Friday, February 29, 2008

Four Poster Bad, Part 3

OK, let's get right into it. Today we look at some truly awful movie posters of the year 1977.

First off, we have Al Pacino in Bobby Deerfield. Y'know how I know that? Because it's all the poster says! Who designed this...Pacino's mother? I have to assume that maybe at the time Pacino was considered something of a hit with the ladies, because I can't see this poster putting asses in seats unless you find Al really, really attractive. It makes no sense, either, as the film features race car driving, terminally ill women, all sorts of stuff that'd just light up a movie poster. And yet they go with Al's big ol' mug instead. But hey, we know that the movie features Al Bobby Deerfield. Yup. Sure does. Al Pacino. Bobby Deerfield.

Next up is The Car, and it's a movie about...well, I think you can figure it out. Anyone notice the problem with the poster though? That's right. Not a car to be seen. Instead what we get is a big, black space right in the middle. Hey, it's the first movie poster designed with Stevie Wonder in mind! It's really kind of a shame, too, as the titular car is actually a very sweet ride: a black 1971 Lincoln Continental Mark III customized by the famous George Barris (who also designed the TV version of the Batmobile). I'm not sure exactly what happened here. Maybe there was supposed to be a car in the shot and something went wrong? Maybe the car IS in the pic, but it's soooooo dark that it's impossible to see? Maybe the poster art was accidentally left in Detroit, and someone stole the car? I dunno. Since James Brolin is the star of the flick, I like to think he turned off the car's headlights to facilitate running down Barbra Streisand...

Now we come to Exorcist II. I'm not going to go into the movie itself, since I think most of us know what a crapfest it is (supposedly Satan paid $75000 to have his name taken off the project). No, let's just stick to the poster, which is equally wretched. Do we get scenes of heads spinning, or pea soup-spitting, or cross violation, or even that creepy silhouette under the streetlight like in the original Exorcist poster? Nope. That would be crazy. What we get is the most logical choice: a big ol' headshot of Linda Blair. Hey, you geniuses in marketing, someone needs to tell you that this poster would only appeal to Rick James, and even he wouldn't take it home to mother. Ooooh, Linda Blair. Scary, huh kids? You know what's REALLY scary? That I sacrificed 103 minutes of my life watching Linda and Jimmy Van Patten in Roller Boogie...

Finally...ahem...You Light Up My Life. First, since I believe in full disclosure, I have to admit when this came out, back when I was all of thirteen, I thought Didi Conn was cute. Shut up. (This is where Lea starts speculating if it was the hair. Private joke) Anyway, where do you start with this poster? Is the image of two people walking barefoot on the beach going to have people rushing to the theaters? No, more likely it'll have them RUSHING TO THE BEACH. Hell, I look at this thing, and I immediately think of Mad TV's "Lowered Expectations" sketches. The worst part, though, is the tremendous graininess of the photo. Who snapped this shot...Abraham Zapruder? Light up my life, hell. Someone needs to light up the photoshoot!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

An Adman Actually Got Paid For This One?

Y'know, my son works at a Putt Putt miniature golf course during the summer, so I've become fairly familiar with the franchise. One of the most disturbing aspects of it is the mascot: Buster Ball. Yes, I said Buster Ball. Here he is now:
I think the same guy designed a specific version of Poppin' Fresh to sell Pillsbury's turnovers, and named her Poppin' Cherry...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

And The Pursuit Thereof

I'm in a sad mood today, so in an effort to combat it, here are a few of the things that make me, Troy Tiberius Hickman, happy:

Peanut butter and bologna sandwiches. I know a lot of folks find it odd, but there's no better sandwich in the world (I prefer it with crunchy peanut butter, by the way). Especially good with a glass of milk. I was first introduced to this by my Aunt Betty's third (fourth?) husband, Sonny Havens (which sounds more like the name of a retirement home than any other name I've ever heard).

Sci-Fi movies of the 50s/60s. Generally anything with a giant insect or a pulsating brain in it gives me a certain peace of mind. If you get a chance, check out a 1964 film called The Flesh Eaters, which was written and produced by Arnold Drake, writer of my all-time favorite funnybook series, The Doom Patrol. It's a really unusual film, and it's worth your while, trust me. It deals with an evil scientist, and this stuff in the surf that'll eat you all up, yum yum yum, and a square-jawed hero, and a scantily-clad woman, and a giant...uh...something monster, and a beatnik who speaks all that wonderful daddy-o dialogue that Drake seemed obsessed with at times. It's a gasser, man.

And while we're at it...The Doom Patrol. Was there a better comic...ever? Man, I love those old stories. The Chief, Robotman, Elasti-Girl, Negative Man...occasional appearances by Beast Boy and Mento...and the villains...The Brain, General Immortus, Madame Rouge, Monsieur Mallah, Gargaux, and on and on. And even when the book was canceled, they went out with a bang: the DP sacrificed their lives to save 27 people in the tiny village of Codsville, Maine. Without hesitation. They were heroes, my friends, heroes in a way that I wish more current comic book spandex types could be. If I ever write anything that folks enjoy as much as I enjoyed Doom Patrol, I'll be a pretty satisfied fella. And if DC ever wants someone to write a REAL Doom Patrol series again, they know where to find me (or maybe I'll find them).

Holding hands with Lea. There's really no way I can begin to tell you how this makes me feel. We'll be out somewhere, going to the video store, checking out some elephant-headed thing in 10,000 Villages, hell, just looking at big plastic junk at Walmart, and she'll be holding my hand, and I'll feel complete. Y'know, I'll gone most of my life feeling completely and utterly SINGULAR. Even when I've been with a woman, I've inevitably felt like it was still just me, only with a woman-shaped object filling the air next to me (heck, the years I was married were probably the loneliest I have ever experienced). When Lea and I are holding hands, though, I feel like part of a couple, and that's a pretty wondrous thing. Yeah, it's great, and tremendously important, that we all be individuals, but there's also a reason that we've been put on this planet with other folks, and that our brains and hearts get so oogy when we're with our "other half."

Seeing a script I've written turned into an actual comic book story. If you've never experienced this, I would strongly recommend it. For me, that's a large part of the magic of comics, at least from a creator's point of view. You write something, you send it to your editor, and in a relatively short amount of time, you get these pages back with your characters on them...your characters come to life through the efforts of some talented artist. I'm not going to be so pompous as to say it makes you feel like you're God (although the act of writing alone contains elements of that, to be sure), but it's about as close to a miracle for me as it gets. And the thing is, it never gets old. From the first time I saw my pal Doug Lumley delineating Yoyo the Dieting Clown, to the sketches I've seen so far for my upcoming Twilight Guardian comic, it never fails to give me a warm feeling in the pit of my stomach, like I've accomplished something. And when I think of the people I've worked with, people like Mr. George Perez (who became my favorite comic artist when I read HIS first real comics work, Creatures on the Loose #33, back in 1975), it pretty much makes me want to cry. I love creating, I love writing, but most of all, I love making comic books.

Anyway, I'm feeling better now, so I'll call it a day. A happy one.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Villain of the Week

For the most part, I try to avoid going into political diatribes in this blog, since (A) the majority of my readers probably disagree anyway (hey, I forgive ya), and (B) it's rare that anyone changes their opinion based on a blog column.

Today I feel I have to say something, though, or else literally explode from the bile inside me. Are you familiar with David Suzuki? I've known of the guy for quite a while, and learned considerably more when I started my visits to Canada, where he's considered (by some) to be quite the national treasure. I've never particularly liked the guy, though I've always assumed he probably had the best intentions at heart (based on the fact that Lea has said some nice things about him in the past, and I trust her judgment).

Recently, however, the illustrious Dr. Suzuki has gone beyond even his normal utopian socialist underpinnings, and has firmly entered totalitarian territory. Recently he stated that politicians who disagree with the idea of man-made global warming and the policies it entails should be thrown into prison, and encouraged students at McGill University to find a way to do so.

Y'know, in my country, and I believe in yours as well, if we have a problem with politicians, we have a way of dealing with it. It's called democracy. We have regular elections that enable us to vote out the ones we don't want in there. What we don't do is imprison them. That's what they do in places like Cuba, Venezuela, the Soviet Union, China, and at one time, Germany.
Ever heard of those places, Dave?

No, the good doctor would rather ignore such places, and instead refers to his own Canuck homeland , a country that awarded him the Order of Canada, as "international outlaws," because they haven't bent over backwards quite far enough for he and his fellow followers of the Church of Radical Environmentalism.

Canadian writer Terry O'Neill said this of Suzuki: "It's long been abundantly clear from his speeches and books that his position is driven by both a quasi-religious zeal and a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of humanity's relationship with the natural world."

Dr. Suzuki has also suggested that such decisions cannot be made by our elected officials, and instead should be made by a panel of scientists. Hmmm, a panel of scientists, Dave? Oh, I see. You want a scientocracy, run by a bunch of guys much smarter than the general populace and their representatives, right? A bunch of smart guys like...well, like YOU, Dave.

As pissed off as your comments make me, though, Dave, I'm glad you said 'em, because they shed the light on what you, and a lot of folks like you, really think and believe. For all your "open-mindedness," you're just as oppressive and narrow-minded as anyone and anything you've ever railed against.

Doc, according to your Wiki entry, you live in Kitsilano, right? Well, I spend much of my time these days in Vancouver, so I tell you what. Anytime you'd like a micro-demonstration of what free people think of little tin gods like yourself, I'd be glad to come over and plant my carbon footprint firmly on your compost heap...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Rave On

I was just sitting here watching The Buddy Holly Story again. Y'know, I've watched this flick literally every time it's been on one of my TV stations. I cannot begin to say how much I love it, or just how good it really is. Gary Busey never has, and probably never will, give a performance as amazing as this one (although his reality show, Life with Busey, was a pretty sublime experience, with Gary delivering such Buseyisms as " Fear is the dark room where the devil develops his negatives"). Even more to his credit, Busey does all his own singing (which helps keep the film from turning into the travesty that Great Balls of Fire was). Let's take a look at a clip. Here Buddy has just been booked to play the Apollo, where the all-black audience is hardly expecting him:

Y'know, next year will be the fiftieth anniversary of Buddy's death, which a lot of people call "the day the music died." That's a lot of B.S. though. Buddy's music is as fresh and relevant and ahead-of-its-time now than it ever was. Nobody rocks harder. Buddy's still here, and the music just goes on and on...

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

1971? They had movies back then?

OK, so the other day I wrote about Shoot 'Em Up, and how it evoked memories of Billy Jack, at least in terms of the "Don't be violent...smack!" mentality. Well, somehow the subject of the aforementioned halfbreed, Green Beret, kung fu fighting peacenik came up in one of my classes, and I was absolutely aghast to realize that almost no one in the room had ever even HEARD of Billy Jack!!!

This brings to mind three truths that I have learned:

(1) I am old.

(2) I really get cheesed by folks who don't have at least a fair knowledge of pop culture. You know the types; you ask them what they thought about last night's episode of Heroes, and in a Margaret Dumont accent, they say "Oh, so sorry. I don't own a television machine." Or you tell them you had a great time at the White Stripes concert the night before, and they tell you they couldn't make it because they were at a wine and cheese tasting party to celebrate Jean-Pierre Le Snoot's new composition, "L'âne Pour Un Chapeau." Even worse are the folks who don't even have the excuse of being an elitist snob; they just aren't able to remember anything that happens if it doesn't get reported on Nancy Grace or Entertainment Tonight. I just don't understand how you live in the same world as the rest of us, and don't really ABSORB something.

(3) I get even more cheesed by people who think the world began at exactly the moment they were born, and aren't concerned with anything that happened before then (because, well, NOTHING happened before then). I ran a blog entry sometime back about my students and their lack of knowledge about things like the Beatles, for instance, and the fact that a huge group of 'em basically said "Hell, I don't know, it was before my time." Well, y'know, almost EVERYTHING that has ever happened was before your time! Yeesh!

Billy Jack hit the theaters in 1971 (and did HUGE box office), which means it came out about fifteen years before my average student was born. To put that in perspective, it would like if I were completely and totally ignorant of the films of 1949, such as Sgt. York, The Third Man, The Fountainhead, Mighty Joe Young, etc. I know some of you folks are saying, "yeah, so?" To me, though, that's just a crazy notion.

I LOVE learning and knowing about stuff from the past. Hell, given my dissatisfaction with a lot of current culture, it's sometimes the most entertaining and enlightening stuff available. But when I ask the kids in my class what their ALL-TIME favorite film is, and most of the girls respond with "Legally Blond 2" and most of the guys say "300," it just makes me want to...go...well, like Billy Jack here:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Don't Hurt People...or I'll Kill Ya!

So...I watched Shoot 'Em Up today, and really enjoyed it. The action was wayyyyy over the top, and that's just fine by me. As the kind of movie that the title implies, it was Grade A bang bang stuff.

The reason I'm writing about it here, though, is because of the none-too-subtle anti-gun message we get from the plot (or what there is of one; it has something to do with a politician and bone marrow and trying to kill a baby, but that's not really important...or comprehensible, really).

Given that, I'm nominating Shoot 'Em Up for the Tom Laughlin "I...go...berserk!!!" Award for most gratuitous violence in a film espousing non-violence. This award is named, of course, for Tom's portrayal of Billy Jack, the pacifist who turns the other cheek by kicking people through windows and giving them fatal karate chops to the neck.

In the case of Clive Owen's Smith character in Shoot 'Em Up, he assaults the 2nd Amendment and assuages his own guilt (there's some plot point in there about him selling a criminal the gun that was then used to kill his own wife and son...or something) by shooting, oh, I'd guess about 100 men. Jim and Sarah Brady salute you, my good man!

Maybe next we can give Chuck Norris the "Hugs for Thugs" award...

Above is the cover for my new comic, Twilight Guardian, out from Top Cow in May, I believe. It's part of the Pilot Season voting, so I'll expect all you Hickmaniacs out there to vote, vote, vote later this year! (And bear in mind you're not limited to a single vote, so stay up nights and help the cause!).

Monday, February 11, 2008

Four Poster Bad: Part 2

OK, let's have another edition of FPB (my original idea for today's post involved me scanning all the major scars on my body, but I'm saving that one for my birthday.

Anyway, to the matter at hand...

We focus first on Francois Truffaut's The 400 Blows. OK, great movie, and I'm a fan of Truffaut's work. The poster though...well, first of all "Angel faces hell bent for violence"? That sounds more like a blurb for Reform School Girl. Also, the adult man in the picture here looks like the bastard child of Nicolas Cage and the late Roy Scheider (not that it's a bad thing; it just unnerves me imagining the two of them making love, especially since Roy's death and all). Finally, a movie that's called The 400 Blows is already going to get jokes about being a porno film, so do we really have to make it worse by having the title on the movie poster getting fisted? Yeesh.

Now on to one of my all-time favorite movies, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. I've watched this movie every time it's been on television since I was about 4 years old. Just love it. This particular poster for it weirds me out , though, and for one simple reason. See Lon Chaney Jr. here as the Wolfman about to attack Lou Costello? Y'know why he's so pissed? Look carefully at what Lou's got in his hands. My god, he's neutered the Wolfman! Oh, Larry Talbot, the humanity...

Next up is Around the World in 80 Days. OK, fine film and all, but..."Michael Todd's show makes this a better world"? Criminy, and I thought George Clooney's Oscar speech about the nature of Hollywood was a self-important goonfest! "Makes the world a better place"? OK, sure, ya got your David Niven, ya got your Robert Morley, hell, you got your Noel Coward. But world-changing? Get out of the way, Bono, Cantinflas is shooting for your job!

Finally, the glory that IS Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman. OK, I have a special place in my heart for this late 50s schlockfest. It's cheesy, it's goofy, but heck, it's got a really, really big woman in it! And it's a hell of a lot more watchable than the Christopher Guest "remake" of the 90s. My main problem with the poster, though, is simply scale. Sure, a 50' woman is pretty amazing, but even more amazing is the relatively tiny city below. By my estimates, assuming the gargantuan babe is 50', the cars underneath her must be about 6' long, and the citizens must be about 23 inches from stem to stern. A fifty foot woman in a regular town is cool; a fifty foot woman in Tiny Town is just a bully.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

I Watch Wayyyy Too Much TV

Have you ever watched a TV show and thought to yourself "Boy, I'd like to live in THAT universe?" No? Well, of course not. You're not as messed up as me. Anyway, here are my Top Ten TV Universes In Which To Live:

10. Good Times - Now wait, let me explain. I couldn't stand living in the everyday Good Times universe, a truly insipid place (as I've said in previous posts, even though Esther Rolle railed against Jimmy Walker's character, he was the only thing worth watching on that awful program, a show that should've offended the HUMAN race). No, I just want to live on the very last episode of the show, the one where every single character suddenly realized their dreams, all at the same time! Yeah, what a bastion of realism, Esther.

9. Brisco County Jr. - I have a great fondness for the old west, and this show made it as cool as it has ever been. All the cowboy trappings, but plenty of gadgets, gizmoes, glitz and goofiness. Brisco, Lord Bowler, Sheriff Aaron Viva, and on and on. Saddle up!

8. Green Acres - I'm a great fan of Paul Henning's shows, and one benefit of living in his universe is that his productions all took place in the same world (with crossovers!). Green Acres would be my second choice of places to be dropped in the Henningverse. The simple life of Hooterville, the kindness of the residents, the breaking of reality, all of it would make life grand.

7. Heroes - OK, not as "pleasant" as most of my other choices, but it would be a world with superbeings, and that's enough for me (especially since I might be one of them). And I'm sure Hiro and I would see eye to eye on the hero philosophy.

6. Freaks and Geeks - Added here mainly because I just love the damned show so much. I'd probably fit right in, too, as I was a weird mixture of freak and geek in those years. I'd go there, as long as it didn't mean I'd spend eternity in high school.

5. Mystery Science Theater 3000 - Hey, you get to watch (and riff on) cheesy movies, you get to hang out with Joel (or Mike) and the Bots, you get to sing songs and make inventions and talk to TV's Frank and...hell, what's not to like?

4. Cheers - The song is right: sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name. You'd have friends, booze, pretzels, and no "very special episodes." Save me the corner stool.

3. Beverly Hillbillies - My fave of the Henningverse. The Clampetts are about as nice a bunch of folks as you'd ever want to meet. Granny would keep ya well fed, Ellie would take you swimming with her critters, Jethro would keep you entertained, and Jed would dispense his woodsy wisdom. And Mr. Drysdale is the bomb!

2. Leave It to Beaver - Mayfield is the very epitome of late 50s/early 60s America, with dances, football games, soda fountains, and just enough Eddie Haskell to keep things hopping. I wouldn't want to necessarily live in the Cleaver house (that'd be weird), but I'd sure love to be their next-door neighbors.

1. The Andy Griffith Show - Like this came as a surprise to anyone who knows me. If I die, I think I'd like Heaven to be a lot like Mayberry. Simple times, peaceful (except for the occasional escaped convict), and with a lawman like Barney Fife to keep things, well, nipped in the bud.

Monday, February 4, 2008

The Best Butt Ever!

Brent Butt, that is. I've grown to really enjoy Corner Gas during my trips to Vancouver, and I'm glad we're getting it in the states now. Really sharp dialogue and excellent performances all around. And any show that argues the relative elasticity of Plastic Man, Reed Richards, and Stretch Armstrong is OK by me.
Check out their website.