A Rather Random Post

*Important News Dept: Those caramel Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups? Not too good. But the new chocolate-dipped Payday bar? It’s like it’d always been meant to exist! I almost got the companion honey-nut Payday, but I recall not liking it at all the last time they tried that - the honey glaze really clashes with the caramel center. Maybe they’ve improved it? My candy palate is a demanding one, Hershey Foods Corporation!

*Bought a lot of comics, watched a lot of stuff recently. Man, this was a pretty decent week in comics - tomorrow’s going to have to be a jumbo-sized thing if I’m gonna have time to cover all the books I want to write about. My personal favorite recent back issue find is scoring the entire four-issue 1992-93 Topps Comics adaptation of the Francis Ford Coppola movie Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with no less than Mike Mignola on pencils (Roy Thomas writes, John Nyberg inks). This is pre-Hellboy material, and it’s great to see how fully-formed Mignola’s signature style had already gotten by that point, aided immeasurably by Mark Chiarello’s colors, which would also grace both the original 1994 Hellboy: Seed of Destruction mini, as well as Mignola’s 1993 issue of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight (#54), which was an even more vital link in the chain, essentially a Hellboy romp with Batman (and, much like Seed of Destruction’s John Byrne contribution, the Batman book was done with a co-writer, Dan Raspler).

Mignola also contributed design illustrations to the Coppola film, which serves as a handy reminder all in itself: this isn't really a Mignola-type script, but Mignola working on a Coppola production with a number of other people. Still, the style is absolutely admirable (I’ve not seen the movie, so I can’t really gauge one against the other), and I think either these books or the trade (all of it quite out-of-print) are really worth getting for fans. I got all four issues for $4 total, so it probably won’t break the bank to obtain.

Plus, for added fun, each individual pamphlet comes encased in one of those rocking early ’90s polybags! All four of the books I got were tucked away in the purest of unreadable mint condition. And boy did it feel good ripping those bags open nice and slowly - I also wound up with 16 Topps cards (not ‘trading’ cards, I noticed - because how the hell would you trade them if everyone gets the same thing in a given issue, eh?), a poster, and two contest entries for exclusive rare variant covers tumbling out of the packages. Nice haul for a single miniseries!

*I also got through most of the initial issue of the McSweeney’s dvd magazine Wholphin, which came tucked away in the Dec/Jan issue of The Believer. It’s extremely uneven, the contents ranging from pretty great to really bad. As I kind of expected, I liked the old ‘found’ material better, especially a great old Iranian cartoon short from one Ali Akbar Sadeghi called Malek Khorshid. It’s a mythic kind of thing, with a bold young royal battling dragons and ogres and participating in fable-logic (of course that blossom will turn into a dove and lead you down the correct path at the crossroads!) for the hand of a lovely princess (or something). Really fun bits of business in the animation, like people’s eyebrows knotting themselves up when characters get mad. The whole thing seems to be presented in front of a strip of parchment, with writing on it, as kind of a half-subliminal gesture toward the aged quality of it all. Wild.

Also, there’s a nice industrial film from the 1950’s letting Americans know that they can totally survive a nuclear strike by keeping their houses clean and painted (great slo-mo footage of nuclear blasting power), and a random episode of a Turkish sitcom, which can be watched translated straight, or with five or so sets of ‘funny’ subtitles. Tons of pop-culture and literary jokes in the one I picked, which was maybe to be expected.

I guess out of the ‘new’ stuff, David O. Russell’s excerpt from his already only 36-minute long Soldier’s Pay documentary (co-directed with Tricia Regan and Juan Carlos Zaldivar, covering a real-live case of thieving soldiers in Iraq - shades of Three Kings!) was probably the best, if dry and quite short. The content carries it over the presentation. There’s a very short Miranda July-penned thing that’s good only for offering John C. Reilly a lead role, no matter how brief the production is. There’s a sort-of neat slideshow film on an old folk take about animals and morality by Brian Dewan - sort of undermined by the too-cute tic of the narrator physically humming out the ‘beeps’ that signal for the next slide. There’s a fairly funny if way too long comedy by Scott Prendergast, some familiar thing about a harried businessman who goes wild to the dismay of his family and cohorts.

Unfortunately, one of the ‘bigger’ pieces, a short adaptation of an authentic McSweeney’s story (The Specialist, by Alison Smith) starring Selma Blair, is hands-down awful. I mean, my jaw actually slackened at certain points, so overwhelming were the levels of grinding whimsy and so-coy naughtiness and too-clever candied set dressing and crashingly unsubtle ‘commentary’ on celebrity and ennui and all of that. And don’t forget the wispy indy tune over the mystical cgi-powered ending! It’s about a hurt woman who literally sucks people into her vagina, which is an endless tundra of nothingness and cold. She becomes a big star and exploited by shady doctors, but it can’t end her very deep and meaningful pain until she Decides to Live!! Just total dross, almost a caricature of a bad contemporary indy film. Bad enough that it kind of spills its bad vibes onto the rest of the disc.

Spike Jonze has something on it too, which I’ll get to tonight.