Saturday, June 2, 2012

Signal Watch Reads: Superman Family Adventures #1

I know some of you, especially those of you with kids, have been reading Tiny Titans for a while.  And if you haven't been reading the series, go out and find the collections.  They're absolute gold when it comes to funny comics, especially if you follow DC Comics.

Possibly due to the reboot of the DCU, sadly, Tiny Titans has now wound down.

Not to fret, Art Baltazar and Franco's work lives on!  Not only is Art Baltazar illustrating the superlative line of fun kid's books under the Super Pets banner published by Capstone (catch up with Krypto, Streaky, Ace the Bathound and others!), Franco and Baltazar have moved their efforts over to a new kid's book: Superman Family Adventures.

The first issue arrived on Wednesday, and we gave it a read Wednesday night.

Yup, its a "New 52" inspired Superman operating in a Silver Age milieu, right alongside Super Pets, his young pals, Lois, Jimmy and The Chief.  And, of course, Lex Luthor and his rampaging robots.  The book is a first issue, and so its perhaps not the well oiled machine we came to expect of Tiny Titans, but its already got the peppy voice of the Tiny Titans book, but with longer-form content.

Unlike Tiny Titans, this comic isn't a "gag" comic, but takes the length of the issue to tell the story.  It's a change in format, but the spirit seems mostly the same.  And if you liked running jokes in Tiny Titans, one nice bit about the Amazing World of Superman is that there are already plenty of running jokes for Franco and Baltazar to draw upon (Jimmy's role as "coffee fetcher" for Perry White, Clark's winkiness when it comes to his secret identity, etc...).

In a lot of ways, DC has serious ground to make up when it comes to restoring Superman to the good graces of the public.  A ponderous 2006 movie, the drudgery of ten (10!) seasons of Smallville, and doing absolutely nothing to react to 20 years of press, comics and otherwise, rambling about the irrelevancy of Superman.  And, of course, DC's own staff seeming to want to do everything in their powers to avoid owning the big, crazy world of Superman so they could pretend that comics are for serious adults (or, at least, 18 year olds trying to identify with a broody Batman).

So maybe reminding people why this world works once you take yourself out of the context of competing for Punisher readers - aiming at the kids may be exactly the right tack.  In many ways, its two completely different milieus that just happen to co-mingle in the wild world of superhero comics.  But as The Punisher was meant to reflect a Bronson-type character in the Marvel U, it may be a wise move to find ways to use various characters to reach different audiences.  Or exploit how that audience feels about different characters to cover various bases.

The single most useless comment I read online about this book basically boiled down to "I like everything about it, but I'm a Batman fan, so I would have preferred a Batman family book".  That sort of navel-gazing doesn't really get you anywhere.  It's a bit like watching Star Trek and criticizing it for not being Star Wars or wishing you had the beef sandwich instead of the ham.  But I wonder.  Its not that I think that can't work, but DC has spent so much time rebranding Batman into The Dark Knight, they pulled the superlative Brave and the Bold from television to make room for a cartoon more in line with the grim avenger model.  Certainly they don't want to miss an opportunity for profit?  Maybe we'll get a sister Batman book out of all this.

Really, I have nothing but positive things to say about the comic.  They start off without bothering to discuss Superman's origin, rockets from Krypton, etc...  and they leap right into the action with Superman joyfully saving Metropolis from collision with a meteor(ite?), running into the Planet offices as Clark, and hitting the streets when Lex unleashes three robots to wreak havoc.

The art is energetic and extremely kid friendly (see the cover above).  I'm always impressed with the range of character and expression Baltazar pulls off as a cartoonist given the simple forms he's working with, but that's what makes him so favored as a cartoonist by fans, I suppose.

Anyway, its a very promising start and a missing component in DC's line of books.  And that missing component has been anything resembling "fun" or "joy", which, if you go back over Superman's long and storied history, has been where he's shone as often as when he's battled the forces of evil with a set jaw and narrowed eyes.

I saw that Comics Alliance had posted a preview.  I think you should check it out.

Friday, June 1, 2012

And Happy Birthday to Matty Mangum

Happy birthday, man.

I know you hate my blog and think comics are stupid, but we heart you, anyway.

Tomorrow we will get you a pony ride.

Happy Birthday to Marilyn Monroe

Today is the birthday of Norma Jeane Mortenson, who would go on to create an image of sexually charged glamour in American cinema and related media around 60 years ago, something that we're still not sure what to do with today.

Like everybody else who first learned Marilyn Monroe's biography from a maudlin Elton John tune, I cannot help but see her as a tragic figure.  Doubly so as, according to a number of sources, Monroe was also a bit of a genius, just one who knew that wasn't what the cameras or the public believed or wanted, and managed to play a role quite often in her public life.  It's only in seeing the surprising number of photos that surface with Mornoe with a book in her hands, or the fact that one of her choices of a man to marry was Arthur Miller*, that the image of the head tilted back with the open mouth smile becomes a put-on and the other Monroe comes into focus.  But maybe that's why Monroe continues to be discussed when Jayne Mansfield (and, in her way, Mamie Van Doren) have disappeared into pop cultural ephemera most people can't pick out of a line-up.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

It'd been a good long while since I'd seen Bonnie and Clyde (1967), the Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway starring film loosely retelling the story of the very real life depression-era gang that cut a path through the central united states, from Texas to Iowa.

It's a great piece of filmmaking and one of those movies that both said quite a bit about the time of its release and manages to act one of the points of demarcation between filmmaking that had preceded it and what was to come as the 70's roared into cinemas.

I've talked before about how much I love Gun Crazy (1950),* and its not hard to see a bit of mashing of the facts around the Bonnie & Clyde case and the spirit and plotting of Gun Crazy in this movie.  But, of course, unlike the 1950 film, Bonnie and Clyde is one of the earlier adopters of obvious violence on screen, not shying away from putting bullets in the faces of bankers or showing Faye Dunaway getting riddled with bullets (I'd say spoiler, but if you don't know what happens to Bonnie and Clyde, you guys need to seriously start watching more TV).  It's also beautifully shot, well edited and the audio of the film presages a lot of what I think you'll hear in films to come as the mix attempts for naturalism, blending in the wind of the plains, a score that's semi-regional and period.

No News is Good News?

You know what I'm a sucker for?  The news.

You know what I haven't seen in the past 10 years?

There's an article on Yahoo! News (your place for breaking info on the Olsen Twins' fashion faux pas) about CNN as a Zombie news network.  

The conclusion:
And it may be that CNN's legendary objectivity is part of the problem. The network has always prided itself on covering the news with an even hand, but more partisan networks like Fox News and MSNBC have stolen away viewers by taking sides in the growing culture war and offering strong opinions with a conservative or liberal slant. CNN may win on journalistic integrity, but they're losing on passion.
Well, not for me and certainly not for anyone I talk to.  I may slant left, but I won't watch MSNBC because I don't need the news spun to me so that I'll nod like a muppet meeting the celebrity guest when Rachel Maddow comes on to tell me how smart we all are for agreeing with her.  

No, I quit watching CNN because they quit airing the news.  We all know that.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Summer TV: Sherlock & Star Trek

The shows I do watch are ended for the season, or wrapping up.  There are only a few episodes left of Season 5 of Mad Men (and last week's episode made me sad), Mythbusters carries on destroying everything in the name of science - even when its clear that Jamie and Adam are not really invested anymore, Parks & Rec has called it a day for 2012, and I've not seen a new American Experience since April, I think.

So its time for me to try to catch up!


You guys have recommended Sherlock to me a few times, and so last night I finally watched the pilot on Netflix.  And then tonight I watched the second episode.

Y'all, that was pretty good, right?  I mean, I'm not wrong on this?

hello.  We're British.

Signal Watch Watches: Ramona and Beezus (2010)

As a child of a teacher with her Masters in Reading Education, we never wanted for books around the house.  I had my favorites, and I read a lot of the Beverly Cleary books featuring the neighborhood of kids of Klickitat Street, with Henry Huggins, Beezus & Ramona (and Henry's dog, Ribsy*).

It's been a long, long time since I read the series, probably closer to 30 years than 20, and so my memory is a bit hazy.  Still, I was amazed at how many scenes and references from of the books came back to me when I found Ramona and Beezus on the HBO in-demand options, and once the movie started rolling.  From the "kitty-kat Q" to the proper way to crack a hardboiled egg (a technique I still employ from time to time), to the employment problems of Mr. Quimby.

I believe this is the edition of the book I had.  Beezus was such a square.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Westward, Ho! Allison B and Chris Roberson flee Austin

In a day or two Allison B and Chris Roberson pack up and depart Austin for the untamed wilderness that is Portland, Oregon, where they will most certainly be eaten by a bear.

I shall miss their hospitality, and Austin in poorer for their departure.  It is an odd thing to find oneself in the company of a writer you truly enjoy and respect first, and then get to make their acquaintance as a family unit living in the same town.

Here's to a great family as they set off on an all new adventure.

Portland, be nice to these folks.   They're all right.   And please find them decent tacos.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: King Kong (1933)

I was in high school before I got to see King Kong (1933) in its entirety, and I've probably seen it almost a dozen times since.  Before that I had seen both the 1976 version of King Kong with Jessica Lange and the almost forgotten King Kong Lives (1986) in the theater.

Memorial Day: American Women

On this Memorial Day, I thought maybe I'd take a minute to remember the many women who've also served in and in conjunction with the US Armed Forces.

I'm not clear on how women are currently deployed in the US Military, but in our recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there can be no question that those anywhere in the theater are at risk.  Nor can you bypass the sacrifice many have made just to serve.

Its hard to ignore the contributions of women in World War II, be it the WACS, the WAVES, the women who took jobs in factories building machinery or the women who carefully managed a country under rationing and who planted victory gardens.

Korea and Vietnam saw women serving in an increased capacity as medical staff.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Like A Doll's Eyes - Quint's Monologue

As we head toward Memorial Day, a day of remembering our fallen soldiers here in the US, and as we cross the threshold into summer (at least here below the the Mason-Dixon Line), I am already pondering not if, but when, I will watch Jaws this summer.

I can't remember the last time I saw a movie with a monologue, a real monologue, included.  I don't suppose the kids these days would sit for a full two or three minutes of somebody just, you know, talking, without pulling out their cell phones and texting away.  But this is from an era of filmmaking that wasn't entirely about avoiding risk, perhaps the only serious era where this occurred at the studios.

No matter how many time I watch it, Robert Shaw's speech about the sinking of the Indianapolis still hits me.  Its a terrific bit of film writing and an amazing performance to match, all carried by the extremely young Steven Spielberg behind the camera.

The sinking of the Indianapolis as described by Shaw's character Quint was all too real, the details of which had only been released to the public in the few years previous to when Jaws hit theaters, and not many had heard the story.

Clearly the speech sets the motivation for Quint, that its far more than about the $10,000 plus expenses, and it gives the film's primordial man vs. nature premise a bent that supersedes Brody's duty and Hooper's scientific curiosity.  And, in many ways, despite tying the film to World War II, it also manages to decouple the film from a 70's creature movie, placing it alongside Melville as a seafaring journey, a sort of tale of revenge against the very sea that gives the character meaning.

Memorial Day isn't just about car sales or a day off.

1100 men went in the water, 316 men come out.  The sharks took the rest.  June the 29th, 1945.