Friday, March 18, 2022

Review: 'Batman: The Ultimate Guide (New Edition)'

With yet another Batman movie being the most hyped new release, it is a fine time to get more new Bat-product onto shelves. Although Batman: The Ultimate Guide is apparently not 100% new since it is an update of a book originally published in 2001 (though, it must be pretty different since it was written by a totally different author and details a lot of Bat business that went down in the past twenty years), and it is only an ultimate guide if we forget that Batman has had a very active life off of comics pages (which would require some sort of Hugo Strange brain-eraser thingy), it is still a neat, if brief, trip through 80-something years of Batmania. 

Author Matthew K. Manning had a potentially difficult task in distilling Batman's many, many, many iterations in the comics down to a history that could fit on 200 image-crowded pages. He included profiles of the Batmobile, the Batcostume, the Batcave, the Justice League, and Gotham City,  as well as various friends, foes, and love interests. There are a few profiles of key comic issues with synopses and illustrative panels. There's a spread on that time Green Lantern turned Batman into a zombie. I even learned a few things (I had no idea False-Face appeared in the comics in 1958 and was not an invention of the sixties TV-series), but the book's main draw is it's colorful, spectacular, and varied rogue's gallery of images.

Saturday, March 5, 2022

Review: 'Into Every Generation A Slayer Is Born: How Buffy Staked Our Hearts'

In the "Pre-Prologue" of his new book, Into Every Generation A Slayer Is Born: How Buffy Staked Our Hearts, Evan Ross Katz states that he "set out to write a book about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the historic and groundbreaking television series that altered and then reshaped the television landscape..." before clarifying "This will not be that book. It will contain remnants of the book I set out to write" but, he goes on to explain, the context has changed. 

Any fan of the show knows exactly what he means. Actors Charisma Carpenter, Amber Benson, and Michelle Trachtenberg have all gone on record about how formerly-revered series creator Joss Whedon made them feel unsafe, manipulated them, lied to them, or insulted them (or in Carpenter's case, all of the above). Others from the show's cast and crew have since come out to corroborate these stories or offer support to the women who went through all that crap.

Whereas Katz apparently began his book in a world where Buffy the Vampire Slayer was generally considered to be a groundbreaking piece of television about a feminist superhero who slays vamps with her Mr. Pointy and its creator was considered by many to be nothing short of a genius, the landscape then shifted to one in which Whedon was outed as a serial-jerk (who still hasn't reckoned with or apologized for any of his alleged transgressions) and the show itself has been widely reevaluated in ways that have seen its feminist stock plunge severely.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Review: TCM's Ultimate Movie Trivia Challenge Game

My regular readers know that I mostly review books, DVDs, and records aimed at groovy ghouls, retro rockers, and kooky cultists here on Psychobabble, but I'm branching out ever so slightly with this post to write my first game review. Turner Classic Movie's Ultimate Movie Trivia Challenge doesn't stretch too far from the usual Psychobabble subject of retro-pop culture, but it did force me to alter my usual solitary review approach. So I wrangled my wife, Elise Nussbaum, for assistance. I didn't simply choose her because she is conveniently located or basically the only other adult human I talk to (although both of those things are true); she was also the perfect candidate because she is a former three-day Jeopardy champion, so I knew she would go easy on neither TCM's Ultimate Movie Trivia Challenge nor me. 

Game play is refreshingly simple in an age of games with unnecessarily convoluted rules. One player draws a card with four questions. The other player randomly selects a number from one to four, and the question-asker asks the corresponding question. Each correctly answered question earns a player one point, and on it goes until one player accumulates a set number of points. The rules suggest 10, 12, or 15.

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