First week of the year, and I’ve got a few longer hardcovers and books, and a lot of time in the Eighties. Here we go!
DC Through the ’80s: The End of Eras and DC Through the ’80s: The Experiments. These were on my wish list for a while and I got both for Christmas, so once I had the chance, I dove right into them. Now, I’ll admit that because DC republished the first issues of The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen in “The Experiments”, I skipped over those parts of the hardcover because I’d read them way too many times already. Otherwise, these contain stories from the decade that either marked the closing out of a number of types of books that DC published as well as the end of particular heroes’ stories prior to the post-Crisis era (in the case of “End of Eras”), or the more random stuff that the company published to the direct market (“The Experiments”). The “End of Eras” collection is worth it for the non-hero books alone, as DC talks about its long history of publishing horror and war books, and also features a number of stories featuring its superheroes that came toward the end of their particular first runs. This, of course, includes “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”, although it doesn’t include the two-parter that ends in Batman #400. “The Experiments” is one-off selections from books that are “pre-Vertigo” Vertigo titles as well as the first issues of a number of miniseries. Overall, they were great to read and it was a treat to read Alan Moore’s “Twilight of the Superheroes” proposal again, finally officially collected (after I’d read it on the Internet years ago). The “End of Eras” hardcover is really great; the “Experiments” book is good, but you’d be better off looking those books up on DC Infinite or Comixology. At any rate, I’ll be holding on to both. Keep.
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb. This had been warming my bookshelf for years since I bought it in hardcover a long time ago. I think I actually got it for my wife because she had liked Lamb’s novel I Know This Much is True. I had read that novel as well and did enjoy it. This one? Well, it’s very well written and I was intrigued about certain characters, but it’s not the type of book I’d recommend. The story is that Caellum Quick, a high school English teacher in Littleton, Colorado, is called back to his family farm in April 1999 because his aunt has passed away. This leaves his wife, Maureen, alone at the place where they both work–Columbine High School. You can see where this is going. While Lamb does a very good job of exploring the tragedy and how those affected feel afterward, using the details of the school shooting (including the victims’ actual names) was unsettling and to have it tie into a drama about his family’s history is … well, it was well written enough to keep me going through all 700+ pages, but once I was done, all I could think about was how this could have been 100-200 pages shorter. Donate.
Metropolis. A “complete” version Fritz Lang’s seminal silent science fiction film became available on Kanopy recently. Clocking in at around 2-1/2 hours, it’s the most comprehensive version of the film that has ever been released. I’d heard of it for years and had seen bits and pieces of it in documentaries, music videos, and other places, so being that I recently watched a couple of silent vampire films, I went right for this. The story is about a futuristic city where the rich live in skyscrapers and the poor workers live in subterranean communities and toil to keep the city running. The socio-economic allegory is pretty thick, as is the religious symbolism in certain characters. In fact, the story is kind of thin, but that’s not why you watch the movie–it’s for the set pieces and action. This isn’t one that I’m going to watch on the regular, but considering how influential it’s been, I think everyone needs to see it at least once. Watch.
Style Wars. A short early 1980s documentary about subway car graffiti artists and breakdancers in New York City that gives you a great portrait of the City during the early Ed Koch years and the early ’80s recession as well as the early days of hip hop. The filmmakers interview graffiti artists and we follow them as they tag trains, but we also see the NYC officials who are fighting the proliferation of vandalism. We also see breakdancing performances and hear rap from that very early era courtesy of Sugar Hill Gang and Grandmaster Flash. At the time, it was supposed to be a window into something that suburbanites only saw in the news (and often in a negative light); now, it’s a time capsule, and I have to admit that I found myself Googling everyone who was featured in the movie. It’s a great piece. Watch.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains. Filmed sometime around 1981 but released in 1982/83, the stars Diane Lane as Corrinne Burns, an orphaned teenager who lives in a run-down Pennsylvania town and is the lead singer of The Stains, an all-girl punk band that also includes her sister Tracy (Marin Kanter) and cousin Jessica (Laura Dern). The band is really more of a pipe dream than an actual musical act, but Corrinne persists and gets them booked as one of the openers on the tour of a terrible fading cock rock band named Metal Corpses (whose lead singer is played by The Tubes’ Fee Waybill) and up and coming Clash wannabes The Looters (a few of whom are played by members of The Sex Pistols). Metal Corpses quickly leaves the tour after one of its members ODs and Corrinne starts a sort of romance with Looters’ lead singer Billy (Ray Winstone). Meanwhile, the band, even though they don’t have a released single, goes viral due to Corrinne’s punk rock “fuck you and the horse you rode in on” attitude at concerts and on television, something shepherded by a local reporter who sees a real story in the girls. It’s a film that echoes bands like The Runaways and the Go-Go’s and also does a good job of capturing the feel of that particular part of the decade, especially when it comes to rock and roll, which was a mixture of warmed-over punk and the desiccated corpse of corporate bands. MTV, at the point when it was filmed, was still a year or two off from truly influencing the youth culture, and so you’ve got a very stagnant scene. Lane is fantastic in the film as are the supporting cast, although the movie can be a little uneven in places. But I can totally see why it’s a cult classic (and an influential one at that because among its fans are Courtney Love and Riot Grrrrl bands like Bikini Kill) and enjoyed watching it. Watch.