Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Reading Roundup: 'Damn Right I'm From Cleveland' and 'Alien: The Illustrated Story'

Reviews by Bob Ignizio

Damn Right I'm From Cleveland by Mike Polk Jr. (Gray & Company Publishers)

If you're going to live in Cleveland, you might as well have a sense of humor about it. Comedian Mike Polk Jr. certainly does. He's the guy responsible for those “Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism” videos. He's also the author of one of the finest pieces of bathroom reading material to come out in 2012, Damn Right I'm From Cleveland. I don't mean that as an insult; as Polk himself readily admits, this is barely a real book. It's basically just a collection of short essays and cheap visual gags tailor made for reading a few pages at a time.


All the crucial Cleveland subjects are covered – the Free stamp, the East side/West side rivalry, Michael Stanley, Dick Goddard, The Rock Hall, the ickiness of Edgewater Park, and of course plenty on our area sports teams, where jokes practically write themselves. And what would a Cleveland humor book be without at least some mention of the notorious “Cleveland Steamer”? I am kind of shocked that the only mention of Cleveland's fine horror movie host tradition was a suggestion for a new Great Lakes Brewing Company beer (“Little John Stout”), but you can't have everything.

Polk takes a self deprecating tone throughout, which helps mitigate the few occasions where he comes off like a frat boy, such as the sections on the different types of Cleveland girls and hot area bartenders he likes to stalk. Misogynistic? Maybe. Not funny? Definitely. Thankfully none of the sections take up more than a page or two, so the duds are over with quickly and something funnier is just around the corner.

Alien: The Illustrated Story by Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson (Titan Books)

I was 9 years old when Ridley Scott's horror/sci-fi hybrid ALIEN hit theater screens in 1979. I had seen the TV spots and pictures of the monster in Starlog and Fangoria magazine, and damn if it didn't look cool. But there was no way my parents were going to take me to see an R rated horror movie in a theater.

As it turned out, there was one other source for knowledge about the movie; in fact, an extremely comprehensive source. That was the comic book adaptation published by Heavy Metal magazine. For those not familiar, Heavy Metal had nothing to do with head-banging rock & roll. Rather it was a mature readers science fiction and fantasy magazine size comic book. With the comic's code authority in full effect at the time, there was no way that one of the major comic book companies like Marvel or DC could publish a faithful comic adaptation of ALIEN, but there were no such restrictions for the magazine size comics. And that I first saw the chest burster scene while paging through the periodical that contained it in a shopping mall Waldenbooks.

Goodwin and Simonson do a fine job of translating film to printed page, something I was able to verify just a few short years later when ALIEN made its pay cable debut. On the surface Goodwin's scripting follows the film pretty closely, but he brings his own point of view and tone to the material. Simonson's artwork hadn't fully developed at this point in his career, but it's still unmistakably his work. He doesn't shy away from the gore, and you'll see more of the titular monster here than you will in the movie. Surprisingly given Heavy Metal's tendencies towards the sexy stuff, however, he downplays Ripley's final underwear-clad showdown with the creature.

While it's no classic “graphic novel”, Alien: The Illustrated Story is an enjoyable artifact of the film it adapts, and a nostalgic reminder of a time when instead of going online to have a movie ruined for you, you had to buy something like this, and Titan should be commended for making it available again.

2 comments:

  1. ALIEN: THE ILLUSTRATED STORY was in book form long ago - maybe as far back as my high-school library, which would put it practically on the heels of the movie and the Alan Dean Foster novelization. I know they didn't dare carry Heavy Metal Magazine in the school library, but they did have many cool and edgy graphic-oriented material in the back room (utterly out of view of the students, oddly, so these books never circulated; I just knew about the secret stash because I worked there. Pretty weird, now I think of it), and I believe I saw the ALIEN graphic novel in the collection, circa 1980.

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  2. Damn you and your conveniently timed childhood. I was 10 or 11 when I was buying the JURASSIC PARK comic...ization, and, even then, recognized that a frighteningly foreshortened triceratops gut and dramatic onomatopoeia
    (e.g., "KRAKA-DOOOOOOOM!") did not a quality product make.
    So, props to the convenient timing of this reprinting. My better half picked me up the Original Art Edition of ALIEN:THE ILLUSTRATED STORY, which reprints Simonson's original boards in actual size, coffee rings and all.
    Gorgeous. And the standard-sized, full-color (and wallet-friendly) reprint is equally nerd-outable.
    As a Weyland-Yutani-boycotting ALIEN nut, I wholeheartedly recommend this graphic novel.

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