Saturday, June 5, 2010

Iron Man buying back issues

On the list of things that would make me flip my lid, running into Robert Downey Jr. buying Avengers back issues is pretty high up on the list.

That's probably right behind "ScarJo buying back issues" and "Gene Hackman buying back issues of Superman", but for very different reasons.

Also behind this link to Bleeding Cool? Whatever happened to The Star Wars Kid? All I'm saying is: it explains a lot about Ransom.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Make Yourself a "Toy Story" Toy

With Toy Story 3 en route (which I will totally see twice. I think Woody and Buzz are a hoot.), the marketing company has created a "make yourself a toy" page.

It was hard to capture my natural, panda-like shape.


Weekly Watch Wind: 06/04/2010

For nigh-daily linking goodness, bookmark and RSS feed: - Randy leaves a trail of his internet wanderings
zee... zee... zee... - dispatches of the fascinating from me, Ryan S.

Music/ Dames: Randy posted this one for me under the title "Oh, So Ryan S.". Christina Hendricks in a Broken Bells video playing an android in space.

Well done, Randy. Well done.

Comics/ I am Not Buying This: great googledy-moogledy, do people ever have it in for this "Rise of Arsenal" comic. It's a sequel of sorts to the abysmal "Justice League: Cry Justice", but by a different writer, and seems to embody pretty much everything that drives me nuts about the post-Watchmen/ DKR world of comics as writers and editors mistake adult elements in their stories for "edgy" writing.

Another great post on the topic here.

Real Life/ Superheroes: You're likely aware that visitors to Hollywood can stop by Mann's Chinese Theater to have their picture taken with actors dressed as movie stars and superheroes. Well, they could do that, but now its against the law to panhandle dressed as Batman. All those folks from "Confessions of a Superhero" are now out of a place to work. No word yet from the LAPD in response to questions about how a superhero is supposed to get a break in this economy.

Green Lantern/ Scooby Doo: As a rule, I kind of hate Scooby Doo unless he's teaming with Batman, the Harlem Globe Trotters, Don Knotts or Cher. But a recent issue of the comic (produced at DC Comics) is a sly nod to DC's "Blackest Night" Green Lantern titles, and will likely become the most sought after back-issue of the event as nobody got the joke... until now.

Political Cartoons/ History: I always think America's history and how we dealt with the Irish to be fascinating, especially in light of our ongoing immigration debate. Here's a look at some political cartoons around the Irish from "the good old days" people are always referring to.

Comics/ Television: Robert Kirkman's now long-running comic series "The Walking Dead" is coming to television! Very soon!

Batman/ Video Games: I hope this comes to the Wii. A Batman video game based on Cartoon Network's totally awesome series Batman: The Brave and the Bold.

DC Comics/ Fashion: A quick look at me on any given day will tell you that I've less than a keen grip on the world of fashion. And I think its true that my comic-reading brethren are vibrating at a different fashion frequency than (insert designer's name here. I don't know any.), but we look spectacular together in our sea of superhero wear (I'm wearing a Superman t-shirt as I type this). I can tell you that the standard geek wardrobe is fairly inexpensive and functional. So I find it curious someone licensed DC Comics characters for extremely pricey couture. Also, here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Adam West at the Paramount: 2pm on Sunday!

hey Signal Watchers!

Adam West will be in Austin at the Paramount Theater hosting a screening of the classic "Batman" movie starring he, Burt Ward, a rubber shark, a bomb, and more villains than you can shake a stick at.

If you want to join us, pick up your tickets now!

We'll announce pre-show meals, etc... before end of the week!

War of the Supermen and the End of New Krypton

So, I finally sat down last night and read all four issues of the concluding chapter to the epic New Krypton storyline in the Superman titles, "War of the Supermen". In many ways, these four issues were the conclusion to roughly four years of Superman comics, beginning with the "Up, Up and Away" storyline which was released in the summer of 2006 (coinciding with the release of Superman Returns).

I give editor Matt Idleson credit for trying to manage such a monumental task. Tying together four years worth of comics into one massive plotline (and having to already ret-con much of the Kurt Busiek material as the books found their way post-Infinite Crisis), can't have been easy. Furthermore, having to manage one of those years without Clark Kent/ Superman in his two flagship titles must have been near-misery. But the fact of the matter is that at the end of the day, you could practically hear the grinding of DC's editorial gears over every other line of dialog, character moment, story beat, and even the action sequences.

I am not disappointed with the past four years worth of Superman comics, so let's make that clear. But "War of the Supermen", a capstone I'd been looking forward to for five or six months, wound up a rushed mess that didn't service what I had enjoyed in the build up. My concern is that because sales slid (considerably), the interesting bits that were established will be completely forgotten in a few years, aside from reintroducing General Zod to the DCU (without flailing about as the Superman books did with the character post-Crisis on Infinite Earths).

SPOILER ALERTS rest of article

Frankly, I cannot believe that DC is reverting to the shock and body count factor that was creeping in to the DCU comics in the years prior to 9/11. And I can't believe that DC introduced new characters and a form of Kandor fans found fascinating, and then proceeded to kill everyone involved. At least in the way that the story spun out.

In the mid-90's, I identified as a James Robinson fan. I read Starman and thought his comic The Golden Age was peachy-keen. But whatever spark marked those series (which, honestly, don't hold up terribly well even now), has gone out of his writing. I'm less likely to blame co-writer and Geoff Johns mentee, Sterling Gates, as I'm inclined to believe Robinson is Didio's golden boy at the moment and the senior writer in the room.

But if I must list some of my complaints:

(a) DC apparently has no idea what a big moment of heroism looks like anymore, and that Superman basically ran around for four issues randomly punching things with absolutely no effect whatsoever, and was somewhat pointless in his own series for what is now over a full calendar year. Robinson and Gates had such an opportunity for such a great showdown between Superman and Zod in public, with so many options for how the war was to end, and instead the characters sort of slapped at each other until they left the stage and resolved nothing. Things occurring is not the same as things happening.

(b) Almost nothing that happened in Action Comics or Superman for the past 12 issues (or possibly 24 issues) is going to matter come July.

(c) Actively working against re-establishing the world of Metropolis that Johns and Busiek had gone to pains to reinstate after years of neglect.

(d) Any message that could have been distilled from the story aside from "look, we're using all kinds of DC properties" was extremely distorted by the pointless, characterless General Lane.

(e) How many pardons, exactly, is Lex Luthor supposed to get after abusing the presidency by framing Superman (etc...), killing thousands with the Everyman Project and then trying to nuke Metropolis with a stolen Krytonian ship? Jesus, give the readers some credit.

I have only an inkling of what sort of top-down mandates the creative teams were forced to deal with. Certainly losing Geoff Johns on Action Comics just as the storyline was gelling couldn't have helped, but at some point, it has to be Idleson's job as an editor to stand back and ask if the story they're telling is working or is, in fact, a good idea. Certainly by winter this year, it didn't seem as if anything that was happening in the Superman line was a good idea.

Realistically, DC (and Idleson) knew that this wasn't working as planned, and so they decided to clear the boards in time for Superman #700, which arrives on June 23rd. DC obviously knew it had a major problem on its hands with the series or I suspect the usual comics online outlets would have been filled with a lot more coverage of an "event".

Oddly, while a few plot points were certainly dropped, they did at least try to tie up most of the storylines, hedging with basic lip service (even, sort of, the Atlas/ Steel conflict). So I give credit where its due. DC also firmly retrenched the Legion of Super-Heroes into the DCU, with the unique solution of telling stories of the teen Legion in Adventure Comics (where they belong) and giving the adult Legion their own title (as well as creating some new and interesting history for the DCU).

Most frustrating is that the prior chapter to "War of the Supermen", "Last Stand of New Krypton", was surprisingly more fulfilling, even it was also mostly characters racing from battle to battle (which is, by the way DC, getting really old). For the scale of the story, I have to think that even with a four issue finale, better writer/s (I'm still looking at Robinson here) would have delivered an ending that didn't just tie up plot points, but that respected the readers a bit more. And if they couldn't do it, then they should have found a way to end it with "Last Stand of New Krypton".

We'll see what June brings for the Superman titles. Certainly the last four years were full of highs and lows, and I certainly enjoyed many aspects of the storytelling, from the re-establishment of continuity to a point where it makes an inkling of sense, to the establishment of a roster of villains worthy of Superman with Luthor at the center.

In June the Superman titles are changing direction somewhat as new creative teams are taking over Action Comics and Superman. Established sci-fi writer Paul Cornell and artist Pete Woods are coming to Action (who is actually focusing on Lex Luthor for his first arc), and at Superman, we'll see J. Michael Staczynski with artist Eddy Barrows (I've no idea what they plan to do, I've been avoiding spoilers).

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

DC Online Set for November

Well, we've only been hearing about it for five or more years, but the DC Comics Massive Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Game should be hitting in time for Christmas. Which means, I can start figuring out what platform I'm going to play this thing on. I don't really want a PS3, but its cheaper than buying a new computer, I guess.

The game promises to let players design their own characters and take to the streets alongside their favorite DCU heroes. The game has had plenty of other predecessors to blaze a path, and they have to have heard fan questions and reactions long enough to understand expectations. Setting the game in the DCU certainly raises the ante, as so many will have sky-high hopes of team-ups with Superman, Batman, etc... And this writer will be very sad if he never sees Jimmy Olsen in action.

Reading Comics: The Damned

The Damned, Volume 1: Three Days Dead
Writer: Cullen Bunn
Artists: Brian Hurtt

On Free Comic Book Day this year, I was fortunate enough to interview and then meet the creators of The Sixth Gun from Oni Press. At that time I picked up their previous effort from Oni, The Damned Vol. 1. I do want to acknowledge the generosity of writer Cullen Bunn and artist Brian Hurtt in previously submitting to an interview.

The Damned takes place is a world where the demons of the underworld (horned, bestial, but mostly roughly humanoid) are alive and well and have integrated seamlessly into the criminal underworld of a Prohibition-era America. Crime bosses tend to have ram-like horns and sign deals in blood. The narrative leaves it unclear in this volume exactly how long demons have been up to no good in the mortal world, or exactly how much John Q. Public knows about who, exactly, is running rackets in their city as "mortals" are seamlessly integrated into the mob. It's an open question, but the treatment of the topic is so matter-of-fact, exploring those issues was obviously planned to be left to later stories.

Our protagonist, a more-or-less-mortal named "Eddie" employs a unique talent, acquired when Eddie sold his soul for some favor and became cursed. He can be killed, and die, but the instant someone touches him, they take on his latest wound. Death has become an inconvenience for Eddie, and occasionally a useful tool in his profession. Hired by a mob boss to track down a missing demon in town to negotiate a deal between two gangs, Eddie stumbles onto a bit of a mystery that could result in the eruption of gang war.

Fans of The Coen Brothers film, Miller's Crossing, or readers of the works of Dashiell Hammett, will very quickly begin to recognize the style employed by Bunn, in structure, dialog and the types of characters that dominate the story. It's a risky choice to reflect works as beloved as Continental Op stories, or a film as well known as Miller's Crossing. Fortunately, Bunn's narrative doesn't simply follow the beats of better-known works, especially as the mix of plots includes a supernatural bent, and a distinctly supernatural B-plot you aren't going to find in a Hammett novel.

The tale isn't quite as overly complicated as, say, Red Harvest or The Dain Curse. It would be interesting to see Bunn flex his muscles and see how close he could get, but in comics there's always a page-count per-issue to worry about, as well as how many issues the publisher is willing to support. In the pages he's got, and with all of the balls that Bunn is juggling in the story, with multiple plots, characters and their relationships to detail, I think he does pretty darn well.

The dialog follows the snappy patter of the genre, including homage to the tough guy slang in other works, and I do like most of the characters, given the amount of time most have to establish themselves. Eddie is a bit of an open book, and its clear Bunn intended for his story to unravel in subsequent volumes. Like many crime-novel protagonists, he's an insider, and its hard not to like Eddie's cynical, world-weary (even in a world with horned mob bosses) acceptance of his lot, but, of course, Eddie's got a past and something of a heart, and those things don't usually help characters in stories like these.

As a guy who likes to doodle, I can't really say how much I envy Brain Hurtt's style. While I have no doubt his work is slightly more detailed in The Sixth Gun, I continue to be wowed by his ability to stay on model with characters that skew cartoony (in comparison to, say, an Ivan Reis) while using the looseness of the style to articulate more with his characters than 90% of the heroic posing of DC's B-list hero books. I'm just a big fan of this guy, and need to re-crack my Queen & Country collections as he was responsible for art chores on some rotations through the series.

As a fan of the crime/ gangster genre, and someone known to read a fair amount of fantasy work, I found the book a fun read. While enough of a puzzle to keep it interesting, the story never feels bogged down by what could have been lots of exposition or set-up. The world Bunn and Hurtt create is an enticing one, and one that seems could carry on for a few more tales. The story seems to be arching its way toward a series by the conclusion of the first collection, and with or without Eddie along, its not too hard to imagine how Bunn and Hurtt could expand on the premise.

While they're currently set to work on The Sixth Gun, one must assume that a trade of the second run of The Damned comics is coming, which I look forward to picking up.

In the meantime, I recommend hitting your local comics shop to check out Bunn and Hurtt's comic for yourself.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

Psycho: Dinner and a Movie?


Apparently, Lucy the Dog has taken ill.

One of the most influential films of all time, Psycho, will be showing at the Paramount Theatre in Austin at 7:00 on Tuesday.

Jamie and I will be joining Heather "Mad Dog" Wagner at the Hickory Street Bar and Grill at 5:45ish, prior to the show.

If you've got the time and want to meet up prior to the show or at the show, we'd love to see you.

Come join us. It'll be a scream.

One Day I will See "Sex and the City 2"

Around 2000 or 2001, Jamie and I splurged and got HBO. At the time, we were watching "Six Feet Under", and I believe "Sex and the City" came on directly after "Six Feet Under". At the time, people were nutso for the show. On the promise that there might be some nudity, what with the title, and because 3/4's of the stars had appeared in other stuff I'd liked*, I gave it a whirl a few times. I realized immediately that the show was clearly not aimed at me or my demographic. Let's make this clear, because I really want to acknowledge that I know this show is not for me. Because it was new, supposedly frankly discussed sex from a woman's point of view (I have no idea), and catered to a certain, mostly untapped demographic's fantasy world the way Star Trek catered to my own, the show had taken off like wildfire. At the time the show had some how galvanized critics to support what, to my 20's-self, felt like a bizarre black-comedy celebrating a mirror opposite of everything I'd just spent 5 years of RTF school learning was no longer acceptable in mass media in a post-ERA world. But I got it then and I get it now. The show was a trailblazer for an audience that felt underrepresented, that reflected attitudes and lifestyles which either didn't make it to the small screen, or were not portrayed as something upheld by protagonists. Add a cyborg, an ape and a flying tank, and I'm still not sure I'd think this was for me. I don't even remember which show I used to watch, but once "SATC" hit syndication, it used to come on after that program, sometime around 10:30pm. I'd be blogging or surfing the internets, and realize I had just sort of watched a whole episode of "SATC". Mostly, honestly, the show rolls off me like an episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond". I can follow the plot without really watching, the characters are sort of preprogrammed enough that nothing ever seemed too complicated, and it all played out like a very expensive show where the characters seemed to continually learn new life lessons that it would seem brighter people would have figured out at a younger age or would have been able to intuit without the adventure of the episode. But, again, the show was never aimed at me. It featured no robots, spaceships or anything called a "Gorn". I'll never forget that episode where Samantha had sex with William Shatner This post is my very long way of explaining that, somehow, I've seen an inordinate amount of "SATC", don't particularly love it, but seem to know an amazing amount about the show whether I like it or not, even though I've never seen two episodes in order. Frankly, having watched enough of the show, I don't buy that criticism of "SATC" is automatically misogynistic, or that pointing out that the characters seem a bit immature is somehow attacking women's enjoyment of sex at any age. It's that the dithering of the characters is the point of show, and at some point, when its all you see of the characters rather than them actually doing anything, it becomes annoying. How seriously are we supposed to find a protagonist whose primary preoccupation is stated to be designer shoes and who keeps coming back romantically to a guy whose primary feature seems to be his ability to pay for those shoes? Obviously as of this writing, I have not yet seen "Sex and the City 2". The movie has taken some lumps from critics (I'll eat my hat if that effects box office). Mostly, the movie is being attacked for what sounds like its insistence that the characters haven't matured beyond the characters the audience watched for several years of the show. Or from the last movie (a movie whose denouement was found when our lead's romantic misgivings were resolved when she received an email from her wealthy admirer that said "I know I screwed up" and nothing else). Anyhow, I'm just wondering if whatever doors SATC opened have been ajar long enough that the rest of trappings of the show, and the characters themselves, haven't begun to grate a bit. If we can retroactively condemn the western genre for its sexism, racism, etc... then I think we get a second look at "SATC" through several years of better roles and different mores. But I still doubt we'll agree that is behavior A = misogyny, then behavior A = misandry, or that cosmos + expensive shoes + locker room talk ≠ third wave feminism.** I'd be remiss if I did not mention I watched the first movie in a hotel room in Minneapolis. While flipping channels I came upon the start of the wedding scene, which, in most narratives, happens at the end of the film, and so I left the TV on that channel to witness the nuptials for "SATC" and perhaps watch the narrative of the show draw to a close. However, that turned out to be the beginning of the movie, which I watched while writing the now infamous Chuck E. Cheese post. No, no, no... its only empowering if you do this in your living room in a rumpled t-shirt and lip-synching or singing into a hairbrush. Preferably to Gloria Gaynor. As long as I'm blogging, it seems that I will wind up watching "Sex and the City". So, this weekend that Jamie and Steanso were a bit surprised to hear me state, factually, that sooner or later I would watch this movie. I won't try to see it, but eventually I'll end up goofing around on a computer, maybe in a hotel room, and on will come those fabulous four women and their plotlines and concerns that are more alien to me than Pon Farr. *Samantha was played by Kim Cattrall of "Police Academy", "Mannequin" and "Big Trouble in Little China" fame. Cynthia Nixon had played the love interest in "The Manhattan Project". Sarah Jessica Parker had been in "Mars Attacks", "Ed Wood", "Honeymoon in Vegas" and several other projects. **Did you know that after the age of, say, 19, most guys are actually a little put off by their friends who try to talk about their sex lives? Let alone over lunch? (and we usually ask them to stop)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day

We're breaking for Memorial Day. We'll be back Tuesday.

Zee... Zee... Zee...

So... I am unsure if The Signal Corps care at all about the Weekly Watch Wind thing I've been doing on Fridays (frankly, the hits to The Watch Wind are low, but I can't tell if that's because it goes up on Friday or if its because nobody gives a rip). In addition to the Weekly Watch Wind, I've also decided to begin linking items as they pop up on my radar on a separate blog, and then posting the RSS feed in the content column on the left. You'll also find Randy's RSS feed.

Anyhow, if you're interested, you can subscribe to the RSS feed from zee... zee... zee..., click from this site, go to the actual blogger location, or ignore it altogether.

While I'll certainly write posts about certain links, don't expect actual content at zee... zee... zee... Just think of it as amusing junk I've decided to share.