Sunday, September 16, 2012

A little of this and a little of that......

Time to ruminate on a few collected topics......

The French press, it seems, has an unhealthy obsession with British royalty. 15 years after Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris, trying to escape the relentless pursuit of paparazzi, her son, Prince William, and his bride of a year, Kate, now the Duchess of Cambridge, were photographed from a distance by a French paparazzo while vacationing in France a few weeks ago. The French magazine, Closer, acquired some grainy pictures of a topless Duchess, and decided against all common sense to publish them. An Italian publication owned by the same people who run Closer, plan to run some of those same pictures. Understandably, the British are very angry, a year removed from a phone hacking scandal involving their own tabloid press, which would explain why the pictures aren't being run in any UK papers. Closer's publisher doesn't understand what all the fuss is, proving to be completely clueless. Like, that shouldn't be a surprise now, should it?

Tonight's WWE Night of Champions pay-per-view will mark the first such event in several years not to have Jerry "The King" Lawler at ringside doing commentary. Lawler, 62, suffered a heart attack on the air on Monday, this after having competed in an "impromptu" tag team match on Raw. Former champion and former commentator John "Bradshaw" Layfield, whose pursuits now include mountain climbing for charity, will sub for Lawler tonight & tomorrow. Beyond that point remains a question mark.

Lawler's medical status, coupled with litigation involving rival TNA, has WWE holding off on contacting Ric Flair about another go-round. Flair, also in his early 60's, might've been in consideration for a on-camera role as a figurehead GM had it not been for the lawsuit filed by TNA back in May. With Flair unavailable, WWE had to go to plan "B", moving Booker T out of the Smackdown broadcast booth and into the GM's office there, while AJ Lee becomes the youngest GM in the 10-year history of that gimmick over on Raw. Both GM's have been under fire of late, leading to speculation that one or both would be dismissed in favor of one singular GM. Taking Flair's age into account in relation to Lawler, I think WWE might be shying away from having Flair step back into the ring, 4 1/2 years after he'd "retired", rather than take another chance on a potential tragedy.

Newsarama earlier this week presented a list of 10 DC books they think might be on the chopping block due to poor sales. Some might surprise you. Others won't. To wit:

Batwing: Apparently, being part of the Bat-line isn't enough. Maybe too many books in that line is proving to be counter-productive, sales-wise.

Deathstroke, Savage Hawkman, Grifter: What do these three books have in common? All of them were given over to Rob Liefeld after his remake of Hawk & Dove fell by the wayside in May. Liefeld has since left DC. I called this myself some time ago.

Legion Lost: Placing members of the futuristic Legion of Superheroes in the 21st century should've worked out nicely, given the Legion's fanbase. Not so fast. The flaws in DC's strategy of a year ago are finally catching up with the company.

I, Vampire & Frankenstein, Agent of S.H.A.D.E.: The bloom's off the rose for these two. Andrew Bennett, according to recent solicitations, had given in to his darker urges, or so it would seem, but DC apparently is unwilling to wait for the release of the final "Twilight" movie before pulling the plug on this series. As for Frankenstein, go back to what I said above.

The Fury of Firestorm, the Nuclear Men & Blue Beetle: Two more reboots that readers have rejected with their wallets. From an aesthetic viewpoint, I wasn't keen on Ronnie Raymond being retconned back into a teenager and paired the more recent Firestorm, Jason Rusch, but then adding nuclear people from around the globe, including an evil Firehawk, was asking for trouble. As for the Beetle, the second time around for the 21st century Beetle, Jaime Reyes, was no different than the first time.

GI Combat: On a whim, I bought the first three issues and had planned on doing a review, which I will do now.

In reviving a dormant title that had been cancelled some 30 years ago, DC was hoping that familiar features might spark some interest. Unfortunately, since neither of the features was the one that was the signature of GI Combat's earlier DC run, the Haunted Tank, which is soon to finally debut, readers turned away, put off by the $3.99 cover price. Let's consider what was within.

The War That Time Forgot originally appeared in Star Spangled War Stories in the 60's, then was revived around 1980 in Weird War Tales, with said revival perhaps inspired by a feature film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' The Land That Time Forgot, which hit theatres a few years prior and was airing on TV periodically by 1980. The 2012 version, complete with modern acrouments like computers, has some gorgeous painted artwork by Ariel Olivetti that shouldn't be wasted. A trade paperback collection would be nice. Meanwhile, The Unknown Soldier not only appeared in Star Spangled War Stories; he'd eventually take over the book by the end of the 70's. The concept has been rebooted for the 4th time since the original series ended in the early 80's, and has also been advanced forward to today. Problem is, as with the late 80's reboot, the new Soldier has some psych issues. All the WWII Soldier had was a disfigured face, which explained the bandages, compensated with a talent for disguise. It made for some great stories which should be collected in a TPB, not just a black & white Showcase reprint volume. Today's writers seem to think that a protagonist with psych issues is still "edgy". No, it's not. It's become a cliche, and it gets boring after a while.

Thusly, GI Combat merits a C+ (War That Time Forgot is an A+, offset by the D for Unknown Soldier).

What else might I be reading? Moonstone issued a 0 issue sneak peek of their adaptation of The Saint, adapting original stories by creator Leslie Charteris, with artwork by veteran Eduardo Barreto, whose work I've enjoyed since the 80's. This is going on my pull list. Barreto's interpretation of Simon Templar looks nothing like the actors who've played him, including Roger Moore and Ian Oglivy, or even, on radio, the late Vincent Price. Rating: A.

IDW has issued Classic Popeye, a reprint companion to the current series. This collects original strips dating back to 1948 (!) by Bud Sagendorf. While the local shop dealer dropped the first issue in my hold, I didn't want it. Popeye #4 was late for no apparent reason, and a promised cover by iconic artist John Byrne wasn't ready, but now they're promising Byrne for issue 5 (yes, it is an ongoing series). Meanwhile, Dynamite Entertainment has the license to another of my favorites, The Shadow. Garth Ennis is writing, and the stories have more gore and violence than DC was allowed to present in their first run back in the 70's. Dynamite also obtained the rights to reprint Howard Chaykin's modern-day update of the character from 1987, but I've disowned that version long ago. The latest issue is also late. Hmmmmm........!

The Shadow gets an A+. Popeye is worth an A.

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