- The Washington Times - Friday, February 11, 2005

The comic book permeates all levels of popular culture. This sporadic feature reviews some recent examples from the world of digital video discs (compatible with DVD-ROM-enabled computers and home entertainment centers).

It also includes a recommended sequential-art reading list to extend the multimedia adventures.

‘AVP: Alien vs. Predator’

(20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, $29.99)

It took a long time 23 years — for the comic-book battle between these two legendary science-fiction film monsters to make it to the big screen. A movie pairing the deadly acid-blood creatures should have been a no-brainer for director Paul W.S. Anderson, considering the wealth of source material he had from Dark Horse Comics’ miniseries released over the years.

Unfortunately, instead of a highly charged action flick highlighting three highly intelligent species beating each other to a pulp (I include humans), moviegoers were bogged down by watching moronic mortal characters getting butchered off-screen.

It left little time for multiple big battles between Alien and Predator, which is what everyone was expecting.

Despite the mediocrity of the big-screen effort, the DVD does a remarkable job of paying tribute to the film’s sequential-art roots, beginning with images from more than a dozen comic-book covers that can be viewed on-screen.

—Additionally, and much more impressive, PC owners can pop the discinto their computers and find a slick menu overlay leading to a 1991 text interview with the author of Dark Horse’s first AVP miniseries, Randy Stradley. That’s juxtaposed with a breakdown of 10 comic-book pages revealing inked illustrations, then color and dialogue bubbles, and the entire first issue of Aliens vs. Predator from 1990.

Read all about it: Although the DVD provides an issue of the original series, I suggest fans go back to the source material and purchase the complete, 1990, five-part, Aliens vs. Predator comic-book series conveniently compiled in a trade paperback from Dark Horse Comics ($19.95).

Stan Lee’s ‘Stripperella’

(Paramount Home Entertainment, not rated, $26.99)

The man who helped give Spider-Man life, legendary Marvel Comics patriarch Stan Lee, assisted with the conversion of the TNN cable channel to the manly men’s network, Spike TV, by concocting an insane cartoon series to appeal to the mature male viewer.

He unleashed a heroine named Erotica Jones, who strips by night and saves humanity after work and happens to be the animated equivalent of actress Pamela Anderson, right down to her voice.

Bathed in sophomoric sexual innuendo and using costuming that would make Ralph Bakshi blush, the series lasted just 13 episodes despite some fast-flying humor, eye-popping artwork and very silly villains such as Pushy Galore and Dr. Cesarean.

Viewers get a two-disk DVD set that boasts uncensored versions of all of the episodes (that means a bit of nudity) but devoid of any extras. I would have paid good money for an optional commentary track of Pam Anderson and Stan Lee bantering while watching a couple of episodes.

Stan is usually the man in my book, but l have to believe he should be lending his creative juices to more significant popular culture during his remaining years.

Read all about it: Alas, no Stripperella comic books, but publishers have plenty of cheesecake heroines worth reading about. I suggest Marvel Comics’ Shanna, the She-Devil ($3.50 each), Dark Horse Comics’ “Barb Wire” (which actually became a movie starring Pamela Anderson) trade paperback ($8.95) or Wildstorm’s “Danger Girl: Odd Jobs” trade paperback ($14.95).

‘Space Ghost Coast to Coast: Volume 2’

(Warner Home VIdeo, not rated, $29.98)

One of the shows from the mid-1990s that helps make the Cartoon Network one of the hippest spots on cable television gets immortalized via a two-disk DVD set highlighting its third season.

The premise of the “Space Ghost” show simply involved turning Hanna-Barbera’s beloved 1960s superhero into a curmudgeonly talk-show host and giving viewers a glimpse behind the scenes of the production.

Distinguished by truly cheap animation culled from original “Space Ghost” cartoons, the cutting of live-action interviews with cartoon characters’ responses, a cavalcade of popular-culture and musical guests along with humorous banter drier than the Sahara desert, the show tickled the funny bones of collegians, teens and adults.

Owners get 14 episodes of 15 minutes each featuring interviews from the show with “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening, comedian and activist Janeane Garofalo, chef Emeril Lagasse and musician Laurie Anderson.

Extras include a performance by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, an original pilot episode from 1993 and optional commentary tracks for each episode that occasionally sound as if they were cut while the participants were hanging out in an opium den.

Read all about it: DC Comics is offering a six-issue, serious sequential-art ode to the hero featuring gorgeous art by Ariel Olivetti and dazzling covers from Alex Ross ($2.99 each).

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016; fax 202/269-1853; e-mail [email protected]; or write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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