Batman: The Animated Series – “Appointment in Crime Alley”

Appointment_In_Crime_Alley-Title_CardEpisode Number:  26

Original Air Date:  September 17, 1992

Directed by:  Boyd Kirkland

Written by:  Gerry Conway

First Appearance(s): Leslie Thompkins


After last week’s entry I’m feeling pretty eager to get the taste of The Clock King out of my mouth. This week, season one heavyweight Boyd Kirkland returns to direct “Appointment in Crime Alley.” Writing this one is famed Amazing Spider-Man writer Gerry Conway, he who killed Gwen Stacy. I’m not sure what about this episode appealed to Conway in order to bring him in, but the results speak for themselves. Batman is first and foremost a super hero cartoon. He may be the hero without powers, but his stories still pack a healthy amount of the fantastic. After all, even a man in peek physical condition couldn’t do what Batman does, such as falling off a building and utilizing an amazing grappling gun to save himself, without ripping his own arms off. Even so, since Batman’s rogues gallery is light on ultra-powerful comic book villains, he’s able to branch out and do more real world styled stories, and “Appointment in Crime Alley” is one of those stories.


Thompkins consoling Bruce after his parents’ murder.

The film Batman touched upon the lasting impact of the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne and how Bruce marks that anniversary. Pretty much ever since, just about every new iteration of Batman includes this aspect of his character and this episode touches on it. When it opens, we’re given a brief overview of Crime Alley, a rundown part of Gotham that I guess the real world would just refer to as “The Projects.” There’s a lot of empty buildings and a lot of crime, but it’s also a home for many of Gotham’s less fortunate. It’s also the setting for the murder of the Waynes, but the episode never explicitly tells us this. Early in the episode, Alfred remarks to Batman to not be late for an appointment, which he responds with “I never am,” and we’re left to speculate what the appointment is for, but the episode isn’t going to make it hard for us to guess.


Leslie is a unique ally for Batman as she’s one of the select few who know his identity.

This episode also brings in Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Diana Muldaur). She’s introduced onscreen and via a scrapbook later in the episode which includes clippings relating to the Wayne murder and a touching image of her comforting young Bruce. We’ll learn in a later episode that she was close friends with the Waynes, in particular Thomas, and she’s been a constant in Bruce’s life ever since. She also lives in Crime Alley, and that miserable rat Roland Daggett is scheming to illegally level Crime Alley so he can rebuild it and make more money off of it. He coordinates with some hired goons, Nitro (David L. Lander) and Crocker (Jeffrey Tambor) – one being an explosives expert, to plant explosives all over the neighborhood to accomplish his stated plan. He’s at least not totally evil, since he tries to get the few residents of the area out, though he does it by sending hired muscle to intimidate people into leaving (and he’s not changing his plans for anyone who does stick around). One such attempt gets Batman’s attention while he’s heading for his appointment, clueing him into something nefarious going on.


Daggett is such a scumbag, an easy villain to root against.

Meanwhile, Thompkins has taken note of the bombers trespassing on a condemned building. She decides to check it out and gets their attention, resulting in them kidnapping her. Now Batman can’t find his friend, and a homeless man who saw the abduction just so happened to pick up a blasting cap he found, and everything starts to come together for Batman. Unfortunately for him, people keep needing his help, like a suicidal man who’s taken a hostage, and it diverts his attention from finding Thompkins, who is tied up with the explosives. He will eventually locate her, but he can’t stop Daggett’s bombs from going off. There are no known fatalities, since this is a kid’s show after all, and Batman gets to confront Daggett at the end only to watch him drive away without arrest. It’s a bit depressing and it’s easy to see the frustration on Batman’s face even with so much of it being obscured by his cowl. Thompkins is there to comfort him, as she was so many years ago, and the two head to their appointment to lay flowers. The episode fades out on the newspaper clipping of Thompkins consoling young Bruce, and it’s probably the most touching ending we’ve had thus far.


Promises to keep.

Gerry Conway will return in season 2 to pen another episode, and wouldn’t you know it’s another good one. “Appointment in Crime Alley” is one of those episodes of Batman that few will list as being among their favorites when prodded, but upon watching it they’ll be reminded of just how good it is. It’s kind of a day in the life piece, and if not for the special occasion of Batman’s appointment, that’s what it would be. It doesn’t contain an over the top villain, but a made for TV one in Daggett, who is quickly becoming one of the easiest villains to truly despise. This episode also has the distinction of being adapted from a comic story, in this case “There Is No Hope in Crime Alley” from 1976 which was written by Dennis O’Neil. Thompkins is also a nice addition to the show, though surprisingly she’ll only have a handful of appearances. It feels like she was in more than five episodes, but that’s it. And if IMDB is to be trusted, this was basically the last role for actress Diana Muldaur, which is kind of neat I suppose. Good news, she isn’t dead, just retired. This also continues a nice string of episodes for director Boyd Kirkland. After manning some of my least favorites early on, he’s in a nice groove and is probably the show’s top director. I try not to look ahead too much, but Kirkland has some good ones coming later on in the first season. It also seems like he gets some of the more grounded tales, since he also directed “It’s Never Too Late” and will also helm “I Am The Night.” He’s a featured director in season 2 as well so hopefully you’re enjoying his work as much as I am because he’s not going away.


SH Figuarts Super Saiyan Vegeta

IMG_2172He’s the Prince of all Saiyans. The last survivor to have laid eyes on Planet Vegeta, home world of the mighty warriors and birthplace of the legendary Goku. And he’s also a pretty fine toy. Vegeta, arguably the most popular character to emerge from Dragon Ball Z, has seen his likeness cast in numerous forms of plastic over the years. The Dragon Ball franchise is probably the most recognizable anime franchise around the globe and probably the most beloved. Despite concluding over 20 years ago, Dragon Ball Z remains insanely popular. It has experienced a renaissance over the past few years due in large part to the launch of Dragon Ball Super, the Akira Toriyama blessed true sequel to Dragon Ball Z which basically erases the lackluster Dragon Ball GT from canon. It’s thanks to that series, as well as Giant Bomb’s new Dragon Ball Kai podcast All Systems Goku, that I’m feeling awash in Dragon Ball related nostalgia. And when I get nostalgic, I often turn to toys.


Final Flash, sort of?

SH Figuarts, a division of Bandai, has been releasing high quality action figures for a few years now. I reviewed each figure in its aborted Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line and came away really impressed with the build quality of those figures. That license was reportedly rather expensive for SHF, so I should not be surprised that their Dragon Ball products actually seem more substantial and are even a bit cheaper in price. They’ve been dabbling in the franchise for a few years now, but it’s only just now that I finally bit the bullet on my first DBZ figure and who else was I going to pick other than Vegeta? Truth be told, my options were rather slim at my local comic shop as these figures aren’t stocked like a typical action figure line or the much cheaper Dragon Ball Super figures. I had my choice between Vegeta, Tien, and Kid Goku from Dragon Ball and opted for Vegeta because he was always one of my favorite characters and at $50 he was also the cheapest. That price point is substantial for a lone action figure and it’s the most I’ve ever spent on a DBZ figure, but after having a couple of days to mess around with him, it’s hard not to come away impressed.

Super Saiyan Vegeta comes in at roughly 6″ in height and is depicted in his iconic Cell Saga blue armor attire. He has more points of articulation than is worth mentioning and loads of optional parts. His parts list includes 4 interchangeable face plates, nine different hands, and a set of crossed arms. His wide range in articulation means he’s capable of numerous dynamic poses, though the lack of a display stand of some kind is a bit disappointing (they’re sold separately) as he can’t truly assume his classic Gallic Gun pose or Final Flash. His joints are nice and tight so there’s no flopping around. The paint apps on my figure are all really clean. His face has few paint accents, but his expressions work really well and it kind of plays off of the yellow in his hair this way. His bodysuit has some shading and the armor does as well so it’s not just stark white. There’s no battle damage or anything like that and nothing is removable, but the armor itself is part of the sculpt providing maximum articulation at the slight cost of true likeness.

The SHF line is composed of numerous smaller pieces and the figures can practically be deconstructed if you so desire. This means you can get a little rough with them without fear of breaking anything as it’s more likely the piece will just pop out instead. The hands all popped out rather easily for me. They’re seated on a small peg which is attached to a ball joint. Snapping on a new hand can be a little tricky as that ball behind the pegs wants to move, but it’s still fairly simple. The cross arms piece is a little more tricky as you have to remove Vegeta’s arms just above the bicep. They come apart easy enough, but getting the crossed arms to fit means inserting one side then kind of bending the other arm to make it work. Still, I never felt like I was endangering my figure when putting it on. The end result is a classic Vegeta pose, though it looks slightly unnatural. That may just be due to me knowing it’s one solid piece and overthinking it, so judge for yourself in the picture below. As you can see, SHF did a great job of making sure the blue of the sleeves matches Vegeta’s shoulders.


Vegeta is not impressed with your fighting ability.

Veneta’s face plates are all relatively easy to remove and re-apply. His “bangs” are attached to his face and including that as part of each face plate helps add depth to his hair and also hide the seem. After struggling with the face plates of the recently released Bucky O’Hare from Boss Fight Studio, it was nice to have no similar issues with the faces here. He comes capable of four different expression: a serious face, a cocky grin, an angry scream, and an angry scream while looking off to the left. I’m not really sure why that last one is included, but I’m not complaining as it’s not like anything is missing (unless you enjoy horrified Vegeta). His screaming faces even have that little vein that shows up in the show whenever Vegeta gets pissed which is a nice touch. The only challenge to the faces is finding a spot to place your fingers as you push another face on – that hair is pretty damn spiky!

Between the numerous hands and the various expressions it’s relatively easy to recreate any scene you wish from the show or manga. The only thing missing is a true Big Bang Attack hand gesture, which if I’m being honest actually is a pretty disappointing omission. He can handle the Final Flash with ease though and it’s possible to kind of contort him into a Gallic Gun, but that one always was a bit odd and a pose more appropriate for a Saiyan Saga Vegeta. It would have also been nice to get a a non-super head, though I personally wouldn’t display him with black hair so I guess I shouldn’t complain. Now if they had wanted to go the extra mile and include removable shoulder pads, tail, and armor “skirts” then that would have been great – basically creating an ultimate Vegeta figure. That would have also added considerable cost to the figure and already being at $50 I can understand why SHF would rather not. If you love all forms of Vegeta though SHF has you covered as they’ve done a Saiyan Saga Vegeta, Majin Vegeta, and a Super Saiyan Blue version as well.


Hug me!!!

Considering prior to purchasing this Vegeta action figure the only ones I had were made by Bandai, Irwin, and Unifive, it probably comes as no surprise that this is the best Vegeta I’ve ever purchased. Since it’s the most expensive, I guess that makes sense. It’s also given me a bit of an itch to acquire a few more of the Dragon Ball figures released by SHF. I can’t see myself going nuts and trying to collect the whole line, but a few choice figures is not out of the question and I may or may not have already bought a second figure (spoiler alert, I did and you can expect a review of that one in the not too distant future). The only danger is with companion figures. If I decide I really want a Saiyan Saga Vegeta will I then feel the need to pair him with a Nappa which runs around $75? It’s a dangerous game. For now at least I can feel pretty happy with this figure.

Batman: The Animated Series – “The Clock King”

The_Clock_King-Title_CardEpisode Number:  25

Original Air Date:  September 21, 1992

Directed by:  Kevin Altieri

Written by:  David Wise

First Appearance(s):  The Clock King

Batman:  The Animated Series largely tries to emulate the Tim Burton films from the same era in terms of setting and mood. Naturally, this being a children’s show first and foremost, it’s noticeably lighter in touch when dealing with the uglier side of Gotham City, but at no point does it strive to match the camp of Batman’s other television series, the Batman show from the 1960’s. At least that is, until now. What we have here is a villain, The Clock King, who could have easily existed in that program. Actually, he did for two episodes although that Clock King (played by Walter Slezak) did not resemble this one very much, but he sure did like time puns.


The Clock King as played by Walter Slezak

The Clock King of Batman:  The Animated Series is played by Alan Rachins and is a former effciency expert for his own company. Real name Temple Fugate, a play on the Latin phrase tempus fugit which translates to “time flies,” he encounters Hamilton Hill one day on the train looking rather tense. Being a stickler for time, he’s basically always this way, but Hill remarks he should loosen up and change his routine around to keep from going mad. Fugate does so, moving his coffee break by 15 minutes and outside, but it ends up being a catalyst for a really bad day that results in him losing a court case concerning a business he runs ruining him in the process. Seven years later, Hill is mayor of Gotham and Fugate is out for revenge as The Clock King.

Fugate first starts by trying to humiliate the mayor by hacking the traffic lights of Gotham and draping a silly banner over City Hall cartoonishly depicting the mayor in an unfavorable light. It’s pretty benign, but it does draw the attention of Batman who has a surprising amount of difficulty in taking The Clock King down. Batman seems to have a way of playing down to the competition, and Clock King has also armed himself with explosive pocket watches (yes, you read that correctly) and a full complement of time puns. Batman will even join in on the word play threatening to clean his clock. This stuff practically writes itself.

Do I really need to go into much detail on this one? Batman will be able to trace the crimes back to the ruined Fugate, not that it really matters much. Fugate will also move beyond trying to humiliate Hill to straight out attempting to murder him by strapping him to the hour hand of a giant, Big Ben-like clock in Gotham. The idea is when the clock strikes 3:15, which is when Fugate took his coffee break seven years ago as Hill suggested, he’ll be crushed by the minute hand or at least horribly maimed. The Clock King will try to sell us on his acumen as a super villain by boasting that he’s studied Batman’s every move from news reels and such and thus is fully prepared to take him on, even though he’s a pretty normal looking middle-aged man. Well, normal looking for a guy with eyeglasses that resemble clocks. After displaying rather impeccable timing in everything he does, he’ll accidentally mangle the clock guts and foil his own plan.


Get a load of this asshole.

“The Clock King” really is like a Batman episode from 1966. While that show is charming and entertaining in its own right, this episode is not. This show can’t have it both ways and expect us to take this villain seriously. He’s horribly lame, and one of the dumbest villains the show will boast. Making Batman look like a chump when confronting The Clock King doesn’t work in making us believe The Clock King is somehow good at being a villain. The numerous puns, stupid weapons, and ludicrous escapes at no point come across as believable or even really entertaining. I knew I did not like this episode and was not looking forward to re-watching it for this feature, but I tried to have an open mind, really I did. I tried to view it as an off-beat episode that utilizes the absurd for comedy. The origin of The Clock King, which opens the episode, almost pulls it off. Watching some uptight jerk’s life fall apart because he ceased to be uptight for 15 minutes has some entertainment value, but the resulting 18 minutes or whatever of the episode aren’t worthy payoff.


Yeah, I bet this will work. Go away, Clock King, no one likes you.

Sadly, I wish I could say this is the last we’ll see of The Clock King. He’ll actually return in season 2 in perhaps an even dumber episode, though as of this writing I haven’t re-watched it so I reserve the right to change my mind. Perhaps surprisingly, the villain did not originate with the Batman show of the 60’s and did come from the comics where he was more of a Green Arrow villain than a Batman one, though he would eventually end up with the Suicide Squad. His character was much more interesting there as he was actually motivated to help his invalid sister out financially before he succumbed to a terminal illness. I’m not sure why they decided to change his origins to what was presented here, but maybe they thought it would be too similar to the new backstory given to Mr. Freeze. Or maybe they did just want to make an homage to Batman. If that really was the motivation then mission failed.

The Ultimate Glenn Danzig Album Ranking

danzig-trump-travel-ban-planned-parenthoodThis entry marks post number 400 for The Nostalgia Spot. This blog is in its 7th year so I don’t really know if 400 posts is a lot or a little, but it feels like a lot to me. Over the past 399 entries we’ve covered a lot – video games, comics, movies, television, toys, music, and other odds and ends. One repeated topic of conversation has been the music of Glenn Danzig, mostly his work with the band Danzig. Danzig is a very nostalgic subject for me personally as that was the music of my teen years. I still enjoy Danzig, or else I wouldn’t have reviewed every album on this blog, and I’m presently looking forward to catching Glenn Danzig with The Misfits this May in New Jersey.

As a celebration of 400 posts, please excuse me as I indulge myself in my Glenn Danzig fandom. If you care not for the music of Glenn Danzig then feel free to bypass this one, because it’s going to be a long one. Glenn Danzig has been making music since the 70s under the three-headed monster that is The Misfits, Samhain, and Danzig with a couple of Glenn Danzig releases mixed in. That’s a lot of music, and I’ve always wanted to go through it and rank it, just because. This is the Ultimate Glenn Danzig Album Ranking! I’m listing out all of the LPs released by Danzig along with a couple of EPs and one compilation. If I were to rank the actual releases it would get a bit muddier, as The Misfits struggled early on to get their material to market. Most of their songs were probably first experienced by many listeners via the compilations released after the band’s demise:  Legacy of Brutality, Misfits (Collection I), and Collection II. Their pseudo first LP was supposed to be what ended up being called Static Age, which was finally released in 1996. When the band couldn’t find a label that would distribute it, they basically cut it up into various singles and self-released. In some ways, the only true LP released by the band is the classic Walk Among Us. To keep this some-what tidy, I’m ranking the most recognizable releases and their most common edition, so in the case of The Misfits, just Static Age, Walk Among Us, and Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood/Die Die My Darling (that last one is also a little messy, but we’ll get to that in due time). On the Samhain and Danzig front, things are simpler and straight-forward. Because the Danzig EP Thrall-Demonsweatlive is so popular, I felt I needed to include it. The Sacrifice EP? Not so much. I’m also going to include the compilation The Lost Tracks of Danzig for the simple reason that it’s awesome and contains a ton of unique content, even if it isn’t a true album in the classic sense. I’ll also include the covers record, Skeletons, since it was a Danzig release. In total, I’m ranking 22 distinct releases so let’s get to it because it’s going to take awhile.

ca297e5a51101975771660992b96a2a7.600x600x122. Black Aria II – Glenn Danzig (2006)

Something possessed Glenn Danzig to make an album of classical music. Released in 1992, the first Black Aria was surprisingly good. Loosely based on Milton’s classic Paradise Lost, it was a quiet release that proved hard to track down in short time since it was distributed by Danzig’s Plan 9 label in some-what limited quantities. It was a cult hit, in some respects, and the die-hard Danzig fanbase always hoped for a return to the genre by Danzig. It finally happened in 2006, but where Black Aria had succeeded as a classical piece, Black Aria II sounded more like a collection of haunted house music. You know the kind – the cheap, moody, carnival attraction stuff. There’s really nothing redeemable about Black Aria II. No standout tracks, no killer artwork (unless you like topless, skull-faced nuns) or interesting message. It feels like the result of an artist feeling like he had to release something to follow-up on his earlier surprise success, but it just proves that maybe the classical spark was just a one-time deal.

folder21. 5: Blackacidevil Danzig (1996)

If you’re a longtime fan of Danzig, then you probably expected to see this one here. Blackacidevil has its share of apologists and I’ve even encountered folks who claim it’s their favorite Danzig album. They are entitled to their opinion, though I think they’re crazy. Blackacidevil is Danzig’s infamous dive into the industrial metal genre of music. Freed from his contract with Rick Ruben’s American Recordings label, Glenn Danzig either fired or had his bandmates quit leaving him all alone as the sole creative voice in the studio to do as he pleased. Armed with a nine-figure record deal, he must have felt bulletproof. While Danzig was always the creative force behind everything with his name on it, it’s not hard to imagine that longtime bandmates were able to have some influence over the sound of those prior records, even if it was minor. Just their presence and their strengths and weaknesses probably dictated some of the musical direction. And Rubin certainly had a voice with the earliest Danzig material, though no one disputes his diminished role on the final two albums produced under his label. Even so, if this was something Danzig had to get out of his system then good for him. It’s not that industrial music is inherently bad, it’s just that Danzig makes bad industrial music. Most of the tracks are just noise with no hooks or interesting production values. Danzig’s voice is buried under a thick layer of fuzz on most tracks and songs like “Power of Darkness” and “Sacrifice” rely on the cheesiest tropes within that genre to create a melody. Still, it’s not all terrible as “Come to Silver” and “Ashes” are pretty good on their own and I still maintain there’s a good song to be found, somewhere, in “See All You Were.”

danzigskeletonscoverpreview20. SkeletonsDanzig (2015)

When an artist is getting older and likely getting tired of producing music, it seems like the covers record becomes a more tantalizing thing to produce. It seems like that’s how a great many result, while many others also come about usually as a way of fulfilling an album quota in a record contract that one or both parties would like to see concluded. Skeletons is definitely the latter, as Glenn Danzig talked for years about doing a covers record because he simply wanted to provide his own take on some classic and not so classic tunes. Danzig had done a handful of covers over the years, often with the finished product sounding quite different from the original recording. For Skeletons though, most of the covers ended up being fairly conventional. Few lyrics were altered and there were no major genre shifts or anything. This is a fairly disposable release that’s quite fine on its own, but certainly not remarkable. The production values, as has often been the case with modern Danzig releases, drag it down some. There’s at least one gem, a cover of “Crying in the Rain” which closes out the album and is a quiet showcase for Danzig’s vocals. “Devil’s Angels” is also a neat track since it sounds like something The Misfits could have recorded once upon a time.

R-832512-1396463739-7772.jpeg19. Final Descent – Samhain (1990)

Samhain is definitely the least popular of Glenn Danzig’s bands, and Final Descent is probably its least popular record. That’s in part due to the fact that it was released after the formation of Danzig and after that band had started releasing albums. What comprised of Final Descent in 1990 was essentially tracks that weren’t good enough to become Danzig songs. When the band was signed to Rubin’s Def American label, they were working on an album to be called Samhain Grim, but would shift focus to making the debut Danzig LP. The original release only contained 5 new tracks, one of which was just an instrumental intro for the album, and the second half of the album was essentially the Unholy Passion EP. When the album was re-released for the Samhain Box Set the Unholy Passions tracks were replaced with Samhain versions of Danzig songs “Twist of Cain” and “Possession” as well as an early cover of “Trouble” and a faster version of “Lords of the Left Hand.” Those additional tracks are basically novelties. They sound like demos and the re-worked versions that would appear on the first Danzig album are better. The other tracks also have a feeling of being unfinished. They’re more like ideas that were worked into songs and made releasable, but of the four, only “Descent” is particularly good. Actually, it’s so good that I wish the various Samhain performances that have taken place over the years had opened with it. Ultimately, this album is more interesting for being a missing link or sorts between Samhain and the first Danzig album. A fun listen in that context, but not one you’ll probably revisit often.

earth-adR-8627479-1465438070-2758.jpeg18. Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood/Die Die My Darling – The Misfits (1983)

Following the lack of success by Walk Among Us, The Misfits found themselves back to self-releasing albums. Danzig was also growing bored of the punk genre while thrash was taking over the underground scene and proved to be an attractive genre for Danzig. The problem though is that the band lacked the talent to play proper thrash. Earth A.D. is basically just a really fast punk record with a raw sound. As an emotion, it can be quite seductive especially on a young mind, but as a melody it’s lacking. Several of the songs, particularly the Wolfs Blood portion comprising the second half, just end up being banal nonsense about demons and hellhounds. Of the original 9 tracks, I only consider 3 as being worthwhile:  “Earth A.D.,” “Death Comes Ripping,” and “Bloodfeast.” “Bloodfeast” is also easily the best of the bunch and oddly enough it’s also the “least thrash” of them too being a slow tempo, sinister sort of track. When it came time to re-release the album in the 90s, Caroline Records added the Die, Die My Darling tracks as well which definitely adds some length to the album and some better songs at that. Even with those added tracks, this one is still my least favorite of the Misfits albums and by a wide margin.

danzig-666-satans-child-51c1c45fb9aaa17. 6:66 Satan’s ChildDanzig (1999)

After Danzig crashed and burned with Hollywood Records, he turned his sights towards rehabilitating his image while also trying to help get a new label off the ground. E-Magine Music sunk a lot into Danzig, but ultimately it wouldn’t be enough to keep that label around for very long. During its brief existence, E-Magine would release this album as well as reissues of Blackacidevil, Black Aria, and Sacrifice. The label also re-released all of the Samhain albums, plus a live one, and the Samhain Box Set. Satan’s Child, though, was the only original album released by Danzig on the label and it’s okay. As a return to form, it’s lacking. While it’s true most of the industrial elements of Blackacidevil have been stripped away, there’s still some odd production choices and the overall writing on the record feels almost as uninspired as the previous album. This is just a very by the numbers sort of record and it feels like Danzig was having a hard time coming up with worthwhile song topics often resorting to annoying rhyme schemes in many of the lyrics. Supposedly over 20 tracks were recorded in some form, which speaks to the indecisive nature of Danzig during this period. Not surprisingly, virtually none of the album’s songs have become classics or concert staples. Only the closer, “Thirteen,” has enjoyed any sort of a life after this album and that’s mostly due to its appearance in the film The Hangover. Worst of all, Satan’s Child features probably the worst vocals of any Danzig record. They sound hoarse, and this was apparently the moment when decades of touring finally caught up with Glenn. The explanation at the time was that this was the approach he chose and the result of recording the vocals digitally, but just listening to any interview from the same era seems to portray that as bunk since even Glenn’s speaking voice had grown rather hoarse. The album is ranked as highly as it is though because, in the end, it’s a fairly easy listen. There aren’t many high points, but there also aren’t many lows. A mostly forgettable release.

51OlIqMJJrL16. Thrall-DemonsweatliveDanzig (1993)

As Danzig’s albums kept performing better and better, the band gained a little more pull with the label and was able to convince them to put out an EP, supposedly by referencing how well Jar of Flies had performed for Alice in Chains. It ended up being the right move, as Thrall would become the band’s first gold record and the success of the single for “Mother” helped drive sales for the first Danzig album, eventually getting that to platinum status. As an EP, the release was split into two parts. The Thrall portion contained two original songs, plus a cover Elvis’s “Trouble.” The remaining four tracks were live recordings of “Snakes of Christ,” “Am I Demon?”, “Sistinas,” and “Mother.” The album also contained a remastered studio recording of “Mother” as a bonus track and a new single would be released for it with a repackaged music video. The song became a hit, and Danzig was suddenly tasting popularity for the first time. In some ways, it’s the most important Danzig release, if you consider financial success the greatest measure of importance. By itself, it’s merely good. The two original songs, “It’s Coming Down” and “The Violet Fire,” are surprisingly good. They’re the rare tracks that legitimately sound like they didn’t quite fit on the three prior Danzig releases without being poor songs. The live portion captures the raw ferocity of Danzig, though an over-reliance on Danzig’s Cookie Monster voice does drag them down some. It’s interestingly dated as a result, but a fun head-banging release.

5139115. Black Aria – Glenn Danzig (1992)

In 1992, most Danzig fans were focused on the upcoming Danzig III so when Glenn Danzig quietly released Black Aria on his old Plan 9 label few knew what to make of it. It’s cover, illustrated by artist Michael William Kaluta, depicted an angel stabbing a demon in the back which appeared to be a pretty literal interpretation of the album’s subject matter considering it boasted tracks such as “Battle for Heaven” and “Overture of the Rebel Angels.” It was released in few numbers on both CD, in long-box form, and on vinyl LP, and would go out of print. Since it was so limited, it became a rather talked about album in the Danzig community with the few who owned a copy proclaiming its brilliance while also maintaining its mystery, to a point. Just what was this thing? The liner notes by Danzig himself were both a warning and a beckoning as he welcomed fans to join him on this journey into a genre he had never touched before and few would have expected him to ever explore. For all intents and purposes, Black Aria is a classical album arranged in a modern fashion where just about everything is likely originating from a keyboard. It’s very atmospheric, and the first six tracks are inspired by Milton’s Paradise Lost. The remaining three are also based in mythology and some of them were actually familiar to fans who had picked up copies of the Danzig home videos (some of these tracks have even shown up during video packages set to music by the likes of ESPN, of all places). Danzig would also often use some of this music as an intro to the live show, and “Overture of the Rebel Angels” became a concert mainstay in that fashion. In truth, Black Aria is a fun curiosity item. It’s brief, totaling less than 24 minutes, but it’s very digestible and is a perfectly fine representation of the genre. Of course, I’m hardly an expert on music and what acumen I have is certainly not in the classical genre, but for what it’s worth I find this record to be a nice listen. Since the Plan 9 release went out of print, the album has been re-released twice on CD. The E-Magine release in 2000 was basically just a re-release while the Evilive reissue in 2006 was remastered and delivered in a digipack, a more suitable format for the excellent artwork.

danzig-circle-of-snakes-50014. Circle of Snakes Danzig (2004)

Come 2004 I believe Glenn Danzig was getting a little fatigued once more. Satan’s Child had featured a tour spanning two legs, plus a few European dates before the album’s release. Danzig 7 followed in 2002 and also featured a heavy touring schedule, and just two years later came Circle of Snakes. Circle of Snakes is even more of a back-to-basics record than Danzig 6 or 7. Structurally, it’s reminiscent of the very first Danzig record though the emphasis on down-tuned guitars and the muddy production give it a distinct, albeit not great, sound. And after Danzig sounded pretty good on Danzig 7, Circle of Snakes presents a more uneven performance. How much of that is tied into the production is unknown, but really for the first time on a Danzig record the vocals sound like they’re too low in the mix in some places and it’s something that will plague future releases as well. The band also had a new lineup, and former Prong axeman and one-time touring guitarist Tommy Victor joined full-time on lead guitar bringing a new emphasis on pinch harmonics that had not been seen since Danzig III. Circle of Snakes has a few awful tracks such as “My Darkness” and “HellMask” – they’re fast, muddy, and lacking in melody or inspiration. Some tracks, like “Skull Forrest” and “SkinCarver,” are almost there, but are missing a certain ingredient to push them over the top. It’s not a total loss though. The first single, “1000 Devils Reign,” features some of Danzig’s best vocals in years as he utilizes a playful croon for the verse that builds to a perfectly suitable, simple chorus. “NetherBound” is another meandering track with a strong melody while “Black Angel, White Angel” is a great closer that employs crescendo to build to a catchy, rapid-fire styled chorus. It’s a song that doesn’t compare to anything else in the Danzig catalogue and is the best song from Circle of Snakes.

Cover_of_Black_Laden_Crown_(2017)_by_Danzig13. Black Laden CrownDanzig (2017)

Coming in at number 13 is the most recent Danzig release as of this writing: Black Laden Crown. Black Laden Crown is stylistically pretty similar to 2010’s Deth Red Sabaoth. Both are lo-fi, old school, heavy metal records with a touch of blues and a slew of pinch harmonics from guitarist Tommy Victor. It also possesses the subpar production values of that previous record and it further drives home the point that maybe Glenn Danzig isn’t a great producer, or at least he certainly isn’t in 2017. It also could just be the result of trying to record and release an album on the cheap, since there isn’t a ton of money in music anymore. Whatever the reason, Black Laden Crown fails to put the vocals in the spotlight where they should be on a Danzig release, and the album suffers in places as a result. There’s very much an emphasis on doom metal with almost all of the tracks bringing a more mid-tempo approach with the typical dark imagery in the lyrics. Interestingly, it’s when the album tries to speed things up it falters in its most obvious spot with the single “Devil on Hwy 9,” just a mostly dumb track about driving really fast with some of the worst vocal production to ever appear on a Danzig record, which is a shame because the track sounds so promising at the start. The track that immediately precedes it, “Eyes Ripping Fire,” practically begs for some of that speed but it never comes. Aside from those two missteps, and actually “Eyes Ripping Fire” is an okay track, the album really doesn’t have a bad song. The problem is that it doesn’t really have any standout ones either. It’s an album that really lacks hooks, and even a song like “Skulls & Daises” that manages to be somewhat catchy is really let down by its absence of a true chorus. The title track serves as a great intro. It’s doom, kind of cheesy, but it sounds authentic. It explodes during the latter half, but it never goes anywhere and the vocals never return after that moment. It feels like a real missed opportunity because that track was setup to be an all-time classic Danzig number. Perhaps the best song is “Last Ride,” an almost neo-blues/metal song that is really successful at creating a Danzig mythos, but once more, it’s kind of let down by a lackluster chorus and poor vocal production. Still, I think it offers an interesting template for future Danzig songs that kind of straddle a country/metal vibe, a sort of American Recordings era Johnny Cash, but with a heavy bottom-end. Hopefully this isn’t the last Danzig record and we get something more in that style somewhere down the line, but at age 62, who knows how many albums Glenn Danzig has left in him?

Samhain November Coming Fire12. III: November-Coming-Fire – Samhain (1986)

Samhain’s third release, and second LP, is often cited as the band’s best. Obviously by how I’m ranking it here, I disagree, but that doesn’t mean I’m necessarily down on the record. November-Coming-Fire is essentially a tale of two halfs. There’s the first half which expands upon the Samhain formula of gothic punk/metal with tracks that are equal parts ferocious and melodious, and then there’s the second half which has some experimental elements (mostly just with “Human Pony Girl”), but is mostly a poor man’s Misfits release from the band’s waning years. It’s not quite so black and white, as the track “November’s Fire” is pretty damn good and I prefer the Samhain version of “Halloween II” to the Misfits version, but there’s enough empty tracks that keep me from coming back to this album as much as I would like to (plus, as good as it is, who really wanted the band to revisit “Halloween II”?). “Birthright” and “Unbridled” are some of the worst sounding songs in the entire Glenn Danzig catalog and they really don’t do anything well. “Kiss of Steel” is one of the weirdest, as it’s just about getting into a nasty car wreck and feels out of place while “Human Pony Girl” is Danzig’s latest attempt (in ’86) at injecting some eroticism into his music and it comes off kind of silly. It’s a song that’s basically just about fucking bareback. Those are the low points though, and the high points are pretty rocking. “Diabolos ’86” is a fun instrumental that bleeds perfectly into the fist-pumping “In My Grip.” “To Walk the Night” and “Let the Day Begin” also play-off of one another not just thematically, but by contrast with “To Walk the Night” being the slowest track on the album and “Let the Day Begin” one of its fastest. Both might represent the peek of Samhain, which is basically this album’s legacy. It contains some of the best songs Samhain ever recorded, and also contains the worst, and at a mere 28 and a half minutes it’s hard for an album to overcome multiple poor tracks.

R-378935-1348186498-6221.jpeg11. 7:77 I LuciferiDanzig (2002)

I Luciferi was Danzig’s second attempt at a comeback album following the debacle that was Blackacidevil. It succeeds at doing so more than its predecessor, though it likely didn’t win over many of the fans that had checked out following Danzig IV. For the band’s only release on Spitfire Records, Danzig kept the C-tuned guitars for the most part and stripped away even more of the industrial elements from those past albums and presented a fairly modern metal release for 2002. The opener, a Celtic sort of instrumental titled “Unendlich,” sets an eerie mood that serves the second track, “Black Mass,” extraordinarily well. Perhaps too well, as the Sabbath-sounding “Black Mass” is such an excellent opener that the rest of the album struggles to match. It doesn’t help that what follows is “Wicked Pussycat,” a song that sounds as dumb as its title. It’s one of the most nu-metal sounding tracks Danzig recorded during this era with its rap-rock chorus and bouncy riffs evoking some very bad imagery. “God of Light” brings an interesting, off-tempo drum pattern, but nothing around it complements it making for just an annoying song. Thankfully, things pick up after that. While “Liberskull” does feature another bouncy, nu-metal guitar riff it at least balances things out with a catchy chorus. The album mostly meanders from there, before picking things up in the second half. “Naked Witch” has a great structure and features some nice work by returning drummer Joey Castillo while “The Coldest Sun” uses an incredibly odd sounding verse to magnify what might just be Danzig’s catchiest chorus of all time. The closing track, “Without Light, I Am” is an evil version of “Let it be Captured” from Danzig IV, and if you’re familiar with that song then that probably sounds awesome to you. The album succeeds in bringing back the guitar, which was de-emphasised on Danzig 6, and newcomer Todd Youth handles himself well on all of the leads and solos. Danzig 7 was an album I listened to non-stop during the summer of ’02, which also happened to be the year I graduated from high school so it’s a pretty nostalgic piece for me. Even stripping away some of that, this album is still one I enjoy basically because it does what Black Laden Crown failed to do in 2017 – it brings the hooks! It’s catchy, and while the filler is marred with poor production and cartoonish imagery, the high points are good enough to elevate this one to rest just outside the top 10. And this album could have been so much better as we’ll talk about when we get to The Lost Tracks of Danzig.

220px-Samhain_Passion10. Unholy Passion – Samhain (1985)

This one is probably the shortest release on our list, coming in at just over 17 minutes, Unholy Passion is a true EP, but based on the numbering of its follow-up, this was considered to be Samhain II. What it lacks in content it makes up for in quality. This is a great little album that really doesn’t have a bad track. If it has a lesser track, it’s probably “Moribund” which is what I would call a very conventional Samhain song. It’s catchy, simple, but doesn’t stand out. Meanwhile, “Unholy Passion” is one of the band’s best. It has some silly lyrics, but the layering effect on the vocals casts an eerie pall over it and kind of obscures them for the better. “I Am Misery” is a rollicking song with a sinister edge and a great closer for the album. And in keeping with tradition, there’s also a Misfits cover on this album, just as there was on Initium and as there is on November-Coming-Fire. This time it’s a cover of “All Hell Breaks Loose,” now retitled simply as “All Hell,” and it adds a new dimension to the Misfits classic that arguably improves upon it. This album is so good that I sometimes think it’s my favorite Samhain release, but in the end, it is just too short to rank it any higher. It was originally released on vinyl with just five tracks. Later, it was included with Final Descent and an extra track was added, “Misery Tomb,” which is essentially just the background noise and samples from “I Am Misery” isolated as a lone track. It’s dumb, but since it was added later as a filler I don’t consider it a strike against the record. When this one was re-released by E-Magine on CD it kept “Misery Tomb,” but at least it’s easy to skip. These later releases also featured overdubbed guitars and are remixed slightly, so the only way to hear these songs as they were originally released is to track down one of the vinyl releases. And if you’re a big baby like me, that might not even work as I have a copy, but I’m too scared to put a needle on it because my turntable is kind of junky.

2737669. Deth Red SabaothDanzig (2010)

Just inside the top 10 feels like the perfect spot for perhaps the true Danzig comeback record – 2010’s Deth Red Sabaoth. After a long hiatus, it was nice to finally have a new release from Danzig. This one had been in production off and on for a number of years as Danzig basically just rented a studio space when the mood struck and he had a song to work on. It’s hard to know just when each piece of each track was recorded and how old some were, but despite that the production from song to song is pretty even and so are the vocals, so it’s not as if it sounds like listening to the Lost Tracks compilation which did literally span decades. Perhaps feeling nostalgic himself, Danzig elected to record this album via analog as opposed to digital. This means everything was recorded and tracked on tape before eventually being dumped onto a computer for actual mastering. The stated intent of doing so was to achieve a thicker sound, which makes some sense since this is a release that loves the low-end. It even seemed like there would be a minor analog revolution when the Foo Fighters elected to do the same not long after this on their album Wasting Light (I don’t think their decision to do so had anything to do with this release though), but aside from those two instances I haven’t heard of many more. Deth Red Sabaoth still features some disappointing production elements. The vocal levels are sometimes uneven from song to song and there’s a tendency for the drums to take over in places. When Danzig is singing the low parts, such as on the lead single “On A Wicked Night,” the vocal production sounds good, but then the song kicks it into a higher gear and they sound strained, fuzzy, and wooden. There’s definitely a lack of warmth on this release, though I think some of that is intentional, and how much is due to the analog approach as opposed to just sloppy production is unknown to an amateur music critic such as myself. The production is really the only major criticism I have for this release though. As a collection of songs, Deth Red Sabaoth pretty much kicks ass. The opener, “Hammer of the Gods,” is one of Danzig’s best heavy songs he’s ever recorded. It has a fast, mosh-pit personality and is a natural show opener (though the band still insists on using the boring “Skin Carver”). “Black Candy” features actual drumming by Glenn Danzig and he doesn’t embarrass himself. It’s a heavy, thumping song that works in spite of its silly sounding title. “Death Red Moon” is perhaps my favorite song of the bunch. It kind of rips off the old “Mother” riff, but it has a nice, actually gentle melody that courses through the song and just makes for an enjoyable listen. With better vocal production, and perhaps one more hook, this would have rivaled for the top spot on this list. What we have though is pretty damn good though and is easily the best Danzig record post original lineup.

danzig-180417e0-c57b-438b-b499-e0062a80bee48. DanzigDanzig (1988)

The debut for the band Danzig is basically Samhain Rick Rubin-style and with better musicians. Eerie Von was still the bassist, but Rubin’s sort of dislike of the bass means he’ll be seldom heard. The drums were now manned by the incredible Chuck Biscuits and on guitar was the relatively unknown John Christ who had apparently been trying to join the band for some time. Christ brought a very professional, technical sound to the band and for the first time Glenn Danzig would not be held back in his song writing by the personnel around him, nor by financials with Def American now picking up the tab for production. Rubin’s approach to Samhain, now simply Danzig, is basically the same approach he uses for every rock act (and some country ones) he produces. He strips away basically everything, uses the drums to fill the song out, and emphasizes the guitar and vocals. It’s a very simple approach. The production is clear, but bare, with only one or two guitar tracks per song and little in the way of flourish. There’s a blues undercurrent as well with Danzig’s rich vocals up front. The album is also noticeably slow when compared with past albums and the live versions of the songs present here. The album has a nice, sustained groove to it. If every Danzig album had undertaken this approach it probably would have felt boring after a few releases, but since this is really the only one it makes it stand out. The collection of songs are also now considered classics:  “Twist of Cain,” “Am I Demon,” “Not of This World,” “Soul on Fire,” “Mother,” – all great Danzig songs. There’s little in the way of filler, though the cover of Booker T. & the M.G.’s “The Hunter” was probably intended as such, but it ends up being a really fun track thanks to the lively guitar work by Christ. Danzig would go on to become the band’s lone platinum record, though that would take several years and would require a boost from the re-release of “Mother” in 1993. This is a foundational record for Danzig and a killer debut. It established the uncompromising vision of the band, it’s relentlessness, and a piece of it can be found on virtually every album to follow it. It’s simply put, the album you start with when you want to jump into the Danzig catalogue.

R-1232120-1202445868.jpeg7. Initium – Samhain (1984)

Samhain’s debut LP is also the band’s greatest triumph. In some ways, it’s really the only essential Samhain album and it alone almost sounds like a bridge between The Misfits and Danzig, though subsequent releases like November-Coming-Fire due add to that aspect of the band. Initium feels like the album Glenn Danzig wanted to make with The Misfits near the end, but could not. Either due to the musicians around him and their abilities or just fatigue with dealing with everything about that act. A clean break is probably what he needed and Samhain certainly represented where he wanted to go. After flirting with thrash in the latter days of The Misfits, Initium dials back that element in favor of a more traditional punk sound. The additions of keyboards and production elements such as chimes give Initium its distinct sound resulting in most critics attaching the goth label to the band. Some of the songs do sound like they could have been done by The Misfits. “All Murder All Guts All Fun” has the speed and brutality of some of the slasher-inspired Misfits songs while “Horror Biz” is a cover of The Misfits classic “Horror Business” with a new drum pattern and a more “rock & roll” approach to the vocals by Glenn Danzig. The second half of the album is its most interesting section. It sounds like if The Misfits had taken the song “Bloodfeast” and made an album around that track, as opposed to it being the oddball song on Earth AD.  Both “The Shift” and “The Howl” have this slow, tribal quality to them and they work better at creating a creepy, horror vibe than the more cartoonish tracks about literal blood and guts. “Archangel” is definitely the best of the bunch though. Slow, but catchy, with a touch of an ethereal quality to the vocals, it’s a haunting tune that slowly builds and builds without ever truly exploding. The kind of track that you immediately want more of when it concludes. Initium was originally released on LP, CD, and cassette. A CD/cassette reissue in 1986 added the Unholy Passion tracks, and if we were just judging physical releases by Samhain then that version is basically the ultimate Samhain album. Even ranking it as originally released, Initium is still an easy pick for me as best Samhain album. It’s the only one from the band I really come back to each year, only opting for the other albums once I grow bored of this one.

R-9717941-1485266729-5387.jpeg6. The Lost Tracks of Danzig Danzig (2007)

The best Danzig album post the Def American era is definitely Deth Red Sabaoth, but the best release is probably The Lost Tracks of Danzig. Finally released in 2007, The Lost Tracks had been brought up and discussed by Danzig going as far as the late 90’s. During the promotion for the Samhain Box Set in 2000 Glenn Danzig had discussed his desire to put out a collection of unreleased Danzig songs in packaging in the shape of an inverted cross. The Lost Tracks may not have featured such a design, but it did come in a pretty cool package of its own. Basically evoking the old CD long box, it displayed both discs on digipack release one above the other allowing for the front cover to feature an extra large piece of art with a long booklet glued to the inside. The booklet contained liner notes on most of the tracks, often simply giving Glenn’s opinion on the song and a little explanation for why it was never released. Some of the stories are neat and required further explaining in interviews, such as the surprisingly brutal “Satan’s Crucifiction” which was recorded as a joke song to scare the Def American execs hoping for a new single to capitalize on the popularity of “Mother” that wasn’t “satanic.” Album outtakes are often crappy, after all they’re not released for a reason, but Danzig has always approached each album by recording many more songs than what is needed and picking the ones that best fit the album’s mood. This means sometimes really worthwhile tracks are left behind because they don’t fit in. Sure, there are some filler duds like “White Devil Rise” and “You Should Be Dying”, but there’s also 26 tracks so the sheer amount of content helps to drown the lesser songs out. There’s a ton of material here that I think should have made an actual album, and I’m kind of sad they’re trapped on this release. “Pain is Like an Animal” has some balls to it that would have made it really stand out on the first Danzig record. Perhaps it was too fast, and if included on Danzig III maybe it felt redundant with “Godless.” “Angel of the 7th Dawn” and “Cold, Cold Rain” have the misfortune of being omitted from one of the band’s best albums, Danzig II, but I think both could have made that seminal release even better. What’s really interesting is how strong the second disc is which is comprised mostly of material from Danzig V through Circle of Snakes. I think most longtime fans were probably more interested in the material cut from the early days, but the songs left off of the modern releases are also pretty damn good. It’s kind of crazy that Danzig couldn’t make better use of “Dying Seraph” and “Bound by Blood,” though in the case of the latter he did openly lament in more than one interview at the time how it was going to crush him to leave that song off of Danzig 7. “Crawl Across Your Killing Floor” was finished with Todd Youth on guitar sometime after Danzig 6 was finished, so that one missing a release isn’t hard to figure out. Perhaps it could have been re-worked to fit on Danzig 7 down the road, but at least it was released here because it’s an awesome song and kind of a precursor to something like “Black Hell” and “Last Ride.” This is an awesome release though and part of the fun of listening to it is playing producer and re-arranging the actual albums with material from this one. What do you include? What would you cut from what was actually released? Like an actual album, it has plenty of variety between fast and slow, loud and quiet, and the only jarring aspect to it is the differing production techniques and a repeat song like “When Death Had No Name.” I feel like I go to this one as often as I do the actual Danzig records when I want to listen to Danzig which is why I couldn’t ignore it for this list of Glenn Danzig releases. Track this sucker down if you’re a Danzig fan and slept on it, you will not be disappointed.

R-420437-1369856673-5716.jpeg5. Walk Among Us – The Misfits (1982)

In some ways, Walk Among Us is the only true LP released by The Misfits and it took a lot to get it released. It was basically recorded twice, since once they finally found a label willing to release it the label wanted them to re-do it. The work paid off though as this is the most recognizable release by The Misfits and basically the go-to record of choice for anyone looking to experience the band’s brand of horror-punk. It’s a collection of roughly 25 minutes of some catchy punk music that’s easily digested in spite of the ghoulish imagery. Some of the band’s all-time classic tracks are present here such as “Skulls” and “I Turned Into A Martian,” songs basically guaranteed to be played whether it’s Jerry Only’s Misfits or Glenn Danzig doing songs with his band, or as the now sort-of together Original Misfits. The only song on this album I don’t really care for is “Nike-A-Go-Go,” but even that one is undeniably catchy. This isn’t my favorite Misfits LP, as we’ll get to that one shortly, but it’s definitely the one I would recommend first to anyone looking to get into The Misfits.

Danzig_III_How_the_Gods_Kill4. III: How the Gods KillDanzig (1992)

After two albums in which producer Rick Rubin exerted his influence on the band, he stepped back paving for the way for Glenn Danzig to self-produce the next record:  Danzig III – How the Gods Kill. The result is an album that sounds like what Samhain was moving towards, especially now that the band had some real money to finance their work. That’s not a dismiss of the first two Danzig records, just an acknowledgement that they sound a little out of place and are pretty unique. Danzig III injects some of that goth sound from Samhain as well as plenty of Sabbath. A lot of these tracks would have felt right at home on Final Descent, and would have obviously made that release much better since it was pretty far back on this list. It opens with the aggressive drumming of Chuck Biscuits on the track “Godless,” which comes to a screeching halt where Danzig wails his lines slowly and soulfully. There’s this pinging noise that sounds like a hammer hitting a railroad spike, or maybe driving a nail into a cross. The song picks back up and things get rolling from there. It’s one of the best intros on any Danzig album, and maybe the best song on the album. “Anything” is almost bizarre as the second track as it’s oddly sweet with its message, something not common to Glenn Danzig music. “Left Hand Black” and “Heart of the Devil” double-down on the evil imagery of the band, while a couple of Sabbath knock-offs conclude the album in “Do You Wear The Mark?” and “When the Dying Calls.” The title track is a thunderous Danzig ballad full of the pinch harmonics the band seems to really love these days. The only downers to this record is some uneven production at times, perhaps because of the Rubin absence, and Danzig’s over-reliance on the debuting “Cookie Monster” vocals. I’ll never understand what drove him to mess around with that sound so much. It works in some places, and in others it’s annoying (namely “Bodies”). The combination of dark and light aspects of this album though, and the focused approach, make this one the preferred Danzig album for many fans.

Static+Age+Misfits+Lupinore+music+Toronto3. Static Age – The Misfits (1978/1996)

Trapped in limbo for nearly two decades with some recordings spread across various singles, Static Age was the debut for The Misfits that never was. The band self-financed the recording of the project when a bigger label wanted to start an offshoot called Blank Records. The only problem was Glenn Danzig had secured that trademark for his own band. Rather than sell it to the label, he exchanged it for studio time which is how this album got recorded. They were never able to find someone willing to distribute it though until long after the band’s demise when new found interest in The Misfits lead Caroline to release it first on The Misfits Box Set, and then finally as a stand-alone release with “In the Doorway” tacked onto the end. It’s a collection of more traditional punk material with only hints at the horror gimmick to come. As a result the songs sound more focused and more varied, but there’s plenty of punk attitude with lyrics that seem designed to just get attention, such as “Last Caress.” Maybe you don’t think of this as a true LP for the band, since it wasn’t released when recorded, and view it more as a compilation. Whatever your opinion, I think it’s hard to elevate any other Misfits recording over this one. There’s just too much great material. You have plenty of fast songs, mid-tempo ones, and even some slower stuff the band basically wouldn’t touch for the next few years. This is my personal go-to Misfits release. I love the dated quality of the recording, the clear production on the vocals, and the collection of songs here.

Danzig2na2. II: LucifugeDanzig (1990)

For many years, Danzig II: Lucifuge wasn’t just my favorite Danzig release, but my favorite album of all time. It’s a bit of an odd duck in the Glenn Danzig catalog as it’s really a blues-driven hard rock album. There’s a southern quality in place, and not just because he name-drops Louisiana in the opening song “Long Way Back From Hell,” which is yet another killer opening number (Danzig is really good at those). This album has some of Glenn Danzig’s best vocals and he was just in top shape for the recording of this one. No Cookie Monster stuff, no distortion, and crystal clear production. It’s his most Jim Morrison-like release. John Christ seems to have more room to work with and really cuts loose on “Tired of Being Alive,” another strong up-tempo number. “Devil’s Plaything,” “Blood & Tears,” and “Killer Wolf” number among my favorite Danzig tracks, with “Devil’s Plaything” probably my all-time favorite. The only track I don’t like very much is “777,” though I appreciate the interesting mix of electric and acoustic guitars. The closer, “Pain in the World,” is also a song I’ve just never been able to get into. If described to me it would sound like something that would really appeal to me, but it’s just never worked for me. Maybe I’m just spent by the awesomeness that precedes it by the time I get there, even though this isn’t what I would consider a long record. The only reason why it’s probably no longer my number 1 is fatigue – I’ve listened to this thing hundreds of times by now so maybe it’s just time to elevate something else until I inevitably get sick of it too.

hqdefault-321. Danzig IV (4P)Danzig (1994)

And here we are! It’s taken nearly 8000 words but we’ve arrived at number one and my favorite Glenn Danzig release – Danzig IV. Sometimes referred to as Danzig 4p, this is another record essentially produced by Glenn Danzig and Glenn Danzig alone. It was the last Danzig album released on American Recordings with the band’s original lineup. It was also the first released after the success of “Mother ’93” and really the only time in Glenn Danzig’s career where there was a commercial expectation placed upon his shoulders. As a response, Danzig did not compromise his vision even the slightest embarking on another exploration of the dark that Danzig so loves. Where the first three albums sounded like independent entities all their own, this one is a true follow-up to Danzig III and is sort of the ultimate Samhain album, but there’s so much new and refined at this point that it really is it’s own thing. Simply put, this is peak Glenn Danzig in terms of vocals. He demonstrates his range on this one with screamers, crooners, and wailers. “Going Down to Die” might be his overall best vocal performance, while “Let it be Captured” is his most impressive. There’s some hint to what would follow on Danzig V with the fuzzy, distorted chorus of “Cantspeak” and the mood music track “Sadistikal,” basically the album’s only dud, but also a song that feels less like a song and more like an intermission. “Dominion” and the previously mentioned “Cantspeak” are some of Danzig’s most vulnerable sounding tracks, coupled with “Sistinas” from Danzig III. It’s not all melancholy mood music though as “Brand New God” is the band’s most brutal. It’s a song Danzig would basically rip-off on the next album with “7th House” but without the bridge that gives “Brand New God” some much needed variety. “Bringer of Death” is another thumper while “I Don’t Mind the Pain” strikes the perfect balance of heavy music with melody – a real standout and an obvious pick for an album single. The guitar is inventive and at times experimental such as the back-masked lead on “Cantspeak,” which is just the riff from “Let it be Captured” played backwards. The drumming is varied and expressive and the bass is actually audible. This album is just Danzig to me – it has everything. I never seem to tire of it and I’m always in the mood for it. It doesn’t mean it’s an album I’m constantly listening to, but whenever the mood hits for some Danzig I usually settle on this one. I often get the sense that it’s the least popular of the original lineup era for the band, but for my money Glenn Danzig has never made a better album.

If you actually read every word in this thing, congratulations, but mostly thank you. I don’t know if I have another 400 posts in me, but I’m sure as Hell going to give it a try.



Batman: The Animated Series – “Fear of Victory”

Fear_of_Victory-Title_CardEpisode Number:  24

Original Air Date:  September 29, 1992

Directed by:  Dick Sebast

Written by:  Samuel Warren Joseph

First Appearance(s):  None

It’s been awhile, but making just his second appearance of the series (and first since episode two) is Robin, coming back to play a fairly large role in this week’s episode “Fear of Victory.” This episode was actually the television debut of Robin, since his first appearance came in the Christmas episode which was held back to air closer to the holiday. As a kid, I remember seeing the preview for this episode which featured Robin and getting all excited about it. I really don’t know why since I’ve always much preferred Batman to Robin, maybe it was just because it was something different? Plus, Robin had yet to appear in anything Batman related in quite some time, outside of the comics, so it had been a long while since I had interacted with The Boy Wonder.

As you can probably guess from the title, our villain for this episode is The Scarecrow. Making also his second appearance, Scarecrow has a re-design that makes him look far more fearsome than how he did in “Nothing to Fear.” His face is more interesting to behold and features a crooked mouth full of oddly shaped teeth. In some respects he reminds me of Clayface, and the animators take some liberties with his mask to make him look more fearsome when they want to. He also now has a mass of straw hair under his hat, further adding to the whole scarecrow thing he has going on. Over all, definitely an improvement over that eggplant shaped head he had going on previously. This episode is also noteworthy since it tries to show us how Batman’s enemies might go about getting money for their nefarious schemes. Scarecrow isn’t trying to exact revenge or take over Gotham or anything crazy, he’s just trying to scam bookies by rigging sporting events using his fear toxin. Since he was fired from his university post, he likely needs some funds to get a good lab up and running to further his experiments, though the lack of which apparently didn’t prevent him from creating what he needed for this episode.


Robin starts freaking out pretty early in the episode – way to make a good first impression, Boy Blunder.

The episode opens on a sports highlight package that displays various performers collapsing in fear during their respective games. Dick Grayson is watching the program from his dorm when his roommate receives a telegram from a skinny, red-headed courier. I’ve got a pretty good memory, so I know who that guy is immediately (and the title card is a total give-away anyways). The telegram is from “a fan” and cautions Brian, Dick’s roommate and quarterback for the school’s football team, not to take fear lightly. When Robin is out on patrol with Batman he fills him in on the odd telegram, and they wonder if it has any connection to the odd things they’ve been seeing in the sports world, including his own roommate getting freaked out on the field. They fire off the first appearance of the crappy version of the grapple guns, the ones that just end in metal Batman logos and stab into the ledges. When Robin has a panic attack while confronting some goons, it tips off Batman that someone is poisoning the athletes and causing them to experience fear.


Scarecrow’s new look is appropriate.

Some testing back at the lab confirms Batman’s hypothesis and naturally leads him to suspect The Scarecrow. They pay Arkham Asylum a visit where we get some cameos from the likes of Joker and Poison Ivy. Oddly enough, they’re all depicted in their regular villain attire instead of inmate jumpsuits. Batman arrives just as Dr. Crane’s food is being served and he witnesses an orderly tossing it in the garbage rather than delivering it to the appropriate inmate. Batman decides to check out Scarecrow’s cell, which the orderly really doesn’t want him to do, and he finds there’s a scarecrow there in his place. My guess is the writers/story boarders came up with this first and thus were pigeon-holed into putting the other villains in their regular attire as a result. All so they could have a scarecrow in place of The Scarecrow.


When Brian hallucinates the animators get to have fun with some face-morphing animation to depict his fear.

Figuring out who is behind everything is obviously elementary. Dr. Crane is shown throughout the episode delivering the telegram and also collecting his winnings and each time he’s in disguise. This isn’t to hide the fact that it’s The Scarecrow from the viewer, but to seemingly hide his redesign which pays off when he scares his bookie’s hired muscle. We get an extreme closeup of his face where liberties are taken to add sharp, piranha like teeth to his mask and really make him look kind of freaky, at least I remember it being that way to me as a kid. And the guy he is scaring in that scene is voiced by Tim Curry, who was supposed to be The Joker before it was decided to go with Mark Hamill. They must have had him record some ancillary characters (Hamill voices the orderly in this episode) that they elected to keep. The real tension, I suppose, of the episode is Robin trying to overcome the fear toxin he was exposed to via his roommate’s telegram. He has a panic attack early that almost costs Batman dearly, and Batman has to kind of keep him at arm’s length for the confrontation with Scarecrow. Batman basically gives him tough love as there’s no cure for the toxin, you just need to power through until its effects ware off.

The Dynamic Duo figures out that Scarecrow is targeting the big Gotham Knights game. In a bit of hack story-telling, Batman and Robin’s “fight” with The Scarecrow is cut in sync with the actions of the football game, including Scarecrow’s vial being dropped cut with a fumble in the game. It’s stupid and the type of thing director’s can’t seem to resist when football pops into an action series (I remember contemporary series Rugrats doing something similar). There’s also a really long pass at one point in the game that’s animated to look more like a punt, making me wonder if the animators had ever seen American football (probably not). Since Scarecrow isn’t much of a physical threat, he’s caught rather easily once his threat to poison the entire arena is rendered toothless by Robin overcoming his fear and collecting the vial. Scarecrow suggests his one vial could have infected the whole stadium, which seems ludicrous. I guess since he was cornered in some scaffolding with no way out he could have just been lying in a desperate bid to escape, Batman seems to buy it though.


Okay, now I’m scared.

“Fear of Victory” is an okay episode of Batman: The Animated Series. I like The Scarecrow and I like his new look, which he’ll hang onto until The New Batman Adventures. The little side story with Robin is fine and it makes sense since we’ve already seen Batman have to deal with the toxin, so why not Robin? It gives him some credibility since he does overcome it in the end, and since Batman doesn’t just tell him to stay home, it does tell us that Batman must value him as a sidekick. What is never really explained is just what drives Robin to actually accompany Batman on his various outings. Because his roommate got scared playing football? Okay. He’ll just kind of show up for no reason from time to time until season two. I prefer Batman as a solo act, so I’m fine with this arrangement and I’m fine with this episode.

Disney’s Best Five Film Run

walt_disney_pictures_logo_slice_01The Walt Disney Company has been producing animated features for 80 years now. In that time, the company has released 55 films with a 56th on the way later this year and others in development. I’m only talking about the animated ones, because if you add in live-action and all of the films released by Pixar or under the Marvel or Star Wars banner then you’ll easily eclipse 100 films. Disney’s bread and butter has been the animated feature though, beginning in 1937 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Over the years they’ve had ups and downs and had to keep up with changes in technology and film production techniques. It’s a very interesting history, and likely numerous rankings exist around the internet listing out the films in order of best to worst, or vice versa.

For this post, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to look more at the eras of the films produced. At first I thought about just going in 5 year chunks, but that made things unbalanced as Disney has had periods where they churn out a bunch of films and periods where they don’t. Instead, I felt it would be more interesting to just divide the films up into groups, and with there being 55 total films as of this writing, it made sense to go with groups of five. These groups seem to work well as they tend to span around 7 or 8 years and result in some fun pairings. At first, I listed them out and then just did a totally subjective ranking. I was fine with the end result, but just for some added fun I added a score to each film on a scale of one to five with five being the best and then ranked them by total score and I ended up with almost the exact same list. Since that ranking felt a little more interesting, I’ll keep it and include my totally subjective score for each film as we go along while also linking to any films I may have reviewed here, so let’s get to it.


Saludos Amigos (1942)

1942 -1949 – 10 points

Well, this isn’t surprising. By going with groups of five I inadvertently grouped basically all of the package films together in one grouping. These were the films produced during World Word II when Disney was cut-off from overseas revenue streams on its films. As a result, the company had to settle for cheaper releases. None of these films are particularly good, though each also has its moments which is why they all scored a 2 across the board (you have to be pretty bad to score less than 2, and really great to score a 5 from me). Saludos Amigos is basically a propaganda film aiming to improve opinions of South America as Disney was not opposed to making such crap. At least it has Donald Duck in it though. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad definitely has its fans too, but I personally don’t enjoy that picture very much. Basically anyone doing a ranking like this one is going to start with this quintet.


Lilo & Stitch (2002)

2002 – 2005 – 11.5 Points

  • Lilo & Stitch – 5
  • Treasure Planet – 2.5
  • Brother Bear – 2
  • Home on the Range – 1
  • Chicken Little – 1

Also not surprising for Disney fans, this era captures Disney’s struggle to stay relevant in the field of 2D animation while also exploring CGi. Treasure Planet is a hybrid picture that at least looks good, but doesn’t offer much else. Brother Bear is okay, but feels outdated and like a picture that’s struggling to match some of the old Disney classics. The latter two are just plain awful and probably the two worst Disney animated features. Home on the Range has the fun distinction of essentially being the film that killed 2D animation at Disney – thanks! Propping this group up and keeping it from a dismal finish behind even the package film era is Lilo & Stitch, a supremely wonderful picture about two sisters trying to cope and understand each other following the loss of their parents. It basically explores depression in adolescents, but kind of hides it by also injecting the incredibly fun Stitch to the mix and it’s also gorgeous to boot. It’s really on my short list of the best films put out by Disney.


The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)

1999 – 2001 – 12.5 Points

  • Tarzan – 3
  • Fantasia 2000 – 2
  • Dinosaur – 2
  • The Emperor’s New Groove – 3.5
  • Atlantis – 2

This era represents the winding down of the New Renaissance era started in the late 1980s. You basically have two perfectly good Disney films in Tarzan and Emperor’s New Groove together with two forgettable ones and one sequel that really didn’t impress. Emperor’s New Groove might be on the studio’s most underrated films as it’s a really fun story with some great animation. Tarzan is the more popular due to its legendary character and for some reason the Phil Collins soundtrack was really popular. It’s one of those films that I think looks better than it is, but it’s fine. Dinosaur is pretty bad, it’s earnest so I won’t drop it to the dismal rankings but it just doesn’t work and has aged poorly. Atlantis, like Treasure Planet, is visually interesting and little else. And Fantasia 2000 was about as big a flop as the original. While the original benefits from being unique when it was released, and for containing the iconic Sorceror’s Apprentice (re-including that in 2000 doesn’t really count for as much) while the 2000 version just looks better and doesn’t introduce really anything noteworthy.


The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)

1977 – 1986 – 14.5 Points

  • The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – 3.5
  • The Rescuers – 3
  • The Fox and the Hound – 3
  • The Black Cauldron – 2
  • The Great Mouse Detective – 3

Commercially, this era of films is looked on rather badly. This is when critics were sounding the bells of doom for Disney wondering if the studio could turn it around. The Black Cauldron was one of the biggest flops the company ever endured, costing a boatload of money to produce while failing to connect with critics and audiences. Because of that status it might be lumped in with a few others as being among Disney’s worst, but it’s really not that bad. It at least contains a really memorable, and frightening, villain in The Horned King and brings back some of that old scary fairy tale vibe. It has its fans, like noted critic Roger Ebert. As for the rest, they’re all pretty good films just none are able to really rise above the cream of the crop. The Pooh shorts collected in The Many Adventures are pretty much considered classics by now while The Great Mouse Detective gets the credit for turning the studio around. It’s a fun adventure and one I’m a little surprised didn’t get a sequel. The Rescuers will get that honor a few years later, but the first outing for Bernard and Miss Bianca is the superior one. And then there’s The Fox and the Hound, a nice little buddy movie that aims big, but doesn’t quite deliver as impactful a story as it wants to. It’s still a nice little picture though.


Tangled (2010)

2007 – 2011 – 15 Points

If this era had a title it would probably be The Great Turn-Around. After bottoming out with the pair of Home on the Range and Chicken Little, Disney really needed to reassert itself as a leading producer of quality animated features. Pixar had eclipsed them and this group of films marks the moment when things finally started to get going in the right direction, though they still needed to take a couple more lumps. It’s also, sadly, the last of the 2D animation and marks the full commitment to CG pictures going forward. Meet the Robinsons and Bolt were another duo of clumsily animated CG pictures. Bolt is the better of the two, and I considered going with a 2.5 score, but in the end it’s also really not a film I care to watch again. The Princess and the Frog is gorgeous, and Winnie the Pooh is a delightful continuation of The Many Adventures that should please most children. Tangled is the clear star though and it’s the first CG film Disney made that is on par with Pixar in terms of visuals and it’s also a modern princess film that works. It helped lay what is a new foundation for that sub-genre of films and it kind of gets overlooked because of the success of another princess movie still to come, but I actually prefer it to all of the CG princess tales.


The Lion King (1994)

1994 – 1998 – 15.5 Points

  • The Lion King – 4
  • Pocahontas – 2
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame – 3
  • Hercules – 3
  • Mulan – 3.5

The coasting years. Hot off the success of early 90s films like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, Disney settled into a nice groove of pretty films with big songs and good enough stories. The Lion King is probably the studio’s last hallmark offering of the 90s. It’s a film some might give a higher score, but I think it’s definitely not as good as the group of films that preceded it. Meanwhile, the only dud of the group is Pocahontas, a film that has its heart in the right place, but plays too loose with actual history and is hampered by the G rating from telling the story it probably wants. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, on the other hand, found a way to tell a more mature story under the restraints placed upon it by the studio. Hercules is a fun film, nothing more and nothing less, while Mulan is a greater triumph than all but The Lion King. It tells its own Joan of Arc tale through the eyes of a strong, young Chinese woman. I wish it had a little better of a climax, which is the only thing keeping it from being among Disney’s best, but at the time it was a much needed film as it took the lead woman out of the damsel in distress role. All of these films follow the broadway format, which was getting tiresome by this stage, but all of them also look and sound fantastic. If we were ranking just by visual fidelity, then this group would probably place near the top.


One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

1961 – 1973 – 16 Points

The Xerox era. Finding animation was too costly, Disney turned to a new technique that utilized Xerox to copy cels and thus reduce the load on the animators. The studio basically gives credit to this process for even allowing them to create One Hundred and One Dalmatians as animating all of those puppies the old-fashioned way would have just been too daunting. As a group of films, that gives them a pretty distinct look as the earliest films done this way have a very rough, sketch quality to them. It has its own charm, though I prefer the old days. This is a solid, almost spectacular, grouping though. You have The Sword in the Stone and Robin Hood, both fun little tales that can please a gathering of all ages. And then you have One Hundred and One Dalmatians and The Jungle Book, two pretty big releases for the Disney company. Dalmatians, in particular, is one of the studio’s best and it’s a fun caper set in a modern setting that doesn’t beat you over the head with songs. The Jungle Book is just a good buddy comedy of sorts, and Mowgli is a relatable and sympathetic character throughout while the shadow of Shere Khan adds intrigue along the way. It also features some of the best work of the renowned Sherman Brothers. Lastly, there’s The Aristocats. If Dalmatians hadn’t come before it I wonder if I’d look upon it more fondly as it basically feels like a retread of that picture, but with cats instead. It has one pretty good song though, so at least there’s that.


Lady and the Tramp (1955)

1950 – 1959 – 17 Points

Perhaps the most divisive grouping. This is a group of films lots of people grew up with, so they pack a lot of nostalgic value. They’re also a bit divisive as well since you have some old-fashioned princess tales where a kind, submissive woman is rescued by a dashing prince. There’s the racial imagery in Peter Pan, also not a high point for Disney, and then just the manic atmosphere of Alice in Wonderland that you either like or don’t like. As you can tell by my score, I’m among those who do not particularly care for Alice in Wonderland. I think it starts off fine, but then just gets too bogged down in being “wacky” and I struggle to remain invested whenever I watch it. Sleeping Beauty was another huge flop for the studio, but it seems like over time it’s become much more beloved. I don’t particularly enjoy the very angular features of the characters and the flatness of the visuals, plus the story is kind of the studio’s low point as far as making interesting leading women. It’s saved by the iconic Maleficent from being truly dreadful. At the other end of the spectrum is Cinderella, which tells the tale of a victim of circumstance who finds a way to be a decent person throughout it all and is rewarded in the end. By itself, it’s a nice film and I don’t find fault with the film’s message. It’s only when lumped in with other “princess” movies that it starts to feel problematic. Peter Pan is merely fine. I think it’s weak in terms of song and as an adventure it’s ho-hum. It’s more of a kid’s fantasy film, than anything. The best though is Lady and the Tramp, a really fun “dog movie” with interesting characters, a simple but effective premise, and the best visuals of any Disney movie. This one is beautiful and I get a little sad every time I watch it because Disney just doesn’t make movies that look like this anymore and maybe never will. It also doesn’t feature a ton of songs, which is a plus in my book. I understand those who may find it boring or slow, but for me it’s almost perfectly paced and just too visually stimulating for me to lose interest at any point.


Pinocchio (1940)

1937 – 1942 – 17 Points

The group that started it all. It’s actually tied with the group preceding this one at 17 points a piece. My tiebreaker was simply to pick the best film of the bunch and go with that group, and if you’ve read my reviews for some of these films then you would know that Pinocchio is my all-time favorite Disney picture. It’s a great story that’s captivating, warm, scary, suspenseful and is pushed along by wonderful visuals and timeless songs. It’s the best example of Disney’s old way of creating an animated movie which wasn’t as reliant on song-breaks like the films of the late 80s and 90s. Joining Pinocchio is, of course, the one that started it all – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I recently reviewed this one in light of the fact that it recently turned 80(!) and it seemed like a good time to revisit it. It’s breath-takingly beautiful, even by today’s standards, which helps to cover-up a sometimes slow moving plot. It may have scored a half-point for nostalgic reasons now that I think about it, but I’m sticking with the 3.5 since it feels like it should be elevated about the likes of Dumbo and Bambi, which round out this list. Both are adorably sweet films that also have moments of fear and sadness to balance them out. Dumbo is the simpler of the two, while Bambi is the more visually impressive. Fantasia was basically Walt’s pet project and something that I think was made to appeal to him first and foremost, which makes it rather interesting. It’s not really for me, but I recognize that it has value and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice segment is pretty wonderful. It also has the distinction of being one of the only Disney movies to never be aired on free television.


Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

2012 – 2016 (Present) – 18 Points

  • Wreck-It Ralph – 4
  • Frozen – 4
  • Big Hero 6 – 3
  • Zootopia – 4
  • Moana – 3

You may think this one is up this high because of recency bias, but let me assure that is not the case. This is the first, and only, grouping of all CG films and it just so happens all of them are pretty damn good. While none managed a 5 rating from me, none also fell below a 3 which is also a first on our list. Let’s start with my pick of the worst, which is Big Hero 6. It’s a great visual film, but it suffers because it just feels too derivative of other Disney films in its turning points. It also is a victim of being essentially a super hero film and there’s certainly some fatigue associated with that genre these days. If you’re a younger person who is only familiar with Disney’s modern output then it might be more appealing to you since its tragic elements feel less repetitive, but for me it’s just okay. Moana is slightly better. It’s a pretty solid adventure with a fun pairing between its heroine and Maui, a god, that would probably be better if it was a bit shorter and knocked out a song or two. Zootopia is ambitiously serious and it’s a pretty fantastic one-time viewing experience. Its lack of “fun” and reliance on mystery and plot twists cause it to not hold up as well on repeated viewings, but just judged by itself it’s actually pretty great. Frozen is the most popular film on this list, though I think it’s visually the worst. It had a whole bunch of problems during production, originally starting off as a hand-drawn picture, so it’s not really surprising to see it doesn’t look its best, but it makes up for it in charm. This is a likable cast that puts a nice twist on the princess formula. I think, musically, it’s a bit overrated. Not “Let It Go,” that song is fantastic, but other than “Do You Want to Build A Snowman?” I could do without the rest. Wreck-It Ralph is the star for me, and not because it’s a video game movie, but because it best combines characters, heart, plot, and visuals into a total package. In looking at my ratings, I’m actually thinking maybe I should bump it up a half-point to separate it from the rest, but I’ll stick with what I’ve got. It’s only real failing is that it doesn’t really take advantage of the cameos from video games, outside of the therapy session, and it does feel a bit on the long side. Still, a great movie and one I tend to get sucked into whenever it’s on television (which is a lot, it seems).


Aladdin (1992)

1988 – 1993 – 19 Points

At last, we’ve come to our top spot and perhaps not surprisingly it captures the peek of Disney’s New Renaissance. This is a three-headed monster of films that really changed the game on what an animated feature could deliver, including the first one to be nominated for an Academy Award for best picture. It’s also a gauntlet of pictures as each one was released in a different year – five pictures for five years. The amusing part is it also contains two films that are certainly not beloved. Oliver & Company holds some nostalgic value for me because it’s the first film I can recall seeing in a movie theater. As such, I probably like it a bit more than the 2 rating I gave it, but I can see it’s faults as a film. It does deserve credit for establishing the new format that our big three would adopt. The Rescuers Down Under has the distinction of being the only theatrically released direct sequel of any animated Disney feature, a distinction that will end later this year when the Wreck-It Ralph sequel is released. By itself, it’s fine and Bernard and Miss Bianca are actually interesting enough to justify another feature, even if no one was really begging for it. Hardly Disney’s worst, but possibly its most forgettable considering the film that preceded it and the ones to follow. This group is defined by the three big ones:  The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. Some dislike The Little Mermaid for being another princess tale, with Ariel needing to be rescued from the likes of her father, King Triton, and her love interest Eric – the dashing prince. I see it more as a tale of adolescence with Ariel embodying the personality of many 16 year olds I’ve come across. She has passion, a rebel spirit, and is perhaps too quick to identify what she wants. Perhaps an ending where she decides that Eric isn’t all that great would have turned things on its head and been more interesting, but it’s not as if Eric is a bad person. He actually is pretty great, so maybe happily ever after isn’t so bad? It’s also Disney’s best film when judging it strictly on the merits of its soundtrack thanks to the triumvirate of “Under the Sea,” “Part of Your World,” and “Kiss the Girl.” With Beauty and the Beast we’re treated to a heroine that’s a bit more realistic and willing to take charge of her situation. She sacrifices herself to The Beast to free her father, a noble gesture for sure even though it’s not what any father would want for their daughter. The film is hurt slightly by the fact that they need to gloss over the warming-up of The Beast and Belle, but that’ what happens with 90 minute features. Lavishly animated and wonderfully scored, it’s not a surprise why so many think it’s the best the studio has produced to date. And lastly, there’s Aladdin – Disney’s greatest tale of adventure. It’s almost surprising it took the studio this long to tackle the story of Aladdin as it fits in with a lot of the adventure pieces from both the animation department and the live-action one from the decades before, but Aladdin benefits greatly from being made in the 90s because it looks incredible and packs an iconic performance from the late Robin Williams as The Genie. This is a supremely entertaining film that might be my favorite of the bunch, but really on  any given day I could make a case for why any of those three are the best.



Batman: The Animated Series – “Vendetta”

Vendetta-Title_CardEpisode Number: 23

Original Air Date:  October 5, 1992

Directed by:  Frank Paur

Written by:  Michael Reaves

First Appearance(s):  Killer Croc

For the debut of mostly unheard of villain Killer Croc, Batman: The Animated Series decided to place the focus on Batman’s skills as a detective as well as adding a new dimension to his rivalry with Detective Harvey Bullock. I’ve been critical of the show at times for how Batman is able to seemingly solve every crime that comes his way by virtue of his amazing super computer he has in the Bat Cave. For “Vendetta,” writer Michael Reaves made Batman less reliant on that trope in favor of more traditional sleuthing skills, but when it came time to give Batman a clue to help him solve this little crime, the show still resorted to some flimsy story-telling.

“Vendetta” opens with a police boat at sea escorting a rather nervous prisoner by the name of Spider Conway (Aron Kincaid, who is also voicing our debuting villain, Killer Croc). Conway apparently has some dirt on Rupert Thorne, or so that is the thought, and in exchange for a statement he’s getting a reduced sentence. He’s pretty jumpy though and seems to expect an attempt on his life to come before he can safely reach Gotham PD. Commissioner Gordon is onshore watching when he sees his guards on the boat start abandoning ship as a result of a discovered bomb. We get to see a shadowy object place that bomb on the side of the boat before entering and abducting a pretty terrified looking Conway. Batman is also there to witness the boat explode. Conway is no where to be found, and the police get settled in for a long night of dragging the bay in the pouring rain. Meanwhile, Batman finds a lone toothpick on the dock where the boat had cast off.


In this episode, Batman goes toe to toe with Killer Croc.

At Gotham PD, Gordon pulls Bullock off the case out of concern that Internal Affairs will be all over him. Apparently Bullock has a past relationship with Conway in which he was fingered for a crime, but later exonerated. Batman overhears this and decides he needs to investigate further and promptly breaks into Gotham PD and swipes Bullock’s personal record, just as Bullock was apparently about to do the same? Anyway, there’s enough there, coupled with the toothpick, to make Batman suspicious. A visit to the home of Thorne in which Batman comes away thinking he had nothing to do with it pushes him further down the path of suspecting Bullock. He voices his concerns to Gordon, who insists Bullock is a good cop. Things only get messier when an individual impersonating Bullock assaults a cop and abducts another prisoner by the name of Joey, another criminal who was about to sing to the cops.

Back at the wreckage, Batman finds an object that appears to be a scale. He takes it back to his lab to analyze it and finds that despite its appearance it actually came from a human. Alfred steps in to bring him his dinner, pointing out he’s serving it in a crock, which serves as Batman’s eureka moment. We then see him as Bruce Wayne at a zoo exhibit for crocodiles explaining their natural habitat that causes him to walk away smiling and announcing, “Of course!” This whole sequence is beyond stupid, even for a kid’s show. As we are about to find out, Batman has no prior knowledge of Killer Croc, so it wasn’t as if Alfred’s mentioning of the word “crock” brought that criminal to mind, Batman just literally decided that this must be the work of some kind of half-human half-crocodile individual. And Batman is also pretty damn smart, and has that crazy computer, so we’re supposed to believe he needed to head to the zoo to find out the most basic information on crocodiles?


There’s a couple of good fight scenes between Batman and Croc. These underwater scenes are always a bit intense.

Anyways, Batman goes searching underwater and find’s the cave of Killer Croc. The men he’s abducted are there and Batman and he have a brief exchange. Killer Croc does the villain thing of introducing himself and letting Batman know he has the strength of a crocodile. I know Croc is going to be portrayed as something much less than Batman’s equal when it comes to intellect, but this is pretty corny by any standard. Croc escapes, but Batman at least knows who is trying to frame Bullock. Apparently, Bullock had busted him previously with the help of testimony from Jones and Conway. Croc had since escaped from jail, and apparently no one thought to make this connection until now. Croc is simply out for a little revenge against the man who put him away. We’re heading for a showdown, and when Croc reveals himself to Bullock as the man behind all of this Batman is ready and waiting. They take to the sewers where we actually are treated to a fairly impressive confrontation. Batman and Croc beat the snot out of each other, but it’s hardly in question who will emerge victorious.

As a last bit of tension, we get Bullock pulling a gun on Batman as he emerges from the sewer. They speak not a word as Batman hauls an unconscious Croc behind him up and out of the sewer. Bullock questions why Batman went through all of the trouble to help him clear his name, and Batman responds with some mushy stuff about how he respects the detective and Bullock wants none of it and tells him to take off. He does admire Batman’s work once he leaves though.


Once Batman blows up Croc’s plan he just heads straight for Bullock.

“Vendetta” is a fine introduction for Killer Croc, a C-list villain who is at least a bit scary and intimidating to look at. This little plan of his is more elaborate than anything else we’ll see from him as Croc will be portrayed as kind of dim in subsequent appearances. As a visual though, I do like this take on Killer Croc. More recent ones are pretty outlandish, but at least here he’s sort of believable as a big guy with a bad skin condition and an ugly mug. Some liberties are taken with the shape of his jaw, but it adds character and a little style which is appreciated. The show gives away too much information for us to ever doubt Bullock’s innocence, which feels like a missed opportunity. As a result, what should be a tense situation at the end when Bullock and Batman are face to face has little dramatic flair. The other missteps are less forgivable making this perhaps the most clumsy episode we’ve looked at yet. The atmospheric setting which includes a pervasive rain and the Batman/Croc confrontation rescue it from being a poor episode, but this is definitely not a shining moment for Batman:  The Animated Series.