Welcome, fellow internet junkies!
   My name is Christopher Walsh and I will be playing the role of your host today. This series of sites is designed to reflect my opinions about some of the pop-culture phenomenons that we experience in our everyday lives.
   This first of three pages is devoted to my take on what is cool from the world of literature (from classics to comics) as seen through my eyes. I wholeheartedly respect any dissenting opinions but I hope you will at least take the time to read my reviews and tell me what you think in my guest book or via e-mail. In time I am hoping to make this an interactive site where some of your thoughts and opinions can also be aired.
   For now, however, I am afraid you'll just have to look over my selections for the following categories. Enjoy.

   Top 3 Book Series:

#1.) Dune by Frank Herbert.
Ok, So the movie may leave a little to be desired if you're a big fan of the books, but you can't argue with the depth of detail and intrigue that Herbert was able to squeeze into each book in this six-volume series. One part scientist, one part politician, one part religious zealot and one part environmentalist, Herbert's tale of the desert planet Arrakis and its immigrant inheritors is just as meaningful and insightful today as it was when it originally published. Issues such as slavery, political corruption, blind obedience, global warming and genetic cloning are but a few of the topics the author juggles while never forgetting to entertain his audience. Frank may be gone, but for a legion of fans and a era of conspiracy theorists, his words ring out across time.

#2.) Mission Earth by L. Ron Hubbard
Another science fiction tale with a social message by yet another late author. Advertising itself as the first "Dekology" ever written (a 10-part series), Hubbard is at his scientific and satirical best in this carefully woven masterpiece. Although other authors may have written books set on the same world that far exceeded the ten volume run of ME, Hubbard's genius is that the entire set tells one long running story as seen through the eyes of "the bad guys." While not a devotee of Hubbard's chosen religion of scientology, still I found myself spellbound by the intricate plot and the large cast of diverse characters he creates. While many are obviously overblown caricatures of real-life denizens of Earth, the overall message of the series stands that you should never, ever, follow others blindly or judge a book by its cover.

#3.) Left Behind by Tim Lahaye and Jerry Jenkins.
Most people who want to talk about the Bible mention Genesis and Revelations, yet many Christians are uncomfortable talking about the rapture. Find out why in this compelling and spellbinding series that deals with the events that take place after Christ raptures His believers from this world. The books are a quick read yet subtly planned and laid out. The characters grow in depth with each book and the message of hope and the consequences of denying Christ ar evident throughout. A page turner of a series that you just won't be able to put down until you've read them all.

   Top 3 Single Edition Books:

#1.) The Bible
Whether it's the King James or the New Standard Revised edition, the living Word is as thought provoking, inspirational, and relevant today as it ever was in the past. From the "Torah" of the Hebrew people which makes up much of the Old Testament to the "Gospel" of Christ in the New Testament, the Bible is the story of who we are and how we relate to the God who created us. It is the most published book in the world and the reason is that it speaks to every heart, every mind and every human spirit in the language as spoken by God Himself.

#2.) War Day by Whitley Strieber and James Kunetka.
From the man who brought us the eerie alien encounter called "Communion" and his co-author comes this terrifying realistic look at America after a "limited" nuclear war. As many from the press and political fields express in their commentaries on this work, it should be read by everyone who ever holds the reign of power in the atomic age. What "The Day After" did to express nuclear disaster on TV this book does through the written word. The story follows the two men, portraying themselves, as they journey across America to see the shattered remains of their own country. Imagine a world where Washington DC no longer exists except as a crater full of ash and debris. Where triage in a hospital means only those who can be saved or who are not terminally ill from radiation and cancer get priority treatment. Where there are no cars or radios, tv's or telephones. Where, in an instant, members of your family suddenly vanished from the earth as if they never existed. Where, as one of the authors says of his fellow men "We embraced because a handshake conveys distance." Amen.

#3.) History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth.
Perhaps the oddest choice in my list of literature but not without reason and not just because I'm an Arthurphile. This "History", written by the late medieval scholar whom we know only as Geoffrey of Monmouth, is one of the greatest fiction stories of all time and one of the best selling to boot. Or is it?
To be sure, much of the history and lineage handed down in the work are not concurrent with the recorded history of man in England as we know it. Yet, as many modern scholars have pointed out, much of the problem with this literary masterpiece stem from mistranslation of original sources, geographic unfamiliarity with places the author describes and gaps in the written and oral history of the time which he describes.
What earns this work the number three spot on my list, however, is not Geoffrey's artistry with pen and parchment but rather the introduction into written history of the second most popular character in literary history behind only Christ himself, Arthur, the once and future king of myth and legend. Was he real? That is an issue for another time and another website. Suffice it to say, Geoffrey's History is like the first edition of a valuable comic book, it is noteworthy simply for it's originality and it's longjevity. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Geoffrey would surely be blushing were he standing among us today.

   Top 5 Comic Book Series:

Note: For this category I did not choose any ongoing title as many have some 30 years of history behind them, some of it excellent, some of it not so good. The underlying theme I noticed in my choices was the survival of human spirit over past or even post-apocalyptic disasters. By no means am I suggesting that I am a fan of violence or apocalyptic imagery as the best way to sell comics but rather that the end message is that the human spirit will endure and that violence and tragedy are everyday occurences that we must strive to overcome.

#1.) The Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
Ask any comic book fan their top 5 picks for best series all time and I'm betting this is the one that makes everybodys list. Watchmen is a nostalgic look at a militarized Freudian world of the not so distant future that could almost be the world we live in today were in not for one unique ingredient, super-heroes. This series may not be the first to try and tell stories of what the real world would be like if people had super-human abilities but it is one of the most gripping and yet disturbing looks at the reality of people who literally hold in their hands the power of life and death. The question the series asks is "Who watches the Watchmen?" but the question we're left asking is "Do the end justify the means?"

#2.) Ronin by Frank Miller.
While it might seem somewhat antiquated now with it's art heavy storytelling, dark mood and propencity for violence, Miller's homage to the Manga tales of feudal Japan was the first comic I can remember of its genre. This comic, in conjunction with Miller's run on Daredevil, made every young kid dream of being a ninja or samurai warrior. Combining its futuristic world with the tale of an entrapped Japanese warrior spirit called the Ronin, Miller's no holds barred approach to art as storytelling and violence and sexuality as real life subjects, broke all the barriers and made comic books what they are today.

#3.) Mage by Matt Wagner.
I sometimes wonder if my obsession with Arthurian legend doesn't touch just about every part of my life. "Mage" was the classic introduction of Matt Wagner to comic book fans everywhere. The story dealt with a somwhat average looking, down on his luck guy with the humorous name "Kevin Matchstick". Through 13 issues we watch as Kevin seems to bumble into adventure and mischief alongside a magical spirit named Mirth, a young black woman who calls herself "Edsel" (after the car she drives) and a ghost named Sean. The group wages a seemingly eternal war against an evil fairy tale army of ghouls, goblins and monsters in modern day times. Over time Kevin (armed with his magic baseball bat) goes from unlucky bum to reluctant hero and by the thirteenth and fourteenth issue we and Kevin are greeted with the news that he is the reincarnate spirit of King Arthur, that Mirth is Merlin and that Edsel was the Lady of the Lake. In the fifteenth and final episode, Kevin takes the fight to the head bad guy known as the Umbra Sprite in order to stop he and his men from finding and killing the Fisher King. The art was a unique style reminiscent of an Americanized form of modern Japanese comic art. The serialized story in the back of the latter half of the series also introduced us to Wagner's tour-de-force arch-villian/hero, the character known to legions of fans today as Grendel.

#4.) Earth X by Jim Kreuger and John Paul Leon based on the premise by Alex Ross.
One of my surprise entrants based on the fact that the series is just over a year old. This future tale of the Marvel Comics Universe is a dark and gritty doomsday scenario playing off carefully laid clues and mysteries that have been created in Marvel's real universe by its many writers throughout the years. My take, if this isn't the definitive Marvel future then is sure is weird how it answers all the nagging questions that anybody who is a Marvel fan has about those little clues.

#5.) Next Men by John Byrne.
My final entry and possibly another surprise to many. It seems almost sacreligious not to have Byrne on the list as he is the heir apparent to the late Jack "King" Kirby as far as creative imagination goes in the world of comic books. While many fans might not feel that Byrne did his best artwork or storytelling with this particular series, the unquestioned fact is that these were John Byrne's characters and John Byrne's world. Given a chance to tell a logical story through his own means, John spends 30 issues telling a somewhat circular tale about human mutation and its effect on an otherwise real world. It's just a shame he has never returned to this world and the many other characters he introduced during this time, such as Danger Inc. and the Flame of Liberty, due mostly to a soft market and fickle fans who wouldn't leave the mainstream market to take a chance on his brave new world.

Honorable mention: Cerebus by Dave Sim & Gerhard.

The originator of self-publishing, funny animal parody, and unqiue art and story telling. You just have to admire anyone who wants to self-publish a 300 issue mini-series about an Ardvark barbarian. The first 150 issues were a grand adventure full of funny characters and action but unfortunately Sim seems to be running short on ideas as the series progressed and has bogged down into telling stories involving Cerebus, a bar, his girlfriend, and a series of vignettes involving characters based on real life authors (including Sim himself) such as Oscar Wilde that are thoughtful and well written but that seem to serve no purpose in forwarding the overall storyline. Sorry guys.

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