Saturday, July 31, 2010

Restaurant Recommendation: Muncheez Pizzeria in Worcester MA

Right down the street from the Corner Grille (one of my favorite places to go in Worcester) on Pleasant Street is another little pizzeria called Muncheez. I'm actually not sure where I found out about the place. I imagine it was either at one of the stART on the Street events or one of my Worcester friends posted the place on Facebook. Or something. I can't remember. What I do remember is reading the menu and being very intrigued by what they offered.

It's the type of place you'd expect to see featured on a Travel Channel show like Pizza Paradise for it's unusual pizza offerings. The one that caught my eye was the Spaghetti and Meatball Pizza. Which apparently isn't THAT unusual because I've seen a few other places in the area offer it on a pizza.

But Muncheez was featured on the Phantom Gourmet for their Donut Burger. Yes! You read that right. DONUT BURGER!! As pictured above.

Well, I have to admit I'm not brave enough to attempt something like that. But I wanted to try Muncheez out for the first time. So, Sydney and I met up with my cousin Jared and his girlfriend Alicia to give it a try.

We ended up ordering a small Popeye the Sailor Man and a small Macaroni and Cheese Pizza and sat outside and had our meal. And you know what? It wasn't half bad!! You wouldn't think Mac and Cheese would be any good on a pizza but it was strangely satisfying. The Popeye was okay. I tend to prefer regular cheese than Feta on my pizza. But it wasn't half bad.

My only complaint about the place is they didn't serve drinks. Which isn't the be all and end all of my dining experience. But it does add a certain ambiance to a meal when you're sitting there having a drink and enjoying a conversation.

With that said, although I don't see myself trying the Donut Burger anytime in the near future I DO highly recommend the place and highly recommend you check them out by clicking on the link below. Great if you want something a little out of the ordinary instead of the usual pepperoni:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Today's Recommendation: Dracula Book One by Andy Fish

I have seen this project evolve over the past year or so and it's going to be amazing!! My good friend and fellow Worcester Art Museum Faculty Member Andy Fish is releasing his adaptation of Bram Stoker's classic Dracula. And from the pages I have recently seen from the book, this is going to a MUST HAVE for both fans of Stoker's novel AND fans of comics in general.

When he originally started the project the artwork was going to be in very much the same style of art he employed with both The Tragic Tale of Turkey Boy and Fly. But Andy wasn't entirely satisfied with the way the pages were looking. And being a guy who is not afraid to try something outside the usual style he works in completely... and I mean COMPLETELY... redid all the pages in a more realistic and somewhat painted style. Which I think looks incredible and makes his Nosferatu style of Count Dracula look a helluva lot more frightening.

As you can see above.

But unlike the Max Schreck/Klaus Kinski ratlike vampyre, Andy's interpretation of the Count retains that somewhat regal quality to him in the same way Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee did in the role. Lugosi in particular which Andy is a fan of 30's Universal Monster films. Which is the time-frame this movie takes place in since he has a fondess for that era as opposed to the Gaslight Era.

And the results are brilliant!!

And now's your chance to own a copy ABSOLUTELY FREE!! If you e-mail Andy Fish at your name will be entered into a raffle with a chance to win a proof copy of Dracula Book One SIGNED BY ANDY FISH!! One person drawn at random so don't delay and e-mail Andy as soon as possible!!

He mentioned that he'll even sign it Bram Stoker if you like ;-)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Yet Unused DC Adaptation ideas

Well, the last post got me thinking about the stories which have not been adapted to animation yet. Well then!! Here's my list of stories that I think would be swell animated movies.

GREEN LANTERN/GREEN ARROW. The groundbreaking storyline written by Denny O'Neil with art by the legendary Neal Adams. which had the Green Lantern and Green Arrow tacking very topical story lines back in the early 1970's which included political corruption, prejudice and drug addiction. Which readers find out the Green Arrow's ward Speedy has become addicted to heroin. Which the Green Arrow in many ways has his comeuppance for his own forceful preaching and berating the Green Lantern with being out of step with the times while he himself has completely neglected his own ward because he was too caught up in his own affairs. I would love to see the animation done in Neal Adams style.

JUSTICE LEAGUE: THE NAIL. One of my favorite of the Elseworld stories. Great artwork by one of my favorite Batman artists Alan Davis who draws in the same school as Neal Adams and Jim Aparo as far as his interpretation of Batman is concerned. This one envisions a world if Superman had come to Earth but had never become Superman because Ma and Pa Kent decided because they had a flat tire they would stay in for the night instead. All because of a nail. Some really great scene with a Superman-less Justice League. And a great confrontation between Batman and the Joker when the Joker is given the power to torture and kill Robin and Bat-Girl right in front of a helpless Batman. And Batman finally snaps.

Captain Marvel Battles the Monster Society of Evil. I'm not talking about an adaptation of the miniseries by Jeff Smith (which I did enjoy for his style of art) I'm talkin' about an adaption of the original series by CC Beck!! Although, the good Captain had one of the best movie serials of the 1940's, very rarely have animators gotten him right or done his character any justice. He's usually getting his ass handed to him by Superman. And let's not get into that awful Filmation cartoon from the early eighties. The only exception is his recent appearance in Batman: Brave and the Bold. I would love to see an animation directly in Beck's style of the Big Red Cheese. I wouldn't completely oppose them adapting Jeff Smith's take on the original insanely long story arc of MSOF because of time constraint, I would much rather seem them tackle the original story.

Captain Marvel Battles the Plot Against the Universe. Another great CC Beck Captain Marvel story. This one the good Captain fights against his arch foe Dr. Sivana chasing him back in time and all the way to the Rock of Eternity where Sivana steals the wizard Shazam's bracelets which allows him to exist in his ethereal form and makes him immortal. Now Captain Marvel must race against time to not only save Shazam but also defeat all of Sivana's robot clones which he constructed out of a new alloy called Sivanium... the way, the braclet Shazam wears is out of Shazamium... but it doesn't end there. Captain Marvel created a new alloy in the story called... wait for it...


I'll be honest, I liked the fact that CC Beck took an unapologetic cartoon approach to both his stories and his character design. It's what made the Captain Marvel tales fun. And if they were to adapt a story like this I hope they take the same approach.

There's not necessarily one Teen Titans story I would love to see adapted. I would just love to see an animation of the Teen Titans with the original crew of Robin, Wonder Girl, Kid Flash, Aqualad and Speedy in Nick Cardy's style of art. As much as I enjoyed the anime inspired version on Cartoon Network (yes I admit it. I enjoyed the series) would love to see them at least tackle a one-off movie with the original version of the team. Perhaps sans Groovy sixties lingo, natch.

Green Arrow: Longbow Hunters. Still a favorite miniseries of mine after all these years. I think I was intrigued by Mike Grell's approach to comic making by inserting these panels that looked like they were charcoal studies. Which could have been distracting (or seemed lazy) but I liked it because it seemed somewhat different from the usual comics.

The story was written at a time where they were trying to make masked Superheroes a bit grittier. I think a lot of that was to do with stories like The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke which were darker than your average comic book. You had all these Punisher-type characters "chewing bubblegum and kicking ass" all around comic books. So I suppose it was only a matter of time before GA hung up all his trick arrows and started using real arrows and actually pinning his enemies to the wall. And not smack them across the face with a boxing glove arrow.

I even liked the costume design. Which still maintained the Neal Adams looking GA but lost the Robin Hood/Peter Pan looking hat and gave him a hood. They even moved him to an actual city with Seattle and not some made up DC Comics type city (i.e. Gotham, Star City, Keystone City... um... Gorilla City). And he was dealing with drug dealers and not the usual costumed villain.

I'm not sure how a project like this would adapt to animation. It's quite a bit darker than any of the ones Warner animated so far. However, New Frontier did start out with a suicide.

And Green Arrow is another DC character that has never really gotten a real fair shake as far as animation is concerned till recent years with Justice League: Unlimited and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. I mean, they cut all his lines out of the New Frontier adaption. Which is a shame because I think Darwyn Cook made his character really interesting.

So, I think GA is a bit overdue to star in his own feature.

Last on the list is The Untold Legend of the Batman. This is still my favorite of the Batman origin/history stories. This has everything. Not only the Joe Chill origin but also the Lew Moxon storyline where we discover that Chill was just a hired thug for Moxon who had wanted Bruce Wayne's father dead since he fought off Moxon and his henchmen at a costume party...

where he was dressed in a Batman style costume.

This story also includes the Red Hood origin of the Joker. But not the down-on-his-luck stand-up comic one from the Killing Joke. But the one that paints him as an unknown masked criminal before his face got permanently scarred after he jumped into a vat of toxic chemicals to escape Batman and Robin. It would be great to see it in both Jim Aparo and John Byrne's style.

Batman: A Death in the Family, Jason Todd and Warner Animation

Warner Animation has been doing some really amazing animated movies with the DC Comic Superheroes the past few years. Starting with their adaptation to Darwyn Cook's brilliant DC: New Frontiers as well as Green Lantern: First Flight and Batman/Superman: Public Enemies. Which brought back Kevin Conroy as Batman and Tim Daly as Superman who originally starred as the characters in the 1990's.

And most recently, Warner Animation has released their most recent adaptation Batman: Under the Red Hood. Which is based upon the story which returned Robin MK II Jason Todd to the DC Universe.

Jason Todd is kind of a forgotten man (or Boy Wonder) till recently. He was Dick Grayson's replacement as Robin after MK I decided to hang up the green shorts and Peter Pan boots and become Nightwing. Originally when Jason Todd was introduced into the DC Universe (as it's referred to nowadays by the hep kids) he was pretty much a carbon copy of Dick Grayson except he had strawberry blond(?!) hair. But his origin was almost note for note the same as Dick Grayson's. Circus performer. Parents (acrobats) killed by Killer Croc...

...which is slightly different since Dick Grayson's parents were not killed by an established villain from Batman's rogue gallery...

...Bruce Wayne becomes his legal guardian, dyes his hair black and becomes the next Robin.

Everyone seemed to tolerate the new Robin until after the whole DC Universe was revamped due to the events of the Crisis on Infinite Earths story arc which erased the whole multiple Earths as well as killed off quite a few big name characters like the Barry Allen Flash and Supergirl. Both of which incidentally have returned in one form or another.

In the revised DC Universe, Jason Todd was recast as a street kid who is caught by Batman stealing tires off the Batmobile. Batman finds out the kid has no living relatives, takes young Jason Todd in hoping he can change the kid so he's not part of the criminal underworld. Trains him in the art of crime-fighting and shortly thereafter Jason Todd is the new Robin. But he's more rough around the edges. Has a temper and constantly defies Batman's orders.

And the fans hate it. And in a poll set up by DC Comics fan were given a chance to vote if Jason Todd will live or die. The fans vote death, Jason Todd is beat up mercilessly by the Joker with a crowbar, left to die in a warehouse and blown up.

Not too long after that Tim Drake becomes Robin MK III and Jason Todd is left to rot in the cold cold ground...

...until February of 2005 when Jason Todd returned from the grave as the Red Hood. Which had previously been the identity of the Joker before he took a swan dive into a vat of chemicals.

WHEW!!! That's your Jason Todd history lesson.

But that brings us to the present... FINALLY... and Warner Animation's release of Under the Red Hood which begins with the death of Jason Todd at the hand of the Joker in A Death in the Family and continues with the storyline from Under the Hood.

Which got me thinking. It doesn't take a lot. With all the adaptations they have in the past several years which also included The Death and Return of Superman (one of Warner Animations less successful efforts) I think it would be great to see them do a full adaptation of A Death in the Family.

But not only that. Do it in Jim Aparo's style.

Maybe I stand alone on this (I doubt it) but I think it would make for a great animated movie. As much as I do like the character design for Batman: The Animated Series (especially the later revisions they did with the characters when they renamed the series The Adventures of Batman and Robin)I think I've seen the style so many times with that series as well as the Superman and Justice League series, seeing something that is done in a different style, Jim Aparo's in particular would be great!! Especially if they kept it in the blue costume with the black shadow in the face of the mask.

I would actually love to see more animations actually tackle the Neal Adams/Jim Aparo Batman look for an animation or two.

As I have said countless times in the past, I rather doubt DC Comics or Warner Animation has my blog on their nightly reading list. However, I would love to see this story as well as tales like the Green Latern/Green Arrow story arc by Neal Adams and Denny O'Neil, Justice League: The Nail and even the classic Nick Cardy style Teen Titans line-up adapted into animation.

Or even The Untold Legend of the Batman. Which is still one of my favorite history/origin of the Batman story.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Steampunk The Bat-Man and the Joker

Illustrated with Deleter #4 Black Drawing Ink.

The Joker is carrying two Pepperbox Revolvers in the illustration. Which were highly inaccurate. But that's the joke. Who else would point something like that at their victim, have the victim make some crack like "A Pepperbox Revolver. You'll be lucky to hit the side of a barn with that" and hit him straight on ;-)

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Mysterious Suspects 9x12 pen and ink

Original artwork by the artist. Illustrated in Deleter #4 Black Drawing Ink with Crow Quill Pen on Strathmore 9x12 Smooth Windpower Bristol Board.

Featuring five of the most famous detectives in literature. C. Auguste Dupin, Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot and A. J. Raffles.The only character that might be in question about being considered a famous detective is Raffles since he was a gentleman thief. But I couldn't resist including him primarily due to the Sherlock Holmes connection. E.W. Hornung was the real life brother-in-law of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. And he created Raffles to be the antithesis of Holmes since Holmes was brilliant at solving crimes, Raffles was equally as brilliant at committing crimes. Which I give a nod to that connection by having Raffles looking over Holmes giving him a rather knowing smile. Although, Holmes's attention is elsewhere.

I also have both C. Auguste Dupin and Sherlock Holmes giving one another nasty looks in the illustration. This is a nod to the fact that Holmes openly disregards Edgar Allan Poe's creation (and perhaps the very first literary detecive) as "A very inferior fellow" when Watson compares Holmes to Dupin in A Study in Scarlet. I also have both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot giving each other a quick glance since both creations of Dame Agatha Christie.

I based Dupin's look on Johnny Depp from Sleepy Hollow.

And you can own it along with a copy of my graphic novel Sherlock Holmes: The Painful Predicament of Alice Faulkner PERSONALLY SIGNED to you!! Just click on the E-Bay link located on the left hand side of your screen. Happy Bidding!!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Arsenic and Old Lace 9x12 pen and ink artwork

Illustrated in Deleter #4 Black Drawing Ink with Crow Quill Pen on Strathmore Smooth 9x12 Windpower Bristol Board. You can bid on it now by clicking on the E-Bay link on the left hand side of the screen :-)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Summer Session Week One is in the can!!

Week one at the Worcester Art Museum went as well as to be expected. For the most part I had a lot of really great and really talented 8 to 10 year old students in my class. Some of which for their age did phenomenal work! Great grasp of character design and took instructions very well.

I am sorely disappointed that my Cut-Out Animation Class got canceled next week. I suppose the bright side is no more 5am wake-up call for the rest of the session. The bad side is I was really looking forward to my second animation class.

I think it just came down to the name of the class. I've found when it's offered as Stop-Motion Animation or Traditional Animation the class has run. The name Cut-Out might have given the false impression that I'm making paper dolls or something childish.

So, when the class returns I may do something a bit more all encompassing with animation like my mentor Mark Lynch used to do offering not only cut-out but also drawn and claymation.

But at least one of my classes is running. Shame it wasn't THAT one.

New art!!

Two new illustration available online via my E-Bay Store!! There's a link to the store on the left hand side of the screen. Just click on it and it will take you directly to the auctions!!

The first piece is the last in my Doctor Who triptych. This one features the first for actors to portray the Doctor. The previous one featured the current three actors and the first one featured the four later actors. The first two sold immediately and there's already one bid on the latest one. So, get it while the ink is fresh ;-)

This second one is based on one of Charles Addams single panel Addams Family cartoons. I found the image on Facebook's page for the Addams Family Musical. It was too good an image not to do a tribute to. Charles Addams work was a bit more lighthearted than Edward Gorey's but just as much macabre :-)

There will be more work available on the site in the next couple of days so stay tuned :-)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Don Martin

Don Martin was probably one of my favorite cartoonist growing up. His artwork appeared in MAD at a time the magazine was at it's height as far as both the artwork in their movie and television satires as well as some of the original offbeat humor created by Martin and some of his MAD cohorts.

And as much as I enjoyed Sergio Aragonés's MAD Marginals which appeared in the corners of the magazine or Antonio Prohías Spy vs. Spy cartoons, it was Don Martin's bizarre humor and character design I was drawn to the most.

It was a mix of Martin's humor, his bizarre barrel-shaped characters and the word's he'd use to create the sound effects in his comics that made his work really funny to read.

Apparently, he was a real character in real life too. He liked slipping into the backgrounds of photographs tourists would take of each other, so when their films were developed they would wonder who the strange man was.

Sadly Don Martin passed away back in 2000. But if you would like to check out more of his work I highly recommend you get your hands on a paperback collection his comic art. In particular the work he did with MAD Magazine which is among his best. Most of the reprints I imagine you can get for a fairly reasonable price on or any other online bookstore.

If you're a young artist who fancies himself both a writer and an artist, I highly recommend his work. I know his work was great fun for me to read when I was growing up.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jim Aparo

I've always had mixed emotions when it comes to Jim Aparo's artwork. I'm not a huge fan of his style but at the same time I don't hate it.

But with that said to downplay his place as one of the great Batman artists of all time would be ridiculous. He's up there with the likes of Carmine Infantino, Neal Adams and Dick (giggle) Sprang.

Much like those artists, his style is instantly recognizable. I mean, this page from The Untold Legend of the Batman was penciled by John Byrne and it's barely recognizable as Byrne's artwork with Aparo's inks. And Byrne is another artist with an immediately recognizable style.

However, there are pages in this story like the moment when Batman reveals his true identity to Joe Chill where I look at it and say "Oh yeah! That's definitely a John Byrne face". Otherwise, Aparo's style and technique is so overwhelming in the inks that John Byrne's own style is almost unrecognizable.

I didn't even realize myself until a couple years back when a friend of mine Andy Fish pointed out John Byrne did the pencils. All these years I thought it was Jim Aparo's artwork alone. Go figure.

I think with Jim Aparo's art, it definitely comes down to who is inking his work. In story arc's like A Death in the Family and A Lonely Place of Dying with Mike DeClaro's inks, Jim Aparo's pencils shine. Not to mention many of the earlier stories Aparo did his own inks.

However, in the Knightfall story arc as well as his stint on later issues of the Green Arrow, his artwork falls flat. Some of that had to do with Aparo's own health. But a lot more had to do with weak inking.

As I have said many times before, a weak inker can make a great penciler look awful.

But besides all that, Jim Aparo is a legend. Despite the fact I may not entirely care for his style on a whole, he has earned a place with the greats.

And there's that part of me that has a soft spot for the old blue and gray Batman costume of the 1970's and 1980's.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Todd McFarlane

Todd McFarlane is an artist who has received quite a bit of criticism and ire for being a hack and a sell-out from many of my contemporaries and fellow students in college.

Okay, here's the deal. Let's say you created a character and suddenly someone backed up to your house with a dump truck filled with money and gave you the opportunity to make millions on both your character as well as toys, would you turn it down?

And it's enough to not only pay all your bills but enough so you never have to worry about work again. EVER!! Would you suddenly say, "Go away! I have my convictions!!" and turn it down?

Good for you if you can do that. I surely couldn't!! And I don't blame McFarlane for doing the same when the opportunity arose.

With that said, I found myself flipping through my dusty old collection of his Spider-Man/Venom story arc and I found myself less than impressed with his art style at 34 than I was at 18. I remember thinking how dynamic his bendy-wendy version of Spider-Man was and how unique his style was.

Now, not so much.

And his artwork on Batman: Year Two was for the most part just awful. I say for the most part because he did have some really good panels and designs for Batman in parts of the story. But I think a lot of that had to do with a really bad inker. A terrible inker can ruin a fairly decent penciler.

Still, I would not be so bold to say McFarlane is a terrible artist. Surprisingly enough, I liked his artwork on Spawn/Batman which he did with Frank Miller way back in the dark days of Photoshop coloring and letter.

But I just don't find his style as pleasing as I did when I was a young kid.

However, you cannot criticize the quality of his toy line. He set the bar pretty damn high when he first put out his line of Action Figures. This was during a time when toys itself had gotten cheaper and lazier looking. The stuff he produced was amazing. And he continues to produce great stuff with his movie, comic and sports collectibles. And now there's a ton of collectibles on the market from other companies thanks to McFarlane.

I suppose it's easy for most of us to criticize someone who has reached success and is making his millions calling him a sell-out.

But just come back to me the day you get that phone call offering you millions and tell me you stuck by your artistic morals or not.

Cracked: After Hours

A couple months ago Dan O'Brien from contacted me about doing artwork for a brand new web series they were developing called Cracked: After Hours. The premise of the show was four employee's of getting together after work and riffing on pop culture. The artists chosen for the series would represent the inner thoughts of each of the characters on the show.

My artwork represents actress Katie Willert's (pictured) inner thoughts because my style and liking towards things from the 1920's and 1930's best suited her own tastes.

For those unfamiliar, Cracked Magazine was the MAD Magazine's closets rival since the late 1950's. There were countless humor mags around the same idea as MAD but Cracked was the only one of those rivals that hung around the longest and was the closest competition for MAD.

One of my favorite MAD Magazine cartoonists Don Martin even crossed enemy lines and worked for Cracked for a short while after a falling out with MAD when they refused to pay him royalties on reprints his work appeared in.

There's a link to the first episode of Cracked: After Hours in my previous blog post which is all about how the first Back to the Future is by far the worst ending in movie history. The characters reasons why are great!!

I also finished up artwork for the next couple episodes. Be sure to keep up with the series!! It's been a lot of fun to work on so far and the cast involved are a great group of actors!!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Why 'Back to the Future' Is Secretly Horrifying

"The first episode of Cracked: After Hours. A series I'm very happy to be contributing artwork for as actor Katie Willert's inner thoughts."
There are some things in the 'Back to the Future' universe you never never noticed.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Armsby Abbey and the Corner Grille

Two of Worcester's most pleasant surprises if you are looking for a night out on the town is The Armsby Abbey located on 144 Main Street and The Corner Grille located on 806 Pleasant Street. Both places are excellent for their own unique reasons.

I got to know about The Armsby Abbey through many of my friends through the artists groups in Worcester. Some of them work at the Abbey and do a great job preparing the food and desserts. All of which are made from scratch. And for someone like myself who loves micro brews, it has an amazing selection of locally brewed beers as well as beer they brew right inside the abbey.

It reminds me a great deal of the Amherst Brew Pub out in Amherst MA. Only the food at the Abbey is a bit more upscale. If you're looking for a cheap meal or a cheap beer this is not the place. And that's really a good thing. It keeps the the surlier crowd who are usually there to get blindingly drunk and get into a fight down the street at the Irish Times.

I've been to the Abbey a couple times and every time I've gone there both the meal and the beer I had was excellent. And it's on a part of Main Street that is easy to get to navigate down past the courthouse and going towards Highland Street. And parking is not a difficulty once it gets to that time of the night where you don't have to put money into the meters.

My only warning is to get there as early as possible if you want to get a table. It fills up really quickly once the dinner crowd arrives.

But it is so worth the visit and I highly recommend if you're looking for a night on the town with your lady or gentleman.

Our next stop is The Corner Grille. Worcester's best kept secret located on Pleasant Street. The place has been around since 1998 and I never knew it. But I'm glad I do now.

I've never had flat bread pizza before I went to the Grille. And now it's up there as one of my favorites.

I first found out about it during a work session with some of my friends with the Undercoverfish Group. Andy Fish was going to order pizza from there for lunch. I'm not a notorious lunch eater so I was going to pass which Andy replied "You'll be sorry". But my curiosity got the best of me (and I hate the idea of being sorry) so I ordered myself The Mad Russian Pie. Which had a creamy tomato-vodka sauce, chicken, artichoke hearts, baby spinach and cheese.

It was fantastic!! And I have made quite a few return visits to the Grille since. The other pizza I ordered was the Cave Man which has about any sort of meat you could possibly throw on a flat bread pizza.

I actually made a friend give up being a vegetarian because of that pizza. True story.

Much like the Armsby Abbey, The Corner Grille is a small place and fills up fast. So, you should probably get down there before the big crowd gets there. And so you can get an outside table. During the Summer that's probably the best place you can sit and have dinner while at the Grille.

It's BYOB. But there's a packie right across the street so you can pick up whatever drinks you would like to enjoy with the meal.

There are other great stops around the Woo, but as far as I'm concerned The Armsby Abbey and the Corner Grille are two of the best if you're looking for a nice night out.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bud Sagendorf

Nobody ever really got Popeye just right after EC Segar died. But Bud Sagendorf got it pretty close. But to be fair to any artists who followed Segar, I don't think that Segar himself would have been able to get Popeye right either even if he had lived. There was a lot going against both Popeye and Segar himself.

Namely the ever ominous form of William Randolph Hearst. According to the book Popeye: The First Fifty Years, Bud Sagendorf who had been Segar's assistant on the Popeye strips for many years recounts how Hearst demanded: "Popeye is loved by the children of America... Stop his swearing... Stop his brutality... Make him respectable".

Segar was furious and was quoted in saying "The fun will be gone. There's nothing funny about a sissy sailor!"

What makes all this worse, W.R. Hearst was a complete hypocrite. One one hand here he was acting like some shining night for morality and decency in America. He was also the person who started the smear campaign against marijuana.

But on the other hand, he was having an opened affair with actress Marion Davies while married to his wife Millicent.

So, a foul-mouthed sailor who occasionally punched a horse and people smoking marijuana for recreational use was highly immoral. But cheating on your wife is completely fine.

Not that I endorse the legalization of marijuana in any way. I'm just saying it smacks of hypocrisy to me. However, what Hearst doesn't mention is the fact that his campaign demonizing marijuana has really nothing to do with a moral issue. But the fact that people smoking it for recreational use cut into the hemp crop which he used to make his newspapers with.

Again, someone in power who is no better than a schoolyard bully. But I digress...

Nobody has really captured the spirit of the original Popeye strips since Segar's death in 1938. However, Bud Sangedorf's long run with the character is a definite close second.

The stories in Sangedorf's strips don't have that charm of the Segar strips. Segar was the master of creating these ongoing stories that borderline surreal. But those years as Segar's assistant do help him out with his approach to the character. The stories in the Sagendorf Popeye are more along the lines of the one-liner gags that newspaper strips have fallen into over the years.

Most comic strips seem to fall into the same formula. First Panel: setting up the joke. Second (and occasionally Third) Panel: Filler. Third (and occasionally Fourth) Panel: The Punchline.

And for the most part, even though it wasn't the same Popeye as Segar's, Sagendorf remained truer to the character than any of the animations created by Famous Studio, King Feature and Hanna-Barbera. Although, HB seemed to use a very watered-down version of Sagendorf's Popeye for their Saturday Morning Cartoon series.

I have a fondness for Sagendorf's character design for Popeye and the Thimble Theater cast primarily because that was my first introduction to the one-eyed (and thanks to the crappy Famous Studio character design occasionally two-eyed) sailor.

It was Sagendorf's character design of Popeye that adorned my lunchbox in kindergarten. I was constantly trying to copy the images on that lunchbox when I would draw Popeye, Olive, Wimpy and Bluto (sometimes called Brutus).

There is a great book I picked up at Worcester's one and only Pop Culture Emporium That's Entertainment called Popeye: The First Fifty Years. It's not a bad book loaded with Sagendorf's interpretations of Popeye and the rest of the cast as well as a few of Segar's original strips.

If you happen to find yourself an inexpensive copy I highly recommend you pick it up. It's particularly good if you have a child who loves to draw. The will have a great time trying to draw the characters in the book.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Hotel Vernon Speakeasy

Kelley Square is not only famous for being one of the scariest places on earth to drive through as well as a place where certain cops can create imaginary stop signs and red lights where they see fit.

It is also famous for the Hotel Vernon. One of hot spots for all the Night Owls in Worcester is the Ship Room in the Vernon. But what I didn't realize about the Hotel is there was also a SPEAKEASY in the hotel.

Recently, when I was getting ready to write my next installment of Polly and Handgraves I had decided without realizing it that I would put a speakeasy in the Kelley Square area for the next story. I did this without realizing there had been a speakeasy. I just did it because the stories I'm writing with P&H take place in the late 1920's when prohibition was being heavily (if not ridiculously) enforced.

So, logically since there are quite a few bars like the Vernon, Lucky Dog and Salty Dog in the Kelley Square area, I thought that seemed like the ideal spot for such an establishment to exist in historic Worcester Massachusetts.

You can imagine my surprise and astonishment when I was looking through my Facebook friend and Telegram & Gazette Investigative Reporter Thomas Caywood's photo's to see pictures taken in a speakeasy in the Hotel Vernon.

You would have thought I found Shangri-La, The Lost City of Atlantis and Gotham City all at the same time!! Like I said, I had no knowledge of such a place existing in Kelley Square let alone Worcester itself. It just seemed like the logical location for a speakeasy.

I guess the bar downstairs is in pretty rough shape but the owner is very proud of doing tours of it. It's a great piece of history. Still, it's a shame that they don't restore it and turn it into a working bar giving it a Roaring 20's flair.

I think Madame Rhubarb's Lounge at the Hotel Vernon would be a great attraction for not only some of my candle burners friends in the Woo but also history buffs who like 1920's and 1930's culture.

The Wortown Bombshells

You probably didn't realize Worcester Massachusetts had it's own Burlesque Troupe. Well it does!! Introducing The Wortown Bombshells.

For those of you unfamiliar:

Burlesque is a humorous theatrical entertainment involving parody and sometimes grotesque exaggeration. In 20th century America, the form became associated with a variety show in which striptease is the chief attraction.

For those of you familiar with burlesque, don't bother reading the last paragraph ;-)

Well, the Bombshells will be hosting their very first Sketch Night at the Hotel Vernon in Kelley Square on July 29th from 8pm till 10pm with a $5 admission and free food and cheap beer.

Which seems like a great excuse to me to risk a stopping violation from one of Kelley Square's MANY invisible stop signs and red lights.

Click on the banner below and get to know the loverly ladies of the Wortown Bombshells: