Category Archives: Comics

Choob Chart – The Top 10 Geekiest Pop Songs


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It’s the time of year for resolutions and one of mine is to update the ol’ blog more regularly than I managed in the second half of last year. So, without any further ado, here is a brand new feature – The Choob Chart.

Thanks to TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory and stars such as 30 Rock‘s Tina Fey, Geeks have never been so cool. So my first choob chart is my list of the 10 geekiest rock and pop songs ever recorded.

Now, there are a few ways of defining geeky music. For the purposes of this chart, the songs must be inspired by, be celebrations of or, at the very least, substantially reference, geek-friendly subject matter. They must NOT have been specially composed as part of a larger geeky project. So, for example, Still Alive, the song from the closing credits of the video game Portal was written for the video game and therefore exists solely as an integral part of something uber-geeky to begin with.

Also, the songs must be the work of established and (to some extent) commercial acts. This means no songs by self-publishing internet amateurs or YouTube stars, no matter how good they are.

10. Mutants In Mega-City One – The Fink Brothers

I Am The Law by Anthrax is the best known song about 2000AD‘s legendary future lawman Judge Dredd. But I’m opting for the more obscure Mutants In Mega-City One by The Fink Brothers (which was a one-off side project of Madness members Suggs and Chas Smash) for two reasons. First, I’m not really a fan of Anthrax. Secondly, and more importantly, I bought the 12-inch single back in 1985. It came with cover art and a free Dredd poster by Brian Bolland.

It’s far from zarjaz, musically, but the guys do know their Dredd lore and the lyrics are full of references to Mega-City life and characters. After the music video below there is a brief appearance by Suggs and Chas in costume as Fink Angel and his brother Mean Machine.

Which brings me to two geeky gripes. First, they should really be called the Angel Brothers since Fink was the christian name of one of the Angel gang, not their surname. And second, the song repeatedly has Dredd referring to citizens as “Earthlets” which, of course, is a word 2000AD’s alien editor Tharg The Mighty uses, not Dredd. Tut!

9. Doctorin’  The Tardis – The Timelords

Again, musically, this mish-mash-up of the Doctor Who theme tune, Gary Glitter’s Rock And Roll (Part Two) and Blockbuster by Sweet is far from brilliant (though this didn’t stop it reaching the top of the charts in the UK in 1988). But its geek credentials are impeccable.

Quite apart from Whovian-cred, The Timelords was an alter ego of The KLF, the anarchic acid house legends whose origins and philosophy were heavily inspired by one of the all-time great works of geek literature, The Illuminatus! Trilogy, by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. So the Timelords and their 23-year-old song have more than earned their place in this chart. Or, to put it another way, they’re justified and they’re ancient…

8. Sgt Rock (Is Going To Help Me) – XTC

A Sgt. Rock movie has been in the works for years now. Years ago, Arnie was lined up to play the non-superpowered DC Comics WWII hero of Easy Company. More recently, Bruce Willis has been linked to the role, with Guy Ritchie directing. The latest rumour has the action being rather ridiculously moved from WWII to a future war. Don’t hold your breath. If non-comics geeks are aware of the character at all, it’s probably thanks to this fine track from new wavers XTC, released in 1980.

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7. In The Garage – Weezer

Although this song – from Weezer‘s self-titled 1994 debut album – is more about a young geek’s appreciation of his safe haven, where he can geek out away from prying eyes, without being judged or ridiculed, there are some great references at the start to the X-Men’s Kitty Pryde and Nightcrawler, along with Dungeons and Dragons and 12-sided die. Pretty good song, too.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

6. The Prisoner – Iron Maiden

Several years before I ever saw an episode of The Prisoner on TV (it was rarely repeated on TV when I was growing up, in the days before video and DVD box sets), I knew the show’s opening dialogue off by heart thanks to this classic Maiden track from their legendary 1982 album The Number Of The Beast. You’re spoiled for choice, really, when looking for geeky references on Maiden songs through the years (for example: The Rhyme Of The Ancient Mariner, The Wicker Man, Lord Of The Flies, A Brave New World, Murders In The Rue Morgue) but this is one of the earliest and, given the cultish nature of the TV show that inspired it, this is arguably the geekiest. They revisited The Prisoner two years later with Back In The Village, on the album Powerslave.

5. Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. I – The Flaming Lips

Now, you can read this song (and, in parts, the 2002 album of the same name it comes from) in a number of ways, from an anime-inspired futuristic tale of a young woman fighting to save the world from robots in revolt, to a more thoughtful, allegorical meditation on the importance of individuality and creativity in the face of pressure to conform and be subservient in the corporate rat-race.

For the purposes of this chart, I’m going for the former!

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4. The Eighth Day – Hazel O’Connor

Talking of revolting robots, here we have the plot of The Terminator neatly summed up in a song – four years before James Cameron’s movie was released! Okay, so the idea of a war with sentient machines was a sci-fi staple long before 1980, but still. The song qualifies for my chart because although it was written for a film – 1980’s Breaking Glass – it’s not a sci-fi film and so the song is not self-referencing (Hazel O’Connor plays a pop star struggling to cope with sudden fame and The Eighth Day is simply one of her character’s songs).

Adding to the geekiness of the song, note the costume that O’Connor wears while performing the song in the film. Tron wasn’t released for another two years.

3. History Of Everything – Barenaked Ladies

Yes, I’m bending my own rules ever so slightly here, since this song was written to be the theme song for every geek’s favourite sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. However, it does not reference the show or characters and is a great standalone song that crams the creation and 14billion-year history of the universe so far into one minute 45 seconds PLUS its future and ultimate destruction. It also has a great video, about which I have written before.

2. Hanging Out With Halo Jones – Transvision Vamp

Transvision Vamp singer Wendy James had a great voice and there were some great songs on the band’s first two albums. Most interesting from a geek perspective was the song Hanging Out With Halo Jones, from their 1988 debut album Pop Art.

The Ballad of Halo Jones was a much-loved story that appeared fairly early on in the life of 2000AD and is still regarded as one of the comic’s finest strips. Unusually for the macho, testosterone-fuelled 2000AD, in an attempt to make the comic more female-friendly, the main character was an ordinary teenage girl (albeit from the 50th-century Earth) and the storyline was a lot more thoughtful and philosophical than most of the other strips of the day.

It was written by Alan Moore before he hit the big time working for the big American comics publishers and I think it surpasses much of his later, better-known work, including Watchmen. The strip was beautifully illustrated by Ian Gibson, one of my all-time favourite 2000AD artists.

Sadly plans for a nine-volume storyline, following Halo Jones all through her life from youth until old age, fell apart when Moore fell out with the then publishers of 2000AD over creators’ rights and the series stalled after three volumes were published. It’s well worth getting hold of the reprinted collected editions if you’ve never read the story.

Transvision Vamp were clearly fans and this song was great homage to the character:

Since there is no video or live performance for the song I can find, here are a couple of bonuses. They all come from the late, lamented (by me, if nobody else!) Night Network, circa 1988. ITV’s first attempt at through-the-night programming, it aired on Friday and Saturday nights and was aimed squarely at a young audience staggering home from the pub.

The first two videos feature the cast of a Halo Jones stage play performing a couple of scenes plus an interview with 2000AD founding father Pat Mills and acclaimed artist Kevin O’Neill (Nemesis The Warlock, Marshall Law, The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen).

And here are writer Peter Milligan and artist Brett Ewins talking primarily about their 2000AD strip Bad Company.

1. DC Comics and Chocolate Milk Shake – Art Brut

I’ve featured this song on the blog before. Art Brut‘s frontman is the very geeky Eddie Argos, comics reviewer and the world’s biggest Booster Gold fan. The song is about embracing your inner geek and refusing (or being unable) to grow up and leave childish, geeky things behind just ‘cos that’s what’s expected of you. Amen, brother!

And as a special post-festive bonus, here are three more geeky songs that don’t really fit the rock/pop requirement but deserve to be included as companion pieces to the main list.

i. The Galaxy Song – Monty Python

Some excellent astronomy-based geekiness courtesy of Eric Idle. this is probably my favourite song from Monty Python’s 1984 film The Meaning Of Life, although Every Sperm Is Sacred certainly does have its charms…

ii. Elements – Tom Lehrer

The periodic table, in song, from the great Tom Lehrer. Quite the feat of memory, never mind extreme geekiness.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

iii. Star Trekkin’ – The Firm

The Choob has already spotlighted this one. Possibly the most annoying geeky song. Yet we all love it. Um, don’t we…?

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Fringe’s Alternate Universe Comic Covers


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Fringe has really come on in leaps and bounds, after a slightly shaky start during the first half of season one, quietly establishing itself as one of TV’s more intelligent sci-fi dramas.

The main story arc involves an impending war between our world and a parallel, alternate reality which is broadly similar to ours but has many subtle differences. It has also been badly damaged by a number of experiments that breached the barrier between the two realities.

Season two concluded this week on UK TV (a couple of weeks after the US airing). The two-part finale mostly took place in the alternate reality and if you were paying attention, there were lots of great little differences and changes from our world to spot.

For comics fans the best touch was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-them set of framed comic books on the wall of an apartment where one of the main characters, Peter Bishop (Joshua Jackson), is taken after he crosses over from our reality to theirs.

They reimagine five of the most iconic and best-known DC Comics covers of the past 40 years, adding in some subtle, alternate-reality twists. It was hard to see them on the wall during the brief scene so here they are, alongside the more familiar covers which inspired them. Our original, real-world versions are on the left, the Fringe variants are on the left.

This one is my favourite, I think. The 1987 Giffen/DeMatteis relaunch of the Justice League, with Jonah Hex replacing Green Lantern Guy Gardner in the line-up:

This one is also very good. The famous “Death Of Supergirl” cover from issue seven of Crisis On Infinite Earths (1985) gets a very different outcome:

The famous Green Lantern/Green Arrow issue 76 (April 1970) – the first issue of the acclaimed, ground-breaking Denny O’Neill/Neil Adams run on the title – gets a colour shift:

Frank Miller‘s revolutionary 1986 miniseries The Dark Knight Returns becomes The Man Of Steel Returns:

And finally, another Batman/Superman swap, as 1992’s Death Of Superman becomes the Death of Batman (which happened for real last year in our reality – sort of):

You can see bigger, high-res scans of the alternate covers here, at the DC Universe blog.

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Iron Baby…


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Spider-Man Catches Evil Villain Who Stole The X-Men


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Long-time readers might remember the Choob’s post last year about the Mighty Thor smiting a burglar who broke into his house.

Well, it’s happened again – another real-life superhero foiling an evil villain’s dastardly plot.

This time, it was a real-life Spider-Man whose Spidey-sense started tingling when a “joker” (yes, I know I’m mixing my fictional superhero universes here) in a comic shop nicked an X-Men Omnibus collected edition worth around £97, according to a newspaper report (though you can get it for half that price on Amazon – I’m just saying).

With a little help from The Flash and some passing Jedi Knights – and with Wolverine, Catwoman and, in a bizarre post-modern twist, Kick-Ass looking on (I’m not making this up) – Spidey apprehended the criminal mastermind/stupid shoplifter.

Read the full story here. And here is the CCTV footage (sadly lacking in any web-slinging or wall-crawling):

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It’s Theme Tunes Day – Sledge Hammer!


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Doreau: What, you think all women should be barefoot and pregnant?
Hammer: No, I encourage women to wear shoes.

Tucked away in the chaotic wilderness that was the late-night regional ITV schedules of late 1980s here in the UK was a little gem of a US comedy called Sledge Hammer!.

It was a parody/satire of the overly-macho, casually violent cop movies and TV shows of the time, particularly Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry films and the TV show Hunter – with a little Police Squad!/Naked Gun-style absurdism thrown in.

David Rasche was outstanding as San Francisco cop Inspector Sledge Hammer, a sexist, intolerant, sadistic, insensitive cop whose best friend is his .44 Magnum handgun – he even slept and showered with it.

The kind of guy who shoots first, doesn’t waste time asking any questions then shoots again, in the pilot episode he was teamed up with new partner Dori Doreau (Anne-Marie Martin) a kind, sensitive, cautious and competent officer – in short, everything he was not.

Adding to the parody of popular cop shows of the era (Starsky and Hutch in particular), Hammer’s boss was Captain Trunk (Harrison Page), a scary, short-tempered, shouty African-American.

In addition to the ironic humour generated by Hammer’s outdated attitudes towards women, law-enforcement, violence and society in general, much of the comedy came from the fact that, for all his bluster and opinionated speeches – Hammer’s catchphrase was “Trust me… I know what I’m doing” – he was pretty rubbish at being a cop. Although he usually got the bad guy in the end, it was generally due to sheer luck, getting bailed out by his partner or by leaving a trail of extreme chaos and destruction in his wake. Or all three.

The show, made by ABC, ran for just two seasons between 1986 and 1988. At the height of its fame, the show even had it’s own comic-book spin-off, published by Marvel:

Despite a good critical reception and respectable viewing figures of around 19million in the US, the producers were so sure it would be cancelled after season one that they had Hammer blow up the city at the end of the season finale while trying to defuse a nuclear bomb.

This caused problems when the show was renewed for season two at the last minute – to get round it, they used a soap opera-style spoof plot device, explaining that season two takes place five years before the finale of season one.

Sledge Hammer! was a great little show, ahead of its time in many ways. Both seasons are available on DVD and although, like many 80s shows, the production values of the time mean that Sledge Hammer! shows its age a little when you watch it now, the humour is timeless and it’s well worth a purchase.

Trust me… I know what I’m doing!

In the meantime, here are the opening credits:

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Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day: Wonder Woman


In your satin tights, Fighting for your rights…
Make a hawk a dove, Stop a war with love…
Stop a bullet cold, Make the Axis fold…
You’re a wonder, Wonder Woman!

Wonder Woman is one of DC Comics iconic trinity of A-list heroes.

Like Superman and Batman before her, the character found a wider, mainstream audience in a TV adaptation of her adventures (though unlike the boys she has yet, despite repeated attempts in recent years, to make the leap to the big screen).

Wonder Woman, the TV series, debuted in 1975 (after a poorly received, unrelated TV movie the previous year) and ran for three seasons (59 episodes) before ending in 1979.

It starred former model Lynda Carter as the titular Amazon heroine (aka Princess Diana) and her alter ego Diana Prince, with Lyle Waggoner as her partner, US Air Force Major Steve Trevor.

Notable guest stars included a young Debra Winger, who played Diana’s little sister Drusilla (aka Wonder Girl) in three episodes of season 1, and future Airplane! star Robert Hays as a young airman (who if you look at this clip on YouTube, you’ll notice wears the exact same uniform – or a remarkably similar one – that he wore in Airplane!‘s flashback scenes).

The first season of Wonder Woman was set during World War II, the era of Wonder Woman’s earliest comic-book appearances, and stuck fairly closely to the basic setting of those early print adventures. Reflecting this close link to the comic’s origins, the opening titles mostly took the form of animated comic-book panels.

And then there was that wonderful theme song, which everyone remembers. It was written by composer Charles Fox and lyricist Norman Gimbel (who also wrote Killing Me Softly With His Song with Fox and the English-language version of The Girl From Ipanema, among many, may other songs and TV songs).

Here are the season one opening titles, taken from the pilot episode, which also helpfully included a little WWII recap:

In season 2, the show switched from ABC to CBS and the new network demanded the show be updated to the present day. This was explained by having Wonder Woman return to the US from a self-imposed exile on her Paradise Island home after a 35-year absence and team up with original partner Steve Trevor’s look-a-like son.

The opening titles were tweaked to remove the WWII references and the song was also tweaked to make it less militaristic (see below for both versions of the lyrics):

And then it all started to go a bit crap, in what is surely a textbook example of why if it ain’t broke, you don’t fix it.

In the middle of season 2, the wonderful song we all remember and love was replaced by an instrumental version and, perhaps less damaging, the animated comic-book visuals were replaced with clips of the character in action:

And so on to season 3 and another change to a more disco-fied (and awful) instrumental version of the theme tune and a new montage of action clips:

And, for the sake of completeness, here’s the final variation of the opening titles, from the final episode of season 3 which, in an apparent set-up for a season 4 that never happened, Wonder Woman moves from Washington DC to Los Angeles and Steve Trevor was written out. The opening titles were tweaked to remove Waggoner, though the rubbish version of the theme tune remains:

Good though Lynda Carter was in the role, and much as I enjoyed watching the show when I was 10, she’s actually only my third-favourite TV Wonder Woman. My top two are a bit more contemporary.

Here’s number two on my list (sorry can’t embed it, so you have to click through to watch it on YouTube):

And here’s number one:

And finally, as promised, here are the lyrics from the two versions of the theme song. First, the season 1, WWII era version:

Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman.
All the world is waiting for you,
And the power you possess.

In your satin tights,
Fighting for your rights
And the old Red, White and Blue.

Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman.
Now the world is ready for you,
And the wonders you can do.

Make a hawk a dove,
Stop a war with love,
Make a liar tell the truth.

Wonder Woman.
Get us out from under, Wonder Woman.

All our hopes are pinned upon you,
And the magic that you do.

Stop a bullet cold,
Make the Axis fold,
Change their minds
and change the world.

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman.
You’re a wonder. Wonder Woman.

And now the season 2, modern-era version:

Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman.
All the world is waiting for you,
And the wonders that you do.

In your satin tights,
Fighting for our rights
And the old Red, White and Blue.

Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman.
All of us are counting on you,
And the power you possess.

Putting all your might
On the side of right,
And our courage to the test.

Wonder Woman.
Get us out from under, Wonder Woman.

Here to fight the force of evil.
And your chance won’t be denied.

Woman of the hour,
With your superpower.
We’re so glad
you’re on our side.

Wonder Woman, Wonder Woman.
You’re a wonder. Wonder Woman.

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Liberate Yourself A Blake’s 7 Teleport Bracelet


Regular readers will know (from posts such as this and this and, ahem, this) that Blake’s 7 is the Choob’s all-time favourite TV show.

I have also been known to spend silly amounts of cash on geek-related replicas and limited edition stuff such as this, this, this and, um, this.

So you can imagine my delight the other day when I discovered that a company called Termight Replicas was selling replica Blake’s 7 teleport bracelets (the superior version from the Liberator spaceship, rather than the later Scorpio model).

And here’s the kicker – they are made by Martin Bower, who created the original TV prop bracelets used on the show. Here’s a photo of the replicas – Termight say they are virtually identical to the ones used on the TV show. Of course, this authenticity is also why they don’t exactly come cheap. Anyway here’s what they look like:

Termight Replicas, incidentally, currently specialises mainly in Judge Dredd/2000AD items – the company name presumably is inspired by Nemesis The Warlock, one of the long-running weekly British anthology comic’s most popular series, in which a far-future Earth has been renamed Termight.

They offer pretty impressive Judge Dredd helmets, shield badges and belt buckles.

But a couple of other comics-related items particularly caught my attention.

First, this awesome-looking and very beautifully presented replica of The Armstrong Siddeley “Royal Albert” Vibro-Beamer, from writer/artist Bryan Talbot ‘s wonderful comic-book series The Adventures Of Luther Arkwright. Check this beauty out:

And then there is this – Strontium Dog Johnny Alpha’s Westinghouse Variable Cartridge Blaster replica:




The replica is based on designs originally prepared by artist Carlos Ezquerra (Strontium Dog‘s co-creater, along with writer John Wagner) for a TV adaptation that never happened:

And here are a couple of examples of Ezquerra’s art from 2000AD to see how closely the replica captures his original comic artwork:

 

Disclaimer: I have no connection with Termight Replicas (or any of the makers/creators/publishers of the replicas or the works they are based upon). However, I may well become a customer in the very near future!

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