The Summer of Van Damme

Jean-Claude Van Damme is currently having a quiet career comeback -- nay, reinvention -- this summer largely thanks to his role in The Expendables 2.

It's not that the guy has ever stopped making films. In fact, it's almost the opposite -- since 1988, Van Damme starred as the lead in over 30 films. He's continued to be prolific long after most movie watchers assumed that his career stalled out.

What's remarkable about his vast body of action films is that he's played the lead in almost every single one of them, beginning with his first hit, Bloodsport. With the exception of a couple of brief cameos in the mid-00s, this held true for over 20 solid years of his career.

In his first few film roles, Jean-Claude had relatively small parts. I mean, he's fantastically entertaining as the weird dancing guy in a Breakin' crowd scene, but I think it's safe to say that it's a forgettable entry on his resume. I view this era as the first chapter of his career.

In my eyes, the second chapter of his career began with his legendary recut of Bloodsport, a movie filmed in 1984 but released in 1988 after Van Damme supposedly pushed for a re-edit. It's a breathtaking martial arts film that perfectly straddles the line between b-movie and blockbuster.

I don't know if Van Damme purposely set out to always play the lead after his first hit film, but that's exactly what he did. I could drop all of the names of the amazing and unusual movies from this second chapter of his career, but I'd rather just direct you to my Jean-Claude Van Damme Movie Review Master List, a single blog post containing Tweet-sized encapsulations of these flicks.

I view 2008's JCVD as the spiritual conclusion to the massive middle chapter of Jean-Claude's movie career. It's a brilliant film in which the real-life action star becomes a fictional action hero under the pretense of the fact that he's a real-life actor. Très meta.

However, last year's Universal Soldier: Regeneration is the chronological end of that chapter. While he's only in about half of the film, he plays the emotional anchor and his presence tends to mark the climactic moments of the story.

Following that logic, Kung Fu Panda 2 is the beginning of the third chapter of Jean-Claude Van Damme's career, marking his mainstream embrace of ensemble and/or supporting roles.

His current mini career rebirth is unquestionably due to the fact that he's begun to accept parts below the top billing. And while I think that's fantastic for his legacy, it's kind of a bummer for die-hard Van Damme fans like myself.

That's not to say that I don't understand his new career direction -- it makes perfect sense to me. And, frankly, I'm surprised it took him so damn long to start taking roles like the villain in The Expendables 2.

But just because I'm understanding doesn't mean I'm pleased. I'm going to miss his often absurd but almost always heartfelt lead performances.

The reason I'm writing this piece is because I watched Dragon Eyes, a new film featuring Van Damme listed in the top spot. It's an average direct-to-video action film, featuring some decent fight scenes and tedious dramatic moments... and very little Van Damme.

In Dragon Eyes, Van Damme plays Tiano, a mysterious prison inmate who trains the lead character, played by Cung Le. Tiano spouts nonsensical aphorisms, not unlike the real-life Jean-Claude, who has a reputation for saying ridiculous phrases with steely conviction.

While it's fun to see him turn his penchant for confusing fortune cookie quotes into a character, it's not a lead role by any means. I would venture to say that it's truly misleading to have Van Damme's name in the top spot in Dragon Eyes. He's just not in it enough to warrant that presence.

I assume that the filmmakers decided to bank on Van Damme's increased profile to bring attention to Dragon Eyes. Makes sense to me as a business decision. But as a fan, this is the first time I can genuinely say that a movie advertising Jean-Claude Van Damme in the lead does not feature Jean-Claude Van Damme in the lead.

Maybe I'm grieving Van Damme's headlining days too soon. I'm sure he'll have more starring roles. But from the looks of things on his IMDB profile, his increased activity is largely due to the fact that he's accepting supporting roles.

Anyway, I'll be enjoying the Summer of Van Damme as it happens, pleased to see quotes like "doing the splits like he never stopped working" or "seemingly back from the dead" popping up throughout movie reviews of The Expendables 2. But as a fan, I'm going to officially mourn the end of an era of leading roles for the man who preposterously managed to hold onto the top spot in all of his movies long after anybody thought he could do it.

My Top 10 Spider-Man Covers of All-Time

Comics Should Be Good! (a.k.a. my favorite comic book blog) is counting down The 50 Greatest Spider-Man Covers of All-Time, starting tomorrow. Today is the final day for voting and I wanna share my personal top 10 favorite Spider-Man comic book covers with you!

10. Spider-Man's Tangled Web #19
By Jim Mahfood, 2002.

09. Web of Spider-Man #4
By John Byrne, 1985.

08. Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #112
By Kyle Baker, 1986.

07. Web of Spider-Man #32
By Mike Zeck, 1987.

06. The Amazing Spider-Man #641
By Paolo Rivera, 2010.

05. The Amazing Spider-Man (v2) #21
By Erik Larsen, 2000.

04. The Amazing Spider-Man #50
By John Romita, 1967.

03. The Amazing Spider-Man #224
By John Romita, Jr., 1982.

02. Peter Parker: Spider-Man #29
By Kaare Andrews, 2001.

01. Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man #101
By John Byrne, 1985.

I knew from the start that John Byrne's Spectacular Spidey #101 was my numero uno. I also knew that I'd be including covers by Kaare Andrews, Erik Larsen, and Paolo Rivera.

But it was tough to round out the rest of my top 10! I went through cover galleries of every major Spider-Man series of the past 40+ years to make sure that I didn't miss any hidden gems. And I almost did!!!

Inclusions like Jim Mahfood, Kyle Baker, and Mike Zeck were a bit of a surprise for me (though, in retrospect, it makes total sense knowing my taste in art).

Putting my top 10 in order was tough too. Things switched places a lot and some gorgeous work even slipped out of my top 10.

In the end, I feel like this is a solid mix of classic covers and lesser-known beauties. I hope you dig 'em as much as I do!

My review of YIBR #77

Yamagato Industries Business Report #77

*Disclaimer: The following podcast review should not be taken (100%) seriously because I am (mostly but not completely) full of shit.*
  • First off, I'm glad you're back. BUT WHY THE FUCK DID IT TAKE YOU SO LONG?
  • Soooooo I sorta hated this episode at first... I dunno why, exactly... but I did.
  • But by the middle of the episode, I was loving it! I dunno what changed. It was probably me, because I've been listening to this episode over the course of a few days.
  • Colonel Panic is the shit, right? Best ever.
  • I didn't really care about the end of the year stuff until you started doing the best of YIBR categories, like best webcomic and best title card (hmmmmm my vote probably goes for the Magnum PI cut the wires one... but I love them all so much...)

  • Okay, my 2012 suggestion for you -- pick a single comic book issue and review it. But announce the issue ahead of time! So, for example, announce the comic you're gonna review at the end of the previous podcast so I can run out and buy it before the next show and then listen to you guys tear it to pieces.
  • OH GAWD. A Zeldacast? I dunno anything about Zelda.
  • Oh, and I almost forgot -- there was this one point in the episode when the music got kinda sad while you guys were talking and it was hilarious. You should fuck with the music more!
RATING: 5.5 out of 7 for starting off slow but really picking up, to the point where I was sad when it ended =(

My review of 3 Chicks Review Comics #33

3 Chicks Review Comics #33

*Disclaimer: The following podcast review should not be taken (100%) seriously because I am (mostly but not completely) full of shit.*
  • So Sue and Kelly raved about Francisco Francavilla's art in Detective Comics #874. Which is awesome, because he's great. But the thing that confuses me is: how come I hear everyone raving about his Detective Comics art but I barely hear anyone rave about his Black Panther work? If you know me, you already know I'm quite partial to Black Panther, so I've got a very strong bias in posing this question. BUT I GOTTA KNOW!! Did no one read Black Panther? Or was his art way different on Batman and people just liked it more?
  • And Maddy picked a Brian Q Miller Batgirl issue... DAMN people who liked that series LOVED that series. I didn't read it, but all of the love for it is finally making me curious.
  • I didn't read Wolverine and Jubilee. I'd intended to read it, mostly based upon the 3 Chicks review of the first issue. But I went to my comic shop and they were sold out. And then I forgot to ask them to reorder it for me. And then I forgot about it entirely :(
  • "He loves to do female characters." hehehehehehe *snicker*
  • Something that grinds my gears -- which is in no way unique to you three -- is that comic book readers almost always seem to say the "best" webcomics are ones done by published and/or established comic book creators. I'm specifically saying the phrase comic book creators on purpose -- I talking about people who come from comic book/graphic novels backgrounds or have print recognition, careers, etc. That's not to say their webcomics aren't good -- they are. And I know that my complaint here is really foolish and self-serving. But it grinds my gears nonetheless! A good comparison would be if people who primarily read prose always said the "best" comic books were ones written by people who have recognition as novel writers, ya feel me?
  • OMG, Kelly, I had no idea that the background in that Daredevil cover was all words until you said something! I've been seeing it posted around the web as a thumbnail, and I was like "what's the big deal? the composition is okay, I guess... but nothing mind-blowing..." BUT THE WORDS/SOUNDS THING IS AWESOME! So I get it now.
  • However, Maddy's cover pick is my favorite of the bunch (go H4H!!!). Here are my favorite covers of the year -- Batgirl #20, Butcher Baker #1, Batman Inc. Leviathan Strikes #1, and Uncanny X-Force #19:

  • I wasn't loyally reading any DC books before the relaunch. The most recent stuff I can remember picking up? I read the Aquawar issues of Brightest Day (which wasn't much of a war, BTW), and they were okay. I've read two issues of the New 52. Aquaman wasn't for me, and The Ray -- while decent -- hasn't hooked me yet. The other books? I flipped thru a few things but I didn't get into what I saw. However, I did buy the Batman Inc. Leviathan Strikes one-shot because 1. it had a ton of pages, 2. it had an awesome cover, and 3. the first story with Batgirl in the boarding school was bonkers good! So it turns out that my favorite DC comic published in the New 52 era happens to be a holdover from before the reboot.
  • I agree that DC missed a huge opportunity with its relaunch, but I don't see their PR as much of a flub. I mean, comic book marketing is rarely in step with the audience. I feel like it's been that way for a long time now. However, they really missed an opportunity with the content, in my opinion. I think they could've pushed the envelope a lot more. Instead, they just "Ultimitized" their line.
  • Kelly, what about Rogue being the lead in X-Men: Legacy? Doesn't that count as a female led book? And like I mentioned in the comments on the last podcast, Misty Knight is still the lead in Villains for Hire, despite the fact that the ongoing Heroes for Hire was cancelled. And aren't Storm and Jubilee the new lead characters in the adjectiveless X-Men series? I don't read that one, so I don't know. But that's my perception from the covers I see.
  • I have an idea, and please don't take this as a criticism, because it's not... but here's the notion: what if you did an entire non-complaining episode? The reason I say it is two-fold. 1. I'd love to listen to the three (or two, if I must) of you struggle to fight back ranting about things that piss you off, and 2. You always make incredible arguments for your positions, but you say the same ones every episode! And with good reason -- I mean, I'm a HUGE supporter of your agenda, and things obviously need to change. But what would you say if you couldn't talk about the opportunities DC's missing? What if you couldn't complain about what Marvel's doing wrong? I know you've tried that before to a degree. But I'm talking an entire episode with not one complaint! Even looking for positive stuff within the larger negative. What would that be like?
  • Wet Moon 6 = out in October 2012.
  • And finally... apparently this person hates my extended version of the 3 Chicks theme. Frankly, I take "made in 1981" as a compliment!
RATING: 5 out of 7, for being entertaining and insightful but losing me at some points and not having many lol moments.

My review of 3 Chicks Review Comics #32

3 Chicks Review Comics #32

*Disclaimer: The following podcast review should not be taken (100%) seriously because I am (mostly but not completely) full of shit.*
  • Note: I started listening to this podcast last week. Then Xmas happened. I picked where I left off today and finished the episode.
  • I'm so happy that you're embedding the podcast in the blog post now!!! Makes my life so much easier. Plus, it looks pretty.
  • I really liked your review of The Ray. So much so that I went to the comic shop last week and tried to buy it... but it was sold out!!! I went back today and they had a couple of reordered copies, and I bought the comic. I started reading it on the bus on my way home, and though I haven't finished it yet, I'm not disappointed so far. It's a really interesting and imaginative book.
  • I love the argument about Women in Refrigerators. For the record, I think Sue is right. I personally interpret it as only women. If it's another type of character being used as story fodder, then I say let it be _blank_ in Refrigerators.

  • The show got pretty weird when you started arguing about who's a bigger fan of violent sex. That was fun.
  • The Xmas superhero talk wasn't for me. I got kinda bored. Nothing against the conversation. I just don't care about Xmas comics.
  • I hate to say it, but I haven't read much of Marjorie's work. But her Astonishing concept sounds pretty fantastic! So I'm looking forward to checking it out.
  • I really appreciate your sing-along attempt but OH GAWD SONIC ASSAULT!!! BTW, I prefer Maddy's version of the song, with "the Batmobile LOST a wheel and the Joker TOOK BALLET."

My review of the Comic Book Pit #81 podcast

Comic Book Pit #81

*Disclaimer: The following review should not be taken (100%) seriously because I am (mostly, though not completely) full of shit.*
  • I love the gimmick covers discussion! "Rub the Blood" is one of my favorites. There was also that great Wolverine #50 with the slashes and the "classified" folder underneath.
  • My personal favorite gimmick cover is War Machine #1, which is a brilliant foil cover because it only uses two colors -- black and silver. Great art by Gabe Gecko a.k.a. early Gabriel Hardman.

  • I think the craziest gimmick comic cover ever was Jab #3, featuring Shannon Wheeler's Too Much Coffee Man, which was ACTUALLY shot with a bullet. That issue of Protectors with the fake bullet hole that you talked about? They ripped the idea off from Shannon and his Jab cohorts. Here's more info about it.
  • I don't mind $3.99 books as much from smaller publishers. In fact, I never once regretted purchasing Udon's $3.99 books. They had gorgeous art and great stories. I enjoyed supporting them. Big Two $3.99 books? I have completely different feelings about those.
  • Okay, so the captions in Defenders... until Scott brought it up just now, I didn't know that Fraction put them in this new series. But I can tell you why they're in there -- it's a throwback to 70s Marvel Comics. There was a short period in the 70s where Marvel books included little phrases like that at the bottom of the pages (ya know, around the time the original Defenders series launched). Sometimes they would advertise other Marvel books for the same month, and other times they'd say stupid jokes. I don't know the exact years in the 70s that they were used, but I wanna say they were going strong in the middle of the decade.
  • Damn, you guys were rough on Adlard! Granted, I've never read his work, but the pages I've seen look really crisp and readable to me. Just sayin'...
  • Anyway, I listened to the rest of the show, but I don't necessarily have anything else to say. It was a really good episode.
  • Oh, wait. One more thing. Dan, you're in love with BOOM! Studios. It's kinda out of control. As a friend, I just want you to know that. I mean, I'm happy that you've found a new love. But consider this my intervention.

My review of the Yamagato Industries Business Report #76 podcast

Yamagato Industries Business Report #76

*Disclaimer: The following review should not be taken (100%) seriously because I am (mostly, though not completely) full of shit. (And, yes, I know his name is Beeslo... but I prefer Beelso.)*
  • Link needs to talk more. But when he does talk, he should say less stupid things. Just sayin'...
  • Who died and made Beelso leader? I dunno why he's always trying to boss everybody around. He reminds me of Fred from Scooby-Doo. And I hate that show.
  • Mongo should do more fact-finding on the show. It's funny when he does that. Also, then actual facts would be stated and not just guesses.
  • I like John Romita, Jr.

  • I liked the show's topic, but I also sorta hate the topics when they just require you guys to name off stuff. I like discussion with viewpoints, which you sorta had too.
  • Look, that Watchmen movie sucked. It sucked hard. Beelso needs to shut up about how great it was. His taste in movies is like a high school vending machine. He only likes the stuff that they tell him to eat and he happily eats it. But if one person says it's not good, like said that peanut butter crackers sucked, then he's all like "OMG peanut butter crackers are so dumb... they messed these up so bad... but my Pop-Tart brand toasted pastry is so good because Christopher Nolan toasted it for me."
  • You should have an episode where you take the letters out of the names of your segments. Plant Bugle could be all about plants in comics. Ummmmm I forget the names of your other segments, but I think you get the idea.
  • Overall, I like this episode. Vera was funny last week, but I haven't seen The Walking Dead s2 yet, so that episode was poop to me.
  • In general, I like the Yamagato Industries Business Report. But I think it needs less reporting and more business. Actually, just kidding. I have no idea what that means. I just wanted to say a critique that involved the words from the title. But I gots nothing.
  • Also, you should change the opening theme in 2012. Maybe a Nik Furious original...

You should be reading Black Panther: Man Without Fear!

I just read some direct market sales figures for June... and Black Panther: Man Without Fear is selling under 20,000. So I'm taking it upon myself to personally rep this book and try to get more people interested in it. Why? Because it's the only mainstream superhero book that I'm thoroughly loving right now. It's noir. It's street-level. It's clever. It's intelligent. It's breathtaking to look at. It's a joy to read. The Fear Itself tie-ins read seamlessly with the series even if you're not reading any other Fear Itself books. It stars a complex-yet-relatable (not to mention de-powered) T'Challa living and working in NYC, protecting Hell's Kitchen. To me, the art and storytelling are reminiscent of 80s Daredevil and Batman: Year One. The writing is crisp and refreshing, spending more time focusing on the intriguing personal struggle of the protagonist rather than getting caught up in superhero plot cliches. And you can enjoy this story regardless of how many Black Panther comics you've read in the past. It's a goddamn good comic book!

Trader Joe's Avocados, YOU SUCK!

That's it Trader Joe's... I'M CALLING YOU OUT! Your store-brand avocados are terrible!!! Whenever I buy them, they're all weird and half-rotted, even though they feel firm on the outside. And I'm sick of it!

Everyday for lunch, I eat rice and avocado. It's normally a very satisfying meal for me... EXCEPT when I try to eat your avocados and end up just eating rice for lunch! At first I thought that maybe it was just a bad bag. But it's happened three times now (as in 12 avocados!) and I'm so mad.

Maybe it's because I live in Pittsburgh. Maybe it's just the store I shop at (on Penn Ave in case you wanted to know, Joe). Or maybe it's that you sell an inferior, nasty product and it needs to stop!

Nominate Phantom of the Attic Comics in Pittsburgh for the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award!!!

The 2009 San Diego Comic-Con is getting close... well, not that close...

BUT the deadline to nominate Phantom of the Attic Comics for the Will Eisner Spirit of Comics Retailer Award is getting really close!!!


Don't delay. Get cracking and nominate Phantom of the Attic in Pittsburgh (Oakland neighborhood) for this excellent comics retail award!

CNNMoney Discovers that Comic Books Are Like Any Other Business Trying to Attract New Customers

Wow, CNNMoney. Could you possibly take a little bit longer to pick up on the trend of cheap promotional comic books? Grant Morrison and Geoff Johns hold what appears to be an awkward impromptu interview with CNNMoney from the New York Comic Con this past weekend. They talk about DC Universe #0 and its $0.50 price tag.

Now that gives me a good idea! 50 Cent working with DC Comics. That would probably attract more readers than I can even imagine.

Secret Invasion Spoilers: Looks Like Skrulls & Rumors Ahoy for Marvel Comics

Who really knows if Marvel_B0y and his blog are real? "Who cares?" is more like it! The whole damn thing is too much fun. I don't care if these spoilers are real or not. I just love how there's a big question mark hanging around the whole thing as we build up to Secret Invasion next week.

Then again, Schwapp seems to have the real spoilers. Or does he? Hell, I don't care if these are real either. It's all part of the fun to me. Let the Skrully speculation begin!

On a more personal spoiler front, I have been privy to peaks at Ms Marvel #25 and New Avengers #39. Both of these comics are extremely important for those looking to follow Secret Invasion. Plus they're both great stories with terrific art. Kudos to Bendis, Mack, Reed, Melo, and Benes.

P.S. Any and all of these links could go dead at any moment, so enjoy them while they last. I am not responsible for Marvel_B0y or Schwapp getting their content taken down (I have, however, taken the precaution that this stuff could go belly up and saved it as a text file just in case... may I suggest you do the same).

P.S.S. Speaking of stuff getting taken down, I posted a thread over on Talk@ on a week ago to this day. The post was a link to my AudioShocker podcast interview with Gotham Chopra, Editor-in-Chief of Virgin Comics. In the podcast, Gotham let slip some exclusive news - Hugh Jackman is the latest creator to sign with Virgin to produce an original comic. My thread on Talk@ was deleted shortly after I posted it and I wanted to know why. I messaged (more than once!) the administrator over at Newsarama to no avail. Then today - voila! - both Variety and Newsarama announce the Jackman deal with Virgin Comics. Still no message from the 'Rama admin. Just remember, people - the AudioShocker broke the news first!!!