*Very big dvd release day, and here I am with no money. I’ll just have to cross my fingers that there’ll still be a copy of “Mickey Mouse in B&W Vol. 2” around for when my life is better funded (and knowing the general reaction to black and white cartoons these days, there probably will be); it’s the Disney Treasures line’s concluding collection of Mickey theatrical shorts, rounding out the awesome b&w years, including a whole lot of stuff that Disney has been skittish about presenting before (last volume features Mickey smoking, drinking, and engaging in *gasp* aggressive dancing, all in the same scene). I for one cannot wait for Leonard Maltin’s smiling face to pop up and educate me on the tenor of the era for the ten billionth time (because lord knows it's better than having this stuff locked in the vault forever)! And hey! Tribute to Floyd Gottfredson, one of my all-time favorite newspaper comic masters! Plus, an entire Sunday arc (“Rumplewatt the Giant” from 1934, for the record) is included as both individual click-through images and an automated slide-show with period music. Other limited-edition Disney Treasures out today include “The Complete Pluto Vol. 1” (not as interested… I’d have preferred another Donald release) and the fascinating “Mickey Mouse Club: Week 1” a presumed one-off release archiving the first broadcast week of the seminal 1950’s television program, in its entirety, complete with promotional announcements and period gender roles. (parts of this found on The Comics Journal board of messages)

A bit of financial relief is in sight though: this very night at 8:00PM (thanks again Johanna!) Turner Classic Movies will be airing the entire contents (minus the audio commentaries) of their just-released “Buster Keaton Collection” set, including the 45-minute documentary “So Funny it Hurt: Buster Keaton at MGM” and three films Keaton made at MGM: his final two silent features “The Cameraman” and “Spite Marriage” and his first starring feature in sound “Free and Easy”. But TCM’s broadcast will continue beyond the confines of their new dvd, also presenting three of Keaton’s later MGM sound films, “Parlor, Bedroom, and Bath”, “The Passionate Plumber”, and the unfortunate “What! No Beer?”, made (ironically) at the height of the master’s alcoholic self-destruction. It’s a common myth that the arrival of sound is what did Keaton in; despite the general lower quality as perceivable when viewed today (though now I‘mm finally get to see for myself!), his post-sound films continued to make a fair amount of money at MGM, who had stripped him of creative control and likely took the lucrative status of these newer films as proof of the good logic of their decision. But Keaton’s personal state was becoming a significant difficulty on the set, and he was finally fired, only to return later as a gag writer for later talents like the Marx Brothers, who by that time were also coming down from their creative high. It’s sure to be a uniquely depressing evening of comedy! If nothing else “The Camerman“ is generally regarded as a masterpiece… say! Much like the Marx Brothers‘ initial MGM outing, “A Night at the Opera“!


Arkham Asylum Anniversary Edition: Cannily released at just the right point in Bat-History with precisely enough heat left over from prior Edgy superhero works to keep the fire burning, Grant Morrison and Dave McKean’s “Arkham Asylum” did extremely well for itself at the time of its release and helped seal the names of its creative team as talents to watch, all despite sporting what’s frankly one of the worst scripts Morrison has produced on his own (I’m going to excuse the collaborative likes of “Skrull Kill Krew” since I am a gentle soul with the optimism of a puppy). Enthusiasm for the book has since cooled, to the point where “Arkham Asylum” has become (along with “The Mystery Play”, a book I’ve not read) one of the stock answers I’ve seen commonly thrown around for the old “What’s Morrison’s worst book if you like him so much, eh hotshot?” As far as I can tell, the answer is this. Sure, McKean’s art looks pretty sweet, and Morrison manages a few intriguing character bits, particularly with Two-Face. But mostly the book’s loaded with rambling psychological sketches of Batman’s worst foes, smothered in era-approved Batman angst, attached to a ponderous subplot about the founding of the titular house of madness, and yet still intent on providing a traditional Bat-Story, which it just barely manages (the ending in particular feels like someone either hastily cut something or everyone simply ran out of time or space). The story stands today as a toxic combination of Morrison’s worst instincts toward convoluted narrative portent and the post-“Watchmen” environment’s ravenous demand for Grimmer and Grittier superhero icons, resembling nothing more than exactly the sort of Dark and Important superhero book that Morrison allegedly loathes, as he’s wont to tell us again and again (even before the publication of this book itself - check out that letter reprinted in the first “Doom Patrol” trade). Still, fans upset with Morrison’s most recent handling of Batman in “JLA: Classified” will doubtlessly delight in this. I’m planning on doing a little study of Morrison’s Batman, starting with this book, continuing on to Morrison’s run on “Legends of the Dark Knight” (aka: “Batman: Gothic”), and concluding with Morrison’s many “JLA” volumes. The World’s Greatest Detective is just a little bit different each time. So anyway, this week’s release is the deluxe anniversary edition hardcover, featuring Morrison’s full script with all-new annotations by Morrison and editor Karen Berger, which may well prove to be far more interesting than the comic itself. I can’t afford it right now. Your mileage may vary of course; I recall showing my soft cover copy to my brother who wound up exclaiming: “I can’t believe anyone would do this with Batman characters!” Maybe that’s one of the better reactions we can still expect today.

Zippy: From Here to Absurdity: I bet I’d get real sick of “Zippy” if I saw it every day on the comics page, but I love reading it in huge yearly chunks like this, Fantagraphics’ latest annual compilation, although for some reason it’s not simply titled “Zippy Annual 2004”. The year in daily strips apparently featured an extended Ernie Bushmiller tribute, which I’m sure will be neat.

BPRD: The Dead #2 (of 5): Gosh, I like this book and all, but I’m finding it a little harder to get into than usual. Maybe it’s new co-writer John Arcudi’s upping of the comedy quotient; I’m guessing that the comedy is Arcudi’s work, since it doesn’t feel like Mignola’s generally arid, absurdist sense of humor. Guy Davis continues to be a fine continuing substitute for Mignola in the visual realm, though, and maybe I’ll buckle myself down and read issue #1 again with this directly following.

Wild Girl #2 (of 6): Yeah Dorian, chalk me up as another one who was a little surprised at the chilly reaction to issue #1 of this book. I didn’t think it was a marvel either, but it’s a great looking book, and the plot certainly has potential. A bit fast-reading but I didn’t notice anything particularly deficient about it, unflattering premise comparisons to “Street Angel” aside. I though the book was cute though, a light bit of fun.

Hulk and Thing: Hard Knocks #4 (of 4): There’s no surprise, however, as to the reaction to this one. Some of it I don’t agree with (I really do like Jae Lee’s interpretation of ‘movie Thing’!) but a lot of it is spot on. There’s not looking like much to Bruce Jones’ script, although at least he has the decency to simply represent old Fantastic Four stories with Jae Lee art for much of the space; nothing like a little honesty regarding the mining of the past that takes up so much time in today‘s superhero world!

The Punisher MAX #15: Super-spy Frank Castle continues to fight, but really it’s not that far of a departure from some earlier characterizations of The Punisher, where Marvel would occasionally try to pass him off as an 'adventurer'. This is simply Ennis plugging his version of the character into a story that seems out of place for this iteration of Frank, but is really nothing too far removed from other presentations of the character. It’s a lot better than last arc.