2017: Not a Resolution, More a Plan

reportcardLast week, I posted a sort of 2016 report card for myself. You probably want to read that post first if you haven’t already. There were several takeaways from my navel gazing.

  • I want to play more board games
  • I want to read more books
  • I want to watch fewer movies
  • I want to reduce or eliminate time wasters (social media, silly mobile games)

That’s all well and good, but there is a big difference between wanting something to happen, and making it happen. If I want the first three items on that list to happen, I have to be vigilant about the last item on the list. I need to replace time wasted on Facebook with time spend reading. I need to leave the mobile games alone, and play a board game instead. The idea is to eliminate bad stuff, and replace it with good stuff.

unnamed-1We’ll see how I do. I’m looking at apps that limit my time on my tablet, as that is where 90% of my wasted time goes. I’m trying both BreakFree and Moment, though I will likely only stick with one in the long term. Ideally I need a way to control only certain apps, as I do most all of my reading on my tablet. I suppose I could just buy a Kindle for reading, though that seems like a waste…

I have other goals for myself this year that are not directly related to the items above. Here they are.

Publish my third book

Last November, I wrote 22,000 or so words on my latest story. That takes it to 26,000 total. I want to get that up over 30,000 before I publish. Right now, I’m in the middle of my first serious round of revision, rewriting, and fleshing things out. I have a set deadline for this, as I am appearing at the SBU Library Comic Con again this year, and it is the first weekend in March. Working back from there, that means the print version needs to be done and ordered by mid-February, and the Kindle version even earlier than that, say, the first week of February. That’s a tough deadline, but doable. The third book will be a significant milestone for me in 2017.

geekonfleek_009Write two Geek on Fleek scripts each week

I announced before that I’m partnering with my friend Brandon Pennington (who did the awesome cover art on my first two books) on a webcomic. We’ve now got a website, which you can check out at geekonfleekcomix.com if you like. I write the scripts, he does the art and layout. We mainly focus on geek culture, because that’s who we are, naturally. We started in December, and so far are keeping to our two strips a week release goal. My part is easy, really, compared to Brandon’s, but it can be hard to sit down and think of something funny. Mainly the ideas come when I am doing something else. Anyhow, I want to make sure I keep on top of this for all of 2017, making sure I have plenty of scripts in the queue for my artist buddy.

product_detail_3162030205001_4623757311001_automanFinally get started on a podcast of my own

Being involved with the Tupacast has been one of the highlights of the past couple years for me. I love talking about things with Chris and Kevin, and we always have such a fun time recording. We’ve even got some fans, which is nice. The only bad thing about the Tupacast is that it’s difficult to get all three of us together. I hope we can be better this year than we were last, but there’s certainly nothing stopping me from doing a podcast of my own.

So, I’m calling it now. This summer, when I have my six weeks off school, I will record and release the first three episodes of the Automan podcast. Yes, Automan, the cheesy Tron ripoff from 1983. Trust me, it’s awesome, and you will love hearing me talk about it. Probably.

There will be other projects, naturally. I’d like to paint more in 2017, as I have a huge backlog of unpainted miniatures. I also want to continue the Star Trek Haiku project in some way. But the big three goals are finishing book #3, writing Geek on Fleek, and getting the Automan podcast started. Hopefully I will be more productive in 2017 than I was in 2016!

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Two Podcasts and a Comic Strip!

3591481091_6f63ecfd4eI’ve been very lax in posting news, due to NaNoWriMo, but there are three things I wanted to let everyone know about.

The first two are related to the Tupacast! After a several months long hiatus after we discussed Stranger Things on episode 15, we are back up and running again. It might be too late to listen to our Halloween memories episode, unless you enjoy candy. But it was still a good one. Our most recent topic was the awesome 80s flick Throw Mamma From the Train, which I had never seen before but enjoyed very much.

Episode 16 – Halloween Time!!

Episode 17 – Throw Mama From the Train

The last bit of news is very exciting. I am working with my buddy Brandon Pennington on a new comic strip. We’ve entitled it “Geek on Fleek Comix” which sounds good but who knows what it means? I don’t. We’ve got two strips up so far, and we’re planning to release new ones every Monday and Thursday. Stay tuned for a bigger announcement about the comics soon, but in the meantime, check out Brandon’s Instagram for the latest strips. For now, enjoy the two below!

A Box Chock Full of Vintage Awesome

As a follow up to the Pop Culture League blind box challenge from several weeks ago, Cool & Collected offered up mystery boxes to those of us who participated. For the low price of $20, I jumped at the chance of opening a box full of unknown but surely totally cool stuff. Lo and behold, last weekend, a rather heavy box was dropped off at my front door.

I was totally shocked with how much stuff was packed in the box! It just happened that my nephew, who is 4 years old, was at our house. He joined me, my wife, and our fifteen year old son as we gleefully went through it all. Check the pictures below for the full record, but here are some highlights!

  • As a Transformers fan, I was tickled to see Air Raid, a robot who transforms into a black jet. It’s my first vintage Aerialbot, oddly enough. Also: my first Happy Meal transformer, a hamburger! Always wanted to get these.
  • My wife is a Snoopy fan, and I love outer space… Astronaut Snoopy is perfect!
  • The 45 record of “Buy the World a Coke” makes me want to buy a record player.
  • An A-Team stamp? MOSC? Yes please!
  • You can never have enough Jawas.
  • I now own action figures from Hook and Water World. I never thought I’d be able to say that.
  • Even the comics were great choices: Iron Man, Indiana Jones, and NFL SuperPro!
  • I need to get a poster up in the game room for all the cool vintage stickers I’ve now amassed…

Major props to Brian at Cool & Collected. We had such a great time opening this stuff!

Happy Birthday, Jack Kirby!

Any debate over greatest comic book artist of all time is over before it starts. You can argue over who is number 2, but not who is “King”. Jack Kirby is at the top, and no one else can compare. Jack had a hand in creating the vast majority of the Marvel universe, and some of the best parts of the DC universe. From the X-Men to the Fantastic Four to Captain America and the New Gods, Kirby’s sheer creative genius and influence on superhero comics cannot be overstated.

Beyond the “folks in tights”, though, Jack was still a dynamo. Some of my favorite works of his come from a time that was, for most of the comic industry, a lull. The Comics Code controversy of the mid 1950s killed off EC Comics and their legendary sci-fi and horror books. The Silver Age had taken a few baby steps over at DC, but as the 50s rolled over into the 60s, Marvel wasn’t doing superheroes at all. They weren’t even called Marvel Comics yet; they were known as Atlas Comics.

Jack Kirby worked on several monthly Atlas titles, including science fiction and fantasy books involving giant monsters. Tales to Astonish, Tales of Suspense, Amazing Adventures… these weren’t the high points of Kirby’s career, to be certain. But no one can deny the sheer creativity on display as well as the imaginative gusto with which “King” Kirby cranked out these often goofy but always impressive tales. In celebration of Jack’s birthday (he would have been 99 years old), here’s a selection of my favorite Kirby monsters!

If Useless Trivia Was an Olympic Sport…

PopCultureLeague-Logo-BigIt’s time for another Pop Culture League challenge. Last week was a simple one, but this time the prompt took a little more thought. Everyone has Olympics on the brain (except me, I watched maybe half an hour here and there) and thus, the question is this: if ________ was an Olympic sport, I’d have a gold medal. What am I really, really good at? It’s tough to analyze yourself. I consider myself to be pretty good at lots of different things, but nothing sprang to mind as being world class, which an Olympic medal certainly would require. I’m a good Dungeon Master, but far from the best. I am a good problem solver, and creative, but not in comparison to the best and brightest of the world. I talked it over with my wife, and she said to quit overthinking it, and told me exactly what my greatest strength was.

I can remember useless trivia with the best of them. Without a doubt, if that was an Olympic sport, there would be multiple gold medals hanging on our fridge.

Detective_Comics_601What sort of useless trivia? Well, I have an uncanny knack for remembering exact situations and moments based on things that seem totally random. For example, I remember exactly what flavor snowcone (blueberry cream) I was reading on a hot summer day when I accidentally spilled it on my aunt’s copy of X-Men #137. I can recall what issue of Batman I was reading when I took a trip with my grandparents to a a family cemetery on Memorial Day in 1989. (It was Detective Comics #601 with art by the amazing Norm Breyfogle). I remember exactly what my parents got me for my 15th birthday (a Sony Walkman, with cool earbuds in a wind-up case), because of the book I was reading at the time, Orson Scott Card’s novelization of the movie The Abyss.

There’s more to it than that, though. It goes beyond just personal memories. I am very good at remembering things I read, and since I read all the time when I was younger (not nearly as much as I’d like to these days, I’m afraid), my brain is full of both interesting, useful facts and also near-useless factoids. FASERIP, the mnemonic for remembering all of the different statistical categories in TSR’s Marvel Super Heroes RPG is a good example. I remember that the special effects team in Return of the Jedi had trouble getting the AT-ST Scout Walker crushed by Ewok logs to look right, using several different types of metal before settling on nickel. Oh, and I know that the Hardy Boys always keep $50 stashed in the steering wheel of their car. So if you ever see them, and need a loan, don’t believe them if they say they’re broke.

Probably the best example, and the one that surely spawned my wife’s declaration of my perfect gold medal event, comes from when we were first dating. She understood my love for Star Wars, as evidenced by my mania for collecting Power of the Force figures as well as the lifesize Princess Leia standup in the apartment I shared with two other geeks. For my birthday, she got me Star Wars Trivial Pursuit, the classic original trilogy version. I was quite excited, and looked forward to the next game night when we could play. I got all my Star Wars fan friends together (the cross section of my friends and Star Wars fans is quite sizeable) and we played a game. My team went second. The other team answered about a dozen questions correctly before missing one, like “Who was the actor who played Lobot?” or some such.

b1500af8206f97b9f14771f946ab5c96Following this, my team went, and we actually managed to win the game without missing a question. One friend bellyached at one of our answers after the win. “How could you possibly know the number of the docking bay that the Millennium Falcon was pulled into?” Incensed at these accusations of cheating, I replied that I remembered it from playing the Star Wars Collectible Card Game, which featured Docking Bay 327 as a location. I don’t think I was the only one who began questioning my life decisions and priorities after that evening. I still have the game, though we haven’t played it since. It’s a great reminder of a fun memory, and I am so glad my wife decided to go ahead and marry me anyway, despite the Star Wars weirdness.

So there you go, the only Olympic event I could earn a gold medal in: knowledge of useless trivia.

 

Here are some other fun entries for this week’s Pop Culture League Challenge:

Jathniel is also a big fan of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit. I didn’t read this before I wrote mine, I promise! We’d get along well, I am sure.

Rediscover the 80s is a world class Contra player. As a fan of co-op and the NES, as well as the Konami code, I approve.

The Toy Box takes the gold medal for cataloging toys. My Transformers wish list spreadsheet might give him a run for his money.

The other awesome contributions to the challenge can be found at Cool and Collected.

Movie Review: Captain America (1979 TV Movie)

Screenshot 2016-05-09 15.31.06A couple weeks ago, my son and I started rewatching the Captain America and Avengers films in anticipation of Captain America: Civil War. I had actually not purchased Cap 2 or Avengers 2 on blu-ray, so I hopped over to Amazon and snagged them. One of those “Other Suggested Items” caught my attention: a DVD with both late 70s Captain America made for TV movies on it, for $4. How could I argue with that price? The day after we watched Civil War, I popped the DVD in and selected the first movie, to my son’s protest. “Just give it ten minutes,” I asked, and we did that, and more. It is one of those strange movies that are so bad they are good. Think Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster, or The Giant Claw, but with a superhero instead of bad monster effects.

Cap ’79 begins with a scintillating sequence of a custom conversion van driving on the coast. This lasts for several minutes, and is accompanied by generic 70s era music. There are lots of aerial shots here. The producers clearly wanted to get as much mileage out of their helicopter rental as possible, because there are several such sequences wasting time over the course of the film. Occasionally, the camera zooms in enough to see a blond guy driving the van. He might or might not be Steve Rogers, for all we know at this point.

Steve Rogers (and Captain America later, no need to swap actors!) is played by Reb Brown. Mr. Brown is tall, broad shouldered, and handsome enough, but, at least at this point in his career, has no stage presence whatsoever. He is the cinematic equivalent of a potted plant; he looks pretty good, but doesn’t really do much other than take up space. We learn that the TV movie version of Steve Rogers is an ex military guy who is wandering the land, trying to find himself, or some such thing. I think mostly he just wants to drive that sweet van around. (Side note: I wonder what Steve would think of the A-Team van?)

After a scene where Steve draws a picture for a beach bum friend, the bad guys first appear. Said bad guys try to kill Steve by spraying fresh oil on the highway. What a diabolical and reliable scheme! Their motivation for attempting to murder Steve isn’t clear at this point in the film, and after watching it all, I’m still uncertain why they’re doing this, other than It’s In The Script. Steve survives the wreck (which was more accurately a fender bender), then uses a motorcycle for a while instead. I think maybe he was a pro motorcyclist or something? When he had time for that in between tours of duty, who knows, but whatever.

Screenshot 2016-05-09 15.32.44The country’s best scientist, Dr. Simon Mills, portrayed by Len Birman, gets in touch with Steve. I like Dr. Mills, the actor is very good, really the best thing in the movie. Doc informs our “hero” that years ago, Steve’s dad had created a super steroid (yes they straight up call it that) called F.L.A.G. (Full Latent Ability Gain). I take it back what I said about Len Birman, I think that acronym is the best thing in the movie. Anyway, these steroids worked fine on Steve’s dad, but since he was murdered, no one has been able to make F.L.A.G. work. Not without killing a bunch of lab rats, anyway. Dr. Mills asks Steve to help them by giving blood and whatnot so that they can try to perfect the steroid formula. As a patriotic veteran, and innately noble soul, Steve graciously volunteers, even at great personal risk to himself.

Wait! No, that’s not what happens at all. This version of Steve Rogers wants nothing to do with any of it, he just wants to drive around, visit beaches, and be a starving artist. For real. Some hero this dude is.

Later, the bad guys corner Steve and he is gravely wounded. Dr. Mills, for some reason, is the presiding surgeon. He decides that the only way to save Steve’s life is to administer F.L.A.G. to him. Without Steve’s permission, of course. Within moments of his injection, Steve recovers. F.L.A.G. works as well on him as it did for his father. He’s up and around in record time. Feeling the emotional toll of his near death experience, a grateful Steve dons the costume and goes off in search of the bad guys to foil their plot.

Screenshot 2016-05-09 15.35.47Nope, wrong again! Steve is outraged at Dr. Mills for saving his life! The anger he shows is probably the most animated Reb Brown gets in the whole movie. It’s unfortunate that he only really acts when his character is being a jerk! The guy has no interest whatsoever in being a hero. It’s only after he gets out of the hospital and is attacked a THIRD time by the baddies (in a meat processing plant, naturally) that he changes his mind. He spends a day at the beach in some uncomfortably small swim trunks chatting it up with Dr. Mills and his lovely assistant Dr. Day. Steve and Day kiss once, and never really talk to each other again. Are they now a thing? I don’t know. It’s weird. Steve draws a picture of a star spangled costume, showing that he accepts his fate. And thus, a hero is born. Wow. What an inspiring origin!

Remember the sweet van? It’s back, this time, outfitted with a motorcycle launching mechanism. Dr. Mills and all the other secret science folks were busy while Steve was at the beach, I guess. You can’t really talk about Captain America without mentioning his shield, right? It’s absolutely iconic, and a huge part of the character. It would have been easy for the creators to skip the shield, but they don’t, and I appreciate that. Instead of being made of a vibranium-adamantium alloy, it’s clear bulletproof plastic of some sort. Eh, okay. It reminds me of the energy shield Cap wielded for a while back in the 90s. Dr. Mills shows Steve that the shield can be both a defensive tool as well as an offensive weapon. The doc gives the shield a heave, and it flies for a bit as depicted by some very sketchy special effects before Steve catches it. That’s the first, last, and ONLY time anyone ever throws the shield in the movie. THE DOCTOR GETS TO THROW IT, NOT CAP. I changed my mind again, Dr. Mills really is the best thing in the movie. My brain is hemorrhaging from confusion at this point.

Screenshot 2016-05-09 15.36.24Another cool feature of the shield is that it is the windshield for the bike. I will admit that this motorcycle is sweet. It’s red, white, and blue all over the place. There are jets to get the speed up when needed, and also a silent mode that eliminates all engine noise. Steve, being an accomplished motorcycle rider, takes his sweet new toy out for a spin. A very, very long spin. Handily, there are some ramps and stuff on this super secret government base for him to play on. I know Evel Knievel was the bee’s knees at this point in history, but all this motorcycle stuff is excessive. It’s Captain America, not Ghost Rider, for crying out loud! Lo and behold, a helicopter full of bad guys appears, and they chase Steve down. He uses a ramp and the jets on the bike to jump into the helicopter and dispatch the evil guys. I’m still not sure why they feel he’s such a threat to their plan, which we’ve learned by now is something about a bomb. Like I said before, it’s unclear.

We have now been watching this movie for an hour and ten minutes, and finally thing are starting to move along. Drs. Mills and Day, along with some super hearing assistance by Steve, figure out where the bad guys are. Mills drops a bombshell, telling everyone that people used to call Steve’s dad Captain America, teasing him, I suppose. Yes, a nickname used to BELITTLE HIS FATHER is taken as the son’s superhero call sign. (I can’t even.) Dr. Mills tells Steve to “shove Captain America down their throats” which makes everyone uncomfortable, and then, at long last, Steve dresses up in his superhero suit (based on the drawing he made earlier, a mashup of Evel Knievel and the classic costume). What does he do first? He drives off on an extended motorcycle scene, of course.

Screenshot 2016-05-09 15.37.58

Finally, FINALLY, we have Captain America taking on some bad guys in hand to hand combat. Or, you’d think we would have it, but he ends up sneaking around the oil refinery bad guy HQ more than anything. He can jump really high, you see, and even though he is clearly visible on the outdoor catwalks, no one notices him until it’s too late. One thing I nearly forgot that simply must be mentioned is the sound effect that accompanies every display of Cap’s superpowers. It’s the Six Million Dollar Man/Bionic Woman noise, almost exactly. Come to think of it, this Cap’s origin has more in common with astronaut Steve Austin than it does the comics.

In a very odd sequence, Steve breaks an oil pipe and sprays it all over a patch of ground. The inept security guards run right into it, and we are treated to slipping sliding hijinks. Cap watches from afar, laughing at them. I can see it now: when the creators wrote this scene, they were like “hey, remember how at the beginning they tried to kill Steve by spraying oil on the road? What if he sprayed oil back on them at the end? Man, that would be far out, right? Like, a thematic tie or something.” And then they went out for lunch at a fancy restaurant because they are Hollywood Writers and they are Important Creative Talent. The whole scene comes off as a Three Stooges bit. It’s totally awkward and out of place.

Screenshot 2016-05-09 15.38.45

Wasn’t there something about a bomb? Yes, indeed there was. Turns out the bad guys are sending a bomb somewhere else, and Cap has to go stop them! You know what that means: more motorcycle scenes! After several grueling minutes, Cap catches up to the truck hauling the bomb. He leaps off his bike in order to climb aboard, and inexplicably leaves his shield behind! There’s no way a bulletproof shield would in any way be useful from this point on, why even bother with it, you know? Cap uses an exhaust pipe to literally smoke out the head bad guy in the trailer with the bomb. Dr. Mills shows up, I think they disarm the bomb, and all is well.

Steve decides that he will now carry on his father’s work even more closely, by using the exact same costume Pappa Rogers used during his bad guy fighting days. Yes, that’s right, apparently Steve’s dad actually dressed up in a costume while crime fighting, and no one ever said anything about it until three minutes before the end of the film. I don’t get it, either, but the whole costume thing does explain why they called daddy-o Captain America. We are treated to a final scene of Cap riding on his motorcycle in his new costume, which more closely resembles the comic book version. He and Dr. Mills have a brotastic handshaking moment, and the credits roll.

Screenshot 2016-05-09 15.39.12Wow. This movie is really something. They managed to strip away almost every important attribute of Captain America. The key theme of the super soldier serum bringing out the inner qualities of Steve Rogers is totally abandoned. This dude is buff already, plus a motorcycle ace and an ex-soldier before he ever uses F.L.A.G., and that ruins it. Unlike the “real” version, this Steve doesn’t believe in helping other people and doing the right thing, either. He doesn’t even choose to use F.L.A.G., remember? Even when, due to events outside his control, he gets super powers, he still protests. Captain America is a lot of things, but a reluctant hero is not one of them.

This Cap doesn’t feel particularly patriotic, either. You get the feeling that he regrets his time in military service since he just wants to wander around doing nothing. Even when he does don the costume, he doesn’t fight America’s military enemies, just corrupt business men. There are no Nazis or even Soviet threats here. A Cold War era Red Skull reimagining would have made sense and could have been cool, but no. The villains feel like something from The Incredible Hulk TV series, which I am sure was a large influence on this movie. I believe it was supposed to be a backdoor pilot for a Cap TV show, but the ratings weren’t there, and instead it spawned only a sequel TV movie.

If the creators hadn’t ignored what makes Captain America such a great hero, the movie would have been better. It could have inspired a decent TV show that was fondly remembered today. Instead, we got a bizarre mashup of the Bionic Man and Evel Knievel that doesn’t really work. Do I regret watching it? Not for a moment. It is perhaps the most 1979 thing you will ever come across, from the music to the fashion to the low budget. This Captain America movie isn’t good by any means, but the nostalgia factor and the excessive liberties (if you’ll excuse the pun) taken with the core character concept make it interesting. I’m curious as to how the sequel turned out, and when I watch it, I’ll be sure to share my thoughts here.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 Clear Plastic Shields

 

Prince, Batman, and my Grandparents

Prince_BatmanPrince died today. This is distressing news for me, and, if social media is any indication, for many others as well. Prince is one of the greatest musicians of all time. He was the total package, a music icon. He had the right look and a larger than life stage presence. More than that, he was a prodigious talent, arguably the most talented guitarist of his generation, but also a gifted lyricist and songwriter. His rise in critical acclaim and popularity came in the mid 1980s, the same time I moved from listening to what my parents liked to what I myself liked. (Actually, it was what everyone else liked, but you know what I mean. It wasn’t Barbara Mandrell and the Oak Ridge Boys.) I never, ever changed the station when Prince came on, and in fact recorded several of his songs right off the radio onto cassette tape.

I could never choose a favorite Prince song, but one in particular takes me back to a vivid memory when I hear it. In 1989, I was fifteen years old and in the peak of comic book frenzy. Tim Burton’s Batman was coming to theaters, and I was reading all the great Batman stuff I could get my hands on. The Dark Knight Returns, Year One, The Killing Joke, you name it, I read it. Batmania was so powerful a force in my life that I collected Batman related newspaper and magazine articles in a scrapbook. (I wonder if I still have that somewhere?) When I hard that Prince was creating songs featured in the film, I was thrilled. Batman and Prince were like chocolate and peanut butter, two things I loved that would surely be more awesome together.

I was not disappointed when I first heard one of the songs Prince wrote for Batman. I taped “Batdance” and listened to it over and over again. It was strange and different yet catchy and amazing. Sampling speech is a common thing in music now, but back in 1989 it was quite unusual. Snippets of voices and phrases from the movie blended in perfectly with the rest of the song. “Batdance” was like three songs mixed in one: a hard driving, drum heavy first half, a more relaxed, strutting funk in the second half, with a ridiculous guitar solo in between. I loved “Batdance” and couldn’t wait to see the music video when it premiered.

prince-batdanceOne problem: my family had made plans when “Batdance” was scheduled to hit MTV. We’d be at my grandparents’ house for a cookout on the grill and homemade ice cream. Normally, this would be something to look forward to, but not this time. I wanted to be glued to the boob tube so I could watch Prince that evening. Being fifteen, there was nothing I could do about it. When we got to Grandma’s, it was a full house. My favorite aunt was there, as she was young enough that she stilled lived with them. My uncle and his wife and my two cousins were also present. There were lots of burgers and hot dogs to grill, plus three different kinds of ice cream to make. We all ate way too much, and proceed to sit around visiting in the living room. I was preoccupied. According to the grandfather clock, Prince would be debuting “Batdance” in just a few minutes. My parents had given no indications that we were leaving, but even if we left at that exact moment, it would take too long to get home anyway. It seemed I was out of luck.

Desperate, I pled with my Grandpa to change the channel from his baseball game to MTV. Now, you must understand that my family was conservative then and still is today. My parents didn’t let me watch rated R movies until I was in high school. There were certain TV shows I couldn’t watch (Miami Vice, for one, as it had a very high ratio of bikinis per minute). I’d been forbidden to watch MTV when I was younger, but as a teenager that restriction had eased a bit. These rules were for our house, however. My grandparents were more strict. At Grandpa’s, I never got to pick what we’d watch. The first instance of coarse language or a scantily clad person would result in the immediate changing of the channel. I knew this, and I understood that watching MTV was pushing it. My desire to see “Batdance” overrided my common sense. Surprisingly, my grandpa agreed. Perhaps a belly full of protein and strawberry ice cream made him more susceptible to my plight. In any event, he flipped the channel over just in time for us all to watch “Batdance”.

I sat about three feet from the screen as the beat started up. The purple, smoky set and the sheer spectacle of the video were mind blowing. Girls in skintight Batman costumes gyrated, but they flipped their capes around enough that I didn’t think my grandparents would object. Several guys dressed up as the Joker partnered up with the Batmen (Batgirls?), showing off slick routines and outstanding moves. Prince looked incredibly cool, painted up half as Batman, half as the Joker. My comic addled brain knew this must have been a Two-Face reference. The guitar solo began, and Prince totally nailed it. He went after the guitar with lusty abandon. I stole a look at my grandma, and it was clear that she disapproved of Prince’s thrusting hips and writhing motions. I ignored the look on her face and kept watching.

imagesAnd that’s when the Vicki Vales stepped in. A whole host of tall, leggy blondes appeared, and Prince started crawling between their legs. Now, everyone in the house was watching. The Vickis busted out some moves, all while wearing the shortest skirts that the world had ever seen. The “leader” Vicki had letters spelling out “ALL THIS AND BRAINS TOO” on her top. I instantly recognized the phrase from The Dark Knight Returns. Considering the looks of the adults in the room, “Batdance” wasn’t going over well. I was beginning to worry. Right about this time, one of the Vickis pulled her skirt up to reveal a Batman tattoo right on her thigh/hip/naughty area. Mentally, I grimaced; this was too much for my poor grandparents. I’d listened to the song a thousand times, so I knew that there was a bit of salty language near the end. I decided it would be best for my long term health as well as my relationship with my living ancestors to stop before that point. I told Grandpa to please change it back to baseball, and he did.

“I can’t believe what passes for entertainment these days!” Grandma exclaimed. Grandpa nodded in agreement. There was discussion among the rest of the adults along those same lines. My aunt was cool about it; she told me she thought it was pretty awesome. I agreed 100%. It was one of the best music videos I had ever seen. The choreography, costumes, and theatrics elevated it to something truly special.

I know “Batdance” isn’t Prince’s best song. It’s not even in the top ten. But when I heard of Prince’s passing, “Let’s Go Crazy” or “Purple Rain” weren’t what sprang immediately to mind. “Batdance” was the first song I wanted to listen to. Hearing the song again, followed by watching the video, took me back in time. It made me remember the thrill of hearing it for the first time on the radio. It reminded me of how much Grandpa loved watching ball games, but loved me more, enough to change to a channel he didn’t approve of. And it also reminded me of that summer of Batmania, and how much I loved the movie both then and now. I’ll always enjoy all of Prince’s music, but “Batdance” has a special place in my heart. Like all his fans, I am thankful to Prince, for his music foremost, but also for the memories that come to mind whenever I hear it.