On Captain Marvel

We've talked before about how awesome the new Captain Marvel costume is, and there have been a lot of people having a lot of fun with it. To wit:

...and then there's Ed Mcguinness's sweet cover for Captain Marvel #1

These are all great and, like McKelvie's design, marvelously fun and cartoony, which is part of what makes the look work. For the book itself, though, we're stuck with these dark, sludgy, pointy, deadly serious Dexter Soy paintings. It's like Marvel is trying to get the book canned. 

How Do I Get To Heaven?

I was in born in 1990, so let's just say I came to the Band rather belatedly. Being late to the party, though, has certain advantages, and in this case I can pinpoint the exact moment when they started to matter: Parents Weekend, my freshmen year of college. We went to this talk in the campus center, my parents and I, led by this rock n' roll historian who played clips of bands that he had synced up to songs that those bands weren't singing-- in hindsight, it was hysterical. He was a pretty chill dude, though, and as he tried to explain the 70s he heaped in decent portions from Creedence, Led Zeppelin and, most miraculously of all, this group of guys who had once been Dylan's backing band, and then had holed up in a big pink house the other side of the Hudson River (not so very far from where I was sitting, really) and made a record that almost no one heard. Then they made another record, called The Band, which everybody heard.

Anyway, I went back to my room that night and, uh, acquired two records I listened to for the rest of the semester. I was hooked; the instrumentation was distinctive, almost playful, the harmonies were pleasant, the themes straight out of America's muddy backroads, and keeping it all together was a heavy limbed rhythm at the front the mix, like a proud staple rather than a hidden stitch. The music was big, big enough that it filled a lot of space that Fall, and, as I listened, I read up. I wouldn't come across the definitive text, their chapter in Greil Marcus' Mystery Train until much later, but I did enough research to know who everyone was, to have a sense for the band, to be sort of saddened by the deaths, long in the past, of two men (Rick Danko and, particularly, organist Richard Manuel), and to know that they had had as their first last act the most well-received concert movie in history, Martin Scorcese's The Last Waltz and that if The Band hadn't planned to break up before the release of that movie, they almost certainly would have after. I didn't really care from who wrote the songs, though, or about how much more screen time than anyone else Robbie Robertson had had in their last hurrah-- all that matter was that I liked the music, and that the man keeping the whole thing together, drummer Levon Helm, lived not that far from where I did.

Levon, who died last Thursday at the age of 71, was something of a local hero. Although he wasn't from the Hudson Valley, he had adopted it as his home, hosting concerts, called Midnight Rambles and featuring basically any musician you can think of, at his combination house/studio on his farm in Woodstock, and just sort of generally being present. Up here, we celebrated those recent Grammy wins like sports fans celebrate championship victories, and when people say Levon, there's no question who's under discussion. So, when the Helm family announced that Levon was in the final stages of a war against the cells in his throat, one that he'd been waging since the late nineties, the area held its breath. Bard's director of security, a man sort of semi-famous for his incorrigible emails, even sent out a short, solemn note:
Levon Helm has been and remains a local musical treasure, living and performing in Woodstock.
I share this distressing news for those who may not be aware we are close to losing an important  cultural asset.
 And then, two days later, another:
Levon Helm has passed - Rest in Peace
Now, I'd never met Levon Helm, only listened to his music, and being a college student, I'm not even a transplant to the area. For me to lay claim to any of this grief seems somewhat disingenuous. Still, between his roles in Music for the Big Pink and The Band and his influence on later music that I love (if you want to know were Americana got started, you should look no further), I was bummed. It was a beautiful day, though, and I decided to take a ride down the Taconic to my comics store in Salt Point. Radio Woodstock, which is the only thing I listen to in my car when I'm up here, was playing nothing but songs by Levon and The Band-- "Ophelia," "The Shape That I'm In," the version of "The Weight" from The Last Waltz, the one with The Staples Singers along for the ride, and talking about Levon nonstop. It felt like the best possible tribute, and I'm glad I caught a couple hours of it. For my part, I've decided to take a page from their book, and so my radio show, The Hydrogen Jukebox, is paying tribute to Levon   on Tuesday night (4/24), from 8-10 pm Eastern time. Listen in here, if you're so inclined, and particularly if all of this is lost on you; you won't be disappointed.