Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Baseball is Back!

With the spirit of my baseball hero, # 33, Eddie Murray behind me, and hopefully the Orioles, I welcome another year of diamond action.  Despite yet another snow dumping yesterday, the sun's out and melting that white crap gone just as fast as it arrived.  Here's to hot dogs, peanuts and hopefully a lot more homers from Crush Davis this season.  Let it be Spring officially!

 Listenin' to:  Stevie Ray Vaughn and Double Trouble - Texas Flood

Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Good, the Bad and the WTF? 3/30/14

Photo courtesy of MSN.com

The Good:  Call it public relations gold if you like.  Celebrities are being called out by teens and military cadets for big dances and the latest summons answer comes from Super Bowl champ Christine Michael of the Seattle Seahawks.  Michael granted the wish of autistic teen Taylor Kirkwood to be her prom date.  Conveyed to Michael through family-to-friend connections, this continued trend may be suddenly vogue, but it's always a Cinderella-esque feelgood story they're no doubt looking for at Disney.

Photo courtesy of Reuters

The Bad:  Take your pick from recent major headlines around the globe:  the Russia-Ukraine crisis, the dreadful drama of the weeks-long investigation into the disappearance of Flight 370 in Malaysia or North Korean leader Kim Jong Un condemning the U.N. and threatening to roll on with more nuke tests.  Shit's hitting the fan everywhere and we're all likely to find some of it flung across our proverbial cheeks.

Holy cock ring, Batman!  For this week's WTF? moment, DC Comics showed some balls this month with Harley Quinn # 4.  Okay, not literally, but our Riot Grrrl made over Harley is seen bulldozing into a house where a figurative target of her nutty wrath is hosting a sex toy party.  Amanda Conner and Jimmy Palmiotti depict vaginal vibrators (non-penis styled) and cock rings being flung toward the reader during this hilarious party crash.  I'm still waiting for this series to match the over-the-top zaniness of # 0, but this is bold stuff, even for an indie press.

      Listenin' to:  Edguy - Space Police:  Defenders of the Crown

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Cool Comic o' the Week: The Mercenary Sea # 1

I've been keeping my radar tuned to a lot of Image comics and their sister imprint, Top Cow, and I was especially impressed with the debut issue of Kel Symons and Mathew Reynolds' The Mercenary Sea.

With no interior advertising and a genre-colliding adventure yarn inspired by post-Depression American action films, The Mercenary Sea is well-worth a pick-up.  This series off-the-bat feels like a 1930s World War II epic centering upon a band of ocean-bound bootleggers and smugglers.  The numerous expositions of Symons' lore roll like a parade of senses-bombing serial flicks and while the action only hits a few climactic heights, I'm already suckered by this series.

The story centers on bootlegger Captain Jack Harper and his crew of on-the-lam ex-patriots, runaways and mercs such as John "Smokestack" Jackson, a prizefighter with a hit on his head by the mob after he refused to throw a match.  Then there's "Doc," a Royal Army surgeon from the UK who accidentally killed a solider while operating on him drunk.  You have the baseball cap-crowned Samantha Blair, daughter of a moonshiner and quite adept at mechanics.  Included in this motley band is a former German submarine captain from World War I, Wulf, a French soldier of fortune, Jarreau, and Toby, whose lean and apparently meek stature belies something to be interpreted as highly dangerous.  The tense squabbling between Toby and Jarreau hits its stride immediately when Toby saves Jarreau from a poisonous jungle red with a mere switchblade.

Symons had me right off the bat as Harper and his band, in search of a mythical artifact called the Koji Ra, are confronted by cannibals in the jungle.  In a hilarious plot twist, it turns out Harper is friends with the man-eating tribe and has brought a reel-to-reel copy of the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup and a projection screen for the entire collective to watch.  I enjoyed a good rip when the cannibals ask Harper if he's brought popcorn as well. 

Already, Symons' cheeky style of humor indicates The Mercenary Sea is going to undo and redo the classic ethos of black and white hero yarns, updating it just enough to tickle the funny bones of skeptical modern audiences.  To think of a time when scoring a print of the Fay Wray King Kong outside of American shores was as costly and subversive as stowing illegal arms; Symons nails this nuance with punctuated zest. 

As Harper has more than a few encounters in just this first issue, including a handful of pissed-off pirates and the Chinese army, you get the impression Symons is out to not only keep pace with Indiana Jones' period-based salute to the golden age of action, but to one-up it.  His dialogue is sharp and already we get the sense Harper is well-traveled with both friends and enemies in the deepest corners of the world few people ever get to see.

Mathew Reynolds' artwork is stellar from the standpoint of pop art that begins with a Roy Lichtenstein foundation, then toughened up with a little abstracting from the Frank Miller school.  Again bridging the old to the new.  The Mercenary Sea is an instant grab that I'm looking forward to keeping up with.

                         Listenin' to:  Kyng - Burn the Serum

Friday, March 28, 2014

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Programming Note:

Howdy, readers.  As I'm currently working through a deadline, this week's installment of "The Good, the Bad and the WTF?" will be moved to this coming Sunday.

However, Comic Book Reading Spot of the Week and Cool Comic 'o the Week will run as scheduled on their respective days.

As always, thanks for your support of this page!

                          Listenin' to:  D.R.I. - Dealing With It

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Monday, March 24, 2014

RIP Dave Brockie of Gwar

Fate has a weird way about it.  Not only a couple weeks after posting my reflections of my hilarious interview with Dave Brockie, aka Oderus Urungus of Gwar, the news today reports of his passing.

I wasn't close to Brockie, but I will never forget that interview and subsequent barbecue he invited me to stay for.  On a side note, Brockie was a gentleman when he wanted to use The Metal Minute as a title for a radio segment he was involved with and he was classy enough to pass over it at my request since I had been using The Metal Minute and metalminute.com professionally for my endeavors.

Thank you, Dave, and RIP.  I'm freakin' stunned right now, as is most of the metal and punk underground.

Photo (c) 2005 Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Obviously Members of Vader's Honor Guard

                          Listenin' to:  Jucifer - L'Autrichienne

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Ray's Appearance in Neil Daniels' Book "Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers: A ZZ Top Guide"

With my copy of Neil Daniels' ZZ Top book, Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers.  I appear in Chapter 17, "What the Rock Scribes Think of ZZ Top." 

Thank you, Neil and thank you, Soundcheck Books.

                               Listenin' to:  ZZ Top - Deguello

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cool Comic O' the Week - 3/22/14: Superman/Wonder Woman #6

I'm sure I'm not the only comics reader getting dizzy by Marvel and DC's recent-months scrambling  to yet again refashion their titles.  Tons of new books are flooding the market following cancellations of others just from the Big Two alone, notwithstanding DC's Villains Month last fall and the subsequent "Forever Evil" crossover arc that should be winding down to its conclusion.  Both imprints are either starting anew (like Marvel's "All New Marvel Now # 1" reboots and new plot pickups in surviving titles) or they're expanding their characters into new series.  It's very much like the explosion of capes and mutants throughout the nineties, where you truly needed to be in the know to keep up.

I'm holding on through DC's Justice League and Justice League of America, which I hope will regain their strength after "Forever Evil" concludes and I'm trying to hang in there with Action Comics, which was gangbusters (though occasionally weird) through Grant Morrison and Scott Lobdell's runs.  Greg Pak is a solid writer and he knows his characters, but I'm dubious about where that series is headed, even with Clark Kent's childhood friend Lana Lang (a nice choice) playing such an important part lately.  The Batman/Superman team-up book (also fielded by Pak) has been pretty solid, but the prevailing theme there, along with most of the big-name comics, is the alternate reality scenario.  Frankly, I want a lot more from that title, despite its accolades and Pak's pretty fun "Game Over" storyline that was printed vertically over three issues. 

Scott Snyder has been nothing short of brilliant in handling the regular New 52 Batman series well into his third year on the title, but I've been waiting for DC to come up with something worthy of J. Michael Straczynski's stellar Earth One couplet for Superman.  You can remove the undies and make him look like a sleek space sentinel all you want, but Superman in the cyber age kinda needs of a bit more of an edge than just a costume overhaul. 

Well, thank you, Charles Soule.  Soule's Superman/Wonder Woman series has been the toast of DC the past six months, in my opinion.  There have always been single shot stories and the occasional flirtation between the mightiest male and female on the planet, but no one's ever taken the time to actually flesh out a relationship between these two powerhouses.  Soule has bravely engineered a believable romance between The Man of Steel and the Amazonian daughter of Zeus.  What began in the recent Justice League titles as the hottest brewing sexuality since Batman and Catwoman in the "Hush" storyline has evolved into the superb Superman/Wonder Woman series that just completed its first story arc with a breathtaking and poignant finish.

Even though it's getting tiresome seeing rehashes of the Superman II film plot of Supes' hedonistic Kryptonian kin escaping the Phantom Zone and trying to take the Earth for their own, in this series it works.  Even with a guest appearance by Doomsday that hints of future havoc for Clark Kent and Diana Prince to deal with in later issues, Charles Soule and artist Tony S. Daniel make the showdown against Zod and Faora (forget the muted maniac Non of the Donner film's trio of baddies) a bigger event than "Forever Evil" and it hardly has to match the latter's broader scope.  We truly feel that Clark and Diana are in love and that the summation of their powers is stronger than any adversary who could confront them, even the gods who barely tolerate their union.  Then again, Supes does piss off Diana's brother, Apollo in this series and there are repercussions to pay, which is fabulous to think a god amongst mortal men has a higher deity to answer to.

Here's hoping Superman/Wonder Woman continues to pay off down the road as it has through the first six issues.  Though it's suspected this romance will only play out for a certain amount of time since Lois Lane has forevermore been the holder of the Last Son of Krypton's heart, Soule's characterization is what sells the love interest.  Diana and Clark often express their natural hesitation to go deep with each other and Diana trying to find a Christmas present for a super being that has it all is a very touching dynamic to this series.  Their relationship is strenuous, but their strong partnership is unquestionable and the kisses and amorous expressions stand for something here.  It doesn't hurt they make a kickass tag-team in a fight.  The final five pages of Superman/Wonder Woman # 6 are cathartic and Wonder Woman's retort in response to Superman's declaration of love carries nearly as much punch as Han Solo's parting shot to Princess Leia before his dunk into carbon freeze on Bespin in The Empire Strikes Back. 

                        Listenin' to:  The Jam - Compact Snap

Friday, March 21, 2014

Comic Book Reading Spot of the Week - 3/21/14

With 90% of the stores closed in this ghost mall, I'm humming "The Gonk" while reading and keeping a wary eye out for zombies and road warrior bikers bearing machetes and cream pies.

                      Listenin' to:  Voivod - Dimension Hatross

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Good, The Bad and the WTF? 3/20/14

Photo courtesy of Bay Area News Group

This week's good news at NBC News.com comes from San Ramon, California where three teenagers saved a 94-year-old woman and her dog from her burning house.  The elderly woman was reportedly starting to catch on fire when Garen Kissoyen, Peter Kravariotis and Kirill Yantikov responded to a summons for help from Dianna Davis, whose mother was trapped inside the house, smoldering with burns from the fire.  Another neighbor, Bob Smith, had been on-hand to help, but his age and the density of the smoke prohibited him from lasting too long inside the house.

Never mind the three teen heroes were playing hooky from school when the incident occurred.  In this case, detention's probably an insult.  Considering all the bad press teens and early twenty-somethings receive these days, it's nice to see a little flipside recognition.

Link to Cheryl Hurd's article here:


Photo courtesy of NBA.com

The bad... 

I haven't been much of a hoops fan since the eighties, but it ain't pretty in Philly these days as the 76ers have dropped 22 straight games as of their 102-94 loss to the Chicago Bulls.  Every city's team goes through ruts, no matter how infallible a mighty organization might be for a set period of time, but Dr. J can't be pleased.  Get yer steaks at Talk of the Town on Broad Street, right down the road from Wells Fargo Arena.  It'll ease your pain, Sixers fans.

In the WTF department this week, the Arizona Diamondbacks announced they will be offering an 18 inch corn dog filled with bacon, cheese and jalapeno at their Big Dawgs at Chase Field concession stand.  The price tag of this "D-bat" monster dog?  A measly $25.00.  Salud and may your arteries and wallet forgive you.

Story and photo courtesy of Fox Sports.com

                           Listenin' to:  Mastodon - Leviathan

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Weekend On the Road in 2007: From Manhattan to Springfield, Virginia: Skinny Puppy, Doro Pesch and Chris Caffery

There are times you look back upon yourself and realize you should be dead and then smile with silent alms being thrown to God and the universe that you survived to tell the story why.  In my younger, reckless days in college, I used to mountain climb without ropes.  I nearly saw my end once at the face of Maryland Heights above Harper's Ferry, West Virginia when I nearly lost my shoe and the rest of me with it.  I could've been splattered on the train tracks beneath that mountain if I hadn't found a partially unearthed branch to latch onto and get my bearings to finish the climb.  Scariest moment of my life, hands-down.

I also could've been roadkill in the middle of a summer night in 2007 after I'd fallen asleep behind the wheel and came to a dead stop in the road following a marathon trek from Maryland to Manhattan  then to Virginia the following day with only a few hours' rest.  I'd taken a triple assignment during one weekend in July, 2007 that found me schlepping up to New York City to cover an interview with cEvin Key of electro-industrial legends, Skinny Puppy on a Saturday, and then the reigning Queen of Metal, Doro Pesch along with Chris Caffery of Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Savatage the next day in what was then known as Jaxx, in Springfield, Virginia. 

I'd driven up to Manhattan early in the morning and caught the Staten Island Ferry into the city.  Saying hello to Lady Liberty with the morning sunrise at her skirts, I was dropped off at Battery Park and should've known from that point forward this would be a trip to remember. 

It's never a good omen when you go to grab a subway ticket into Midtown and you find out the yellow line, which is a direct artery into the heart of New York City, is closed from Battery Park through the next sixteen stops.  I kept a sense of humor about it, though, and since I'd arrived to the city long before my scheduled appointment with cEvin Key, I'd already planned to sightsee some of the places I'd yet to hit upon my other trips to the city.  Thus I tooled around Battery Park awhile then began my ascent up Broadway.

I'm still fascinated how a meager block can make all the difference in the world in New York City.  While Wall Street was jammed up with weekend tourists hovered around the iron bull, I managed to get someone to take a picture of me picking the bull's nose for posterity, but he'd snapped it off and was gone as fast as he'd handed me my camera back without checking to see he'd cut most of my face out of the picture.  Second omen.  As you move your way up Broadway from Wall Street, the blocks range from extravagant to downright poor and there's even a section that looks preserved from the 1800s and I heard the echoes of brawling from yesteryear, i.e. Gangs of New York.   Quickly, enough I found myself in Bowling Green, where the sun managed to squeeze through past the high-risers and that was when I started sweating as I took photos of the park and shortly after, old churches.  Following a long sojourn northwards into the city, I'd found myself in Soho and saw Cynthia Nixon from Sex and the City dashing out of a building with someone in-tow and they literally dove into a car waiting for them.  I then found myself being stared at by numerous folks in Soho who obviously knew I didn't belong in that sector.  If you're from NYC, I needn't explain why.

Finally, after an hour or so on foot, I found a pickup station into Times Square and I was grateful I'd thought to pack deodorant in my tote.  I was starting to feel rank and after grabbing some of the driest sushi at a place outside of the Square I should've known better to have avoided, I merged into the mass of humanity clogging the commercial hub.  I ducked into what had always been one of my mandatory stops when it was still open, the Virgin Megastore.  I'd gone straight to the bottom level and ducked into the bathroom to freshen up and unload when it dawned on me there'd been no urinals in sight.  Thankfully, a dude janitor had my back and was blocking the entrance to the ladies' room I'd inadvertently meandered into.  Omen number three.  We high-fived as I thanked him and feeling stupid, I retreated to the upper tiers of the store until I was to meet of friend mine for a late lunch, Jen, who used to work for Roadrunner Records.

After a couple of relaxing hours with Jen, I checked in for my interview with cEvin Key.  If you've been in the rock 'n roll business, you know things don't always fly according to schedule.  Itineraries are often broken and rescheduled and I'd had it happen to me before.  I'm not one to be dick when a reschedule is needed, though I had to force the issue once on a different interview after I'd trekked nearly five hours to make the venue and was nearly turned away for a reschedule.  In this instance, my liaison kept dragging it out until I couldn't reach her any longer and then it wasn't until show time before she got back to me and said the interview needed to be re-booked.  In a way, I'm glad it happened, because cEvin Key gave me a longer and really deep interview when we got on the phone a few days later.  Still, I hung for the show at the Nokia and got some live photos like the one above and the one of Ogre you might've seen in another post.

After the show, I took the yellow line back downtown and though it had gone further down than it did earlier in the day, an announcement came over the intercom where the yellow line would be making one more stop and then it would skip the others, heading straight for Brooklyn.  Son of a bitch, I thought, as I got out ten blocks above the Port Authority at Battery Park.  Let me tell you this; don't expect a cab or a cop to stop for you downtown after midnight.  The few cabs there were (keeping in mind they're like yellow and orange maggots squeezing for turf all over Midtown) blew by me and I could see they had no fares already.  So down I walked and saw some things I don't care to remember, including a group of frat boys peddling a definitely stoned trick on the outskirts of Wall Street.  I had to whisper to another woman who was walking fast that I wasn't going to jump her when she flinched as I picked up my own pace.  Keep close in numbers where appropriate, I always say.  As we separated, there was the Wall Street bull all by his lonesome at 12:30 a.m., nobody around him.  I gave him a swat on his iron ass and lumbered into Port Authority to wait for a ferry back to Staten.

Good luck finding an open coffee place in the bottom tiers of New York City, much less Interstate 95, which I took all the way home and finally managed to find a place that had offered to sell me coffee that had been turned off for about an hour but not yet pitched.  Sold!  It was so fucking awful, but it did the job, especially once I found myself in the midst of a 4:00 a.m. drag race on 95 with a ton of street racers blowing around me.  I'd even seen two Delaware troopers pull off of 95 a minute beforehand, so you know the draggers did their homework.  I hadn't been more thankful to crawl into bed when I got home, even if it would only be a short sleep.

Chris Caffery

The next day found me scampering around running errands and visiting family for a quick haunt before I was back on the road to Virginia and with much better coffee for the ride down.  I didn't feel a lick of fatigue, except in my calves from the all humping around New York the day prior.  I was jazzed to be meeting up with Doro Pesch and Chris Caffery, both of whom I'd interviewed before.  Doro is the sweetest person on the planet, hands-down, and Caff is a righteous dude who talked with me for two hours the first time and he'd remembered me later down the road at a Trans-Siberian Orchestra meet-and-greet, which allowed me to show off a bit for my wife, who finally got it why I was so deeply involved in the music industry.

I was treated so nicely by Doro and her drummer/tour manager Johnny Dee.  Johnny's one of the most professional tour managers I've ever met and he made sure I was attended to, handed a VIP and he even escorted me through the back of the club, vouching for me everywhere we went.  Great guy, hands-down.  On the bus, Doro and I had a great chat and then Chris Caffery came aboard the bus right on time for my third interview of the weekend.  They both hung out as I conducted my business and since Caffery was not only supporting Doro with a solo set but playing in her band on that tour, they were cool enough to take photos with me.  Never mind the band-aids on my horns-up here.  That's another story altogether.

The show itself was a ton of fun.  I like Virginia metalheads a lot.  I always make new friends there as they're very outgoing and receptive to out-of-towners.  It's not like other states where, if I don't have a guest with me, my cell phone becomes my show buddy.  As usual, I found people to chat with at Jaxx as Joey Belladonna opened up the show with a solo flight (this gig coming right after he'd done a bunch of Anthrax reunion shows), that everyone ate up and started moshing around to.  Here's one of the shots I got of his slot:

Joey Belladonna

During Doro's set, the Jaxx crowd sang every single song along with her and Doro passed the mike out a number of times, encouraging everyone to sing along.  The lady's a master of her trade and I don't think I've seen more transfixed, lovesick men in one room than I did that night.  I knew Doro had a really bad cold but she still got out there and knocked out a home run on what was opening night of that tour.  She never lets her fans down, that's a fact.  I slapped hands with her and Chris Caffery from the corner of the stage and thanked Johnny Dee for a great night when the whole thing was over. I published a number of shots of Doro's set with my article in my one-time column at AMP magazine, "Death From Below," but down here is a playful photo of Doro and Caff I've never shared until now.  Before leaving, I had a quick howdy with Joey Belladonna since I've interviewed him a few times as well and I left Jaxx feeling energized. 

Doro Pesch and Chris Caffery

That was, until I got an hour-plus on the road.  To this day, I thank everything we pray to as humans for looking after me that night.  I remember hitting the final route on the way home, which was still an easy half hour to traverse.  I remember having the windows down to my pickup truck and cranking music to stay awake.  I had work the following morning and it was 1:42 a.m.  I remember that precisely, because when I next looked at the clock at 1:46, I'd been at a complete stop in the middle of the road.  I'd been passed out for four entire minutes!  Amazingly, I'd stayed in my lane and halted there without deviating one way or the other.  Even more so no traffic had been there to pulverize me.

I don't ever discount for one minute how fortunate I was that night.  That wonderfully zany weekend had its share of ups and downs and plenty of danger and here I am to talk to about it.  The bands themselves have much more crazier experiences than this, but suffice it to say, my road dogging that summer weekend in '07 will always stay fresh in my mind.

All photos (c) Ray Van Horn, Jr.

                        Listenin' to:  The Cure - Bloodflowers

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Here's a shot that's gone viral featuring troubadour NHL legend Jaromir Jagr hilariously sabotaging this dude's selfie.

Two minutes in the sin bin for photobombing? 

                  Listenin' to:  Matt Boroff - Sweet Hand of Fate

Monday, March 17, 2014

Slainte, You Irish and Irish-for-a-Day...

The Tullamore Dew was broken into yesterday and St. Patty's Day was on early. 

...and so to Limerick, Cork, Dublin, or wherever you may warm your guts with fine liquor and corned beef so thick and moist it's never an afterthought.

Slainte, everyone...

                  Listenin' to:  The Pogues - Red Roses for Me

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Most "Blab" Worthy Album From My Reviews for Blabbermouth Last Month

From my own home turf of Maryland...

"Maryland rockers Lionize celebrate superheroes, sci-fi, Micro Machines and ballistic missile hit parades in their music, making them kindred spirits to fellow statesmen and fuzz rawk warlords, Clutch.  On their fifth album and first for the Clutch-backed Weathermaker Music, Lionize reportedly scrubbed through four notebooks of ideas and parts for thirteen songs.  Pared down to the eleven groovy smacks comprising Jetpack Soundtrack, the trio enlisted the help of Clutch, Lamb of God and King Crimson producer Machine plus Jean-Paul Gaster himself to tighten up their songs.  Suffice it to say, the dividends are huge."

I just loved Lionize's full-on energy and throwback funk and fuzz plugs on Jetpack Soundtrack.  An album where "Galactus and Magneto bounty hunt for Han Solo" is right where I wanna swing my eardrums and hang awhile.  Consider this my listenin' lock for the day.

Stay tuned for my full review of Jetpack Soundtrack over at Blabbermouth.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cool Comic 'o the Week - 3/15/14: Dynamite's The Twilight Zone

Anything bearing "The Twilight Zone" brand is guaranteed to grab my attention, since it's my favorite t.v. show of all-time.  I still feel to this day, there hasn't been a finer piece of televised drama than the "Eye of the Beholder" episode from The Twilight Zone and yes, I was greatly offended when they remade it for the Forest Whitaker-hosted version of the show.  It was as pointless as the by-numbers remakes of Psycho and The Omen.

As a mainstream culture, we've moved on from fantastical storytelling that was a reliable measure of success through Rod Serling's original run of the show. Serling and Richard Matheson have had as much an impact on my writing as Stephen King, Ray Bradbury, Garth Ennis, Alan Moore and more recently, Ron Marz, Matt Hawkins and Gail Simone.  The Twilight Zone is still popular, but mostly to a quiet demographic who circle their calendars for the three-day weekend episode festivals or they DVR it from MeTV.  It's really a shame that cop and hospital shows have been the primary source of fictionalized television, unless you want to count "reality" programming in that fiction category as it thus deserves to be.

I'm not going to lie, I was initially skeptical when Dynamite Entertainment, specialists in franchise resurrections, offered a new comic series for The Twilight Zone.  The last few attempts to do new Twilight Zone series in any medium have been fair to midland to straight-up flat.  The eighties flick was entertaining, if nothing more than a (for its time) glossier do-up of pre-existing episodes.  The Vic Morrow tragedy unfortunately rings louder than Twilight Zone:  The Movie 1983 itself.

Even though I initially passed on the debut issue of Dynamite's The Twilight Zone, something egged me  to give it a try.  In the hands of sci-fi and comics master J. Michael Straczynski, I soon gave in and I've been following the new series through the first three issues, which concludes its initial story arc in Issue # 4.

What Straczynski has successfully accomplished to this point is recreating the mystique and the subversive noir feel of the original series with a brand new story.  To quickly summarize it without giving too much away, Trevor Richmond is a sleazy corporate executive who's been busted for engaging in some underhanded deals.  To escape his fate, Richmond opts to have a clandestine operation named Expedited Services Limited arrange a brand new life for him, complete with physical changes and a new identity.  The catch is, someone else takes the real Trevor Richmond's place and presumably takes the fall.  Not so, since this is The Twilight Zone. 

If you're a fan of the series, check this book out.  It's a big step away from the Gold Key comics' Twilight Zone books of yesteryear and J. Michael Straczynski's series is thus far slightly leaned toward a mature audience.  Let's not overlook Guiu Villanova and Vinicius Andrade's atmospheric art and coloring.  Thank God someone's getting it right.  Sidebar, Straczynski also has a new miniseries called Apocalypse Al that's also hooked me.

**Programming Note:  Originally, this was going to be a monthly feature of the site, but it will now be changed to weekly as I profile current and back issues for your edification, given the upbeat response to this post.  Stay tuned for another Cool Comic selection this coming week!

      Listenin' to:  Ennio Morricone - The Complete Dollars Trilogy

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Good, The Bad and the WTF? 3/13/14

I look at it this way with the media.  News stories are pretty much subdivided into three main categories:  good news, bad news and bits that are so nutty or outrageous they're guaranteed to go viral and lock people in convo at the office Keurig or in their favorite social hub, be it live or virtual. 

Here at The Crash Pad, I'm going to dish a weekly dab of each from the news, relegated to the good, the bad and nuggets that can only be thought of as "WTF?"

First up, this week's good news.  Nidhi Subbaraman reports from the Intel Science Talent Search in California that $630,000 in prizes were issued to high school-aged science students.  The grand prize of $100,000 went to Eric Chen, who is working on the study of anti-flu drugs.  Chen already won the Google Science Fair last October and the Siemens Foundation's science contest this past December.  Other winners at the Intel talent search were bestowed endowments towards stem cell research, cancer study, heart arrhythmias, nuclear physics and x-ray emissions from Jupiter.  Cheers to Intel for investing so much money into our youth and our future as a species.  A link to the article is below:


Bad news is, unfortunately, the bread and butter of news media, but the most impactful seems to always be generated from impoverished and war-torn countries.  Bill Neely's visceral article "Living In a Box, Eating Weeds:  Syria's Children On the Edge" sends a shivery perspective to readers, no matter where they stand on the brutal conflict continuing to tear Syria apart and has thus far claimed the lives of over 10,000 children.  Described by one street survivor as "like living in an open prison," Neely's article depicts a family of six living in a wooden box on the side of a road and it gives a haunting depiction of war told from the eyes of Syria's youngsters.  Link up to the piece here:


In what could only be thought of as "WTF?" The International Astronomical Union is engaged in a pissing match against commercial fundraisers Uwingu over the latter's Mars crater naming initiative.  Uwingu's customers pay anywhere from five bucks to five grand to name one of Mars' 500,000-plus craters.  Uwingu issues the disclaimer that there are no real rights or sanctions to the craters staked in this game.  Meanwhile, the IAU, which has historically been responsible for naming celestial bodies and other galaxy and planetary phenomena is nevertheless fuming over Uwingu's pay-for-play name game, which seeks to raise ten million dollars toward one-way Mars colonization endeavors.   I don't know who's right in this debate, but you can just imagine the vindictive proclivities behind such future catty mud-slinging monikers as "Jenny's Gaping Hole."  To get a good flavor of the scrumming between Uwingu and the IAU, visit Alan Boyle's article here:


All photos courtesy of NBCNews.com.

                        Listenin' to:  Gojira - L'Enfant Savuage

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Thank You

Since kicking The Crash Pad of Ray Van Horn, Jr. back into action a couple months ago, I've been pleased to watch the site traffic grow exponentially.  The hits were slow at first, but that's anything for which you're trying to build an audience.  In the past month, much less the past two weeks, however, the hit count has soared and you folks are coming within reach of my Metal Minute traffic, which was considerable at the height of its activity.

For this, I'm very grateful to you all.  Readership means everything to a writer and as I continue to seek hubs and avenues for my work out there, I hope you'll continue to follow me down those roads as well.  I expect they won't be boring! 

Because the response to this site has been so positive, I will be unleashing a few new regular features.  First comes "The Good, The Bad and the WTF?"  What's that about, you might ask?  Stand by.  It begins this week. 

Also debuting over the weekend will be "Cool Comic o' the Month" and the "Most Blab-Worthy Album" of my Blabbermouth reviews from the prior month.  Those should be self-explanatory.  Of course, you can expect more "Comic Book Reading Spots of the Week" down the pike as I'm making my travels in search of various hidey holes to enjoy a peaceful fifteen minutes to read.

Thank you, readers, for making The Crash Pad a success and let's keep having fun here.  Cheers...

                              Listenin' to:  311 - From Chaos