Comic Book Man

Do you read comics? Or have you read them in the past? If you’re reading this blog or listen to podcasts like The Smoke Breakers then I’m guessing the answer is yes to one of those questions. Do you remember what drew you to comics in the first place? Was it the colourful artwork, gorgeous covers, or the stories of the fantastic on the inside?

I love reading comic books. I always have as far back as I can remember. Like many, the first time I saw a superhero was in morning cartoons on television in the early 1980s. Super Friends, Spider-Man, Masters of the Universe, Thundercats and many others where mesmerizing to me as a kid as where the superhero cartoons on the 1990s like X-Men, Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Batman The Animated Series.

I still remember the first time I bought my own comics. It was in 1990 and on my way home from school I missed my connecting bus to finish my journey. So while I waited for the next bus, I look through the toy store next to the bus stop and they had a large amount of direct comics from the states. And in that humble little shop I bought a Batman and X-Men and between sitting down at the bus stop and getting off the bus, I had read those two books three times each. And that ladies and gentlemen was that, I was hooked. I didn’t need drugs later on in life because on that day my imagination was set free and has run wild ever since. I needed to read more and find out everything I could about these characters and what other ones where out there. And as my addiction grew, I discovered so very much.

Now I had read comics before this faithful day and I knew the pages held beautiful artwork and crazy characters like Asterix and Obelix, Tin Tin, Garfield and The Phantom on their different adventures. And while I still love these books to this day, they didn’t have the impact on my young mind as the caped crusader and that band to mutants.

Maybe part of it was that I had bought them with my own money, or these characters rescued me for panic on that day, but these spandex clad heroes have been a part of my life ever since. And from them, and the writers and the artist who create them, I have learned so much. Learn as much from them as from school, parents and the ‘so called’ more important books. They have helped me to become the man I am today. And if you ask my friends and family they might say I am good and right and true, a true hero. Hey, I can dream can’t I?

I understood honor, duty, the ethics of right and wrong, philosophical dilemmas, guilt, fear, and the consequences of ones actions. A lot of what was once the purview or history text and the bible, I got from comic book superheroes. They enlighten and have opened up my mind to question and except. Maybe I am the odd one. Maybe there are others like me who learned these things from comics. But I haven’t met anyone who has admitted it.
I know they helped me because when I was a kid I was no happy. I had emotional problems, anger issues and was placed in therapy at the age of 8. But after I started reading comics, the change was so unexpected, my parents and my therapist where amazed. You could say comics saved me.

But for all my love of comic books, the graphic novel collections, the collectables and the movies and TV shows that have spawned from them, I still find myself defending them. And recently, with the movie universes of Marvel and DC gaining more and more of an impact in popular culture, I find myself defending comics more and more. One of the things I have to set people right on is the age old assumption that comics are just for kids.

Admittedly, in the 1930s when the comics craze began, the artwork, titles and stories where targeted at boys and teenagers. But those kids grew up, as kids often do, And if the publishers wanted to keep them, they had to evolved. And they did. It did take them a while to catch up but they had to contend with therapists, parents groups and right wingers attacking the industry so it wasn’t until the end of the 50s and the beginning of the 60s when the Silver Age of comics started that the comics industry redesigned and created amazing characters again did the stories begin to evolve. The 60s counter culture and the university academics began to take notice and praise the imaginative and inventive story lines as well as the political and social elements running throughout the books. This and the relaxed comics code of the 1970s helped with the tales the writers and artists wanted to tell. For the first time in decades, adults where reading comics as much as the kids, and government agencies began praising them, the same government that attacked them in the 50s, for their social commentaries, especially their anti-drug stories. What other “children’s” entertainment can boast the same?

And with this turn around, writers and artists like Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Brian Bolland and Frank Miller created works such as Batman: The Killing Joke, The Dark Knight Returns, V For Vendetta and The Watchmen, works of great literary importance that have been praised by critics, academics and fans alike. And even appear on many Top 100 and Best Seller Lists worldwide. These stories where not created with kids in mind. They are dark, violent, brooding works that rival classic gothic literary tales.

Superhero fiction does teach important lessons, believe it or not. From the straight forward storylines to the bizarre, to the murky water of the grey area storylines, they give examples of right versus wrong, good versus evil, and light versus dark. But I believe in my adamantium laced bones that this goes deeper. Using superheroes, their friends and relationships, the world that they live in and their interactions with the super villains (even if sometimes the villains are the heroes) we are given lessons in the virtue of truth, ethics and morality, the responsibility of doing the right thing, the responsibility of ones actions and accepting the consequences, and philosophical questions like do the ends justify the means. With the changing times, it is any surprise that people may find these lessons in superhero fiction, and not from more traditional or classical sources like the bible or classics literature.

For all those people out there who believe that people who read superhero comics and watch superhero movies and television programs are somehow illiterate or less intelligent, or are defective in some way, I say shame on you and get your head out of the ass of dust covered academia snobbery or traditional stiff upper lip, chinless boarding school teachings. Academia is starting to see comic books and not only an art form but a separate medium for telling stories. And it would surprise some people, especially those snobs with the weak chins, that many comic book creators are not only intelligent, well-read people, but many base their creations and stories on the classics these tweed lovers hail as oh so important.
Comic books, and their big brothers, the graphic novels, are no longer second class or second hand entertainments. They are out of the shadows, in the public eye, big business and no longer just for kids. They are eternal, they are important, they are life savers, they are inspirational.

Now, this rant is over.

Just go and get yourself a comic or graphic novel and fall in the realm of sci-fi / fantasy storytelling and sequential art and find out for yourself. Make up your own mind on the form and hopefully you will enjoy the experience instead of trashing a vibrant world that started with comic strips in newspapers over 100 years ago.

Quick Robin! To the Batcave!

– Monkey

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Comic Book Man

Bad Movie Madness

Smoke Breakers – 005: The Good the Bad and the Zombie




Now, when you talk about Bad Movies, what actually do we mean? Movies with no social merit, entertainment value, or just failures at the box office? As you know, butt loads of bad movie are financial success, giving way to the bad franchise and the nine colours of shit you would expect.
But there is a lot of interesting ideas in these bad movies, stuff that you wouldn’t see in bigger budget entertainment. Be it a cause, personal agendas of the filmmakers, for just simple gore and special effects. And bad movies, a lot of the time have bad acting that makes porn actors seem like they were trained at the Royal Shakespeare Company, and budgets so cheap you can seriously see the sets wobble with a heavy sneeze.
We all have an idea of a bad movie is, and we all have personal dislikes when it comes to movie watching. But a lot of these movies become cult classic and end up being celebrated, usually because of all the reason I’ve already mentioned. Why, you say? Time, it is as simple as that. After a period of time passes, the films change. And an audience’s reactions to them are different from when they were first released. All the elements that put the films together are perceived through different eyes.
I’m not going to write too much on it here, I’ll do that at a later date on this blog. What I would like to do it share with all you crazy cinefiles out there some of the bad movies that left a mark, either on me or on the world. All of these films I have seen, and the range from the woefully bad to the so bad they’re good. And you will be happy to know, most of these films are available to watch for free on You Tube. So head on over, microwave some popcorn, strap in and enjoy some of these not quite gems of cinema history. And I know there are many more, but let’s start here. And by all means, comment if I missed anything.

1930’s

Maniac (1934)
Refer Madness (1936)
Terror of Tiny Town (1938)

1950’s

Glen or Glenda (1953)
Bride of the Monster (1955)
The Giant Claw (1957)
The Killer Shrews (1959)
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
The Tingler (1959)

1960’s

Robot Monster (1964)
Santa Clause Conquers The Martians (1964)
Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
The Oscar (1966)
Satan’s Sadists (1969)

1970’s

Myra Brekinridge (1970)
The Black Gestapo (1975)
Giant Spider Invasion (1975)
Track of the Moon Beast (1976)
Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)
Attack of The Killer Tomatoes (1978)
Starcrash (1978)
The Swarm (1978)
Caligula (1979)
For Your Height Only (1979)

1980’s

Alligator (1980)
The Apple (1980)
Battle Beyond The Stars (1980)
Motel Hell (1980)
Galaxy of Terror (1981)
Mommie Dearest (1981)
Frankenstein Island (1981)
Krull (1983)
Children of the Corn (1984)
C.H.U.D. (1984)
American Ninja (1985)
Creature (1985)
Howling II (1985)
Chopping Mall (1986)
House (1986)
Howard The Duck (1986)
Maximum Overdrive (1986)
Troll (1986)
Rawhead Rex (1986)
Hell Comes To Frogtown (1987)
Ishtar (1987)
Jaws: The Revenge (1987)
Mannequin (1987)
Superman IV: The Quest For Peace (1987)
Leonard Part 6 (1987)
The Blob (1988)
The Hobgoblins (1988)
Killer Clowns From Outer Space (1988)
License To Drive (1988)
Return of The Killer Tomatoes (1988)
Laser Mission (1989)
The Punisher (1989)
The Puppet Master (1989)

1990’s

Ernest Goes To Jail (1990)
Troll 2 (1990)
Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)
The Roller Blade Seven (1991)
Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991)
Demonic Toys (1992)
Leprechaun (1993)
Super Mario Bros. (1993)
Street Fighter (1994)
Showgirls (1995)
Striptease (1996)
Anaconda (1997)
Batman and Robin (1997)
Jack Frost (1997)
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)
Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)
The Avengers (1998)
Camp Blood (1999)

2000’s

Battlefield Earth (2000)
Dungeons and Dragons (2000)
Freddy Got Fingered (2001)
Glitter (2001)
Master of Disguise (2002)
Swept Away (2002)
The Room (2003)
Ben and Arthur (2003)
Gigli (2003)
House of the Dead (2003)
Catwoman (2004)
Shark Attack 3: Megalodon (2004)
Soul Plane (2004)
Blade Trinity (2004)
Van Helsing (2004)
Alien Apocalpse (2005)
Alone in the Dark (2005)
The Gingerdead Man (2005)
Santa’s Slay (2005)
Son of Mask (2005)
Eragon (2006)
I Know Who Killed Me (2007)
Norbit (2007)
Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2008)
The Twilight Saga (2008 – 2012)
Disaster Movie (2008)
The Love Guru (2008)
Max Payne (2008)
Meet The Spartans (2008)
Crank: High Voltage (2009)
Year One (2009)

2010’s

The Last Airbender (2010)
Jack and Jill (2011)
Movie 43 (2013)
Sharknado (2013)

– Monkey

Bad Movie Madness

Nostalgia Goggles

Smoke Breakers – 002: Total Rehash





With the release of our first Remake / Original Night podcast, it got me thinking about the effect nostalgia goggles can have on the things you used to love.

We’ve all, at one point or another, remember things fondly from our youth. Be it a cherished TV show, movie, book, or game. These memories have a magical effect on us, they transport us to a period of our life that is swimming in emotion. Nothing is sweeter than a fond memory from times gone by. First experiences shape who we become as cynical, jaded adults, they have a lasting effect on who we are.

And therein lies the problem. Almost nothing can be as good as you remembered it.

Ok that might be a bit too broad a stroke to paint, but I’m nothing if not a messy artist. But you must have experienced this. After years of fond memories you decide “hey, its been a while, and they’ve just released Transformers original cartoon series on DVD, I loved that show, I’m totally gunna watch the shit outta that again!” only to be disappointed by the weak story and bad animation of what was originally designed as an extended commercial for Hasbro to sell transforming robots. And all power to them, cause darn it if it didn’t work. But now because of the nostalgia goggles skewing your vision, you have taken a little bit of the shine off your childhood. YOU MONSTER!

Now don’t tar and feather me just yet. It’s not all bad, sometime your nostalgic tendencies can be justified. there has been many an occasion when I’ve gone back to an old classic and still had that schoolgirl glee and excitement, sometimes I’ve even appreciated it more because as an “adult” I get jokes that as a child I could not comprehend.

What I’m really trying to say is that Nostalgia Goggles can be a double edged sword, that you wear on your face, and it can be very impressive, but dangerous. Wow, that analogy got away from me there. but the point is still valid i think?

So i guess as a public service announcement i’ll just say this, If you’re going to wear double edge swords on your face, don’t be disappointed if they cut off your eyebrows.

– Moose

Nostalgia Goggles

The Controversy Awards

The Smoke Breakers episode 001 – The Gold Standard:


A little time has passed since the Oscars live telecast, and the glamour and controversy have seemed to die down for another year. But me being me, I’ve been thinking about the Oscars recently. Now what got me thinking about the Oscars again is a little odd. I was watching one of my favorite movies, John Carpenter’s They Live and I remembered something that angered me on the night, the omission of wrestler and actor Roddy Piper. While he may not have been a high profile actor in the movie business, but he did make movies from action and sci-fi, to thrillers and dramas, and some ended up cult classics. And he is, was and remains my favorite wrestler of all time and to see he was not on the In Memorandum segment really pissed my off.

So, while I was reeling in my disgust for this oversight, I started thinking about other elements of the night that I didn’t like. And the biggest thing leading up to the Oscars, the #OscarsSoWhite talking and voicing opinions and concern about the lack of actors and artists of colour nominated for awards reared up in my memory.

Now the controversy got a burst of steam after Jada Pinkett Smith, talent actress and wife of Will Smith, weighted in with her opinions after her husband Smith was overlooked for a nomination for his work in Concussion. I did see this film and I thought it was a good movie, not great, but it was entertaining. I rarely like films with a sports angle, but the medical elements where great. And Smith’s work in the film was damn good. But I am sorry to say, he has been better. The Pursuit of Happiness, Focus and even one of his earlier film The Six Degrees of Separation where much better performances and nominations should have been thrown his way then. But as a performance in the last Oscar’s year, he should have been nominated I believe, as a number of actors of various skin colour and race, but we rarely get what we wish for as fans. That’s part of being a fan and I don’t have to tell that to any Firefly fans out there, do I?

But when you look at the surface of the nominations for acting, it does look like that people of colour have been shafted, two years in a row no less. Michael B. Jordan in Creed, Idris Elba in Beasts of No Nation and everyone in Straight Outta Compton all deserved nominations in my opinion and I was blown outta my seat for every one of these films. Out of these films my favorite and my favorite performance was Jordan’s in Creed. He not only redeemed himself for the awful Fantastic Four film he was a part of, he signaled to the world he is a talent to watch as the director of the film, Ryan Cooper.

All of these films should have been given there due. And I believe part of the reason they didn’t was the Academy’s judges. They are predominantly men, overwhelmingly Caucasian and over 50. Most demographics are not represented in this body. Changes have been put into place, but concerns of race and sexes getting better representation not only in the Academy, but in film making circles, has been a point of contention since the 1950s, and much hasn’t change. So I hope this happens because there are many actors, both men and women, I believe deserve recognition for their work.

Ultimately, I know this is just an award ceremony for movies have half the world won’t watch and I know there are better problems out there then whether an actor or actress didn’t get that pat on the back from a bunch of old white dudes. There are wars, disease, famine, natural disasters, politicians, reality TV and dreams where you are naked in public. You know, the biggies.

But that being said, these awards ceremonies are glamorous, high profile, celebrated and seen around the world. If you want to see a change to do with race, gender equality and presentations of sexual orientation and religious tolerance having a fair and impartial body nominating actors and filmmakers that embody for their work on this stage is a great way to do it. The world needs to be educated, stories need to be told, and people need to be entertained, not just white America. There is a whole world out there that devours America’s products and the biggest cultural product is filmed entertainment. But having said that, the biggest problem I see is the movie business in America is the studio heads and the studios not having faith that certain stories can make money in the market place. I think studio heads and network bosses are full of shit, and scared of losing their jobs and relevance. If network, cable and subscription television can tackle things that the movie industry can’t, film’s little cousin is going to grow up and kick its last ass. Television these days tackle stories dealing with race, gender and sexual orientation where film hasn’t. They even have Black, Asian and women leads in these shows. Stuff Hollywood is hesitant to do.

And I just realised I don’t know how to finish this, what would you call it? Article? Rant?

Well, I say if you want to have a discussion, comment and let’s get talking.

– Monkey

The Controversy Awards

The Ash Tray

Hello and Welcome to the Ash Tray. The Place to come for all of your extra Smoke Breaking needs.

Here at the Ash Tray we will keep you up to date with the goings on at the Fortress of Smokitude, as well as adding extra thoughts and comments to our casts.
we hope you enjoy your stay

Love,
The Smoke Breakers

The Ash Tray