Monday, February 25, 2008

Goin' South, Comin' North, The Brain That Wouldn't Die Won't Die -- Again -- and What's Up With My TCJ Sub? Again?

Oh, That Brain: Virginia Leith in her greatest role as Jan, in the pan, and Jason (credited as Herb) Evers as arrogant Dr. Bill Cortner -- what a couple. What a lab. What a movie.

Marge and I had a great trip last week to warmer American climates, visiting family during Marge's only winter break at her job. We were in Austin, Texas for a almost three days, and had a grand time with Marge's oldest son Bill (now Dovid), his wife Rivka and our two grandchildren, now 3 and 5 years old. I also caught up with my older brother; we hadn't seen each other in 22 years, and we managed to get together twice during this excursion. It was great, and we'll not let such a lapse happen again.

In my last couple of hours in Austin, I decided to check out Half-Price Books & Magazines on Lamar, and my search for a copy of Jack Jackson's last published work New Texas History Movies led me to the rare books room -- and Richard Klaw, who I hadn't spoken to or seen almost 15 years. That was a pleasant surprise, too, and a grace note from Texas in what was by far my most rewarding visit to the Lone Star state in this lifetime.

We were then off to Florida to visit my parents, now well into their 80s and still in good health. As with our time in Austin, we were blessed with great weather: lots of sunshine and moderate temperatures. By our second day in Florida, Marge relaxed -- really relaxed -- and savored the vacation time, and we had a grand time with my folks. We were able to watch the total eclipse of the moon until it was fully in Earth's shadow: then the clouds obscured the next phase, and we were off to bed.

The sweet weather held out to the end; flying home on Saturday, we missed the air travel upsets of Friday completely, and were sitting by our gate before the torrential rains hammered Tampa. Our flights went without a hitch, and unlike our Detroit airport experience going south the previous Saturday, we had ample time and an easy jaunt from gate-to-gate en route home. We arrived in Manchester NH on time and drove dry roads home Saturday night.

Ah, sweet home -- we were ready to be here, marvelous though the trip was.

I can't be the only The Comics Journal subscriber finding it increasingly difficult to assess when my subscription ends, given the new system TCJ apparently adopted a couple of years ago.

First, know I've been a steady subscriber since about 1981; I paid through the period most of my working pro peers in the industry coasted on complimentary subs, and I kept my paid sub going long after my peers gave up on TCJ, refusing to pay for subs once their comps concluded. Regardless, you'd think Fantagraphics would consider a 25+ year customer of some value, especially given the state of the industry, and at least make it easy for me to continue subscribing.

Secondly, the subcription copy envelopes themselves used to give some kind of clue: the penultimate issue in my subscription would alert me to the sub ending next issue, providing the necessary order form and pricing to promptly extend the lapsing subscription. That was a great system, giving me the needed reminder and time to re-up in time to not miss an issue.

Instead, I haven't a clue: for the second time since our move to Windsor in December 2006 -- just over a year -- I am only aware of my TCJ sub apparently ending due to a few months passing without TCJ's arrival.

Whatever the purpose or mysterious meaning of the coding now typed above my printed address on the TCJ subscription envelopes the magazine arrives in, it doesn't seem to have anything to due with the issue number ending my subscription. While doing my taxes for 2007, I note the last issue I received was TCJ #286, the November 2007 issue. I pulled it off my shelves and checked the issue and the envelope, which I'd folded and tucked into the issue as a bookmark. It only says:

193 *********************ORIGIN MIXED ADC 044 S5 P4

-- and then my address. No reference to issue number or month: no 286 or 1107 (November 2007), not a clue my sub just ended.

Thankfully, my TCJ sub didn't lapse before this sweet sweet sweet Roger Langridge cover graced TCJ #284. Sigh. Fin. Fang. Foom.

Like last time, I'll call Fantagraphics today, invest a bit of money beyond the cost of subscription and the necessary time to go through the folderol of ordering the now-missed "back issues" and re-up my sub, but I'm telling ya, Fantagraphics, this is the last time.

I love TCJ, it's a great magazine and it's only improved over the past few years. You're the last standing tie to the comics industry I was once part of -- I let the rest of it go. It would be easy to let this last tie go, but I'd like to stay aboard. As a writer and a teacher, I use TCJ in my work and as a constant reference, and I've been a loyal and paying subscriber for over a quarter century. But in a rather tidy microcosm of what happened with the entire comics industry, it's become an increasingly expensive and high-maintenance process to remain a reader.

It shouldn't be this much work to subscribe. Absence of arrival shouldn't be the only clue you give me that my sub is up. I subscribe to a number of publications, from self-published fanzines to newsstand standbys, and not one of them makes it tough to keep up my sub. You only make it easier each time to forget the subscription altogether, and the more it costs in time and money to re-up and catch-up, the easier it gets to arrive at 'fuck it.'

Please, Fantagraphics, change your subscription labeling system, and restore the 'reminders' of the old system that made it so simple to just write and mail that check.

For reasons I won't go into here, thinking of Fantagraphics always makes me think of The Brain That Wouldn't Die, which brings me to today's tastiest tidbit.

One of my all-time favorite 1960s horrors is featured today
  • at my fave internet diversion, Trailers From Hell.

  • The Brain That Wouldn't Die
    remains an icon of its era and genre, and my ongoing work on a the definitive overview of the film and its impact got a nifty boost from this surprise Monday morning treat.

    Greatest death scene in '60s cinema?: Leslie Daniels as the ill-fated, wither-armed lab ass't Kurt, who never won his Oscar despite his glorious gory demise. Wouldn't you know it, he loses his good arm.

    Note, however, the usually well-informed comments of Joe Dante and his site cronies doesn't jive with my experience. The intro note to the Brain trailer says, "...numerous censor cuts for reasons of 'good taste' (as if!) have been since restored and the whole sordid farrago is now available pretty much everywhere in its full, fuzzy public domain gory, er, glory."

    I was too young to see The Brain That Wouldn't Die on the big screen (I was 7 when American-International Pictures released the film), but from the moment I first saw it one Saturday afternoon on the now-long-defunct Burlington VT Channel 22 broadcast at the age of 11 or 12, Brain was uncut, its shockingly bloody final act telecast without edits.

    Monster in the Closet: real-life giant Eddie Carmel immortalized in Brain's outrageous, amazing, abrupt climax. Some versions of this classic trim shots of Carmel biting a chunk out of Dr. Cortner's throat, pulling the bitten bit out of his mouth to hold it aloft and ponder the trembling shred of flesh, and (best of all) a closeup of the bloody tatter of meat hitting the lab floor -- making Brain the first American splatter movie. Take that, Herschell Gordon Lewis!

    I saw the film countless times thereafter, viewed alone on late-night broadcasts and with friends on afternoon telecasts, and it was rarely cut. The original big-box Warner Bros. vhs release in the early '80s offered the most censored version I've ever seen: was this AIP's theatrical release version? So, for this diehard BTWD devotee of 40 years, the cut versions were always the exceptions, not the rule.

    The Brain Will Never Die!

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