Savage Beach (condensed)

The next entry in the Sidaris Cinematic Universe is... quite boring, truthfully. But there are a few cheap thrills locked within the oddly dramatic and politically iffy confines of 1989's "Savage Beach". Sadly, it's the last Hope Marie Carlton movie of the Triple B cycle. However, things will certainly pick up steam next time as the series continues and Donna picks up a new partner.

better question

New "percy" over on Tapastic. Check it out.


New "percy" over at Tapastic.

A Few Thoughts On: Quantum and Woody Volume 2 Issues #1-4

I’ve been reading a lot of Valiant comics lately. While I was aware of the publisher’s early titles, I only noticed them from afar. To me they were interesting covers and little more. However, thanks to a Humble Bundle sale, I now possess more than a few (most) of the revivified publisher’s new books. I think I’ll record my thoughts about some of them here, for no particular reason. 

Next up: “Quantum and Woody” Volume 2 Issues #1-4

Deadpool Volume 2 is my favorite comic book series. Which is to say I adore well-written comedy/drama set within a universe of superheroes. Quantum and Woody was on the edge of my awareness during its original run. I knew the book had a black creative team, which I thought was cool and inspiring. I knew one of the characters had a ridiculous cape to rival Spawn’s. The few panels I saw in magazines seemed pretty funny, but I rarely strayed from the comfort of Marvel comics back then. And I especially loved Deadpool. When Joe Kelly left Deadpool, I left as well. Not immediately though. Christopher Priest, one half of Quantum and Woody’s original team, took over writing duties. And, while I did find his writing funny, it never struck the right balance between humor and drama for my taste. Too much sweet and not enough sour. I stuck around for a while before abandoning Deadpool altogether. It had been good while it lasted and I didn’t want to watch it eventually become less than good, even in talented hands.

Years later and Deadpool has reached near Wolverine levels of overexposure. Also Quantum and Woody are back. But different.

For one thing, the titular characters are siblings in the new continuity, which creates opportunity for drama and comedy as the two quarrel over their stark differences. And being estranged brothers united by their father brings greater meaning to the premise that their powers force them to make physical contact once a day or die. Also, expanding on the original Woody’s distaste for code names, new Woody ditches the superhero costume altogether. This makes Quantum’s insistence on wearing a mask all the sillier. And he’s already an exceptionally silly man.

Issue one starts In Medias Res, with our heroes appearing in news footage establishing them as potentially the world’s worst superhero team. Then we move back in time to figure out how we got here.

Pretty much everything you need to know about Eric, illustrated beautifully too.

I dislike the term “tryhard” because it implies there’s anything wrong with an earnest effort. And in a world of disaffected hipsters whose identities are anchored to a lack of effort or caring, trying hard is a refreshing change of pace. Anyway, Eric Henderson (the man who would be Quantum)  tries. Hard. At everything. And the funny/sad/humanizing thing about him is that he almost always fails. We see him working out at 5 AM while simultaneously learning Spanish before doing a crossword puzzle in ink only to then botch an attempt at thwarting what he mistakes as a robbery. Eric takes himself very seriously, but I get the feeling he’d be much happier if he didn’t. His every attempt to face the intermittent poop monsoon of life with utter solemnity and unflinching stoicism just makes him look ridiculous. And covered in crap. That’s why he needs a Woody.

Woody -- at what is implied to be roughly the same time -- is in a hotel bed, idly flipping TV channels next to some lady friend. He hops into the bathroom to relieve his bladder... into the bathtub because he’s too real for your rules. Then, as some unhappy gentlemen arrive to discuss Woody’s canceled credit card, he exits via fire escape. Woody follows this up by snatching a man’s wallet to pay off a bookie. It should be noted how much fun Woody seems to be having this whole time. He’s a ne’er-do-well, but that’s a label the world has saddled him with. He’s surviving. And he’s enjoying himself. People like Eric live by rules and they still get the shaft most of the time. Meanwhile Woody’s over here falling bass-akward into every new day, getting by, having a good time.

Woody's strength: not caring about anything.

Woody is an absolute scoundrel who seems to lack empathy in many instances. But his inability to imagine how his actions affect others doesn’t appear to be an affectation. Based on information in subsequent issues, Woody genuinely seems to have some mental problems that were never properly dealt with. He bounced from one foster home to the next. And by the time he settled in with the Hendersons -- a home where he was loved unconditionally -- he invented an excuse to bounce again. Any counseling and nurturing may have felt intensely uncomfortable to him. So Woody waited for the other shoe to drop, acting out to possibly hasten his expulsion from his new family’s lives. Woody needed special attention. And single father Derek Henderson understood this. His new son was more than an at-risk kid. Woody was dangerously on the edge of becoming a tragic statistic. For some of us readers, it’s not hard to relate.

Woody's weakness: other people caring about him.

Derek wasn’t equipped to handle raising his sons. This put-upon father of two remarkable boys found his time and attentions divided. But he tried. And maybe he failed. But being there for Woody, for however long, gave the kid a moral compass of some kind. It linked him to something permanent: a brother. Pushing Eric to excel may have created a needy mess, but it gave him the drive to succeed and to please.

Hate to spoil it, but this ends poorly.

When their father dies under mysterious (to them) circumstances, the brothers reunite at a funeral. And the result is a really funny fist fight that sets the bar for how these two will interact.

As they investigate Derek’s death, the boys stumble upon some technology they were clearly meant to find. They also clearly have no business fooling around with said technology. Predictably, a building explodes. Also predictably -- because it’s a superhero book -- the brothers walk away with super powers and on the run from the authorities.

I should mention how quickly this book moves. Writer James Asmus does an excellent job of having the book focus on parallel narrative lines. He uses brief text interjections in lieu of typical overwrought narrations. Brief flashbacks throughout each book fill in character motivations and expand upon the brothers’ relationship to a father that died in the first few pages of issue #1. In issue #3 (which might be my favorite so far) Asmus employs a running gag of characters speaking in parenthetical asides. But the gag is used so sparingly it never becomes an annoyance or a crutch. Dialogue rarely comes across as dry exposition. Each line has personality and drives the plot and typically leads to humor. And sometimes the dialogue gets real.

No one can hurt you like the people you love. Whatever barriers you erect to defend yourself from all the pain (or poop) life flings around -- you can’t really love someone until you let them through your defenses. And when they decide to hurt you, it’s a unique kind of torment. “Quantum and Woody” gets this. Eric and Woody say and do some really vicious things to each other sometimes. In a lesser book this would feel like forced conflict and a lazy substitute for growth. Here it feels like legitimate unresolved beef that actually takes a backseat when the brothers are in danger. The ongoing argument regarding the differences between Woody and Eric fades into snide background noise when stuff needs to get done. They find themselves working together without the need to make any declarations about it. But, in quiet moments, the anger and jealousy and disappointment all come to the surface again.

These two panels are the best two panels.

There’s a main plot involving a powerful, invisible conspiracy to stifle scientific innovation. And it is interesting, but the narrative carrot on a stick for me is watching Woody and Quantum bungle their way through this new shared existence. They care about and care for one another. But they can only seem to tolerate each other for minutes at a time. They are also wildly out of their collective league, even among idiotic villains. You can count dumb luck as one of their abilities, I guess. It’s fun to watch them come out ahead in spite of themselves. And it is fun to watch them patch up (and maybe eventually fix) their broken relationship.

Woody has an empathy problem.

Each issue of this first arc features excellent art by Tom Fowler. His work is energetic yet somehow restrained enough to give the bizarre facial contortions more impact. When a character springs into action, the action is explosive. When someone is stationary, they don’t come across as if they’re inert and posing. There is some curious anatomy as the series progresses. But in erring toward cartoonish representation Fowler creates a buffer of believability. If Quantum’s legs look like they should be collapsing under the weight of his upper body, it’s mostly excusable. Mostly.

Special mention goes to the work of colorist Jordie Bellaire. The lines really come to life under her influence. “Quantum and Woody” is a very lively book on all fronts and I find the mood here is especially set by the color choices. Even in scenes meant to be dark, Bellaire manages to convey the darkness while still using color in interesting ways. Time of day, time period, and the difference between indoors and outdoors are established through subtle use of color conjunction with the clean line art. She doesn’t just lay down a blue gradient and call that nighttime, is what I’m saying.

“Quantum and Woody” is the most enjoyable book I’ve read in this new wave of Valiant titles. It balances unbridled humor with tense, grounded, and genuine drama. The brisk pace and beautiful artwork make it an easy read where many of its contemporaries can be a chore. It feels action-packed when the action is actually a rare treat amid a lot of character establishing dialogue. I get a kick out of the humor and I’m enthralled by the drama. Most other books can’t strike that balance between sour and sweet. Most other books aren’t half as good as “Quantum and Woody”.

All Images Belong to Valiant Entertainment, Inc.

Picasso Trigger (condensed)

1988's "Picasso Trigger" features all the silly action and soft-core grinding one might expect from Andy Sidaris.

This video is mostly silly action; sorry.

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There's a new installment of "percy" over at Tapastic.

New "percy" - "fears live inside"

There's a new installment of "percy" over at Tapastic.