10 essential titles to pick up on Free Comic Book Day

Saturday, May 6, is Free Comic Book Day, coming as it does the first Saturday after the summer’s first big comic book movie, aka the first Saturday in May. (“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” is the name of that one and it is a bit… mixed).

Favorite for paper – James Roberts searches through boxes of comic books for sale on the first day of Wizard World Austin Comic Con at the Austin Convention Center on Friday, November 22nd, 2013. ERIKA RICH / AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Some shops will be having special events or costumes or special snacks or just lines. Contact your local shop to see what hours it will be open and if the staff — all of whom will be working a very long day, possibly outside for at least part of it —  are doing anything that requires looking like Bane or Hellboy.

http://players.brightcove.net/1418563061/default_default/index.html?videoId=3701249511001

Here are ten comics that jumped out at me as worth checking out:

“Secret Empire” (Marvel)

Remember about a year ago when it looked like Captain America was an agent of Hydra and it kind of bummed everyone out? That plotline hits a peak in Marvel’s “Secret Empire” series, as (alternate universe?) Cap reveals himself to have been a Hydra agent all along. Writer Nick Spencer and artist Andrea Sorrentino bring the entire Marvel Universe together to fight Hydra, who have now taken over the country. We’ll see how this goes.  Plus, in less politically tone-deaf news: Check out a preview of storytellers Chip Zdarsky and Paulo Siqueira’s revival of “Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man,” which brings Spider-Man back to his humble roots. (He’s been head of a corporation for a while, it’s a whole thing.) Rated: Teen

“Wonder Woman” (DC)

Bestselling writer Greg Rucka had a really good run on “Wonder Woman” in the early 2000s and has returned for an equally acclaimed run with fan-favorite artist Nicola Scott. Wonder Woman has had kind of a rough go of it continuity-wise for the past 30 years or so, but Rucka is doing a bang-up job. (This is a reprint of his recent Wonder Woman #2.) Rated: Teen

“Buffy: The Teen Years” (Dark Horse)

Joss Whedon’s “Buffy the Vampire Slyer” has thrived in the comics format. But it’s rarely been all-ages. That changes with this book wherein writers Kel McDonald and Paul Tobin join artists Rachel Downing and Yishan Li for a story of 16-year-old Buffy fighting monsters and hanging out with pals. With a Plants vs. Zombies bonus story. Rated: All ages

“The Ballad of Franklin Bonisteel” (Lion’s Forge)

Full disclosure: Writer Gabe Soria is a friend of mine. In spite of this blight on his character, you should check out this one-shot about record producer Frank Bonisteel. Drawn by artist Warren Pleece, it’s a prequel (can a prequel come out before the actual book?) to Soria’s and artist Paul Reinwand’s really cool looking book “Murder Ballads,” a rock ‘n’ roll myth. Includes a download code for a cover of “In the Pines” by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys and bluesman Robert Finely. Rated: Teen

“I Hate Image” (Image)

While some companies reprint books for Free Comic Book Day, some (see also the one directly above) are new stories. In “I Hate Image,” Skottie Young and Jean-Francois Beaulieu smash the fourth wall as Gertrude, the extremely violent star of their “I Hate Fairyland,” goes on a rampage against the casts of (completely unconnected) Image titles such as “Saga,” “The Walking Dead,” “Savage Dragon,” “Black Science,” “Spawn” and many others. Rated: Mature

“Kid Savage” (Image)

Man of Action Entertainment, the folks behind such vibrant IP as “Ben 10,” “Big Hero 6,” and “I Kill Giants” (specifically writer Joe Kelly and artist Ilya), present the story of a troubled, space-faring family who must rely on a, well, savage guide when they crash on his primitive planet. Rated: All ages

“World’s Greatest Cartoonists” (Fantagraphics)

Every year, art/literary comics king Fantagraphics produces a stellar sampler of those whom they publish, and this year is no different, featuring all-new, exclusive work from such cartoonists as Noah Van Sciver, Simon Hanselmann, Ed Piskor, Dash Shaw, Emil Ferris and many more.  A must-have and a great way to sample great talent. Rated: Mature

“Star Trek: The Next Generation — Mirror Broken” (IDW)

Writers Scott and David Tipton join artist J. K. Woodward to present a “Next Generation” story taking place in the Mirror Universe, where the Federation gave way to the Terran Empire and, incidentally, where that show never ventured. Check out the guns on Picard! Rated: All ages

“2000AD” (Rebellion)

The legendary British sci/fantasy anthology turns 40 this year and celebrated with a 32-page special starring Judge Dredd, the A.B.C. Warriors, Mallory Hope, Judge Anderson and Judge Death. Comes with additional digital content. Rated: Teen

“Catalyst Prime: The Event” (Lion’s Forge)

Christopher J. Priest has returned! After a long absence from comics, the writer of the terrific “Quantum and Woody” and the early-2000s “Black Panther” is back writing comics. His “Deathstroke” for DC is loads of fun and here he joins co-writer Joseph Illidge and artists Marco Turini and Jessica Kholinne to kick off the Catalyst Prime universe with this one-shot about an asteroid which changes the lives of five astronauts exposed to it. Rated: Teen.

 

Austin cartoonist Jen Sorensen named Pulitzer Prize finalist

Jen Sorensen

Austin cartoonist Jen Sorensen is a Pulitzer Prize finalist in editorial cartooning, it was announced Monday.

https://twitter.com/JenSorensen/status/851515871180750849

The Pulitzer committee said she was so named “For a thoughtful and powerful selection of work appearing in a variety of U.S. publications and often challenging the viewer to look beyond the obvious.”

“I have to say I was completely surprised as it’s one of the most traditional of cartoon contests,” Sorensen said Tuesday from her South Austin home. “I guess I got lucky this year,”

Jim Morin of the Miami Herald won. Steve Sack of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune was the other finalist.

Sorensen, who is a freelancer, essentially nominated herself.

“You just submit online, Sorensen said. “Most of the people who win do have staff jobs at daily papers, so I think this is the exception to the rule to get this far in the process.”

She also notes that there might be a sea change for the form.

“As someone who works in a multi-panel format and might be best know in the digital realm,” Sorensen said, “there seems to be a broadening of what a political cartoon can be.”

Sorensen’s work currently appears locally in the Austin Chronicle. She has also appeared in The Progressive, The Nation, Politico, In These Times, and digital media outlets including AlterNet, Truthout, Daily Kos, and The Nib. She is also the comics editor for Fusion, the news site owned by Univision. Originally from Pennsylvania (the same region as the rock band Live, if you want some Sorensen trivia), she moved to Austin in 2012.

In 2015, she received an Inkpot Award for Achievement in Comic Arts from San Diego Comic-Con International.

Disclosure time: I have known Jen Sorensen since she was a black-choker-wearing freshman (well, there they say First Year) at the University of Virginia.

And to be perfectly honest, I was not surprised to see Sorensen as a Pultizer finalist. Quietly, methodically (“Slowpoke” was for a long time the catchall name she was using for her strips), she has become one of the most well-respected cartoonists in the business.

We last checked in with Sorensen back in 2014, when she became the first woman cartoonist to win the Herblock Prize.

The year before, she won the Robert F. Kennedy journalism award, the same year she picked up a Reuben, which is the cartoonist version of an Oscar.

 

 

This week: ‘American War,’ an X-Men relaunch, the music of Waylon Jennings and much more

“American War” by Omar El Akkad (Knopf). Terrifying, post-apocalyptic  debut novel from this Egyptian-American author, perhaps a bit slipstreamish (think “Station Eleven,” maybe, “) on the sci-fi spectrum. It’s 2075 and America is a mess — constantly hot, full of refugee camps, the sky filled with drones and fully engulfed in civil war, Akkad examines the Chesnut family over two decades of life during wartime. Expect increasing buzz for this one. (Tuesday)

 

“Love & Rockets Magazine #2” by Los Bros Hernandez (Fantagraphics). Second issue in the three-times a year, magazine-sized (well, more like Golden Age comic sized, somewhere between a comic and a magazine…look, it looks really cool) version of the greatest American comic book series of all time. Essential reading since 1982 for everyone with eyeballs. Mature readers.  (Wednesday)

“X-Men Gold #1” by Marc Guggenheim and Ardian Syaf (Marvel). Given what a Marvel VP’s impressively unfortunate comments about comics, marketing and diversity, it’s not too surprising that the X-books are going back to first principles. This book highlights a lineup that is essentially the classic Claremont 70s/80s crew — Kitty Pryde is the leader with Storm, Nightcrawler, Colossus, (Old Man) Logan, and Rachel Grey-Summers in the Marvel Girl/Phoenix role, doing super-hero stuff (like fighting the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants). Rated 12-plus. (Wednesday)

 

“Outlaw: Celebrating the Music of Waylon Jennings” (Columbia Legacy) “Outlaw” is a CD tied to a special that airs 9 p.m. Friday on CMT, the broadcast (and CD version) of a set recorded July 6, 2015, at ACL Live. Look for Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Chris Stapleton, Shooter Jennings, Jessi Colter, Bobby Bare, Lee Ann Womack, Buddy Miller, Sturgill Simpson, Kacey Musgraves, Ryan Bingham, Alison Krauss and a ton more. (Friday)

Father John Misty, “Pure Comedy” (Sub Pop). We are in an era where a Sub Pop act can have a Target exclusive CD edition with five collectible cards. (Friday)

 Future Islands, “The Far Field” (4AD). Not sure that anyone who saw them on “Letterman” ever really forgot it — Dave certainly seemed gobsmacked. Produced by Dallas-based genius John Congleton, they seem to be one of the most personally well-liked bands around. (Friday)

 Joey Bada$$, “ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$” (Pro Era/Cinematic Music Group). Guests include ScHoolboy Q, Styles P, J. Cole and Chronixx. (Friday)

The New Pornographers, “Whiteout Conditions” (Collected Works/Concord). The first album in three years from this often-stunning pop act. This is the first album on Concord and the first not to feature songwriter/singer Dan Bejar, which seems like a mistake for both parties. (Friday)

Wire, “Silver/Lead” (pinkflag). Wire has been kicking around in one form or another for more than 40 years. Singer/guitarist Colin Newman is 62. Wire bassist/singer Graham Lewis is 65. Wire drummer Robert “Gotobed” Grey is 65. Not only do they rock harder than bands one-third their ages, they rock more interestingly as well. Inspiring, always. (Friday)

Pierce Brosnan as Eli McCullough  in “The Son” (James Minchin/AMC)

“The Son” (AMC). The long-awaited, somewhat hyped, Central Texas-shot adaptation of Austinite Philipp Meyer’s totally excellent generational novel about a Texas family. Stars not-a-Texan Pierce Brosnan. (Saturday)

Even if you hate the movie, read “Suicide Squad” (1987-1992)

There are few phrases sillier in the ever-more-shrill world of internet cultural complaints — I mean, criticism — than “So-and-so remake/reboot/update of beloved pop culture property has ruined my childhood.”

I do not use it; I do not believe it is a thing. Your childhood is just fine even if there’s a new version of “Ghostbusters.” Or, rather, if your childhood was a nightmare, it’s not Kate McKinnon’s fault.

However, I had a moment of “welp” when Warner Bros./DC announced in 2014 that a movie called “Suicide Squad,” set in a low-lit, muted palette universe, was forthcoming.

That “welp” turned to a low whistle and a perpetual head shake as more and more images from the movie appeared that made it look like a low-rent spin on everything. Then we saw Jared Leto as the Joker, covered in tattoos and sporting a grill on his teeth. Then the movie turned out to be kind of terrible.

Again, I try no61HO557AE8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_t to take this garbage personally, but my inner fanboy was a little bummed.

Because “Suicide Squad” — at least the 66-issue, 1987 to 1992 version (much of which has been collected in paperback) — was one of the very first comics I thought of as MINE. I was there from issue one and hooked from the first page. Written by perpetually underrated comics scribe John Ostrander (joined, at the time, by his wife Kim Yale, who died in 1997) and drawn by top-flight storytellers such as Luke McDonnell, Geof Isherwood and Karl Kesel, “Suicide Squad” remains one of the smartest and most entertaining mainstream comics of the 1980s.

9781401263430_p0_v2_s192x300The original Suicide Squad debuted in the pages of “The Brave and the Bold” in 1959, a time when superheroes were not that popular. Created by famously gonzo DC Comics writer Robert Kanigher and artist Ross Andru, the original Squad were a fairly generic group of non-powered, World War II-era outsiders who fought giant monsters. An anthology of those early stories has just been published.

When Ostrander revived the concept in 1987 — a time when DC was all about trying out new, darker concepts in the wake of “Watchmen” and “The Dark Knight” — he went full “Dirty Dozen.” Here was a group of supervillains promised a measure of leniency if they undertook deniable missions for the government.

Big comic book companies never throw anything away, and “Suicide Squad” allowed Ostrander to breathe new life into B- and C-list bad guys.

Trust me, nobody, not even those of us who considered ourselves serious DC Comics nerds, was thinking too much about Bronze Tiger or Enchantress at the time. But in Ostrander’s hands, these obscurities were turned into a fascinating team, part super-powered adventure, part special-ops thriller. Sure, they fought aliens and supervillians. But their missions also reflected Reagan-era foreign policy, the morality of interventionism and the price of getting bad people to do bad things for what one is convinced is a good cause. The stories hold up.

And again, these were C-listers, which meant that Ostrander could maybe kill them off at will if he wanted to. Nobody felt untouchable.

The team’s ostensible leader, Rick Flag Jr., was a troubled, battle-scarred, black ops type, but it was the old Batman baddie Deadshot who became the team’s chaotic neutral center — was he just an amoral sociopath (yes, mostly) or did he struggle with his own code of honor? (Yes, now and then).

The Wall vs. The Batman. Guess who blinks?
The Wall vs. The Batman. Guess who blinks?

And then there was Amanda Waller, one of the all-time greats.

A short, squat, middle-age African-American intelligence operative and career bureaucrat, Waller could not have looked less like most comic book tough guys of 1987 (or 2016, for that matter).

But Ostrander wrote her as a ruthless puppet master, a woman who could manipulate the president and stare down Batman in one afternoon. No wonder she has been a part of the DC universe ever since.

The book came to a close in 1992, around the time that Image Comics and its all-splashy-art-no-plot style was starting to dominate the market.

Attempts at revivals have long faltered; the closest was (noted Ostrander fan) Gail Simone’s terrific mid-2000s series “Secret Six,” which had all the moral dynamics of “Squad.”

The most recent incarnation, “The New Suicide Squad,” which launched in 2014, could not look more like PG-13 torture porn. As you might imagine, the movie takes far too many of its cues from this version.

But if you are in the mood for classic 1980s adventure from a time when mainstream comics were still trying to figure out how far they could push the envelope, well, I am jealous you get to read “Suicide Squad” for the first time.

How “Captain America” stripped this week’s internet outrage cycle clean away from “DC Universe: Rebirth” (SPOILERS ABOUND)

At the end of last week, Warner Bros./DC  was collecting all of the ire mainstream comics fans could muster. By Wednesday morning, all anyone could talk about was Disney/Marvel.

366074._SX640_QL80_TTD_It went something like this:

Last Friday, spoilers leaked for “DC Universe: Rebirth” #1, which launches DC Comics’ latest hard-reboot of its continuity (DC: Rebirth #1 arrived in stores the morning). Written by Geoff Johns with art by Ethan Van Sciver, Ivan Reis, Gary Frank and Phil Jimenez, the one-shot issue sets up a new, line-wide status quo.

This is not too surprising. The last time DC rebooted their line was their much-hyped “New 52” relaunch in 2011. It felt gimmicky, it largely read  gimmicky. And the Justice League seemed to fight each other all the time rather than any bad guys. (And Lex Luthor somehow ended up on the team.)

Sales were good, then plummeted to pre-52 levels: Batman by Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo, which I discussed here, consistently sells over 100,000 copies a month, and Justice League moves around 70k, but most DC titles hover between 55,000-20, ooo a month. So they rebooted again.

A few of the SPOILERS were not too shocking:

  • Wally West, a pre-New 52 fixture, returns, screaming about how nobody remembers him (and stole ten years from everyone’s life, because comics).
  • There seem to be three Jokers
  • The World War II era Justice Society existed and nobody remembers them

It was the sort of thing that indicates that DC is bringing back its multiverse, with lots of different worlds and realities.

The multiverse was always one of the most enjoyable aspects of DC Comics. Not only did it make all of their stories “true,” it opened up the imagination: What was life on Earth-4 like? How are the Earth-1 and Earth-2 Superman different?

No, what really cheesed off the nerd nation was the idea that all of this universe manipulation was due to Dr. Manhattan, a character from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ ground-breaking 1986/87 series “Watchmen.”

“Watchmen” is considered, by many fans, to be something of a sacred text, what with being one of the best and most influential (for good and ill) superhero stories ever written.

It has always existed outside of DC continuity and, until now, DC has respected that.(Though they did crank out a bunch of largely uninteresting prequels called “Before Watchmen.”)

But with Batman finding the Comedian’s yellow smiley-face button  and the strong implication that Dr. Manhattan has a hand in this universal shake up.

It reminded me of a great line from this fantastic movie about the shlock-meisters at Canon Films: Cannon films “always resembled something, minus the good taste.” Right now, Superman and Batman and the rest of the DC stable resembles Superman and Batman, minus good taste.

Add to that the nearly 30-year war between Moore and DC and it was a sharp reminder “Watchmen” remains, for good reason a sensitive topic.

And in light of how disgusting and torture porny DC Comics has felt over the past 15 or so years, this interview creative chief Geoff Johns, in which he calls dragging “Watchmen” into DC continuity a critique (“I think ‘Watchmen’ is a great book, but I don’t think a cynical take on superheroes is the truthful one Everyone says that’s the realistic look. I reject that because I think people at their base core are good,” Johns said) seemed more than a little disingenuous. (Not to mention an epic troll of Moore himself.)

Or as one wag on twitter put it:

And yet, by lunch Wednesday, Marvel managed to turn in the nerd-outrage machine, focused on DC mere hours earlier, towards itself, as  Captain America: Steve Rogers #1 revealed that Captain America had been an agent for the spy organization HYDRA… since World War II.

Cue Buzzfeed pieces like this one

and tweets such as this:

Though given that Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie in the movies) has been Captain America for a bit in the comics, I did like this tweet:

Now, I happen to quite like Nick Spencer, the writer on “Captain America: Steve Rogers.” I think this is pretty obviously a File-000-8e161summer-sweeps style stunt to goose sales. Some people agree with me.  Spencer even hinted at a Man in the High Castle situation in this interview.

Even if it was a little Silver Age-style weird, there was something vaguely unpleasant and depressing about the Captain America thing. Chris Evans has done a bang-up job portraying Cap as a fundamentally decent guy.

(I mean, when I said I was hoping for comics that weren’t like movies, I guess I should have been more specific.)

And I have always loved the characterization of Captain America as an embodiment not of America the nation but America the ideal. As Frank Miller was had him saying, ““I’m loyal to nothing…but the Dream.”

This plot twist felt like a cynical gut punch, albeit an easily reversible one. The “Watchment” thing felt far ickier.

https://twitter.com/MildlyAmused/status/735524133493198848

 

(Much more entertaining?  Google #givecaptainamericaaboyfriend.)

Then again, both Captain America and “Watchmen” are commodities, intellectual property to be dispensed for maximum profit. And both moves are designed to get people talking. Which they are. A hate-click is still a click, no such thing as bad publicity, etc.

If these sorts of moves make a buck, one should always, always expect more of them in the future.

Which is to say: Vote with your wallet, always.

Why the trailer for “Rogue One” makes it look even better than “The Force Awakens”

Oh, man.

So, I liked “The Force Awakens.” Was it satisfying? Sure. Was it better than the prequels? Yes. Did it have its flaws? Yes. It was, as a friend once put it about a Liz Phair album, “scrumptiously overratable.”

And I am on the record as having my wig pushed back by the possibilities delivered in the “Force Awakens” trailer.

The trailer for “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” directed by Gareth Edwards (who directed the VERY mixed 2014 “Godzilla”) made me legitimately excited. True confessions: I am a 41-year-old man, and this trailer actually put me in a better mood this morning.

Let us count the ways:

The title: “Rogue One” is an absurdly awesome title. “The Phantom Menace” sounds like a 1940s movie serial, which is fine, but it is not cool. “The Force Awakens” is more of a plot point. “Rogue One” sounds like a post-hardcore band from 1994. It is sleek and vague. Not “Something’s Gotta Give” or “It’s Complicated” vague (peace to Nancy Meyers), but both enigmatic and badass. Is it the name of the mission? The heroine?

Here is the other half of the title: “A Star Wars Story.” Note the indefinite rather than definite article. This is a story not about the Skywalker family, but other folks in the Star Wars universe.

When Disney purchased Star Wars, it got rid of “the Expanded Universe,” all of the books, cartoons and comics (many, many, MANY comics) that had filled out the Star Wars universe, in some cases stretching back thousands of years, much of which had nothing to do with the Skywalkers. Some of them worked, some did not. All of that was scrapped.

This movie is the first post-Disney film step into creating a new expanded universe. (There have been books and comics that have contributed to a new canon.) And there is a bit of freedom there, a looseness that can happen. This isn’t THE Star Wars story, it is A Star Wars story, the kind that millions of kids made up with their action figures.

The plot: “Rogue One” is rumored to be the story of how the Rebels got the plans to the Death Star, rumors that seem confirmed by the trailer, which places the movie between “Revenge of the Sith” and “Star Wars: A New Hope”

We see Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly, who played the character in Episode II and really does look like Caroline Blakiston, who played her in “Return of the Jedi”) discussing with newly-minted rebel Jyn Erso (Oscar nominee Felicity Jones) a “major weapons test.”

The chatter: Mon Mothma: “On your own from the age of 15, reckless, aggressive, and undisciplined.”

 Jyn: “This is a rebellion, isn’t it?” [nice fat pause] “I rebel.”

The lead: Oh, yeah, that. In a sharp reminder that this is a movie from the 21st century, the main character, Jyn Erso, is a woman. Her boss is a woman. Does it solve the wage gap? No, but it’s nice to see. The movie also stars Diego Luna, Riz Ahmed, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk and Jonathan Aris — which also reflects the 21st century.

The Empire, the Rebellion and nostalgia: The Empire is, in this film, as strong as we have ever seen it. The Rebellion isn’t quite off the ground, at least not in a Battle of Yavin kind of way. So we see stomtroopers with tanks and a few shots of Imperial Walkers storming what looks like Florida. We have not yet seen a Florida-planet.

We also see the planet-busting Superlaser being put into place on the Death Star and plenty of those weird, longish helmets the rebels used to wear.

Is “Rogue One” nostalgia-mining? Oh yes. But it is both more direct and cannier, I think, than much about “the Force Awakens.” The latter film borrowed heavily from the previous movies – shot selection, plotting, McGuffins, the whole bit — to remind viewers this is a cyclical story about a family.

But I am hoping “Rogue One,” not being about the Skywalkers, can break free of that narrative. This is still very much a Star Wars story. Indeed, we know how this story has to end: The plans have to be passed to Princess Leia, who then puts them into R2-D2. Whether it will end before that point or after it or during it remains to be seen. But there are many ways to get there and so far, “Rogue One” looks like it is the Star Wars movie that presses every possible button for both serious Star Wars nerds and casual fans.

What say you, folks?

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Check It Out. Feel free to leave your shoes on, it’s cool.

So, there will be a lot of different stuff going on in this blog:

All sorts of television – the great, the not-so-great and “Vinyl,” a show that should really be called

The correct title. (Thank you to the brilliant David W Alexander Parker for creating this image)
The correct title. (Thank you to the brilliant David W Alexander Parker for creating this image)

Movie things that don’t fit in the Austin Movie Blog (cool home video releases, what’s new in streaming, supplementary notes about movie reviews or maybe some of the angry trolling I got about this thing.)

Music things that aren’t quite right for the Austin Music Source (cool band I find on, say, Bandcamp, what I’ve been listening to, etc.)

Books things that might not be right for the Reader (including comics, comics and more comics).

Cultural detritus from around the Web. A place to discuss all that is new and interesting in culture, or old and interesting in culture, popular or otherwise.

And if I use the word thinkpiece, please feel free to send me a strongly worded note.

A word about the blog name:

I thought I was making a horrible pun that maybe three people would get, as in

a) this blog I would love for you, the reader, to in fact check out, and

b) it is the catchphrase, more or less, of one John Brannon, one of the greatest punk frontmen who ever lived and a man possessed of a truly singular vocal roar. He fronted Negative Approach, one of the three or four best first-gen American hardcore punk bands; Laughing Hyenas, a truly mighty indie rock force back when indie rock could mean everything from the Jesus Lizard to Heavenly to Yo La Tengo to Fugazi; and Easy Action, whose “Kool Aide” is one of my all-time favorite Brannon joints.

Anyway, this is what he looks like:

the Voice
The Voice

And this is the photo that made everyone familiar with both of us laugh out loud:

some dude
Some dude

See? Dumb joke.

The problem, of course, is I completely and totally (and I mean this sincerely) forgot about the phrase’s association with these guys:

RIP MCA
RIP MCA

In fairness, that (admittedly Grammy-nominated and very popular) song is on “To the Five Boroughs,” which I do not recall as an album with which I spent a whole lot of time. That said, I understand why SEVERAL people have said, “Oh, like the Beastie Boys song?”

No, not like the Beastie Boys song. And definately not like the John Cougar Mellencamp song. Never, ever that. Ever.

In sum, welcome to Check It Out. Watch this space.