Posts Tagged ‘Disaster Series’

Goodbye, Jerry; Hello, Nashville

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017

I already did a brief post on Facebook about the passing of Jerry Lewis. I predicted that along with the tributes there would lots of snark, as some people feel the right moment to dis somebody is right after that person dies.

I understand Lewis was both a complicated man and an inconsistent artist. My late friend Bruce Peters used to say, “The only thing funnier than Jerry Lewis at his best is Jerry Lewis at his worst.” And there’s some truth in that. He could be such a putz when he got in self-trained intellectual mode on talk shows (Martin Short, a fellow Lewis lover, could nail that perfectly). He could be notoriously thin-skinned with interviewers and he indulged in outrageously politically incorrect humor right to the end – Barb, Nate, Abby and I saw him in St. Louis not long ago, and he told an Asian joke that was in terrible taste (but I laughed at it, because at 69 I already understand what it is to be of another era and feel the urge to make your own generation smile and younger people squirm).

But I wasn’t always 69. Once I was six, and seven, and eight, and all the ages along the way through junior and senior high school, years when at the Uptown Theater in Muscatine, Iowa, I saw every movie Jerry made. I saw many of Dean and Jerry’s movies that way, too, but also saw them tear it up on TV, manic magic as performed by no other comedy team in history. Nobody could make me laugh harder, and I still find Dean and Jerry a perfectly mismatched pair. I remember seeing Pardners and being so relieved that Dean and Jerry were obviously still pals and partners and, despite what we’d been told, would never ever split. Right up till the day Dean Martin died I was hoping for a genuine reunion of the two. They were, as I said elsewhere, the comedy Beatles.

Jerry could be cloyingly sentimental in his films. This made some otherwise interesting movies – Cinderfella, for example – occasionally unbearable. And he had a thing for clowns that misses me entirely. On the other hand, his infamous unreleased The Day the Clown Cried seems pretty good to me, based upon the clips and readings from the script that were assembled a while back, despite its legendary reputation as an embarrassing disaster. A guy who could be as overbearing as Jerry, and who represented show business at its most phony/traditional, made a great target for smug people of my generation who turned on the whole Rat Pack crowd as part of our general anti-Establishment stance.

It was easy for us to forget that Jerry was an anarchic presence in a dull decade, he and Dean perhaps the first sign of the rebellion that was to come, a bridling against the cookie-cutter post-war world that would soon know Brando and James Dean. Like Elvis and Spillane, Jerry Lewis – and in his way, Dino, too – were rebels serving up gleeful chaos even as they let us know that all was not calm beneath the pablum-paved Arthur Godfrey surface of ‘50s America.

And when the sixties kicked in – really kicked in – it was tough on Jerry. He famously considered his screen persona to be eternally nine years old, and this worked for a long, long time, because of his naturally youthful looks. But when the hippie era asserted its glassy-eyed self, and the sexual revolution changed movies, he started looking like a guy approaching middle age, and his brand of traditional show biz was soon attracting derision from the Baby Boomers who had loved him. He started making some truly dreadful movies with sex farce aspects – Three on a Couch, for example, and Way…Way Out.

And when he took on the Nazis in Which Way to the Front? (not long after Mel Brooks and The Producers), his comic timing seemed oddly off – as a director, his usual mastery of cutting was absent. And yet there are very funny moments toward the end of that generally dire film – Hitler has never been funnier, not even when Dick Shawn was playing him. Jerry’s willingness to do whatever it took to get a laugh would, even in those misjudged circumstances, shine through. Even his comeback comedy, Hardly Working, for all its sketchiness and awkward product placement, had sublime moments of Lewis hysteria, as when a porthole in an art gallery issues gushing water, with Jerry breaking the fourth wall to ask us if we’d seen that, too.

I always watched the telethons selectively. I wanted to see the parts where Jerry himself was performing or interacting with guests. (I saw the Dean Martin reunion, orchestrated by Sinatra, as it happened.) And I sat through Jerry’s excruciating yet strangely thrilling performance of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at least a dozen times.

So, yes, he was not perfect. But I’m here to tell you that he will join the pantheon of great screen comics. He’ll rank with W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, Chaplin, and Keaton. He’s already outdistanced such contenders as Danny Kaye and Red Skelton (meaning no disrespect to either – I am a guy who adores the Ritz Brothers, after all). I hope Abbott and Costello will last, and Bob Hope, too (his pre-1960s comedies and the Road pictures with Crosby remain hugely entertaining). The Stooges seem impervious, which for Baby Boomers is a sweet surprise, though when we’re gone that may not continue. But I don’t think there’s any doubt that the best of Jerry Lewis will endure.

Like what, you ask?

Well, while the Martin & Lewis films don’t always capture the boys at their best, a handful do – Artists and Models (the comic book movie), Sailor Beware, You’re Never Too Young, The Caddy, Living It Up, The Stooge, Hollywood or Bust and Pardners. That’s quite a few, actually.

For Jerry at the top of his game, try The Nutty Professor, The Ladies’ Man, The Bellboy, The Patsy, and The Errand Boy, all of which he directed and co-wrote. His collaborations with Frank Tashlin are mostly worthwhile: It’s Only Money, The Disorderly Orderly, and Who’s Minding the Store among them. And of course there’s The King of Comedy.

Fanatics, like myself, have everything of Jerry’s on DVD and Blu-ray – including things you can only acquire from overseas. I even have bootlegs of the two (terrible) movies he made in France.

Nonetheless, France was right: he was a genius. Not everything I’ve said here is flattering about him, but make no mistake – I loved this man and his work. For probably twenty years I’ve dreaded the day when I would learn of his passing. I knew part of me would die with him.

So I’ll be as cloyingly sentimental as Jerry and say that he won’t be gone as long as his films are with us, including moments like this:

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I am a guest of honor at Killer Nashville this weekend (Aug. 24 -27). Barb will be along, and we’ll be very active, doing scads of panels. It’s our first time at this event.

I’m receiving a life achievement “Legends” award – read about it here.

Here’s where you can get more general info about the conference/convention.

And here are the panels one or both of us are on:

Friday, Aug 25
2:20pm panel: M.A.C. Bad Boys and Girls (Hickory 20)
4:40pm signing: M.A.C.
5pm Author Readings (Birch MM)

Saturday, Aug. 26
12:30pm Road to Perdition interview; M.A.C. (Birch 34)
2pm panel: Barb; How to Write Cozy Mystery Series (Hickory 37)
3pm panel: M.A.C./Barb; Art of Collaboration (Sycamore 43)
5:10pm signing; M.A.C./Barb (Azalea S8)
7pm Awards Dinner (Birch KNA)

Sun. Aug 27
9:50am panel; M.A.C. Writing the Scene (Sycamore 49)
9:50am panel; Barb One Night: Lovers, Minor Characters (Redbud 50)
10:50am panel; Barb That’s Funny (Sycamore 54)

I have been in Nashville twice before. In 1967, to record “Psychedelic Siren” with the Daybreakers. And in 1994, to scout locations for The Expert with director Bill Lustig.

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Take a look at these nice comments about Scar of the Bat, my Eliot Ness/Batman Elseworlds graphic novel, with a suggestion that it should be animated.

This nice look at Road to Perdition is, as usual, based on its being derived from a comics source.

Finally, here’s a nice review of The Pearl Harbor Murders (actually of Dan John Miller’s audio of it) with an overview of the entire “Disaster” series.

M.A.C.

100 Reasons to Love Mickey Spillane

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017
Spillane 100

How about an advance look at what’s planned for Mickey Spillane’s 100th birthday next year?

Two books will share centerstage – The Last Stand and Killing Town. Both are really special. The Last Stand will feature two novels – a short one circa early ‘50s, A Bullet for Satisfaction, which I co-authored from an unedited rough draft; and a full-length one, entitled (appropriately enough) The Last Stand.

The latter novel is the last book Mickey completed. My contribution has been to give it an edit, based upon comments Mickey made to me when he and I discussed the book shortly after I read it. This was probably around two weeks before he passed. Mickey was working on The Last Stand and two other novels simultaneously, The Goliath Bone and Dead Street (both of which I completed for him).

With his wife Jane Spillane’s permission, I held back The Last Stand until now for several reasons. First, it’s not a typical Spillane novel – it’s more of an adventure novel along the lines of Something’s Down There, the last book published during his lifetime. While we discussed having it published as the first book after his death, ultimately we decided to set it aside, probably for the centenary. I felt it was better to make the Mike Hammer novels a priority – to get them finished and out there. I’ve obviously been doing that, as well as completing (for publication by Hard Case Crime) Dead Street and The Consummata, both crime novels in keeping with a typical Spillane approach.

The Last Stand is a fun novel, a modern-day western and a disguised rumination on the tough guy entering old age, and readers will be very entertained. But I thought for those who might be confused by a lack of certain expected Spillane elements, including the more typical A Bullet for Satisfaction would make for a nicely balanced volume. Satisfaction is a rogue cop revenge tale with lots of sex and violence (the hero’s name is Rod Dexter).

Hard Case Crime will be doing the book in both hardcover and paperback, something they only do occasionally. Publisher Charles Ardai also brought a loving hand in the edit.

So we have the final Spillane novel.

And we have the first Mike Hammer novel.

Wait, what…?

Killing Town is another manuscript I salted away with the centenary in mind. It’s a substantial manuscript, longer than those I’ve been dealing with of late, and it represents Mickey’s first go at doing Mike Hammer, probably circa 1945…predating I, the Jury. I will tell more of the story behind it later, but it’s a novel that takes place in an industrial town in upstate New York with Mike Hammer running a dangerous errand for an army buddy. It could not be more typically vintage Spillane in tone and approach. Titan is publishing in hardcover.

I have not begun my work yet, but it’s the next big project.

We will also in 2018 have the mass market edition of The Will to Kill, the paperback of the Caleb York novel The Bloody Spur, various new audios, and more.

Those of you with blogs might want to think about doing a Spillane piece for 2018. (His birthday is March 9.) I will be writing something for Mystery Scene, and hope to complete a non-Hammer short story for The Strand.

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Here’s a nice piece on Hard Case Crime with an emphasis on comics.

Publisher’s Weekly includes Quarry’s Climax in upcoming books they’re showcasing.

Here’s an audiobook review of The Titanic Murders.

And finally here’s a NSFW link that shows a reader enjoying an advance look at Quarry’s Climax.

M.A.C.

2016 Movie Wrap-Up

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016

As regular readers here know, Barb and I go to a lot of movies – generally one a week. That doesn’t mean we see everything, of course, so view these lists in that context. No particular order within categories.

Here we go:

BEST MOVIES

Hail, Caesar!
The Nice Guys
Star Trek Beyond
Hell or High Water
Doctor Strange

MOVIES WE WALKED OUT ON

The Boss
Bad Moms
Ben-Hur
The Magnificent Seven
Keeping Up with the Joneses

MOVIES WE WALKED OUT ON & MAYBE SHOULDN’T HAVE

Captain America: Civil War
Kubo & the Two Strings

MOVIES WE SHOULD HAVE WALKED OUT ON
Girl on the Train
Conjuring 2
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice

BEST MOVIE WITH BRENT SPINER

Independence Day: Resurgence

WORST MOVIE WITH BRENT SPINER

Independence Day: Resurgence

MOVIES THAT WERE BETTER THAN THEY HAD ANY RIGHT TO BE

Zootopia
Gods of Egypt
Legend of Tarzan
Deadpool
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising

MOVIES THAT WERE WORSE THAN THEY HAD ANY RIGHT TO BE

Finest Hours
Ghostbusters

MOVIES WE ENJOYED BUT BARELY REMEMBER

Keanu
X-Men: Apocalypse
Central Intelligence

MOVIES THAT DID THE JOB

The Infiltrator
Masterminds
Rules Don’t Apply
Allied

BEST MOVIE WITH THE GROWN-UP KID FROM PERDITION

Everybody Wants Some!!

MOVIES THAT WE DIDN’T SEE BUT HATE ANYWAY

13 Hours
Dirty Grandpa
The Divergent Series: Allegiant
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Alice Through the Looking Glass
Office Christmas Party

PRETENTIOUS TWADDLE

Arrival
The Witch
Nocturnal Animals

A few comments, since I didn’t review all of these films here over the year.

CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR just wore us down. We left with half an hour to go, generally ready to swear off super-hero movies. DOCTOR STRANGE, then, was an intelligent surprise. So was DEADPOOL, and I understand why anyone might not like its over-the-top nilhistic approach, but we both liked the kick to the seat of the pants it gave to super-hero movies.

ARRIVAL is slow and full of itself, and I found its big surprise obvious. THE WITCH was an unpleasant ride to nowhere. NOCTURNAL ANIMALS is misogynistic and generally unpleasant, with only the story-within-the-story having any merit, most of that coming from the always interesting Michael Shannon. RULES DON’T APPLY is an interesting and quirky return to film by star/director/writer Warren Beatty, a loving though occasionally acid valentine to Hollywood and a disguised autobiography. GODS OF EGYPT we watched at home in 3-D and had fun – no apologies forthcoming.

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Our local weekly paper, Voice of Muscatine, did this nice write-up on the Grand Master award.

Here’s a good review of The London Blitz Murders.

J. Kingston Pierce gives a nice mention to the complete version of Road to Perdition published by Brash Books. Order that yet?

Nice words about the Quarry TV series as one of the year’s best literary adaptations.

And here the Quarry show makes another “best of” list.

Finally, be sure to check out the Quarry Facebook page.

M.A.C.

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And this just in!

QUARRY: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON
Available February 14, 2017 on Blu-ray™ & DVD

New York, N.Y., December 12, 2016 – Season 1 of the “wildly entertaining” (TV Guide) Cinemax® series Quarry, loosely based on the novels of Max Allan Collins set in and around Memphis, is set to make its home entertainment debut on February 14, 2017. Starring Logan Marshall-Green as Mac Conway, this “impressively flawless” (Washington Post) series follows two soldiers’ return home from a second tour of duty in Vietnam. Quarry: The Complete First Season will be available to own on Blu-rayTM ($34.98) and DVD ($24.98), packed with bonus content including more than two dozen deleted scenes and new footage of interviews where Mac and his comrades testify to the events that led up to their discharge from the Marines. DVD and Blu-rayTM will also include a Digital Download copy.

Set in and around Memphis during the early 1970s, Quarry is a thrilling action drama that centers on the character of Mac Conway, a Marine who returns home from a second tour of duty in Vietnam. With his relationship with his wife Joni growing tenuous, Mac finds himself tempted by a lucrative offer from The Broker, a shady criminal involved in a network of killing and corruption that spans the length of the Mississippi River. After a series of events, Mac – whom The Broker codenames “Quarry” – finds himself conscripted against his better judgment into The Broker’s crew, a turn of events that has dire consequences for both himself and Joni. Gripping and “startlingly good” (Yahoo! TV), with action packed storytelling, the first season of Quarry promises to not disappoint.

Bonus Features include:

  • Deleted Scenes – A fascinating selection of more than two dozen deleted scenes from Season 1.
  • “Inside Quarry” – Get an inside look at each episode of Quarry with the cast and crew of the acclaimed series.
  • “Quan Thang Inquiry Scenes” – Check out declassified interview footage in which Mac (Logan Marshall-Green) and other soldiers testify to the events of the Quan Thang tragedy.
  • “About Quarry” – Delve inside the setting, characters and storylines of Quarry with the cast and crew.
  • “Music of Memphis” – Join the cast and crew for an inside look at the classic R&B soundtrack and live music seen in the show.
  • “Recreating 1972” – The cast and crew of Quarry reveal how they turned back the clock to recreate the sets and styles of Memphis in 1972.
  • “Love Letters” – Hear the recorded correspondence between Mac and Joni while he served in Vietnam.
  • “Car Chase Picture in Picture” – Join Quarry star Logan Marshall-Green for this action-packed look at the staging of a rough-and-tumble car chase from the series.
  • Music Videos – Watch a collection of music videos featuring some of the blistering tracks from the series.

Other cast members include: Nikki Amuka-Bird (“Luther”) as Ruth, a hardworking mother who is Joni’s close friend; Damon Herriman (“Justified”) as Buddy; Edoardo Ballerini as Karl, and Mustafa Shakir as Moses, three of The Broker’s most capable and ruthless henchmen; Jamie Hector as Arthur, Ruth’s husband and Mac’s best friend, who is also a Vietnam vet; Ann Dowd as Naomi, Buddy’s doting but unconventional mother; Skipp Sudduth as Lloyd, Mac’s father; Josh Randall as Detective Tommy Olsen, a dedicated member of the Memphis Police Department; and Kurt Yaeger as Suggs, who has fallen within The Broker’s sights.

Quarry: The Complete First Season
Blu-rayTM & DVD

Street Date: February 14, 2017
Order Date: January 10, 2017
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: Approx. 480 minutes (excluding bonus materials)

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Quarry – September 9!

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

The first of eight episodes of QUARRY will be on Cinemax on September 9 at 10 p.m. (I assume that’s eastern time).

Obviously this has been a long time coming, but I think the wait will have been worth it. Already the series has resulted in Hard Case Crime reissuing the first five books, with a new book coming in October (QUARRY IN THE BLACK), a four-issue comic book series early next year, and another novel (QUARRY ON TARGET) that I will write later this year.

The news about the series and its debut is all over the Internet – probably a couple of dozen write-ups. Here are several that should serve to catch you up.

The Early Word has something of a publishing slant. Collider has advance images, and Den of Geek is nicely opinionated.

* * *

A big Kindle sale is coming up later this week, featuring assorted titles of mine in the Mystery, Thriller & Suspense category. Each book will be $1.99. The sale begins July 1 and runs through July 31.

Here are the specific titles:
[Note from Nate: For your convenience, I’ve linked the Amazon logo to each book’s Amazon page, and the text title to each book’s info page on our website.]

CHICAGO LIGHTNING
WHAT DOESN’T KILL HER
SUPREME JUSTICE
THE TITANIC MURDERS
THE LONDON BLITZ MURDERS
THE HINDENBURG MURDERS
THE WAR OF THE WORLDS MURDER
THE PEARL HARBOR MURDERS
TRUE CRIME
THE MILLION-DOLLAR WOUND

Beginning 7/1/2016, go here:
https://www.amazon.com/b?node=13819722011.

If you go there before that date, the page may not show the new promotion, or it may be empty. If that’s the case, check back on July 1, the official start date.

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The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame discussion continues. Here’s a great comment from Mike Dennis that you may have missed:

I’m on board with Pat Boone, Max. For exactly the reasons you cite. He singlehandedly opened the door for R&B artists who couldn’t get their records played on white radio stations by recording their songs himself. And of course, those R&B artists collected lots of money in songwriting
royalties.

As far as the 1958-63 (Elvis/Army – Beatles invade US) era is concerned, I’ve thought about that. It was not the most fertile period for rock & roll. Think about 1958. Rock & roll was in danger of disappearing altogether. I’m sure you remember. Radio DJs were breaking records on the air, clergymen from coast to coast were pounding their pulpits over this sinful, new music. It was not a given than the music would survive, rather it was held together by a loose gathering of young artists and the eager teenagers who had fallen under their spell. The adults couldn’t stand it.

Then Elvis entered the Army, Jerry Lee Lewis self-destructed on his disastrous tour of the UK, and Buddy Holly died in February of 1959. That was really the end of the period where this raw, exciting music was being made by mostly young Southern boys, independent of each other, music crafted and honed in the dirt-road joints of the emerging South. The songs, and the artists who recorded them, were a natural outgrowth of a post-World War II America, reflecting (like the film noir that rose during that period) all the alienation that existed in the country at that time.

The songs spoke only to young people, while the artists were generally sex-crazed hillbillies sent out on the road with no adult supervision. Elvis was the King of Rock & Roll. Jerry Lee Lewis was supposed to inherit the throne following his British tour. Holly represented the music’s sensitive side. But with all three of them gone by early 1959, there was a vacuum at the top. The major record companies saw their opening and moved in. They swiftly rounded up a stable of compliant, cute, barely-talented artists who were willing to do what they were told for a shot at stardom. Rock & roll songs were no longer written on the back of napkins or on paper bags, they were written in the Brill Building by calculating, businesslike songwriters whose job it was to turn out hits that had been scrubbed clean of sexuality.

Also, I’m glad you pointed out the role of the Wrecking Crew in the making of so many great records. I would like to note there was a British version of the Wrecking Crew — I’m not sure if they had a slick name like that — that played on most of the British Invasion records. One noteworthy example is the Kinks’ first two records, YOU REALLY GOT ME and ALL DAY AND ALL THE NIGHT. The opening buzzsaw guitar chords were played by Jimmy Page, not Dave Davies as is commonly thought. I met Page in 1966, right after he joined the Yardbirds and he told me all about those sessions. Until then, he was a first-call studio player in London and he and a few other guys played on all the British Invasion records (all, that is, except the Beatles, the Stones, and maybe a couple of others).

That said, I still don’t consider Buffalo Springfield as anything more than a one-hit wonder. Laura Nyro was a great songwriter, as you pointed out, but I don’t think she’s worthy of induction in the R&RHOF. There are artists I would like to see in the Hall, like Johnny Rivers, the Monkees, and the Association, but as long as the Hall is itself not worthy of having them, I’m not going to get too upset over their omission.

Mike, thanks for this articulate, insightful mini-essay. Much of what you say I agree with, but I think you (in a way characteristic of some who highly value Elvis, Jerry Lee and Buddy Holly) underestimate some of what was going on in the between-Elvis-and-the-Beatles years. Some very exciting stuff was happening, on the east coast particularly. You know I am a big Bobby Darin fan – his version of his own “Early in the Morning” is far superior to the rushed Buddy Holly cover, and Darin cut many strong rockers backed by great Atlantic Records session men. I would also cite artists like Bobby Vee and Bobby Rydell (two more of the much-maligned “Bobbys” and neither on a major label) as real rock artists.

Then there’s Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, and I can’t agree about the Brill Building output – not when we’re talking Bacharch & David, Goffin & King, Mann & Weil, Pompous & Shuman, Greenwich & Barry, Leiber & Stoller. A lot of that was anything but scrubbed of sexuality.

You mention 1958. Rock was not disappearing – not with the Everly Brothers, Ricky Nelson, Danny and the Juniors, the Coasters, Little Anthony and the Imperials, and – oh yeah – a guy named Chuck Berry…all charting. From ‘59 to ‘62, there were many greats and near-greats making hit records: Lloyd Price, Ritchie Valens, Dion and the Belmonts, Freddy Cannon (“Woo!”), Ray Friggin’ Charles, Jackie Wilson, Johnny Cash, Del Shannon (opened for him!), the Shirelles, Gary U.S. Bonds, Joey Dee and the Starlighters, and Gene Pitney. Not chopped liver! And not a major record company artist in the bunch.

The supposed dearth of rock post-Elvis and pre-Beatles strikes me as highly exaggerated. I wonder how many people like me – I’m now the ancient age of 68 – lived through all of these eras of rock and loved every one.

A couple of footnotes. The Buffalo Springfield played at the Masonic Temple in Davenport, Iowa, within a year of when my band the Daybreakers played there, when we opened for the Rascals and Gary Puckett. Buffalo Springfield was amazing and brave – they played extended, very loud solos prefiguring what every band would be doing in a year or two, and alienating much of the Iowa teenage audience. And my God was the fringe on Neil Young’s leather jacket long!

Same venue, same year. Gene Pitney and several other acts, including the Turtles (opened for them twice!), appeared in a kind of caravan-of-stars format. Pitney tore the place up, his vocals just towering. Then half-way through the set, he spoke for the first time, telling the audience in a hoarse voice, almost a whisper, that he apologized for doing so poorly, but he had a bad cold and was fighting laryngitis. Then he sang THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE.

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Finally, MS. TREE fans may enjoy this fun, smart podcast in which two comic book experts review (favorably) the story “One Mean Mother.”

M.A.C.