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Headsup: Building London, Smuggling Africa, and Censoring America

An ongoing attempt to make sense of the onslaught of new swag that people want you to buy. Should you? I’ll try and help.

Ayre Force Cover Art
Building London Cover Art
Shout at the Devil DVD Cover Art

So here’s the deal. When I was a kid, I used to write superhero stories featuring myself and my friends as characters in the stories. So it makes perfect sense to me that Calvin Ayre would have a graphic novel created where he’s the head of a cross between SHIELD and G.I. Joe and his team is made up of the real people who are part of his Bodog group. Which means that you get the musical artist Bif Naked, for example, being outed as a uber-soldier. And there’s the obligatory bad guy with a big pharma spin. But again, I can’t fault that because I would potentially have done the same thing. Especially if I was rich. If I was rich, Siege would get funding to do the mad Needcoffee movie he has a pitch for. Anyway, I can’t even get too terribly bent out of shape about the fact that all of these poker players and fighters and musicians have very little in the way of character development and could potentially be interchangeable; Ayre and his assistant get the most screen time that amounts to anything. Mostly because the proceeds of the book go to support stopping the harvesting of bear bile, which when you read up on it, is even more unpleasant and mental than how it sounds. So Ayre Force is pretty much the closest thing to a bulletproof graphic novel I’m going to see around here.

[ad#longpost]It’s no secret that we have a running fascination with stuff from Britain around here. And not just because, from what I can tell, I come from purely English stock (none of this interesting sidebars of other nationalities for me–I’m terribly, terribly Anglo). And not just because their television and their political setup is so much, well, healthier than ours. There’s no one reason. But one thing that is fascinating for Americans like myself is that everything here is brand spanking new in comparison to things in Europe. I’ll never forget the Time Team episode in which they were basically excavating portions of a 14th century hall–that was somebody’s house. And here with Building London, we get an oversized book that takes you through how London’s major buildings came to be–everything from Parliament and palaces to pubs and clubs. More photos than text are here, but that’s all right because the rare historical photography is what you’re here for. At a $55 price point ($38 on Amazon at the moment), if you’re a complete Anglophile then this would be a nice coffee table book to have, otherwise it’s a good higher end “gift book.” And I think you know what I mean. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

Shout at the Devil is the story of an American who partners up with a Brit with an eye towards making money off of ivory smuggling. It has two major things going for it. First, Roger Moore was My First James Bond for my generation, so he’s always near and dear to our hearts. Second, Lee Goddamn Marvin. Those two vs. the Germans in World War I Africa. That starts off cool just from the get go. It’s definitely worth a watch. And here’s the thing: Umbrella Entertainment has released this in an all-region version out of Australia. There hasn’t been, from what I can tell, a Region 1 release. There have been elsewhere, and a previous all-region release out of China (which may be technically out of print, unsure). So even though there’s no features on here, if you’ve been trying to add this to either your Marvin and Moore collection (or Ian Holm, for that matter, he’s here too), then Umbrella’s the way to go. (Click here to buy it from Umbrella.)

Ten Cent Plague Audiobook Cover Art
Home Audiobook Cover Art

Comic books are weird little animals. Today they’ve spawned a multi-billion dollar industry, if you consider all the coin that’s been made–not from the books themselves–but from the games, books, and movies based off of them. But back in the day (Wednesday), they freaked people right the hell out. I mean, even more than they do today. We’re talking huge censorship, people panicking over EC Comics (like some people do about Grand Theft Auto today)–hell, any comics–and trying to make them stop. For a country that’s supposed to have so many freedoms, you’d think we would actually, you know, have them and not try to fuck them over every time we turn around. Regardless, the story of what drove these whackjobs to try to stamp out comics and what happened to the people who were trying to make comics is the focus of David Hajdu’s book. Stefan Rudnicki is the reader on the Blackstone Audio edition, which is, of course, unabridged. Twelve hours across ten discs, it’s an excellent chapter in comics history. Pick it up for a listen at your local library or the like. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)

It’s impossible not to adore Julie Andrews. Not just because of her many excellent roles, but because of stuff like this. If you ever wondered exactly how she got to where she is, then Home is going to be right up your alley. It’s her autobiography of her “Early Years” and tells the story of how she eventually wound up on Broadway and then as Mary Poppins. The audiobook is out from Hyperion and I think would be an even better idea than the book itself since it’s unabridged and read by Andrews herself. Any fan of the actress is going to at least snag a copy from the library. (Click here to buy it from Amazon.)