Things Tron’s Diggin’ On – March 2009

Tron once again brings you the noise on what he’s diggin’. Howard The Duck, Kolchak, the stern guy in the bush hat, and NecroButcher all make an appearance. And so does – Pearl Jam?

Having fallen behind in my reading, March has been a very busy month with me viewing everything that could be put on paper; magazines, comics, books (fiction and non), graphic novels, scripts for Zane Duncan, Mexomorph’s reviews, Flynn’s SXSW coverage, boxes of cereal, you name it and I have made some headway as well as developed a hankering for some film (got 2 in the can and ready to type…sigh). Though not as buried as I was I have attempted to add some variety this month as it can not all be literature and it is stuff for you to know about so it’s win-win for everyone.

Kolchak the Night Stalker (1974): Part of the 70’s boom of private eye series, Kolchak blended Rockford Files-style detective work with the supernatural and, though it lasted only a year, garnered a huge cult following and has informed and influenced series like X-Files ever since. Carl Kolchak (Darren McGavin) is an investigative reporter for the Independent News Service in Chicago who seems to run into bizarre murders involving witches or vampires or aliens during the normal course of business. The series suffered from some formulaic elements but the draw was the monster and the personality of McGavin. Kolchak is funny, relentless and brainy and his interplay with his editor, Tony Vincenzo (Simon Oakland), is reminiscent of Jim Rockford (James Garner) and Detective Becker (Joe Santos) with Tony never understanding Carl and Carl totally ignoring Tony with bon-mots all around. All 20 spine-chilling episodes are available in one handy box set and if you are a fan of crusty detectives kicking the ass of ancient Aztec gods I suggest you check this witty and compelling series out.

Rat Patrol (1966): Got this for my dad for Christmas a few years ago. I have very fond impressions of this as a kid, watching it after Combat! and seeing these dudes cruisin’ around the desert in jeeps shooting machine guns at Nazis…pretty bad-ass. Now after seeing it again in box set it’s almost the perfect series. Each episode is 20 minutes long and features action and espionage. Led by the stern guy in the bush hat (Christopher George), the British dude (Gary Raymond) and them other two dudes (Justin Tarr and Lawrence Casey) blaze around the desert in jeeps and shoot at Nazis. What more do you want? Occasionally a hot girl shows up. One of the better war series and actually very well scripted, all 32 First Season episodes are available in one nice, war-torn box.

Creepy Archives (2009): Dark Horse Comics, friend of the people, has (along with Image Comics, to be fair) been releasing very high quality reprint collections at a relatively affordable prices. This time, it’s Warren Publishing’s 1964 horror magazine Creepy, known for it’s outstanding talent roster of EC alumnus Jack Davis, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson, Reed Crandall, Joe Orlando and the first issue has the last comic story Frank Frazetta would illustrate before becoming primarily a cover artist! The stories are 6-8 page gems that use irony and trick endings to produce some gruesome and lavishly illustrated thrills. The hardcover reprints issues 1-5 in original magazine size with full-color covers and all the ads and letters for your enjoyment and I have seen ads for up to volume 4 now and the Eerie Archives has also been released at the affordable price of $50. Available at Capstone Comics, Austin Books and other fine comics retailers everywhere.

Howard the Duck Magazine (1979-81): Curse Capstone Comics for having the remaining issues of this brilliant magazine I was missing the same night they got the Creepy Archives! Finally, however, issues 1-9 are finally mine! Howard the Duck was a brilliant comic series of the 70s about a talking duck ripped from his home and thrust into a world he never made – ours! The series was jam-packed with outlandish characters and bizarre situations but was, in reality, a super-smart and thinly-veiled criticism of social and world politics illustrated by comics legends Frank (Doctor Strange) Brunner and Gene (Tomb of Dracula) Colan. When the regular comics series ended Howard graduated to the magazine format which allowed the creators to branch out and create much more adult stories due to the lack of a comics code for magazines. Gene Colan continued to dazzle as artist with spots done by the likes of Michael (Micronauts) Golden and writer Bill Mantlo did everything from revamping old villains like the Kidney Lady to transporting Beverly Switzer to Duckworld (pay attention for appearances by Donald and Uncle Scrooge)! Later Howard was ruined by the directorially inept George Lucas but do not let that stop you from tracking these down. The regular series is also collected in the Marvel Essentials line for about $15.

Pearl Jam – Ten Reissue (2009): My love for Pearl Jam stopped somewhere around No Code (1996) when the band lost it’s ability to rock. I still bought (and buy) their new albums, just to see (because I am a mark) and I am colossally disappointed every time. Brother Hamilton brought over the new Ten reissue last night and we checked it out. Basically, it’s Ten which, after you hear your first live bootleg, you never listen to and a version of Ten remixed by Brendan O’Brien with five demo cuts as a bonus. Not really worth the pickup. There is, however, a third disc. I guess the undisputed (ha) king of MTV Unplugged is Nirvana (only for the Meat Puppets) but the Pearl Jam set from 1992 is a very close second. Apparently, this set is the only way to get it and man, watching that show again from when they were hot as hell was totally fun and makes this kinda lame revenue generator worth the pickup…but I am a mark.

Professional Wrestling: I am admittedly a huge fan of Pro-Wrestling, as many of you know. Everyone loves it as a kid because of the larger-than-life characters and insane cartoon violence; kind of a male soap opera except instead of hopping into bed every 5 minutes someone is busting someone else in the head with a chair. My heyday was the late 70s and early 80s with the AWA and the NWA but then “Sports Entertainment” reared it’s ugly fake head and I couldn’t understand it – Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage aren’t even hitting each other but on Turner Dusty Rhodes and Tully Blanchard are wrapping each other up in barbed wire. What was happening. Then high school and college happened and it wasn’t until I was doing laundry at my dad’s and we saw Scott Hall jump out of the crowd on WCW at the same time he was wrestling on WWF on another channel, and our college station happened to get a little program called ECW Hardcore TV, that my interest re-ignited and I haven’t looked back since. I do watch a little mainstream wrestling like TNA Impact but primarily I like Japan. The Magnificent One wants a whole article so I’ll just say the diversity is what draws me to it, from the blazing fast Dragon Gate to the Strong Style realism of Pro Wrestling NOAH to the WWE-style New Japan I dig it, man. There is something about KENTA kicking someone in the face for real or Naruki Doi and Yoshino zipping around the ring at 90 miles an hour battling Shingo and BxB Hulk that is so unlike the American style it sucks me in like a moth to flame. ROH, the hottest and best Indy in the country (now on HD Net!!), routinely brings these stars into America, giving us a chance to see this Japanese talent live like they’re doing upcoming here in April (3rd and 4th) in Houston for their Texas debut on Wrestlemania weekend. CyberMonkey will be massively in attendance so I’ve been viewing a lot of NOAH and ROH in anticipation of Katsuhiko Nakajima and KENTA not only appearing but giving us an up-close view of the biggest feud in Japan this last year, along with other ROH faves like Claudio Castagnolli, Colt Cabana, El Generico and the Necro Butcher. Check it out at rohwrestling.com where, co-incidentally, the Houston shows will be available in like a month.

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