Friday, July 11, 2008

The 10 Manliest Superheroes

It seems these Top Tens might become a weekly affair here for the foreseeable future or until we ‘jump the shark’ and do a Top Ten with something about ‘babes’ in comics. God, I’m dreading the day I ever do it, but we aren’t above making other, very important and very serious, Top Tens that are formed with an exacting science, applied to rigorous tests, and made from only the finest ingredients.

Keeping that in mind, we’ve decided to bring you the Top Ten Manliest Superheroes. Now what makes a superhero manly? I like to think a ‘manly’ man is best known for his lack of knowledge on fashion, his chauvinist attitude toward feelings (marked by a great emotional dysfunction), and his general willingness to fight at the drop of a hat. Taking this all into consideration, we give you the Top Ten Manliest Superheroes:

Captain America10. Captain America

is a lot like Batman in that he fights with his fists, is a bit of a rebel, and tends to take the moral high ground a lot. But unlike Batman, Cap is a badass 24/7. Steve Rogers (his real identity) is just as manly a man as Captain
. Cap also doesn’t need a bunch of fancy doo-dads like Batman over there, but gets things done with a simple shield. Like MacGyver before him, Cap can do just about anything with that darned thing.

It should be noted that, along with Optimus Prime, Cap is a natural born leader who is able to lead other manly men just as easily as he is going it alone. He was once a chopper riding rebel (when he took on the identity of Nomad), and Cap’s only worried about feelings of camaraderie with his fellow soldiers. His women tend to be somewhat manly as well (we’re talking personality here), like his love affair with the attractive but deadly Agent 13, but note that he never commits to her. Partly cause he gets a little Atlantean on the side and partly cause a manly man can’t be tied down to dead weight ya hear?

Optimus Prime9. Optimus Prime

Ok, bear with me on this one, he’s the only Autobot who can fight worth a damn, being a true warrior and all. Plus, he’s a semi. He’s a truck, which can turn into a half truck, half robot that kicks Megatron ass and has a largely dysfunctional authoritarian complex. He’s a trucker! And everyone knows that all truckers are manly men right? So by all standards, Optimus Prime (with the deepest/coolest voice on this list I might add) is a manly man, er…robot-man…thingy.

Batman8. Batman

Some of you may be shocked by Batman’s placement in this list, but you should first consider some very telling signs that he may not be as ‘manly’ as he might first appear. For starters, he has to use all those gadgets and gizmos to get anything done, and while some may hail his utility belt as a wonderful piece of crime-fighting equipment, all I see is a glorified fanny pack. Batman, as Bruce Wayne, simply has way too easy of a life to be the manliest of men. He’s only Batman what, 70% of the time? That’s only 70% manliness while 30% of the time he’s the wussy Bruce Wayne who seems too able to match brown shoes with a brown belt to me, a real man doesn’t notice such color coordinating nuisances that keep him from wearing his favorite boots with his black and red plaid shirt. So while we like his dark nature, dysfunctional personality and propensity for violence, we don’t like the pansy routine (no matter how necessary to keep up appearances) or his general concern for others’ feelings.

Grifter7. Grifter

Grifter is the crude and tough cowboy type from the WildC.A.T.S. He enjoys spending his days doing things like cleaning his guns, shooting his guns, cleaning his guns again, and then smoking while shooting his guns before retiring for a one night stand with some licentious lady who he’ll never call again. He did have a thing for Zealot, but that’s understandable because she was a badass herself, coming from a long line of Coda warriors that were born for battle. Grifter is also the first on the list known to drink excessively, a very manly quality if there ever was one.


6. The Punisher

Let’s face it, The Punisher’s all black attire and skull symbol won’t win him any Fab Five Fashion awards, making him all the more manly, and he certainly fits the bill of emotionally dysfunctional (a problem that goes back to his time in Vietnam). The Punisher is excessively violent, and he has no qualms about picking a fight, or ending it with a shotgun either. He even only has sexual relations with equally dysfunctional women (as he did recently in Ennis’ Punisher run).

The Punisher is the type of masculine tiger that is probably a little too dysfunctional for society or at least the one he lives in. He simply isn’t appreciated in his time. If only he lived in the Dark Ages then his manliness would be hailed across the land and stories would be told to small children about the Punisher who’d chop their head off and spit down their neck if they didn’t do what they were told. What a wonderful time.

Gung Ho5. Gung-Ho

A lot of the G.I. Joes could have made this list, but Gung-Ho stood out among the pack. His name alone brings to mind manly tendencies to barge ahead recklessly without thought or consideration for others' safety. He also wears no shirt under his vest, all the better to show off his large Marine tattoo, and Gung-Ho is always seen with his camo-pants, a manly thing to wear if you are actually in the Armed Forces and shooting people on a regular basis. Gung-Ho is a Cajun, but unlike that whiny baby Gambit who’s become whipped by Rogue, he’s a gumbo eating, trash talking, swamp rat who prefers chewing his food with his mouth open and farting in front of ladies (very manly things to do I’m told).

Hellboy4. Hellboy

These last four were all very hard to decide between because all three are loners, rebels, badmouthed cusses that all drink heavily and fight rough and dirty. Hellboy in particular is great at hitting the ‘big monster’ first and asking questions later. His giant stone fist is perfect for brawling with large bulbous demon creatures that look vaguely like butt-plugs. Besides, his rude behavior and general tough guy attitude are all what one would look for in a manly man. The only problem is that that tough guy attitude tends to cover up a big heart, not very manly. He’s also a bit attached to that gal, Liz Sherman, which owns his tail (so to speak), not very masculine at all, even if he does smoke a stogie while doing it.

Wolverine3. Wolverine

Ah, now we are coming down to the real cream of the crop here.
is renowned for three things, boozing, fighting, and being a hairy little cuss. He’s good with the ladies, especially all those young girls who he ‘takes under his wing,’ and we all know that going after another guy’s girl (Jean Grey) is very manly. His claws and fisticuffs tend to get him the label of hard-nosed hellion who’ll do what it takes to get the job done, a very manly quality to have. He deserves to be on this list even if he is Canadian. Besides,
used to be a freaking lumberjack for Pete’s sake, there is nothing more manly than that.

Lobo2. Lobo

Sometime in the 90’s, Lobo was created as a backlash to all things ‘manly’ in superheroes. He was to be the ultimate parody of characters like Wolverine and Punisher with their ultra anti-hero manliness. But Lobo was SO manly, and just a badass in general, that he flipped off his creator and became the poster boy for modern manliness anyway. Prone to extreme violence, Lobo flies around on his 'hover' chopper-bike while smoking cigars and stealing candy from small girls. Lobo is the last of his race, the rest having died off from his own murderous drive to be the baddest mutha in the whole universe. Sometimes he takes on Superman, sometimes he kills Santa Klaus, but whatever he’s doing, he’s doing it with such ‘manitude’ (the attitude of manliness) that he often only needs to look at women and they immediately start ovulating. Then he hits them right in the ovaries.

1. Conan

Oh, boy. This is the manliest man in comics today, or ever. He’ll just as soon knee you in the groin as he will kick you in the nuts, and that’s if he’s feeling nice and doesn’t elbow you in the nads. He’s every manly attribute I’ve talked about in this article so far including but not limited to womanizing, fighting, smoking, drinking, swearing, being arrogant, caring little for deep emotions or painful thinking and most importantly, he’s all of these things ALL of the time, and he's been doing it the longest by far. He never stops being the testosterone serving center that dishes it out one punch or ass slap at a time. He screws your girl, cuts your arm off, and tells you a crude joke all before eating your dinner with his bare hands. And you love him for it. He’s the crudest thing ever to pop out of a baby-maker whose taste for serving wenches, ale, and bar-room brawls is insatiable. He is the Manliest Superhero Ever!

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5 Awful Saturday Night Live Hosts

by Kara

Since its debut in 1975, SNL has had its ups and downs, most of which were always attributed to the cast du jour (and sometimes the writers). However, even when the show was at its peak both cast- and writer-wise, some shows bombed like Boy George at a tractor pull. A few examples come to mind:

1. Milton Berle

Picture 19.pngLorne Michaels was against having Uncle Miltie host the show from the get-go, but the network Powers That Be pressured him, saying “How can you not have the comedian known as Mr. Television host the hippest TV show of the 70s?” Berle’s 1979 appearance was a train wreck from Day One. No matter what instructions the director gave him, he’d mug for the camera, do broad spit-takes, and ad-lib jokes directly to the camera. He took it upon himself to give direction to the stagehands and lighting crew, since he’d been working in television since before they were born. Worse still, his lewd backstage behavior did little to endear him to the staff. He insisted on walking around in his boxer shorts and “proving” the oft-whispered Hollywood rumors about his physique to anyone who ambled by. (Gilda Radner happened to walk into a dressing room at the very moment Berle was proudly displaying himself to one of the show’s writers.) The proverbial straw that broke Lorne Michaels’ back, however, was when Uncle Miltie advised him just prior to the show’s finale that a standing ovation was “guaranteed.” Berle had used his allotted tickets to fill the audience with friends and relatives who obediently stood and applauded when he sang a dreary version of “September Song.”

2. Louise Lasser

Picture 18.pngThe former Mrs. Woody Allen was riding a wave of success in 1976. She was starring in the late-night satirical soap opera Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman, and her face was all over the covers of Rolling Stone, People and TV Guide. Lasser was tapped to host the last episode of the first season in July 1976, and producer Lorne Michaels almost immediately regretted the choice. Lasser had a substance abuse problem (she’d been arrested for possession of cocaine just weeks before) and displayed erratic behavior during rehearsal week, including crawling on her hands and knees into various Rockefeller Center offices looking for drugs. Then on the day of the show, she locked herself in her dressing room and refused to come out. Chevy Chase shouted through the door that he’d wear braids and perform her parts if necessary. Lasser finally complied, and even though her performance was uneven and confounded the live audience, it wasn’t quite as awful as some pundits have claimed. (She was, after all, doing her trademarked Mary Hartman stream-of-consciousness rambling). But based on her unprofessional pre-show behavior, she became the first host officially banned by Lorne Michaels.

3. Frank Zappa

Picture 20.pngZappa was a musical innovator, filmmaker and overall renaissance man, but sometimes genius isn’t enough to sustain you through a Saturday Night Live opening monologue. Zappa had done well as a musical guest on a previous show, but he was painfully out of his element when he hosted in 1978. Dress rehearsal was disastrous, which had happened with other hosts. But, as writer Don Novello once noted, most hosts shaken by a poor “dress” take time afterward to recoup and re-focus and then try harder for the actual performance. Zappa, however, decided to play it differently. He very deliberately delivered his lines in a sarcastic monotone, making it obvious that he was reading cue cards. He was trying for a snide “I am sooo above sketch comedy” type of attitude, but all he succeeded in doing was alienating the cast (many of whom were Zappa fans) and infuriating Lorne Michaels.

4. Jodie Foster

In 1976 Jodie Foster was many years away from winning her first Academy Award, but she had racked up some impressive credits as a child actress in films like Taxi Driver, The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane, and Bugsy Malone. Her resumé caught the attention of the SNL producers and they enlisted the 14-year-old actress as a host. Sadly, the writers were caught unprepared and had written sketches based around the worldly characters Foster had played. They didn’t realize that Jodie was actually a typical tomboy-ish 14-year-old who’d only been performing under a director’s instructions in that very adult film. Foster was so nervous about her hosting gig that she’d spilled an Orange Julius on herself just prior to taking the stage. She took it personally as skit after skit fell flat, and with the natural self-consciousness of an early teen she grew more awkward as the show progressed. When the camera cut back to her for the finale after the last commercial, the audience was so silent you could almost hear crickets chirping. After an uncomfortable pause, Foster simply said “thank you” and the credits rolled.

5. Chevy Chase

Picture 22.pngChase was an integral member of the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players and became the series’ first breakout star (mainly because as the Weekend Update anchor he got to announce his name mid-show every week). He left SNL after one season to pursue a movie career, and returned as a guest host in 1978. There was no love lost between Chase and his former castmates, and he didn’t help the situation by acting the diva upon his return. During rehearsals he’d scream and insult everyone from the writers to the stage hands. He insisted on anchoring the Weekend Update segment, even though Jane Curtin had been doing it for the past year. “My fans expect it,” he told Lorne Michaels. Bill Murray, the newest cast member, was the target of many of Chevy’s jibes, including juvenile schoolyard cracks about Murray’s acne-scarred complexion. Murray retorted with a remark about Chevy’s relationship with his wife (the couple’s turbulent marriage had been recent tabloid fodder), and the pair came to blows just minutes before show time. Even though Chase received an enthusiastic response from the audience, there was a palpable tension onstage between him and the rest of the cast that became more obvious as the show progressed.

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Sweet Sleeves - Album Art Homages, pt. 2

By Douglas

I’m back with another installment of Album Art Homages. Actually, for my last post I called it “Album Art Parodies.” I realize that many of the covers I referenced were not parodies as much as homages, hence the title change.

In my initial article I focused largely on homages to (arguably) the most influential artists on the planet: Elvis and the Beatles. This time, I’m sharing the wealth, presenting album art inspired by an array of (mostly classic rock) bands and musicians. This list is by no means comprehensive, just my favorites with some commentary thrown in. Enjoy the ride!

BOB DYLAN: There really aren’t as many Dylan homages as you’d think, especially compared to the Beatles and Elvis. Too sacred?

Nashville Skyline by Bob Dylan and Buffalo Nickel by Dan Baird
One of my favorite Dylan images, the bard looks surprisingly congenial on the sleeve of Nashville Skyline, welcoming us into his latest world. It goes nicely with the country-heavy tunes contained within.

The former lead singer of one-hit-wonders, The Georgia Satellites, actually combines two of Dylan’s covers for his 1996 release: the pose of Nashville Skyline with the text layout of a The Times They Are ‘A Changing. Subtle, huh?

DYLAN DOES HIS OWN HOMAGES: It’s well known that throughout his career, Dylan often wore his musical influences on his sleeve (no pun intended). Although somewhat controversial, there’s some evidence that he also did this (this time on his album sleeve) when it came to cover art as well. You be the judge.

The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan & the Band and Underground by Thelonious Monk
Both covers feature people playing instruments (Dylan, Monk and Rick Danko) in a cluttered basement with very similar color schemes. Most certainly not a coincidence.

Desire by Bob Dylan and John Phillips by John Phillips
Profile picture? Check. Grey hat? Check. Scarf? Check. Fur-collared coat? Check. Wind-blown hair? Check. ‘Nuff said!

Modern Times by Bob Dylan and “Hedgehog” single by Luna
This got quite a bit of attention when it surfaced a few years ago. Apparently, Dylan’s art director didn’t do any research before using Ted Croner’s 1947 photograph “Taxi, New York at Night” for the 2006 Modern Times sleeve. New York band, Luna, had beaten them to the punch with the cover for their 1995 “Hedgehog” single. The band also used another Croner photo from the same series for the cover of the Penthouse album from which that single was taken.


Live at Leeds by the Who / Live at Shepperton ‘74 by Uriah Heep / Live at Leeds by John Martyn
Such a simple design. Such a powerful freakin’ record by the Who. It’s a powerhouse live album that certainly stands as a classic document of one of rock’s best live bands. Uriah Heep borrowed the brown paper bag color scheme while John Martyn went with the exact same title in a similarly minimalist design.


The Velvet Underground & Nico / …tick…tick…tick by Steve Wynn & the Miracle 3 / Hellogoodbye by HelloGoodbye / Welcome to the Monkey House by The Dandy Warhols / Chelsea Girl: Live by Nico
One of the most iconic album covers of all time, designed by the incomparable Andy Warhol, The Velvet Underground and Nico was a powerful statement both musically and in terms of modern art. It’s no wonder several other artists followed suit, included Nico herself who used it as the basis for a cover of a 1982 live set.


Free Jazz by Ornette Coleman and Stone Roses by Stone Roses
Ornette Coleman is one of the greatest pioneers in modern music. The style of jazz he introduced in 1959 was beyond innovative. It was shocking. His 1960 masterpiece, Free Jazz, was a defiant exclamation point. Featuring a double-quartet, the record is a thrilling and wild extended, continuous free improvisation. In a brilliant display of synergy, Ornette adorned the record sleeve with Jackson Pollock’s drip painting, “White Light.” Both artists found beauty in chaos. Stone Roses guitarist, John Squire, an amateur painter who idolizes Pollock (and even references him in a Stone Roses tune) provides his own version of the drip style. Surely an homage to Pollock and not Ornette Coleman, but makes my list nonetheless.

Ornette! by Ornette Coleman and Internal Wrangler by Clinic
The Liverpudlian art rock quartet, Clinic, wear surgical masks when they perform live. They also swiped the cover from Ornette Coleman’s 1961 album.


Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel and G-Stoned by Kruder & Dorfmeister

Musically, these albums couldn’t be more different. But K&D’s parody of S&G is right on.

Graceland by Paul Simon and Graciasland by El Vez
Not much to say about this one. Classic!

Breakaway by Art Garfunkel and Death of a Ladies’ Man by Leonard Cohen
Cohen’s actually came first. Although surely intended to be tongue-in-cheek, the Canadian poet and crooner makes a viable ladies’ man. Art Garunkel? Not so much.


First Step by Small Faces and We Are the Boggs We Are by The Boggs
The Small Faces were great with Steve Marriott as lead singer. They were also great when Rod Stewart replaced him. This is the band’s first with Stewart, right before they shortened their name to simply, The Faces. The Boggs are a Brooklyn-based band that puts a quirky and experimental bent into the sound of old Appalachian and blues tunes, replete with banjo and slide guitar. Judging from their debut cover, they also have good taste in music.


The Ramones by The Ramones and Elastica by Elastica
Elastica was sued in 1994 for pilfering the riff from Wire’s “Three Girl Rhumba” on its song “Connection.” They also borrowed from the Ramones for the cover of their self-titled debut album. Hmm…do you see a pattern?


Hub Tones by Freddie Hubbard and The Blunted Boy Wonder by Steve Stoll
This one is for the legendary DJ Phlid, who will hopefully come out retirement and spin some sweet tunes for the masses. And props to Freddie Hubbard, James Spaulding, Herbie Hancock, Reggie Workman, and Clifford Jarvis for the incomparable Hub Tones record.


Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones and Too Fast for Love by Motely Crue
The original album sleeve included an actual zipper that you could move up and down. The crotch model was Jed Johnson, one of Andy Warhol’s proteges. Obviously, this is one design that lost a lot in the move from vinyl to cassette and CD. Iconic nevertheless.

The Crue did a laughable hair metal interpretation of Sticky Fingers for its 1981 album.

There are lots of other album art homages that I didn’t get to yet. That’ll come in Pt. 3 of this series. Be on the look out for Bowie and some more Blue Note jazz covers. In the meantime, what’s your feeling on the examples above. Are they homages, parodies, or merely capitalizing on the success of artists that came before?

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