Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

“The Shadowman” “Shock Stories” And More

The PopCulteer
July 24, 2009

“The Shadowman” Wow!

I just got back from the first performance of the new CYAC show, “The Shadowman.” This is a straight dramatic play, written and directed by Dan Kehde, and it’s one of the most striking pieces of live drama that I’ve seen. I honestly can’t remember ever being moved as much by a live theater performance. The story is compelling, but at times it’s like a punch to the gut.

“The Shadowman” tells the story of Jeremiah Fleetwood, an ex-con, just released after serving fifteen years for the rape of a 12-year-old girl. Jeremiah has found work in a porn shop/peep show in the town where he grew up, and committed his crime. In the course of the play, he encounters old friends and his victim. It becomes clear as the story unfolds that there is much more to the situation than it appears. The whole town is harboring secrets that come as a series of revelations during the play.


Kehde has crafted a remarkable story, with gritty, realistic dialogue, and twists and turns that keep you on the edge of your seat. This is the story of humble nobility and redemption in a world that’s rotten to the core. I can’t commend Dan enough on the way he avoids taking the easy way out with this complex narrative. This is not a show for kids, but if you can handle adult themes, you shouldn’t miss this one.

The young cast is excellent. Evan Wilson nails the numb dignity of Jeremiah Fleetwood. He shows a real flair for drama and owns the stage. He’s on stage for nearly the entire play, and never wavers in his subtle intensity.

Nik Tidquist, as Jack Stramm, the porn shop owner, and Shawn Casey as the Sheriff bring their characters to life in a most believable fashion. They really seem like real people.

Erin Martin, as Marla, a junkie stripper, takes a character that could be pure evil, and embues her with a vulnerability that evokes pity and sympathy. Heather Newhouse, as the victim, deftly handles a character that unfolds as the play progresses. Michelle Spencer is terrific as a beginner stripper, in over her head.

Shane Belcher plays Jordan, a sweet customer of the peep show who falls for one of the girls. He takes a minor character and almost steals the show with a multi-layered portrayal. Maddy Ranson plays a character that I’m not going to reveal here to protect the plot, but her performance really tugs at the heartstrings.

Filling out the cast are Kirill Gura and John Shaw, who provide some nice moments of comic relief.

The entire cast is just note-perfect. I was pulled into the story from the first minute. “The Shadowman” is one of the most moving theatrical experiences that I’ve ever witnessed.

“The Shadowman” is an adult play, loaded with harsh language and dark, real-life situations. Any fan of drama should make it a point to take in this incredible, original work. It’s amazing that we have such amazing original theater right under our noses.

If You Go: “The Shadowman” runs 8 p.m. today through Saturday, and July 30, 31 and Aug. 1 at Capitol Center Theater, 123 Summers St. Tickets are $9.50 for adults and $5.50 for seniors and students. Call 304-342-5716 or visit the CYAC website.

One More Dance with The Bride

The Bride & The Grooms, an indie romantic comedy movie written and directed by Charleston native and GWHS grad Butch Maier, will be shown one more time on the big screen, at 4 p.m. this Saturday, July 25, at the La Belle in South Charlestion.

The movie features scenes shot at the West Virginia Capitol, the University of Charleston and the old Sunrise Museum.

Tickets are $5 and can be purchased at the movie’s website, or from Butch at the theater before the show.

Back in the May 1 PopCulteer, this is what I wrote about the movie: ““The Bride And The Grooms,” which debuted at Park Place Stadium Cinema last weekend, is a very well-crafted, sweet romantic comedy. Butch Maier did an amazing job with a tight budget. This film, produced with a budget under $100,000, looks better than most multi-million-dollar Hollywood movies. His clever script manages to make the farcical plot plausible, while a very talented young cast makes the characters likable and realistic. Jacilyn Ledford shows real star quality as the girl who accidentally winds up with four grooms on her wedding day. Much has been made about how this film was written with Jennifer Garner in mind for the lead. Ledford brings a lovable vulnerability to the role that, to be frank, I don’t think Garner could have pulled off. Let’s hope this movie is successful enough to spawn a healthy film industry in the region. Maier has hit one out of the park with his first at-bat.”

Shock Stories

Time for a bit of shameless self-pluggery here. For the second month in a row, I got the chance to write the cover story in Non Sport Update, the trading card magazine. This story was a real treat to write. I cover the trading card set “Shock Stories/Urban Legends” by Monsterwax (last issue I wrote about the new Star Trek movie). “Shock Stories/Urban Legends” is a really cool 100-card set featuring a complete very short story on each card back, with gorgeous EC Comics-style artwork on the front. The artwork is by Terry Beatty, and in a moment I’ll point out some foolish mistakes I made concerning his artwork in this article, and direct you to his website.

Shock Stories/Urban Legends” was created and written by Kurt Kursteiner, who coincidentally is the same fellow who wrote and directed the Jack T. Chick documentary “God’s Cartoonist,” which I wrote about here in the PopCulteer earlier this year when it was screened as part of the West Virginia International Film Festival. Writing this article was a sheer joy, because Kurt is such a great interviewee. He’s spent years working on this card set, which you can read more about in my article and at his website. I had a real blast putting this piece together for Non Sport Update.

However, In my zeal to meet my deadline, I let a few errors creep into my work. What was so mortifying about this is that they all concern the work of Terry Beatty, a wonderful cartoonist of whom I have been a fan for nearly three decades. For years Terry has drawn amazing covers for “Scary Monsters” magazine. Unfortunately, a rogue spell-checker turned that into “Shock Monsters,” a mistake I did not catch until the latest issue of Non Sport Update hit the newsstands. I also managed to list the wrong Batman comic books that Terry has worked on for DC Comics (They are “Batman Adventures,” “The Batman Strikes” and, currently, “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.”) and I mangled the title of his cult-favorite comic book, “Wild Dog” (Sadly I’ve been calling it “Red Dog” by mistake since it was first published in the 1990s.) Not content with that, I misspelled the name of Terry’s long-time collaborator, Max Allan Collins.

Hey, if you’re gonna suck, suck big. Put a big old check mark in the “epic fail” column for Rudy.

However, correcting these mistakes give me the chance to plug Terry’s website, which offers a retrospective of the fine work from his career. Even cooler, he has a great look behind the scenes at the production of the “Shock Stories/Urban Legends” cards. Poke around Terry’s website so you can see his other cool work, like Ms. Tree and The Funny Pages and read his informative blog. After we went to press, it was announced that Terry will be hand-drawing 250 “sketch” cards, which will be randomly inserted into packs of “Shock Stories/Urban Legends.”

I can guarantee that I won’t have three cover features in a row in Non Sport Update. The cover story of the next issue is the 20th anniversary of the magazine, and I’m proud to say that I’ve been honored to contribute to Non Sport Update since 1996. It’s a real treat working with my editor, Alan Beigel, and the publishing and production team, Roxanne Toser, Marlin Toser and Harris Toser. I’m looking forward to the next 20 years of “NSU.”

You should be able to find Non Sport Update at Borders, Books A Million, and select comic book shops.

Massaging The Message

Okay, I’m going to get a little political here, so be warned. I’ve been watching in amazement this week as the crazy conspiracy theory about Barack Obama not being a natural-born US citizen has gained new traction, and has become a major front-burner story. This is long after any and all questions about the President’s birth certificate have been thoroughly and repeatedly answered. Anyone who still thinks that there is any chance that Obama is not an American citizen is an idiot. Not just that, they are also probably a racist idiot.

So why is this story being given any credence? What purpose is served by digging into this major pile of irrelevance? My guess is that it has nothing to do with discrediting Barack Obama. It is not part of a plot to damage his reputation.

There is a purpose for this story being planted, teased and encouraged. You may have noticed that, while they’re debunking this moronic story, the major cable news outlet always talk to a highly-placed Republican figure, like Rudy Guiliani or Newt Gingrich. These pundits are quick to shoot down the birth certificate story as the work of loony “conspiracy theorists,” But then, almost every one of these right-wing pundits goes on to say some variation of, “These conspiracy stories are exactly as crazy as the stories about George W. Bush being involved with cocaine.”

I’ll pause while you go, “WTF?”

There’s a very subtle form of propaganda and damage control going on here. The point of the birth certificate story being revived at this late date is not to discredit the President. It’s a half-subtle attempt to equate the ridiculous idea of Barack Obama not being a US citizen with the very credible and well-corroborated story that President Bush did six month’s community service in the 1970s after being busted with cocaine, and that he never took a physical exam for the Air National Guard after his half-year stint working with under-privileged kids in Philadelphia.

I’m not going to bother going into detail about the former president’s drug use here. If you haven’t heard the story already, Google it.
I don’t know why the Republicans are trying to marginalize stories of Bush’s drug use now. Maybe there’s a tell-all book in the works, or maybe they just think that they can burnish his image a little bit to help their party, since the Republicans are now suffering badly from their connection to the Bush administration. But it’s interesting to watch.

You could even make a drinking game of it. Watching your favorite cable news program, take a drink every time they mention the birth certificate story, and chug the whole thing when they compare it to the Bush rumors. You’ll be drunk off your ass in no time. FOX News viewers may risk alcohol poisoning.

The Adventures of Rudy, Camera Whore

Once and future RFC guests, The Hellblinki Sextet, were in town, playing a killer set at The Empty Glass Wednesday night. In the first of a very self-indulgent series, here’s photos of me, posing with the band. Photos by Melanie Larch.

I was nearly blinded by the awesomeness of Brad’s incredible handlebar mustache

Valerie held that pose for five minutes while I tried to get Mel’s attention so she could take the picture

Andrew and I are going to become Jehovah’s Witnesses. You’d let us in if you opened your door to find us standing there like this, right?

Cool Canadian Comic Of The Week

Our cool comic this week is a graphic novel collection of the only comic book I ever subscribed to, Captain Canuck. There was a reason I got a subscription to this title way back in the late 1970s. I was afraid that I wouldn’t find it at the newsstands on a regular basis.

I first encountered this iconic Canadian superhero in 1976. I was just a nerdy kid, a chronic comic book collector, and I walked to the Paperback Mart in Dunbar (yes Virginia, there used to be a bookstore in Dunbar) one summer day and, as usual, made my way to the comic book rack. They didn’t carry new comics at Paperback Mart. They sold used, or leftover titles–usually lame Marvel books like “Werewolf By Night” or Harvey Comics like Casper or Richie Rich. These comics would be shrink-wrapped in bundles of two or three for a quarter. On this fateful day, there were a couple of oddities, shrink-wrapped together, a pair of slightly-oversized comic books, “Mr. A” issue three, and “Captain Canuck,” issue two. They were new, fresh, exotic….and only a quarter for both of them, so I snagged them.

When I got them home, I quickly devoured “Mr. A.” it was a weird comic, printed in black, red and white, written and drawn by Steve Ditko, the co-creator of Spider-man, and solo creator of some of my favorite oddball DC Comics of the 1960s. Though I didn’t know it at the time, “Mr. A” was Ditko’s attempt to translate Ayn Randian philosophy into comics via an absolutist superhero detective character. At the time it seemed really cool, the way Mr. A would throw kidnappers off of high-rise buildings to their death because “A is A. There are no shades of gray.” Now it’s a little cringe-worthy.

But the real treat was Captain Canuck written and drawn by Richard Comely. This comic book chronicled the adventures of a futuristic Canadian superhero, and agent of their spy agency, who was given super powers by an alien, and was then recruited to be a symbolic superhero for the Great White North. The story was a little choppy, and the artwork a little crude, but what the book lacked in polish, it more than made up in energy and enthusiasm. The coloring was phenomenal, with wild color holds and special effects that we just didn’t see in American comics. There was a bit of a psychedelic feel to the book. Even the printing was different, with bright, white paper, trimmed just a little larger than the standard American comic book. It became of my favorite comics, even though I knew that chances were slim that I’d ever see another issue. The text pages made it clear that the publisher didn’t have an American distributor, and this was before the advent of the direct-sales comic book store. I still don’t know how a Canadian comic book ended up in the middle of West Virginia.
Three years went by. Back then, three years meant something. It seemed like an eternity. Then one day I walk into the Murphy Mart in Dunbar (much of this story takes place in Dunbar, in case you didn’t notice) and made my way to the magazine rack where I found a copy of Captain Canuck….issue 4. Three years had passed, and I’d only missed one issue.

The book was printed like a standard comic book now, and the text page welcomed their new American readers. The artwork had improved dramatically with the introduction of the book’s new artist, George Freeman. Comely’s writing had improved by leaps and bounds, and he was now telling a first-class superhero/spy story. Also in this book Freeman took over the art chores, and he quickly became (and remains) one of my favorite comic book artists. I was so happy to find that the book was still being published that I decided to subscribe, just to make sure that I was able to read each issue. I never knew when the book would disappear again.

For the next couple of years, I’d receive my copy in the mail every two months–usually a week or two after I went ahead and bought it on the newsstand, and I enjoyed as Freeman progressed as an artist. Comely even improved dramatically, when he would turn in the occasional art job. Jean Claude St. Aubin joined the team as a colorist, first, and then as an incredible artist in his own right. Then one day I got a package with a letter of apology. The book was being canceled. They owed me two issues on my subscription, and luckily enough, they sent me issues 1 and 3, which gave me a complete run.

Which brings us to our cool comic. IDW Publishing is collecting these classic Canadian comics in a series of hardbacks. The first volume reprints issues number 4 through 10 on good paper with beautiful printing. Bonuses include some rarely-seen Captain Canuck comic strips. This book is available now. Soon a volume will come out that collects the first three issues (they’re being published separately due to the different page size) and at the end of the year, a collection of the remaining issues from the original run of Captain Canuck will be released. These collections are shining a long-overdue spotlight on one of comicdom’s unique comic book experiences.

Is This Thing On?

I’m about three-and-a-half month’s into this experiment I call “The PopCulteer,” and I’d like a little feedback. How do my readers out there like this format? Would you rather that I break this column up into individual posts like any sane blogger would do? Or should I keep plugging away with a big novel-length Friday morning dose of Pop Culture commentary? The main reason I chose this format for the Friday column is that I have a decent block of time, away from the web, but able to write on the laptop, every Thursday. I could easily break the PopCulteer up and run each item as a post of its own.

So how about some interaction, people? Do you guys like the cool comic of the week? Would you like to see it broken out as a separate post? Is the political stuff annoying? Should I write about beer so that they might mention me on page two of the Gazette three times a week like they do with Rich Ireland’s blog? Would you rather see more photos from around town? More video? Let me know. I’m coming up on my fourth year of writing PopCult, and I’d like to do a little market research. Tell me what you like and what you don’t.

Next week in PopCult you can expect our Sunday Evening Videos and Monday Morning Art, plus another PopCulteer, and gosh only knows what else.

1 Comment

  1. Jim Thompson

    No doubt, Canuck was a a really big jump for comics that many did not recognize at the time. The printing quality, color range, and even the paper used were all superior to what the US commonly offered at that time, and living in MI a scattering of a few miles here and there past the US/Canada border), it was possible to find it here, or over in Windsor ON. As with certain films and music releases, comics have a long history of imitation and duplication and overkill, where “new” concepts are diluted until they just don’t sell anymore, but this was different and refreshing in many ways. Glad it’s still remembered. I was in my teens when I bought CC new on the newsstands and at comic cons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

© 2021 PopCult

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑