Saturday, September 10, 2011

Some movies I should have commented upon

A Kiss Before Dying - Its hard to watch this movie without thinking how its been emulated a 1000 times over since this movie was released.  Its not a bad movie, and it features Robert "Yeah, totally THAT guy" Wagner as our heavy.

The Red Shoes - People had kittens when this move was restored, and that was the first time I think I'd heard of it.  I missed its theatrical release but caught the movie on cable this week.  A movie that I was expecting to be "good" turned out to be truly a great movie.  Just masterfully handled.

yes, its a movie about ballet, but... uh... yeah, its a tough guy movie with, uh aliens and helicopters and stuff, too.  Totally my usual thing.

Kiss Me Deadly - Man, this is the strangest damned movie I've seen in a long, long time.  50% detective, 25% celebration of sociopath, 20% noir and 5% sci-fi, of all the damned things.  I have very mixed feelings on this movie, but its really hard to ignore.

In a Lonely Place - Bogart and Gloria Grahame, directed by Nicolas Ray.  Its filed under noir, and I think I can see why, but its a great thriller/ character study and gets past the veneer of most noir and can feel almost awkward in parts as the characters tumble into distrust and their own miscommunications.

"Batmanning": ridiculous, genius or BOTH?

I have to admit, I never really bit on the whole "planking" thing.  It made me feel uncomfortable about my tragic lack of core strength.

But dangling by one's ankles?  AKA:  "Batmanning"?  That I can get behind.

I mean, technically, I don't think Batman hangs upside down by his ankles too often, but I also never played Arkham Asylum, so you guys tell me.

But here's some guys at Purdue showing us how its done:

Maybe it should be called "Draculaing"?
No, that's stupid.

So, what are other folks saying about the New 52?

What are some of our friends out there in the vastness of Cyberspace saying about the New 52?

Noah Kuttler reviews a whole handful of DC books in one shot.

The Kryptonian has been doing some ongoing coverage:

  • Action Comics #1 
  • Batgirl #1 and some more Batgirl coverage 

  • Gerry at Not Just Otaku takes a look at several releases

    Superman 101 has started taking a look with Action Comics 1. Its a daily blog, so check back often (and add it to your feeds. I did, and I'm a better man for it.).

    If you've got a link and I didn't post it, send it along or post in the comments!  We'll be doing updates often.

    Friday, September 9, 2011

    Guest Post! CanadianSimon Reviews Some of DC's New 52

    As part of our ongoing coverage of DC Comics' New 52 release-a-stravaganza, we're opening the lines to the faithful Signal Corps and asking you to pitch in with your own reviews (it ain't too late).  

    Simon MacDonald is a software developer by day, a comics omnivore by night, and a devoted reader of all kinds of books during the moments the rest of us would waste time sleeping or blinking or something.  He's a proud father and husband, and he still finds time to run and seek the perfect cup of coffee.  

    He's got a great perspective on comics new and old, and its always fun when he shows up in the comments or volunteers a Guest Post.  

    He took some time off from making Android apps and his own blog to send us the post below.

    take, it Simon!

    Well's it been awhile since I've gone to my LCS to pick up an actual comic instead of a trade. I've not purchased a new release floppy since Thor: The Mighty Avenger was cancelled and I haven't purchased multiple new release floppies in a long, long time.

    That's all changed with this weeks release of thirteen new #1 issues four of which I'm picking up hard copies of and depending on word of mouth I may pick up even more when the digital price drops by $1 in a month.  Here are my thoughts on the books as I read them in the scientific alphabetical order:

    Animal Man #1  written by Jeff Lemire pencils by Travel Foreman

    Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god!

    Frankly I was blown away by this first issue. This is a master class on how to introduce a character to a bunch of new readers. I can see people who've never read an Animal Man book enjoy this just as much as folks who are fans of Grant Morrison's turn on the title.

    The first page is a magazine interview which nicely catches up readers on the history of Buddy Baker, Animal Man. Some people don't like prose piece in their comics but I don't have a problem with it as long as it is used properly and in this case it's a perfect fit.

    We are introduced to Buddy's wife Ellen, son Cliff and daughter Maxine and we get a really great scene in the kitchen setting up the tension between Buddy's role as a family man and being a super hero. From there Buddy must stop a kidnapping which serves as an excellent forum to explain and showcase his powers.

    The balance of the book then sets up a number of plot points where we see that Buddy may have a problem with his powers, there seems to be something rotten with the "Red" the morphogenic field where Buddy can access his various animal attributes and finally Maxine seems to be coming into some powers of her own. 

    There is a certain horror aspect here that really sets me on edge. As a Dad I'm always worried about my kids and stories like Poltergeist, The Shinning and Locke & Key where the kids are in danger really, really make an impact on me.

     Lemire succeeds in making me bite on this book, hook line and sinker. On my first read I wasn't too sure about Travel Foreman's pencils but on subsequent reads I'm really digging the creepy vibe he's able to give the book.  I'm going to have to contact my LCS and tell them to put this on my pull list permanently.

    Signal Watch Reads: Action Comics #1 (Volume 2)

    Action Comics 1 (Volume 2)
    Superman Versus the City of Tomorrow
    writer - Grant Morrison
    penciller - Rags Morales
    inker - Rick Bryant
    colorist - Brad Anderson
    letterer - Patrick Brosseau
    cover - Rags Morales & Brad Anderson, variant cover - Jim Lee & Alex Sinclair
    associate editor - Wil Moss, editor - Matt Idleson
    this review is of the print edition, standard cover

    Like with last week's Justice League #1, its impossible to discuss this comic and pretend that I don't know anything about Superman.  And while I may speculate about what someone coming to Superman might think (either for the first time or after having had never read a Superman comic), that's most definitely a guess.  We're way past that here at The Signal Watch.

    Launching alongside another dozen DC Comics titles, its a little hard to process that the point behind this issue is that - like its 1938 counterpart - this issue of Action Comics is telling the story of the first time a super human, a super man, appears in a world in which such a concept isn't weighed down with preconceptions of a man in a cape fighting crime.  Advantage to 1938 when Superman wasn't a household word and hadn't launched a bajillion costumed crime-fighting descendants in print or in TV and movies in every corner of the globe.  In fact, there's a certain bit of speculative fiction here that its 2000-something, and we have to imagine a world in which kids don't grow up jumping off their beds with towels tied around their necks and the biggest hit Hollywood can conceive of doesn't include Batmobiles.

    As the cover and pre-release materials have suggested, this is a Superman who doesn't really have a concept of a superhero outfit, and is doing what a lot of 20-somethings would do, and wearing jeans and a t-shirt to go out and do his thing.

    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    Some of the New 52 - First Impressions

    I picked up a handful of DC's releases this week.

    For clarification purposes - I did not pick up:

    Batwing - I really, really do not care for Judd Winick.  I am sorry.  He has enough of my money.
    Detective Comics - I will pick up in collected format.  No need to spend money twice.
    Green Arrow - I don't plan to get this.  I will have to hear sterling reviews. The preview didn't grab me.
    Hawk & Dove - Same as Green Arrow.  The concept didn't grab me from descriptions.

    What I read tonight (which wasn't Action Comics, which we'll get to later):

    Animal Man:  This was the best issue of those I read this evening, and was strongly recommended by Brandon of Austin Books.  This reminded me of early-era Vertigo, mixing superheroics with perhaps horror and a bit of a mature approach to characters as three-dimensional people.  The comic touches loosely upon Buddy Baker's past inside and outside of the stories and his publishing history (one and the same to him, uniquely, I'd say), and sets some genuinely mind-boggling stuff creating a tremendous hook for what's to come.  I'm definitely onboard for the next few issues.

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Okay, I know I said I wasn't going to talk the business side of comics, but... (how I went Orange Lantern this week at ABC)

    Holy smokes.

    I was walking into Austin Books, ran into an old pal, Jason C., and he only had Action Comics and OMAC in his hands.  Jason is a comics nut, and a DC aficionado (he wrote part of his dissertation on Crisis on Infinite Earths, for example) and this surprised me.

    "What's up?  Just Action and a book written by Didio?"
    "It's all sold out," he explained.  "No Animal Man."
    "Yeah, its pretty cleared out in there."
    "That's...  good?"
    "I think I'm getting an iPad."
    "Yeah.  WOW."

    Now, I had used the Austin Books Weekly Pull List, and so I had my issues held for me, but, YEAH.  It was largely sold out.  Batgirl, Animal Man, a bunch of other stuff was just gone.  Action, OMAC, Static and Men of War had copies left, but there were several comics missing, including Swamp Thing.

    Pretty good first week out of the gate, DC Comics.

    Saddest of all were two separate grown men who, dammit, just wanted Stormwatch.  Just...  you know, they wanted to see what the Midnighter was up to.  Nothing big.  And they seemed kind of lost and sad.

    In retrospect, I probably should have surrendered my copy to one of them, but I was in full on Larfleeze mode.

    People, Austin Books and Comics does NOT do this wrong.  They do NOT under-order.  There's just that kind of demand.  It's...  I've not seen anything like it.  This is what we call demand.

    Anyway, I had dinner with Jason and Amy, and so I'm a little behind tonight, so you'll have to excuse me while I read Action Comics #1, Batgirl, JLI and Animal Man.  That isn't all I got, and I guess I should fess up that I grabbed pretty much everything this week.  And Punisher #3.  And Planet of the Apes.

    What are you guys seeing in your neighborhood shops?

    DCU: Let's all pretend we care more about the comics themselves than the state of the industry for a week, shall we?

    Since June, the only story at DC Comics has been the story of DC Comics - the business.

    Sure, that's been the intention at DC, to get folks like myself interested and excited in DC changing course and all that.  Mission accomplished.

    As you may know, I like my UT Longhorn Football Program.  And, of late, I have had some scattered thoughts regarding the fact that college football chatter increasingly centers increasingly less on the players and teams and win/loss records, and now seems to focus upon the maneuvering around conference contracts, NCAA violations, etc...  (especially here in pre and first weeks of the season). 

    In truth, all I really want to do is watch football and see how these guys are playing.  When the  men and women in suits cutting deals become more interesting than the young men on the gridiron, something has gone askew.

    I figure there's a 40% chance this will be awful, a 30% chance it will be mediocre, and a 30% chance its going to rock. 

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    This sort of story really drives me nuts (in which we ponder how some people are lousy rats)

    This story is making the rounds (thanks to those who sent me the link), and in this world rife with grisly, horrifying examples of man's inhumanity toward man, perhaps its small potatoes.  Maybe.

    The news story is about a mentally disabled gentleman in Missouri who has had his Superman collection stolen out from under him, and while, yes, the Superman angle is what got me there, it could have been his teaspoon collection.

    Meyer was tricked out of about 1,800 of his favorite Superman comic books, some dating to the 1950s. He also lost many of his favorite collector's items: lunch boxes, an old-time radio, a Monopoly game and television set — all Superman-themed. The loot is worth about $4,000 to $5,000 in total, according to a friend who also collects. 
    Read more:

    But, basically, this gentleman, who seems to be able to care for his pets and himself with a less-than-great-paying career has managed to somehow amass a considerable Superman collection.  Running into an old colleague, the colleague came over, cased the place, then returned under the guise of wanting to watch Superman movies with him, then cleaned out his more valuable items.  Its just...  it's just so low, you know?

    I think that its just such a first-world bit of evil, and so unnecessary on the part of the perpetrators.  Sure, there are crimes I read about all around the world that I can't get my head around where people come off far worse, but this is just...  so unnecessary and casually cruel.  You have to be a pretty serious rat to pull something like this and still get to sleep at night.

    Oh, right. So, my folks' house did not burn down (yet)

    Thanks to the heroic efforts of local firefighters, the abode of The KareBear and The Admiral still stands tall.

    If you're catching up, their area of Austin, Steiner Ranch, was one of several areas experiencing wildfire thanks to drought conditions (and, it turns out, some power lines shooting sparks).  I'm not clear on how close the fire came, but it was still a bit away, so its not as if it burned right up to their property line and then respectfully stopped, not wanting to give The Admiral a bad day.

    The folks have been out to the house, checked it for problems, and have headed back to Houston until next weekend.

    I appreciate everyone's concern, and I know my folks appreciate it, too.

    Unfortunately, there's no rain in our forecast, and we do have dry and breezy conditions forecast for the next week.  That ain't good.  All of Texas needs about a week of solid rain, as wildfires are breaking out across the entire state.  We're going from an agricultural problem to a potential catastrophe of state-wide proportions.

    Here's to our emergency responders, who are working around the clock to save the day.

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Texas on Fire

    While the East Coast has been experiencing severe weather, and Louisiana has been grappling with a tropical storm, since the 4th of July, most of Texas has been dealing with record breaking heat by standards of both intensity and duration.  Add in the fact that it simply will not seem to rain here, and the Central Texas region, which is home to Austin has become a wildfire waiting to happen.

    Fires of various sizes have been cropping up all summer, and its a credit to the firefighters that while we've definitely lost homes and property, by and large the disasters have not spread completely out of control.  Until now.

    I'm afraid its gotten pretty bad out there.  My folks bought a house in North Austin they're retiring to before Thanksgiving, and were in town for the weekend for the UT/ Rice game.  Unfortunately, wildfires caught out in their area, and right now they're evacuated to my... sofa, actually.  Its fairly nerve-wracking watching the news and seeing the devestation.  And the crazy part is that Steiner Ranch isn't even the part of town hardest hit.  Bastrop, a former small town - now a bedroom community, is getting hit really hard.

    Anyhow, I may be distracted for a while dealing with my folks' situation and real life, so I ask that you bear with us.

    Here's The Statesman, our local paper, and their coverage.

    Labor Day, Shmabor Day

    I read this strip for the first time in 1st or 2nd grade. And while I've come to understand, since, why Labor Day exists, each Labor Day this rhyme runs through my head.

    You may not recall, but this is what early Garfield strips looked like back before he was changed to four, easy to copy circles with cartoon arms and legs that could be farmed out to Korean animation sweatshops.

    click for full size

    Thank you, Garfield creator Jim Davis, for the indelible impression you left upon me at a very early age regarding the irresponsibility of management at capitulating to today's holiday.  Were it not for our national fervor for a good cook-out, I don't see how this pinko holiday would have survived.

    By the way, when I read Garfield strips, in my head our titular feline sounds exactly like my brother.  I don't know why.

    Sunday, September 4, 2011

    Our Odd 20th Century/ 21st Century Football Evening

    As I've complained about, Time-Warner failed to pick up the Longhorn Network, and seems like it will continue to not carry the Longhorn Network, which means that, like likely thousands of other people in my area, I got up this morning and looked to see if I could change cable carriers.

    The only carrier in town with the Longhorn Network is Grande Communications, who are also much cheaper than my carrier, but, of course, they haven't made it yet to my neighborhood.  Whatever that means.

    So, last night we had PaulT (aka: @PlacesLost) over at the house, ate some Tostitos, and listened to the game on the radio while watching the LSU/ Orgeon game on mute.  We tried to keep up with both games via iPhones and laptops.  It was kind of a goofy night.

    And while Paul's company was great, Paul and I also like to talk as much as grannies at the Gossipin' Fence, so you tend to lose a lot of the nuance of the game unless you decide you're going to just sit there silently.  And, if you're a casual football fan like me, you have a lot of questions you don't often think about when you're able to watch the game.

    "A reverse pass?  What the hell is a reverse pass?  What does that even mean?"  Paul was kind enough to mime it out for me.

    So that was our weird night.

    Also, I was a bit bummed that Oregon lost to LSU.  But quite chuffed that UT won their game 34-9.

    Yes, yes.  I know its Rice and not OU, but we didn't just win a game, we won it by more than a touchdown, which means UT might not be the Keystone Cops this year, even if UT, reportedly, didn't play a perfect game.  

    The next game to be carried exclusively on the Longhorn Network is the Kansas game, a game I will most definitely want to see.  Hopefully we'll either have the LHN by then, or we can think about all sitting quietly around the radio, I suppose.