Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Next Up: Lone Wolv' And Hulk-Cub (PCS Repost)

I want to give a big thumbs up to one of the most satisfying comics I've read in a long time--Mark Millar and Steve McNiven's Old Man Logan--which just concluded with this week's Giant-Sized Old Man Logan #1. Hot damn, that was a good book!

I get a little spoilery when I gush, so watch out. (And ew.)

~45 Answers From the Creators of '45' (PCS Repost)

Forty-Five (or 45) is an ambitious project--a deconstruction of the superhero genre that is part anthology, part jam comic. The graphic novel is written by Andi Ewington and illustrated by 45 separate artists, each providing a single page for the collection--based only on Ewington's script, with no additional instruction or communication with the other contributors. Forty-Five features the artistic talents of Liam Sharp, John Higgins, Sean Phillips, Charlie Adlard, Jock, Lee Garbett, Admira Wijaya, Carlo Pagulayan, Rodin Esquejo, Matt Timson, Neil Edwards, Trevor Hairsine, Francisco Kobasic, Andie Tong, Rufus Dayglo, Dom Reardon, Sally Hurst, Andrew Wildman, Stephen Thompson, Jeff Anderson, Frazer Irving, Ben Oliver, Eduardo Francisco, Dan Brereton, Barry Spiers, Robert Atkins, Fiona Staples, Bob Wiacek, Boo Cook, Gary Erksine, Ross Dearsley, Lee Carter, Sean O’Connor, Kevin, Dave Ryan, Randy Green, Tim Vigil, Simon Coleby, Calum Alexander Watt, Steve Sampson, Kit Wallis, Anthony Castrillo, Seb Antoniou, Dan Boultwood, Dan Fraga, Kenneth Rocafort; and colors by Kat Nicholson, Jason Cardy, Teodoro Gonzalez, Alex Owens, Matthew Wilson, Frank D’Armata, Bob Pedroza, Tom Smith.

The story comprises a series of interconnected interviews documented by the fictional James Stanley, a soon-to-be father who wants to find out what lies in store for his family if his unborn child turns out to carry "the Super-S gene," which would grant the child superpowers. Stanley encounters a range of characters from single mothers struggling to raise gifted children, to rebellious super-teenagers, to suicidal risks unable to cope in a "super" world. But this isn't just some sappy voyage of personal discovery, as Stanley's series of inquiries lead him down an ominous path when he stumbles upon an organization known as XoDOS.

As a comic fan and new(ish) father, I find this concept very compelling. And with my own creative work centered on jam comics (see the origins of Division 18) and anthologies (see the ongoing Doctor Dremo's Taphouse series), I'm curious to see how Ewington and the 45 team mesh those concepts in this book.

Several of the artists, as well as writer/creator Ewington, have come together again to give their personal takes on James Stanley's quest, by answering one (not so simple) question:

If your own child were born with the Super-S gene, what power would you want them to have (and why)?

45 thumbs

Visiting Evil: Buzzing on the Resident Evil 4 Set (PCS Repost)

resident_evil_afterlife_logoI'm back from my visit to the Toronto set of Resident Evil: Afterlife, now in its final week of principal photography, and all I can say is machine guns, monsters, and Milla make a winning formula for both a successful movie franchise and a fun vacation.

Really, that's all I can say about the movie. (Closed set = no spoiler zone.)

closed set

Luckily, my co-pilot in nerdity and the reason for the trip, Peter V. Brett figured out a few things we could say about the visit over on his own blog, and even managed to swipe some of my pics to support the post. And while I won't spoil any of the plot secrets we learned about RE4, I will share a few nonproprietary insights about the visit:

  • Making movies is hard work. No DVD featurette has ever gotten across the beehive/ant colony aesthetic we saw on the set of RE4, and no amount of back patting would be enough to commend the hundred-plus crew members who, through the organized chaos on set, always seemed to know exactly who needed to be where hammering or painting or rigging whatever, without missing a beat...except for during lunch, which rocked both days. Making movies is hard...but the food is really tasty.
  • Writer/director Paul WS Anderson has chosen the most difficult area to work in--genre films for the comic con crowd. The man sets out, film after film, to make pure, unadulterated popcorn escapism for the most opinionated, unfiltered, and hard-to-please moviegoing audience possible. For every viewer who appreciates the bloody, explodey escape or who is loyal to the growing RE movie mythology that Anderson has spent the last decade nurturing into the most successful video-game-to-movie franchise ever, there are dozens of thankless creeps furiously and anonymously flaming Anderson and his work on message boards and blogs. In this respect, when it comes to suffering for your art, Anderson may be a masochist! But love him, hate him, or confuse him with the guy that did Magnolia, Anderson was a total pro whose set pulsed with positive energy and fanboy enthusiasm for the magic of movie making. For the two days I got to see him in action, the man had an army-efficient production team moving seamlessly around four active studio stages choreographing stunts; blowing up zombie heads; building, breaking, and even flooding sets; and literally inventing new filmmaking technology for this latest entry into 3D cinema.
  • An old school gimmick is the future of film. Anderson was particularly amped about his part in the mainstreaming of 3D. Paul was sure to point out to us as part of his tour through the latest advances in 3D technology that, with the exception of James Cameron's Avatar (which relies heavily on digital actors for much of its content), RE4 would be the first live-action sci-fi movie in the new wave of 3D films--and certainly the first to feature copious amounts of zombie gore, raining bullets, and ass-kicking supermodels.
  • I'm no tech-head when it comes to movies, but just listening to Anderson gush about it and getting a two-day crash course in 3D filmmaking (including a close-up look at tools and processes invented especially for this film), I am sold on least for the types of effects-heavy genre movies I love. This is not the old red eye/blue eye cardboard glasses from a cereal box 3D you remember from the 80s, nor is it even the complicated and cumbersome flicker-effect 3D that some novelty theaters and amusement parks have employed. Real 3D (this new tech being used by Anderson and which will hit the mainstream with Avatar) really is the future of cinema--the next step toward a fully immersive moviegoing experience. (Now if only the theater chains would get on board quicker and install the necessary technology faster--one possible reason RE4 isn't due in theaters until 2011--so more filmmakers are insentivized to try it out.)
  • I'm also not exactly a Resident Evil zombie, but I can't wait to see RE4. There was so much care for the product on set and concern for maintaining the sense of epic that drives the games and movies that I want to go back and revisit everything i've missed as a passive player and viewer. I want to be fully immersed in the battle of Alice vs Umbrella Corp in time for RE4's 2011 release. Thankfully, from what I gathered on the set, it looks like I may be able to skip a lot of backtracking and just watch RE3 (Extinction) and play Resident Evil 5. The plan for the fourth film is to follow the fifth game very closely--a smart move toward streamlining the entire franchise and moving away from any previous confusion about if, when, and how the movies and games mixed. I don't know the latest game's plot yet, but fans should be happy to hear that we did get to see Wesker on set, as well as concept art and props pulled straight from the game, including one BIG bloody ax.
  • The Painted Man movie is in good hands. Producer Jeremy Bolt (who, with Anderson, optioned the novel for their Impact Pictures production company) is one of the few people who have had the opportunity to read the unreleased sequel to The Painted Man, The Desert Spear, as well as a collection of deleted scenes-style short stories from Peat's fantasy world, and the man is clearly a fan of the work (he said he loved book 2 even more than the first and refered to the series as "the next Lord of the Rings" more than a few times. Anderson was still in zombie mode, but promised he'd catch up with the demons in The Desert Spear during a January break. But while he hasn't had the chance to consume the sequel and short stories yet, he comes equipped with the same retired-Dungeon Master pedigree as Peat. Paul WS Anderson is the right kind of geek for the job! Whatever happens between now and whenever/if ever Impact Pictures produces a Painted Man movie, the people in control right now are approaching the project with love, respect, and no sign of the Hollywood cynicism that would have left the author on edge about his baby. And the best part may be that, if it all falls into place, we can expect the demon cycle in 3D!

[caption id="attachment_54028" align="aligncenter" width="709" caption="The Painted Man by artist Kim Kincaid"]The Painted Man by artist Kim Kincaid[/caption]

45 Thoughts on '45' (PCS Repost)

As follow-up to my recent pseudo-interview with the creators of Forty-Five, I was sent an advance copy to review. Since it's an unconventional book, I figured it deserves an unconventional review--so here are 45 thoughts about Forty-Five:

1. Forty-Five is not a good comic book--in the traditional sense that a comic book involves a mix of words and pictures in a sequential narrative. The unusual format, a collection of 45 thematically linked interviews, each with an accompanying image by a different artist, feels more like an illustrated novella. More than any book old or new that you'll pick up in a comic shop in 2010, Forty-Five deserves the label graphic novel.

2. Forty-Five is a very good read. Despite the odd format, each character comes alive in the brief moments we have with them, and you become truly invested in the protagonist interviewer James Stanley's exploration of life as a Super-S (the term for those with powers; Normans are the regular non-powered folks), an investigation he's conducting in preparation for the birth of his own possibly Super-S child.

3. Writer and creator Andi Ewington has created a rich setting where super powers have become common--caused by an extra mutant chromosome that has found its way into the collective human gene pool--and the Norman response has become to either celebrate it, fear it, or, in some cases, try to exploit it.

4. Whether Ewington's deviation from the standards of comic book storytelling works for you, you'll be drawn in by his impressive world building. While the subject matter is very different, I was reminded of the way, in World War Z, Max Brooks manages to paint such a complete, epic picture of a zombie infested Earth, simply through fictional interview excerpts.

5. While $17.99 USD may seem like a rich cover price for only about 60 pages, the book is so densely packed with story that you'll get your money's worth simply on time spent reading.

6. By "densely packed," I mean the print is very small. I don't know if the dimensions of the final printed book will help with this, but I certainly took advantage of my ability to zoom in and enlarge the text on screen.

7. Griping about font size isn't a strike against Ewington or the Com.X editors. There's hardly a wasted word on any pages. The story is just too big a picture to paint within the limiting canvas of one spread per subject.

8. If anything, this is a book that would be well served to have a digital version made available, allowing e-readers to zoom in and enjoy the writing, minus the eye strain.

Simon Bakersfield-by Andie Tong

9. If dense copy alone doesn't sell you (or if all this font size talk has you worried), consider the gorgeous artwork by a small army of contributors. The full-color illustrations accompanying each of the 45 interviews are not just throwaway, rush-job pin-ups. Each one tells as much story as its respective interview, and the variety of styles helps contribute to the vibrant landscape of Ewington's world.

10. Forty-Five begins with an interview of parents of a newborn Super-S, just after delivery, while they are still feeling the glow of new parenthood. When asked what the couple has decided to name the boy, the father begins to rattle off all the superhero aliases they've already considered for the kid, not realizing the interviewer meant the child's actual given name. The sheer joy and elation of the mother and father is undercut by this subtle hint of madness that you can assume the rest of the world is experiencing.

11. The variety of super powers displayed throughout the story is intriguing. By the third interview--of young Sally Berkley, who surrounds herself with an illusory fairyland of elves and satyrs where she can be their magical princess--you really get the sense that the Super-S powers may be growing beyond Norman control and comprehension.

12. With the interview of Nathan Miles-Miller, gifted with the power to control water, a father determined to see his son become a superhero, and no interest of his own to do so, it is clear that those Normans that do think they can control the Super-S's may not be doing so with the best intentions.

13. It isn't all ominous dread, however, as some of the interviews focus on reasonably well-adjusted Super-S's who are handling their powers wisely and responsibly. Ewington manages to present these cases in a way that suggests a generation gap and a learning curve for the Normans, more than an impending super-powered apocalypse. We're right on top of the fault line of a paradigm shift.

14. The Academy of Higher Development comes up often throughout the story, just one of many interesting bits of societal geography that beg for further exploration--perhaps, in a sequel or spin-off?

15. The case of "LunarBlade" throws a wrench (or maybe a crescent-shaped sword) into the works of how Super-S works, as she comes by her powers after chemical exposure--not necessarily due to the mutant chromosome to which others' powers are attributed (so she's what Ewington calls 2nd Degree.) Thankfully, the 2nd Degrees don't strain the believability of the broader Super-S story; rather, they expand the possibilities in this world.

LunarBlade-by Kit Wallace

16. Also expanding the possibilities in this world are government-sanctioned guardians of specific cities, "black ops" style Super-S activity (linked to a group called XoDos), and official super teams like The ANNEX. It's impressive how much of the story in Forty-Five takes place in the periphery of James Stanley's interviews, in addition to the story points in the interviews themselves.

17. Black Jak'd, who has the ability to see in the future, but suppresses the power with drugs, was the first character to jump out as a potential lead in his own Forty-Five spin-off comic. The heightened sense of conspiracy in his story and the artwork by Boo Cook certainly helped make the case.

Black Jakd-by Boo Cook

18. Auroron, as illustrated by Sean Phillips, screams Dr. Manhattan, but his foul-mouthed, braggadocious interview suggests The Comedian. An interesting pairing of power and personality, for sure.

19. "Bodyjacking" would be a wicked cool power (as displayed by the character called Residence). For a villain, at least. Residence-by Rodin Esquejo

20. The interview with Solarflare and CarbonCopy, a dynamic duo with a less-than-dynamic partnership, devolves into the kind of silly hero in-fighting that comes up all too often in mainstream superhero comics, but instead of serving as satire or commentary on that, it simply disrupts the tone of the story up to that point.

21. Such a moment could have served as an opportunity for Ewington to change the narrative structure of the book, and jump into some sequential storytelling, but instead, the chaos is left unresolved at the end of the single-page interview, and we move on to a new Super-S subject.

22. With RollCage, we get yet another type of super in the world of Forty-Five--the Exo-S, which simply means his powers are completely external. Jeff Anderson's accompanying illustration and the mercenary, in-it-for-the-perks bravado of the character are reminiscent of DC's Booster Gold, as he was reinvented during 52.

23. The world expands again with Stronghold, described as a "Super-M"--a Super-S who has experienced a more drastic physical mutation.

24. Digging deeper into the story of XoDos and the Lotus reveals that, while we're not dealing with traditional storytelling here, we do, in fact, have the equivalent of a Big Bad lurking in the shadows and behind the scenes of all these interviews.

Zip-by Matt Timson25. Before reading a word of the interview, my jaw dropped at Matt Timson's scary and heartbreaking illustration of Zip--a Flash-like super speedster who also has the unfortunate ability (or curse) to age people with a touch.

26. The Zip entry is another one where it seems jarring how the interviewer simply walks away from the chaos that has broken out during the course of his interview. It is an intense scene, but one hindered by the book's structure.

27. And again, with the combo-interview between rival Super-S's DarkMatter and Twister, the interview deteriorates into chaos that is cut short. At this point, it is clear that the Super-S community is putting on a false smile for its adoring public, as most of the veteran adult Super-S's act anything but adult.

28. These first-generation Super-S's are more like children than the kids profiled earlier in the book. Some, more like sociopaths!

29. "Vader" as a catch-all term for "evil" Super-S's (or super-villains) is brilliant.

30. It is also one of many subtle reminders that the starting point for the world of Forty-Five is definitely our own. The interview that takes place with Peter in his father's comic shop earlier in the book is filled with similar nods to our own real-world pop culture.

31. Ewington paces out the interviews wisely, knowing when the reader needs a break from any XoDos business and talk of government conspiracies. While the radioactive hero with cancer has become a comic book cliche, the interview with G-Core is a welcomed dose of super-powered humanity.

32. Some of the interview subjects--eg, Mr. Doe, Flaky-J--raise the questions How did James Stanley possibly arrange these interviews? and How does Stanley expect to survive his book release?

33. That first question is certainly never addressed.

34. "Max-Dex" as the name of a Super-S with inhuman dexterity tickles my nerdy bone. I'm not sure whether RPG humor is the highest or lowest form of geek humor, but I like it.

35. Aftershock Girl, illustrated by Trevor Hairsine and colored by Frank D'Armata, is another character rich enough to carry her own title. At 74 years of age, she's the oldest active Super-S in the world, and her interview barely scrapes the surface of storytelling possibilities with her.

Aftershock Girl-by Trevor Hairsine

36. As the book began with the birth of a Super-S, things wind down with the death of another--StateSide seems to be a Captain America type hero, but the interview dodges any obvious sense of homage or satire.

37. I've used "satire" more than once in this review, but it is worth clarifying that the tone of Forty-Five is dead serious.

38. Forty-Five is not a half-hearted poke at mainstream comics, nor is it a weak riff on the Justice League or the Avengers (like so many other attempts at introducing "new" superheroes).

39. The characters and conflicts in Forty-Five all feel very organic--clearly sprung from the same well as the heroes and villains of the DC and Marvel Universes, but managing to transcend the obvious inspirations in a way few new superhero books ever manage.

40. Robert Kirkman's Invincible comes to mind as another such exception, where the created world has sprawled far beyond simply Superman and Captain America ciphers. However, that series thrives on its serialized, popcorn movie tone. The world in Forty-Five is much darker. Sleeper, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, is probably a closer comic book match.

41. The 45-interview format makes a direct comparison to other comics difficult. In fact, Forty-Five reads more like a compendium to a role-playing game universe...

42. ...and I would love to roll up a character for that game.

43. There's an impressive collection of backup features included in this book--deleted scenes, extra and alternate artwork, and even two fictional interviews with the fictional James Stanley promoting his fictional collection of fictional interviews!

44. No fault of Ewington or the 45 artists involved with this project, but it is unfortunate that one of the pull quotes on the back cover, along with one of two forewords within, is attributed to "Optimous Douche" (from Ain't It Cool News). There's a time and a place for Internet aliases. The back of an otherwise extremely respectable read is probably not one of them. :)

45. Forty-Five is open-ended. Since the storytelling is restricted to what James Stanley reports in his 45 interviews, we're left wondering exactly how all the threads from those interviews will resolve and even exactly what will become of Stanley and his unborn, possibly Super-S child. This isn't a bad thing and it isn't a spoiler. It's just the ending the format demands. Also in demand, more from Andi Ewington and the Forty-Five Universe!

Roger & Me (PCS Repost)

I started No Cure For Comics as a distraction. The blog was my outlet during the summer of 2009, when I sat in isolated recovery from surgery and radiation therapy for thryoid cancer that had been diagnosed earlier that year. I got better, I suppose, though I'm not cured. I'll be taking medication for the rest of my life, and I am almost certainly due for another round of radiation in the coming months. But I've been well enough to return to work full time, resume my regularly scheduled living, and (good for me, bad for my readership) no longer require the therapeutic diversion of constant blogging.

Still, at my more leisurely current rate, I write about comic books, movies, nostalgia, and sometimes my cancer. These areas of interest are encapsulated in a person dubbed an "Essential Man" in an article I consider essential reading--a profile from the March 2010 issue of Esquire of iconic film critic and thryoid cancer survivor Roger Ebert.

I grew up watching At the Movies and Siskel & Ebert. Back then, I knew Ebert simply as the fat one from the bickering balconeers reviewing the weekly film releases of the 80s and 90s. After the skinny one, Gene Siskel, passed away in 1999, Ebert seemed to shed this old caricature image and take on a more scholarly voice in his reviews (or maybe it was there all along, and I was the one who matured)--even while remaining one of the few mainstream film critics to respect geek interests and appeal to the sensibilities of the Comic Con crowd (I didn't mature too much to not think this was awesome of him). After his initial illness--thyroid cancer, diagnosed in 2002--Ebert began to transcend his and Siskel's thumbs up/thumbs down gimmick. When he lost the ability to speak (lost his entire lower jaw, in fact!) due to aggressive radiation and metastasized disease, Ebert stepped out of the televised spotlight, but hardly missed a beat with his written reviews. He proved that, once you got past the bantering "Siskel & Ebert" (and later "Ebert & Roeper") schtick, the man is a critical genius--a master of cinematic opinion and appreciation. And even though he can only give a proverbial tongue lashing these days, he weilds a deadly pen and types with lethal keys. The way he has continued living his life despite disfigurement and disability is, of course, amazing as well.

The article, written by Chris Jones, has been making the Internet rounds all week, and for good reason. Ebert's story has all of the ingredients of great cinema--for which the iconic critic would surely (at least under more objective circumstances) give an enthusiastic "thumbs up."

Ebert's story inspires and terrifies me. It is insane to me that he has the will and the enthusiasm to continue like he has, a testament to how a strong mind and spirit can outlast and outshine a broken body.

But Ebert's tale also scares me, because, while I'd love to follow his lead should my own disease take me down a similarly horrifying road, I think his celebrity (the celebration of him, not just the fact that he has money and can get a seat in an exclusive restaurant) and a full life's worth of accomplishment before the disease are what gives him his strength today. I am no icon. I'm not even a famous caricature. I think I'd take a legacy as the fat one, just to have a legacy at all. Ebert's example makes me even more desperate to find my own voice, like he did his, before I lose it.

Your New Desktop Background: Dark vs Darth (PCS Repost)

Shades of the old Buzzscope Battleground Showcase. D on D action: Darth Vader locked in mortal combat with a lightsaber-swinging Batman, by Dave Dorman, via the Internets. Not really a thing, but it should be.

If you're not into sci-fi, you may prefer this rendering of The Dark Knight vs a Great White.

That guy will fight anything!

Comic Blog Elite

Awesome A-Z (PCS Repost)

Artist Neil Cameron seasons his awesome alphabet soup with plenty of geekiness.

Click the image above to visit Neil's site and view each pic in full.

This and 25 more pics like it await:

Comic Blog Elite

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

PopCulture POPPED?!


So much for that redirect to for all of your No Cure needs. PCS has slipped into archive mode, as the 'Shockers' move on to assorted other projects. Meanwhile, I had already fallen off significantly in my own blogging frequency.

Which brings us to here, now.

Soon I'll be migrating some of my favorite posts from PCS over to this site, possibly dabbling in a little more fresh bloggery after that, and maybe even bringing another one of the infected on board to blog about his comic sickness. We'll see.

Until then, here's a quick recap of what you may have missed from my brain:
  • I loved the sentiment, if not the logic, of the LOST finale, and I've gone so far as to create a Facebook Group--LA S: The LOST Apologists Society--dedicated to filling in the plot holes the series' creators decided to leave unfilled.

  • I'm glad The Sentry is finally dead dead, and I hope it sticks.

  • I'm sticking with Avengers and New Avengers during this so-called "Heroice Age" at Marvel, though I don't think I can be bothered with the bloat of additional titles spinning out of or around the end of Dark Reign. Similarly, with Brightest Day at DC, I am on board for that series and for Green Lantern proper, but I really don't care much, if at all, about the rest of the Corp or any of the smaller books that are wearing the "Brightest Day" banner.

  • In non-Big Two news, I thought Daniel Clowes' Wilson was fantastic, The Walking Dead continues to knock my socks off, and I am getting impatient for the next issue of Garth Ennis' Chronicles of Wormwood, which had a distinctly Preacherish vibe that I've missed from Garth since, well, Preacher.

  • Toy Story 3 made me cry. Just a little bit, but still.

  • I've tried to drop Amazing Spider-Man three times since the last time I threatened to do it, but it keeps pulling me back in. I wouldn't mind a Black Spider-Man on film...though why not just go Hispanic with a 2099 movie, instead? Dark, "edgy," and certainly a different direction from the Raimi films!

  • Speaking of comics to film, Iron Man 2 was meh, but only because it was just another consistently well-crafted 2 hours of same-old added on to the first movie, rather than anything ground-breakingly new or inventive or cool to see for the first time live. In fact, the reveal of Mjolnir after the credits was, hands down, my favorite part of the movie.

  • Also, Hit Girl was great...Kick Ass was just okay.

  • Also, Scott Pilgrim vs The World may not open big, but it is going to be awesome.

  • And finally, the Comic Blog Elite is still going strong and getting bigger by the day. Be sure to check it out (and join the list, if you're a comic blogger yourself!).

Let me know if I'm leaving anything out.