Wednesday, September 23, 2009


BEATLEMANIA RETURNS! With the reissue of the Beatles catalog and the release of the Beatles:Rock Band video game, all on 9/9/09, there is almost too much Beatle news to report! I'll try to condense it to a 'best of'...

WELL, the wait really is over for Beatle fans who've been waiting a long time for EMI and the Fabs to utilize the technology of master tape to digital transfer that has advanced in the 20+ years since the Beatles albums were originally released on CD. I'm waiting for Santa to bring mine, but I've sampled a friend's and they sound AMAZING. The albums are available in stereo and all but the last three in mono, though the stereo releases can be had separately or as a box set, while the mono discs are part of the box set only. There is a petition out there asking EMI to release the mono discs as separate albums.

SELLIng a million albums in the U.S. in five days means chart domination. The first week, the Beatles reissues took 13 of the top 14 spots on the Billboard Catalog album chart(Michael Jackson sales are still going strong). Reissues are exempt from the Billboard 200, but the box sets are considered new product. The Stereo box debuted at #15 and the Mono box at #40. The Mono box, which the press release and originally said would be limited to 10,000, sold 12,000 in the U.S. alone the first week.

'NOWHere Boy, the biopic about John Lennon's teenage years, premieres next month at the London Film Festival. The movie is based on the memoirs by Julia Baird, John's half-sister, and stars Kristin Scott-Thomas as Aunt Mimi.

CHEAP Trick has been performing the 'Sgt. Pepper' album live from start to finish in special concerts. It's a great idea, and the musicianship is terrific, tho' Robin Zander's lead vocal on almost every song becomes a little tiresome. It's also seems a bit of bad timing to release it two weeks before the remasters and a flood of Beatle product. How did they get it to sound so much like the original? Must be Geoff Emerick, original 'Pepper' engineer who co-produced the recording. 'Sgt. Pepper Live' is now available on DVD and CD. Fear not, ye fans of Cheap Trick's original music, their tour with Def Leppard takes off next month. Also, look for Bad Company's live tour of the Monkees' 'Headquarters' coming soon.

AS IF there wasn't enough caterwauling on "The View", the shrieking sirens welcome Yoko Ono on Wednesday (9/30). Ono proves her business savvy once again. With all the publicity over the Beatles remasters, she's obviously an in-demand media guest. What better time to release her new album? No need to introduce the ladies of "The View" to primal scream therapy as they've been broadcasting it for years.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


About a year ago, my pal Todd Fox asked me why there was a Steve Canyon costume for Captain Action. To catch up those outside my esoteric enclave, Steve Canyon is a comic strip hero created by Milton Caniff and Captain Action was an action figure produced between 1966-68. You bought the basic Captain Action figure and then bought costumes/disguises/uniforms to turn him into other super-heroes like Superman, Batman and Flash Gordon.

Todd's question intrigued me. I doubted that the young boys who were fans of Captain Action would also be fans of the Steve Canyon comic strip. The "Steve Canyon" TV series (currently available on DVD)had been off for years and the merchandising associated with the show was long gone. He had no cartoon or comic book, so what was the connection?

I decided to research the problem at my favorite library, the Cartoon Research Library and Museum at OSU. It was also during this visit that I interviewed library curator Lucy Shelton Caswell. I looked through boxes of material relating to Steve Canyon and Captain Action, most of it correspondence between Caniff's agent, Toni Mendez, and Ideal, the toy company that made Captain Action.

Some of this research has made it into a terrific new book - Captain Action: the Original Superhero Action Figure. The book, by comics maven Michael Eury, gives you everything you ever wanted to know about this beloved line of toys. It has a history of the toy, complete character biographies and pictures of every toy and ancillary item in the Captain Action line. Steve Canyon gets plenty of coverage, equal to that of Superman and other better-known characters. If you're a Captain Action collector, or recall him from your childhood days, this book is a must-have.

Eury's origin of Captain Action (C.A.) finds the Ideal toy company looking to compete with Hasbro's popular G.I. Joe line. With C.A., you didn't have to buy multiple figures to have different adventures. Using the basic figure as the template, you could make him become other heroes. My friend Jim Alexander, a Captain Action fanatic and contributor to the book, theorizes that in trying to compete with G.I. Joe, Ideal wanted to some military characters the toy could become. Thus we had Sgt. Fury (army), Steve Canyon (air force), and even Flash Gordon (astronaut). Gordon, along with Canyon and the Phantom, were all comic strip heroes used for Captain Action, so maybe more young boys followed the adventure strips than I realize.

Another possible reason for choosing Canyon is that Ideal was also the licensor for toys from the 1958/59 "Steve Canyon" tv series, specifically the Jet Helmet and the Glider Bomb. Based on that existing relationship, it was simple enough to modify the old contract to fit the new Captain Action deal. Like the fervor surrounding the TV series, enthusiasm for Captain Action didn't last very long and the line ceased production in 1969. The book details how that brief boom created a special bond between child and toy that engendered loyalty and resurging interest into the present day. Eury has done toy collectors a huge favor by creating this comprehensive and entertaining document that is fun without being frivolous and definitive without being dry.

Friday, September 11, 2009


TV's biggest night, the Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony, is Sunday night. Being a big TV fan, I wanted to weigh in with my picks on some of the major categories as well as mention a few that I feel were overlooked for a nomination. There's not a lot for me to quibble with for two reasons: 1)since having my son Noah I've watched much less TV, and 2)most of the shows I like are well-represented. I don't list all the nominees, so if you want to see the entire list, it's at the Emmy site. Here goes...

Flight of the Conchords - I never laugh harder than at the misadventures of this New Zealand novelty duo, Bret and Jemaine. I especially seeing Murray, the band manager and my favorite character, getting more of the spotlight this season. From organizing a motley street gang to holding a benefit concert for canine epilepsy, this show might be too offbeat for Emmy voters, but a win could lead to a third season!


STEVE CARELL as Michael Scott on "The Office" - Carell is a four-time nominee with no wins. This was really his season, striking out on his own with the Michael Scott Paper Company, only to return in all his mismanaging glory. His biggest competition, Alec Baldwin, won last year, so Emmy may shine favorably.

TINA FEY as Liz Lemon on "30 Rock" - She's won the Golden Globe, the SAG and the WGA this year. Her fifth Emmy would tie it all up in a nice bow. The public reaction to her non-"30 Rock" turns as Sarah Palin on "SNL" (which already won her an Emmy at the non-televised event) erases any doubt as to who's winning this one.


RAINN WILSON as Dwight Schrute on "The Office" - What, no Emmy yet for Dwight Schrute? When the book of most memorable modern TV characters is written, reserve a chapter for Wilson's intensely earnest and uncomfortably creepy assistant (to the) general manager. Maybe three times is a charm. Though in voters' "30 Rock" fever, it could go to my fellow UE alum Jack McBrayer (who's role as Kenneth is also deserving, but maybe next year).

BRIAN BAUMGARTNER as Kevin Malone on "The Office" - What is it about Kevin? Is it his blatant ogling of Pam? Is it his ineptitude at his job? I think what was Emmy-worth this season was his articulating the difference between "is she hot or not?" and "would you do her?". How many other TV characters have their own movie trailer?

JENNA FISCHER as Pam Beesly on "The Office". She's not even nominated in what may be her strongest year in the series. She had a lot more do to when Pam quit Dunder Mifflin to join Michael's ill-conceived start-up company. Does she deserve an Emmy? Yes. Did I add her to this entry just to post hot pictures of Jenna Fischer? Um...probably.


CHRISTIAN CLEMENSON as Jerry Espenson on "Boston Legal" - Ok, so he's already won (as a guest actor in '05 before they made him a regular). But his character, a lawyer struggling with Asperger syndrome, grew so much in the intervening years that the performance is deserving of a new win.

JOHN SCURTI as Lt. Ken "Lou" Shea on 'Rescue Me'. Scurti's character, to my thinking, is the heart of the show. His character is a great counterpart to Denis Leary's Tommy Gavin. I think part of him wishes he had what Tommy Gavin once had - the hot wife and the kids, another part is sickened that Tommy squandered his blessings, and another part is Tommy's balls-to-the-wall best friend for life. The audience is always hoping that he'll turn it around. In five years he's gone from a suicidal low to deliriously happy in love to a being resigned to a life of drunkenness and failure. This year he was on the upswing again, coping through it all with his own brand of caustic humor.

Into the Storm - Actor Brendan Gleeson embodies Winston Churchill in this portrayal of the war years. More force of nature than man, you believe a Churchill-less Britain would have gone down in defeat.

Generation Kill - The writers behind one of my favorite all-time TV shows, "The Wire", give us a look into the lives of a Marine unit at the beginning of the current Iraq war. In the fight for their lives, inept commanders, language barriers and confusing rules of engagement become their biggest enemies. I was actually surprised to see it on the list, since these award shows generally favor recent fare, and this came out last summer. It's out on DVD.

It's clearly the year of "30 Rock", with 22 nominations and four out of the five spots for this category. I'm going to cross my fingers for the fifth spot - the "Prime Minister" episode of "Flight of the Conchords". Murray attempts to get the visiting prime minister of New Zealand a meeting with Obama. Jemaine finds unexpected benefits of being an Art Garfunkel impersonator. Hilarity ensues.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the Emmys (there's actually a good host this year).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Continuing our reproduction of a May 29, 1966 Sunday comics section (other examples found here.

I didn't grow up with the 'Archie' strip, so it's one that's always a pleasant surprise. I'm more familiar with the Archie comic books and the Archies cartoon show. The strip finds the familiar 'Archie' gang in a gag-a-day format that's had a phenomenal run from 1942 that continues today. The strip has usually been produced by writers and artists who've also worked on the Archie comic book line. The original, and longest-running, artist was Bob Montana, who set the gold standard for the look of the Archie characters. IDW, which produced the 'Terry & the Pirates' collections, has recently announced a plan to reprint these early strips, edited by our pal, Dean Mullaney.

The strip's remaining roster reads like a who's who of Archie legends - John Goldwater, Dan DeCarlo and Stan Goldberg. The strip has been written by Hamilton, Ohio resident Craig Boldman since 1992. It is currently drawn by Fernando Ruiz, although the Creators Syndicate website still has the bio for the recently retired Henry Scarpelli.

Archie has been in the news recently. Last year it was due to a controversial move by Archie Comics to create a line of new look comics, with more updated, realistic versions of their characters aimed at the tween audience. This past month it was due to the announcement that Archie is marrying Veronica. The story takes place in the future, however, and may or may not happen (also known as an "imaginary story", popularized by the Superman titles of the 1950s/60s). If your looking for a copy of Archie #600, in which Archie pops the question, go see my friend Kendall at Up Up and Away (he ordered too many).

I'm continually amazed by the longevity and success of Archie Comics. There's not much interest in Archie in the insular comics world, so his popularity and success comes from regular, everyday folks. His digest-sized exploits can still be found in grocery store checkout lanes across the country. What is the appeal? Is it Archie as everyman? Is it the eternal love triangle of Archie/Betty/Veronica? Or do people just find the name Jughead funny? Whatever it is, we're about 65 years in, and Archie's not even close to retirement.

The strip presented above is by Bob Montana, who at this point had been on the job for 24 years! Instead of Archie and his pals, this strip features Riverdale High's beleaguered principal, Mr. Weatherbee. I love that first panel. Oh, for the days when secretaries sat on the corners of desks!