Retro Spins: Less Than Zero

All I can remember about the film, Less Than Zero, is it's the movie where Robert Downy Jr. was turning tricks for drugs. Beyond that, it was a pretty forgettable flick. Hopefully the soundtrack will have a bigger impact.

Julian (ROBERT DOWNEY, JR) - has everything money, style...and a habit he can no longer afford. Faced with debts that he can't pay he drags his friends into a new world filled with drugs, danger and violence.

His friend Clay (ANDREW McCARTH) will do just about anything to help but Julian's going down the tubes so fast he might just take both clay and his girlfriend Blair (JAMI GERTZ) with him. In a world of drugs, power and money sometimes you can have anything you ever dreamed of except - the way it used to be... - Back cover of the original VHS

The album draws in some of the 80's biggest talent via the likes of Aerosmith, Poison, LL Cool J, Glen Danzig, Slayer, Public Enemy, Joan Jett and Bangles to provide an eclectic album of rap, hard rock and a splash of metal. If it were being judged solely on this, it would get an A+ all the way.

Unfortunately, even established artists can deliver duds, and that is sadly the case for a fair amount of the album. Aerosmith's Rocking Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu feels like a throw away song for the band. Something that wasn't necessarily a good fit, style wise, for the band's 1987 album Permanent Vacation (released the same year as Less Than Zero), but good enough if someone wanted to pay them a couple bucks for (or a million) to throw on a soundtrack so it didn't go to waste.

Poison's cover of Rock And Roll All Night left me wishing the producers of the album had just paid Kiss whatever they wanted to use their version. Poison as a whole isn't terrible, but their flamboyant version of the song does it zero justice. Less than zero actually. See what I did there?

Slayer's, destroyed, version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is plain awful. It takes everything that was special about that original seventeen minute track and condenses it down to a three minute nineteen second noisy mess. I say this for Poison as much as I say it for Slayer - Established bands don't need to make covers of other people's music. Especially when said music is already a classic of sheer perfection. For starters, I expect more from bands such as this. Secondly, there's no reason to mess with the classics. They're classics for a reason, and typically can't be improved upon.

Oddly enough, as someone who doesn't necessarily prefer rap music, that's actually the aspect of this album I found myself enjoying the most. LL Cool J's Going Back to Cali and Public Enemy's Bring The Noise grabbed my attention pretty hard, and had me digging them. I also have to take a step back at this point because I have to admit I really liked Hazy Shade Of Winter by (The) Bangles. In my defense I did say "typically can't be improved upon." Not that they couldn't be.

This, however, is just three out of eleven songs. Not a good ratio when you break it down. Percentage wise, that makes this album pretty much a dud. At the very least, poor. Mind you, that won't stop me from grabbing the three tracks I did like for my 80's mix in iTunes.

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Marvel Universe Series II (Impel)

Marvel Universe Series II

When Marvel and Impel found immediate success in the trading card business with their newly designed Marvel Universe series in 1990, they knew at that point they would be printing money to keep the sets coming. They did just that.

Hot on the heels of series one, the duo produced and released series two. Packs flew off the shelves.

Much like the prior set, series two kept the card sections confined to specific "titles"; Super Heroes, Villains, Teams, Rookies, Etc. The set featured one hundred sixty-two base cards and five holofoil chase cards.

A nice new added touch to the backs of each card were "Power Ratings". This was a chart / graph, which showed the character's stats based on a zero through seven numbering system. It featured; Strength, Speed, Agility, Stamina, Durability and Intelligence. These numbers could be cross referenced to cards 159 - 161, which explained in detail what each level's "power" meant.

The base series wrapped up with a two sided checklist.

Impel produced a nice set of five holofoil cards to chase down. Based on what other sealed box buyers have said, it doesn't appear that there was really any rhyme or reason as to how they were inserted. Some buyers have gotten upwards of five in a box, and others as little as two.

Though I honestly didn't enjoy the design of series two over series one, I was still really happy with the cards back in the early 90's. I remember ripping open pack after pack trying to complete a set. However, since I never actually got a full box of them at one time, I don't recall ever pulling any of the chase cards. I did eventually manage to put a full base set together.

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Retro Spins: Say Anything...

Pretty much everything I know about this movie can be found on the album cover. John Cusack holds a boom box over his head and plays In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel.

Lloyd Dobler wants one thing for high school graduation: a date with Diane Court. She's a beautiful, brilliant scholar who's just landed a fellowship to study in England - all of which makes her way out of Lloyd's league. At least that's what his friends and her father believe. Lloyd, however, believes in love, pure and simple. So he sets out to capture Diane's heart and in the process they both learn about the happiness and heartaches of falling in love.

SAY ANYTHING is a funny, poignant, joyous celebration of first love. It features two of today's most exciting young actors: John Cusack ("The Sure Thing") and lone Skye ("River's Edge"). Together they create an on-screen chemistry that vibrates with passion, humor and charm. A love that defies all logic is sometimes the most logical thing in the world. - Back cover of the original VHS

A movie from 1989 means one unfortunate thing in my book. It's right in that range where 80's music got really, really bad. For those of you who don't know, that, for me, is music which came between 1987 and 1989. As such, I was really preparing myself to not necessarily enjoy this album.

It had a few high notes to offer. The live version of Living Colour's Cult Of Personality was raw and powerful. I also can't hate on Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes, even though the track had been available since 1986 on his So album.

Beyond these two tracks, the album was rather forgettable for me. I didn't hear anything that really grabbed my attention. It was just a group of random songs, and not necessarily very good ones at that.

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NFL SuperPro (Marvel Comics)

NFL SuperPro
Marvel Comics
1991 - 1992

With as many years as Marvel Comics has under its belt, sometime in that long expansive history, you're going to falter. That's pretty much what happened in September 1991 when Marvel joined forces with the NFL and released the one-shot NFL SuperPro!

Phil Grayfield used to be a football pro until an injury brought his career to a halt. Now as a sports reporter, Grayfield finds himself interviewing a chemist who has created a football uniform which is impervious. However, the interview is cut short when a group of thieves interrupt, and set fire to the chemist's home.

Grayfield accidentally knocks over the chemicals, and they combine with valuable souvenirs and the reporter, making the man invulnerable. With the aid of the most unusual team; the penny shooting Allmighty Dollar, the genius Asian, Calculator, the fat guy with the impervious stomach, Girth and a super speedster, Streak, Grayfield decides to fight crime.

Yes, it really was as bad as it sounds.

In September of 1991, Marvel not only unleashed this abomination through comic shops, but also football stadiums across the country. They then followed up with a monthly ongoing series.

I have three theories for why they would do such a thing:

  1. Someone at Marvel truly thought SuperPro would be a successful monthly series.
  2. Marvel had spent so much money on the NFL license that they felt they had to do something to recoup some of the costs.
  3. The series was a contractually obligated joint effort between Marvel and the NFL, and as such, Marvel had to produce something.

Whatever reason it was, right on the heels of the one-shot, Marvel launched issue number one in October 1991. Throughout its minimal twelve book run, the series dragged along with it the likes of Captain America and Spider-Man. However, this didn't seem to do much, if anything at all, to help book sales.

Spider-Man appears in issue number one, shown above.

The series has been cited as one of the worst in Marvel's history by comic book fans and sports reporters, often being ridiculed for its poor plot points, corny one liners and stereotypical characters. However, it's also been boosted to a pop culture cult status for the exact same reasons. SuperPro is so bad, he's apparently good.

Captain American appears in issue number eight, shown above.

Since most of the books can be found in quarter and dime boxes, you can literally collect the entire series for under ten dollars. Though the first issue and one-shot will set you back a buck or two a piece.

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The Original Spawn Action Figure & Comic ReMastered

Want to get in on Todd McFarlane's Kickstarter for the original Spawn? You have just a few days left to do so!

Go to his Kickstarter at the link "HERE", and select your tier. The current goal of $100,000.00 has far been exceeded, with pledges getting close to a whopping $2,000,000.00! Not only are there seven different tiers to choose from, but McFarlane has upgraded them four different times based on the current pledges.

The figure will come in three different options. Individually, you can select to get the classic, modern or artist proof versions for $40.00. However, if you want a hand autographed plate included inside the box, you can up your selection to $80.00. Finally, there is also a three pack option for $160.00, which will also include an autograph plate.

Due to the continued upgrades, Spawn's chains will now be metal, each figure will have two heads and the three pack will include six weapons, three of which are unique to the set. Will further upgrades be introduced as the project runs down? Who knows, but I'm excited to find out.

Get yours while you can!

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Comics Corner: The Amazing Spider-Man 34

Title: The Amazing Spider-Man
Issue Number: 34
Release Date: March 1966

  • Betty Brant has a dream that Peter is Spider-Man
  • Gwen Stacy starts to plan her strategy to get Peter's attention
  • Kraven returns, impersonating Spider-Man to lure him out
  • Betty Brant quits the Daily Bugle
Low Points
  • When caught, Kraven randomly explains that he was impersonating Spider-Man - Why? Nobody suspected him as doing so
  • Aunt May tells Peter, "You're such a caution." Um...What? Must be old people talk.
Rating (based on a 1 through 5 Stans grading system)

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San Diego Comic Con 2020 Cancelled

Though it's no surprise, it's still shocking to hear that San Diego Comic Con 2020 has been officially cancelled. This is the first time in fifty years the con has not been able to occur as scheduled.

While I know July 23 - 26 is still quite a bit away, it's probably a good thing that event organizers have made this decision now, versus waiting until later. This gives special guests, vendors and attendees an opportunity to cancel reservations, not scrambling at the last minute to do so.

However, with that said, it will be interesting to see how companies such as Hasbro and Funko will handle their already produced exclusives. If you had any interest in the various already announced items, you may want to pay close attention to each respective website to see what they'll do with them. I'm sure it will involve some form of direct sale on a specific day at a specific time - Which never works out well.

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A Box From Branded In The 80's

A few months ago, Shawn over at Branded In The 80's put up a post about the original series one Marvel Universe Trading Cards. This was a set of trading cards I had during my teen years, along with series two and three, and I was really excited to read about him opening a box and putting his set together after all these years. While reading, I noted he said that he actually completed two sets, but didn't know what to do with the extra. I politely left a comment that I would most definitely be interested in them if he was willing to part with them. Shawn was quick to respond, asking me to send him my address.

Then the coronavirus hit. The world went nuts and people stopped going outside. Still, through all of this, Shawn didn't forget about me. In fact, when he reached out to tell me it was on the way, he hinted at an additional surprise inside. Today this arrived on my doorstep.

As I opened the Priority Mail box, I excitedly said, "Oh, wow! He gave me the original box! That was really awesome of him!" A great surprise indeed...

...Boy, I wasn't even close. As I flipped the lid open, I was greeted not only to a complete set of series one, but also series two! What?!?!?! I was so excited, grateful and thankful to see them both! Surprise indeed!

The memories came flooding back as I thumbed through the cards. These held a lot of importance to me as a young comic book collector. These were essentially my introduction to a lot of these characters. Who was Marvel Girl, High Evolutionary and Baron Von Zemo? I had no clue at the time, until I got these cards and read the backs.

I love the way these sets are broken up. Series one features Heroes, Villains, Rookies, Famous Battles, Most Valuable Comics, Teams, Spidey Comics and gets rounded out with a pair of Stan Lee and Checklist cards.

Series two starts out with the heroes and villains. But then incorporates new categories, such as,  Archenemies, Weapons and Legends. It then comes back to Rookies and Teams, finishing up the series with Power Ratings and a Checklist.

Such wonderful memories. I have long since wanted to add these cards back into my collection, but could never find them at Timonium when I went. Sure, I could have picked them up off of ebay, but that just wasn't the story I wanted for these. I have so many toys which were acquired this route, and there's no history to them at this point. No memory to reflect back on. Getting these cards from Shawn has definitely made them special and memorable. Amidst a pandemic and lock down, there's certainly a story to tell now.

Thanks, Shawn!

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Leftover Makover:Chuck Roast To Stroganoff

I hope all of you had a pleasant Easter, taking time to reflect on what the importance of the day was for you, in whatever that was, spiritual, candy, bunnies. Regardless of your own personal reflections for the day, I'm sure this lock down made it a unique one.

In anticipation of the day, I set to marinating a chuck roast on Saturday, letting it sit overnight. When it was time, I tossed it in the oven on a low heat, and let it go for a few hours. Accompanying it was a batch of homemade scalloped potatoes. Once everything was all cooked up, I took the pan drippings and made a quick gravy. The end result of everything was quite tasty.

Of course, there were plenty of leftovers, which meant I was quick to thinking about what to do with all of it. Sure, I could throw it on a plate the next day and have round two, but nah. That's no fun. My girlfriend actually ended up keeping the potatoes for herself, so I didn't have to worry about those. However, had I, they would have been the start of a hearty potato soup.

The meat, on the other hand, that was mine to do with as I pleased. And do, I did. Before I was even done with dinner, I had the plan of stroganoff in my mind as a tasty way to zsoosh up another meal.

First and foremost, I needed a sauce. For this, I sliced up an onion and threw it in a pan with a bit of butter. As those got tender, I tossed in two tablespoons of chopped parsley and a teaspoon of thyme. To that, I added 1/4 a cup of white wine, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a tablespoon of minced garlic, one can of beef broth and 1/2 a cup of heavy cream. I seasoned all of this to taste with a dash of salt and a whole lot of pepper.

I tossed in the leftover meat, slapped a lid on it and let it simmer on low for an hour, letting all those delicious things hang out and get acquainted. This also served the purpose of slow cooking up the meat to make it moist and tender.

After an hour, I took my leftover gravy, which was about a cup, and threw it in the pan. The lid went back on and it simmered another forty minutes. This was probably the smartest thing I did with this dish, because that gravy blasted it with a hearty beef flavor.

Now stroganoff needs noodles. But you know what's great about noodles? They'll cook in any liquid you put them in. Best of all, they'll absorb the flavor of what they're cooking in. You guessed it. In the pot they went with the sauce and meat, lid on to avoid evaporation. Another nine minutes of simmering, and the end result was well worth the wait.

Delicious! See how the noodles are brownish from absorbing all of that sauce, versus the yellowish white they would have been if cooked in water? That's flavor town! Always cook your noodles in the sauce they are for.

Mushrooms typically go in stroganoff, but I didn't have any. Honestly, I didn't miss them either. This was perfect the way it was.

There are several serving left in this pan, and I have to admit, I'm way excited to have another plate for lunch tomorrow. This was delicious! Much more so than round one. There may be something to this leftovers thing.

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