The Annotated Stephen Bissette : SWAMP THINGS & TABOOS & TYRANTS

During my formative years I discovered this comic SWAMP THING by relative newcomers Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette, and John Totleben.

I was a kid, but old enough to realize even then that this was something special. Alan Moore’s words and Bissette and Totleben’s visuals even at the time, and it was a strange time because everything felt in flux and on the brink of changing, even at the time, getting these off the stands, the combination of these three men working together felt like greatness.

And some things are hot in the moment, but some things, some work that is rushed out for the masses, to meet deadlines for a castigated medium, some work screams greatness from the go, and time only makes it more great.

More Hallowed.

From pioneers like Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway and Steve Englehart and Chris Claremont and Kraft and Giffen and O’Neil and Neal Adams and Jim Steranko and Bernie Wrightson there was a new generation building on the foundation they laid down.

Creators such as…

Don Lomax (who I had the pleasure to interview) would give us VIETNAM JOURNAL.

Doug Moench, a pioneer in his own right, off of MASTER OF KUNG FU (issues 38 and 39 remains the best two parter ever) would do some of his most heartfelt work in Moon Knight (that first 21 or 22 issues is gold, everything from dealing with the death of John Lennon, to familial abuse)

Frank Miller would give us DARK KNIGHTS and RONINS and YEAR ONES.

William Messner Loebs would create a frontier masterpiece, unfotunately a hidden gem to most, with JOURNEY.

Bruce Jones – With his TWISTED TALES would almost singlehandedly give birth to a new EC inspired golden age of Horror Comics, but making comics that were horrifying to a Reagan era age.

and of course… Alan Moore.

Alan Moore would birth many such works, particularly in the waning decades of the 20th century. SWAMP THING was one of his earliest successes and remains one of his most iconic works. And for me one of his most beautiful works, working with the art team of Bissette snd Totleben, they were visual storytellers that could really add and evolve and enrich the scope of Moore’s script, throwing in their own ideas and visuals.

It is very much the work of three young men riffing on their loves, and remains now 30 years later still very seminal work.

Bissette in the years since has become one of the most respected instructors, teaching at the celebrated Center for Cartoon Studies in vermont.

One thing you may not know about him, and I first discovered listening to an Indie Spinner Rack podcast episode (that great now defunct show) is he is a FANTASTIC speaker. He is such an engaging and erudite and interesting wealth of information on this beloved hobby and artform and the personalities behind it.

And I love podcasts to begin with, so combining this walking encyclopedia of not just comic lore, but film and film journalism, books, the art of creating, of self publishing, of blogging, and for me… that is entertainment.

So ever since I’ve listened to him, whenever I catch him interviewed on a podcast.

So here without further ado is hours of audio greatness with one of the best artists in Comics, and one of its most engaging speakers.

INDIE SPINNER RACK #79 8 May 2007 – My first introduction to Stephen Bissette post SWAMP THING, this put him on my radar as just a fantastic and informative speaker. A great interview/conversation.

Talkcast #102 8 Oct 2011 – Very annoying hosts makes this one almost unlistenable, but fast forward to where Bissette finally gets to speak about fundraising and HP Lovecraft.

LOST IN THE STATIC #99 -25 Nov 2013- Fun informative hosts lead inro a really compelling interview on Bissette, that includes Edgar Allen Poe, Greg Irons, Skull #6, Moore, Veitch, Totleben and the Saga of the Swamp Thing. Indie work on Gore Shriek, Shriek, and the ground breaking Dave Simm funded TABOO. Structure of TABOO inspired by Harlan Ellison’s brilliant DANGEROUS VISIONS and AGAIN DANGEROUS VISIONS. Bruce Jones TWISTED TALES, X-MEN’S Brood Saga. TABOO designed by Bissette to be taken seriously, and push the envelope and make people ‘drop it on the ground’. Kirby Awards. A must listen podcast.

Adam Greenfield’s great podcast MAKING COMICS has had Stephen Bissette as a guest three times, and all three are brilliant, with nice Vincent Price/Poe Intros. Well worth hunting down. Oct 2014,2015, & 2016.

DECONSTRUCTING COMICS #465,#500 – Sept 2015, June 2016

POD SEQUENTIALISM #2 – October 2015

TV GUIDANCE #228 – May 2017

RADIODROME #323 – Mar 2017

UNDER CONSTRUCTION – Come back as I flesh out the content in all the interviews and conversations!

Best BATMAN BLACK PANTHER WONDER WOMAN Statues Collectibles! Make Great Gifts!

 

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TV REVIEW : Netflix’s LUKE CAGE Season 1 Episode 1-13 by Cheo Hodari Coker

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Well I’ve just finished watching the 13th episode of Netflix/Marvel Studios LUKE CAGE, and I have to say… I loved it. Full stop. Show runner Cheo Hodari Coker manages to in many ways do the impossible, and take a character already spotlighted in the JESSICA JONES series, and whose origins are the milieu of the Black Action or Black Agency film of the late 60s and 70s (mislabeled under the derogatory misnomer of Blaxploitation) and with him tell a rich, evocative, exciting, deeply layered cultural and historical and prescient love letter, to a place, Harlem, New York, and to an idea of local determination, and local agency, and self love, and colored love, and Black love in the age of Ferguson.

 

 

Or you can just look at it as a great action/drama series, set in the wonderfully expansive universe of Marvel shared superhero universe. :).

 

 

But what has exemplified the Netflix/Marvel collaborations to date is how grounded they are in a world not so dissimilar from our own. The gritty street level nature of DAREDEVIL’s 1st season, and ground breaking fight choreography, and fantastic writing made for a justifiably lauded 13 hours of television. (lost a bit in its less cohesive and interesting 2nd season)

 

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LUKE CAGE takes that to another level, in being a show that is as much about cultural signposts and idioms that define us, as it is the ‘A’ story of conflict and resolution. The literary and historical and musical references are not just littered throughout the story, they help define the scope of the character and the scope of the neighborhood that this story takes place in. A man is the things he loves, the things he reads, the things he listens to, the heroes that inspired, the places that mattered, and immediately in one episode Coker defines LUKE CAGE the character and the series in broad strokes, that for me reverberate deeply.

 

 

The first two episodes floored me in how good and rich and beautiful, they are. Coker here hitting, for me, the conversations I have in my soul and my head, Chester Himes, Walter Mosley, Denis LeHane, George Pelecanos, Donald Goines??? Come’ on Son!!! Kenyatta??? Those few strokes and I knew this was a writer with a deep love and understanding of genre fiction, and those who make it.

 

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But it’s more than name dropping, our influences define us, and define our world, and define who we care for, so immediately they make us part and parcel of this story that Coker and his team of writers tell. It’s a beautifully structured 13 hours of television, in that the first 6 episodes are very much their own chapter. You could bundle those 6 episodes up and have a great season.

 

Episode 7 feels like a swerve, very much like a start over, so if you rush into it, not recognizing that peak at the end of 6, that culmination, it’s going to feel stretched out. One of the possible dangers of binge TV… you have to pace yourself.

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Take a break after episode 6, let that sink in. It is very much, in comic book terms, the end of the first trade paperback or story arc. Episode 7 begins the 2nd story arc, so you have to go into it not rushing to a conclusion, but gearing up for the start, because start it does. As everything from the first arc gets turned on its head, and new major players break on the scene. It’s a jarring ride, but once it hits episode 9 its has picked up steam and by 10 is on a full sprint to the finish. Episodes 11, 12 and 13 are Brilliant.

 

There is a saying out there that ‘it’s not how you begin, but how you end that matters’; that saying is wrong. All of it matters. It is about how you begin, how you endure, and how you end. Cheo Hodari Coker’s LUKE CAGE does the extremely unlikely, in doing all three exceptionally well.

 

 

I want a Blu-Ray of this show, complete with Director’s and cast commentary, like yesterday. It is that good, and replete with episodes you want to go back to and know more about.

 

 

And I have to say it’s wonderful to see here in 2016, that TV is making great strides to not be exploitative, and to have shows where you can have more than a token number of characters of color.

 

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One thing I love about LUKE CAGE, particularly about the 2nd half (I love the first half as well) is it is so wonderful to see 6 beautiful women of color in major speaking parts, taking center stage in moments of strength and weakness, and owning the stage. It’s so rare to see a three shot of powerful, beautiful Black women in uplifting, exciting, dramatic, heroic material. It’s non-existent in Hollywood but thankfully, through great show-runners of color, and the success of shows such as BEING MARY JANE and EMPIRE is becoming finally available on the small screen. And the same love extends to being able to see multiple men of color in powerful, uplifting, heroic roles.

 

 

And the appearance of Method Man, and that song… Amazing. This series in addition to a DVD/Blu-Ray, must release a sound track, because in addition to the songs, the score for some of the episodes… is stunning.

 

 

I’ve recently become addicted to listening and purchasing scores, and LUKE CAGE has a world class score.

 

 

Now, is the series perfect ? No. I thought episode 3, they had a real opportunity to do an action sequence as talked about as DAREDEVIL’s hallway fight, but the director/fight coordinator wasn’t up to it. You’ll know the scene when you see it, it’s perfectly fine, but never rises above fine, when it should have been spectacular. And it’s a different show from DAREDEVIL , so the action will be different, I get that, but you can still do different and STUNNING.

 

Also, my problem with a character like Luke Cage, is the same one I have with a character like Wolverine, just because you can stand there and take being shot by a hail of bullets, doesn’t mean you want to or have to.

 

 

Luke Cage’s character (minor spoiler ahead) is revealed as a former police officer, former Recon soldier, former Prison MMA Fighting champ, former Boxer, all this to say… HE CAN FIGHT. So speed the dude up! Rather than standing there and waiting for someone to unload a clip on you, he should be disarming them and wrapping the gun around their necks before they can get off a shot. Especially since ricochets can kill just as well as any other bullet. I understand visually it’s an exciting thing to depict, but it should be the exception for talented filmmakers, not the rule. When he is shielding people from gunfire, sure… let the bullets fly. But in combat mode he should be disarming these guys before they get a shot off. Particularly later in the season that attitude would have made for exciting sequences.

 

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So that was another issue I had. However, the sequences do improve as the series progresses. Plus it’s not a show that is about fisticuffs like DAREDEVIL, as much as it is about the fight for a soul of a neighborhood. And that tale it tells expertly.

 

 

It is a superlative 13 hours of television, and all involved should take a bow. Cheo Hodari Coker has made not just a great Netflix series, but a great television show, and the one to beat as my favorite show of 2016.

 

Marvel's Luke Cage

Marvel’s Luke Cage

And among the Netflix shows so far where do I rank it? It’s much better than DAREDEVIL Season 2, which was good, but not great, it edges out JESSICA JONES, which was great, and it battles it out with DAREDEVIL Season 1 for the top spot. DAREDEVIL Season 1 which was clearly the best show of 2015, outdoes it in terms of action, a definite A of a show.

 

 

However I have minor quibbles with it, like I didn’t like the loss of Ben Urich, I found the character of Karen page annoying through most of it, the character of Matt Murdock was a bit unlikable, and the last episode it failed to stick the landing with an unimpressive looking costume, and just a bit of a dour ending. So those nitpicks, are the reason LUKE CAGE edges it out, and gets a big A+ grade from me. It possesses a story and characters that I want to revisit… often.

 

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Final Verdict: Seminal, Must Watch TV! Will appeal to fans of mystery novels, especially fans of Chester Himes or Walter Mosley, or fans of movies such as TROUBLE MAN.

 

If you are not a fan or are made uncomfortable or nervous or have unexamined issues with women of color, you probably will have an issue with the later episodes.

 

‘The fault lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.’ Brother, it always does. :).

 

But for the rest of us who watch the series, LUKE CAGE is phenomenal television at its best.

 

Netflix Series of the Month : LUKE CAGE by Cheo Hodari Coker! Report card on Episodes 1 to 8!

The long awaited third Netflix/Marvel series, LUKE CAGE, has launched, and helmed by relative unknown show runner, Cheo Hodari Coker, eight episodes in and I’m LOVING IT!!!

Here’s a minor recap of the eight episodes seen to date. It’s relatively innocuous comments, but to cover my bases I will say minor spoilers ahead, if you haven’t seen the episodes. But really I don’t think it spoils anything. But if in doubt, watch the episodes first.

Episode 1 and 2 written by Cheo Hodari Coker and directed by Paul McGuigan are exceptional. As strong, if not stronger of a start than the previous Netflix entries. It’s really some fantastic, rich, long overdue writing that touches on everything from Crispus Attucks to Walter Mosley to Dennis Lehane.

Episode 3 is good but I have minor quibbles with it. The first 2 episodes sets up Luke Cage as someone who doesn’t curse and doesn’t like profanity, so his going into a battle listening to a profanity laden rap song seems questionable.

Also the Director has the chance to make a pivotal action scene to match the wonderful episode 3 highlight of the DAREDEVIL season 1, and misses a mark with a pretty unremarkable action sequence. However the remaining episode, good dialogue, nice twists, and a literally explosive ending keeps this episode in the winner category.

Episode 4 is FANTASTIC. An excellent origin story. Superlative story

Episode 5 is FANTASTIC! Yes!

Episode 6 Wonderful wrap-up. If this was a 6 episode season it would rock! In many ways this is the end of the first story arc, if this was a comic trade-paperback. And episode 7 begins the 2nd arc.So you should really approach starting the 7th episode, after a small break, like you are starting a new story arc.

Episode 7 – Fantastic score highlights this episode. Probably the best score of any of the episodes. A fantastic origin story, this time for the antagonists. What makes a great hero, is a great villain. And this episode shows you the roots of two of them. One of the best episodes!

Episode 8 – The machinations against Luke tighten as his life, and the lives of those around him come tumbling down. Another engrossing episode, that I was thoroughly entertained by from beginning to end.

3/4ths done and I think this series is a Home Run. I like it much better than Daredevil Season II, and have to wait to see if it sticks the landing… to see if I like it as much as DAREDEVIL Season 1 and JESSICA JONES.

The Marvel/Netflix juggernaut continues to be, like Luke Cage, bullet-proof. 🙂

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

GRAPHIC NOVEL Corner : This Week’s 17 MUST OWN Graphic Novels or Collected Editions!!

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Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu Omnibus Vol. 1 (Marvel Omnibus: Shang-Chi Master of Kung-Fu)

Shang-Chi: Master of Kung-Fu Omnibus Vol. 2

Deadly Hands of Kung Fu Omnibus Vol. 1

S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete Collection Omnibus

The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Volume 1 (New Printing)

The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Vol. 2 (New Printing)

The Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Vol. 3

Uncanny X-Men Omnibus Vol 3 Variant

X-Men – Volume 2 Omnibus (Marvel Omnibus)

The Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 1 (New Printing)

The Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 2 (New Printing)

The Fantastic Four Omnibus Volume 3

The Mighty Thor Omnibus   [MIGHTY THOR OMNIBUS] [Hardcover]

Fantastic Four by John Byrne Omnibus – Volume 1

Captain America by Jack Kirby Omnibus (Marvel Omnibus)

Werewolf by Night Omnibus

The Avengers Omnibus Volume 2

 

Averaging almost $100 a book, no one is going to confuse Marvel’s Omnibus line of high quality, oversized chronological reprints of their most popular and coveted books with cheap.

But for those with a fondness for these four color adventures of yesteryear these collections are a definite boon and a must have. Collecting between 20 and 40 issues of comics, including the letters pages for some, roughly 600 to 1200 pages of comic goodness, the cost is a deal compared to trying to get these issues individually, especially considering in some cases… original issues can run thousands of dollars.

And while these are reprints, they are reprints offered in a quality, oversized format signifigantly superior to the original cheaply produced issues.

From Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s game changing work on the FANTASTIC FOUR (collected in 3 Omnibuses) to Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy’s seminal work on MASTER OF KUNG FU (70s Kung Fu and Spy Goodness at its best! To be collected over 4 volumes) to the gold standard of comic craft with Chris Claremont and John Byrne and Paul Smith’s THE UNCANNY X-MEN , these are the books and runs… that are deserving of this top of the line production!

Any of the 17 books listed, sell themselves, as noted by how quickly and often these pricey books sellout. Don’t sleep on these 17 books. Get your issues before they become unavailable or prices go up!

 

Tell em HT sent ya!!

 

Netflix Daredevil Season 2 Television Review

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The first season of Netflix’s DAREDEVIL was with one or two missteps, a masterpiece… and now the long awaited 2nd season has broken onto Netflix. And the verdict after watching all 13 episodes… it’s good overall, great in sporadic parts, and uneven throughout most of it. It feels tired and maudlin in a way the first season never did.

And much of the weakness of the 2nd season is directly related to carrying over the missteps of Season 1. The death of Vondie Curtis Hall’s character of Ben Urich was a mistake, and the sometimes screeching, sanctimonius, annoying nature of the Karen Page charater, also was always poised to upset the ship.

And here those two blips combine to I think after the first 3 strong episodes, bog down the remaining 10 episodes. Every scene with the Karen Page character (doing her Nancy Drew with the Editor), just highlights how much better those scenes would have played with Hall’s Ben Urich character bringing gravitas to those moments.

And while the actress who plays Karen Page, is definitely striking, her character is written and played annoyingly, so giving her more screen time this season is analagous to nails on a chalkboard. Her voiceover to round out the last episode, I’m sure was meant to be this poignant summation of the season, but came off as so much trite, cliched fluff. A failure of writing and delivery.

On top of that example, the writing which was a standout of most of season 1, stumbles here in season 2. I thought episode 5 was a complete trainwreck, boring, navel gazing, let down by both the writing and directing. It tried to mirror the emotional intensity of the 5th episode of Season 1, but lacked a story and writing and performances capable of carrying the episode.

Add to that the whole Daredevil/ Elektra/ Black Sky plotline, was delivered in a bit of a muddled fashion, it all reeks of perhaps needing more rewrites. I who am familiar with these characters, found the season a bit unclear and unsatisfying at times.

Those negatives acknowledged, there was much to like about season 2, I thought the action scenes were excellent, the characters of Stick and the Punisher compelling, the performances of most of the leads stellar.

So overall, glad to have seen the 2nd  season, but I didn’t love it.

And here’s hoping season 3 brings the magical return of Ben Urich’s character, and less screen time for the Karen Page character and the Paper’s Editor (who I found equally uninteresting),

Overall Grade:  B-.

 

 

Currently Reading: S.H.I.E.L.D.: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION OMNIBUS

 

S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete Collection Omnibus

 

S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete Collection Omnibus (Marvel): Marvel is proud to present — in a single complete volume — one of comics’ most-innovative series! With international threats on the rise, Tony Stark and a council of global powers tapped Nick Fury to protect the US from Hydra, A.I.M., Baron Strucker, and the Yellow Claw. The greatest team in comics, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, dove into the world of covert ops, mixing Cold War drama with the mighty Marvel manner. They set the tone, but when Steranko took over, he rewrote the entire rulebook. Steranko turned S.H.I.E.L.D. into one of the most visually innovative comic series ever published and every early story is presented in oversized glory. You’ve been granted Priority A-1 access, so reserve your copy today! Collecting the Nick Fury stories from Strange Tales (1951) #135-168, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (1968) #1-15, Fantastic Four (1961) #21, Tales of Suspense (1959) #78, Avengers (1963) #72, Marvel Spotlight (1971) #31 (which reveals an important Nick Fury secret!), and material from Not Brand Echh (1967) #3, 8, and 11. Features work by Lee, Kirby, Steranko, Roy Thomas, Denny O’Neil, Archie Goodwin, Jim Starlin, Howard Chaykin, John Severin, Herb Trimpe, Don Heck, Barry Windsor-Smith, Sal Buscema, Joe Sinnott, and more. 960-page oversize color hardcover. – Released in September 2015, in two versions, one with an Alex Ross cover and one with a Steranko cover.  I like Alex Ross, but his cover for this book is underwhelming, clearly the Steranko cover is the one to get.

And you’ll pay for it, as quantities on the Steranko version are climbing in price. But well worth the seeking out.

 

S.H.I.E.L.D.: The Complete Collection Omnibus