Urgent - Immediate Broadcast Requested! Stop the presses and recall the bombers! This is the best news I’ve heard all week!


It’s an all-new dvd box set of awesome stuff culled from film archives all around the nation. Net proceeds go to support film preservation. It’s actually a sequel to the 2000 “Treasures from American Film Archives” box set, which I love to death.

Full details of what’s included can be found in this PDF brochure. It looks like it’ll be focusing on the silent era, although examples of early sound film will be included (including a sound experiment from 1894!). Nine and a half hours, three discs, 200 page book. It can be had for less than $60 online.

The best thing about the last box set was that it was not limited at all by genre or filmmaking style. Among the highlights were: clips of Groucho Marx’s home movies, amateur footage of Japanese-American communities at the dawn of the Great Depression, a tour of the interior of the Hindenburg (!!!), a super-trippy 1968 avant-garde video production called “OffOn”, a 1928 Western Union employee training film, Joseph Cornell’s found-footage epic “Rose Hobart” (which inspired Salvador Dali to physically attack the projector during its initial screening), and Ed Emshwiller‘s “George Dumpson’s Place”, which is one of the most inexplicably beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Oh, and feature films were included too, like early western superstar William S. Hart’s 1916 classic “Hell’s Hinges”, and 1922’s “The Toll of the Sea”, a “Madame Butterfly” knockoff that also happens to be the earliest surviving feature in Technicolor (2-color process).

This is too much for me. They might as well have titled it “Crack Cocaine on Three Discs”. There looks to be some good features in the new box set: Ernst Lubitsch’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan”, and “Clash of the Wolves”, a Rin-Tin-Tin adventure. And trailers! A chapter of a ‘woman’s action’ serial! Product advertisements! A Fleischer Brothers follow-the-bouncing-ball cartoon! The last surviving silent Charlie Bowers short to make it to dvd! I have to start saving up!

*Everyone who’s even remotely interested in Japanese comics needs to read “Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga” by Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takeuma. Made in 1990 (but released in the US in 2002 by Viz), it’s still the most brilliant parody of the Japanese comics world I’ve ever read. The story follows Koji (the apprentice) and Kentaro (the master) as they strive to examine every aspect of comics, from genre to production to business. Many insights are doled out.

In one sequence, Koji is asked to create a kids’ comic. Logically, he looks into exactly what young kids like and bases his work off of the research. The resulting comic features a giant monster literally taking a crap on the city. The young hero gobbles down candy to activate his powers. He transforms into a cool giant bug and defeats the monster by farting in its face. Perfect! But Master Kentaro is furious! You can’t base kids’ comics on what kids want, because children get money from parents, and they don’t share their kids’ interests; in fact, they often disapprove. You also can’t have the comic based solely on what parents want (cue a vision of an absurdly wholesome and more than slightly Oedipal ‘mom-approved’ comic), or else the kids will become bored. The key, therefore, is to maintain just the right balance of kid appeal, with safety material added to off-set parental concern. The best way to achieve this goal is to wallow in anarchic fun, and then quickly restore the parental-approved status quo in the end, to igve the suggestion of a wholesome message. Of course, Koji’s final product takes everything to an absurd conclusion.

All of this material came racing back to mind as I read Steven Grant’s latest column, on the popular topic of getting kids to read comics. Give it a look-see; it’s got some interesting notions on what ‘great comics for kids’ should be. And buy Aihara and Tkeuma’s book. The chapter on four-panel family gag strips had me in tears.

*Oh, right. New comics day. Yes. New comics. Plenty out today.

Money is short, so they’ll have to wait. In the meantime, I’ll start discussing some of the other books I’ve been able to dig into on my looming pile of acquisitions, and we‘ll have fun and laffs.