Saturday, April 30, 2011

Batman Mad Love & Other Stories; A Hardcore Review *SPOILERS*

FINALLY Harley Quinn and her origin have come to the Hardcore Review. The ultimate story about Harley Quinn is such a treat to read and this is actually the second copy I have gotten of it. The first being a second print of the prestige format edition from the mid nineties. I traded a bunch of Lady Death comics to my friend, Dave, who is now my tattoo artist.
The story is drawn in the amazing style of the Batman the Animated Series by Bruce Timm and written by the enigmatic Paul Dini, both producers of the show that raised me on comics. BTAS is probably my favorite all time cartoon of ALL TIME. And to have a hardcover account of Harley's origin is pretty fucking spiffy in my book. I actually got to meet Bruce Timm at my first ever convention, Wizard World LA 2005. He drew me a Batman head and I got to tell him how much the show meant to me. The guy in line before me had the first volume of BTAS and had Timm sign every disc in the set. It was kind of funny, cause even then (my first con) I didn't really linger around the Big 2's booths. And now at SDCC I try to avoid them if I can.
The story goes like this, Harley Quinn wasn't always the Joker's sidekick. At one point she was a standout athlete in gymnastics who got a full ride to Gotham University. She excelled in her courses, but not due to hard work. She romanced her professors into making her a straight A student and a seeming prodigy in Psychology. Wanting to cash in and write tell all books about her case work, after graduation, Quinn, then Harley Quinzel, became a head shrink at Gotham City's most notorious facility, Arkham Asylum. Here she met the prize and prince of crime, Clown Prince that is, in the Joker. Falling victim to the Joker's charm and hard luck story, Doctor Quinzel let her guard down and Joker knew he had her. From that point on, there was nothing Harley wouldn't do for her Mr. J.
Bouncing back to present time, Harley is busy planning for the future, while Joker is determined to put the Batman on ice. After failing at her attempts to seduce the Joker, and being tossed out of a fifth story window, Harley decides enough is enough. But not in the way you might think. Harley has a plan to get rid of the obstacle between her an Mr. J once and for all.
Enter the "Death of a Hundred Smiles." What an awesome possible scenario. And the fact that this story, proved that Quinn wasn't just a cheap female Joker knock off. Harley had a mind and a demeanor that allowed her to be just as psychotic as the Joker, even more so, since her motives were purely based upon her "love" for her Puddin'. Harley wasn't just a flaky female foil for Batman. Sure she still has her moments of ditziness, but she is also in control of her destiny. And being that she was formed in an abusive relationship, and being that I have seen what abuse can do to the victim and their family and friends makes this story that much more important to me. Sure, fists can hurt someone. Usually those bruises and broken bones heal, but the psychological ramifications and scars run deep, and sometimes never allow the victim to heal.
This story, being so important to me and relevant to comic book history I have to give it a grade worthy of an equally important moment in wrestling history. A moment, that I believe was not recorded for posterity. It was the early 1990's and it was in Germany, a country known for tyranny and a butcherous nature. The match was Cactus Jack and Vader. Vader whipped Jack into the ropes, and Mick (Jack) took the move like a pro. He ended up in what was called a "hangman," where the wrestler gets his neck intertwined between the top and middle ropes. The move isn't normally dangerous, but in a match preceding this one, Too Cold Scorpio requested that the ring ropes be tightened. The tighter ropes caused Mick's ear to be torn from the side of his head. Being the ring warrior that his is, Foley kept on wrestling, while the ring announcer picked up the dismembered ear and ran it to the back where it was put on ice for a trip to the nearest hospital to have it reattached. And in a promo a few years later, Mick revealed that because he didn't know the German word for formaldehyde he wasn't able to ask for his ear back, as the nurse dropped it into the trash and said, "It's all a big joke."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Tank Girl Apocalypse; A Hardcore Review

So last night some fucking guy thought he was a badass and tried shitting on my comic book. Which he has no doubt, never read, and is seriously jealous of the fact that I can eat whatever I want and not be a fat pathetic loser like he is. I don't give a shit that you're getting married Poncho. You're still a fat fucking clone who's become what he thinks he has to be. You can say shit about me and my hair, the fact that I hang out with a sidekick and that my "comic book that's not going anywhere." But you're a fucking tattoo artist. That's not exactly a tough profession to get into. Hey I have a bunch of friends with ink and friends who are tattoo artists, but let's be honest, it's not rocket science, and you're not saving the fucking world either. Plus I would think, a grown, fat man who dresses up like a Ghostbuster on the weekends would shy away from trying to talk shit. Cause, the pigtails, sidekick, comic book, all a part of who I am at a fucking genetic level. You, you fucking play dress up on the weekends. You're like the goths who haven't realized that the goth movement is long dead. But on to bigger and better things...
Much in the spirit, of Tank Girl, I felt that rant was not only needed, but fucking necessary. I am after all the Hardcore Comic Book Icon, and pigtails or no pigtails, you're still a fat piece of shit who couldn't get laid if he wasn't getting married. So go and fuck yourself, while I run you over with my tank. By which I mean my thighs, which are bigger than your fat fucking head, because I work out porky. Maybe you should take that tattoo gun and ink on some abdominal muscles or something.
So the other week, I read the Apocalypse trade of Tank Girl, where Tank is being hunted by doomsday cultists. Supposedly there comes a messiah. And with it, possibly the end of the world. Tank Girl is restless, doesn't want pizza, beer or sex, and is in a malaise like state where she vegges out and watches daytime TV, the most evil of all evils.
She then leaves the confines of her home, fires off a shot in her tank and continues on till she meets up with a "standing on one leg guru" in a funky top hat who tried to get Tank Girl to join her in her one leg standingness. After which the leaders of the world, including long thought dead, Hitler and recently thought dead, Princess Diana show up. And Tank knocks Lady Di the fuck out. Not to mention Jet and Sub Girl show up to ride the rocket to Utopia. How the fuck a submarine travels in a desert is beyond me, but it's a comic book that has never made sense and that's why people love it. One of the all time most respected indie characters of ALL TIME still hasn't lost her edge, even when Hewlett and Martin aren't working on the project she stars in hits the racks. Tank learns she is pregnant, and after hitching a ride to Utopia, her and her friends party like rock stars, and then she gives birth to a half baby/half tank. Turns out Tank Girl cheated on old Booga with her tank? But she was drunk and I'm sure that makes it justifiable.
Tank Girl is the kind of comic book we need more of. Bizarre, fucked up and just plain strange shit with an edgy attitude that has always been is something we need more of in this world. I know if you're reading my reviews, you know I get tired of the run of the mill primary color boy scouts running rampant on your local comic store racks. When you're unhappy with the the regurgitated characterizations that lost their luster decades ago, take the money out of your wallet, AND BUY SOMETHING ELSE! We vote with our money. Money that is hard to come by and is very precious in today's world thanks to the powers that be. And I don't limit that to your "elected" government officials but more so directed to the corporate giants who only want your money and are currently gouging your pay check. Living pay check to pay check is tough, and we need something to raise our spirits in times like these where bullshit like a Royal Wedding is headline news, movies being Americanized from amazing International ORIGINAL versions, music that I wouldn't wipe my ass with and story lines from twenty years ago pass as brand new, edgy and best selling on the comic scene. You say, "FUCK YOU, I'm gonna read, watch, listen to what I wanna listen to." Your money and more importantly, time is much to valuable to waste on common, trivial shit like that. Show your support to the little guys in the industry who bust their asses even harder than the regular pros, cause quite often to support ourselves we work a full time job, AND then put out REAL cutting edge stories and art that gets swept under the carpet cause we don't have marketing bank like Disney and Warner Brothers backing us up.
In 2002, a monster arrived on the wrestling scene. He was a former NCAA heavyweight wrestling champion. His name, Brock Lesnar. Yeah, that Brock Lesnar, the same one who at one time was the youngest WWE World Champion at 25 years of age. Although Vince has never acknowledged Mikey Whipwreck winning the ECW World Heavyweight Championship in 1995 at less than 22 years of age from the Sandman and then defended it against the future Stone Cold Steve Austin. Anyways, after winning the WWE title, Lesnar set his sights on the most respected veteran in the locker room, The Undertaker. Pushing the "Dead Man," to his emotional limits by attacking him in front of his then pregnant wife Sara. You know the little blond who got Taker to ink her name across his throat. Beating Taker to a bloody pulp and breaking his right hand, then Smackdown general manager Stephanie McMahon, order the two behemoths to fight for the belt inside Hell in a Cell. And to up the ante, she ruled that Taker would be allowed to keep the cast on his broken hand for the match.
The match went off and there was a bucket of blood spilled, mostly from the Champion Lesnar and his manager Paul Heyman. There was nothing but utter chaos in the match, including Taker's cast being ripped off of his hand, Lesnar foiling Taker's move of "old school," and the bloodied, beleaguered champion hitting the F-5 to finish the Dead Man.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Quitter; A Hardcore Review

This has been a long fucking time coming. Harvey Pekar's, "The Quitter," another autobiographical look at the life of one Harvey Pekar. After writing a litany of his life, and working with his wife, Joyce Brabner (who will be at this year's San Diego Comic Con)n "Our Cancer Year," Pekar has decided to grace us with his WHOLE life story, up to, and including his run on American Splendor. Pekar delves into his youth, where he was a street fighter at a very young age, to a young man who had an impeccable recall of memory in high school and college.
Pekar takes us through his work in his families grocery, to his stint in the Navy, to his run in college, to the part in his life where we all met him. When he met Robert Crumb, and was enamored with the idea of comic books. But the whole time we feel like we're a part of Harvey's life. Pekar is a spinner of words unmatched by few others.
Obviously, as I have said, "The Quitter," is written by none other than Harvey Pekar. And it is illustrated by the incomparable Dean Haspiel. I purchased this book, when I was still going to a local shop that I had not yet run a foul of (for the comic I work on and supposedly my aggressive sales tactics to the the staff) years ago. And I saw Dean Haspiel at a signing at Isotope Comic Book Lounge back during the weekend of APE Con 2009. Sadly, I did not know about it in advance and did not bring my copy of the book along with me.
Haspiel's artwork rendered in a series of varying styles, brings Pekar's life to, well, life. The visage of a young Pekar rumbling through the streets of Cleveland from his youth through all the times he quit. And that's what makes this book so fucking compelling. Pekar, is just like all of us. He's quit the majority of his jobs, and his thought up futures. All day long we're inundated with the stories of mother fucking LeBron James, who's never once given up on his road to the NBA. But, he did give up on the Cleveland Cavaliers in his quest to become this generation's Michael Jordan. We've been indoctrinated with the visage of Donald Trump, who never gave up on his path to being the 2012 Republican nominee for the presidency. However, he's failed at being a business tycoon, a casino owner, a reality show star and making us believe he has hair. We're all quitters. Whether we admit it or not. Whether we know it or not. And Pekar and Haspiel make it ok to be a quitter.
Pekar is one of my heroes. He's made me a believer. Because of Pekar, I have found a love for the autobiographical comic book, as well as the "slice of life" comic book. And Haspiel has made me love the line work and variation one can scribble in one story. It all makes me feel like what I do is good, and a part of the comic book industry. Pekar gives me strength towards working on my own creations, and allows me to look proudly into the masses and say, "FUCK YOU" to all of those who just don't get it. He makes me realize that not everyone is going to like my work, and I am fine with it. My work, like that of Harvey Pekar's, is not for everyone. And if it was, it would most likely be drivel and tripe for the masses. Sure, it would make more money, but it WOULD SUCK, cause it would be cookie cutter in format and characterization. And I'm not looking to be the next Spider-Man or Batman. As much as there are stories I love, FUCK THOSE MOTHER FUCKERS! FUCK THOSE TIGHTS WEARING DOUCHEBAGS! GADGET HAVING MOTHER FUCKERS! PEKAR DON'T HAVE WEB SHOOTERS! NASH DOESN'T HAVE A FUCKING UTILITY BELT. In terms of writing the everyman, Harvey Pekar IS GOD. And that's saying something, cause Pekar is Jewish and I'm an Atheist.
There's little that can compare with this amazing piece of work that encompasses the entire lifetime of a man, not only who I admire, but respect. And Harvey Pekar's, "The Quitter" gets an amazing piece of hardcore wrestling history... the very first Hell in the Cell. At the then World Wrestling Federation's October 1997 pay per view, In Your House: Bad Blood, the then European Champion Shawn Michaels fought the Phenom, The Undertaker in a match that had a massive cage, complete with a top encompass the entire ring. It saw, Shawn Michaels drop an elbow, land Sweet Chin Music, and beat the shit out of a cameraman, all in order to escape the Deadman. Michaels got color and became a veritable Frankenstein in the days following, and went through the Spanish Announce table. In the end, the Deadman, lay dead after taking a Tombstone Piledriver from his "little" brother Kane, who debuted by ripping the door of the Cell off its hinges allowed The Heart Break Kid to gain the pinfall. All while wearing the "Crimson Mask" and being near unconscious.