Souped Up

Can of Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup inside a TV test pattern with vertical colored bars

Problems continue to be had that keep me from blogging with confidence, so the Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup can is long overdue for display. More to come sooner rather than later, hopefully, including the restoration of a few recent posts that got taken down. Please check in every now and then.

The Case of the Chemicals Indicated

I’d say that a funny thing happened on my way back from a long-overdue visit to family in California, but it involves the Transportation Security Administration and wasn’t funny — except insofar as it was Batman’s fault.

NJCroce Batman figure in packaging

During a stop at Bay Area fixture Cost Plus World Market, I got the bendable figure above* as an early holiday gift to myself.

Up Your Nose with
a Rubber Flux Capacitor

This one's been percolating for a while.

Mock-up of faded, beat-up old Golden All-Stars Book cover of 'Welcome Back to the Future Kotter' with photos of 'Gabe Kaplan as Professor Kotter' and 'Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly', plus inset of red-eyed John Travolta titled 'With the Sweatbots featuring Vin-E Barbarino'

And there's no time like the present. Not only have we reached the once-far-off date to which Marty and the Professor traveled in the second Back to the Future film, but this year saw the 30th anniversary of the first movie in that trilogy as well as the (somewhat less heralded) 40th anniversary of Welcome Back, Kotter's premiere. Thus, in the grand tradition of my poster for Captain America and the Maltese Falcon and DVD case for Tarzan of the Planet of the Apes, here's a Golden Books tie-in to that hit TV show from another dimension, Welcome Back to the Future, Kotter.

Flashes of Many Worlds

Close-up of Jay Garrick in Earth-2 Flash's costume including winged helmet
Teddy Sears as Jay Garrick from Flash Ep. 2.01 "Flash of Two Worlds" © 2015 CW Network.
Photo: Cate Cameron. Character
TMDC Comics.

I didn't see Tuesday's Flash episode until after midnight — so it was a birthday present. And it was a gift to all the fans who've loved DC's multiverse for decades. I’m honestly not able to put my reaction into words, because it basically involved giving the astral projection of my 6-year-old self a high-five.

Allred in Black & White

My contributor copy of Michael Allred: Conversations, edited by Christopher Irving for University Press of Mississippi, arrived yesterday. The longest of its 13 interviews — some Q&A, some article-style — is the wide-ranging talk that Stefan Blitz and I had with Mike for Comicology in 2000. It's a smart little hardcover that is sure to be a fascinating read.

High-contrast photo of Mike Allred in black outline and fuzzy coat with his face and background in red

Allred made some noise with Grafik Musik before really turning heads on his creator-owned pop sci-fi existential superhero adventure Madman.

Purple Reign

Among several recent posts that didn't go up here when it should have (more on that another time) was a plug for the June-dated issue of ACE — All Comics Evaluated, which includes my article on the origins and Infinity Gem obsessions of Thanos. He's the fella who popped up in the end-credit tags to both Avengers films with an appearance in last year's Guardians of the Galaxy betwixt them.

Photo of 'ACE' #3 opened to spread of Thanos article

You may still be able to order a copy direct from the publisher if you can't find one at your local comics shop; look for the Godzilla cover.

... for My Thoughts

I didn't have the exact 21¢ in change in my pocket earlier tonight that I'll usually make sure is on me when I go to Chipotle, where I know my sofritas bowl is $7.21 with tax, but I did at least have the penny. The cashier apparently thought the penny was too insignificant to ring up, however, because I still got $12.79 in change for my twenty-dollar bill (and single penny). So not only wasn't I rewarded with the "How did you do that? You-- You're a warlock!" look of wide-eyed wonder I'm used to in today's world when the register displays round change, I'm now out a fricking penny.

Color Wars

Fight between light-skinned blonde woman in white dress with gold trim and brown-skinned brunette woman in blue dress with black trim

You either know about the dress or spend no time on social media and probably don't even watch the news. Kevin Kobasic, Minister of Illustration at Kevie Metal, posted this gem on Facebook last night. I sincerely apologize for linking to Buzzfeed.

Smartypants Folderol

I'm sure the Internet is full of goofs on Benedict Cumberbatch's name. The other day, however, I awoke from a dream right as I was putting together a list of just such a thing. I felt compelled to write down as many as I could before it all faded, and a few more that I brainstormed in the process, which brings us to my utterly unnecessary but hopefully amusing enough...

Top Twenty-One Things That Are Not Exactly Benedict Cumberbatch

21. Barleycorn Cabbage-Patch

20. Gryffindor Hufflepuff

19. Orthodox Crucifix

18. Ambient Temperature

17. Budapest Architect

16. Marzipan Coffee Cake

15. Broken-Tooth Crackerjack

14. Basketball Pick-Up Game

13. Batmobile Catapult

12. Baggy-Pants Hammer Time

The Nest Generations

Cover of first issue of 'ACE' magazine with photos from current DC television series and other contents hype

Jon B. Cooke, a familiar name to those who enjoy reading about the stories behind the comics, is editing a new magazine called ACE — All Comics Evaluated that launches in March. The moniker is meant to indicate both that each issue will include a price guide and that stuff from across the incredibly wide spectrum of today's comics scene will be covered. I have a retrospective in the first issue on Robin the Boy Wonder, whose 75th anniversary is nigh.

One Ticket to Paradise

Title cards (logos) for Smallville, Gotham, and proposed Krypton TV series

Smallville was a decade-long WB/CW hit that gave us the story of Clark Kent's
high-school and college years.

Fox's Gotham begins with Bruce Wayne as a boy in the aftermath of his parents' murder.

Yesterday came word that a series called Krypton is in development, focused on the life of Superman's grandfather prior to the destruction of his home planet. Really!

Red, Gold, and Green

The CW's Flash/Arrow crossover last week was loads of fun.

Grant Gustin as The Flash and Stephen Amell as The Arrow standing together in a street scene facing opposite directions
Image from The Flash Ep. 1.08 "Flash vs. Arrow" © 2014 CW. Photo: Diyah Perra.

I still hope to get to full-on reviews of both shows this season, but the perennial
6-year-old in me demands that my adult self acknowledge this super-cool undertaking now. Just seeing an arrow slice through The Flash's usual title sequence on Tuesday night and a lightning bolt streak through Arrow's on Wednesday put a big, goofy
grin on my face.

Bird in the Hand

Cover to 'Comicology' Vol. 2 #1 showing large figure of the young original Robin against a cityscape with smaller figures of Dick Grayson as Nightwing, Carrie Kelley as Robin, and Tim Drake as Robin around him
Cover A of Comicology Vol. II #1. Art © 2000 Bruce Timm. Package © 2000
Comicology TM Harbor Studios. Characters TM/® DC Comics.

I ran a history of Robin in Comicology Vol. II #1 (Spring 2000). What saw
publication was an abridged version — long story and lingering frustration — but
a fuller piece titled "Wingspan: Six Decades of Richard Grayson" went up on the website. Does anyone reading this have the text of that? I still haven't taken in the
old, dead computer from those days to see if files can be salvaged from the hard drive, and my backups are similarly inaccessible on Jaz disks. Several years ago I got to
old cached pages of the website, including the piece in question, via the Internet Archive's "Wayback Machine" but I tried that again the other day and there's now
a message saying those pages can't be crawled or displayed. (The domain was bought out from under me during trying times.) I have a friend who could make use of
the piece if we get a copy in a timely manner; you would receive at minimum a
thank-you in print if it gets used and my gratitude regardless.

Bowled Over

There's a six-minute animated short called "Feast" showing before Disney's Big
Hero 6
, which opens this weekend, and I'm not being insensitive to the cost of movie tickets when I say it's worth the price of admission all by itself.

Winston, a small gray-and-white terrier, at a food bowl full of kibble
Screencap © 2014 Disney Enterprises.

Luckily, Big Hero 6 is good enough that you don't really have to test that premise,
but this little not-so-shaggy dog story really is a treat.

Panel to Frame

I've been working on reviews of Fox's Gotham and DC's burgeoning Arrow/Flash universe at The CW, as well as a general piece on the recent spate of comics getting adapted to television and film. The latter would be up by now if I hadn't started tinkering with images to accompany it. Which is how these happened.

Superman heaving a car over his head in 'Superman Returns' in homage to cover of 'Action Comics' #1, part of which is excerpted and overlaid onto the movie still
Inset: Detail of cover to Action Comics #1 © 1938 DC Comics.
Photo: Still from
Superman Returns © 2006 Warner Bros. Entertainment.

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Mash Game

Among the first spec pieces I wrote after college in an attempt to broaden my fledgling freelance career beyond the comics industry was an article that revolved around what we now call mashups.

Mock DVD cover for 'Tarzan and the Planet of the Apes' featuring Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan with ape face looming in background

It's one of the many things I look forward to finding in my files one day, not least because I can't remember all of the titles it contained. Tarzan of the Planet of the Apes was not one of them, I don't think, even though it fit the premise of merging titles without adding anything new — and even though Tarzan of the Apes + Planet
of the Apes
is (at the risk of spraining my arm patting myself on the back) gorgeous
in both its simplicity and its potential.

Gotham City 49 Cents

The United States Postal Service announced this past week that it would be releasing
a set of Batman stamps to commemorate the character's 75th anniversary.

Stamp of Batman, drawn by Curt Swan, swinging on rope and waving / Underneath picture it reads Batman - Forever - USA, with line through Forever to invalidate picture's use as postage

As with most stamps anymore, they're self-adhesive, so Batman still can't be licked.

Pop 100

My grandfather about to putt a golf ball into a hole with a '90' flag
Art © 2004 Brian Saner Lamken.

Grandpop would have been 100 years old today. If that sounds like an abstract anniversary to you, I understand — we all will be would-have-been 100 years old eventually, assuming we don't actually make it. He only died at 96 in 2011, though, and his wife (my mother's mother) is still with us at 98½; his loss remains keenly felt.

Last's Man Sitting

Cookie Monster and John Oliver at news desk in suits

I praised the pleasant surprise that was John Oliver's hosting of The Daily Show
when Jon Stewart took a sabbatical last summer. And I was not alone. Many TV critics predicted that Oliver would be promoted from correspondent to host of his own show — probably someplace other than Comedy Central, since a third half-hour* of satirical news and punditry there wasn't likely. That someplace turned out to be HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.