Friday, October 1, 2010

Wonder Woman to TV?

Rumors are now popping up that Wonder Woman may be headed to the small screen.

Here.

The CW Network (formerly the WB Network) has had Superman going for 10 years (ten years, people!  That's crazy!), but the season which began last week is the final season of the program.  Word on the street is that Warner Bros. quite likes the money Smallville has generated and has been looking for a replacement once Clark puts on the cape and flies off into the stratosphere (the Big Bad for this season, btw, is Darkseid.  This should be... interesting.). 

Will Wonder Woman work on the small screen? 

Well...

Ladies and gentlemen, my argument FOR a televised Wonder Woman

I own the complete run of the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman series on DVD, so I am pretty sure I'm not the right guy to ask. 

But...

The interesting thing about Wonder Woman is that there's such a flexible mythology to the character that the writers could muck about quite a bit and even the fanboys would barely bat an eye.  I know what version I prefer, but...  you know, if you start with a young enough Wonder Woman, and basically have her oppose her mother in order to leave the island, you're most of the way there as far as cannon goes.

Wonder Woman doesn't even always have a secret identity, and I sort of prefer the version that doesn't have a secret ID, but I don't see that playing terribly well on TV.  Unless it does, and then, there you go...


But as I was previously pondering, Wonder Woman has a pretty bizarre bunch of arch-nemeses.  But I think if you had the weekly format to build on, especially with her ties to Greek mythology, you could possibly build up a unique world for Wonder Woman to deal with.

Anyway, we'll see.  But I'm betting they adjust the costume.

Happy Start of the Halloween Season, Guys and Ghouls

Dr. Acula checks for swollen glands
Hey, Signal Corps!  It's that magical time of the year when swamp creatures, vampires, mummies, werewolves and things that go bump in the night invade our consciousness. 

I'm thinking on a blog-wide participatory venture to celebrate the season.  If you've got any ideas, send 'em in.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Is the DC Universe too Weird to Make it in Movies?

I've been thinking lately about the supposed upcoming slate of movies from DC Entertainment/ Comics.  In the summer of 2011, the Green Lantern (and-all-that-that-implies) is going to hit cinemas everywhere.  Hal Jordan, a cocky, brash test pilot will be given an alien artifact that will enable him to...  not fight crime or overcome a mad scientist...  but to become a patrolman of Sector 2814, one of thousands of green-long-johned spacecops.

Last night I was watching part of 2002's Spider-Man feature, and its all so straight forward.  Guy gets bit by radioactive spider, is more than human, realizes he has a responsibility to use his power for others, beats up thugs and bank robbers, and eventually fights a mad-scientist.  Repeat in Spider-Man 2.  And when they didn't do that in Spidey 3?  It kind of fell apart.

Even the X-Men films boiled down to superheroes vs. Mad Scientist, and Iron Man 1 and 2 both made sure that was the case.

Green Lantern is not this.  I think we'll see some elements of this in the movie, but in the comics, it isn't usually Hal Jordan v. Mad Scientist.  Except that the major villain is Hector Hammond, the lone mad scientist I can think of in Green Lantern's rogues gallery.  And, yeah, he's in the movie.

That said, unlike the masked Green Goblin or the straightforward mecha suits of Iron Man (or Magneto is his dandy maroon finery), DC's heroes and villains tend to tilt a bit more... odd. Hammond may have started off a mad scientist, but for a while, he's been a guy with an giant, immobilizing head that enables him to read minds and project thoughts.

But he has a great personality

While I have no doubt that DC will take a page from Nolan's take on superheroes and try to find some areas where the costumes and suits will look like something somebody might actually do... how does one bring Gorilla Grodd or Ultra-Humanite to the screen and expect for anyone but a kid (or those of us already bought into the idea of Ultra-Humanite) to take the idea seriously?

There's a reason that with multiple movies under his yellow belt and countless hours of TV, too, that Superman's rogues gallery has been largely presented as beginning and ending with Lex Luthor. After all, Lex, unlike Brainiac, isn't a green guy in a pink leotard with USB ports on his head.

Fact:  Brainiac is an intergalactic jerkface

But the real issue to me is that Brainiac's deal in the comics is that he goes from planet to planet shrinking cities until they fit in a bottle, stealing all their data (or copying it, Napster users), and, in some versions, he then blows up the planet. Because Brainiac is a real big jerk.

Brainiac is a villain in his own right, but his original primary function was to bring Kandor, the shrunken, microscopic, Kryptonian "city in a bottle" into the comics. And then you have to talk about Kandor, and just the concept of Kandor is so... well, us Superman fans think its awesome, but everyone else just finds it kind of... weird.

Silver Age villains are always really happy about their evil schemes

Now, does this make sense as a movie? I... don't know. There's a certain level of zaniness you have to embrace in the DCU proper, and when you start to strip that away, sometimes the pieces don't necessarily work together so well anymore.  But I think there are some pretty concrete reasons Superman's movie nemesis is a guy a bit too obsessed with real estate rather than, say, Terra Man.

is America ready for the menace of a cowboy from space and his flying horse?  Terra Man is an actual Superman villain, btw


There's an inherent problem in that:  Would Green Lantern still be interesting if all he did was fight street crime, like Spidey or Batman? When people say they want a gritty, "real" Superman, have they really run the numbers of what that might look like? How interesting is it really going to be watching Superman take out bank robbers for two hours or liquifying people with a single punch?

It's not that Marvel doesn't have weird villains.  It most certainly does.  Have you heard of my pal, MODOK?

Also a big, giant head.  MODOK, btw, = Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing.  Again, I am totally not kidding.

Now, given the opportunity to make a whole bunch of movies, Marvel didn't immediately say "hey, let's put MODOK out there as a villain!". They could have, and they didn't. Because, seriously... look at that guy.  And when Marvel made a movie about Galactus, they did literally everything they could not to show my favorite Marvel villain of all time.

This they turned into a cloud with no lines in FF2.  One of 1,378 cataloged things wrong with the movie.

But somehow running with this sort of thing and believing that everyone thinks stuff like Batmite (Batman's 5th dimensional fan) and Bizarro (I mean, Bizarro... for @#$%'s sake...) are perfectly cromulent ideas is sort of DC's thing. If the villain doesn't look like something your five-year-old niece scribbled on a Denny's children's menu, then they have a background that sounds completely crazy to a lay audience.

Oh, hell go read up on Reverse Flash (aka: Professor Zoom) on your own, and then come back.

Read it?

That's sort of The Joker for The Flash. This guy is in the comics all the time. Now put that in your movie.  The changes that would be required would essentially water Zoom down so much, he wouldn't be the same character anymore.  And that's kind of okay.

Comic fans get all giddy and they really want to see Brainiac and Reverse Flash and whatnot, but when it comes down to it...  I'm not sure you can do this in two hours and not get some puzzled looks from audiences.

This is why a Flash movie, by its nature, is going to have a hard time putting someone against Barry Allen.  All of the Flash's villains, while awesome on the comics page, are completely ridiculous.  The Pied-Piper?  Captain Cold?  The Trickster?  Mirror Master?  And what sort of bag of madness do you introduce with Grodd and Gorilla City?

And that's just The Flash.  I haven't covered Wonder Woman's slate of bad-guys, such as Egg-Fu and Giganta (an attractive red head who can grow to enormous sizes, and who used to be a gorilla, btw).

The secret to those gorgeous curls?  A strong potassium diet.

In the 1980's the audience for comics began aging, growing up with comics that had a feel that previously had come only from movies and tougher TV shows and novels.  The grittier content allowed by the Direct Market began giving comics a bit of credence as a medium that you didn't need to give up on just because you'd finished middle school and had it in mind to talk to girls.

Certainly DC looked at its slate of comic characters circa 1985, and with Crisis on Infinite Earths relaunching their entire universe decided to clean house to continue to appeal to the readers by insisting that these same characters who once had adorable sidekicks and who were buddies with police chiefs could also be rebels, outlaws, antiheroes and as tough as the criminals older readers must know exist.  And, to an extent, in order for comics to make it to the big screen where they wouldn't be rejected as content for little kids and the mentally deficient, Superheroes have always shed the wackier aspects of their mythos.  Certainly you don't see Beppo the Supermonkey showing up in the third reel of Superman 2.*

I look forward to Christopher Nolan's dark take on the Legion of Super Pets.  Also:  Telepathic horse (sort of.  That's the least complicated part about Comet the Superhorse.)
In the past five or six years, however, on the comics side DC has sort of begun to realize that they were running in place continually because they kept trying to find reasons to do everything BUT use their major characters and the zaniness associated.  And in the past five or six years they found out:  their readership actually likes this stuff.

But that's comics.  If DC is going to bring their characters to the big screen without just making up new villains and environs for their heroes...  they're going to need to go about this whole thing very, very carefully.

It doesn't just make the characters easier to understand when you don't clutter them up with nonsense, it also means that critics aren't quite as likely to immediately dismiss your movie about the man in bat ears punching poor people and mental patients.

Marvel's heroes have the advantage of feeling somewhat more grounded in reality.**  Buying a teenager putting on tights as Spider-Man works to an extent because for the first part of the film he's a smart but normal teenager, and then becomes extraordinary in an ordinary world.  And then his villain is extraordinary, too, and... blam.  Fight.  And I think because so many villains in Marvel's U are sort of warped mirror opposites of the hero, it never feels that odd on the big screen.  Its Rocky vs. Ivan Drago.

But if we start with "oh, he's the king of Atlantis"...  suddenly an Aquaman movie sounds much harder to grasp.

When Green Lantern is finally released, I'll be curious to see how/ if people bite.  An interstellar police force run by creepy blue guys on a distant planet is quite the pill to swallow, but its also been one of my favorite comic concepts since middle school (which is why I was so bummed that just after I learned about GL, DC went about mucking with the basics of the GL Corps for 20 years).

But he will be on Earth for at least part of the film, and he will have his mad scientist to fight.  So... there you go, mass audiences.



*although this would be, categorically, awesome

**that is until Thor is released as a movie

Tony Curtis Merges with the Infinite

Actor Tony Curtis has passed.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

In November, I'm Going to Pay Money for the Chance to see Billy Dee Williams

This November, Austin is hosting a fairly sizable convention, ostensibly a comic book convention, at our Convention Center. Longtime comic nuts (both of you out there, I can hear you breathing) will perhaps tremble when I state that this convention is a Wizard World convention, and all that that implies.

Wizard World Cons sort of play off the goodwill garnered by San Diego Comic Con International (or whatever its calling itself these days) and as misinterpreted by the befuddled mainstream press (ie: non-comics press). But whereas CCI-San Diego is a geek Mecca, the Wizard World cons are sort of the cheap, imitation knock-offs, the Big Lots! discount bin of comic conventions.  It is true that there will be comics-related talent at the convention, but it is also true that this particular con will feature:

  • Billy Dee Williams
  • Jake Lloyd (this appears factual)
  • The cast of "The Human Centipede"
  • Buck Rogers and Wilma Dearing from the 70's-era Buck Rogers TV show
  • Ernie Hudson
  • a Brady
  • "Suicide Girls"
  • One of the suitcase girls from "Deal or No Deal" (I've never seen the show, so this is blowing my mind)
  • numerous people I've never heard of before who seem to be responsible for comics nobody has ever actually read
  • a few people of note from the comic industry such as Paul Levitz (seriously. Levitz.)
  • a whole mess of washed up wrestling stars and a whole bunch of women with enormous... talent who are part of the pro-wrestling circuit
  • Lou Ferrigno, a man who needs no introduction
  • The dad from Teen Wolf
  • Mimi Rogers*
  • ...and many, many more.
I have absolutely no idea what to expect, but from looking at the floor map, it looks roughly like the equivalent of a people zoo.  You walk past tables and stare at people you saw on TV once or twice, and for a few clams, you can get an autograph.

So I've talked Jamie into going for the day one of the three days of the convention.  I will probably not ask her to join me whatever day I actually do stand in line to see if I can get Paul Levitz's autograph.

Yes, that's me... in a room full of models and actors, I'll be lining up to see if I can meet a 60'ish guy in a tie because I like his Legion comics.

There is something sad and wrong with me.

I sort of thought that by now the show runners would have put out more of a schedule.  Oh, well.

If anyone is interested in joining us from The Signal Watch at the Austin Wizard World Texas Comic Convention and Human Zoo, please drop me a line.


*90's me is very excited about seeing Ms. Rogers.  She really makes a spacesuit work.

Things Return to Normal at the PCL

A quick follow-up to yesterday's post.

I think I can safely say that by 10:30 this morning, things were back to normal. Today happened to be my co-worker's birthday, so between 10:00 and 10:30 we had a doughnut or three, sang happy birthday, told our little part of the story, and went back to work.

What is odd is how many people seem to have just decided to shrug the whole thing off. Perhaps I'm a sensitive soul, but... a guy with an AK-47 could have done damage that would have been remembered for generations. He didn't, but he could have.

I haven't seen any new reports yet discussing any why's-and-wherefore's. The family of the shooter seems as genuinely shocked as anyone else. My guess is that its going to pass as one-of-those-things.

You can read the story at the site for the Austin American-Statesman.

But I was correct. Doors were open, and when I walked in with my box of Krispy Kremes for the team, there were all the usual folks doing their usual things. Sheila was at the reference desk and I saw Drew in the hallway. The gaggle of student workers were checking out books.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Gunman at the PCL

So...

You may have heard that there was an armed shooter today at the Perry-CastaƱeda Library at the University of Texas.  This happens to be the building where I, my office mates, and many of my colleagues and friends work.

The PCL (as its called, or "Pickle" as its called less often) is also a place open not just to students and the UT Community, but to the public at large.  Being open and public, I should say, is exactly what libraries do.  They're a public service, and the people who work in your local library believe in the right to openness of knowledge and availability of all their resources with a true conviction I find admirable.

I wasn't supposed to be at work today, at least not at the PCL.  Today I was slated to be back in Waco, but as I was getting in my car I received the first UT Emergency text, a system which was set up for exactly this sort of situation.  Sadly, university staff are all too aware of the potential for campus shooters.

Shortly after the UT emergency text, my Blackberry began chirping with requests for data from friends, family and colleagues.  Unfortunately, I was driving, which made texting impossible (and illegal), but a former co-worker actually called me and agreed to help me out by calling my office mates.

We found one another fairly quickly, and I believe by 9:00 everyone was accounted for.  I was already headed north, so I routed myself to my office mate's house and parked on her sofa for a few hours watching the news and figuring out what to do next.

Let me be frank:  we got very lucky today. 

The UT campus is squarely in the middle of Austin, a very safe city (a ridiculously safe city, really).  Crimes usually involve stolen bicycles or some B&E on west campus.  Masked gunmen with AK-47's don't usually fit into that picture, and especially not at the PCL.  But we do receive emergency texts about "suspicious characters", etc... with such frequency that I admit that I didn't take the initial warning very seriously.  But the all caps "UT CAMPUS IS ON LOCKDOWN" text left no ambiguity.  And those minutes between receiving the second text and knowing exactly where my office mate was were a bit nerve-racking.

As of this moment, and I think nothing will change, there is no second shooter, and the single gunman seems to have caused a lot of havoc and killed himself, but nobody else seems to have been shot.  As of this moment, the campus has been given the all-clear, but everyone has been asked to evacuate. 

I didn't go to Waco.  For what seemed like a very long while, I didn't know the status of my officemates or the folks I talk to on the stairwell or in the foyer of the library every day.  While the building has three or four different ways the folks in my office could exit if a fire were to break out, I am well aware that this is a different and uncontrollable situation.  Standing up to do a presentation this morning was just not going to go well.

It appears that the UT Community handled the situation well, and the APD, Sheriff's Department and UT Police appear to have handled the entire incident amazingly smoothly.

But you still think about everything that could have happened today.  Every time I walk out the door of my office, I look up at the top of the UT Tower, and while the ghost of Charles Whitman still haunts campus, the bells chiming in the carillon or the tower splashed in orange light after a football or volleyball win is what pops to mind when I think of the Tower.  I don't think too much about the 14 dead and 30-odd wounded from that hot summer of 1966.  Except when I do.  And, for me, that's pre-history.

The idea of walking into my building tomorrow knowing that, in the end, it was just a miserable end for someone, and that at least he took nobody with him...  that's something, I suppose.  My building won't be the one to bear the brunt of another tragedy like the one on the South Mall that people still speak about in code when they're on campus.

Libraries have long lives.  They need for their doors to always be open to the public.  One gunman can't and won't change that, and the first people to tell you that will be the librarians who might have been in the path of fire.  We'll do what public works always do:  we'll keep the doors open.

Why the gunman picked the library, I have no idea.  Its hard to imagine he had any connection to the library more than any other building.  At 8:00 AM, the populace is a collection of random students, student workers, librarians and other staff spread across the six sprawling floors of the library.  My guess is that more information is revealed, the building will have been picked for no real particular reason other than its accessibility and, maybe even that its at the bottom of the street he was reportedly seen walking down, gun in hand.

Anyway, I am now home.  Tomorrow I'll walk back in the doors of PCL, and head down to the basement to my office.  The gunman picked the top floor to turn the weapon on himself, and I'll be glad that I'm not walking past taped-off areas to get to my desk.  But mostly I'll be glad to walk into my building and know all the faces will still be there.

God damn, but did we get lucky.

CNN
Austin American-Statesman
Daily Texan Online

Sunday, September 26, 2010

So here's kind of what's happening

Hopefully my return will not include revelations about a child I was unaware I'd fathered
So I get these emails from a company called "Blog2Print" that's selling me the opportunity to buy bound copies of my blog(s) as a book.  You don't run a blog for as long as I ran Vol. 1 of League of Melbotis without the same sort of ego it takes to want to spend a few clams putting those volumes on the shelf for future generations to discover and enjoy.  But I'm also cheap, so I haven't actually done much but run the process to see what getting a full run in print would cost (and, sister, it ain't cheap).

But in looking at Ye Olde Blogge, I got a little misty-eyed.  Gone were the days of reader contests, pointless pet updates, personal commentary, stories of The League's employment, and all the stuff that made League of Melbotis a fun little clubhouse tucked in the boughs of the interwebs.  We used to wrap that stuff up with waxing rhapsodic about The Man of Steel, the comic reviews, movie pondering, etc...  and I guess, more or less, that seemed to work.

But that's not what we were doing here at The Signal Watch.  Here we decided, I think, that social media and my own growing concerns regarding broadcasting my private life to the internet made what we'd been doing at League of Melbotis no longer viable, and so maybe we'd dial it back a bit and have just a media-focus to the site.  But to my mind...  things just never gelled (I blame myself.  And Randy.).

While the sort of "personality blogging" that League of Melbotis represented has become generally considered passe, if not a bad idea, in this age of kids and their Tweeter and The Face Book, oh, hell...  none of that seems to be working super well, either.  And I don't mean just for me.

What today's bloggers are supposed to do is find a niche and say "here's my focus, I'm going to cover (fill in blank)", so you wind up as a comics blog, a movie blog, a political blog, what-have-you.  This is supposed to draw attention to your blog, and I believe increasing your readership to the triple digits  and $1.50 will get you a cup of coffee. 

In its first incarnation, League of Melbotis (ie:  I)  never focused on any one thing very well (the downside of ADD), and while we're not embarrassed about what we did at The Signal Watch to date, all this fixation on keeping it semi-impersonal never really worked.

Some of you have been with us for a while, and I think I can be honest with you people:  This week I watched The Pixies play through an album I bought at age 14 and then became quite excited by the return of Elvira to the cable spectrum (she showed Night of the Living Dead last night and it was a lot of fun.  She's still got it.),  and these things got the hamster running on the old brain-wheel again.  Sometimes you can look at what used to work and you can try to do it again.  Sometimes Coke Classic is where its at.

That's not to say that this always works.  For every Star Trek: The Next Generation there's a The All-New WKRP in Cincinatti.  So, who knows?  maybe three or four weeks of this, and I'll be apologizing to everyone as I shut up shop once again.  But...

...as an experiment, we're going to try to go back to League of Melbotis-style blogging for a little while.  (Yay...?).

I know it sounds kind of wacky to not want to return to the old melbotis.com URL, but that's the way its going to be. If I'm a little weird about that, well...  sticking with The Signal Watch is my way of moving forward.

We hope you'll stick with us.  We're at a very different place today than we were at in 2003 in many, many ways, but so are all of you.

I don't plan to blog every day, by the way.  So, I suggest you prime your RSS reader or look on Facebook for links both back to this site and our official wacky links site.*

But I think I still remember how to do this, so let us give it a shot, shall we?

We've got some stuff to look forward to!

  • A Green Lantern movie is set to come out
  • a Flash movie is in pre-production
  • there's a Jimmy Olsen feature in Action Comics (which is really good right now, by the way)
  • UT football is off to an inauspicious start
  • Colbert is being summoned to Capitol Hill
  • Jamie is occasionally producing some videos
  • Lucy has learned how to drive**
  • and much, much more

I will be talking a bit about comics themselves, so... be forewarned.

Anyway, we hope you'll come by and set a spell.

*A special thanks to Randy (aka:  RHPT) for keeping the homefires burning with his always-excellent contributions to our sister site, Zee... Zee... Zee...

**this is not necessarily true.