Thursday, February 23, 2012
So the comics I read covered both Alan Scott's transformation into the Green Lantern as well as his inclusion in the brand new Justice Society of America. The Justice Society comics featured a lot of solo work by each member followed by some late teamwork. All the solo pages were already drawn and published in each character's solo title and the few pages at the end where they get together to deliver the finishing blows to the bad guys were the only original pages in the book. It's a bit lazy, but it was a platform for pushing all the solo series in the All-American stable. The importance of the Justice Society cannot be understated. They were the first superhero team ever. Even though they were created as a marketing tactic, the team took on a life of its own as time went on and inspired every subsequent superhero team.
Before I get to the solo Green Lantern titles, I want to rank the original members of the Justice Society in order from most favorite to least because as I read the first couple JSA issues, I found characters I loved and characters I didn't care for.
1. Spectre - I love everything about this guy. His costume is so great that it hasn't changed in any major way since 1940. He's powerful, he's enigmatic, he's everything you want in an engaging comic book character.
2. The Flash - Jay Garrick is a champ, pure and simple. He has one major power and it's a great one. Also, I love the look of the Golden Age Flash. I also love the look of Barry Allen (as well as all subsequent Flashes), but there's something about the silly helmet and blue pants of the original Flash.
3. Sandman - This was something of a toss-up. I could have just as easily gone with Alan Scott, but I think I like Sandman just a touch more. The fact that his MO was to use non-lethal force to get the job done in addition to the fact that he has no superpowers gives a level of tension to his stories. Also, his costume is awesome and mysterious. Should I ever attend a con, I'm dressing as Golden Age Sandman.
4. Green Lantern - Alan Scott has a lot going for him, though not quite as much as the three guys I listed first. I was a bit annoyed by a major continuity error within the first few issues (In All-American Comics #16 he's a railroad construction engineer. In All-American Comics #20 he's suddenly a radio engineer). I still love the business with the ring and its connection to the lantern. Alan Scott set the precedent for the much more engaging Green Lanterns which would come later (see: Hal Jordan)
5. Doctor Fate - Mysterious and enigmatic. Great costume (really love the helmet). Powerful. And yet he still plays second fiddle to Spectre (at least in my book). If anything Doctor Fate is a little too mysterious and not well-defined enough in the first few JSA issues.
6. Hour-Man - I like the idea of the Hour-Man, but it isn't as well-executed as I would have hoped. I wish Miraclo could only be taken a certain number of times in a day, or that it was extremely expensive to make. I really wanted Hour-Man to be constantly walking the line of losing and gaining his powers. It looks like his character does become a lot more interesting when Miraclo turns out to be addictive, but none of that plays out in the early issues of JSA.
7. Hawkman - Nothing about Hawkman appeals to me, and yet he is far from the worst that the original JSA had to offer.
8. Atom - Al Pratt is as lame as a comic book character could be. He's super short, really annoying, and has no powers whatsoever. If he got killed in the line of duty, I would flip the page with nary a tear shed or even so much as a sigh.
9. Johnny Thunder - Though not a full member of the original JSA (he would join early on), he tagged along in all their early adventures (I can't for the life of me figure out why). The adventures of an accidental hero couldn't possibly interest me less. He's more of a pest than a hero.
Anyway, with that out of the way, lemme talk about Green Lantern for a bit. I noticed two things about Golden Age comics right off the bat. 1) They were clearly written for kids. The language used in the stories as well as the stories themselves seemed geared toward a young audience. I can't imagine many adult comic book guys in the 1940s. 2) They were imaginative, but only to a point. Golden Age characters were much more limited in their powers than their current counterparts. Most notably, Golden Age Superman couldn't fly. Alan Scott didn't have many of the powers Hal Jordan did, and his activities were limited to Earth, not the vast expanse patrolled by later Green Lanterns. Basically, Golden Age superhero powers were merely slight tweaks to reality rather than complete departures from it.
So Alan Scott didn't have crazy powers or intergalactic adventures. So what? He played out awesome crime-busting adventures similar to the other heroes of his day (I really like the gumshoe archetype, and Alan Scott does a fair amount of gumshoe work). He kept a decent cover identity (I wonder how many superhero alter-egos work in mass media. It seems like a lot), his powers have well-defined limits, and he has clear weaknesses. Golden Age Green Lantern stories are compelling and fun to read.
So if you're scoring at home (you're not, are you?) I'm still keeping Fantastic Four in the driver's seat, followed by Punisher with Golden Age Green Lantern close behind.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
So I found myself with a conundrum in reading the first 10 issues of The Punisher. He started showing up in Marvel titles in the 70's, but didn't get his own series until the late 80's. He first got a 5 issue limited series which was drawn by Mike Zeck and written by Steven Grant. That was the jumping off point for the continuing Punisher series as written by Mike Baron and drawn by Klaus Janson. I figured there would be some dissimilarities between the limited and ongoing series, so I decided to read the 5 issues of the limited series as well as the first 10 issues of the continuing series.
The limited series was fan-dang-diddly-tastic. There was a great deal of character development in a short period of time, and the plot had some unexpected twists and turns. When the limited series was done, I found myself wondering how they would start off the story for the continuing series. The limited series storyline was so well-written and everything wrapped up so tightly that it almost felt like The Punisher's work was done. That's a whole lot for 5 issues to do.
The first 10 issues of the continuing series were slightly less awesome than the limited series. The problem with the continuing series is that The Punisher doesn't have great villains. There is no Joker to his Batman. I understand that in order to be The Punisher, Frank Castle has to bust a few caps and put a few baddies in the morgue. He just doesn't have a white whale. His modus operendi of killing every bad guy he meets gets a little old. Nobody he meets is his equal and the tension you normally get from knowing that the good guy might lose (even though deep down you know he won't) is not there. It's still a very well-written gritty comic. I enjoyed the first 10, but Fantastic Four is still the clubhouse leader.
I don't know what I'll be reading next, but I should pick something in the DC Universe. I tend to be a bit Marvel-centric (the nerdiest compound word I have ever seen). So stay posted. Or not. Nobody reads this blog, and they certainly don't read it for my thoughts on comic books.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Saturday, February 18, 2012
His 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations established him as a marvel. The 1955 recording is marked by some of the most astoundingly fast and technically complex piano work since Lizt. He played with a precision Wendy Carlos' synthesizers would envy if only they were able. The 1955 recording is not merely a technical wonder but an emotional thrill as well. It is a young man's exploration of the instrument to which he has devoted himself. It is the ultimate expression of youthful virtuosity.
The 1981 recording was completed roughly one year before Glenn Gould's death. Included in this three disc set is an interview Gould did with Tim Page shortly before his death. To hear Gould discuss the shortcomings of his 1955 recording (at one point he states that he understands why some are drawn to his youthful work, but that he has grown well beyond it) you get the sense that over the years Gould added wisdom to his virtuosity. The 1981 recording is not the same technical marvel his 1955 recording was. The tempos are generally slower, and Gould repeats some of the variations, something he did not do in the 1955 recording. The 1981 recording is marked by a mastery, not just of the instrument, but of the music itself and its meaning.
I honestly could not be forced to choose between the two. They represent the remarkable musical journey of Glenn Gould's life. One may speculate as to whether or not Gould recorded the variations again because he knew the end was near (he probably always thought the end was near. He was a legendary hypochondriac). Whether he knew or not, these two recordings are the bookends of his musical career. One cannot be considered without the other and neither can be left out of any serious discussion of Gould's music.
Friday, February 17, 2012
Sunday, February 12, 2012
1. Internal Preamp- It is a nice feature
2. Portability- This thing is waaay lighter than the Pioneer
3. Sleek Design- I like the curves on this thing. It looks nice
4. Nice Slip Mat- You can buy a decent slip mat cheap, but it's nice to not need to
5. Great Dust Cover- The hinge break on the dust cover is perfect. It doesn't force itself down as some covers do. I have never skipped a record because I was putting the dust cover down.
6. Inexpensive- I picked the Ion up for $60, which isn't bad at all.
1. Cheap Cartridge and Stylus- Of all the places to be chintzy, the part that picks up the sound and turns it into a usable audio signal always seems like a bad choice. Still, most inexpensive modern turntables skimp here
2. Cheap Tone Arm- I don't expect too much from a budget turntable, but this is not quality workmanship
3. Complete Lack of Adjustment- There is no way to balance the arm, set the anti-skate, dial in needle weight, or anything of the sort. Once again, I don't expect too much. The Philips is in the budget range for turntables, but it still provides all the basic adjustments for a decent turntable
4. Skippy Skip Skip- Because of the cheap tone arm and lack of adjustment, the Ion skips on records that play perfectly fine on the Philips.
5. Thin Sound- Because of the cheap cartridge, stylus, and tone arm (and possibly because of the internal preamp) this turntable just doesn't crank out the rich sound my Philips does.
Please know that I am not an audiophile. I don't have a tube preamp, I don't have an air-suspended turntable, I don't have a dedicated listening room, and I have never spent more than $250 on a single piece of audio equipment. I'm just a guy who tries to get the best sound he can without dropping too much coin. I have had a lot of experience with vintage and budget audio equipment, so I generally know what I'm talking about. I would only recommend this turntable to two types of people: 1) People who want to rip their vinyl to MP3's (seriously guys, send me your records. You don't deserve 'em) 2) People who want a turntable but don't want to invest in preamps, receivers, speakers, etc.
I'm not saying that this turntable sucks or that it is the worst thing on the market. It plays records, which is what it is supposed to do. I paid $75 for my Pioneer turntable and it was a much more sound investment. I would suggest that anyone looking to buy a first turntable should steer clear of the cheaply made modern budget and USB market. Buy a vintage Pioneer, Kenwood, or Sony, put a new stylus on it, and invest in either a decent vintage amplifier/receiver or buy any one of a number of reasonably-priced phono preamps that are on the market. You can sometimes find decent/fixable vintage audio equipment at thrift stores. I have a friend who outfitted himself with a great system for under $100 ($25 of which was a new stylus) by picking stuff up at a thrift store, dusting it off, and fixing it up. The Ion will continue to get use until I can teach my daughter to respect her daddy's record collection, but it isn't my favorite way of listening to my records. If I could replace it with a vintage turntable, I would.
Saturday, February 11, 2012
read this story. All in all, this was a nice acquisition for me. I think I only paid $11 for it, and it sells for a lot more online.