2017 exposed a lot of ugliness roiling not so far under our somewhat civilized surface, and pop culture could not help but address the issues of the edge-of-history era we seem to find ourselves crazily twittering our way through.

2017 was all about politics, and that doesn’t seem to be letting up any time soon, so its important to find entertainment that takes our minds off the perilous world around us, even if it’s just for a while.  That’s how our minds work. If someone were to tell me the only media they pay attention to is their favorite news source, I fear for their happiness and sanity.


My entertainment last year shook out like this:

Since TV has so many quality options available, and its still at least half an hour to our closest theatre, we don’t get to to the movies as much as we used to.

On Netflix,  our household binged Stranger Things Season 2Master of None, and Big Mouth (A), The Defenders, Ozark, Mindhunter, and American Vandal, (A-) as well as the most recent prior season of Showtime’s  Shameless (A+, as always).


Favorite TV stand-up specials include Dave Chapelle: Age of Spin,  Jen Kirkman: Just Keep Livin?,  Marc Maron: Too Real,  and Patton Oswalt: Annihilation.

My wife and I saw all but the last two episodes of Game of Thrones‘ 2018 season on a lazy Sunday in a Cleveland hotel room, and caught up with the show’s twisty cliffhanger (SPOILER ALERT: more incest!) on Amazon, where I am currently catching up on both The Man in the High Tower and The Tick, which I am enjoying. You’re the Worst, The Detour, and Search Party are my kind of network comedies, though I also agree with critics that The Good Place is also pretty awesome.


Baby Driver was the best movie I saw in theaters last year. Thor: Ragnarok was my favorite comic book movie, though Spiderman: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 were both fine installments to the cinematic superhero canon.  The Big Sick and Mr. Roosevelt were funny, endearing low-key comedies, made by artists with personal stories to tell.

Justice League was good, but man, other than Wonder Woman, my beloved DC Comics just can’t seem to find solid theatrical footing.


Still haven’t seen Get Out, Atomic Blonde, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Disaster Artist,or Ladybird but intend on seeing all next first chance.

I’m grooving on Eminem’s new album a lot, but this is the era of singles and streaming services. My favorite songs of 2017 include My Mind is for Sale by Jack Johnson,  Livin’ on the 110 by Prophets of Rage, and Foo Fighters’ The Sky is a Neighborhood. The Foos’  SNL performance of that that song and their medley late on the night of the Saturday before the holiday really jump-started my Christmas spirit.

2017 was the year I discovered Postmodern Jukebox, and fell in love with Morgan James’ cover of the Aerosmith song, Dream On. My wife and I are watching both acts tour schedule and hope to see them in 2018.

I didn’t read many new books in 2017, but instead fell back on some old favorites, comfort reading really, in the form of Tom Robbins (Jitterbug Perfume and Skinny Legs and All are still my favorites), Neil Gaiman, and Mark Twain. I look to get back on track in 2018 and read some newer books I’ve been meaning to get to, such as the fictional take on Charles Manson’s cult The Girls by Emma Cline, the kidnapping thriller Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy, and the humorous The People We Hate at the Wedding by Grant Ginder.

Nonfiction in my to-read pile include J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, Corbin Reiff’s Lighters in the Sky, and the Vanity Fair Diaries 1983-1992 by Tina Brown.

Comic book wise, Tom King’s run on Batman is ranking among the all time greatest, the dark Archie stuff is cutting edge, and the updated version of Scooby Doo in Scooby Doo: Apocalypse has become a favorite. Saga is still great, Manifest Destiny about the strange Lewis and Clark expedition is awesome, and Lady Mechanika is a steampunk treat.
 The Watchmen – DC Universe crossover Doomsday Clock has started off as a stellar addition to the year in comics, both last year and 2018.

My favorite podcasts of the past year are Doug Loves Movies, How Did this Get Made, and Dumb People Town.

Howard Stern still entertains me day in and day out, and though the show’s R-rated shenanigans have mellowed, the staff interactions continue to delight with fly-on-the-wall glee and Howard’s 2017 interviews with such creative  luminaries as Bono and the Edge, Robert Plant, Miley Cyrus, David Letterman, Jimmy Iovine, and Chris Cornell get better all the time. Sadly, the Whack Pack is diminished by loss every year, with 2017 taking Nicole Bass and Joey Boots.


The celebrity deaths that most touched me in 2017 were Adam West, Mary Tyler Moore, Chuck Berry,  Don Rickles, Tom Petty, and a certain CGI television tiger.


I’m also still pretty pissed about the end of @midnight.

Personal pop culture highlights of 2017 were seeing Stevie Nicks on her storytelling tour (though severely disappointed openers The Pretenders had to bail), Green Day (known in our household) as the best concert ever, and Dave Chapelle at DC’s historic Warner Theater, which aired for the first time on Netflix on New Years Eve 2017, and was as entertaining and insightful as the show was when we saw him live.

Finally visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was a bucket list kind of trip.


But my favorite pop culture moment of 2017 was when we went to see WONDER WOMAN in the theater. Four elderly ladies, one using a walker, planted themselves in the the aisle access front row and watched that movie as though they’d been waiting their whole lives to see it.  Watching those ladies watch Wonder Woman helped me remember how important entertainment is to our lives.



In 2018, we have tickets to see comedian JB Smoove at the landmark Times Square comedy club Caroline’s. We’ve seen comedy in NYC before, but never at Caroline’s. A visit to this comedy mecca will be crossed of our list by the end of January.

In September, we hope to visit friends and attend the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival, which in the past has headlined such artists as Etta James, Lou Reed, and Willie Nelson. Performers for this event will be announced in March.


We also hope to get back to Nashville in 2018.


And we’ll be looking for breaks in the politics wherever we can find them.

Happy New Year from poppedculturebrent!


COMIC BOOKS, Comics, Pop Culture, TV



Adam West passed away on June 9, 2017.

Today, September 19, 2017, would have been his 89th birthday.


I was not yet four years old when BATMAN premiered in January, 1966, but that television show had an impact on me that lasts to this day.

My mother reading out loud to me the THWACKs, SWOOSHs, and KAPOWs of the show’s fight scenes is one of my earliest memories, not just some anecdote I’ve heard from others and kind of sticks, but the real, sensory, seeing-it’s-just-the-start, I-can-hear-it-taste-it-smell-it-feel-it type of memory.


We had a black and white TV and lived in a two bedroom trailer behind my mom’s parents’ house and general store in Grasonville, on Maryland’s rural Eastern Shore.

My maternal grandparents bought their first color television somewhere right about the time of BATMAN‘s premiere season. Seeing BATMAN in color blew my little mind.

It wasn’t just the splashy pop-art intensity of the show that snagged my young imagination, though. I was mesmerized by the characters, the action, and the off-kilter storytelling. I didn’t even realize the show was campy and being played for laughs until years later, when I was a near-teenager and the UHF children’s show host Captain Chesapeake aired daily afternoon reruns of BATMAN.

By then all my friends liked such gritty fare as CHIPS and THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN and believed BATMAN was stupid, for little kids and the feeble minded.

I knew better, but never said much in the show’s defense.

I learned to read early.

Mom’s side of the family were big readers and my older sister encouraged me to read. Mom took me to the library, recommended certain books and O. Henry stories to teach lessons, and bought me comic books galore.

She and my grandmother owned a used furniture store. Not antiques. Used furniture.

Every Wednesday, they’d go to a nearby auction house and by truckloads of old stuff to bring home and refurbish, or at least refresh, and resell.

A son of the auction house owner sold second, third and fourth-hand comics from a booth next to the popcorn and cotton candy concession near one of the main doors.

Mom never refused when I asked for money to spend in that stall.

Once during an auction, she bought a big box full of comics on the sly, many early single digit Marvel books included, and whenever I complained of boredom over that summer, she’d hand me another stack. The Marvel comics were something of a different sort than the DC Comics line that published Batman and his Justice League buddies, who besides their costumes and powers could hardly be distinguished from one another.

The early 1970s-era Neil Adams/Deny O’Neil BATMAN collaboration took the character away from the lighthearted Adam West portrayal and, at least comic book-wise, brought him back to his dark pulp roots. At ten, I was ready for this more grownup Batman.

I gave it all up around age 14.

None of those highly collectible books made it past my gotta-be-cool-enough-to-get-laid high school years. Whenever I’d need money for some date or social event, I’d sell a stack of comics to a friend who was way less cooler than me, but also way smarter.

To give my father his due, Joe Lewis bought me piles of comics too. He took me to my first comic book convention in a hotel basement in Bethesda, outside of Washington, D.C. There were many times Dad let me down in my life, but I can never recall any of those specific occasions, only the times he came through. That convention was a big one

He did always want to argue that Captain Marvel – Shazam – was the best superhero.

Better than Batman?

Whachoo talkin ‘bout, Joe Lewis?

In the Navy I found like-minded comic book readers. I bonded with a guy from Camden, New Jersey who shared my last name, and a love of comics. He was very much a fan on the down-low, though. A kid called Speedy and a couple of the other guys in my division were more open about their fandom. This was just before the gritty Dark Knight and Watchmen days, but hey, when you’re on a big boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean seven months out of the year, nobody really gives a damn what you’re reading.

When I was discharged and came back home, I was more open than I had been about reading comic books.


When my wife and I started dating, she was cool right off the bat, encouraging. I took her to comic book stores everywhere we traveled and she always commiserated with me over the dozens of back issues on the walls, selling for hundreds of dollars, as I checked them off my mental used-to-have list. We went to comic book conventions, something I’d only ever done that once before, with the old man, way back when. We’ve seen every Batman movie together, in theaters, since 1989. When we got married our preacher was also a comic book fan and I wore a bat symbol pin on my tuxedo. Peg declined any bat-accessories, but I knew her heart was in the right place.



I have a collection of stuff I’ve been given and bought over the years. I have a sealed box of valentine chocolates featuring characters from the animated series and a set of superhero cake pans that my mom gave me, and a Michael Keaton era Batman head radio dad found at some yard sale. My parents are both gone now, but their gifts remain. My family members have contributed to my collection, as have my friends. There isn’t anything I have that I don’t remember who gave it to me.

My wife has given me so many amazing Batman gifts over the years they’re impossible to enumerate.

At an awesome surprise party for my 40th birthday, one of my Navy buddies gave me an original copy of the Batman comic book that came out the month I was born. Image

My daughter’s gifts to me over the years have gone from Batman coloring books and Batman Legos to high end statuary and a functional, dangerous and badass batarang.

In a recent chance conversation with BATMAN writer Tom King, my daughter told him that her dad loved Batman.

King asked her my first name. He said he’d put me in Issue #26.

He told her I’d likely be killed. That’s the way these things work, he said.

When issue #26 just came out,  not only had he put BRENT in the comic, he put NICOLE right next to me. Sure enough, we both got shot by The Joker.

Not a bad way to go, even if the last name differs, and I’d never (again) wear a bow tie,

and there’s a naked-ass Bruce Wayne all up in the shadows.

Still, I’m finally in a Batman comic book.


My love of comics, and of the Batman character in particular, has given me much throughout my life.

It has helped keep me young at heart.

It has helped inform the differences between right and wrong.

It has stoked my imagination and will to create.

It’s given me a fun place to go in rough times.

It has given me something to talk to kids about.

And it all started with a TV show, a four year old, and a mom willing to read the sound effects out loud.