Tagged: Manhattan

Mike Gold: Two For TwoMorrows

Mike Gold: Two For TwoMorrows

Layout 1If I quit my day job, I just might possibly keep up with the output from TwoMorrows Publishing. Sundry regularly published magazines (Alter-Ego, Back Issue, Draw!, etc.), trade paperback and hardcover profiles of significant creators, publishing lines, eras and events – I can’t begin to list them all here. Well, I could, but they do a better job on their own website.

Did I mention they do everything up in both hardcopy and digital? Well, they do, and they’ve made many an otherwise tedious commute into Manhattan a lot more palatable.

I only get to bring to your attention a small fraction of their books. I’m still pissed that travel and work schedules didn’t allow me to review their Matt Baker: The Art of Glamour. So, to paraphrase the great Jack Kirby (and, yeah, they also publish The Jack Kirby Collector), just buy it.

But I will seize this moment to briefly wax poetic about two of their latest releases: The Star*Reach Companion by Richard Arndt, and Dan Spiegle: A Life In Comic Art by John Coates.

DanSpiegle_MEDDan Spiegle is a proper legend. As a kid I missed most of his “early” work because I didn’t like westerns (aside from Maverick; lucky for me, Dan drew the comic version) or teevee tie-in comics. Therefore, I missed out on his beautiful Hopalong Cassidy newspaper strip and his work on Lost In Space and other Dell/Gold Key titles. I did latch onto his work in Korak, Green Hornet and Doctor Solar, but he met me more than half-way when he started working at DC Comics in the 1980s (Jonah Hex, Teen Titans, Unknown Soldier). The work he and Mark Evanier did on Blackhawk single-handedly justifies the overworked and overwrought concept of rebooting. He and Evanier (who wrote the introduction to this book) also did one of my all-time favorites of the era: Crossfire, published by Eclipse Comics during the Great Independent Age of Comics.

Dan Spiegle: A Life In Comic Art contains everything you would expect in such a volume: history, index, interviews. It is lavishly illustrated, and, yes, it’s okay to just look at the pictures (yeah; just try that!). There’s eight color pages reprinting some of his watercolors; most of us haven’t seen them before and, damn, are they worth the wait. There’s at least four of them that I would steal if I was clever and fast enough to get away with it.

The Star*Reach Companion is a long-overdue analysis of and tribute to Mike Friedrich’s classic anthology comic. Mike thought it was a great idea to get some of the best people doing comics at the time to create, writer and/or draw stuff that was of a more mature nature – and I don’t necessarily mean salacious – and there “some of the best” includes Neal Adams, Frank Brunner, Howard Chaykin, Steve Ditko, Michael T. Gilbert, Dick Giordano, Steve Leialoha, Marshall Rogers, P. Craig Russell, Dave Sim, Walter Simonson, Ken Steacy, Dave Stevens, Mike Vosburg, Barry Windsor-Smith, John Workman …you get the idea. I’m hard-pressed to think of an anthology series with a better line-up.

Not that a lot of folks didn’t try, and a great many of them were quite, quite good. The Star*Reach Companion covers most of these publications as well, and here it serves an important historical function.

The problem with books like these is that, if they are successful, they leave the reader with a thirst they can never quench. Sure, we can pick up the back issues and the reprint books – and after reading these two, I’ll bet you wind up doing at least a bit of that. If you don’t, you’re missing something.

In fact, this is why I implore comic book stores with large back issue inventories to stock TwoMorrows’ books and magazines. They publish the true comics Who’s Who of What’s What.




Dennis O’Neil Is Not Jules Feiffer?

O'Neil Art 130418So there I was, standing in…no, make that sitting in for Jules Feiffer at MoCCA, a two-day long expo-type event sponsored by the Museum of Comic Art and held at the big armory on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. Talk about your bait-and-switch…folks come expecting to see and hear one of our era’s defining and multifaceted talents, a man who has done exemplary work in cartoons, playwriting, screen writing – an innovator and astute observer of manners and morals, a social commentator…This is the giant they anticipated and instead they got…me. Sitting, not standing, on a platform with Peter Kuper, Gabrielle Bell and Paul Levitz. talking about comics and the counterculture.

It’s a big and pretty complex topic and Jules Feiffer – the real Jules Feiffer – might have done it justice. Me – not so much.

Though the kind of comics I’ve been professionally involved in were a far stretch from the innovative, angry, and occasionally profane “undergrounds” that emerged from the turmoil of the Sixties, I guess the superhero stuff I did qualifies as at least marginally countercultural because, after the witch-hunting Fifties, comics of any ilk were not respectable. (Didn’t the Catholic Digest say they were trash? Weren’t there public comic book burnings? Didn’t that some senator or other hold hearings about them?) But, though we did hiccup out a bit of social satire/commentary here and there, we were never in the business of putting it to the man, making granny blush, calling for revolution.

Okay, maybe Feiffer didn’t work those sides of the street, either. Not exactly. But the kind of humor he practiced in his eponymous feature, first in The Village Voice and later in syndication, helped create the societal climate in which authority could be questioned – even mocked! – and the nooks and crannies of our national psyche theretofore ignored by our purveyors of comedy could be acknowledged and explored.

Now, some 55 years later, we can watch Louis CK push in the same direction.

Feiffer’s been on my radar since the aforementioned Fifties and I don’t know who put him there. Somehow, in St. Louis, attending a Jesuit university, I came into possession of Sick Sick Sick, a paperback collection of Feiffer’s early Voice pieces and…well, it wasn’t the brain-wrencher that Kerouac’s On The Road was to be, or, in a very different way, Salinger’s short stories were. But I thought it was funny and it was differently funny and that difference hinted at something out there, beyond the limits of school and parish and neighborhood, something past the boundary of the Mississippi, something that would be good for me to know.  Something that would nourish me.

Something that eventually put me onstage with Bell, Kuper, and Levitz, filling a seat meant for Jules Feiffer and grateful for the opportunity.

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman


Mike Gold: Commuters Are A Superstitious and Cowardly Lot

Gold Art 130220Last week I had the distinct honor and privilege of dining with my fellow ComicMix columnist Martha Thomases. Whereas I’d love to squawk on and on about the finest fried chicken I’ve ever eaten in Manhattan, it was after I left to go home when things got interesting, weird, surreal… and dangerous.

I got to my commuter train just in time to make the 9:07. I’d be home by 10:15. Not bad. We arrived on time in Harlem at 9:17 and proceeded up to the Bronx… where we came to a dead halt at approximately 178th Street and Park Avenue. After a few minutes we were told we were being delayed by a “police action.” OK; that’s life in the big city. I commenced to read the latest issue of Futurama Comics on my iPad. Then another announcement: oh, geez, they were mistaken. No police activity. The train broke down. It was a brand-new train, built by the Canadian company Bombardier. They set about to fix it.

Then the power went out. The emergency lighting was fine and my iPad had its own luminosity, but there was no air circulation and the temperature started to rise – quickly. People began to look at those emergency windows; you know, the ones that you can pop out in case the train is derailed and Bruce Campbell is walking around with a machete.

Some time later they said they power pads that draw the juice from the third rail had been ripped off, probably due to debris on the track. They’re working on it. Yeah, right. I started wondering if a texted last will and testament would hold up in court. Then they announced the train was, in fact, broken, and they were awaiting a diesel engine to tow us back to Harlem where, “hopefully,” there would soon be a train to which we could transfer.

The crowd started getting testy. Perhaps hypoglycemic shock is communicable.

Later still we were rammed by a coupling engine and it was announced all they had to do was hook up the air brakes and we’d be Harlem bound. A half hour later, they admitted they couldn’t get the brakes to work. Plan B: they’d find another train, bring it alongside mine, shut down the third rail and we’d bridge over to the new train. A few people who had been around that block said that would take at least an hour because they only open two doors for the bridge and everybody would have to walk through all the cars to get to the transfer point, then walk through the new train to find a seat. A few people started to freak.

Two ladies who evidently flunked out of their Connecticut finishing school started swearing profusely. Aside: why is it women are not very creative in their choice of curse words? “Fucking liars” is simply not sufficient. The situation called for something like “Jesus fuck a shit soufflé, these in-bread assholes couldn’t stack a pile of Ritz Crackers without a goddamned schematic.” Note to self: look into conducting training sessions for the malediction impaired.

Before long one of my comrades-in-boredom started screaming. Another started wailing. The lady sitting next to me kept on tossing her used Kleenex on the floor, along with her half-eaten food. I looked around to see if anybody had grown a Joker smile.

Eventually a train pulled alongside and maybe 15 minutes later the train bridge was in place and the third-rail was powered down. We made the long march to our new magic carpet ride. Of course, the new train was two cars shorter. The third rail was powered up and the air brake checks started.

And… they didn’t work.

And people went nuts. Remember the “preparing for crash landing” scene in Airplane?

I reconsidered my attitude towards zombies. Finally, after a platoon of train people manually pumped the air brakes into action (and yes, that looks as obscene as it sounds), we slowly moved forward. They apologized and said the next stop was Stamford. I said to myself “yeah, but will we be able to stop?” Then some guy made that very same statement out loud. Nobody laughed.

As we picked up speed, I noticed that one of my fellow travelers was Green Arrow.

No shit. Look carefully at the photo atop this column. This was not Photoshopped.

I got home just before 1 AM. One of our cats was waiting in the window, tapping his watch. Yes, he’s got a Mickey Mouse watch. You need a sense of humor to make it through the day in my house.

Of course, this was a fart in a blizzard next to the horrors of those riding that Carnival cruise ship, but my respect for my fellow Connecticuttians hit a new low, as my enthusiasm for the creators of Futurama Comics grew proportionately.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases


Mike Gold: Stupid Decisions

Gold Art 130206Last week my colleague Ms. Thomases and I were sharing a movie experience at a Manhattan multi-mega-complex. Running the gauntlet of promotional material we passed the familiar poster advertising the franchise-saving event, Man of Steel. Once we were settled in the theater and the obnoxiously repulsive commercials started playing – most were for television shows – I mentioned to Martha that the new management of Warner Bros. hasn’t truly green-lit the Justice League movie. “They’re waiting to see how Man of Steel works out.”

Her Oh-Oh Sense flared up. While both of us were hoping for a killer Superman flick, nothing we have seen thus far has promoted any sense of confidence. Do we need another origin story filled with the Els and the Kents? Most of us have cable teevee or DVDs or streaming video or all three, and there’s plenty of filmed presentations of that origin story. My favorite remains the one from the 1950s teevee series where Our Miss Brooks’ Phillip Boynton played Jor-El while wearing Buster Crabbe’s tunic from the Flash Gordon serials… but that’s just me and a few other decrepit baby-boomers. The rest of you probably never heard of Professor Boynton, and some of you haven’t seen the Flash Gordon serials. You should fix that.

I’m certainly willing to give it a shot and I’ll enter the theater with all the optimism I can muster. It has a good cast, and Michael Shannon certainly has the gravitas to be a great General Zod. But there’s one problem that I’m unlikely to get past.

That damn costume.

OK. I’m sure somebody in Hollywood said “That guy wears his underpants outside his leotard! It’s stupid! We’ve must fix that!” Actually, it’s an old joke. But Superman is a genuine American icon, right up there with the flag, apple pie and third-world health care. Whereas we can fix the latter (but won’t in my lifetime) and the second is fattening, you do not change the flag. You do not change the Coca-Cola bottle, even if they’re reduced to printing a silhouette of it on their cans. You do not give Donald Duck Prozac, you do not copy Johnny Carson’s golf swing on your teevee show.

I’m not suggesting things cannot change. But there’s a reason why certain things reach iconic status. It’s like granting historical status to New York’s Grand Central Terminal (100 years old last week) or Chicago’s Rookery (Daniel Burnham rocks!). Society has deemed Superman’s trunks appropriate, dating back to the time Joe Shuster employed the imagery of the 1930s circus strongman for the Man of Steel’s costume. We may not have very many circus sideshows these days, but we do have Superman.

Besides, if there’s one stupid element in the big guy’s costume, it’s that cape. One of Clark Kent’s undisclosed superpowers must be a psionic ability to keep that thing from flapping over his face while in flight, or doing an Isadora Duncan on Lois Lane when they fly out to the Fortress of Solitude for a weekend of melting the crystals.

But I would not drop that cape, just like I wouldn’t gawk at our flag and ask “gee, do we need all that red?”

Because Warner Bros. is the dog and its DC Entertainment is the tail, Supe’s trunkless costume debuted in the ever-changing yet never-evolving New 52. I get this: a lot more money is riding on the movie franchise than on the comic books. However, there’s a reason why Superman has lasted 75 years – Man of Steel comes out pretty damn close to the actual 75th anniversary date – while other characters from that era that were more popular at the time (The Shadow, The Lone Ranger, Buck Rogers) have fallen out of favor. And that reason is wrapped in a red cape and red trunks.

When I see Man of Steel, I’ll have a hard time looking at the Big Guy and not thinking “Jeez, these morons got it wrong!”

Sometimes, fixing a stupid idea… is a stupid idea.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil



By Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child
Grand Central Publishing
484 pages

Several years ago a very good friend gave me two paperback novels for Christmas.  They were “The Cabinet of Curiosities” and “Still Life with Crows,” both by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. They were my first introduction to Special FBI Agent Aloysius Pendergast and one I’ve been most grateful for ever since.
The Pendergast books are the epitome of modern pulp thrillers harkening back to the grand old hero magazines of the 1930s and they clearly evoke the same escapist fare prevalent in those series.  Upon becoming a fan of the tall, gaunt Southern bred Pendergast, it soon became clear to me that he was the true heir to famous pulp avenger of old.  For if Clive Cussler’s sea-going hero, Dirk Pitt, can be called the modern day Doc Savage, something many of his ardent followers still claim, then Pendergast is our new Shadow.  Like that black clad nemesis of evil who “knew what lurked in the hearts of men,” Agent Pendergast is a most unique and extraordinary character.  He is wealthy and thus his career is an avocation of personal interest.  He is learned with several degrees, skilled in both philosophical and martial arts while a crack shot with most weapons.  Add to this the fact he also has knowledge of obscure and ancient arcane practices and rituals while possessing certain uncanny abilities which border on the supernatural and you have a genuine pulp hero for our times.
Since discovering this series, I’ve relished each new entry and have never once been disappointed by authors’ efforts.  Along with such an unforgettable main character, the books feature many truly amazing supporting characters from Pendergast’s allies ala New York Lt. Detective Vincent D’Agosta to his exotic young ward, Constance Greene who, though she appears to be in her early twenties, is actually over a hundred years old because of a strange elixir that has prolonged her youth. The genius of Preston and Lincoln is how they make the fantastic elements of each book as believable as the normal ones.
Now “Two Graves” ends a trilogy story arc begun in “Fever Dream” and continued in “Cold Vengeance.”  For twelve years, Agent Pendergast believed his beloved wife, Helen, had been killed by a lion on their honeymoon safari in Africa.  When evidence surfaces that proves her death was faked and that she might still be among the living, it propels Pendergast on the most important case he has ever confronted.  To say the story has been a roller coaster of action and suspense would be a truly gross understatement and the revelations in this final chapter are mind-boggling.  From a psychotic serial killer in Manhattan to a hidden Nazis eugenics camp in the jungles of Brazil, “Two Graves” is hands down the best Agent Pendergast novel ever written and this fan would never make that claim lightly.  Were the series to end at this point, I would hazard most readers would be content with the established canon as it now stands.
Of course, being fans, we will always want more; lots more.  But being a somewhat discriminating reviewer, it is difficult for me to imagine Preston and Child topping this book.  It is clearly their Agent Pendergast masterpiece.

Martha Thomases: Printing Punk

Like many old people, New Year’s Eve makes me remember earlier times. When I was young. When I knew who the new bands were. When I was cool. Once one has children, one is never cool again.

There was a period of time in the mid-1970s when I dropped out of college and went to work for an antiwar magazine. We had a barter arrangement with lots of underground newspapers and magazines, so I got to read CREEM magazine, and from that and the Village Voice, I knew who all the cool bands were and where to see them in New York.

When I decided to go back to college for my degree, I kept up subscriptions to CREEM and the Voice, and it was from these that I discovered Punk.

Not the music, although also the music. No, I mean Punk, a magazine that combined my two greatest passions, comics and rock’n’roll.  It was hand-lettered. It was rude and crude and hilarious. I so wanted to work there.

After I graduated, I moved to Manhattan and tried to get a job in journalism. I applied at straight places, like Time-Life, Condé Nast and Hearst. And I walked into the PUNK office, then on Tenth Avenue, to see if they would hire me. When I said I had worked for an antiwar magazine, Legs McNeil, the Resident Punk, leaped on top of a desk, pointed at me, and yelled that I was a Commie.

That didn’t stop them from letting me do some typing for them, when they needed labels for a mailing. And it didn’t stop me from becoming friends with Legs and John Holmstrom, the editor.

John is, in my opinion, the most ripped-off man in comics. I mean, lots of early comic book creators were screwed financially by their publishers. And lots of early comic book creators have been imitated by the artists who followed them. John, however, created a style that was part Harvey Kurtzman (a mentor of his), part Bazooka Joe, part Basil Wolverton, but uniquely his own. In no time at all, and with not even an acknowledgement or thanks, he was co-opted by every art director at every publisher and every ad agency in the world.

But John was more than an innovator. He was a great patron of new talent. Not only did Punk do stories on new bands, but they published work by new cartoonists. For example, John was one of the first person to publish Peter Bagge.

It has long been my contention that the comics and rock’n’roll share the characteristics that both are uniquely American art forms, but only gained respect when English people did them. John combined them in astonishingly simple ways, by drawing his interviews, or staging fumetti stories that starred Richard Hell, Debbie Harry, the Ramones and Andy Warhol, among others.

It’s not just nostalgia at Auld Lang Syne that has me thinking about how cool Punk was. Harper Collins has just published a big, beautiful hard cover volume, The Best of Punk Magazine that brings those late 1970s/early 1980s days back to life. It’s on much slicker paper than the original, but it still has the brattiness that made the original so much fun.

It’s a book that will get up on a desk and yell at you, and then bum money for cigarettes and beer.

SATURDAY: Marc Alan Fishman’s… Lists


A Doctor A Day – “Fear Her”

Using the new Doctor Who Limited Edition Gift Set, your noble author will make his way through as much of the modern series as he can before the Christmas episode, The Snowmen.

Children are disappearing on a suburban street, and a certain being seems intent on making us…

by Matthew Graham
Directed by Euros Lyn

“I can’t stress this enough – ball bearings you can eat…masterpiece!”

Three children have vanished in the course of a week, cars are cutting out in the middle of the street, and everyone has been reduced to paranoid panic.  Not a good state of affairs for the day of the opening ceremonies of the London Olympiad.  The Doctor and Rose arrive just in time to help, luckily.  There’s an odd residual energy in the spots where the kids have vanished, which suggests it’s not some common human crapsack.  One girl named Chloe stays indoors and draws.  She draws the other children in the street.  Just before they vanish.  …yeah, The Doctor and Rose made the same assumptions…

An alien creature, the Isolus, has latched onto Chloe and used her raw emotions from a lifetime of abuse from her father (now dead a year) to try and get back to its family.  The alien is too weak to do so, and Chloe doesn’t know how to help, so she draws the kids in the street, who get teleported to a nondescript somewhere else, to attempt to assuage the alien’s loneliness.  She has the power to create things in her drawings as well – she angrily crosses out over one drawing, and the scribble comes to life, and a huge and choked thing with the emotion of her abusive father is gaining power in the back of her closet.  The Doctor has several goals – save the trapped kids, separate the alien from little Chloe, help it get back to space… and crash the Olympics?

This episode is…bad. It’s a weak shadow of the classic Twilight Zone episode It’s a Good Life, with no real sense of direction. The alien is innocent and unaware of its effects, and we end up being more afraid of Chloe’s father, who’s been dead a year. The scene with them collecting up al the pencils and crayons in the house as if they’re knives is ridiculous, is immediately surpassed by the scene where Chloe reveals she’s got pencils hoarded inside her dolls like Ray Milland hid whiskey bottles. The acting’s good, the music is great, but the premise is just so blah, and the look of the crayon monsters so silly that there’s no surprise that this is universally considered the worst episode of the new series by a long length: Doctor Who Magazine did a poll of the 200 most popular stories of the show’s run, and this one came in 192nd, only barely beating out Paradise Towers.  By contrast, Daleks in Manhattan, the story that resulted in the Daleks getting put in the cupboard for two years, came in at 152.  Of course, that just beat out the sublime Love and Monsters, so I imagine no poll is perfect.  Even  the idea of a living scribble was even done before, and better, on an early episode of Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. In the episode The Trouble with Scribbles, it’s learned that scribbles are the almost universal form of babies’ first imaginary friends, and they mount up quickly.

tennant_olympics-300x226-5745995There’s a bit of fun in the beginning of the episode – the idea of 2012 being the “Near future” gave them a moment to to skewer new X-Factor winner Shayne Ward with a poster for a Greatest Hits collection.

But it was this episode that fueled Doctor Who fandom’s hope… nay, belief that David Tennant would be carrying the Olympic torch at the 2012 ceremonies.  Even after Matt Smith started it off in the relay, the desire for Ten to close out this little time loop was unassailable.  Indeed, in Danny Boyle’s spectacular opening ceremonies, there was originally to be a sequence featuring Doctor Who; each of the living actors had to authorize the use of their photos, but it was dropped.  The whooshing sound of the TARDIS, barely audible over the din of the mix, is the only mention.

Mike Gold: Why I Didn’t Cold-Cock Walter Simonson

There’s been a lot of high-quality books lately that reprint classic stories straight from the original. My friends at IDW do a lot of those, so they’ll be deeply depressed that I’m not going to be talking about one of theirs. And of course there’s no reason to believe a comp list wouldn’t change my attitude.

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear; in this case, about two months ago. We’re at the vaunted Baltimore Comic-Con – in specific, the Harvey Awards dinner. Walter Simonson had an advance copy of Titan Books’ hardcover collection of the Alien movie adaptation, as done by Walter and the late and much, much missed Archie Goodwin. This book was the exception that proved my point that doing an absolutely first-rate adaptation of a movie is a near-impossibility.

The needs and treasures of the comic book medium are different from those of the movie medium: we have total control of time and space and we’ve got a special effects budget that is limited only by the collective minds of the producing talent. Movies, on the other hand, have going for them music, motion and the benefit of the shared-experience. Apples and oranges.

The Goodwin-Simonson Alien was one of those rare exceptions; perhaps the best of those exceptions. Either way, it was and is worthy of this new high-quality format.

So when Walter was showing off his advance copy like a proud papa before an audience of some of the most talented people in the artform (Mark Wheatley snuck me in), I thought about doing what every other red-blooded comic book fan would think of doing: cold-cocking the son of a bitch, stealing his book, jumping into my Ford Focus and driving back to Connecticut, laughing hysterically while leaving my daughter to fend for herself.

I maneuvered into position in the darkened room, avoiding Louise Simonson. While I’d take Walter on, I do not have what it takes to take on any person who could be so gifted and so nice after working for James Warren. Then, and only then, did I have an epiphany.

I’ve known Walter for decades and decades. We lived near each other on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, we played on the same volleyball team. We’ve dined hither and yon – he once drew a massive prehistoric landscape on the linen tablecloth at a Skokie Illinois restaurant in order to “illustrate” a point. I respect and admire Walter as one of the nicest human beings on the planet… with the exception of the volleyball courts.

But that’s not why I didn’t cold-cock Walter Simonson. Clearly I’ve gotten old, an aging lion gumming his dinner in the corner of the cage while the younguns are preening themselves for pussy.

No, I didn’t cold-cock him because I remembered I already ordered the book. So stealing his simply wasn’t worth the energy.

But it was worth the wait. Buy it before it sells out.

Alien : The Illustrated Story (Original Art Edition) by Archie Goodwin and Walter Simonson • Titan Books • 96 oversized pages • $75.00 retail

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil, who’s also a very nice guy



REVIEW: The French Connection

The escapades of New York Police detective Jimmy “Popeye” Doyle was well known even in the early 1960s and attempts to tell his story fell through until he was captured in print in the best-selling Robin Cook book The French Connection. William Friedkin helmed a film adaptation that made Doyle the poster boy for brutal but effective policemen for the next decade and catapulted character actor Gene Hackman into leading man status. The French Connection is very much a product of the 1970s as filmmakers were shaking off the restrictions of the now-dead studio system and a new wave of filmmakers were stretching their muscles, trying things that were new and fresh in terms of structure, production, and performance.

As part of 20th Century Home Entertainment’s Signature collection of classics now on Blu-ray, this film is a reminder of just how good a movie can be when all the right elements fall into place. When first released in Blu-ray back in 2009, Friedkin was intimately involved in the transfer and touted its improvements. Overlaying a saturated color print over a black and white print, Friedkin obtained a washed out color palette that he felt properly represented his vision and while purists howled. This new version is also approved by both Friedkin and Cinematographer Owen Roizman and looks good, certainly better than the original DVD. The transfer captures Manhattan at a time when it teetered on the brink of grime and bankruptcy.

Why did this win the Best Picture Award in 1971? It’s a story of good versus evil, drugs, an immortal car chase and terrific performances by an ensemble that featured Roy Scheider as Doyle’s partner Buddy “Cloudy” Russo, ex-con-turned-coffee shop owner named Sal Boca (Tony Lo Bianco), and French shipping executive Alain Charnier (Fernando Rey), who is trying to brink 120 lbs. of heroin into the city. The core story is the attempt by Doyle and Russo to find out when the shipment will arrive and arresting Charnier, but getting the facts and then executing the arrest propels the movie with the tempo of a finely tuned race car. Doyle is the center, profane, racists, crude and mesmerizing.

Speaking of races, the car chase is a class as Doyle commandeered a civilian’s Pontiac LeMans and chased an elevated train carrying an escaping hitman. Shot in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn, it followed the BMT West End Line (now the D and B lines) until the subway collided with another. The front mounted cameras was undercranked so the speed appeared higher than it was but was an adrenaline-pumping sequence that elevated the film to the upper echelon of action pics at the time.

The disc re-presents the 2001 DVD’s extras including two audio commentary tracks – one from Friedkin, the second with Hackman and Scheider. The deleted scenes are accompanied with Friedkin’s interesting commentary and there are two documentaries: the BBC-produced The Poughkeepsie Shuffle and Untold Stories of The French Connection – 30th Anniversary Special. New to Blu-ray are seven new pieces: Anatomy of a Chase; Hackman on Doyle; Friedkin and Grosso Remember the Real French Connection; Scene of the Crime; Color Timing The French Connection; Cop Jazz: The Music of Don Ellis, and Rogue Cop: The Noir Connection, with historians James Ursini and Alain Silver. Like others in the Signature series, it comes with a glossy booklet with tons of information on the film.

Hurricane Sandy Check-In Open Thread

Okay, if you can read this message, post in comments and let us know you’re okay. We know various ComicMix people from Maryland to Michigan to Manhattan are without power, and we want to hear from you.

Even if you’re not a regular poster here, check in so that your friends and/or fans know you’re okay. If you’re a comic store in the affected area, feel free to post and tell us how your store is holding out. (Jim Hanley, I’m looking at you.)