Category: Obituaries

Val’s Toy Chest- Carrie Fisher 1956-2016

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Last week’s column was my year-end favorite figures list and one of the figures on that list was the recent Star Wars Black Series Princess Leia Organa, I mentioned in the article Carrie’s- at the time– current medical status. After the issue went to press, Carrie Fisher passed away at the age of 60, she drowned in moonlight and was strangled by her own bra. This column is my tribute to her and her most well-known character.

Growing up, I was raised mostly on Superheroes with the occasional science fiction like Star Wars thrown in. I remember watching and rewatching the original Star Wars  and loving all the characters, but especially Princess Leia. I don’t remember watching Empire Strikes Back much as a child, but I really got into Return of the Jedi.  Due to my love of the  (then) 1st and 3rd movies, I got into the Kenner action figures. I had no less than three distinctive Leia action figures during the 80s, including New Hope Leia, Leia in her Boushh disguise and Endor Leia in her poncho from the Speeder Bike sequence. It’s quite possible that Leia as Boushh was my first ever female action figure but I don’t really remember if that was truly the case. My adoration of the Leia character probably came from her sass, her regal presence and her no-nonsense attitude. All I know is that I’ve always loved strong female heroes and Princess Leia was no slouch in that department.  Though there was a lull in my love of the Star Wars franchise from the mid-80’s thru the early ’90’s, I always did appreciate the character.

1995 was the first year that Star Wars lived again on the toy shelves. And there I was again collecting Leia all over again. This time however, I made sure to get figures of Leia that I never had before, from updated versions of Bespin and Hoth Leias to brand new figures like Jabba’s Prisoner and Ewok Celebration, Leia was finally getting all of her varied looks included in this more comprehensive toyline.  Kenner folded into Hasbro, but the toyline continues to this day with both the original size figures and the larger 6″ figures. Princess Leia has been a mainstay in the 6″ line with three figures under her belt to date. Prisoner Leia was released during one of the first waves a few years back and was the subject of controversy when a parent complained about her sexy outfit.(He must have NEVER seen the film, but I digress…) This was followed up by the Boushh figure which made my Top 5 of 2015 and now the current New Hope Leia.

It’s difficult writing about Carrie Fisher’s death because in some ways I haven’t fully grasped it yet. I’ll share an anecdote with you about why you shouldn’t take anything for granted. As you may have heard, Carrie released a book within the last couple of months. She then did a signing at an NYC bookstore that I refuse to support and I passed up the chance to meet her, figuring I’d catch her at her next public appearance, whether it be at a comic con or another future book signing not at the aforementioned bookstore. In hindsight, I should have made an exception, but who knew that we’d lose Carrie shortly after that signing. I can’t beat myself up too much as you can’t change the past, but it is a lesson to never squander an opportunity when it presents itself to you. It’s also tough because Carrie was my mother’s age and I don’t need to face her mortality yet either. I’d also be remiss to not mention the tragedy of Carrie’s mother, Debbie Reynolds, dying the day after her daughter’s untimely death.

I don’t want to end the column on a downer, so we should celebrate Carrie’s legacy through her films, her books and through her iconic heroine which influenced an entire generation of children, male and female to reach for the stars.  I received the Leia Hot Toys figure for Christmas and now I have an incredibly accurate figure of one of my very first on-screen heroines that I will cherish forever. Thank you, Carrie Fisher for sharing your wit, your sass, and your talent with the world. May you rest in peace.

 

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Val’s Toy Chest- Star Wars Black In the House!

If you’ve read my past columns, you know that I’ve been a casual Star Wars fan since I was a little kid. I haven’t been a fan of the entire saga, choosing to mostly ignore the prequels as they didn’t appeal to me. I did give the latest film a shot and really loved it- it helped immensely that there was a strong female protagonist in Rey and characters I loved like Chewbacca, Han Solo and Leia Organa were back. On that note, after a long wait, we have finally started seeing some new pieces from Hasbro’s 6″ Black Series line. There have also been a couple of restocks including one of my very favorite figures of the entire series thus far.

Fans of the Original Trilogy, The Force Awakens, Star Wars: Rebels and even the prequels should be thrilled with the assortment of figures just released by Hasbro. From the very first movie, A New Hope, comes the Luke Skywalker figure dressed in his famous white and beige outfit. Luke comes with his signature blue lightsaber and a pair of binoculars which clip on to his belt. His white tunic is made out of cloth and he features several points of articulation. The Force Awakens still gets the lion’s share of the Star Wars Black line for the moment- at least until Star Wars: Rogue One comes out later in the year. Figures out in this recent assortment include First Order Snowtroopers and Flametroopers, plus Han Solo as he appeared in this seventh installment of the fan-favorite film series. Each of the troopers comes clad in their respective armors with multiple points of articulation and character-specific accessories. Han comes with his blaster and is also fully poseable.

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Star Wars: Rebels has been a fairly popular animated series on the Cartoon Network and took over the reigns of the now defunct Clone Wars series. Hasbro has taken the character designs from the animated series and has given them a realistic look to fit in with the aesthetic of the regular Star Wars 6″ Black line. The first of the 6″ Rebels figures to arrive are Jedi Kanan Jarrus, the character played by Freddie Prinze, Jr. and fan-favorite character and original Clone Wars character, Ahsoka Tano, who has recently shown up on Rebels. Each figure comes with their distinctive lightsabers and follows the same poseability model as previous Star Wars Black figures. Finally- prequel fans get one of the cooler looking characters with the release of the Jango Fett 6″ Figure. Jango has his silver and blue Mandalorian armor, a removable helmet, his jetpack and two blasters.

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Back in stock from Star Wars Black is the premier villain of the entire Star Wars universe, Darth Vader. I’d argue that this is probably my favorite figure in the entire Star Wars Black line, even over the Leia in Boushh disguise figure. Vader comes dressed in his iconic black armor with a sweeping black fabric cape, his famous helmet and his red-bladed lightsaber. The blade is detachable and the helmet is removable, which helps you to recreate the scene at the end of Return of the Jedi where he reveals his scarred face to Luke. Definitely one of the best 6″ figures at this price point. Also back in- one of the newest heroes from the Force Awakens, Finn. Finn is dressed in the outfit he crashed on Jakku in. Still available are X-Wing Pilot Poe Dameron and Constable Zuvio, whose character ended up on the cutting room floor.

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Other toys scheduled to arrive this week include some Star Wars 3 3/4″ figures from the recent film, plus a restock on items from the wildly popular DC Collectibles Batman: The Animated Series line. Characters such as Bane, Batgirl, Killer Croc, The Joker, Harley Quinn, plus Batman and Robin should all be gracing our DC toy shelves again sometime this week. Newly arrived is the next figure in NECA’s popular videogame line, The Terminator 2 T-800 figure as seen in the 1991 T2 Video Game. Decorated to resemble his 8-bit pixelated appearance in the game, the figure is fully articulated and comes with interchangeable heads and a shotgun.

On a quick note, I’ve been listening to a lot of Prince this week due to his untimely passing. Prince may not have had a deep comics connection other than his soundtrack contributions to Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman film and a rare Piranha Press one-shot comic book, but he was an icon nonetheless and was definitely a memorable part of my youth. R.I.P. Purple One and thanks for “Manic Monday,” “When Doves Cry,” “Purple Rain” and so much more.

 

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Val’s Toy Chest Extra- R.I.P. Arrow 2012-2016

THIS PIECE DOES NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEW OF FPNYC JUST YOURS TRULY

A few years ago, I found myself at Target on Thanksgiving night and saw season 1 of the CW series Arrow on sale, so I decided to give it a shot- one since I was a massive DC fan, two since I am and always will be a fan of Dinah Laurel Lance, the Black Canary whom I knew was a regular character on the series. It helped that an actress(Katie Cassidy) that I liked from previous roles was cast as Laurel, which was the name they called her by on the show and I also knew she wasn’t Black Canary yet. I didn’t watch the series right away, but when I did, I was hooked. It had action, a strong male and female lead, easter eggs to DC characters minor and major and an intriguing femme fatale in Oliver’s own mother. Before I read reviews online, I had no idea how badly Laurel’s character had been received on the series, I loved her and thought she was for the most part fairly well-written. Others despised her because she was frequently antagonistic to Oliver, although in most contexts she had every reason to be. Many of the show’s fans were instead drawn to a new character named Felicity Smoak, who in the earlier seasons fulfilled the awkward sweet tech girl role and was a fun character and they decided that they wanted to see her with Oliver, which in and of itself is fine, Ollie and Laurel didn’t need to be together throughout the series.

Season 2 was a great season which found Oliver facing off against Deathstroke and introduced us to Laurel’s sister, Sara- who was going by the Canary in her costumed persona. That was also fine, Laurel has always been the second person to use the Canary persona, inheriting it from a relative. Katie Cassidy had a strong character arc for Laurel during season 2 where she found herself hitting the bottle and clashing with her family and Oliver before she picked herself out of her funk and started to become a stronger character from it, setting the stage for her taking on her comic book destiny as the Black Canary. Laurel also had her own nemesis during season 2 in the form of Brother Blood, which folded in nicely with the larger story of the season, especially as she found out Oliver’s identity as the Arrow and exposed Brother Blood in conspiring with Deathstroke to kill Ollie’s mother.

Season 3 had different showrunners at the helm and found Sara assassinated and falling right into Laurel’s line of view, causing her to take up her sister’s mantle and become the Black Canary, saving the city with Oliver’s team as he had gone missing after fighting Ra’s Al Ghul and continuing in the role into the next season. Season 4 found Laurel still fighting the good fight but relegated to a background character for much of the season. It also teased that someone would die 6 months from the premiere. Despite the fact that Black Canary has a strong comic book pedigree and nearly 70 years of stories that could be told, the people in charge of the show decided to kill off Laurel Lance instead of drawing from the rich catalog of stories that they could have. Showrunner Marc Guggenheim didn’t even have a good reason for murdering off the last authentic comic book character other than Oliver, just that he had to fulfill the promise of killing someone off and that Laurel’s death would make in his opinion, the best storyline. There were other things he said that led to their choice of Laurel, but they reek of BS. The kicker is that they’ve also dismissed the comic book fans by saying that they are aware of the comics but ultimately think they are making the best story, which they really aren’t. They also revealed that they never had any intention of pursuing the Laurel/Oliver pairing again which is also another slap in the face to comic book fans, whom without there wouldn’t even be these characters to write about in the first place. You don’t need to be a slave to the comics but you need to at least honor the source material and not kill characters that are intrinsically tied to the main character across different forms of media. Plus the way she went out didn’t even honor her as a heroine as she is killed to send a message to her father and to make Diggle and Oliver feel guilty.

Here’s what I would have done with the characters they said they couldn’t kill off:

Thea Queen– I would have left her alone, she is still one of the best characters on the show and I will miss her.

Quentin Lance– He was grave candidate number one for me. I would have killed him off and had that trigger the next round of stories including Laurel improving herself and growing more into her Black Canary role. He also would have propelled Felicity’s story since he is dating her mother as well as Oliver whom he had a strained father figure/son relationship with. They could have found a way for Thea and Diggle to be affected as well. This also fits in well with the theme of parents sacrificing themselves for their children that the season seemed to be writing towards.

John Diggle– since his brother betrayed him, it would have made sense for Dig to pay the ultimate price. This would have affected all of the Team as well.

Felicity Smoak– Is a shrill and abusive girlfriend and frankly the way they’ve written her this season makes any sensible person want her in the grave, alas she was shown as safe during the midseason premiere.

In all, I would have preferred that they left the entire team alone since I generally like all of them, including Shrillicity when she’s written well.

That boneheaded decision finds me breaking up with a series that I used to love and support. I’ve talked about Arrow in my weekly column quite frequently. I’ve met Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy and I still have a ticket for the next Heroes and Villains Con which I’m not as excited for unless Katie attends.  I’ve bought the tie-in comics, the action figures, DVDs and trading cards but that ends here. The last thing I will buy that is Arrow related is the forthcoming Laurel Lance/Black Canary action figure, since she was the one that was wronged and she is and always will be my favorite.The only way you’ll get me watching the show again and buying the merchandise is to reverse the death, I can live with the Oliver/Felicity pairing though I despise it, but Laurel should never have died in the first place.

I’ll leave with a Laurel quote dedicated to a show I once felt something for:

“It’s hard to remember a time when I was ever in love with you…”

R.I.P. Laurel Lance and Arrow. She deserved better.

If you are upset as I am, I want to hear from you on Twitter: ValentineC1979 and you can also tweet #NoLaurelNoArrow, if you’re appalled by this decision.

 

 

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Val’s Toy Chest- Wes Craven 1939-2015

The year was 1984: Me and my parents had just moved back to New York City after spending a year or so living in Florida. I was five years old with an impressionable young mind and took in all I could of the city while driving around with my dad in his car. One of the most vivid memories I have from that year was seeing a now very iconic movie poster on scaffolding on one such occasion. Considering when the film was released it had to have been around October or so- the movie: Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street. The poster painted by Matthew Joseph Peak combined with the memorable tag line: “If Nancy Doesn’t Wake Up Screaming She Won’t Wake Up At All” has never ceased to fascinate and terrify me at the same time. The artwork for the Freddy’s Revenge poster just one year later also captured my attention because of how chilling and well-composed it was. 1987’s Dream Warriors poster scared the bejeezus out of me as well. Peak was a master of his craft for sure.

Of course, I am waxing poetic about A Nightmare on Elm Street in this week’s column because we’ve lost one of the masters of horror and that film’s main architect within the last week and a half. News of Wes Craven’s death hit on Sunday, August 30th after I had written last week’s column and I hadn’t had time to gather my thoughts about it until today. The specter of Craven’s most famous creation: Freddy Krueger has loomed large in my life since I first saw the image of the wide-eyed girl(Nancy Thompson- as I would later discover) in bed with a skull-faced fiend menacing her over her brown tresses with a clawed hand. I was too young to see the film when I was a kid and frankly I know I would have had nightmares had I watched Freddy at that tender age. I had been very curious about the film and remember asking a family friend how scary it was.The memory they shared with me was Tina’s intense death sequence where she is sliced open by the invisible claws and dragged across the ceiling. The Freddy films always had a certain mystique about them that intrigued me when I was growing up and I remember hearing all the gory details about them from my friends in elementary school. Though I never watched the movies as a kid (save for catching the end of the original on WNYW Channel 5 and the end of Dream Master on HBO), I still kind of wanted to see them despite Freddy’s burnt and scarred visage- which horrified me when I was first exposed to it. There was a time when I couldn’t even look at Freddy for fear that he would show up in my dreams. (He has by the way.)

I finally got over my fear of Freddy in my mid-20s. I caught the 2006 Infinifilm release playing onscreen at my very first Fangoria convention and decided to jump in and buy the movie and I’ve loved A Nightmare on Elm Street ever since. As those of you who’ve read my weekly column know- I am a strong proponent of fierce, powerful female characters and one of the very best of those is the heroine from this film- Nancy Thompson played by Heather Langenkamp. I loved Nancy so much that I refused to watch her on-screen demise in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors for a long time. I eventually got around to the rest of the series after meeting Heather, Robert Englund (a sweetheart through and through and since meeting him, I’ve had no Freddy dreams) and most of the cast of Part 1 at Monster Mania in 2009 for a 25th Anniversary reunion. The Nightmare films are definitely my favorite horror franchise- they’re innovative, scary, not gory for the sake of gore (i.e. very few body parts flying around, no real eviscerations, etc.), fantastical and usually feature strong heroines and characters you actually care about. The trailer for the first film refers to it as a horror-fantasy and I’ve always seen it and the rest of the series that way(not counting Freddy vs. Jason).


Wes was the mastermind behind the original film which is arguably the best in the entire series. His involvement with the later sequels was largely non-existent, though he had a hand in Dream Warriors and the wildly innovative Wes Craven’s New Nightmare which involved several original cast and crewmembers playing themselves. If you’ve been in the store lately we’ve had almost nothing but the original Nightmare and New Nightmare playing on the screen during my shifts in tribute to Wes. Even though we’ve lost the man, his ideas and films live on through home video and merchandise including toys mostly of Freddy though there’s also been a couple of static Nancy pieces as well as items of Ghostface from Scream

Beyond the Nightmare films, Wes also directed The Last House on the Left, The Hills Have Eyes, The Serpent and the Rainbow, DC Comics’ Swamp Thing and the Scream franchise amongst others. I never got to meet the man, but Craven has certainly left an indelible impression on me through the power of film, one burnt villain, a plucky, courageous heroine and a common street name that is probably most associated now with Freddy than anything else. If you are or were a fan of Wes I’d strongly recommend seeking out the excellent four+ hour documentary Never Sleep Again which takes a pretty in-depth look at the franchise including many interview snippets with him as well as the majority of the casts for all 8 of the films in the original series.
Rest in Peace Wes- Thanks for the screams and nightmares and everything in between.

“Whatever you do…don’t fall asleep…”
Top 5 favorite moments from a Wes Craven-directed Nightmare film.

5. Tina Grey’s(Amanda Wyss) final nightmare sequence where she is chased by Freddy, overwhelmed and murdered while being dragged on the ceiling of her mother’s bedroom- with her boyfriend Rod (Nick Corri) watching helplessly, the sequence is recreated with a few adjustments in New Nightmare with Julie and her charge Dylan- A Nightmare on Elm Street.

4. Heather Langenkamp giving in to reprising her role as Nancy Thompson which blurs the lines between fantasy and reality to stop the entity that has taken Freddy’s form. As she starts to accept her fate- John Saxon changes from himself into Lt. Thompson, Heather’s clothes suddenly turn into Nancy’s pajamas and the exterior of Heather’s home becomes the Thompson house at 1428 Elm Street- Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.

3. Nancy’s dream sequence which finds her following Tina in a body bag down into the boiler room only to encounter Freddy himself both as the hall monitor and in his more familiar form- A Nightmare on Elm Street.

2. Nancy’s iconic bathtub nightmare which finds her asleep while in the tub only for Freddy’s glove to join her and drag her under in an attempt to drown her. A static figure for this scene exists in Mezco’s Cinema of Fear Series 2 released in 2007- A Nightmare on Elm Street.

1. Ten seconds remain on Nancy’s watch and she must find Freddy to bring him out into the real world. When he emerges from underneath the trellis, Nancy doesn’t hesitate to jump straight into his arms to try and grab a hold of him so she can wake up with him in tow. Probably one of the few if not only times a horror heroine runs to their attacker instead of away from him in an attempt to stop his madness once and for all- A Nightmare on Elm Street.

 

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Val’s Toy Chest- Yvonne Craig 1937-2015

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This wasn’t a column I thought I would have to write for years to come, but this is the sad reality, much as I would have preferred it not to be. I wrote this piece the same night that I found out about Yvonne Craig’s death and here it is in its entirety:

My world is a little less bright today. This morning (August 19th) as I was waking up to get myself ready for another Wednesday morning at Forbidden Planet I had gone on my phone to check Facebook as I am wont to do. I’ve been rewatching the classic Batman TV series since I received the entire series as a Christmas gift. My favorite season of the entire series is the 3rd Season, which, if you know your Batman history was the season that introduced Yvonne Craig as Commissioner Gordon’s daughter: Barbara, who by day was a librarian but at night was Gotham City’s “best-dressed crimefightress” Batgirl. Anyway, as I’ve been rediscovering the series I started liking pages on Facebook, finding all sorts of websites discussing the classic TV show and also digging out any related books on the show. One specific Facebook page that I liked was an Yvonne Craig fanpage which not only covered her Batman work but other stuff she had done as well.

It was early- maybe around 6 in the morning when I noticed the page had a post where the author wrote that he was “saddened to say that Yvonne Craig died August 17, 2015.” My mind was reeling from the news, Batman(’66, as it has been known since merchandising for the show started back in 2013) has been a huge part of my life since I was a kid. I have a vague recollection of watching it sometime during 1984 or 1985 on Channel 5 WNYW. I can remember one thing clearly from that mostly hazy(fitting, considering the villain’s motif) memory and that was the cliffhanger shot of Batgirl chained in Lord Ffogg’s dungeon from the episode “The Foggiest Notion.” I never saw the resolution of that cliffhanger on WNYW, but would eventually catch the entire run of 120 episodes on both the Family Channel and WPIX 11 during the Batmania revival of 1989. I recorded all of the special event nights that The Family Channel did where they would run a two hour block of episodes(usually on a Friday). It was during one of those nights where I remember seeing my ‘first’ episode with Batgirl. The episode: “Ring Around the Riddler” aired after the Penguin and Marsha, Queen of Diamonds Three-Parter. I loved seeing the different opening credits with Batgirl kicking the thug and her cycling across the screen on her BatgirlCycle. Something about the character and her laughing in the face of danger while being glamorous and feisty appealed to me. I was hooked on Batgirl and Yvonne Craig from that moment on- to the point that I ended up watching both of the films she made with Elvis Presley. As a kid during the 80s and 90s, I spent quite a few weekends watching my recorded Batman episodes on VHS and eventually I only watched season 3 because my attachment to the Batgirl character and Yvonne’s portrayal, was so deep. Keep in mind that this was shortly after “The Killing Joke” had come out and Batgirl the comic book character was a distant memory leaving us the wheelchair bound Barbara Gordon who hadn’t yet- but would become, Oracle. I wore out a couple of my tapes from constantly rewatching them and didn’t have a way to replace the episodes as most channels had stopped airing Batman by the early ’90s. By the time Batman made its way back into syndication, I didn’t have a VCR anymore and I DVRed the Batgirl episodes to relive my childhood affection for her and the show. Thankfully the series is out on DVD and Blu-Ray now after years of legal wrangling and red tape.

As I got ready to go to work, inspiration struck– I dug out my purple and yellow Batgirl logo shirt to wear and I make the decision to show as much of the third season as possible on the TV at work during my shift. I had a need to do something to honor one of my childhood heroines. I got to start the day out with the initial aired Batgirl episode: “Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin” and made it all the way through to the notorious Season 3, Episode 19 “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” which not only has the infamous Siamese Human Knot Bat-Trap but is also extremely sexist seen thru modern eyes. I finally capped the whole marathon with the rarely-seen “Batgirl” pilot film that had been used to sell the character to the execs at ABC. Now as I type this out, I’m at home with the recently released Yvonne Craig Batgirl figure from Mattel, the NJ Croce Bendable figure, and a copy of Yvonne’s autobiography: “From Ballet to the Batcave and Beyond.” I am at the very least grateful that I got to meet Yvonne back in 2000 at a comic convention at Madison Square Garden where she signed and inscribed the aforementioned book to me. I’m also pleased that her legacy will live on not only because of the character she helped shape but also because she was truly a pioneer for female action heroes on the screen. The demand for new product from her era of Batman, along with forthcoming pieces featuring her as well as the series’ upcoming 50th Anniversary will help to ensure that her iconic turn as Batgirl will forever be emblazoned in her fans’ hearts. I will treasure all of it along with the memories and joy that Yvonne’s Batgirl has brought me for nearly three decades.

The Terrific Trio has become the Dynamic Duo again. Rest in peace, Yvonne.

A dedicated fan.

Val’s Top 5 Yvonne Craig as Batgirl moments:

5. Batgirl shows up outside of Lord Ffogg’s estate to aid the Dynamic Duo- The Londinium Larcenies

4. Batgirl’s astonishment at the Batcave after she and the Dynamic Duo are de-flattened- The Entrancing Dr. Cassandra

3. Batgirl fights the Penguin and his goons after both have finished racing the Wayne Foundation Handicap- A Horse of Another Color

2. Batgirl takes on the Cossacks on her own before getting ambushed by Egghead and Olga and forced to perform a Saber Dance with frosted swords- The Ogg Couple

1. Batgirl crashes the Penguin’s headquarters as he tries to dunk Batman and Robin into a vat of acid- Enter Batgirl, Exit Penguin

 

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So Long, Harold Ramis

Saddened by the news of Harold Ramis’ death today. I had the good fortune of speaking with him a number of times as he was an occasional customer of Forbidden Planet. Terrific, friendly fella whose works stand the test of time and will continue to do so. I’m sure anyone who’s seen Ghostbusters or Stripes can easily quote dozens of his iconic lines.

Mr. Ramis in his prime was one of the funniest people on Earth (rent Stripes from Amazon Instant tonight, you already know Ghostbusters and/or Groundhog Day by heart) and as such should be remembered for all the haha’s he brought to your life. Here are the only two eulogies for him from people I know that’ve given me a chuckle.

And fellow FP manager Justin Bacolo… “If you can’t bust ’em, join ’em.”

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RIP Life in Hell

Matt Groening has officially ended his iconic syndicated comic strip Life in Hell.  It’ll be missed.

His last strip ran 6/15/12.

I discovered Life in Hell when I was a kid in the mid-80s as my mom would bring The Village Voice home each week, scouring the apartment listings and help wanted ads looking for a better gig. Tuesday and Wednesday nights my brother and I put aside a coupla minutes to chuckle at Binky and Bongo, Jeff and Akbar and even when it was waaaay over my head I still found it uproarious.  She even picked us up the collections (from good oole Forbidden Planet, natch) as they were released, devoured so repeatedly that we could reference dozens of panels at the drop of a hat.

We were precocious, too smart for your own damn good, wiseass kids.  To say the least.  I can easily say Life in Hell played no small part.

Forgive the length of what follows, but fellow cartoonist Ted Rall has this to say on his blog this morning, and is by far the best eulogy I’ve read so far…

My generation of altie cartoonists—artists whose work first appeared in alternative weekly newspapers like The Village Voice and SF Weekly, people like Tom Tomorrow, Ruben Bolling, Ward Sutton, Carol Lay, Keith Knight—walked through the door that Matt Groening’s “Life in Hell” kicked down in the early 1980s. It’s hard to imagine how the business model that sustained alternative social-commentary and political cartooning for two decades (and is now all but dead) would have evolved had papers not discovered the power of Groening’s strip and its ability to attract readers.

Artistically and creatively, Groening was also a huge influence. His primacy of writing over art, a simple, stripped-down drawing style paired with sardonic, dark observations about life through an existential lens, multiple panels, the freeform use of interchangeable characters without continuing traits, much less story lines, were the template most of us followed.

Groening was also a mentor to many of us, generous with time, advice and blurbs, a real comics fan who still haunts comic shops and conventions. His time understandably became more restricted due to “The Simpsons” and “Futurama,” yet he remained engaged, both in the comics scene and in “Life in Hell,” which has seen a quiet resurgence in relevance and energy in recent years.

Groening is modern cartooning’s rock god, a Moses who came down from the mountain (or the East Village office of the Voice) and handed us the rules we followed. Now the Voice is a rotted husk, print has abandoned cartoonists along with its readers, and digital hasn’t figured out that people really really really love to read funny pictures, not just any funny pictures, but pictures drawn by the exceptionally funny people who need to be paid to spend their time and energy thinking up funny ideas, but if people remember Groening and what he was, or someone like him comes along again, all will be well again.

Such is my love for Life in Hell that the Simpsons, Mr. Groening’s most well-known and loved creation, was the farthest thing from my mind the first opportunity I got the chance to meet the man at San Diego Comic-Con some years ago. I only wanted to thank him for the comic strips I dug so much, and to quote his own work back to him…  A line that appears in the collection “Love is Hell” and has served me well to this very day.

“Love is a snowmobile racing across the tundra and then suddenly it flips over, pinning you underneath.  At night, the ice weasels come.”

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Farewell Ray Bradbury

“I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas.  When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.”


My favorite Ray Bradbury quote.  The giant of 20th Century American literature (notice I didn’t amend that “science fiction literature”) passed away this morning in Los Angeles.

Terrific fella.  He will be dearly missed.

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Zombie Movie Encyclopedia

Big thumbs up to Peter Dendle for putting together The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, brought to you by the good people at McFarland Publishing.

Whenever I see one of these zombie reference books there is one movie in particular I check for as a test of how extensive the research behind it went.

The movie…

Weekend at Bernie’s II.

Often overlooked as an entry in the zombie genre, but why?  Unlike Bernie’s part one in which two morons pretend their boss is still alive so they can party at his beach house, part two involves real Voodoo, giving Bernie’s resurrection some serious legitimacy.

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Good job Peter for not only covering this film in your book, but also featuring a full page photograph.

So pick up The Zombie Movie Encyclopedia, it gets the Matt D seal of approval.

R.I.P. Bernie

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Comeback Kings #1

Comeback Kings #1 – written by Matt Sullivan and Gabe Guarente art by Ethan Young

This slice of insanity will be coming home with me this Wednesday thanks to the good people over at Ardden Entertainment.

Bruce Lee. Jim Morrison. Elvis Presley. Andy Kaufman. Tupac Shakur. All controversial cultural icons who died before their time. Or did they? These legends alive and well, part of Project Resurrection, a global crime-fighting unit that’s a cross between The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman and Celebrity Rehab.

They’re the world’s most famous dead superstars – and they’re living super-spies! When a terroristic reality TV supervillain plans to extend his 15 minutes of fame by making a play for infamy via a Hollywood holocaust, the Comeback Kings must put aside their differences and reunite for an encore in order to stop him. The show must go on!

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Charlie Sheen killed by bear!

I thought I was pretty well versed in 80s horror schlock, especially films from the year 1987.  So believe me when I say my mind was blown when I came across Grizzly 2: The Predator, also known as Predator: The Concert.  I’m a big fan of the original Grizzly for the “it’s so bad it’s good” factor, but Grizzly 2 makes the original look like Jaws.

Grizzly 2 was never officially released, and never finished for that matter.  Sweet live footage of some great New Wave rock bands and early appearances by Charlie “The Wraith” Sheen, George “Return of The Killer Tomatoes” Clooney, and Laura “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous StainsDern make this a must see.  I recently snagged a pretty well compiled work-print bootleg and obviously footage is all over the internet.

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Spread the wealth.

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Mosquito

Millions of years of evolution have just become mankind’s worst nightmare.

While on a trip to a video store that has decided to close its doors after nearly 25 years in the business, I finally found a VHS copy of the 1994 Gary Jones‘ giant killer insect flick Mosquito, and about 80 other tapes for that matter.  See how I turned a negative thing into a positive, even if the positive is for a selfish reason… Life is too short for splitting hairs, right?

From Sci-Fi Master, Andre Blay, Executive Producer of “The Blob”, “Prince of Darkness”, and “They Live” and the special effects team of “Batman Returns”, “Evil Dead III”, and “Darkman”, comes nature’s most horrifying thriller!

Now that’s right from the box.  Dropping names of people I didn’t even know were involved in movies I love.  I don’t know if I should be confused about the Evil Dead III thing or if I should feel glad like I’m in on a secret.  I’ve been hoping to see this film since it was recommended to me by ex FP employee, Zane, during a conversation about the film Ticks.  Ok, lets get back to the box…

In the terrifying tradition of Alien and Predator comes Mosquito, a spinetingling tale of an alien force that transforms tiny insects into monstrous mutants with a lust for human blood.

I’m gonna stop there, cause the description goes on a little too long and starts making less and less sense.  Unlike the movie, which is nonstop fun.  It’s packed to the gills with gooey insect action and mind blowing science fact.  The box also completely disregards any mention of star Gunnar Hansen, Leatherface of Texas Chainsaw Massacre fame. Blame it on the Gamma Rays, or was that the Alpha Rays, anyways…

Check out the trailer.

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Now try to find yourself a copy of this amazing lost sci-fi horror classic.

R.I.P. Mr. Video Oakdale, Long Island.

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RIP TURA SATANA

Cult queen Tura Satana passed away Friday night.

Tura Satana, the actress whose authoritative presence, exotic looks and buxom frame commanded the attention of viewers of Russ Meyer’s 1965 cult movie “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”, died on Friday evening in Reno, Nev.


I remember my first time seeing Tura Satana was in Ted V. Mikels’ classic schlocker Astro-Zombies. Anyone who has seen her in anything has taken notice, and interest for that matter. In fact, I learned much of her inspirational story in her own words, in Shade Rupe’s most recent book Dark Stars Rising.

She will be missed.

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