"Neither highbrows nor lowbrows nor midbrows, but elastic-brows.” — George Orwell
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Jason Grote vs. DOME DOLL


Jason Grote on a panel from MACHINE MAN (1978)

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A brutality so extreme as to border on black comedy.

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“So! They laugh at my boner, will they?”

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“Right now I’d wash my face with the sourest milk in the world!”

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Calling All Boys!

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“I must wear a different-colored Batman costume each night!”

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“So hurry up already!”

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No Swimming!

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“I bet this frisbee flips out Veronica on her birthday!”

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“Did you have any trouble rescuing me?”

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“Let’s hit the cobbles — and rap!”

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“Why are you standing while eating, Lois?”

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“Batman’s doing his best to sound gay, but…”

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“Robin — what have I done to you?”

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Frederick Wertham wasn’t wrong…

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No one personified the knotty relationship between comedy and brutality quite like MICHAEL O’DONOGHUE (1940–94), the man responsible for the funniest (and most unnerving) comic bits from the golden ages of both Saturday Night Live and National Lampoon. O’Donoghue was a popular absurdist befitting the American malaise; his still-funny legacy includes sketches, comics, and prose […]


If there were to be a patron saint for misfit smart kids who do poorly in school, it would have to be MADELEINE L’ENGLE (1918-2007). A gifted writer from the age of 5, she was shy and clumsy, and branded as stupid by insensitive teachers. Revenge (or at least justice) would be hers in the […]


Writing in 1949, Philip Rahv divided American literature into volatile, rebellious “redskins” and puritan, effete “palefaces.” Although Rahv was dividing the lowbrow from the high, I would assert that, today, our “redskins” are intellectually restless hilobrows, while our “palefaces” are middlebrow: safe, palatable, and familiar. No dramatist personifies the hilobrow redskin like SAM SHEPARD (born […]


In his error, performance art was born.


ALFRED HITCHCOCK (1899-1980) was schooled in the genre conventions of the English Murder Mystery and the Hollywood Thriller, and his primary goal was always to entertain. A legendary control freak, he invented some of cinema’s most spectacular innovations: the landmark-as-backdrop of Saboteur and North By Northwest, the famous dolly shot in Vertigo, or the dizzying […]


As a kid, my upbringing pulled me in divergent directions: on my mother’s side, an urban technophile Jewishness (inspired, in part by her own lack of nostalgia for her childhood on a chicken farm) and on my stepfather’s, a hardy German-American naturalism. There were aspects of this I loved (hiking, fishing), hated (gardening), and was […]


The biography of ROBERT A. HEINLEIN (1907-88) firmly places Golden-Age SF on the grand continuum of Americana: the no-nonsense engineer’s mentality of his Kansas City upbringing, his longing for military service (he graduated from the US Naval Academy but was retired for sickliness in ’34), his brief and failed political career, his dabbling with Hollywood. […]