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

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Comic-Con Trailer Discussion! DC, Marvel, Kong!



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.


DC


Wonder Woman



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.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

We Ponder the Ever-Growing Complexities of Superman and DC's "Rebirth" Event


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

TL;DR: I Guess We Better Talk About that "Fandom is Broken" Article

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

We Finally Read "Rebirth" and Here Is What We Think (SPOILERS)



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

On that whole "Steve Rogers is and has always been secretly an evil agent" stuff



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

TL;DR: Balancing the Dark and the Light - Getting Real About How We Were Okay with "Dark" Comics



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

DC Comics gets a new logo. So... this means... what, exactly?



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.

Monday, May 16, 2016

20th Anniversary of DC Comics' "Kingdom Come"



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 HellblazerShade: The Changing ManAnimal ManSwamp ThingThe 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.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Signal Watch Reads: The Caped Crusade - Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture (audiobook, 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.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Frank Miller Takes Over the World



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."
"Okay."
"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?"
"...the Hand?"
"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.*

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: David Rossi

I can't tell you how gratifying I'm finding this whole Gen-X Recollection project.  One of our first submissions was from a new friend from Denmark, and another from a person I'd only met once in the flesh, but that I spent plenty of time chatting with online (and Stuart is tops, people).  Then the flurry of submissions from friends from all across my lifespan.  I've been doing this blogging thing for a while, and this is one of the most fun things I've ever done here.

And now we have an entry from someone from the twitter-verse who I was kind of aware had a fascinating background, but hadn't put all the pieces together.

David Rossi is not someone I know in person, but he is a man who may have lived one of my lifelong dreams: working in a Star Trek Future.

Dave has had many roles when it comes to actually working on Star Trek.  But, I'll let him tell you about that himself, and how he got to that point.

Then, I'm going to ask him how many Captains chairs he's secretly sat in.


Editor's Note:  As a plaid-wearing Superman fan, I approve of Dave's whole aesthetic here


Dave Rossi
Los Angeles, CA via Buffalo NY
51 Years Old
Married, 2 kids.

I’ve worked at Paramount Pictures for 25 years, 14 of those on the Star Trek franchise, starting as a Production Assistant and ending as an Associate Producer. I also served as Supervisor of Star Trek Projects for Executive Producer Rick Berman, who created the position for me when he realized all the Trek knowledge in my head was actually valuable! I also co-produced the Star Trek Original Series Remastered project.

I’m still an avid Star Trek fan, Sci-Fi fan, Comic book collector, tabletop game player (It’s all about the Heroclix!). I am loving what Jason Aaron, Tom King, Geoff Johns, and Greg Pak are doing with their titles, and I think it’s a magical time to be a fan of these inspiring characters and their stories.


Before Comics Were Cool.

My father was a WWII veteran, and not much of a dreamer, unlike his youngest of 5 children, me. I had discovered Star Trek when I was in my 6’s, which profoundly changed my life. No one “got it.” None of my siblings, not my mom, certainly not my father. In fact our interactions on the subject went something like this: I’d be prone on the carper, head propped up on palms watching Star Trek with rapt attention. My father would walk in and say, in his deep voice, “Who’s winning?” to which I would reply, proudly, “Captain Kirk always wins.” My father would then say something pithy like “Now that you know that, turn the baseball game on.” It was a little game we would play I guess. Whenever it happened, I would use that tiny opportunity to try and imprint on him that what was happening on the TV was important, to me anyway. And I never thought he understood.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

That Supergirl/ Flash Meet-Up on CBS's "Supergirl"



Pick a tone, DC Entertainment.

I was never a fan of the "two heroes meet, fight, realize it's all a mistake and then go off to fight a common threat" trope of comics.  So, yes, just seeing the title of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice literally told me everything I didn't need to see in the WB opus (now down over 70% in ticket sales from last weekend).  It literally makes no sense for a person dedicated to improving things for other people to start a conversation by throwing a punch at someone else's head.  Frankly, it always kind of diminishes whatever I'm reading when the writers get lazy and that's the path they follow.

Yeah, even "Superman meets Spider-Man".*

I've been a fan of The CW's The Flash since episode 1, and I continue to enjoy the heck out of that show.  From this DC nerd's perspective, this is how you update a character and make the concept work in another medium with different needs than the comic page or context of National Comics in the Jet Age.  If you're going to change up Barry's origin story a bit, this makes sense, and I like the family with which they're surrounded Barry, both the Wests and his "work family", made up of repurposed C and D listers.

The show is far from relentlessly cheerful - villains are a threat, and we've had two seasons with serious arcs casting a shadow over the events of everything else.   But the core characters don't wallow in self-imposed pity parties and comply with the notion that being a jerk is a prerequisite to intelligence or depth of character (it seems Arrow is continuing to struggle with how to dig themselves out of that hole).  Barry and Co.'s ability to keep on going and improve things for themselves and the world is at the heart of what I like about ongoing superhero comics.

I wrote more than one post regarding the rocky start to CBS's Supergirl, but at some point the show started getting a grip on what it is and could be.  Once it dropped some of the standard soapy TV tropes and got on with the business of superheroing, it's been on a gradual incline of watchability.  They dropped the lame "nice guy" storyline for Win, and, to my great satisfaction, the seemingly one-dimensional character of Cat Grant (played by Calista Flockhart) blossomed immediately into a mentor character for Supergirl and her alter ego.  And, of course, the long game of naming Hank Henshaw as leader of this DEO business pulled a switcheroo and turned out to be a huge highlight of the season as the character turned out not to be the ridiculous Cyborg Superman but Martian Manhunter.**

I never disliked the cast of Supergirl, but CBS applied a lot of old-hat tricks, believing they knew how to make the show work for the broadest audience, but it seemed outdated and a drag on the show's velocity.  And, while I'm not sure we're getting a second season (it hasn't been renewed so far as I know), a second season could get down to brass tacks and be quite fun.  Plus, they've said Lynda Carter could play the President next season, which this site heartily endorses.  It could be a lot of fun.

And there's that word.  Fun.

SLAM EVIL with us During a Live Tweet of "The Phantom"! (Friday, April 8th at 9:00 Central)




Honestly, it doesn't seem like I've watched this from beginning to end since that summer when I dragged my brother to the theater to catch this flick.  The staff kind of shook their heads mournfully at us as we first, purchased tickets, and then, even more sadly as we headed willingly into the theater.

Basically, what I remember from this movie is that Billy Zane is fun (and still has hair), there's both a dog and a horse in the African jungle, Treat Williams chewing scenery and Kristy Swanson works a pair of jodhpurs and riding boots.

And, really, what else did we need in 1995?

We're recruiting YOU into joining us next Friday, April 8th at 9:00 PM Central for a Live Tweet of the movie.  Hopefully that's not too late for East Coast, not too early for West Coast and, apparently, this is the time that is best for Stuart.*

If you've not seen The Phantom and/ or don't know anything about The Phantom - all the better.  He's a purple superhero.  That's what you need to know.


  • The Movie:  The Phantom (1995)
  • Day:  April 8th, 2016
  • Time:  9:00 PM Central Time
  • Available:  On Netflix in the U.S.  Everyone else is on their own.
  • Technology:  We'll be on Twitter
  • My handle:  @melbotis
  • Our Tag:  #slamevil
  • Recommended number of drinks before starting:  3 beers/ 2 glasses of wine/ or 2 shots of whatever you've got (our temperate readers will need to just gird their loins)

Let's prepare to SLAM EVIL!


*And who are YOU to question what is best for Stuart?

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: Jim D.

My very first memory of Jim D. is from an evening when I waiting for my Intro to Screenwriting class to start, and this guy behind me said "Hey!  Hey!  Are those comics?" about a pair of comics I had out on my desk.  No idea what they were.  Probably JLA, Invisibles or Preacher at the time.
"Yeah," I said, holding them up.  In film school, I was not much of a talker with people I didn't know.  UT is large, often impersonal and the film department could be competitive in the way everyone scrambling for scraps can be a bit un-fun.
"I used to read comics!" this guy said.  "Marvel!"  I think he mentioned Avengers by name.
This piqued my interest.
We began chatting and the guy was decidedly talkative in a breezy way, and decidedly not a blowhard film school jerk.
After that, we sat together in class, and pal'd around in the subsequent class, and then we both graduated.  He went to law school, I remained in Austin, being a non-lawyer.

As has been mentioned before, Jim and I kept up after graduation via email, and he got me started on all this blogging business.  After years of legal blogging, he's recently returned to blogging about pop culture, music, etc..., and we highly recommend his site.

This is a cross-post from Jim's blog, so if the formatting is a bit wonky, I'm tried of playing with the html he sent my way, but I'm glad he sent it.


elsons


A few years ago, I found myself wandering the streets of downtown Athens, Georgia on a lazy Saturday morning. After dutifully visiting the local record shoppes, I chanced across Bizarro Wuxtry, an old school comic book store located on College Avenue. A wonderful mess, the place offered its customers the opportunity to sift through immense piles of back issues, nostalgia drenched toys and collectibles, and other miscellaneous pop culture debris. As I strolled through the store that day, I suddenly caught sight of an issue of Elson's Presents Super Heroes Comics, the cover of which is depicted above. I was instantly taken aback, as I had been searching for this particular comic book for a number of years. This issue - apparently published in the very early 1980's when "Elson's Gift and News paid DC to repackage some of [its]√°comics" - was the very first comic book I owned. I don't recall very much about the circumstances surrounding its initial acquisition, but I suspect that my father purchased it for me as a gift during one of his business trips. Some Googling confirms that the Elson's franchises catered to business travelers during that time period. Somewhere along the way, my original copy of the issue was lost to the ages (likely misplaced during a move or otherwise purged from my possessions during some vainglorious effort to achieve a more minimalist existence). But three decades later, there it was again, sitting atop a pile of comic books and beckoning to me. Of course, I bought it and relived a few moments of my lost youth.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: Jason C.

We are thrilled to have the participation of Jason C. here for the Gen-X Recollection Project.

Jason is a recently published author, a former co-worker, a former collaborator from my days at Comic Fodder, holds a PhD in English, a software developer and all around good guy.  Oddly, before I met Jason, I'd read part of his dissertation as it made the rounds in the geek-o-sphere as he discussed DC Comics as a collaborative shared universe through the lens of Crisis on Infinite Earths.  It was an odd moment when Jason and I were first chatting at work and I realized he was the guy who wrote that dissertation.*

Also, it turned out Jason was in grad school at the same time as my boss and they're pals.  Sometimes Austin, TX is a very small world.

Recently, Jason published his first novel, Old Green World. which is very reasonably priced at Amazon.

But, enough about me.  Here's Jason's narrative of how things went down.



I don't remember my first comic, but I'll tell you the first comics that I remember. A crisis happened every summer, late in the summer, around when the pool was getting routine. The Justice League would visit every year with the Justice Society. The Justice Society were the old heroes, the aunts and uncles and grandparents from World War II. It was a family reunion. The Justice League lived on Earth-1, and the Justice Society on Earth-2, but they would travel to see one another through a dimensional portal. When the portal went wrong, it was a crisis. The portal always went wrong. Every year.

ed. note:  Owl Man's original costume is insane


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

DC Comics details #DCRebirth, we look at Superman and... So many questions (not necessarily in a good way)

Thank Hera, WW is back in gold.  But what's with the blue boots on Supes?


Over the weekend at something called WonderCon, DC Comics used the Comic Convention platform to do what they used to do back before videogames and movies gentrified CCI/ San Diego - they actually delivered some fairly large comics news.

It's no secret to retailers or readers that DC Comics' line of titles has been in a creative hole of despair for going on 5 years, and sales have taken a related major nose-dive in the past two years despite incentive covers and as much Harley Quinn as DC could print.  The ill-conceived Convergence event of Summer 2015 gave anyone on the fence the opportunity to get the hell out of there, and, abandon DC they did.

It wasn't too hard to figure that after DC moved to the new West Coast offices many things would change, that the real-world stresses of moving would put any ability to react to sales issues on the back burner, but, once everyone was settled, they'd immediately begin planning.

The final product of a few months of brian-storming is now revealed:  DC Comics Rebirth.

So, what is Rebirth?

Monday, March 28, 2016

In Light of "Superman vs: Batman" - What is the Point of Film Criticism?


Batman ponders the Super Package


Although perhaps less so every year in a world of constantly sub-divided attention, movies and television are the modern cultural touchstones.  More than news, political figures or even war, there's nothing like a $400 million dollar movie to get everyone around the world doing the same thing on a Saturday.  International dominance of American cinema means that films transcend boundaries and political ideologies as Hollywood carefully crafts non-political films with standard "good v evil" tropes, without ever casting a particular point of view, aside from "evil menace" as the bad guy.

We aren't all just film viewers, we are all film reviewers.  We see a film, we consider that film against other films, source material and our particular perspective.  Sometimes we write that thought down.  The job requires no credentialing, and while some people are paid to look at movies, sum them up and say a few words about the relative merit of a film, others do this endlessly, fruitlessly on their own (cough), but it is something we all do mentally.  We are all ready to write a column for the local paper.  We all have the best, most nuanced of opinions.

Most of what you see in the press I think of as "reviewers" more than "critics".  Somehow, someway, those folks parlayed an interest in going to a bunch of movies every week into a job where they then must writer 1000 words about that movie.  A review contains a synopsis, who stars in a movie, and some sort of opinion about the movie.  Some make it colorful - and in this era of  anyone with a keyboard having the ability to publish, you gotta write some colorful stuff to get clicks.

How to separate a critic from a reviewer?

Well, a reviewer is a person with a local newspaper column or a website.  It's me.  It's you.  Your aunt who posts things to facebook.

There are two definitions of critic, I think.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: Ryan (It is I! Your humble blogger!)

Howdy!  And welcome to a not terribly special edition of Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project.  Because, it's me.  Writing about me.  And, settle in, kids, because this entry is entirely TL; DR material.

Fair being fair, I thought I'd partake in my own memory-gathering exercise.

The questions I put out there reflect some of what I've pondered of late when it come to how the notion of nerd-dom has changed, and as we watch the world embrace the same culture we reveled in, the same geek-type-stuff that once left us hated and feared by the very world we sought to protect, what it was like in The Before Times.

In putting finger to keyboard, it's a bit hard to think back on the past with genuine honesty.  The period we're talking about - when we got into comics and the fog of raw emotion that dominates your world in middle and high school - is one with which we all grapple.  My primary emotion during those years was "confusion".   Any tertiary emotions stemmed from whether my confusion was increasing or decreasing.

There are folks who read this site who will quibble with my assessment of how things went down, but that's the way of history.  I have tried to adhere to reality, but I know the years have painted over some of the truths, wounds have healed as the memories recede and the decades in between has provided a barricade from the days when everything felt like an open wound.

This may be the longest I've ever worked on a single post in all my years of blogging.  Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, this has also turned out to be one of the longest posts I've ever written.  So, if you're going to read it, go get your coffee now.

And, without further ado...


Howdy, y'all.  It's me.  Your friendly blogger.



Your name: Ryan (yeah.  I'm doing this, too.)
Your current occupation:  I am an Assistant Director at a Digital Library consortium.  My job is essentially "make the things work/ run a team of devs and sys admins/ other duties as assigned"
Your current place of residence: Austin, TX
Your current personal family status: Married, no kids, two dogs, extended family up in my business (everyone lives in town these days)


What was ground zero for you getting into comics/ science-fiction/ fantasy? About what year was that? Do you remember what was going on in your life?


These are the raw materials we were working with

It's probably important to mention, first, that my earliest memories of superherodom are tied to Adam West in Batman, which I reportedly watched in reruns before I could even speak.  As per sci-fi/ fantasy - my parents bought into Star Wars lock, stock and barrel.  My dad took my brother and me to see the first movie during its original theatrical release (take that, parents who aren't sure their two-year-olds can take Uncle Ben's charred skeleton!).  My Mom, who still likes Star Wars, had us in Star Wars wallpaper, figures, bed spreads... all that.  

But, yeah, I suspect I was imprinting on all of that stuff like crazy.

The Admiral took me to see Superman during its initial run (1978), but that took much later.  I vaguely remember watching (and playing) Gatchaman/ G-Force, as well as Super Friends in the late 1970's, and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends.  We had lots of capes around and a few Batman and Spider-Man toys.

The first actual comic books I read included Woody Woodpecker and Bugs Bunny, maybe circa 1981, and I didn't like them.  It felt like the rushed, cheap work it was.  At some point, I got a Clash of the Titans comic book, and I liked that a lot.  Between the funny pages and that comic, I now knew not all comics were necessarily as hacky as the knock-offs of animation.

But none of this was exactly nerdy.  Just a kid consuming nerd-adjacent juvenile pop culture detritus.  However, that was not to last.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Before Comics Were Cool - The Gen-X Recollection Project: My Brother! Jason S.

Well, well, well.

My brother, Jason "Steanso" Steans has decided to show up and get his two-cents in before I have a chance to set the record properly.

There's no doubt that having an older brother was an advantage in getting introduced to things a couple of years before others of my peers and friends.  Jason's almost exactly two years older than me, so we were in the same school sometimes, and close enough in age that we shared interests and did a lot of things together, even if I was on the losing end of any brotherly fist-fights over the years.

When it came to sci-fi, in particular, while growing up, we were often of one mind on what we liked.  We usually had to jointly agree on what movie we were renting until some time in high school, so we had moments like the time we decided to just spend the summer watching James Bond movies.  But he also was the person who told me to check out Evil Dead, brought home a lot of sci-fi classics from the video store, and, as he'll mention, was key in my transport to the comic shoppe once he had a driver's license.

He got into some things I didn't care about, and I was always more of a comics devotee than him.  And he's always been more willing to try on sci-fi TV shows than myself.  But to this day we compare notes on movies and TV, even if we're watching them on separate sofas in our respective homes.

He'll never mention it, but in high school he won a state-wide award for his short story, Death of a Netrunner, his, ahem, homage to the Cyberpunk works of Bruce Sterling, et al.

Here he is.  My brother and nephew, two of my favorite people.

Master Blaster


Your name:  Jason Steans
Your current occupation:  Mental Health Prosecutor- Travis County Attorney’s Office
Your current place of residence:  Austin
Your current personal family status:  Married with one child

What was ground zero for you getting into comics/ science-fiction/ fantasy? About what year was that? Do you remember what was going on in your life?

I don’t honestly remember a time without comic book characters in it. I remember watching the old Batman TV show in syndication when I was like 4 or 5. I remember running around in a Superman Cape while Ryan wore his Batman cape (yes- he used to favor Batman!). I got story books of each of the Star Wars movies and read them so that I already knew the plots when the movies came out. I remember playing Dungeons and Dragons (but probably not getting the rules quite right) in the third or fourth grade. Some of my first driving experiences were to take my brother and one of my friends to comic book shops and comic conventions.

No Country For Old Men: Let's talk about Superman vs. Batman (and initial reviews and whatnot)

All right. The first reviews are in for Superman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice, the much-hyped sequel to Man of Steel that, just there in the title, tells you how little faith Warner Bros. had in their desire for a stand-alone film franchise after making a terrible Superman movie in 2013.

Thanks to Randy, today I've also been thinking about actor Tommy Lee Jones.


How does one wind up with a face like Jones'?  There's a lot going on in that mug.  A lot of years written in the lines, the burned in look of disappointment.  How does one look that tired, that certain he's seen it all, and... yet... still confused how it keeps happening?  And, more so, the certainty it's going to happen again etched upon his brow.

Randy sent me a quote from an interview with Howard Stern, discussed in this article at Cinemablend, that detailed how much, apparently, Tommy Lee Jones hated Jim Carrey, who worked with him on Batman Forever.  Upon meeting Carrey, with whom he was to work the next day, Jones told Carrey:

"I hate you. I really don't like you…I cannot sanction your buffoonery."

That is a man with nothing left to lose and no time for antics.  And that was 20 years ago.

At best that's tangential to why I'm thinking of Jones and his face.  But it informs it.