Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wonder Woman pics show updated costume, running WW

Apparently the producers of the Wonder Woman TV show are looking at the internets and have made adjustments to the TV costume for Wonder Woman. Video and pictures started making the rounds about 12:00 Central time last night with pics from the set. Whether planted or not, it does show that the blue boots are gone and the pants are now less shiny, resolving two major costume complaints when pics of the costume hit the net just a week or so ago.

Fortunately, for professionals, the internet is always there with suggestions.

As WB will want to get fans behind the show (and not give them any reason to complain before it airs), perhaps the studio heads asked for the changes after doing a spot of Googling?

Palicki looks pretty good, I think. 

Those pants are pretty awesome

And Bleeding Cool is carrying a whole bunch more pics.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Noir Watch - Force of Evil

Before Force of Evil, I'd not had the pleasure of seeing John Garfield in a movie before. Garfield passed back around 1952, and didn't join the field of actors for whom a premature passing ends up placing them in a romantic pantheon of stars who were taken too soon (Bogart, Monroe, etc...).  I have to say, I thought Garfield was very good.  One wonders what else he might have done.

This is my first viewing, but Force of Evil is an interesting movie in several respects, in that its a very well shot movie, using (I believe) New York as a backdrop, and a mix of sets and on-location shots in the streets.  The plot is a bit complicated, relying on what I assume was semi-common knowledge regarding numbers rackets back in the day, gangsters seeking semi-legitimacy through "combinations", and a refusal to let any particular character appear as the white knight of the film. 

When they do my biopic, I hope the actor playing me gets portrayed as a disembodied head staring out from the poster
Its rare you see a movie from this era in which everyone involved is playing fast and loose with law and order, even the attractive young love interest of our male lead (the lovely Beatrice Pearson, who only made a very few films before returning to the stage). 

The movie contains a few scenes that were frankly a bit revelatory, including a scene in a diner which just worked liked gangbusters (including the score).  While the characters motivations don't all exactly click, and it seems the script could have been tightened a bit, I have to give credit to George Barnes, the movie's cinematographer and David Raksin, who scored the film.

Aside from John Garfield, the cast seemed like they were actually quite good, but I also think that this film must have been well above a "B Picture" in budget.  The aforementioned Ms. Pearson turns in a good job, but several actors in smaller roles took their parts to heart, especially Thomas Gomez as Leo Morse. 

And, even Jamie looked up from her computer and exclaimed "Oh, man!  What isn't she in?" when Marie Windsor vamped her way onto the screen.*

The movie is black and white, but Windsor spells trouble in any color scheme
Likely your mileage will vary on this one, but I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.  While it took me a bit to get how the numbers rackets worked in the movie (actually very important to the plot), I did catch on, and I liked how all of the characters became slowly and almost unwittingly embroiled in deeper plots than anything they'd set out to do.  Very clever stuff.

*I actually had no idea Windsor was in this one until the credits rolled at the opening

Tomorrow: Godzilla Smashes Down on Your Local Comic Shop! (Austin Books is DOOMED)

I know for a fact that we have a whole bunch of Godzilla fans here at The Signal Watch.  So, first things first...  Tomorrow, IDW premiers a new Godzilla series which should be arriving at your local comic book store.  Its called Godzilla:  Kingdom of Monsters, and you should accept no substitute.

So, go to your local shop and pick it up!  If your local shop joined in the promo, they may have a cover featuring Godzilla stomping down on the roof of your shop.  Here in Austin, I know that we've got Godzilla stomping down on my shop, Austin Books and Comics, and artist Matt Frank will be in store to sign copies.

And the hairdresser next door went unscathed

The local CBS affiliate did a neat story on the release of the issue, inviting the artist in and ABC's own Brandon Z (who is a bit of a Godzilla aficionado).  Watch the story here.

I have seen some of the Godzilla-related merchandise Brandon has added to the store, and, man, it is going to be a good day to be a Godzilla fan in Austin.

Of course the the wake of Japan's recent disasters, IDW has struggled with whether or not to go ahead with the comic, and ultimately chose to keep with the printing schedule. 

Godzilla heads cross-country to get to his LCS to buy the comic with him in it
I may hate disasters in real life, but I love me some Godzilla in, uh...  well, what I really hope is a parallel universe where Monster Island really exists.

Oh, hell... here's a Godzilla trailer

Monday, March 28, 2011

The final (open) letter from Joanne Siegel to Warner Bros.

Ms. Joanne Siegel was the wife of Jerry Siegel, the writer who, with artist Joe Shuster, first brought Superman to the world.  Ms. Siegel recently passed, leaving her daughter to complete the drawn-out lawsuit between the Siegels and Warner Bros. as the Siegels attempt to reclaim legal rights to the Superman property.

The subject of Siegel & Shuster's ownership vs. National/DC/WB has dragged on and off since the 1950's, seemingly finding some conclusion for a while in the 1970's.  Its a thorny issue, and moral arguments could actually be made for both sides (despite the fact that WB is, of course, a big, scary coporation).  Siegel and Shuster did sell the property to National in the late 1930's, and (at the time) that meant perpetual ownership by National and any subsequent owners of National.

When Siegel and Shuster challenged this idea in court (in the 1950's, I think), they lost and they lost their jobs as work-for-hire employees.  Siegel would return to DC where he "created" Superboy* as a work-for-hire.  Of late, laws have changed, and the Siegel estate took WB (who bought National decades ago) to court.  In the mid-00's, the Siegels won back a lot of rights to at least the subjects shown in Action Comics #1 - such as Superman, Clark Kent and Lois Lane.  And, I'd wager, guy freaking out in the corner.

Aside from that, I find the case completely confusing.  And I understand the frustration on both sides, I guess.

Its, of course, easy to pin this on DC and WB as a big, scary corporation, especially versus Joanne Siegel and her daughter, both of whom suffered from health issues the past few years.  But its also easy to point to the work done by the corporations who've managed the Superman property for 70-odd years and point to everything they've done to keep Superman from becoming a fad that disappeared like Hopalong Cassidy and pet rocks.  The law has, in fact, changed.  Its not a moral issue so much as a legalistic quagmire that actual attorneys and not fanboys like myself should really believe we can properly argue.

Today an open letter from Joanne Siegel made the rounds of the comics interwebs, and its a bit heartbreaking.  The letter reads a bit like someone trying to find common ground with estranged family, which...  in a way, that's exactly what's happened.  Its family fighting over an estate of sorts.

At the same time... its hard to ignore Ms. Siegel's threats embedded in the letter.  Clearly she expects the court of public opinion to wind up on her side, even as she also seems aware DC is holding out legally, waiting to see if she and her daughter might simply pass away before anything is resolved.

And, while I've only heard things third hand, rumors swirl that the attorney representing the Siegels is a bit of a shady character, but that maybe if those grapefruit baskets had kept coming from Time Warner, maybe this whole affair would never have resurfaced...

I don't know. 

What I have never felt entirely comfortable with is how copyright passes.  Until the 1990's, copyright expired after about 75 years.  But then thing thing happened that had never happened before...  huge companies had been formed around things like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.  Disney did some lobbying and found legislators more than accomodating, and that aspect of copyright was more or less extended in perpetuity.  This enrages some, and in some small way, I can see why.  Some great works have been passed from generation to generation due to a lack of copyright. 

But I'm also not sure letting squatters move in the minute a copyright lifts and ride on 75 years of someone else's hard work and management is necessarily the right thing to do, either.  Walt Disney may be dead, but the engine created under his watchful eye is still in motion.  Just because we can no longer shake the hand of the man who created Mickey Mouse, does that mean we open the door for anyone to use the character or copy the works and make a dime off Disney?  Or Superman?  or Batman?  or Spider-Man? 

I guess I like the idea of responsible stewardship, even if by corporations.  I tend to think of it as "what's the difference between a national park and the rolling green hills that suddenly were covered in chintzy looking condos?"  Basically, I trust someone with a financial interest in Mickey Mouse's longevity, all others are suspect.  I strongly suspect this same notion is not shared by the younger generation of comic fans for whom co-option and re-use of anything one can find on the internet is an entitlement.  Call me old school.

Fortunately, both the Siegels and WB seem to have a vested interest in the multi-million dollar Superman business, and so I don't see either side wishing to let anything lapse into public domain, except, possibly, out of spite.

*for reasons that escape me, Superboy is legally considered a separate character from Superman.  Which tells me that judges and juries are not about to suffer through a lengthy discussion of continuity.  That said, its a bit like saying "oh, the Arthur that pulls the sword from the stone is a totally different character from the one who gets killed by Mordred."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Amy Adams lands "Lois Lane" as Zack Snyder's star continues to descend in Hollywood

I don't know much about actress Amy Adams.  I haven't seen much of her work, but as I understand it, she's one of those "gets nominated for Oscars" kind of actresses, already at the age of 36.

I have seen her in The Fighter, part of Enchanted (which was kind of cute, by the way), Talladega Nights, and an episode of Smallville.  She's kind of wee, which should help make actor Henry Cavill appear to be a bit taller.

Look, I like Superman Returns.  It strays wildly from the comics, but it at least understood the character of Superman fairly well as a strange visitor from another world wanting to be a part of the world he protects.  A sequel could have been a lot of fun.  But I never got behind the casting of the very-young Kate Bosworth (she was only 23 when the movie arrived).  Bosworth might have been fine had the movie been starting Superman from scratch, but with at least 6 years of shared history between the characters, casting an up and coming ingénue ended up hurting the movie and Bosworth's career more than was necessary.  And, I'm afraid, too often it seemed like Bosworth felt more like babysitter to the child playing her son and less like a mother, which I was never sure if that was the actor or the script...

If you look at the kind of character Lois is supposed to be, her status as an ace reporter, able to make demands of Perry White, etc... before Superman shows up, I've always felt Lois should have a few years on our Man of Steel.  She's a person who has seen it all, she's been disappointed so many times that its less important that Superman can bend steel and fly that wows her, as that he's actually serious about this "I'm an honest guy" business when he could be out exploiting anyone he likes.  A younger person can appreciate that, but to have one's well-earned cynicism repealed?  That's something different.

By the way, part of what Superman sees in Lois is supposed to be that she's a driven, accomplished person who may be jaded and cynical but who still follows a functioning moral compass (and closet belief in social justice).  That's something you can play younger, but it always seemed that Superman would appreciate Lois' habitual fearlessness (all of this is deeply complicated by the diversion in the 1950 and 60's as Lois gains her own title which often features marriage-mad plots, but that's a matter for another day).

Anyhow, in the abstract, Adams seems like a good choice.  Throw some black dye in her hair, put her in a smart suit, get her a digital recorder and a memo pad, and she could be our misspelling Pulitzer-winner.


It seems that Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch came in at #2 behind the debut of the second Diary of a Wimpy Kid flick.  Notable as Snyder if the currently-named director lined up for the upcoming Superman film.

The movie pulled in about $19 million its opening weekend and had about an $82 million budget.  I would expect that it will do well overseas (our international friends only expect plot out of local movies, not from American explosion-fests).

Further, Snyder's movie is tracking at 20% critic rating at, with a 10% rating with Top Critics and just 62% with the audience (and the RT audiences tend to skew pretty highly with anything that's genre porn in the first week or so).

As far along as the Superman movie might be, I can only wonder if DCE and WB are currently looking at the showing on Suckerpunch and having second thoughts about their choice to revitalize Superman during what seems like a curious upswing in the Man of Steel's pop-culture cache.

Back in 2002 or so, WB very publicly gave Brett Ratner Superman to develop, and after Red Dragon had one good week and then one of the most infamous second weeks in box office history, they took Superman away again.  A George Miller directed Justice League was cast and in the works when WB pulled the plug realizing Miller was about to make a terrible movie (it sounds like the usual "oh, dark and gritty is awesome" hoo-hah), and was, I think, about the JLA turning on itself.  Which makes a great origin story... (sigh)

Leading up to the release of Suckerpunch, preview screenings had gone so poorly, rumors were beginning to trickle that Snyder might be pulled off Superman (and that the Superman script was just plain bad).  Now, with an opening just $3 million better than the Owls of Ga'Hoole and $35 million less than Watchmen on only about 600 fewer theaters, man (or, about $9000 less per screen).  Surely somebody other than me at WB is running the numbers...

Frankly, if it tanks, that's fine with me.  Snyder's 300 and Watchmen both showed a lack of an ability to tell a story.  He's never helmed a movie that wasn't written down, page by page for him until Suckerpunch.  As excited as I am about Amy Adams as Lois (in the abstract), I just don't see what he's going to be able to do with the movie that won't be a trainwreck.  The man seems to believe "directing" is the same things as production design, and he couldn't look at still images on a page of Watchmen and understand the emotional beats of the characters expect in a ham-fisted, seventh grade book report sort of delivery.

So, we'll see.  The biggest problem is that the WB has until end of year 2012 to release a Superman movie or rights revert to the Siegels (or something).  The important thing is that WB HAS to have a Superman movie by 12/31/2012, and for whatever reason, WB decided to put its faith in Snyder.

I tell you what, Hollywood, I can't tell you how to make sure something is going to work, but at almost no cost, I am willing to tell you when you're about to screw up a Superman movie.  That is likely about to happen.

But, sigh, who knows?  Superman could be where Snyder surprises me by turning it around and making a movie I don't think plays like an emotionally stunted high schooler aping better stuff he once read and sort of remembers.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

For the record: "Battle of the Superheroes" on "Batman: Brave and the Bold" was the best half hour of TV I've seen in years

That's probably a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.

Look, I know you don't spend your spare time thinking about the statues of criminals and conquerors that Lex Luthor keeps in his secret layer, but as someone who does think about these things, the non-stop Superman fandom tribute that was this week's episode of Batman: Brave and the Bold was one of the most amazing things I've seen on TV in quite some time.

And, of course, whomever worked on the episode was apparently also a fan of the Silver-Age ancillary titles like Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, as the episode imitated classic covers and incidents from those issues.  The episode also paid tribute to the classic look of the cityscapes of the 1990's-era Superman: the Animated Series and through in the Batman armor from Dark Knight Returns for good measure.

And, the episode didn't just include Krypto, they totally got the point of DC's most underrated superhero.

All in all, the only disappointing part of the episode was that it was only half and hour and a single episode.  If DC Entertainment is looking to expand its offerings, I'd love to see the Brave and the Bold team come back with a solid hour Batman/ Superman.

Berkeley Breathed art on "Mars Needs Moms"

I am a fan of cartoonist Berkeley Breathed. His strip, Bloom County, was a favorite when I was hitting an age when I was scanning the page for more than just Slylock Fox, and I still enjoy the occasional Bloom County collection.

A while back, I picked up Breathed's children's book Mars Needs Moms, and it was a fun read, if a bit off-beat for a story aimed at kids. And then I heard it was being adapted to a feature film by Robert "I Sucked the Soul Out of The Polar Express" Zemeckis.

The thing is - Breathed's character style and sentiment is distinctly Breathed's. And, somewhat shockingly, unlike Polar Express, Zemeckis didn't seem to feel any attachment to Breathed's artistic style.

Its hard to really explain that Breathed's character design is part of the story, and so abandoning that design for the movie's humanoid, motion-capture friendly designs....  missing the point.

Look, Breathed's story may be a little scary for kids: its about a kid who sees his mom getting kidnapped by aliens after he's decided his mom is mean during a typical kid/ parent spat.  But the point of the story is to teach kids about sacrifice and explain to them exactly how much their parents love them.  Frankly, its not a bad thing to share with kids, and nobody is going to walk away scarred from either a picture book or movie about the depths of a parent's love.  Its called putting a conflict into a story.

Breathed's Mars Needs Moms is a slim picturebook, light on text and full of imaginative imagery.  Simply covering that scaffolding in typical "family movie" hoo-hah is going to do little but distract from and muddle a pretty straightforward story, and the only time I've seen it truly work was with Where the Wild Things Are.    Unfortunately we all know studios have a certainly saccharine version of reality they deal with when putting together family films, and it may be that adding spunky teenage Martians or whatever the hell the movie chose to do from the Hollywood Plot-o-Tron merely diluted the film to a nonsensical mess.

I'd guess Zemeckis and Co.'s insistence on the motion-capture technology took precedence over the exaggerated and intentionally absurd visual style that's been Breathed's trademark since his days on The Academia Waltz.  Trying to make the characters move and look "lifelike" was never the intention of Breathed's style, and its hard to imagine exactly why a decision was made to stray from what would have been a pretty unique and fun adaptation of Breathed's work.

I'm hoping to read Breathed's reaction in The Hollywood Reporter, even if I have my doubts that we'd get the full story or what it feels like to watch your much-loved book turned into something completely different on the screen and then watch that movie flop.  Or... we might.

I guess if there's any point to this post, its that a massive flop of a movie shouldn't reflect poorly on the source material, especially if the source is more or less ignored in favor of whatever the heck the producers feel is more fun to play around with.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The many references in a single clip from "Batman: Brave and the Bold"

00:05 - Armor from Dark Knight Returns
00:05 - I have to assume Krypto's presence is a reference, but I'm not sure to what. Hondo?
00:12 - King Superman from Action Comics 311 - that's the throne and Superman flag from the issue
00:17 - Metropolis inspired by the designs used in the Bruce Timm-era Superman: The Animated Series
00:24 - Lois and Jimmy's look is pure 1960's Weisinger dictated. Kurt Schaffenberger and Curt Swan style!
00:37 - This is the exact same move from JLU's final episode when Superman took on Darkseid (jump to 1:13 in the clip)

And I'm likely missing something here.

Superman and Batman go Classic on "Brave and the Bold"

found by @deantrippe

I can't tell you how giddy this made me. Right down to Lex piloting a Lex-version of the Supermobile.

Today is Jamie's Birthday

Today is the birthday of the lady who lives in my house, Jamie.

Over the years, I have grown especially fond of Jamie, and, I like to think, she of me. This year Jamie's gifts on her birthday shall be somewhat meager as her big gift is the iPhone she will receive when her contract is up at the end of April. She knows this. It will not come as a surprise.

After 15.5 years of togetherness and almost 11 years of marriage-ness, we do okay. She is my better half, by far. Smarter, kinder, more loving... all those things, but I suspect I can still beat her in a foot race or in any of the events in a strong man competition.

We all have our challenges, and those who know Jamie or know her story know that she has more challenges than most.  But I think its important for people to know that she isn't just a batch of symptoms, medical records and doctor's visits. Those things happen in a 1000:1 ratio to your life, perhaps, but they also aren't who Jamie is.

Jamie is the person who loves a good football game, finding a new band, forcing hugs upon Lucy when she's sleepy, getting phone calls from friends, cracking a new book, and who sees I bought her a light-up Green Lantern ring of her own and considers that equality within a marriage.  She is a genuinely good person, and in this world, that's a rarity.

I am lucky, and I know this. 

Happy Birthday, Jamie. You're still my favorite.

Tanks for the memories