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Archive for the ‘Comics’ Category

The Preservation of an Untainted Idea

In Comics, Movies, Science Fiction on January 12, 2013 at 12:55 pm

“You should absolutely not see the Hobbit. In fact I’m calling you now.”

This was a text I received from a good friend upon informing him of my Wednesday night plans. I know you may be thinking, “Why hasn’t Scott seen the Hobbit yet?” And that is a good question. Have I lost my obsessive nature in the nearly two years since I posted? Well, maybe? Or maybe I know it’s not going anywhere and I’m not worried about spoiling the story because it’s been around for 70+ years.

But that brings me back to my original point. Why would my friend warn me off of the Hobbit? It’s about spoilage. But not the “Bruce Willis has a dead penis named Rosebud at the end of the Citizen Crying Sense” kind of spoiler. More like, a beloved property or franchise exists in your mind and you cherish it. You may treasure it and cultivate it in your memory. Then, somehow, something new comes out that threatens that memory on a personal level.

It might be like Frank Miller’s return to his 80’s roots in much maligned The Dark Knight Strikes Again that causes you to examine why you loved The Dark Knight Returns in the first place. Or how The Phantom Menance forced you to like the original trilogy slightly less than you did. Or, how the first Hobbit movie threatened the idea of the Hobbit for my friend and he wanted to save me.

And it’s not optional, in some cases. You cannot unsee what you saw. You can rationalize it all you want. Midichlorians? What are those? Josh Brolin’s Jonah Hex? Never heard of it. Crystal Skulls? It’s weird Harrison Ford has an entirely new franchise coincidentally starring a character name Indiana Jones, but whatever. Sometimes you can separate Jaws from Jaws: The Revenge and not have a problem enjoying the original.

I always thought this moment would be so great.  I really did.

I always thought this moment would be so great. (sigh) I really did.

But sometimes you can’t…and it kinda sucks.

For the record, I wasn’t over the moon for the first Hobbit movie but I understand that Peter Jackson is goofy and makes goofy movies. I enjoyed it for what it was and I will see more of them.

Trailer trash

In Comics, Movies on March 25, 2011 at 3:40 pm

Two days ago, I watched the Captain America trailer a few times and have gotten myself pretty excited about it. Despite earlier concerns about the execution of the costume design, I really enjoy Cap as a character and I really want this to be good. And the trailer does an impressive job of reassuring me that this beloved character may have a chance of being portrayed reverently. As a good trailer, it has me excited about the prospect of watching the movie it is promoting. So what’s the problem?
The problem is the relationship that fans now have with trailers, in general. We (because I am as guilty of this as anyone) treat the trailer as a gift from the moviemakers to the fans. Since the Phantom Menace, at least, we treat the release of new trailers or featurettes or even TV spots as a warm-up to the movie; a way to slip into the right frame of mind before the main event.

And guess what? Trailers are commercials. They are marketing ploys to convince pay money to ingest a product. And while we all may crave to see some clips released at Comic-Con or “leaked” footage because we’re so excited, trailers exist to take money out of your pocket and put it in someone else’s.
So, if your movie has some cool visuals, an invested fan-base, and strong original material, it is not a great feat to make an effective trailer. Iron Man 2 is an excellent example. Great cast, cool visuals, and some sweet briefcase armor and I was excited. Yet, the movie, while adequate, in no way lived up to the excitement of the trailer. Good job marketing team.

Trying to sell me with this awesome shot? Nice try, trailer!

So, while I cannot go more than 5 minutes without thinking about a ricocheting thrown shield or Dum Dum Dugan with a shotgun, I am trying to train myself to treat a good trailer like what it is; an enjoyable piece of advertising. I am having mixed results.

Alternate Costumes

In Comics on July 7, 2010 at 10:19 pm

Nina brought this up in the comments of yesterday’s post and, instead of allowing this hijack to occur without resistance, I have decided to make it today’s post. For those whom have not seen it, Wonder Woman has a brand new, Jim Lee designed look.

And some people are for it, thinking it is a nice update for a modern woman who should not be wearing an American Flag bathing suit all the time. Others think it is an unnecessary alteration on the costume of the most famous female superhero ever. What do I think?

Well, I like my Wonder Woman all tied up with the Amazonian history continuity. If they wanted to move WW away from the skimpy spandexy costume, I would prefer a more Greek or more armor-like look. I think her magical, foreign background makes her a more interesting character and her appearance should reflect that. That’s kind of how I feel, I guess. Really, however, I’m feeling more like…whatever.

This is the kind of shit that slowly made me decide to stop reading weekly comics. How many times does this:

Or this:

Or this:

have to happen before we think: “Oh wait, no big event will ever really affect these characters.” I feel like I already know everything I need to know about the beloved comic icons of the past 60+ years. Oh, maybe someone will die or someone will come back or someone’s costume will change or someone’s power will mutate but…does it ever really matter. It always seems to return to the status quo at some point. And the costumes reflect this dogmatic attachment to the “classic” state of our heroes.

Is Batman really dead? Was Superman? Captain America? Fucking Jason Todd or Bucky? I don’t know. I feel like if I’m going to clutter my home with even more funny books, I’m going to need some higher stakes than: “Will Wonder Woman’s new look last an entire year?”

Do Over

In Comics, Movies on July 6, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Pretty recently I wrote a post about my odd tendency to re-start roleplaying games before I had finished them because I wanted to get my game as perfect as I could. I think we can all agree that I an somewhere between ape-shit crazy and rock-dumb stupid for this behavior but it made me think about a growing tendency in comic book movies, especially a few of the Marvel properties. That is, the reboot of franchise that is either just recently finished or still actually alive and kicking.

Example? Off the top of my head, let’s talk X-Men. Now, granted…I agree that this franchise is hardly super-healthy. I think that X-Men: The Last Stand was pretty terrible until I saw X-Men Origins: Wolverine and learned what terrible really was. Yet, I think both movies did pretty well at the box office. Also, the films had tons of little clues and set-ups at the end to make you think that there were more stories to be told in this universe. So, what does Marvel decide to do? Re-boot the franchise by going way younger. Who would be a good Professor X? How about James “Wanted” McAvoy? Magneto? Michael “300” Fassbender. Yes, I know these guys have both been in Academy Award nominated films. I’m just a dick. Anyway, they have started throwing dirt on the body of Hugh “Australia” Jackman while he’s not just breathing, but actually doing alright.

And there are others. They have started casting a new Spider-man franchise that, that’s right, goes younger. Do we really need a new telling of Peter Parker’s trial and tribulations as a high school student. Marvel sure thinks so. How about the Incredible Hulk, following the unloved Ang Lee Hulk only five years later? How about talk of a new Fantastic Four movie when the one from 2005 not only made a chunk of money, but spawned a sequel only two years later.

Some movies, on the other hand, are so perfect the first time around, you don't dare try to re-make them.

Do I have a problem with this? Actually, not really. Maybe Marvel wants to get it right and do it their way now that they are an independent studio. They want their version of their properties, not some movie studio’s idea of what will pop with the key demographics. Even cooler, maybe they don’t mind having different versions of the same characters and stories co-existing. Is there anything more comic bookish than totally different continuities of the same characters sitting on the comic stand at the same time. This could be the evolution of this idea into the movies. I mean, it’s nothing new, really? Aren’t we all better off with Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, The Dark Knight, and Adam West’s Batman all existing? I’d say yes, completely.

Can we take Captain America seriously?

In Comics on June 22, 2010 at 12:29 am

Oooh, a contentious question, I can tell. This is because Cap holds a strange and unexpected place in many people’s hearts that non-comic fans would not expect. I mean, to an outside observer, only the most jingoistic, mindless Americo-sycophant would think that wearing the American flag (complete with eagle-wing ears) would be a cool move. And here we have Captain America: a statuesque, blond-haired, blue-eyed Anglo-Saxon demigod who quite possibly beat the Nazis by shaming them with his Aryanism. This guy is supposed to be enjoyed as a representative of all that is good with this nation; a beloved icon of liberty and justice.

The thing is…he kinda is. I mean, I’m sure there a tons of people who reads comics and have no time for Cap. Yet, I know tons of Marvel fans, conservative and liberal both, who think Steve Rogers, like Ferris Bueller, is a righteous dude. Sure, he might wear wear a star on his chest, some stripes on his ribcage, and an “A” on his forehead. That doesn’t mean he’s a government stooge willing to follow the unjust orders of a corrupt oligarchy. Cap embodies the ideals of the nation; not as they have ever existed in reality but how they SHOULD exist.

Awesome..or ridiculous? The answer, much like what Champion says, is YES!!!

But that kind of brings us to the point of this post. Captain America, as often portrayed, is a little too good to be true. So, with this new movie on the horizon, are we as an audience going to be able to buy into this. Will he seem utterly outrageous to the non-comic public? Will he secretly make his actual fans (myself included) feel a little, or more than a little, silly.

Before you say, “Man, c’mon. It’s Cap! Of course he’s great!,” just consider what a man says when he wears a nation, any nation, as his identity. This isn’t a soldier with a flag patch on his arm or a Marine raising a flag on a hard fought hill in the Pacific. This is a dude with red go-go boots and a giant round throwing shield. And did I mention the head-wings.

P.S. If burning a flag is disrespectful, how about intentionally having one get shot, throwing it around, then riding one like a sled?

The Perils of World Creation

In Books, Comics, Roleplaying Games, Science Fiction, Video Games on April 14, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Little know fact. The world is a large, complicated place with a lot going on in it. I contains many different cultures interacting in countless ways over vast amounts of time. Beyond the historical, sociological, or anthropological repercussions, there are tons of scientific and technological matters to think about. To even marginally understand our actual Earth, the one we actually live in, requires an ass-ton of research and years of disciplined learning. Right? So, imagine the problems that one runs into when he (or she…or it, I guess) tries to make up their own world. Whether it’s for a roleplaying game, a video game, a sci-fi story, a comic book, or a fantasy people, people are constantly trying to cobble whole worlds from nothing.

The problem with many creators is they do not understand how crazy hard this is. This is the one extreme. They know they like sword fights or dragons or robots or whatever so they make a simple little setting where these things can take place. The problem, however, is that these worlds feel artificial, so they people living in them also feel phonier than they should. They’re created as cheap backdrops and that is what they feel like.

On the other side, there is what I consider my problem. I become kind of obsessed with the details. Maybe it’s because of my love of history. I love history but I’m hardly an expert…at all. Because history is vast and complicated. But even worse is science. If you don’t understand geography, you can’t make a realistic map. If you don’t know weapons are used or battles are fought, you can’t portray war with any semblance of believability. How can you speculate on future technology if you don’t understand technology today? This is what ties me up. I could be making a simple superhero roleplaying campaign or a lighthearted comic, but I need to understand how the world fits together. So I get lost in tying up the infinite loose ends instead of creating the world I need.

So…is there a happy medium. I know some very creative types read this blog so I’m curious on how you people deal with this. How do you avoid the pitfalls of creating worlds.

The Daily Scott Pilgrim

In Comics on April 2, 2010 at 11:44 am

It’s about time to get this thing rolling again. The routine of having a job and a long commute has made me complacent in my creative output. Somehow the novelty of earning money has created a sense of complacency that has quieted my urges to share my observations with the world. Oh, and when I say world I mean the handful of people whom read this so-called daily blog on a regular basis. But I realized it was unfair to present a nice place for people to exchange ideas and then stop updating. Plus, I missed hearing (er, reading) the eloquent observations of smart people coerced into commenting on subjects of my choice. Considering I have been indulging in tons of games, movies, comics, and other babytown frolics recently, I figured I have plenty of ammo to get back into the blogging games. I will attempt to be more regular, if not daily, from now on. We’ll see.
Where to start? How about Scott Pilgrim? For those whom are not aware, Scott Pilgrim is the titular character from the Scott Pilgrim comic series by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It is hard to describe briefly, but it’s basically one of those series about a twenty-something guy and his group of friends dealing with love, friends, and the frustrations of a directionless life. The twist, however, is that his world seems to follow the rules of various video games, as he needs to defeat his new girlfriend’s “Seven Evil Ex-Boyfriends” to date her. It’s extremely amusing, with defeated enemies turning into piles of coins and occasionally dropping random loot. At the same time, the emotional side of the comic is played pretty straight. One is supposed to feel for Scott’s problems while also enjoying the whimsy of the world. And this brings me to my internal conflict regarding this series.

A unique blend of humor, action, and drama a great story do not make. Or does it? Shit, I'm not sure.

I have a pretty low tolerance for mopey, indy, “oh woe is me,” relationship emo-comics. I’ll just put that out there. I generally find them to be a tad self-indulgent, self-important, or sappy. I’m not that interested in couch-hopping, barista-pining, guitar-playing dudes trying to find themselves in a world that just doesn’t get them. And, unfortunately for my tastes, Scott Pilgrim has a bit of this. Sure, the crazy world of the comic kind of turns this on its ear and mocks some of these sensibilities. I feel, though, that O’Malley wants us to feel for his characters; to like Scott Pilgrim.
And this is maybe the crux of my problem. I don’t like Scott Pilgrim. While I find him amusing goofball without a mean bone in his body, Scott’s an idiot. He’s self-absorbed and the way he interacts with the other characters in this world makes me a little crazy. His fickle infatuations and chronic denseness actually infuriate me. But I am thoroughly entertained by the world, by how the action is doled out, and the general nonchalance in which how everyone reacts to the outrageousness. It’s amazingly imaginative and unique.
So I recommend this book to everyone, especially as it is soon to be released as a feature film, but with reservations. I find myself pretty ambivalent to the actual story or the characters involved, but I do want to see what bit of spectacle is forthcoming. What say you all?

Tranquilizer marksmen

In Comics, Movies, Television on August 27, 2009 at 11:21 pm

This is one of my favorite little cliches found in the world of movies, TV, or comic books.  You know when you have a hero who is blessed with incredible talents, well-honed skills, and all the luck in the world.  The guy or lady who never seems to get hit by the stray bullet of the lucky shot.  This defines most protagonists in action media, right?  If they got killed by something as simple as a tiny mistake in a random combat situation, that would be the end of the show.  I mean, who wants to see the end of Batman by the hands of Mugger #4 who gets a lucky shot with his snubnose .38.  Nobody, really.  So, instead Batman will face down against a man with a firearm and disarm him with a modified Australian aboriginal weapon.  No one complains, because we want to see more Batman adventures.  This goes for every action hero who faces lethal danger on a daily basis.  So how do you defeat such someone so larger than life?

Easy.  The simple tranquilizer dartgun.  As you have doubtlessly seen a dozen times, all you need to do is vaguely aim in the direction of our hero and pull the trigger.  The hero will be hit, get knocked out, then be captured.  This always leads to the adventure where the hero is imprisoned and needs to escape.  It’s a staple of the genre.  While the protagonist never has a problem with the far more accurate and difficult firearms, it is the dartgun with the shitty range, crap accuracy, and weak penetrating power that always seems to tag them.

I noticed it today while watching an episode of Gargoyles where Goliath gets knock out by a well shot dart while easily dodging automatic fire from multiple submachine guns moments before.  It happens a bunch on Batman: The Animated Adentures constantly, with Scarecrow, Poison Ivy, or, shit, anyone gets Bats with some kind of slow-acting poison, mind-controlling serum, or instant knockout juice.  Comics do this stuff all the time, too.  Especially with heroes that have no special defenses yet go head-to-head with world-ripping powers.  Besides Batman, I’m looking at you Green Arrow, Black Canary, Cyclops, Punisher, Daredevil, Ironfist, Hawkeye, and on and on and on.  Or James Bond, too.  The nigh-bulletproof can always be brought down low with a tranq dart, a room full of knockout (but not lethal) gas, or something similar.  Remember when those evil cultists were able to get hallucination darts shot into multiple targets running at full speed in Young Sherlock Holmes.  That shit would be amazingly hard, as the natives in the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark demonstrate, yet by going with the non-lethal poison, these dark priests have 100% success.  Good for them.

If even one of these guys was using tranquilizer darts, it'd be sleepy time for Dr. Jones.

If even one of these guys was using tranquilizer darts, it'd be sleepy time for Dr. Jones.

So, I was kind of lying before when I said that the use of tranquilizer darts would be effective against heroes, however.  While it might allow the villain to render the hero helpless or even capture her, if you try to go for the kill, something will inevitably happen to keep you from carrying it out.  So, I guess all you antagonists are screwed.  Sorry.

Oh, one quick point:

Don’t you hate when the villain has the hero dead to rights but something happens to fuck with the plan.  Like the cops show up or the boat’s pulling away or the cave is collapsing.  So, the villain decides to not take the .25 seconds to shoot the hero but runs, because they view the new threat is too impending to take the time to carry out the simplest of executions.  They do, however, have time to say something like: “This isn’t the end!” or “I’ll see you dead!”  That shit always strikes me as stupid.

Damn ratzis

In Comics, Movies on August 26, 2009 at 11:24 pm

I just saw Inglorious Basterds. That’s all I need to say about that, but it did bring up an interesting point for me.  Has there ever been a better villain, even fictional, then the German National Socialists?  Before we answer that question, I  want to make it clear that I do not want to make light of the horror of the Holocaust or even try to make a case that their infamy is not entirely earned.  Yet, geek movies, comics, video games, you name it have employed these convenient bastards as the source of easy-to-hate antagonism since their actual existence in the mid-20th Century.  Let me list a few reasons why Indiana Jones sums it all up when he says: “Nazis…I hate these guys.”

First, they’re pretty fucking terrible.  It goes without saying, but I just wanted to put it on the table.  Based on their aggressive militarism, their misguided ignorant idea of Arianism,  their horrible racism, or even their shitty opinions on art, there is next to nothing good to say about Nazi policy in any way, shape, or form.  They represent bad stuff, all around.  That’s a no-brainer, but there it is.

Second, they have really scary uniforms and equipment.  This has nothing to do with their shitty policy, but it sure is a weird icing on the cake, right?  Like, the black and red combo is terrifying, sure.  The uniforms, whether dress or combat, were completely dramatic compared to anything else in WWII.  I mean, compare the the tiger tank compared to the Sherman and see a lesson in scary design.  The topper: SS uniforms have fucking skulls on them.  Skulls!

The third major point?  How about Hitler’s supposed fascination with the occult.  This really brings the geek into the equation.  Indiana Jones and Hellboy, for instance, have this aspect of the Nazi schtick to thank for their mutual successes.  Besides having a well-trained army of fucking stormtroopers wearing death outfits looking to kill everyone, they even try to tap into the power of Satan, dark Gods, or black magic.

Yeah...what's terrifying about that?

Yeah...what's terrifying about that?

So, do you think these dudes have become a crutch for hacks looking for an easy source of villainy?  Or, is it always satisfying to watch these Ratzis get smoked?  You tell me.

P.S.  What’s the dude with the Red Skull?  Why would a Nazi supersoldier do anything to attach himself to the dreaded Communism?

Keeping tabs

In Comics on June 17, 2009 at 12:46 am

Have you ever lost touch with someone in your life.  You don’t have a big falling out or anything so dramatic.  You just find yourself hanging out less and less.  New people enter your life and you just don’t have as strong in interest in spending time with your old friend.  You almost forget that person and you were ever really close then, boom, out of the blue you find yourself wondering what that person is up to.  I am having this experience right now.  That person in my life is Batman.

Okay, not Batman in particular.  And not just because he is not a real person, either.  Batman represents my decision a few years back to stop buying weekly comics.  While certainly a fan of the medium and many of the characters, I could not justify the expense in my current financial situation and, frankly, I wasn’t enjoying very many of the titles I bought.  After making the decision, I quickly got over it.  I have a lot of other interests and I always knew I could return to comic-reading at any time.  They weren’t going anywhere.

Just recently, however, I had a conversation with a friend about the status quo of Batman.  I found myself out of the loop and ignorant of the current story.  Sure, comics change less than soap operas and sure, everything would probably go back to normal relatively soon.  The relatively static nature of iconic comic characters drove me from the hobby in the first place.  Yet, a part of me felt bad about not being abreast (teehee.  Oh grow up, me) on a character, a world, and a mythology that is still pretty important to me.  What’s up with Captain America…or Spider-man…or the Fantastic Four, I suddenly wondered.

Is this the current situation in Batman's world?  Um, probably not considering I found this slash romance sketch at this blog.  Still, since I don't read the comic, who knows?

Is this the current situation in Batman's world? Um, probably not considering I found this slash romance sketch at this blog while looking for an image. Still, since I don't read the comic, who knows?

I’m sure I could get all that information from websites or wikipedia or something.  But then, if the characters only exist in the narrative, and I’m skipping the narrative to get the gist of the story, what’s the point in caring?  Not sure about that.  But strangely, I do care.  To quote Qualen: “Go figurrr.”