Wednesday, November 17, 2010

On the Road

This isn't a road outside of San Angelo, but it could be
I've been driving to and fro across this great state of Texas, most recently in San Angelo.  I am not a big traveler for leisure, and my family tended to head East when I was growing up, so I had never been further west than Kerrville, Texas until I was 20 years old and went out to San Angelo for a wedding.  Of course, now I've been to California a few times, Seattle, etc...  and lived in Arizona for four years, but, mentally, I still tag San Angelo as the start of "the west" for myself.

Its a lovely drive.  Try it sometime.  Texas has a lovely Hill Country, and on 71, you get to cut right through the Hill Country for about 1.5 - 2 hours (and then you hit West Texas, and that's a bit more...  flat).

While driving I listen to a lot of audio books.  This year I've listened to stuff like Catch-22, On the Road, and Slaughterhouse Five (all of which were rewarding "reads", btw).  I don't generally read that much of what's on best seller lists as I'm already about 20 years behind the stuff you're supposed to read, and, on average, I generally don't like the books I wind up reading that are the books you see on airplanes.  But...

So, Jamie reads lots of comics at my recommendation.  In fact, she just read the entire recent runs on Green Lantern, Green Lantern Corps and Blackest Night related material.  But she also reads just an insane number of actual books without pictures and stuff, so, as I was between books, I asked for a recommendation.

I'm about 90% done with Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  Its definitely an interesting book, and I can see how its become a big hit.  Originally written in Swedish, I wonder how much has been lost in translation, what I'm not getting as I know absolutely nothing about Swedish social norms, and, as the book is read by an actor I'm not particularly in love with (the guy who read Catch-22 was amazing) who I think has genuinely straight up had some weird interpretations of some of the dialog, I keep feeling there's a bit of a haze between me and the actual book.

But I do like the book.  You definitely realize you don't like a book quickly when you're stuck listening to it for more than an hour and you can't keep paying attention.  More on that when I finish in the next few days, I suppose. 

Anyway, sorry for the lack of updates since Sunday.  Its going to be fairly busy straight through the holidays, I'd guess.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Green Lantern Trailer is Up

...and now comes the part where we find out if anyone but comic geeks are going to care about Hal Jordan and his space cop pals.

In all fairness, this sort of looks like Geoff Johns' Green Lantern with a fine layer of Ryan Reynolds cheese. Its going to take some doing to get used to a Hal that's Hollywood's version of a smart-alecky wise guy rather than the comics' teeth-gritting semi-smug hard-ass.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Austin Comic Con Wrap-Up (Year 1)

So, this was the first year Wizard World had brought a Con to Austin.  There were certainly highs and lows, but its a great start and something this part of the state can use and obviously support.

My day today was very different from Day 1 as I actually spent time with people I knew.

Okay, technically, I don't "know" Captain Marvel
Jamie decided to bail on me to spend an afternoon with PalNicole, so Jason took me up on the ticket.

At the Con I met up with Corpsman MattA.  MattA and I go way, way, waaaaaaaay back.  He informed me I was responsible for his first purchase of a comic circa 5th grade when we were both reading West Coast Avengers (I know, I know).  Anyway, I hadn't seen Matt since 1990 when I moved from Austin to the Houston area.  This was all pre-email and whatnot, so, younger readers, it used to be possible to lose track of people.

...Seriously, had not seen the dude in 20 years.  Comics, bringing geeks together.

Anyhow, Matt had brought his daughter, who was terribly sweet, and we all sought out R2-D2 together.  (There was a full-sized R2-D2 replica driven by remote control.  It had all sorts of moving parts and was may as well have been the one used in the movies.  Just great detail.).

a semi-anonymous child, R2D2, MattA's loud shirt and Jason's leg and sandal
 I also met up with JackBart and his friend (whose name I can just never remember).  I also ran into a high school pal, Phil, who I hadn't seen in...  man, I don't know.

The floor was busier today, and it seemed like the dealers had gotten a little more serious with their inventory since Friday as some (not even most) of the booths looked like they had new and more stuff out.  I spent far less time today around the autograph tables just gawking, mainly because I'd already fulfilled my primary objective of obtaining Ms. Gray's autograph.

It definitely seemed like there were more people in costume and far more kids, something I hope the vendors alter the show for next year.  If kids are going show up, it seems like vendors could better cater to the little miscreants.

And then, suddenly... Phil!

I picked up 3 prints from an artist named Terry Huddleston.  He has something of a cartoony, almost Jeff Smith-ish style that I really dug.  So I now have pics of Superman, Wonder Woman and The Atom that I'm going to have to figure out where to hang.

In addition to the Jimmy Olsen and Superman back issues I found on Friday, today I found a copy of The Great Superman Book.  Its not exactly the holy grail of Superman collecting, but I'd never seen a copy of the book before (its basically a big Superman reference book from back in the day).

Cosmic Boy must have used his Legion Time Bubble to bring 80's black-suit Spidey to 2010
Artist's Alley was full of people working on independent stuff, name artists (Greg Horn, Mike McKone, etc...), and just a lot of folks who just want to be in the game one way or another.  I came very, very close to getting a Dean Trippe sketch, but he looked very swamped.  Next time.  I want to see what he does for Krypto.

And...  local Austin artist Tim Doyle was in attendance with his own work and the guys working with Intergalactic Nemesis, a sort of comics/ live-action/ multi-media project.  I really want to get some of Doyle's work, but I can never figure out where it could go...

I was stunned to learn that JackBart knows nothing about Jack Kirby's New Gods series, and so he was a bit baffled when this happened.

Despite what Jason and Jack believed, this guy is actually not just a crazy hobo
It sounds like Wizard World was happy enough that they've already rented the space for the same weekend next year.  That's good news.  I can only hope this thing continues to grow.  Austin can fully support an event like the Comic Con.

If I had one beef, its that the stars of the show, Burt Ward and Adam West, were mostly available yesterday in what was officially dubbed "Batman and Robin Day" by Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell.  Its not the fault of anyone but myself for not paying attention to the signing schedule, and, of course, I chose not to attend yesterday.

I'd lie if I said that the Con isn't good people watching.  It is, indeed, generally a good time seeing people in a good mood doing their thing, whether its looking for comics, meeting celebrities or dressing up in a convincing Catwoman suit.  And, sincerely, whether you're into comics or not, there are worse ways to kill a few hours on a Sunday.

The local CBS affiliate did some stories and interviews on Comic Con.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Our Valued Customers" demonstrates why I am so quiet at the comic shop

Comic fans are are own worst enemies.  

What's difficult to communicate to the non-comic's culture readership is how...  weird and random comics fandom really is.  The closest thing I can compare it to is rabid sports enthusiasm, mixed with the utterly subjective certainty of film reviewers,  blended with the critical thinking that one associates with fans of MTV's The Real World and hyper-injected with an amazingly high dose of aggressive and unearned hostility cultivated from a lifetime spent believing that succeeding at first-person-shooter games somehow validates you as a bad-ass with an understanding of how the world "actually works".

In some ways, its inspired me to try to make my writing about comics at my own blogs and for other sites...  a little less knee-jerky, maybe critical of myself as a reader, maybe critical of assumptions in the comics blogosphere, etc...  I dunno.  I've tried to take it up a notch and hope that comics, that I genuinely believe smart people work on trying to do their best, are worth talking about.

But, man, sometimes my fellow comic-geeks really get me down.

All of that is to say:  Mike Fennelly of Team Swizzlebeef has sent along a link to a comic blog that does nothing but document the horribleness of comic fans shopping at a particular store somewhere on the East Coast (which sort of flavors some of the awfulness, I suspect). 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I direct you to:  Our Valued Customers

a supposedly completely true account of working behind the counter at a comics shop and the terrible, creepy, geeky, weird, furious and reprehensible things people say in comic shops.  

I can't say none of this is accurate.

Pretty much captures the essence of the issue
You kind of have to read post after post to get the feeling of what goes on in fandom, because there's not much difference here between what one sees depicted, what one hears at crummier comic shops, and what appears in comment sections on comics sites across the internet.  And this is why comics shops and fandom are part of why I worry about the industry.

And there's something about creator Mr. Tim's style that just really captures the vacuousness and pathos of the bad apples spoiling the whole barrel.

Now, let me be clear: part of my enjoyment of shopping at Austin Books hasn't just been the selection, the knowledgeable staff, etc...  but also the fact that somehow the store has cultivated a culture in which I don't seem to ever get stuck listening to lunatic rants while I'm browsing.  Moreover, the staff aren't the ones starting the rants.  I can't tell you how rare and wonderful it is not to find yourself listening to customers and clerks ranting on and on, as, truly, that's S.O.P. at shops across this great land. 

I confess, in some ways my desire not to be the ranting loon has meant I am super-quiet when I'm at any comic shop, or even at the Austin Con.  I think those of us with some investment in comics know we're one step away from talking ourselves right into that point where we just realized that, in our enthusiasm, we made someone else really uncomfortable.  Age has taught me never to assume anything, especially that someone shares my opinions (which I don't think are all that controversial when it comes to comics), but I think I'm also fairly sensitive to not wanting to ruin someone else's good time. 

At the end of the day, sure, I read comics because I enjoy the plots, the stories, the "what-ifs", etc...  but its supposed to be fun.  I forget that as much as the next guy*, but I try not to be crazy or come off as an uninformed, uncritical doofus.  I guess its largely in the eye of the beholder.

Anyway, without further ado:  here's that site

*note the ongoing color commentary on comics since 2003

I totally do not have any pictures of Poison Ivy from the Austin Comic Con

Dear internet,

Yes.  I was also at the Austin Comic Con yesterday.  I also saw the young lady dressed as Poison Ivy, and I also noticed she was nigh-naked. 

I can also see that you, internet, ran home and immediately began Googling for images of this young lady.  Your reasons are your own, but thanks to Sitemeter, I can see the search terms used to land on Signal Watch.

I did not take pictures of Miss Ivy.  You will not find them here.   Good luck finding those images elsewhere.

And may God have mercy on your souls.

This is my new "Ann Coulter naked".  A tragic way to get a spike in hits.


The Signal Watch Editorial Staff

Friday, November 12, 2010

Austin Comic Con Day One

So...  Today was the start of the Austin Comic Con.  We haven't had a real Con here that I can recall in years and years.  Back in the day the cons were at the Holiday Inn on the river, and I was twelve and I had no idea what the hell was going on.  I do remember that it was at one of those conventions that I learned of Jimmy Olsen's solo series and his past as Turtle Boy.  And my little mind was blown.

Its probably not an argument worth having whether this is a "real" Con.  Or what a "Con" is supposed to be.  As this one is run by Wizard World, it takes on a certain format of heavy emphasis on celebrity autographs, no presence from major publishers, and no panels to speak of.  Its mostly a convention floor with lots of booths and lots of nerds running around.

The most important detail I want to share about my attendance at the Con today (I went for about 2.5 - 3 hours) is that I shook the hand of Erin Gray and got her autograph.

This likely means not a whole lot to you, but I just totally high-fived six-year old me.

In the 1970's, Ms. Gray played Col. Wilma Deering on TV's Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.   Like Ms. Lynda Carter, and Ms. Carrie Fischer, Ms. Gray was instrumental in my understanding of the awesomeness of ladies.

Ladies, the way to a man's heart is with a lycra spacesuit and a laser pistol
Anyway, Ms. Gray's booth was trafficked pretty well, but I eventually got over there and got a copy of the above photograph signed.  She was terribly nice and, honestly, Ms. Gray is still a looker.  Mostly I just stammered and smiled politely, because I do not do well in situations where I meet Erin Gray.

I also have to admit to feeling bad that I didn't pay out the sheckles to get Gil "But I was actually the star of Buck Rogers" Gerard's autograph .  Sorry, Gil.

I didn't see Adam West or Burt Ward today.  Perhaps on Sunday when Jamie and JackBart and I join forces and head to the Con.

I did see:  Lou Ferrigno, Lindsay Wagner, Ernie Hudson, Lee Majors, Nicholas Brendon (we almost collided on the floor, actually), Peter Mayhew and Joan Severance.  

Some notes if this if your first Con since the invention of debit cards and since you legally obtained a credit card:

1)  Bring cash.  I can only imagine how fast and loose these retailers are playing with their IRS claims of earned income, but most of them don't take credit cards.  I found this a little frustrating at first (until I found an ATM), as I don't carry more than $20 or so at a time.  But I also don't usually want to carry around the hundreds in cash that would be necessary for higher priced items.  That I can't afford, anyway, so I guess that's moot.

2)  Bring a camera.  I kind of wish I hadn't just counted on my crummy camera on my Blackberry for Day 1.

3)  Bring a friend.  There are two reasons for this.  A)  You're going to want someone to hold the camera so you can get your picture taken with that nigh-nude girl dressed as Poison Ivy, and B)  You're going to want someone along so you can discuss all you see.  Its one thing to say "oh, look, Lou Ferrigno!" to one's self.  It's something else to turn to your friend and say "Holy smokes, its Lou Ferrigno!".

There may also be an added bonus of having someone with you who helps you remember "You do not need that $200 item".

A shout out to the good folks at Austin Books and Comics.  They had the showcase booth of the event, complete with their new mascot, Sidekick Girl.  I was impressed.  And I bet they took credit cards.

The comic booths ran the gambit.  ABC was on the high end, and from there you could go all the way down to what appeared to be a collection of super-hero-ish stuff someone must have kept in their basement and tried to sell every two or three years.

There's no question there were some impressive comics on display (I briefly held a copy of Action Comics #252 in my hands, a comic I have always dreamed of owning, but was... sigh...  going to be $200).  And I got some decent deals, one of which I think I swung because the guy at the booth completely failed at basic math. 

Because I have tickets to the Oklahoma State/ UT matchup this weekend, I am not going to attend Saturday's Con. 

But we'll be back on Sunday for a little while, and I'll do a more complete report at that time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Superman Post: JMS bails early on "Grounded" Storyline

So I am on the road once again.  This time I went from Austin to Baylor (Waco) to Galveston.  I'll be in Galveston until Thursday afternoon.  

This traveling doesn't mean I'm completely out of touch, and thanks to the power of the Blackberry, I received an email today from CanadianSimon directing me to a story from DC Comics' own blog stating that writer John Michael Staczynski would be leaving the two major DC titles he'd taken over with tremendous fanfare just a few months ago (around July, I guess). 

To be fair, DC isn't severing ties with JMS.  The man just launched Superman Earth One, which is, apparently, doing quite well as a graphic novel.  DC wants to trade in on this success, and that's the context in which they've chosen to announce JMS is leaving the monthly comics to turn to the OGN (Original Graphic Novel) format.  

But I also don't think its a huge secret that despite the comicsphere media build-up, JMS's take on Superman and Wonder Woman hasn't exactly set the world on fire.   In truth, I haven't read any of JMS's Wonder Woman as I was waiting for the trade collection.  I have read his Superman, and its definitely an odd book.  He's writing the now semi-infamous "Grounded" storyline, in which Superman decides to trek across the US, on foot, to try to get back in touch with "the people". 

The premise itself met with both legitimate and typical knee-jerk reactions.  I fundamentally don't agree that it was a "bad" idea or that "Superman would never do that".  In many ways, I can see a post 1990's Superman doing exactly this, but I don't see a general audience necessarily "getting it" unless JMS really sold the heck out of the concept.  I am afraid I can't give him an unqualified pass for the few issues that actually have made it to print that I've read (issues 701-703).  Frankly, JMS seemed more enamored with his idea of the walk then he ever seemed in convincing readers this was a character-driven choice.  But it also wasn't ever quite as kooky an idea as some would have had you believe.

The legitimate criticism is that Superman had been out of his own books for far too long before the start of "Grounded".  While, yes, that's Superman in those issues, we've seen entirely too little of Superman as the hero of Metropolis since the book soft-relaunched in 2006, and its entirely too easy for readers to feel that the world of Metropolis Johns and Busiek were trying to create is just a flickering memory at this point. 

Its actually surprising that with the catastrophe of the New Krypton, 12-month storyline that DC decided to commit to another year-long arc with so little room for change and alteration.  In a lot of ways, anything less than 12 issues of Superman hoofing it across the US is admitting failure, but seeing another writer take over at the midway point (which, really, we just dealt with when Johns left Action and the Superman titles), doesn't look great for editor Matt Idleson.

I feel for Idleson.  He's a cog in a very big machine at DC, and its a machine that's increasingly powered by superstar writers.  "Superstar writer" is, of course, a pretty iffy term in an industry where pushing 70,000 copies is a huge hit, but writers can certainly give a book a huge boost just on their name alone.

It is, of course, very likely that the departure of JMS is not seen at DC as due in part because of iffy reviews and reception, but because of his outstanding success on Superman Earth One, and, hey... more power to him. 

I'd just really like to see DC try to put its basic universe back together again, just for a while.  Its now been since 2005 (or earlier) since we've seen the DCU as a whole in operation.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Signal Watch Personal Hero: Jetman

This is no fantasy, no careless product of wild imagination...

the jet is powerful enough that his huge brass ones don't even slow him down

Yves "Jetman" Rossy is a Swiss guy who straight up decided the Rocketeer, Buck Rogers and Commando Cody had the right idea, and something like once or twice a year, Rossy straps on a surprisingly awesome-looking jetpack and announces to the public that he's going for a flight, usually lasting about 15-20 minutes.*

Rossy was doing loop-de-loops again this week.

I suspect Rossy has an engineering team, the iron will of Chuck Norris and Bruce Wayne-style cash, or he wouldn't be out there making everybody else look like gravity-cowed dorks.  Of course, one also suspects that Yves got tired of all the up and downhill driving he was doing in mountainous Switzerland and decided the quickest distance between himself and the Kwik-E-Mart on the next peak over was a straight line.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Going for a Slurpee and a bag of Fun-Yuns.
While we're big, big fans of the concepts behind the Rocket Racing League, we hope that the RRL will also consider how AWESOME races would be between dudes and ladies strapped into these doo-hickeys.  I'm just saying.

*one assumes he wahoo's it up without a media spectacle several additional times a year.  I mean, he has a jetpack.  I don't see letting that thing collect dust on the shelf while you monkey with a stamp collection.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A Sort of Hiatus

I am currently planning on taking a few days away. I'm just behind on many, many things at home, at work, in comics, etc... and I want to catch up.

Of course, should the mood strike me or if the sort of news that seems important to me and the context of this site crops up during the week, well... then you'll likely hear from me.

Basically, I am already thinking about getting ready for the Holidays a bit. We'll be holding court on Thanksgiving here at our humble abode, so should you need a place to dine on Turkey Day, just give me a holler and we can set a seat aside for you. Part of my routine leading up to the holidays is to straighten out my, ahem, collection(s). And I am increasingly noticing that I have gotten very good at having numerous cubby holes in which to toss junk.

Most of the time, this works well for me. I actually have a pretty good handle on what is where. But when I can't find something, I tend to re-examine the whole operation. What I've lovingly called myself as a "pack-rat" is likely hoarding kept in check by the knowledge that Jamie isn't going to tolerate full on crazy piles of stuff everywhere (and, frankly, I'm not nuts about straight-up mess, either). And while its not actually hoarding (we don't wander between towers of newspapers), the side-effect of collecting is that you do, indeed, need to cull the whole shebang every once in a while.

Of course the comics will need to be culled, but, I also just have... stuff. I have reels left over from film school, something I haven't used since the mid-1990's, and which technology has leapfrogged in a not-insignificant way. I have endless USB cables, power cables, VGA cables, etc... all of which I am certain that if I get rid of that item... I am screwing my future self. Today I sat looking at a 3.5" floppy adapter. I finally agreed with myself I can let it go.

But I also found 3 years' worth of paystubs from the job I had in Arizona. That was two jobs and 4 years ago. I didn't even know I had those, but I do.

Anyway, that's not what I will be doing, exactly, but it does sort of put an exclamation point on the fact that I should be doing more and sitting at the laptop maybe a little less for a spell. I need to tend to the house, I need to catch up on some reading (or what will I talk about here?), and so on and so forth.

So... sorry for the break.

Let me know if you're thinking of heading to the Austin Comic Con this weekend.

Movies coming out I more or less didn't know about...

My movie consumption habits wax and wane.  Certainly once NCAA Football starts, I am just not going to wind up at the theater for most of the season, and that trend is generally true right up past Christmas. 

So its partially my fault, but...  did you know that in about a month the third installment of The Chronicles of Narnia is hitting the silver screen?  That said, I thoroughly did not enjoy the second installment.  It was full of mixed messages, confused allegories, odd racial overtones and seemed to get a pass in ways that I didn't understand. *

Despite the relative pop-culture silence that followed its release, Price Caspian performed to expectation. And I'd think that the new installment is also supposed to be a major movie. That is, unless they're running a Producers-like scam, I'd expect the backers of CoN3:  Voyage of the Dawn Treader would want to make some money.  If I couldn't avoid a Scott Pilgrim ad no matter where I turned for three months prior to that movie's release, doesn't Aslan deserve a little marketing love?

I half have to believe that studios are floating "non-marketing" marketing techniques. If nobody showed to see Scott Pilgrim, was it because they were sick of the movie before it had ever been released? So why not wait until a couple weeks before the movie and then drop a few ads?

That's speculation, but certainly a long tail on these efforts doesn't seem to have much pay-off.

Also, apparently there's a movie coming out I'm pretty much going to have to see, which I saw the ad for today for the first time:

The Warrior's Way

Samurais and ninjas and whatnot in the Old West? I... What... How did this get made and nobody told me? I mean, it looks terrible, but in a "Hey, Jason, we're going to the 3:00 showing of Warrior's Way. You're coming, right?" "Oh, absolutely." sort of way.

*I did not have the same overall negative reaction to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that I recall Steven and Lauren having. I thought it was a cute kid's movie. And, honestly, thought Tilda Swinton was a lot of fun.