It’s the dead of winter, and it’s understandable that some of the those old winter blues, the doldrums, can set in around this time. While waiting for the weather to become bearable again, one of the best ways to stave off the cabin fever is with good books, comic books, and television. Here’s some of what I’m into right now, TV first. The fourth season of the animated series Archer is in progress, and it became a favorite of mine pretty quickly after I discovered it last year. Voiced by H. John Benjamin, the titular character is an alcoholic spy with mommy issues who is also the best agent of I.S.I.S., the agency run by his mother Malory, voiced by Jessica Walter, of Arrested Development fame. Archer interacts mostly with the rest of the staff of the agency, a deranged band of misfits voiced by an uber-talented group of actors and actresses, and with enemy agents that are as quick with a verbal barb as they are with an assault rifle. Indeed, it’s the razor-sharp dialogue that has quickly propelled this show to must-see-TV territory for me. Everyone is always drunk and on exotic drugs, you have to stay alert to pick up on all the references as they go flying heedlessly by, and the animation style is slick and highly enjoyable. It’s also rated TV Mature, which pretty much means series creator Adam Reed can push the envelope as much as possible in terms of drug culture talk, nudity, and just about anything else you care to name. Really right down my alley, this gem comes my way on Thursdays, 10 PM, on FX.
Then there’s Justified, also in its fourth season. This one I’ve mentioned on the site before; it’s based on characters from a couple of Elmore Leonard novels, and stars Timothy Oliphant, who first got on my radar when he played a drug dealer in the movie Go about fifteen years ago. He gained a lot more attention when he appeared on Deadwood, which only ran for three seasons, more’s the pity. Oliphant plays U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, a Gary Cooper type from the back woods of Kentucky who likes stretching the law as far as it goes. The show is quite violent to the point of being unrealistic, and, much like Archer, what really makes it pop is a colorful supporting cast and some of the best written dialogue on TV. This one comes on FX too, Tuesdays at 10, and I must say, the Fox network, which owns FX, should be proud that they’re producing what I view as some of the best programs currently on basic cable.
As to what I’m reading, right now, book-wise, it’s Brian Lumley’s Necroscope, the first of a series starring Harry Keogh, the only man who can talk to the dead. These are pretty much straight horror, as Keogh’s gift (or curse) is best used trying to combat the menace of vampires, who live amongst us and are here portrayed as hideous monsters, the farthest thing from the glittery, sparkling, perfect-haired pretty-boys of the Twilight series. These vampires would eat Robert Pattinson for breakfast. I’ve been reading these books out of order; there are something like eight of them, all told, but I’ve got my hands on the first four, so once I’m done with those I guess I’ll have to track down the few others I haven’t read yet. They’re that good. Lumley, heavily influenced by Lovecraft, is basically the British version of Stephen King, a junk-food horror writer of the finest caliber. Though this series was most popular in the 80’s and 90’s, and I’m a little late getting on board, you know what they say: better late then never.
As far as comic books go, I’m collecting and enjoying the Rorschach and Comedian limited series’, the two that most interested me of the Watchmen spinoffs. The creator, Allan Moore, didn’t approve of these being made, but frankly, Moore shouldn’t really have much to say about it, in my opinion. He created that series for DC Comics, and they own the rights to those characters, so why shouldn’t they be allowed to use them? I think what they’ve done corresponds to the tone and quality that Moore achieved with the original Watchmen series, so what’s the problem?
The only ongoing series’ I’m collecting are The Goon, by Eric Powell, and John Constantine: Hellblazer. The Goon is another offbeat oddity featuring an ape-like, granite-jawed protagonist who lives in kind of a warped version of Depression era America, where he specializes in bootlegging, protection rackets, and, um, fighting zombies and the undead. Trust me, this is a fine, fine read, with top-notch stories and multiple Eisner award winning art. One of the best on the market today. Then there’s John Constantine, the trench coat wearing, chain smoking, hard drinking British necromancer who gets on the wrong side of demons, and, frequently, the devil himself, but always lives to tell the tale. The 2005 movie with Keanu Reeves simply didn’t do this comic justice, but it’s really become a mainstay for me, as it approaches it’s 300th issue, always a fine indicator of comic longevity.
So that’s what’s keeping me occupied these days…oh, and working fifty hours a week, maintaining a healthy marriage and relationships with relatives, a rigorous fitness regimen, working on new short stories, and promoting my latest novel. Think your life is busy? Try walking a mile in these shoes, brother. More soon…