Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Evolution of 30 Rock

Just saw the "Runt" episode of "30 Rock" on cable and am amazed at how much the show evolved from the first season. First, the focus was on the writers, now they're background characters. Second, when Liz had a problem she discussed it with Pete, now it's Jack, and finally it's so surreal now, comparatively speaking this episode was a drama (watch Tracy's speech about diabetes) ! Rip Torn plays it totally straight, two seasons later he'd be over the top.

I'm not complaining, as the show got more surreal it just got funnier. All signs seem to point to just one more season though.

(Read Bossypants, Fey touches on the difficulties of being a female in charge that this episode focuses on.)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Best Curt Swan Inker

This is a post for the true comic book geeks. Who was Curt Swan's best inker? Swan was of course the Superman artist from the '60s to the '80s. The question is who was his best inker. If you're a baby boomer and read Superman in the '60s, the answer is probably George Klein. Clean lines, a massive chest, a 'Mad Men'-era haircut. Truly manly.

Then the '70s came along and Murphy Anderson started inking, and everything changed. The lines were feathered, and Superman was dragged out of the '50s. Sideburns! Anderson would be my favorite inker and though most of his work on Swan was from the early '70s, he'd still pop up through the '80s on one-shots. DC definitely needs to put out a Swanderson trade paperback.

The late '70s also gave us Bob Oksner, Dave Hunt and Kurt Shaffenberger. Oksner was probably the most true to Swan's pencils. Not a lot of flair, but a real solid Klein-like consistency. Shaffenberger could make any penciller look like Shaffenberger. Compare his work on Swan to his work on his own pencils and you'll see little difference. Shaffenberger did make the most perfect S insignia though.

When asked, Swan said his favorite was Al Williamson, an EC Comics veteran who, once again, put his own imprint on Swan's pencils. It is an interesting look.

Monday, April 16, 2012

See you in the funny papers

I'm behind on this review, but if you are any kind of comic strip fan, it would behoove you to find a copy, (I've seen them in Barnes & Noble), or better yet subscribe to Hogan's Alley. It covers comics from the Yellow Kid to Sponge Bob (another yellow kid, actually) and everything in between.

As a kid I loved spreading out the Sunday comics on the living room floor, studying the art, and memorizing the names of the artists, and the syndicate. (The Evening Bulletin's selection was always better than the Inquirer's). This magazine has interviews of or stories about everyone I've ever admired.

The latest issue has a great interview with Cathy Guisewite, a history of Bluto and his legally-induced dopplegangers, and a funny story about how every time DC Comics needed to goose sales, they'd put a gorilla on the cover.

Check it out here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A James Bond Wish List Part 1

I wish Roger Moore quit after "For Your Eyes Only." It was made after the over-the-top, absolutely unbelievable "Moonraker," and the producers wanted to get back to basics.  And FYEO succeeded in a back-to-basics Bond. No high-tech gadgets, crafty Russians, and a lethal leading lady (instead of a clingy screamer...I'm talking about you Tanya Roberts). And Roger Moore finally aged into the role, he was no longer the cute Bond. He looked the world-weary Bond Fleming wrote about, he was getting tired.

The opening at Tracy's grave hinted at this (though the scene foils the Internet theory that each different actor playing James Bond is actually playing a different agent assuming the code name.)

Now look at the films following this one, Octopussy (Bond as clown), and "View to a Kill." Octopussy is the better of the two, Maude Adams was perfect as an age-appropriate leading lady, but "VTAK" was a greatest hits collection with the worst love interest, and a too-quirky for his own good Christopher Walken.

If he quit with FYEO he would have went out on top.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Literature's longest unresolved plot thread

Spirit King kills Mr. Terrific in 1979, escapes, they finally get around to capturing him in 1997.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Case of the Beneficial Barrister

They ran a Perry Mason marathon on Encore on Saturday. These were the ‘80s-’90s 2-hour TV movies. They’re a guilty pleasure. They’re bland and there’s lots of filler, but there’s lots of character actors. What I really enjoy is the context behind the show.
Fred Silverman was a television executive and later producer whose success could be summed up this way: Spinoffs, recycling and familiar faces in the mystery genre. 
(Some samples of his spinoffs: Rhoda, Phyllis, the Jeffersons, Maude, Good Times, Laverne and Shirley, all hits, then his unlucky streak at NBC: Hello Larry, Sheriff Lobo.
Some samples of his familiar faces starring in mysteries: Jake and the Fatman, In the Heat of the Night, Matlock, Father Dowling Mysteries, and Diagnosis Murder. Brandon Tartikoff writes in his book “The Last Great Ride” about Silverman sending him to James Arness’ home on the ruse of discussing a new series with him, but actually checking him out to see if he’s too old and craggy for TV. Arness answers the door and says, “Are you here to see if I’m too old and craggy for TV?”)

Silverman first recycled Perry Mason in the early ‘70s at CBS, the Raymond Burr version had only been off the air for seven years when he brought back a version with a new cast. Monte Markham as Mason. (The real Raymond Burr was in the hit “Ironsides” and was unavailable.
It barely ran the season, but in the  ‘80s he recycled it again (this time as producer) with Burr and Barbara Hale reprising their roles from the original series. This time it worked and the series of 2-hour movies (two or three a year) ran for another 7 years. Incredible.
Toward the last few years Burr was in failing health and his weight was increasingly a problem. Look and you’ll see that he’s usually filmed leaning against something. And later when he was especially in failing health..and when he died...they kept making Perry Mason Mysteries! Nothing would stop Fred Silverman. They used Paul Sorvino and Hal Holbrook to play lawyer pals of Mason’s in town to handle his caseload. Heck they should have gotten Monte Markham!

There’s a good book by Susan Kandel called, “I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason,” it’s one in a series of mysteries about a writer writing biographies of mystery authors and then stumbling onto some kind of mystery herself. In this book the biography topic is Erle Stanley Gardner, so you get some background on Gardner, and a good mystery. This is a  brilliant concept for a series of mysteries and I wish I thought of it.