Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Baltimore Comic Con Sept 8th – 10th 2023

Baltimore Comic Con is one of my favorite conventions. It’s purely comics (or at least 95%) and filled with professionals I’ve followed since childhood. And it’s incredibly humbling still that after the many years I’ve done this con to shake the hands of people like Jose Luis Garcia Lopez and Steve Rude and they know who you are. Also making new friends like Scott Snyder and Bob Hall is what makes this crazy industry worthwhile. 

And speaking of Bob Hall (West Coast Avengers, Shadowman, etc), he was staying at the same hotel as me. Each morning at the complimentary breakfast, we kept running into each other & would chat. Unfortunately he had some bad luck on Friday evening by getting locked out of his room due to the faulty lock mechanism of his door. Since the Hulk wasn’t available to knock his door down (LOL!), the hotel had to move him to a new room. I really hope they refunded his entire stay. Avoid the Sleep Inn on Fallsway St, people!

My new books THE BABY WHO FELL FROM SPACE and GOLDENGIRL AND THE PARTY #2 debuted at the con to rave reviews from pros & attendees. Both with art by Antonio Brandao and colors from me, the first is a kid friendly tale about a baby alien dropped off on a planet for day care but forced to deal with giant Cthuloid monsters! The second is my tribute to the late hip-hop artist MF Doom. Aliens are trying to abduct rapper Kaiju Boy and only GoldenGirl can find out why and protect him. 

I tried to avoid a spending spree this weekend but I had to pick up this BCC exclusive pint glass – AMERICAN FLAGG! In the 80s, indie publishers dragged me back into collecting comics. My holy trinity back then were Matt Wagner’s MAGE, Baron & Rude’s NEXUS, and Howard Chaykin’s FLAGG. Now if you gazed at my living room, you’d see my collection of superhero & Godzilla pint glasses mounted onto shelves around my place. FLAGG is going front and center!

 Of course, the cosplayers were out in force. My fav had to be Warlord, Mike Grell’s creation for DC. An odd observation that while the film BARBIE is wildly popular & generated a billion dollars at the box office, I had only seen one woman cosplay Barbie but there were multiple men wearing KENOUGH t-shirts which was a term used in the film. Weird! Make whatever psychological judgement you want.  A complete gallery is on my Facebook page - /jamesbabbo/

Saturday night was for partying as well as the Ringo awards. Congrats to Matt Miner who won for the anthology YOUNG MEN IN LOVE. Izzy Laureno, host of the IzzyVerse web channel, was holding court in the lounge. Later in the evening we ran into Bob Ingersoll whose column about legal issues in story plots ran in Comics Buyers Guide, a publication I had followed for years. We had a fun laugh discussing Daredevil’s legal woes amongst other silliness.

 Lastly I had the strangest commission on Sunday. A new friend, Billy Gee, has an unique collection – a portfolio of trading cards made up of creator self-portraits. And for some reason he asked me to make one! This is going up as my profile pic in social media. 

-jb 9/13/23

Monday, January 30, 2023

Open in app or online Is THE MENU (2022) really just THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932)?

THE MENU (2022) is a psychodrama/dark comedy centered around a meal served at the most exclusive restaurant in the world called Hawthorne. The venue is situated on an isolated island where the food is locally sourced and only the privileged are invited to experience it.

As a film itself I enjoyed it but most of the shocks would’ve been more effective if experienced live in the theater as an one act play. But after it finished, I couldn’t help a nagging feeling that it reminded me of an older movie. Then it hit me – several of the themes are present in the classic film THE OLD DARK HOUSE (1932). Directed by James Whale, HOUSE shares many of the same artisans that made the early FRANKENSTEIN movies including the director. cinematographer, and many of the actors (Boris Karloff, Ernest Thesiger).

HOUSE starts with a massive storm that forces travelers to take shelter inside an old decaying mansion in the middle of nowhere. There they meet the Femm family who are eccentric, unbalanced misanthropes – some crazier than others.

Ernest Thesiger

They reluctantly allow the passersby to stay but with warnings that they may be in danger from their brutish servant, Morgan, played by Karloff.

Boris Karloff
Both films share quite a bit in common: isolated settings, a meal, and end (SPOILER ALERT) with fires. All the while commenting on class structures – Ralph Fiennes’ Chef Slowik (MENU) making snide remarks about the various guests, their elite status, and how service workers are treated by them. In HOUSE, Charles Laughton’s Sir William Porterhouse brings up money as a defining force that builds up lives and ruins them by obsession.

Ralph Fiennes, Charles Laughton
Laughton’s character as well as Tyler, played by Nicholas Hoult in MENU, hire women as company – Lillian Bond and Ana Taylor-Joy respectively. Both women are rebellious and defend themselves against their adversaries the brutish Morgan (Karloff) and the sadistic Slowik (Fiennes).
Lillian Bond, Ana Taylor-Joy

Now I’m not implying that the producers of THE MENU were influenced by THE OLD DARK HOUSE but anyone that enjoyed the 2022 film would no doubt be entertained by the 1932 film. At a brief 71 minutes, the Universal classic is funny, creepy, and became the inspiration for a slew of haunted house films to follow creating a well-known genre of cinema. Seek it out!