Denny Colt could kick Ash's ass ANYDAY

Here’s what made my day today. Three steps:

1. There’s a section of this website devoted to old strange newspaper comics; perhaps you’ve seen it. While I didn’t intend for the site to be an ongoing concern, it’s getting bigger and bigger behind the scenes, and will suffer two large updates in the future. One new section will be called “Worst Comics Ever,” and they live up to the title. In particular, two strips done by a Minneapolis cartoonist promoting the addition of the Spirit to the Sunday funnies in 1947.

The Spirit, as I’ve mentioned before on this site, was one of the greatest comics of its day - brilliantly composed, expertly paced, lovingly drawn and stuffed with wonderful archetypes. It was film noir one week, sentimental whimsy the next, sharp pathos the next, cheesecake the week after that. When I stumbled on reprints in my early teen years, I was instantly captivated, and I’ve followed Will Eisner’s work ever since. He’s still alive, and still working.

The version of the Spirit that the local cartoonist created was painful - instead of his standard blue suit and fedora, the Spirit wore a cape and a top hat. It’s just awful.

2. I mentioned in a recent Bleat that I’d had an email exchange with a DC comics art director - she was collecting all the Spirits for a hardcover collection. I sent her copies of the wretched Spirit promos. She said that she was going down to Florida to meet with Eisner, and she’d bring them with.

3. Today I got a package - a note from the art director saying Eisner got a hoot from the drawings, and a copy of his latest book.

Autographed. “To James.”

I made a small, pained, screeching sound, because I was in the office; shouting and whooping would have drawn attention.

Add this to my other joys in life: I got a letter from Peter DeVries, spoke with Anthony Burgess on the Larry King Show, had coffee with T. C Boyle once and James Ellroy twice, AND interviewed Jessica Hahn. I’d forgotten about that one - say, if I add my late 80s radio show, I interviewed everyone. Dick Clark. The Mayflower Madam. Paul Simon. (The Senator.)

Okay, well, now I’m ruining the moment.

This week’s questionable movie selections:

Red Planet. The other bad Mars movie. Gasp! as Terrance Stamp decides not to act, but just to exude glaring Stampness. Yawn! as Val Kilmer toothily squints in his patented squinty toothyness through another movie. Pant! as that chick from the Matrix wears a T-shirt in a spaceship whose ambient temp is probably about minus 100. Marvel! at the inability of Hollywood to make a good Mars movie. It was lovely in spots - certainly looked more like Mars than the other Mars movie - but it was just another noisy piece of krep filled with unlikable characters. (Except for that chick from the Matrix, who might as well change her name to “that chick from the Matrix.”) If these movies teach us anything, it’s that NASA will be hiring only sullen, emotionally unstable buttheads in the future.

The 6th Day. Another Ahnuld movie. Why did I rent it? Because I like the big doofus, that’s why, even though two of him - as we get in this movie - doesn’t add up to one good actor. (In fact, it’s like adding negative numbers.) This was well-shot, crisply done, didn’t have too much eye-rolling-inducing dialogue. But the beginning was inadvertantly hilarious, for reasons I’ll soon explain. We all know that movies set in the future have a problem with brand names - if they invent companies we’ve never heard of, it looks hokey - even though the corporate landscape in 60 years will look much different than the brand-name world of today. But if they use present-day brand names, it makes the future look realistic. Well, in the 6th Day’s future, the winner of the stereo-manufacturer wars is . . . Pioneer! Which, according to the Blade Runner effect, means you should sell your Pioneer stock, because the company’s doomed. But it gets better: the movie begins with a football game played by the XFL. The QB had a $300 million contract.

The Blade Runner Effect should prove true in this case as well, if there’s a God in heaven, or a Tyrell in the penthouse.

Last weekend was the postcard convention. The place was jammed 30 minutes after the opening bell, and you had to throw a few elbows to get to the merch. I was disappointed with my haul - sixty cards, half of which were motels, the rest being a mix of New York and Mpls. No real a-ha! prizes like the last time; no gas stations at all. As I scooped up one nifty old motel card after the other, I realized that I can’t just keep heaping cards into the Motel section of the site without order or reason; I’m going to have to break them down by state. No small task. But it’s begun. So in June we’ll have the Summertime Hit the Road Extravangza site, a humorless, slow-loading recap of all these great motel signs that are no doubt long gone. Like so much else on this site: read ‘em, and weep.

It made me look forward to summer vacations with Gnat, though; I want to take a good old-fashioned road trip. I recall a few family jaunts in the late 60s, before complete & utter motel standardization had set in; we went to the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, and Duluth. Exotic Duluth. Well, it was - I’d never seen such steep hills before; compared to the table-top terrain of NoDak, Duluth was the Alps. My most prominent memory of each vacation was the motels more than anything; they were just thrilling places to me. Glasses wrapped in plastic! Seatbelts on the toilet, tiny bars of soap. One Holiday Inn had a radio embedded in the wall, which was a tantalizing glimpse of the future when radios and TVs would be built right into our houses. And of course there was the cornucopia of the ice machine, which disgorged a torrent of pure perfect cubes at the touch of a button. No end to the wonders of this world.