The Curator of Schlock #266: Twilight of the Cockroaches

The Curator of Schlock #266 by Jeff Shuster

Twilight of the Cockroaches

Not to be confused with Grave of the Fireflies

The VHS cassette box for Twilight of the Cockroaches, a live action/anime hybrid movie, has a quote from Richard Harrington of The Washington Post. He says, “Could do for cockroaches what ‘The Secret of NIMH’ did for rats.” Now I know you kids have never heard of the Don Bluth animated masterpiece, The Secret of NIMH. It tanked at the box office leading Don Bluth to spend his energy making the arcade game Dragon’s Lair. You remember Dragon’s Lair, don’t ya? It was featured on that Stranger Things show that you guys love so much.

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Anyway, we’re not here to talk about The Secret of NIMH. Tonight’s feature is 1987’s Twilight of the Cockroaches from director Hiroaki Yoshida, a movie that proves that cockroaches are people too. The movie centers around a pretty, young cockroach named Naomi (voiced by Rebecca Forstadt) who’s engaged to a boring, yet stable young cockroach named Ichiro (voiced by Stephen Apostolina). They live an idyllic life with their community of roaches in the apartment of a Japanese bachelor named Saito (Kaoru Kobayashi), who gave up killing roaches when his wife and daughter left him. Saito lets the roaches roam free in his apartment, letting them eat whatever they want.

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What on Earth am I watching here? Twilight of the Cockroaches is an interesting production in that it combines live-action acting with animation not unlike Mary Poppinsor Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The technique is rather neat, featuring animated cockroaches against a backdrop of real life images such as Nike footwear and Heinz Ketchup bottles. While the movie does feature human characters in the form of Saito and his eventual girlfriend, Momoko (Setsuko Karasuma), the story focuses on the cockroaches, kind of like the latest Planet of the Apes movie. Except the cockroaches get their butt kicked in this movie.

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A young woman named Momoko lives in the apartment across the way from Saito and she hates cockroaches. She buys all kind of sprays and traps, trying her damnedest to eliminate every cockroach in the vicinity. As a result, the tribe of cockroaches living on her property is a warrior tribe. One of these warriors is a handsome cockroach named Hans. He even has a cleft chin. After an excursion, he finds his way over to Saito’s apartment and Naomi falls for him instantly. Hans recovers and returns to his tribe, but Naomi follows him. They begin a torrid affair. Oh, along the way, Naomi runs into a talking turd. The talking turd is done with clay animation. What on Earth am I watching here?

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Saito and Momoko also fall for each other. She moves into Saito’s apartment. so we know what that means. What follows is truly horrifying, a genocide of a race of creatures who just wanted to live peacefully with their human hosts. The warrior tribe of cockroaches comes to aid of the soft, yuppie tribe, but they get wiped out too. Naomi survives, pregnant with the next generation of cockroaches, immune to the poisons currently used by humans. This will force the humans to create deadlier poisons that will lead to even tougher cockroaches developing immunity to such poisons. Such is the fate of the cockroach as decreed by the god of the cockroaches. What on Earth am I watching here?


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Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Episode 358: Mark Blake, Part 2!

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Episode 358 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 talk to Mark Blake, biographer of Peter Grant, about what happened to Led Zeppelin after Led Zeppelin.

Mark Blake

Photo by Ross Halfin.

TEXT DISCUSSED

Bring it On Home


Episode 358 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 #265: The Professional: Golgo 13

The Professional: Golgo 13

Sex & Violence: The Motion Picture

I was on a James Bond kick around the same time I started getting into state of the art Japanese animation. Naturally, I wanted these two interests to converge in the form of an anime that resembled a Bond film. Eventually, I would discover Lupin the 3rd, a series of television shows and movies about the world’s greatest gentleman thief. I believe I wrote about them years ago on this blog, no doubt overflowing with sentimentality for Lupin and company. But when I first looked for a Bond-style anime, I discovered The Professional: Golgo 13, a deeply depressing movie about an international assassin.

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1983’sThe Professional: Golgo 13from director Osamu Dezaki is a journey into a nihilistic hellscape. Duke Togo (voiced by Greg Snegoff) is a contract killer known as Golgo 13 who always sees the job through no matter the damage or consequences. Richard Dawson (voiced by Michael McConnohie) is the richest man in the world since he’s the president of a huge oil conglomerate. At Richard Dawson’s 62ndbirthday party, Golgo 13 shoots and kills Richard’s son, Robert Dawson, right as Richard is about to hand over the reigns of Dawson Oil to his heir.

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Thus begins the hunt for Golgo 13. Richard Dawson has operatives from CIA, the FBI, and the United States military at his disposal, all with one mission: the tracking down and killing of Golgo 13. During the movie, we get to see how Golgo 13 operates whether he’s assassinating a Mafia Don in Sicily or shooting en ex-Nazi SS officer in a New York City high rise. Golgo 13 spends his time between missions bedding beautiful women, drinking liquor, and smoking Parliaments. Golgo 13 also has allies that supply him with information and equipment to aid his assassinations.

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Dawson’s subordinates attempt to kill Golgo 13 time and again, only to have him escape or worse, actually retaliate and waste them. Duke Togo is an expert and sniping and close combat. Dawson’s thirst for revenge grows with each failure. He sacrifices what’s left of his family on this mad quest for vengeance, teaching his eight year-old granddaughter how to shoot a handgun so she’ll have a chance to assassinate Golgo 13 when the time is right. He also employs demented psychopaths in his mission to destroy Golgo 13.

One such psychopath is the Snake, a gangly man with serpent like eyes and teeth that resemble snake fangs. The Snake agrees to help Dawson if he’s allowed to have his way with Dawson’s daughter-in-law. Dawson reluctantly agrees, locking her in a room with the Snake, and a disturbing scene follows. The Snake manages to kills some of Golgo 13’s allies, sinking his blades into this one guy’s torso causing him to shower the room with blood.

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Richard Dawson convinces the CIA to release a couple of death row inmates known as Gold and Silver, former assassins driven insane after being dropped in a jungle in South America with no provisions and no weapons. They survived, slaughtering 2,000 guerilla fighters, but were driven insane by the experience. The CIA doesn’t like this idea, telling Dawson this doesn’t serve the public interest like when he ordered the CIA to assassinate President Kennedy.

Eventually, this all leads to a showdown with Dawson Tower, with Golgo 13 fighting off demented assassins while avoiding gunfire from several attack helicopters. This is a movie about evil people doing terrible things to one another. By the way, I learned years later that Takeo Saito, the creator of Golgo13, actually wrote James Bond comics for Japanese audiences. This makes me wonder if Takeo Saito saw James Bond as an assassin, no better than a man like Duke Togo.


Jeffrey Shuster 3Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

 

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #11: Two Times

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #11 by Drew Barth

Two Times

First issues are notoriously difficult to get just right. Those first moments of a comic’s life need to set up characters, setting, story, and a whole hook to keep readers interested for the next month’s issue. Writing these first issues is laborious because there are so many things a creator wants to get out into the world as quickly as possible to show readers what the series is going to be about but they just don’t have the time and space.

Luckily, second issues exist. But second issues are just as difficult as firsts, for different reasons. Creators have introduced small pieces of what will comprise the larger story, but the job of the second issue is to start the heavy lifting process for a series. Characters and story aren’t being introduced anymore—these aspects are being given more purpose to the larger narrative the creators are attempting to make. A good second issue is going to show a reader what direction the story is going and what the larger ideas are for the series.

The best way to really look at the strengths of second issues is to look at two masters of the craft who have written dozens of second issues between them: Kelly Sue DeConnick and Warren Ellis. DeConnick’s name may sound familiar as she and a host of artists are responsible for the rebooting and subsequent explosion in popularity of the character Carol Danvers—Captain Marvel. This rebooting has subsequently led to the Captain Marvel film released last week. But what was it about their series in particular that resonated so much with readers? Let’s look at the opening page from Captain Marvel #2:

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From this first page we’re being introduced to a different kind of Carol Danvers. We had seen a bit of this new characterization from the first issue—introducing her new costume and powers as well as setting up her identity conflict—but already in the second issue we’re getting her out of costume and on the ground. And it’s in this second issue that we’re getting more into the heart of what makes DeConnick’s run on Captain Marvel so iconic and special to readers: its focus on the connection between women. For the longest time, Danvers was defined by her association with the previous Captain Marvel—the alien Mar-Vell. And while DeConnick still utilizes that aspect of Danvers’ past, she works on forging a new future for Captain Marvel.

What helps to make this second issue so important to the rest of DeConnick’s run is the setting up of a nebulous timeline. After flying the plane pictured above, Danvers is transported to the past, an island in the middle of World War II specifically. The initial set-up for time travel is utilized as a way for Danvers to relive portions of the past, specifically in connection to Mar-Vell and Helen Cobb, the owner of the above plane. But why relive the past? Because of Danvers’ questions of identity and who she is now as a hero. DeConnick lays down the groundwork for what her initial character arc for Captain Marvel will be and that’s what makes this second issue so strong.

Now we move to NextWave, one of the only series I can think of with a dedicated theme song. Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen bring us a series that is a pure distillation of superhero fiction: punches, explosions, conspiracy, and a team made of various Marvel misfits. It’s also one of the funniest series of comics to be released by a major publisher. NextWave is one of those series that was iconic from its first issue, but only cemented that status further with the second. Kieron Gillen says “We all live in the shadow of NextWave” and it’s hard not to agree with him.

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And how can you not love a series that starts its second issue with Fin Fang Foom in little purple shorts? How can you also not love a series with two-issue arcs that keep its pace and story quick and fresh? The first issue of NextWave sets everything up for the reader: the Beyond Corporation creates the Highest Anti-Terrorism Effort (H.A.T.E.) and recruits a group of C-tier Marvel heroes to fight evil around the world. But the Beyond Corporation is actually just a terrorist organization in disguise that uses its corporate facade as a means of finding and testing biological weapons of mass destruction. One of those weapons is Fin Fang Foom. No spoilers here: everything mentioned above is in the first issue.

The second issue is where we get to the heart of what Ellis and Immonen’s plans for NextWave: punches and explosions. Issue two is a perfect distillation of what Ellis refers to as “widescreen comics” in both its pace and its sense of action. The major element of issue two, the fight with Fin Fang Foom, is massive, loud, gregarious, and over at the end of the issue. And that pace is perfect for widescreen comics. NextWave wasn’t a major event book even though it was happening at the same time as Marvel’s massive cross-over event, Civil War. And as a result of that, NextWave could do whatever it wanted with its own space in the Marvel universe. We’re given a hint of that in the first issue, but the second cements the series completely as this weird off-shoot that takes superhero fiction in its silliest direction. That’s why the second issue of NextWave is so iconic and indicative of the series as a whole: this issue cuts out everything but the action while remaining tongue-in-cheek about that action. It is a series that knows it’s ridiculous and embraces that ridiculousness at every moment.

Second issues are easily one of the hardest things about writing comics due to what they have to accomplish for a reader: maintain interest, reveal just a bit more about the story, and give the reader some satisfaction for staying beyond the first issue. Whether it’s setting up the groundwork for more of the story, giving us important character moments, or just showing us the pace the series is going to take, the above mentioned second issues helped to cement their series as great pieces of comic fiction.

Get excited. It’s time for seconds.


drew barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

Episode 357: Mark Blake!

Episode 357 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 talk to music writer Mark Blake about his new biography of Peter Grant, the man who empowered Led Zeppelin to become the most popular rock band of all time.

Mark Blake

Photo by Ross Halfin.

TEXT DISCUSSED

Bring it On Home

NOTES

I will be at AWP. Leave a comment if you are attending and would like a TDO meet and greet.

AWP Panel


Episode 357 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 #264: Lily C.A.T.

The Curator of Schlock #264 by Jeff Shuster

Lily C.A.T.

Not for kids. 

Streamline Pictures was instrumental in bringing state of the art Japanese animation to the United States back in the early 90s. It wasn’t marketed as anime like it is now. There was no existing audience for Japanese animation like there is today. A man named Carl Macek brought features stateside for distribution under his Streamline Pictures label. These features were often dubbed in English and released on videocassette. On cassette cases you’d often find a “NOT FOR KIDS” sticker fixed to the box featuring a caricature of a confused, freckle-faced young boy. These stickers always disturbed me, my mind conjuring images of young children being irrevocably scarred by witnessing animated sex and violence. NOT FOR KIDS stickers also elicited my feelings of guilt over not watching something more wholesome, but I couldn’t turn away from the exotic nature of these curiosities from Japan.

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Which brings us to tonight’s feature, 1987’s Lily C.A.T. from director Hisayuki Toriumi. How does this film earn the “NOT FOR KIDS” label? Well, it’s basically an Alien knockoff with a little bit of John Carpenter’s The Thing thrown in. And we can forgive the movie for this since Alien basically ripped off It! The Terror From Beyond Space. The movie begins with members of the Sincam corporation getting ready for cryostasis aboard the starship, the Saides. Sincam employs people from all over the world. The crews mission is scope out some planet that’s twenty light years away, meaning the crew will be away from Earth for about forty years.

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That’s a long time. Heck. If you do two missions, that will be eighty years. Think about all that could change. You’ll come back to Earth, ask for a cool, refreshing Coca-Cola Classic only to discover that New Coke has made a triumphant comeback. Talk about a waking nightmare.

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Crewmembers have different reasons for wanting to leave the Earth for forty years. One blonde-haired jock type wants to use the money he earns from the trip to do some serious damage when he gets back while he’s still young enough to do some serious damage. Nancy Strauch (voiced by Julie Maddalena), the daughter of the President of the Sincam corporation, is taking the journey so she can get revenge on the best friend that stole her boyfriend. She’ll show up back on Earth all young and pretty when her friend is old and wrinkly. I don’t think Nancy thought this out. Captain Mike Hamilton (voiced by Mike Reynolds) keeps going on these trips because he’s too out of step with the times whenever he comes back to Earth.

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There are also a couple of “time jumpers” mixed in with the regular crew. Time jumpers are fugitives that board starships hoping to hide out from the law for forty years. What else? There’s an alien bacterium absorbing members of the crew into a monstrous mass so that’s creepy. There’s also an evil robot sent by the corporation that’s disguised as a cat. So the crew of the Saides has a lot to worry about. Will they survive? I’m sure at least one of them will. That’s how these Alien movies tend to go.


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Photo by Leslie Salas

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #10: Series Update–East of West

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #10 by Drew Barth

Series Update–East of West

In writing all of these articles so far, I mostly discuss the cool new thing. Yet on more than none occasion I have heard “But what about series that aren’t new? What about a series that’s been going on for a while now that isn’t Saga?” For those imaginary readers, I wanted to step back from what is just emering and take a look at a series that has been ongoing for close to six years now: Johnathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta’s East of West.

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Anyone familiar with Johnathan Hickman’s work over the past decade will note that East of West carries so many hallmarks of his work: the white space, the consistent design element, the large, expanding cast of characters, and a nebulous story with a driving force at its center. These strains appeared in Pax Romana, The Nightly News, and Transhuman. But those series were fairly short, four to six issues a piece, while East of West has been running for over forty issue. While its publication schedule can get a bit spotty, the quality of the comic has never taken any kind of a dip.

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East of West is about the oncoming end of the world, a grand vision of the apocalypse as perpetrated by the political insiders who would benefit most from the world plummeting into chaos. It’s hard not to see a contemporary analogy when the story’s less ambiguous villains are obsessed with a religious doctrine that foretells the coming doom. A summary of the story itself would seem like a fifteen year-old’s post-1984fever dream, but Hickman and Dragotta have been able to craft this finely-tuned pre-apocalypse story that can mirror, sometimes uncomfortably, what we see on the news.

Mostly.

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East of West is also a story about a man looking for his son. That man is Death of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse and his son may or may not be the Anti-Christ. Hickman is one of those writers that have this uncanny ability to make readers empathize with characters that may not deserve our empathy. Death’s journey has been long and arduous. We see it every issue where he claws his way through the American desert on scant trails for where his son may be held. It is through those failures and, at times, his reluctance to embrace his role as Death that Hickman builds that empathy. Death may be the ultimate doom for this world, but we want him to be happy.

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We also can’t talk about East of West without also mentioning Nick Dragotta’s artwork and the marvel of silence he’s able to bring to the story. Many issues that deal with Death in some way almost always have this wonderful sequential narrative trick of silent scenery panels. These panels are establishing shots, mood makers for the rest of the story to come, and give the reader time to breathe or fully immerse themselves into the story. And moments like the one featured below are absolutely necessary. East of West is a loud book when the moment calls for it. Things explode. Many things explode when we’re hitting the climax of an arc, but Dragotta makes sure we’re given these crucial moments to give readers a bit of distance and calm. He’s well versed on hitting the peaks and valleys of a story, and every panel he creates only bolsters those points of tension.

After six years, East of West is hitting its final arc and it’s going to be weird no longer seeing it on new comic shelves every week, but its ending is absolutely well-deserved. Also well-deserved is the fact that East of West has been picked up by Amazon Studios to be developed into a TV series.

Get excited. The end is coming.


drew barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.

 

Episode 356: Chad Anderson!

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Episode 356 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 talk to fiction writer Chad Anderson near the end of his residency at The Kerouac House here in Orlando, Florida. We spoke about the importance of memories, including lost ones, in the creation of our realities (and the fictions representing those realities), the complications of family, the glory of a long residency, and Washing DC as a writer’s city.

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Chad Anderson at The Kerouac House, photographed by John King.

NOTES

Read Chad Anderson’s Katherine Anne Porter Award winner, “Maidencane,” here.

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Chad Anderson, Greg Proops, and moi backstage at the Hard Rock Live at Universal Studios, Orlando, in the apex of show business moments for your humble Drunken Odyssey.

Check out Whose Live Anyway, in which the Whose Line is it Anyway cast improvs the hell out of a stage near your, probably, eventually.

Or Check out this farewell reading from Eleanor Matthews, the resident before Chad.

The application period for next year’s Kerouac residents ends on March 10th. Apply here.

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Come hear me pontificate with some wiser writers than I am at AWP!

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Episode 356 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 #263: Alita: Battle Angel

The Curator of Schlock #263 by Jeff Shuster

Alita: Battle Angel

I liked it. 

I’ve got nothing prepared this week. Digging up schlock from decades upon decades of film is hard work. I took a break and went to movies, went to check out the latest James Cameron milestone, Alita: Battle Angel. Not that James Cameron directed it, that duty fell to Robert Rodriguez, but whatever. I’ve liked his movies, too. He directed Planet Terror, a movie that spoofed that much-revered classic, Nightmare City. Without Planet Terror, there may not be a Museum of Schlock, so kudos.

But Alita: Battle Angel isn’t schlock, but perhaps it has schlock origins? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines schlock as “of low quality or value.” Certainly Japanese animation was at one point considered to be of low quality or value. Maybe it was because Japanese animation studios toiled under greater budgetary restraints than that of their American counterparts. Maybe it was because they didn’t hit the number of frames per second that their American counterparts strived for. Maybe it had something to do with anti-Japanese sentiment that was still rampant in the 1980s, a holdover from World War II. I used to hear the term “cheap Japanese cartoons” being tossed around when I was a kid, no doubt intended to discourage kids like me from watching Robotech or The Mysterious Cities of Gold. It didn’t work.

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But being into Japanese animation was strange. Heck, being an adult who was into American cartoons was considered strange, but being into exotic cartoons from the Land of the Rising Sun? Forget about it. There were no fandoms back then except for Star Trek fans. No conventions or cosplay–except for Star Trek fans. I didn’t have Internet access until 1995. There was no connecting with people of similar weird interests. You got little exposure to things outside of the mainstream, having to rely on word of mouth and friends brave enough to fork over money for expensive VHS tapes featuring the latest in state of the art Japanese animation. One day, a friend loaned me a VHS tape titled Battle Angel Alita.

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Battle Angel Alita was what was known as OVA in Japan. It’s an abbreviation for Original Video Animation. This was animation produced solely for those purchasing it on VHS or Laser Disc. These were usually limited series featuring animation of a higher quality that what was made for television. OVAs are notorious for being unfinished. In just two 30-minute episodes, Battle Angel Alita introduced me to a teenage girl cyborg fighting for justice and survival in a scrap-heap city lorded over by a city of elites that floated above them in the sky.

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I think it was after Titanic got released that James Cameron said he was going to make a movie based on a Japanese comic book titled Alita. While I appreciated that Cameron was a fan of this underground comic, I never expected this project to get off the ground. Never in a million years did I expect an adaption of some VHS Japanese animation I borrowed from a friend in the mid 90s to be turned into a movie with a huge budget, state-of-the-art special effects, and an all star cast. And the movie is great, the best blockbuster of the year. Stop reading and go see it. I want a sequel.

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And we will be covering anime features from the 1990s for the rest of this month. Until next week.


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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeffrey Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #9: Turn It Off and Turn It On Again

Comics Are Trying to Break Your Heart #9 by Drew Barth

Turn It Off and Turn It On Again

Most monthly comics are built upon legacies and reboots of older characters. Essentially, most superhero comic fiction is officially-sanctioned fanfiction as the original authors are either no longer writing, no longer living, or both. As a result, many writers have sandboxes with certain rules, mythologies, and canons to play with. The amount of reboots and legacies is massive. Just look at the current reboots happening with DC’s general timeline, as well as the sheer volume of Robins who exist in Batman canons.

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Look at how DC is reworking older characters, staying true to their original form while not allowing nostalgia to cloud a strong story.

The publisher has been taking characters from the Hanna-Barbera vault and working them either into one-shots. The most notable of all of these is Mark Russel and Mike Feehan’s take on our favorite pink cougar, Snagglepuss. And this is Snagglepuss as a closeted playwright during the Red Scare.

So it’s Tennessee Williams.

This comic can’t be considered a cheap novelty, however. There is this constant underpinning of basic humanity throughout the issues that makes it feel so refreshing when compared to some of the other stories that have come from this experiment. Snagglepuss is one of those moments where you can see that edifice of large-scale comic publishers start to pull away and just let some fantastic stories get told.

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DC have also been working on a completely separate universe that recaptures the feeling of the old Super Friends cartoon from the seventies. The Wonder Twins is everything a reader can expect from a rebooted Super Friends-esque universe. The Hall of Justice stands, although its super computer is rendered useless by cellphones, and the trinity of Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman walk the halls waiting to hear that world-ending alert that brings them into action. But Jayna and Zan are the focus here: two transplanted aliens outcast from their home planet who can turn into, well, not much when they tap their fists together. They’re also transplanted into a high school on a new planet. As it stands right now, it’s a fun twist on characters who have been a cultural punchline for forty years. They’re not these stiff weirdos that talk as if they don’t have the animation budget for them to say anything interesting—as a duo they’re well-developed characters that seem like they’ll have more to do as the story progresses. As of now only the first issue is out, but it looks like it’s going to be a fun six-issue mini-series.

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From there, we also have another first issue in the form of Peter Cannon: Thunderbolt. This is one of those odd characters who DC picked up in the 80s when they brought Charlatan Comics characters into their main universe. But Peter Cannon as a character is known more for who he was the basis for: Ozymandias in Watchmen.

However, since the death of his creator, Pete Morisi, in 2013, Peter Cannon has been owned by the late creator’s estate. As such, we now have a rebooted series from Dynamite Comics, Kieron Gillen and Caspar Wijngaard that looks to establish the character as something more than just a blueprint for others. They even address the issue of the “white savior” that Cannon was portrayed as for years due to being the last recipient of ancient scrolls from a Himalayan monastery after his parents died. It smacks of Iron Fist, but Gillen and Wijngaard create a character who feels generally remorseful at having to play this part.

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It’s as close to a perfect first issue since Gillen’s last first issue in DIE #1. It’s for completely different reasons, though. This is Gillen bringing in his Watchmen love with utilizing the idea of thirty five minutes as a signal for what’s coming as well as Ozymandias’ plan for uniting the world through a fake alien invasion. Couple that with the two nine-panel grids that show up and you can see the influences right on the sleeve. That and the dash of Warren Ellis with a line like “HELLO ALIEN FRIENDS! DO YOU LIKE BULLET VIOLENCE?” to just tie the bow on top.

Of course, as always, there’s more characters and reboots out there. Kamala Khan, Jamie Reyes, Kyle Rayner, Robbie Reyes, et cetera, but they always have the one thing in common that matters to comic fiction, and that is they’re creating something new with their stories. When they’re done well, they’re iconic—they are the status quo for a series and the public face for decades. When not, we try to forget about them and move on to other things. Reboots and legacies fail, but with the series coming out just in the past year, there will never be a shortage of new takes on old ideas that feel refreshing.

Get excited. Comics are happening.


drew barth

Drew Barth (Episode 331) is a writer residing in Winter Park, FL. He received his MFA from the University of Central Florida. Right now, he’s worrying about his cat.