Pop stuff: Inherent Vice; Hyperbole and a Half; Alter Ego #131

What I'm reading, watching, hearing, etc.

Inherent Vice. This first-ever adaptation of a Thomas Pynchon novel is a gonzo noir that rambles and confuses, but also entertains.

Joaquin Phoenix is funny and likable as the stoned, mutton-chopped private eye Larry "Doc' Sportello, who spends the picture trying to get his "ex-old lady," Shasta Fay Hepworth (Katherine Waterston) out of a jam of increasing perplexity involving a real estate magnate, black revolutionaries, Nazi bikers and an underground dental cartel.

Weird folkstress Joanna Newsom acts as the film's hippie-dippie narrator, disappearing and reappearing throughout. Only Doc is able to see her, apparently. Josh Brolin is a blast as flat-topped police detective "Bigfoot" Bjornsen and there are numerous other entertaining bit parts and cameos.

I can't say I followed much of it, but it was fun. The cast and direction, by Paul Thomas Anderson, captures early 1970s in all its hazy craziness, which seems to be the main point of the thing, anyway.

Hyperbole and a Half. After hearing most of my household giggle its way through this collection of short prose-and-comics essays, I figured it was my turn to see if it's really that funny. I mean, my god, they were laughing - a lot.

Turns out it is really is that funny. Books generally don't make me laugh out loud, but this one did - a lot.

In hilarious, frequently profane prose accompanied by her primitive comics, Allie Brosh psychoanalyzes her pets - Simple Dog and Helper Dog - and herself, as if trying to figure out which is the worst off.

The book is often at its funniest when it takes on tough and complex topics. Brosh's account of depression is hilarious and touching. And true.

That's why the thing's so damned funny. Brosh nails it, whether it's how stupid dogs are, or how crazy humans can get. Her pinpoint self-awareness becomes are own, and we can't help but crumble in giggling recognition.

Also, wait until you read the part of the goose...

Alter Ego #131. I always enjoy breezing through Roy Thomas' history-of-comics mag, especially when the topics overlap with my own comic-reading youth.

That's the case with this latest ish, which features a lengthy interview with Marvel and DC scribe Gerry Conway. I read loads of Conway-written stories as a kid, and enjoyed his recap of those days, starting out as a teen at Marvel and writing the adventures of numerous top characters.

He's the guy who killed Gwen Stacy, co-creator of the Punisher and Firestorm - among others, and wrote the first DC-Marvel crossover comic featuring Superman and Spider-Man. All that is covered here, and well worth a look if your also a fan from those days. Click the link above to order a copy from the Tomorrows Publishing, which has lots of other good stuff, as well.

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