Archive for September, 2008
* Can somebody explain to me who else besides Tucker Stone thinks the idea of a rainbow of Lantern Corps is a bad idea? Is there anyone who’s even the tiniest bit open to the idea of “Green Lantern” who’s like “Oh hell no, RED Lantern? Bullshit, that’s where I’m drawing the fucking line”? Who is the target audience for anti-Red Lantern snark? I actually want to know.
* We are living in the New Golden Age of Comics.
* When AICN, ground zero for fandom, spends its entire recap column driving Range Rovers through your show’s plotholes, you’re in real trouble. Couldn’t have happened to a more irritating phenomenon.
* I was going to post about what a bummer the very public falling out between Aqua Leung creators Mark Andrew Smith and Paul Maybury is, but Dick Hyacinth said much of what I would have said about it already.
* The New Yorker’s Ben Greenman offers his candidates for the five scariest movies ever. Nice to see The Texas Chain Saw Massacre on there. (Since you asked: The Blair Witch Project, The Shining, The Exorcist, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and then…I’m not sure. The Ring, Hostel, 28 Days Later, and Lost Highway were all very frightening to me.) (Via Bryan Alexander.)
* Topless Robot’s Chris Cummins takes a look at ten (mostly non-Chick) Jack T. Chick tracts.
* Also via TR, ten solid minutes of awful, awful Batman & Robin moments. This is at least on par with that batshit Wicker Man video.
* Check out this terrific zombie poster Sammy Harkham made for his Family Store’s October horror movie festival.
* The real world is awful and this headline (via Carnacki) is proof:
I saw this and I was as stunned as if someone had smacked me in the face: Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel are doing an Obama fundraiser together. The patron saints of New Jersey and Long Island, together at last! B&T FTW!
PLEASE GOD LET THEM DUET ON “JUNGLELAND”
* What a terrific idea for an October horror blogathon: The folks at Not Coming to a Theater Near Youwill be reviewing movies culled sight-unseen from a collection of obscure-ish horror flicks retrieved from the libraries of defunct mom-and-pop video stores–all on VHS, no less!
* So They’re saying that Kenneth Branagh is “in talks” to direct the Thor movie. From this I guess they’re looking for this to be some sort of Lord of the Rings-y fantasy-adventure movie. Sure, Branagh may have no track record in that department, but hey, he’s English and he’s been in movies where they talk funny like that! Then again, Peter Jackson’s resume included Meet the Feebles. I find Branagh entertaining as a phenomenon. I wonder if he listens to Slayer.
* Here’s the new trailer for Frank Miller’s The Spirit. (Via Topless Robot.) You know, I actually think I like this one less than the earlier trailers that everyone else hated. This has more of an action-movie feel that does not flatter Miller’s distinctly non-action-movie approach to action. It’s kind of a weird neither-here-nor-there thing. Well, see for yourself.
I continue to hope that this film really hurts the feelings, on a personal level, of people who want a good ol’ nostalgic Spirit movie, a group that seems to include more people than have actually read the old Spirit comics.
* I don’t know anything about this seemingly German virus-horror movie Able other than it has a nice-looking poster, and that is so rare in horror these days that it deserves to be mentioned.
* I don’t want to do the standard “highlight what you have, underline what you don’t want” meme response to Tom Spurgeon’s 50 Things That Every Great Comics Collection Needs to Have, because Tom’s idea of a great comics collection is very different than mine. This is the kind of pretentious howler that used to make you the prince of the comics blogosphere for a day back in 2003, but for real: I think of myself as a comics reader and not a comics collector. This is not to say that I don’t have a shit-ton of comics, because I do, but for me this is done as a means to the end of reading them and, if I like them, having them available to re-read. Nine-tenths of my purchased comics are in bookshelf-friendly hardcover or softcover formats because those formats, in my experience, lend themselves to reading and re-reading–and shelving with an eye to those purposes–better than other formats. The remaining tenth of my current comics purchasing is basically high-end comic-book-format comics from Fantagraphics and so on or minicomics. These I tend to buy at conventions when gripped by Comix Fever and because they will either take forever to reach a book format or won’t ever do so. I like getting things like that because it’s immediate, but if they were in book format I’d like that too, and probably better; I don’t really have much of an attachment to their current formats per se. Point being, if you load a list of 50 Must-Haves with quarter-bin finds and Mad magazines and old issues of Arcade, your list isn’t targeted to me as a buyer. And that’s fine. To each his own! But Tom’s list was still of great interest to me as a reader, because it’s as fine a showcase you could ask for of one of the great writers on comics in the world as he holds forth with authority on an astonishingly diverse array of comics, providing a window into what he values in the medium. So it’s a must-read even if you’re not gonna print it out and hand it to your loved ones as a Christmas list.
* Finally, Chinese Fucking Democracy.
Samuel C. Gaskin, writer/artist
Secret Acres, 2008
I’ve got some friends who aren’t artists per se but love comics and are pretty sharp thinkers about how they work, and when they draw, this collection is what they draw like. In that way this is a fun read, as experiencing the enthusiasm of someone who’s doing comics not because of a killer set of innate chops but for love of the game is a fun thing to do. Well, at least it is in this case, because unlike the usual soul-destroying genre efforts and aimless self-indulgent autobio/humor things produced with the same impetus, this book is actually drawing from a pretty strong set of influences and is being harnessed by a guy who learned enough tricks about pacing from big-time altcomix people to use some of them himself.
That said, it really is just a collection of small, weirdish doodles and (mostly) half-funny-haha half-funny-strange strips. It’s not going to light the world on fire, though to be fair, obviously it’s not meant to. There’s a thing about cavemen that looks a little like Tom Gauld, a Saved by the Bell parody that looks a little like Esther Pearl Watson, there are a couple of little-weird-dude strips who look a little like Marc Bell, there’s a collage-image-type thing that looks a little like Paper Rad, there’s a John Porcellino homage that looks a lot like, you guessed it, Hal Foster. (Haha, no, John P.) There are a some longer, not-quite-funny things involving Harry Potter summoning Black Sabbath and a Hollywood hack director trying to ape Werner Herzog by deliberately acting like a crazy person on set. If all this stuff were by one of my friends I’d be like “Hell yeah, awesome!”, and even as it stands it makes me want to my hand at doodling some stuff, but that’s really not the greatest idea, is it. Still, it’s nice to be made to feel that way once in a while, don’t you think?
Matthew: maybe I say this because people keep using the word crisis all the time
but I just had this thought “you know, it kinda feels like the United States is in the middle of a big crossover event right now”
Sean: god help us!
but you’re right
Matthew: it’s that “everything at once” feeling
Sean: it’s the Final Crisis model where you’ve got the main thing, which is the election, and then all these tie-ins
Matthew: “nothing will be the same again!”
Sean: Financial Crisis
Rage of the Red Staters
Matthew: Rove’s Revenge
Sean: Palin of 3 Worlds
Matthew: Obama Beyond In 3D
Matthew: McCain R.I.P.
Sean: Right now he’s the McCain of Zur-En-Arrh
running around in a costume made of garbage bags, hitting the Senate Majority leader with a baseball bat
“YOU’RE WRONG! MCCAIN AND PALIN WILL NEVER DIE!”
Matthew: who is the Barry Allen of this?
Sean: Dave Letterman
Matthew: in an interstellar burst, Dave is back to save the universe
ha, in retrospect, the run-up to all this was very much like Countdown To Final Crisis, wasn’t it?
Sean: Hillary, Mittens, and Rudy are no longer canon
Matthew: Hillary got killed off like four times in a row
and somehow they had to write out the part where Dennis Kucinich in a turtle costume single-handedly defeated McCain
Matthew: wasn’t Jimmy Olsen Turtle Boy or something when that happened?
Sean: no, I meant Dennis Kucinich is turtley enough as it is
–Courtesy of Matthew Perpetua
I am normally a major skeptic of zeitgeist readings of films for reasons I’ve gone into at great length, but watching clips of the Joker from The Dark Knight pop up all over the Internet as a response to our current WTF political and financial situation, I’m tempted to reconsider.
Then again, I was on board with reading the Joker as purposeless chaos and cruelty all along. It’s really the political climate that seems to be tailoring itself to the character, not the other way around.
Also, remember that thing I said about politics that one time between 2003 and 2006 or so?
Metallica – Frantic
Public Enemy – Terminator X to the Edge of Panic
David Bowie – Panic in Detroit
Portishead – Machine Gun
What We Talk About When We Talk About Gossip Girl, or: How I Haven’t Quite Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Chuck BassFriday, September 26th, 2008
The Missus has started us on Netflixing Gossip Girl. It’s pretty entertaining so far, one disc in. My observations:
1) We were hoping for a Cruel Intentions level of sleaziness and that’s what we’re getting.
2) Blake Lively, who is nonetheless pretty and despite being a real teenager in these early episodes, looks like she’s had a few trips around the track. The Missus scoffed at what she thought must be her real age before I remembered she’d just had her 21st birthday like a week ago.
3) As Matthew Perpetua pointed out to me, all the actors have better rich-people/soap opera names in real life than they do on the show. Blake Lively (a girl!), Leighton Meester (another girl!), Penn Badgely (that one’s a guy).
4) Also, because my only knowledge of Gossip Girl prior to watching it was the fact that the actors are now famous and lead glamorous tabloidy lives IRL, I actually think of them as characters rather than thinking of the characters themselves. When Matthew mentioned the character “Serena” to me, I actually said “Who’s that? The only one I know is Blake Lively.”
5) As I’ve noted elsewhere, however, I’m a little uncomfortable with the rapey character becoming a fan-favorite anti-hero, like Wolverine or Sawyer or something. We’re a little late in the day to still be doing Luke & Laura-style “oh yeah, the rape thing–uh, we’ll just not bring that up again, okay?” stuff in our soap operas.
This led to a lot of discussion between me and various friends. First up was some comment/email-thread chat between some members of the Wizard diaspora.
I’m enjoying it so far! I’m not really sure how I feel about the rapey guy, though.
T. Edward Bak, writer/artist
Bodega Distribution, 2007
$9.95 (don’t worry, they’re big pages)
In my experience most autobiographical comics come from a place of, if not quite acceptance, than at least understanding. To be really pat about it, they seem to be an artist’s way of making sense of their own lives. Not so with T. Edward Bak’s Service Industry, which feels less like a reflection upon events and more like a wounded, panicked wail about them. The book’s structure–alternating with little warning between present-day ruminations, autobio flashbacks, and dreamlike flights of fancy shot through with atheistic metaphysics and brutal self-deprecation–suggests nothing so much as a man coming apart at the seams. The Bak presented here has been driven to the brink by being a thinking man who’s realized he can’t think himself out of the problems that demand his mental and emotional attention. He’s aware of the pointlessness of his menial job as a dishwasher in the increasingly stratified American class system, which in its way he blames for a tormented family history that includes his mother’s abandonment of his infant sister, his military father’s abandonment of the whole family (to become a minister), and his own abandonment of his ethnic heritage–but he feels incapable of doing anything about any of it. Certainly he rejects the potential of his comics to make a bit of difference, and in that light his draftsmanship and line–neither as sophisticated as his concepts or layouts, but both adequate–actually reinforce his point through their lack of showiness. (It’s easier to bellyfeel that Bak feels like it’s all a waste of time than it would be if he could draw like Chris Ware.) It’s this conflict between awareness and agency that fuels Service Industry‘s ever-increasing sense of desperation, and possibly even breakdown. In that way it’s a frightening comic. You know how you reach a certain age and notice you’re not getting any happier, and instead of being romantic in a teenage-wasteland kind of way, the idea that you’ll be battling sadness for the rest of your life now fills you with abject horror?
* I’ll put up a separate post about this as well, but you know that strip me and Matt Rota did, “Kitchen Sink,” that is now up on Top Shelf’s website? Due to an error that I’ll assume was mine, the version that was initially posted was an early draft, pages 4 and 5 of which were substantially revised in terms of dialogue for the final version. That final version is now up, and I think you’ll find it very different and, I hope, much clearer in intent. (Even before this snafu I’d written a comic about why I made the changes I made to this strip, so you’ll probably get the story on that eventually if you want to see it.)
* The big news of the day is obviously the shuttering of DC’s Minx line of graphic novels for teenage girls. CBR’s Andy Khouri broke the story, Tom Spurgeon has a big, well, let’s call it a shrugpiece up that’s the most thorough and thoughtful thing you’ll read about it, and Heidi MacDonald links to reactions.
* The aspect of the story that means the most to me is what it means for the career of Ross Campbell, who published the very weird and very good Water Baby through the line and who Bryan Lee O’Malley points out is, between Minx and Tokyopop, sort of cursed with this sort of thing. Campbell says while there weren’t any concrete plans for a Water Baby sequel, he had at least planned it a bit; providing the rights situation is smooth he’ll be incorporating some of the book’s characters into his series Wet Moon.
* I don’t really care about Cloverfield director Matt Reeves (the poor guy who played fourth banana behind J.J. Abrams, Drew Goddard, and the dude behind the camera) remaking a recent Swedish vampire film called Let the Right One In beyond the fact that that’s a terrific title and the poster for the original is gorgeous. Eat it, Trajan.
* They’re doing a prequel to I Am Legend, which as I’ve said could be a very good thing if they take to heart the deserved criticism of the original’s unscary CGI monsters and forced ending.
* At The House Next Door, Brandon Soderberg pens an excellent post about four very, very affecting M83 singles and videos: “Don’t Save Us from the Flames,” “Teen Angst,” “Graveyard Girl,” and “Kim & Jessie.” I love these songs and videos so much that everything else I’ve heard from M83 has left me flat, but Soderberg really gets at how both the audio and video components of each nails the romantic/Romantic teenage experience without idealizing it. About the only thing he doesn’t get spot on is the power of the image of the little dog’s ghost in “Graveyard Girl,” which has made me cry at least twice. Here’s a sample quote:
Too often, especially in movies that grossly misread the classic 80s Hughes films—to which all these videos owe a debt—the “outsider” is either a kind of “diamond in the rough” who just needs to meet the right people or a decided outsider who is “better” than those around them. It’s not so simple here, where Frost and Gonzalez expertly illustrate the dark-haired girl’s ennui without totally justifying it. She’s clearly more interesting than the average kid, and there’s something affecting about her biking around in her soccer uniform, but she’s a bit much.
The actress is perfect because she’s pretty enough, but insular and awkward enough too, and that’s what sort of makes her life suck. She’s the kind of girl who after a few years in college or in “the real world” won’t be an outsider at all, but for the time being is weird because she’s quiet and draws pictures and daydreams. It’s more affecting because her life isn’t completely hopeless; she’s not Martha Dumptruck.
* Ron Rege Jr. has been posting some very, very cool text-incorporating art lately.
* Jason Adams touts the T. Rex sequence in Jurassic Park as “one of the finest accomplishments in all of cinema. It’s up there with Eisenstein’s Odessa Steps as far as I’m concerned.” I haven’t really ever returned to the movie, but the experience Jason describes having had with the sequence is exactly like how I feel about the attack run on the first Death Star in Star Wars. That is a perfect action sequence. In my experience (and I’ve had a lot on this score!) if someone walks into a room and it’s on, they will stay to watch it through the end, almost guaranteed.
* Finally, remember the other day when I echoed Tom Spurgeon’s fondness for Bruce Baugh’s writing on World of Warcraft? (phew!) This post is exactly the sort of thing I was talking about. What’s fascinating isn’t just how Bruce makes the game accessible to non-players without really even seeming to try, but what he has to say about why he plays in the first place and what he tries to get out of it when he does so. I don’t know about you, but I’m accustomed to thinking of video games, role-playing games, and even sports in terms of winning and losing, trying to do awesome things and trying to avoid sucking, pwning people and getting pwned. All of that can be fun! But Bruce effortlessly points out there’s any number of other ways to emotionally engage with a game. He talks about how repetitive actions and dreary landscapes weigh on his moods, how he selects companion creatures in order to maximize the aspects of the game he enjoys and (literally) brighten the day, how he’s currently playing to do all the things he always wanted to do but hadn’t gotten around to yet. Unsurprisingly the approach is similar to Bruce’s attitude toward art, which is generally one of setting out to enjoy things because enjoying things is good for you. I don’t know how much of all of this is the child of necessity given Bruce’s often dicey health situation and an often literally physical need to have fun rather than be pissed, but god is it refreshing!
* Due to her absence from the initial wave of hype about the project’s upcoming relief, as well as some cryptic statements on her blog, I thought the great Phoebe Gloeckner was no longer associated with actress Mia Kirshner’s book about violence against women and children, I Live Here. However, this interview with Kirshner at PW Comics Week makes it seem like Gloeckner’s still aboard. There’s really no limit to my enthusiasm for her work and seeing more of it in any form would be the highlight of my comics-reading year, to say nothing of the profound need for more attention to the subject matter–in the case of Gloeckner’s contribution to the book, the epidemic slaughter of women and girls in Juarez, Mexico. (Via Chris Mautner.)
* Forget about apples-to-oranges, Jon Hastings goes apple-orchard-to-orange-grove with a list of 21 shows that are better than The Wire.
* You can watch things for free on Joost, right? Because I might start watching Death Note, if not Naruto or Bleach.
* I guess there’s something in the air with liberal bloggers and pop culture, because fresh from Matt Yglesias overselling The Wire, Ezra Klein sticks both fists into the Goatse-sized plot holes in Heroes. In discussing that show today I realized that much of my loathing for it stems from how its fandom was a direct offshoot of the “Lost sucks!” movement during early Season Three of that show. Who sucks now, fanboys?
* More political bloggers gone pop: Ta-Nehisi Coates notes the personal cultural crisis he experienced when he realized he didn’t really care for current hip-hop anymore. I’m not a black man (I hope you were sitting down!) so I didn’t experience things in the intense self-examinging way he did, necessarily, but I’m at least one white boy who fell out of love with the genre’s new stuff around the exact same time he did, reverting to listening to old stuff and/or other genres much like he did, so I think it’s safe to blame the music for sucking rather than any sort of ethnographic phenomenon.
My buddy Sean T. Collins has a new comic up at Top Shelf 2.0! It is… not for the squeemish. You know what? I’m kind of disturbed that the knowledge that this script came from a friend of mine doesn’t worry me in the slightest. I read it and I think, “Yeah, I can see Sean writing this.” And I DON’T EVEN FLINCH. Oi.
I frighten my friends! Delightful.
About the only thing better than seeing me and Matt Rota’s comic “Kitchen Sink” up on the Top Shelf 2.0 site is reading the description that editor Leigh Walton whipped up for it:
Sean’s told some pretty twisted tales in his time… but tonight’s story may take the cake. Seriously, keep the kids away — Matt’s linework isn’t the only thing that’s unstable in this bleak piece!
Long have I waited for someone to say something like that about me. O frabjous day! But you don’t have to take Leigh’s word for it…
Yuichi Yokoyama, writer/artist
Copies of New Engineering should be automatically sent to any comics artist who draws action for a living, through the mail, courtesy of state or local authorities, in much the same way that Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits is issued to all Long Island residents when they reach age 10. It’s just something they’re going to need if they want to keep up.
Unfettered by plot or character considerations as such, Yokoyama’s comics are pure action: combat and construction most memorably, but also travel and some sort of bizarre approximation of automation. With a no-nonsense line Yokoyama follows objects in motion, allowing layout within each panel and on each page to be dictated simply by the inherent length of each action beat rather than any kind of human or emotional component. The result is an always fresh, frequently thrilling approach to choreographing and staging the movement of physical bodies through space.
In battle comics like “Book” and “Model Room,” Yokoyama frequently captures his combatants and their weaponry at the vertex of their movement–that moment at the top of the roller coaster where you’re about to shift from tilting forward to tilting backward. The view constantly shifts to show us the most exciting possible vantage point, allowing thrown objects (or people!) to guide us to a new vantage point within the space. (Think of that bit in The Fellowship of the Ring where we travel across the chasm with Legolas’s arrow and switch our POV when it hits its target, so we now are seeing all the physical space described by the arrow’s path.)
Yokoyama’s “Engineering” comics, wild onslaughts of strange, seemingly purposeless terraforming of featureless natural landscapes into pre-fab mountains, rivers, forests and so on, do just as much to call our attention to how things move. I particularly like the contrast between the great rolls of astroturf that unfurl off into the distance and the enormous boulders that are dropped from above and thud into their destinations as resolutely as possible. The human workers in these comics are also dynamos, frantically running around performing their tasks and screaming all the way. (You’ll have to check the footnotes for the sound effects to pick up on that, though. Yokoyama’s art is inseparable from his sound effects, leaving his translators with the unenviable task of figuring out how to tell us what the hell is going on. They opt for a footnote approach so as not to clutter up the art, which I understand, but as always with manga I think a discrete English subtitle beneath each sound cue would go a long way toward legibility.)
I think it’s that fast pace, and the screaming, that give us the key to what’s going on here. (Or maybe not–the interview and notes included in the supplemental material don’t reveal a lot regarding his philosophical intentions, which to be honest is fine with me.) Everything in New Engineering happenshappenshappens and then ENDS, often in the most nonsensical ways–the cataclysmic “Engineering” series in particular tends to end with amusing anticlimaxes, like everyone rushing into the big boulder-thing they just built only to stand still in a small square room. It’s a rush to do big out of control things for little discernible purpose, and certainly no regard for their ultimate effects. It all feels eerily familiar.
Everyone loves Yacht Rock, as everyone should, but I think the non-lowercase-yacht-rock-themed “Runnin’ with the Devil” may be my favorite episode. This is because even though it’s a parody of Van Halen, in parodying the band they capture everything that’s actually great about them. Everything that happens from about 3:20 inward in this video is basically a depiction of what made the real-world Van Halen awesome or the appropriate real-world reaction to their awesomeness, maybe slightly exaggerated–actually, more likely slightly understated.
* My post on me and my friends’ Manly Movie Mamajama mini-marathons has now spawned more comments than any other post in the history of this blog. Included therein are outside suggestions (usually along incredulous “What, no [film title]?!?!” lines), a veritable highlight reel of golden MMM moments, and the beginnings of the deliberation process for the next MMM line-up.
* Speaking of the MMM, my pal Justin Aclin sheds a little more light into their evolution, and how they’ve influenced our work together on Twisted ToyFare Theater, at the ToyFare blog.
* Hey, remember every awesome thing that happened on Lost? So does this list of The Top 50 OMGWTF Lost Moments! Even though it occasionally consolidates nominally connected moments that really each deserve their own entries, it still does a phenomenal, even invigorating job of remind you why you are so into this show in the first place. I quite clearly remember being delighted/horrified/both by pretty much every moment on the list, which when you think about it is quite an achievement for the show. (Via Whitney Matheson.)
* Speaking of good television, I’m continuing to defend my skepticism about GOAT claims for The Wire over at Matthew Yglesias’s blog.
* Because you demanded it! Ron Rege Jr. converts the cover for his recent collection Against Pain into the political statement several viewers thought he was making in the first place. (Note that the flub can cut both ways, as a co-blogger at cartoonist Sammy Harkham’s Family blog recently titled an anti-Palin post “Against Pain.”)
* Speaking of Gov. Palin, it’s been a while since I posted a “the state of the beast” link: The Humane Society has endorsed the Obama/Biden ticket–their first-ever presidential endorsement–in large part as a response to Palin’s political and personal track record of animal cruelty (via Andrew Sullivan):
Gov. Sarah Palin’s (R-Alaska) retrograde policies on animal welfare and conservation have led to an all-out war on Alaska’s wolves and other creatures. Her record is so extreme that she has perhaps done more harm to animals than any other current governor in the United States.
Palin engineered a campaign of shooting predators from airplanes and helicopters, in order to artificially boost the populations of moose and caribou for trophy hunters. She offered a $150 bounty for the left foreleg of each dead wolf as an economic incentive for pilots and aerial gunners to kill more of the animals, even though Alaska voters had twice approved a ban on the practice.
* My pal Rick Marshall peels back the curtain on adjusting to MTV’s corporate culture with his gig at their comics/movie blog Splash Page. Of particular interest is the section in which he describes trying to carve out a way not to just talk about the subject matter, but say something about it too.
* Speaking of Splash Page, Brett Ratner is a damn fool. Still, I’m sure The Joker: Lethal Protector will go from his lips to God’s ears, goddammit.
* Your NERDS ARE SERIOUS BUSINESS update for the day: Jason Adams bemoans the not-very-good, failing superhero TV show Heroes‘ systematic removal of fun from the superhero idiom. THESE ARE MODERN MYTHS JASON STFU
* Speaking of NERDS ARE SERIOUS BUSINESS, the reaction to this ought to be a hoot: Samuel L. Jackson refers to Frank Miller’s upcoming adaptation of Will Eisner’s The Spirit as “Wile E. Coyote with real people.” DOUBLEPLUSUNGOODTHINKFUL
* And speaking of Jason Adams, both Jason and his pal Joe Reid damn The Midnight Meat Train with faint praise. Dammit. Between the lukewarm reaction from bloggers I trust and my Missus-mandated current Netflixing of Gossip Girl, seeing this film is slipping lower and lower on my priority list.
* Cullen Gallagher at Not Coming to a Theater Near You reviews Benjamin Christensen’s fascinating-sounding 1922 horror/documentary/meta/surrealist hybrid film Häxan.
* This Tom Spurgeon review of a World of Warcraft comic is notable for a couple of reasons. First, it’s always fun to watch Tom flay the hide off a dopey comic, especially one you can picture in your head well enough to know it probably deserves it. Second, he kicks it off with a description of his interest in WoW that maps nearly perfectly to my own:
I generally like fantasy. I even enjoy the multi-player on-line version of fantasy that you get in things like World of Warcraft. The participation of so many people with overlapping motivations and gives that game and others reminiscent of its basic model of play a uniqueness that barrels over the massive, derivative nature of those enterprises as stories. I don’t care about the in-game play, but I like to read writers like Bruce Baugh talking about it, and I greatly enjoy when something weird happens during gameplay — someone cheats, someone does something awful — that results in a YouTube video.
* Speaking of Tom, his review of Robert Kirkman’s zombie series The Walking Dead is the best thing I’ve ever read on that series.
* Michael Stipe is continuing to answer questions about R.E.M.’s lyrics at Matthew Perpetua’s Pop Songs 07-08 blog. It’s only after reading that he writes his lyrics on a computer that I realized my unconscious picture of all songwriters is that they scribble their lyrics on a notepad or torn sheet of paper or napkin or something. Why would I think that?
One of my favorite things on Earth that I do is a tradition among various current and former Wizard staffers (a lot more former than current at this point!) called the Manly Movie Mamajama. On a more or less quarterly basis, 10-20 of us will get together some night, get a ton of beer and junk food, and watch three macho-ish genre movies in a row while hooting and hollering at the screen. It’s kind of like Mystery Science Theater 3000, only with more drunken screaming of the word “YEAH!!!!” for each topless scene and exploding head.
Because I feel like it, here is a rundown of each MMM we’ve done so far–the themes and the films.
THE MANLY MOVIE MAMAJAMA
MMM1: ROADS AND/OR WARRIORS
1. Road House
2. The Warriors
3. The Road Warrior
MMM2: DYSTOPIAN FUTURES AND/OR KURT RUSSELL
4. The Running Man
5. Escape from New York
6. Big Trouble in Little China
MMM3: VERHOEVEN IN VER-GOSHEN
8. Total Recall
9. Starship Troopers
MMM4: GET WELL, FIDEL
10. Red Dawn
11. Invasion U.S.A.
12. Rambo: First Blood Part II
13. The Monster Squad
15. The Thing
MMM6: FEMININE FILM FEST
16. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
18. The Descent
MMM7: STALLONE IN THE DARK
19. Over the Top
20. Death Race 2000
21. Rocky IV
MMM8: MMMY BUDDY
22. Dead Heat
23. Point Break
24. Tango & Cash
MMM9: NIGHT OF THE LIVING NIGHTS
25. Night of the Comet
26. Night of the Creeps
MMM10: MONSTER MOVIE MAMAJAMA
29. King Kong Lives
30. Reign of Fire
MMM11: SWAYZE FROM THE HEAT, OR “THEY SAVED PATRICK SWAYZE’S PANCREAS: A VERY SPECIAL MMM”
31. Road House
32. Steel Dawn
33. Point Break
MMM12: THE MODERN MANLY MOVIE
Should The Wire have been nominated for more than the paltry two Emmy nods it garnered during its five-season run? Of course. It was a really good show, and if it wasn’t among the top five dramas each year it ran then shit, I must be missing some pretty excellent dramas. And of course the acting was superb across the board. And Season Two! And Season Four!
But of course anytime anyone on the Internet says it was “by far the best show in the history of television” I have to jump in there and fight the wrongness.
(And that’s without even going into the notion that it’s not simply the best drama in the history of television (which, no), but the best show, inviting apples-to-oranges comparisons with everything from Meet the Press to Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Madness.)
In my wildest dreams I never thought I’d see Josh Groban do a Les Claypool impression on national television.
Captain Britain and MI:13 #5
Paul Cornell, writer
Pat Oliffe, artist
Marvel, September 2008
Hahahahahahaha! What a last page! I can’t remember the last time I was that tickled and delighted by the end of a superhero series’ monthly installment. Heck, the last time I laughed that hard at a comic, I was reading Tales Designed to Thrizzle. But this is a different kind of laugh, the kind you get from watching Doomsday or something like that–ah, I don’t want to spoil it. You should read it for yourself.
Which I suppose is what I want to say about the whole comic. Captain Britain & MI:13 has had an unusual life so far. It’s part of Marvel’s recent strategy of launching new ongoing series with story arcs that tie in with the event du jour. In this case, Captain Britain, the Black Knight, Spitfire, Pete Wisdom, John the Skrull and some other British heroes repelled a Skrull invasion of the U.K. designed to capture the magic of Avalon to use against humankind. It was a clever enough raison d’etre for a tie-in, reminiscent of the way The Incredible Hercules had a Secret Invasion tie-in arc about gods from Marvel’s various pantheons waging war against the Skrull’s own deities, but since this was the first glimpse anyone had at the series it was tough to figure out how it would feel when removed from that event-comic “everybody against overwhelming evil for all the marbles” feel. I figured I’d take a look at this issue, the first one outside the SI umbrella, think to myself “eh, well done for what it is, but not for me,” and be on my way.
Chances are I’ll be sticking around. Writer Paul Cornell is taking a pre-existing, already appealing batch of characters and concepts and putting them together in a solid team concept: a melange of gaudy, famous superheroes, secret Captain America-style black ops guys, and enthusiastic civilian-adventurers are employed to keep the United Kingdom safe from evil supernatural entities freed during the Skrull invasion. Now that I think of it, it’s a bit like the full-of-promise Breakout arc of New Avengers, where a varied group of superheroes formed an ad hoc team dedicated to tracking down supercriminals freed during a raid on a supermax prison, and finding whoever was responsible for the breakout. That very quickly got sidetracked by storyarcs explaining who each of the more obscure team members actually were, but it was a swell idea, and hopefully here we’ll see it put into practice.
But more than just the nuts and bolts basics of the superconcepts involved (which I’ll admit are a big part of it–heck, a part of me thought that even if it was a bad book I’d stick around just to see if and when Union Jack joined the team), Cornell has imbued it with lively, entertaining dialogue, particularly from the sensational character find of the comic, Faisa Hussain. This accidental superheroine–a motormouthed, starstruck, Excalibur-wielding, (oh yeah) Muslim doctor who gained healing powers from a Skrull contraption–is just a cool code name away from being the most unique, and well-realized, new Marvel hero since the Runaways. (Although I guess none of the Runaways’ codenames ever really stuck. Oh well.) It’s the kind of writing capable of making the arrival of Blade (British-born, you know) actually seem like a big honking deal. Which leads us to that last page…hahahahahahahahaha!
Earlier in the ’00s, many of the best superhero comics self-consciously dealt with self-conscious second-string superheroes and supervillains. While the marquee characters were still tied up with fairly old-school superheroics, writers from Brian Michael Bendis to Peter Milligan examined what it might be like to be an extraordinary being who, for whatever reason, wasn’t seen as being all that extraordinary by the people of their world. It was an extremely meta idea–after all, it was real-world fans who decided that Spider-Man was a superstar, and the fiction just twisted to reflect that. Eventually it became a reflexive tic of writers to have any characters who weren’t members of the Justice League, the Avengers, or the Uncanny X-Men describe themselves as D-listers, and whatever point was being made about celebrity or identity was lost. These days, the most rewarding superhero titles that star characters who aren’t on the short list for movie treatment–The Incredible Hercules, The Immortal Iron Fist, Agents of Atlas, Captain Britain–don’t comment on that fact, they take advantage of it, using these characters’ remove from the Big Events and megateams to carve out their own way of doing superhero comics: incorporating other genres, expanding their mythologies, giving the characters a different goal, adopting a different tone than the current “Lost riff and/or summer popcorn movie” options have to offer. As seen here, it’s an engaging, successful strategy.