Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Curse of the George Reeves Superman Kid's Ring

I'm a sensible, American guy. Pretty normal. I like hot dogs, football, hamburgers, and old comic books. As a kid, I could've been abducted in the '70s and taken back to the '40s and, with a slight change of wardrobe, would probably have fit in. Well, maybe that's pushing it. Anyways, I ain't full of nonsense. Not full, anyways.

Back when the internet was new to me, I recall the amazement of encountering Ebay. There was once a time, in the late 1990s, when Ebay was the place to go to find stuff for El Cheapo! Oh, and El Cheapo wasn't just another name for myself, but an actual price range. Things were there for the taking, back then, before people got this crazy idea that they'd just sell stuff on Ebay for a living.

Because it was new, who could help buying something from someone on Ebay? It was like that neighbor who bought the parts to build a Jenny back in the early days of flight; yeah, the guy might've been a bit creepy or crass, but he did have a new-fangled aeroplane, and how could you pass up a tooth-grinding trip in the clouds? There were many a hidden pit filled with sharpened bamboo shafts pointing up during those early shopping experiences on Ebay, but there were some beautiful reunions to be made, too.

I remember coming across this guy who was selling this toy Superman ring, featuring George Reeves from the '50s Adventures of Superman television series. It had an open back on the band so you could adjust it, like those toy rings you'd get for a quarter when you were a kid, bored at the supermarket. I decided that I'd get it, and did. I also decided that I'd wear it a couple of times, and did.

That's where we get odd. From the time that I first wore this ring on my pinkie finger (I have slightly gorilla-esque meat hooks), things started to happen. I first wore it to this store that I used to work at, and while covering a break in the jewelry department, an old guy needed help, and so I unlocked a cabinet. Then I went to open it, and the entire backside of the cabinet broke off and fell to the floor! The old guy chuckled and said, "Maybe it's that Super ring you're wearin'." Hmph.]

Next my then-girlfriend (and future wife)and I went to Denny's (that's bad luck enough), while I sported the ring. All of the sudden, this boorish, annoying friend of my mother's slides into the booth, comments on the ring, and proceeds to hijack our entire time there. Really, he wouldn't leave. This might not sound bad, but imagine eating a meal while this loudmouth sits next to you and won't shut up.

My father-in-law was a big Superman fan, and loved the old TV show as a kid. I remember when TV Land had their marathons of The Adventures of Superman, and my father-in-law would be sure to check it out. He was looking at my ring, put it on his finger. He was dead the next day.

After moving into our new house, I had a friend from work over, and we were in the "Fortress," checking stuff out, when I brandished the ring, which was at that time being kept inside of a clear container. Right after he left, I went over to sit in my chair, and notice a blotch on the wall. It turned out that a leak had developed in the back bathroom, and the wall was soaking up with water from this leak. This was ridiculous.

This ring has become something of a joke with my wife and I. I'll comment that I'd like to harness the power of the curse-ring, to use it on others. But there's too much risk there; every time someone sees it, something happens! A power this mighty and evil cannot be out and about. I currently have the ring concealed inside my Superman 50th birthday tin container, from where it has not seen daylight in almost 9 years. As a matter of fact, the photo above is a crummy pic of the same ring but from another auction. I won't even get the thing out to take a picture of it for you guys!

Oh, and inside the container, along with the ring, is an action figure of Austin Powers. Just take a look at that guy's career over the last 9 years. Yeah, that %$*@&! ring is staying right there, right in there.

Now, if it had been a time-keeping device, I could've called it my George Reeves suicide watch. Oof, yea, that was bad. Sorry.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Digressing a Bit... Enterprise B AMT Kit Build

Let me apologize in advance; there's absolutely no reason why this video is 4 minutes long. Thirty seconds would've sufficed. It's just me being really, really, ridiculous.

Monday, February 13, 2012

"Comic Book Men" on AMC

I remember back in the 1980s, when AMC stood for American Movie Classics. It was a very simple operation back then: host Bob Dorian would saunter into the small set, with its black metal spiral staircase that probably let to nowhere and its "lit" fireplace. Adhering to its name, American Movie Classics aired, almost exclusively, black and white films that were a bit off the beaten path, movies that modern times had forgotten but AMC was determined not to.

Times change, like everything else. But when it comes down to it, memories are what it's usually still about. Whether it's regret or warm reminiscence, we all take what we were and bring it with us. It's like that moment in The Grapes of Wrath, when the family leaves behind their belongings to head out west, and the girl asks, "But Momma, how will we know it's us?"

The new series from the VERY different AMC, "Comic Book Men," which premiered last night, would, I think, be trying to tap into this idea. For many of us guys who are in our 30s/40s now, comic books were probably a big part of who we were (and now are). It not only helped define our sense of morality, but it also provided us with blessed escape from the uncomfortable, ugly, dirty, clumsy, painful experience of adolescence. Remember how the regenerated Spock was rocking back and forth, his face bubbling, yelling with anguish in the snow on the doomed Genesis planet in Star Trek III? You see, Spock didn't have comics.

The show, which is in its infancy and therefore can't be judged and executed just yet, takes place in Kevin Smith's comic store, The Secret Stash. Though it has no bearing on the show, I just have to say that I'm no real fan of Kevin Smith. All of these years, people have gone on and on about how wonderful Clerks was. He has a cult around him much like the one I observed festering about Quentin Tarrantino during his Pulp Fiction moment. I don't quite know how justified it is, but that doesn't matter. For this show, for the most part, he's off-site.

I will say that I'm a bit suspicious about this comic book store. It's located in a big city, but you never see customers in the background, loitering about (as they do in real comic book stores). The interior looks really new, really clean. The exterior sign, which has a graphic of the characters Jay and Silent Bob with a black background, doesn't look in the slightest like it's been subjected to any weather. Part of me wondered, "Is this a set? Is the exterior a real shot?" It reminded me of every time I see the establishing shot of the fictional Paddy's Bar during episodes of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia."

The premise is simple. It's basically a comics version of the History Channel's mega-successful "Pawn Stars": people come in with sometimes odd, sometimes valuable, sometimes phony items and find out what they're worth. A customer might be stunned by what something was worth, like the guy who brought in a 1970 Bob Kane sketch of Batman and Robin. Then again, there's the customer like the one who came in with a satchel handcuffed to his wrist, who revealed the bag's contents as being a binder of lobby cards and a folded up poster from Dawn of the Dead.

Intercut with these customer experiences is a touch that I will give the show some kudos for. Do you remember the MTV show, the grandaddy of all reality shows, "The Real World"? You the viewer would peep on a bunch of pretentious young people who took themselves way too seriously, and periodically there would be insert segments when one of these "characters" would speak to us, giving us insight into what went on? It's a convention that has become absolute de rigeur for reality shows. Even programs that are scripted but want to give you the impression of reality ("The Office," "Parks and Recreation") utilize this method. "Comic Book Men" does it slightly different, cutting to video of what might or might not be a live podcast, with the crew and Kevin Smith sitting around a mic'ed table, discussing what went on during the show. This is good in that, instead of only having a solo "confessional," we have all of the "characters" mashed together. This will be particularly entertaining IF these "characters" have a good chemistry, something that either happens or doesn't.

Judging from the first episode, the chemistry still needs work. The employees in general seem to get along, BUT there is one persona that's either a goat-head thorn in one's foot or a diamond in the rough, a tall, Alan Moore-bearded loiterer named Brian. Smith makes it clear that Brian does not work at the shop. He basically sits around all day, reading comics and leaning on the counter when the real employees are at work with a customer.

Now, I worked for 16 years in retail, and let me tell you, it was forbidden to allow some non-worker, no matter how well you knew him/her, to get behind the counter, or get in the way of a transaction with a customer. Also, there was a point when you had to tell the person that you had a job to do, and either they bought something or get their butts out. It's business here.

My retail "career" started when I was 18, in a small men's clothing store, run by the owner, a stubborn Dutch guy who monitored my interraction with customers VERY closely. After customers would leave, he would critique me. This was his business, and he wasn't going to have some moron mishandle customers. I remember him telling me one time, "Don't ever talk about a customer after they leave." This was playing it safe, because no sooner would you start mocking someone, than you'd find out that the store wasn't completely empty, and now you've got potential customers wondering what you'll be saying about him/her after they leave. It's common courtesy that translates into good business.

The comic book shop I frequent, Heroes, has always been very professional. There are no "wild card" Kramer types hanging around the counter. And I can't imagine them talking trash, out loud, to co-workers after a customer left.

Well, guess what happens during these "podcast" insert segments? Yep. This might not be that big of a deal. Heck, people might want to show up at this comics shop just to be talked about later during a podcast. People used to approach Groucho Marx and beg him to insult them. I mean, if it's that important to you...

One little thing, and it might be nothing. It might be just something they featured in this first episode. If you target your audience, and if you consider them to be your audience, then hopefully you're going to make sure that they feel a kinship with you and your show, right? That keeps them around, makes them feel that they're part of a community. The overbearing presence of Brian, who seems to take a particular pleasure in harrassing the employees (at times mocking their geekdom while he's the one loitering all day around a comics shop) seems to counterract the community attempt. I don't know if it's irony, but there's something wrong about having a comic book shop, a veritable safe-house for geeks, and inside that shop having this guy who insults you for coming in. I'm sure the producer is hearing this complaint from viewers, and it's so common sense that it deserves no further verbage, but in the future episodes, they might want to trim some of the Brian out.

Overall, it handled carefully, and if they can have interesting items on their counter for the audience to peek at, "Comic Book Men" just might right itself and become a destination for guys like me, every Sunday night at 10/9C.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Oh Gee, Oh Gee Mr. Luthor....

Of course, one man's dump is another man's dream. Yesterday, I visited an antique store in Cayucos which certainly had been many a man's dumping ground over the years, but on that afternoon saw this man's old dream take flight.

Now, if you're in your 30s or later, you no doubt recall how that the big, cool blockbuster movies of the late '70s/'80s often had fast food promotional drinking glasses that could be purchased for a little extra when you bought your meal. I know that Burger King definitely did them-- I had a couple of Return of the Jedi glasses that sadly are not with me today. Taco Bell had some really fancy ones for Star Trek III (they had those ridges along the lower portion of the cup, remember?), and Superman got into the act, too.

I was too young to ever get any glasses for Superman The Movie, being only 6 years old at the time. My parents probably reasoned, "He's 6 years old, he's gonna break them in 10 minutes." Actually, that wouldn't be that far out of an assumption, because I remember how easily these glasses could indeed be smashed. Brother, if it ever left your hand, just don't look. Just go get the broom.

Time hasn't seen an advancement in the making of these promo glasses. In 2009, when Star Trek was in release, I picked up a Captain Kirk glass for my son. Unlike the character, the glass wasn't so resilient, and its altered form is in a landfill now. My Mr. Spock glass, however, is safe and sound, still in his box.

So yesterday, I'm going through this heavy-duty antique store, and I get to the basement level, where there's this shelf with tons of promotional glasses: Looney Tunes, sports teams, you name it. And then my eye catches it. It's one of those times when you could make use of a harness, so they could pull you up and you could do some end-over-ends a couple of times before clumsily getting back to the ground. There, amidst the other glasses, was a promo glass from Superman The Movie! And it was in absolutely perfect, mint condition.

I carefully picked it up, and a flood of memories came back to me, not just of the movie, but of that time in my childhood when these types of promotional material was so prized. "Look at it," I thought to myself. "It's just a glass. I bet if I squeezed it in my hand right now, it would shatter." And yet I knew I had to have it. It was a hallmark of a special, happy time when my favorite comic book hero was Superman, a guy who was never ambiguous, who always did the right thing, and whose villains always lost at the end of the issue. It brought back memories of watching The Adventures of Superman episodes on the local CBS station back in the late '70s. My left hand felt old, but the other hand, the one holding the glass, felt like a little kid's paw, making sure to not drop it!

I have a lot of Superman stuff, but this was, in an odd way, particularly special to me. I could imagine when it was new, when it was filled with Pepsi and had a fountain drink cap snapped atop it. I wondered how it made it here, in such wonderful shape. I didn't know, but one thing was for sure: it was going home with me, to the Fortress of Solitude. Can you think of a more appropriate place for it?