Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Batman: Under the Red Hood" isn't very good

I'm a fan of most of the WB's animated DC Universe product. It only rarely hits the highs of Justice League Unlimited, but it does a pretty darn good job of telling very comic-centric stories.

To this point, DC and WB have stuck to either condensing stories or characters down to their essence to create an interesting movie (which is how I felt about Wonder Woman and even the expansive Doomsday storyline from Superman), or they've animated adaptations of existing stories with which I was already on board (like New Frontier).

I am not a fan of Judd Winick and find him a middling writer at best (I don't even really like Barry Ween, and its killing me DC put him on Power Girl). Aside from the use of fake-Jason Todd in Hush and Grant Morrison's interpretation of a returned Jason Todd in Batman and Robin, I've been firmly against the move by DC.

As a kid, one of the most memorable comic reading experiences I recall ever having was reading A Death in the Family, the story in which Robin II, aka: Jason Todd, dies. I had been unable to find the issues on the newsstand, and was reading borrowed copies. Despite the fact I knew Todd was killed before opening page 1 made no difference. I stand by the visceral reaction I recall having, and bemoaning my inability to call in (I would have called to save Jason Todd. I thought he was great and a far more interesting guy than Dick Grayson, Robin 1).

All that aside, Winick just isn't the strongest writer at DC. In 2005ish, when Jason re-appeared, DC seemed to have this random assortment of writers on hand that were given assignments based seemingly upon some arbitrary system that had little to do with fan excitement about the writer, and more to do with who the editor's seemed to like.

Winick came to the title and gave himself very little time before he plunged into bringing back Jason Todd, an idea which had likely seemed like a great, missed opportunity when in 2004's Batman: Hush storyline, a master of disguise had masqueraded as Jason Todd, and the fan community went nuts.

I'm a fan of the idea that there are no bad ideas, there is only bad execution. And in this case, the execution went poorly. Winick's reincarnation was uninspired, went nowhere, and left plotholes through which one could safely pilot an Airbus A380 while wearing a blindfold.

In truth, DC didn't seem to know what to do with the character, either, and now that he's alive again, Jason Todd just sort of randomly pops up, filling whatever role as a thorn in Batman's side he needs to this week. And that's the greatest crime of all.

The movie of Under the Red Hood is written by Judd Winick, and every creaky line of dialogue and every "wha---?" illogical plotpoint feels like the slap-dashed writing of the former Real World participant. Winick's tendency to write cliche'd Batman-ese that echoes more talented artists winds up feeling like fanfiction, especially when he tries to cover up holes in his stories with lots of pointless violence and action.

In the format of the movie, even an animated movie, the improbability of Batman's world becomes one of fantastic impossibility, with physics and physiology defying leaps and invulnerability of faces against things like porcelain sinks, surviving point blank bomb explosions, and the dumbest car/ airplane chase sequence I've ever seen in cartoon or comics.

The movie likely requires you have some knowledge of characters like Ra's Al Ghul, and likely Todd himself. Time was that this would have been an issue for Jamie, but its kind of funny/sad that my wife doesn't blink anymore when discussing any of this stuff. To me, the story felt like something plucked midstream out of a year or two's worth of comics, and very incomplete, even as it referenced back story.

But the biggest issue is that (a) like in the comics, nothing particularly interesting actually happens despite a formerly dead side-kick shows up, (b) and there's no mystery at all for the audience as to the identity of the Red Hood. As my brother pointed out "there have only been four characters named in the movie. There's not even any other option." So its got some of the framework of a mystery, but just can't be bothered to go through the motions. But that's okay, because we don't ever really go through the process of the world's greatest detective puzzling it out, anyway. While I think we're supposed to know Batman has deduced the mystery, there's no revelatory sequence other than watching Batman open a piece of software.

I read elsewhere that some folks really liked the action sequences. I did not, and found them just sort of silly for Batman. Maybe in a Spidey cartoon, it would have made sense, but...

Anyhow, its rare I offer up an apology mid-movie and offer to turn it off, but I did so with "Under the Red Hood".

I will say: The bonus features are actually very nice. I'd read a fairly harsh review of the Jonah Hex animated short, but aside from the art team screwing up Hex's scars, I thought it was a pretty good reflection of the character and his Spaghetti Western roots. Its unfortunate some have read the short as misogynistic. The genre operates in such a morally gray (tilted toward darkness) landscape that its much more about survival and survival of the quickest and the deadliest, no matter their weapon. And, of course, about grim consequences of mucking with those deadlier than yourself.

Also, a couple of decent docs on the character of Robin.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Oh, also in September - UT FOOTBALL

We now interrupt the ceaseless line of pop-culture and comics non-sense to divert to one of my favorite topics: College Football is coming!

While I am not disappointed that the Big 12 did not get cracked up and bought and sold (and it seems that, really, the Big 12 Illuminati pulled everyone's strings to get what they wanted all along), we don't know what's going to happen with the Big 12 over the next couple of years.

It's a new year for UT football. The team of Shipley and McCoy has graduated, and we lost some great defensive talent. On local TV here in Austin, I think coach Mack Brown looks a little stressed. He seems to be trying to remind the press that he doesn't have a magical winning machine, and that the players are not the same crew we had and they're going to grow, just like McCoy's squad did over their tenure.

Last year we saw QB Garrett Gilbert as a freshman have to fill in for McCoy in the Championship, and he actually performed pretty darn well. If he plays like that (and continues to improve), and he has some receivers who won't drop the ball...

Honestly, I've no predictions, but maybe you do? SHARE.

I realized that as I was re-reading my note about Intergalactic Nemesis , September 4th sounded like a familiar date. Well, UT kicks off at 2:30pm against the Mighty Rice Owls on September 4th. If you're a fan of football, you're more than welcome to come on over, help me cook up a hot dog and we can drink a cocktail or three.

That may mean I don't make the show, by the way.

Anyhow, Longhorns... Get your horns up!

Two Events at Start of September

1) Intergalactic Nemesis - Live at the Long Center! Honestly, I have no idea what to expect. I knew artists Tim Doyle when he ran now-defunct comic shop Funny Papers circa 2001. I'd pick up his self-published work at the time, and still have copies of Amazing Adult Fantasy and Sally Suckerpunch somewhere.

Here's the description:

Austin’s favorite sci-fi radio thriller comes to life in a entirely new form! Three actors once again portray a variety of characters as sludge-monsters from the Planet Zygon invade the earth. Only this time, their adventures are accompanied by more 1200 drawings by graphic wizard Tim Doyle, projected on the Long Center’s huge screen and accompanied by Graham Reynolds’ original score. Keeping Austin weirdly wonderful!

Tickets are a minimum of $14.99. I'm likely going to do this if anyone wants to come along. September 3rd and 4th.

2) Austin Books Big Annual Sale

It's nerd manna from heaven here in Austin. Each year on Labor Day, Austin Books has a massive sale. A sale that, if not contained, could break mens' minds.

-50 - 90% Off a Chock-Full Selection of Graphic Novels n' Collections (Good stuff, too... not junk!)

-50% Off Backstock Comics! (Back Issue Bins)

-Our Infamous Manga Sale... load up!

-50% Off Hundreds of Incentive & Variant Covers

-Lots more surprises to be announced!

The trade paperback selection is always terrific, and its never less than awesome to rifle through back issues at 1/2 off.

I'm sure Austin Books would love to see you! And you should come on down and see their new addition: a to-scale, shiny, Silver Surfer hanging out over the back issues.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

At Halloween, ANYTHING can be SEXY

I did not make any of these up, by the way.

Brian. You know, the dog from The Family Guy? Yeah.

Cowabunga! You know what needed sexing up? TURTLE POWER!!!! Then again, I think Kevin Eastman married Julie Strain and publishes Heavy Metal these days, so this must seem like part of that continuum...

Yes, that is, in fact, Sexy Female V for Vendetta

I don't even know where to start...

You can't confuse me by changing the Olive Oyl thing this late in the game. I call foul.


I do not want to know what is going on with you if Sexy Big Bird works for you

You cannot unsee Sexy Spongebob Squarepants

Optimus Prime and Bumble Bee

Monday, August 2, 2010


Hi, how are ya?

There are many ways to approach the annual event on the Discovery Channel known as Shark Week. One can ignore it. One can get angry that other people are enjoying the sharks (Randy). One can enjoy a ceaseless array of documentaries detailing nature's most perfect killing machine. One can declare sharks the new monkeys or pirates or bacon or whatever.

As a kid, I watched the heck out of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom (which led me to believe Omaha was an exotic place and Mutual of Omaha a totally cool company), and I watched a hell of a lot of Jacques Cousteau. I was born the year of the release of Jaws, and so sharks were sort of in the zeitgeist while we were growing up. Jason and I checked out the same shark books repeatedly at the library. We owned a few shark books. We had at least two action figure sets that I can remember which were about nothing but sea-exploring,* which really meant shark watching.

If this is how I go out, just know that my last thought was "THIS IS SO AWESOME"

Collecting shark facts wasn't that uncommon for us kids growing up. They could smell blood from a mile away. Their noses could sense electrical impulses. if you checked the contents of their stomach, you could find everything in there from fish, to a license plate to half a dog. Sharks had rows of teeth.

So, in short, I was pre-disposed to an interest in sharks. They were enormous, relentless things that wanted to eat me, and they were there, just beneath the waves.

Discovery Channel seemed to pioneer the best footage of sharks you were likely to see. I actually remember the first Shark Week I watched circa the summer or 1992. The KareBear had left town, and it was me, Jason and The Admiral left behind, and every night I'd watch a different shark documentary. And it was awesome.

My interest has waxed and waned over the years. I still like a good aerial stunt from a Great White taking out a seal. But, you know, a whole week is a lot of sharks.

This year, I'm watching some of Discovery Channel's Shark Week, as well as hitting both the Jaws documentary The Shark is Still Working and a screening of Jaws at the Ritz.

So, anyway, I think to over explain Shark Week is to over explain anything that comes on TV. Why do you like baseball? Law & Order? How can you watch anything on TV with roughly the same subject?

I dunno. The sharks are interesting. Always have been. Always will be. Watching humans interact with sharks, or watching sharks hunt, travel, leap out of the sea? All good stuff.

So, happy Shark Week, everybody.

*It occurs to me that a lot of the sharks we had that we used to play with these toys must have been cheap rubber sharks from the bin at the grocery.

But we totally had these sets:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Tiffany v. Debbie Gibson

From the upcoming Mega-Python vs. Gatoroid.

Tiffany and Gibson do not play the Mega-Python or Gatoroid. But it does not mean they cannot get into a smack-down.