Monday, September 12, 2016

New Zealand wrestling scrapbook (c.1940s)


Kiwi grappler Lofty Blomfield wrestles an elephant (as you do)

Enjoy! Find it HERE.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

BLAST FROM THE PAST: "Confessions Of A Ring Rat" (Betty Paginated, 1998)



Tuesday, August 16, 2016

What Would Chris Benoit Do? The Sheet: Issue 2 (Winter, 2016)


BECAUSE Nick demanded it. :)

Download the PDF HERE.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

It's the first issue of WHAT WOULD CHRIS BENOIT DO? ... and it's FREE!


Yes, to celebrate the upcoming publication of the second issue of my zine What Would Chris Benoit Do?, I'm re-releasing the first issue as a PDF for FREE, so you can get a taste of what this publication is all about.
If you want to get your hands on WWCBD? #2, drop me an email at "danhelen" [at] "idx.com.au".

Download the PDF to issue one HERE.

Friday, July 01, 2016

COMICS READING FOR JUNE: “Keep It Civil – Captain America vs Iron Man (Part 2)”


* NOW WITH STAR RATINGS (ala Wrestling Observer Newsletter PPV reports) *

NEW! HOW I RATE THE COMICS VIA THE GRANT MORRISON SCALE
*****     All-Star Superman, We3
****      New X-Men (the early issues), Batman Inc., Batman And Robin, Dare, Arkham Asylum
***        Zenith, Seven Soldiers
**         Final Crisis, Flex Mentallo
*           Marvel Boy
DUD (or lower) Nameless, later New X-Men and any of his hippy-dippy, pseudo-mystical crap

1.-4. Marvel Adventures: The Avengers/Hulk (Marvel, 2011) ****
- originally published in Super Heroes #9-12 (Marvel, 2011)
Writers: Paul Tobin (#9-11) and Mike Raicht (#12)/Artists: various
5.-12. Earth’s Mightiest Avengers II #1-8 (Marvel, 2007) ***¼
Writer: Joe Casey/Artists: Will Rosado and Tom Palmer (interiors); Dave Johnson (covers)
13.-18. What If... #3, 4, 20, 25, 29, 32 (Marvel, 1977-82) ***
Writers/Artists: various
19. What If Special (Marvel, 1988) ***¼
Writer: Peter Gillis/Artists: Steve Ditko and Pat Redding
20.-28. What If...? Vol. 2 #1, #5, (Marvel, 1989-99) ***
Writers/Artists: various
Most of these yarns are kinda tedious as they hinge on “key moments” to events that weren’t particularly key in the Marvel scheme of things. “What If...The Avengers Lost The Evolutionary War?” or “What If...The Avengers Battled The Carnage Cosmic?” And the creative teams are lacklustre to say the least. The only two stand-out issues among this lot (for two very different reasons) are #29 (What If...Captain America Had Formed The Avengers”) – written by the odious George Caragonne and filled to the brim with tasteless racism – and the surprisingly fun #41 (“What If...The Avengers Had Fought Galactus”) – with Kirby-esque artwork by Jim Valentino and Sam DeLarosa and a reimagined tale where the Avengers and The Watcher throw down with Galactus rather than the Fantastic Four (Fantastic Four #48-50). If only more of these tales had #41’s joy and passion.
29.-31. Marvel Universe Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes #1-3 (Marvel, 2012) ***½
Writer: Christopher Yost/Artists: various
32.-36. Avengers Assemble #1-3, 6, 8 (Marvel, 2012) ****
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artists: Mark Bagley and Danny Miki
37. The Avengers Movie Festival (ACP Magazines, 2012) ***
- featuring an Avengers tale from Marvel (Writer: Fred Van Lene/Artist: Ron Lim
38. Marvel Two-in-One #75 (Marvel, 1981) ***
Writer: Tom DeFalco/Artists: Alan Kupperberg and Chic Stone
39. Avengers Classic #1 (Marvel, 2007) ****
- featuring Avengers #1 (Marvel, 1963)
The Avengers #1: Writer: Stan Lee/Artists: Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers
“Some Assembly Required”: Writer: Dwayne McDuffie/Artist; Michael Avon Oeming
“The Real Origin Of The Avengers”: Writer: Stan Lee/Artist: Kevin Maguire
Cover: Art Adams
40. The Avengers #6 (Marvel, 1964, 2006) ***½
- reprinted as part of Marvel Legends Mojo Series
Writer: Stan Lee/Artist: Jack Kirby and Chic Stone
41. Civil War II #1 (Marvel, 2016) ****
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis/Artist: David Marquez
This was surprisingly good.
42. Steve Rogers: Captain America #1 (Marvel, 2016) ****
Writer: Nick Spencer/Artist: Jesus Saiz
Apart from the “shock” final page, I really enjoyed the start of this new series. Smartly written, beautifully drawn and with a very timely storyline about terror organisations targeting disenfranchised young men (with Hydra replacing ISIS as the bad guys).
I’m sure the “Cap is a Hydra sleeper agent” storyline was always meant to have a twist. However, I was amused by the public outcry, followed by Marvel’s denials that it was an imaginary tale or a mind control issue, followed by further public outcry – only for it to be revealed in #2 that Cap has indeed been given false memories by “sentient Cosmic Cube” Kobik (don’t ask). So either Marvel lied in the media to build interest in the new Cap title or……or someone at Disney got upset and put their foot down and had things changed pretty damn quickly. Either way, I’m intrigued to see where this storyline is going. If the writing and artwork stays strong, I might be tempted to buy this arc as a graphic novel when it comes out.
43. All New Captain America #1 (Marvel, 2015) ****
- this is the Secret Wars/Marvel Legends 3¾ inch toy version published in 2016
Writer: Rick Remender/Artist: Stuart Immonen.

OTHER STUFF
44. The Complete Iron Outlaw (The Sunday Observer and The Sunday Review, 1970-71) ****
Writer: Fysh Rutherford/Artist: Greg McAlpine (aka “Greg and Grae”)
I first read about this short-lived weekly comic strip in John Ryan’s excellent book, Panel By Panel. Finding the full run on Fysh’s website (www.fiysh.com.au/iron-outlaw-comic-strip), I immediately downloaded them and printed them out. While the Neal Adams-style artwork is a joy by itself, it’s the storyline that I found most fascinating. The biting critique of Australia’s bogan ways and off-hand racism and xenophobia puts Iron Outlaw in Barry McKenzie territory. In fact, one could say it makes a fine companion piece. While the strip – about a Melbourne bloke called Gary who finds Ned Kelly’s helmet and assumes the role as Australia’s No. 1 superhero – starts off as a parody of the worst excesses of bombastic Marvel comics of the 1970s, it eventually takes a darker direction when Iron Outlaw decides to right all the wrongs in Australia by becoming dictator. The strip ends on a brutal note with his “wog” girlfriend Steel Sheila in a concentration camp and sobbing, “Geez! I never knew Gary was like that!” Savage stuff.
45. Ice Cream & Sadness: More Comics From Cyanide & Happiness (itBooks, 2010) ****
Writers/Artists: Kris, Rob, Matt and Dave
46. Happy End (Actus Independent Comics, 2002) ***½
Writers/Artists: various
47.-52. Jacked (Vertigo, 2016) ****
- originally published in Jacked #1-6 (Vertigo, 2015-16)
Writer: Eric Kripke/Artists: John Higgins (interior) and Glenn Fabry (covers)
53. Penny Dreadful #1 (Titan, 2016) *
Writers: Krysty Wilson-Cairns, Andrew Hinderaker and Chris King/Artist: Louie de Martinis
54.-58. Black Science Vol. 4: Godworld (Image, 2016) ****
- originally published in Black Science #17-21 (Image, 2015-16)
Writer: Rick Remender/Artist: Matteo Scalera
Finally, this series is really coming together. A strong volume in this wild reimagining of Lost In Space.
59. Manhattan Projects #1 (Image, 2012) ***¾
Writer: Jonathan Hickman/Artist: Nick Pitarra
What if the Manhattan Project had actually been multiple projects exploring a wide range of mind-bending, death-dealing concepts. What if its boss, Robert Oppenheimer, was in reality his serial killer twin brother, who’d earlier murdered and EATEN the real Robert and assumed his place. From these two insane conceits, Hickman weaves a startling tale that I never gave the time of day to, but I think I may have to now check out the first couple of trades. Pitarra’s art seems a bit Chris Burnham/Frank Quitely, which is a good thing. I didn’t like Hickman and Pitarra’s previous collaboration for Image, The Red Wing, but I’m definitely gonna check out Manhattan Projects.
60.-62. Timely Comics: Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur #1 (Marvel, 2016) **¾
- originally published in Moon Girl And Devil Dinosaur #1-3 (Marvel, 2015-16)
Writers: Brandon Montclare and Amy Reeder/Artist: Natacha Bustos (interior); Amy Reeder (cover)
63.-65. Timely Comics: Doctor Strange #1 (Marvel, 2016) ****
- originally published in Doctor Strange #1-3 (Marvel, 2015-16)
Writer: Jason Aaron/Artist: Chris Bachalo
66.-68. Timely Comics: Drax #1 (Marvel, 2016) ***¾
- originally published in Drax #1-3 (Marvel, 2015-16)
Writer: CM Punk and Cullen Bunn/Artist: Scott Hepburn
69. The Beast Of Chicago by Rick Geary (NBM Comics Lit, 2003) ****
The horrific true story of the “first serial killer” HH Holmes and his hotel of horror. A fascinating, morbid red by a true great of the comics world.
70. Crites’ Colouring Book by Tom Crites (Headpress, 2016) *****
71.-76. They’re Not Like Us: Us Against You (Image, 2016) ***¾
- originally published in They’re Not Like Us #7-12 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Eric Stephenson/Artist: Simon Gane
77.-78. The Sandman: Overture #2-3 (Vertigo, 2014) ****
Writer: Neil Gaiman/Artist: JH Williams III
79. FCBD: ROM/Action Man #0 (IDW, 2016) ***
Writers/Artists: various
80.-85. Outcast Vol. 3: This Little Light (Image, 2016) ****
- originally published in Outcast #13-18 (Image, 2016)
Writer: Robert Kirkman/Artist: Paul Azaceta
86.-87. Dream Police #8, 10 (Image, 2016) ***¼
Writer: J. Michael Straczynski/Artist: Sid Kotian

88. Howard the Duck Newspaper Strips Vol. 2 (Marvel, 1977) ***
- originally published as single strips from Aug. 1-Oct. 2, 1977
Writer: Steve Gerber/Artist: Gene Colan
Howard and Bev take on the Entropists, doom cultists who want to put the world out of its memory. Not as strong as the first arc, but it has its amusing moments.


89. Shattuck (Fantagraphics, 2016) ****
Writer: Wallace Wood/Artists: Wallace Wood and assistants
 Obscure Wally Wood work indeed.
90. The Wonderful World Of Barry McKenzie (Sun Books, 1972) ***
- originally published in Private Eye, 1968
Writer: Barry Humphries/Artist: Nicholas Garland
I’ve seen both Barry McKenzie films but I’d never read the famed English comic strip until I came across this collection in a second-hand bookshop in Mogo on the NSW south coast. Clearly it was very popular at the time as this is a 1972 reprint of a book initially printed in 1968 and subsequently reprinted several times. The one thing that strikes me is how much Humphries despises both the English and Australians in equal measure. I enjoyed the strip for the most part, although I grew tired of the endless loop of  drinking, chundering, Aussie gormlessness and cynical negativity. It probably worked better when it was read as a weekly strip. Still, an historical curiosity.

91. Silver Surfer #15 (Marvel, 2016) ***½
Writer: Dan Slott/Artist: Michael Allred
92. FCBD: Love And Rockets (Fantagraphics, 2016) ***½
Writers/Artists; Jaime and Gilbet Hernandez
93.-96. Stray Bullets: Sunshine And Roses #12-15 (Image, 2016) *****
Writer/Artist: David Lapham

AUSSIE MINI-COMIX
97. Little Mouse: A 24-Hour Comic (self-published, 2015) *
Writer/Artist: Laura Renfrew
Yep, this definitely feels like it was written and drawn in a day. Utter shit.
98. Baristasaurus (self-published, 20??) ***½
Writer/Artist: Campbell Whyte
99. Brothers (self-published, 2014) ***¼
Writer/Artist: Andrew Fulton
100. Pond Scum (self-published, 2013) ***½
Writer/Artist: Neil Sanders
These were all sent to me last year as part of an Aussie mini-comix promotion. Some were good, some were bad, but a few were amazing.



Wednesday, June 01, 2016

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Ex-mayor helps ex-wrestler

Originally published in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1975:


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

REVIEW: Greg Valentine/Tito Santana...My Side of the Story (Kayfabe Commentaries, 2007)

"He didn't care if I hit him hard - that's the way I work. There's no pulling punches because I learned from my dad. That was my style and Tito respected my style. And Tito wasn't that loose either!"

"Every night I wrestled Greg, I told my wife, 'I've had easier street fights.' Greg and I wouldn't hold back. The people believed us. We didn't mind hurting each other."

BEFORE these guys became loyal company mid-carders and slowed their workrate down to a slug-like speed, Tito Santana and Greg Valentine were two of the best workers in the old WWF.
And their feud over the Intercontinental Title in 1984-85 - with Tito seeking revenge after Greg "broke his leg" - was pretty damn good for its time (although to be honest, I missed most of this as I only got into the WWF in 1986 and only saw a few of their bouts on video many years later).
This 100-minute tape goes into detail (a LOT of detail, possibly TOO MUCH DETAIL) about the machinations of the feud: how it came together, how the pair worked with each other in the ring and the backstage politics that threatened to occasionally derail this money-making feud.
Tito comes across as fairly honest, while Greg is more in working mode and the bullshit quotient is much higher, particularly when he tries to put their matches and their feud in context with wrestling history.
One of the top ten feuds of all time, Greg? Mmmmmm.....probably not.
You guys wrestled 30+ minutes every night? In the modern WWF? I say highly unlikely, buddy.
And you mixed things up in the ring opposed to more repetitive wrestlers (in your mind) like Ric Flair? I don't think so, Greg. I always found you a solid-but-slow guy who just did the same old shit in practically every match I saw you in. And you did less and less of it the older you got.
Overall, I feel this DVD is okay but about 40 minutes too long. It really drags at times.
Tito vs Greg was a good feud (probably great by WWF standards in 1985), but does it merit THIS much attention? I say NO. Maybe it's because both guys went on to become mid-card (and even opening card) scrubs over the next eight years. Maybe if they'd remained superstars, then I could look back on their feud (and their subsequent recollections) and think, "Yeah, this is really cool inside info."
But as it is, I just think, "OK, fellas. Shut your yapping - you're boring me - and go sell your 10x8s at that scrub indie show in Florida."

CONCLUSION: Hammered into submission by too much talking. Arriba! and fuck off.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

SHOOT VIDEO REVIEW: Guest Booker...Kevin Sullivan (2007, Kayfabe Commentaries)


[On Superstar Billy Graham's drug issues and reliability in 1984] "If we're going back and being honest, in 1984...what am I gonna do? Fire the whole crew? There'd be nobody there...including myself!"

SEAN OLIVER is without a doubt the best shoot DVD interviewer in the biz today and he ALWAYS bring out the best in his guests, as is the case with legendary wrestler and booker Kevin Sullivan.
The  premise of this fascinating tape? It's January 1984 and Hulk Hogan just rang Vince McMahon to tell him he's NOT coming into the WWF.
Vince turns to Kevin to book him out of a dilemma as he makes his national expansion during the year. THIS is what he would've done (in an ideal world, of course) if given the book.
Paul Orndorff as world champion (beating Ricky Steamboat, who'd previously taken the title from the Iron Sheik).
"Superstar" Billy Graham as IC champ challenging Orndorff in a title-vs-title super-bout on a Xmas Day super-card at MSG.
The Freebirds blinding JYD, who then seeks revenge with tag team partner Butch Reed.
Curt Hennig doing a racial undercard angle with Chavo Guerrero.
Barry Windham and Rick Rude feuding over who is the most handsome wrestler in the WWF.
It sounds crazy but Sullivan makes the angles and the month-by-month progression during 1984 sound plausible.
In particular, Kev's idea of using Orndorff as a hard-working heel champ feuding with a range of people in different parts of the US (Samoan wrestlers and Chavo on the west coast, Dusty and Barry Windham in Florida, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Dr Death Steve Williams in Mid-South and the likes of Steamboat and Jimmy Snuka in New York.
It's an entertaining 100 minutes of "what ifs" with one of the most knowledgeable and switched-on guys in the business.

CONCLUSION: The Devil and Mr McMahon.

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars