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Friday, June 04, 2004
Movies: The Worst of the Worst Horror Movies

My good friend Bruce Sato discusses one of my favorite bad horror movies, Burial Ground, over at his Korean Web Log. For a good long while, Bruce, J. and I pretty much only rented bad horror movies. Three at a time. Every. Single. Weekend. Our goal was to find the worst of the worst, and we watched some pretty bad ones (unfortunately, I don't believe Bruce has ever seen the pinnacle of bad horror movies, Schitzophreniac - The Whoremangler, which I wasn't introduced to until long after I had left our home town. Thanks again, Will, and I defy anyone to find me a worse horror movie than this one.)

Over the course of six years or so, I think we watched pretty much every horror movie at our local Blockbuster (which had a superior selection of bad horror movies compared to any other chain video store I've ever been to. We found a few genuinely good movies that we were expecting to be awful (movies like Peter Jackson's Bad Taste, Dead Alive, and Meet the Feebles, the first Re-Animator movie, I Spit on Your Grave and maybe a few others), but mostly we suffered through dreck, week after week.

To me, a genuinely "bad" horror movie has to have something that elevates it above the crowd. The problem with most B- through F-grade horror movies isn't that they aren't scary, even most A-grade horror movies aren't scary, it's that they commit the cardinal sin of horrormoviedom - they're boring. Sure, you've got your driller killers, your zombies, your mind-numbingly dull vampires, your secret spellbooks bringing forth the armies of darkness, Satan's children, swarms of animals attacking, and even things falling at inappropriate times so as to try to make you jump, but I'll be damned if those elements alone can make a movie interesting. Even your busty babes showering, running upstairs instead of out of the house, and, of course, pillow-fighting while the killer stalks them will only take a movie so far. I remember being so disappointed when, upon turning 18, we finally rented Faces of Death, the holy grail of "horror movies" because it's real!, only to find an hour and half of war footage and people's parachutes not opening up (I can't believe that I'm publicly admitting to watching Faces of Death, let alone being bored by it).

No, in my estimation there can only be four. Four bad horror movies that stick in my mind as the absolute worst or the worst. Aside from the aforementioned Schitzophreniac, which is indescribably awful and yet oddly compelling at the same time, the other three movies that have stayed with me through the years are:

*Burial Ground - 70s Italian Zombie movies at their absolute worst, and yet, there's something so compelling about the glacially paced story, the excessive synth score, the incestuous love of Michael for his mother (reciprocated in one of the most disturbing scenes I've ever had to rewind and watch again, only to cringe even more the second (and third) times) that has kept this one with me. I've seen decent 70s Italian horror movies that haven't stayed with me as long as this one has. Seriously, go read Bruce's review of it, now. I'll wait.

*Class Reunion Massacre - We rented this expecting typical slasher fare. What we got was that, and so much more, primarily from the odd pieces that bookend the main story involving a boy/man with two thumbs on each hand. To be honest, it's really the double thumbs that made this one stick with me, because I couldn't get over the idea that the filmmakers were trying to make some sort of point (beyond piling up the bodies) and I just couldn't figure it out (and I still don't know what it means). How dare they make a bad horror movie that I was too stupid to understand! Were they just being obscure? Or is there some actual symbolism and a point to the thumbs? These questions have haunted me for eight years now and I just don't know how to get them out of my brain.

*Sleepaway Camp (the original, forget the sequels) - This one just, wow, blew me away in terms of sheer awfulness. The soundtrack which mysteriously cuts away during every killing, the story at the beginning (paralleling Jason Vorhees' own death by drowning maybe?) which seemingly had no bearing on the point of the movie, until that final, disturbing image - a pretty obvious mannequin, with an Angela wig on, standing there, knife poised, dick hanging out for all to see. And then they rolled the credits over this image! This movie, bad special effects and all truly was the worst of the worst. It was so bad, in fact, that we went right out to the video store to get the sequel, only to be find that they only had one and three.

For years, I was haunted by Angela's story and that final, plastic image. Over the next few years, J. and I searched in vain in KC, DC and LA, and later I searched in Dallas, and somehow, part 2 always eluded me. Finally, just when I've exorcised that particular demon, Bruce has to bring it up again and get me looking. Luckily, I found all three parts without much searching this time, for $5 each at Half Price Books no less. I watched parts 2 and 3 on Sunday night last weekend, and sure enough, they pretty much dropped the transgendered slasher aspect, in favor of Bruce Springsteen's sister and bad puns. More than that, I'll to Bruce to review, as they're all three on the way to him in the mail right now. I will say, though, that I couldn't bring myself to watch part one again, as much as I wanted to. There was no way it could live up to my memories of it as the worst of the worst, next to the Whore-Mangler, that is.

Anyone else out there like bad horror? What are some favorites (or least favorites as the case may be).

[Aside to Ken at Ringwood: I know you've recently posted on horror movies and comics, and I have some things that I'd like to add, but I think they deserve a more serious meditation than this post on schlock horror, so check back later].

Comics: Miscellaneous Debris

Damn, is it Friday evening already? What a week, and you know what they say, all work and no blogging makes Otto a dull barista, or it would if I even knew what that was. Around here, we don't have your fancy-schmancy European coffees, served by turtleneck- and beret-wearing, goatee-sporting beatnik types. We just good old-fashioned American truck stop coffee, served by butch waitresses named Flo who'd sooner leave their chewed-up gum on the side of your cup than give you a "latte." But you don't really come round for the coffee, right? It's the conversation that keeps you coming back!

I know it's Friday night, which generally means that I'll get as many hits over the next 60 hours as I do on a light weekday, but I'm feeling like I'm either going to have a really productive blogging weekend, or I'm going to choke and post nothing again till Monday. Probably the latter, but check back often, because you never know.

Since I've been out for a few days, and I'm only just now venturing into the comics side of the Internet, I'm going to start off slow, with my comments on comics happenings around the net. Not exactly linkblogging, as Shane and Kevin do that much better than I. This is more of a bullet-pointed commentary on what I'm seeing that interests me.

*ITEM! DC releases fall collected editions schedule, and boy is it a doozy. DC is getting an awful lot of my comics money these days, which is saying a lot as I've always had more affinity for Marvel characters and I'm trying to spend less money on superdupes.

I just can't pass some of these up, especially the Archive editions (remind me to do a longer post on my love for DC's Archive format later): Plastic Man v. 6, DC Comics Rarities v. 1, The Spirit v. 15, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents v. 6. Actually, even the Archives that I'm not usually interested in seem to interest me today:

Can anyone popping by the shop tell me if The Golden Age Sandman is any good? I love the visual, and the Wagner/Seagle/Davis et al series (which, by the way, is excellent and is seeing a second trade published this fall, eight whole years after the first!), but don't know much about his Golden Age appearances.

How about Superman: The Man of Tomorrow? I have Superman in the Sixties, and the delightful Superman: From the 30s to the 70s hardcover, and I loves me some of those wacky sixties stories. Anyone know (or suspect) what's in this, and if it will be any good?

Oh, and Hawkman v. 2 doesn't have art by Joe Kubert? Hmmm, I think I only like Hawkman by Joe Kubert, so I'll probably pass on this 'un.

Finally, what about the Comics Cavalcade Archives? Is this collecting the infamous Cancelled Comics Cavalcade, or is it something else? Anyone? Buehler?

Other collections I'll be happy to add to my ever expanding bookshelf:

-Man of Steel v. 3
-Perez/Wein Wonder Woman v. 2 (probably, I haven't read v. 1 yet, and don't really like the character, but I've heard that if any run outside of Sekowsky's Mod, powerless WW will make me a fan, this is it)
-Starman: Grand Guignol (finally! The penultimate volume of the best DCU title of the 90s, and a return to form after two volumes of somewhat meandering space stories)
-Jack Kirby's Jimmy Olsen Adventures v. 2 (great stuff, even if they did redraw big blue's face)
-Catwoman: Relentless (ask me three years ago if I'd ever be caught dead buying a Catwoman comic regularly and I'd have laughed in your face. That was before Ed Brubaker worked his magic, along with excellent collaborators Darwyn Cooke, Cameron Stewart, Brad Rader and Javier Pullido, and turned Selina Kyle's book into the pre-eminent superhero noir on the stands, even better than Bendis/Maleev on Daredevil. I should have expected no less from the man behind truly phenomenal comics like The Fall and An Accidental Death)
-new volumes for my waiting-for-the-trade Vertigo books: Fables, Y-The Last Man, The Losers and The Human Target
-some sadly out of print Vertigo gems like Warren Ellis' Hellblazer short story collection (sadly lacking the no-longer-hot-button "Shoot" story with Phil Jimenez) and Garth Ennis's piss-up in the Rifle Brigade (one of his lesser works to be sure, but fun nonetheless)
-even Humanoids is going to be getting some of my money with the Chaland Anthology v. 1 and maybe even Enki Bilal's Beast Trilogy, which I've read good things about.

-for the record, I'm waiting on the collection of Darwyn Cooke's beautifully rendered New Frontier, in the hopes that DC will put out a (hopefully oversized) hardcover collection of the full series.

Whew! I may only be spending money on DC trades this fall (sorry, Marvel)!

*ITEM! Alan David Doane brings his 5 Questions back to Newsarama, of all places, rather than his own recently relaunched Comic Book Galaxy. First up for the now monthly 5 Questions is a personal fave of mine, indy stalwart Seth (whose Bannock, Beans and Black Tea and Clyde Fans Book One should both be coming in my first monthly comics shipment to be delivered to my new home. Talk about a housewarming present!). It's good to have ADD back on the net, with his fascinating interviews and unique brand of comics commentary which never fails to make me think. I've probably picked up more books over the last several years upon reading ADD's reviews than any other reviewer on the net, so I'm personally glad to be able to read his thoughts about comics on a regular basis again.

*ITEM! Apparently, IDW is going to be reprinting John Ostrander and Tim Truman's seminal Grimjack series in a series of softcover collections and even a new miniseries. Now, I've never read Grimjack, but John Ostrander has written two of the best mainstream "superhero" comics runs I've ever read in DC's late 80's villain series Suicide Squad and the brilliantly pulpy meditation on vengeance, salvation, Christianity (in a mainstream comical book, no way!) and, ultimately, redemption in the mid-90s Spectre series with Tom Mandrake. He even made me forget that God's Spirit of Vengeance wears speedos and little green booties. Oddly enough, those may be the only comics of his that I've ever read, but if this series is as good as I'm hearing it was (and if IDW can keep the prices in line with the rest of the industry, come on guys, enough is enough!), count me in. Anyone know if Ostrander has any other good series' languishing in the quarter bins?

Not too many bullets, I guess, but stuff I wanted to say nonetheless.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004
TV: Alias Season 3 post-mortem

I'm a bit late on this one, as we were having bad weather up here in Milwaukee the night of the season ender, so the finale was pre-empted by a weather alert and I missed taping it. Luckily, I was able to find a friend who still had it on her TiVo and she taped it and mailed it to me so I wasn't in suspense all summer (whew! I know, lucky break, huh?).

If you don't watch the show, the high concept (at least initially) is that grad student Sydney bricked is actually a CIA agent, who spends her weekends on missions in exotic locations across the globe. The catch is that she's not really a CIA agent, she works for SD-6, a terrorist organization working against the CIA, but whose low-ranking members think they're in the CIA. In the pilot, Syd discovers that she's not really CIA (because her fiance is killed by her employers when he finds out who she works for) so she takes some files from SD-6 to Michael Vaughn, a low-ranking CIA desk jockey, in order to "prove her worth" to the CIA. Vaughn agrees to let her work undercover for the CIA within SD-6 and reveals to her that there is another undercover op already in SD-6. The op? Her father, "a man [she] barely knows," Jack Bristow.

Now I came to Alias pretty late in the game, buying Season 1 on DVD just before this past Christmas. Needless to say, with that high concept and an action-packed 60-minute opener, I was hooked. It was like 24, a show I already watched and enjoyed, on speed. Each episode of season 1 was pretty much structured like a video game: action-packed pre-credits opener (often resolving a cliffhanger), downtime, new mission given (the missions often revolved around obtaining artifacts left around the globe by Milo Rimbaldi, a 16th century Italian mathematician/philosopher), Syd get her counter-mission from the CIA, mission completed (with Syd's identity as a double agent almost revealed each time), more downtime, new mission/counter-mission given, action-packed cliffhanger. Oh, and through it all, Syd has to keep her double life secret from her friends (Will and Francie), her CIA double agent status secret from SD-6, her burgeoning feelings for her handler (Vaughn, who jumped from desk jockey to handler pretty quickly) under control, her papers turned in on time, and she has to build a trust with her father, who has been something less than a father to her since her mother died. Only, as we find out at the end of the season, her mother didn't die, she was also a double agent for the KGB who faked her death when Jack found out her true identity. Did I mention that Rimbaldi's artifacts all pointed to Syd as "the chosen one?" (chosen for what, it's still not clear three years later).

In Season 2, which I purchased upon finishing season 1, Syd's mother, Irina Derevko (played with delightful aplomb by Lena Olin) turns herself in to the CIA, now operating out of a secret underground headquarters that was an NSA base in Season 1. She spends the majority of the season in a glass cage, a la Hannibal Lector, giving intel to Syd and Jack in exchange for spending time with her daughter and certain creature comforts. Syd (and Jack, for that matter) spends a lot more time at CIA HQ this season, and seems less concerned that SD-6 will wonder where she spends her time than she was in season 1. And, with a few exceptions, the plots generally follow the pattern of Season 1. However, midway through the season (in the post-Superbowl episode, if I understand correctly), Syd and the CIA decide from out of nowhere that it's time to shut SD-6 down and in one action-packed 44 minutes, the entire premise of the show is turned on it's ear.

Except, well, I don't necessarily think that's a good thing. As far as I can tell, they "dumbed down" the show, I suppose because the premise was too complicated for laypeople to understand. Now, Syd and Jack are simply CIA officers (Syd a field agent, as is Vaughn now, strangely enough) who are specifically tasked with finding Rimbaldi artifacts before escaped SD-6 director Arvin Sloane (and his weasely lapdog Sark, who seems willing to sell his services to the highest bidder, as he used to be K-Directorate, the primary adversary for SD-6 in season 1, but completely dropped in season 2) does. The season ends with Syd finding out that her friend Francie had been killed and replaced with a double, Will needing to go into protective custody, and Irina escaping (because Syd and Jack stupidly brought her along on an op with them). Oh, and just when she's ready to fall into Vaughn's arms, Syd wakes up in a street in Hong Kong, and it's been three years since she was last seen by the CIA.

In the third season opener, which I caught in repeats during January, Syd finds out that a lot has happened in the last three years. Vaughn has quit the CIA and gotten married to an NSA agent named Lauren, Jack bricked is in federal custody for his role in Irina's escape (and possibly Syd's disappearance, I don't remember), Sloane is the head of a global health organization headquartered in Switzerland and cooperating with the CIA, her partner at SD-6 Marcus Dixon is now the head of the CIA LA base (funny how quickly a former enemy agent can rise through the ranks, even if he claims not to know he was an enemy agent), and funny little gadget-guy Marshall (aka her "Q") is also working for the CIA and has a baby on the way. And Syd remembers nothing about where she's been. So, Syd takes matters into her own hands and blackmails the NSA to let her father out of prison, and convinces Vaughn to come back to the Company, where his wife takes a position as NSA liaison. Only this time, she's the double agent within the CIA working for the mysterious Covenant. It doesn't take long for Sark to be blackmailed into working for the Covenant as well, and for the status to be mostly quoed from last season, with the exception of the Lauren/Vaughn wrinkle and the very noticeable absence of Lena Olin due to contract disputes.

While I missed most of the rest of the first half of the season, Alias is a show in which a lot happens in any given episode, but it isn't that hard to get back up to speed, especially when the episode I came in on was the one in which they revealed what happened to Syd during the three years she doesn't remember. In short, she was captured by the Covenant (who had never been heard of prior to the first episode of this season) and brainwashed into a new identity as their top assassin, and top getter of Rimbaldi artifacts. Only Syd defeated their brainwashing and contacted the NSA about working as a double agent inside the Covenant. After three years, when she decided that she was ready to come out, she asked her NSA handler to wipe her memory of everything that had happened, so she wouldn't have to remember all the despicable things she had done. Once again, status quoed.

The only things that really stuck out to me when I came back in with episode 11 (I think) was that Jack bricked was once again a high ranking CIA agent, and Vaughn was again a field agent. It strikes me that the CIA in Alias' world works a little too conveniently to forget past mistakes of lead characters in order to keep them firmly embroiled in the plot at large.

As a result of my coming in late, I can really only speak to the later half of the season, but if it's any indication of how the rest of the season was, I'll almost definitely be watching when the new season starts in January, but I doubt I'll be buying the DVD set. [For the record, the only series' I'm buying on DVD are The Sopranos, Oz, Buffy, Angel and the X-Files, so a series has to be pretty good in my estimation to buy it entirely on DVD].

Maybe it's just more exciting when you watch each season straight through, but week to week Season 3 failed to hold my interest. The excitement of the double agent plot, from season one and the first half of season 2, has been replaced with a more soap opera-ish plot involving Syd and Vaughn which is less will-they-or-won't-they than a how-do-they-get-Lauren-out-of-the-way.

For the record, the season suffers from Lena Olin's absence and from Sloane's purported do-gooder status. Sloane is such a complex villain for the show (and they were lucky to get an under-rated actor like Ron Rifkin who can bring such depth to the character), that seeing him in good guy role was almost too much to bear. Luckily, they pulled off an upset at the end of the season when he revealed his true colors. I'll be glad to see him on the run again next season, justifications for his selfish actions and all. The other real highlight of the season (and the show) is Victor Garbor's tight-lipped and utterly ruthless Jack Bristow. He shows more emotion in his tight-lipped emotionless facade than anyone else on the entire show. And he is absolutely ruthless in his willingness to break (or bend) certain laws in order to do what he perceives as right. If Jennifer Garner ever leaves to do movies full time, I'd watch an hour-long show about Jack Bristow in a heartbeat. To reiterate what I said in one of my 24 recaps, my dream crossover would be a 2-hour movie with Jacks Bauer and Bristow working together to see who could break more laws in the name of saving democracy. Now that would be good times.

The quest for Rimbaldi's artifacts, and discovering their ultimate meaning, has taken center stage, over any terrorist plots (though if the baddies discover Rimbaldi's ultimate prophecy first, they may be able to use it for evil, if they can figure it out, that is. It's turned out that Syd's family, of which Sloane has proven to be a part (after an oh-my-god-they're-not-going-to-use-that-plot-again revelation that Sloane might be Syd's father), is at the very center of Rimbaldi's prophecies. And the revelation that Syd's never-before-spoken-of-sister, fathered by Sloane and mothered by Irina, is "The Passenger," while Syd is "The Chosen One" really came out of nowhere. As I think I mentioned during the last episode review that I did, the Rimbaldi plot is becoming so labyrinthine and so overshadowing of every other plot, I'm really afraid that they've asked too many questions that they can't possibly be resolved to anyone's satisfaction (like X-Files' mythology plot). I'd like to think that J.J. Abrams and his team have planned the plot out to the extent that they at least know how they want to resolve it, but if my experience with episodic network TV dramas has told me anything, I'm bound for disappointment.

I realize that fans of the show are probably split between those who came in for the romance/soap opera (those who followed Abrams from Felicity) versus those who came for the action, but my hope for next season is that, like 24, the producers take the time to map out where they want the plot and the character arcs to go for at least the rest of the season. Like 24, Alias needs tighter plotting or the holes start to show. I hope they can pull it off, or I may be bailing out awful early next season.

Poker on TV

As long-time frequenters of the Shop know, I really enjoy playing, and talking about, poker. And when I can't be playing poker myself (which is all too often), I actually like to watch it on TV (shocking, I know). It's not quite the same, and it certainly doesn't give me the same charge that I get when I'm actually playing, but it allows me to try out my mad poker skillz (ha!) that I've picked up by reading far too many books over the last year and to decide how I would play each player's hand (the answer all to often is "not as well as they do") without risking any of my own money.

My favorite poker to watch is, of course, ESPN's coverage of the World Series of Poker, which they seem to rerun interminably throughout the year. The WSOP is poker at it's absolute finest, played by the best, and is a thrill to watch over and over (and over) again. To be honest, I'm still shocked every time I watch the final table of last year's tourney and I see that amateur and first time WSOP entrant Chris Moneymaker is able to outplay the best of the best to win the tourney, but he does, and manages to do so every single time I watch.

Since poker has become inexplicably popular over the last two or three years, there's been a proliferation of other poker TV shows that one can watch if ESPN 2 isn't rerunning the WSOP. By far the worst of the bunch is Bravo's Celebrity Poker Challenge. The two times I've tried watching this trainwreck of a poker game, I've lasted about 15 minutes before my stomach started churning and I had to turn it off. If you like playing (or watching) Texas Hold 'Em and you haven't seen this show yet, do yourself a favor and don't watch it.

Put simply: most of the celebrities on this show just don't know how to play Texas Hold 'Em. Oh sure, they know the basic rules of gameplay (for the most part), but they stay in with crap, fold on decent hands in late position, go "all-in" with nothing, and win with sloppy hands. The funniest thing is, most of these "actors" can't even fake a decent poker face! I feel bad for the few celebrities who actually know how to play poker decently whose agents somehow decided that they need to be on this show, because you have to take anything and everything you know about how Hold 'Em is played and throw it out the window. Odds mean next to nothing, because there's only one person at the table (at best) calculating his outs and making good bets; the rest of the players just tend to play with their gut. And if they don't have any guts, they always can always use a lifeline and consult with poker "pros" who are watching the game from the green room. This isn't poker, this is a game show and I just can't watch.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Travel Channel's World Poker Tour, whose season 1 Tournament of Champions I caught on Saturday night. The premise is simple; they send their crews around to high stakes poker events which (I think) are already happening, offer their sponsorship (and maybe prize money, I'm not clear) and televise highlights from each game. You get to see Vegas pros face off against players who have only played at home prior to the tourney, and the best part is, these people know how to play and they put up their own money (something that would vastly improve the celebrity show, methinks). At the end of the season, the winners of each of the televised tourneys meet up at the Bellagio in Vegas for the Tournament of Champions.

With one exception which I'll get to in a moment, the Tournament of Champions finale was about as good as you're going to get in terms of televised poker, outside the WSOP. You got to see pros like Gus Hansen move all-in on the first hand of the tourney, only to be surreptitiously smacked down by the Finnish amateur Juha Helppi, by far the dominant player at the table for most of the two hour televised portion of the tourney (I assume that there were additional hands that weren't televised, but I may be wrong). I jumped out of my seat at the same time as pro Howard Lederer did when Costa Rican pro Jose Rosenkrantz turned pocket 8s into trip-8s on the river (he had two outs going into the river), beating Lederer's own two pair with an Ace. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen as many hands turnover to the underdog on the river. If I didn't know better, I'd think this was "made for TV poker," which leads me into . . .

Why did they have to "spice up" what many already consider to be the fascinating game of Hold 'Em by adding in a 60 second "shot clock?" I suppose I understand the desires of the producers to keep things moving, but part of the fun of No Limit Hold 'Em is that you can take as long as you want to make a decision, causing WSOP tourneys of old to last several weeks, with even fewer players than they have today. Not that the game itself doesn't put enough pressure on most players, but to have the floor lights blinking for the last 30 seconds before you have to make a decision, which could make or break you? Seems a little too game-showy for my tastes, and I'll be surprised if they keep it up in the coming season.

Nonetheless, the Tournament of Champions offered some really great poker, and provided a solid two hours of entertainment (for me, anyway. Mrs. Coffee Shop still doesn't see how I can watch poker on TV).

Tuesday, June 01, 2004
Comics: Answering Questions

I'm having some trouble jump-starting the old writing center of my brain this morning, so in order to get some new content up at the Shop, I'm answering some questions posed on The Comics Journal message board (courtesy of Alan David Doane. Welcome back to the blogosphere, Alan!):

1. Do you tend to go to the nearest store, the best store, any store, or does it matter?
Before I started doing the majority of my comics buying via mail order, I usually did most of my comics buying from the best, nearest store. I know that's kind of a cheat answer to the question, but it's been a long time since I lived in an area where I didn't have a choice of at least 2-3 comic shops within 20 minutes of my home or work. My primary shop, the one where I had a pull list, was usually the closest shop to either home or work, but I usually hit up one or two other shops a couple times a month to look for independent books that my "primary" shop didn't get.

2. Ladies, what books do you tend to purchase, or what kind would you like to purchase (if you are a male please leave blank or supply what a girlfriend reads)?
This is a hard question to answer, as I've explained before that Mrs. Coffee Shop is very picky. The books that she tends to pick up from my stack as looking "interesting" to her are almost invariably art or alt-comix, primarily those by Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly and occasionally Oni. The problem is, while she'll pick them up, and sometimes even read them, I think I'd be overstating things to say that she likes any particular kind of comic book. Specifically, she has liked Palomar, Eightball #22, and Jimmy Corrigan, but I have no idea how to generalize what she will like. I know that she is predisposed against "floppies" due to the fact that she wants a meaty story in one sitting, as opposed to a part of a larger story that you get in most floppies (even art or alt comix floppies). She tells me that she prefers comics to be in color, but that hasn't stopped her from reading more black and white comics than color ones from my collection.

3. What one thing would you add or change about your most frequented store (i.e. What is the worst thing about the store)?
I suppose I'd have to say "the selection." With one exception (Zeus, in Dallas), whatever store has been my primary shop tends to get shelf copies of very few indy/art/small press comix. One store that I have frequented actually considers Image and Dark Horse to be "indy!" I hate the fact that I have to preorder any comic or graphic novel that think I might want (and be able to afford) three months in advance, and based on little more than a one-paragraph solicitation copy and maybe a cover scan. If I don't preorder something that I end up wanting, I often can't find it. And if I do preorder anything, I'm locked into buying it, even if reviews or the flip-through convince me that it's not my thing. I'd like to be able to walk into a comic shop and be able to buy pretty much any comics that I want from the last year or so. Is that so wrong?

4. What one thing would you not change (i.e. What is the best thing about the store)?
With most stores, the only thing I wouldn't change would be the pricing/discount system. That's always a nice thing. That said, with a store like Zeus in Dallas, I wouldn't touch the atmosphere of the store: an overall pop-culture paradise shop, clean, with a knowledgeable staff and great music playing all the time.

5. Do you read any small press comic books currently? Which one(s)? (examples: Lone Star Press, Avatar)
Um, I'm with ADD on this one. What's "small press?" If he means self-published, I read True Story Swear to God, Fade from Blue, the recently completed Teenagers from Mars, that may be it. I read almost everything Ait/PlanetLar and Oni Press put out and a reasonable amount from Fanta, Top Shelf, Alternative and Drawn & Quarterly, depending on what strikes my fancy in the preordering solicitation, what has good reviews and what I can afford in my comics budget.

6. What back issues do you buy?
Recently, as in over the last two years, I've been on a big back issue kick. The only qualifier I seem to have is that there's very few back issues I'll spend more than a dollar on. Short of that, if I come across a complete or near complete run of a book in a cheap bin somewhere, and I have the money on me, I'll pick it up. I've mostly been buying 80s and 90s DC and Vertigo (even some Wildstorm, which I know is crap), but I have picked up a few 70s Marvel series (Defenders, Champions, Man-Thing) recently. That said, considerations of storage space and number of unread comics around my house will probably limit these purchases in the near term.

7. How do you decide what comic book to buy? Writer, artist, character, word of mouth, etc?
I tend to follow writers, occasionally artists (actually, I'm noticing more artists that I follow now than ever before). If a book gets good online word of mouth from a few key reviewers whose tastes I believe run similar to mine, I'll give it a try. Much as I hate to admit it, there are a few characters I follow, and have for almost twenty years now, but those are few and far between.

8. Do you buy strictly current age comic books or do you buy older comic books? What kinds?
I assume current age is defined as 1980-the present? If that's the case, then I mostly buy current age floppies, but that's as much a function of price as what I want to read. I eat up the Marvel Essentials reprints from the 60s and 70s (I don't think any title has reached the 80s yet. Maybe X-Men?). I also follow a number of the DC Archives series, where I get feed my jones for "the good stuff." Those DC Archives, once they get their claws in you (and you realize that it isn't hard to find them at a third or more off the cover price), it's hard to stop buying them.

9. How do you feel about graded comic books?
Bleh. I buy 'em to read.

10. What comic book related merchandise do you buy?
I don't buy much any more, but it's hard for me to resist a well-sculpted action figure. Luckily, I have three pretty large boxes of action figures in storage which remind me that 1) my life can be complete without them and 2) I just don't have room for them anymore.

11. What do you read if you are not reading comic books?
Mostly novels, or books on poker. The novels I read are usually either from the adult general fiction section of bookstores, or are a part of the Vintage Crime/Black Lizard pulp-reprint series from the 80s/90s (I don't have much time for their more recent European mystery writers series). Favorite general fiction authors include Martin Amis (through The Information), Paul Auster, David Lodge, Ian McEwen, Haruki Murakami, Salman Rushdie (at least when he's "on"), Thomas Pynchon, and William Faulkner, among others. Favorite pulp noir authors are pretty much the ones most fans of the genre like: Hammett, Chandler, Jim Thompson, Ross MacDonald.

12. What do you buy at comic book conventions?
Usually, I'm looking for cheap or out of print trade paperback collections or DC Archives. Recently, though, I started a sketchbook and I have paid a few artist for sketches (is that considered "buying?"). If I have time, I'm not averse to diving into the cheap bins to try to fill in holes in my collection, but I've found that all too often that leads to starting new collections of new series' and I just don't need any more of that right now.

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