Age: It’s All Relative


To everyone who sent me a birthday greeting today: 

When I was much younger — perhaps in my pre- or early-teen years — I saw old re-runs of The Jack Benny Show on TV. Benny would often recite the running gag about his age. You know the one — how he was continually turning 39.

This comedy routine confounded my youthful mind. I mean, I got the joke: Benny was obviously much older than 39 and was concocting an absurd fabrication about his age. What perplexed me was: Why pick 39? I mean, that’s so old. If you were going to lie about your age, why not lie about actually being young — like 20-something. This was in the era when you were not supposed to trust anyone over 30. Pretending to be as ancient as 39 seemed ridiculous.

But, of course, this was when 39 looked very, very far away. The intervening years have altered my perspective on Benny’s joke. I now get it.

So thanks, everyone, for all the birthday wishes. It’s great to be 39 again.

How to Include Felicia Day in ‘Dr. Horrible II’

A Modest Proposal for a Sequel to “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” 


Whenever Joss Whedon finishes his forthcoming little Avengers project and gets around to working on a follow-up to “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” one of the lingering questions is: Will the sequel include Felicia Day (and, if so, how)? 

If you haven’t seen “Dr Horrible” — major spoiler alert — Day’s character, Penny, dies at the end. As essential as she is to the original story, given this turn of events, it’s difficult to imagine how she could play a role in the sequel. But it’s sad to think of another installment in the series that doesn’t include Ms. Day. 

There are, as well, other narrative challenges in continuing the story of Dr Horrible. The moral descent of Neil Patrick Harris’s character, Billy (a.k.a. Dr. Horrible), leaves him in a narrative cul-de-sac. And Nathan Fillion’s Captain Hammer ends up in a bad place as well. Dramatically, both need a new character arc. 

So here’s my pitch. Two words: evil twin. 

Penny has a relative (a sibling? a cousin?) to be played by Ms. Day. But, unlike sunny, perky Penny, she’s dark — dark hair, heavy eyeliner, and a cynical outlook on life. She’s dour, a bit diabolical, and overtly flirtatious. 

Nonetheless — perhaps, in part, because of her physical resemblance to Penny — both Captain Hammer and Billy are drawn to her. 

This makes Hammer, of course, a mess. He can’t handle an assertive, sexually aggressive woman. A strong female is his kryptonite. Hilarious comedic situations ensue. 

Billy, on the other hand, seems to genuinely care for her. She holds a strange attraction for him. And, yet, he’s disquieted by her negative outlook. He wants to like her, but he can’t cope with her cynicism. He finds her occasional acts of petty villainy troubling. 

So Billy tries to reform her, looking for ways to make her see that her nihilistic world view is naive and pointless. Sure, the world is a mess, but it’s not entirely bad. There are a few good things; they may be hard to see, but they’re there if you look hard enough. 

Ultimately, Billy realizes he’s really trying to convince himself. It’s not the attitude of Penny’s evil twin that troubles him, it’s his own. When Billy realizes this, he knows he must let her go to find her own path in life.

For his part, Billy can now, finally, mourn the loss of his true love, Penny. He takes a volunteer position in the Caring Hands Shelter for the Homeless. 

Fade to black. Queue the theme music. 

That’s it. What do you think? Comments are welcome. And if Mr. Whedon and the gang from Mutant Enemy Productions would like to use any of these ideas, they should feel free to do so. I’ll even sign legal gobbledygook to that effect if they’d like.


Penn and Wharton in ‘World War Z’


One shot in the trailer for the forthcoming film World War Z displays the Philadelphia skyline viewed from the rear of a cargo jet. The twin towers of Liberty Place are visible in the foreground and, across the Schuylkill River, the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Park can be seen. Just to the left of the Liberty Place spire, you can spot Wharton’s Jon M. Huntsman Hall

It looks like we’re ground zero for this summer’s zombie apocalypse. 

1969 Comic Art Convention: Program


A look back at the early days of comic-cons: The program listing for the 1969 Comic Art Convention at the Statler-Hilton in New York, July 4-6, 1969.

'Mulholland Drive': Projection Note


Note to your local movie theater’s projection department from our friend David Lynch.

Behind the Rorschach Mask: Walter, Vic, and Howard


Sly Ditko Reference in “Before Watchmen: Rorschach” #4?

In the concluding issue of Rorschach in DC Comics’ “Before Watchmen” series, before he dispatches the captured Rorschach, Rawhead’s henchman Lucky P. wants to know his name. "Vic," Rorschach tells him. To which Lucky P. Replies, "Vic? You don’t look like a Vic. More of a Howard."

His name isn’t Vic, of course, it’s Walter — Walter Joseph Kovacs. The fake name provides a play on words for Lucky P. who then addresses him as his “Vic-tim.”

Yet one wonders whether the bogus moniker is more than a set up for a pun. Is it a sly reference to Vic Sage, alter ego of The Question, Steve Ditko’s Objectivist hero on which Rorschach is based? 

And Howard? Perhaps the name is a nod to Howard Roark, the Objectivist champion of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, to whom Ditko is sometimes compared. As Richard Metzger wrote in Dangerous Minds several years ago: “It’s not much of a stretch to imagine that Ditko sees himself as a real-life ‘Howard Roark,’ Rand’s fictional architect in The Fountainhead, a man who refuses to compromise his vision.”

While Rorschach is Walter Kovacs, he is also a reflection of Vic Sage and Howard Roark. And, in a different way, Steve Ditko also embodies some of the attributes of these icons of Objectivism.

The White Album




In honor of Rutherford Chang's exhibition, “We Buy White Albums" — my copy of The Beatles’ White Album, serial number 0902135.

For more details on the sequential numbering of the White Album, see: and

Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and the Mythical Marvel Bullpen


“Best wishes to Ken — Stan Lee, Jack Kirby”

The website for the Jack Kirby Museum, which honors the legendary comic book artist, somehow came across a scan I made of a page with two autographs. It’s a sheet of mid-1960s Marvel Comics stationary which says, “Best wishes to Ken” followed by the signatures of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Robert Steibel posted the image on the Museum’s website with the comment, “If anyone knows the original owner of this piece I’d love to know the story behind it.”

I’m the owner of the piece. Here’s the story behind it. Read more…

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