Saturday, November 17, 2007

Sit Down, Take a Stress Pill, and Think Things Over


Over the next week or so I'll be presenting all manner of important and trivial things concerning the entity (some book, mostly movie) 2001: A Space Odyssey.

So let me warn you right now: Rosebud was the Space Pod.

When I received my first stereo phono as a Christmas present from my wonderful Mom and Dad, the first thing I did that Christmas Morning of 1968 was slap on the soundtrack to 2001, and blare Strauss's homage to the no-god ubermensch across the chill of Jesus' birthday.

With my Christmas money, I went to Montgomery Ward soon after and purchased the record Music Inspired by 2001. As a kid I didn't understand the concept of cynical marketing ploys. It had a picture of the Starchild on the cover, and opened with "Also Sprach Zarathustra," so I was set.

I've never asked my Mom what she thought of those odd shrieks of Gyorgi Ligeti's Requiem or Volumina coming from my speakers.

I can tell you that music from the first 2001 album and this one became background sounds at several youth-group haunted houses (along with the "Free-Form Guitar" screeches on Chicago Transport Authority).

Anyway, inspired by the recent (FINALLY!) DVD "deluxe" 2001, I dug out the old "inspired by" album and played it, dubbing it onto cassette. Then I walked the tape across the study to the cassette deck sitting above the computer and "ripped" the music into mp3s.

And then the gruelling editing work began. I've discovered that most skips and pops can be covered over in an LP recording by pulling a Byrne "pocket universe" trick: I copy a fragment of sound from a fraction of a second AFTER the pop, and paste it on top of the offending occurrence. Most of the time, it works!

So, anyway, I now have a semblance of the album on CD. Above is a scan of Mike Curb's liner notes on the back. Here is a scan of my CD rear and front inserts. The two pictures are scanned from the back of the record jacket. The track listings are also direct scans from the record jacket, with the columns separated enough for track numbers to be inserted.
Notice the last paragraph of Curb's "insightful" liner notes. It amazes me that linguistic stupes have been MISUSING the word "hopefully" for almost 40 years!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Three-Part Thursday – An Imaginary Classic Tale

From the November 1961 issue of Superman, number 149, a tale ripped from yesterday’s headlines, comes now “The Death of Superman!”

Yep, the Great Carlini was about 35 years late on this idea, kiddies. Of course, the 1995 storyline also wasn’t written by Jerry Siegel and penciled by Curt Swan, like our featured story today. No wonder it took them a year and a half to fall short of this ONE ISSUE.

Our Imaginary Tale, which may not happen, but again, MAY), begins when Lex Luthor discovers a fascinating mineral in the penitentiary rock pile. He calls it “Element Z,” and soon wangles a trip to the prison infirmary and whips up a cure for cancer.

When Superman, thrilled by Luthor’s altruism, speaks up for the scientist at a parole hearing, the entire world is turned on its ear when the Man of Steel sponsors Mrs. Luthor’s boy with a spanking new lab and a pat on the back.

Of course, the underworld decides that the friend of their enemy is now THEIR enemy, and a couple of lugs head out to bump off Superman’s newest pal. End, Part I!

As Part II begins, Superman arrives just in time to save Luthor’s bacon, and in the next days, many more super-rescues ensue after Lex triggers his new Signal Watch in several narrow escapes. After conferring with Supergirl (his unannounced Secret Weapon, you’ll recall), Supes finally builds a shielded orbiting space platform for Luthor’s research.

So Superman doesn’t suspect a thing when Luthor sets off an emergency signal. The Man of Tomorrow waltzes right into a Green Kryptonite trap set by a certain non-reformed criminal mastermind. Yes, gloats Mr. Sadism Incarnate, “I discovered that cancer-cure, in order to be released from jail! I pretended to have reformed, so I could lull you into a false sense of security! The purpose? To catch you off-guard and lure you into this death-trap!”

Then … in front of his best friends from the Daily Planet, kidnaped to serve as witnesses … Superman dies. Luthor dumps the Planet staffers and the body on Earth and ascends into orbit above Earth, gloating, “Soon, I’ll be King of the Earth!” End, Part II!

Part III, called “The Death of Superman,” covers the universe’s mourning of Superman, and his legacy. The Curt Swan art is great throughout the tale, but especially in these final Imaginary pages, the varied expressions of shock and sadness on familiar and new faces, coupled with (temporarily) non-florid expressions of grief penned by Superman’s co-creator Siegel, lend a real and emotionally moving pathos to the narrative.

The whole world, and extraterrestrial races from worlds yet unknown, come to pay tribute to the late Man of Steel as he lies in state in Metropolis Chapel.

Meanwhile, Luthor has descended Earthside to gloat and preen before adoring mobsters and other such lowlifes. When one of the mugs asks, “Tell us EVERYTHING!” Luthor crows, “He wriggled and twisted like a worm on a hook! He sweated and turned green! The last thing he ever saw was my grinning face!”

Then, as all of Metropolis’s gangland toasts him, the glee is interrupted as … Superman bursts through the wall! “To the astonishment of the cringing gangsters, the super-powerful form flexes mighty muscles, then …” Supergirl appears to the world for the first time!

In the name of Krypton, she arrests the criminal genius for murder, and swiftly drags him to appear before the only extant Kryptonian court of justices, in … Kandor!

The last pages of this mighty tale alternate between damning testimony (as if it were necessary) to Luthor’s deviltry, alternating between panels where we readers can tell the smug scientist is sure that he’s got something up his sleeve that will save his butt, no matter the verdict.

Sure enough, Luthor is found guilty, and he offers to enlarge Kandor in exchange for his freedom. Imagine his shock when he finds that justice, however delayed, cannot be purchased! The judge says, “We Kandorians don’t make deals with murderers! – Executioner, send this wretch into the Phantom Zone, immediately! He is the greatest criminal since Adolf Eichmann!”

Back on Earth, Krypton joins Supergirl on Earth patrol, and they fly by Superman’s tomb, drawing inspiration from the great heart of Krypton’s last son.

Wow, what a story! If they couldn’t have gotten Alan Moore to write the last adventure of Superman in 1986, they could have reprinted this thundering tale. If you’re not moved by this story, then I will have to award you a No-Heart Prize!

See you next time. Do good, and you too can be a Superman.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Super-Review of a Semi-Super Book

Today, here’s a look/review of a new book (DC-authorized of course) by Kevin J. Anderson, entitled The Last Days of Krypton.

In it Anderson looks at about the last couple of years of Krypton. He covers Brainiac and Kandor, Zod, Zor-El and Argo City, and more.

But how uninspired it all is! Anderson must have done five tons of timelines and planning, but somehow it all seems somehow even MORE depressing than the subject – a planet blows up and nearly everyone dies – requires.

Another thing that shows a distinct lack of creative impulse (and sloppy editing) is the constant use of EARTH TERMS, as spoken by people ON ANOTHER PLANET. It’s kind of irritating to read about “drawing the line” and pursuing your enemies to “take them out.”

On page 175 we hear about someone who “had a vested interest in the status quo.” Latin phrases on Krypton?

But the pièce de résistance of moronic writing/editing comes on page 230, when Zod – a guy living on Krypton – says to Jor-El – another guy living on Krypton – “I need to present my city as a new capital, a fait accompli – and soon.”

Wow! A study of English-French phrases must be an elective course at good ol’ Krypton University!

The point of all this is how jarring such out-of-place idioms are. Am I the only person to be distracted by such inelegance? Editors and copy-editors are paid to catch sore-thumb, dumb, out-of-place things like this!

Oh, I forgot to mention the part where Zod digs up Jax-Ur’s “Nova Javelins” and reads “Kilroy was here” on the casings. (Just kidding about that one.)

I also take issue with Anderson’s inability to decide which Krypton he’s telling us about. I mean, almost all of the stuff he mentions has its origins in the comics, of course, but he takes a lot of effort to include situations and characters that *could be* characters from the Chris Reeve movies.

Zod = Zod. Aethyr = Ursa. Nam-Ek = Non. That part’s easy. So, we’re following the movies, eh?

Then you have Zor-El being the underground researcher, while Jor-El has his head in the clouds. We’ve got somebody named Jax-Ur who blew up a Kryptonian moon. But it was centuries ago, and the name of the moon isn’t Wegthor (I forget the “new” name).

And the only people in the Phantom Zone are a bunch of political enemies of Zod.

And … and …

I think they call stories like these “Imaginary.”

Because by golly such a mish-mash of indecisive logorrhea certainly shouldn’t be “official.”

Where’s Elliott S! Maggin when you need him? He would’ve done us proud!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Another Neat Thing I Have Never Used

At a bookstore somewhere I found these Superman note cards with envelopes.
I guess it'll be no surprise that I've never used them!
They're just sitting around increasing in value (yeah, right!).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Secrets of the Fortress of Solitude

From Superman Annual #1, here's a double-page spread covering Superman's Arctic Fortress.

You can tell it's Swanderful art.

I took the liberty of blurring the appearance of the page crease at the center of this two-page spread.

I've got a question for anybody interested. Would you prefer these scans to be "as-is" colorwise -- complete with the slight yellowing of 40 years -- or a little bit "color-corrected" -- with a little more blue to look less "old"?
For example, the next image is "color-corrected.
From a later page in the Annual, here's the accompanying text piece.
Let me know what you think!
PS I bet that, unlike the "secret hideout" in Watchmen, Superman's Fortress didn't smell like a locker room and dirty socks, just because it was a "man cave."
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© by Mark Alfred