Monday, August 31, 2009
Everyone is atwitter with the news, especially on Twitter, that Disney is buying Marvel Entertainment.
I think this is a good thing for Disney, Marvel, and for comics in general. It hasn't exactly hurt DC to be owned by Time/Warner. In fact, having coporate powerhouses heavily invested in the success of both Big 2 comic companies should provide a stabilizing force to a shaky comics industry and an even bigger push toward new audiences and new media. It's not like Marvel wasn't already run with "the bottom line" in mind and with the marketing and licensing suits having as much say as the creatives, right? And now, in addition to that big mouse-eared safety net, Marvel may get to exploit (in the good way) relationships with other Disney properties, like Pixar (The Incredibles already out fantastic the Fantastic Four!), Jim Henson Studios (Is Gonzo a mutant? Does Animal have a healing factor?), and ABC (Oceanic Flight 815 now departing for the Savage Land!).
I've been having fun contributing some amusing thoughts on this deal on Twitter all day. (Feel free to join in on the fun in the comments section):
>>Foggy Nelson replaced with talking/singing squirrel
>>Ultimate Jonas Brothers!
>>RT @BrianLynch: First Disney/Marvel collab. Hannah Montana refuses to reveal secret identity, goes to war w/ Iron Man.
>>Namor battles Ursula the Sea Witch for dominion over the seven seas
>>High School Musical 4: Die Mutie Scum!
>>The Shaggy D.A. to be reimagined starring Wolfsbane
>>New hero to fight crime with Flubber-based powers
>>Mary Poppins to nanny for the Richards fam
>>Mickey Mouse Club to introduce new Black+White King+Queen hierarchy
>>Scrooge McDuck becomes the new financier of the Avengers, adds Darkwing Duck and Gizmoduck to the roster
>>Maleficent look to become the new Black Queen of the Hellfire Club
>>Puck named 8th dwarf
>>Marvel Divas to add Ariel the Mermaid, Princess Jasmine, and Mulan to the line-up
>>Coming soon: The Sorcerer Supreme's Apprentice
>>RT @joshuwain: "Finding Namor"
>>RT @BRIANMBENDIS bravo to @BrianReed for: "Face it Tigger, you just hit the jackpot!" now everyone can stop
>>RT @BRIANMBENDISno, i did not kill the wasp to make way for tinkerbell. but she would be a kick ass avenger
>>Sorry, Donald, but Howard the Duck is totally going to nail Daisy
If you're not already following me @D18Matt, this is the sort of comedy gold you've been missing. :)
The only best-selling fantasy author to ever DM a Dungeons & Dragons campaign for me, Peter V. Brett, is winding down the contest I started up for him when I guest-blogged on his site a few weeks back. There's still time to enter, so go do that.
Here's the link to the original post.
Sunday, August 30, 2009
And it's a shame, because two of those meh titles should have been winners. But instead, Green Lantern #45, a Blackest Night tie-in (obviously) felt like an unnecessary time filler--we did Sinestro to death in the Sinestro War, and the Star Saphires...whatever; they're turning out to be the least interesting of the new Lantern colors. Another DC title I was counting on this week was Detective Comics #856, continuing the beautifully drawn and skillfully written adventures of Batwoman--I was bored; the book looked good, but the art wasn't nearly as tight as the last two issues, and storywise, things are getting into a weird limbo between obscure and stupid DC mythology that I haven't quite decided how I feel about. I can forgive Detective the small flux in quality, since I had it on such a high pedestal from the previous issues. GL, however, has no excuse falling off like this during a GL-centric mega event. I will, at least, give credit to artist Doug Mahnke, who did his usual reliable best to make a weak story look better than it was. Mahnke is currently one of my favorite DC artists.
I was also indifferent to the goings on in Dark Avengers #8, continuing the weak Utopia crossover with the Uncanny X-Men, and Flash: Rebirth #4, continuing Geoff John's (also behind this week's GL) convolution of the Flash mythos. Rebirth at least looked pretty, thanks to Ethan Van Sciver's art, but the big, romanticized story of the return of Barry Allen and the unnecessarily complicated nature of the Speed Force--a bit of deus ex machina nonsenses that gives Barry and the other DC speedsters their power--only serves to remind me how little I care for the Flash's supporting cast and backstory. I love the idea of the Flash, his look and his various cartoon incarnations, but as soon as the comics dig deeper, I start scanning another shelf in the shop.
I didn't even like Batman and Robin #3 all that much. It wasn't necessarily bad, but it didn't have the same energy as the first two issues from Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Plus, as the creator of Lou Spork in Division 18, I'm just a little bit irked that this title features it's own headcase in a pig mask, Professor Pyg.
It wasn't all about searching for silver linings for me, though. For one, I picked up the latest issue of Wolverine: First Class (#18, for those keeping track), because it looked like an enjoyable, self-contained story featuring one of my favorite mutants, who happens to make even more appearances in a single comic than overexposed Wolverine can make in an entire month--Jamie Madrox, the Multiple Man.
Madrox is another one of those characters I like in theory--the kind I used "be" during make-believe as a kid and who I'd play relentlessly if I'd had an action figure, but never really follow in print. I enjoy an appearance here and there, but the bigger picture of the comics he appears in are what decide whether I'm going to stick with it. I happen to follow Hawkeye because I generally enjoy the comics he's a supporting player in. I don't follow the Flash for the reasons I noted earlier. And I don't keep up with Madrox because I didn't like the majority of the supporting cast and storylines Peter David pulled together for the ongoing (and rumored to be ending soon) X-Factor. David's Madrox is brilliant though--the refined backstory, the character's personality, and even the language philosophy now used to talk about Jamie's power (any physical impact causes Madrox to multiply into a "dupe" of himself, sometimes identical in every way, but more often now comprising some specific aspect of Jaimie's collective personality). In X-Factor. David has established that Madrox has sent dupes all around the world to seek knowledge and experience, so when they return to him and he absorbs them, he absorbs everything they've seen, felt, and learned. It's a great premise for a strong character. The only weakness is that that premise is surrounded by a cast that includes some of my all-time least favorite bit players--Wolfsbane, Strong Guy, Rictor. But lucky me, Peter David wrote this issue of First Class, which is an "early years" series about Wolverine and Kitty Pryde during her first year or so with the X-Men, and this issue covers all that neat stuff about Madrox that I just mentioned, in a tight 22 new-reader-friendly pages. And while I don't know that the entire series is marketed specifically to younger readers, it does have an accessible, old-school, all-ages vibe.
But Madrox was not my favorite Multiple Man of the week. That honor goes to Reed Richards, Mr. Fantastic of the Fantastic Four, and the focus of a new series creative team's debut arc, following Mark Millar and Brian Hitch's Doom-tastic year on the book. And with Fantastic Four #570, new writer Jonathan Hickman tries to out-crazy Grant Morrison, while artist Dale Eaglesham reminds me why I prefer his style of realistic comic book illustration to the heavily photo referenced movie-on-paper style Brian Hitch uses. Ben Grimm, for one thing, looks a billion times better by Eaglesham's hand, and all of the action in Dale's panels is dense without being murky with unnecessary detail or disorienting because of strange dramatic angles--both improvements from Hitch.
My only gripe with the art is that, while he looks quite fit and heroic in his new manly personage, Reed Richards by Dale Eaglesham doesn't look all that much like any Reed Richards I've seen. I mean, it's obviously read...but how'd he get so jacked putting all that time in the lab?
But I'll get used to diesel-Reed. Figure it's within his powerset to change the shape of his rubberized body, so why wouldn't he add a little muscle to that nerdy frame? It's probably an anniversary present for his wife, Sue Storm.
Plotwise, I loved this comic. I loved how it focused on the Richards family dynamic without getting bogged down with crazy, quirky, cool technology floating around their home. You get a very clear picture of Reed as husband and father, something that wasn't quite there since those damn dirty skrulls and the Marvel U's Civil War consumed his life. And, calling back to a concept introduced by Brian Bendis in Civil War and the tie-in series The Illuminati, we revisit Reed's 100 ideas to fix the world--sound in theory and also pretty cool as a visual via Reed's "Room of 100 Ideas." It makes sense that this story is called "Solve Everything," but based on this spoiler of a page, I'm surprised Hickman's first arc isn't called "Crisis on Multiple Reeds."
Millar and Hitch opened their run with an old colleague of Reed's creating a fully inhabitable replica of Earth in a pocket dimension. Hickman has managed to do the unthinkable in going bigger. And that's without counting the return of the Infinity Gauntlet (x3)! (What, what, what?!?!)
Friday, August 28, 2009
When the show picks up again, I suspect I'll write a bit about its content, my theories, and my reaction to all the resolutions we've been building toward over the past few years. But for now, I'm joining the legion of Losties, including my Lost conspiracy guru Doc Jensen, in giving my brain some downtime with regard to the numbers, Smokey, Jacob, et al.
But there is some post-season 5/pre-season 6 activity going on that I find pretty cool and other Losties should enjoy--DamonCarltonAndAPolarBear.com is showcasing a 16-poster series, each poster by a different artist in a different style and based on some character or aspect of the show, slow-rolling out over the coming 'tween-season weeks. The second poster in the series (below) just came out and is groovy like a chainsaw hand.
I can't say the site itself is particularly clear about the poster series schedule or the participants in the series or even all that easy to navigate, but I do like the two posters revealed (and available as prints for purchase) so far. Also, the whole thing involves comedian Paul Scheer from Human Giant and various Vh1 talking head shows...and he's funny.
All in all, this is not exactly at the same level of intrigue as previous Lost off-season ARGs, but I've got some time that can do with a little killing...
Thursday, August 27, 2009
But Wolverine is cool. Overexposed, yes, but that's one of his mutant powers.
He's got one of the best power sets, personalities, and (in broad strokes) backstories in superhero comics. There's a reason he's on every other cover of Wizard Magazine, why his name gets top billing on the latest X-Men cartoon, and why he stars in at least four monthly comics that I can think of. I guess it's also why he got his very own shitty feature-length movie.
That lovable dandy of a showman Hugh Jackman has taken such a liking to Old Man Logan that he's already hard at work producing the (hopefully less shitty) sequel. And who wouldn't take a shine to a hairy Canadian crank if it meant they got to wear those shiny, sharp shnikity-shnarling claws?
Now guess what the grand prize is in the latest UGO.com The Rush sweepstakes?
Shall I call you Weapon X, Logan?
DISCLAIMER: Adamantium bone grafts and memory implants not included. Contest void in Genosha.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Jeff also partners up with his lady-writer friend Celeste Green on a separate website, aptly titled "Jeff And Celeste!" which they describe on their Facebook page as containing "works of undeniably spectacular art and fairly competent writing." Honest and accurate, and all of it is a lot of fun.
I don't know either of them, but I like what they do.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
The Comic Blog Elite has turned me on to a lot of fun goings-on in the comic blogging community, the latest being a blog ring celebrating the 25th anniversary of one of my favorite toy lines of all time--Kenner's SUPER POWERS collection. (Just one of the many reasons 1984 was the best year ever!)
Fourteen sites have joined forces to celebrate the toys, each focusing on one of the characters in the collection. Start with my man from the CBE, Shag, and his blog Once Upon A Geek (where he focuses on the enigmatic sorcerer, Doctor Fate) and follow his links through to the other participating sites.
I really appreciate the attention to detail that has gone into this mini-event and the writers' reverence for the series of decades old action figures. For even more, check out the Super Powers Archive, and if that isn't enough, check out this view of the complete series, including the never-released 4th wave.
It all brings me back to my own Super Powers playtime, especially that one Christmas when Grampa Irving showed up with the Super Powers Batmobile (you know, the one with the claw and battering ram). I loved that damn toy...played with it until the wheels broke off.
Here's the full list of "official" participants in the event:
* Aquaman Shrine dives with the King of the Seas
* Bat-Blog covers Batman and his villains
* Once Upon A Geek covers Dr. Fate and the unproduced Blue Devil figures
* Firestorm Fan follows the Nuclear Man
* Fortress of Baileytude - Superman, natch
* Speed Force runs along with the Flash
* Crimson Lightning is going all-out with a Flash extravaganza
* Being Carter Hall handles Hawkman
* Dispatches From The Arrow Cave aims at Green Arrow
* Love Dat Joker brings in the laughs with the Clown Prince of Crime
* Justice League Detroit follows a set of knock-off figures from the era
* The Idol-Head of Diabolu has only begun to cover Martian Manhunter
* ...nurgh... reviews the entire series of mini-comics
* Doom Patrol Blog takes a spin with Red Tornado
I begin the next (and hopefully final) phase of my cancer treatment this week...or prepping for it, at least. During the second week of September, I'll be getting a radiation pill that will supposedly work it's way through my body and nuke any remaining cancer cells left over after the thyroidectomy. A week or so after that, I'll get a full-body CAT scan to determine whether the pill did the trick. And for all that to happen, I have to cut out my meds and go on a special diet.
For the radiation to work best, I need to cut out any thyroid hormone in my system, leaving only the thyroid hormone that is mixed in with the cancer cells that may or may not be floating around inside. To do that, I have to stop taking my thyroid meds for the next two weeks and stay off of them until the full-body scan. My doc thinks maybe my thyroid dose has been a little high up to this point, so I've actually lost a few pounds, but I suspect cutting out the thyroid meds entirely will lead me toward a more rounded hobby-appropriate shape. (In other words, I'll probably get fat this month.)
But then again, the other step in prepping for September is to cut out all iodine from my diet, which will help both the radiation better target the cancer and the docs get a more accurate reading from the scan. It will also force me to eat a million times healthier, simply by process of elimination. Iodine, if you didn't know already, is in pretty much everything. Everything good anyway. So, no dairy, no iodized salts, no restaurant food, nothing with preservatives, no condiments, no chocolate, and only specially prepared bread and pasta made with no sodium. I can't substitute soy milk for regular milk either. I can't even have red food coloring.
It's fruit and vegetable city for me--and that may be just what it takes to kill me!
If you're looking for me over the next few weeks, I'll be the sluggish chubster chewing on carrot sticks in the corner of the comic shop.
Monday, August 24, 2009
He's only a few posts in, so there's no telling how far he will actually take this thing, but the work he's put up for the project so far is gorgeous, and there's even more good stuff on his portfolio site.
For all it's potential reach and scope, the Internet can be a vacuum for bloggers who don't catch on with the right audience in the right way, and it's definitely not easy working in a vacuum. I want to help Nate's site catch on. I want to see what this guy can do with Project Waldo and beyond. So check out Project Waldo and give Nate Simpson the encouragement he needs to keep it going.
Click on these images for a better view, and then click over to Nate's blog to see more.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
My Weekly Dose: Brubaker Leaves Me Wanting More Daredevil, While Kirkman Writes The Best Peter & MJ In Invincible
Invincible, which is put out by Image Comics, is an impressive success story for writer/creator Robert Kirkman. Along with Kirkman's The Walking Dead--also an Image title--Invincible managed to catch on with mainstream readers despite newcomer talent, original characters, and neither Marvel nor DC's ad dollars or industry pull promoting it. Kirkman's writing in the book is enthusiastic and the story just grows and grows and build and builds, hitting every cornerstone of the superhero genre with a cast that is well balanced between Kirkman's clever inventions and familiar homages to classic characters and concepts from Marvel and DC. Kirkman has done so well for himself on these two titles that he's declared an informal, non-violent war on mainstream creators working for the man at the Big Two publishers--insisting that all work-for-hire creators would be better served leaving the giants and following his lead in making creator-owned comics. (Personally, I think there is a place for both creator- and corporate-owned books, so there.)
From the first issue (this week we got #65), I said that Kirkman writes like a wish-fulfilling fanboy. I even used that as a criticism of the book for a while, before the first big twist of the series pulled me in and made me realize that Kirkman was more than just a fanboy hack. He was a fanboy writing the superhero comic he knew the rest of us fanboys wanted and maybe even needed. Invincible went from little-hero book-that could to sprawling epic. The character Invincible is a blend of the quirk and angst of Spider-Man and the power fantasy that is Superman, and the supporting cast covers every other possibility in between and beyond. And the art, by Ryan Ottley, has a satisfying mix of mayhem and emotion--the perfect blend of emoting and exploding faces. And Kirkman and Ottley have even managed to capture something that has been missing from comics for a while, and was taking in a frustrating way--a spot-on in all the ways that count recreation of the Peter Parker/Mary Jane Watson relationship from Spider-Man, through young super-powered lovebirds Invincible and Atom Eve.
Speaking of Peter and MJ, Amazing Spider-Man #603 continues to creep toward their inevitable reunion, but the current storyline with the Chameleon stealing Peter's identity hinges on one huge flaw in logic that really tainted this issue. In order to steal an identity, the Chameleon does exhaustive research into that person's life, and gives away that his research into Parker's involved reading through journals and diaries. I work one job and don't fight crime at night, and I have a hell of a time trying to squeeze in writing this blog or anything else...but I'm supposed to believe that, on top of his various day jobs, solo crime fighting, teaming up with the fugitive New Avengers, and juggling relationships with multiple women, Peter Parker has time to keep a diary? And more than that, I'm supposed to believe that the Chameleon couldn't pick up from that or any other research that the guy is Spider-Man?! Disbelief suspended, but still.
Also, because some villainous traps are too effective for a writer's own good, Spidey is now apparently immune to acid. I'll wait to see the explanation on that leap in #604. Hopefully, it's good enough to keep me interested in #605.
And finally, something I did come back for was Daredevil #500, the final issue by writer Ed Brubaker, who I've mentioned is insanely brilliant on Captain America, but has been just okay on DD. I actually stopped following DD after his first two story arcs, because they were just not all that engaging to me. But Marvel turned his departure from the series into a bit of an event, and the issue is fantastic. Brubaker wraps up a multi-part storyline that could lead to "a bold new direction" for Matt Murdock in future issues, and supplemental items in the book include a pin-up gallery, a reprint of Frank Miller's Daredevil #191 (in which DD plays Russian Roulette with a banged up Bullseye), and a tight little stand-alone story written by Ann Nocenti and illustrated by David Aja. I love the way Aja's art looks--his characters cartoony but alive on the page.
I won't discuss the Rick Remender Punisher I bought on a whim, because, frankly (pun!) it wasn't very good. But that's all for the week. Sorry, DC...I'll get you next time.
Friday, August 21, 2009
I met Josh Adams during 24-Hour Comic Day a few years back at Jim Hanley's Universe. There were about 10 of us masochists slogging through our attempt to conceptualize, write, and illustrate a full-length (24-page) comic in 24 hours. Josh wore sunglasses the entire time and did a heavily inked piece about a boxer. My right-hand man on Division 18, Jeremy Donelson, drew a funny piece about a gang of crooks who go by the name of S.C.U.M. I did a weird existential comic about a comic, with me as the lead character drawing it, deviating through different genres and ideas that I, in the story, scrap after 3 or 4 pages before starting over. I think mine was the best, but Hanley's never collected them into an anthology like they promised, so I haven't seen the works side by side since. (I think Jeremy may have our pages, though...may be good for a future post, if I can get a hold of them.)
Anyway, it was a fun night, and I regret not getting a chance to do it again since. And I can't help but be amused by my memories of the one kid who spent about 10 of those 24 hours ranting and raving about his love for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or Vito Delsante--the shop manager and an accomplished comic creator himself--blasting Appetite for Destruction over and over until our sweaty crew of hunchbacked artists had no choice but to sing along, or how, at about midnight, Neal Adams walked into the shop with enough buckets of KFC to feed our tiny geek army twice over, and I thought he was just some random guy...a friend of the store coming in to take care of the comic kids. I didn't recognize him as Holy Shit Neal Adams!, let alone have any clue that he was the punk in the aviator's dad.
But Josh and I are pals now. We bounce ideas off each other over IM throughout the day almost every day. Since I have no money to fund his efforts and he's a professional, the projects we've been cooking always get back-burnered for paying gigs, but that just means we have more time to pace ourselves, learn new things, and refine them. I've learned more about comics from this damn kid than I ever did working on D18 or collaborating with the DCC crew.
The point of all this is that Josh has a new column at Bleeding Cool, in which he plans to share some of his big ideas, insider anecdotes, and crazy ambition. I'm hoping he'll write a column about our (rejected) pitch to reboot The Challengers of the Unknown, which even I knew we had some serious balls to think DC would ever consider.
So...go read his piece and find out What Josh Would Do.
I'm a devoted Tarantino fan. I've seen all of his films, most of the movies that have cribbed his style since his debut, and even a bunch of the obscure forgotten B-movies and foreign flicks he's championed through the years. He's one of the central figures in my movieverse, influencing my preferences and my own attempts at writing.
I think what he does on film is cool. I think the people he puts in his movies are cool. I think what he thinks is cool is cool.
He's not cool, by the way. Quentin Tarantino is a big weirdo and a total dork. But he knows cool.
And at the end of the day, the reason I am such a fan is because I think he knows me. My first exposure to Tarantino was True Romance, which I saw in the theater with my mother and brother.
The story of Clarence and Alabama had all the quirky, dangerous, romantic appeal of star-crossed lovers like Sid and Nancy and Bonnie and Clyde, plus Clarence worked in a comic shop and liked kung fu movies! And Tarantino was working in a video store when he wrote the thing. He was living my real life while writing about my fantasy life. How could I not love this guy from the start?
And I can forgive the occasional over-indulgences, like the droning monologues about pot and car chases in Jackie Brown and Death Proof, respectively. Those happen to be his weakest films because of those and other indulgences that killed the pacing and mood for me...but there's still some greatness in both.
As for his other flicks--I love them all and can watch them repeatedly. I even have some personal sentiment toward them. I saw Natural Born Killers at a sneak preview while on a cross-country road trip (not a killing spree, though) with my brother. Reservoir Dogs was one of a handful of movies me and my video store co-workers would quote during every shift, taunting each other in our best Michael Madsen voice or imitating a gut-shot Tim Roth from the back office while customers wondered what the hell was going on. Pulp Fiction was the movie I watch on video with my wife-to-be the first time I stayed over her place. The bridal party at my wedding came out to the Crazy 88's theme (from Kill Bill) at the reception.
And now, if my fancy new throat scar heals the right (wrong?) way, I'll have the perfect Halloween costume as Aldo Raine!
Thursday, August 20, 2009
MOON is a small sci-fi psychological thriller one-man-show about existentialism and the value of life and love and human contact, even if that life and love may be a lie and the human contact is with something not quite human. It was quiet and simple and lazily paced, almost the antithesis to what we get in the big, noisy District 9. In fact, next to Moon, D9 may as well be Transformers 2, for all the screaming and exploding and chaos.
I really liked this film, and Sam Rockwell should be nominated for both lead and supporting actor awards for his performance.
Unfortunately, I'm stumped as to how I can review this movie any further without giving the whole thing away, and it is one of the small, limited-release movies that would actually suffer by losing even a handful of ticket sales or rentals over a spoiled plot. So I leave you instead with a video of another favorite Sam Rockwell performance of mine, and one far more fitting for this particular blog. First watch this movie, and then go see Moon:
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Yep, I'm about to pick apart a movie because it is too fresh and too inventive.
I already feel like a jerk for it, but the closest thing to nostalgia I have for the story of aliens forced to live among us is that I remember liking Alien Nation better.
I'm not about to pan this movie by any means. I agree with the reviews and opinions I've seen from friends and critics and critical friends, all saying this movie will go down as an instant sci-fi classic. It does what other classics--Blade Runner, Mad Max, The Matrix--did in raising bars and setting precedents for what science fiction can and should look like on film. District 9 doesn't feel like other alien-invasion movies, and the lack of any cliched hero or cookie-cutter storyline helps immerse the viewer into the District 9 world, rather than take us on a predictable popcorn escape. It's all very organic and interesting, and even elevates the fake documentary/shaky-cam style that Hollywood has been trying to perfect since the Blair Witch. So, stylistically, it's a big win.
Director Neil Blomkamp has been refining this particular type of grainy, kinetic, tech-heavy CGI action for a short while now, and he has clearly mastered it. The special effects in District 9 are especially amazing when it comes to technology--the giant alien mothership hovering in the haze over Johannesburg, the powerful alien weaponry, even the way those weapons interact with their targets--turning inorganic material into dust and popping humans like blood-filled balloons.
As for the aliens--the prawns--interacting with the human actors and environments, it was all convincing enough, but the prawns themselves still looked very much like CGI cartoons. Like the monkeys in Jumanji, the bugs in Starship Troopers, and the army of Agent Smiths in The Matrix 2, the prawns never looked quite real enough for me to be believe. I was never pulled out of the movie by these CGI visitors, but I was never sold on them being real, either. Some shots in particular, like the close-ups of "Christopher's" young child playing in front of their shack or hiding in the shadows, looked superimposed onto a real-world backdrop. So even though the film is inventively stylish and clever with the effects, it is hardly visual perfection.
Moving on to characters, we get the greedy businessman villain, the brutish soldier villain, and the sobbing wife at home...but we spend so little time with the supporting cast that you can almost forget how generic they are. As for the one character we do spend time with--I loved how the movie's protagonist Wilkus (played by Sharlto Copley) was no Arnold Schwarzenegger or Bruce Willis action hero, but more like Steven Carell in The Office--all sweaty, nervous, twitchy energy. He was charmingly inept at the start of the film, which helped even more than the visuals to dissuade any preconceptions that this film would be business-as-usual sci-fi. And he did some truly disreputable things early in the story that surprised me. How could such a buffoon also be a sadistic speciesist jerk? And, more importantly, could I get behind this guy as the "hero" of the piece?
I liked having to answer these questions for myself as a viewer, though I'm not sure my answers were in the movie's favor. Wilkus' characterization was certainly a positive toward throwing out expectations, but I found myself wishing for a more relatable (or even likable) protagonist as the plot unfolded. Wilkus does change for the better over the course of the story...sort of. Mostly, those changes are physical (that was a spoiler, by the way). But when his views change--philosophically and politically--those changes are clearly forced by necessity--what else is the poor schmuck going to do? His one resoundingly heroic act, which I won't spoil, comes only minutes after he reminds us that he is still pretty much a selfish, prawn-prejudiced tool. It's only when his ass is back on the line and his alternative is to lay down and die, that he acts selflessly. Still sweaty and twitchy, but selfless, nonetheless.
My final nit to pick is the overall premise of the film--the prawns arrived on our planet in a seemingly broken down mothership and have been forced into a South African slum, where they've been for 20 years. They arrived with a stockpile of weapons and no explanation as to how or why they came to Earth--even after decades and enough communication that humans and prawns can speak to one another in their respective languages. It's a neat idea if you dismiss the violent and untrusting nature of humans toward humans--let alone how we might act toward another species altogether. The fact that the aliens arrived fully armed would be enough justification for the governments of the world to agree to, at the very least, shoot down the giant mothership at some point in those 20 years. And the bit involving Wilkus, the crazy effects of human exposure to alien fuel (the driving plot point), is the kind of thing that only makes sense for the purposes of making a movie. I can't figure out any reason why the aliens would have a substance that has the kind of effect that this stuff does on Wilkus. So, while the movie looks cool and is brimming with originality, the premise and the plot ring false to me. It's hard for me to get too excited by a movie when those are the problem areas.
So, I liked District 9. I didn't like it nearly as much as most people seem to have, but I appreciate that it is going to elevate sci-fi for the non-geek crowds and it is going to help elevate the quality of the sci-fi action movies that follow. Still, I doubt I would watch a TV series based on it, like I did for Alien Nation.
I loved that show.
If you want to know how and why he "died," check out Batman: R.I.P. and Final Crisis, two big events that wrapped up earlier this year, both written by Grant Morrison. You can also look at what has been going on in Gotham City and under the bat mask in the ongoing Batman and Robin (also written by Morrison, and with Frank Quitely on art--one of my favorite creative pairings). But to make it simple for you--the original Robin and former Nightwing, Dick Grayson, is now Batman; the last Robin under Bruce Wayne, Tim Drake, has moved on to his own solo vigilante persona, Red Robin; and Bruce Wayne's long-lost out-of-the-blue secret bastard son by the daughter of one of his arch foes is the new Robin.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Fox and CNN have nothing on the UK when it comes to filling the 24-hour cycle on a slow news day. Enjoy some "serious" discourse on the similarities between swine flu and a speculative real-world zombie outbreak.
I guess it doesn't hurt to be prepared.
Monday, August 17, 2009
I was thinking of including one of the old SF episodes here, but I think the Adult Swim treatment captures the...er..wonder of the twins just as well, if not better:
Saturday, August 15, 2009
In addition to my regular haul of comics, I did my small part to support a good cause this week, by picking up an anthology book put out by The Hero Initiative charity.
If you were at the shop and missed Hero Comics, you can look for one of two covers next time you go back. (Grendel's cool, but I picked the one with the boobies. Sorry, mom.)
A book like this doesn't need to be reviewed. Like any anthology, the content in Hero Comics is hit or miss. Kaare Andrews' sci-fi retelling of Sleeping Beauty ("Dream Princess") is probably the best story in the book, though I was also quite entertained by Lowell Francis and Gene Ha's "Samson." And an Arthur Adams pin-up gallery is always a welcome addition to any book.
(That's pin-ups drawn by Art Adams, not of him. I don't think I'd buy that.)
But the one offering in the book that really sold the message and mission of Hero Initiative to me was "Monster," a single page thank you from artist Josh Medors (with Tom Smith). I've never met Josh, but he is part of the circle of comics folk at Silent Devil who helped get me making comics instead of just reading them. I learned about his battle with (a much more serious and aggressive) cancer through my old Division 18 publisher, with whom he was working on a cool looking new horror book called Willow Creek, that looked like it might do for werewolves in comics what 30 Days of Night had done for vampires and The Walking Dead had done for zombies. But Josh's cancer--his monster, as he calls it in Hero Comics--sidetracked that next big thing.
But Hero Initiative was there from the start trying to raise money on his behalf, trying to keep him working when able to work, and just checking in on him to see that he was being cared for properly when he couldn't work.
Now, I don't make a living at comics. I probably have a long way to go before I can even pretend to be eligible for any of the help this group offers comic professionals in need. But I also have a steady income and decent medical coverage through my day job, and my medical condition is in check, so that's fine. But the biggest fear I've had since this thing started with me is that I might lose my job, and with it my medical coverage, and be left scrambling to support my family while also struggling to get access to the medications I need to take for the rest of my life. There's not a lot of room in that equation for me to buy in to the next Dremo's Taphouse anthology or pay for the setup fees to self publish new D18. So it comforts me to know that an organization like Hero Initiative is around to provide a safety net for people worse off than I am, and that if things do ever take a wrong turn for me, I may still be able to do what I love.
If you want to learn more about Hero Initiative, make a donation, or find out about other ways to contribute, click on through.
Friday, August 14, 2009
(The other 3 people reading this blog are okay with the comic talk, so hopefully they'll forgive the digression.)
As I've said before, my docs claim that the form of thyroid cancer I have is the bee's knees of all cancers. If you have to have any, that's the one you want. It is very treatable and tends to do little harm elsewhere in the body. So, point me. Yay.
But if you tilt that glass and empty it out halfway, you learn that in the off chance this cancer does spread, which is rare, it generally spreads to the lungs or bones. Lung cancer and bone cancer are no friends of mine. I'll keep my giant neck scar and gravelly voice, if you keep your slow drowning death or amputated limbs, thank you very much.
So you can imagine I was a little thrown off and nervous when my shiny, happy healthcare professionals suggested I get a CAT scan of my lungs, seemingly out of the blue. We had already mapped out my next steps for treatment--a radiation pill that will work it's way through me over a few days and a full-body scan after that to see if it managed to kill any lingering remnants of cancer in my neck or anyplace else it may have been. But this sudden call for a chest scan...WTF? What changed? What weren't they telling me?
To add to my worry, I have a bit of a chest cold or allergy thing going on this week that, coupled with the paranoia brought on by the pending chest scan, had me convinced my lungs were filled with tiny tumors and I was already doomed. After all, it was me--not any doctor--who found the swollen gland on my throat that kicked this mess off in the first place. Why should I expect them to be anything but surprised by the discovery that the cancer was bigger than just a thyroid thing.
But now we can all take a breath, because I had the scan and, according to the preliminary review, there's nothing to worry about with my lungs. The results were what I like to call a "positive negative"--negative for cancer, which is a positive. This isn't to say I'm cancer free or that the radiation isn't still necessary or even that, after the radiation, I will be 100% in the clear. It just means my condition hasn't escalated into something more than we already knew about.
We're back to the cuddly kitten of cancers, already chopped out of me, and a dose of nuclear medicine to napalm whatever's left.
And with that little bit of good news, here's a video that put's to rest who the superior archer is in comics...
...via pro wrestling, not archery.
And I don't mean gut-wrenching because it was sad...
I cannot wait to see what Frank Darabont does with this comic on AMC! Oh, you didn't hear?
Meanwhile, in other zombie comic news...
The newest Black Lantern--Aquaman--leads a gruesome assault against his Atlantean brethren in Blackest Night #2. I don't know what I like more--the sound effect calling back to the old cornball Super Friends cartoon or the undead sea lion biting that one dude's face off. Zombie Aquaman FTW!
But it wasn't all about reanimated corpses for me this week...
After Jeph Loeb took his dump all over the Ultimates and then steamrolled the rest of the Ultimate Universe in Ultimatum, I figured I was done with the alternate Marvel setting. But I had to at least take a peak at what they had planned with the Ultimates and Spider-Man relaunches that came out this week.
The relaunch was hit and miss for me. Now that I'm enjoying regular old Spidey in Amazing again, I'm not all that interested in keeping up with floppy-hair emo Peter Parker in Ultimate Spider-Man. The new #1 fell flat for me. The writing was more of the same, but that seems somewhat lacking when Peter Parker's world was allegedly turned upside down "6 months ago" when the Ultimatum Wave destroyed New York City and killed thousands. But the book opens with the kid working in a burger joint and acting like a regular old angsty teen with a superhero side-gig. Not what I expected, and not what I wanted. Also, the way Spider-Man is drawn in the book, he looks like a Super-Hero Squad version of himself. Why is his head so damn round?!
But on the other hand, while Spidey lost a reader, Ultimate Avengers #1 saw a return to form for what had been my (and everyone's, frankly) favorite super group in the Ultimate Universe. It also saw a return to the Ultimate line by one of it's architects and one of my favorite Marvel writers--Mark Millar.
From the first page, and through the mouth of Nick Fury, Millar takes a jab at the mess the Ultimates became without him, and then proceeds to turn all the dials back to awesome with great pacing, clear storytelling, and a tight sequence of helicopter-based kick-ass featuring Captain America and Hawkeye. The fact that they are just pounding on the Ultimate version of A.I.M. goons harkens to old school Marvel fun, but like with the best of Millar's work, and with thanks to some great artwork by Carlos Pacheco, the hits hit harder and the stakes feel higher. With the exception of the unpleasant Loeb-helmed third volume, this latest and the first two volumes (all written by Millar) of Ultimates comics look and feel like movies on paper. Brian Hitch is a good match for Millar, and served him well in the previous Ultimates books and Millar's recent run on Fantastic Four, but I prefer Pacheco's style. The book is no longer about trying to identify the photo references like it always is with Hitch. It's about comic book superheroes in action.
One of my long-time favorite characters--in theory--really shines here. I say in theory, because I don't remember him ever having a good storyline or shining moment in the books I read as a good. I just liked him because he looked cool to me and he was an archer (I'm a sagitarius). Hawkeye has been something of a punching bag, or worse, a punchline, for decades. From the purple costume with the pointy mask, to his lack of any actual super powers, to his piss poor attitude due to an inferiority complex brought about by his always being a notch below Captain America in every way--Haweye was kind of a bitch. But in the regular Marvel Universe, Brian Bendis killed the man behind the mask, Clint Barton, in a literary mercy killing specifically designed to trigger an impressive rebirth for the character. Clint Barton would later come back from the dead, as comic characters often do, emotionally changed from the experience and with a new superhero persona, Ronin. "Hawkeye" would be co-opted by not one, but two individuals: one of the members of the Young Avengers, as a tribute to Clint, and by the villain Bullseye, wearing the old purple and pointy as a member of Norman Osbourne's Dark Avengers. There's a ton of new and renewed interest in Clint Barton and Hawkeye because of all this, in Marvel-proper.
But Ultimate Hawkeye...he was bad ass from the start. And his current costume and attitude remind me more of one of my favorite Image Comics characters growing up, Grifter, with a touch of Bullseye's crazy. He's still Clint Barton, and there's still that arrogant bravado that has always been part of the expert marksman hero. But he's got a much darker edge to him now, a cool look, and--this week anyway--a cool moment.
The Rest: Uncanny X-Men #514 continued the lousy "Utopia" storyline, but Terry Dodson's art at least looked nice. I'm just not that into the mutants anymore. In fact, I was only reading this book because I wanted to see what Fraction could do with them. I've seen it, and I'm over it. Incredible Hercules #132 was fun, but the reason I don't get this book regularly is that it just doesn't seem relevant to anything. It is a throwaway title...fun at times, but easy to cut when I want to save a buck. I mentioned that I'm still digging Amazing Spider-Man for the third week in a row, and this time it features the return of another old school villain, the Chameleon. It was decent, not amazing, but I am still genuinely interested in what happens next to poor Peter Parker, both in love and law-enforcement. Blackest Night: Batman #1 will probably give us some vague hint about the real fate of Bruce Wayne back in R.I.P. and Final Crisis (psst--he's not really dead), but that will be after a few hours of Bat-Dick (Grayson) and Damian the Boy Wonder teaming up with Dead Man to fight a bunch of reanimated C-list bad guys. I'll save my cash Grant Morrison's superior take on the characters and read the spoilers next time. Finally, I haven't read Fables: The Dark Ages yet, but I have yet to be disappointed by that series and can recommend it blindly.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
But that sad tale leads to some pretty cool news for someone else. One of the bright spots during the mostly failed promotion of D18 was the enthusiastic support we got from one reviewer, Dave Baxter, at a site called Broken Frontier. (Sadly, those reviews have since been lost after a recent BF redesign.) We joked that he was our #1 (and only) fan--which was probably not far from the truth--and would include links to his hyperbolic praise for our comic every chance we got.
Well, Dave has moved on to bigger and better things. And not even just something moderately better, like writing his own comics or starting his own personal review site. No, Dave (with his partner Hermes Pique) is in the process of revolutionizing the whole damn comic industry with his made-for-mobile comics company, Robot Comics!
Robot Comics isn't the only company taking part in revolutionizing comics, but it is nice to see that it is at the forefront of the paradigm shift, as evidenced by their inclusion in a story about "The Future of Pulp" on CNN.com today.
I'm not yet convinced that I would ever be comfortable or interested in reading my weekly pull of comics on a computer screen, Kindle, or some other handheld device, but there is a whole new generation of potential comic readers who live and die by the tiny gadgets they carry around, and have a psychic aversion to paper--so this sort of initiative is what is going to keep the industry alive. Plus, consider my sorry song about indie comic struggles, where it was more cost effective to give our hard work away for free because printing costs are so high. If we had something like Robot Comics back on 2006-07, it would have saved us a lot of headache and heartbreak and given you a lot more D18. Robot Comics may very well become the next home for D18, if we can hunker down and adapt our made-for-print pages into something compatible with new technologies.
So, congratulations to Dave, our #1 fan and one of the new heroes of comics! Hopefully, he'll get to see more of the book he loved, in a whole new context.
I don't know if I even have any UK readers, but this is the World Wide Web. I recieved a PR e-mail about this comic competition and love the artwork on the e-flyer, so...
Click the pic to enbiggen.
Also, since it is not exactly easy to read, here are the contest details (for UK residents only, you wankers!):
Entrants to the competition will be in with the chance to create a unique comic style story in collaboration with acclaimed musician and writer Dev Hynes aka Lightspeed Champion. After the first round of judging at the end of September, shortlisted entrants will be given Lightspeed Champion's comic script as inspiration and asked to create a visual adaptation of the story. The winning commission will be published in a comic alongside new work exploring the issue of Corruption by some of comic’s greatest talents. The work will also be showcased as part of a new exhibition, Ctrl.Alt.Shift Unmasks Corruption, later this year at Lazarides Gallery, Soho.
To enter the competition, please send examples of your visual work (for example sketches, comic strips, animations etc...) along with your contact details, to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday 25th September.
Five shortlisted artists will then be given a comic brief to respond to and a winner chosen by a panel of judges including: Marjane Satrapi (Writer and Director of Academy Award Nominated Animated Film Persepolis) Paul Gravett (Comica founder), V V Brown and David Allain (Musician and Comic Book Writer/Artist duo), Lightspeed Champion and Ctrl.Alt.Shift. The competition is restricted to UK Residents only.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
It always surprises me when I talk with my real, non-Internet-based, flesh-and-blood friends and family--about comics, TV, movies, and all the other pop culture nonsense that I enjoy so much--that they don't know all of the far-out minutia, behind-the-scenes news, and secret spoilers that I do.
Sure, the Internet people are all plugged into the same sources, all day and night, and usually tripping over themselves (ourselves, really) to outscoop the rest by posting links and opinions on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever else one does that sort of thing. But Average Jane and Average Joe, with their healthy social lives and Vitamin D counts, who have put the childish things behind them, except for the occasional Saturday night at the movies...they haven't got a clue, and it blows my mind.
I don't expect everyone to know everything, because I sure don't. But this is the fun stuff here! I just feel bad that, with all the technology and geeks like me linking to the stuff left and right, that there's still anyone out there who's out of touch with my good time. Seriously--there are people who don't even realize companies still print comics, let alone have any clue what is going on inside of them. They don't have obsessively thought out opinions on the casting of Thor and Captain America, the destinies of The Losties, or the release schedule for Harry Potter movies. They hear old rumors and swear by them, or get the facts so mixed up that they become false ("Hey Matt, are you excited about that Justice League movie they're filming now?" [They're not.]). They download fan-made trailers from YouTube and think they're the real deal ("I can't wait for that Thundercats movie, Matt!" [That's fake.]). It's like dealing with a foreigner or an alien species.
This stuff is just in my head at this point, and I can't wrap that junk-loaded mind of mine around the idea that it isn't in theirs.
But it isn't fair of me to judge. When I'm not at home convalescing, I spend a solid 40-50 hours a week sitting in front of a computer at work. That is a lot of time to surf the handful of sites where I go to feed my brain. But I want to do some good in the world and help these less-fortunate souls. I want to bring them into the loop. If not for them, then for me--because when they don't know, they don't care, and if they don't care, I am forced to talk about real stuff, like religion or politics, instead, and that is just no fun at all.
What better way to help these poor fools gain the knowledge they need than by sharing with them my own sources for geeky information? These are the sites I go to at least once a day, usually way more often than that, to find out what's the what:
TWITTER -- Forget about all the "everybody's doing it" peer pressure or the fact that reading people droning on about every mundane activity is only a notch below jamming a stick in your eye. The bottom line with Twitter is that, if you follow the right people (ie, celebrities you like, bloggers you trust) and pay attention to the always updating list of "Trending Topics," you will start each day with an overload of information about what is going on in the world around you.
BUZZFEED -- If you like your popular trends with a little lag time and after vetting by a collective of hipsters, you'll like Buzzfeed. The site basically just posts videos, images, and topics that happen to be making the rounds on the web each day. So instead of waiting for your mom to forward you that viral video next month, you can see it here, while it is still a conversation piece. Aggregating celebrity shenanigans, viral videos, and memes is their specialty.
AIN'T IT COOL NEWS -- A team of film insiders share scoops on upcoming releases, early reviews, casting news, and spoiler reports for a legion of snarky, foul-mouthed haters in the comments section who crap all over every bit of information they get. The content and opinions on the site give a pretty accurate picture of what matters to geeks like me when it comes to TV and movies, and the constant bilious back and forth between the AICN writers and readers is.
EW POPWATCH BLOG -- When it comes to content and tone, Entertainment Weekly's pop culture blog is sort of the office water cooler equivalent to AICN's nerd dungeon. If you like a more polite and polished source for entertainment buzz, you'll probably be willing to forgive the fact that PopWatch does more picking up on other sites' scoops than providing it's own gets. But when it comes to the Internet, the difference between a scoop and a link usually comes down to hours or minutes, not days. PopWatch is also the home of my favorite source for all-things Lost, Jeff Jensen, who digs deep to analyze, theorize, and jazzercise his way through every episode of my favorite TV show.
BLEEDING COOL/COMIC BOOK RESOURCES -- Rich Johnston used to write a weekly news and gossip column about the comic industry, "Lying in the Gutters," for a bigger comics site called Comic Book Resources. He's since left CBR to start his own site, which is essentially Lying in the Gutters 24/7. I like CBR, but aside from reading their extensive comic convention coverage a few times each year, I'd only visit the site once a week for Rich's column. So far, Bleeding Cool has managed to capture all the big industry stories while doing away with the overload of Marvel, DC, and Image press releases that CBR presents as "news." Read them both, however, and you'll know everything you need to know about comics (and in BC's case, whether the comic industry wants you to know it or not).
MTV SPLASH PAGE -- While other sites cover my interest in the printed side of the comic industry, I like to visit MTV's newish site dedicated to comic book movies. The MTV name and notoriety leads to more cooperation from the filmmakers in terms of offering interviews, and those interviews are where all the other buzz sites tend to pull their "scoops" about casting, plot spoilers, etc. Splash Page is a good source for actual news, even if the topic is a little limiting.
WRESTLEVIEW -- With as many as 10 hours of original, repeat-free, weekly programming on US television, and a huge following worldwide, there's no denying that professional wrestling is a major part of pop culture. And, since, next to superheroes and G.I. Joes, the Superstars of Wrestling were my drug of choice as a kid, it is firmly embedded in my nostalgia-fueled heart and mind today. It's crude and corny and the antithesis to sophisticated, but the kid in me still likes to check in on what's going on with the muscleheads we've been watching for decades. But the adult in me is way more interested in what is going on with them behind the scenes. I don't know or care who the current champions are, because, even though the athleticism and acrobatics are cool to watch, that aspect of wrestling is fake and predictable. It's almost like checking in on old friends on Facebook...and the stuff you can find out goes beyond faces and heels. What do they look like now? Who died? Who got fired? Who got suspended for drugs? Who's trash-talking who in interviews? This is where you go to find out.
These are not the only websites I visit, and they're not necessarily the proven authorities in their respective areas. But whatever pop culture buzz, meme, announcement, or scandal is bouncing around the web on any given day either starts or ends somewhere within these pages. Maybe not all of these sites will suit you like they suit me, but there are plenty of alternate sources for the same information online. Seek it out and you will find it. Now you know.
But keep up that healthy social life. I may win in useless knowledge, but you've probably got me beat in exposure to daylight and physical fitness. Of course, if you're an overweight shut-in, you've got no excuse. Study up!