Friday, November 11, 2011

Signal Watch Watches: Green Lantern The Animated Series first episode

This evening Cartoon Network debuted the real start of DC Entertainment's all new DC Nation concept, kicking off an hour-long episode of the all new Green Lantern The Animated Series.

The show is the first 3D animated weekly show from DC, and I think it'll fit in neatly with both the other DC programming that's in 2D (such as Young Justice) and the very popular Star Wars: Clone Wars, which is some lovely 3D animation.

The GL of choice for this series is Hal Jordan, whom I guess the studio believed would be every kid's favorite action hero after the summer blockbuster, which...  yeah.  Luckily, the producers of this program (which include Bruce Timm and his style imprinted upon 3D), just sort of went off and did their own thing, more or less.  Honestly, they strayed quite a bit from the comics as well, and that's fine for this GL fanboy.

Not much time is spent on set-up.  Likely the producers were hoping kids had seen the movie or watched other GL material.  Instead, we get a quick overview of the basic GL concept, and then a pair of Green Lanterns grab an experimental (by Oan standards, so...  its really neat) spacecraft that's kind of a Lantern itself, and go off to find out why Lanterns are dying out in deep, deep space.

Happy Nigel Tufnel Day, people

Today it's 11/11/11

Thursday, November 10, 2011

How DC Comics got me to stop worrying and learn to love the trade

You know, from the moment I read about the DC relaunch back in June, I knew it was going to wind up changing my buying habits.  And, indeed, that seems to be the case.

I'm already buying fewer floppies (sorry, comics industry) and planning to buy trades of series of which I've only read an issue or two.  In truth, DC really seemed to get their act together on trades right up until about a year ago, and then started getting a bit confusing about them all over again.  For a while, it seemed like the plan was that if a story line wrapped up in January, in February or March we'd see a hardback edition (usually about the same cost as the issues) and then in late summer or fall, we might see the trade paperback.

I thought it was pretty fair, as far as release windows go.  But, yeah, figuring out when the Green Lantern and Wonder Woman trades were going to come out (a few of the series I went in "all trade" on a while back) has been a bit confusing, and it seems less likely that you can predict releases again.  

Still, its worlds better than the 90's when it was utterly unpredictable what would get a collection and what would not.

But, Wednesday DC announced their publishing plans for trades for the New 52 (no word yet on other collections), and it looks like a nice, easy to understand plan aimed at putting volumes of books on the shelf at retailers and in your home.  Maybe not surprising as current Editor-in-Chief of DC is Bob Harras, who ran DC's trade collections division and built it into the business I came to trust.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bil Keane, Family Circus Creator, Follows Dotted Trail into the Infinite

Today it was announced that Bil Keane, creator of the long running and enormously popular Family Circus comic strip, had passed at age 89.  Keane's strip appears in over 1500 papers and has been in publication for over 50 years.

As a somewhat shallow jerk with no children of his own, like literally dozens of other Americans, I quit enjoying daily newspaper strip The Family Circus's whimsical take on the gosh-darn cute things kids say and do some time back.  But circa 1984, I was all about The Family Circus.  Mostly because I'd found a huge treasury album on deep discount at Bookstop, but its also a fairly consistent (perhaps too consistent) strip, and sometimes it was sweet and amusing enough and inoffensive, in the way you might find yourself partially smiling at a rerun of Everybody Loves Raymond when its on in the waiting room of Jiffy Lube and you're stuck there for 45 minutes.*

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

So, "Axe Cop: Bad Guy Earth" worked almost exactly like a DC Event Comic

I take it all of you are familiar with Axe Cop?

If not, you should be.

Axe Cop was a happy accident which occurred when a 29 year old comic artist, Ethan Nicolle, went to visit his family for the holidays, and whilst hanging out with his 5 year-old brother, Malachi, created a quick comic strip in which Ethan illustrated the stories which Malachi dreamed up.

Malachi's vision comes mostly from understanding the world in the manner of a 5-year-old, by way of TV, movies, video games, 5 year old perceptions of the world on everything from how police recruitment works to headier things like one's mortality or morality.

All in all, its an amazingly fun read, at least in part because it taps into the world of play and unfettered imagination all of us who lived to grow up and become boring 'ol adults now filter out before an idea has time to percolate.  Most five-year-olds don't have talented cartoonist brothers willing to draw the stories they reel off.

That said, part of what's fun is also that five-year-olds are not terribly responsible story-tellers, and there's a lot of free-association, randomness, odd handling of cause-and-effect, etc...

Usually Axe Cop is read in small chunks, in a sort of webstrip format, and even if a story goes on, its in these tiny chunks.  But Bad Guy Earth was an Axe Cop opus, a three-issue comic series 

What struck me as I was wrapping up the read (one I highly recommend, by the way) is that the series was 99.9% plot development with not even a nod to character development, featured a string of events that didn't really push one into another but still fit, somewhat loosely, with plot threads that kind of start and then do nothing, while kind of random things happen to draw the series to its conclusion.

Sort of like most of DC's "event comics" since Crisis on Infinite Earths.

SUNDAY: Witherd Wuhrld - Authtin! Comicth! Thelebritieth! Geekth! Cothtumth!!

On Sunday I'll be heading down to the Austin Convention Center for Year 2 of the Wizard World Austin Comic Convention.

I won't be going Friday because: work.  Saturday I've got less important things to do (kick-off is at 11:00 AM, FX is carrying the game).  So, Sunday is when I'm going.

Last year was weird, truth to be told.  I had a great time hanging out with Matt, Phil, JackBart and Jason, and I got some good deals on Jimmy Olsen comics.  But the tone of the Con was strange.  I am not entirely comfortable with the "celebrities" kept in pens like veal.  I still think I did something wrong when I went to talk to Erin Gray and get her autograph (but no regrets.  It was Erin Gray.).

This year promises a colorful line-up of the kids from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, now all grown up (sadly, Augustus Gloop has canceled), Jake Lloyd of Star Wars fame and both Kyle Reese AND young John Conner will be there in the forms of Michael Biehn and Edward Furlong.  Peter Mayhew (you know him as Chewbacca), the cheerleader from Heroes, and Kevin Sorbo.  

Frankly, its not an awful line-up, if I actually wanted to meet any of them (well, maybe Michael Biehn).  

Last year I wandered the tables in artists' alley, but it was sort of odd.  The truth is, there's a lot of talent at those tables, both names you do and do not know.  But I'm not a wealthy man, and its not a reading library.  I'm the same guy who can't stop at a gas station just to use the restroom without feeling obligated to buy a bag of peanuts and a soda, so I don't like lingering and just staring at the artists and creators like animals on display.  And, certainly NOT buying something is some sort of judgment, I think.

Anyhow, I plan to make it a quick trip.  If you're in Austin on Sunday and want to tag-up at the Con, let me know.  I'll be there for a while sometime after the lunching hour.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Superman Lawsuit, and me playing with kids' toys

On Sunday I stumbled across this new Superman toy from Fischer-Price.  While Fischer-Price has done an admirable job with Batman and DC toys of late, this is slightly different and bigger and shows up as part of their "Rescue Heroes"/ "Hero World" line.

Yes, I buy kids' Superman toys.  Especially when they come with Krypto.

Krypto does not screw around

I was carrying the item around Target when I gave the toy a second look and realized...  he hasn't got the trunks.  And he's got the chunky boots, and...  they gave him the scaling detail of the Jim Lee re-design (sort of).

Superman wouldn't want to appear un-detailed

And I started thinking: wow, the New 52 is really going to change things.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Signal Watch Reads: Action Comics #3

Action Comics 3
World Against Superman
writer - Grant Morrison
pencillers - Rags Morales & Gene Ha
inkers - Rick Bryant & Gene Ha
colorists - Brad Anderson & Art Lyon
letterer - Patrick Brosseau
covers - (standard) Rags Morales & Brad Anderson, (variant) Gene Ha & Art Lyon
associate editor - Wil Moss, editor - Matt Idleson
this review is of the standard, print edition of the issue

Oh, Gene Ha.

If anyone was going to up the ante on Byrne's vision for Krypton, or surpass the mix of nostalgic fantasy and futurist thinking that Mark Waid and Leinil Yu put together in Birthright, it seems fitting that DC paired an artist as meticulous and wildly creative as Gene Ha to bring the world of Krypton to life in a manner both new and familiar. I do not know if DC planned to have two separate artists for the Krypton and Earth sequences in this issue, but as much as I've been enjoying the super-heroic work of Rags Morales on this book, that first page, complete with a gurgling Kal-El and his star-filled eyes brought back memories of glory days on Top 10 and the magic I expected every time a new issue hit the stands.

For everyone who insisted that we never need to see another version or telling of the last days of Krypton, that its too well known, and that Morrison himself summed it up so perfectly in All Star Superman that the topic never needed revisiting, I'd point to the richness of story that comes from the tragedy that marks the final notes of a great cosmic civilization. In every incarnation, its a fable about hubris, and if we can cover the territory of myth repeatedly, in form after form, it seems not unreasonable to welcome a fresh telling of American myth and our own Atlantis, blown to bits across the cosmos rather than sinking beneath the waves.

"Forever Lazy" - so, are we going "Wall-E" or more "Idiocracy" with this one?

What really caught my attention was that this product pitches itself as essentially creating less work for the user than a Snuggie/ Slanket.

What then caught my attention was that this product has a butt-hatch, and is damned proud of this particular throw-back/ innovation.

Today, I am fascinated with the new product, arrived just in time for cold weather and the holidays - the "Forever Lazy" one-piece garment of regret.

I suppose it would be poor marketing to sell this thing as the "The Official Wardrobe of Just Giving Up".

I love the value statement ideas, like "party it up with friends".  As if I will (a) buy my friends "Forever Lazy" sweat inducers, or (b) that they'd have their own, and think its okay to wear over to my house.  And somehow pitching to people that they can better cuddle with their pets in these outfits speaks to the likely target market I suspect, of people who seek comfort at all times as they watch CBS programming with their 20 cats.

Yes, it WILL be the talk of your next tailgate if you go for broke and wear the thing in public.  It will also be the talk of anyone who walks past your tailgating party and you hear whispers of "was that dude really wearing a 'Forever Lazy' in public?".

I'm not denying that it looks like it would be soft and toasty, but I think you need to do some mental math before deciding you want to be seen in a product that really pitches the ease of pooping while never having to remove the outfit.

Kudos to the actors and models hired for this shoot.  You really sold the idea that donning a "Forever Lazy" will immediately fill one's empty soul with shame and self-loathing.

Les Daniels Merges with the Infinite

I saw some noise on Twitter and am sad to confirm that Les Daniels, writer and comics historian, had passed.

I've read a few books by Les Daniels, now several years ago.  Daniels wrote the books that I still refer to for historical context on DC's Trinity (I pulled the Superman book off the shelf just last month for some fact checking).  I've always understood that he preceded current historians like Hajdu or Gerard Jones, and its certainly not the place where one earns glory in comics.

Likely Daniels' greatest exposure came in the creation of the DC Masterpiece box sets that came out a few years ago that you could pick up at Barnes & Noble or Borders.   Those things were actually pretty amazing, and if you're a comics fan, you missed out if you didn't grab them.  

Mostly, I appreciated Daniels' approach as an historian, not really shying away from some of the goofier or odder sides of the development of characters.  It was from him that I first read about Wonder Woman's origins derived from William Moulton Marston and Marston's particular proclivities.  Its not an approach 95% of the folks currently writing about comics seem to get (or want to get), that these characters we love do not spring whole cloth from the imagination, but from the forces of the time, the forces of personality of creators and the environment and culture that formed the minds of those creators.  

In the end, I don't have much to add about Daniels, other than that he opened my eyes to the sweeping history within the publication of superheroes, and I suspect that he helped build my fascination with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as more than characters on a page, but as icons of western culture in their own right.