- Baby Boxing Is the Secret Origin of the Navy SEALs
That’s my theory and you can’t convince me otherwise. The Navy sponsored baby boxing and 20 years later we got the first SEALs. Coincidence? An awfully convenient one, I say.
Sure, we know about the kids brutalized in coke mines and upon printing presses, but the old days were also nuts for treating children like inexpensive toys. Come watch with me as a tiny tot is pressed to the mat relentlessly by a kid with six months’ growth and development over him. That is a significant portion of both their lives!
- Comedy at Ground Zero
Over at the ol’ 1-900-HOTDOG, I watched a couple of vintage U.S. Civil Defense videos on how to survive nuclear fallout without your shadow being burnt into a wall or puking up your own internal organs. “Walt Builds a Family Fallout Shelter” segues into “Fallout: When and How to Protect Yourself” with so much existential awe that there’s not even time for this puppet nightmare. Ah well, perhaps there will be time in our ongoing nuclear dread.
If you want the complete experience, read it while listening to Tom Lehrer, whom I played on loop with a couple quick breaks for Fishbone and Weird Al’s ground zero gallows glee.
- The Most Faithful* DCEU Production Ever Is a 1979 TV Movie
Are you scared about the future? Scared about the present? Scared there’s no future? Let the past reassure you, thanks to the most devoted* adaptation of the DC Universe ever put to film. Over at 1-900-HOTDOG I reviewed Legends of the Superheroes: The Challenge and The Roast, and found them strangely wonderful? They do exactly what they set out to do. I think they just caught the wrong part of the comedic era they nailed. Existing in the same universe as Adam West’s Batman, they indulged similar humor, but it had gone from sly and self-mocking to a post-Steve Martin ironic cheese.
Regardless, I was surprised how much more I enjoyed it than when I originally purchased a bootleg VHS of it at a comic shop in the ’90s. It’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. And yes, the people at the time knew how cheesy it was, and yes, that immediately hampered it. But it’s kind of fun and charming all the same. Go read my comedic take on Legends of the Superheroes at the very affordable price of one penny or more with 1-900-HOTDOG.
*One caveat: faithful to the Adam West version of Batman’s Earth.
- Red Shoe Diaries: “Kidnap”
Beautiful people! Boxy clothes! A narrowly heteronormative view of sexuality! Zero fear of AIDS! Welcome to Hollywood’s view of sexy in the ’90s. Oh, it was a strange time, when it was still shameful to be a Nazi, but The Simpsons caused an uproar for saying “Hell…”
The stage thus set, the early ’90s was a meager time to hit puberty. If you wanted eroticism, you had to steal your friend’s dad’s porn, only to learn that you weren’t much into Shitty-Titty Biddies Vol. XIV – The Biddies Hit the City. We had internet but barely any web to speak of. If you were willing to burn four of your ten AOL hours for the month, you could download LesbianPicnic2.jpg but there was a double-digit chance it would turn out to be Lemon Party, the rickroll of elder porn.
No wonder, then, that so many of us sexually imprinted on the wavy lines of scrambled premium cable. True, the photo-negative skin was blue, but it was bare. Besides, we had Stone Temple Pilots videos and AIDS panic; even unscrambled sex culture was weirdly distorted.
In this miasma did we find ourselves staring at the scrambled lines of Zalman King’s Red Shoe Diaries, whose incredibly troubling episode “Kidnap” is the subject of my latest for 1-900-HOTDOG. You may have watched it as the in-universe Friends episode S0E14, “The One Where Joey Films Another Softcore.” And like most hotdoggery, the longer you look, the darker it gets.
- ‘City Dragon’: This Indie Drama Doesn’t Know It’s a Kung-Fu Video Game
As I roll into another year as a 1-900-HOTDOG columnist, I’m starting to notice that the bulk of my accepted pitches are the DVDs or even VHS tapes that I bought as bootlegs in comic book stores more than half a lifetime ago, sprinkled with the occasional e-book I saved to mock back in the ’00s. Today’s latest offering was a street purchase around 2007 with the thought that I might send it to Seanbaby for him to work his genius on. Funny little world that it’s 2022 and now I’m taking a comedic look at City Dragon at long last under his employ. I think after years of sitting on this, I finally watched it in 2017? Good lord, life accelerates the more mass it acquires.
And yet with all that time–ten years to watch it (oops) and five to think about it, this was one of the hardest pieces I ever put together. There is so much insanity outside of the usual constraints of a low-budget action film. I exploded my word count, then refined EVERYTHING, and I think I spent almost a week alone working on the GIFs. To contemplate City Dragon is to become City Dragon and lose all perspective on it.
As proof, I make the case that the movie itself is actually a side-scrolling martial arts video game that gets infected by one of those “life is bland but hard” indie dramas for middle-aged people to smirk at thinking it’s witty even though nothing about them feels clever or amusing. The retrovirus rewrites the creative product into a host vessel for itself, until City Dragon becomes City Drag-On.
I will not recant my pun. I am infected by the brain-virus myself. If you want my good punchlines, you’ll have to pay for them by subscribing to 1-900-HOTDOG. I swear a lot in this article, so I can make all the dad jokes I want here.
- The Pumblechook & Figg 2021 Christmas Catalogue Is Here!
Not every year, but every year in the hearts of children around the world, I find enough time to put together the H.P. Dickenscraftian index of purchasable commerce-goods known as The Pumblechook & Figg Catalogue. This Skymall of nightmares is a lot of extra work, but so worth it when it runs and it looks like a real magazine page. Which it did! Today, over at 1-900-HOTDOG. Or on the Patreon if you prefer.
I can’t think of another type of article I enjoy doing so much as Pumblechook & Figg. It combines my love for ridiculous neologisms with playing around with language, specifically diction and inflection, of which British English is rich in choice. Also the fusion of the sacred and profane, if not downright eldritch, comes easily to a holiday about warmth and caring in a context of abused orphans, avoidable disease, a debt funnel, and downright war on women’s rights. The fact that I don’t even know if I mean 19th C. England or right now shows why the entries come easily to me compared to a regular article about some recent and real-life, cursed cultural artifact. Though this one’s made up, I think it’s still to spec for the Hot Dog mandate of innately wrong items from another world.
Speaking of appropriate subject matter: all of the Cracked entries for Pumblechook & Figg have focused on the various archons trying to push into our realm from Outside. But I’ve also leaned into that mighty hard for my first few Hot Dog articles. So I thought this one would transition a bit and set up a new storyline about a League of Extraordinary Ruffians. But just wait, they have an as-yet unrevealed Niles Caulder who will be revealed in 2022…
- Bill O’Reilly Was the Most Emblematic Asshole of the ’00s
I could fill a list with what’s great about writing for the 1-900-HOTDOG pirate ship and its kind yet twisted crew, and I wouldn’t be too many entries in before it comes up that no era or area are off-limits. If you can make a fighting manual from the 19th Century into comedy that fits the site’s voice, go for it. This is extremely cathartic for those of who watched the truth get mutilated in the W years, while Justice get covered up for modesty by a guy who thought marijuana was equivalent to crack.
There’s a lot I’ve written here, and most of it I’ve deleted, because I think the simplest thing to say was Bill O’Reilly was an asshole well before he was outed as a hypocrite. So for this Thanksgiving and the next couple following, I’ll be using his patronizing kids’ book to help prepare you for the same brand of bullshit from your extended family at dinner. (Shout out to the commenter on the 1-900-HOTDOG version; that singularity line was my favorite, too. Thanks!)
Play a fun game and guess which chyrons I’ve really seen on Fox’s news crawl, vs. which I was inspired to cobble up over the course of 90 minutes while listening to the channel’s anthem (“Tomorrow Belongs to Me”) on repeat the entire time.
(Sidebar: The Authoritarians is an incredible free read from the same time period that warned of the danger that being a willfully stupid asshole brings, and portended everything in the Trump administration in an urgent warning not to…y’know, elect a Trump-like administration. It’s also funny, smart, kind, and reads like supplemental material from The Handmaid’s Tale to make you mourn the lost society…except Robert Altemeyer lives in Canada, so I suppose he’s safe.)
- Jack Chick’s ‘The Crusaders’ Is a Yawn That Never Ends
If you didn’t get a Chick tract in your Halloween pillowcase this year, I’ve got you covered. I read Jack Chick’s The Crusaders #1 over at 1-900-HOT-DOG (and its Patreon). The Crusaders was Jack Chick’s first full-sized and full-length comic book. I grew up Catholic—definitely too Catholic, if you had to suffer through my company in high school and college—so I was used to both Chick tracts and their very deluded view on Roman Catholicism as a kid. The added hilarity, in a “laugh so you don’t scream forever” way, is just how much actual criminal activity the Catholic Church was guilty of in perpetuity while Chick was convinced they were involved in the lesser crimes of Satanic Illuminati conspiracy.
This issue the villain is the atheist and anti-religious USSR, which serves up special combo #3 in your Jack Chick evangelical themes menu: Persecution Complex. In these pages we meet The Crusaders, even though nobody calls them that and they’re not on a crusade so much as a supply run. Thrill as they visit Latvia, elude Soviet spies without realizing, escape a completely different middling-stakes trap than their mission, and lure an exploited woman to her death. Fun times in the ’70s!
- ‘Verotika’ Is the Worst Movie Ever Made
Do you think that’s a clickbait headline? Those are the most carefully chosen words of my existence, and I’ve had to counsel friends through trauma. I have never seen a film so ignorant in the language of film. It’s as though Glenn Danzig is inventing the medium from scratch in the 1880s, except if Glenn had directed A Trip to the Moon, it would be from the moon’s perspective, through the lens of the head trauma he suffers from the rocket, after the travelers left, and only concerned with what happens on the side facing away from Earth.
- Captain Marvel vs. Captain Ghost!
Hoo boy, this is a Golden Age villain like no other: a murderous 13-year-old child from Chattanooga. I examined his only appearance, a face-off against Captain Marvel (the Shazam one) to figure out which of this kids was the grimmest in their crimefighting. The answer is the one you’d think, but the reason–hoo boy, nobody could have seen that coming. Read the rest at 1-900-HOT-DOG.
- Light Emerging Is Quite the Rainbow of Bullshit
My second monthly column is up at 1-900-HOT-DOG (and on its Patreon), and hoo boy, it was a doozy. Light Emerging is a whole lot of wild claims, and even with hard cuts, I had to cram it into 800 words past my target word count.
I tried not to make fun of the author’s metaphysical beliefs so much as her assertions that science backed them up, even using an extremely broad definition of “science.” I grew up in a religion that taught me men in frocks can shoo away the devil with a splash of water, as if the lord of lies were an alley cat. And what’s extra crazy about that is the devil isn’t real. The greatest trick the devil ever pulled is convincing the world he exists.
But while the Catholic Church generally just publishes vague treatises on how the dawn of cloning affirms the dignity of humanity, and why an old man on a throne of gold wants you to send money, Light Emerging asserts many noumena that cannot be measured or determined as observable phenomena for anyone with enough midichlorians. Along the way, it gets so deep up its own ass about the fourth dimension and souls playing your
And to stave off the criticism that I don’t understand it, I get it perfectly. I spent all of 2020 researching emanative Gnosticism, and what that didn’t inform for this book’s overboiled Liber AL, you can almost entirely glean from reading Promethea and The Invisibles. In fact, you should. Those books are way more entertaining, and the made-up characters are likable.
Things like the Holy Spirit being a retcon of God’s wife Asherah, the energetic circuit from the Monad to the total sum of all possibilities and back again…you’d come to this in a short period of reading 20th century mysticism. It’s not that the mysteries of this book are over anyone’s head, it’s that it goes just as far as what feels right, makes up an immense amount without any basis beyond “Ancient peoples knew this,” and then dusts its hands, nodding “Just so!” in satisfaction.
Naturally the book has five stars across Amazon and GoodReads from readers who already had its premises in hand. The mark of any cult is how much time its members have to waste sitting around and asserting, “This is so true.” Like the entirety of comments on this bullshit TED Talk. Garbage like this makes The Daily Mail, of all dishrags, seem like the reasonable party, and that I can’t forgive.
I read a theory once that all this post-modern mysticism arises from our being wired to seek out threats and opportunities. In the absence of the former and the abundance of the latter, that animal instinct seeks out a channel, and so you get our current spate of anti-vaccine concerned moms who are “jUsT tRYiNg to eDucATe to make informed decisions!” But the volume of information isn’t equal to the quality of that information, and a widely repeated lie doesn’t have more merit
You want actual guidance from someone who has faced adversity? Here’s a TED Talk from Sam Berns, who passed away from progeria.
This kid had more emotional and mental balance by 17 than most of us figure out in our entire lives. He loved sports and band and scouting and comic books, and I think we could have had some nice conversations. The world needed more of him, and less of this spiritual filler.
Here’s another great talk. Robert Hoge was a child with a facial deformity, and suffered the most painful rejections from family and society from his cradle. That’s horrific for anyone, but especially a child who hasn’t been given the tools to deal with other people’s bullshit. The pain radiates from his speech, but so does the humor and the triumph of learning to love himself. I’d take five minutes of his life advice over a year of having my auric field’s soul-bonds reattached by a bullshit artist. It’s one of the most powerful speeches it’s ever been my pleasure to watch.
If I sound extra snotty about this, I’m tired. I’m tired of our national pastime of adding bullshit to things to sell solutions to it. Each country, as Fargo‘s Loy Cannon observed, has its own type of criminal, and America’s is the con artist. We have so much and share so little, our culture is not to get what we need to be healthy and happy, but to secure against fear of not having enough. Our national talent is for hucksters to trick us into robbing ourselves.
So I’m tired of the Joel Osteens, the Trumps, the Falwells, and the endless array of purported psychics showing up to sell you books about seeing leprechauns pretending to contact dead celebrities, or extending parents’ grief with false hope of aid in the search for lost children. It’s bullshit: the unnecessary addition of material makes a situation worse, and no other country does bullshit better than America.
And I’m tired of how hard we make it to get actual help. I found out while I was working on this column that cancer had claimed my fellow Cracked and CBS writer E. Reid Ross. Ezra was a must-see when I’d get anywhere near Baltimore, or if he’d be in NYC. He was funny and he was smart and he loved this planet’s wealth of weird animals, and I miss him. No amount of gold could cure his cancer, Barbara Ann Benton. His 2020 was full of a lot of pain and struggle and doctors, who were probably volunteering their every free minute to repel the holographic vibration known as COVID-19. They took exceptional steps to help him. I couldn’t go see him.
There’s a society among Cracked contributors: we recognized that we had found the focal point for the smart-aleck kids in class who now just wanted to make each other laugh. The best compliment and the fastest camaraderie was how often one of us would chuckle or guffaw reading each other’s work. Ezra’s work was always entertaining to read through for pleasure before giving it editorial eyes. If you’ve ever laughed at his work on Cracked or CBS, I hope you’ll plant a tree in his memory or buy his books or donate to help cover his family’s costs.
Anyway, enjoy the lines I had to cut for space, I guess.
Why does really good soup smell indistinguishable from terrible body odor?
What does the human soul taste like?
Cleaning crystals of low vibrations with an energy blast from your third eye and a karate chop.
Who needs data and peer-review when you possess the Eye of Agamotto?
Name two things in your life that cave dwellers made better than you enjoy now, and neither of them can be “tender love under the stars.” Food, medicine, and video games are all a thousand times better than any point in history.
- War Crime Comics: The Hood
First article: War Crime Comics: The Hood, a Nerding Day adventure in which I look into the Golden Age of superhero comics to examine not all that glitters there. It turns out there was a superhero who was racist even by the standards of the 1940s, an era when our most successful left-wing President was creating concentration camps for Japanese people, and segregating Black soldiers was military policy.
I don’t think history will look with exceptional favor on our current state of affairs, either, and the sheer number of people cool with racism’s tenacious grip on our society: the pushback on securing basic human rights for–cripes, everybody right now–is depressing. Latin American families are getting separated and caged at the border, Black people have to plea not to be murdered while many white folks are more concerned that they’re protesting their killings in the “wrong way,” Asians are getting randomly attacked by idiots, Middle-Eastern and Muslim folks are entering their third decade of institutional mistreatment like they’re not “real” Americans.
White folks…well, a lot of us are trying to do the right thing and support everyone else’s bid for fair treatment, but then again, a lot of Nazi dickheads are enjoying a moment. The whole damn world’s more insane than ever. So click above for jokes at the expense of racists and below for sober musings on comics’ long (and modern) history of racism.
The summer I interned at DC, one of the editors had an astonishing collection of racist memorabilia on his wall. He was Black, and I recall his collection was meant to mock the small minds who had produced it. Each item was like a bagged trophy, one more invasive species pulled out of the mental landscape and detained forever.
Or maybe he just thought it was hilarious how wrong people could be, I don’t know. He was a cool guy and it’s amazing that a midtown office would permit such a thing in the 21st century, but Warner Bros. was only vaguely conscious of DC at that time, despite Bat-bucks rolling in through the ‘90s. I don’t recall anyone having a problem with it; everyone knew it was, one way or another, meant to show how wrong the original intent was.
I also wonder if it wasn’t a solid declaration of intent in a very white space and an old boy network. I think at the time there were more Black creators than Black characters, and not many of those, either. Christopher Priest has written about the kind of casual racism he endured, and Harvey Richards, whom I spent more than a few happy afternoons chatting with and learning from, absolutely languished at the assistant level far longer than I’d seen other editors do. I remember wondering about it at the time.
It’s worth noting that in Priest’s essay, he mentions Larry Hama as a bastion of humanity, based on his own experiences. I had the good fortune to meet Hama at a convention a few years back and we had a lovely chat about G.I. Joe. I’ve never been lucky enough to meet Priest and chat with him about his work on Green Lantern.
I don’t know. I’ve said and done a hundred things I’m mortified to think back on, and I’ve been lucky enough to apologize for some of them, but I like to think I’ve at least tried to grow as a person and question my sense that I’m a good guy, at least enough to stress-test my self-image. There are times when I think being somewhat frozen out of comics is a mark of good character. The people who have had custody of our heroic ideals for decades often seem more like villains lurking among the heroes.
It’s inevitable we all do bad, dumb, wrong things. I think the difference is it’s not okay to not question those things if someone tries to point out to you they’re wrong. I’ve been called out for stuff I’ve written. Some I’ve stood by, some I’ve realized my error. Sometimes the former reaction grows into the latter. But you have to keep trying to grow yourself.
Anyway, like Batman with his cave trophies, these racist relics were stripped of some malevolence in the aforementioned editor’s possession. He controlled them now. To display them was to boast of their defeat. Any interlopers into the Bat-Cave would have known to beware; their gruesome ideologies were thin.
Or maybe I’m just spitballing, I dunno, it’s been 10 years since I’ve seen him. I’ll ask him about it if I ever do again. Maybe he just thought they were funny because they showed how stupid their authors were.
DC gave interns compilations of all its releases, including The Spirit collections featuring Ebony White—whom I didn’t even recognize as supposed to be human the first time I encountered him in The Smithsonian Collection of Comics at age 10. I thought he was an imp or some other type of Mxyzptlxian creature. That same collection featured Winsor McCay’s Little Nemo and Impy, who was an imp but whom I definitely recognized as an archaic stereotype, even at that tender age.
(Although I did recently find out that the word impi means war regiment in Zulu. Zulu warrior garb seems to be the visual basis for the character, so there’s that. If Darwyn Cooke turned Ebony into a normal kid I guess any reboot is possible.)
They also passed me a reprint of Detective Comics #1, where a white dude goes to a restaurant and just starts beating up Asian people because he thinks they look shifty. Its cover was astonishing in its caricature of a Chinese villain as a gargoyle. In a tightly framed headshot, the book has nothing to declare, no selling message other than “here there be dragons.”
All of which is to establish that you can’t study comics without encountering a lot of racism in its native environment. All of this stuff is still out there, and while less is being produced, it’s also embedded in the otherwise greats like Eisner and McCay. So I wrote this piece on a particularly egregious example for 1-900-HOTDOG. The Hood spent a couple of years espousing hateful opinions, before crescending into full-out war crimes. All of it is presented as heroic. These days, it’s an artifact of an uglier time, but not one as dead as I’d like it to be.
DC’s bringing back the Milestone line as I write this. Though I read them somewhat late, I remember clipping all the newspaper articles about them at the time—any article about comics was validating in the ’90s. I read a few of my cousin’s and related most to Hardware, a more realistic-tech Iron Man with a great premise that his civilian identity’s mentor was his superhero persona’s arch-enemy. When I finally revisited them, I was old enough to appreciate the subversions of tropes. A particular standout was Icon, who finally gets woke about injustice and saves the day, only to end his first issue surrounded by policemen who are convinced he’s the criminal.
Just before Dwayne McDuffie passed away, I was having drinks with Ivan Cohen, who had hired me for my DC internship. I was talking about belatedly reading the Milestone line, and how it showed all of the man’s talent for creation that blossomed on the Justice League animated series. Just how consummately great he was. We toasted him in absentia, a comic writer I’d never met, but one I could admire enough to envy. A few days later he was gone. It’s one of comics’ greatest losses, and it grieves me I’ll never get to say thanks for the stories. But his influence and works have rippled, and I think, if I can end all this on an upbeat note, he proved why diversity matters for comics: how many great stories have to be told that can only work from certain character’s perspectives.
Cheers to you, Mr. McDuffie. I hope we can live up to your vision for the industry and its output.
- 1-900-HOT-DOG: The Return of Count Spirochete
Our tour of Etiquette: Naval Style continues at 1-900-HOT-DOG with The Return of Count Spirochete. Newly empowered to seduce blondes and brunettes, our brave sailors found their lives now imperiled by the dreaded VD. I learned a lot watching this PSA for comedy, and most of what I learned involved terrible things happening to babies, which–gang, is not comedy, not at all. I think we’ve all learned today that there’s a dark side to sexually transmitted infections. Anyway, read it on the site above or Patreon, it’s free on both.
- 1-900-HOT-DOG: Blondes Prefer Gentlemen
Back in the ’60s the Navy realized that trapping a bunch of young men in metal canisters far from daily society was not the incubator for social poise that they needed. Discipline? Yes. Grace and charm? Not innately, no. So they made two films, “Blondes Prefer Gentlemen” and “How to Succeed With Brunettes” that have since passed into legend. I would summarize them as “Stop being a disgusting, selfish pig, you pig,” and since Brockway and Seanbaby gave me the green light to do so, summarize I did. Enjoy my latest comedic entry at 1-900-HOT-DOG, free to read on the website, though if you enjoy it, you should really join their Patreon. Five bucks a month gets you thirty mornings of content: a worthy price for your only guaranteed laughs in this dire world.
Honestly, though, the real get is the $10 tier. That gets you into the belly-shaking viewing parties that have become my biweekly joy. Anyway, enjoy my stuff! Tell them you want me to do more, and we’ll all share these fun times together…in naval hell.
- 1-900-HOT-DOG: Where Are the Beverly Hills Teens Now?
Ugh, teens, they’re the worst. Except for the elderly, who are trying to take us all with them when they die. And middle-aged people, we’re boring. And children, who are irrational animals. And babies, who pollute everything. Anyway, the worst teens, as you might expect, are the rich ones. That’s why over at 1-900-HOT-DOG I checked in on the 1980s to see where the Beverly Hills Teens are now. Did any of them gain any manners or personality? Lucky you, you can read it to find out, because it’s the free article this week.
- I’m Talking Comics on ‘The Dogg Zzone 9000’
If you’re not following the Robert Brockway/Seanbaby weaponized comedy of 1-900-HOT-DOG, what a terrible way to find out you are your own antagonist. And speaking of secret identities, I’m talking superhero comics with the Hot Dog top dogs themselves in the latest episode of their Dogg Zzone 9000 podcast, “Comic Books That HAD to Be Comics.” We found ourselves some interesections of awesomeness and absurdity in graphic novel format–or in the case of my pick, disposable pulp newsprint where the writers couldn’t even remember that The Puppeteer was actually Captain V and his pet raven was actually an eagle.
Then there’s a weirdly Catholic (or maybe Catholically weird) X-Men storyline that doesn’t deal nearly as much with death and resurrection as Sean’s Avengers pick. All this, couched in me vs. Brockway for winner of the saddest recipe from Sean’s dueling Microwave Meals for One cookbooks! Listen below!