Author: Tom Panarese

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 88: Laying Down the Law, Part 1

Episode 88 Website Cover.jpgIt’s the first of a two-part look at police story comics of the late 1980s and early 1990s!  This time around, I look at the DC Comics four-issue miniseries Underworld by Robert Loren Fleming and Ernie Colon from 1987.

You can listen here:

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page

And look for part two next week!


In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 83

IC 83 Website CoverEd Marks goes deep into the Easter Offensive of April 1972 in part one of the two-part “Siege at An Loc” storyline by Don Lomax and Wayne Vansant. Plus, a backup story called “Stateside” begins as we take a look at what happened to the boys from the fifth batallion (from all the way back at the beginning of the series) as they live their lives back home. And I also continue my look at China Beach with season 2.

You can download the episode via iTunes or listen directly at the Two True Freaks website

In Country iTunes feed

In Country Episode 83 direct link

Here’s a triptych of what I describe in the “Stateside” segment.  On the left is the panel from Girls’ Romances #78, the middle is the Roy Lichtenstein painting, and the right is the panel from our comic.  It’s not an exact match (and probably a bit of  stretch), but I like to think that perhaps Mike Harris and Jimmy Palmiotti were channeling pop art here …


Here’s the opening and closing credits to season 2 of China Beach:

The cover to The ‘Nam #73 …

Nam 73

“That’s Not a Star Wars Movie”


The Return of the Jedi bedsheets I had as a kid.  Image courtesy of “Mighty Jabba’s Collection.”

It’s late August or early September 1995.  I’ve just started classes at Loyola and I’m sitting in my freshman seminar course for the college’s Honors Program.  Our professor is doing a classic icebreaker where we talk about ourselves.  I listen to all of the smart and worthwhile ways my classmates spend their time and immediately feel like the dumbest person in the room–after all, renting movies and playing roller hockey are not the most academic pursuits–and then hear another guy in the room profess his love for Star Wars.  After class, I catch him the quad and tell him that I’m into Star Wars as well and just watched Return of the Jedi the other night.

He pauses for a moment and said with a sniff, “That’s not a Star Wars movie.”

I don’t exactly remember how I reacted at the time–I might have laughed it off or half-agreed with him–but that moment stands out to me because it was the first time I encountered a snobby nerd.

It seems odd that it took me until my freshman year of college to have such a moment, especially since reading comics and watching science fiction movies was not the domain of the popular crowd in junior high and high school, and I had dealt with a number of rock snobs by then, but this was the first time I had run into one of my own looking down upon the way I approached a shared interest.  It was also one of the first times that I realized that there were people who had a problem with Return of the Jedi.


The Return of the Jedi trash can that sat by my bed for a few years.  Image from

I have always had a fondness for Return of the Jedi.  That movie, which came out 35 years ago today, was the only film in the original trilogy that I saw upon its initial release (twice if you count the 1985 re-release).  Sure, I watched my copy of Star Wars on VHS endlessly and I had a number of toys from the first two films, but Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back were movies that came out when I was unaware of movies. Jedi was the one that I was old enough to go see in a theater and the one I talked about with my friends on the playground at school and whose scenes we re-enacted during recess (especially the speeder bikes and the lightsaber fights).

Moreover, it was the film whose logo was emblazoned on just about everything I owned. This isn’t hard to picture, of course, considering that the merchandising for the movie was a juggernaut that I think was so unavoidable that parents were issued at least one piece of Jedi merchandise for Christmas in 1983.  And while this isn’t a comprehensive or accurate list, I am sure that I owned, used, or consumed, in addition to toys: bedsheets, a garbage can, a calendar, posters, a lunchbox, an iron-on sweatshirt, records, books, Dixie cups, wrapping paper, cookies, and party favors (for my birthday in 1984).  I wore out the “read along” book/cassette and played my picture disk record with sounds from the movie endlessly on my parents’ stereo.  I was six years old and in heaven.  It was, to say the least, my Star Wars movie.

Return of the Jedi Fan Club Poster

A special Return of the Jedi poster that was available only to Lucasfilm Fan Club members.

A critical look at the film will tell you that out of the original trilogy, it is the weakest–I personally consider Empire to be the best, which isn’t controversial–and it suffers from the pressure of what it had to do after its predecessors, which is wrap up loose ends and complete the saga in a way that was bigger than anything that had come before.  It doesn’t do its job as well as it could have–for instance, there are two particular adventures in the movie that feel like two separate movies shoved into one and I wonder if it were made today, Jedi would have either been a three-hour movie or two movies altogether.  Plus, Han doesn’t have much to do aside from being comic relief, and the Tattooine stuff does drag up until the battle on the sail barge (and that’s before the godawful “Jedi Rocks” segment from 1997’s Special Edition).

But “That’s not a Star Wars movie?”  It certainly felt like Star Wars when I was six; it feels like Star Wars now.

If this were an isolated incident, I would probably be able to let it go.  But even before I graduated college, I remember being fansplained to about the way the Ewoks were the worst thing ever to happen to Star Wars (I never had much of a problem with the Ewoks), and since then I have seen more than a few “Here’s How Return of the Jedi Ruined Star Wars Forever” takes on the Internet.  I even had a moment in my LCS around the time of The Force Awakens when a guy scoffed at my then-eight-year-old son’s saying he loved the Ewoks and I had to say, “Well, he’s eight, you know.”

And while I understand that there were earlier versions of the plot that kept the tone of Empire and that the movie is criticized for the sheer amount of tie-in products that were available, I still can’t look down my nose at Return of the Jedi as less-than.  It’s disappointing that its legacy seems to range from snark to sneering that it’s “not a Star Wars movie” because when I sit down to watch it, I’m always taken back to being six and listening to my records, reading the storybook, and looking at the poster that I got from the Lucasfilm Fan Club.

For the next four years of college, I don’t think I had another conversation with that guy from my honors class.  Apparently, since I couldn’t Star Wars right, that gave him license to be a total prick to me whenever we were in the same class.  I’m sure he’s out there somewhere, perhaps lamenting the presence of a little kid holding a porg or something.  I’d rather not think about his pretentious ass and instead will laugh at an Ewok stealing a speeder bike.

In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 82

IC 82 Website CoverWill Ed Marks be able to get justice for the guys trying to defend their firebase from an onslaught of NVA and VC?  Find out when “Operation Chicken Lips” comes to an end in The ‘Nam #72.  It’s “Didi” by Don Lomax and Wayne Vansant.

Plus, I begin my four-part look at the 1980s television series China Beach by going over season 1.

You can download the episode via iTunes or listen directly at the Two True Freaks website

In Country iTunes feed

In Country Episode 82 direct link

Here’s the opening and closing credits to season 1 of China Beach:

Nam 72

In Country: Marvel Comics’ “The ‘Nam” — Episode 81

IC 81 iTunes Website Cover“Operation Chicken Lips” continues in issue #71 of The ‘Nam as journalist Ed Marks tries to help out the firebase he escaped in the previous issue. It’s “Return to Brass Hat” by Don Lomax and Wayne Vansant. Plus, I take a look at April 1972 and also review Lynda Van Devanter’s memoir Home Before Morning.

You can download the episode via iTunes or listen directly at the Two True Freaks website

In Country iTunes feed

In Country Episode 81 direct link

Here’s a link to Van Devanter’s obituary in the New York Times“Lynda Van Devanter, Nurse Who Chronicler of Her Wartime Pain, Dies at 55”

A link to buy Van Devanter’s book on Amazon (note: in the episode, I say that a Kindle edition is not available … it has recently become available, as has an audio CD):  Home Before Morning

Pop Culture Affidavit Episode 86: Talkin’ Shop at the Virginia Comic-Con

Episode 86 Website CoverJoin me this episode as I talk about my trip to the Virginia Comic-Con in Richmond on March 4 where I hosted a lecture about “Comics Podcasting 101” and also had the opportunity to interview Gary Cohn (Amethyst, Blue Devil) and comics journalist and writer Bob Sedaro.  Plus, I have some listener feedback!

You can listen here:

iTunes:  Pop Culture Affidavit

Direct Download 

Pop Culture Affidavit podcast page