Thursday, July 22, 2010

Not at Comic-Con

Once again Comic-Con is coming, and once again, I am not going. It's okay. It would be fun, but I'm thinking of getting my feet wet with a smaller con at some point next spring.*

Honestly, it seems like you can get a decent feel for the buzz from sitting back and occasionally checking the comics news websites and reading transcripts. Yes, there are fewer girls dressed as Power Girl or Wonder Woman at my home (Jamie will not comply), but at my home I am usually the only smelly fanboy shooting his mouth off about Jimmy Olsen and Streaky the Supercat, so that's a bit more tolerable.

I thought my folks were in San Diego on a business/ work trip at the same time as Comic-Con, but, alas, that hasn't panned out to be true. I wanted to see The Admiral show up at the convention center dressed as "El Turisto Magnifico".

It's the fanny pack that grants him his super powers. The hat is just for show.

Unfortunately, they're arriving after the CosPlayers and nerds have scattered back to their respective mother's basements across the country. It's a shame, because nothing would have given me more pride than pics of the KareBear with The 501st.

This year should see some interesting announcements from DC as DC Comics is now DC Entertainment and actually a force within the WB film department for the first time. It's known DC has to put out a Superman movie before end of 2012 to keep some movie rights or some such, so I expect some words on that. Plus, GL is coming in 2011, as well as Batman 3, so I'd expect we'll see some info there. And its not crazy to believe we'll hear news on Flash and Wonder Woman. Plus, plenty of other new stuff and updates on projects we knew about, like Tron, Young Justice, etc...

And Helen Mirren will be there to talk about Red. That poor, poor woman.

Dark Horse Comics is sponsoring an event called #NotAtComicCon, basically giving an outlet and a license to nerd-out to those of us who don't go to San Diego once a year. The details are a little sketchy, but its nice to see someone online acknowledge that its a pretty small proportion of the fanbase that actually makes it to ComicCon.

You can also expect for standard news outlets to look to their hipster junior staff to do a story on ComicCon, not guessing that if their staff were inclined to support genuinely informed coverage of ComicCon, they would be AT ComicCon already or asking you for a pass, not to find a local angle. And, of course, the hipster interns who think Chris Ware is Jesus will get to write about how ComicCon is not where to find the good stuff (which is not entirely untrue, but its a little like championing croquet as an alternative on Superbowl weekend).

Anyhow, get ready for your pop culture outlets to be flooded with ComicCon info.

*Keep your ears peeled for a possible Heroes-Con meet up in 2011.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

JH Williams Continuing Batwoman

I loved Greg Rucka and JH Williams' Batwoman run in Detective Comics. And so did, it seem, everybody. But Rucka really wanted to get back to his own books, and so we've had some downtime here, but it looks like JH Williams is picking up where he and Rucka left off with Batwoman in her own title.

Click for the full sized image.

You know, this guy is trying really hard to be my first response when people ask me about my favorite artist.

If you're one of the folks enjoying Batwoman, I highly recommend picking up Promethea, which was written by Alan Moore and ran from about 1998 to the mid 00's. It was widely underappreciated and, I'd argue, misunderstood at the time of its release, but was always worth it just for the visuals.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Writer Discusses Jimmy Olsen Feature

Nick Spenser is writing the upcoming Jimmy Olsen feature which is supporting the Lex Luthor story in Action Comics*, and unlike the endless mess we saw in DC's already forgotten "Countdown", this seems to be an attempt to recapture some of what makes Jimmy the funnest guy in comics.

Finally the answer to the eternal geek question: who would win in a fight, Olsen or Superman?

Read the interview here.

Well, that really is one of the fun things about working on Jimmy's adventures - you can do anything. That's a huge part of his charm, that's he's this normal, usually non-powered guy, but his exploits span pretty much every possible genre and sub-genre out there. There are Jimmy Olsen pirate stories, Jimmy Olsen werewolf name it. He just gets thrown into these absurd, inconceivable situations by virtue of his own thirst for excitement. So we're definitely going to take him in a lot of different directions here.

and I love this:

What I love about Jimmy is that he's a normal guy. Now, people say this about Batman or whoever all the time, and to some degree that's true, but really, Batman is an extraordinary human being, something few, if any, could be. But Jimmy, anyone could be Jimmy.

Anyhow, it does seem that Jimmy is in good hands, what is what you want to know about your favorite characters (I mean, you Dr. Who fans want good writers, a good actor as The Doctor and a reliable companion, right?). So, yeah, I want someone who actually cares about getting it right versus someone taking a writing assignment because it was just an opportunity.

Hooray! Its new Jimmy Olsen.

*If you did not pick up issue #890, you totally should. This is going to be fun.

Weird: It is a shame this is not a real trailer.

I cannot quit reading the descriptions of Harlequin Romance Novels

Apparently Harlequin has decided to go all genre on us. I saw some of these at Borders over the weekend, but I did not... understand... the sheer magnitude...

You can see their line of Paranormal books here.

But i want to point to a random book i clicked on:

Zombie Moon by Lori DeVoti

The description:

Caleb Locke lived for one thing—killing zombies. And this man—this legend—was exactly what Samantha Wagner needed. In mist-shrouded alleys, hunted by zombies, haunted by fear, she vowed to find Caleb and convince him to help her. But she hadn't counted on falling in love….

Caleb kept his own secrets—like the one he couldn't hide when the moon was full. But his wolf was drawn to Samantha, recognizing her as his mate. With her in his arms, Caleb reveled in passion…and rued his deception. Would she still love the man who fought by her side if she realized that zombies weren't the only monsters? Samantha would have to make a choice—and she only had till the next full moon.

Did you get that? It's a book about a lady werewolf who falls for a fearless ZOMBIE HUNTER (and probably a vampire).

This thing is just ten kinds of crazy.

What's really amazing is that apparently there are oodles and oodles of female nerds out there who are not afraid to mix their soft-soft-core reading and hackey recycled monster plots. I am... amazed. The 21st Century has brought us lady-nerds. And they are powerful.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Superman 701

So, I said I was going to review Superman 701, the much ballyhooed start of the John Michael Staczynski era on Superman, scheduled to run 12 issues.

On Friday, I finally made it to Austin Books and picked up the issue.

It's okay. Better than average, I suppose. I quite like Barrow's artwork in the manner of the style that DC seems to have adopted from wholesale from a crew of Brazilian artists.

The issue is a bit complicated to discuss in light of my new solemn vow to not discuss other reviews and what's being said by other fans, but here goes:

JMS is getting as back to basics as possible with Superman, while retaining the current status-quo of Superman. He didn't ask to relaunch the character, drop continuity, depower Superman, insist he never spent time with the Legion... instead, JMS is interested in what it means to have Superman, several years into his career and established as a major figure in the public world, walk among us in full costume.

I say "back to basics", because JMS's take on Superman almost has more in common with Golden and early Silver Age presentations of The Man of Steel. JMS sees Superman as a person taking pleasure in his powers and not hesitating to crack wise or poke fun at others trying to give him a hard time. As Superman is a bit of a Rorschach test for readers, putting any kind of personality on Superman other than earnest farmboy or generic action hero is a bold move on the part of JMS. Many want a Superman who would never have a sarcastic comment or a cutting remark, but Superman is the same guy who used to move the planet around just to keep Lois guessing vis-a-vis the secret identity shtick. He forced arms dealers to fight in their own wars.

For the first few decades of Superman's career, the character also lived and worked among mere mortals. He was truly special in the city of Metropolis, aside from the odd genie Jimmy might accidentally release, or the occasional appearance by a Phantom Zone criminal. In the comics, on the radio, on television, Superman was interacting with us mere mortals, but if we can point to a major change that started even prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths, its that Superman has been less and less likely to spend time during any particular issue face-to-face with anyone not in a spandex suit.

During his run on Action Comics, Geoff Johns did what he could to rehabilitate the almost ghost-like Daily Planet, a structure which, since around 2000 has appeared to exist only to be blown up once or twice a year to kick start a story and to ostensibly give Lois something to do. Too many writers have wanted to leap into the action, and forgotten that the Planet was always the human side of Superman, where the character came to talk with friends and be a part of the world, either as Clark or Superman.

We've seen Superman in space, Superman with the Justice League, Superman hopping between the worlds of the Multi-Verse, Superman fighting New Gods, Coluans and Kryptonians...

Instead, JMS delivers a Superman that walks among people, has a sandwich, talks with them, and helps them in big and small ways.

So... if that's where JMS is starting, I'm not faulting him for that.

Unfortunately, you get the feeling that JMS is so excited by this assignment, so ready to say everything he could possibly say about Superman, that he's not pacing himself.

Its not necessarily wrong to have Superman quote Henry David Thoreau to get the wheels turning, but here, JMS turns Superman into a bit of a lecturer. No better is the well-meaning, but oddly written few lines about how its unfair that notorious personality A gets to live, but beloved personality B had to die. The point JMS was trying to make, and the point of view he seemed to be imparting is a fair and valid one to attribute to the character, but ultimately, its JMS expressing his POV on Superman by telling rather than just showing. In the rush to explain what he's up to, to lay the groundwork for what he has planned, JMS almost talks too much, using Superman as his mouthpiece.

An interesting bit that JMS is bringing to the table is building the groundwork for how Superman interacts with humanity. In small ways, JMS builds a case for how Superman must make decisions about what he does and does not do as a god among mortals. Upon seeing a man in denial about a heart condition and advises the man to see a doctor (and I know has been widely read as a heart attack that Superman walks away from, but which... c'mon, guys... spotting heart trouble and cracking the sound barrier to rush a man to the hospital are two different things), he bows to the knowledge that he can't be everywhere to stop drug dealers but hopes people will stand up for themselves, etc...

And, of course, one can almost guess that JMS didn't read All Star Superman before putting finger to keyboard as he mimics the now famous sequence of Superman talking to a ledge jumper, his scene going on a bit longer than Morrison and Quitely's 1 page word on the subject.

But what the two sequences are presenting are intended to produce two different ideas. Morrison and Quitely elegantly demonstrate that among Superman's greatest powers is his empathy and ability to share strength. JMS (and to a lesser extent, Barrows) seem to be suggesting something about Superman following some sort of inner Prime Directive of allowing humanity to decide for itself.

Its an interesting germ of an idea, and it addresses one of the central questions that arises when you do put away the Metallo's and Parasite's and start considering how Superman can live in a world with flawed beings and not become a tyrant. What are the jobs for a Superman?

My biggest complaint was probably the "Superman faces the drug dealers" sequence. I don't have any problem with Superman staring down dealers or his plan of action, or the dialog. It does help illustrate Superman's "policy" (for lack of a better term), that he will stop one person from over powering another if he can help it, but that he'd prefer that people find the courage to fight for themselves. Unfortunately, the sequence ends when a bunch of black guys get run off to make things safe for a precocious little white kid... That just plays a little (read: a lot) awkwardly.

First issues are always a rough spot, even in the best of circumstances. I'm curious how this will read as the story progresses and JMS's plots and themes begin to more concretely form. Its an intriguing, if occasionally frustrating, first issue.

But its a lot more interesting to read than the entirety of "War of the Supermen".

(editor's note: the material below was added after initial publication)

I read a lot of superhero comics in any given month. As a hobby, I have read them mostly continuously since sixth grade. As much as I would have liked for the post "War of the Supermen" stories see Superman return to Metropolis and get back to the sort of comic we haven't seen in Superman in over a year, I realized how excited I was for a mainstream comic that was doing something a bit different, and not just for a single issue. And how odd it is that "doing something different" is giving a superhero a few minutes away from maniacs in armored suits, laser guns, fragments of alien homeworlds, alien invaders, etc...

So if I give the comic a little extra space, forgive me. I know I can turn to any of 300 different titles on the shelf and get more superhero action than a man can stand. So don't worry, I'm doing that, too (I read Green Lantern and Flash, so I'm covered, thanks).

I'll likely update you cats as to how its going as new issues arrive.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Movies I watched this weekend: Inception, Black Dynamite, The Narrow Margin

Inception: You know, there's quite a bit of good I can say about this one. But I'm not going to. I'm just going to suggest you set aside some money and some time, and go check this one out.

Black Dynamite: Do kids today even know about the Blaxpoitation genre of the 1970's? I'm going to go out on a limb and guess most of them think the world started with the NES, and the answer is no. And maybe that's why Black Dynamite didn't get better promotion and a wider release.

Blaxploitation is a genre I've only skimmed, and I do not claim any expertise. But I went to college in the 1990's, so, yeah, I'm familiar with the concept and how the movies tended to look and feel.

The genre died out, but every once in a while a spoof has come along, with varying degrees of commercial success, and varying degrees of actually being funny. But Black Dynamite was, in fact, pretty damn hilarious, especially if you also spent evenings in college watching Shaft or Black Belt Jones.

And this movie has the advantage of being the most quotable comedy in a long while. Michael Jai White is simply spot on, and even when the movie takes some bizarre turns in the name of comedy, you can still see where they were going, based on the tropes of the genre.

Unlike the other spoofs, such as Undercover Brother, Black Dynamite LOOKS like a Blaxploitation film, and sounds like one throughout. The color is off, the editing is intentionally choppy, and all without really drawing attention to itself.

Anyhow, recommended.

Dude, I have been walking around the house all day, randomly singing "Di-no-mite! Di-no-mite!".

Narrow Margin: A film noir from 1952, Narrow Margin is a fairly straight thriller taking place mostly during a train ride between Chicago and LA as a tough-as-nails cop escorts an undeserving, quick talking mobster's wife across the country to witness to the DA. Of course, a few folks don't want her to make it there alive.

I'll likely watch this one again just to watch Marie Windsor, who plays the mobster's wife, is totally on in the movie, and is given some awesome dialog. I'd seen Windsor in The Killing, and she's pretty darn good there, too.

There's also a really great fight scene in the movie, just really well handled.

It turns out, someone decided to remake Narrow Margin in 1990, but from everything I can tell, they mostly started from scratch. The movie does star Hackman and Anne Archer, so maybe its worth seeing?

The Signal Watch Watches: Inception

So, I had planned to write a long post on Chris Nolan's Inception. I can't. I just really, really enjoyed this movie. I have no complaints, aside from the fact that I had to take a bathroom break, and there was no point in the movie where that I could do so without missing some information.

I am sure the movie had some flaws I could nitpick, or you could take issue with some of the character motivation because it wasn't to your liking (but, you know, Nolan did establish Cobb's character fairly well). And there's likely someone out there who wants to argue with some epistemological angle Nolan took.

Stick it in your ear.

For the first time since, oh... Dark Knight (and, for different reasons, Birdemic) this is the first movie I've been sure I would want to see in the theater a second time. This movie was pretty much exactly up my alley, so... thanks, Mr. Nolan!

No long post on Inception for you people. I'm sure many of you saw the movie over the weekend. Please feel free to sound off.

My Solemn Pledge

I'm going to start making an effort to talk directly about a comic, comic news, etc... and less about fan reaction. Its sort of tedious, and not good for any of us, I think.

And with that: I have no idea what the point of this blog might be anymore.


Batman and Robin is good

One day I am going to make a deal with Jamie, and its going to go like this:

I am going to take some vacation days. I am going to lock myself in the bedroom and ask her to bring me a steady supply of coffee and food, and I am going to read every bit of Grant Morrison's Batman from the past four years, including Final Crisis.

I am not sure that even then I will get everything Morrison tried to do, but... you know, reading this thing in installments over multiple years has dulled my ability to keep every last detail at the front of my mind, and for this story, I kind of think that's required. For me at least.

Anyway, I finally read Batman and Robin #13 today, and... man.

Also, I know someone out there must be annotating the series. I need to find that link.