Showing posts with label comics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label comics. Show all posts

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Official Signal Watch TL; DR "Man of Steel" Discussion

I went to the midnight show of Man of Steel and returned home in the wee hours.  I left kind of a rambling initial reaction here.  I went to work, I came home.  I've seen the movie again (in 3D IMAX with Simon, Angela and Jamie), and I've had time to process the film much, much more.

And, since that first post, I've spent a lot of time thinking about how to approach commentary on the movie.  As this will be one of my final posts going into hiatus, we might as well talk about this movie as the intersection between the two major topics of this blog: film and Superman.



Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Tour of the Signal Watch Fortress of Solitude

I saw online some folks were doing tours of their Superman collections. Well, it seemed like a SUPER idea to participate.

My Fortress is in disarray at the moment as I'm currently consolidating my collection and removing large portions of it.  I'm going to humblebrag and note that what you see here is only part of what I had on display until recently.  I'm really winnowing it down to Superman and Wonder Woman these days.

I started collecting Superman stuff in college, and I don't have much in the way of vintage. So the collection takes you from the late 90's til now, I guess.


your entry from the hallway to the Fortress

Friday, June 14, 2013

"Superman: Unchained #1" Review

This comic was $5.  Five dollars.  Five hundred pennies.  Half of ten dollars.  It is worth roughly $2.25, on a very good day.

I'm realizing how spoiled I've gotten by reading $1 online comics from folks like MonkeyBrain.

Jim Lee likes to draw Superman sort of hunched over.  I don't really know why.  He also likes to draw his head sort of unusually small.  Also, as Co-Publisher of DC Comics he can apparently greenlight the single dumbest, least narratively driven, least impressive, most expensive fold out insert in a comic.  Ever.

I really needed a huge image of space debris to tell the story.  Thanks.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Supermarathon: All-Star Superman

Thanks to what's looking to be a busy week, this is the last installment of the Supermarathon as I'm booked pretty solid until Thursday night.  I hope I did us proud.

All-Star Superman adapts the 12 issue series that ran unevenly for years back when DC was playing havoc with schedules and you never really knew when a comic was coming out.  The art and story were worth it, and both were savaged at the time of the series' start, with the usual complaints about Morrison's writing drawing confusion and fans of the Jim Lee or Kubert school of illustration baffled by the stylized work of Frank Quitely.

You can view the film at Netflix Streaming.

No sooner than the series ended than word leaked that this comic was truly something unique, and - in what I've since come to simply expect when it comes to Superman - be it this comic or early reactions to Man of Steel, its fascinating to see the audience react to the core of the character and ask "why isn't the character usually like this?" or "where did this come from?" to ideas that were 40-50 years old at the time of the comic's publication.



That said, it took Morrison's storytelling and the voice he imbued in Superman and Luthor to make the series shine.  And, I'd argue, it took the clear, concise, character-driven storytelling of Dwayne McDuffie to take the comic and turn it into a movie that works despite the strange, episodic nature of the narrative.

For those who haven't read the comic, I won't bore you with what was cut to make the movie.  The DC Animation team managed to keep most of the story in place to keep the relevant bits intact and maintain the core of the story, even if its heart-breaking to know what might have been.  They also managed to keep much of the look of the comic, something I thought impossible, even if the 16x9 dimensions occasionally lose the impact of Quitely's page design.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Superman: The Happiest Fella?

Just up here in space, smiling at nobody

There have been a lot of posts (hi, Max!) and articles by longtime Superman fans regarding the to-date seemingly somber tone of the new Superman film, Man of Steel.

Folks are worried about a "grim'n'gritty" Superman versus the cheerful fellow who takes delight in his powers that you've seen since Superman's first appearance in Action Comics #1.  That imagery has been a part of the "discovery" part of the story for Superman in one form or another in all sorts of representations, from Superboy comics, to the animated series, to Superman Returns and Superman: The Movie where we see a young Clark Kent running faster than a freight train and beating Brad and the gang back past the Kent homestead.  And, of course, the absolutely terrific "reveal" sequence when Superman saves Lois and then runs around Metropolis saving the day.

Probably the most joyful you're likely to see Superman is in Superman: The Movie after The Man of Steel first appears and then flies around Metropolis performing super good deeds.

In fact, I've gone on record as saying that the key to my understanding of Superman in many ways is the moment wherein he saves Lois, reminds her of the relative safety of air travel, and then turns around and lets loose with this huge grin before flying away:

"Man, I wish she'd fall out of a helicopter EVERY day!"

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

And then, in 2013, DC Comics discovered hypertext fiction

If there's any doubt that DC Comics has moved to a number crunching behemoth of creative despair, today form Randy I received a link pointing me to a story about DC's latest effort, Multiverse Comics.  Basically, digital choose your own adventure comics.

At this point in the tenure of Diane Nelson, any hope for a creative renaissance at the company should be replaced with more of a visual of someone selling t-shirts outside the Louvre with a picture of Mona Lisa in a bikini top with a knife gripped in her teeth.*

There's a lot of reasons to sort of want to put your head down on the table about this one.

In 1991 or so the first hypertext fiction appeared, which promised branching narratives and the ability to dig further into a narrative - all in standard prose.  If you were going to raves and enjoying smart drinks in 1994, it all sounded like a nifty part of our bright future of this series of tubes called "the interwebs".  Just get yourself a 1600 baud modem and go nuts.

"But, hey The League," you might say.  "It's 2013!  Where can I purchase some of this hypertext fiction that's clearly the wave of the future?"

Tragically, it went the way of the Dippin' Dots and may not have been the ice cream/ preferred narrative construct of the future.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sort of Going Through a Thing as I Downsize my Comic Stuff Collection

my office from some time ago, when I was doing some other renovation work in there


The past few weekends, (when I didn't have food poisoning, anyway) I spent my time preparing for the de-superheroing of my house and the paring down of my collection.  I am still working through what this probably looks like, and I am sure, if I asked people who know and love me what they think is going on, I'd get a lot of different answers.

For clarification - the front room of our house had been intended to be a sort of reading room and casual conversation room, and the bookshelves were full of statues from DC Direct and other places, and it was a real conversation starter.  But nobody ever wanted to actually sit in there.  And for some reason the dogs go crazy when I go in there to try and read.  Also, I have my office, which was where I'd put my action figures, toys, comics and a whole bunch of other stuff.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Calling it now: Everyone will now suddenly like Superman

Firstly, I am totally OK with this.

One does not spend ten years extolling the virtues of Superman and then get pouty when public opinion changes (thanks to the movie.  I'm not taking credit).  I'm not going to decide I don't like Superman because comics fans and the public alike shake off the past couple of decades of proudly proclaiming Batman's a hero and Superman's a zero.  And if people find something to like about Superman: GREAT!

Believe me, having a movie that sells people on Superman is going to make whatever I've been up to the past several years a lot easier to understand, and when it comes to family, friends and co-workers, I can use whatever help I can get.  Hopefully someone will do a follow up with a great Barks/ Rosa Ducks movie and I won't have to explain anything about myself ever again.

This all hinges on Man of Steel being a watchable film, and the trailers are pretty promising.  I have a strong feeling that even if the movie is not my cup of tea, the groundwork is already there to get people thinking about Superman a lot differently.

what are they looking at?  Where are they?


So, I just ran across an opinion piece at Comic Book Resources in which the writer points to various comics released over the past decade and, in my opinion, has found "his Superman".  No doubt a discriminating reader of comics, what with having a column and at least one podcast about comics, this writer finally found a way to "get" Superman.  He's got his in.

And, in many, ways, that's sort of what it takes.  If you can't find a point of accessibility, why would you like the character?

Not only is Superman one of the longest running characters in fiction, he's appeared in so many media over the years, the character has become this wall of iconography that's criss-crossed generations, nations, etc...  The very constancy of the character's omnipresence in culture, his association with comics, his occasional guest appearances, etc... all can lead to a belief that you gave the character a shot but you were too smart for what Superman was selling.  I know!  I've been there.  See yesterday's post on my era as an X-reader.  Couldn't get me to touch a Superman comic back then.

Wolverine, X-Men and a long history with comics

Just to be clear, in the trailer for the new Wolverine movie, he gives up his mutant power of healing.  So, yeah, it's yet again a 2nd movie in a superhero installment where the hero gives up his powers or loses them or whatever, and must prove how they're a hero without their superpowers.

How long until people who don't obsess about this sort of thing pick up on this trend?  As lousy as the both Fantastic Four movies were, correct me if I'm wrong, but nobody lost their powers, right?  Because aside from that movie and maybe Ghost Rider 2, which I've yet to see, it seems like this is the go-to for all Hollywood superhero films.  Oh, right.  Iron Man waited til the 3rd installment for that to happen, and Hulk just rebooted between movies.

I probably won't go see Wolverine because... honestly, I don't care.  At least the last one was so bad I had a good laugh (this did not amuse my fellow movie goers, but, honestly...).

Like everyone else who reads comics, I was once a big Wolverine fan until the circa 1988 solo series, during which middle-school me decided he was more compelling as a team-player than running around Madripoor with an eyepatch.  I used to read and re-read that original, four issue mini-series by Claremont and a young Frank Miller.  That thing read like poetry, but, man, it also sort of had the final word on the transformation of Wolverine from "Canadian White Trash Stabby Guy" to "Samurai Warrior".  After that, I didn't really care about the various stories trying to take Wolverine apart and put him back together or whatever.


last time I found Wolverine an interesting character

Monday, May 20, 2013

Some weekend catch-up - movies, TV and comics

If you follow me on social media that is not this blog, you might have heard I had a touch of the food poisoning over the weekend.  A bad salad or pizza, I think.  Worst greek salad I've ever eaten, but it seemed fresh, so what do I know?

Well, I know what it feels like to get kicked in the stomach from my karate days, and this felt sort of like that, going on and on for quite a while.  So, I want to thank Jamie for the 2:30 AM run to Walgreen's to grab me some OTC meds and being a great help to me over the course of the weekend.  For a dialysis patient, it seems like the last year she's been taking care of me more than me of her.

I was sidelined from a planned viewing of Star Trek: Into Darkness, but I did catch a few movies over the weekend on cable and DVD.

Manhattan Melodrama with Myrna Loy, Clark Gable and William Powell was actually very, very good.  Thanks to Paul, who handed me that DVD on Friday.  Some 30's-era moral-minded civics lessons wrapped up with gangsterism and Myrna Loy in some great hats and dresses.  The title is dated, so don't expect organ music and fainting.  It's a bit more of a personal drama sort of movie.

The Campaign with Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis was probably released at the wrong time, when we were in the middle of election season and everyone was so deadly serious about politics.  It's a lightweight movie in the Semi-Pro or Step Brothers model.  But it's pretty funny stuff, if pretty blue.  Speaking of, though it's two GOP candidates, I think you could have done this with any two candidates, aside from a few points.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

SuperMOOC Week 6 - wrapping it up with Gender Through Comics

Fortunately for me, my class extended it's timeline by a few days without adding any additional content, and so I was able to finish last night despite the fact that I'd basically missed a week thanks to work and other factors.

This is what I think about when I consider returning to grad school, by the way.  I travel for work.  Really, an online program would be ideal for me to get a masters at long last, as I can't match the attendance that comes with being a 23 year old with nothing else going on but growing facial hair and caring about what sort of beer I'm drinking.  I'm seriously considering the need for an MA, but, man, the idea of walking into a classroom again at age 38 or 39 sounds like a nightmare.

Yes, I agree that the education system and how we deal with college degrees in the US is broken, but the trend to want to turn colleges into trade schools also isn't really an option (they have something for that.  It's called Trade School).  MOOCs are seen as a possible way to share courses across universities, and it sounds good on paper.  But I was sitting through a presentation at my conference last week and one of the presenters pointed out that most parents paying for someone's degree really don't want to hear that their kid was in a class with 40,000 other students, only 10% of which completed the course.  It's really opening the door for private schools and any university to stroke parents on college tours to promise a generation of helicopter parents that their kids will get special attention by sitting in a class with just 50-100 kids.

But I digress.

Ouch. A Little DC Comics Schadenfreude for your evening.

Immature? Yes.
Unnecessary? Yes.
Hilarious? Absolutely.


Read more about DC's PR goofs at The Outhouse.

A functioning sign for keeping track of how often DC Comics has done something publicly very stupid.

All this as they cancel another slate of books, alienate another round of readers, and the publishing side erodes into a nu-metal album cover and licensing flails around, still making money but relying mostly on movie materials and pre-1986 images.

Thanks to CanadianSimon for the link.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Neverending Battle Fatigue

I recently attended a small Toy and Comic Expo here in Central Texas.  I say small, but it had major cast members of The Walking Dead in attendance* (I don't watch the show, and I still recognized them), the event filled a few ballrooms, and had a Batmobile (you saw the pictures.  No reason for me to show off further.).

But I also walked out without buying anything.

I've talked here before about how Cons are not my cup of tea, but at this Con, I felt like such an outside observer that I felt like I was at someone else's party.

how your comics blogger feels on the inside

I quit writing posts on how I was cutting back my DC Comics selections, and in short order, I will have stopped buying any new DC Comics.  I just can't buy the new Superman stuff (Scott Lobdell on both main titles, really?) just to bridge my collection, just as I avoid the 90's mullet-era Superman for the convoluted contortions the writers were going through as they wrestled with the Post-Crisis rules imposed on Superman.

I don't understand the enthusiasm for most of today's comics from DC and Marvel, but I do get my fix from other books - like the stuff coming from MonkeyBrain, some from Dynamite and IDW, but my pull list has shrunk to about 3-4 comics on a good week.  Last week I didn't pull anything, and I see about a week per month where that's true.  Looking at the solicits for an upcoming month tells me that stepping away means it would be work to even try to get back into any of these comics, and at the cost and high likelyhood of a comic at DC getting the axe, it's not really worth it.

Walking around the con, I could identify only a fraction of the costumes on the attendees, and then, mostly from commercials I'd seen for video games while watching shows aimed at a younger demographic, like Archer.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Massive Open Online Course, Week 3

Well.

This week was about how making comics is a collaborative process, and that mainstream comics, especially superhero comics, are rarely the work of a single person.  There's a writer, artist, editor, etc...  associated with every comic that hits the stand.

The process includes many voices, from the writer sitting at their keyboard, to publishers wanting to push circulation, to editors trying to meet deadlines, to artists who seem to reference Maxim photo-spreads all too often.

The comics we were assigned to read included several incarnations of the Marvel "nobody's favorite" candidate, Carol Danvers, aka: Ms. Marvel, aka: Nova, aka: Ms. Marvel, aka: Captain Marvel.  I don't dislike Carol Danvers, but I also don't think about the character any more than I think about The Rhino or Arcade or Angle Man or something.

I didn't read the comics.

I was curious about the instructor's take on the production side of comics and how it would affect the narrative, and I thought the take was interesting, but... not what I expected.  I had expected discussion of how artists can put their own spin on a script, how editors act as mediators working from their own opinions and company dictates, how design of characters can be managed and scrutinized at a very high corporate level, and that intention of writers can be changed by the time a comic is actually produced.  And the fact that artists continually include shots of Wonder Woman's barely-covered butt from a low angle in all-too many Justice League group scenes.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

On the Event of Superman's 75th Anniversary

Today is, reportedly, the 75th anniversary of the debut of Action Comics #1.  75 years ago, Superman appeared on the cover of a comic book and, within a couple of months, had already risen to pop-culture superstardom.  By World War II, he had become a staple of Americana and - while Superman didn't invent the idea of the costumed hero, the science-fiction hero, or the altruistic do-gooder, he managed to put a distinct stamp on all of those ideas in one place - and has been endlessly imitated ever since.


In his first issue, all we knew was that Superman was a refugee of a doomed planet who arrived here as a baby.  There was no Jonathan and Martha Kent.  No Jor-El or Lara.  No Daily Planet (Clark landed a job at the Daily Star working for "Editor", I believe).  Just Lois, Clark, Superman and a whole lot of action.  And, man, Lois is a tough dame in that first issue.  No wonder Superman fell hard for her.

There are too many good books out there that talk about Superman's origins as a product of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster for me to try to recreate the story here.  But they were down on their luck 20-somethings (not the teen-agers that are described to have just had Superman pop into their heads one night) when they sold the property to a struggling publisher who was soon outmaneuvered by some smooth operators.  I don't want to dwell too much on the fate of Siegel and Shuster, that's been fought out in the courts for five decades.  But their creation was not just one of the moment, but one of the past, the present and a limitless future, the likes of which we'd only ever seen in a few American fictional characters, from Ichabod Crane to Huckleberry Finn.  And this one arrived in a splash of color, crude drawings and an insurmountable flash of power.

Superman is an amalgamation of a dozen or so pulp literature ideas, some stolen outright from big names like Doc Savage, some from lesser known sources like the novel Gladiator.  Many find biblical aspects in his origins or in the perceived saintly selflessness of his actions (an interesting idea given Superman's varying presentations over the years).

I would argue that most people* don't really know anything about Superman, but everyone believes they know all you need to know.  A lot of folks can dismiss what they don't know as unimportant, thanks to the character's comic book roots, while ignoring the fact that Superman has been a huge part of every major media revolution.  You see people ascribe characteristics and virtues to the character based on a glance and some half-remembered bits from a movie they haven't seen in decades.  Others demonize those same virtues as old fashioned or out of touch, without ever deconstructing what it means to declare a desire for a more just world, to protect those who can't protect themselves as irrelevant in the modern context.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

New Man of Steel Trailer Arrives



It seems that the DNA of Richard Donner's Superman is stronger than you'd think.  For a movie that was to be bringing a new Superman to the world, there's certainly no small amount of the epic, world spanning vision Donner's Superman brought to the screen for the first time.  Not to mention that it was really Donner and Co. who brought Zod to prominence (he'd not even been the primary Kryptonian villain in the comics, that was Jax-Ur).  And there's definitely no small amount of what I recall from the Johns/ Donner penned issues of Action Comics from 2006-ish to what I'm picking up to be the plot.

All that said, I'm pleased.  I may miss the red trunks, but I think Cavill seems to have this down.  The footage looks spectacular, and (sigh) Amy Adams seems to be a new twist on Lois Lane.

I've heard say folks suggest that Superman doesn't need his origin retold for a new Superman movie, and I tend to disagree.  The origin has to work for modern audiences, and, more than anything, I think kids need to see the origin in a language they work in already - these days, that's big, loud, epic movies.

Well, no joke, I'm in.  Still looking at this with one squinted, skeptical eye as I remember whose name is attached as director, but you never know.

Oh, and, by the way, if that's Hans Zimmer's score, I approve.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Course Update: Week 2 of Gender Through Comics Books

With the navigation issues resolved, Week 2 of the course Gender Through Comic Books, was a lot easier to deal with (the navigation is still awful, but at least I've basically sorted it out).   Of the promised 3-5 hours, I probably spent 3-4 hours, including an hour of guest lecture by comics maestro Mark Waid.  I did bypass a lot of the reading as I've read Superman: Birthright numerous times in the past, and was able to focus mostly on course materials - so that saved a good hour.

As has often been my experience with a lot of course reading in theory classes, the full articles are going to start feeling repetitive.  We've been presented the premise, and everything else is going to be supporting evidence - and this is why I was not a good student as an undergrad or, especially, during my glorious short, flamed-out career of not finishing grad school.

In this course, the basic concept is that "sex" is a biological designation and "gender" is a construct of personal and cultural choices.  I believe this makes sense in context, and  the readings made the concept pretty clear in Week 1.  In Week 2, the one article we were asked to check out gave some more evidence.  That's cool.  But by the time we get to Week 3...

This week was a mix of reading Superman and putting some coin in Mark Waid's pocket by selling a lot of copies of Superman: Birthright.  The task was to consider the construction of gender as it's played out less by instinct and more as part of a perception of roles of male, female and otherwise and how that's demonstrated by reading Birthright as well as Action Comics #1, an issue of Superman from 1960, and consider the ways gender is portrayed across 75 years.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Some artists I think handle Wonder Woman really pretty well

As a comic strip character, Wonder Woman is a tall order. Especially for the many comic artists who have, more or less, one or two styles of women they can draw, and then mix it up with clothes and color. We know what Wonder Woman might look like in our mind's eye, but, like Superman, mostly we know when its wrong.


The comics describe Wonder Woman as:
Beautiful as Aphrodite, wise as Athena, swifter than Hermes, and stronger than Hercules
How do you draw that?

If you're many artists, you chuck the icon and start drawing a swimsuit model in a "sexy" pose.

As an example, DC took some ribbing thanks to the "variant" cover for JLA #2, which featured the usually tough-looking male members of the JLA, and then a kind of youngish, kittenish version of Wonder Woman. I don't know that there was a better way to make the point that WW needs to be portrayed as a peer to her JLA colleagues and not as the resident cheesecake, but in response fans created the "what if male superheroes posed like Wonder Woman" meme.  You sort of hope DC brass hears about these things and applies changes as they go along.

I wasn't a Wonder Woman reader until way late in the game.  I was vaguely embarrassed then (and now) to pick up "sexy" covers on comics, and during the 90's, when I was curious about the character, DC was in the middle of experimenting with both good girl and bad girl art on the title.  But when Phil Jimenez came on Wonder Woman,  I couldn't help but notice the covers weren't cheesecake, the stories were different from everything else I was reading, and when I flipped through the comics, the art was absolutely stunning.  I became a fan of the character thanks to the work of Jimenez, and then had a lot of work to do catching up.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

So, That Online Course I'm Taking - Gender Through Comic Books

Just as an FYI - I intentionally wrote my piece on portrayals in women in comics earlier this week before getting into the reading for the course I'm taking.

The course is:  Gender Through Comics Books at Canvas.net and originating at Ball State.

Anyway, I work in higher education, currently in libraries, but from 1997-2006 I worked in Distance Education at large public research universities, UT Austin and Arizona State University.  From 2007-2008, I worked at a smaller eLearning company here in Austin that developed mostly corporate training materials with the occasional foray into creating materials for educators.

When I left university distance learning, it wasn't because I was tired of the field.  I thought eLearning was in its toddler-hood, but we were taking a leap to return from Arizona to Austin, and there weren't/ aren't that many positions out there for this, even with my sterling credentials.  Working in a media shop developing stuff for corporations was a great experience in many ways, and I learned a tremendous amount I doubt I would have gained at The Academy (as we like to say when we're wearing tweed and drinking hot tea from small cups).

Back in 1999 or so, I remember watching a clip from 60 Minutes on The Future of Education.  At the time, University of Phoenix was a rising star and talking heads were proclaiming that UofP had cracked the code.  In a few years we'd all be taking our courses through them, and there was no point in resisting progress.  They predicted (and were clearly relishing the term way, way too much) the concept of "rock star faculty", folks who would be THE faculty voice for a generation talking about America History 101, etc...  Nobody was sure how it would work, but they were certain it was just around the corner.  

It didn't happen.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Oh, Did You Just Figure Out That Maybe Disney Buying Star Wars Means Everything You Liked About Star Wars is Going to Getting Demolished?

Shoemaker sent me this article from i09.  It's basically about how, the afterglow of Disney's purchase of Star Wars and the sudden lay-offs, etc... start to settle in, someone realized that Disney probably doesn't give two Jawa farts about the Star Wars Expanded Universe.

As I said in my email response to Shoemaker: no kidding

once again, your avatar for what will happen to everything you once loved

Even when the first Expanded Universe stuff hit the shelf when I was in high school, I didn't read it.  I guess by the time those books arrived, I was pretty well aware that studio executives weren't going to care that some sci-fi authors wanted to write Star Wars books when it came time to make new movies, and those studio execs were going to include George Lucas and his associates.  When movies that moved past the conclusion of Return of the Jedi did happen, they'd be so much bigger than a series of fantasy books, that the books would just sort of disappear into the ether as non-canonical, leaving a herd of nerds wondering how to reconcile the irreconcilable, narratively speaking, in their minds.

Of course, for two decades we had Uncle George backing up the books - which I doubted he ever read, but he knew that without his stamp, those books wouldn't be taken seriously nor purchased by Star Wars fans.  And that meant less dough, so best to just approve them and worry on it later.