Saturday, October 22, 2011

Signal Watch Reads: Justice League #2 (New 52)

Justice League #2
Justice League: Part Two
writer - Geoff Johns
penciller - Jim Lee
inker - Scott Williams
colorist - Alex Sinclair
letterer - Patrick Brosseau
associate editor - Rex Ogle
editor - Eddie Berganza
this review is of the print, standard cover edition

Having had read almost 3 dozen of the New 52, I'm a bit over the shock of these All New #1's not exactly having the best idea what a #1 might look like that's useful to new readers.  In this series, its clear that Geoff Johns will be writing for the trade.  He's counting on the fact that our new readers have familiarity enough with Superman, Batman and Green Lantern (and The Flash!) that we need not spend much time getting readers caught up.  It'll be several more issues before the band is put together, I'd guess, but when assembled, Johns will have put down a template for a possible treatment of whatever Justice League movie the comics-side of DCE must be day-dreaming about as the trailers for Avengers have spun the internet into a little tizzy.*

Friday, October 21, 2011

Saturday Night Interactivity - Drunk Tweet "Big Trouble in Little China" with Signal Watch, @Placeslost, Comics Scribe @chris_roberson and the fabulous @allisontype

What the hell, ya'll?

So Saturday night, PaulT and I are joining comics writer Chris Roberson and his amazing better-half AllisonType, for a screening of Big Trouble in Little China.  And YOU can play along.


We'll be having a cocktail or three and via the magic of Netflix Streaming, we'll be watching the John Carpenter directed classic Big Trouble in Little China.

Whilst watching, we'll be on Twitter using hashtag #BingeTrouble

As a reminder, our twitter handle is:  @melbotis

Follow along as PaulT, Jamie and I attempt to keep up with these veteran DrunkTweeters!

drunk tweeting: it's all in the reflexes

Signal Watch Reads: Supergirl #2 (New 52)

Supergirl #2
written by - Michael Green & Mike Johnson
pencilier - Mahmud Asrar
inker - Dan Green
colorist - Dave McCaig
letterer - John J. Hill
cover - Asrar & McCaig
editor - Wil Moss
group editor - Matt Idleson

Oh. So. This is what we're going to do. Again.

I haven't reviewed either Superboy #2 or Justice League #2 yet, but I shall, because I KNOW you've been waiting, but as the New 52 rolls out, you can't simply read this single issue in a vacuum without noting how other comics are handling their relaunches.

Last issue, Supergirl landed on Earth, stepped out of a shell, and began fighting guys in robot suits involved in the absolute most hilarious/ worst-case scenario for protocol for an agency meeting an alien entity I'd ever seen.  In this issue, all we get is Superman getting beat up by a girl half his size for absolutely no reason other than that comics still believe that when two people meet who don't know one another, the correct answer is to throw a punch even as one person is trying to calmly talk to the other.

We already did this.  Just about 7 years ago, we did more or less exactly this same thing.  100,000 readers watched the Supergirl title implode and collapse in on itself with bratty, hysterical Kara Zor-El slugging everything she didn't understand, like a hillbilly on meth.

We're two issues in, and there's no hint of a story, conflict, who Kara is, etc... and I suspect we won't see any of that for a while.  There are so, so many things for her to misunderstand and punch.

I can't believe that, given the opportunity to relaunch Supergirl (again) after the last volume floundered, the answer has been to repeat almost exactly the same mistakes that were made on the first go-round.  Its just 20 pages, 15 of which feature Superman getting slapped around and our protagonist (who apparently knows exactly how to throw a super-punch) behaving not like a scared teen-ager, but like a poorly written imbecile.  Its just embarrassing.

Honestly, this is an absolutely terrible comic.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

This Moment in History: Qaddafi dead

Today I saw reports that Libyan leader/ dictator/ state-funded-terrorist-supporting quack Muammar el-Qaddafi (I'm going with the NYT's spelling) had been killed in a clash in Libya between Qaddafi's dwindling forces and the uprising against his regime.  On the elliptical at the gym, I watched Anderson Cooper trying to make sense of video footage he'd received of a bloody-faced Qaddafi, apparently just before his death.  And here's an article on the whole, ugly, final day of Qaddafi's life.  

Our younger readers will not necessarily remember Qaddafi as the bogeyman to the US that he was back in the 1980's.  But his participation in bombings of airline flights inform a bit of why it seemed logical to the US populace in 2003 that perhaps Saddam Hussein was supporting terrorist action.  Many of us remember Qaddafi in association with bombings such as the one at Lockerbie.

I also recall our repeated attempts to bomb Qaddafi, which eventually led to his retreat from the world stage as the US sent sorties of F-111's over Tripoli, strategically placing bombs into the bedrooms of his various homes.

I was in history class when we discussed how and why we'd bombed Libya.

I won't mourn the man, but just as I am uncertain that I was uncomfortable with the festival atmosphere that followed the death of Bin Laden, it doesn't feel like anything to celebrate.  It just feels like is something that never should have happened to begin with.  I dunno.  I guess we'll just have to differ on that.

Your nickel discussion of this "The Thing" prequel

Tuesday evening SimonUK and I went and saw The Thing at the Ritz.  We'd both been anticipating the movie for some time, Si more than I, as John Carpenter's 1982 take on The Thing is sort of, I think to him, a bit like Miller's Crossing or Blade Runner are to myself.

But I really like Carpenter's The Thing, too.  I'm not much of a horror fan (I was a delicate child and prone to getting easily freaked out), but I hold The Thing and The Shining in very, very high regard for their era.

Last year Si, StevenB and I all watched a digital restoration of the original, and it was a reminder of how darn well that movie holds up, in no small part because of performances by Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley.

The new movie is actually a prequel, and if you saw the 1980's version, you will likely remember the Norwegian Camp.  Well, this is that.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The B&N v. Kindle Fire v. DC Comics debacle

So, here's the rundown.

Amazon has introduced the "Kindle Fire", their next generation Kindle and lightweight, relatively cheap competitor to the iPad.  As part of their launch, they announced that Amazon had signed a deal with DC Comics to carry about 100 graphic novels exclusively on the Fire in digital format.

DC also has several other outlets through which digital comics can be bought, but not these hot-selling graphic novels (at least hot-selling in paper form).

Barnes & Noble heard about the deal and loudly announced that they would be removing all of the exclusive graphic novels from their physical shelves.  Not their digital store, but the regular 'ol graphic novels from bookstores.

This is a few months before the holidays, which is when, I assume, B&N has a lot of foot traffic and sells a lot of comics.  Its intended to sound the alarm for any publishers looking to make exclusive deals not to do so, lets B&N, now the only bookstores more or less left in the US, will totally rain on your parade.  The "Books-a-Million" chain, which I've never seen (its not in Austin) has also pulled the same list of graphic novels.

I've been watching the situation with muted interest.

1.  I do not own an iPad or Kindle
2.  I likely will not own any digital device like that until late 2012 or much later
3.  I actually own physical copies of a remarkable number of the books on the list, some of them for over 10 or 15 years, so I've only partially been paying attention as - I'm not worried about where I can get those books
4.  I don't buy graphic novels at B&N, anyway.  Doing so is kind of a bad practice as you can get a better selection while helping out your friends at your local comic shop by buying your graphic novels from a better curated comics selection.  Buying graphic novels at B&N is like buying your meat at Target.  Its there, but...
5.  I haven't bought a book from a book store in years.  Generally, I find Borders and B&N pretty unpleasant in a late-90's box-store way.  And I never have a "book emergency" where I can't wait a few days for Amazon to put something in my mailbox at a greatly reduced cost.

The Halloween Participation DEADline is TODAY

Hey Signal Corps!

The response to this year's contest has been more or less a trickle of emails coming in.  But I know you guys, and I know you WANT to participate.

Curious about the original post where we talked about this? CLICK HERE!!!

But here's how you can participate:


1)  What is your favorite under-appreciated horror/ monster/ creepy/ whatever movie.  What scary movie did you see that you were shocked to either realize nobody had ever seen, or you realized later: everybody else hates this movie but me?

2)  What was your worst costume choice (or that of a friend or colleague)?  What costume do you just completely and totally regret having worn?  Why? 

  • Please send in all responses by October 19. 
  • We will begin running responses week of October 24.


Everytime we do one of these, you guys write in to tell me "I'm not sure what to say" or "My answer won't be good enough".  Poppycock.  You've all got stories, and everytime we do this, its a blast.  Just share what you've got.

  • You may submit three answers per question (maybe you have a whole list of schlocky movies you really like or just have no ability to put together a costume.  You tell me)
  • Please keep profanity to a minimum.  Remember that my mother-in-law reads this site, and that we love Judy and do not want to make her sad with your swears and gutter talk
  • There is no fixed length for your response, but please include a "who, what, where, when, why" in your answer, if possible
  • You may answer either or both questions (or neither, but we won't give you credit for lack of effort)
  • Pictures are welcome
  • As editor-in-chief of this site, I reserve the right to withhold printing your responses with a clear conscience should you go off the rails, but I will be happy to talk through any issues I have regarding content of your submission
Send your submissions (or questions) to:  signalwatch at gmail dot com

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Continuing through the New 52 #1s - Green Lantern/ Red Lantern

I apologize.  I thought I'd do this more quickly.  Well, life happens, people.  Life happens.  We're still talking about all of the New 52 #1's.

I'm now making my way through the Green Lantern family of books.

Green Lantern #1
by Geoff Johns and Doug Mahnke

Darn you, Geoff Johns.  Intellectually, I know you're not the world's best writer, but this was actually a fairly solid issue of Green Lantern.  Maybe not a "what is a Green Lantern and let's start from scratch" sort of #1 issue that we could have used for this comic, but...  in all fairness, I gave up on floppies of GL a while ago and have been picking up the trades, so I'm very much behind.  And while I want to know how we got here (and will buy the comics to find out), I never felt completely lost.

Hal was a GL.  He's not.  Now this jerk with a really despicable history, Sinestro, has his ring and Jordan is back on earth trying to remember how people basically go about their day-to-day lives.  And he has no idea.

Its an interesting bit, because my continual complaint about the GL series has been that Johns never slows down to let Hal develop into a real character, or be much more than the handsome fellow wielding the ring.  Frankly, Kyle Rayner has had far more time wrestling with these sorts of things of late than big-time "I've got my own movie" Hal Jordan.

You aren't going to get much out of a Johns comic but what's on the page exactly, but he's still very, very good at turning in comics that are a good, enjoyable read.  Even when you can almost see the gears of what he's doing, right there on the page.

I'd read some negative reviews about this comic, and I sort of have to raise an eyebrow.  It seemed almost as if readers were confused or unwilling to deal with their characters facing any adversity they couldn't punch, in this case:  Hal Jordan's inability to land a job.  But it actually all fits pretty neatly, and, frankly, answers a lot of the questions I'd had about the wobbly set-up Johns seemed to give Hal in the early days of this series.  How the hell WAS he supposed to be in the Air Force during war time and not be on active duty?  Or at least have someone looking for him?

Anyhoo...  its more of Johns on GL.  And given the success of the book prior to the New 52, that's perfectly okay by me.

Red Lantern
by Peter Milligan and Ed Benes

I don't really believe Atrocitus is necessarily a bad character, or even a two-dimensional character, but the concept of being steaming mad all the time?   By the time any writer explores all the nuances of rage, its not really rage anymore.  Already within this first issue, our protagonist has pensive and introspective moments, which seems to push back against the concept of what it means to be blind with rage or fury.

But you can't write that kind of energy level for characters all the time.  It threatens to stick too many characters with, more or less, exactly the same personality and its got nowhere to go.  And deep down, we sort of know that rage isn't really a useful reaction to much of anything.  Its why clever animators have given us Yosemite Sam all these years.

Do I think this book will appeal to young readers looking for vindication (and a nigh-romantic take) on their inability to manage their personal hissy-fits?  That the correct reaction to slights against us is spewing blood to make more blood?    Milligan will have to do a lot more in this book than he did in issue 1 to convince me.

Also, I almost laughed outloud at how sadly watered down Moore's original visions which eventually spawned Atrocitus and others became, and even the excitement of seeing Atrocitus the first times when we see him explaining "I used to be a psychologist".  Sigh.  There are so many things wrong there, and the fact Atrocitus was redesigned into a pink guy with a pointy nose in this book?

Man, Atrocitus, you used to be cool.  Now you're kind of...  like post 1999 Ozzy versus "he bit the head off a bat" Ozzy.

Guest Review! CanadianSimon reviews Atomic Robo!

Hey, Signal Corps!  While I was in Laredo, CanadianSimon emailed me about doing some reviews for Atomic Robo.  That sounded awesome to me as I was quite literally planning to start picking up Atomic Robo this year.  I'm a bit of a novice, and so Simon has graciously sent in these reviews, which also gets me off the hook for lack of content (and I'm going to see The Thing tonight with SimonUK, so I don't know that I'll be posting any time soon). 

Simon, make it Canadian:

So I was hanging out on twitter the other day as I an wont to do and I noticed a tweet from Atomic Robo scribe Brian Clevinger who was looking for folks to review the latest installment of Atomic Robo: The Ghost of Station X. This was much too good of an opportunity to let slip by.

For those of you unfamiliar with Atomic Robo, here is a brief primer. Atomic Robo was created by famed inventor Nikola Tesla in 1923. Tesla was able to endow Robo with "automatic intelligence" as he called it and what is now commonly referred to as "artificial intelligence". Because Robo is, well a robot, and by definition is not limited to a regular humans lifespan we are able to drop in on him over 80 plus years of adventuring where he's taken on Nazi's, Lovecraftian horrors, alternative dimension vampires among other challenges. This also gives us the opportunity for Robo to meet such luminary historical figures like the aforementioned Tesla, Thomas Edison, HP Lovecraft, etc.

The Ghost of Station X is the sixth Atomic Robo mini series. However, knowledge of the previous stories is not necessary. As issue one opens Robo receives a call from NASA as some astronauts are in trouble on a space station and only have 7 hours to live. It is up to Robo and the folks at Tesladyne Industries to rescue them. Unlike most comics where the characters would immediately leap into their spaceship Robo and his team have to figure out a way to get to the stranded astronauts. There is a very Apollo 13 tension going on during the discussion on how to mount the rescue mission.

At the same time there is a building stolen from Bletchley Park in England with possible ties to Robo's past. Unfortunately, Robo is not able to divert himself from the astronaut problem so he sends the "B" team to investigate.

The issue ends on a great cliffhanger where Robo takes off in the rebuilt Aerospike to rescue the astronauts.

Issue 2 picks right up where the issue 1 cliffhanger left off. We see the folks at Tesladyne leaping into action to resolve this crisis. This is where Clevinger really excels as he bounces from character to character with each one having a distinct voice and motivation.

At the same time team "B" continues to investigate the theft of the building from Bletchley Park. Once the Tesladyne team is able to avert the crisis we begin to realize through information communicated by the characters in the book that the rescue of the astronauts was a diversionary tactic. Is Tesladyne Industries under attack? Was some unknown opponent trying to distract Robo from the mysterious disappearance of the building in Bletchley Park? Could it have been both? Tune into issue three to learn more.

Scott Wegener is doing some great art in this series. I absolutely love that he has more than one body type. Too often in comic books each male character looks the same as any other male character and each female character is depicted as a bombshell.

Look folks, I can't recommend Atomic Robo enough. It is a great book that everyone of any age can enjoy. Heck you can read any of these issues to your kids. I've been following this series for years and users of Comixology can buy the digital issues at a ridiculously low price. Please give this series a try either by grabbing some digital issues or pre-ordering the floppies.

Hey, me again. 

This sounds pretty great!  If you've not downloaded the Comixology app or tried their site, I think they've got a good model going.  We need more comics like Atomic Robo out there making comics FUN.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I don't actually feel terribly great this evening

I don't believe I'm actually sick.  I think I ate horribly during my 24 hours away from the house (I ate at Burger King for the first time in a few years, and ate some other various gas-station food junk) and I believe my body is in rebellion.  Its not that I have this amazing diet when I'm at home, but the BK may have done me in.

I went to the gym when I got home and do believe I sweated out some of the bad humors, but my sweat literally seemed to smell weird.  Maybe I was imagining it, or the hotel soap just smelled oddly once sweat got mixed in, but...

The good news is that I felt less awful when I left the gym than when I walked in, and its just sort of drifted into a malaise.

Anyway, I'm skipping tonight.

Here is Louise Brooks with a small dog.

The curious bi-furcation of DC Entertainment

DC Entertainment and puzzle and game manufacturer, Wonder Forge, have announced that Wonder Forge has licensed both "Super Friends" style DC characters for little kids puzzles and toys and "Justice League" characters for older kids and adults.

Yesterday a whole block of cartoon programming centering on DC's characters, lasting over multiple hours per week (over multiple years) on Cartoon Network was announced.  Kids (and adults) will be getting family-friendly versions of Batman, Plastic Man, Doom Patrol and a My Little Pony-type take on Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Supergirl.

One also cannot help but notice that Hot Wheels (yes, the tiny, inexpensive toy cars) has been running ads for Justice League themed cars on the backs of certain DC comics that, historically, should be kid-friendly, such as Superman

And, of course, General Mills is putting the Justice League on boxes of cereal.  In their traditional costumes.

Meanwhile, I read Catwoman and Red Hood and the Outlaws.  Bit of a different thing.

Diane Nelson was not brought to DC Comics (which she immediately renamed DC Entertainment) because she happened to suggest to Warner Bros. that they could do well to publish this nifty book about a wizarding school and the unlucky little boy living under the stairs.  Nelson was one of the architects who turned Harry Potter the book into Harry Potter the cultural touchstone.  The Potter franchise is clearly cross-generational, reaching out well past the original audience of young readers and becoming a movie franchise worth more than most nations, a tourist destination in Florida, a line of high-end collectibles in your SkyMall catalog, lines of cheap Halloween costumes, etc... 

What's curious to me is that I'm assuming Nelson is at least partly aware of the strategies at the comics side of DC, and has raised a thumb in support of the "males 18-34" plan put into place by DC Comics.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

I'm (briefly) in Laredo


Its not a town I come to often, but as Texas A&M International has started working with my office, its a place I'll be hitting for the foreseeable future.

View Larger Map

Last I was in Laredo, I was in about 5th grade.  I don't remember much about the trip except that:
1)  I bought some plastic sunglasses I thought made me look cool (they did not)
2)  My dad bought these crazy-huge longhorn horns in a shop.  The horns hung over our fireplace briefly, and then one day, were back in the garage, never to be hung again.
3)  Jason bought this wooden model Spanish galleon that was really pretty big.  Like, two feet long and two feet high.  I never figured out how he talked my folks into that purchase.

Laredo is one of the oldest cities in Texas, a sort of way-point between San Antonio and civilization back when when this was all Mexico/ Spain/ whatever....  And while its seen Mexican armies coming north to deal with unruly Tejanos and American armies coming south to insist that, no, Texas is most definitely a part of the US now...  its not been the site of much actual military action.

As Mexico, especially border towns in Mexico, are having so many problems with drug cartels, Laredo is one of the destination cities for folks looking to not live in Mexico anymore.  The town, which is far older than places like, say, Austin...  looks like a bright, shiny new place in the area I'm staying.  Nothing looks older than 5-10 years.

There was some concern about safety, but apparently all is well on the US side of the border.

I'm headed back to Austin mid-day tomorrow, but its great to get down here.  Just wish I'd thought to plan a day in Laredo for a look-see.  Next time.

No More Krypto - DC makes a decision with which I must disagree

According to reports coming out of the New York ComicCon, DC has decided that there will be no more Krypto in the New 52.

This makes me sad.  And this is sort of the thing that is making me wonder about the stated goal of aiming your comics at the 18-34 year old male demographic.

While I do think the comics of the 90's were aimed at an all-ages audience, the 90's Superman comics by-passed the Bronze Age in terms of "world building", but it was also one of the dullest eras of Superman as creators tried everything in their power to avoid reminding readers of the past 50 years of Superman comics and tried to pretend that Superman was just a straightforward superhero book that would fit in alongside "gritty" books.  And, hey, who should be picking up writing chores on Superman than Dan Jurgens and Keith Giffen?   Competent writers, but its a strange fit to jump 20 years backward as they're supposedly moving forward.

sorry, buddy
For me, as a Superman fan, this is disappointing.