Book Review: ‘Comic Wars: How Two Tycoons Battled Over the Marvel Comics Empire–And Both Lost’ by Dan Raviv

Comic Wars was a pretty interesting read, as I’ve always liked books about business and corporate histories. What made it even more interesting was that it covered a really dark time in the history of Marvel Comics.

The gist of this tale is told around Marvel Entertainment’s bankruptcy near the turn of the century. It goes through all of the steps, bad business decisions and market changes that led to shit figuratively hitting the fan at the “House of Ideas”.

Being that I was a huge fan of Marvel’s toyline done by Toy Biz, I found all that stuff really interesting. Also, this was cool to read because when Marvel really started to suffer, I was actually at a place in my life where I wasn’t reading comics very often and I had no idea that the industry, as a whole, was struggling. As far as I knew, everything was still booming and it wasn’t until a few years later when Marvel started selling off the film rights of their flagship characters that I saw the writing on the wall.

This book is thorough, captivating and damn informative.

This would actually be a great documentary if someone decided to adapt this true tale into a film with interviews featuring all the key players in the story.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other books about the comic industry from the last few decades.

Documentary Review: The Lost Arcade (2015)

Also known as: Arcade (working title)
Release Date: November 14th, 2015 (DOC NYC)
Directed by: Kurt Vincent
Written by: Irene Chin
Music by: Gil Talmi

26 Aries, Wheelhouse Creative, 79 Minutes

Review:

I had a high school friend that used to talk about all the great video game arcades in New York City. By the mid-’90s, he was living in Southwest Florida but his stories of these really cool and iconic places always made me want to go check them out. I never got to though, as they started shutting down, one after the other. But at least the Chinatown Fair was going strong. But then a few years ago, it had to shut its doors and I never got that authentic NYC arcade experience.

This documentary covers the ’80s and ’90s NYC arcade scene but mostly focuses on the Chinatown Fair and the love that the local gamers had for the last real bastion of coin-op gaming culture.

Several people are interviewed for this documentary and it does a great job of telling their stories and showing their love for the Chinatown Fair.

I didn’t go into this documentary expecting much, I just wanted to feel a little bit of nostalgia for old school arcade gaming and I was hoping that people’s love for this iconic spot would at least tell an interesting story.

It really hits you in the feels though, as everyone’s passion comes through the screen. I think that anyone that used to have a special place that used to make them feel great can relate to the film. Most of us have lost something from our youth that truly made us happy. This film is more about coping with that loss and trying to move past it than it is just about the great Chinatown Fair.

This is an engaging documentary. It pulls you in and makes you see things through the eyes and experiences of its subjects. That’s really what any good documentary should do and this succeeds at just that.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: other video game documentaries from recent years: The King of Kong, Chasing Ghosts, The Art of the Game, Indie Game: The Movie, Free to Play, Ecstasy of Order, Special When Lit, etc.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 8 – Spotlight on the Romitas (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), John Romita Sr., John Romita Jr.

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 50 Minutes

Review:

The eighth episode of The Comic Book Greats was really cool as it focused on the great father and son duo, John Romita Sr. and John Romita Jr.

Both men are favorite artists of mine and what’s intriguing about them other than being father and son, is that both have very different art styles.

I loved Romita Sr. when he was doing a lot of classic Marvel titles, especially his run on The Amazing Spider-Man and early Daredevil.

Romita Jr. was one of the first artists that I admired back when I was too young to care about comic credits and artist’s names. His work during the Ann Nocenti run on Daredevil is still, to this day, some of my favorite work. I still go back and revisit the Nocenti/Romita Jr. era because it really contributed to my love of comic books as a creative medium.

This was just a really fun episode and Stan Lee showed that he had a lot of love for the Romita boys.

Like other episodes featuring artists, this one went to the drawing table and we got to see both Romitas work on some really good pieces.

This is an entertaining chapter in The Comic Book Greats and it was really cool seeing two different generations sit down and work their creative magic together.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

Documentary Review: Jack Kirby: Story Teller (2007)

Release Date: June 5th, 2007
Cast: Neal Adams, Jim Lee, Stan Lee, Jeph Loeb, John Romita Sr., Alex Ross, Tim Sale, Walter Simonson, Bruce Timm, Len Wein, Barry Windsor-Smith, Marv Wolfman

Marvel Studios, Sparkhill Production, 20th Century Fox, 64 Minutes

Review:

I’ve been watching through a lot of comic book documentaries on YouTube, lately. I came across this one that discusses the work and legacy of Jack Kirby.

I’m not sure if this was made as a special feature on a DVD, as it was produced by Marvel and 20th Century Fox. Maybe it was included on one of the Fantastic Four DVD releases a decade ago.

Anyway, if you appreciate and admire the great work of Jack Kirby, this is a really engaging documentary.

It is rather short, considering the long career of the man but it does cover a lot of ground. It also interviews a lot of other comic book greats that worked with Kirby or were inspired by him.

This feels like a quickly thrown together low budget fluff piece and if I’m being honest, Jack Kirby deserves a proper documentary or a real biopic. As much as this does talk about how much Jack did, I still don’t feel like it captures the real importance and scale of it all.

But this is still a worthwhile watch because there really isn’t anything better… yet.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other comic book industry biographical documentaries.

Modern Porn Is Bullshit

*The Bullshit Series started on an older blog but I wanted to bring these articles back here, as I have new installments for the series that I want to release over time. The series focuses on things that I think are bullshit… like filet mignon, Zubaz pants, the Pro Bowl and diets.

*Written in 2014.

I like porn. I always have. No, I am not an addict or one of those guys who actually goes out and buys porn tapes; do those even exist anymore? But when I’m in a sex drought and need to take care of some business, I like to pop on a decent porn and do what I’ve got to do. Luckily for you, this post isn’t about my masturbatory habits; don’t shy away and act like you don’t do it too because you do: everyone does. What this post is about, is the problem with modern porn. It just isn’t the same as it was when I was twelve.

Yes, I watched porn when I was a kid. Most American males from my generation did because we always had that friend who’d bring one of his dad’s tapes to school. In fact, I don’t think a week went by on the school bus where someone wasn’t showing off their dad’s Playboy or nudie trading cards they acquired from their older brother or drunk uncle. At least a few times a year, someone had a tape. By high school, I had probably half a dozen in my own collection from tapes copied from friends or stuff I “found”.

Porn is different today. Long gone is the bad acting, bad plots, bad hair, monstrous pubic pies and a lot of other staples that I came to know as a youngster. Today we have plastic supermodels, no plots, bald vaginas, better hair and the only bad acting is the sex moans. At first glance, one might consider this an improvement and I did too for a little while. Then I realized that something just wasn’t right about modern porn. I couldn’t connect to it and although it wasn’t ineffective, it wasn’t as effective as the material generations prior.

To start, how much fucking felatio are they going to cram into a 25 minute scene? No one in the world gives head for that long and between every single position change! Well, except paid porn stars apparently. But really, why so damn much of it? I’m glad I don’t pay for this porn shit anymore because it’d be a waste of damn money. At the risk of sounding too lewd, I want to see a dude bone a chick, not just make his cock disappear into her head for the whole damn scene! Besides that, felatio is boring after about 30 seconds. If I wanted to watch a non-stop blowjob, I’d just beat off to a GIF file.

Another issue is that chicks in porn used to look normal. These porn stars now are like plastic CGI creatures. Yes, some of them are excruciatingly beautiful with or without their “enhancements” but the whole thing just doesn’t feel real to me anymore. Not that old school porn felt real, as it was fantasy scenarios and situations that would most likely never happen, but the girls at least looked slightly better than average and felt like they were accessible. Maybe I’ve always liked the “girl next door” over the supermodel but porn was much more believable and enjoyable when it had even just a small level of believability to it.

The style of porn has also changed drastically and what I mean by that is that there are no longer plot-driven porn movies. I mean, they’re still made sparingly by some of the larger megaporn manufacturers but they’ve almost become nonexistent, unless you count the hundreds of parodies that are being cranked out. Sure, I enjoyed the porn parody of the 1960s Batman show but this seems to be the only type of porn movies with plots anymore. Now we just have “reality porn”, which is just some dude throwing a random chick a bunch of cash and banging her in a cramped bus or the supermodel type giving 75 minutes of felatio in some hotel room that looks like it’s in an MTV Real World house. Porn has become like crash television in its delivery. While it serves a purpose, it has become extremely redundant and bland. Maybe I’m just bored with it because I’m a creative guy and I don’t think it’s weird that I’d like a little more creativity in my smut.

Then there is the porn that is too goddamned creative. I’m referring to that “art porn” crap. Sorry, but I don’t want to see a tiger-striped body-painted chick in a cyborg outfit with tubes coming out of her orifices, as she shines and gleams under hot lights in front of a camera lens that some idiot art school dropout smeared Vaseline over. It’s fucking bizarre and stupid and serves no purpose other than stroking the overblown ego of some moron who thinks he is a genius even though he couldn’t get a job as a key grip on a SyFy movie about UFOs fighting giant radioactive koalas. But don’t get it twisted, straight up science fiction porn is cool; I’ll take that any day over this “artistic” crap.

Moving on, don’t even get me started on the overabundance of disgusting porn that I come across online. Octopus tentacles hanging out of a Japanese chick is unacceptable. If this makes me intolerable of other cultures, I’m okay with that. Actually, I could keep listing more stuff but I’m already feeling vomit-y.

Looking at the overall big picture, modern porn fucking sucks. No, I don’t want 1970s looking chicks with Wookiee bush on my screen but something a little more fun and entertaining than some crooked-dicked douchebag grunting like a retarded rhinoceros as he face fucks a shiny polyurethane looking chick that moans like a duck choking on a brisket would be nice.

While you may disagree with me, you’re wrong. Not much else needs to be said on the topic.

TV Review: The Comic Book Greats: Episode 7 – Spotlight on Chris Claremont (1992)

Released: 1992
Created by: Stan Lee
Directed by: Rick Stawinski
Music by: Rick Stawinski, Rob Stawinski
Cast: Stan Lee (host), Chris Claremont

Excelsior Productions, Stabur Home Video, 50 Minutes

Review:

I’ve really been enjoying going back and watching this series. Most of the episodes I haven’t actually seen as I only owned five of the 13 videos. This is one of the ones that I missed back in 1992 because I was much more into the artists than the writers back then.

Unfortunately, out of all the ones I’ve seen, this being the seventh, this one was definitely the slowest and least interesting. I think that part of that is because it was just a straight up interview for 50 minutes and there wasn’t a large portion of it devoted to art and comic book creation.

I was pretty surprised by how detached I was, as I do love Chris Claremont and I thought that his documentary from a year or so ago was damn good. He is, hands down, one of the best writers I was reading on a regular basis when I was first getting into comics.

Now this isn’t a bad episode of the series but it’s probably not going to excite kids that are interested in comic book creation.

Chris Claremont is a class act and you certainly shouldn’t miss this episode if you want to watch through all of these but I wouldn’t call this a good starting point.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other episodes in The Comic Book Greats video series.

Documentary Review: Crumb (1994)

Release Date: September 10th, 1994 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Directed by: Terry Zwigoff
Music by: David Boeddinghaus
Cast: Robert Crumb, Aline Kominsky-Crumb, Charles Crumb, Jack Harrington

Sony Pictures Classics, 120 Minutes

Review:

Robert Crumb is a pretty intriguing guy. He’s one of the greatest cartoonists of his generation and he made several iconic comic strips that will go on to outlive him. The man is such a unique character that he can carry this documentary on his own.

And I guess that’s a pretty good thing as this film just sort of follows him around on average days. It doesn’t really go too much into his work and his impact, it kind of just assumes that you already know who he is. Some important career things are mentioned and discussed a bit but this really is more or less “a day in the life of…” than a retrospective or biographical work.

But that’s kind of a problem for me.

You see, I know who Robert Crumb is, I am familiar with his more famous work but this film should have had a lot more about why this guy is important, as I feel like the layperson might not pick up on it. They may just see this and go, “Oh, that guy is good at making art caricatures and stuff” and then not really appreciate the context of what’s happening on screen and why Crumb is a pretty important cultural figure.

This is enjoyable but for something lacking context and narrative depth, it’s too long. There just isn’t enough meat, even though director Terry Zwigoff is feeding you a pretty large meal.

I need more protein and less filler, thank you.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: Comic Book ConfidentialIn Search of Steve Ditko and other older comic book documentaries.