Monday, December 18, 2006

This is an upgrade????

Making the rounds on the net, is this cover image for the upcoming Betty and Veronica Double Digest #151 . I guess the folks at Archie Comics felt that the old Don Decarlo look wasn't good enough.

But without that signature style, are they still Archie comics characters?

Or perhaps more importantly, will Archie still have that goofy cross hatch side burns on his head?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Double Reviews to sart the week

Today I got e-mails for not one, but TWO new reviews on
Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak #1.

(You know, if I got as many Comic Shops to order the book as I've got reviews I wouldn't have to keep shamelessly plug the book on this blog!)

The first is from Kevin Agot, another reviewer on the Comics, Books and Graphic Novel Review site, The Comics Review:

- The Comics Review
Action Figures #1 gets my vote for the most creative comic book cover of 2006. It shows our intrepid author/illustrator as a real action figure, Richard Marzelak, encased in typical, plastic packaging trying to punch his way out. With an introduction to our character in this manner, what’s it like on the inside?

A few years ago I watched Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor. Although I’ve been collecting comics for almost 40 years, reading the stories of day-to-day living never really appealed to me. They seemed extremely mundane as compared to the multi-cosmic excesses of megalomaniacal Little Caesars trying to thrash XYZ Universes in order to remake in their own, glorious image. But, after having read comics for almost 40 years (have I mentioned that I’ve read comics for almost 40 years?) my eyes often wander from capes and cowls to something…different. In the wake of newly expanded and freely experimental mindset, I’ve started buying books that don’t begin with an “X” or a “Mighty” or “Indomitable” or some other hyperactive adjective.

“Action Figure #1” begins in the not-too-distant future (uh-oh, a “cosmic” beginning) whereupon newfound homeowners find a box of journals, day-to-day notes and photos of Richard Marcej. This is a rather inventive way to introduce a character justifying a closer look at his daily travails and victories. We find that Richard is an artist struggling to do well in life…but, he’s instead, dealt a few bad hands. The artwork and writing beautifully articulate Richard’s life. The choice of black and white (while possibly chosen for strictly financial reasons) perfectly frame his life as nothing otherworldly or spectacular but, still moving and impacting, nonetheless. The opening sequence is reminiscent of some of the straighter, understated artwork of Mad Magazine’s Don Martin. When the book takes a look inside the journals of Richard’s life, the artwork morphs into line work reminiscent of the great Richard Howell. Marcej is a great storyteller with beautiful artwork that serves to keep the story grounded in reality.

“Action Figure #1” shows us a glimpse into the life of Richard Marzelak. As comparatively mundane as this book may seem when placed next to the Big Two’s spandex “Flavor of the Month” titles, Marcej shows us that true life can be just as fascinating, if we just take a look and pay attention. I highly recommend this book!

Writing Rating: (9.5/10)
Artistic Rating: (9.5/10)
Overall Rating: (9.5/10)


The second is from Marc Mason the reviewer from Comics Waiting Room:

ACTION FIGURE #1 is written and drawn by Richard Marcej. Marcej was an artist and designer for both Hasbro and Hallmark early in his career, and this series was set to be a semi-autobiographical take on his experiences working for those companies and what came afterwards. Unfortunately, ACTION FIGURE didn’t make the Diamond minimum for orders, so the author is now selling the book direct through his Baboon Books website. It’s sort of a shame that the book didn’t get wide distribution; this opening tale of his stand-in “Richard Marzelak” is an accomplished piece of work, even with its flaws. Marcej certainly has plenty of artistic talent, and he shows a decent grasp of layout for someone putting together his first comic. The story of an everyman trying to figure out his dreams and escaping a soul-sucking job rings true as well. The one place where he does go off the rails a bit is in his depiction of Marzelak’s character. He comes across as very whiny more than once, making it a bit difficult to sympathize with him. Still, this is a book with real merit, and worth your attention.

Another big thanks from me to The Comics Review and Comics Waiting Room for reading and reviewing my book!

And as always, for those interested, you can see preview pages click here
and buy it click here.

Friday, December 15, 2006

This would make a cool Christmas Gift...

If you've got a spare $25,000 sitting around!

And before you think all it does is collect dust, it has these features;

Audio features
- Internal 240 watt stereo sound system.
- Torso knob functions as Robot volume control.
- Over 500 voice tracks by Richard Tufeld, the voice of the original Robot. These are stored on an internal Compact Flash memory card to allow easy updates and customization.
- An external stereo input jack allows the user to override the built in voice library and use the Robot as a normal stereo system, juke box, etc.

- Animated Crown
- Animated Finger Lights
- Animated Ear Sensors
- Animated Torso Rotation
- Animated "functional" Soil Sampler

- A 5 button key chain remote control allow you to discretely activate the Robot. Functions include turning the Robot's torso left/right, directing the Robot's voice to respond "Affirmative/Negative", activating the Robot's soil sampling sequence.
- The 10 chest buttons are functional and activate various phrases. These phrases can be customized by Richard Tufeld at an additional cost.
- Master power switch on the back of right tread section, next to power cord plug and external audio input jack.
- The "Programming bay" toggle switches will be used for Robot Activation, Audio Source Selection and animation enable/disable.
- Functional Power Pack - Pulling the Robot's "Power Pack" will shut down the Robot with the "Aaghhhhhh..." sound, just as it did in the TV series. Plugging in the power pack activates the Robot and he will speak an appropriate phrase, "Who turned out the lights?", etc.
- Torso knob functions as the Robot's sound system volume control.

- Torso is motorized and rotates automatically and via Remote Control
- Radar (head section) rotates manually
- Arms extend / retract manually
- Claws, rotate open and close in sync manually

So, if you're looking to get me something at the last minute, you can always stop over here.
and order one!

"Danger Will Robinson" indeed!

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Yeah, but how will he be able to shine shoes??

Adapting animated characters to live action movies or TV shows is tricky and usually ends up pretty bad (anyone see either Scooby-Doo films?) so the prospect of a live action Underdog
movie wasn't on any of my must see lists.

Even less so after seeing this just released poster.

I can almost see the newspaper & magazine movie review headlines now:

"A howling mess"

"Look up on the screen, it's a bird, it's a plane it's a DOG!" (of a film)

Monday, December 11, 2006

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Friday, December 08, 2006

Hey folks, another Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak review!

Just got an e-mail that another reviewer on the Comics, Books and Graphic Novel Review site, The Comics Review, has just posted another review on my new comic, Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak. So let's see what he has to say:

A review from Marc Arnold of The Comics Review

- The Comics Review
A More Fantastical Version of the Autobiographical Comic Book" - The Comics Review
I really liked this one. Artist and writer Richard Marcej takes the Harvey Pekar "American Splendor" idea one step further. Instead of being strictly biographical, Marcej assumes an alter-ego of Richard Marzelak and presents more fantastical autobiographical tales about Marzelak as a "Disgruntled Artist, Struggling Cartoonist and Action Figure". In this premiere issue Marzelak dreams he's flying before coming back down to Earth to finish up his comic book deadline. While completing the book, the characters he's drawing come to life. Though essentially a black and white book, the fantasy elements are dashed with a shade of red for a most interesting effect. The series promises to continue and explore Marzelak's origins and how he got his job at Hasmark, the fictional company he works for.


Writing Rating: (9.5/10)
Artistic Rating: (9.5/10)
Overall Rating: (9.5/10)

Another big thanks from me to the gang at The Comics Review for reading and reviewing my book!

And as always, for those interested, you can see preview pages click here
and buy it click here.

Today's Gag Comic.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

"You'll Repulser Ray Your Eye Out Kid!"

Last night while watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann they covered the story about Brian Jones and Ralphie's house from A Christmas Story.

Brian Jones, an ultra-fan of the excellent movie A Christmas Story, had bought and restored the original three-story wood frame house that was used in the film as the home for the Old Man's family. He poured over $500,000 into this house (and the house across the street) and is giving tours and selling souvenirs to try to recoup some of his investment.

Now you'd think that alone would be enough to qualify as an odd story.
But nope.

During the story, while discussing whether or not any of the actors have visited this new "tourist attraction" (and yes Ian Petrella who played Randy has stopped by) it was mentioned that Peter Billingsly, Ralphie himself, hasn't been able to appear because of his busy work schedule.

With his child acting days behind him Billingsly has been working more behind the scenes as a producer. His work has won him an Emmy for producing the critically acclaimed show Dinner For Five and recently served as co-producer for the Jennifer Aniston film The Break-Up.

So what's this current project that's keeping him so busy that he can't visit the old homestead?

He's Executive Producer for the upcoming Iron Man movie.

(I wonder if he'll have a scene with a kid sticking his tongue on Iron Man?)

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What I've Been Watching on DVD: Green Acres - The Complete Second Season

When it comes to comedy, especially that on television, we're currently experiencing a dark, desolate era. Folks, there ain't nothing funny on Network TV! Well, occasionally I can still get a chuckle out of The Simpsons and Family Guy can still squeeze out a laugh or two, but that's about it. (and please, don't throw NBC's The Office at me, it's nothing but a pale imitation of the far superior ORIGINAL BBC The Office.)

Even late night, which at one time was the place for cutting edge humor has nothing. Saturday Night Live has been nothing but a pre-packaged 90 minute snooze-fest for decades, and Letterman should have stayed on at 12:30 when he was actually funny.

No, these are desperate times to find laughs.

Thank goodness we have DVD sets. At least there we can watch something that, even though we've seen it before, perhaps dozens of times, it's still better than watching the "new" episodes of The Class.

So I just finished watching the last disk on the Second Season DVD of Green Acres. Now I can go on and on lauding this show as one of the funniest and craziest TV sitcoms of all time. But I'm afraid it would fall on deaf ears.

Those of us who've watched the show know how funny it can be, but to many who've never seen an episode, it's nothing more than an old sitcom about a talking pig. (which isn't true, but then what would they know, they've never seen the show!)

Instead, I'll just tell you why you should either buy or Netflix this set.

By 1965, in it's second season, Green Acres was beginning to evolve into what would become one of the zaniest of all time. Even in Season One, which established the fish-out-of-water premise, signs of this change was evident. But by Season two, they were in full swing.

In Season Two, Arnold Ziffel, the TV watching pig hadn't yet become the shows "break-out star", that wouldn't happen until Season Three. No, this year we continued to watch the growth of just how weird Hooterville was becoming. While re-watching these 41 year old episodes, it dawned on me perhaps why these shows still held up. They seemed to have their feet in both the past and future of comedy.

A somewhat typical episode of Green Acres would allow for each oddball character to confront the show's reality foundation, Eddie Albert's Oliver Wendell Douglas, and do their comedy bit. Kind of like an old vaudeville sketch. Whether it was Mr. Haney suddenly appearing to sell him a piece of junk (which Mr. Douglas just happens to need) or his wife Lisa having a fractured Hungarian-to-English conversation with her husband or my personal favorite character, County Agent Hank Kimbel appearing in his corn field talking, but making no sense. Some 20 years later Bob Newhart would do something similar with all his odd supporting characters on Newhart .

Along with these callbacks to old comedy standards, what helped set Green Acres
apart from the shows at it's time was it's, for want of a better word, bizarreness. From breaking the fourth wall, to actually seeing it's credits appear in front of them, to Arnold the pig signing legible autographs, the odd zaniness of this show hasn't been topped by network comedies. (though shows like Nightcourt for instance has tried, they haven't come close.)

Some highlights from this disk set:

"I Didn't raise My Pig to be a Soldier" - Arnold gets drafted into the army. Only Oliver Douglas, noted pig lawyer, can save him.

"A Square is Not Round" - Oliver has a hen that lays square eggs. The ending is a bit of a cop out, but it still works.

"You Ought to be in Pictures" - The Department of Agriculture wants to film a movie in Hooterville of how NOT to farm. This of course leads the towns folks to think that Hollywood is coming to town, especially when the man making the film is named Jim Stewart.

"The Beverly Hilbillies" - The town is performing a play based on one of the scripts from an episode of "The Beverly Hilbillies" . It's worth it just to watch Eva Gabor portraying Granny with an Hungarian accent and Eddie Albert playing Jethro Bodine.

and finally, if I needed one episode on these disks to show someone who's never seen Green Acres a sample of what they'd missed, it might be Never Start Talking Unless your voice comes out . An episode that begins with incorrect credits and characters having to bang their heads until their voice matched their lips.

Now that's something you never saw on Friends!
(though I would have liked to bang some of their heads around...)

Today's Gag Comic.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

What I've Been Watching: Heroes

With every new Fall Season it seems as if the Networks come up with either bad copies of already successful shows, some new sitcom starring the latest lame "hot" star out there., or worst of all, more *ugh* "Reality Shows".

Last year we had a lot of Lost wannabes. We were inundated with the likes of Invasion, Supernatural and Fathom. (I think that's what they were called, they were all pretty forgettable). This year they lost the horror/suspense aspect and hung on to the serial format.

Now we have a ton of shows that "require" the viewer to tune in EVERY week, or be horribly lost (sorry about the pun).

So far shows like Vanished (has well... disappeared),
Kidnapped (is abducted) and The Nine (is out for the count) are proving that not only can you miss an episode, hell, why not miss 'em all. They ain't worth your time, cause if they don't catch on REAL quick - voooomp! They're gone!

The one exception though, is Heroes.

I knew I'd have to check this one out when I read about it last Spring. A show about ordinary, everyday people discovering that have extraordinary abilities, super powers if you will. For someone who's been reading comic books for nearly 40 years, and a bunch of them of the super powers genre, yeah, I had to tune.

To keep the comparison going, unlike Lost which began with a bang (if not a crash) and kept up at a high speed, Heroes started off sluggish and just plodded along for the first few episodes. We were introduced to a bevy of characters and while we discovered them, they were discovering themselves (well, not that way!) but their new abilities. It wasn't simply discover powers, design uniform then fly off and beat up bad guy, no, no tights here.

So who are these Heroes ?
We have Nathan Petrelli who can fly,
his brother Peter takes on others abilities, when he's near them (like a Mimic),
Officer Matt Parkman, the mind reading cop,
Niki Sanders the online stripping single mom who has an evil twin persona (kind of like a female "Brother VooDoo". No one will get that reference.)
Her son, Micah can control machines
while Nikki's convict husband can phase through objects (think the Vision or Kitty Pryde),
The indestructible cheerleader, Claire (Wolverine without the claws) and
finally, everyone's fave, Hiro, our geeky Japanese transporter who can bend time

There are others as well, which was my early problem with the show. The constant new character, with powers would be thrust at us while explanations of others hung in the air. Like I said earlier the first few episodes weren't compelling and had NBC used a quick trigger Heroes could have joined the other Fall casualties. What kept it alive was the word of mouth and buzz on the net, climbing ratings and the fact that NBC's Fall lineup sucked so bad they could ill afford another cancelled show.

By about the fourth episode though Heroes began to hit it's stride. Maybe we had learned enough about the characters that we were caught up in their actions, or that the story, with it's revelation of the impending doom was shown, or maybe it was the appearance of "Samurai Hiro from the Future", in any case this was NBC's Must See TV.

Last night was the 11th episode of Heroes and the last new episode until January 22nd! This, by the way, is the new trend in serial shows. Start the season with a handful of episodes, take a month or so break, then return with all new shows and more importantly NO reruns to screw up the flow of the story. I agree with this move, or like what FOX does with 24, start the season late so you won't screw up the flow with repeats. Sure, it's bitch, but I can wait.

If you haven't yet seen Heroes hopefully NBC will have the smarts to use the time between now and January 22 to rerun all 11 episodes. If they'd ask me (ha!) I'd run two episodes every Saturday night, from 8-10 PM. It's not as if the networks run anything on Saturdays anyway, so why not take advantage of the time slots?

So, until we return next year, when the villainous Sylar (the "brain stealer") will be once again loose, and the Heroes, many who have yet to meet each other, will be figuring out if it's possible to prevent the upcoming destruction. The questions lingering after last night's episode is:
a) No one's safe, not even a character who's been around since the beginning
b) Is Hiro unable to change future events?
c) What really is the motivation behind Claires' father's actions?
d) Could Peter the Mimic be the unwilling tool for the future deaths of thousands, perhaps millions?

Ah, but Like any good adventure comic, we'll have to wait, cause it's
to be continued...

Today's Gag Comic.

Monday, December 04, 2006

More than meets the... d'oh!

The other day I was talking about the anticipated movies in 2007 and how I looked forward to them with geek-bated breath (now there's an image...) It was pointed out to me this morning, and rightfully so, that I omitted to include Transformers the Movie!

You'd think that since I was there in the days when the original Transformers were started and spent many a day drawing and inking numerous illustrations of those form changing robots. (and even had my name in the credits of the original animated Transformers movie from the 80's) I shoulda remembered the new big budget movie!

So with that in mind, the schedule for the 2007 geek-fest is:
February - Ghost Rider
May - Spider-Man 3
June - Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer
July - Transformers the Movie!

There, that's it!
Unless I'm forgetting....

Today's Gag Comic.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

I'm no longer a Music Download Virgin...

...thanks to Lee Feldman.

Let me explain.

I've always been the type who likes to have the complete package. You know, whether it's a CD, DVD or even the older formats of LP's & VHS. The CD cover, included booklets, lyrics, liner notes and a nice case ( and as anyone who knows me, I like to keep stuff, collect stuff and never throw them out ).

I'm always the type who likes to buy in person as well and support the local brick & mortar store. I like to buy my comics at a local comic shop, rather than an online store, or my music & books at a local record or book store. There's something about just browsing, seeing and holding what I'm about to buy.

And finally (and especially) as a creative person myself, I'm the type who likes to support the artist. I know how difficult it can be to try and get your creative work out there and would never use a Napster or any other type of illegal free download. Why would I want to screw the artist out of the money they deserve for their work that I obviously want?

Well, recently thanks to online music listening stations like Pandora Music Radio I've been able to hear artists and bands that I was either vaguely aware of or had never heard of, and now enjoy. It's as if I was back in the 1980's again listening to college radio (like good ol' WBRU from Brown University and Providence, RI.) That's the good part.

Now for the bad. I like all this new music that I'm hearing and would like to own hard copies of their work, so where do I get their CD's? Brick & mortar Music/Records/CD stores?

Fat chance. In the last few months, in case you didn't know, long time music store chain, Tower Records were going out of business. After hearing that news I drove to the nearby Tower store in King of Prussia (and this was before they were picked clean due to % off sales) and wow, they had NO selection! If I wanted the latest Britney Spears or the new flavor of the month Rap star they had tons of that crap, but try for anyone different or not well known, forget it!

And Tower's not the only one. Best Buy, Circuit City, Sam Goody's and even the local used CD store....NOTHING! Just the usual same-old-same-old. Yes I know, a brick & mortar store can't possibly carry every piece of music, they don't have the "space" that online stores, but come on! Throw me a frickin bone for god sakes!

All this lack of finding new music to buy and own came to a head last week when I finally joined the ipod/MP3 generation by buying my brand-stinking-new 30GB ipod! One of my goals with my ipod is to convert not only most of my CD's but also my hundreds of cassettes and LP's. (and boy, that's gonna be a pain to do)

So Friday night as I was downloading a few of my CD's I was tooling around on the istore and saw that they not only had the Lee Feldman record I was searching for but I could download the entire thing for only $9.99! Lee Feldman's "The Man in a Jupiter Hat" has been the unofficial face of the futility with my music search. I had heard this record a month ago and like the quirkiness of his lyrics and his sound reminded me of Ben Folds (who's music I like). Whenever I'd go to any of the aforementioned Record stores with my list of music wants, Feldman's CD would be included, but alas, it was no where to be found.

Well, not anymore. I signed up to the istore, turned over one of my Visa cards, and bought/downloaded "The Man in a Jupiter Hat". I won't completely give up on the local stores, I mean I actually found an Arctic Monkeys CD at Best Buy last week so they're not totally useless, but from now on I'll be checking the itunes store. If not more often then the brick & mortar stores, but maybe as often.

I just realized a great punch line to this story would be that I bought and listened to Feldman's CD - and hated it.

But alas, nope......I like it.

A Real American Hero!

I'd like to shout out a big thanks to Jeff Bohn and the folks at
Yo Joe!.

Yo Joe! is an online magazine devoted to G.I. Joe toys, products and comics. The good folks at Yo Joe! were nice enough to plug my two new books My Artwork and Designs at Hasbro; 1983-1989 and Action Figure #1.

Thanks a bunch guys, I really appreciate it!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Been there, done that.

I usually try to avoid films produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. They're usually all flash & fury with no substance. But Deja Vu had a decent cast, an ok director (Tony Scott) and an interesting premise, so what the heck I went to the theater the other day and took a shot.


The movie opens with a ferry filled with Navy Crewmen and their families, enjoying the day of Mardis Gras, blown up by a terrorist. Over 500 people are killed and ATF agent Doug Carlin (Denzel Washington) is brought in to investigate.

He's able to decipher the cause pretty quickly even though he's also sidetracked by a body of Claire Kuchever, a beautiful woman that's been burned to death and washed up on the shore.

Impressed with Carlin's skills the FBI (headed by an agent played by Val Kilmer) invites him to join up and use their "super secret" technology. It's a satellite that allows the viewer to look backwards in time to events that occurred 4 1/2 days ago.

This is a pretty neat scene with special effects that almost keep you from thinking what you're watching doesn't make a lick of sense. It especially goes loopy when Agent Carlin talks one of the technicians to send him back in time to stop the death of Claire ( who he's fallen in love with, while watching her, thanks to the super satellite) and oh yeah, those 500 bomb victims too.

Time travel stories can be very tricky to pull off. Especially when the script tries to come up with ways for you to buy it, but it really never works. If he travels back in time to stop her death why would he (in the future) ever want to travel back to prevent a death that never happens. Yeah, they try to make it plausible with the old diverging time line theory, but it comes across like grasping at straws.

I could almost forgive the time travel aspect, but what really got me while watching this was the whole deja-vu aspect. I'm not sure what the people, especially towards the end, were feeling was actually deja-vu. How could they remember, or feel something that never really happened?

Though the biggest hindrance of the film is a kind of deja-vu with the actors and their characters. Denzel's Agent Carlin is not unlike Detective Keith Frazier from
Inside Man or Det. John Hobbes in Fallen (both which are much better movies, IMO). He's not the only one though who seems as if he's just walking though. Val Kilmer and Bruce Greenwood are pretty bland (though to tell the truth, they don't get much to do) and Adam Goldberg plays his usual excitable, neurotic character.

It may sound as if I hated Deja Vu, which isn't the case (strong words like hate should only be used when discussing films starring Julia Roberts). The film looks good and the effects of the satellite is pretty cool and I really enjoyed the unusual chase scene that was separated by 4 1/2 days (I know that sounds confusing, but that's about the best way to describe it) but the story felt bland and the time travel aspect just didn't work for me.

So if I remember correctly, Deja Vu, gets a time traveling:

An in Store appearance today!

Looking for something to do today and if you're in the Plymouth Meeting, PA area....

The comics shop in the Plymouth Meeting Mall, Comics and More are having the Philadelphia Cartoonist Society (of which I'm a member) in store for a signing today, December 2, from 1-5PM.

We'll be selling and signing our Second Anthology as well as selling other work and giving free sketches.

So if you've got nothing planned and you want to meet an odd bunch of artists, and see their work, stop in at the Plymouth Meeting Mall today. I'll be taking pictures and will post when I get back.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

Hoo-Ha, 2007's gonna be geekfest year!

Well, for me anyway.

First, in February, we get the release of Ghost Rider (of which you can see new pictures posted here.)

Then in May we get the much anticipated Spider-Man 3 (you can see the new trailer up on the big screen playing before Casino Royale).

And just a month later, in June, it's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer

Thirty years ago when I was plunking down my ¢25 for the latest monthly adventures of the FF, Spidey and Ghost Rider, if you told me that there'd be three motion pictures coming out, let alone in one year, of these characters, I'd of said you were nuts! (I was only 15 so I probably wouldn't have used too many stronger words than nuts) But here we are. So come on 2007, I'm ready to go to the theater, throw down my $9.50 (ouch!) and geek out.

Then 6 months later geek out again watching the DVD!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

Lewis Black, wha' happened??!!

I like angry comics. Specifically the angry comic who through his antics and rage reveals the hypocrisy and lies of those in the government, organized religion and anyone who believes that they're better than you.

The list of the truly gifted and talented angry comics is short, but what a group!
• Lenny Bruce
• Bill Hicks
• Sam Kinison
and currently, Lewis Black.

(It just occurred to me that the first three comics on that list all died young. hmmmmm... coincidence?)

From his concerts, HBO specials and appearances on The Daily Show his spastic line deliveries and rants over the ridiculous, unjust and absurd are always worth watching.

BUT- recently I've noted a scary and sad change in his career.
Sure, he's still out there doing stand up and his Daily Show bits, but this year alone he's appeared in three movies, which doesn't seem to fit with his sense of humor.

Let me state up front, that I haven't seen any of these films, just the trailers (in fact, one hasn't been released yet)
but you can tell a lot about a film from the trailers these days.

The first film was Accepted.
A film that described itself as this generations' Animal House (they wish). In the film, Black has a small part and friends I've mine who've seen it says that his scenes are worth the price of admission. So OK, I'll give him a pass on that.

And I think I'll even give him a pass on his second film of '06, Man of the Year, the movie about the late-night political talk show host (Robin Williams) who decides to run for president-and wins!
It played in the theaters for a week, maybe two, and had nothing but tepid reviews, but I guess the opportunity to work with Williams and Director Barry Levison was too much to pass up.

No, the real tragedy here, and the one that could start his career on a downward, uncontrollable spin is.....Unaccompanied Minors!! I couldn't believe it when I saw him in the trailers! A group of spunky, unaccompanied kids are left behind and snowed in at a Chicago airport! (hey, where have I heard this plot before?)

A comedy, with child actors????? (isn't that an oxymoron?)

Lewis QUICK! Stop before it's too late!! I know it's a paycheck, but a movie with kids? What's next, Dinner Theatre?
Hosting a Game Show?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Considerably Better than what's out there now.

Finding a funny comedy these days is difficult. I'm talking about the kind of comedy that actually makes you laugh, unlike most out there these days that make you groan, shudder and curse that you wasted $9 to see this crap. I've been told by the press and magazines that Borat is the funniest thing on celluloid since the birth of film, but I tend not to believe the overzealous press. (and no folks, just because something has made oodles of cash, does not make it good. If that were true, Titanic would be the greatest film of all time).

And it ain't.

Instead of the more hyped films I went for a movie who's creative team already has a winning track record. The other day I saw For Your Consideration. It's the latest movie by Christopher Guest and his troupe of improv cast. This Is Spinal Tap, Waiting For Guffman and Best In Show are prime examples of VERY funny films. No guys getting kicked in the crotch, no old ladies rapping, and most importantly, no Adam Sandler.

This time, Guest and his cast take aim at Hollywood. More importantly, the selling of Hollywood. How an off handed rumor can grow into an uncontrollable monster turning a small, personal film into an Oscar seeking missile.

Guest plays director Jay Berman who's helming a film called "Home for Purim".
"Home for Purim" is a drama set in the 1940's American South centering around a dying mother as their family gathers for what could be their final Purim, an obscure Jewish holiday.

When word of Oscar buzz for "Home for Purim" gets out, everyone from the actors to the producers to the studio heads begin to take it as gospel. The change from a heartwarming, small film to a more viewer friendly film is funny, but the change of the veteran actors is even more funny-and sad in a way.

That's where For Your Consideration works. It has that hard to watch type of humor (which was mastered on the BBC version of The Office) You cringe (and can't help but laugh) at the evolution of "Home for Purim's leads, Marilyn Hack (Catherine O'Hara) & Victor Allan Miller (Harry Shearer). You really can't fault their desire to finally get public accolades, for their years and years of hard, mostly unnoticed work on the screen. But it's their pathetic appearances on the hype machine, Talk shows, Radio Shock shows, MTV-esque "Hip" shows and "Entertainment Tonight" shows, is where the humor really excels.

And of course, Fred Willard steals every scene he's in!

All of that said, For Your Consideration, at times, does miss it's mark. At times I was reminded of episodes of SCTV. For awhile SCTV ran a sketch called "The Days of the Week", that made fun of Soap Operas. The sketch though was so perilously close to it's source that it was hard to tell the spoof from the real thing. There are stretches of this film that feel that way. The "Home for Purim" scenes are so dead on that the spoof, at times, doesn't work.

For Your Consideration isn't as good as Guests earlier films and that may be in part to our expectation. We the audience are entering the film demanding that they top themselves but in reality they may have gone to the well once too often.

So even though it didn't meet all my expectations, I still have to give For Your Consideration a Considered:

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Friday, November 24, 2006

The latest Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak review

With this being the holiday weekend I've been working on various comics, pencils for Action Figure #2 and have been seeing some of the new movies that are out. But before I post any of those comics or movie reviews, here's another Action Figure #1 online review!

This one is from Bloggity-Blog-Blog-Blog:

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Action Figure: From the Journals of Richard Marzelak: "Late" by Richard Marcej. Published by Baboon Books, order through the website.

This is a surprisingly fun book. Richard Marcej worked at Hasbro during the Transformers explosion, and this is a semi-autobiographical look on those days, in the form of the fictional Richard Marzelak. The book starts with a framing sequence that doesn't seem to have much to do with the rest of the tale. It then jumps into Richard's normal work day, with just a touch of fantasy (done in red) to move the story along.

I found the story fascinating, and when I finished I felt a pang that this book didn't get enough orders for Diamond to distribute it. The fact is, it's good. It's a unique story drawing on life experiences from a critical time in the toy industry. I don't know about most of my readers, but the early 80's, when Richard was at Hasbro, hold a lot of memories of toys for me. Thus, the look inside a fictional Hasbro is strangely thrilling.

My biggest complaint about the book would be the framing sequence, which made the title into a pun but otherwise didn't seem to have any function in the story. If I hadn't read the notes on the inside front cover, the framing sequence would have put me off the story a bit. Fortunately, it's only 4 pages out of 32 pages of comic story, so I can't really complain much. Once into the tale of Richard, the story pulled me in. Everyone recognizes the lousy job situation, but this one has the fun fantasies, and the novelty of being about what some of us would consider a dream job.

I liked this enough that I would read a second issue, and maybe even a third even if the second one wasn't as good. If you want a different sort of book looking into a bit of popular culture from a completely different point of view, get this book. For me, I'm calling it Recommended. Read a preview, then order it.

And as always, for those interested, you can see preview pages click here
and buy it click here.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

As we gather together to celebrate Thanksgiving 2006 we're missing something.

No, not the large cartoon character balloons at the parades, we still got them.

No, not the annual NFL double header. In fact, this year we get three games!

What is it?

The Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day Marathon!

I miss those great 24 hour marathon's of lousy movies being skewered by Joel, Servo and Crow T. Robot on Comedy Central.

In honor of this lost tradition I think I'll head to the theatre today and shout out insults at the screen.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sometimes a Banana is just a Banana

This image is making the rounds on the net and since I like to write and post about toys here, might as well chime in.

Well, there's not much more I can add here, except, if you're wondering what to get the girl who has everything this Christmas.... (curious? you can see more about it here)

Today's Gag Comic.

Here's what they're saying about Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak

Ok, ok, I'll tone down on linking/printing the reviews I've been getting for Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak after the holidays...really.

But until then...

Here's a review from The Comics Review a site that, well, ast the name states, reviews comics!

- The Comics Review
So i get this package from Baboon Books in the mail the other day, which is weird, since I forgot to update my new address with Chris, TCR's interview admin. I had talked to, via email in 2005 to Richard Marcej over there, and he sent me a christmas card, and some info on a book called Action Figure he was working on. In the Baboon Books envelope was a review copy of Action Figure: From the Journals of Richard Marzelak, and a note. He said that the book _was_ supposed to be the start of a quarerly series, but since the advance order for Diamond didn't make their minimum, which, while not extreme, is high enough that a book without much buzz isn't going to get distributed, which is unfortunate.

I read the book, and enjoyed it enough that i would like to see the next issue, and see where Richard is going.

Starting off the book about 47 years in the future, we see a guy at an estate sale, where he stumbles upon lots of collectibles, but winds up with a more rare fine, the Journals of Richard Marzelak. Richard Marzelak is the semi-fictional main character of this semi-autobiographical book. He works for Hasmark, which is a toy and greeting card company, designing packaging for toys, and spends his nights having lots of sexual interludes with hot babes... ok, he spends his nights trying to make it as a cartoonist. It introduces us to the nose-picking evil boss who gives the job he's been working on to "the new guy", the best friend co-worker Bill, the "new guy" who is really the new girl, and a couple of the other office co-workers and potential hazards to career advancement. Richard also has quite an imagination, daydreaming (cleverly done in red/black, contrasting from the black/white art in the rest of the book). The hook for the hopeful next issue is The Big One, a contract to do the package art for "Bot-Changers", and the selection of the team.

While my quick summary doesnt sound all that funny, Richard has quite a great sense of humor, and it's on every page. Obvious things from his former life as a toy packaging designer and logo designer for Hasbro and greeting card artist for Hallmark make for a lot of subtle humor (Has-Mark anyone?) While most of you might not know it, if you were a child of the 80's, his art might look familiar to you, since he was one of Hasbro's artists for that little toy line, Transformers, in the 80's. KICK ASS!

The art is great, he puts a lot more into faces than most, giving off the emotions and intentions of the characters, which adds a lot to the book. His fake box art for Hasmark is pretty great too. As i said earlier, the daydreaming/dreaming being colored in red really makes those moments pop out.

I hope that you will go to and pick up a copy, and encourage Richard to continue his story...and tell your LCS to carry this book, word of mouth can definately make a book!


Writing Rating: (8.5/10)
Artistic Rating: (8/10)
Overall Rating: (8.5/10)

And as always, for those interested, you can see preview pages click here
and buy it click here.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

This Bond Bleeds

There have always been franchise films in Hollywood. From the old Hope & Crosby Road pictures to the Planet of The Apes series in the early 70's. The longest running and most known throughout the globe though has to be the Bond series.

The run that began with Dr. No in 1960 has now reached the 21st film of the series, and in my opinion one of the best, Casino Royale.

In the past when we've reached the final film with a particular Bond actor, it's very apparent that a change is necessary. Connery's final, Diamonds Are Forever was OK, but Brosnan's last go as Bond (Die Another Day) and Moore's finale (A View To A Kill) were horrendous pieces of crap that made you want to bludgeon yourself to death as you watched every miserable minute in the theatre.

Yes, they were that bad.

But the follow up, the next Bond film with a new Bond actor are usually well worth the wait, and made up for the miserable dreck that preceded.

Daniel Craig's first outing as Bond, Casino Royale, finally answers the question, can anyone play Bond as good as or better than Connery in his heyday?


The makers of Casino Royale smartly introduce Craig by taking us back to the beginning of Bond's career. How he "earns" his 007 distinction is revealed in a clever up front way that sets the tone for the entire picture.

No sooner has the film started then we're greatly entertained by an incredible foot chase through construction sites and building tops that put many car chases to shame. The film's plot? The new double-naught spy must find terrorist banker, La Ciffre (another creepy Bond villain, this one weeps blood) and defeat him at an extremely high stakes poker game.

Along the way an old friend is revealed (well, an old friend to long time Bond viewers) and Bond falls in love with Vesper Lynd, the gorgeous accountant who's there to keep track of Bond (and the Queen's) funds.

While watching a high stakes poker game may not sound interesting (and hell, you could easily stay home and watch it on ESPN) there's enough going on that makes this game especially deadly.

The romance in this film reminds me of Bond's relationship in On Her Majesty's Secret Service where 007 met, married then lost the love of his life. The relationship in this film helps to stabilize the raw, headstrong spy and REALLY helps to set up the ending. endings. How many films have we sat in darkened theaters watching, enjoying and (dare I say) loving until WHAM!!! we have to endure a putrid, pathetic, HORRIBLE ending that helps to ruin the previous 2+ hours.

But not here.

While watching Casino Royale, even though I was enjoying the picture something felt off, it seemed as if it was missing something. Then came the ending.

YES! The last 10 minutes of Casino Royale not only ties up the picture but more importantly leaves you with a huge grin on your face and the thought, "I can't WAIT for the next Bond picture!"

Sure, the series is 21 films old, but like fine wine, with new blood Daniel Craig and a back to the basics approach, it's not getting old, it's getting better!

I give Casino Royale a shaken, but not stirred:

Monday, November 20, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

A Double Dose of Reviews!

In my continuing quest to get word out about my comic Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak to the masses, here's not one, but two more online reviews!

Both are from an excellent online Comic Site, Comics Should Be Good!:

The first was Posted by Greg Burgas, Thursday, October 26th, 2006

I got this in the mail last week, which was a bit surprising, considering it was supposed to be out in January.  (Marcej has had some personal issues, so I’m not bashing the lateness of the book, just commenting on the fact that it’s a long time to wait, so much so that I had forgotten about it.)  I’m not sure when it arrives in stores, but it’s something to look out for.  Or you could just order it at the web site above.

The issue itself is pretty good, with a nice conceit - a guy works at a big toy company designing various things, has issues at his job, but it also dreaming of striking out on his own.  It’s certainly not the most original idea, but Marcej does a good job with a few things - his character, Richard Marzelak, daydreams a lot, and the black-and-white of the book gets red highlights, which is a nice touch.  The daydreams themselves are nice - they’re relatively mundane things, like when he wishes a hot woman would actually talk to him - but the way Marcej sets them off from the rest of the actual mundane world is well done.  Marzelak himself is a good character - he whines and he’s pathetic at spots, but he also does his job even though his boss keeps putting him on crappy assignments and he loves to work deep into the night on his own comic strip.  It’s a subject matter - the lousy office - that could easily devolve into either cruel parody (like Office Space, which I love, by the way) or pathos, but Marcej keeps it whimsical enough so that even though it’s not as savagely funny as Office Space, it’s still wryly amusing.

Marcej does a nice job on the art, too.  The framing story is that a couple finds Marzelak’s journal at an estate sale in 2053, and we’re reading the journals with them.  The art from the future is a bit hazy and muted, which gives it an unreal quality to it, while the art describing what’s going on in the journals is much sharper and well-defined.  Marcej isn’t going to set the world on fire with the art, but he does a fine job making sure the large cast is distinguishable from each other and he manages to keep things lively in a pretty static environment, even when Marzelak isn’t daydreaming.

The biggest problem I had with the book is the exposition.  Marcej does almost too good a job trying to introduce everyone and allowing us to get into Marzelak’s head.  It’s clunky at some points, which is the mark of a neophyte comics writer, at least from what I’ve read.  As they’re working in a visual medium, not everything needs to be written out.  We can infer a lot from drawings and from simply understanding the characters.

Other than that, this is a fun little book.  It gives us a nice look at what goes on behind the scenes at a big toy company (Marcej worked at Hasbro, so it’s based on that) and all the politics involved, which are similar but subtly different from other companies.  It’s a chaming comic, and it will be interesting to see if Marcej simply gets Marzelak to quit his job and draw his comic strip full-time, which would be uplifting but possibly dull, or if there will be something more meaty down the line.
Why this issue of Action Figure is the greatest issue ever!!!!  Two words: Samurai Pandas.  You read that correctly!

The second was Posted by Brad Curran, Monday, October 30th

• Action Figure #1- This is the first issue of Richard Marcej’s semi-autobio comic about his time working for a toy company. I don’t read a whole lot of autobio comics, but this seems like a pretty novel premise to me. I’m not sure I can say much more about this than the prolific Mr. Burgas didn’t say in his review column last week, but I’ll give it a shot anyway. I liked the use of red in the fantasy sequences. Marcej is a good, solid story teller. I don’t think he’d be out of place doing a Harvey Pekar story. He knows how to use exagerration without overdoing it, which is important in a story that’s taking place in an office. Marcej says that the series is “part humor (but not overly funny)”, which is pretty accurate. It isn’t uproariously funny, but there is some humor to be found here. It’s not the Office or Office Space or anything, but that’s not the tone Marcej is going for (although I do think a cameo from Dwight or Bill Lumberg would make this book better. Of course, that would make a lot of books better. That could have totally saved Infinite Crisis).
• The thing that impressed me most about this comic, though, was the production value, especially for a publisher I’d never heard of before Marcej sent me some promotional material for this book some months back. It’s comparable to single issues of Love and Rockets in that regard (at least the recent ones I’ve picked up), with a nice cardstock cover and quality paper, which is pretty impressive, especially since, from what I can tell from their website and my copy of issue #1, Marcej is basically self publishing.
• It’s $3.50, but between the quality of the package and the fact that that isn’t much of a disparity from your average mainstream comic anymore, I certainly can’t hold that against it. You’re getting a good chunk of story, solidly written and drawn, that isn’t printed on toilet paper for only .50 more than an issue of Batman runs for these days (my ignorance of indie comics is showing, isn’t it?). Don’t let the price scare you away, is what I’m saying.
• If you’re a fan of of autobio/slice of life comics and looking for something with a different premise, you might want to give this a look. You can find out more about it at the Baboon Books website. And for yet another review, if mine and Greg’s aren’t enough to satisfy you, you can check out Jog’s. And you should. Because it’s better than mine and Greg’s. Combined. It has the added bonus of not being as exhaustive as a lot of his stuff can be. Give it a look.

And as always, for those interested, you can see preview pages click here
and buy it click here.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

Yes, a FIFTH Action Figure #1 Review!

OK, yes, this is another disguised plug for my new comic Action Figure; From the Journals of Richard Marzelak, but hey, one of the functions of this Blog IS to push my work, so there you go.

Today's review is from the Blog, Focused Totality:

Action Figure #1

I wish I could say I picked up Action Figure: From The Journals Of Richard Marzelak at my local comic store, but that's not the case. Although the debut issue of the series was solicited through Diamond, it didn't meet order minimums. And we all know what that means. It's a shame this book didn't make it onto comic store shelves for at least a couple of reasons.

First, the professionalism behind Action Figure is apparent in every step - quality production values, excellent art, a story just off the beaten path. While VampireLesbianTitExplosion keeps on selling enough to make it through Diamond's policies, quality productions like this (and others) get left behind because they are not stroking a particular fanboy bone. Diamond gets to run its own business, and at times I agree with their "Survival Of The Retail Fittest" policies. There's a difference, though, between series that have a proven track record of poor sales, and a series that isn't even allowed to try and build that track record in the first place. I have no idea if Action Figure could become a hit, but I can say with certainty that it won't achieve that status without some presence in shops. I don't doubt that some self copies would have sold just off the strength of that engaging cover ... assuming there were shelf copies to be had.

Second is that though there are problems in this first issue, it shows tremendous promise ... promise that can only be realized by continuing work and feedback. Art needs an audience - it's part of the learning curve - and I hope Richard Marcej can find one though his all-out carpetbombing of the WeboComicsblogoNet and his easy-to-use web shop. The simplest and best praise I can five a first issue is this: I want to see more Action Figure. It's far from perfect, but it is charming, filled with passion, features some wonderful cartooning, and has a disticnt voice. Although Richard Marcej is new to comic books, his experience in cartooning and design is readily apparent.

The biggest weaknesses in the book come right at the front, a barrier before heading into the meat of the story. Both the introductory letter from the author and the curious framing sequence serve the same purpose: to let us know what an accomplished, important man Richard Marcej is. The framing sequence pertains to his alter-ego "Richard Marzelak", but using the phrase "thinly-veiled" would be overstating the case by implying the existence of some sort of veil. Besides the general off-putting own-horn-tooting of it all, it's also committing the cardinal sin: it is a lot of tell and not much show. I'm being handed the curriculum vitae of Richard Marcej/Marzelak, as if it matters. As a reader, I want an entertaining story about interesting people and things: I don't care about truth or credentials or importance. Outside of comics, Harvey Pekar is anything but accomplished and important ... how he observed life and told stories made him a success, not his resume.

Once past that initial hurdle, the book starts to come to life. The art style loosens considerably, and really starts to drive this story of office politics, art, and their uneasy coexistence. There are a few too many cliches peppered through out: dreams of flying by someone who feels trapped, adventures in being late for work, bosses who exist purely as obstacle, too-witty banter by officemates. It edges toward s sitcom, but what begins to carry the book and make it stand out is the character of Richard Marzelak. Once past the aggrandizing bits at the beginning, a whole different character emerges, and one not totally unlike the aforementioned Pekar. Marzelak is a bitter dreamer, illuminated in flashes of optimism and despair. He causes most of his own problems, and it's those moments when you realize that he's not entirely sympathetic that really make the book. He's more complex than his label of "struggling cartoonist". Is is his failures - not his gleaming resume - that make the character interesting.

I hope that web sales or other distribution methods will help Action Figure find a life apart from Diamond. It's an interesting book, and promises to become more so as Richard Marcej grows as a storyteller. The art's there, the production values are there, the characters are there: all that's needed now is the storytelling and the ability to let the work speak for itself. I'm looking forward to Action Figure #2.

And as always, for those interested, you can see preview pages click here
and buy it click here.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

It's a Christmas Miracle!

OK, perhaps "Miracle" might be a bit strong, but yesterday I took the artwork for my 2006 Chrtistmas Card to the printers! Yes, a week before Thanksgiving and I've not only come up with an idea for this year's card, but completed the artwork and will be picking up the printed cards next Friday. Yeesh, I'll actually have many of the cards sent before December 1!

Yes, a Christmas Miracle indeed.

For those of you reading this currently not on my Christmas list, if you'd like to get a card all you have to do is
order any of my books here.

Yes, it's a Christmas personal plug!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Today's Gag Comic.

More of my current work at K'NEX

Here are a few more package comps from October's Toy Fair.
This picture is for the new look for all the Amusment Park rides (Ferris Wheels, Roller Coasters, etc...). The main look for this packaging will be foil printing on the main color and in the parts and words of the masthead.

This is a brand new Toys R Us exclusive "Bucket of Bricks" package. With K'Nex introducing bricks into their product line this year this is one of the best ways of showing all the new possible builds that kids can make.

I'll post more when I get new packaging to show.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006