Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: The Secret of the Petrified Tablet (2020) Reprints Amazing Spider-Man #68-85 & Annual #5 Written by Stan Lee Art by John Romita & John Buscema (with Larry Lieber & Marie Severin)
One of the things I’ve noticed while reading through these issues of Amazing Spider-Man is how John Romita’s art style is what I think of when I imagine Silver Age art. There’s a cleanness to the linework, a certain way he draws textures, an overall simplicity compared to modern art, as well as development compared to earlier comics and the art happening over at the Distinguished Competition. However, this collection starts with a story illustrated by Larry Lieber, whose style is similar to Romita’s. Lieber served as a man of many talents while at Marvel. He scripted Stan Lee’s plots for Thor, Iron Man, and Ant-Man, with his first superhero work being the first appearance of Thor. Lieber is actually the younger brother of Stan Lee and thus has had a long-running relationship with the company. He illustrated the Spider-Man newspaper strip from 1986 to 2018, retiring at 86. He’s still alive today, having turned 91 in October 2022.
What About Bob? (1991) Written by Tom Schulman Directed by Frank Oz
For the last few years, there has been a renewed interest in the 1990s, becoming an interest in the early 2000s. This is nothing new. I remember being a teenager in the 1990s and noting the interest in the 1960s turned into the same for the 1970s in the early 2000s. American culture seems caught in a loop of cultural recycling that operates on a 20-30 year scale. What often happens during these nostalgia-driven periods is that the most obvious relics of eras get all of the attention. Unfortunately, that means other media from these periods become increasingly forgotten as time goes by. I wanted to spend a couple weeks looking at some movies from the 1990s that I’ve seen & wanted to revisit or have heard about for years and finally sat down to watch. My hope is that I can highlight some overlooked movies from the 1990s.
The Menu (2022) Written by Seth Reiss & Will Tracy Directed by Mark Mylod
Horror is certainly a hot genre at the moment. Not since the 1970s has there been a more fruitful period for the genre. We have so many different styles & flavors of horror to choose from so that no matter what type of person you are, there’s something to pick from. The Menu represents a growing social satire horror that’s become more prevalent in recent years. It makes sense that this would be a burgeoning subgenre in the face of growing massive inequality in the West. Outside of horror, these themes of bringing the wealthy to heel & pointing out the many cases of abuse of the working class have picked up steam. Yet, I have to question when such an important topic becomes so embedded in popular culture. The main question I ask about these films is, “Is this a genuine expression of frustration on this issue from an authentic voice, or is this just a filmmaker/studio chasing a trend?”
We close out our first volume of American documentaries with a film about making a movie in America. Today, making a decent-looking movie is not hard if you have the passion. With numerous video distribution platforms, you can likely get your film up somewhere streaming for free if you simply want people’s eyes on it. In 1999, the process was more challenging. Equipment & film were always the most expensive part of shooting a movie before the digital age took off. To get that kind of money, you would have to be a smooth talker & a hustler. Nothing better describes Mark Borchardt, an absolutely fascinating example of pure white American mediocrity. Borchardt drifts from thing to thing, often in a circular pattern, returning to unfinished fragments and adding a little more to them over time.
Prologue I did not grow up playing tabletop roleplay games. If you regularly read this blog, you know that I was homeschooled from Kindergarten through High School and then attended a private Christian college. If you know the type of people choosing to homeschool their children in the 1980s, you probably have a good picture of what I was dealing with. My parents did not make a lot of sense, and now I can reflect on it and realize they were just reactionaries. We have Focus on the Family and some of its satellite publications coming into our home. My parents regularly listened to Rush Limbaugh. I remember we also tuned into G. Gordon Liddy’s radio show. It’s pretty ugly when you look back on it.
Better Call Saul Season Five (AMC) Written by Peter Gould, Alison Tatlock, Ann Cherkis, Gordon Smith, Heather Marion, Thomas Schnauz, and Ariel Levine Directed by Bronwen Hughes, Norberto Barba, Michael Morris, Gordon Smith, Jim McKay, Melissa Bernstein, Vince Gilligan, and Thomas Schnauz
Did we really think Jimmy McGill’s story was going somewhere good? If you had watched Breaking Bad, you knew he hadn’t gone down his darkest path yet. In Season Five, we’re headed there. This is when Jimmy goes that little bit further than he should have, deals with the wrong people, and seals his fate. He cannot take old friends reaching out to check in on him; it wounds his ego. But he will accept dangerous jobs from some of the worst clients he’s ever handled, which could get him killed. Kim continues to let it sink in that this man will not change; she’d be foolish to believe she could change him. Instead, she finds a way to accept who Jimmy is and still loves him despite the heartbreak he will clearly bring to her life one of these days.
Amazing Spider-Man Epic Collection: The Goblin Lives (2019) Reprints Amazing Spider-Man #53-67, Spectacular Spider-Man #1-2, Marvel Super-Heroes #14, and Not Brand Echh #6,11 Written by Stan Lee (with Gary Friedrich & Arnold Drake) Art by John Romita (with Don Heck, Jim Mooney, Ross Andru, Larry Lieber, & Marie Severin)
Once upon a time, superheroes were not the most popular thing in the media. In the 1960s, Stan Lee and his collaborators at Marvel were reinventing the niche genre that had been quite popular since the 1930s. Thirty years after their debuts, the familiar superheroes were quite stale. If you walked over to DC Comics, you would find stories with Superman acting as a father figure, mentoring children. Batman wasn’t much better.
New years are consistently heralded as new beginnings. It’s silly, really, that the change of the calendar year should fill us with the idea that now is the time to change things. Every day is a chance for a new beginning, not just January 1st. These movies explore what it is to make a first or a fresh start, even if the result is something terrible. The common thread through all the films I feature in this list is their focus on the humanity of their characters, people trying to make sense of an often senseless & chaotic world.
Since the first African people were captured, sold through European markets, and forcibly transported to “The New World,” Black bodies have been commodified by white supremacy. African people were not the first slaves, but their subjugation under the institution of chattel slavery is a defining aspect of humanity in the Western world. To pretend that it “was a long time ago,” that we live in a “post-racial world” or any other white copium is just that. It’s a complete dismissal of material facts and accurate historical analysis. Today, Black people are still seen as white commodities in capitalism’s gaze. Instead of working the fields of cotton plantations, American society works Black men as gladiator figures, tossing them in arenas to destroy their bodies and damage their brains for our entertainment. The thought of what these men will do when natural aging & physical strain catch up to them is not even contemplated by most people.