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2020 Year End Honorable Mentions – Books/Comics

Posted in Blog Series, Book Report with tags , , , , , on January 18, 2021 by Paxton

YE Book Report

I posted my favorite books/comics of 2020 last week.  As usual, I had a few entries that didn’t necessarily make my favorites list, but I still wanted to talk about them.  Good and bad.

Let’s do books first, then I’ll do some comics.

Ready Player Two
Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline
– The long awaited sequel to Cline’s smash hit Ready Player One.  Yes, it came out in November 2020.  It came out, and then sort of just disappeared.  I didn’t really hear anyone talking about it.  But I read it over Thanksgiving break.  And it’s…good.  But there are like three asterix on that good.  I really like the premise.  There’s another quest in this book for Wade.  It’s well constructed.  Cline is great at that.  Where Clline has issues is characters.  I still do not like Wade.  He’s supposed to be complicated, I get that.  He’s the best when it comes to quests, but he’s a total mess when it comes to relationships.  But come on.  Almost as soon as the book starts we learn that Wade and Art3mis have broken up because Wade is an insufferable dick.  And it doesn’t stop until the very end.  Cline still layers on the pop culture references, and this time he varies it a bit so it’s not *just* 80s stuff.  But, there’s A LOT of it.  Especially in the beginning.  And speaking of the beginning, the first 80 pages is essentially Wade doing an exposition dump of everything that’s happened to the High 5 in the last five years.  So, yes, the book has problems.  BUT, that being said, don’t think that I didn’t enjoy jumping right back in to this world.  And the OASIS.  And the other characters besides Wade.  Cline creates an involving story.  It does get a bit bananas at the end.  Like I didn’t really see it coming.  And I’m not 100% sure what I think about it, but overall I would say that I liked the book.  I would love to see Speilberg mold this into a sequel to the first movie.

Anyone
Anyone by Charles Soule
– Soule is one of my favorite comic book writers.  This is his second novel.  I read his first novel, The Oracle Year, back in 2019, which I really liked, even though it didn’t make my favorites lists that year.  This is another strong entry for Soule.  A neuroscientist is looking for a cure to Alzheimer’s and discovers a way for people to switch their conscious mind into someone else’s body.  Realizing the implications and knowing that the people funding her research would take it for their own purposes, she tries to hide it.  And things sort of go downhill from there.  This is a good book.  As good as the last one.  A thriller.  A “woman on the run” type story.  And it plays with some moral ethics that I found fascinating.  It does sort of “drop you at the end” without telling you what happens, which normally drives me up the wall, but I kind of rolled with it here because I enjoyed the story.  But I still really want to know what happened.

Terror Castle Shark Reef Scar Faced Beggar
Alfred Hitchcock and the The Three Investigators – This was the series that got me into reading in the 5th grade.  It was the first series I remember reading multiple books and actually looking forward to more books being released.  A group of guys in my class would would run to the shelves during library time to check for new books and scream triumphant if we ever found any.  So, a few years ago, when my son was still a baby, I found some cheap-ish paperback copies (the three I list above) of these books on eBay and ordered them, with the thought that I’d eventually read them to him.  Thanks to quarantine, this was the year.  We read all three of the above books and he enjoyed them.  I did too.  I’m so glad they held up.  I would have been crushed if I had read them and been like, “Why did I like this garbage?”  When I knew we were enjoying them, I went back out to ebay to find more and dammit if this series hasn’t become collectible.  And prices are too damn high for the titles I want.

Now, how about some comic book honorable mentions?  So last year was a year I caught up on comics I had read and loved back in the 80s (The Flash by Mike Baron/William Messner-Loebs), and comics that I never read but was always curious about.

Booster Gold
Booster Gold
– Booster always seems on the fringe of being popular. He’s one of those heroes that is obscure enough that you can tell other comics people you love him and it has cache. I remember his series by Dan Jurgens back in 1985 but I never got around to reading it. So, I decided to give it a shot.  I had a collection of the first 12 issues.  I like Dan Jurgens and I like his art. I even like the initial premise of Booster Gold. He’s the other hero in Metropolis trying to feed off Superman’s criminal leftovers. We get snippets at first of Booster’s time travel background, but it’s not really served up right away.  I really had a hard time liking this series. Jurgens made Booster just a bit too smug for me.  He reminds me of Greg Kinnear as Captain Amazing in Mystery Men.  He has an agent, and is all about branding and image.  Booster’s agent tries to secure movie deals and sponsers.  That’s all a cool idea for a super hero, it honestly is, but for only one super hero in a group.  As the main hero in an extended series, that gets old real quick.  Booster also gets a serious inferiority complex through several issues about working in Metropolis the same time as Superman.  I was like, if it’s such a big goddam deal, Booster, then move.  I ultimately stopped rooting for him and just quit reading.  I had intended to read up to issue #12, but stopped after issue #7.

Blue Devil
Blue Devil
– Next up I read the first five issues of Blue Devil by Gary Cohn and Dan Mishkin.  I think I liked this a little better than Booster Gold.  Movie stunt man Dan Cassidy is fused to his special effects suit when a demon is suddenly freed on the island where they are shooting a movie.  Now Dan has to cope with the suit being a part of him and being the new super hero on the block.  This book was fun, had some interesting ideas, and for the most part, I enjoyed reading it.  It reminded me a lot of the great never-been-collected Roger Stern/Tom Lyle Starman series I loved so much in the 80s.  Starman’s Will Payton and Blue Devil’s Dan Cassidy are similar “everyday men” that are suddenly into the limelight as super heroes.  I like that premise.  I had actually reread Stern/Lyle’s 25 issue run on Starman a few years ago and loved it.  And I look forward to continuing Blue Devil, especially because in issue #6, we get the debut of one of my favorite obscure DC villains, Bolt.

New Teen Titans
The New Teen Titans
– This title was super popular back in the day. It helped that Marv Wolfman and George Perez were superstars when they did it.  But despite Kid Flash being on the team, I just never got around to reading it.  I got this collection which has their initial debut in DC Comics Presents, as well as the first 8 issues of their main title.  I read the whole thing.  It’s not bad.  The initial issues have the Teen Titans going up against Deathstroke the Terminiator (who would go on to be a major villain for them), Ravager, and the Fearless Five.  Those stories I very much enjoyed.  Then, it goes into a multi-issue arc where we learn the origin of Raven, we meet her demon lord father, Trigon, and lots of other stuff that I just didn’t care about.  As for the characters.  I liked Robin.  I loved Starfire.  Cyborg is so full of angst.  And Wally West.  Kid Flash is….well….he’s not great.  He seems a bit out of character.  He flies off the handle at little provocation and he’s kind of a standoff-ish jerk.  So, this doesn’t sound like high praise, I know.  I enjoyed about half the issues I read.  The thing is, I can see lots of potential.  So I’m probably going to read the next collection to see where Wolfman/Perez take them next.

Look for some movie honorable mentions later this week!

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: Animaniacs – Hot, Bothered & Bedeviled (1998)

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, The Devil, TV shows with tags , , , , , , on October 30, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020Here we are guys, the day before Halloween!  I can’t believe we made it.  It was dicey there for a bit, but we made it through, relatively unscathed.  This AWESOME-tober-fest has been fun.  I’m really glad I got to do it.  I’ll be honest, behind the scenes, it had it’s ups and downs.  This was the first time I did the Mon, Wed, Fri format.  I think it worked.  So maybe I’ll try it again next year.  We’ll see.  Anyway, let’s get on with today’s article!

Okay, last time I looked at a Tiny Toons cartoon that was an adaptation of The Devil and Daniel Webster and featured an appearance of the Devil voiced by Ron Perlman. Today, I’m going to look at the return of Ron Perlman’s Devil, not on Tiny Toons, but on Animaniacs!

It’s from Season 1, episode 29 – Hot Bothered & Bedeviled!  It’s a pretty great little adventure.  Unfortunately there’s no nod or wink to the previous Ron Perlman Devil episode.  That would have been awesome.  But it’s a lot of fun filled with all the pop culture references you’d expect.

So let’s take a look at the episode.

Animaniacs title cards!


We start off with a Sadam Hussein analog giving a speech to his people when the podium he’s on opens up beneath him…


…and he’s immediately sucked down into Hell. Is that how the Devil is working in this cartoon? He just takes whomever he wants regardless of if they’ve died or not? Yikes.


After falling into Hell we see these three demonesses singing a tune reminicent of the Andrews Sisters’ Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B. With the requisite Hellish refrences. It’s actually pretty good. And if you’re going to Hell, it’s a nice way to be welcomed there.


We see some of the tortures that are going on in this Hell. One of them being marathons of The Facts of Life!


Here we are, the return of Ron Perlman’s Devil from Tiny Toons!


Then the Animaniacs show up unexpectedly a la Bugs Bunny not making that left turn at Albuquerque.


As soon as Wakko finds out they are in Hell, he runs all the way back up to the surface of the Earth and brings back a snowball to test out that age old idiom. And his conclusion, “Yep, it never stood a chance!”


Like Silly Symphony Hell’s Bells, we get an appearance of Cerebus!  The Devil’s three headed hound and guardian of the Gates of Hell.


The Devil has had enough of their antics! He’s keeping them in Hell to torture them!

Bob Dylan
First the Devil locks them in a room to listen to nothing but political folk music from the 70s. I love that Bob Dylan is in this version of Hell.

Stand up commedian
While running all over Hell trying to get away from the Devil, the Animaniacs distract him by putting up a stage so he can do a stand up routine.


I think this is the first time we see the River Styx and the boatman in Hell!  And the Animaniacs rope him into doing a musical number!


The Devil catches up to them. And he’s furious!


Trapped by the Devil, Yakko in his best Kirk impression asks Wakko if he has anything in his “gag bag” that could help.  Wakko says no.  Continuing as Kirk he asks Dot for any analysis or comments.  She says “nothing Yakko”.  So Wakko turns and asks Bones who says, “Darnit Yakko, I’m a doctor, not a magician!”  Star Trek reference!


The Devil, completely fed up with their antics literally kicks the Animaniacs out of Hell so hard that they wind up in Heaven.

And that’s Part II of the animated Ron Perlman Devil.  This one really felt like a classic Loony Tunes adventure.  I really liked it.  And the animation, as per usual on both Tiny Toons and Animaniacs, is fantastic.

So that’s it.  Tomorrow is Halloween!  I don’t have an article scheduled for tomorrow, so this is it for this year’s AWESOME-tober-fest!  I hope you enjoyed it and, whatever you do, please have a fun but safe Halloween.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: Tiny Toons – Daniel Webfoot and the Devil (1995)

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, The Devil, TV shows with tags , , , , , , on October 28, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020

Today I’m going to look at a cartoon special that has an adaptation of The Devil and Daniel Webster.  It was a Tiny Toons special called Night Ghoulery.

Night Ghoulery

It was originally supposed to air in October 1994, but it was pushed to May 1995. The overall premise of the special is a parody of the Rod Serling anthology show, Night Gallery, which ran on NBC from 1970-1973.  There are several segments each parodying a different story, like Tell-Tale Heart, Hound of the Baskervilles, Night of the Living Dead, and there’s even an adaptation of that classic Twilight Zone episode Terror at 20,000 Feet.  And they also do a version of The Devil and Daniel Webster.  But before we get to that I want to point out the awesomely spookified opening.

We see Buster and Babs as zombies.


We see them using flashlights to create spooky lighting.


Still in the intro, we get to see the gang trick or treating.  We can see Plucky in the back on the right dressed as Freddy Krueger.  In front of him is Fifi La Fume and she’s dressed as what looks like Dot from the Animaniacs.  Moving left I see Shirley the Loon and I think she’s dressed as Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie.  And finally Hampton is dressed as Barney Rubble.

Now let’s get on to the show.  The wraparound segments, like I said, are based on Rod Serling’s Night Gallery.


Babs is the host of this special and she’s standing in a spooky old art gallery which is what Rod Serling did for Night Gallery.


We actually get an appearance of an animated Siskel & Ebert about half way through and they give their review of the special so far.

But let’s take a look at the segment, Daniel Webfoot and the Devil.


Daniel Webfoot and his driver arrive at the mansion answering a distress call.  Webfoot can already see there are spooky shenanigans going on.


We see Montana Max quivering in front of a large figure.  He clearly looks in trouble.


The camera pans to see the Devil.  In a purple suit, spats and matching top hat.  This Devil is actually voiced by Ron Perlman and he’s a very likable chap.  Perlman being the Devil here feels like an homage to him being Hellboy.  I mean the Devil even looks like an interpretation of Hellboy.  But that movie wouldn’t happen for another 9 years.  So maybe Ron Perlman in Hellboy is an homage to *this* cartoon.  (I know, I just blew your f**king mind).


Webfoot arrives and immediately tries to wheel and deal with him.  And the Devil is totally open to negotiation.  Webfoot tries to claim that Montana Max was unduly forced into his contract…


…and we hear from Montana himself that, no, he entered into the contract of his own free will.  He’s sitting amongst a bunch of money to prove it.


Like the original story, the Devil pulls in a group of damned souls to mediate the negotiation.


Ultimately, Webfoot can’t get around the signed contract…


…and both he and Montana wind up in Hell by the end.

I love Tiny Toons, so of course I love this very loose adaptation of The Devil and Daniel Webster.  And I love Ron Perlman’s strong voice behind this very likeable Devil.  Apparently people liked it because Perlman would return to voice the devil in another episode.  But not Tiny Toons!

Stay tuned to see Ron Perlman’s second appearance as a cartoon Devil on Friday!



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: I Read Movies – The Halloween (1978) movie novelization by Curtis Richards

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, Halloween, holiday, monsters, pop culture, The Devil, TV shows with tags , , , , , , on October 26, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020

We are in the home stretch, guys.  Halloween is on Saturday!  So to begin this week long Halloween party I’m going to divest from the Devilspeak for a day and point you to the Halloween episode of my movie novelization podcast, I Read Movies.  This month is my 4th annual Halloween episode and I am covering the highly coveted and rare novelization to John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978) by Curtis Richards.

Lots of amazing extra insights into the nature of Michael Myers in this book. I think you’re really going to enjoy this episode.  Download and check it out in all the typical podcast places.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

Faust Movie Friday: Bedazzled (1967)

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, monsters, movies, The Devil with tags , , , , , , on October 23, 2020 by Paxton

Faust Movie Friday

It’s another Friday during AWESOME-tober-fest!  That means it’s time once again for a Faust Movie Friday!  Today I’m going to look at Bedazzled.  For some of you the 2000 movie starring Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley just popped into your head.

Bedazzled 2000 poster

While, yes, I actually like that movie and considered covering it this year, that’s not the movie I’m talking about. Did you know that 2000 movie was a remake of another movie?  From 1967 starring Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, it’s also called Bedazzled.

Bedazzled 67 poster

The 1967 original movie has basically the same premise. Hapless and miserable Stanley (Elliot in the 2000 version) contemplates suicide when he is visited by the Devil incarnate and offered a deal; 7 wishes to get the life he always wanted in exchange for his immortal soul.  The rest of the movie is Stanley going through his wishes and figuring out what works and what doesn’t (mostly, it doesn’t work).  In this 67 version, Peter Cook is the Devil and Stanley is played by Dudley Moore.

Peter Cook’s Devil is very charismatic.  He seems simultaneously to enjoy his job and also loathe it.  He’s funny.  He’s constantly making deals.  Stanley keeps thinking that he and the Devil are becoming friends and then the Devil proves that they are nothing of the sort.  I really enjoyed Cook’s portrayal here.  Dudley Moore, pre-Arthur, which I haven’t seen much of at all, is great as the likeable loser Stanley.  He’s pathetic but you are pulling for him the whole time.  But, I’ll be honest, throughout the movie I was constantly wondering why he was so infatuated with that waitress, Margaret.  Almost everyone throughout the movie is clearly infatuated by her.  I didn’t necessarily see the appeal.  Why would Stanley want to kill himself and change everything by selling his soul to the Devil for her?  I guess that speaks more to Stanley than the desireability of her.  Regardless, this movie is a lot of fun.  It’s super funny.  It’s 100% British.  So very British.  But I really enjoyed watching it and I’m glad I finally checked it out.

Let’s take a look at some of the scenes from Bedazzled.


The movie starts with some very trippy 60s credits.


We meet Stanley Moon. Played by Dudley Moore.  Happless short order cook at Wimpy’s Bar (right pic).  He’s pining over one of the waitresses that work with him. He’s so depressed about his job, his lack of girlfriend, and his unrequited love, that he’s ready to commit suicide by tying a rope to his plumbing and jumping off a chair. Unfortunately, the pipes break and he floods his apartment.


Enter The Devil. Played by Peter Cook.  He promises that he can help Stanley.  He offers him 7 wishes for his eternal soul.


The Devil takes Stanley to his current base of operations, The Rendevous Club.  We learn from the sign that the Devil’s current nomme de plume is George Spiggott.  While he and Stanley negotiate over the terms of the contract that the Devil is offering, we see him performing “random bits of mischief” as he calls them.


Here he’s opening a crate of records bound for a record store and putting a big scratch on them.


Here he’s tearing out the last page of an Agatha Christie novel so whomever buys it won’t find out who the killer is.  In case you were wondering what book that is, it’s The Clocks.  Stanley signs the contract and begins his wishes.


After each wish, if Stanley doesn’t like the outcome of the wish, he just blows a raspberry and is taken back to George the Devil. Whenever this happens, George is usually in the middle of more mischief. Here, George just released a bunch of wasps on a circle of hippies playing music.


George offers Stanley his own room and bed to rest in after one of his wishes goes particularly awry. After waking up, Stanley meets Lilith. George has in his employ several characters that are physical manifestations of the 7 deadly sins. We met Anger and Sloth earlier. We’ll meet Envy later. Lilith is Lust, and she’s played by the great Raquel Welch.

If you watch this movie, you’ll notice that the Elizabeth Hurley version of the Devil from the 2000 remake is based on Welch’s Lust.  They even wear a few of the same outfits.


This is after another bad wish. When Stanley appears, George was in the middle of putting a small leak in an oil tanker.


Towards the end we find out that George had a deal with God that if he got to 200 Billion souls first, he could re-enter Heaven as an angel. And George had done it. So he was throwing a goodbye party with all of his employees before going back up to Heaven to join the angels.  And because he got a few extra souls over 200 Billion, George gives Stanley back his own soul.


Of course Lust is dancing on the bar at the party.


Then we see the Devil board an elevator in his office that goes directly to Heaven, and he gets an audience with the almighty. We learn that George giving Stanley his soul back negates the deal and he has to return to Earth to stop Stanley from destroying the contract.

I really enjoyed watching this movie.  I highly recommend you check it out.  It was a lot of fun and the performances are very good.  Especially if you like that dry British wit.

Well, that finishes out this week.  Next week is the final week of AWESOME-tober-fest.  And I have a few good articles to finsh us out.  Join me next week, won’t you?



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.