Friday, October 11, 2013

Pop culture roundup: Yé-Yé girls! Mark Lamaar! Al Jaffee! Superman!

Here's a video promo about 1960s French "Yé-Yé girls" - the name given to that nation's top female pop stars of the era, including likes of France Gall, Sylvie Vartan, Françoise Hardy, Brigitte Bardot, Jane Birkin and others.


Read a lengthy interview with radio announcer/comedian Mark Lamaar, presenter of the much-missed "God's Jukebox" music program on BBC Radio 6. Also, pics of Lamaar's amazing record collection.
"I casted too wide a net because to say that you’re going to specialise in everything from the twenties to the present was crazy! To get up every day for five years and think about what you’re going to hear for eight hours at a time, for a music fan that’s like a punishment. I never thought during those five years that I’m just going to put on some Ray Charles, I never once did that and I really missed Ray Charles! As a fan that’s what you want to do, but as a job I took on this mantle of responsibility, and I’m glad that I did but I’m in no rush to do that again. The day after I finished, I put on a Sam Cooke CD and when it finished I put it on again and it just brought me so much joy because I hadn’t listened to a single record twice in five years. So that’s why I’m not missing radio as much as I should, and it’s not like I won’t ever do it again, but for the moment I’m really happy playing Sam Cooke twice [through]. I think if I did a radio show again, I’d be much lazier as I’ve got an almost endless catalogue of favourite records that I can play.


Cartoonist Al Jafee, creator of those cool "fold-ins" for Mad Magazine, has decided to donate his personal archives to Columbia University.
The Jaffee archives cover a lot of creative ground. His stepdaughter, Jody Revenson, has been organizing his studio for the past two years, doing battle with his pack-rat tendencies and coaxing a coherent chronology from piles of sketches, tracing paper and scattered freelance assignments, like the animal posters Mr. Jaffee did in the late 1960s for the typesetting company Inforex.
From this morass, she has earmarked several caches for the first delivery to Columbia. The library will be getting Mad fold-in cartoons at all stages of development, from the first “thumbnail squiggle,” as Mr. Jaffe described the first step in the fold-in process, to the large sheets of tracing paper with sketches in colored pencil, to the final painted board.

You can now get Superman license plates in Ohio, home to the Man of Steel's creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
The plate includes the iconic Superman insignia and the phrase “Truth, Justice and the American Way” and is available for purchase only for Ohio vehicles.

The cost of the special license plate will be $20 in addition to the normal registration fee of $34.50, plus local taxes. About half of the $20 fee will go to the Siegel and Shuster Society for future projects.

Good news for fans of the fabulous Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings: The band's latest LP, "Give the People What They Want," which was delayed to Jones' cancer treatment is set for release Jan. 14. And, better yet, Jones is reportedly in much-improved health. Here's a video for a tune off the new album:


Get the skinny on a new, three-part mini-series about American superheroes starting Oct. 15 on PBS.
Narrated by "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" alum Liev Schreiber, the doc is broken into three hour-long segments: The genre's origins and Golden Age from 1938 to 1958 in "Truth, Justice and the American Way;" "Great Power, Great Responsibility" covering the dawn of the Silver Age and beyond from 1959 to 1977; and "A Hero Can Be Anyone," looking in part at the impact of movies and TV on the genre from the release of the first "Superman" film in 1978 to the present.



Fab Friday: Vintage Beatles pics


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Review: Jack Kirby's "In the Days of the Mob" and "Spirit World"

Along with starting his line of "New Gods" comics titles upon his arrival at DC Comics in the early 1970s, Jack Kirby also worked to develop two anthology titles for the publisher, which were aimed at what he saw as a more "mature" audience.

Days of the Mob would focus on hard-boiled crime stories of the type Kirby and his partner Joe Simon produced in the pre-Comics Code 1940s, while Spirit World would feature tales that were spooky  and supernatural in nature.

These titles would be larger in format than the typical comic and distributed on magazine stands, rather than spinner racks.

Kirby planned to edit these magazines, which would feature short comics stories by himself and other creators. DC expressed at least moderate interest in the concept and gave the go-ahead for Kirby to produce the first issues himself -- meaning that he was left to write and draw all the content, with only a bit of scripting help from his young assistants Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman and inks by  Mark Royer and Vince Colletta.

Neither mag was distributed well at the time, and have gone unseen by many comics fans until now.

Fleshed out with introductions by Mark Evanier (for Spirit World) and Jack Kirby Collector publisher John Morrow (for Days of the Mob), along with several leftover stories intended for the never-published second issues of each magazine, both titles have now been collected in a pair of slim hardcovers from DC.

For Kirby fans, it's nice to see this rare work so well-reproduced. There is no color, but both titles feature a brown tint to the art to make it not "plain black-and-white," although I think plain would've been the better choice. Some of the leftover stories are presented without the tint and look beautifully crisp and clear, particularly those featuring Royer's dynamic inks.

The art is spectacular. I like this period of Kirby's work. His visual storytelling was as excellent and powerful as ever, yet there's also an element of "pure art" to it. The King's graphic hallmarks were so distinctive and prominent that the images almost seem to comment on themselves: "This is a Jack Kirby drawing. This is how Jack Kirby draws people and shapes and motion..."

The dialogue is typical of late-period Kirby -- lots of awkward phraseology, mixed metaphors, "random quote marks" and multiple exclamation points!! This stuff drives some readers bonkers and provides some evidence that, if nothing else, Stan Lee brought a lot to table when it came to making Marvel's Kirby comics easy and fun to read. Me? I don't get too worked up about it. It's Kirby doing words in his own ways, just as he did the art.

The stories per se, however, aren't earth shattering. While maybe a touch edgier and more violent than typical DC fare at the time, they don't veer into Creepy or Eerie territory. They are simple and meant to entertain. There's an element of cheesy Ripley's Believe it Or Not sensationalism to the supernatural tales, while the crime stories are meant to point out how ruthless and despicable Al Capone and his cronies were.

Both titles feature Crypt Keeper/Rod Serling-style narrators who provide introductions and links between the tales.

Also on display are some experiments Kirby did with fumetti (the use of photography to create comics) and collage, which are fun to see, but which also add to the overall curio-feel of both books.

I'd not recommend either book as a starting point for those interested in Kirby's work, or to anyone only mildly interested in his art. But to students and devoted fans, they are must-haves, providing insight into the master's experimental side.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Rare Stars Wars teaser trailer from 1977

This popped up on YouTube today:

Somebody's Bright Idea: TARDIS pajamas

BBC Radio this week

Click the links to hear the following programs.

Bhangra and Beyond: The History of Asian Music in Britain Sheila Chandra explores the history of Asian music in Britain.

The Sound of Cinema Guests from the film world select favourite musical moments from the big screen.

The Widowers' Houses Martin Jarvis directs Ian McKellen in George Bernard Shaw's play about slum landlords.

The Goon Show. Classic material from one of the all-time radio comedy greats.

The Man in Black. A creepy raconteur, played by Mark Gatiss, introduces spooky tales.

Stuart Maconie's Freak Zone. Strange and unusual sounds in music both old and new.

Between the Ears Celebrating 20 years of innovative and thought-provoking features that make adventurous use of sound and explore a wide variety of subjects. Made by leading radio producers.

Late Junction A varied mix of music, ranging from the ancient to the contemporary.

World on 3 Lopa Kothari and Mary Ann Kennedy present an eclectic mix of sounds from around the world, with exclusive sessions and concerts by leading musicians in world music.