Comic Books, Cartoons, Comic Strips


Reviewed by DAVID VINEYARD:         


ADELE BLANC-SEC

THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ADELE BLANC-SEC. 2010. First released in France as Les aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec. Louise Bourgon. Mathieu Amalric, Gilles Lellouche, Jean-Paul Rouve, Jacky Necessian, Philip Nahon, Nicolas Giraud, Laure de Clermont. Written and directed by Luc Beeson, based on the comic albums by Jacques Tardi.

   Cartoonist Jacques Tardi is likely best known at this site for his iconic adaptation of Leo Malet’s hardboiled sleuth Nestor Burma to graphic form, but long before that he put pencil to paper to record the adventures of Mam’zelle Adele Blanc-Sec. early 20th century reporter, adventuress, and proto feminist extraordinaire.

   And like the dry white wine she is named for Adele has snap and bite, a tall red haired lovely dreadnought ploughing all before her beneath her wake. She’s a lady on a mission, and nothing and no one will distract her.

   Droll is the best way to describe this charming film which you may compare to The Assassination Bureau and Dinner for Adele (Nick Carter in Prague), two other charming forays in the early 20th century as seen through its popular literature and rose- colored glasses.

   Bear with me as I try to describe the plot, though it is no easy task. In Paris Professor Esperandieu (Jacky Necessian) is experimenting with his power to project his mind when he awakens a pterodactyl in an egg in a museum in Paris. The new born escapes and promptly tries to eat the newly named Foreign Minister, who dies with his showgirl mistress in the Seine when his car is attacked.

ADELE BLANC-SEC

   Across town Inspector Caponi (Gilles Lellouche) is assigned to the case of the Minister and the pterodactyl and young scientist Zborowsky (Nicolas Giraud), who has a crush on reporter and author of Le Monstre du Glaces, Adele Blanc-Sec, and his mentor Professor Menard (Phillipe Nahon) have discovered their pterodactyl egg has hatched, a fact they would just as soon not share with Caponi so they put him onto Esperandieu as an expert in the Jurassic era.

   Adele is busy in Egypt where she is stealing the mummy of Rameses II’s physician Patmosis despite double crossing native partners and her ruthless nemesis Professor Dieulveult (Mathieu Amaric). She won’t be deterred though, her sister Agathe needs care only the physician Patmosis can provide, and she is determined to return to Paris with his body where Esperandieu will awaken him to cure Agathe.

ADELE BLANC-SEC

   Adele outwits her greedy partners and escapes Dieulveult with the mummy in spectacular manner while piloting his coffin down the Nile.

   Back in Paris as Adele is returning home with Patmosis, the government has summoned big game hunter Saint Hubert (Jean-Paul Rouve) to dispatch the pterodactyl and Esperandieu has been arrested and is about to be executed for his role in the minister’s death.

   Still with me?

   Now Adele has to rescue Esperandieu, awaken Patmosis, and save Agathe, who has a hat pin skewering her head and is in a trance-like state, thanks to a particularly savage return by Adele in a heated tennis game five years earlier.

ADELE BLANC-SEC

   While Saint Hubert and a reluctant and hungry Caponi seek the pterodactyl, Zoborowski lures the pterodactyl back to the museum, and a frustrated Adele attempts time after time to help Esperandieu escape.

   One false move or note, and this kind of froth can fall completely apart, but writer director Luc Beeson (The Professional, La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element among others) keeps it moving like a clockwork and gets more than able support from his flawless cast, including his lead, Louise Bourgon — the image of Tardi’s Adele, if even more formidable.

   And if she can’t rescue Esperandieu any other way she will break him out with the help of the pterodactyl as she rides it across the Paris skyline.

ADELE BLANC-SEC

   Even awakening Patmosis turns out to be less than helpful when it turns out he is nuclear physicist and not a physician, but a tour of Rameses II’s mummy and his court is at the Louvre, and the power Esperandieu used to revive Patmosis before he died (he was psychically linked to the pterodactyl who suffered a fatal wound from Saint Hubert) may have awakened Rameses and his court including the physician.

   All she has to do is break into the Louvre with Agathe in a wheelchair and Patmosis re-animated mummy in a bowler hat and suit.

   This clever and playful film walks a fine line between farce and fantastic adventure , by turns dime novel, silent serial, and gentle satire without ever murdering the delicate mood that calls for with a false move or step. Bourgon, in particular, as our heroine manages a fine balance between outspoken modern woman, brilliant adventuress, and vulnerable sister who only wants to atone for her mistake.

ADELE BLANC-SEC

   This won’t be for everyone, but if you enjoyed The Assassination Bureau, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, The Great Race, or Dinner with Adele, you will likely be delighted by this one.

   And there is one joke, as dry as Adele’s name, that is worth the whole film when the awakened Rameses, admiring the courtyard of the Louvre notes it could use a pyramid.

   Now why didn’t the French think of that?

   The film ends on a perfect note as the lovestruck Zoborowski meets the revived Agathe and finds a new romance, and an exhausted Adele prepares to sail on a well deserved vacation — pursued by Dieulveult’s assassins — as her ship — the Titanic — sails …

   Granted the CGI is a bit rocky here and there though more realistic would likely have ruined the look and character of the film. The special effects aren’t there to take away from the story anyway, but only to enhance it. Whatever else, this film, dedicated to Tardi, is tribute to his talent as artist and storyteller.

   I warn you though, I haven’t done it justice, I don’t think any review could.

ADELE BLANC-SEC

DAN SLOTT (writer) and JUAN BOBILLO & MERCELO SOSA (artists) – “Dead Certain.” She-Hulk: Marvel Comics, Number 3, July 2004.

   You may or may not keep up with comic books, but no, they’re not 10 cents any more. (The price of this one is $2.99, but as a back issue, which by the time you read this, as late as it will surely be, I am sure you will be able to find a copy for far less than that.)

SHE HULK #3

   And the vast majority of most comic books run in long continued stories (“arcs”), which means that if you pick one up a random, it will be part two of six, and you won’t have a clue about what’s going on.

   This particular issue, though, is a rarity – a story told all in one issue (but with lots of personal interplay going on, adding to the characterization, but not harmful to the plot to any discernible degree if you skip over it).

   I’ll assume that everyone is familiar, to some degree or another, with The Incredible Hulk – the much longer-running comic book series which was the basis of a television series some years ago and then, much more recently, a semi-disaster of a full treatment movie overladen with special effects.

   This latest version of the She-Hulk book series comic bis but another in Marvel Comics’ long line of efforts to siphon off some of the male Hulk’s popularity by creating a successful female counterpart – and no, I’m not going to get into all of the other attempts.

   Suffice it to say, perhaps that I believe that She-Hulk’s alter ego has always been Jen Walters, who may or may not has always been a top-notch lawyer in her real life, but who has the ability to transform herself into a seven foot tall green-skinned amazonian super-hero. Unlike the Hulk, whose intelligence (and skin color) seems to vary at the whim of the writer at the time, She-Hulk seems to be as intelligent as Jen Walters, but (naturally) much more powerful.

SHE HULK #3

   Um, I seem to have lost some readers who have gone on the next review. If you’re still with me, I’ll speed things up a little, but a little background would seem to be useful in the context of why I’m even telling you about this particular issue.

   After aircraft engineer Bailey Briggs is brutally murdered – by trapping him in a wind tunnel with one of his test engines still running – the chief witness against the defendant at the subsequent trail is – the ghost of Bailey Briggs. I’ll repeat that. His ghost. I believe this may be a first – one for the books, you might say – but if you can say otherwise and prove me wrong, I’d certainly like to know about it.

   An interesting twist is that Jen Walters, working for the defense, does not believe Bailey Briggs’ ghost – and yes, the judge rules that precedent has been established for such a turn of events, at least in the Marvel Universe – but why would a dead man lie?

   With She-Hulk’s assistance in carrying out the investigation, a most satisfactory answer to that question is obtained, and you’ll have to read the story for yourself to discover what it is. Neatly done, it is.

PostScript:   In terms of the artwork, Jen Walters and She-Hulk are drawn more baby-faced in appearance than appeals to me, but in their own stylish way, the pair of artists responsible for this issue (pencils and inks) carry off their half of the story-telling with nearly as much aplomb as the gentleman who wrote the words.

– May 2004

Reviewed by JONATHAN LEWIS:         


THE TWILIGHT ZONE Straczynski

J. MICHAEL STRACZYNSKI – The Twilight Zone, Volume 1 #1: The Way Out. Dynamite Entertainment, comic book, 2014. Illustrated by Guiu Vilanova. Colored by Vinicius Andrade. Lettered by Rob Steen. Main cover by Francesco Franvavilla.

   Carol Kramer Serling, widow of the late Rod Serling, remarked in a 1987 interview that, for the legendary creator of The Twilight Zone, “the ultimate obscenity is not caring, not doing something about what you feel, not feeling! Just drawing back and drawing in; becoming narcissistic.” In many ways, that very spirit of refusing to turn away from perceived social injustice animates the narrative in the brilliantly executed first issue of J. Michael Stracyznski’s The Twilight Zone comic book series (2014).

   The tall, muscular, and blonde-haired Trevor Richman wears a suit and tie, works in New York finance, and cheats on his blonde-haired girlfriend, Natalie Kyle, with the dark-haired Sandra. He is about to be indicted for white-collar criminal offenses. Knowing it’s only amount of time before the FBI catches up with him, Richman seeks the services of the mysterious, gray-bearded Martin Wylde, whose firm developed a nanotechnology pill which, if ingested, transforms so completely that they assume complete new identities, complete with new blood type, eye color, and fingerprints.

   Richman takes the pills and transforms into a new man — literally. Thomas Riley (same initials!) has dark hair — similar to Sandra and unlike Natalie. When Richman/Riley goes in for a cleaning appointment, the dentist tells him that his jaw is changing on its own and that he basically appears to have a new dental profile.

   Riley, unlike his former self as Richman, does not wear a tie; instead, he wears jeans. Although, suffice it to say, he didn’t need to take a pill to do either of those things. Riley, it would seem, still has Richman’s personality and memories, leading the reader to believe that the change, dramatic as it was, was merely physical.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE Straczynski

   Even a casual reader would notice the strong political subtext in “The Way Out.” Cheating Wall Street bankers, like Richman, are villainous. Wylde’s clients, we learn, are tyrants and dictators, war criminals, torturers, and … “a growing number of people from the financial services industry.”

   And one can almost hear echoes of Serling, known for introducing the theme of racial equality into his work, in Richman/Riley’s response to an African-American, a patron of a coffee shop, who wants white collar criminals in jail: “The legal system doesn’t work the same way for people at the top as it does for — well, for everyone else, for the people with power, for the people who matter…there’s always a way out.”

THE TWILIGHT ZONE Straczynski

   Vilanova and Andrade’s visual rendering of the patron’s face, ostensibly reacting to Richman/Riley’s over-the-top statement, is stunning. Still, one wonders whether the characters deliberately refer to the “FEC” and the “Federal Exchange Commission” or whether this was an oversight on the part of the author who should have written “SEC” and “Securities and Exchange Commission” instead. (The FEC is the Federal Election Commission, not really relevant to this story.)

   Unlike far too many comic books appearing on the shelves these days, the first issue of The Twilight Zone is well written, deals with serious subject matter, and contains artwork and coloring that works exceptionally well with the story. There were a couple instances, however, where I had to double check whether I understood correctly which character was which. But those moments were few and far between.

   In conclusion, Stracyznski, who wrote for the 1985 television reboot of The Twilight Zone has written the type of story one could easily imagine appearing the television show bearing its name. A tale, it should be noted, which with a dramatic cliffhanger — one I certainly didn’t see coming. I’m planning on going to the comic book store later this week and purchasing the next few issues in the series. I want to know how it all turns out.

REVIEWED BY WALTER ALBERT:         


MAX ALLAN COLLINS - A Killing in Comics

MAX ALLAN COLLINS – A Killing in Comics. Berkley, trade paperback, May 2007. Illustrations by Terry Beatty.

   Another of Collins’ historical crime novels, this one is set in New York in 1948 in the world of comic book publishing. As usual, Collins has researched the period and subject (giving particular credit to Gerald Jones’ Men of Tomorrow).

   A number of pioneers in the field are present in disguise, with Superman and his creators Joe Siegel and Jerry Schuster recast as Wonder Guy and Harry Spiegel and Moe Shulman. The narrator is Jack Starr, stepson of Maggie Starr, who’s running Jack’s late father’s newspaper syndicate, distributor of the Wonder Guy strip. When a rival publisher is murdered, Jack conducts an unofficial investigation, with the author vividly evoking the colorful world of the comics and their creators.

REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


DANGER MOUSE

DANGER MOUSE. Animated. Episodes of five to twenty five minutes each. UK: 1981 through 1992. US: Nickelodeon premiered June 4, 1984. Cosgrove Hall Films. Thames Television. Created by Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall.   Voice Cast: Danger Mouse (David Jason), Penfold (Terry Scott), Colonel K (Edward Kelsey), Baron Silas Greenback (Edward Kelsey), Stiletto (Brian Trueman), Isambard Sinclair (David Jason), Nero (David Jason’s voice sped up). Available on DVD.   Recommended: The shorter episodes on YouTube over the longer ones available on Hulu.com and IMDB.com.

DANGER MOUSE

    “He’s the greatest. – He’s fantastic. – Wherever there is danger he’ll be there. – He’s the Ace. – He’s amazing. – He’s the strongest, he’s the quickest, he’s the best! Danger Mouse…” (Theme sung by Sheila Gott.)

    This action hero/spy comedy will appeal to all ages. The animation is limited, cheap, and guilty of reusing too much stock footage, but it also has a visually pleasing look and adds enough visual gags to be forgiven for its shortcomings.

DANGER MOUSE

    The writing is top notch British silly, not unlike Monty Python. Parody and satire is common and not limited to the obvious targets of Bond and John Drake (Danger Man). Bad jokes and silly puns are there as well for the kid in all of us, though I guess children could watch this cartoon as well.

    The character are well defined and funny. The narrator Isambard Sinclair introduces the story, explains things to the audience to keep the action moving, and occasionally asks questions at the end spoofing the narrators of old serials.

    The good guys are lead by Danger Mouse. DM is a white mouse with an eye patch that goes well with his white jumpsuit that has DM monogrammed over his left breast. He is everything his theme song claims he is and more. His sidekick Penfold is a daft, but loyal hamster, codenamed “Jigsaw” because he always falls to pieces.

DANGER MOUSE

    Colonel K is head of a secret organization and gives Danger Mouse his assignments. There is some question over what animal Colonel K is, a chinchilla or walrus (like it matters).

    The villains are lead by DM’s archenemy Blofeld … oops, I mean … Baron Silas Greenback, the fiendish frog, the terrible toad, whose only wish is to take over the world or kill Danger Mouse so he can take over the world. Filling the role of insane villain’s pet is Nero a fluffy white caterpillar. Stiletto is a crow, an idiot, and the Baron’s top henchman.

DANGER MOUSE

    DM and Penfold live in a red pillar-box near Sherlock Holmes on Baker Street. As any proper spy of that era, Danger Mouse has a special car. The Mark III can do a variety of things including fly.

    The plots the Baron creates to take over the world illustrates the series’ absurdist humor. In “Who Stole the Bagpipes?” bagpipes are sheep-like creatures grazing in Scotland. The Baron rustles ten thousand bagpipes to build a sonic weapon capable of destroying cities.

    “Lord of the Bungle” has the Baron turning elephants into sugar cubes so when heads of state all over the world put the sugar cubes into their tea the elephant will reappear and squash the government leader.

DANGER MOUSE

    My favorite is “The Dream Machine” when Danger Mouse and Pedfold are trapped in the Baron’s dream machine where surreal is reality, the impossible possible, and Penfold’s thoughts turn into visual puns.

    If you are willing to overcome the misguided prejudice that cartoons are just for kids, give this a try. Or find some child to watch it with. Neither of you will regret it.

   SOURCES:

        Wikipedia
        Cosgrove Hall Ate My Brain
        DangerMouse.org

REVIEWED BY MICHAEL SHONK:


CRIS HAMMOND – Speed Walker Private Eye. Pinnacle, paperback original; 1st printing, August 1984. A collection of the United Features comic strip, “Speed Walker Private Eye,” from May 2 through November 25, 1983.

SPEED WALKER PRIVATE EYE

   On May 2, 1983, a different kind of PI joined the comics page, “Speed Walker Private Eye.” Speed may not have been as smooth as Rip Kirby (King Features, 1946-1999) or as tough as Mike Hammer (Phoenix Features, 1953-1954), but he was funnier.

   The comic strip features three main characters: Speed Walker, a bumbling loser who solves mysteries no one else could; Sally Gelata, his secretary, a single woman with an attitude; and Lt. Lou Arches, the overweight idiot homicide detective and Speed’s friend.

   The art has a nice cartoony style with enough detail to help establish the theme, but the strip lacked action, rarely giving readers more than a picture of characters talking.

   The writing had its moments. But to try to tell a murder mystery with three months of daily gags, each needing to advance the story and have a punchline was more than anyone could expect.

SPEED WALKER PRIVATE EYE

   This book collection features “Speed Walker Private Eye” at its best. It contains two murder mysteries:

    In “The Simpson Case,” E.R. Lowman finds his partner dead with the victim’s wife holding the gun, just as Lowman had found his first partner thirty years earlier.

   Sample gag (June 3,1983): Speed is questioning psychiatrist Rinn as they sit on her office sofa:

      Panel One:

RINN: I’m so glad such a great private eye like you has taken on the Simpson Case. Now I know poor Valerie will get justice.

SPEED: Thank you, Dr. Rinn

      Panel Two:

SPEED: Tell me about Valerie Simpson.

RINN: Well, Mr. Walker. She is a raving nut, of course…

      Panel Three:

RINN: …and a crack shot.

      Panel Four:

RINN: But I didn’t think she would actually kill anyone.


SPEED WALKER PRIVATE EYE

   In “Chinese Cooking Class Murder,” Speed falls for a cooking classmate who is poisoned by Speed’s won ton.

   Sample gag (September 10,1983): Speed is sitting at his office desk as Lt. Lou Arches consoles him.

      Panel One:

SPEED: Just last night we were slicing and dicing — Wok partners, Lou — and now, (sob!) she’s gone.

LOU: Tough, her gettin’ bumped off like that.

      Panel Two:

SPEED: (sob!) I don’t think I can go on, Lou (whimper…)

LOU: How long did you know her?

      Panel Three:

SPEED: About ten minutes.

      Panel Four:

SPEED: But they were ten happy minutes, Lou.

LOU: Well, you can’t argue with happiness.


SPEED WALKER PRIVATE EYE

    “Speed Walker Private Eye” would end August 26,1984. There is a second book collection of this strip, Speed Walker Private Eye – Totally Fearless!! (…Within Reason),” published again by Pinnacle as a paperback original, December 1984.

    This second selection of strips features the search for the missing pearls stolen by Merle Searles and a run for President of the United States by a new character, Butch the sea gull.

   Samples of “Speed Walker” are available to view at cartoonist Cris Hammond website: http://www.crishammond.com/Pages/strips.html.

   Thanks to fellow member of google group rec.arts.comics.strips Charles Brubaker for providing the start and end dates for “Speed Walker Private Eye.”

A MOVIE REVIEW BY DAVID L. VINEYARD:         


THE EAGLE AND THE HAWK. Paramount Pictures, 1950. John Payne, Rhonda Fleming, Dennis O’Keefe, Eduardo Noriega, Thomas Gomez, Fred Clark, Frank Faylen, Grandon Rhodes, Walter Reed. Screenplay: Geoffrey Homes & Lewis R. Foster, based on a story by Jeff Arnold. Director: Lewis R. Foster.

THE EAGLE AND THE HAWk

    “I see a army building in the mountains, I see peasants with silver in their pockets for joining that army, and I hear El Captain speak of leading an army into Tejas when word and arms come from Presidente Juarez.”

   The time is 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, and Texas Ranger Todd Croydon (John Payne) is more than a little curious when the man he rescues from the Confederate army at the request of Governor Lubbock (Grandon Rhodes) of Texas proves to be Yankee spy Whitney Randolph (Dennis O’Keefe).

   The governor hasn’t turned traitor. O’Keefe is spying on Mexico not Texas. Someone is building an army on the border and O’Keefe has evidence it is part of plot by Napoleon III of France to seize Mexico and wrest it from President Benito Juarez’s fledgling democracy.

   Croydon agrees to escort Randolph to Mexico, and once they arrive they learn the plot is more dire than they suspected. Basil Danzeeger (Fred Clark), claiming to be an agent of Juarez, has convinced the charismatic El Captain, the Hawk (Thomas Gomez) to raise and army to invade Texas, vulnerable as the Civil War rages.

   What El Captain doesn’t know and must be convinced of is that Danzeeger is really an agent of Napoleon III and Maximillian, so Croydon agrees to spy on Danzeeger while Randolph infiltrates El Captain’s troops.

    “This spying business … wouldn’t be dangerous would it?”

    “Little bit. Worse that can happen to you is you get killed.”

THE EAGLE AND THE HAWk

   And to complicate things Croydon finds himself falling for Clark’s beautiful wife Madeline (Rhonda Fleming) a French agent who has been smuggling arms into Mexico, and Danzeeger’s right hand man Red Hyatt (Frank Faylen) thinks he remembers Croydon’s face — as he should since Croydon once shot him during a bank robbery.

    “So, what’s your name?”

    “Todd.”

    “Todd what?”

    “Just Todd, my mother was close mouthed.”

   Lewis R. Foster and John Payne teamed for several good tough films in this era including El Paso, Crosswinds, and Captain China, and this tough little A western is a good example.

   The script, co-written by mystery writer Geoffrey Homes (Daniel Mainwaring) is smart and tough with a dash of international intrigue added to the usual western mix, and Payne and O’Keefe make a good team, the taciturn man of action and the glib fast talking but equally brave secret agent. A running gag about O’Keefe’s uncanny luck at cards and dice and losing his boots actually ties into the plot.

   Payne and O’Keefe teamed in at least one other western from the same era, Passage West (1951). Foster is best remembered for writing the original story for Frank Capra’s classic Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, for which he won an Oscar.

THE EAGLE AND THE HAWk

   The highlights of the film occur when the captured Payne is tied between two wild mustangs, a la Byron’s Mazeppa, to be torn apart as they run wild, and the fiery confrontation on a burning mountain between Danzeeger, Croydon, and El Captain in the finale. James Wong Howe’s legendary touch as the cinematographer is another bonus.

   You can download the comic book adaptation of this here under Movie Westerns for free along with a free CBR (comic book reader).

   A minor A western with a solid cast and better than usual screenplay, The Eagle and the Hawk will hold your attention, and remind you how many of these solid entertainments Hollywood used to turn out seemingly without effort.

   Payne is tough and romantic, O’Keefe cool and slick, Fleming beautiful and passionate, Gomez dangerous but noble, Clark and Faylen treacherous and sadistic — a fairly stock cast, but done with intelligence by sure hands it all adds up to an entertaining oater with a touch of something more, and a tough literate screenplay adds to the film’s bonuses, as does James Wong Howe’s cinematography.

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