Saturday, August 14, 2010

So Long to "At the Movies"

Nathan C. has talked a bit about this topic, but At the Movies airs its final episode this weekend.

Yes, the show ran for 35 years. Which means it aired as long as I've been alive. It's been spoofed everywhere in popular culture (I liked the Animaniacs episode, in particular), imitated endlessly, and championed movies both big and small. Lots of people are eulogizing the end of the program, and I recommend looking around for those articles.

The show took a hit when Gene Siskel passed in 1999, and another when Roger Ebert had to step away from the cameras in 2006 when he became ill (I never heard what became of Roeper). I felt like the past year, the show was returning to its Siskel & Ebert hey-day under Scott & Phillips after not caring for the awkward Lyons and Mankiewicz team. In an era when you can confirm or deny your suspicions by surfing to, and every jerk with a blogger account can shoot his mouth off (ahem), "At the Movies" fell off as a cultural touchstone. And, of course, Siskel & Ebert had become such icons, losing both left viewers wondering why the rotating cast of characters, etc...

One thing I love in the comment section here at Signal Watch (or back at League of Melbotis), is the spirited debate that can carry on in the comment section when discussing the merits or problems of a movie. Loving movies does not mean that there's a body of work that's always going to be agreed upon, and the two-headed monster of "At the Movies" was always the best indication that even the people who've seen it all won't agree, and those debates aren't concocted just for good TV. The hosts always truly believed what they said, and could mount a spirited defense (or offense), and left it to the viewer to vote with their wallet.

Although I was not likely to tune in every week, I can honestly say the show would often convince me to see or avoid movies (and I still check in with Ebert's online reviews. The man is just a punchy writer) far more than even word-of-mouth from friends and family.*

Sadly, the balcony is now closed. At least on the Buena Vista Television syndicated program. I wouldn't be too surprised to see current hosts Scott and Phillips find a new home and carry on elsewhere. Clearly, they're having a ball.

*You guys are great, but its often tough to come back later and have to explain why I didn't love "Cats and Dogs 3D" after you'd given it such a ringing endorsement.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Batwoman Ongoing Series in November

We interrupt your regularly scheduled websurfing to point to the announcement regarding the date on the all-new Batwoman series.

From Robot 6

If you wonder why I am excited, here's Simon's post from just today on the superlative Batwoman run in Detective Comics, now collected as Batwoman: Elegy.

Checking in...

So. We've been back and blogging here for a while.

Any topics you want to see that aren't being covered? Anything you miss from the good old days at League of Melbotis?

Just ping me in the comments or via email and let me know.

Jamie is back (with Bacon Salt)

My always amazing wife, Troubles McSteans, has posted a new video taste test.

You know what day it is

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Few Items: Brighton Rock, DC Comics Doc, Hoax

Brighton Rock

Went to go see Brighton Rock, a British movie of the film noir genre. Pretty darn good stuff. I found myself oddly immersed in the movie, and really liked the rising intensity of the film.

Weird thing about British noir... a lot fewer guns.

Also, looks like they're remaking the movie with Helen Mirren as Ida.

That sounds like it could be interesting. And you should be allowed to remake most movies every 60 years or so (most, not all).

DC Comics Documentary

Well, pretty clearly I will buy this.

To celebrate 75 years of the various companies that now fly under the flag of DC Comics, Warner Bros. is releasing a doc talking about DC's heroes in comics, media and culture. And there's some terrific Gary Frank art on the cover.

see, terrific Gary Frank art

What Was the Point of That?

It's one thing when you hoax everyone and convince them that maybe you have a Bigfoot in your fridge. After all, if anyone believed you had a Bigfoot in your fridge to begin with, you can probably guess they're used to disappointment at this point, anyhow.

But if I tell you "I have a pair of red shoes at home" and then, that afternoon say "no I didn't!", you're not hoaxing, you're lying. And while lying to certain people (police, judges, waitresses at Macaroni Grill, your spouse) isn't just okay, it's hilarious... simply misrepresenting the truth isn't really a "hoax", nor is it even funny. And when you're running a comedy site, your job is to be funny.

You may recall that yesterday, at wacky links site Randy and I share, we posted about the nutty girl who found a great way to quit her job? And you thought: Wow! That's really great and hilarious! Even if a "garbage dispenser" makes it sound like garbage is coming out of the trashcan, which makes no sense, but... whatever. That girl has moxie!

Only to find out: HA HA, THAT NEVER HAPPENED AT ALL!!! We totally made that thing up, because it WOULD be awesome if it happened. Also, we wanted to take pictures of good looking young women. And while it temporarily drove up hits, and we've forgotten that one basic tenet of comedy is that "it's funny because it's true", we totally bet when people think (which, you know, sounds like, and those guys made it work), you're totally going to think "oh, those cads! They're quite the scamps! I should check in and see what shenanigans and charades they've concocted this time to tickle my funny bone!"

Oh, well.

It was kind of overshadowed by the very real case of the flight attendant popping a cold one and exiting the plane action-hero style. Now THAT GUY is awesome.

No Post. Went to see "The Keep".

I hadn't seen this movie since middle school, but remembered really liking it as a kid.

Music by Tangerine Dream. Ian KcKellan. Gabriel Byrne. Scott Glenn. Directed by Michael Mann. A big, scary fortress of black granite. Nazis.

Why have you never heard of this movie?

Well, its not... very good. It may be telling that movie never received a DVD or Blu-Ray release. Apparently the studio doesn't even have a rental copy, so we watched the studio's archival copy (ie: their one copy. Srsly.). I am starting to think The Alamo must have a pretty special reputation if they're getting archival copies to show.

Then again: this is a movie nobody ever sees, and it SOLD OUT this evening at The Ritz. I kind of wonder how much the studios watch stuff like this they send out to The Alamo, trying to figure out if there's a geek audience out there that wants this stuff. Apparently, that's the reason you can get Monster Squad on DVD at all.

Anyhow, thanks to SimonUK for encouraging me to go.

editor's note: by the way, I still enjoyed the hell out of this movie. I may recognize its kind of odd and flawed, but it sort of fits in my wheelhouse

here's Wikipedia on the movie.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I guess they've redesigned Batman's costume a little

So in reading two separate Batman comic-news related bits, I couldn't help but notice that DC seems to have maybe moved to David Finch's Batman: Earth One design for Batman in the mainline titles.

It's not a drastic redesign. Mostly, Batman's belt looks a little different and we see the return of the yellow oval bat symbol on the chest. Also, look! Where are his blue trunks? It's like he's bat-nude!

From the announcement art on Batman: Earth One.

From today's article about Batman, Inc.

Also from the Batman, Inc. article, but it looks like this may be some canned art from Batman: Earth One

article on Batman: Earth One at The Beat.

article on Batman, Inc.

Who knows, though, really. In watching the Robin documentary on the Red Hood DVD, the editors had cut in many shots of the wrong costume, wrong Robin, etc... interrupting the flow of the video for anyone who ever read a Batman comic and wondered "why do they keep showing Tim Drake when they're talking about Dick Grayson"?

My suspicion is that someone has Earth One art lying about and had to use it as its the only art anyone has on hand with the yellow, oval bat symbol Morrison was talking about.

Green Lantern Movie: Kilowog Pic Now Up for Viewing

man, I hope this isn't just someone pulling my leg.

My only surprise is that the eyes aren't black and red, but... whatever.

So, Kilowog is this big, hippo-like guy who is sort of a drill sergeant for newbie Green Lanterns. He lovingly refers to them as "Poozers". Its hilarious. Trust me.

Looks like they kept the look intact, and that's no mean feat. It also speaks well that DC is likely keeping their hands in the mix and that we can expect some fidelity between comics, cartoons and the new movie.

Comic Alliance article.

The Signal Watch: Corrupting Young Minds

So... Sunday I rolled out of bed, looked at my Blackberry and saw that a high school student had asked if she could interview me for a paper she was writing for school on the concept of heroes vs. anti-heroes. It seemed as if she was going to be comparing and contrasting Superman and Marvel's The Punisher.

She had found me through an old article at Comic Fodder, the glibly titled Superman: Not Complex or Cool

Unfortunately, it seems that I am not the clever writer I believed myself to be, and the article had read to our young scholar as a treatise on why I didn't like Superman. The article was intended to explaining my feelings on Superman as a middle and high schooler and how Superman struck me as a younger person.

As we progressed, it seemed to me that our interviewer was being helping, asking questions about why Superman might now be irrelevant in comparison to a more modern hero, such as The Punisher. However, I was unable to answer the questions in a way which she might have found useful to support her thesis.

I realize that (a) yes, I was over-writing, but that I felt the need to discuss the position of the less edgy heroes, which have all but disappeared from existence. And that (b) this student was going to toss my responses immediately into the waste bin. Which, of course, is part of the research process. Hopefully this represents more of my time wasted and less of her own.

Before responding, I asked approval to repost my responses here, and the permission was given. So, here goes:

Everything below is from the email I sent back in response to my list of questions.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

I think its important to note: some of the article I wrote was reconciling how I had initially come to Superman as a kid, and how my impressions of Superman changed over the years, often using exaggerated declarative statements to emulate the enthusiastic certainty of a 13-year old who feels like he's unlocked a great secret. Until I was in college, I would squirm when people knew I was into comics and would ask if I liked Superman. Today, I am an enthusiastic Superman fan and collector of all things Superman. I truly like Superman as a pop figure icon, a curious American insertion into the zeitgeist, and as a symbol of power used for doing the right thing.

I hope my answers are helpful. However, from the angle of many of your questions, I suspect that my responses will not be useful in writing your paper. I more than understand if you choose not to use any of what I wrote below.

1.The 1978 New York Times review on Donner's "Superman: The Movie" labelled him "good, clean, simple-minded fun". Do you think this kind of hero would be practical in today's society? Especially where achieving justice in concerned?

It's difficult to fully explain that in 1978, superheroes were largely considered adolescent entertainment, and that enjoyment of superheroes by an adult suggested mental incompetence, emotional immaturity, and/ or certain deviance from accepted social norms. Canby's review is not incorrect (it's an opinion, after all), but it's also emblematic of the prevailing attitudes surrounding superheroes and comic heroes by several generations, and which superheroes only recently seem to have shed, in part. Keep in mind, this review was written only 12 years after the campy Adam West Batman television series and Donner's version of Superman in 1978 and about 20 years after the US Congress put comics on trial for corrupting the youth of America. For context, I highly recommend David Hajdu's "The Ten-Cent Plague" and "Men of Tomorrow" by Gerard Jones.

Your query can raise the question of "what is justice?", which is a very malleable concept. Some believe justice is revenge. Others might believe justice is that which you're able to demonstrably prove a case, allowing for a system of laws and directives to prove (as best as fallible humans can) that a person is innocent or guilty and deserves the fate which awaits them for their acts.

Superman, as he appears in the 1978 Donner film, is interested in the second form of justice. He does not kill Luthor for killing. Instead, he delivers Luthor and Otis to the proper authorities to stand trial and let the courts decide the fate of a near-mass murderer.

Just today I watched Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight". In "The Dark Knight", Batman chooses not to kill The Joker, even after The Joker has killed many, many people, caused havoc across Gotham, placed people in impossible situations (such as choosing to blow up the other ferry), and killed the woman Batman has always loved (he will later learn that The Joker has also corrupted the one man who could have cleaned up Gotham without a mask). Batman chooses to let law and order govern his actions, letting the courts handle the situation.

We might accept The Joker as a reflection of our times more than we would a slightly daffy villain like Lex Luthor, but the end result is the same. These characters do not represent revenge, they represent "justice".

Its unclear that any superhero is "practical" in any society. Unlicensed, anonymous vigilantism is always difficult to support. However, if we look at the sorts of activities we see occurring on the screen in "Superman: The Movie", I have a hard time believing that anything Superman does is impractical (well, saving that cat from the tree... But we can assume Superman had some free time.). He uses his abilities to stop robberies, keep a neighborhood from being washed away, keep California from falling into the ocean, saves a train load of people, etc... not necessarily acts of "justice", but certainly acts of heroism. If doing good because one can is irrelevant in 2010, I'm ready to get off this rock.

2. In your article, you said that after reading "Dark Knight Returns", you saw Superman for what he was: "A chump. A patsy. Powerful but dim-witted". In what way? What was it about the "Dark Knight Returns" that made you come to this conclusion?

I was 12 or 13 when I read "Dark Knight Returns", and I no longer hold the conviction that Superman is any of those things. Frank Miller wrote DKR from the perspective of the very bright, very driven Batman. Batman did not have Superman's advantages or perspective. As DKR is narrated by Batman himself, we see that the philosophical differences between Batman and Superman have caused a rift between the two. Superman has chosen to continue to work under the supervision of the US government (which we understand to be deeply corrupt in the story) rather than give up his opportunity to help people. We understand that Batman compromises for nobody, and sees Superman as a chump and a patsy. We can only infer from cues in the art and from our prior knowledge of Superman that he may not have been quite as ridiculous as Bruce tells himself. And, of course, we are never given Superman's point of view.

What I intended to indicate was that I mistook Miller's writing from Batman's perspective as an official line on Superman. In DKR, because Superman had not used his power as Batman would, Batman sees Superman as a fool. However, we can see in the sequel, "The Dark Knight Strikes Again", exactly what would occur were Superman to flex his will as well as his muscle. And it means that Superman can, as a single entity, take over the earth. Which, of course, Superman would not normally see as a good idea or "just".

3. You also wrote: "Superman with hands on hips and his reputation for helping old ladies cross the street seemed like little more than a relic".
Does this mean contemporary heroes shouldn't/don't have to be chivalrous? Do you see chivalry and such behaviour as a weakness or simply outdated? And is this because of your own personal views or because you believe that a chivalrous hero would be ineffective in today's society?

Certainly in the 1980's, when I began reading superhero comics in earnest, "Dark Knight Returns" and "Watchmen" were busily changing attitudes about how a superhero could exist in a "real world" context. The quote reflects how I felt at the time and is not how I've felt for many years.

I would very much like to see the definition of "hero" in movies, comics, etc... mean that the "heroes" should be able to reflect a certain level of chivalry. However, it does seem true that popular storytelling has managed to create many different models for chivalry, from shining knight to Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone films.

I often wonder if a modern audience may be unwilling to believe that a lantern-jawed hero outwardly bent on doing good is untrustworthy, partially because we read/ watch/ hear so many stories where the supposedly chivalrous behavior is a ruse and a means to an end for a secret villain, or as ineffective in comparison to a loose-cannon hero "with his own special brand of justice".

I do not see chivalry as outdated, and certainly not as a weakness. Creating and writing a character who can be chivalrous in the context of a modern crime or superhero story is a complicated thing, as audiences believe they do not expect that behavior out of their characters. However, we're also a society in which we believe no less in the heroism of chivalrous police, soldiers, firefighters, nurses, etc...

Popular culture has always had a fascination with the clever criminal, and often, in order to find middle ground that does not overly romanticize criminal behavior, characters are recast as modern-day Robin Hoods, acting as criminals but with supposed noble intentions at their core. It seems that this often means that wearing a public face of trustworthiness is dropped from the equation as the character who will compromise for nobody goes about their mission.

4. You summarized Superman's mission in: "he is here to try to rescue people, for no other reason than because heroes assist people who cry out for help." Do you believe Superman's irrelevance stems from this? From the fact that nowadays people are more capable of saving themselves? We don't need a saviour, we need a warrior?

I see no appreciable way in which people are more able to save themselves in 2010 than when Superman first appeared in 1938 or when the first film appeared in 1978. We've seen that again and again in massive natural disasters, in humanitarian disasters such as Darfur, in the constant warfare across the African continent, and countless other cases. 21st Century technology and medicine improve our chances, but a plane flying into a building is going to cause many more problems in 2010 than it would in 1938. In today's era of light speed mass communication, we're far more aware of disasters as they occur across the world than we were in 1978 and absolutely more quickly than we might have learned in 1938, if we learned of disasters at all.

Warriors we have. The US Army has been able to recruit just fine in the middle of two ground wars. We look at professional athletes as "warriors". And, I would ask, a warrior fighting for what or against whom?

Superheroes tend to be characters about wish fulfillment. In real life, we are easily able to fulfill the role of a warrior, and military recruiting ads count on the fact that teenagers fantasize about their potential as a warrior to convince otherwise rational people that a sound career move is to get paid a poor salary shoot at other people. A savior is not interested in merely imposing their will (or those of their bosses) by force, but in ensuring the welfare of those around them. An idea that in popular media has become decreasingly less visible over the past 15-20 years.

Superman's irrelevance seems much more rooted in the fact that Superman is an icon that's been passed down, with very little thought to what Superman actually does in comics and movies, and much more about Superman as a straw man for authority and seeming complicit relations with status-quo enforcing authority. Its an unfair assessment, and mostly groundless, but action movies have long romanticized the hero who stands outside the law, and seemingly paves their own way. Superman does not reflect our belief that the rules do not apply to us when we are crossed, as he continues to follow the rules as part of his pursuit of justice.

5. You also wrote the need was for "a character who can stand up for truth and justice, and do so in a context that fully embraces the possibilities of the character as an Ace of Action, too". Did you intentionally omit The American Way? If so, why? And what character do you believe fulfils this criteria? The Punisher?

I very much intentionally omit The American Way when discussing Superman. Firstly, it was added during America's rather ugly anti-communism scare of the 1950's. Its also been firmly established in the comics, movies, etc... that Superman may be based out of the US, but that he is neither subject to its government, nor does he confine his activities to the US, nor should relief or charitable or scientific organizations. Also, one of the two key contributors to the creation of Superman was actually born in Canada, and I don't think that should be forgotten. The symbol of the character should be about power used wisely, and for benefiting those who can't help themselves, rather than for promoting any particular agenda.

I do not believe the Punisher fulfills ideals of truth or justice. The Punisher, as established in the comics, kills rather indiscriminately. His only criteria seems to often be that the people he kills are somehow affiliated with "the mob". He has taken it upon himself to take life on a routine basis and on a grand scale. Of course, the taking of life is the very thing he holds against the mob. They did, after all, take the lives of his own family. Beyond the actual few people who took the lives of Frank Castle's family, Castle has multiplied the death count by an unknown factor. Even with "revenge" as our working definition of justice, every person killed beyond that exceeds the original toll.

If we want for Castle to reflect the meaning of "The American Way", we also have to recognize that "America" is a collection of laws and concepts, almost all of which Frank Castle has decided to throw away to pursue his vendetta.

6. (Assuming you're familiar with the Punisher and have watched "Punisher: Warzone"..) Do you think Frank was justified in exacting his unique brand of brutal heroics? Do you think that suffering a loss like he did is reason enough to take the law into your own hands?

I have not actually watched Punisher War Zone, but I have read Punisher comics on and off since the mid-80's, and I have seen the two prior movie incarnations of The Punisher.

In the real world, of course taking the law into one's own hands is a romantic concept, but, basically illegal and a great way to get killed. Of course, since the very first appearance of Superman, taking the law into one's own hands has been the primary task of costumed superheroes with colorful names. Superman was originally conceived during the Great Depression of the United States, and was intended to reflect the fairly populist viewpoints of the creators, especially in situations where economic disparity seemed like it could be bridged by someone with amazing strength and speed.

From the standpoint of a fictional standpoint, world, Superman and The Punisher do differ greatly. And, its instructive that Batman and the Punisher, who at least have something similar in their origins and motivations, behave very, very differently. Batman and Superman seem to have some hope that criminals may choose a better path, either before they are arrested or after they've landed in a jail cell, but they've given them that chance. Castle believes that crime is reason enough to kill.

And, of course, Frank Castle has forebears in action movies, specifically the "Death Wish" series of movies, which its widely believed the Marvel creators drew their initial inspiration (and its worth mentioning that The Punisher was originally conceived as a villain, as a demonstration of what we don't want our heroes to look like).

7. What is it (do you think) that the Punisher can do for society that Superman can't?

Keep gun manufacturers in business?

I'm not sure the Punisher has anything to teach modern society. Instead, I'd reflect on what the popularity of The Punisher says about how we believe meeting violence with overpowering violence is a sound resolution. We certainly do have a strange relationship with fictional vigilantes, just as we do with real-life vigilantes such as Bernhard Goetz from the US in the 1980's. At the end of the day, we do live by a social contract which most people recognize as the law of their own country. The Punisher's entire mission is eradication and murder, which in no way honors or values life. In many ways, Castle is far more selfish than the mobsters he casually kills. We know the mobsters likely did not want to have to kill Castle's family, and they were a limited few.

We also know that Castle in the comics and as would occur in real life, would do little but escalate how an organization of criminals would approach their problem.

The Punisher represents a complete loss of faith in the rules of society. By his model, the proper model for any action that occurs that directly affects you (The Punisher did not take up arms when others were killed, just his own family), is to retaliate on your own terms, assuming whatever occurs will be justified by your personal loss.

Superman does lose his planet, and some have read that many of his actions convey his expression of guilt as a lone survivor. However, he does not need the catalyst of the loss of Krypton to explain his actions. Instead, what he can show society is that if you have the ability to help others, you can do so.

8. Who would be more effective in achieving your idea of justice in society: The Punisher or Superman?

I do not personally subscribe to the idea that revenge equates to justice. Nor that a person should be so certain of the moral rightness of their actions that they believe their path of "justice" is absolutely correct. That, very specifically, is why we have courts of law.

In the US, we see acts of violence perpetrated upon people on a routine basis because someone firmly believed they held unquestionable moral authority, and their beliefs were a means to an end. This can mean the killing of ministers, doctors, nurses, etc... who fall on the other side in contentious issues such as abortion. In my own hometown of Austin, Texas a man flew an airplane into an office building that happened to house some government offices (and many other offices), because he believed the Internal Revenue Service was being unfair and he did not feel the US government had any moral authority. He managed to kill a decent man doing his job.

We may not find Superman "edgy" enough, or willing to see the "real" problems, but we also have to understand that he's a fictional character living in a fictional universe, where bank robberies are a pretty big concern and mad scientists occasionally pilot robots down the street, rampaging and terrorizing the populace. We understand that Superman is far more likely to capture and arrest a herd of mobsters and let them go to trial with evidence against them, and will never simply use his heat vision to fry them up like sausages. By letting the justice system run its course, Superman does reinforce the idea that we need to have faith in our system to handle injustice. And if those same criminals buy their way out of the court system, he can still be there to make operating in Metropolis a whole lot harder.

I hope that this has been helpful. I do not dismiss the value of Frank Castle as a fictional character. I continue to find him interesting upon occasion, especially in the comics written by Garth Ennis and drawn by Steve Dillon. He's an interesting mix of tragedy and a classic story of revenge, stemming from the same sort of fiction that created some of my favorite books and movies of the 1970's - 1990's. I hope you're able to find some of the Punisher comics (I've heard that Australia has some great comic shops, especially in the bigger cities). I wish you luck on your paper, and if I can help in any other way, let me know.

By the way, the person who runs The Superman Homepage is a fellow Australian. Should you want an Australian's interpretation, I highly recommend contacting Steve Younis.


Ryan Steans

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Weekend Wrap-Up: Double Indemnity, Marvels Project, Superman and Legion comics

Before we get started:

Here's a great article you might want to check out on Newsweek's site
. Thank my brother for sending me the link.

For those of us interested in the working world of the Golden Age of comics, this is a must read about an Austrian immigrant to the US who found work as one of the few female artists in comics. Sounds like a terrific companion piece to Kavalier and Clay, only, you know, non-fiction. But she seems like a real life melding of Kavalier and Rosa Saks. Just... wild stuff. I had never actually heard of this person, I believe, so... you learn new stuff every day.

Oddly, the article doesn't include any actual art work... and I'm having trouble finding examples online. Here you go:

The article also misidentifies some details tied to subject Valerie D'Orazio. D'Orazio left DC, not Marvel. I believe the comic in question was Identity Crisis.

Movie I watched: Double Indemnity

I've been meaning to watch this one since college.

It's an interesting picture. I am no Billy Wilder aficionado, but the man's work is impressive when I see it. Double Indemnity is definitive noir, and has been endlessly copied, to the point where a modern audience might find it a bit trite. But in 1944, there weren't any movies like this one. Not yet.

The cast is small, in the way of these things. But Stanwyck puts down the template for femme fatale in this one.

boozy scheming is the best scheming

But as so often happens in the oft-imitated movie, even if imitators have made the beats of the original a bit easy to read, the performances and script of the original still feels fresh and well worth seeing.

I watched a short doc about the film that was on the DVD. Eddie Muller and others discuss the film, and they had a cut scene which would have deeply changed the finale of the movie (I think the finale in the film works a bit better). I was glad to see I wasn't crazy as while I was watching the movie, at a few key moments I felt that Wilder was borrowing from Hitchcock's playbook. Well, so Wilder was. Apparently, he was a fan.

Comics I read:

Marvels Project: Birth of the Super Heroes by Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting

Ed Brubaker is a solid, solid writer. While this book is always going to suffer by comparison to Busiek's Marvels, simply because Kurt Busiek got there first, its great to see Brubaker lay out part of an origin not just for Captain America or Namor, but for the foundations of the Marvel Universe leading up and facing the early days of Waorld War II. Solidly in current Marvel continuity, it manages to retell familiar origins and stories while winding together a new story told from the perspective of a footnote in Marvel's lengthy publishing history, The Angel.

when discussing Golden Age Marvel, you HAVE to include the Torch/ Namor fight. There's a law somewhere that says so.

Unfortunately, I do think Brubaker left a few too many questions unanswered. With as little information as we got about John Steele, and as I knew nothing about him prior to reading this comic, the character has no beginning or end, just a middle, and its a distracting bit of the comic.

In comparison to Marvels, and even to volumes such as Robinson's The Golden Age at DC, the story feels terribly incomplete unless Brubaker intends for additional volumes to follow (which I would welcome), or if he plans to just point to other materials as his ending.

Steve Epting's art is always impressive, and here it fits the tone very well. These aren't intergalactic space gods, but men in garish costumes on the streets of New York. Epting's hints at realism, and ability to draw believable, distinguishable faces, is put to great use and fits The Angel's near pragmatic narrative tone.

All in all, for fans of the Marvel U who weren't picking up comics when Marvels hit the shelves, or for fans of superheroes in general, this is a great volume. Brubaker really captures the spirit of the brave new era of superhero comics in the guise of the superheroes themselves.

Supergirl, Adventure Comics, Legion of Super-Heroes, Action Comics:

Okay, I read my superhero comics in a particular order, and I start with the Superman titles out of my stack.

Freed from the drain-circling narrative death spiral that was the New Krypton storyline, Sterling Gates and Jamal Igle are making serious hay on Supergirl. It took more than fifty issues, but I finally turned to Jamie and said "you should read this Supergirl comic. This is a fun superhero read."

This issue gave us Jimmy Olsen, Lana Lang, Supergirl herself, and Bizarro Supergirl. Which is: awesome. Plus, one of those great cliff-hanger endings that's more "how are they going to resolve this?" more than "oh no, how could she survive?". Just very clever stuff.

On Adventure Comics, classic Legion writer Paul Levitz (now back to writing after leaving his position as Publisher at DC) is showing no signs of rust and doing a great job telling "tales of a young Legion (with Superboy!)". I've been very happy with his work both here, and on the recently launched Legion of Super-Heroes title. The truth is that I wasn't reading Legion when Levitz was the writer, and my only knowledge of his work comes from a few collections I picked up, but I can definitely see the appeal. And its interesting to ponder what a different company DC would be today had Levitz kept on Legion and been able to maintain the popularity of the series.

Better late than never to return, I think.

Anyway, Levitz may be tying back to his earlier work (you know what I'm talking about, Signal Corps. Wink.). So if you're feeling nostalgic for yesteryear, there you go.

This also marked the start of Sweet Tooth and Essex County writer Jeff Lemire's work on Adventure Comics back-up series, The Atom. And this first installment was surprisingly satisfying. I've always liked Ray Palmer in concept, and this sort of stuff works for me. I started off liking Simone's take of Ryan Choi and Ivy Town, but at some point, she just lost me. While I'll miss Choi, I'm happy to see The Atom back in Justice League-style adventures.

Paul Cornell's Action Comics continues to be a fun read. Featuring a psychic dual between Luthor and Captain Marvel villain, Mr. Mind (a small, talking, telepathic caterpillar), one can only hope to have a fraction of the fun reading the series that I think Cornell must be having writing it.

our villain. srsly.

As I mostly liked what JMS was at least trying to do in Superman, I'm going to chalk up a good month to the DC teams behind the Super titles.