Posts Tagged ‘Peanuts

05
Dec
13

A Very Nerdy Christmas

Next year, Erin and I will finally celebrate our first Christmas together. I couldn’t be more excited, and I know she’s already making certain plans in terms of traditions and decorations and the like.

However, over the years I’ve assembled a small but — I think — amusing collection of Christmas ornaments of my own. Many of them have been given to me as gifts, the rest have mostly been the result of Hallmark’s after-Christmas clearance sales. It never seemed sensible to spend a ton of money on decorations until I had someone to decorate with. So while I’m sure next year the two of us will bring together all her ornaments and all my ornaments and probably a bunch of new ornaments, today I thought I’d share with you guys my collection as it stands today, such as it is.

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

First up is my Charlie Brown Christmas Tree. While not technically an ornament, it’s one of my most prized Christmas decorations and also will serve as the model for most of the upcoming pictures. Erin gave me this tree a few years ago and I love it. I actually wound up getting a second tree to place in my classroom at school, knowing that this tree was far too precious to risk in a room full of high school students.

“Oh come on, Blake,” you’re saying. “They’re in eleventh grade. Surely they can be trusted to be in proximity to a decoration with just a single ornament without worrying about them breaking it.”

Heh. It’s cute that you think that.

Doctor Who TARDIS

Doctor Who: The TARDIS

Next up is my TARDIS decoration. You may or may not know (except if you know anything about me at all, in which case you absolutely know) that I’m a bit of a Doctor Who fan. This particular glass ornament was given to me by my buddy and frequent Showcase co-host, Kenny. Thanks, pal! I know that Erin will want to be certain it gets a place of honor next Christmas.

Donald Duck Wakeup Hallmark

Donald’s Wake-Up Cup

I love Disney and I love Christmas, so it’s not surprising that many of my decorations are Disney characters. Of course, as I’ve done most of my shopping in the clearance sales, my selection is particularly eclectic. I’d grab whatever looked like it was worth the money, and the deeper the discount the lower that threshold would become. For example, here’s Donald Duck, having just rolled out of bed, drinking a cup of coffee. Probably because I got it for pennies.

Mickey Mouse Ears

Mickey Mouse Ears

From the “My parents went to Disney World and all I got was this…” line. A few years ago, my parents took a trip to Disney World and brought this personalized set of mini-Mouse Ears to me. (That’s “Mini” as in “small,” not “Minnie” as in “Mickey’s girlfriend.”) They brought an identical pair of ears for Erin. Hers are currently dangling from the rear view mirror in her car.

Scrooge McDuck from "Mickey's Christmas Carol"

Scrooge McDuck from “Mickey’s Christmas Carol”

Another Hallmark Keepsake ornament, this one depicts my favorite Disney Character — Scrooge McDuck — as he appeared in the classic 1983 animated feature Mickey’s Christmas Carol. Hey, speaking of A Christmas Carol, have you guys been following my Reel to Reel movie blog? All this month, leading up to Christmas I’m reviewing and analyzing different versions of Charles Dickens’s classic novel. All of your favorites are there — Alastair Sim, Albert Finney, Mr. Magoo… go on, check it out.

Disney Vinylmation 2012

Disney Vinylmation 2012

My brother and sister are big fans of Disney’s Vinylmation figures — a series of toys all set in the same Mickey Mouse-shaped mold and decorated in an infinite number of ways. I’ve got a lot of them too, but I’ve been a bit more selective in my Vinylmation purchases than them. This one came out last year — it’s a regular Vinylmation figure with an ornament loop on the head. This one depicts Donald Duck trapped in a snow globe, presumably the work of a genie or his nephews or something.

Vinylmation Hot Chocolate

Vinylmation Hot Chocolate

Another Vinylmation figure-slash-ornament, this one depicts a chocolate bar in the shape of Mickey Mouse. As you can tell, whoever got this bar in his stocking eats his Mickey chocolate the same way everybody eats their Easter rabbits — he bites the ears first. This figure also smells like hot chocolate. Well… the box says it’s hot chocolate. There’s a definite cocoa flavor to the aroma, but I don’t know if I’d go that far.

Perry Christmas from Phineas and Ferb

Perry Christmas from Phineas and Ferb

Phineas and Ferb is without question, the best cartoon for kids in decades. I dare you to find anything that’s even remotely as entertaining. You need to go back to the 90s heyday of Animaniacs and Pinky and the Brain. These kids rock.

Also, this was the last picture I took. I thought I was finished, I put my Charlie Brown tree in its place of honor (which is rather high up and out of reach of cats and three-year-old nieces), and when I realized I missed this one I just said the hell with it and took the picture on the table.

Dooby dooby doo-wah, A! GENT! P!

Dooby dooby doo-wah, A! GENT! P!

Courtesy of Target, here’s Phineas and Ferb’s best pal Perry the Platypus in his other identity: Agent P of the OWCA (Organization Without a Cool Acronym). I like to imagine here that he’s just stumbled into an insidious yuletide trap set by his arch-nemesis, Dr. Doofinshmirtz. Don’t worry, guys, Doof isn’t really that big a threat. And he actually doesn’t hate Christmas anyway, he has a burning indifference.

Prep and Landing Hallmark

Prep and Landing: Wayne and Lanny

A few years ago Disney introduced these guys, Wayne and Lanny, members of Santa Claus’s special Prep and Landing task force. These are the elves that scout ahead of Santa Claus to make sure the house is ready, the children are nestled all snug in their beds, and not a creature is stirring. If you have a Merry Christmas morning, it’s because Wayne and Lanny did their job right so that Santa could come behind them and do his.

Muppets Kermit Target

Kermit the Very Shiny Frog

This one is a Target find rather than Hallmark. Erin picked it up for me last Thanksgiving when we were shopping. This was either a few days before or a few days after I asked her to marry me, I don’t remember which, and it doesn’t matter. It’s special anyway. And yes, that’s a reflection of me and my phone in Kermit’s face. You try hiding your reflection when taking a picture of a shiny glass amphibian. It’s not that easy.

Peanuts-Erins Snoopy

Snoopy and Woodstock go for a drive

Snoopy and Woodstock here were a gift from Erin. She found it for me at work and included it in a stocking full of candy and little gifts last year. The girl knows me all too well, doesn’t she?

Peanuts on Ice

Peanuts on Ice

This is actually four separate ornaments put together. The “Peanuts on Ice” figures from Hallmark each have a magnet in the base, allowing you to connect them. I’m not sure how many there were in the series, but I know how many I got. Four. I got four.

You’ll notice that Sally, Charlie Brown’s sister, has no magnet and therefore is not connected to the rest of the Peanuts gang. I like to imagine that Linus, sick and tired of her years of sexual harassment, disabled the magnet in her base in the hopes that she would slide away and suffer a tragic mishap in the ice. Wow, that took a dark turn.

The Flash

The Flash

Another Hallmark ornament, here we have Barry Allen, the Flash. (How do I know it’s Barry Allen and not Wally West? Because Wally’s belt always came to a point in the front, only Barry wore the straight belt for his entire career in the Pre-Crisis era. Yes, I’m THAT kind of nerd.) Barry here, if I’m not mistaken, is actually the oldest ornament in my collection. I’m pretty sure I’ve had him since high school, and I don’t even remember when I got him.

Green Lantern

Green Lantern

Hal Jordan. Green Lantern of Space Sector 2814. Current leader of the Green Lantern Corps. Another Hallmark keepsake ornament. Are you sensing a pattern here?

Golden Age Superman

Golden Age Superman

I’ve got a few different Superman ornaments. Try not to be surprised.

This Hallmark ornament is actually two in one. In the front we have the Golden Age Superman, the way he first appeared in 1938. In the background is the second ornament, the cover of Action Comics #1, in which he made his first appearance. Actually, now that I look at it, the figure isn’t exactly right for that comic. His “S”-symbol, at that point, was actually just a yellow shield with the letter drawn in it, not the stylized version it would later become, and his boots hadn’t yet evolved to what we see here either. Wow, now I’m furious at the inaccuracy of my ornament. Christmas is RUINED.

Modern Superman

Modern Superman

This more modern Superman is a one-piece ornament, with the Man of Steel bursting out of the cover of a comic book. And this actually is a comic book, you can open that sucker up and read it. There aren’t any credits, but I think the short re-telling of his origin story was drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez, a classic DC Comics artist who contributed a lot of art for various DC merchandise over the years. I told you, I’m that kind of nerd.

Superman Luxor

Lenox China Superman

I think I’ve shown this one off before but I don’t mind doing it again. This Lenox China Superman figure has the trademarks of that elegant line of decorations — the white glass is used in his cape, and the Lenox gold lines the figure in several places. This, too, is a gift from Erin, which should be obvious because those Lenox ornaments are pretty expensive for a guy that, until now, got most of his Christmas decorations from Hallmark’s 20% off table.

Dwight Schrute: Talking Bobblehead

Dwight Schrute: Talking Bobblehead

From The Office, ladies and gentlemen, I give you Assistant to the Regional Manager Dwight Schrute. This ornament is actually based on the Valentine’s Day episode in which his girlfriend gave him a bobblehead doll of himself. The ornament is a working bobblehead, plus, it talks when you push that little button in the front. I briefly considered shooting a short video demonstrating these features, but then I realized that would require way more of a commitment than I was ready to put into this little article.

Elise's Ornament

Elise’s Ornament

Now we’re getting into the ornaments that have an actual emotional connection for me. This one, for example, was a gift from Erin’s niece Elise last Christmas. Hey — I guess that means she’s going to be my niece too. Cool.

For Erin's teacher

For Erin’s teacher

Another Erin find. This “For My Teacher” apple came to her at work and she brought it home to me. Go ahead: “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaw…”

Engagement Encounter: Be Joyful

Engagement Encounter: Be Joyful

And finally, probably the most meaningful ornament on the list is this little Cross. Last summer, Erin and I attended an engagement encounter at a monastery in Pittsburgh. We wanted a keepsake of the weekend, and decided on this Christmas ornament. The message, I think, was just right.

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02
Dec
12

The Christmas Special Day 2: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

charliebrownchristmasDirector: Bill Melendez

Writer: Charles M. Schulz

Cast: Peter Robbins, Christopher Shea, Kathy Steinberg, Tracy Stratford, Chris Doran, Geoffrey Ornstein, Karen Mendelson, Sally Dryer, Ann Altieri, Bill Melendez

Plot: It’s nearly Christmas, but Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) can’t seem to find it within himself to enjoy the season. Nobody is sending him any Christmas cards, his little sister Sally (Kathy Steinberg) is more concerned with getting presents than any spirit of generosity, and even his dog Snoopy (Bill Melendez) is giving himself over to a Christmas decorating contest. His “psychiatrist,” Lucy Tracy Stratford), suggests that he take a hand in directing the children’s Christmas play. She also confides that she feels the holiday blahs as well, never getting the gift she really wants: real estate. Charlie Brown arrives at the theater to find a disjointed group of performers who lack any real holiday spirit, and his best efforts to turn things around avail him nothing. Lucy finally suggests that he find a big, shiny aluminum Christmas tree to help with the celebration, and he sets out with her brother Linus Christopher Shea) to search. Instead of one of the garish plastic and metal monstrosities that Lucy wants, though, Charlie Brown finds a little sprig of a tree that looks like it needs love. Lucy and the others mock the tree, and Charlie Brown, depressed, asks if there’s anyone who can tell him what Christmas is all about.

Linus, of course, can. In one of the most memorable moments in animation history, Linus Van Pelt recites the Christmas story from the Bible, reminding his friends that the season is not about plays or trees or decorations, but about something much, much deeper. Encouraged, Charlie Brown tries to decorate his little tree, but with one ornament it collapses. He slinks away, heartbroken, but Linus leads the rest of the children in fixing the tree and making it beautiful. Charlie Brown returns to see what they’ve done, and his friends wish him a Merry Christmas.

Thoughts: Is there any special as beloved, and as deservedly so, as A Charlie Brown Christmas? I’ve always thought that Peanuts in general, the classic comic strip by Charles M. Schulz, represents the pinnacle of human philosophy in the 20th century. There is no other work of art that so succinctly and completely captures the human spirit as Schulz’s squiggle children and their outlandish dog. And this, the first of what would become a mini-empire of animated classics, is perhaps the greatest of them all.

The special, as the story goes, was difficult to get made. Schulz and Melendez had collaborated on some short animated pieces for commercials and a TV documentary about the comic strip, and crafted the story in just a few days after Melendez committed the pair to producing it. They insisted on using real child actors to voice the children, which was unheard of at the time and especially problematic in that some of the cast was too young to read and needed their lines cued by Melendez (whose heavy Mexican accent can actually be heard in a few of the lines where the children parroted his voice too closely). The CBS network objected to Vince Guaraldi’s jazz soundtrack, to the inclusion of the Biblical passage, to the lack of a laugh track on the cartoon, but Schulz and Melendez stood their ground. I would imagine by the time the Emmy and Peabody awards started rolling in, CBS would have realized their mistake.

It is this film’s lack of perfection, I think, that makes it perfect. The animation isn’t polished, the voice actors are clearly amateurs, the editing can be choppy at times. But at the same time, the entire point of the story is that Christmas is supposed to be about something more than glitz and glamour, that the heart of the season is what really matters, and that there’s no reason to be ashamed of loving something, flaws and all. How hollow would that message ring in some of the computer animated films of today, the ones where all the characters look like polished plastic and none of them seem to have any souls? (Yes, I know that there’s currently a CGI Peanuts feature film in the works. I’m trying not to think about it.)

The imperfection of the plotting leads to some of this cartoon’s best character moments. This is one of the shortest synopses I’ve written for a Reel to Reel study since the early days of the first project, and the reason for that is that the actual plot is wonderfully short. Nearly half the cartoon is taken up by tangents that have nothing to do with the story – an ice-skating sequence, Linus showing up the rest of the kids pelting snowballs at a tin can, Lucy flirting with Schroeder on his piano. All of these bits are superfluous as far as the story goes, but go a long way towards demonstrating who these characters are and why they should matter to us.

It doesn’t matter if the lips don’t synch with the words, that the mouths disappear when characters stop talking, that there’s no physical universe in which Charlie Brown’s face in profile and Charlie Brown’s face head-on could possible occupy the same head. If you’re focusing on stuff like that, my friends, you have completely missed the point of this film.

In addition to being an excellent cartoon about the true meaning of Christmas, this special goes a long way towards making Peanuts the cultural icon it is are today. This cartoon was made 15 years into the comic strip’s legendary 50-year run, and while 15 years seems like a long time, in those early years the comic strip and its characters were very much in flux. Lucy was introduced as a baby then aged to being the elder of the group. Sally and Linus were both born during the course of the strip. Snoopy began as a relatively normal dog, but his imagination and behavior grew more and more outlandish. By the time this cartoon was made, the characters had finally settled into the personalities and roles that would define them for the rest of the century. To many of us, Lucy will always be the fussbudget in the psychiatrist booth, Snoopy will always be the dog capable of winning a decorating contest, and Linus will be the child wise beyond his years, the one who puts everything into perspective. (At least until Halloween.)

For all the generations that have been born since this cartoon premiered, how many of us first formed our opinions of these characters by watching A Charlie Brown Christmas? It’s not just a great Christmas special, this is an important piece of Americana. It’s part of our cultural heritage. And on our best days, as it always was with Charles Schulz’s comics, it is who we really are.

For all the dozens of Peanuts cartoons that followed, it was almost 30 years before they tried another Christmas tale – this time with 1992’s It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown. This would be followed again by Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales in 2002 and the ambitious hour-long special I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown in 2003. While these cartoons, like all Peanuts specials, have their moments of sweetness, nothing has ever approached the pure, sincere beauty of the original, and I daresay nothing ever will.

Don’t forget, The Christmas Special is the third Reel to Reel movie study. The first, Mutants, Monsters and Madmen, is now available as a $2.99 eBook in the Amazon Kindle store and Smashwords.com bookstore. And you can find links to all of my novels, collections, and short stories, in their assorted print, eBook and audio forms, at the Now Available page!

30
Apr
12

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 264: Free Comic Book Day Preview

With just five days left before Geek Christmas, it’s time to gear up for Free Comic Book Day! Blake and Erin go through this year’s list of offerings and talk about which books they’re anticipating, which ones may not be to their taste, and whether or not there’s any reptile as awesome as Doctor Dinosaur. (Answer: No.) In the picks, Erin is absorbed in Rhiannon Frater’s As the World Dies series, and Blake urges you to watch Young Justice on Cartoon Network. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 264: Free Comic Book Day Preview

22
Apr
12

100 Comic Book Movies

With a little time to kill this afternoon, I decided to make one of those “Movie List Challenges” over on Facebook. Being the sort of nerd I am, I whipped up a list of 100 movies based on comic books, graphic novels, and newspaper comic strips. Some of these are kind of indirect — the comic strip was made into a broadway musical, the musical was made into a movie. Some of them will be movies you’ve seen but maybe didn’t know were comic books first. Some of them will be foreign and some of them, especially the movie serials of the 40s and 50s, will be characters you’ve heard of in movies you didn’t know existed. And although I tried to stay with theatrical films, it’s possible a made-for-TV movie or two snuck in while I wasn’t looking. But let’s see how many of ’em you’ve seen. For the sake of fairness, I’ve put an asterisk next to each movie that I’ve personally viewed…

1. The Adventures of Captain Marvel (1941) *
2. Batman (1943)
3. Congo Bill (1948)
4. Batman and Robin (1949)
5. Superman and the Mole Men (1951)
6. Blackhawk: Fearless Champion of Freedom (1952)
7. Lil’ Abner (1959)
8. Batman: The Movie (1966)*
9. A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969)*
10. Tales From the Crypt (1972)
11. The Vault of Horror (1973)
12. Superman (1978)*
13. Flash Gordon (1980)*
14. I Go Pogo (aka Pogo For President, 1980)*
15. Popeye (1980)*
16. Superman II (1980)*
17. Annie (1982)*
18. Swamp Thing (1982)
19. Superman III (1983)*
20. Supergirl (1984)*
21. Howard the Duck (1986)*
22. Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987)*
23. Akira (1988)*
24. Batman (1989)*
25. The Punisher (1989)*
26. Return of Swamp Thing (1989)
27. Dick Tracy (1990)*
28. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)*
29. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (1991)*
30. Batman Returns (1992)*
31. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)*
32. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time (1993)
33. The Crow (1994)*
34. The Mask (1994)*
35. Batman Forever (1995)*
36. Judge Dredd (1995)*
37. Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995)*
38. Barb Wire (1996)*
39. Tales From the Crypt: Bordello of Blood (1996)*
40. Batman and Robin (1997)*
41. Men in Black (1997)*
42. Spawn (1997)*
43. Steel (1997)
44. Blade (1998)*
45. X-Men (2000)*
46. Ghost World (2001)*
47. Blade II (2002)*
48. Road to Perdition (2002)*
49. Spider-Man (2002)*
50. American Splendor (2003)*
51. Daredevil (2003)*
52. Hulk (2003)*
53. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)*
54. X2: X-Men United (2003)*
55. Blade: Trinity (2004)*
56. Catwoman (2004)*
57. Garfield (2004)*
58. Hellboy (2004)*
59. The Punisher (2004)*
60. Spider-Man 2 (2004)*
61. Batman Begins (2005)*
62. Constantine (2005)*
63. Elektra (2005)*
64. Fantastic Four (2005)*
65. A History of Violence (2005)*
66. Man-Thing (2005)*
67. Sin City (2005)*
68. Son of the Mask (2005)*
69. V For Vendetta (2005)*
70. 300 (2006)*
71. Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (2006)
72. Over the Hedge (2006)*
73. Superman Returns (2006)*
74. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)*
75. Ghost Rider (2007)*
76. Persepolis (2007)*
77. Spider-Man 3 (2007)*
78. TMNT (2007)*
79. The Dark Knight (2008)*
80. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)*
81. Iron Man (2008)*
82. Punisher: War Zone (2008)*
83. Surrogates (2009)*
84. Watchmen (2009)*
85. X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)*
86. Iron Man 2 (2010)*
87. Jonah Hex (2010)*
88. Kick-Ass (2010)*
89. The Losers (2010)*
90. RED (2010)*
91. Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (2010)*
92. The Adventures of Tintin (2011)*
93. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)*
94. Cowboys and Aliens (2011)*
95. Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2011)*
96. Green Lantern (2011)*
97. The Smurfs (2011)
98. Thor (2011)*
99. X-Men: First Class (2011)*
100. The Avengers (2012)

04
Jan
12

Classic EBI #114: What Worked on Free Comic Book Day

I gotta be honest with you guys — I’m not above feeling a little schadenfreude when I see a yellow journalist take it on the chin. Today I take a look at why certain styles of reporting not only aren’t worth it, but can be outright destructive.

Everything But Imaginary #430: Yellow Journalism With a Dash of Cyan and Magenta

But rolling back in time, let’s go to May 11, 2005. The week after Free Comic Book Day, I took the time to look into everything that worked on that happy occasion…

Everything But Imaginary #114: What Worked on Free Comic Book Day

When people get back to work or school after Christmas, they talk about their holiday. Their trip to Grandma’s house, the snowman they built with the kids, whether or not they got that Play-Box 65 with internet connectivity, a rumble pack and automatic transmission they really wanted. Well folks, the biggest holiday of the comic book fan, Free Comic Book Day, has come and gone, and I for one think it’s worth taking the time to determine its success.

Now I don’t mind telling you that my FCBD was almost derailed. As introverted as I can be, I’m also more or less a sociable person, and I hate doing stuff like this alone, so I tried to round up my buddies Chase and Mike, the two men on this planet I am most likely to have fun arguing about comic books with, and two guys I haven’t seen nearly often enough in the last few months. But alas, Chase was offshore and Mike was laying down a new floor in his home, using the indisputable logic that, no matter how great comic books are, you can’t walk on them. So finally, I called my buddy Jason, my oldest friend and often my first call when I need someone to hang out with. The reason I didn’t call him first this time was that, for one, he’s not into comics, and also his fiancé was having some sort of crisis regarding her gall bladder or something. (I am taking her word for it, as nobody on the North American continent actually knows what a gall bladder is for.) But Jason managed to get away and hit the shop with me.

I got there relatively early in the day and was quite gratified to see the size of the crowd. Parents, children, young couples, teenagers, all flocked to the shop, sifting through this year’s offerings. Because it was so crowded, the manager was limiting us to two items apiece, which made it rather difficult on me to choose, but in the end the only thing I missed that I really wanted was Mortal Coils. I would have liked to get Sean Wang’s Runners: Remastered as well, as I’m a big fan of the series, but I decided instead to leave that and talk it up to people who were trying to decide what to pick up.

FCBD has, in many respects, become something of a mini-convention. It’s the one day a year I know I’ll mingle with other comic fans outside of my usual circle, talk, gossip and exchange ideas. Saturday was one of the first times I’ve been able to have a conversation with anyone outside of a computer forum about Infinite Crisis without them looking at their watch and suddenly remembering a pressing engagement.

But it most gratifying, to me, to see all the kids that were there. Sifting through the comics, getting Betty and Veronica, Uncle Scrooge and Amelia Rules!, looking at the toys and cards, popping open boxes of HeroClix right there on the counter – now that was a great sight to see.

So I walked out of that shop satisfied – but as I said last week, Free Comic Book Day isn’t really about me. It’s about the people who don’t go into a shop every week as though it were a religious experience. It’s about getting the kids to read it, or the adults who only read casually. It’s about boosting the esteem and profile of the entire medium. Now as some of you may know, I’m kind of a message board tramp. I post all over the place. If you added my post-count on every board I’m on, I firmly believe that I could beat the Hulk in a fight. And not just comic book boards – these are boards for books, movies and anything else that interests me. So I went to several of these boards and asked chaps of my acquaintance, including new readers, casual readers and hard-core fanboys, to regale me with their thoughts on FCBD. Here’s what a few of them had to say.

The gent known as Avalonian said:

I took my kids, and I picked up the Betty and Veronica freebie for our youngest, and I bought the 6th part of the Marmalade Boy manga series because the older two saw it and wanted it.

For myself, I picked up the Flight Primer, Ronin Hood of the 47 Samurai, and the Star Wars comic — all free. And I bought Origin, the graphic-novel collection of the Wolverine origin story that came out a few years ago. I’ve been meaning to read it for a while, and I figured, why not?

Ronin Hood of the 47 Samurai was OK, and the Star Wars comic was… Star Wars. Never could get into the Star Wars comics much. Flight was really cool, though. Great art and oddball stories. I may have to check out the rest of the series.

Av also tells me he was interested in 1602 and Warren Ellis’s Orbiter, as well as the upcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and the Jeph Loeb/Tim Sale miniseries Catwoman: When in Rome. He also quite enjoyed Origin. Now this leads me to several conclusions:

1. Am I the only person in the universe who thought Origin was kind of bland and unimpressive?

2. You’ll notice that most of the stuff he got was off the beaten path. He steered right past Batman Strikes and Marvel Adventures. Now this in no way means that the superhero titles are unimportant or should be ignored, but hopefully it will remind those folks at the Big Two that there is a huge audience out there for non-superhero properties.

3. And yes. Flight was really cool.

HarleyQuinn19 informed me…

I grabbed an old (but still free) issue of The Adventures of Barry Ween and totally fell in love with the sick little kid! I so have to get those TPB’s!

Harley, it seems, hit a shop that still had some free copies left over from a few years ago, but hey, whatever works. Judd Winick’s Barry Ween comics helped put him on the map (not that a Pulitzer Prize nomination for Pedro and Me exactly held him back), and it further shows the diversity of the audience. On the flipside, Harley dismissed Heroic Publishing’s FCBD offering, Flare, because it “seemed like just another blonde bimbo in a skin tight outfit to me.” Honestly, I haven’t read Flare and it’s liable to have a lot going for it, but that goes to show you how negative first impressions can keep a potential audience at bay.

[2012 Note: “HarleyQuinn19” today is known better to readers of this column as “My girlfriend Erin.”]

Ubiquitousblink had the following observations:

I haven’t read all my free comics yet but I was impressed on what the indy companies provided. Marvel kind of dropped the ball IMHO. Their “kid” books are kind of wimpy and watered down. DC is superior in this aspect. I’ve always believed that DC has been able to provide a wide variety of genres for all ages and tastes. I could read all DC/Wildstorm/Vertigo books and not miss Marvel at all (except for Bendis’s Spidey).

Now personally, there are several Marvel books I would miss if I walked away from the publisher altogether – Young Avengers, New X-Men and Fantastic Four topping the list. But I get what UB is saying here. I’m hearing from a lot of readers that DC is taking the edge in terms of quality. They’ve also got a wider assortment of books geared at kids – Marvel’s offerings are almost entirely kiddie versions of their preexisting characters. DC has some of that, but also opens their ranks up to stuff like Looney Tunes, Powerpuff Girls and Cartoon Network Block Party. In fact, stuff like the Cartoon Network comics seem to be some of the only anthology comics that sell very much these days at all.

Comixtreme’s CXPulp‘s own Walt Kneeland made a lot of intriguing comments in his own LiveJournal, but the one that I found most interesting was…

Should have picked up Runners #1. Offhand, other than Uncle Scrooge and Ronin Hood, that was the one I’ve heard the most about/remembered the most….but maybe I’ll find a copy later if stuff gets dumped into a quarter bin or otherwise becomes available somewhere. I know last year I missed a couple FCBD issues, but wound up getting those at Origins and Gen Con.

Oh, Walt, but you should have gotten Runners. The good news is, a trade paperback of the first miniseries will be coming out in a few short months.

On the other hand, I was quite gratified to see how many older readers were compelled to sample Uncle Scrooge. I am an unabashed fan of Walt Disney comic books, particularly the works of Carl Barks, Don Rosa, William Van Horn and Pat and Shelly Block. This year’s FCBD offering was Barks’s first-ever full-length Uncle Scrooge story, “Only a Poor Old Man” from Uncle Scrooge #1, and it is considered by many to be one of the best. If you got it and read it, by all means, let me know what you thought.

And finally, I thought it would be good to get the perspective of, not just a reader, but a retailer. So I asked my good buddy SSJGOKU555, who happens to be majority owner of his local shop, to tell me how FCBD went for him.

Free Comic Book Day is one of the best days of the year for me. One I’m a comic geek and I love getting free comics. Two, all of the people who normally don’t buy comics stop in to pick a freebie and maybe one or two titles to check them out. And finally, I run a comic shop and I like making money.  

FCBD is one of the most brilliant things ever devised. It brings in new customers, brings in old readers, brings kids into comics. My shop opens at noon daily and FCBD we had a line waiting for the store to open. All the normal customers, but what I was happy to see was a lot of new faces and a lot of kids maybe 8-9 with their mother or father. From what I saw, the mothers were reluctant to buy any comics due to the fear of violence and sex while the fathers typically knew there was an entire kids rack and headed right for that. Of course this wasn’t always true though. After I showed them the kids rack, the parents took the free comic and saw familiar faces such as Scrooge McDuck, Archie, Sonic the Hedgehog, the animated version of Superman, etc. These are people that normally don’t come in and did because of FCBD. This is what needs to happen more. The comic industry needs more new, young readers to pick up a book here and there. And parents should encourage it, if for nothing else a young child can go read a comic with a cartoon character in it that they know and they can pick up a few reading skills and learn to enjoy reading.

My customers seemed to be in very good spirits, getting free stuff usually does that to a person. We had music going, games, prizes, etc. Customers got into it, had fun, won TPBs, action figures for the kids, etc. Sales were were great due to the free stuff. We gave away so much free stuff we ran out of the free comics and wound up giving out second printings of Green Lantern: Rebirth #1. It’ll remain to be seen whether or not the new customers come back, but for getting new readers into a comic shop, FCBD definitely succeeded. I can’t wait for the next one.

So there you have it folks, straight from the horse’s collective mouths. In short, is Free Comic Book Day working? Yeah, I think it is. The progress is slow and it’s an uphill battle, but I think it is bringing in new people and re-exciting old readers, and those are the two most important things that could possibly happen in the world of comic books right now.

So let’s start getting ready for next year.

FAVORITE OF THE WEEK: May 4, 2005
It wasn’t even a contest, folks. Not Superman, not New X-Men… not even Villains United could have wrested my “Favorite of the Week” award from The Complete Peanuts: 1955-1956. The third volume in a 25-book series, this is a concerted effort to reprint every Peanuts comic strip the legendary Charles M. Schulz ever did, in their original order, as restored as technology and archival records will allow. This volume contains such notable events as Linus’s first words, Snoopy’s first impressions and the first time Lucy pulled that darn football away from good ol’ Charlie Brown. To a Peanuts lover like me, reading these books is nirvana.

FAVORITE OF THE YEAR: Free Comic Book Day 2005
And now for a special bonus! While I wasn’t able to get every Free Comic Book Day comic this year, I managed to get a few and read a few others, and my favorite hands-down has to be Jetpack Press’s Johnny Raygun Freebie. This comic is a great lighthearted sci-fi superhero title about a teenage secret agent in a world full of mad scientists, monsters and superpowered kids. I’ve never read a Johnny Raygun comic before, but the story of his sister trying to join the esteemed Nuclear Kids left me grinning from ear to ear. I’m going to make an effort to find the first several issues of Johnny’s quarterly title, and I’m almost certainly going to add this one to my pull-list. Invincible fans take note – this is the kind of thing I bet you’d really dig.

Blake M. Petit is the author of the superhero comedy novel, Other People’s Heroes, the suspense novel The Beginner and the Christmas-themed eBook A Long November. He’s also the co-host, with whoever the hell is available that week, of the 2 in 1 Showcase Podcast. E-mail him at BlakeMPetit@gmail.com and visit him on the web at Evertime Realms. Read past columns at the Everything But Imaginary Archive Page.

30
Dec
11

Choosing the year’s best movies…

Exactly one year ago today, I sat down in an effort to compile my personal list of the best movies of 2010, only to discover, to my horror, that I hadn’t seen nearly enough 2010 releases to come up with any kind of comprehensive list. Undaunted, I decided to spent the next month gorging myself on on 2010 movies via Netflix and borrowing DVDs from people. Ultimately, I managed to create such a list, although it wasn’t posted until February 1 of this year.

I’ve come to realize that, while there’s a natural urge to categorize things at the end of the year, I don’t get out to the movies nearly often enough. I used to — back in the day my pal Jason and I could knock out two or three movies in a weekend, but that was before I had a blog. These days, not so much. I’ve seen a total of 36 films with a 2011 release date, 10 of which would typically be disqualified from a list like this because they were either made for television or direct-to-DVD (although I would put things like All Star Superman and Phineas and Ferb: Across the Second Dimension right up there with the most entertaining films of the year, head-to-head with any movie that got to theaters).

If I had the sort of life that allowed me to take in most movies as they were released, it would be more logical of me to try to compile a list like this, but sadly, I’m not a professional reviewer, although I’ve often wished I was. In this day and age I see movies in the theater, typically, when it’s something I have a burning desire to see that won’t wait for DVD or on those rare occasions when I’m hanging out with friends and we need something to do, something that has happened less and less often thanks to the work and family obligations that seem to hold us all back these days.

So, like last year, I’m going to frontload my NetFlix queue with 2011 releases (now that so many of them are available), then come back in a month or so to let you know what I decided were my favorites of the year. In the meantime, here are the movies I’ve already seen, ranked by how much I enjoyed them. The first few shouldn’t surprise anybody…

 

  1. The Muppets
  2. Super 8
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  4. Captain America: The First Avenger
  5. All-Star Superman (Direct-to-DVD)
  6. Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension (TV Movie)
  7. X-Men: First Class
  8. Attack the Block
  9. Thor
  10. Batman: Year One (Direct-to-DVD)
  11. Source Code
  12. The Captains
  13. Green Lantern
  14. Cars 2
  15. Scream 4
  16. Still Screaming (Direct-to-DVD Documentary)
  17. Good Luck Charlie: It’s Christmas (TV Movie)
  18. The Hangover Part II
  19. Limitless
  20. Green Lantern: Emerald Knights (Direct-to-DVD)
  21. Scream: The Inside Story (Direct-to-DVD Documentary)
  22. Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown (Direct-to-DVD)
  23. Contagion
  24. Battle: Los Angeles
  25. Tower Heist
  26. Paul
  27. Cowboys and Aliens
  28. Miller’s Tale (TV Documentary)
  29. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Ties
  30. Quarantine 2: Terminal
  31. Sucker Punch
  32. Unknown
  33. A Fairly Odd Movie: Grow Up, Timmy Turner (TV Movie)
  34. Red Riding Hood
  35. Your Highness
  36. The Green Hornet

 

06
Nov
11

2 in 1 Showcase Episode 244: Holiday Movie Preview 2011

With Thanksgiving coming upon us, Blake and Erin talk about this year’s slate of Holiday movie releases! They delve into all of the big releases, lots of the little ones, and gush profusely over the Muppets! In the picks, it’s Animal Man #3 and Peanuts #0. Contact us with comments, suggestions, or anything else at Showcase@CXPulp.com!

Music provided by Music Alley from Mevio.

Episode 244: Holiday Movie Preview 2011




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