Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Karen Allen, Batman and Steven Toast Help You Keep Your Distance

We are in a new world now. The rapid spread of the Covid-19 virus and the actions we must take to try and stop it have forced many businesses to shut down, including just about every performance venue in West Virginia and the surrounding states (most of the country, in fact).

As such, PopCult’s STUFF TO DO is going in the mothballs for the time being.

We’ll be replacing it with some new features, and you’ll get the first entry of those below…


You can’t go out to support local music, but there are other ways to support the local scene. Yesterday I got an email from local singer/songwriter, Karen Allen…

We are all dealing with drastic changes to society since the outbreak of the virus. All of my shows and contract work I do to make ends meet have been canceled. So there’s no income for the foreseeable future and I’m trying to adapt and survive alone here at my home in Charleston, WV USA. In effort to keep sane and connected with my friends and fellow music lovers everywhere, I’m hosting a weekly music show live streaming 7:30-8:00pm EDT Fridays.

Stageit is the platform and it is a nice quality live stream where artists decide when to play, what to play and how much they want to charge. Fans then buy virtual tickets to the show using our virtual currency called “Notes” (1 Note = 10¢ USD). Fans can chat with artists and other like-minded fans and performers throughout the show.

Here’s a link to this Friday’s show–it’s pay what you can. Just come and hang out. I’ll play some songs for you, do some Q&A, give a sneak peek of new music, who knows! Let’s just be together while we’re apart.

That happens Friday. Other local artists are doing live Facebook concerts, and there are some new shows that are carrying on the tradition of Radio Free Charleston that I’ll tell you about in the coming days and weeks. Karen’s photo at the head of this post is swiped from her email, and credit goes to awesomesauce.


Batman: Tales Of The Demon
story by Dennis O’Neil art by Neal Adams, Irv Novick and others
DC Comics
ISBN-13: 978-1401299439
$49.99 (Hardcover, less at Amazon)

This new collection (also available in softcover) brings together all the key 1970s stories of Batman and his major foe, Ra’s Al Ghul. Aside from the Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers run on Detective Comics, these are my favorite Batman stories of all time.

Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams managed to rehabilitate Batman from the campy perceptions of the 1960s TV show and return him to his dark, pulp roots as an avenger of the night. Ra’s Al Ghul was a newly-created villain who, for the first time, was Batman’s match in terms of intelligence and personal integrity.

As the PR blurb explains…

Batman scales the side of the Statue of Freedom for a secret meeting with an informant inside the torch. During the meeting the informant is assassinated, leaving Batman with his final words instructing him to find a person called Darkk on the Soom Express. Finding and confronting Darkk Batman is assaulted, leaving him unconscious, and finds himself in a dungeon unmasked. There he meets the Daughter of the Demon, Talia who jump-starts his journey in finding the League of Assassins and it’s founder, Ra’s al Ghul.

This volume collects the earliest Ra’s al Ghul stories written by Dennis O’Neil and illustrated by artists Neal Adams, Michael Golden, Irv Novick, Bob Brown and Dick Giordano.

Collects Detective Comics #411, #485, #489-490, Batman #232, #235, #240, #242-244 and DC Special Series #15.

These stories are near the peak of comic book craftsmanship, with brisk, well-thought-out storytelling and excellent art. In addition to Adams, Dick Giordano, Bob Brown and Irv Novick we get to see early work by Don Newton, and Michael Golden.

This is the Batman I grew up reading, and it will be a revelation to anyone who’s only read the post-Frank MIller psychobabble Batman where it takes seventy-five issues to tell a story that O’Neil tells better in 22 pages. There’s a reason all the best Batman movies are based on stories that DC published in the 1970s.

While you’re cooped up waiting for the virus to pass, there are worse ways to spend your time than getting lost in the adventures of Batman as he chases down the League of Assassins.


If you have Netflix, and you have not yet watched Matt Berry’s series, Toast of London, you can binge-watch that and laugh your butt off all weekend. You may know Berry from his work on The IT Crowd, What We Do In The Shadows or Year of the Rabbit. Even if you don’t have Netflix, you can sign up now and get thirty days free, watch all the good stuff, and then cancel before you get billed. It’ll help pass the time. It’s an adult show, with language, violence and brief nudity that you might not want to expose to the kids.

For three seasons (so far) Berry played Steven Toast, a fifty-something London actor who isn’t nearly as good at his craft as he thinks he is. A Brash, narcisstic and pompous character, Berry still manages to make Toast a sympathetic character, even though viewers know that he’ll probably screw things up in the end. The series was co-created Berry and Arthur Matthews (Father Ted, Big Train).

The comedy is post-Python surreal sitcom, with a heavy British edge to it. Over the course of the three seasons we see Toast cast in a play so reprehensible that its name is never spoken; get blinded by a man-crush on John Hamm; become petrified during a performance of MacBeth; deal with snarky millenial recording engineers who employ him to do voiceover work; cope with his manager who has fallen off the wagon after her addiction to LSD; slice off the nose of Josh Hmme; and get cast in an otherwise all-canine production of Twelfth Night…at The Globe.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and Toast is headed right at it in this series. IFC recently ran this, but they inserted commercials and doled out the series one episode per week. You can stream the whole shebang, uncut and uninterrupted on Netflix.

Look for more suggestions for things to help you pass the time in PopCult.

1 Comment

  1. Thomas Wheeler

    I like the sound of that Batman book. Granted, most of the books published during that time beat the heck out of most of the stuff published today.

Leave a Reply

© 2024 PopCult

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑