the 3rd The Castle of Cagliostro, but those were nothing compared to the monumental task of getting the fourth Lupin the 3rd feature, Farewell to Nostradamus. In the early days of the Internet, way before illegal streaming and illegal downloading, there were people online who would record and subtitle Japanese animation straight from Japan, and distribute them to you for the cost of a blank VHS tape and postage. So they weren’t making a profit from this and it was totally legal. Or maybe it wasn’t. Yeah, at the time I didn’t think it was legal so I refrained from sending a modest some for Lupin the 3rd Die, Nostradamus! Die! (Farewell to Nostradamus). Still, for the purposes of this review, let’s say that I did send out for a copy back in 1997 and received it ten months later.

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My first reaction was that this was the greatest Lupin movie ever! You see there’s this evil Nostradamus sect doing terrible things throughout the world. They claim to have the lost prophesies of Nostradamus and release a new one to the world right before the predicted disaster strikes. For instance, they’ll say a huge whale in the Atlantic Ocean will burn like the sun. They’ll then proceed to secretly blow up a nuclear submarine. Wow! That’s pretty darn evil. Still, it gets new members flocking to the sect everyday.

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So you’d think the cult would be unstoppable, but it turns out there’s an actual book of real lost Nostradamus prophecies. And it’s in a secret vault of one of the richest men in the United States of America. And that man is also running for President of the United States. What’s an evil cult to do? Kidnap the candidate’s 8-year-old daughter and use her as leverage to get into that vault and steal the lost prophesies. Yes, these guys are really evil.

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Lupin and the gang also want the lost prophecies. A mysterious buyer is offering $50,000,000 for them. Inspector Zenigata is back, this time he has a Lupin-sniffing robot at his disposal. There’s a giant building in Atlanta, GA filled with sports stadiums and ski resorts with actual snow, and if you don’t think this building is going to become a deathtrap later in the film, you don’t know Lupin the 3rd movies.

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Incidentally, the actual Japanese title of this movie translates to something close to Lupin the 3rd F@#$ You, Nostradamus! That is the greatest movie title of all time.

Five Things I Learned from Lupin the 3rd Farewell to Nostradamus

  1. Don’t join Nostradamus sects that blow up nuclear submarines.
  2. A glass eye makes a lovely keepsake.
  3. Rich girls don’t like to scoop water out of sinking boats.
  4. Beware of hypnotized Brazilian soccer players.
  5. Virtual Reality can be quite painful.

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Jeffrey Shuster 4

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida.

Heroes Never Rust #59: Captain America Vs. The Banality of Evil

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Heroes Never Rust #59 by Sean Ironman

Captain America Vs. The Banality of Evil

There was a time, long before Captain America: The Winter Soldier or The Avengers films, when Captain America didn’t have much going on. The World War II veteran was revived from his iceberg in 1964. Even with the sliding timeframe of the Marvel Universe (where even though the Fantastic Four became superheroes in 1961, the Marvel Universe has only existed for about ten years in the comics), there isn’t much to do with a man from another time. If he walks around confused because of iPhones and all the other new gadgets, readers wouldn’t respect him. He’s supposed to be the greatest American hero; he can’t go about like an idiot. In a way, Captain America became boring and bland. He became the goodie two-shoes superhero. Following 9/11, the character got a renewed focus. Instead of the sci-fi, comic bookie elements, the character was placed in “the real world.” Some of the comics worked better than others. The problem many comics have, and sometimes films, with trying to make things “real world” is that the comics become uninteresting. Captain America is much more interesting going up against the Red Skull than some real-world terrorist.

Dead Men Running Vol 1

There are exceptions to this, however. (When aren’t there exceptions?) In 2002, Captain America: Dead Men Running, a three-issue miniseries, was released. Written by Darko Macan (who wrote had a great run on Cable and Soldier X) and penciled and inked by Danijel Zezelj, the comic features five American soldiers making their way through the Colombian jungle with the cocaine mafia chasing them. The soldiers have a handful of children they say they rescued from the mafia. Captain America is relegated to a supporting role. Again, there’s not much to do with a man out of time when he’s been in the new time period for a little while. Honestly, most superhero comics should try placing the superhero in a supporting role. Superheroes typically don’t have much of a character arc beyond becoming superheroes. But one thing they do real well is effect the world around them.

The main character of Dead Men Running is Sergeant Roberto Solano Vicq. He narrates the miniseries, which begins in media res. “We are dead” is the first line. “We lost our way two days ago along with Corporal Jonesy and the radio. For all I know we might be running in circles. We have no food, but we have a hundred mad Colombians after us. In a word, we are dead.” That’s as much exposition as readers get and that’s all that’s needed. Captain America parachutes in, or at least parachutes halfway and then breaks free of the chute and drops the rest of the way. He’s been brought in to help get the soldiers out.

Dead Men Running 1

Macan and Zezelj show why Captain America is the greatest American soldier. First, he doesn’t require a parachute. He knows Spanish and helps carry the children after telling them it will be all right, and he knows that the enemy is nearby when he hears the call of a continga at night because contingas are daytime birds. He’s not just super strong; he’s smart. That’s what makes him dangerous.

Captain America’s downfall in the first issue isn’t that he’s a man out of time and is incapable of understanding our present. His downfall occurs because he trusts American soldiers quickly only because they are American. Looking back, I’m surprised a story depicting American soldiers as villains, or at least not great men, was released so soon after 9/11. There’s no patriotism here. The comic shows that anyone, no matter what side they are on, what country they are affiliated with, can do bad things. Sergeant Vicq and the other soldiers didn’t rescue the children. They kidnapped them from the mafia in an effort to get the mafia to pay out millions after a failed coke raid.

Cap America Drugged

The heavy inks in the artwork represent the muddy morality of the characters and the situation. The jungle is thick and ugly. The characters are depicted always in the shadows. Captain America is there to help soldiers who have committed a crime. He realizes it too late, after the soldiers have drugged him and as he falls unconscious. This is the real world Captain America has been thrown in. Not a world made bland because of the lack of comic book tropes, but a world of moral uncertainty. Who does Captain America help? The cocaine mafia who are in the wrong here? Or the American soldiers who wanted to get rich?

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Sean Ironman

Sean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read in The Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.

 

In Boozo Veritas # 59: A Family Sousing in Michigan

In Boozo Veritas # 59 by Teege Braune

A Family Sousing in Michigan

Jenn and I flew to Michigan on Thursday for a long weekend that pinnacled at the wedding of my cousin Brian who had asked me to be a groomsman. Jenn had never been to Michigan and I had only been once fifteen years ago. During that trip three of my college buddies and I racked up the mileage making a circle around the state that included Battle Creek, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Flint, Detroit, Ann Arbor, and culminated at MSU in Eat Lansing. We did all this over the course of the week that was our spring break, never staying in one place for more than two nights, smoking cigarettes, guzzling coffee, and eating hamburgers from fast food joints the entire journey. This recent trip, however, was more stationary and somewhat less self-abusive. I have since given up the cigarettes and hamburgers and keep my coffee consumption at moderate levels. Nevertheless, I’ve added the vice of alcohol, something in which we did not much indulge fifteen years ago because we were nineteen and found acquiring it difficult in strange cities.

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Like many families, when mine gets together large quantities of alcohol are always consumed. For my mother’s generation, the gender binary is almost universal. My aunts drink wine; my uncles drink Coors Light, and while Bud Light will do in a pinch, Miller Lite, PBR, Yuengling, and everything else that technically qualifies as beer is out of the question. Also, there’s always a bottle of bourbon that no one claims to have brought. Sometimes I am the source of its origin; at other times it is Brian or my brother Nic, and at other occasions, no one knows where it came from, but we drink it anyway because it’s bourbon, and we’re from Louisville. Bourbon calls to us, is in our cultural heritage like a familiar hearth even when we’re far away from home.

Bs

Brian was kind enough to book Jenn and me a reservation at a quaint, dreamy bed and breakfast called the Brickhouse at Somerset. From the idyllic garden in the backyard to the antiques collected in every nook and corner to the cats that lazily roamed the corridors, the atmosphere of the Brickhouse created the sensation of time slowed nearly to a crawl. The owner Sandy was more than accommodating when we crawled down the stairs to breakfast a couple hours later than she intended to serve it. She and her partner Ron stayed up late with us listening to Leonard Cohen, and in this charming and relaxed environment, a welcomed contrast from the hectic nature of a wedding, still we were constantly being offered alcohol as Sandy and Ron keep an marvelous collection of fine wines and Michigan’s many craft beers, a nice break from Coors Light. As if to demonstrate that there is more to the world than just bourbon, Ron poured Jenn and I each a glass of a twenty-one year old port-barrel aged Scotch that had me rethinking my prejudice towards Kentucky whiskies.

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The wedding itself lay amidst a panorama of sprawling, pristine farmland. My cousin Christina spoke for all of us when she described it as the most picturesque wedding she’d ever been to. As soon as the ceremony had ended my mom and my aunts kept shouting for Christina’s husband David to get them another glass of wine despite the fact the there were servers designated for that very purpose. My mom who had several glasses of wine, which is a lot for her, had grown liberal with the camera, was forcing everyone to stop what they were doing and smile for rigidly posed photographs, which Uncle Lenny routinely photobombed. She would approve of these moments by giving out fist bumps. My sister Abby and cousin Jenny danced their signature moves, mostly a lot of arms flailing. The best man Corbin relieved a legitimate concern shared by many of the guests and gave a toast that was sweet, funny, and not completely inappropriate. Meghan and Brian, the bride and the groom, were beautiful together, and a lot of people cried, but in a good way.

I was sorry to part ways with that crew, especially since I didn’t get to spend that much time with Brian as he was so busy preparing for the wedding. On my way out, I gave him a hug and promised to see him during Thanksgiving. Then I thrust his wedding gift in his hands.

“Hell, just open this now while we’re both here,” I said.

He unwrapped the bottle of Michter’s Rye Whiskey Jenn and I had gotten for him.

“Ew, Daddy like,” he said lecherously as he turned the bottle over in his hands.

Airport libations.

Airport libations.

We sat with David and Christina on the flight back to Orlando talking about their two children and catching up on family gossip. The scenery from the windows was surreally beautiful: on one side of the aisle the sun set on an ethereal landscape of billowing clouds in a unobtainable paradise streaked with various shades of blue and pink while on the other side lightening lit up the sky as it burst within clouds many feet below us. I used to be a stalwart writer on airplanes, but although I knew I had my blog waiting for me when I got home, I decided to put it off for a few more hours. Christina had given us a free drink ticket, and as I considered what to cash it in for, nothing, neither beer nor wine nor liquor, sounded refreshing. What the hell is wrong with me? I thought. I never turn down free drinks. Was I actually boozed out? I wasn’t even hung over, just really thirsty for actual water. As I was thinking I would be morally obligated to retire this blog dedicated to writing, literature, and drinking, Jenn used the ticket to buy a gin and tonic, of which I drank more than my fair share. Temperance vanquished once again, In Boozo Veritas is yet saved!

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typewriter

Teege Braune (episode 72episode 75episode 77episode 90episode 102) is a writer of literary fiction, horror, essays, and poetry. Recently he has discovered the joys of drinking responsibly. He may or may not be a werewolf.

Areas of Fog #29: A Certain Unwholesome Sultriness

Areas of Fog #29 by Will Dowd

A Certain Unwholesome Sultriness

The first week in September brought forth a heat so staggering, so accusatory, so biblical, that we New Englanders wandered around mopping sweat from our eyes and confessing to uncommitted murders. Finally, a long-forecast storm arrived on Saturday evening and lit blue matches in the sky. Thunder rumbled like the apneic snores of a sleeping God.

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That metaphor—thunder as the awful voice of God—comes straight from the Puritans. I always think of them around this time of year when we’re in the throes of late summer mugginess. I imagine them all bundled up in their corsets and petticoats and stockings and capes and linen caps, and I wonder how they clung to sanity.

I suppose they had their faith.

Though I’m not sure how much consolation could be found in their Calvinist reading of the world. They believed in predestination: a select few were saved and would pass eternity in unimaginable seraphic bliss; the rest were damned to hell. Their fate—and here was the rub—had been fixed before birth, before time began. All that was left was to worry.

Doesn’t it seem predestined that the Puritans should have ended up here? Is there a better climate on Earth for worrying about the state of your soul than New England? If you can’t feel God’s grace, just wait five minutes. It’s no surprise their sermons are full of weather—all that hellfire humidity, all those clarifying frosts.

image2 In my life, I’ve never delivered a single sermon.

Here goes.

In August 1637, not far from where I live, a woman named Ann Needham Hett was in such distress over her spiritual estate—was she saved or was she damned?—that she threw her newborn daughter Hannah into a well. She walked back into her house and said, now I am sure I should be damned, for I have drowned my child.

(Someone rushed outside and pulled the girl out in time.)

Five years later, in the same state of mind, Anne stripped her three-year-old son, Eliphalet, naked and threw him into the deepest section of the creek behind her house.

(A young man passing by dove in and saved the boy.)

That was the last straw. Anne was whipped and excommunicated. When, a year later, she was allowed back into the fold, it was only because she had reconciled herself to abiding uncertainty. She lived the rest of her life not knowing what weather awaited her after death.

Isn’t that how we all live?

In doubt.

In fear.

And with only one certainty to hang on to:

Those kids, Hannah and Eliphalet, were definitely among the saved.

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Will Dowd Summer

Will Dowd (episode 91episode 104) is a freelance writer based outside Boston. He received an MFA from New York University and an MS from MIT. His writing has appeared in Barrow Street, Post Road, Skeptic Magazine, and NPR.org.

 

Shakespearing #13: Romeo and Juliet

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Shakespearing #13 by David Foley

Romeo and Juliet

12 Romeo and Juliet

One of the pleasures of re-reading a familiar text is that things you’ve taken for granted suddenly leap out at you. Like that prologue. Why would Shakespeare begin his liveliest play with a plodding plot summary in sonnet form?

My first playwright’s thought is producer interference. “But how will they know it’s a tragedy?” Shakespeare’s colleagues worry. (It’s a producer’s job to assume audiences are dumb.)

How indeed? The play begins with a comic bit which, in most productions, turns the fight that follows into operetta, despite the fact that blood clearly flows. (As evidence, we have not just the Prince’s “neighbor-stained steel” but Romeo’s line, “O me, what fray was here?” What could he be seeing but blood?) Then we get Romeo mooning hyperbolically about love, Capulet’s bustling preparations for the party, some comic business with the servingman, after which our heroine is introduced in a scene dominated by one of the theatre’s most richly drawn comic characters. What kind of way is that to start a tragedy?

My second thought is that Shakespeare himself wanted the prologue. Lately I’ve been reading James Shapiro’s A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare. One of Shapiro’s points is that Shakespeare increasingly chafed against the conventions of Elizabethan theatre. One of those conventions might have been starting a play while the audience was as yet imperfectly attending. How long did it take for the spectators to finish shushing each other and listen up? The prologue famously ends with a dig at the audience: “What here shall miss our toil shall strive to mend.”

And then we’re plunged into action. This seems breathtaking to me now. I can’t think of a previous Shakespeare play that does this. The prologue now (third thought) seems like a form of joke, its stodgy locutions a carpet that’s about to be yanked out from under the audience.

You notice, too, how fluidly he’s using the stage space. In the opening scenes, the main characters—Benvolio, Capulet, Romeo, Paris—weave in and out, coupling and re-coupling, swirling the stage with life.

If you want to know why Shakespeare remains a touchstone for playwrights (a friend tells me that Arthur Miller learned his craft by typing out Shakespeare’s plays), read Romeo and Juliet. Read the scene in which the Nurse returns to Juliet with her message from Romeo. Feel the joy of what Tennessee Williams once called “that cloudy, flickering, evanescent—fiercely charged!—interplay of live human beings…”

You can learn subtler lessons from Shakespeare. The compressed time frame of the play is astonishing, but this compression also happens within individual scenes. When the Nurse brings news of Tybalt’s death, Juliet suddenly intuits the narrative the Nurse hasn’t quite explained. These lacunae, easy to notice on the page, play out on stage only as an electric charge leaping a gap.

The other playwriting lesson to be learnt from Shakespeare is one some playwrights never learn. Shakespeare never allows a vibrating tension to resolve. (This, too, I’m getting from Shapiro.) I wonder if Romeo and Juliet’s story would still be as potent if it weren’t so hard to name it as either love or desire. Various characters (Mercutio, Friar Laurence, the Nurse) keep reframing love as desire, and even the second chorus describes the lovers as “alike bewitched by the charm of looks.” Juliet’s (and actually Shakespeare’s) insistence on Romeo’s beauty keeps their love from resolving into a sentimental idea and makes Juliet’s love both intense and girlishly real. We’re left with a spectacle that’s both a massive mutual crush and an enduring tragedy of love.

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David Foley

David Foley is a playwright and fiction writer living in Brooklyn. His plays include Cressida Among the Greeks, Paradise, Nance O’Neil, The Murders at ArgosA Hole in the Fence, and Sad Hotel, among others. His novel The Traveler’s Companion is available on Amazon. He teaches at New York University.

Episode 117: Pat Rushin!

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Episode 117 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

In this week’s episode, I interview Pat Rushin, who authored the screenplay for the new Terry Gilliam film, The Zero Theorem, which opens in the U.S.A on September 19th,

Pat Rushin and his wife Mary on the set of The Zero Theorem.

Pat Rushin and his wife Mary on the set of The Zero Theorem.

Plus Craig-Paul Moreau writes about Randy Shilts’s And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic.

Photo by Demian Rosenblatt.

Photo by Demian Rosenblatt.

TEXTS DISCUSSED

The Zero Theorem

And the Band Played On

NOTES

Check out where The Zero Theorem will be playing in the U.S.A. here.

Watch No Ordinary Sun, adapted from a Pat Rushin story, here.

Check out “My parents helped me to lose my virginity,” the new personal essay in The Guardian by Boris Fishman (Episode 107).

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Episode 117 of The Drunken Odyssey, your favorite podcast about creative writing and literature is available on iTunes, or right click here to download.

The Curator of Schlock #56: Lupin the 3rd (The Castle of Cagliostro)

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The Curator of Schlock #56 by Jeff Shuster

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Richard Kiel

September 13, 1939-September 10, 2014

Richard Kiel

Before I start this week’s review, I’d like to say a few words on the passing of actor Richard Kiel. Many of you may have known him from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 favorite, Eegah, or the Solarite from William Marshall’s The Phantom Planet. I knew him as Jaws, the greatest Bond movie henchman ever! Kiel is one of the many reasons The Spy Who Loved Me remains my favorite James Bond movie. He was the one bad guy James Bond never managed to kill. Jaws even showed up again in Moonraker (a future entrant to The Museum of Schlock). Rest in peace, Richard Kiel. You’ll always be undefeated.

 *******

Lupin the 3rd  The Castle of Cagliostro

Enter the Master

Lupin Castle

To call Hayou Miyazaki the master of Japanese animation might be an extreme statement since it overlooks the work of other masters such as Mamoru Oshii and the late Satoshi Kon. Still, Miyazaki is a director who has constantly exceeded my expectations. His final film, The Wind Rises, brought tears to my eyes. But before he created such classics as PonyoSpirited Away, and Princess Mononoke, he had directed a Lupin the 3rd movie titled The Castle of Cagliostro. It was a film changed cinema forever.

Not that I had ever heard of The Castle of Cagliostro until the late 1990s. If you remember last week’s post, I had recounted how difficult Japanese animation was to come by back in the 90s, but you could still find Lupin the 3rd The Mystery of Mamo at most stores that sold specialty videos.  Lupin the 3rd The Castle of Cagliostro was another story. Streamline pictures had released and dubbed into English both The Mystery of Mamo and The Castle of Cagliostro, but The Castle of Cagliostro must have had one VHS printing before being taken off the market. Thankfully, I had been able to procure what looked like a former rental copy from a dubious seller on the Internet.

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The Castle of Cagliostro was released theatrically in Japan in 1979, one year after The Mystery of Mamo. I can’t imagine what audiences back then made of it, but for me, the contrast in tone between the two movies was so drastic that I couldn’t believe both were about the same character.  The Mystery of Mamo would have rated a hard R whereas The Castle of Cagliostro is a solid G rating in my opinion.

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Lupin the 3rd has changed from a crude lecher to a gentleman (though there is a scene where he flashbacks to his wayward youth). Lupin is has downgraded from a sports car to a Fiat 500. He’s also wearing a sea green jacket as opposed to the traditional red. A lot can change in a year.

I’ve heard rumors that Hollywood animation studios were so taken aback by the quality of this film that they prevented it from coming to North America. I don’t know if that’s true and if so, I doubt it was Disney since they’re now the distributer of Miyazaki’s other films. Still, it’s odd that the only form this movie showed up in North America was in the form of a laserdisc arcade game called Cliffhanger. The Castle of Cagliostro must have some rounds at film festivals somewhere in the States. I know that Steven Spielberg saw it. He remarked that The Castle of Cagliostro contained the best car chase scene he had ever seen on film.

Is the car chase as good as he says?

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Lupin’s Fiat gets a flat, and Jigan has to fix it. Lupin relaxes on the roof of the car enjoying the sunny weather when a car rushes past them. This car is being driven by a runaway bride. Hot on her tail is another vehicle filled to the brim with what looks like bowler capped gangsters. Lupin gets back in the driver’s seat, pulls a lever setting off some sort of nitrous, and they’re off! Jigan asks, “Which are we helping?” Lupin replies, “The girl!”

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At that moment, we’re with these characters and we’ll follow them wherever they take us. We have a princess in peril, an evil count, a worldwide counterfeiting scheme, an army of shadow assassins, and a castle filled with more traps than an Incan temple.

Lupin the 3rd The Castle of Cagliostro is getting a DVD and Blu-Ray rerelease later this year. It will even include the original Streamline Pictures English dub.It will also include the Manga English dub which you should avoid. If you like movies, add this one to your collection. As for Hayou Miyazaki, thank you for 35 years sublime cinema. You will be missed.

Five Things I Learned from Lupin the 3rd The Castle of Cagliostro

  1. Always help the girl.
  2. There is such a thing as bulletproof tires.
  3. Don’t hog the spaghetti.
  4. The forces of gravity can be defeated.
  5. Autogyros are the only way to fly.

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Photo by Leslie Salas

Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102) is an MFA candidate and instructor at the University of Central Florida.

Heroes Never Rust #58: Brutality

Heroes Never Rust #58 by Sean Ironman

Brutality

Fight sequences can be difficult in comics, in really any medium. What do you show? How long should it last? How should it be paced? How should the characters fight? How much detail in the injuries is shown? And there are many more questions to consider. Unfortunately, superhero comics must show a fight scene eventually. In The Boys, readers have been shown a lot of depravity so far, but not much in terms of fights. But issue five ended with Teenage Kix approaching the Boys on the street, so issue six, and the end of the first volume, is the fight that’s been building these last couple of issues.

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Now, many people want superheroes to get in some grand, citywide fight. Think the final act of Man of Steel or The Avengers. While that makes sense for some superheroes, it doesn’t make sense for others. Daredevil can run around and do flips and be all eloquent with his ninja moves because he was trained by Stick, a sensei. But, in The Boys, as Butcher stated in an earlier issue, the superheroes aren’t trained. Most of the superheroes here were just regular Joes who happened to gain superpowers. So, here, readers basically get a street fight between the Boys and Teenage Kix.

Big Game, the leader of Teenage Kix, begins with a big speech to his team about how to handle their enemy, but the Boys don’t need anything. They are skilled and trained at what they do and that happens to be kicking the ass of superheroes. Butcher head butts Big Game in the middle of his speech and breaks his nose. That’s the first page of the comic. Big Game’s speech, and Butcher breaking his nose. It’s sudden, brutal, and sets up how the fight will play out.

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The second page features four panels, one for each of the other members of the Boys (Mother’s Milk, the Frenchman, the Female, and Hughie). The first three kick ass, with only Hughie on the run. He’s the newbie so it makes sense he has no idea what he’s doing. Hughie ends up coming face to face with Blarney Cock, who tries to cut out Hughie’s eyes. Hughie, who had been given a formula by Butcher to make him stronger so that he could take on superheroes, panics and just punches Blarney Cock in the stomach. His fist goes right through Blarney Cock, who stumbles a bit and falls over dead.

Butcher’s reaction is priceless. “Fucksake, Hughie, you’re not supposed to kill them…”

What does Hughie know? This is his first fight with a superhero. He didn’t know he was that strong. Blarney Cock’s death ends the fight. Well, except for Shout Out burning Butcher, who then grabs Shout Out and rips his thumbs off. In twenty-two pages of comic, the fight scene lasts six, with a couple of more pages on the aftermath. Some readers might be disappointed. I don’t read a comic for a bunch of fight scenes, but some readers of superhero comics do. But the short fight works well here. It makes sense given Teenage Kix are just some young superheroes who think they know everything, and that the Boys are a CIA special forces team.

Boys6Butcher

Just because someone has superpowers doesn’t mean they can take a beating. If they are super strong and their enemy is super strong, they can’t just trade blows throughout a city without feeling it. How many strong boxers have been knocked out in the first round? For me, a superhero fight should display the full effect of the fighters’ powers. Hughie removing Blarney Cock’s intestine or Butcher ripping off Shout Out’s thumbs does just that. Fights are better shorter with moments a reader will remember than stretching it out with a lot of jumping building from building or flying to new locations. While it’s important to show the Boys’ capabilities, as well as the superheroes’ capabilities, the focus still needs to be on the characters.

Because the fight is short, the comic has room for another conversation between Butcher and Hughie for the climax of the issue. One the mysteries of the comic has been why Butcher has it in for the superheroes. Even Mother’s Milk wonders if some superheroes mean well, but Butcher just says, “Fuck ‘em.” Butcher admits to Hughie that a superhero raped and impregnated his wife. She was physically unable to hold the baby, and one night, the baby ripped through her stomach, killing her. Butcher beat the baby to death with a lampstand. He has a scar on his forearm from the baby’s heat vision. It’s a graphic and disturbing story, and it helps readers understand Butcher and why he does what he does. And that closes out the first volume. We see what Butcher and the other Boys can do and why they do it.

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Sean Ironman

Sean Ironman (Episode 102earned his MFA at the University of Central Florida. Currently, he teaches creative nonfiction and digital media at the University of Central Arkansas as a visiting professor. His work can be read in The Writer’s ChronicleRedivider, and Breakers: A Comics Anthology, among others.

Buzzed Books #13: Amy Zhang’s Falling Into Place

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Buzzed Books #13 by Leslie Salas

Amy Zhang’s Falling Into Place

Falling Into Place

Falling Into Place centers on the most popular junior at Meridian high school, Liz Emerson, and her choice to practice the laws of physics by driving her Mercedes off an icy road. Liz’s story unfolds in braided non-chronological storytelling, bouncing between an unlikely narrator’s take on Liz’s wild-child exploits as the popular girl and “snapshot” flashbacks of the girl Liz used to be.

This debut novel by teen writer Amy Zhang stands out as one of the most challenging Young Adult novels on the market. Zhang’s storytelling is solid and literary-quality, capturing the heart of high school life in a way makes me nostalgic for hallways lined with lockers and half-dressed boys in the backseats of cars.

The secondary characters in this novel—Liz’s best friends Julia and Kennie, Liz’s mother, and the mysterious boy that witnesses her crash on the interstate—are all as well-rounded as Liz is. Each of them are believably imperfect in a way that makes them as endearing as they are frustrating.

Falling Into Place is an engaging read, an honest reflection of contemporary high school experiences and the struggles of growing up in dysfunctional households, including depression, substance abuse, and drug addition.

First-time author Amy Zhang shows a great deal of promise. She delivers a page-turning novel well worth an evening spent curled on the couch with a bottle by your ankles.

Pair with: Vodka. Any kind will do. The protagonist wasn’t picky about it, and you shouldn’t be, either.

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Leslie Salas (Photo by Ashley Inguanta)

Leslie Salas (episode 75) writes fiction, nonfiction, screenplays, and comics. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida and attended the University of Denver Publishing Institute. In addition to being an Associate Course Director at Full Sail University, Leslie also serves as an assistant editor for The Florida Review, a graphic nonfiction editorial assistant for Sweet: A Literary Confection, and a regular contributing artist for SmokeLong Quarterly.

In Boozo Veritas # 58: What We Talk About When We Talk About Bugs

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In Boozo Veritas # 58 by Teege Braune

What We Talk About When We Talk About Bugs

Last night I dreamed my home was infested by large, yellow centipedes each about four inches long. They seemed to be hiding in every crevice and nook as if materializing from the very dirt and mold, betraying no discernible point of entry. Too repulsed to fight them off, I simply retreated closing off rooms that they had conquered, boxing myself into a smaller and smaller corner until I discovered them wriggling out of my own pockets and curled up inside my hat and shoes.

Centipede

I awoke disgusted but relieved to find myself in a space free of centipedes. I find myself particularly nonplussed by the species since high school when a few of my friends and I ordered a pizza from a new joint called Mama Mia’s, which we favored because of their impossibly low prices. We had consumed the majority of the pizza when Josh removed the second to last slice only to find a small clay-colored centipede cowering beneath it. As he shouted profanities, the centipede, exposed and berated, scurried away faster than one would have thought possible, its legs undulating in waves like a breeze blown through delicate hair. Despite their affordability, the establishment in question failed to thrive in the competitive pizza industry and shortly thereafter went out of business.

My anxiety dreams often take the form of insect infestation. Once I dreamed that I found myself surrounded by an enormous nest of cockroaches who were coming to life around me as I looked on in horror. Hanging from the dead branches of trees that were growing out of the floorboards, the cockroaches squirmed out of white, inert pupal shells while I searched for an escape before they began dropping to the floor and racing toward me. In waking life I am aware that cockroaches are born in dark, moist pits and underground burrows.

Roach

The only thing I find more revolting than a living cockroach is a squashed one, but my cats do not share my aversion. In fact, they could be considered aficionados of the disgusting creatures, tracking them down and devouring them with a verve and enthusiasm they exhibit for little else in their otherwise languorous lives. Inspired by the antics of my feline wards, I decided to explore my dislike of these insects by writing a story in which the life of an anti-heroic, human protagonist mirrors that of the common cockroach. The incredibly dark “What Keeps Mankind Alive” has at this time been rejected from several horror magazines and anthologies.

Franz Kafka wrote a much more famous story about a man transformed into a cockroach, though in truth that designation has to do more with liberal translation and popular conception than Kafka’s own ideas about Gregor Samsa’s alteration. The German word Kafka uses is ungeziefer and literally translates into “an unclean animal unfit for sacrifice,” a phrase packed with meaning considering Gregor’s life before the metamorphosis was dedicated entirely to providing for his family, a task to which he’s no longer equal after becoming an insect. Despite Nabokov’s lengthy and supererogatory argument for Gregor as a beetle, Kafka went out of his way to prevent definitive categorization, going so far as to forbid his protagonist from being depicted visually on the cover of the novella. At one point, the Samsas’ maid refers to Gregor as mistkäfer, literally “dung beetle,” but it is likely that she uses the word pejoratively rather than as a taxonomical classification. Of the various translations that have been posited over the decades, “vermin,” with its unspecific yet vivid associations, is my preference, though despite the visceral impact, even it fails to do the original German the untranslatable justice it deserves.

Another wonderful story that explores the innate human unease with insects is Donald A. Wollheim’s “Mimic,” which was the basis for the unfortunate Guillermo del Toro vehicle of the same name. The film does no justice to the source material, which is a masterpiece and pillar of classic weird fiction. As “Mimic” is not nearly as well known as The Metamorphosis, I will avoid saying much more as I have no wish to betray the incredible conclusion, a reveal that, despite exhibiting no gore or even much peril, is one of the most terrifying in the history of science-fiction and horror literature.

In his song “Army Ants,” Tom Waits, with a particularly sinister growl, recites interesting and often unnerving facts about insects accompanied by an eerie, creeping string arrangement. He concludes this lecture with a reminder: “As we discussed last semester, the army ants will leave nothing but your bones.”

Army Ant

Despite my aversion towards centipedes and cockroaches, I am not an entomophobe. I am fascinated by insects, arachnids, and other invertebrates even when they make my skin crawl. For some, I retain a special place in my heart, am awed by praying mantises, tarantulas, and lunar moths, and find katydids, walking sticks, bumble bees, and potato beetles simply adorable. I even tasted a few of these critters: scorpions are crispy and not unpleasant, crickets taste like unsweetened bakers’ chocolate, and ants tend to be so minuscule, I hardly notice them going down. That is unless they crawl back up again.

My most recent experience dining on ants was unplanned. My good friend, the accomplished Orlando writer Jared Silvia, brought a delicious, homemade Portuguese soup to a outdoor party Jenn and I were hosting with our neighbor Leah for Labor Day. Knowing many of the guests were vegetarian, Jared was kind enough to replace the sausage the recipe called for with cannellini beans. Little did any of us know, animal protein was determined to find its way into the soup one way or another. After the party ended, Jenn and I placed the remaining soup in our refrigerator and dined on it for several days. It wasn’t until we reached the very bottom of the pot that we discovered the hundreds of ants who had been stewing within it the whole time. The ants had invaded Jared’s soup, only to drown in their own hubris, and yet their presumptuousness didn’t end there.

This morning after awaking from my disturbing dream, I stumbled groggily into the kitchen to make coffee only to find my counter top aswarm with the same species of sugar ant that had expired in Jared’s soup. They had entered through a tiny whole in the grout and scaled a broomstick in order to feast on the remnants of a peach pie that had sat overnight in the kitchen sink. Shouting vitriolic exclamations at their legions, I vanquished them but not without a pang of guilt having been brought up by a Buddhist father. At least they were neither centipedes nor cockroaches. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help remembering a disturbing bit of trivia: that there are one million ants on this planet for each human. We are told somewhere that the meek will inherit the earth, but it seems the smallest residents of my house have become emboldened, may someday soon take over leaving me nothing but my bones.

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teegenteege Teege Braune (episode 72episode 75episode 77episode 90episode 102) is a writer of literary fiction, horror, essays, and poetry. Recently he has discovered the joys of drinking responsibly. He may or may not be a werewolf.

 

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