Saturday, October 22, 2016
God. Dammit. 2016.
Comics artist Steve Dillon has passed.
Dillon was one of the finest comics artists of the past few decades, mixing an illustrative quality with cartooning and pitch perfect sense of tone and a moment. Not only did he have one of the deftest pencils when it came to capturing the exact, perfect expression for every character in a panel - something I assume he did effortlessly as he did it in every panel - but his ability to change pacing, to whip between romance to horror to comedy within a single page remains unparalleled and may never be matched.
His pairing with Garth Ennis was a boon to the medium, from Hellblazer to Preacher to The Punisher. I don't just consider Preacher a seminal comics work of its era - I consider it a seminal work of its era - full stop. That said - not recommended for all audiences, Mom.
Monday, August 15, 2016
I'm buying way, way more in the way of DC Comics these days then I have in a few years. Not as many as I might have been back in the hey-day around 2007 (back when I was practically panic-buying comics, afraid I'd miss something), or even as many as I was in the days before DC's New 52 effort launched, but I'm back up from, like, 3 per month (I was picking up Action, sometimes Superman, Sensation Comics and Wonder Woman '77 when it came out).
But, back then, I was literally picking up about 25 DC titles per month, I think. It was a lot, but I was a Wednesday comics guy, I liked keeping up weekly and monthly with all the ongoing characters and stories, seeing what would happen, good, bad, otherwise, and it was the constant decision-making of "is this comic worth picking up or should I try something else?". At the core of all the titles I read were four characters - Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Batman (in a somewhat managed capacity as there was always too much Batman on the shelf). The rest were usually up for debate.
With Rebirth, I'm picking up a few titles:
Supergirl (not yet released)
All Star Batman
Trinity (not yet released)
and probably the Super Sons title or whatever it's called, which will come out this Fall.
I'll be waiting on word from folks to see if any of the Green Lantern titles are worth it, but I'm not holding my breath. When they quit making the book about the Corps shattering and reforming and shattering and reforming, somebody wake me up and alert me.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
At the beginning of the 1990's, I almost bailed on comics. If you want to know who kept me coming back I can throw a bunch of names at you of authors and artists, but the real force bringing me back to the funny book store was editor Karen Berger, the mastermind behind the 1993 launch of Vertigo comics.
A lot of people say a lot of negative things about the comics industry in the 1990's, and if you consider what was going on in many corners, they're not wrong. I was avoiding shiny and holographic covers, watched unknown companies try to launch whole universes in one shot and avoided the Scarlet Spider stuff like the plague. But Berger was the one who saw the potential for what comics could do, saw the potential in then little known writers, was flexible about what could appear in a floppy comic, and she may be the least risk-averse person to ever work at the Big 2.
After successes with Wonder Woman, Legion and other titles, she shepherded several cutting edge titles that eventually set up shop under the Vertigo imprint. She gave Sandman, Swamp Thing and Hellblazer a home, nurtured and loved both the titles and creators, and resurrected dead IP at DC Comics (Kid Eternity, The Tattooed Man, Shade: The Changing Man) while also letting creators bring their own, fresh ideas to the Vertigo. In an era embracing what had been counter culture as we coined such terms as "Alternative Music" and put a groovy coffee shop on every corner, the company that put out Superman was also putting out The Extremist and Transmetropolitan.
Just imagine a young and hungry Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Warren Ellis... And, of course, Garth Ennis. In many ways for which she will rarely be given the credit she deserves, Karen Berger gave us Preacher.
Sunday, August 7, 2016
As the lights came up, I turned and looked at my movie companion and heard myself say "that was the worst movie I've seen since Battlefield Earth". But, that was unfair. It's the worst movie I've seen since 1998's Godzilla, but the issues with the movie are maybe more akin to Battlefield Earth.
Now, I don't say that lightly, and I obviously don't include "bad movie" fodder like The Room, Birdemic and other grasp-longer-than-reach independent efforts. Rather, there's a special place in movie-going hell reserved for huge blockbuster movies with gigantic budgets for production and marketing that have been corporate committee'd to death.
I didn't show up at Suicide Squad wanting to dislike it. I'm a grown-assed adult, and if I don't want to see a movie, I won't. Heck, I could have skipped the movie with a refund before it rolled (and I thought about it after seeing the reviews). The movie was sold out and people would take the seats. I could have had a nice beer on the porch at the theater.
I am, of course, not a DC "hater" and am more than happy to discuss DC comics, associated media and lore at length. In short, don't make me embarrass you, kid, when you come at me to explain the movie.
For decades I've read DC comics, watched TV shows - good and bad - read non-fiction histories of the characters and industries. And, in this era I just want for DC to make a movie that isn't a trainwreck, and - while I've not seen BvS - that doesn't seem to be happening.
I have no doubt the folks who've already branded themselves as DC movie fans (and as carriers of true fandom for these characters) will like the movie as it follows a certain line of thinking that has so far appealed to that audience and basic issues with story and structure didn't deter them with Man of Steel, and from what I've heard about BvS, even more so. It is in no way short of wanting to be hip and edgy like an Ed Hardy shirt or vape booth at the mall.
It's a movie that does not know the rule of "show, don't tell" - it doesn't trust the audience to follow a story, delivering character and action in literal bullet points. Mostly, though, the film is presented in such a way that the errors and issues were so large and as consistent as gunfire throughout the movie, that it's impossible to stay with the movie rather than just cataloging the issues as they pop up, one after another.
At almost every single thing this movie attempts, it misses in big and small ways, with the unsurprising exception of the Will Smith as Deadshot storyline (Big Willie carries too much clout in Hollywood to not come out of this still intact, and the charm I'd nearly forgotten the man has on screen fills in a lot of gaps that the movie leaves there for virtually every other character). Whether it's the much derided musical accompaniment, the nonsensical story bits left in place after the editors were done, the odd choice of villain and scope of the mission, or why everything in the movie felt like it needed to be doodled upon from the frame of the film to Margot Robbie's face to Will Smith's collar.
This movie is a @#$%ing mess. And, no, it's not even really a "fun" or "enjoyable" mess at that. Maybe "a distracting two hours where you'll ask yourself a lot of questions about why they made a lot of decisions the way they did." That kind of mess.
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Randy suggested I take a look at the trailers that came out during Comic-Con, and while I haven't looked at every one of them, and some of them I have no opinion on in general (like the new Harry Potter), I guess I can do this fairly quickly and painlessly.
I've already been asked how accurate this is to the original comics, but as one always has to say with DC comics and characters, in particular, the specifics aren't that important. Especially trying to bring the character to the big screen in 2017 versus what the characters were like in their 1941 original first appearance.
The question needs to be: how did they handle the origin in general (do the producers understand the character well enough to understand the importance and resonance of the most important details of the character), and what did they do to demonstrate that the character is not a new character masquerading as the titular character?
I am not expecting the poly-sexual, bdsm subliminal antics of the original comics to ever make the big screen (we can make arguments about Season 1 of the Lynda Carter show some other time). This is the Wonder Woman of the Greg Rucka era, who still carries the lasso, but is like to pick up a sword and shield. To avoid comparisons to her contemporary creation, Captain America, the origin story has been transported to WWI instead of WWII, a change which I feel doesn't exactly make sense for a downed aviator to find Themyscira by accident (the range on those flyers was not putting them out over the mid-Atlantic, and aircraft carriers barely existed at the time).
But, ignoring the logistics of aviation history, I have to say I'm as excited by this trailer as I likely am to be about anything spinning out of DC/WB's theatrical efforts. Gadot isn't my first choice, but she seems fine in the part. The action looks like it's not softened in the slightest and the Amazons are living up to their potential from the comics if this trailer is to be believed.
Like Captain America, the action is likely to move to the modern era for any sequels, which kind of begs the question "why set it in WWI when it's going to draw so many comparisons to Captain America?" It's not like we've lacked for military conflict in the past 20 years.
Saturday, July 16, 2016
Closer Than We Think from Clindar on Vimeo.
I was sent this video by pal-Andrew (Jamie's brother's wife's brother), and now I totally want to see this video. It's a documentary being made about Arthur Radebaugh and his sci-fi futurist strip, "Closer Than We Think". This hits so many positive buttons, I sincerely hope this film is made and gets a release.
For more on Radebaugh
The official website
a blogspot site
From the Ohio State Library
Paleofuture at Gizmodo
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
It's no secret I wasn't a fan of much in the way of Superman comics since the launch of The New 52. Somehow the character stumbled off the blocks, introduced in Justice League #1 as a showboat and almost a bully. The history of the character never added up, what with DC's mishandled "we're five years in since Superman appeared" idea, a history they utterly failed to reconcile with pre-Flashpoint continuity despite their promises to the contrary. The Superman title tried at the start. You could feel George Perez try, get compromised again and again, and his abrupt departure and comments afterward about editorial interference jived with the inconsistency of what was on the page, not just in that title, but in many of the New 52 titles I tried out.
Over in Action Comics, Grant Morrison was given free reign to do as he pleased, and you could feel him trying to do something, working hard to try to seize the opportunity, but whatever he was trying to build with a blue-collar, working-man's hero in jeans and t-shirt was mis-appropriated to ill-effect by the end of the New 52 era and "Street Fighter" Superman in jeans and t-shirt almost a loud sigh that DC just didn't know what to do with the character they'd tried to assemble.
The comics just never quite worked. I wish they had. I can't say how much my waning interest in Superman comics took out my interest in comics in general. If you've seen a major shift from comics to movies in my blogging - well, where do you suppose I'm spending my dollars and spare hours now?
Rebirth is DC Comics' latest line-wide reboot and an attempt to recapture what I'd characterize as the lost spirit of DC Comics. Kicked off over the last month or so, they're basically ditching the line-wide decree to make their characters all more "edgy", rolling out all-new number 1 issues and trying to find their footing. It won't solve a lot of the problems at DC as I haven't heard of a single person in editorial or publishing losing a job, and the guy running the Superman office at the moment is the same guy who was at the helm when the Superman line lost sales and went from 4 books to 2 (and those weren't holding steady).*
But all that aside - as Superman readers, what did we actually get out of Rebirth?
Well, man, they've certainly got their work cut out for them.
Thursday, June 2, 2016
|if you are not pleased with what follows, Queen Elsa has some words for you...|
Honestly, I have no idea if I was reading Devin Faraci back at BadAss Digest before it became Birth.Movies.Death., and I couldn't tell you exactly when I started seeking out his writing in particular. Pretty recently, I guess, like maybe even in late 2015.
Well, a few days back it seems Faraci went and accidentally lit a spark under the butt of the collective hive-mind of the internet, and whatever was under that butt wasn't just flammable, it was atomic rocket fuel. He wrote an article called Fandom is Broken, but I don't need to tell you this. Because chances are, if you read this site, you've already read the article elsewhere. It's certainly been making the rounds. If you haven't read it yet, here's the link. Go read it and then come on back. These 1's and 0's will still be here floating in the interwebicon.
Back? Excellent. We missed you. How are you?
One more to read - it's that Onion AV article Faraci linked to, and it's also required reading. Sorry. So, off with you if you didn't read that, too.
Sigh. So... For this week I had already planned to write about the upcoming Ghostbusters film, the grousing going on about this new movie ruining some peoples' childhoods, and I thought I might outline why - frankly - that's a really weird stance to take on a 30+ year old movie that was never, ever going to be the same again no matter whether it starred the same four guys (which we should have just let go of since Raimis' passing), four other different guys, four women, four guinea pigs or four plates of nachos.
But we're not going to park it on Ghostbusters. Oh, no. Because these two article made me think about a few things, and, in ways big and small, I am certain I am part of the problem, too. And so are you, buddy, so don't feel so smug.
At this juncture I think it's important to take a breath and have a moment of self-reflection rather than take to the twitters and prove Mr. Faraci absolutely correct by threatening him.
Saturday, May 28, 2016
I did not love every living word and panel of DC's mea culpa in comic form, but it made me realize how long it has been since I've read a new comic book from DC and didn't feel like I needed to just put it down and walk away. If Rebirth succeeded on any level - it did not make me kind of sad while I was reading it, nor think "well, this is what they're doing these days, and the kids seem to like it, so I guess this is DC Comics now". I got to just mostly enjoy a DC Comic, even enjoy the familiar frustration of "well, now how is THAT going to work?" as I looked at some of what the book was pitching as the new direction for DC Comics publishing line.
It's been a few days, so I really don't think I need to explain what Rebirth is, except to my brother - so, Jason: That New 52 thing I've been whining about the past few years? Turns out sales have been plummeting line-wide for DC since the first year or so, and they've decided that maybe they went too far in the "grim n' gritty" comics direction, and now they're remembering that the idea behind superheroes is that they're a force for positive change. So, starting here, DC is trying to wrap up the New 52 as a direction for the publishing line while remaining basically in continuity. They'll start by renumbering most series (again) and remember that it's kind of a bummer to read about people in tights running about feeling miserable every second of the day, so, maybe stop with the endless Pyrrhic victories and mopey heroes.
The "Rebirth" brand at DC was never one of rebooting. In both Flash Rebirth and Green Lantern Rebirth, continuity remained intact, but DC brought back longstanding characters and principles to characters and concepts that had strayed from the sort of Platonic ideal of those characters. In Flash, we saw the return of Barry Allen full time for the first time since Crisis on Infinite Earths. Wally, Bart, Jay and everyone else would be around, but Barry was our focal Flash - complete with a new backstory that didn't reflect the pre-Crisis DCU continuity (Nora Allen was murdered). Green Lantern saw the return of Hal Jordan to the land of the living, the Parallax storyline transmogrified into epic space opera that spun out the colored rings. Both of these I enjoyed.
Rebirth is not another Crisis. It seems to be retaining the New 52 continuity, so far anyway, and is really not so much an answer as a gigantic question mark both from a story and editorial perspective. Or, rather, a series of questions marks or possible paths for all of us who walked away from DC to consider what teasers from the books we'd be interested in pursuing with our dollars.
Everything from here below contains spoilers. You're on your own if you keep reading.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
I don't believe Steve Rogers has secretly been pulling the wool over our eyes or Marvel's hero who just raked in a billion dollars at the box office has actually been an Agent of Hydra all along or whatever it is Tom Brevoort, Marvel's personal Salacious Crumb, said to the New York Times.
Yes, Captain America was designed by two Jewish guys to punch Hitler in the face, and, yes, of course, if Marvel were actually turning him into a villain longterm, it'd be kinda gross. But, y'know, comics. I'm pretty sure it's some usual sci-fi comics monkeyshines, Cosmic Cube business or time travel or whatnot, and by tale's end, we'll all be back to normal.
What I'm irritated about is that I can't actually remember the last time I read a good Steve Rogers story about Steve Rogers being Steve Rogers. Don't worry - it's not limited to Steve Rogers - I'm pretty sure DC hasn't had Superman as Superman in an in-continuity comic in at least four years, and before that we had Superman walking America (Grounded Part 1 = garbage, Grounded Part 2 = pretty darn good), Superman not being Superman for a year in the comics because New Krypton, Superman with no powers... And, if I never felt like the New 52 Superman was Superman, well, it seems like DC is set to confirm that suspicion).
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
This week DC Comics's Rebirth event will once again re-set the DC Universe of comics for what will be the third reboot since 2005 (Infinite Crisis, Flashpoint/ New 52 and now Rebirth). Even before the story broke this weekend about what Rebirth will contain, plot and character-wise, I had been thinking a great deal about the direction of media, what superheroes and stories are for, and how I've not felt particularly compelled to write up a bunch of posts upon, nor cast ad hominem attacks on those who enjoyed this year's blockbuster, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Sunday night saw the premiere of Preacher on AMC, an adaptation of the utterly unadaptable Preacher comics from Vertigo's heyday back in the 1990's. As the comics are numbingly brutal and , featuring a wide array of atrocities and blasphemous content, I'm frankly a little concerned about what happens in the media/ social medias if the show is a direct adaptation and if/when people actually start watching the show (the pilot was not a direct adaptation, and I'm not sure it did very well). The content is not exactly the sort of thing that many folks here in the Bible Belt take kindly to, even as a Bible Belt perspective certainly doesn't hurt in contextualizing the overriding experience and meaning of the comic. After all, one of the overriding themes of the book is cutting through hypocrisy wrapped in the cloth - something Texas does just about as well as anywhere (thus, your location).
Wednesday, May 18, 2016
Blah blah blah...
DC Comics has a new logo.
It's certainly not as "we might sell paper like Dunder-Mifflin" as the last DC Logo. Or as hopelessly detergent-label-like as the prior. But there's not a lot of standards to go with in this realm. The big, chunky red Marvel logo isn't really... much of anything, either, so let's not get too excited in the compare and contrast department.
|the logo that screams "'fun', as defined in Appendix C of the PDF attachment in Tuesday's email"|
Like a lot of other folks, I looked at the new one up top and said "huh, interesting they went Bronze Age with it". Because a bit of a throw-back to those early 1970's logos DOES say what you want to say to fans about respecting the past, and the fun of that past - something DC hasn't just had a problem with, but has aggressively trampled over the past 5 years. But it IS new-er-ish. They're not just endeavoring into a revival of a period which is remembered fondly, but would make no sense in 2016. Mostly, unlike the DC Fold, it's also squarely not the sort of thing that would look at home on a box of 3.5" diskettes in 1994, either. But maybe a loaf of bread from a company that hasn't changed it's packaging since, well, 1974.
Tuesday, May 17, 2016
With the passing of Darwyn Cooke, I had my quick appreciation write-up, and on Sunday, as I was eating my oatmeal and pondering the fact I had to work all afternoon, Jamie pitched watching the animated version of Cooke's comics classic, Justice League: The New Frontier (2008).
For a while there, I was purchasing every single new DVD WB Animation pushed out as DC got into the feature-length animated film business. These days I limit my actual purchases (my last purchase being Flashpoint, which seemed as good a place to jump off DC Entertainment in many-a-ways), but I have a pretty good run of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Justice League videos. And, as I type this, why the hell didn't they ever make a Flash movie? It seems like an obvious fit.
But I don't think I'd actually watched this disk in something like 6 years.
Monday, May 16, 2016
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the first issue of Kingdom Come, the prestige 4-issue, oft re-issued, comic by creators Alex Ross (artist) and Mark Waid (writer).
It's extremely difficult for me to state how much of an impact this comic had on me as a reader at the time of it's release. In fact, I'd argue it was one of the comics that came out at a particular time in my life that tilted me from an interest in comics and enthusiastic readership to... whatever it became. Further, I'd say that Kingdom Come stands as one of the key books that pushed me from thinking Superman was pretty neat to... whatever my deal is with The Man of Steel today.
By 1996, I just wasn't that interested in superhero comics. It seemed like a lot of books were trying to pull things off that weren't working, and, honestly, at age 21, glancing over the covers - a sense of creeping embarrassment hit me for the first time in my life in regards to comics. Not for the hobby or comics themselves, but it seemed that, in the mainline superhero books, writers and artists and the companies themselves had a vision they were trying to execute, and that vision felt like a 13-year-old trying on their dad's suit thinking they could con the bank into giving them a loan.
By '93, a brave new world of tough, militaristic, snarling characters had flooded the shelves. New publishers had arrived with fully formed concepts and universes, clearly either inspired as "extreme" versions of existing characters, or taking their cues from the artwork on heavy metal album covers (which, you know, how could you fault them?). And at DC and Marvel, familiar characters were getting changed and rebooted (see: Azrael Batman) to reflect the times. To me, the stories themselves lacked anything resembling narrative sophistication or substance, taking a Canon Films approach to violence and vitriol and mistaking it for maturity. The plots were sophomoric at best, and adding spiked shoulder pads to pre-existing characters did nothing to sell me on their new grittiness. I'll never forget cackling my way through the 1994 Dr. Fate reboot, Fate, wherein the hero turns the all-powerful helmet of Dr. Fate into a knife. So he can cut things! To the extreme!*
Meanwhile, Karen Berger had set up Vertigo at DC and was putting out Hellblazer, Shade: The Changing Man, Animal Man, Swamp Thing, The Invisibles, and, of course, Sandman and Sandman Mystery Theatre. I didn't think I had to look too far to see characters who were telling me they were for older readers - they simply were the sophistication (or what passed for it) that felt like the proper heirs to the Moore legacy.
Saturday, May 14, 2016
Just yesterday we heard that Darwyn Cooke had entered palliative care in the last stages of cancer, and by the time I went to bed, the internet was telling me we that we have lost Darwyn Cooke, comics artist and writer.
2016 seems intent on taking my favorite artists from the world before their time.
It seemed to me Cooke was properly appreciated by comics enthusiasts, and a favorite in the creator community as a solid guy.
His art is making its way around the internet, and you won't have to look far for the next 72 hours to see all of us posting our favorite pieces. I'll focus here on his DC work and his work with Richard Stark's Parker novels.
Perhaps the best known of his works is DC's New Frontier, the Jet Age re-imagining of the origin of the Justice League of America, featuring all the mainstay players and some more-forgotten characters of the JFK/ pop explosion era of DC. If you've never read it, it's available out there in print and digital. And, it was adapted into a feature length cartoon film a few years back.
Cooke's art tilted toward iconographic cartooning, and fit no house style at DC, even as it clearly fit the aesthetic and mood of the DCU on the sunniest of days. Both retro and modern, his style borrowing heavily from the pop-art style of late-50/ early-60's illustration, with the nuance of line to manage expression and convey more in a face than 95% of comics artists.
During an era when DC Comics and comics in general are on a swing back toward projecting a world view of fire, chaos, and gnashing teeth for all of their characters, Cooke still found a place in the comics world to show a DC Universe infused with hope.
Monday, May 9, 2016
Here's what I know after reading Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture (2016) - I would love to spend a couple hours at a bar with author Glen Weldon knocking back a couple of cocktails and talking comics.
The book is a perfect compliment to the sort of discussion we've been having here at The Signal Watch the past few years, from our Gen-X Recollection Project (still ongoing! Send in your posts!), to trying to contextualize what we see in movies of the past and present as seasoned dorks.
As a matter of course, I've read a few Superman retrospectives, but very few feel like an honest conversation. Les Daniels' works read like what they are - honest if fairly sanitary historical accounts of the rise of Superman in all media. The very-well-selling Larry Tye book felt like a lot of research into something the author felt would move books but for which he had little personal affinity and seemed surprised that Superman wasn't the character he remembered from his years watching The Adventures of Superman. Author Tom De Haven has the strangest relationship with Superman, having written a full novel re-imagining the character from the ground up (in ways that often seemed far, far off the mark), and then a sort of retrospective that made it clear - he kinda hates Superman.
But aside from Les Daniels and a few excerpts in books like Ten Cent Plague and Men of Tomorrow, I haven't read up as much on Batman. I actually heard of author Glen Weldon when he put out a book called Superman: The Unauthorized Biography. I purchased the book, but hadn't read it as I had a stack of books I was making it through. Still haven't read it, honestly, aside from the first few pages, which had me cackling in recognition of someone who truly knew their Superman. But, two days after I picked up the Superman book, Weldon announced on twitter his Batman book was coming, and as I'd just finished the Tye Superman book, I figured - I'll just wait for that one.
I really can't recommend Caped Crusade enough. This is a "run, don't walk" sort of recommendation.
Friday, April 15, 2016
If you think my movie watching has slowed to a trickle, you'd be right. We're still neck deep in TV and baseball right now. I haven't even watched my BluRay of The Force Awakens quite yet, but I did lose all of last night watching the disk of bonus material (totally great, btw).
We also blitzed our way through Daredevil Season 2, or as close to a blitz as you're going to get out of us. We basically finished the series in about 2.5 weeks, which is really fast for us, even for a 13-episode series.
Last night's post should give you an idea of the regard in which I hold the source material of Daredevil comics produced by Frank Miller in the early 1980's. But, to be truthful, I haven't read them in over a decade. That's all right. The show only references them loosely, doing what Marvel has done so well so often over the past decade: keeping the origins largely intact, remembering who the characters are at their core (and not in the squishy "well, which canon? who are you to say this isn't Superman?" way DC has done), and boiling down stories to work better in the medium in which they're appearing.
Daredevil Season 1 carried the burden of the origin and establishing their corner of New York not just for Daredevil, but - as it turned out - for Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. In all honesty, I thought both Daredevil Season 1 and Jessica Jones Season 1 could have been tighter. They seemed to be 8 or 9 episode shows spread out over 13, and that meant a lot of filler.
I think those of us who watched Daredevil S2 can agree, if this season had an issue, it wasn't that not that we were hoping it'd pick up the pace a bit.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
I have an employee who is into geek-culture stuff in a way that doesn't include actual comics. She likes horror movies, Army of Darkness, and watches the TV shows and movies based on comics. She just finished watching Daredevil (so say we all), and she was wearing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt with art from the 90's cartoon while she was talking to me about the show.
"You know," I said, "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is a by-product of Daredevil."
She eyed me, somewhat skeptically.
"Frank Miller made ninjas cool in comics via the Daredevil comics run they're adapting for the show. After that, ninjas were everywhere in comics, but Miller did them best. It was the 1980's and Eastman and Laird were drinking beer and figuring out what might be popular for a comic and, hey, NINJAS. The 'Teenage Mutant' part is referring to some X-Men stuff. New Mutants, I think."
The look of skepticism was giving way to a bit of fear.
"Yes, I think you can argue that Bruce Lee started the craze, but in comics, I point to Frank Miller."
"Yeah," I said, refusing to let it go. "The crazy turtle uses sai, right? Elektra! That's Miller. What's the name of the bad guys the Shredder works with?"
She felt a trap. "The Foot?" she ventured.
"Uh huh. And the name of the ninjas in Daredevil?"
"Right. Now... let's talk about how Frank Miller is responsible for Batman v. Superman."
She was not impressed.
"Directly or indirectly, Jack Kirby and Frank Miller are responsible for everything in media right now," I concluded.
I don't think she bought a word of it.
In general, I'd argue the conversations the comics kids are having online these days don't seem to talk so much about what's happening in their comics as they do the characters in broad strokes, undergrad 101 media criticism of race and gender (which I welcome) and the creators, like they're following demi-celebrities who might talk back to them.*
Monday, April 11, 2016
Here at The Signal Watch, we have a Super Affinity for pets. We've got our own two little geniuses at home making our lives more colorful every day.
Back in the Silver Age, National Comics introduced a dog named Krypto to the Superman mythos. Supposedly sent in advance of a baby Kal-El in a test rocket, Krypto arrived on Earth around when Superboy was making a name for himself in Smallville. The comics made their usual bends in logic and soon Krypto was appearing in both Superboy and the adventures of grown-up Superman.
Sunday, April 10, 2016
In 1989, Michael Keaton put on a terrible-looking rubber cowl with ears, got dropped onto fantastic looking sets with Jacks Palance and Nicholson, Jerry Hall and Kim Basinger, and the world went bat-shit. Warner Bros. made a ton of money off not just the movie, but the merchandising. Batman, overnight, became America's favorite superhero.
All the studios scrambled to see what else that looked like a comic books that they could exploit, but without spending a ton of money (this was a pre-CGI era). And for about 10 years, man, there was a lot of stuff coming out. A lot of stuff of varying quality.
I'm actually a fan of The Shadow from 1994 or so, and I love Disney's The Rocketeer. Both super fun movies, even if The Shadow kinda hams up, then softens up the whole concept. Marvel, for their part, laid some eggs in their straight to video Captain America and Punisher films, circa 1990.
During this era, a vision in purple spandex strode onto screens across America. And, for reasons I cannot put into words, felt compelled to see this movie then and a few times since. The Phantom (1996)!!!