Saturday, February 19, 2011

The League's old life in the footlights comes back to haunt him

I've mentioned before that I was not a jock in high school, although I was 2nd string for the 9th grade Westwood Warriors basketball team - where I came up with entirely new lyrics to "Sittin' On the Dock of the Bay" and changed it to the more appropriate "Sittin' on the Bench at the Game". Big and strong I may have been for my age, but athletically inclined? Not so much.

So in 10th Grade, I'd moved (back) to Spring, Texas, where I quit the basketball team after the fifth game of the season (and the 2nd in which I'd traveled with the team and not gotten 1 minute of playing time). Not having obligations on the team made the decision fairly easy, and the two guys on the team I was friendly with weren't pals with me because of my basketball prowess, so, you know... riding pine every game in what turned out to be a 1-21 season for the KOHS Junior Varsity team was not a thrilling prospect.

I was a fan of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and they were having auditions. I didn't get a roll, but I did get to understudy. There, I re-connected with the Jim Parsons, with whom, I was told, I had attended a TRS-80 camp years before (the idea of having a camp to interest kids in computers now seems so.... bizarre). Jim is now an Emmy-winning actor for his portrayal of Dr. Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory.

Entertainment Tonight ran a bit this week where they interviewed Jim's mom (who I think is a pretty great lady), Julie (Jim's sister - who I knew much better than I knew Jim), and our shared former director/ teacher, Margaret Locher (who we all knew by her maiden name and just called her "V" back then). Its odd to see my old high school auditorium where I spent hundreds of hours over the years prepping for plays, building sets, hanging lights, painting, whatever... on TV. Although they have gotten rid of the absolutely horrendous "orange on orange" color scheme that once dominated the entire school.*

Locher, by the way, was college chums with Marcia Gay Harden. Howzabout that?

It certainly says something about Jim's stature in LA these days that they're now going back and doing these bits with his family and teachers. And I'm very pleased to see JulieP and V get a chance in front of the cameras.

Watch the video here.
(Sorry, the embedded video starts automatically, and that's a pain.)

The photos of plays you see there are Noises Off!, which I did not see as it was done the year before I arrived, and from the production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, referred to above. Yes, I knew all those people. And its weird to see pictures you haven't seen since 1993 (but which were in the hallway of the auditorium, so you saw them every day) pop up online.

* No, nobody knew why.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Have a Friday

I'm doing other things. Have a good one.

As my birthday approaches, I am thinking I'd like to get my hands on a real typewriter. Its been at least since high school since I used one, but I'd just kind of like one for the shelf. Underwood? Corona? What do you think?

Hall of Inaccurate Presidents

this struck me as particularly great (and reminded me of Steven G. Harms)

found on twitter @Kevin_Church

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Adrianne Palicki is TV's Wonder Woman

Well, there you go.

ladies and germs, your Amazon Princess

NathanC sent along an article from Variety stating that Adrianne Palicki has been cast as Wonder Woman for the upcoming weekly drama on NBC. 

Late edit:  JimD sends along this article that echoes many of the thoughts you will see below.

It could be far worse.  In addition to being a fairly tall woman  (IMDB says she's an Amazon-appropriate 5'11"), if you've seen Friday Night Lights, she's actually a remarkably talented actor.  Her character (season 2 aside) had one of the more interesting story arcs, and you really did get to see a range there.  So, well done, TV people.

This also isn't her first run at a show based on a DC Property.  Way back in the day, she played a bad-guy in the never-aired pilot for an Aquaman TV show.  Yes, I've seen it.  Bought it on iTunes.  The show was just really poorly conceived and I'm not crying that it didn't make it.

She also appeared in a Smallville episode in 2004. 

Here's a picture from her days on Friday Night Lights (and that is what trees look like in Central Texas).

While hiring Palicki is a step in the right direction, you still have to worry a bit about the script reports that are coming out. They aren't very promising.

In fact, it sounds kind of terrible and as if David E. Kelley kind of missed the point/never bothered to read any actual Wonder Woman books, watch an episode of Justice League, etc... It just sounds like he took Ally McBeal and said "oh...  now she's a superhero!". 

At Comics Alliance
At iFanboy (this makes me want to sit in the dark and cry)
This is a new look at Wonder Woman that, while ringing familiar, will probably put off a lot of Wonder Woman traditionalists and, I’m assuming, most comic book fans. This is a Diana that likes to sing along -- loudly -- to the radio when she’s driving into work and eat a bunch of ice cream in her pajamas because she ran into her ex-boyfriend. Some people are going to find that endearing and some people will find it annoying.
I am kind of expecting nerd rage, but that the masses who don't know anything about the character will think this is really neat, which will, of course, drive me insane.  Which is something.  Its better than the pilot for Bionic Woman that couldn't fire a single neuron of any emotion, anger or sadness or joy or...  Or Nikita, which had me cracking up at its audacious, unironic awfulness.

I just really can't believe this is what DC is going with.  Not a great start for the Diane Nelson-era of DC Entertainment.  I suspect Ms. Nelson will take a while before she realizes what she actually has on her hands.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Signal Watch Post Blitz Round-Up

Sometimes I post a lot. Too much for mortal man, really.

So here's a quick round-up of posts:






Other Items of Note

Yes to Egyptian Democracy!

I really liked this video linked by Kanye West off his Twitter account.

Its footage from Egypt cut to a Kanye West track.

I haven't talked all that much about Egypt or the calls for democracy and fair representation occurring right now in the Middle East, but as we at Signal Watch stand for Truth and Justice, we can only hope for the best for the citizens of nations signaling peacefully and reasonably for change to a government for the people and by the people.

Joanne Siegel, original Lois Lane model and wife of Jerry Siegel, Passes

I'm sad to share the news that Joanne Siegel, one of the few living people with connections to the first days of Superman, has passed. Ms. Siegel was the original model for Superman's originating artist, Joe Shuster, when he was designing Lois Lane. Years later, she would marry Superman's first writer, Jerry Siegel.

Joe Shuster would pass, leaving only one heir, who subsequently passed. Ms. Siegel and her daughter were the sole heirs to Jerry Siegel.

In recent years, Ms. Siegel was famous both for appearing at events commemorating the creation of Superman and for participating in a law suit against Warner Bros., who now own the rights to the Superman character (more or less. Siegel won back some rights in recent years).

Ms. Siegel's efforts both prior to and subsequent to the passing of Jerry Siegel have ensured that the names Siegel and Shuster will always be associated with The Man of Steel.

Ms. Siegel was 93.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Signal Watch Reads: Superman #708

Superman #708
1:10 Variant Cover by TREVOR HAIRSINE
Superman 708

I'll be doing reviews of Superman comics while Chris Roberson is writing the title.  I hope that's okay.

If last month's issue signaled a tonal shift in the Grounded storyline started by J. Michael Straczynski, then this issue seems to begin the separation from either a plodding Act 1 of JMS's invention or Roberson figuring out how to best extricate The Man of Steel from the plot outline handed him by DC Comics for JMS's story.  While many aspects of the comic production process are transparent in this day and age, and the line between fans and creators near-invisible in superhero comics has seemingly disappeared, DC has managed to keep the departure of JMS, and what that means, under wraps.

Issue 708 picks up one panel after the surprise conclusion to last month's introduction of the Superman Squad, the time-traversing legions of heroes who wear the shield and carry the mantle of Superman into the far-flung, distant future (way further than most Sci-Fi dares to tread).  The Squad is a concept Grant Morrison introduced (if only in passing) over a decade ago in DC One Million, bringing DC characters from the 853rd Century to the modern day, and suggesting that a constant string of heroes had filled the space between today and then, all wearing the shield.

What's great is that Roberson doesn't blink at the ideas Morrison has been dropping like Johnny Appleseed across the DCU, and which so many other writers seem to fumble.  For those trying to keep up at home, Roberson manages to un-self-consciously weave in the Squad, drop some exposition along with his own mad ideas (SuperEgo broughta  smile to my face), tinge the tale with a dose of nostalgia for the Superman fan (I about cheered out loud when I saw the keyhole on the outside of the Fortress of Solidarity.  Also:  Fortress of Solidarity.  If you think I haven't found a new name for League HQ, you are wrong.), and propel the story forward in a single bound.

Its a lovely notion that Roberson could be trying to tell his stories while introducing a few new ideas into the Superman mythos in each issue, something that seemed to be a staple of Mort Weisinger's editorial policy during the hey-day of Silver Age Superman. Its also clear that Roberson isn't just a fan of Superman from any single era (a fact which may have hamstrung JMS and other Superman writers), but that he's comfortable with many eras of The Man of Steel.  Moreover, he's been paying attention.  He knows why All Star Superman worked (and, likely, Morrison and Waid's Superman in JLA), he's demonstrated a feel for Bronze-Age Superman in the previous issue, and he seems to be working toward the vision of the new-era Superman that seems to have been hinted at in bits and spurts the past several years - and what that Superman is...  I think that's a discussion for a few issues from now.

The Superman Squad arrives like a bit of a Greek Chorus, commenting upon our story to date and forewarning what could go wrong for The Man of Steel and all else if he doesn't win the day.  The scene certainly pushes the story forward, but it also gives juice to a tale that became unwieldy with the first issue.  The intervention of the Squad acts as a clever way to comment upon the why's and wherefore's of Superman's mental state (especially in the wake of New Krypton), which may have been not overtly commented upon enough in preceding issues.

Too often as writers come and go, the emotional impact of a storyline is left forgotten within a few issues as the new writer wishes to just get on with their own tale.  However, Roberson manages to call back well to New Krypton and plumb the story for depth that may have been lacking even when the Robinson-penned issues were telling the actual story.  Rather than just sweep it under the rug, its good to see a writer go back and squeeze the unused juice from the story.

The second half of the issue becomes more problematic as it ties in loosely with the ongoing Wonder Woman tale, also penned by JMS, but which I have not read at all as the first collection will not arrive in stores for some time.  Wonder Woman does feel shoe-horned in, especially in her current storyline wherein she's unknown in the existing timeline.  A meeting with Diana as the WW we all know and love could have had significantly greater impact as Wonder Woman and Superman have a rich history.

Its not that the rest of the issue isn't enjoyable, but a cross-over in which editorial assumes you're keeping up - and you aren't - certainly slows the reading experience.  I'm inclined to believe that Roberson did his best with a mandated cameo by Wonder Woman, and I can almost buy the fan-girl conversation Diana has with Superman, but I am guessing it will take a while before I see dividends from the conversation as a reader.  

On a more cynical note, I'm not positive that either Wonder Woman or Superman can afford to be less than highly recognizable and at their iconic most in their comics at the moment*, and I'm wondering if less of the re-designed Wonder Woman is more until Diana returns to the status quo.

Frankly, as positive as I am that Roberson gets and understands Superman and could be THE guy to steward the character for a while, given Wonder Woman's history, I wish another page or two had been devoted to Diana making the leap from warrior to superhero, and why she felt as she did seeing Superman leap to the rescue. Interrupting the scene of discovering heroism to interject our mysterious villain felt forced and drained what-could-have-been from making maximum impact.

There is something interesting about an indecisive Superman puzzling out the Sophie's Choice issues of responding to an emergency, even when we've just been told some of that lack of resolve may be coming from an external source.  For all the talk of "Superman can do everything", its always been the struggle to decide upon the right thing that keeps the character interesting, what I felt was the inherent gem of interest in the Grounded storyline.  I'm glad to see Roberson polishing that gem a bit, as when Superman freezes momentarily looking at rising flood waters versus a growing tornado.

By the way, Eddy Barrows was a welcome return this issue on pencils.  The Barrows illustrative art style works so well with Superman and other DC characters that its a welcome sight to have his style back in the pages of Superman after a few months of fill-ins as the story bounced from writer to writer.  You don't appreciate what you have until its gone, I suppose.

As I believe I said last review, Superman is now Roberson's to make or break.  I'm currently very much on board with what it seems like Roberson would like to do, but I do have to recognize that he's hemmed in by editorial and seeing JMS's story through to completion.  I choose to have faith in Roberson, and I'm now looking forward to next issue with a zeal I don't think I've had on this title since before Robinson put Mon-El in the spotlight.

*and I really am not sure how onboard I am with any long-term reimagining of Wonder Woman.

Confusion over Arcade Fire Grammy Win is Nothing Short of Magical

Firstly, you have to go to the tumblr site accumulating the Twitter-Rage over Arcade Fire winning whatever Grammy they won.

Secondly, who over the age of 15, thinks the Grammies have any particular value?  I can remember my moment of "oh, ha ha, seriously?  I give up" when it came to the Grammies, and it came in the form of Sheryl Crow winning album of the year* back around 1994 or 1995. 

I don't know if Arcade Fire had the album of the year.  I certainly didn't listen to all of them.  Or even some of them.  The complaint was that nobody had heard of Arcade Fire.

Full disclosure: I've only seen Lady Antebellum's name in print, so I can sort of understand how you can have a question mark over your head when someone you don't know is nominated.  But of three of the top nods, Gaga, Perry and Eminem are better known for their personal lives and antics than their actual music (sorry, Marshall), and its arguable that Gaga and Perry's albums are forgettable pop, secondary to the merchandising and performance aspect of the music industry (and I am not bagging on Perry or Gaga for being very good at what they do, but when you don't include the visual, Gaga's music is pretty standard issue disco stuff and Perry sounds like any pick-of-the-week female pop artist of the past 20 years).

If you give a damn about music, at some point I can see getting tired of throwing in votes for boring records because its "good for the industry".   It isn't. 

But, if the public hasn't heard of Arcade Fire, its kind of refreshing to see that's the case.  It likely means two things.
1)  The mix of Arcade Fire's refusal to do ad spots, perform on Nickelodeon awards shows, stay out of jail, etc... has meant that they lack celebrity, which has nothing to do with quality of an album
2)  The music industry is amazingly and hopelessly splintered.  That isn't alarming, that's more or less always the state of the industry.  I don't expect for people to have ever heard of the bands I listen to  if they don't actively seek out music (ie: they wait and see what gets dropped in their laps).  A lot of people do seek out music, but as enough people do not, clever marketing has a significant effect.

Is it good for the Grammy to go to a more-Pitchfork friendly album than, say, Taylor Swift?  I doubt it helps the TV ratings much and most certainly will turn off mainstream radio listeners, but maybe its good.  American rock has been about turning to something new and different, and while Arcade Fire are establishment favorites by alt-rock standards, its a kick in the pants of another auto-tuned Lady Gaga performance with a disco beat or Eminem (who is good) winning for doing what he's been doing since I was an undergrad.

I'm always amazed by the narrow view of the listening public, but its something I got over very quickly working behind the counter of a mall record shop.  People come to music for different reasons, and none of them are bad reasons, even if it means that you wind up making regrettable purchases.  But most people generally believe that what they and their friends listen to is what everybody listens to, and that, of course, is kind of dumb.

Its wrong-headed to think that Perry or Gaga fans will be inspired to check out Arcade Fire (a band that supports concert hall shows, for those who say they've never heard of them).  But you can sit back and enjoy the confusion and remember what it was like to be sixteen and see your folks get bunged up when a band you liked made it onto TV.

It would have been far more hilarious had someone the likes of Dan Deacon won album of the year.  That would have been TV gold.

*I would apologize to Sheryl Crow fans, but somebody has to tell you.  Yes, my taste in music better than your own.**

**not really***

***well, maybe.  I mean, Sheryl Crow?  Put down the Dave Matthews and back slowly away.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day - The League tells you about LOVE

Ah, c'est l'amour.

oddly, this happened early in our courtship as well

It is that magical day of the year when the expression of love is wrapped up in overpriced doo-dads in color combinations which nature never intended and the day when the un-coupled among us insist that the coupled-up among us are rubbing our relationships in their faces.*

Well, love is grand. Here in year 15 or 16 with Jamie, I have been told we're getting a pizza and watching a movie. That is what I call a successful Valentine's Day.  She got her bouquet Saturday, and she'll get a card tomorrow.  That, people, is love.

And today I want to talk about love.  This video more or less encapsulates my feelings about Jamie.

Really, when you can find a girl who wants to also sit and watch Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast and/ or Cartoon Planet with you, you hold onto that girl with both hands and do not let go.

As Jamie and I have been together for a good, long while (every day is magical, my dove!), I have no real concept of dating in the 21st Century. Heck, texting didn't exist when Jamie and I began a-courting.  Cell phones weren't part of the equation, and back in my day, kids, we had a land line and an answering machine, and we liked it. We certainly didn't have the option of iDUMP4U had it all turned sour.

If Jamie were abducted by aliens tomorrow and I were suddenly on the market, I presume I would come across as a crazy person, which is why, for selfish reasons, I am very glad that Jamie is a very patient person who puts up with ALOT.

Jamie and I are far from perfect, and I am certain that when we're not around, people have their opinions of us each individually and how they see us operate together.  But all I know is that for whatever reason, many years ago, I found the little pale girl across the table genuinely funny, very cute and very smart. 

I do not believe I've ever revealed the tale of how we met, but its a tale frought with romance and mystery.

To begin with, I was very, very drunk.

Actually, its not a very good story. Never mind.

I am averse to talk of predestination, "the one", etc... That stuff is for poets and 17 year old girls dating 21 year olds with Camaros and iffy facial hair. Instead, what I will say is: when you do meet someone with whom you are perfectly happy, who makes you happy, and with whom you realize you'd take a bullet for and they'd do the same - do not @#$% it up. Do what you can to make it work.

Jamie is, absolutely, my best pal. A pal I get to smooch on. The magic doesn't come in some lightning bolt or mystic power. The unexplainable bit comes in the fact that we've been together for what most in the US consider the entirety of our adult lives, and that she's still an inspiration and someone I learn from all the time, and even then she goes on to be oddly supportive of all of my nonsense.

I am very much a guy still head over heals for a kooky, pale little girl who is still full of surprises.

Happy Valentine's Day, Jamie.  I love you, indeed.

Brak explains exactly how I feel about love (seriously, stick with this one):

*and let me tell you, after spending money on flowers an overpriced meal, and god knows what else, what we really want to hear is how we were doing this intentionally to make you feel bad about yourself.  This is strictly between me, my lady-friend and Bank of America, trust me.

Awesome News! The World is Ending! Everybody PARTY!!!

So, we were driving back from grabbing lunch at Curra's here in Austin, and at the intersection of Congress and Oltorf, three trucks were parked in a lot, all with the same graphic.

I could only get one of the trucks with my cell phone.

the most oddly depressing strip center in Austin gets a little added spice

In case you can't read the graphic:

Guarantee is a very strong word...  I'm just saying.

As if that wasn't wacky enough, Andrew - a guy I am 6 degrees away from being a relation (uh, Jamie's brother's wife's brother.  Yes, that sounds right)  also posted images on Facebook of himself next to exactly the same truck in Virginia.  He says there were five at his location.  So, people, let me know if you're spotting this fleet of people declaring the Earth will end before the Green Lantern movie gets released.

As Jason said "well, there's been somebody predicting the end times are about to happen since time began".  But I'm not exactly sure what the hook is here other than some mash-up of Mayan snake-god calendaring getting mixed up with Poltergeist-2/ tent revival/ end-times fun.  And, look, if its a financial scam, three months isn't really much time to maximize your profit.

On the one hand, if the world were ending...  Just imagine how kooky the next three months would really get.  I tell you what, I wouldn't feel very incentivized to show up at work or fill out my tax return.

If this is true, I am done with Marvel Comics

Comics rumor-meister Rich Johnston is reporting that Marvel stated at Comics Pro (a comics retailer summit currently happening in Dallas), that they plan to kill off a major character every quarter.

Its not that I want Marvel to go away because I read more DC... 

Look, I have my opinions about creative bankruptcy, the sort of stories and the tone at Marvel as the Ed Hardy of comics publishers of late.  I know these are fictional characters, etc...  that the deaths are fictional,  and before anyone says "gee, you're really in the bag for DC":  I grew up on X-Men and Spidey, smidges of Punisher and small doses of Cap (I was never a Hulk, FF or Avengers reader), and I'm happy to talk Marvel credentials any time.

But I don't think I like what a planned "death-per-quarter as selling point" says about what Marvel thinks about me as a consumer.  If true, its so breath-takingly cynical. 

I get that when you're of a certain age, your definition of hero and bad-ass come down to certain ideas about the world being a hard, cold place, and you can idolize characters or people who seem to represent a perspective that seems able to embrace that perspective, and thus you get folks who skew really far one way and get guys who shop at Hot Topic and think My Chemical Romance is really on to something, and other folks who think MMA cage-fighting represents some keen problem-solving abilities.   And so, yeah, if the world is cold and dark and whatnot, and if your superheroes are for adults, then some of them have to die (not like stupid little-kid superheroes).  So why not kill your fictional characters on a schedule fit to meet quarterly demands by your corporate overlords who want to know why the quarter where Cap died seemed to go so well? 

Does death create a new space in which to tell stories?  Absolutely.  Right up until its a corporate mandate insisting "this is good comics".

While there is a certainly poetry to scheduled hero-cide to fit corporate revenue cycles and to serve stock value, its all a little...  sad, isn't it?  I'm not saying product placement meetings with Popsicle and DC Comics going on right now to create GL ice cream treats don't seem a little goofy...  but its also sort of weird to hear Marvel just come clean and give a peek behind the curtain (if true).  The meaninglessness of frequent character deaths in comics has become a corporate mandate far beyond the editorial bullpen.

I'm not kidding.  I only read Cap and a smattering of other Marvel stuff these days.  I'm looking for an excuse to just quit looking at Marvel's offerings, and if they really want to believe the only way I can get my kicks anymore is by watching characters get snuffed and watching wide-eyed at the fall-out?  Maybe its time we part ways.