St. Patrick’s Day: an excuse for all things green and minty. Like mint Oreo donuts from Dunkin Donuts. And candles.

happy-st-patricks-day-banner Well, St. Patrick’s Day will arrive tomorrow on March 17th, just as it does every year. I have nothing against jolly old Saint Patrick, but as a kid, I remember the schools liked to push it as a big themed holiday, but I knew that it wasn’t. Sure, there were lots of activities involving cutting out shamrocks, coloring them green and having discussions of leprechauns & gold but that’s really all there was to it.

Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day and Thanksgiving all offered food, gifts and candy. Looking at the holiday from a purely superficial point of view (the only way I look at any holiday), St. Patrick’s Day had/has very little to offer, really.

When you’re a kid, St. Patrick’s Day is just a reason to wear green. It’s mass color coordination across your school and if you’re the one kid who goes to class and doesn’t wear something green, you’re going to get pinched. A lot. Well, maybe just a few times. Actually, is that still a thing? I remember it was a thing when I was in elementary school. When you’re an adult, St. Patrick’s Day just seems like a good excuse to eat and drink on a work night and puke up green beer. Then when you’re hungover next morning to you can eat Lucky Charms.

Still, lots of green stuff and mint-flavored things pop up during the month of March. Bakeries come out with cupcakes with green frosting or shamrock-shaped sugar cookies with green sugar crystals sprinkled on top and everyone decides they need to buy a box of thin mints from a Girl Scout, Irish creme coffee creamers skyrocket in sales and you might find a bag of gold chocolate coins in the candy aisle, but it’s McDonald’s that truly has the market cornered with their Shamrock shake.

Until now. Continue reading

Brach’s Ice Cream Nougats

The fine candy-makers at Brach’s are no strangers to nougat. They’ve been releasing all kinds of seasonal (and non-seasonal) based nougats for years. For myself, the most famous and greatest of them all are their peppermint Christmas nougats with the little trees on them but they’ve also released wintergreen, orange creme, jelly bean, cinnamon, chocolate mint and cherry cordial nougats over the years for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween. With Easter the next major holiday, you might think it’s time for Brach’s to start cranking out the Jelly Bean Nougats again.

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I remember Brach’s jelly bean nougats when they were just called jelly nougats and you could make a pick ‘n’ mix bag of candy at the grocery store.

Well, I’m sure you’re right. I have no doubt the Jelly Bean nougats are going to be out and about somewhere this Easter season but they aren’t at Walgreens and Walgreens is my #1 trusted source for holiday candy. But, no, what I came across was something a bit more interesting… Continue reading

Review a pile of trade paperbacks? Sure, why not!

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I don’t read current comic books anymore. It’s not that I stopped enjoying them, it’s that they got too expensive (but let’s be honest, the constant parade of “events” and new #1 issues is extremely annoying). $2.99 was expensive enough for one comic, the current going rate of $3.99 is ridiculous. For the few minutes it takes me to read a comic book, I don’t think it’s worth $4. I can get an entire two hours of entertainment by spending $3.99 over at RiffTrax on one of their MP3 movie commentaries.

That said, I still own a lot of my single issues of comics. I’ve tried to cut back on the trade paperbacks/graphic novels though.Some I’ve thrown away, some I plan on donating. They’re heavy and they take up space. Still, I have a small collection of trade paperbacks that I don’t plan on getting rid of anytime soon because they hold a special place in my heart.

I randomly pulled six from my bookshelf and now I’ll talk about them…

- The Man of Steel
1993, DC Comics
Issues collected: The Man of Steel #1-6

No, it’s not the comic book adaptation of the movie. This TPB collects writer/artist John Byrne’s 1986 mini-series that served as a re-introduction of Superman and his origin following 1985′s DC Universe-altering Crisis on Infinite Earths. I’ve always felt Byrne has been overrated as a creator. His run as the artist on Uncanny X-Men back in the early 1980s is great but I think by the mid-80s his artwork was becoming a bit more rough. Certainly by the mid-90s when he was drawing Wonder Woman I think his work devolved to the point where it seemed like he was sketching his way through the panels.

While this series set the blueprint for the “modern” Superman throughout the 1980s & 1990s, it’s been rendered irrelevant for quite some time. I think DC released two more mini-series sometime in the 2000s that again tweaked the Superman mytos for a modern audience. Then, of course, we have the New 52 era of DC Comics where there’s yet another adjusted portrayal of Superman.

Even when this book was entirely in-continuity, I felt it was a bit disappointing. Can’t really put my finger on it.

- The Death of Superman
1993, DC Comics
Issues collected: Superman: The Man of Steel #17-19, Superman #73-75, Adventures of Superman #496 & 497, Action Comics #683 & 684, Justice League of America #69

“The Death of Superman” was a major event for me as a kid. While I had bought many comics before this story-line ran in 1992, I was more or less a casual comic book reader, picking up various superhero and oddball stuff like Roger Rabbit, WWF and Super Mario comics whenever I could. But, with this event, I would say that’s when I got serious about comics. For better or for worse, I wasn’t just a reader anymore. I was a collector. I still have the single issue (in the black poly bag!) of Superman #75 where Superman bites the dust.

And I’ve read this particular trade so many times of the year. It was only $4.95! Can you believe that? A trade paperback this size today would probably go for $12.95 at least these days.

This isn’t a cerebral story. Doomsday shows up and mindlessly destroys stuff, he and Superman punch each other to death. But, it did tell the story of self-sacrifice. One of my favorite issues in this collection is when Doomsday battles and completely obliterates the JLA. Even though they got their heads handed to them, it helped cement me as a fan of the Justice League.

- World Without a Superman
1993, DC Comics
Issues collected: Adventures of Superman #498-500, Action Comics #685 & 686, Superman: The Legacy of Superman #1 – stories 1 & 4, Superman: The Man of Steel #20 & 21, Superman #76 & 77

After being shown the death of Superman, DC Comics then showed us how the world attempted to cope without him. This was another trade that I’ve read and re-read so many times. Who knew that the Superman books could be so interesting without Superman?

The books collected here deal with the fallout of Superman’s death and how friends, families, Metropolis and the world at large deal with losing him. It’s a good effort that tries to add some emotional weight after the non-stop slug-fest seen in The Death of Superman.

- Marvel Masterworks: The Uncanny X-Men, Volume 1 - Barnes & Noble Edition
2003, Marvel Comics
Issues collected: X-Men #94-100, Giant-Size X-Men #1

The Marvel Masterworks series is pretty cool in that if collects runs of a book in full-color glossy pages. The downside is you only get a few issues, whereas if you bought a Marvel Essential TPB, you’d get a phone book work of comics but on B&W newspaper-quality paper.

I picked this book along with two Spider-Man Masterworks at a B.Dalton Bookstore many years ago at a discounted price. I’ve seen thrown away the Spidey books but held onto this one because it features the beginning of the “all-new, all-different” X-Men team that featured Colossus, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Storm. It also marks the beginning of Chris Claremont’s amazing run as writer (he’d go on to write the book for 16 years).

No matter what format you chose to read these issues, they are essential for any fan of superhero comics. This is when the X-Men were really put on the map and moved out of the shadows other Marvel brands like the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and the Avengers.

- The New Teen Titans: The Judas Contract
2003, DC Comics
Issues collected: The New Teen Titans #39 & 40, Tales of the Teen Titans #41-44, Tales of the Teen Titans Annual #3

2005/2006 I was becoming a huge fan of the Wolfman/Perez on the New Teen Titans. This might been my first purchase from that era so the impact of the story was probably lost of me. Afterwards, I went and bought a lot of the back issues that led up to this even though. I do know that this story was a shock for readers because there had been no indication that recent Teen Titan addition Terra was secretly working with Deathstroke to destroy the Titans.

Good story and I’d probably enjoy it more if I went to my back issues and read the series in order.

- Identity Crisis
2005, DC Comics
Issues collected: Identity Crisis #1-7

After being out of comics for a number of years, this was the mini-series that brought me back into them. It was quite jarring to see a scene where Doctor Light (always a goofball B-level villain) rapes Elongated Man’s wife. It spun off the DC Universe into a dark direction for a few years and also served as the impetus for other big events such as Infinite Crisis, 52 and One Year Later.

It’s a good story with some great art by Rag Morales, but overall, while it brought some much-need excitement and unpredictability to the DC Universe, it also gave it a darker tone (something that has always been Marvel’s thing) that I didn’t really care for.

Action figures I own that suck.

I’ve lost some, broken some, traded some and probably even have thrown some away but I still have a decent collection of action figures from when I was a kid. While browsing through my tub of figures, I was sadly reminded that not all action figures are created equal. Here’s an assortment of action figures that, from day one, I knew sucked.

For the most part, they didn’t suck because they weren’t cool looking but because their designs left very little room for any action at all.

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Doctor Doom
Marvel Super Heroes, 1990

Doctor Doom! Classic Marvel villain! One of the best comic book villains ever deserved better treatment than this. Admittedly, it’s a very cool looking figure, which can’t be said for a lot of Toy Biz’s early Marvel toys. There are a few things wrong here though. Number one — his arms don’t bend at the elbows. Granted, this wasn’t too uncommon during this era but it drives me crazy to see an action figure who has to walk around like a mummy.

To make it worse, while he can bend his legs at the knees, HE CAN’T BEND HIS LEGS AT THE WAIST. Well, okay, he could if not for that stupid skirt they gave him, which blocks all mobility.  Yes, his arms have free range but won’t bend at the elbow but while he can bend at the knees he has no range of motion with his legs. Maybe the designers thought Doctor Doom was a robot and could just shuffle along like C-3PO.

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I guess he can do some yoga. Cobra pose, anyone?

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At least his “power driven weapons” action feature was kinda cool. You crank that little handle on the back and his right hand starts turning. His accessories were a drill and a rotor wheel (of course, I lost both many years ago). I’ve never known Doc Doom to run around like he’s the killer in Slumber Party Massacre, but okay. He usually just casts spells, shoots lasers and sends robots after people.

But with these accessories he can help your with your home improvement and then fan you off after a hard day’s work!

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How I accidentally broke my new Darth Vader Christmas ornament but refused give in to my anger and join the Dark Side.

It looks like a crime scene not yet cleaned up. My Darth Vader Christmas ornament lies decapitated and in pieces. It all happened because I swung my jacket onto a stack of books that this ornament and my other recent ornament purchases (Frosty the Snowman and Christmas Vacation moose mug) were sitting on top of. The jacket began to slide off and just as it began its descent to the floor, I remembered — “HEY, MY ORNAMENTS ARE UNDER THAT JACKET AND IT’LL PROBABLY PULL THEM DOWN WITH IT!!!”

I tapped into the Speed Force and reacted. Time began to slow. Even with the risk of running myself to death a la Barry Allen during Crisis on Infinite Earths, I could not, would not stop. All great heroes have to make sacrifices. Except I still wasn’t quick enough. All three ornaments were going down. The moose mug and Frosty I caught, but…

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