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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

UNDA DA SEA: A Look Back at KAMANDI #22 (Oct. 1974)

Let me tell you about KAMANDI #22 (Oct. 1974), specifically a sub-plot that emotionally wrecked the nine-year-old me. 

Having followed the post-apocalyptic adventures of Kamandi, "the last boy on Earth," for a while, I had come to expect a lot of weirdness from his world which did the then super-popular PLANET OF THE APES series one better by making ALL of the world's animal's talking sentients. Therefore, I found it quite amusing when Kamandi found himself on the receiving end of the sffections/crush of Teela, a sweet female dolphin from a high-tech undersea city of cetaceans.

Kamandi, of course, lets her admiration go to his head and he soon acts like a complete and utter asshole when Teela tells him she's applied for a permit to make him her "squire." The dolphins of her world employ trained humans — who have low-level intelligence after the apocalypse, a la PLANET OF THE APES — as the active hunter half of a team in which the dolphin pulls them along on water skis as they engage their mortal enemies, sadistic killer whales who also can speak. Kamandi arrogantly tells her she had no right to apply for such a permit, but Teela explains that it's not a master/servant arrangement, but rather a partnership of great trust and intimacy, and a great honor. Kamandi dresses her down with an overblown "no means no" speech, and the stunning art of Jack Kirby perfectly conveys the exact moment when Teela's heart breaks and she turns away so he won't see her cry. 
Then — and here's the devastating bit — Teela is suddenly and without warning brutally murdered when she is speared with two harpoons fired by the squire of an enemy killer whale. We see her body penetrated by the spears (but no blood, thus leaving it to our young imaginations, which only made it that much more horrifying) and hear hear scream of pain and terror, at which point we cut back to a distraught and horrified Kamandi, whose previous bluster was now revealed to be an obvious act, losing his shit over Teela's murder. The issue ends with a vengeance-fueled Kamandi vowing to avenge her death by teaming up with another dolphin and taking the fight to her killer, the infamous "Red Baron," the lethal human hunting dog of the killer whales. And you had damned well better believe that Teela was avenged...BIG. TIME.

The cover to the subsequent issue: One of the rare times in the '70's when an awesome cover was not let down by lackluster material inside the issue.
KAMANDI #22 was the middle chapter of what is perhaps my favorite arc from Kriby's run on the series, and while his entire time on the book has my highest esteem, those three issues were sheer storytelling perfection that were among the four-color yarns that made me a comics fan for life. KAMANDI #22 gets my highest recommendation and ranks among the Top 20 best comics I've ever read. A+


Time to commit credibility suicide: I have recently come to the horrifying realization that I actually like Joel Schumacher's much-reviled BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997). 

Yes, BATMAN AND ROBIN is bad, even terrible, but my reason for coming to like it following the shock of seeing it in the theater during its initial release has everything to do with the film simply not giving a fuck and operating on five-year-old "kid logic." It's pretty much a Batman movie that I would have made if I were five years old, had a collection of colorful Batman toys, and a camera. The dialogue is ludicrous, the plot equally so, the visuals look like a fever dream as tempered (or not) by heavy doses of illegal Jamaican cough medicine, and the performances are like what you'd likely get if the aforementioned toys came to life and emoted. It's a child's skewed vision of adventures in Gotham city and god damn me if I don't find it as charming as a particularly dumb and lovable puppy. 

Perhaps sitting through it a number of times in the hilarious version with the Rifftrax commentary broke me, but maybe not. I've seen all three of the STAR WARS prequels several times with the Rifftrax treatment and I would rather take shotgun blasts to the kneecaps than sith through any of those ever again in their straight versions, but I can sit through BATMAN AND ROBIN and enjoy it as a goofy live-action cartoon. Again, I know with absolute clarity that it's crap, but...

Monday, July 10, 2017


While on my way to a late Indian buffet lunch, I was stopped on the street by an incredibly scurvy-looking black dude who was like something out of a KKK propaganda flier brought to vivid, crusty, smelly life. He approached me and said "Say, my brutha! You use cologne? I gots all kindza cologne!!!" To emphasize his statement, he held up two tattered plastic shopping bags that were indeed filled with assorted bottles of manly scents. I politely declined while pondering whether there was anyone on the streets of tony Park Slope who would purchase toiletries from the resuscitated corpse of Whitman Mayo.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

4th of July Patriotism at the Alamo Drafthouse's Screening of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON

When it came out in 1981, I saw AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON three nights in a row in the theater, and my love for the film has only grown in the succeeding decades. It's a heartfelt and sometimes tonally-jarring fusion of comedy and outright horror that formed the second half of that year's one-two knockout punch of instant-classic werewolf movies (the other being THE HOWLING). It was a landmark of practical special effects and boasts a full-body, agonizing transformation scene that made my eight-yearold niece Aurora cry when she saw it. (Not because it was simply scary, but because it looked so fucking painful.) And over the years, the film also inspired the eventual unleashing of my alter-ego, lycanthropic man-about-town and bon vivant Bunchewolf, and on the night of this year's July 4th celebrations, Bunchewolf and a number of friends ventured for to Brooklyn's branch of the legendary Alamo Drafthouse movie shrine to see a rare 35mm print of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. As one of only a tiny handful of legitimate classics chronicling the lycanthropic experience, respect had to be paid.

Bunchewolf, enjoying a hard cider before the screening of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON. It would be the first time he'd seen the film projected in over thirty years.

Representing for all Lycanthrope-Americans (and Peppers).

When the poster shapeshifted, it became BLAZING AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, a film in which Bunchewolf would have been quite please to star in.

And, for the record, Bunchewolf cites the following as the only truly important or classic werewolf movies ever made:
WOLF (1997)

Bunchewolf snagged this for me when he met the star of AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, David Naughton.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017


Happy 4th of July! At Lexi's, drinkin' America out of a can. THE WAY IT SHOULD BE!!! What's you commie pussies' excuse? (cue Milo Tremley's "Kick Ass USA")

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


Tuesday, June 27, 2017


 Another year has passed and this year's anniversary of my eviction from my mother's uterus saw me turning 52 years of age. It fell during the week, so no crazed debauchery since most of my friends have work, but my soul mate, the one and only Suzi, dragged me out for dinner at one of her favorite restaurants, Palo Santo, on the night before I actually the the big five-two.

The eatery where this year's birthday festivities began. It's located on the block around the corner from me and boasts a delicious menu that changes daily.

Suzi shows off the Motorhead sox she got me for my birthday. Does she know me, or what? 

The minor sloppiness commences.

Anticuchos appetizer, aka beef heart. It was good, but its taste and texture were very much akin to very tender liver.
My meal: strped bass with mole sauce and assorted veggies.

 Suzi's meal: bluefish with plantain, guacamole and spicy pickled cabbage.

 The incredible tres leches cake. Words cannot describe its deliciousness, and I'm not even a dessert guy!

With Suzi. She's simply the best, and if she didn't have to fly to Philly the next day for work, we probably would have closed the place and ended up smashed on several carafes of quality sangria.

Then the 27th dawned and my actual fifty-second birthday began in earnest. Not very eventful since everybody else was at regular jobs, so I just ran some errands and bought some new sturdy sandals for summer wear. But of you thought the day would pass without some form of celebration on my part, you would be quite mistaken. Though my friend Jessica wanted to take me out for dinner, I took a raincheck on that because I had resolved to spend tonight's meal all by my lonesome in contemplation of me getting that much closer to the inevitability of the permanent dirt-nap. I found myself in the mood for some quality Chinese, so that's what I got.

My solo birthday meal. Since I'm not "getting any" this go-around, I figured I'd indulge in a delicious repast of Peking duck at Park Slope's only genuine and genuinely superb Chinese sit-down restaurant, Hunan Delight. I didn't have to share with anybody, so I gorged shamelessly but left enough for tomorrow's breakfast. 

And since it has been my policy in recent years to drag my birthday doings out for sometimes as long as two weeks, the adventuring and good times will only continue, so STAY TUNED, dear Vaulties!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


I tell you, if it isn't one thing, it's another...

I went to Mount Sinai today and got a preliminary checkup with the nephrology department, which my new primary care physician figured was a good thing to do because I had not been seen by nephrology since December of 2015. Diabetes plays havoc with one's kidney function and mine had not been monitored in a while, so there you go. Anyway, my last general checkup was at the end of April and my lab results from that stated my kidney function had dropped to just above 20%, meaning I now have to get regularly monitored by nephrology. Unless my kidney function increases, the specialist told me that I should allow the more hardcore doctors in the department to give me a more thorough going-over, because I could eventually require either dialysis or a kidney transplant. But that's a good ways off if it comes to that, and right now I just need to be monitored with more testing to see if anything can be done. And the worst part of all of this is that I feel fine, but what the hell do I know, since I am not a doctor?


Saturday, June 17, 2017


On June 9th, I attended the opening party for the Society of Illustrators' ART OF THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN show, an event showcasing original art from throughout the hero's publication history, with work by legends such as Steve Ditko — the co-creator of Spider-Man — and John Romita Sr. It was a gathering of NYC's comics professionals and venerating fans, and a great time was had by all.

The entrance to the Society of Illustrators.

John Bligh and Jared Osborn, my college and Marvel Bullpen brothers. Two of the most important people in my life and I love them very, very much.

Sadly, my web-shooter was empty. 

A Milton Caniff original of the Dragon Lady from the legendary TERRY AND THE PIRATES. I would kill to own this.

Hallway decoration.

It's always fun to get one's drink on at an industry party.

A concotion that the bartender described as tasting "like a melted sno-cone." When I asked him if it was any good, he unequivocally responded with "NO."

Miscreants and reprobates.

John Romita Sr. signs for a delighted fan.

A confluence of fans and pros. The line to get into the event reportedly went around the block. (Thankfully, myself and a few close friends and former colleagues were able to get in early and avoid the line.)

Big pimpin' with John Romita Sr. 

With Kenny "PIercing Metal" Pierce, a much-loved fellow geek and metalhead. 

College and Marvel colleagues.

The nice lady who interviewed myself and Jared for the SYFY CHannel.

Bullpen vermin, telling the cameraman and interviewer true tales of Marvel that were in no way fit for print or broadcast. They were appalled.

The interview in question.

With Chris Claremont, the writer whose classic stories set the majority of X-Men tropes in stone (for better or worse).

From THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #33: The original art from the legendary "Lifting Sequence" that arguably served as the true coda to our hero's development. It was also the end of the Lee-Ditko run on the series. I never imagined I would ever see these actual pages in the flesh (so to speak).

The awesome moment of triumph. I have no idea of this page's actual cash value, but its sale could likely pay the full mortgage on a house.

The middle segment of the famous three-part drug storyline in which Marvel defied the Comics Code Authority and published the story minus the Comics Code seal of approval. A major moment in the maturation of American comics content.

Harry Osborn: Drug addict!!! 

Spidey encounters a negro who's "stoned right out of his mind." (Surprisingly NOT at SUNY at Purchase, circa 1985-1988.)

More Marvel vermin.

Sylvia takes egregious advantage and cops a feel. (Yeah, like I minded...)

With the one and only Hildy Mesnik, one of the few remaining completely perfect human beings. I adore this woman, both professionally and personally. 

'90's Bullpen lads venerate the Romitas.

With John and Virginia Romita. John is one of the legends of the comics industry, being the second artist on Spider-Man and arguably the illustrator whose clean, Caniff-influenced figures defined the look of the character. I was honored to work with him every day for just shy of nine years (he was Marvel's art director at the time) and I find him to be one of the kindest, nicest, and most generous cornucopias of skill and knowledge when it comes to the art of comics and visual storytelling. Working with him was an education on the art of comics storytelling and how to be a true professional in the comics industry. I am honored to have been his colleague and student. Sweetest man in the biz. And his wife, Virginia, was my boss for several years. (My relationship with her got off to very contentious start but we ended up as friends.) Seriously, I love these guys. 

Freiends and former colleagues whom I adore.

With fellow staffers Mike Higgins and Terry Kavanagh.

As seen in the ladies' room. (photo courtesy of Francine Grillo)

Exposing Spider-Man's best-kept secret.

"Spider-Man No More!" my black ass!!! He's still going strong!