Friday, October 14, 2011

Alert: Halloween Fun Deadline is Approaching!

hey, everybody.

I know it seems like Halloween is still aways off, but we've only received one submission for the Halloween participation-palooza.

This makes me a sad The League.  We can't really do this without YOU.

We'd like to get all submissions, if any, by October 19th.  So if you have a minute or two over the weekend, why not kick us a submission?

To read up on what you can do - CLICK HERE!!!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

So I don't need to tell you guys Ghostbusters is awesome

This evening I went to go and see Ghostbusters at the Alamo with Jamie and my pal Kevin.

It was a lot of fun seeing it on the big screen for the first time since I was a kid, and seeing with a crowd that all wanted to see it again.  And it was most definitely an "again" scenario.

The crowd was laughing more at the small moments than the go-to laughs, like most of us who've seen that movie a couple of dozen times.

And the movie does have the greatest climactic battle between good and evil ever caught on film

the greatest shot in any movie, ever
Its a Friday.  Ya'll have a good one.

In which I talk about why I hate talking about music

So, about five years ago, I started really hating talking about music.  Not just online, but in person.  I have used the analogy "we might as well be arguing over which color we should like best", and I kind of stick to that.

I suppose I sort of used to talk about music here and at League of Melbotis, but talking about music in person is often an oddball conversation wherein you're both talking about driving, but one of you is talking about driving sports cars on empty stretches of road, and someone else is talking about NASCAR, and someone else is talking about playing SpyHunter at Chuck E. Cheese in 1987.

On the internet, however, there's no difference between a somewhat apathetic or agnostic stance and finding that your "meh" attitude just outright offends someone.

Concrete Example: If I could barely muster a shrug that REM finally hung it up after not finding a place in my record collection since Out of Time, released almost 20 years ago, I'm sorry.  It doesn't mean I think you're an idiot for praising Monster or Automatic for the People.  I haven't paid any attention to the band since my Junior year of high school.*

I just don't care.  And its not that I don't care that much about YOU as a person (and I know you take your music seriously), but I can't do anything with the fact that we have different ideas about the rock and roll.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Signal Watch Watches: American Horror Story - Pilot

Two things that are not secrets:

1)  I have not found any new shows this Fall that are to my liking enough to add them to my DVR
2)  Connie Britton, yo

You probably don't recall, but last Halloween as we discussed our favorite monsters, I named one of my favorite monsters is actually a Haunted House

Rather than worry about Dracula or Moth Man coming at you, there's something primal about the sense of animism and the creeping sense that we're invading the privacy of even the long-dead when we enter spaces once occupied by others, especially when the artifacts they left behind still linger.  No doubt I just never really got over The Shining and The Haunting, or handful of other movies in which bad stuff goes down inside a space that can't seem to let go of its dead (I'm a fan of Poltergeist, too, but as more of a weird kid's movie than an actual scary movie). 

what could possibly go wrong?
American Horror Story arrives with as big a name cast as anything you'll find on basic cable.  Connie Britton of Friday Night Lights plays our lead, the wife trying to forgive her spouse for cheating on her (she actually caught him in the act).  The husband is played by Dylan McDermott, star of multiple TV shows, usually featuring handsome attorneys.  Jessica Lange (I KNOW) plays the, uh, eccentric next door neighbor with a daughter with down syndrome.  Frances Conroy of Six Feet Under plays the housekeeper who insists on returning to the job.

Don't Forget: Halloween Participation FUN is FUN

Hey, Signal Corps!  We have a sort of tradition of reader participation around Halloween going back many, many years.

The gentleman in the cape thinks our participation events are a bloody good time
I posted the rules  for the Halloween participation adventure last week, but wanted to put out a reminder.

Tragically, these things DO have deadlines.

Click here to read up on this year's event!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Return to the New 52: Batbooks Part 3 (BoP, The Dark Knight, Batman and Robin)

Hey, Signal Corps!  Still plugging through the Batbooks.  We're on to the Green Lantern books in the next installment.

A reminder that you should visit the good folks at Austin Books and Comics.  They've more or less sponsored by complete read of the New 52!  And, absolutely remember that these are reviews, but they're my opinion and my opinion only.  And I'm old and cranky and still can't believe Superman no longer has red trunks.

Birds of Prey #1
by Duane Swierczynski and Jesus Saiz

I'm including Birds of Prey in this book because, well, this book always takes place in Gotham, and it seems odd not to talk about it in context with Batman.  Also, I was a very much on-again, off-again reader of Birds of Prey going back some years.

This issue just sort of feels like a bunch of stuff happening because its a modern/ current-type comic and so we cna expect lots of covert military style folks in dark, urban locations fighting each other in light body armor.  Unless you have prior knowledge of the DCU, I have no idea why you'd care or feel like you know about these characters.  And you certainly get no insight into what is actually happening other "some people in outfits that make them semi-invisible seem to want to hurt two women who have no problem with property damage".  Frankly, this was so full of cut and pasted 00's-era comics scenes, I was bored stiff.

Also, happy Columbus Day

Paul reminds me today is also Columbus Day, a holiday which has suffered some setbacks in recent years due to the less than great fallout of Columbus' ships landing in the west.

I was just looking for India.
So, instead, (as per Paul's suggestion) we'll celebrate writer/director/ producer Chris Columbus.

Adventures in Babysitting, ya'll.

Happy Monday/ Canadian Thanksgiving

For reasons I am fuzzy on, Canada does its Thanksgiving on a Monday in October.  What the hell, Canada?

Anyhow, Happy Thanksgiving to our Canadian reader, Simon.

We posted plenty over the weekend, so forgive us if this is what you get on a Monday.

We read Action Comics #2
We ranted on UT's #11 ranking
We read Red Hood & The Outlaws, Batwing and Nightwing
We went to go see Baby Face (1933) at the Ritz.

Happy Turkey Day, Canada!  Enjoy some yams!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Baby Face at the Alamo Ritz with Paul

In honor of our own JeniferSF and her birthday (happy B-Day, Jenifer), PaulT and I headed down to the Alamo Ritz this evening for a rare archival screening of Stanwyck in Baby Face and to try the "Bellflower" cocktail.

the Bellflower
From the Alamo's menu:

BellflowerThis easy drinking, refreshing blend of brandy and lillet blanc is like a booze fueled iced tea for the end of summer.

No, I don't know what lillet blanc is, and the only brandy I drink is Christian Bros. out of a plastic bottle.  So...  anyway, it was an adventure.

PaulT and I each had one, and at first I didn't particularly care for it, but once you squeezed the citrus in there, that thing was actually okay.  Not as good as Matt's improvement of my usual household Old Fashioneds (apparently we're going to start muddling the hell out of the fruit), but a lively little drink.

I'm a bit of an amateur Stanwyck fan (and she has serious fans out there, people) for all the usual reasons one likes Stanwyck.*

Here, Stanwyck is going almost full Honey Badger.
The movie was hosted by The Alamo's Lars and UT film prof Caroline Frick, who is also a film preservationist, which is near and dear to my library-employed heart.

The movie was as fantastic as I'd heard, and we got to see a cut from the Library of Congress that predated several cuts made to the film as it went for wider distribution and had to deal with local censors, etc...  Its an incredibly racy film, mixing Nietzsche with capitalism, sex and more sex and not in the suggestive manner of what would be in films by the 1940's.  There's no question regarding what's going on in this movie, and its pretty clear what its about.

Anyhoo...  it does run on Turner Classic from time to time, and I highly recommend watching this particular rags-to-riches story as its not exactly got "work hard and your dreams will come true" as its central message.

Mo' money, mo' problems for our protagonist
That's all I've got.

*if I have to explain, I've already lost you

Return to the New 52: Batbooks Part 2 (Red Hood & The Outlaws, Batwing, Nightwing)

I've sort of been dreading this, so I admit I've been a bit slow to move on through some of these books.

But as long as I have your attention - this week I picked up my books and I fully recommend Animal Man #2 and Swamp Thing #2, with a lesser recommendation for OMAC, which picked up a bit this week.

Just good stuff.  Also, available at fine retailers such as Austin Books and Comics.*

So, let's talk Red Hood and the Outlaws, Batwing and Nightwing.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #1
written by Scott Lobdell, art by Kenneth Rocafort

Hoo boy.  Well, this comic is trying to capture the spirit that sort of reached its apex in movies like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, of smart-talking, devil-may-care action flick protagonists who are constantly in over their heads and for whom things don't work out quite right.

Its also just impossibly dumb, and gives credence to every single one of the criticisms of this issue and comics in general.

Look, I don't look for realism in my superhero comics, but when our heroes reveal themselves in the middle of an arena, the stands of which are filled with dudes with machineguns and our heroes have no cover and are armed only with pistols and a bow and arrows?  This should have been the shortest comic, ever.  Its not a "cool" escape.  Its stupid.

The plot leaps into a series of ellipses regarding what, exactly, is going on, but gives us absolutely no reason to care.  Kory can't remember the Titans (yeah, yeah, I read Lobdell saying "no, she's being sarcastic".  I like to think I can read, and... no.), there's some mysterious Top Cow comics reject taking up panel space talking to Jason Todd, a shocking ability to get to the Himalayas, etc...  its just everything that was lazy about 90's-era superhero comics that Lobdell was doing over in Teen Titans but with older characters.

The comic goes for humor, but isn't funny.  It goes for gritty action, but there are absolutely no stakes.  It goes for fun characters, but gives us tropes and dialog that sounds like better dialog you've heard elsewhere.  It goes for edgy, and gives us lots of blood and orange boobs.  It wallows in the sort of lazy approach to mysticism that's been a calling card of lesser DC books for decades (which Lobdell clearly didn't learn from), and half-asses the super-agent bit into nonsense (why is any of this happening and how is it funded?).

Is the scene with Starfire engaging Red Arrow as bad as it was advertised?  Yeah, pretty much.  I had said "I want to see it in context", and now I have.  Keep in mind, this same character was introduced with her cup size before her name.  That's the comic we're working with.  It also seems Lobdell has, in fact, decided to ignore 30 years of establishing Starfire's identity and personality in favor of a blank slate of a character he can use any which way he pleases, and its not to the character's betterment.

I was hoping the relaunch would take advantage of the opportunity to admit bringing Jason Todd back was maybe a dumb idea, but instead DC has chosen to compound the dumb idea with worse ideas (and hackey delivery at that), making Brubaker's successful return of Bucky all the more unlikely.

I know this comic sold just fine.  Doesn't mean DC shouldn't be a bit embarrassed this made it out there.

Batwing #1 
by Judd Winick and Ben Oliver

I have to admit, I liked this book considerably more than I thought I would.

The art falls prey to the mandate for lots'n'lots of blood'n'mutilations that's plaguing other DC books, but it perhaps wallows in it a bit less, and its not treated as cavalierly here as I felt it was handled in other titles.

The hook, of course, is that this is The Batman of Africa, which is hugely problematic.  Its typical American thinking about an entire continent, based upon our lack of understanding of the geography, cultures and nations located on the African continent, and to some extent seems to play off of viewings of a few movies and NPR reports.  When DC has been publishing something so specific as Unknown Soldier in recent years, it seems a bit silly and intellectually lazy to go back to the era of Congo Bill and just say "it's Africa, white people!".

And, I had to wonder if Winick knows that tigers live in Asia, not Africa.  Because that seemed like an odd naming convention to pick if you didn't have to.  Not that its necessary to name oneself after local fauna, but...  Africa has its own big cats, and it would have avoided the question.

I remember our villain Massacre (who appears on page one) from some mostly uninspired Superman comics from the 90's when DC was struggling for relevance for Superman during the age of Image comics, and this actually seems like a pretty good place to drop the character.  Massacre as cretinous mercenary seizing power actually makes some sense, and paired against Batwing's crazy get-up, that little skull mask actually makes some sense.

Further, I like the idea of our protagonist as a guy trying to make good on both sides of his secret identity in a place we can substitute for any struggling African nation (which is why I think DC and Winick have yet to name where, exactly, Batwing is hanging out) as the need for law & order is regularly trumped by the pinch for resources.  I sort of think they would have done well to make up a fictional African nation that would substitute for at least a region.  Is this struggling Kenya?  Chaotic Somalia?

However, our protagonist is, thus far, only characterized by a general sense of "I'm an okay guy wearing a Bat-Suit".  I'd have liked to have seen Winick try to take a swing at a bit more about Batwing's secret ID, motivations, etc...

The mystery of the book is fairly brutal, and that's where the staple DC "piles 'o bodies" that seem necessary in every 52 relaunch book come into play.  But this seems to be high-stakes turf/ drug lord war in a place truly without controls or an empowered law-enforcement agency.  The context, while gruesome, at least kind of makes sense if you read the paper.  And, while that's fairly damning of recent history in Africa, its often hard to imagine that "were Superman real", etc... that superpowers and unstoppable forces couldn't be put to better use offshore from a city like Metropolis that seems to have its act together.In that context, I'll take it.

I am not sure I'll pick up issue 2, but I am going to follow reviews and consider the trade.  On a Winick book.  I know, you could knock me over with a feather, too.

Nightwing #1  
written by Kyle Higgings, art by Eddy Barrows and JP Mayer

Well, it certainly feels like a Nightwing comic, which is why I have come and gone from this character's various series over the years.  Dick Grayson has established a character and personality in his books over the years, and its not an unappealing one, but "the well-adjusted member of the Bat-Family" can sometimes be a tough sell - to me, at least.

As with many Nightwing stories, it feels odd to me to hear Dick Grayson talking about the sickness and insanity of Gotham (something I think DC just needs to mandate all writers let up on, because enough already - show, don't tell) in the same chipper tone he applies to the fumbling of his love life.  But that's always been the character and not just tied to Higgins.

As is also too often a problem with Nightwing (or any DC characters established post 1965), he doesn't really have a rogues gallery, and so we tend to get these generic DC one-offs of armored folks who won't just buy a gun and shoot at Nightwing as if they're scoring style points (I know, I know, you match the challenge to the character).

There's a quick recap to get a new reader up to speed that I think Higgins swings well, and between that and the exposition around Haly's Circus gets someone utterly unfamiliar with Nightwing to understand who this guy is, if they know anything at all about Batman.  Something a lot of other #1's haven't done well.

We also get a current status quo regarding Nightwing's living arrangements, satisfaction with ditching the cape, etc...

As a side note - DC was never going to go with two Batmans on a permanent basis.  Surely you people understood this, yes?

spoilers:  The set-up for the plot vaguely echoes the past year of stories for Bucky in Captain America comics, and so I'm curious to see if DC is really going to go down the whole "mind control" route.  I mean, really DC?  I don't mind that this is your story, but you and Brubaker have been chasing one another's tails entirely too much for years now.  Its just getting awkward.  end spoilers

Its probably as safe to skip this Nightwing relaunch as its traditionally been safe to skip Nightwing in previous incarnations.  It'll be a great companion piece to the other goings-on in the Batbooks, but its also the book which is comfort food to the Batfan.  It rarely challenges, usually reflects the trends of the day, and acts as a sort of counter-balance approach to the overly heavy stuff going on in Batman or Detective.  But its still more palatable than Bedard's "well, this is disposable" run on Robin.

*once again, a special thanks to Austin Books and Comics for making these reviews possible.

a Signal Watch Rant: Sports Journalists are the worst (almost as bad as comics "journalism")

Why was UT #11 going into this week's game?

Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I'm a UT fan, and I am terribly embarrassed about the crippling loss to Oklahoma yesterday, but in the lead-up to the game, my jaw dropped when I saw that sports journalists had apparently voted my team (ie: us) to #11 somehow in the past week.

As much as fans can hold their team and coaches responsible, how do journalists and those voting on polls (which actually DO have an effect on the fates of teams) get a pass when they're so clearly wrong?

Look, I am a fan of the Longhorns, and so there are absolutely some raw feelings there as the Horns return to Austin shamed and with quite a hole to climb out from, but I like to think I can also be pretty honest about how we're doing as my interest in the team is mostly just typical alumni school spirit, not that of someone who prides themselves on their sports acumen.

Signal Watch Reads: Action Comics #2

Action Comics #2
In Chains
writer - Grant Morrison
pencilers - Rags Morales & Brent Anderson
inkers - Rick Bryant & Brent Anderson
colorist - Brad Anderson
letterer - Patrick Brosseau
Associate Editor - Will Moss, editor - Matt Idleson
this review is of the print edition, regular cover

This issue picks up within, I'd guess, less than 24 hours of the conclusion of issue #1, which ended with our Superman incapacitated after getting pinned to the front of the Daily Planet building with the nose of a commuter train (yeah, I just typed that).

Captured and alone, Superman has become the unwilling test subject for Lex Luthor at the hands of the military under the purview of General Sam "Yes, Lois's Dad" Lane.  Luthor throws everything he's got at both the alien in his clutches as well as the cape.

This issue is the first that confirmed the challenge that's facing down the relaunch of Superman in the New 52, even with someone as talented as Grant Morrison at the helm.  We may be getting something "new", but almost like any myth worth retelling, there are bits and parts of the myth that require inclusion.  While comics fans claim that Morrison perfected the superheroic origin sequence in All Star Superman, that's not really accurate.  He and Quitely said what needed to be said and got us going on our way.*