11/16/2009

1000 Blank White Cards

1000 Blank White Cards is a new and interesting type of card game, one that I’m certain you have never played before. It’s not your regular, run-of-the-mill playing card game either; the rules are quite different, in the sense that there are no rules.

Despite the lack of rules, the game itself is easy to play. First, the host of the party buys a pack of index cards, lined or unlined, it doesn't matter. Then, five cards and a pen or pencil are passed out to each player. The players create cards, add them to the deck, and the deck gets dealt again to each player to start the game.

I know what you’re thinking; “How do I create a card?” Well, it’s easy. The card has three components; a Title, a picture, and a purpose. The title can be anything from fun to serious. The picture can be stick figures or a Renoir painting (it's not about drawing ability.) And the purpose explains what the card's function is. For example, you can create a card called "MONKEY ON THE LOOSE," draw a picture of a monkey and state, "A wild monkey steals your cards. Discard one random card." Easy, right?

There are three different types of cards, and the category of card determines the rules of the game. Point cards are the most important aspect of the game, since the points determine the winner of the game. Points can be in any denomination, from one to 1,000,000,000, but, remember, that points can be changed, or even erased with the next type of card.

Event cards change the way the game is played. This can be something simple, like changing the order of turn from clockwise to counter-clockwise, or it can be as complex as making the person with the longest last name to play the cards of the person on their left, thus switching all players’ hands.

The final category of card is the challenge card. These cards allow players to challenge others with the winner receiving more points, free turns, or, for card creators who are really daring, the end of the game. The challenge can occur on any battlefield, depending on how the card is made, and can include, but is not limited to, a footrace around the house, a musical pop quiz, or a deathmatch in Halo.

The game ends when one player has no cards left in their hand. The winner is decided by the tally of points and the player with the highest points wins the game. However, that can change if the players desires it to, or a particular event card has been created.

At the end of the game, the community of players votes on the best cards from the deck. They can decide on a number of cards to keep, and these are added to the deck for the next time. However, upon the start of the next game, players make three cards each instead of five (but they can make five each if all players decide to.)

1000 Blank White Cards is a great party game that can have an unlimited number of players. What also makes the game is that no two games are ever the same. The rules change each time, and with it the fun factor changes. And, in case anyone 21 years old or older was wondering, yes, this can be made into a drinking game.

10/29/2009

A strange thing happened at work…

In case you didn’t know, I work in an office supply store. It’s a pretty large chain and I’d rather not mention the name of the company because I am unsure of how, if at all, I might create a conflict of interest by having a personal blog. But yesterday, something odd happened to me and I felt compelled to write about it.

To start, if you’ve ever worked in retail, then you know about the concept of Plan-O-Grams. Now, a Plan-O-Gram, or POG, is a way for a large retail company to set up their stores so that store employees do not have to think about things like merchandising. In fact, retail chains would rather not have them think about anything at all; they do this so that they can hire inexperienced people and pay them much less than what an experienced counterpart would make. And my store Plan-O-Grams everything from the shelves in the aisles to the drawers of the registers. It’s really ridiculous and doesn’t have much to do with the story, but I felt it necessary to say so that it explains my next sentence.

I was working on the pen and pencil POG (see?) and I was approached by a customer. He started asking me some questions about our fancy house brand of pens. How do they write? Are they anything like the Papermates? Now, I know a bit about pens, and about the particular brand he was asking about, so I answered his questions as honestly as I could. (“Well, it’s our brand of pen so it’s mostly made cheaply for a higher mark-up, but it’s pretty decent besides that.”)

I walk the customer to the register to show him a one of our display pens of that brand so he can see how it writes. While we were up there he asked about the new Post-It pens that have adhesive flags in the barrel. He was surprised to see that Post-It was making pens, and asked for some more information. I showed him the packs of the pens and highlighters, and this is when he told me that he invented a new kind of pen.

OK. This is where the situation deviated from my usual encounters with customers. (“What kind of ink do I need for my printer?” “What model of printer do you have?” “I don’t know.”)

The customer’s main purpose of coming into the store was to find information on pen manufacturers and see what kind of competition he would have. After I showed him the Post-It pens, he pulled out his BlackBerry and copied down the company address written on the back of the package. When he finished, he looked at me and basically asked me “What else you got?”
We walked back to the pen aisle and I began showing him the other pens we had. I started with the new Sharpie pens, mostly because I really like writing with them. He copied do that information and looked around. He said he already contacted Papermate, Bic, and Zebra. So I began looking around trying to find what other pens we carried.

Now, most of this story is pretty repetitive with me showing him pens and him copying the information. But the guy was quite impressed with the how I was able to show him a bunch of different things and explain the types of products the company produces. (Like TerraCycle, a company that makes all different products from recycled shit, like wall clocks made out of records.)

So I basically showed the guy practically every pen we carry, as well as a few pencils, so I walk back with him to the cash register so he can purchase the pack of pens he was originally looking at. I wish him luck on his endeavor and walk away and he catches up to me to ask me a strange question.

“Did you ever consider learning more about pens and the history and quality of different pens?”
Well, I have to admit that I hadn’t. He then goes on to talk about Mont Blanc, a company that produces very high end pens, most of which sell in the range of $100 to $300, even up to $1,000. He suggested that I dress really nicely and look around a Mont Blanc store and find out a little bit about them. Apparently, selling pens can be a lucrative career and, based on the way I was able to help him in his task, he felt that I had the knowledge and expertise to be able to sell Mont Blanc.

My job is what I would classify as a dead-end job. I’ve been there for almost two years and there is no room for advancement unless I’m willing to move out of state (which I am not.) I also hate the way that I have a college education and I’m stuck in a position where I am not using my knowledge. Never once, in the last 20 months, have I considered that what I learned in my job could be applied to any other career. This customer is the first person to make me realize that this isn’t necessarily true. That’s not to say I’m going to put in some resumes to a Mont Blanc store, mostly because I hate sales (“Are you gonna buy the fucking pen or not?”) But it was validating to see that a stranger felt I had a semblance of intelligence, despite the fact that I work in retail.

10/24/2009

Halloween Is Right Around the Corner...

And you know what that means? Special Halloween episodes of your favorite television shows. Unfortunately I don’t find today’s television to be as entertaining as it has been in the past, so I decided to do a little searching for some classic Halloween episodes on the internet.

YouTube may have started, but Hulu perfected it. Now, there are thousands of Online TV Shows all over the internet, and more and more websites are offering free television. The good people at Spreety have asked me to let you all know that they are gearing up for Halloween. They have created a list of classic Halloween television shows, including It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, as well as Halloween-themed episodes from past TV series such as Friends and Beverly Hills, 90210. They have also included the greatest movie of all time on their Halloween list, Ghostbusters.

If you’re in the mood for some television spook-tacular, Spreety has compiled all of these shows onto one handy page, which you can find here. So this Halloween, try to find some time between costume shopping and handing out candy to check out a couple of these gems.

(sponsored post)

10/19/2009

I Miss Rock Climbing.

Anyone who knows me may find this strange to hear, seeing as how I’m a lazy lump and abhor anything requiring physical exertion, but I actually miss going rock climbing.

Now, I was never a hardcore climber. I have never climbed an actual “rock” but I did frequent a rock-climbing gym down in South Jersey. And I had a great time whenever I went. I got pretty good at it, too. I got myself up to climbing a 5.8, though I pretty much plateaued at that point. But it was something that I was proud of myself for.

Like I said, I’ve never been very physical in nature. I played soccer and baseball when I was seven, but I was terrible at those sports. Like, seriously, really bad. My lack of coordination and skills at sports is probably a couple of the reasons I never bothered with sports. But when my friends introduced me to rock climbing almost 6 years ago, I took to it with a passion. It was a way for me to work out and not have to worry about looking like an epileptic.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not trying to imply that it doesn’t take skills to go rock climbing. It does. And that’s the reason I never got past climbing a 5.8. (For those of you who don’t know rock climbing terms, a 5.8 refers to the Yosemite Decimal System, a way of grading inclines for climbing. Anything lower than a 4 is basically walking or hiking, and a 5 or higher is rock climbing. The 5 class is broken down to designate difficulty of climb. The scale goes up to, as far as I’ve seen, 5.12, but usually, 5.10 and higher are broken down even further, added a, b, c, etc., with each extra difficulty.)

One of the toughest things about rock climbing is the first climb. I’ve never been a fan of heights, so when I hit the wall for the first time, I felt a bit of vertigo. Hanging twenty feet in the air was enough to make my head spin, and I was only halfway to the top. I gave up on that climb, and eventually gathered the nerve to try again. Pretty soon, I was trying walls and climbs that I thought I never would.

What I liked most about rock climbing was the workout. Since it takes so much upper body strength, I managed to work out my triceps, and for once in my life, I was proud of the way my arms looked. My biggest regret is that I have lost a lot of that muscle tone since then.
You’re probably wondering why I don’t stop complaining and join the gym again. Well, it’s a monetary reason, you know. I had a membership to a rock-climbing gym and, for the most part, I got my money’s worth. But life sprang up, time became sparse, and I went less and less. In the meantime, I lost some friends to accompany me. Rock climbing isn’t something you can do by yourself. Though there are quite a few friendly people that hang around the gym and are willing to belay your climb, I find it more comforting to go with someone I know and trust. Even though my friends have dropped me a couple of times, they have only done that because they are assholes and has little to do my trust in them.

I’ve pretty much decided that when my money situation settles itself, I will take up rock climbing again. I can probably find someone to go with me. My girlfriend isn’t into climbing, but maybe I can convince her to just stand there and belay me the whole time. If you’re interested, and live near Trenton, NJ, check out Rockville Climbing Center. The people there are really nice and they have some great rocks and a good climbing environment. Unfortunately, I know of no other rock-gyms, but a quick Google search will help you to find one close to you. I recommend everyone try rock climbing at least once in their lifetime. It can be a fun and rewarding experience.

9/30/2009

New Rumors About Batman 3

Last night I watched The Dark Knight for probably the 47th time. I have thought that that movie was amazing since the first time that I saw it. Everything about it is pretty much perfect. The writing. The direction. The acting. All of it was spot on, and it all came together to make a great film. I have to give credit to Christopher Nolan for revitalizing the Batman franchise and making it respectable again.

There is one thing that bothered me about the movie, though. Everyone was awestruck by Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker (he apparently won 32 Best Supporting Actor awards for his work in the role). Now, these accolades are deserved; Ledger did a fantastic job portraying the psychotic criminal who brings chaos to Gotham. But no one recognizes Aaron Eckhart and his work as Harvey Dent. To be fair, I can understand why people paid more attention to Ledger than to Eckhart. Heath Ledger had done so much in the way of preparation and getting inside the head of the Joker that he killed himself over it. Eckhart didn’t have that kind of dedication to the character (luckily) but that didn’t detract from his performance.

As Harvey Dent, Eckhart exuded a sense of pride and ambition. Gotham City is his home and he would do whatever it took to clean it up and make it safe. He even goes so far as to partner with a wanted vigilante to obtain his goals. When he is pushed to the edge and becomes Two-Face, you can understand the lengths he goes to bring the guilty to justice. Eckhart brings a notion of believability to the role. When confronted by the Joker in the hospital, he is told introduce some chaos to the mix. But Harvey, as a man of the law, cannot do that simply. He knows that he pledged his life to upholding the law, but he so wants the people who killed his love to pay. So what does he do? He finds his own justice, in the form of his coin.

Harvey Two-Face goes out on a tear, finding the people responsible for killing his fiancĂ©. True to his new form of justice, some of them live and some of them die. By the end of the film, he has Batman and Gordon cornered, pleading for the lives of Gordon’s young son. But they two prevail against the one, and Dent is taken out, but supposedly still alive. So, in terms of the film, where do they go from here?

After The Dark Knight came out, there was talk that Nolan wasn’t finished with the Joker, and that he had planned to include him in the third installment of the series. But after Ledger’s death, I doubt that would happen; Nolan isn’t likely to recast the role after Ledger’s outstanding performance. However, I wouldn’t mind seeing Two-Face in the third film. Nolan tied The Dark Knight with Batman Begins with a small cameo by Cillian Murphy reprising his role as Scarecrow. Maybe Nolan can do something like this with Two-Face, but with a larger role. Harvey Dent fell so far from grace in The Dark Knight, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has hit the bottom yet. They can take a page from ”Batman: The Animated Series,” with the rehabilitation of Harvey Dent, who will undergo experimental surgery to fix his face. But, the Two-Face personality has such a strong hold on Dent’s psyche that he sets up his own kidnapping and “saves himself.” I’m sure Nolan can write it much better and more compelling than I can, and I certainly would like to see Eckhart reprise his role.

Concerning the other villains in the movie, recently the rumor mill started turning with noise about Johnny Depp and the Riddler and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as the Penguin. One of those two rumors has since been proven false, but maybe that’s for the best. Perhaps these two characters aren’t the best choice for the third film. These villains have had their time in the films, but maybe it would be better to give some others a chance to shine.

Look at what Nolan did with Batman Begins. The Scarecrow and Ra’s al Ghul. Two relatively unknown villains given the spotlight, and their inclusion worked. Batman Begins was another well put together Batman movie, and the best of all of them up until The Dark Knight. And I understand that the Joker and Two-Face are two of Batman’s most famous foes, which may have led to The Dark Knight being such a success, but with Batman’s rogues gallery, why not pick someone else?

The one villain I would love to see would be Clayface. Modern computer effects can handle the character with no problem, and his backstory is quite compelling, but I doubt that it would ever happen. It seems like they have been choosing enemies that are reality-based, which explains why the Heath ledger wore makeup instead of having permanent skin discoloration. Clayface, however, is a character based in fantasy, and their suspension of belief would be too much. By this rationale, we can also rule out Killer Croc.

Another bad guy I would like to see would be The Mad Hatter. The idea of mind control would be an interesting subplot, the way Carmine Falcone was handled in Batman Begins. However, The Hatter’s modus operandi is very similar to the Scarecrow's, so much of it may be a rehash.

Maybe they can re-introduce the crime bosses to Gotham. Maxie Zeus and Black Mask would be two perfect characters to bring into this mix. With most of the mob being chased from Gotham, two small time bosses with “a flair for the dramatics” move in with an eye to take things over. The citizens of Gotham get caught in the mix, and they both have the ambition to take down Batman. Throw in Scarface and the Ventriloquist, and you’ve got a three-way war. Black Mask would also be a good foil to Bruce Wayne, and not just the Batman. But again, they’ve done the organized crime things, in both films, and may want to avoid it for the third.

Though I would love to see Harley Quinn on the big screen, it seems unlikely to happen. Without her relationship with the Joker, her character would be far different, and would just seem too different. So unless they do recast the Joker, this one probably won’t happen.

And let’s not forget about Hush. With vendettas against both Batman and Bruce Wayne, it is likely that Hush could hold the entire film himself. Even though Batman hasn’t faced off against only one bad guy since Jack Nicholson, it could certainly be done.

These are just a few of the characters that Batman can face off against in the third film. The Riddler and the Penguin have already had big-screen portrayals in the past, though they weren’t very good. Don’t get me wrong; Christopher Nolan would undoubtedly do justice to these two villains, unlike what was done by Joel Shumacher and Tim Burton. But I would love to see some fresh blood introduced into the Batman films. There are so many good characters that are unknown by the public, and most of them deserve the fame.

9/25/2009

The Writing of Dan Brown

It took me much longer than usual to finish Dan Brown’s newest novel, The Lost Symbol. This is not a reflection of the content of the book; in fact, it was a busier than usual schedule that prevented me from reading as much as I wanted to. I thought the book was great. It was very much in the same vein as Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. Brown has a knack for writing historical fiction and making it quite riveting. They way he twists quantifiable truth with fictional accounts is amazing. This is probably why it takes him so long to write his novels (his last book, The Da Vinci Code, was published in 2003, and I cannot even imagine the amount of research that goes into each book.

This post was meant to be a review of The Lost Symbol, but I realized that I’m not intelligent enough to dissect the entire novel after only one read through. I am also not intelligent enough to deconstruct Dan Brown’s writing and criticize his sentence structure and prose. Anyway, that would just be unfair; considering this website, Dan Brown is an easy target for this kind of critique.

Personally, I feel that judging Dan Brown this harshly is unwarranted.

Granted, Brown is not the best writer. His use of prose is clumsy at times and he misuses words in different contexts. Brown will never be compared to Hemmingway in a contest of famous authors. But Brown can do one thing that Hemmingway couldn’t; sell 2 million copies of a book in a single week. Clearly, Brown doesn’t write because he wants to leave an undying, flawless piece of art with the world. He writes because he has a story to tell and wants to make money at the same time.

What is wrong with that?

Geoffrey Pullum, a linguistics professor in Edinburgh, really tears into The Da Vinci Code in this article here. And he has many valid points. He also concedes the fact that nothing he says will be able to harm Brown or his career, which is another valid point. So why bother? The Da Vinci Code sold nearly 40 million copies worldwide since its release. Apparently, there are 40 million people who were willing to put up with “bad” writing for an enjoyable storyline. So what was the purpose of writing a scathing article about Dan Brown and his writing style?

Maybe because The Da Vinci Code sold over 40 million copies worldwide?

I think that Pullum harbors a little resentment against Brown because of his success. Here, Pullum sees an author who has no grasp of proper writing, a boatload of books. Meanwhile, Pullum himself faces everyday educating the minds of authors as to give them the tools to avoid the kind of clumsy, erratic writing that Brown has turned into a victory. It’s the kind of thing that makes you question if what you are doing serves any point in the long run.

Yes, most of Pullum’s criticisms are justified. The craft of writing is an objective task, and talent can be measured by a set of rules created by linguists from a long time ago. But Pullum also attacks the plot as being “ridiculous” and the puzzles as “stupid.” And here is where Pullum is completely wrong. Pullum may be a more adept reader than the general public, including me. He may have been able to see the plot-holes and puzzle answers from the moment they were introduced, but a simple person like me found them to be intriguing.

It seems to me that Geoffrey Pullum is a condescending writer who dislikes whatever fails to measure up to his standards. For many people, though, reading is not an idea of finding perfect syntax and sentence structure; it’s about drawing away from the real world and escaping into fantasy for a while. I congratulate Dan Brown’s success as a writer without any sort of writing talent. To be quite honest, it’s something that I hope to do one day.

9/21/2009

One of the funniest thing I have ever seen.

During half-time of last nights Giants/Cowboys game (the outcome of which I wholly approved of), my friends showed me something they found on the Internet. A description does it absolutely no justice. All I can do is share it with the rest of you.




I grew up in the 80s, and "Total Eclipse of the Heart" will always be embedded in my brain from so many hearings. And I have probably seen the video for the song, with MTV being a prominent part of my childhood. But I believe my psyche has blocked out the amazingly gay and asinine imagery of that video. Luckily, however, that imagery makes this video so Goddamn funny.

9/04/2009

The Exiles

I first started collecting comic books in 1990, at the tender age of 10. What got me into the hobby was the Marvel Trading Cards series that was released that year. I remember how all of the kids in elementary school went crazy for those cards, and if you had one of the special holographic cards, then you were crowned king of the playground. So naturally, my affinity went towards the Marvel side of the comic spectrum, because of all of the character information I had become privy to.

Collecting has been my hobby almost non-stop for the past 19 years. I say almost because there was a time around 2000 when I fell out of it. I had found myself spending so much on comics a month that it broke me, mentally and financially. I didn’t have the heart to go to a comic shop and pass over so many titles that I felt I needed. So I stopped going altogether. My absence lasted about two years, but within those two years I missed quite a bit. One of the most note-worthy events was Grant Morrison’s phenomenal run on the X-Men, which I am still in the process of finding the back issues for. But there was one title that I hadn’t heard of before; one that intrigued me to no end. The Exiles.

I was interested in the Exiles mostly because of Blink. I had been a fan of Blink since the Age of Apocalypse storyline. What got me about her was that she is a fragile character, and a badass to boot. So seeing her in a new monthly title was just the kind of thing I needed to drag me back into my old hobby. But there was so much else that kept me coming back. Morph’s poorly-timed comedic interventions. The aspect of parallel worlds. Seeing familiar characters with vastly different personalities. There was enough material in the Exiles to grab me and hold me.

Until the series ended.

Well, the series didn’t end. It was rebooted.

Before the end of the first series, Chris Claremont was brought in to write the book. He got rid of a few of the current characters, and brought in some new ones, one of whom was the X-Woman, Psylocke. Here is my first sign of annoyance. Since Claremont came back to writing for Marvel, it is clear that he is in love with Psylocke. Like, seriously in love. Claremont has brought Psylocke back from the dead I don’t know how many times, but so far she is putting Jean Grey to shame. And to bring her aboard Exiles was just strange to me. I have never had a problem with Psylocke and I think that she is a good character, but Claremont was just overusing her and it became noticeable.

Another problem I had with Claremont’s run, especially the New Exiles title, was Sage. Sage had been a constant with the X-Men for quite some time, and a regular during the Claremont title X-Treme X-Men. Now, here she comes to the Exiles, and most of the time she is battling with herself and the effects of Roma’s memories that have been imprinted on her brain. This happened so often that it was just too much, and quickly brought the title down even further.
I wasn’t surprised to find that New Exiles had been cancelled. But I was surprised, and happy, to find that Exiles had been rebooted again. This time, Jeff Parker had taken over the writing chore, and he brought back the fun of the original series. Once again featuring Blink, as well as the Beast, Polaris, and other mutants, their first mission was to stop Magneto and break up the Brotherhood of Mutants and the X-Men. Finally, after more than a year of Claremont and his heavy stories, the Exiles were back to being fun, with the reappearance of my favorite character and the strange incarnations of the alternate worlds.

So, imagine my sadness when I finished the fifth issue and discovered that #6 would be the final issue of the series.

I have to say, I blame its short run on Chris Claremont, despite not working on this series. When the first series of Exiles hit the stands, it became a quick hit, even garnering a “Must Read” rating from Wizard Magazine. And although the series waxed and waned during its 100 issue run, the positives outweighed the negatives. Blink and Mimic’s romantic relationship. The addition of a sadistic Magik. Sabretooth from the Age of Apocalypse taking the helm as team leader. Even Hyperion and his mission to control the entirety of the Multi-verse. A Many good stories came from the Exiles. Until Chris Claremont came aboard. They rebooted the series, gave Claremont control and it lost readers. Now, a few months after the final issue of New Exiles, another series is given a shot and it only lasts half a year. Why? Because fans have been soured by Exiles stories. They tried Claremont’s stories, didn’t like them, and are afraid of what’s to come. I can understand where they are coming from. I was hesitant of buying the new series at first, but it was worth it. Unfortunately, not everyone saw things the way I did.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Chris Claremont is a great writer. He had some of the greatest story-arcs in X-Men history. But when he came back to the X-Men in the early 2000’s, it just wasn’t the same. But I do love what he is doing on X-Men: Forever. I think putting Chris back with his hey-day of mutants, in the time period after Magneto “died” on Asteroid M, was a stroke of genius. It’s really working out and I’m happy for it.

But he screwed up the Exiles. There is no other way I can put it. I just hope that Marvel gives the team another shot. I am sure there are plenty of writers who can do it right. If they want more drama in the arcs, they should consider Matt Fraction as the writer. Or maybe even Joss Whedon. Whedon has done wonders with the X-Men, as can be seen from his run on Astonishing X-Men.

But to give up on the Exiles altogether is a shame. I really hope Marvel decides to give it a new chance. Hopefully, with a writer that can make things right.

9/01/2009

Story Ideas for the New Marvel/Disney

The news of Disney buying Marvel has sparked my creativity. Needing to douse this spark, I have written a few pitches for upcoming comics for the new ‘Mar-sney’ entity.

Ariel, The Submariner
An accident causes tons of toxic chemicals to seep into the ocean, killing the sea’s King Triton and his family. His youngest daughter, Ariel, survives the accident, and declares war on the surface dwellers for the needless death of her family. Now, only one team of heroes can stop her violent rampage, the FANTASTIC FUR! Loner scientist Walter Langkowski, and his alter ego the Sasquatch, teams up with Simba, the lion king, John Jameson, the Man-Wolf, and the ever inquisitive detective team of Chip and Dale. Only the combined might, guile, and brilliance of the Fantastic Fur can bring Ariel to justice.
Project artist: Neal Adams

Beauty and the Beast
After her father winds up missing, Belle sets out into the darkness to find him. Long, hard hours of searching the sewer lead her to an underground civilization of mutants. Unhappy at having a human, let alone a beautiful one, find their home, Belle is attacked by the disfigured outcasts, who call themselves ‘Morlocks.’ Minutes from being killed, a lone figure jumps into the fray to save her. Taking her deeper into the tunnel, Henry McCoy nurses her back to life. At first fearful of his bestial appearance and gray fur, Belle withdraws into herself. But as the brutish scientist begins to subject the beauty to inhumane experiments, Belle learns that McCoy’s external appearance is a reflection of what’s inside his heart.
Project artist: Chris Bachalo

White Queen and the Seven X-Babies
The X-Mansion is attacked by a powerful witch, one claiming to be the step-mother of Emma Frost. Emma defends herself, but soon finds that the Witch’s powers are too strong, so she flees into an attempt to save herself. Weeks alone on the run take their toll, and Frost passes out deep in the woods. However, she wakes up in a small cottage inhabited by tiny mutants, who call themselves the X-Babies. Wolvie, Colossus, Stormy, Iceboy, Creepy Crawly, Roguie, and Psychild nurse her back to heath and keep her hidden from the Witch. But the Witch catches up to the White Queen, turning her own powers against her sending her into a deep sleep. But the X-Babies discover that a kiss can wake her. But the kiss must come from one specific person, the White Queen’s true love, Prince Scott.
Project artist: Skottie Young

Tigger/Tigra: A Love Story
Greer Grant has slipped into a deep depression; her friends feel betrayed at her registration with the Fifty States Initiative, her last love interest turned out to be a shape shifting alien, and her powers have been becoming more and more unstable. So she decides to set off into the wilderness to spend some time alone and sort out her thoughts. While ‘vacationing’ in the Hundred Acre Woods, Grant meets an interesting fellow who calls himself ‘Tigger.’ Grant is drawn to his hedonistic lifestyle and free-spirited personality, and decides to pursue him.
Project artist: Mike Mayhew

A Bug’s Life
Bored with his life and disenchanted at the prospects of the future, scientist Henry Pym revisits the past successes of his life. But after trying on and activating his unused Ant-Man uniform, Pym discovers that he cannot revert back to his original size. He seeks out help in any form that he can, when he meets Flik and his colony of ants. Flik promises Pym to help him find someone who can help him back to normal size, if Pym will help the colony fend off an attack by grasshoppers. But the grasshoppers have their own secret weapon, one in the form of rival Ant-Man Eric O’Grady…
Project artist: Steve McNiven

New Warriors
Jubilee has managed to find happiness since her split with the New Warriors. Keeping in regular touch with Jonothan Starsmore and Barnell Bohusk, Jubilee has found a steady job and a nice apartment, and even a boyfriend. But a letter from a mysterious benefactor promises her more if she puts on the suit and becomes Wondra once more. Deciding that she has nothing to lose by hearing the man out, she sets off into the darkness as the tech-powered superhero. A brief skirmish with an unknown figure calling himself ‘GizmoDuck’ leads to a truce, and the identity or the author of the letter, a self-made billionaire named Scrooge McDuck, now bored with his life and wishing to fund a project to better humanity.
Project artist: Sara Pichelli

Naturally, I would be more than happy to flesh these out into full length scripts if asks, but if Mar-sney would like to place their own writers on the project, then I have no qualms with that, provided I am compensated for the idea. I have also provided artists that I feel would mesh well with the project, but I am open to suggestions from Mar-sney’s art directors.

8/31/2009

Disney to Buy Marvel

This… is unsettling news indeed.

While, without a doubt, this partnership has its benefits, it could have its downsides none-the-less.

One of the benefits is the immense amount of money Disney has that it can through behind Marvel projects. Imagine the budget on Marvel’s upcoming movies? Or the animation quality behind their films and series? These things can’t be denied; with Disney in their corner, Marvel’s movie and cartoon quality will increase tenfold.
Or imagine walking around Disneyland and getting tapped on the shoulder by Spider-Man? Or taking a photo with Wolverine and Cyclops? Or riding Captain America’s Wild Ride? This partnership would do wonders for the visibility of Marvel characters, introducing them to millions of children and their parents every year.

But, for every positive to this deal, there are about a hundred downsides. Yes, Disney can provide Marvel with top-notch animation services. But will they step in and censor what they feel isn’t family-friendly enough? We have all seen how Disney has bastardized the tales of Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen, which were dark, sordid stories to begin with. Will Disney do this with Marvel? While, for the most part, Marvel films and cartoons are fairly tame, but there have been exceptions to the rule. Hulk vs., for instance, has quite a bit of over-the-top violence. And the Punisher films have been bloody and grotesque over the years. I’m worried that Disney would step in and say, “Nope, can’t do this” and destroy the loyalty to the characters.

But let’s not forget the services Marvel can offer Disney. Top notch comic writers and artists can go a long way to a company that has made comic books based on its characters. Will Marvel have to start publishing comics based on Mickey Mouse and Uncle Scrooge? Or will Disney continue to publish these stories, with Marvel’s army of writers and artists in tow? Will doing these stories keep these artists and writers from contributing to the Marvel stories, bringing down their quality? I would hate to see Marvel’s characters suffer because of a business relationship between two companies.

My opinion of this situation is that Disney wants to answer the partnership that its rival, Warner Brothers, has. Warner Brothers has owned Marvel rival, DC Comics, for years, and things have worked out pretty well on that end. Movies based on DC properties have, for the most part been well made. Appearances at theme parks are fantastic money makers, as evidenced by Six Flags and their numerous roller coasters and rides by DC Comics characters. And it doesn’t seem that the quality of DC Comics suffers due to creators being on projects about Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck.

But this relationship hasn’t always been the strongest partnership creatively. For instance, with DC being owned by Warner Brothers, a big-time movie studio, then Warner Brothers would, naturally, make all movies based on DC characters. Makes sense, right? But what if Warner Brothers decides to put all DC based films on hold, like they did in January of 2009? What happens then? With the success of Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008, you would think DC would be frothing at the mouth to create a movie based on the Flash or Green Lantern, instead of bleeding Batman dry. But they haven’t been given that chance, because of parent company Warner Brothers. However, were they a separate entity, DC would be able to shop the franchise around. By taking their property to Sony or 20th Century Fox, DC’s other characters would have a chance.

I would hate to see Marvel suffer the same fate. For some time, Marvel had a good thing going for them. Since the turn of the century, their movies had all become big-budget, blockbuster successes. Their animation team is at their strongest, with Wolverine and the X-Men and their direct to DVD films they release every so often. Despite the financial woes Marvel suffered during the 1990’s, with being on the verge of bankruptcy, fending off the likes of Carl Ichan and his desire to sell the company piece by piece, and finally being bailed out by ToyBiz, a company that made action figures based on the Marvel franchise, Marvel has managed to pull ahead and become a heavy hitter in the industry, all but burying amateur upstart Image Comics.

This buyout decision is clearly not a financial one. Marvel is stable enough where it doesn’t need a backer to keep them above water. The decision to purchase Marvel rests purely on Disney’s shoulders. And I keep going back to the one reason I stated before. And I’m afraid of it. Disney wants a partnership like Warner Brothers. I can’t say for certain that I don’t like this news. But I can say I’m extremely hesitant of the future of Marvel. I will have to wait and see what happens, but my fingers will be crossed.

8/28/2009

War Is Heck: A Serial Drama, Or Something

As I was going through some old files on my computer the other day I came across this little comic strip I made a few years back. It was instigated by the discovery of these creepy military action figures I found in a dollar store. I thought that these figures were so weird looking that something good had to come from them. So I gathered up one of each and decided to do a little photography comic, a la Twisted Toyfare Theater.

Now I’ll be the first one to admit these action figures are really shitty. The arms and legs barely move, and when they do they look just plain awkward. The black guys are just repainted white guys, so every soldier literally has a “brother from another mother.” But the way they look, with the expressions on their faces, just struck me as something humorous. I had an idea, maybe not a good idea, but it was an idea.

I’ve dabbled in creating comics in the past. My year long stint of Clit and Pecker proved mostly fruitless. I loved the premise behind CnP, but lacked the time and energy to keep up with it. Not to mention the added expense of servers and promotion and what not. I am currently in the process of moving CnP to a blog here on Blogger, and I have a never before seen strip waiting in the wings for when that is completed. I do plan on updating, but not with regularity. My biggest hurdle is inspiration. And when I try to force inspiration, I get stuck. When I try to rush things, it comes out like shit. I don’t want that for my creation, so I decided to back off and let it happen whenever it does.

This is the approach I will take with my photo-comic. I currently have three strips in the bag, and I will pull those out when I am ready. But now I’m in some planning stages. I just bought one of those marble notebooks, and I glued photos of each of the figures on separate pages. Now comes the brainstorming of each character as well as background write ups. When that’s complete, I work on scripting individual storylines. After that step, I’ll move into production.
I never took those steps with CnP. That, I think, was the problem. I wanted to update twice a week. But without a path to go down, I always had to come up with new strips on the fly. And, I’ll admit, they sucked. Once I get this new strip planned, I’ll work this magic on CnP, and hopefully get that to a better place.

Like I said, I never wanted it to evaporate the way it did. But I will fix that. And when I do, things will be better. But right now I want to work on this project and see if I can make anything of it. I’m sure I can, but whether it will find an audience is a different story.

If you enjoyed this, leave a comment and let me know. Encouraging words are always welcome.

8/21/2009

Mary Jane: A Story of Teenage Angst and Superheroes

I recently finished reading Mary Jane by Judith O’Brien, and I have to say it was pretty good. Now, before you start wondering if I’m really a 13 year old girl who is pretending to be a grown man, allow me to argue my point. (And in my defense, it was on my bookshelf for quite awhile, after my girlfriend bought it at Midtown Comics in Manhattan two years ago.)

The novel tells the story of a young Mary Jane, and the troubles she goes through. Her father walks out on her and her mother, leaving them to fend for themselves. Because of a lack of a steady income, Mary Jane and her mother have to move from apartment to apartment, and Mary Jane from school to school. She leaves her beloved Bradford Academy and all of her friends, including a gangly, awkward kid who partnered with her on the science fair, a kid named Peter Parker. Seeing Peter’s family life, and his interaction with his parents, makes her yearn for a normal home life. That is, until the day Peter’s parents are killed in a plane crash, and his aunt and uncle move in to raise him. They cannot afford to send him to Bradford anymore, and place Peter in public school, separating him from Mary Jane.

Years go by, and due to the Watson’s transient lifestyle, Mary Jane ends up attending the same school as her childhood friend. They begin to get to know each other again, but Peter is still the weird kid, picked on by everyone else, and MJ is warned that being friends with Peter can ruin her reputation. She heeds this advice, but soon Peter starts to change, and she, and all of the girls in the school, begin to see Peter less of a nerd and more of a sexual God.

Mary Jane deals with a lot of issues that a normal teenager deals with, such as being accepted by her peers and dealing with her own self-image. But, she also is introduced to some topics that are a little more abnormal, like her friend’s father giving the entire class a sports drink laced with a highly addictive performance enhancer.

Though Mary Jane was written for younger audiences, it really captures the essence of how it is like to be a teenager. The anxiety of being a teenager is almost tangible, especially when Mary Jane starts dealing with her weight issues and takes drastic measures to improve her self. Her diary entries are realistic, as well as her inner monologue. The dialogue is a little cheesy in the way the teenagers speak to each other, but in many cases, that was intentional. In others, well, I didn’t think teenagers actually spoke like that.

I also have to commend O’Brien on the way she handled the appearance of Spider-Man, one of the driving forces in Mary Jane’s life. In every other incantation of Spider-Man, we get the story from peter Parker’s perspective. But since this is Mary Jane’s story, we get to look at it a different way. When Spider-Man hits the scene, taking on the Demon Knife Master for a prize of $1,000 a minute at the Wrestle Cage Rage match, we watch as Mary Jane recognizes a few acrobatic moves she herself taught Peter Parker, and begins to wonder if it can be possible. When Spider-Man saves her from being hit by a car, she examines the sound of his voice, wondering again, and even outright asking, if Peter Parker is Spider-Man. And the way she is kept in the dark, when she discovers that the two cannot be the same person, is believable, a simple cover but plausible nonetheless.

My one gripe, however, is the show-and-tell Peter gives Mary Jane when he discovers that he has changed. The day after getting bitten by the radioactive spider (though they don’t make it clear it the spider was in fact radioactive) Peter shows off his new abilities to the entire school, literally running circles around the previously more athletic kids. Later that day, he tells Mary Jane about how he doesn’t need his thick glasses anymore, he begins showing her his new muscles, and she starts touching her abs and biceps. Though this idea of showing off to his peers is a true teenage attribute, I was a little disappointed in it. The Spider-Man that I know knew that this new powers would make him an almost instant celebrity in his school, but he decides to keep it a secret anyway. With great power comes great responsibility, right? And flaunting that power is not responsible. So to see Peter Parker act in so flippant a manner was slightly irritating, but I managed to get over it.

One other aspect in the novel is the illustrations. No Marvel book would be complete without a few pictures. Mary Jane isn’t overdone with pictures, but what it has are amazing. Done by the great Mike Mayhew, the illustrations manage to capture the essence of the novel’s young stars, and place them in their everyday situations. Peter being ostracized by his peers, Mary Jane studying her body, and Peter and Mary Jane sharing an intimate moment are all snapshots that Mayhew gives the reader. And the emotion on their faces is so precise that you can almost understand the story completely without reading a single word.

Though it may be strange for a guy like me to read a book aimed at teenage girls, I am proud to say that I did. Being the fan of Spider-Man that I am, and with Mary Jane being such an important part of the Spider-Man myth, I felt that it was important for me to read this novel, so that I can see another author’s take on both characters. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys Spider-Man like I do. It is a short novel, only about 200 pages, and a quick read. But it is worth it to the true fans for a new take on the story they know so well.

And now that I am done with the first novel, I will be moving onto the second very shortly.

8/19/2009

Spider-Woman: Agent of SWORD

Today, Marvel released its first Motion Comic on iTunes. Written by Brian Michael Bendis and illustrated by Alex Maleev, “Spider-Woman: Agent of SWORD” is an intelligent, harsh look at the life of Jessica Drew after her ordeal with SHIELD, Hydra, and the Skrulls.

There has been a lot of talk about this Motion Comic for a few weeks now, since the trailer debut on the internet. Reactions to it have been greatly positive. The reactions are correct. Bendis does a great job with the writing. The story is well written in its noir style detective story. Internal thoughts give us most of the storyline as Jessica Drew tries to come to terms with the way her life turned out.

The art, courtesy of Alex Maleev, is simply gorgeous. His grim and gritty style blends well with the story-telling, and helps to make the viewer feel just what Jessica is going through. Another point I have to tip my hat to is the animation. Done by a company called Motherland, the movement is very fluid and well directed. I have seen a few animated comic book stories before, but nothing like this. Most of it works like a cut-and-paste style of animation, with each piece drawn by Maleev. But it’s done so well, with added touches like the raindrops on the city street that I almost got lost in it. There were quite a few times that I have to rewind the timeline because I was so engrossed in the art that I missed a line of dialogue.

Is the comic worth the purchase? Yes. For 99 cents, you get 10 minutes and 47 seconds worth of entertainment. The amount of story, the art, the animation; all of it is worth the price. In fact, I kinda feel like I’m ripping Marvel off.

Needless to say, I’m excited about future installments of the comic. I’m looking forward to see what other characters will get a motion treatment. Seeing Abigail Brand, the Director of SWORD, was a bit of a surprise (though I’ll admit, I should have expected it). Will Bendis write the Avengers into the story? Captain America? Wolverine? I really hope this new format takes off, and Marvel decides to create more Motion Comics. I, for one, would love to see a Cloak and Dagger comic in this style. Especially one written by Bendis. If he can make Spider-Woman this interesting, I’d love to see his take on Cloak and Dagger.

A Terrible Excuse for News Reporting

So the good folks at Probably Bad News posted this little news clip that aired on WJW Fox 8 in Cleveland. At first, it seems like an honest to goodness story about black bears in the woods near a residential home. But this it just gets, well, really fucking stupid. I don't want to give anything away; you're just going to have to see what I mean.






Why do people do that to themselves? This is the kind of thing that gets on the news in Cleveland? Maybe I'm just spoiled, having lived in New Jersey all my life, where news actually happens.

8/18/2009

A Trifecta of Spider-Man News

So recently Sam Raimi starting to hint at the villain in Spider-Man 4. In fact, the script hasn’t even been completed for very long, after being rewritten twice. However, Sony just signed a writer for the scripts of parts 5 and 6 of the series.

James Vanderbilt, who wrote the scripts for Darkness Falls and Zodiac, and also wrote the script for Spider-Man 4 before it was rewritten by David Lindsay-Abarie, has been signed to penned the fifth and sixth films. Sony is plowing forward and getting things ready to complete the second triology, despite the fact that Same Raimi, Tobey Maguire, or Kirsten Dunst are not signed on to shoot anything past the fourth film. But Sony wants to be prepared for that situation. Or, if the trio decided not to do any further films, Sony will use the scripts as a template to reboot the series. Why they would need a reboot so early in the films history is unnkown at this point, but hopefully that don’t make any bad decisions.

I just hope the original crew signs on to complete the second trilogy.

The New York Post has reported that the Broadway envisioning of the webslinger, ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark,” has hit quite a few roadblocks on its path to production.

Apparently, the show’s cash flow has run out, due to the over-the-top production by director Julie Taymor. The director has some high vision for the show; however, high vision on Broadway tends to cost big bucks. And unfortunately, the show’s producer, David Garfinkle, doesn’t have the stones to reign her in and keep her in check. Now, due to that vision, there is little money left for the rest of the show, including the remodeling of the Hilton Theater. The Hilton has been completely gutted for reconstruction just for the show. But now, it’s just an empty shell waiting to be filled.

It’s been reported that the show would have a weekly running cost of $900,000, which is an astounding figure for a Broadway show. Experts say that it would take the entirety of the theater, which is approximately 1,700 seats, to sell out completely for 5 years in order for the show to break even. Not even in New York…

About the only people who would benefit from the show, whether it opens or not, would be Bono and the Edge, of U2 fame, who were tapped to write the score to the show. Worse comes to worst, they at least have a few completed songs that they can release as singles, on their next CD, or just as B-Sides. I’m sure they can figure something out.

I’m not a fan of Broadway, but I have to admit I was excited about “Turn Off The Dark.” I love how Spider-Man gets the big audience recognition that he has been getting lately, and having his webbed face plastered all over Broadway would certainly bring him even more recognition. I may not have gone to see the show very often, but I would certainly have gotten a ticket. Maybe even have bought a t-shirt. Hopefully Sony and Marvel decide to find a new director or producer and save the production.

And in happier news, Spider-Man is making his return to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Spidey made his first appearance in the parade in 1987, and ran every year through 1998. Now, after a decade, he’s back with a newly redesigned balloon. He will still be in the classic crawling pose, but he has been beefed up, with a much more muscular physique.

The bad news is that Spider-Man is only expected to be in the parade through 2011. Why only three years? I don’t know, but hopefully with the release of Spider-Man 4 as well as “Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark,” Macy’s will decide to keep him in the parade much longer. Spider-Man is an icon, and as much a part of New York City as the Empire State Building and King Kong. So to take him out of a New York parade is a slap in the face. New York has already been slapped once. Macy’s better not be getting ready to hit for a second time.

8/14/2009

Siegel Family Awarded Some Rights Of Superman

In April of 1938, Action Comics #1 hit the news stand. Its pages told a story of an alien child coming to Earth and raised by a couple of all-American farmers, discovering that he had abilities far beyond those of normal men. He had immense strength, was bullet-proof, and couple leap extreme distances. This amazing character, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, became one of the most recognizable characters, bearing the name Superman.

But Siegel and Shuster would not garner the same amount of fame as their character for another almost half century. It had appeared that when National Periodical Publications, which later became DC Comics, agreed to run the story, they would assume the credit for the character. This “agreement” would be the starting point for a number of legal battles throughout the year.

On August 13, 2009, a judge awarded the estate of Jerry Siegel control over many aspects of the Superman character, such as his origins of landing on Earth, his Kryptonian heritage and name, and a few of his abilities. The judgment is basically a legal slap in the face to DC Comics, who had fully control over the character and all of his traits. But now, there are some aspects of Superman that they cannot use without authorization from the Siegel family.

I, for one, am happy that Jerry Siegel’s family now has control over the Superman character. He was a hard working individual who had his creation taken from him, in a time when he, more than likely, had no idea what he was doing. Jerry Siegel was 23 years old when Action Comics ran his story. He wasn’t a skilled negotiator, or a shrewd business man. He was a poor Jewish kid who grew up in Ohio, and was just excited to see his character, who had gone through a few revisions to become what he did, printed in a national magazine. I’m sure he never expected Superman to become as big as it did, otherwise he may have asked for a little more from National Periodical Publications.

But he didn’t. And since 1938, Jerry Siegel didn’t make much money off of Superman. Nineteen Forty six brought about the first of many lawsuits over Superman. First, Siegel and Shuster sued National for the rights to Superman, after nearly 10 years of writing for the magazine. Siegel sued again in 1967, after returning to DC to write Superman again, but was summarily dismissed in his case, and also his job. In 1975, Siegel initiated a protest against Warner Communication and DC Comics, bringing to light the abuse of both him and Shuster over the years. To placate the duo, Warner agreed to pay them $20,000 a year each, for the rest of their lives and to credit them for the creation of Superman.

There have also been other lawsuits, concerning copyright termination as well as the character of Superboy. But despite the agreement in 1975, neither Siegel or Shuster have been awarded as large of a stake in Superman as they have recently. While the most recent ruling only gives the Siegel estate control over some aspects of the character, an article on Variety.com states that Shuster’s estate will receive the same awarding in 2013.

This ruling could be astronomically devastating to Warner Brothers and DC Comics. Not only will it be interesting to see how they handle the character of Superman in the future, since most of his origin is out of their control, but whether or not they will return to court to fight it. I feel that they should bite the bullet and pay the Siegel and Shuster estates for the right to use the information they lost, but I doubt that will happen.

Anyway, I wish the best to Siegel’s family. They have fought long and hard to get what they received yesterday, and they deserve it. For many years, Jerry Siegel struggled financially, so it’s good that wrong has been righted.

But this just proves that Jerry Siegel was a visionary. When he described Superman as fighting for “truth, justice, and the American Way,” he had no idea that the “American Way” of the future would be so sue-happy. Talk about irony.

8/12/2009

Green Lantern: First Flight


DC has always had a superb animation team. It must be one of the perks that comes with being owned by the company who created Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. Look at some of the cartoons DC has had in the past: Batman: The Animated Series, Teen Titans, and Justice League Unlimited, just to name a few. So now that DC has moved into full-length, direct-to-DVD films, they are trying to maintain their quality of animation. And it’s working.

Their newest offering is Green Lantern: First Flight. The plot of the film tells the story of how Hal Jordan became the Green Lantern and how he had to prove himself within the ranks of the Green Lantern Corps. He goes head-to-head with his arch-enemy, Sinestro, and proves to the Guardians and the rest of the Corps that he is worthy to wear the ring. The movie is full of action, with lots of violence and murder. In short, it’s fun to watch, and not expected from one of the Big Two in comics. With all of the new animated movies coming out, it’s plain to see that both Marvel and DC are pushing the envelope a little bit harder these days. This is, of course, a welcome change to the days when the Comics Code required everything be watered down and kiddie-like.

The story is well-written, concentrating on Hal Jordan and Sinestro. But it lacks something in the long-run. We see how much of a badass Hal Jordan is but, since the film starts with him receiving the ring, we never really find out why. The audience is left to assume that his will is much more powerful than his enemy’s, an idea that is illustrated throughout the movie, but there is never any explanation to support this theory. The writers also managed to create a nice balance between action and comedy. There have been too many movies that have disappointed because the filmmakers didn’t know when to stop with the shitty tongue-in-cheek jokes. Thankfully, the writers of Green Lantern know what would be funny, and when, and leave it at that.

The animation itself is very well done. Blending traditional 2-D animation with 3-D animation, the film has a nice depth to it that not many animated movies have been able to pull off. The 3-D aspects are not overdone, so they don’t inundate the audience. They are also smoothly blended, so the times they are used are not blaringly obvious. However, there are times when the transition is not perfect, and the 3-D sticks out like a sore thumb. But these moments are few and far between, so it does not detract from the viewing experience too much.

Another great aspect of the movie is the voice acting. Christopher Meloni (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) isn’t the kind of actor you would expect to voice the main character in a comic book movie, but he is perfect for the role. Ten years in the role as a hardened police detective was enough of a pre-cursor to become one of the most beloved wielders of the Green Lantern ring. Victor Garber plays Sinestro to perfection. His cold inflection and almost poetic enunciation makes the viewer feel the contempt that Sinestro has for the Green Lantern Corps. Garber brings so much power to the role. Tricia Helfer, Michael Madsen, and John Larroquette round out the big-name voices in the movie, and though they don’t really add anything recognizable to the film, at least their performances don’t detract from it.

I’m not one to watch the special features on most of my DVD’s, but I made an exception on the Green Lantern. One of the reasons why is the behind the scenes featurette on the upcoming movie of Superman/Batman: Public Enemies.

They don’t give much information on where the film stands now. Though the visuals of the feature concentrate on the comic book version of Public Enemies, I was happy to see as much animation as they showed. There will be a shitload of characters in the movie, both heroes and villains, and they talk about one huge fight scene that starts big and ends bigger. I have never read the comic story, but after learning that it was written by Jeph Loeb, then I am lead to believe that it is good. And if the animation team can keep up with their most recent films, then this one will not disappoint. DC also made the right choice in casting the original voice actors for the stars of Public Enemies. Tim Daly as Superman. Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor. And Kevin Conroy as Batman. These voices are so ingrained in my mind and so connected with these characters that I get offended when I hear another voice coming from their mouths. With how much I liked The Brave and the Bold and Deidrich Bader, I cringed every time Batman spoke in that show. Kevin Conroy is the epitome of Batman, and I’m so happy that they brought him back for Public Enemies. Not to mention the other actors that they secured. Allison Mack, from Smallville will play Power Girl. Xander Berkeley, from 24, is Captain Atom. LeVar Burton is Black Lightning. Even if you watched this movie with your eyes closed, it will still be amazing.

There is also a nice feature about DC’s newest event, Blackest Night. I’m glad that someone, like me, who is not entirely familiar with the DC heroes, is able to get a background on what the hell is going on. I picked up the first issue of Blackest Night and was completely lost when I read it. Now, I can kind of understand what is happening, and should be at least able to follow it when I go through the rest of the issues.

Even if you have no intentions of purchasing Green Lantern: First Flight, you should at least rent it. This is a film for anyone who likes the Green Lantern. It’s for anyone who likes super hero movies. At first glance, it would seem that this is another animated movies aimed at kids. But the depth of story works for fans of all ages. Hell, even the special features themselves are worth the three bucks to rent it from Blockbuster.

7/25/2009

American Son Conclusion and Amazing Spider-Man #600


A few weeks back I did a write up about how amazing the first four issues of the American Son storyline in Amazing Spider-Man was. I just picked up the final issue and the conclusion is everything it was led up to.

Without giving away too many spoilers (be careful from here on in) the final chapter is a knock-down, drag-out battle between the Osborns. Harry finally proves to Norman that he is exactly opposite of what Norman thought of him. Norman assumed his son to be weak, powerless, and a failure of a son. In American Son, however, Harry shoves Norman’s words up his ass. Harry uses his new-found power to beat his father into submission, only stopping when Spider-Man convinces him to kill his father. Harry takes the moral high ground by ignoring Spider-Man’s prodding, and instead casts off all relation to his father, and his heritage.

This was the blow up that has been coming for some time. Having seen Harry in the past, the reader knows that he is anything but weak. His time as the Green Goblin has proved that. But even in recent issues, as Harry has been leading a normal life, it can be seen that he is a strong person. His desire to make his own way in life and not live in his father’s shadow, for instance. Even though Norman sees this as weakness, it isn’t. It’s easy to live off the purse-strings of a parent, especially when that parent is as wealthy as Norman Osborn. But to strike off on your own and earn your way through life, as opposed to having it handed to you on a platter, is a strength that is unparalleled. Being a murderous, blood-thirsty villain is not the epitome of strength, as Norman believes.

The issue ends on a high note, in my opinion. By the end of the team-up with Spider-Man, Harry has the opportunity to discover Spider-Man’s true identity. But he does not use his chance to learn the secret that could help him in his quest to destroy him. Instead, he respects Spider-Man’s privacy and allows him to leave with his secret intact. Though this does not mean the hatchet is buried between the two, but it is a step closer to allowing Harry to forgive Spider-Man for his perceived transgressions. Perhaps, the Spider-Office has a plan to have Peter reveal his identity to his best friend, or maybe something will happen that will reignite the ire that Harry holds for the webslinger. Either way, I’m sure the creative team at Marvel will make one hell of a story out of it.

All in all, American Son is the story I have been waiting for since Brand New Day. I have been feeling like the reboot of the Spider-Man title was a bit of a cop out. The stories that followed have been less that spectacular, just reasons to create new villains for Spider-Man to face. And some of these new villains were more than a little irritating (I’m still annoyed at the whole Anti-Venom thing.) So to see a classic bad-guy like Norman Osborn rear his head again was a refreshing change of pace. Seeing Spider-Man’s mental aguish at himself for not killing Norman all those years ago is the type of story-telling that only Marvel can do. And to have him even consider the option, like he does at the end of American Son shows the set of balls that Marvel has, since Spider-Man has always been that character who will not resort to murder.

Speaking of classic villains, Amazing Spider-Man #600 hit stores this past Wednesday. With the hype that was built up around it from the folks at Marvel, it was an issue that I couldn’t wait to pick up. To celebrate the milestone, Marvel gives its fans one hundred and four pages of all new material, with no advertisements. This is the kind of thing that doesn’t happen very often in the comics industry. Not very many comic books have made it to the 600 mark, so Marvel celebrated it with style.

The main story featured the return of Doctor Octopus, with a few new changes. Doc Ock takes it upon himself to imprint his brainwaves into every machine in New York City, but his subconscious is bent on destroying Spider-Man for thwarting his plans all of these years. The city turns on Spider-Man man, forcing the wall-crawler to enlist the help of his super-powered friends, such as the New Avengers and the Fantastic Four.

Oh, and all of this happens just as Aunt May is about to marry J. Jonah Jameson Sr.

Though the main story was good, it just paled in comparison to the follow up stories. The first was a humerous look at all of the strange transformations of Spider-Man through the years, written by the creator of the Marvel comics himself, Stan Lee. The story features Spidey as his multi-armed self, in the black alien costume, as Spider-Hulk, as well as others, as he confesses his problems to a psychiatrist. Fast-paced and funny, it’s everything you would expect from Stan Lee. And Marcos Martin’s art puts a beautiful touch to the story.

I won’t go through every back-up story in the issue, but there are two others that stick out in my mind. The first was a touching admission of failure, which doesn’t feature Spider-Man in a single page. It’s about Uncle Ben and his relationship with a young Peter. It talks about how he came to be Peter’s guardian and the steps he took to raise the young boy. The story is very sentimental, but in a good way. Readers rarely get the chance to see the past from Uncle Ben’s point of view, so to do so, and see the early stages of Peter’s and Ben’s relationship is both interesting and a thankful change of pace.

The last story also does not feature Spider-Man, but instead sets the stage for the next year of storytelling in Amazing Spider-Man. Written by Joe Kelley, who also wrote American Son, the final story features Madame Web, who has some disturbing visions of the future. It is so short that anything more I say will just ruin it, so let me just say that it’s a great ploy by Marvel to whet the appetites of their fans.

I totally cannot see what 2010 has in store for The Amazing Spider-Man.

7/22/2009

The Colony

I just gained a little respect for reality television.

Last night saw the premiere of “The Colony” on the Discovery Channel. I hadn’t heard about this show prior to seeing a commercial for it during “Deadliest Catch,” but I was quickly intrigued. The premise behind the show is in a post-apocalyptic world, 10 survivors have to make due for 10 weeks, foraging for whatever they can and living with no amenities besides what their skills can supply them.

The show’s contestants were isolated for 30 hours with no sleep and little nourishment and sent out to find food for themselves before searching out shelter. They wind up in a 50,000 square foot warehouse, which they will call home for the next two and a half months. They have to scour for food and water and whatever tools they can find. But, in addition to that, they have to fend off the aggression of a biker gang who are looking to take what they have.

The amount of detail put into the show by the producers is astounding. The desolation that is Los Angeles is something out of a movie, and it feels real. It’s so real that it seems almost as if you are watching news footage after a cataclysmic event. Discovery called on the help from experts in Homeland Security, psychology, and engineering to design a world that looks and feels like a truly destroyed world. So much has been put into the show that it is less “Reality TV” and more “Social Experiment.” How will normal people who are used to free-flowing electricity, running water, and a Piggly Wiggly every few blocks fare in a world where none of that exists? It becomes an interesting case study into the human psyche.

The people that they chose are from all walks of life; doctor, engineer, general contractor, martial arts expert. You can tell that they were each chosen for the knowledge that they have, in hopes that they can bring something to the table to help the team survive. This is where I’m a little skeptic of the show. Everyone has a necessary skill that it seems like they can’t fail. I feel that they should have picked at least one “average Joe” guy, or girl, with no discernible expertise. The social experiment would fly with someone like that, seeing how that person would contribute anything, showing how far the human spirit would go to survive. Throughout the show, these experts chime in on what the group is doing and why they are reacting as they are. It gives some insight into who we are as a species and how quickly survival instincts resurface after years of dormancy.

Although, I can foresee some bad things happening later in the show. Out of the 10 survivors, only 6 of them were allowed into the colony at the beginning. A day later, the remaining four were sent out to find shelter. The problem was, both parties had been ignorant of the other. When the second group got to the Colony, they were met with hostility by the first group, who greeting them with metal pipes and suspicion. Even when the biker gang stole their food in the beginning, I don’t know how they were able to retrain themselves from causing harm to the thieves. Though they state that everything feels so real that their perceptions are beginning to blur, there is clearly a distinct line between reality and fantasy. So far, none of them have crossed that line, but it would be interesting to see someone do so.

I’ve never been a huge fan of shows on the Discovery Channel, but I think “The Colony” has changed that. For once, a show manages to put together a good principle and ties it together with deep, psychological study. With the way the world is now, many people would believe that a catastrophe is looming, and life in “The Colony” will soon be more science than fiction. If that’s true, then I’ll continue to tune in just so I have some pointers when the end of the modern world does come. I’ll be ready, assuming, at least, that I survive the first wave of destruction.

7/21/2009

Batman: The Brave and the Bold


I have always had a lot of respect for cartoons based on DC characters. From the days of “Superfriends” to the new “The Batman,” the animation team at Warner Brothers has rarely let me down. And following in their fine tradition, DC gives us “Batman: The Brave and the Bold.”

If you are a comic book fan, then you know the origins of “The Brave and the Bold.” The original series began in 1955 and continued through 1983. The first stories acted as a spotlight for random super heroes, including Robin Hood and Silent Knight, but it eventually found its focus with Batman, teaming the Caped Crusader with other DC heroes. Though the title fell into obscuring, it was resurrected in 2007, and concentrated less on Batman and more on the team ups of the other heroes (although Batman did appear in the first storyarc of the new series.) The new series featured a number of great writers in the industry, including Mark Waid, Marv Wolfman, and Dan Jurgens. With so much great writing and the popularity of the series, it’s no surprise that DC would option the premise for a cartoon series.

The first episode I watched featured Batman teaming up with Blue Beetle and the Huntress. What I like most about the show is that they use lesser known super heroes, and are not just constantly throwing the likes of Superman and the Flash at as. Even though writers can make some interesting stories with the characters, but if you are always using the heavy hitters, it just gets too easy. When you throw Superman and his God-like abilities into the mix, there is no sense of danger for the heroes. And Batman becomes a secondary regardless.

One of the most attractive things about the show is the animation itself. The look of the characters are very sleek and stylish; they are a far cry from the nineties’ “Batman: The Animated Series,” but that is in no way a criticism. I enjoy the bright colors. I also like the blending of current cartoon sequences and the fun campiness of the past. Batman in this series looks more like Adam West than any other Batman incarnation. To add to the campy nature, the Batmobile even transforms into a Mecha-Robot. A lot of people would be turned off by this, but I find that it adds to the fun.

The writing is also witty as hell. All of the situations the heroes find themselves in unravel in a very fluid way, showing that the writers know and care about these characters. The snappy dialogue is enough to warrant a few laughs, even if the audience finds nothing else positive about the show (just imagine Blue Beetle uttering the phrase “I’m sorry but your hotness distracted me” in the midst of peril. How can you not laugh at that?)

Another benefit of the show is the voice casting. There are quite a few big names doing the voices for these characters, the most notable being Diedrich Bader as Batman. I was quite surprised to learn about Bader lending his voice talents as the Dark Knight, having seen him in “The Drew Carey Show” and Office Space. In addition to him, you have Kevin Michael Richardson, who voiced the Joker in “The Batman” and Bishop in “Wolverine and the X-Men,” as well as Will Friedle, better known as Terry McGinnis in “Batman Beyond.” Even Paul Ruebens, a.k.a. Pee Wee Herman, makes an appearance (well, his voice does, at least.) Talent oozes from every episode of the show that it becomes exciting to learn who I will hear next.

When I first heard about “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” I didn’t expect much. I just kind of thought it was another Batman cartoon, of which there have been plenty over the years. When I finally found the time to sit down and watch it, however, I kicked myself for not getting into it sooner. The show may not win any awards for writing or animation, but it is definitely a fun ride. I may be wrong about the awards thing, and I hope I am, because “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” deserves as much recognition as it can get. I can’t wait to see what’s in store in future episodes.

“Batman: The Brave and the Bold” airs Saturdays at 10:30 AM on Cartoon Network.

7/19/2009

I’m beginning to think of the Kings of Leon as the Wyld Stallyns.

Now I realize that most everyone won’t get that reference, so let me explain.

In the movie Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Bill and Ted are a couple of slackers who concentrate more on their music than on their studies. Because of this, their academic future is in jeopardy, causing Ted’s father to threaten him with military school if he doesn’t clean up his act and get his grades up. It is after we learn this that Rufus makes his appearance and offers them the time-travelling phone booth. The purpose of the phone booth is to help Bill and Ted travel through history to learn about it first hand, giving them the knowledge they need to write their history final, which is to be read in front of the entire school, including the students and faculty.

Anyway, as you probably know, hijinx ensue as the two visit different eras and interact with famous figures, such as Billy the Kid and Socrates. But they gather up these heroes from history and pass their final exam.

But why was their passing history class so important?

As Rufus explains, if the two of them fail, then Ted will go to military school, an action that would split up their band, Wyld Stallyns. Rufus goes on to say that the music of the Wyld Stallyns has become so important to the future because of the way it unites society. Under their music, the future becomes of one mind, and everyone lives in peace. But, if Bill and Ted were to be separated, then Wyld Stallyns would not exist in the future, and there would be no unity.

Hearing a lot of the buzz concerning the band Kings of Leon, I feel that there is a definite connection between them and the Wyld Stallyns. Though the Kings of Leon have been around for years, they have recently been given a lot of exposure, with two popular songs playing on the radio, as well as their recent appearance on the MTV Movie awards. What I find staggering is that it seems everyone I talk to has a high opinion of the group.

Now, this is not an official survey or anything, but the Kings of Leon have been well received by many different people. This is somewhat surprising because popular bands tend to have their nay-sayers; peoples taste vary so not everyone will enjoy a particular genre of music. However, it seems that the Kings of Leon are immune to such variances. Once people hear “Use Somebody,” they tend to enjoy it.

As I said, I haven’t done an official survey, so I may be wrong. Perhaps I’m just reading too much into the popularity of a band that I’m somewhat partial to. Or maybe the Kings of Leon will be the catalyst to lead our society into a Utopia.

7/16/2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Originally slated to be released in November of 2008, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was pushed back eight months. Why? Maybe Warner Brothers felt that Harry and Company could contend to be a summer blockbuster. Another answer is that Warner Brothers was afraid of a different book to movie adaptation featuring a hunky vampire and the girl who falls in love with him. Either way, fans of the film were forced to endure close to a year’s wait to see the sixth film in the series. Was the wait worth it? Depends on who you ask.

I’ll admit, I was a little excited to see Half-Blood Prince. I was never a big Harry Potter fan when the books came out. I didn’t really get into it even when the movies started being made. But right after the last book was released, I decided to see what all the fuss was about, and I read the entire series. I read all seven books in the span of three weeks, and I found I enjoyed them. Not so much the first few, but the later stories were very exciting. They had a darkness that I didn’t expect, and the characterization was so deep that it became apparent to me that Harry Potter deserved the adoration that he received.

Which is why I’m a little sad to say that the film version of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince didn’t tickle my fancy as I hoped it would.

The movie clocked in at around two and a half hours. Most of that was spent on silly teen love stories. The relationship between Harry and Ginny Weasley begins to blossom in the film, but doesn’t really come to a head. There is a brief moment of tenderness, some assumptions made on Harry part, but most of the time they spend pining for each other. The real let down, however, is the Ron/Hermione/Crazy Girl love triangle. Anyone who has read the books knows the fate of Ron and Hermione. But the build up of that romance is so drawn out that it just becomes repetitive. I felt the time in the film would have been better spent concentrating on the perceived resentment toward Ron that Harry feels, with Ron being put in a position of power as a prefect. But that aspect of the book never sees the light of day in the film. The writer and director chose to concentrate solely on Ron and Hermione, which should have been given some screen time, but not as much as it did. My girlfriend and I actually discussed this point during the final credits, with her argument being that it was necessary to include all of this so that the characters can arrive at the point they need to be by the end of the series. But my point is that by doing this, there is no further characterization with Ron. Granted, we see Hermione’s emotions from the get-go, but Ron is so oblivious to her feelings that he comes off like a stooge, and this is not how I remember him from the book.

The last hour of the movie was as good as the later chapters of the book. Harry and Dumbledore set out on a quest to find Voldemort’s weakness, which ends in tragedy. Though I began to nod off in the earlier parts of the movie, I was wide awake toward the end. The film translation is almost exactly as it was in the book, and I loved it. From the creepy sea of skeletons to the trap hiding the horcrux to the final fate of Dumbledore. Just about perfect.

What I enjoyed the most about the movie was the way Draco Malfoy was portrayed. In the first five films, Draco is, for lack of a better word, a dick. He is a rich, arrogant kid whose father is a very powerful man, and he makes sure everyone knows this. He strives to follow in his father’s footsteps, despite knowing that his father may have a few evil tendencies. In Half-Blood Prince, Draco is charged with a very important task by Voldemort himself. But he has difficulty fulfilling that task. Given everything we know about the character from before, it is strange to see him struggle so much. Though his hesitance is faithful to the character from the book, Tom Felton plays the boy with such emotion and power that it becomes a sight to see on screen.

I was also greatly disappointed by the underuse of Neville Longbottom. I know I’m strange for saying this, but Neville is my favorite character in the series. Every since he won the House Cup for Gryffindor in the first film, I have been a fan of the gangly, goofy, ne’er-do-well. And to see him relegated to the status of cater waiter was an insult to his true inner strength. They better, better, give him the screen time and proper history in Deathly Hollows. His story is so emotion and powerful that it needs to be told.

I feel my opinion on the film is irrelevant. If you like Harry Potter, you will enjoy this movie. If you don’t then, honestly, it could go either way. The film was well made, and the effects were certainly top-notch. Maybe I am alone in my opinion that it should have taken a different direction for the first half. But I felt that the faithful translation of the final events more than makes up for the earlier deviations. And as long as Book 7 is translated as loyally, then at least I won’t be let down then.

7/13/2009

Natalie Portman comes to Thor!

Marvel announced today that Natalie Portman has been cast as Jane Foster in the big-screen adaptation of Thor.

I couldn’t be more excited. Natalie Portman is probably one of the finest actresses ever to grace the silver screen. Having her in this film adds much more depth to the production. Not to mention that I’m a hell of a lot more excited about it.

You can read all about the Thor production as well as a little bit of Portman’s resume. According to the article, she will be appearing with Chris Hemsworth, who will star as Thor, and Tom Hiddleston, who will play the Trickster God, Loki.

Now that the major roles have been cast, I’m interested in learning a little more about the film. I can’t wait to see the costume designs as they continually leak to the internet, as well as hearing snippets of plot details. I was never a big Thor fan, but recent comic book events, as well as other appearances in some of Marvel’s animated films, have piqued my interest in the character.
I’m also looking forward to see how this film relates to Marvel’s final endgame, when all of their film’s characters culminate into a huge Avengers film. Finally, Marvel is able to do the film thing right. DC always had the option of doing big character crossover movies because they are owned by Warner Brothers. Yet they opted out of having film continuity. Marvel, on the other hand, isn’t afraid to make five or six films to introduce their characters before they make the team-oriented movie. Once again, you have to see how, throughout all of their troubles in the past, Marvel has been able to succeed in the industry.

Thor is set to be released on May 20, 2011.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...