Friday, October 8, 2010

Pepe Le Pew Movie? The Bad Reviews Just Write Themselves

Corpsman RHPT sent me a link that WB is attempting to reinvigorate their cast of cartoon characters with a slate of new projects including a possible live action/ CGI movie featuring Pepe Le Pew. 


The article states that comedian Mike "The Love Guru" Myers is associated with the project and will, one way or another, play the WB's amorous french skunk  (despite his turn as another black and white furry scamp in The Cat in the Hat, the movie that terrified kids and turned a generation off of Dr. Seuss.).

If I may:  why on Earth, given the track record of live action movies featuring formerly popular franchises, would you pick the one character that will give every film critic on a global scale the opportunity to use the word "stink" in their review?

And the movie will stink.  As will box office. 

I foresee weeks upon weeks of entertainment headlines pounding and pounding away on the idea that this movie stinks, and just by virtue of going to my iGoogle or Yahoo! account, my eyes will be bombarded by this clever play on words from a million different sources, over and over. 

Also, Mssr. Le Pew's romantic tactics would get the rape whistle blown at him in this day and age.  I'm not sure who in a modern audience is going to find it hilarious that this stalker of a skunk manhandles a helpless cat against her will for the duration of the film, even if in the third reel he learns a little lesson from WB's HR about appropriate workplace behavior and not being "handsy".  And, of course, the kitty decides she misses the attention (got that, girls...?  you're gonna miss Mr. Handsy Stalker when he's gone!).

In this modern age, I am not sure Mr. Le Pew will work quite as well as he once did, in days gone by when interspecies sexual assault was good for a laugh. 

Yeah, I think I've even creeped myself out at this point
I don't have any advice for the WB. How about trying to be actually funny?  You know, the way Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett and others were able to do without resorting to ridiculous CGI for the sake of CGI nonsense?

Also, the appropriate amount of time from when an anvil enters the image to when it makes contact?  13 frames.  13 frames is funniest.  Everybody knows that.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A change in the pattern - I've moved mostly to trades

Earlier today Corpsman PaulT asked me if I liked that DC Comics had decided to drop their prices on all titles to $2.99. There's been a bit of a migration to a higher pricepoint in comics, most recently with Marvel displaying some serious brass ones by charging $3.99 for a standard sized comic. The same kind of comic that I paid $0.75 for when I was first really getting into comics, only in the current mode of "let's put 3 panels per page in a super-decompressed format with four words per page").

In truth, the promise of a $3.99 pricepoint sort of broke me of lots and lots of bad habits. So, while I am thrilled that DC has actually and officially decided to draw the $2.99 pricepoint line in the sand for their standard, floppy, 32-page comic (supplemented with ads, I might note) with 20 pages of content versus 22...  I'm mostly just glad they're holding their prices steady instead of feeling like Marvel's move opened the door for massive and unsustainable price increases.

Here's a story on it all at Newsarama.

Not long ago DC had tried to justify the $3.99 by adding extra pages and back-up stories, with some of those supplementary items better than the feature material (cough...  Detective Comics). And, of course, some of the back-matter was pretty terrible and complicated the purchase (cough...  Metal Men back up feature).  But they'd also recently launched a few standard sized titles at $3.99.  All I know is that I'm more or less DC's main audience, and this summer, at least partially in reaction to the price increases, I gave up regularly reading floppies of everything but Superman titles and Morrison's Batman stuff.

So, yeah, your Erstwhile Comic Opinion-Spewing Scribe will now be about seven months behind what's going on with the DCU while he waits for the collected editions to hit his local comic shop. But (a) it cost about the same to pick up a hardcover edition of the same material if I waited, and that I could put on a shelf or loan out, and (b) in trade paperback, the cost savings seemed just so much more worth, plus... (c) I wasn't reading three issues of a series and spending $9.00 - $12.00 to realize "I really hate this series" and then have three comics just sort of cluttering the place up.

The truth is, the jump from $2.50 or $2.75 to $3.00 was when I abandoned Marvel. I just couldn't afford to keep up with two universes, and Marvel's insistence I read the entire Civil War shenanigans and then roll right into Secret Alien Hostile Takeover or whatever just meant that what should have been a fairly inexpensive hobby became crazily expensive (if you actually wanted to keep up).

Once Marvel jumped prices to $4, I knew the system was just broken, and DC would think they were somehow devaluing their product if they didn't keep up.  Curiously, that's not really been the case, and the experiments they floated this year must have set off some serious alarms.

I'm now watching my comics budget a lot more than I have since high school or maybe my first year or so of college when it was comics or food (sometimes comics won that fight).  I'm not able to afford a weekly comic shop run, and I go looking for back issues upon fairly rare occasions.  I should also add that I'm looking for quality of condition in back-issues these days, too, so that makes the back-issue collecting a bit more expensive, but also more rewarding and fun.*

There was also always the issue that I do bag, board and box comics, and sometimes I'd wind up buying collections so I could get back to those stories without sifting through the dozens of boxes.  I'd been particularly bad about that with Green Lantern, and after Blackest Night saw no reason to own floppies of Green Lantern ever again.**  DC has done a great job with its collected editions (thanks, Bob Harras!), and that means I'll be just fine reading trades of GL, Flash, etc... from now on.  Even Wonder Woman.

I have reduced my Batman floppies intake to Morrison-penned books, and I have a very hard time seeing myself ever giving up on floppies of Superman.   Quitting Batman has been hardest, as my collection reaches back now about 25 years, with major gaps, but... nonetheless.  There's a lot of filler out there with Batman titles, and I prefer to just pick up the stuff that's actually driving the character forward, not just moving Bat-product.

I have also obtained a library card and visited the Austin Public Library, which has an okay collection of comics.  I'm actually headed back tomorrow to return some comics and look to see what's at my local branch rather than the central library.  And there's your civics lesson of the week, Signal Corps.  But, seriously, libraries have been doing pretty well of late in the arena of obtaining graphic novels and collections, as well as books about comics.  I know I saw several books I'll be picking up over the next few months.

But all in all, I've given up the weekly habit.  I do miss Wednesdays at the shop, and trying to read the comics before I read the reviews.  My new habit does mean I'm mostly avoiding reviews of newer comics, except to help me decide if I do want to try a collection (but mostly I just ask CanadianSimon what he thinks, anyway).

So that's the comics news. 

(quick edit:  Here's an article at Newsarama on retailer reaction to the price drop.)

*someday someone is going to wind up with my Superman collection and have no idea what they have on their hands, likely taking it to the garbage dump.  And they'll hear my ghost cursing their name.

**Jamie, by the way, has now read just a massive amount of Green Lantern in a very condensed amount of time by reading my collections.  Next I plan to put her on Morrison's Batman run to see what happens.

"Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Curtain Theater in Austin on Saturday

A work colleague is part of a production of Bill Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in Austin this Saturday.  Curiously, the theater holding the show is owned by spaceman/ software entrepreneur Richard Garriot, who decided to build a replica of England's Globe Theater on the shores of Lake Austin. 

So, if you're interested, Jamie and I are headed down there on Saturday and we'd love to have you join us for a play in the great Fall evening weather Austin is currently enjoying.  And:  to see Eva in a lion mask.


For a little more on The Curtain Theater.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

More on the Zack Snyder Superman Movie Thing

 It was odd to see the news about Zack Snyder getting the Superman gig when I popped open my laptop in Brownsville at the hotel.   I think i09 had a pretty solid set of recommendations for the movie.  And, of course, the rumors are now bouncing around about General Zod of Superman 2 fame named the villain for the movie.

I am as much a fan of Superman 2 as you're likely to find, but its an odd choice from a comic fan's perspective.  Zod has traditionally been a minor villain in the comics (and the movie Zod is more like villain Jax-Ur in many ways than the oddly-hatted Zod).  From a movie-making perspective, it makes more sense.  Zod can demonstrate and play out all those bad impulses that fans can say they think Superman would be unable to stop himself from demonstrating as some sort of totalitarian alien/ diety on Earth.  And, of course, Superman standing up against Zod doesn't just logically make sense, but it should define what Superman does and why.

It's that whole "equal opposites" thing you wind up getting in a lot of action movies.

Signal Corps regular Horus Kemwer sent me a link to the start of a web discussion about the philosophical issues surrounding Superman, and while I am no student of philosophy, I'd suggest that if Zack Snyder would like for his movie to carry the weight of The Dark Knight, starting with the problems inherent in a superbeing (not necessarily Superman himself.  After all, we've got a cadre of superbeings to choose from out of the comics for a "compare and contrast" session for the movie) and what the morality and responsibility of that superbeing might be...  and, of course, explosions.

But, to that point, Nolan's second Batman film was quite literally about the boundaries and limits of retaining one's morals in a city seemingly gone mad, from Batman to doomed Harvey Dent to the boatloads of people with the ultimate "would you rather" scenario put in front of them.  And I think you can use Superman to explore issues of power (something Americans don't think about wielding, but which we do flaunt across the planet like titans every day) in order to tell a compelling story and imbue the myth of the alien-christ-immigrant with relevancy and impact beyond a popcorn flick.

Can Zack Snyder do this?  It depends how closely he chooses to work with Chris Nolan and Nolan's team, I think.

And I know I've said this before, but...

I am still not sure we'll seee Snyder take this through to completion.  Prior to Superman Returns, flashy directors like McG and Brett Ratner known for their ability to put together neat action sequences and exciting car chases both wound up dropping off Superman after signing up to do the movie. Tim Burton tried to do another "outsider" movie and walked away.

It would be great to get another Superman movie in front of the lens, but at some point directors as successful and well-intentioned as Snyder have been on Superman before, and they couldn't quite find the hook. It doesn't matter what anyone says:  do not believe its happening until you see the first publicity stills.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The guy who botched "300" and "Watchmen" to take on "Superman"

Ho boy.

Look, I only half believe this story, but folks are reporting that Zack Snyder is going to direct Superman.

If you wonder why I'm skeptical, its because similar reports were issued prior to Superman Returns with Brett Ratner, McG and Michael Bay attached.  And, Justice League was slated to go into production about five years ago before someone at WB noticed that the idea and casting for the movie were absolutely terrible. 

A quick list of pros and cons


  • Zack Snyder has a great eye for production design
  • Snyder loves original source material
  • This will actually get a movie going rather than simply circling the drain
  • The dude loves a good action sequence, and he may have some keen ideas for how to take what makes Superman super cool in the comics and translate that to movies in a way audiences have not previously seen
  • I am not too worried about anyone thinking a Zack Snyder directed Superman movie is about a weepy, wimpy superhero as folks felt about Superman Returns
  • If that whole "look at this in slow-mo now in fast motion" thing could apply to any two superheroes, its The Flash and Superman


  • Snyder has a terrific eye for design, but I have yet to see him tell an original story
  • His choices on Watchmen, when given latitude beyond the page, almost always seemed... wrong
  • In short, he seems technically competent, but he hasn't shown deftness or understanding of how to do much more than present a story in a sequential manner.  He hasn't show an ability to creatively infuse life into a movie.
  • Watchmen was a critical dud, didn't exactly set the box office on fire and is still routinely cited as "what's wrong with comic movies" for a variety of reasons

I'm going to just be zen about all this until... well, later.

Headed to South Texas/ Simple Machines

So,  I'm at the tail end of our Sunday night ritual of late.  We join up with Matt and Nicole for dinner and then Mad Men and a cocktail (or two).  Lately, we've also added Boardwalk Empire to that formula, and it makes for a pretty good evening, I think.

Tomorrow I drive down to Brownsville in the afternoon, and then I'm talking to folks at UT Brownsville - Texas Southmost College on Wednesday.  On Wednesday I'm in Corpus Christi, and then I'll be home that evening.  Its some driving, but I've got two audio books from my book bucket list that I'm going to try to get through.

At any rate, between the game on Saturday, errands and the employment of a pulley AND going ahead and decorating for Halloween today (because, man, was the weather nice...), I don't have much in the way of an update.

Kudos to Jason and Jamie (and neighbor Chris) for helping us get the chairs onto the upstairs balcony. 

Last weekend, after thinking we might do this for about two years, we purchased some adirondack chairs on end-of-season closeout.  We have a second story balcony on the front of the house.

This is actually an old picture, but that's the front of our house.
For me, the upstairs balcony was a big selling point for the house.  Fall and Spring in Austin can be very, very nice (and parts of winter), and we've never had any good seating up there since we moved in (which was just about four years ago, when this picture was taken).

Anyhow, we got the chairs home, but when I carried them through the house, it turned out the chairs wouldn't actually fit through a standard-sized interior door.  So, back through the house they came.  We considered some different options, and in the end I called my father-in-law, who usually has some pretty good ideas about how to do this sort of thing. 

I'm not saying DocDik endorsed my plan to install an eyehook and hang a pulley from the hook, but he did add the crucial factor of "have someone stand downstairs and pull the chair away from the house with another rope" that kept me from just slamming the chair into the house.

Sure, the whole operation seemed a bit iffy, but there's a reason people employ pulleys in this day and age, and I can report "Operation Chair Lift" was a success.  Plus, now we got a pulley.

I'll be back soon enough.  No idea if I'll find time to check in with you guys.

Hope the weather is as beautiful there as its turning here.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Wonder Woman to TV?

Rumors are now popping up that Wonder Woman may be headed to the small screen.


The CW Network (formerly the WB Network) has had Superman going for 10 years (ten years, people!  That's crazy!), but the season which began last week is the final season of the program.  Word on the street is that Warner Bros. quite likes the money Smallville has generated and has been looking for a replacement once Clark puts on the cape and flies off into the stratosphere (the Big Bad for this season, btw, is Darkseid.  This should be... interesting.). 

Will Wonder Woman work on the small screen? 


Ladies and gentlemen, my argument FOR a televised Wonder Woman

I own the complete run of the Lynda Carter Wonder Woman series on DVD, so I am pretty sure I'm not the right guy to ask. 


The interesting thing about Wonder Woman is that there's such a flexible mythology to the character that the writers could muck about quite a bit and even the fanboys would barely bat an eye.  I know what version I prefer, but...  you know, if you start with a young enough Wonder Woman, and basically have her oppose her mother in order to leave the island, you're most of the way there as far as cannon goes.

Wonder Woman doesn't even always have a secret identity, and I sort of prefer the version that doesn't have a secret ID, but I don't see that playing terribly well on TV.  Unless it does, and then, there you go...

But as I was previously pondering, Wonder Woman has a pretty bizarre bunch of arch-nemeses.  But I think if you had the weekly format to build on, especially with her ties to Greek mythology, you could possibly build up a unique world for Wonder Woman to deal with.

Anyway, we'll see.  But I'm betting they adjust the costume.

Happy Start of the Halloween Season, Guys and Ghouls

Dr. Acula checks for swollen glands
Hey, Signal Corps!  It's that magical time of the year when swamp creatures, vampires, mummies, werewolves and things that go bump in the night invade our consciousness. 

I'm thinking on a blog-wide participatory venture to celebrate the season.  If you've got any ideas, send 'em in.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Is the DC Universe too Weird to Make it in Movies?

I've been thinking lately about the supposed upcoming slate of movies from DC Entertainment/ Comics.  In the summer of 2011, the Green Lantern (and-all-that-that-implies) is going to hit cinemas everywhere.  Hal Jordan, a cocky, brash test pilot will be given an alien artifact that will enable him to...  not fight crime or overcome a mad scientist...  but to become a patrolman of Sector 2814, one of thousands of green-long-johned spacecops.

Last night I was watching part of 2002's Spider-Man feature, and its all so straight forward.  Guy gets bit by radioactive spider, is more than human, realizes he has a responsibility to use his power for others, beats up thugs and bank robbers, and eventually fights a mad-scientist.  Repeat in Spider-Man 2.  And when they didn't do that in Spidey 3?  It kind of fell apart.

Even the X-Men films boiled down to superheroes vs. Mad Scientist, and Iron Man 1 and 2 both made sure that was the case.

Green Lantern is not this.  I think we'll see some elements of this in the movie, but in the comics, it isn't usually Hal Jordan v. Mad Scientist.  Except that the major villain is Hector Hammond, the lone mad scientist I can think of in Green Lantern's rogues gallery.  And, yeah, he's in the movie.

That said, unlike the masked Green Goblin or the straightforward mecha suits of Iron Man (or Magneto is his dandy maroon finery), DC's heroes and villains tend to tilt a bit more... odd. Hammond may have started off a mad scientist, but for a while, he's been a guy with an giant, immobilizing head that enables him to read minds and project thoughts.

But he has a great personality

While I have no doubt that DC will take a page from Nolan's take on superheroes and try to find some areas where the costumes and suits will look like something somebody might actually do... how does one bring Gorilla Grodd or Ultra-Humanite to the screen and expect for anyone but a kid (or those of us already bought into the idea of Ultra-Humanite) to take the idea seriously?

There's a reason that with multiple movies under his yellow belt and countless hours of TV, too, that Superman's rogues gallery has been largely presented as beginning and ending with Lex Luthor. After all, Lex, unlike Brainiac, isn't a green guy in a pink leotard with USB ports on his head.

Fact:  Brainiac is an intergalactic jerkface

But the real issue to me is that Brainiac's deal in the comics is that he goes from planet to planet shrinking cities until they fit in a bottle, stealing all their data (or copying it, Napster users), and, in some versions, he then blows up the planet. Because Brainiac is a real big jerk.

Brainiac is a villain in his own right, but his original primary function was to bring Kandor, the shrunken, microscopic, Kryptonian "city in a bottle" into the comics. And then you have to talk about Kandor, and just the concept of Kandor is so... well, us Superman fans think its awesome, but everyone else just finds it kind of... weird.

Silver Age villains are always really happy about their evil schemes

Now, does this make sense as a movie? I... don't know. There's a certain level of zaniness you have to embrace in the DCU proper, and when you start to strip that away, sometimes the pieces don't necessarily work together so well anymore.  But I think there are some pretty concrete reasons Superman's movie nemesis is a guy a bit too obsessed with real estate rather than, say, Terra Man.

is America ready for the menace of a cowboy from space and his flying horse?  Terra Man is an actual Superman villain, btw

There's an inherent problem in that:  Would Green Lantern still be interesting if all he did was fight street crime, like Spidey or Batman? When people say they want a gritty, "real" Superman, have they really run the numbers of what that might look like? How interesting is it really going to be watching Superman take out bank robbers for two hours or liquifying people with a single punch?

It's not that Marvel doesn't have weird villains.  It most certainly does.  Have you heard of my pal, MODOK?

Also a big, giant head.  MODOK, btw, = Mental Organism Designed Only for Killing.  Again, I am totally not kidding.

Now, given the opportunity to make a whole bunch of movies, Marvel didn't immediately say "hey, let's put MODOK out there as a villain!". They could have, and they didn't. Because, seriously... look at that guy.  And when Marvel made a movie about Galactus, they did literally everything they could not to show my favorite Marvel villain of all time.

This they turned into a cloud with no lines in FF2.  One of 1,378 cataloged things wrong with the movie.

But somehow running with this sort of thing and believing that everyone thinks stuff like Batmite (Batman's 5th dimensional fan) and Bizarro (I mean, Bizarro... for @#$%'s sake...) are perfectly cromulent ideas is sort of DC's thing. If the villain doesn't look like something your five-year-old niece scribbled on a Denny's children's menu, then they have a background that sounds completely crazy to a lay audience.

Oh, hell go read up on Reverse Flash (aka: Professor Zoom) on your own, and then come back.

Read it?

That's sort of The Joker for The Flash. This guy is in the comics all the time. Now put that in your movie.  The changes that would be required would essentially water Zoom down so much, he wouldn't be the same character anymore.  And that's kind of okay.

Comic fans get all giddy and they really want to see Brainiac and Reverse Flash and whatnot, but when it comes down to it...  I'm not sure you can do this in two hours and not get some puzzled looks from audiences.

This is why a Flash movie, by its nature, is going to have a hard time putting someone against Barry Allen.  All of the Flash's villains, while awesome on the comics page, are completely ridiculous.  The Pied-Piper?  Captain Cold?  The Trickster?  Mirror Master?  And what sort of bag of madness do you introduce with Grodd and Gorilla City?

And that's just The Flash.  I haven't covered Wonder Woman's slate of bad-guys, such as Egg-Fu and Giganta (an attractive red head who can grow to enormous sizes, and who used to be a gorilla, btw).

The secret to those gorgeous curls?  A strong potassium diet.

In the 1980's the audience for comics began aging, growing up with comics that had a feel that previously had come only from movies and tougher TV shows and novels.  The grittier content allowed by the Direct Market began giving comics a bit of credence as a medium that you didn't need to give up on just because you'd finished middle school and had it in mind to talk to girls.

Certainly DC looked at its slate of comic characters circa 1985, and with Crisis on Infinite Earths relaunching their entire universe decided to clean house to continue to appeal to the readers by insisting that these same characters who once had adorable sidekicks and who were buddies with police chiefs could also be rebels, outlaws, antiheroes and as tough as the criminals older readers must know exist.  And, to an extent, in order for comics to make it to the big screen where they wouldn't be rejected as content for little kids and the mentally deficient, Superheroes have always shed the wackier aspects of their mythos.  Certainly you don't see Beppo the Supermonkey showing up in the third reel of Superman 2.*

I look forward to Christopher Nolan's dark take on the Legion of Super Pets.  Also:  Telepathic horse (sort of.  That's the least complicated part about Comet the Superhorse.)
In the past five or six years, however, on the comics side DC has sort of begun to realize that they were running in place continually because they kept trying to find reasons to do everything BUT use their major characters and the zaniness associated.  And in the past five or six years they found out:  their readership actually likes this stuff.

But that's comics.  If DC is going to bring their characters to the big screen without just making up new villains and environs for their heroes...  they're going to need to go about this whole thing very, very carefully.

It doesn't just make the characters easier to understand when you don't clutter them up with nonsense, it also means that critics aren't quite as likely to immediately dismiss your movie about the man in bat ears punching poor people and mental patients.

Marvel's heroes have the advantage of feeling somewhat more grounded in reality.**  Buying a teenager putting on tights as Spider-Man works to an extent because for the first part of the film he's a smart but normal teenager, and then becomes extraordinary in an ordinary world.  And then his villain is extraordinary, too, and... blam.  Fight.  And I think because so many villains in Marvel's U are sort of warped mirror opposites of the hero, it never feels that odd on the big screen.  Its Rocky vs. Ivan Drago.

But if we start with "oh, he's the king of Atlantis"...  suddenly an Aquaman movie sounds much harder to grasp.

When Green Lantern is finally released, I'll be curious to see how/ if people bite.  An interstellar police force run by creepy blue guys on a distant planet is quite the pill to swallow, but its also been one of my favorite comic concepts since middle school (which is why I was so bummed that just after I learned about GL, DC went about mucking with the basics of the GL Corps for 20 years).

But he will be on Earth for at least part of the film, and he will have his mad scientist to fight.  So... there you go, mass audiences.

*although this would be, categorically, awesome

**that is until Thor is released as a movie

Tony Curtis Merges with the Infinite

Actor Tony Curtis has passed.