Friday, December 30, 2005

Speaking of Writers

Happy Rudyard Kipling Day! He would've been 140 years old today.

The War of the Worlds Murder

Dude. How cool is a story by Max Allan (Road to Perdition) Collins about The Shadow's creator Walter Gibson investigating a murder during the taping on Orson Welles's War of the Worlds radio broadcast? A murder in which Welles himself is the primary suspect? Very cool indeed.

And -- I'm just now learning -- this is just one of a series of historical mysteries that Collins has written in which a famous writer plays detective during a historical disaster. He also has Agatha Christie solving crime in The London Blitz Murder, Edgar Rice Burroughs in The Pearl Harbor Murders, and Leslie Charteris in The Hindenberg Murders. There are also a couple of writers with whom I'm unfamiliar, Jacques Futrelle and S.S. Van Dine, who solve murders involving -- respectively -- the Titanic and Lusitania.

Why didn't anyone tell me about these?!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

10 Most Favoritist Comics of 2005

I'd decided not to do a list like this for CWN, but Steve Niles asked about it on his message board and it was easier to come up with ten than I thought it would be.

I'm gonna count 'em down Letterman-style:

10. Easy Way by Christopher E. Long and Andy Kuhn (IDW): The series I almost didn't read. Early promotion for it focused almost exclusively on the fact that writer Long came up with the idea while in rehab. Which is mildly interesting, I guess, since the story is about a bunch of guys in rehab, but it doesn't really tell you anything about the story. Fortunately, some people I trust recommended it and I gave it a look. It's a crime story -- a good genre, but not one of my favorites -- but Long does a great job of making you care about his main character before throwing the poor guy into a situation with a threat level that'll make the muscles in your neck and back squeeze together.

9. Elk's Run by Joshua Hale Fialkov and Noel Tuazon (Hoarse and Buggy/Speakeasy): I don't know why writer/publisher Josh Fialkov is having such a hard time selling this one. Everyone who reads it loves it. It's got to be Josh's marketing, but I'm no publisher and damned if I know what he's doing wrong. In a recent newsletter, Warren Ellis mentioned helping Josh with that though, so hopefully the book will get bigger sales in 2006. For the record, it's a terrifying story about a community that locks itself away from the horrors of the outside world only to unintentionally create horrors of their own. Sort of a more believable -- and much more intense -- The Village.

8. Strange Girl by Rick Remender and Eric Nguyen (Image): It was hard to pick one Rick Remender book, but I knew he had to make the list. He came out of nowhere (for me) this year with Sea of Red and has hit with every book he's written since. Strange Girl is my favorite though. It has a charming, courageous, young lady for a heroine, a wise-cracking demon for a sidekick, explores some important spiritual themes, and features multiple types of horror from the big, supernatural kind to the more mundane, chilling kind associated with truly evil human beings.

7. Fell by Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith (Image): The first three issues of this series have all been very strong horror/mystery pieces, but the real reason it makes this list is that Ellis saw a need for affordable Direct Market comics and figured out how to make them. Sixteen, panel-packed pages that tell a complete story for two bucks.

6. Villains United by Gail Simone and Dale Eaglesham (DC): I don't talk a lot about superhero comics on this blog because they're not an inspiration for my work, but they were a big part of my childhood and young adulthood and I do enjoy them. Especially team comics with cool heroes (or, in this case, villains), great character interaction, exciting art, and thrilling action and drama. Of all the pre-Infinite Crisis mini-series, this is the only one that I really really wanted to see an ongoing out of. Fortunately, I got my wish and am looking forward to Secret Six next year.

5. Seven Soldiers of Victory by Grant Morrison and various artists (DC): I have a lot of respect for Grant Morrison and appreciate his approach to writing, but I'm not a big fan. More often than not, I just don't connect with what he's doing. Not so here. The modular nature of this... what? Series of mini-series? Event? Mega-crossover? Whatever it is, it's working for me. Every mini-series is interesting on its own, but the real fun comes in finding pieces of one storyline in another and trying to figure out the significance of the connections. It's a lot like watching Lost, but without all the rewinding and pausing.

4. Ferro City by Jason Armstrong (Image): "Robot pulp noir science fiction." "The Maltese Falcon with robots." I don't generally like high concept descriptions, but these are ones that immediately told me I'd want to check this series out. He wasn't kidding about the "noir" part, either. It's not just a mystery with a hardboiled detective, it's a story in which the lines between hero and villain are blurred beyond use. Everyone in this story (human and robot alike) has motivations so complicated that they're impossible to categorize.

3. Rocketo by Frank Espinosa (Speakeasy): The world's best Saturday matinee science fiction serial. In comic book form. You're missing out. (It's moved to Image, but I'm listing it as a Speakeasy book since every issue up to the time that I'm writing this has been released by Speakeasy.)

2. Solo #7 by Mike Allred (DC): The power of childhood memories, huh? Even though I don't write superhero stories, my two favorite comics this year are superhero books. More significantly, they're superhero books that praise the kind of stories that I grew up with. Or wish I did. Mike Allred's love letter to DC comics has stories that I never could have gotten as a kid, like the Teen Titans having a loud party in the penthouse right above where the Doom Patrol are trying to relax, or the Adam West Batman having a horrifying vision of life after Frank Miller. It's a celebration that's actually better than the stories it celebrates.

1. Marvel Monsters: Monsters on the Prowl by Steve Niles and Duncan Fegrado (Marvel): This, on the other hand, is a celebration that completely drew me into it so that I forgot that I was reading an homage. At some point I ceased to be a nearly-forty guy reading a comic that his buddy had been lucky (and talented) enough to get to write, and I became a pre-teen again reading a great Hulk-Thing team-up. Maybe it's the "buddy" part that makes me put this at Number One, but I like to think that it's more awe that a modern writer can so completely capture in a middle-aged man the wonder that comes from reading comics at the age of ten.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

New Comics Day

New genre comics coming out tomorrow (due to Christmas) that I'll be checking out:

Revelations #5

BPRD: The Black Flame #5
30 Days of Night Annual 2005
The Keep #3
Night Mary #5
Night Club #2

Science Fiction
Silent Dragon #6
Revolution on the Planet of the Apes #1
Rocketo #4

All are pretty much tried and true comics for me except for Night Club and Revolution on the Planet of the Apes. The first issue of Night Club seemed like a standard monster-hunter comic, but had characters who were intriguing enough to deserve a second look. I was uncertain about Planet of the Apes until I interviewed the artist and learned that they're sticking closely to the mythos of the original movies (muddled though it is). The creators love those films and I'm hoping that comes through in the comic.

Of the tried and true ones, I'm most excited about the 30 Days of Night Annual. If memory serves, this is the Nat Jones story that was originally slated to be in Bloodsucker Tales and features two of my favorite 30 Days characters, John Ikos from Return to Barrow and Dane from Dark Days. I'm especially fond of Dane because he's one of Niles's most complex characters.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

That's Some Bad Hat, Harry

Hope everyone had a wonderful, merry Christmas. Ours was nice: alternately chaotic and still in appropriate places.

I'm long overdue for a post about House. Darla Ecklund has been trying to convert me since, oh, last Spring, I think. She finally made me an offer I couldn't refuse by loaning me the first season DVD last October. Diane and I have been nibbling away at it ever since.

We liked it from the first episode, but it was shaky going there for a minute about four or five episodes in. What we liked was the medical mystery each episode presented and the unique character of Dr. House. Most medical dramas are about super-caring doctors who grow emotionally attached to their patients. If there's an uncaring doctor, he or she is probably a hospital adminstrator and acts as the show's villain against whom our hero must endlessly struggle. Making the uncaring doctor the hero of the show was a stroke of genius.

Of course, that can't last forever, because at some point if you're going to care about the hero, you need something to latch onto. But even from the first couple of episodes, it was obvious that House does care, he's just very very good at hiding it. He's been hurt so badly at some point in his life that he doesn't feel he can afford to become emotionally involved with, well... anyone.

I mentioned that there was a point at which we almost packed it in. Well, really it was Diane who had a problem, but her checking out on the show would've limited the times when I could've watched it. She noticed that there was a formula to the first few episodes. A strange case comes in, House and his team come up with an initial diagnosis that proves to be false, they come up with a second possible diagnosis that also proves incorrect, then they discover the life-saving third diagnosis and the credits roll. The show is a mystery show disguised as a medical drama; that's what I love about it. But if the mysteries are formulaic, predicting their outcome will cause you to disconnect from them. Still, I've stuck with and enjoyed some formulaic mystery series (both on TV and in print) because the detective was fascinating enough to keep my interest. Once Diane pointed out the pattern to me, it bothered me as well, but I was more willing to stick with it because I like Dr. House. Fortunately, just as she was about to give up on the show, the writers abandoned the formula. If they've gone back to it from time to time, they've been clever in disguising it. Or maybe we're just both so hooked on the characters now that we're not paying attention.

I read something in a recent TV Guide that not only confirmed that House is a detective show, but also threw a gazillion-candle spotlight on why I love Dr. House so much. He's Sherlock Holmes. One of the elements I've loved most about the show is House's ability to walk into an examing room and immediately diagnose an illness without asking the patient any questions. Something in me registered that deductive reasoning as Holmesian, but I compeletely missed that his emotional detachment and drug addiction are also borrowed from Holmes. I guess that makes his entire medical team Watson, and Dr. Cutty is Lestrade. The billionaire who takes over as the hospital's chairman of the board could be Moriarty and -- though I haven't gotten to those episodes yet -- I'm guessing that Sela Ward must be Irene Adler. Or maybe I'm overthinking it.

So, I'm hooked. Grey's Anatomy being an exception (and it's really more of a relationship show), I'm not a big fan of medical dramas. But mysteries... man, I love those.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Happy Birthday, Hellboy!

According to The Seed of Destruction, today is Hellboy's 61st birthday. Happy Birthday, big guy!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Door to Heaven

Finished watching the first season of Stargate SG-1 tonight. I usually only buy DVDs of shows that I've seen before, but this one's been on the air so long and has such a loyal fan following that I thought my chances good that I'd enjoy it. I was right.

It's remarkably faithful to the movie, often referencing events that happened there. Michael Shanks does an uncanny impersonation of James Spader, making it easy to buy that he's the same character from the film. Richard Dean Anderson does not do an impersonation of Kurt Russell, but he's a strong enough presence that he owns the character of O'Neill and makes you forget about Russell's interpretation.

The addition of Amanda Tapping as new character Sam Carter to the cast took me most of the season to accept. She's not annoying, but neither was she especially memorable at first. She always seemed to be trying to catch up to the charisma of the other cast members, even Christopher Judge, who -- as Teal'c -- is simply playing Worf, but is doing a good job at it. His facial expressions are hilarious as he responds to new situations and tries to fit in with the Earth folk.

The stories were all strong too. Whether it was real or not, there was always the sense that they were willing to mess up the status quo. Obviously the main characters were always going to make it out alive, but there were times when I genuinely wondered how they were going to do that, and other times when I was convinced that they wouldn't make it out unchanged. After getting oh so tired with the predictability of the later Star Trek shows, it was great to see a sci-fi show that was fresh and surprising.

My only problem is that the season ended on a cliffhanger and now I'm tempted to immediately buy Season Two, when what I really want to do is go back and watch Season One of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I bought that DVD set ages ago and haven't yet watched in its entirety. So the fate of Earth as the Gua'uld ships approach will have to remain a mystery for now, but I'm hooked and will certainly be back for more later.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Funny Books

Genre comics worth checking out tomorrow:

Cisco Kid: Gunfire & Brimstone #3

The Goon #15
Reiko the Zombie Shop Volume 1 trade paperback
Hellblazer #215
Night Club #2
Dampyr #8
Elk's Run #4

Conan #23
Exalted #2
The Grimoire #7

Monday, December 19, 2005

It's Not an Adventure Story, Is It, Mr. Hayes?

Sometimes I mirror my posts here over on LiveJournal and someone made a comment there about King Kong that I thought was worth addressing here as well.

Her concern is with the portrayal of the Skull Island natives as stereotypical savages. I'm not sensitive enough to have taken offense at the depiction, but her bringing it up did make me stop to think about it, which is never a bad thing. Having thought about it though, I believe that focusing on the political correctness of the tribespeople is missing the point.

I'm reposting my reply to her here, because in addition to addressing the major theme of the movie (which I neglected to do on Thursday) it also brings up something I meant to say about Peter Jackson' s version of Carl Denham as portrayed by Jack Black:

"I don't know how reassuring this'll be, but the tribal people in the remake aren't African. According to the prequel novel, Skull Island is located in the middle of the Indian ocean. The movie supports that by hinting at its location as being on the way to Singapore and depicting the tribal folk as Middle Eastern or South Asian. So it's certainly not making a statement about white/black encounters.

"It's still an indigenous tribe though, and it is certainly savage. And there is a biting incident that could be interpreted as cannibalistic (although, to be fair, it could also be interpreted as a defensive move). Either way, you can't get around the fact that -- even if the tribespeople don't eat humans -- they certainly do sacrifice them to Kong.

"Focusing on that though, is missing the point, I think. The film is far more explicitly condemning of the civilized characters (it's not fair to think of them as "white," because it's a diverse crew) than of the tribal folk whose island they invade. Carl Denham is a villain. He's a three-dimensional and probably unintentional one, but he's a selfish bastard and Jackson makes no attempt to redeem him. The fact that no one puts him in his place is a judgment on the rest. Some of them may want to, but they don't.

"The hero of the movie is undeniably Kong. The major theme of the film is how humans -- both civilized and uncivlized -- exploit him. Denham and his crew do it for financial reasons while the tribespeople do it for religious ones, but they're all guilty. I don't think Jackson's presenting an allegory for racial relations as much as he's telling a story about mankind's (ALL of mankind's) responsibility to live peaceably with his environment. "

In the '30s version of the story, Carl Denham is an opportunist, but he's still portrayed as a hero. He rescues Ann Darrow from poverty and single-handedly designs a plan to find and capture Kong. If he decides he wants to profit from those labors, we're not asked to judge. Kong, after all, is portrayed in that version as a mindless, rampaging beast who "naturally" becomes enamored with a woman who epitomizes the Western ideal of beauty. If we're ever asked to sympathize with Kong in that version, we're not asked very convincingly.

In Jackson's version, we can't help but sympathize with Kong. Instead of a lustful brute, he's a wild, but intelligent animal who strikes up a genuine friendship with Ann Darrow. Her beauty (in spite of Denham's famous closing line) is a secondary factor at best. She survives her first encounter with him because of her intelligence, charm, and skill as a performer -- not just because she's white and blonde.

In that light, Denham is a much darker character. Rather than capturing a monster, he brings home an animal that we've been made to feel something for and his treatment of Kong makes us angry and sad. We're not supposed to admire this Carl Denham. The film's heroes don't and Jackson makes sure that we see early on in the film just how selfish Denham is and how willing he is to step on the backs of whomever he needs to in order to realize his dreams.

It's too bad, 'cause I really liked Denham before, but Jackson's made a much better movie this way.

Friday, December 16, 2005


I finished reading King Kong: The Island of the Skull by Matthew Costello today, just in time to go see the movie. The book is a prequel to the film, so I thought it would be fun to read it first. And it was. It was flawed fun, but it was fun.

I should've expected trouble from the cover, which I believe was taken from a production painting from the movie. It depicts a jungle scene with a flying lizard of some kind hanging out in a tree, and it's very very dull. There are no people on the cover; no giant gorillas. It's very generic.

The biggest disappointment though is that the book doesn't stand on its own at all. It depicts events in the lives of three characters: Ann Darrow, Carl Denham, and a deep sea diver named Sam Kelly. The first two names are recognizable to anyone familiar with either version of the film (I don't count the horrible '70s version); Kelly is responsible for creating the map that sends Denham looking for Skull Island. The novel ends with Denham's purchasing Kelly's map, so at least their stories intersect in the novel, but unless you already know what happens in the movie, Ann Darrow is a completely superfluous character. We see her struggling with a couple of jobs (one of which foreshadows an affinity she has with animals) and that's all. She's given a full third of the novel, but nothing to do.

I guess Costello can be forgiven (if you're feeling very generous) for needing to include Ann in the book, but it would have been good if he'd figured out a clever way of connecting her to the rest of the book, even if just in a brief encounter with a secondary character or something. What I can't forgive is Costello's introduction of plots and characters that aren't made necessary by the film, but that he mysteriously discards with no follow-up. For example, Sam Kelly is pointed towards Skull Island by something he finds on a ghost ship, the crew of which has been killed by an unknown disease. The source or nature of the disease are never explained, it's just a convenient way to wipe out the crew so that they don't complicate the plot once Kelly's done with them.

There's also a Jewish paleontologist who flees Germany and comes to the U.S. with some dinosaur bones he's discovered... bones that are only a few years old. He has a couple of scenes -- none of which are with any of the main characters -- that reveal what he's discovered and he's done. No explanation of where he found the bones (or any indication that he'd found them on Skull Island or any other place that would justify his appearance in the book). I figured that maybe he'd be a character in the new film, but no... I have no idea what he was doing there.

Costello does do some things well. He builds tension like no one I've read. Almost frustratingly so, but that's a compliment. Because of that, his action sequences are very strong, but it's tension and action without a story. We never care about Sam Kelly. He's a nice guy, but he doesn't have any real relationships that would make us feel anything for him. Denham and Ann are more fleshed out, especially Ann, but like I said before, Ann is just there to be there. She should have her own novel; it doesn't make sense to put her in this one.

Having seen the film now, The Island of the Skull is an entertaining, but unsatisfying read. It adds nothing to the movie, instead being satisfied with simply generating some thrills featuring the same characters. (It should be noted that these characters are the Peter Jackson versions, by the way. Ann is in showbiz, not a random out-of-work girl; Jack Driscoll is a playwrite rather than a sailor.)

The movie, on the other hand...

The only negative buzz I've heard about the film is in regards to its length. Some early critics claimed that it drags in places. Nonsense. I suppose if you're only looking for action, you might grow anxious in between action sequences, but personally, I like some story with my action and that's what Jackson delivers. He takes his time and develops characters and relationships and builds mood and emotion so that we care about what happens to these people as the movie goes along. There are bits that could have been edited out, but nothing that I ever felt should have been. The experience was like watching a pre-emptive Extended Edition.

I don't wanna give too much away, so I'll just mention two things I especially appreciated about it. First, there were some nice homages to the original version: at one point, Denham wonders if he can get "Fay" to star in his movie, but he's told that she's already shooting a picture for RKO. Jackson also manages to incorporate some of the goofier scenes and elements from the original into Denham's productions, and there are other spots where he outright copies shots or dialogue from the original.

The other thing I appreciated is that it made me cry. Yes, I know I'm a little girl, but King Kong made me cry. Not the death scene, but the anticipation of the death scene. I won't say more than that except to acknowledge how much of a genius Jackson is to use the audience's familiarity with the source material to make his own version more powerful than the original.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Difficult Times

Everyone told me that once I had a kid I could say good-bye to seeing movies in the theater. They obviously didn't understand my passion. I don't mind going to movies by myself or seeing them at weird times, so I manage to see as many movies now as I did before David was born.

What's changed though is that Diane and I don't get to go together very much anymore. Not a huge problem because we have many other ways of making sure we stay connected, but it does mean that I occasionally have to put off seeing a movie that will be more enjoyable if we see it together. The Harry Potter movies are like that.

I haven't read the books, but Diane has, so it's always nice to debrief with her after the movie and get filled in on details that the movie didn't cover. But, like I said, getting there together can be a challenge, and we just got around to seeing Goblet of Fire last night.

Another thing "everyone" told me was how the Potter stories darken and mature as the main characters age and grow more complex. I've never heard anyone explain just how that happens, but I imagined it had something to do with Valdemort's becoming more of a threat and the kids' having to deal with puberty. I was right on both counts, but if Goblet is a good indication, it's more of the latter. As the kids get older, their relationships are becoming more complex.

I remember when I was Harry, Ron, and Hermione's age. I went to a week-long summer camp every year and on the last night the entire camp went on a traditional Midnight Hike through the woods. Whether the staff intended it or not, the entire social scene at camp revolved around getting a date for that hike, so I know firsthand the pressures and fears around the Hogwarts kids' trying to hook up with the right person for the big, fancy ball. I imagine that most people do.

Unfortunately, I also imagine that most people are like me and can relate to a friendship's going inexplicably sour for no good reason. When I was ten, my two best friends suddenly decided that they didn't like me. I never did figure out why. Teens can be unbelievably cruel to each other without understanding why they're doing it. Ron isn't unique in that regard. Couple that fact with the sudden interest in the opposite sex and the quote on the Goblet of Fire teaser poster applies to far more than just Harry's climactic battle with his archnemesis; far more than just Harry in particular. "Difficult Times Lie Ahead" applies to anyone entering their teen years and the fact that the movies (and, I assume, Rowling before them) tap into that makes for some dark, unsettling stuff indeed. There's possibly nothing darker or more frightening than high school. I'm impressed that the Harry Potter stories are dealing with it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


I'm glad I didn't pick up Robotika last week. Finally got to the post office today and there was a package from Archaia Studios with a review copy in it. More exciting though is that there was also a copy of Mouse Guard, which I've been very excited about. I'm such a sucker for talking animal stories. I've got one or two in me that I'd love to tell one day.

I also got a review copy of Open Door Press's Cry Wolf #1. The cover art reminds me of Disney's version of The Jungle Book, which isn't a bad thing at all. Art on the inside is crude, but isn't turning me off. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Also got a copy of SLG's Corporate Ninja (not my usual cup of tea, but I'm getting so's I trust SLG) and a very nice Christmas card from Jason Copland (who's blog I'm very behind in reading, but I'm going to catch up, I promise!) and family. Thanks, Jason!

And all this talk about comics reminds me that tomorrow is New Comics Day and I've got new genre comics to list:

Samurai: Heaven & Earth #5

Hawaiian Dick: The Last Resort #3

Fables #44

Science Fiction
Bad Planet #1
Fused One Shot

Monday, December 12, 2005

Free Moonstone

I got an email last week from Moonstone's Joe Gentile last week about getting on the comp list for his company's books so that I can review them for Comic World News. Ordinarily I wouldn't bother announcing something like that, but Moonstone publishes so many genres that I like (horror, mystery, noir, Westerns) that I'm excited about being able to check out more of their stuff. I've been enjoying The Phantom (as long as Ben Raab's been writing it) and The Cisco Kid, so we'll see how I react to stuff like Kolchak and their books based on the White Wolf horror roleplaying games.

New Hellboy Prose Anthology in April

According to horror writer Tim Lebbon, there'll be a new anthology of prose Hellboy stories out in April. It'll be called Hellboy: Unnatural Selection.

I think I've got all of these anthologies so far. Odd Jobs is sitting on my bookshelf right now and I think I remember buying Odder Jobs. This is one of those Buy It Even If You Don't Have Time to Read It deals, but as the comic series gets more and more epic and serious, I'm probably going to want to read something more episodic like this pretty soon.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Two Films; Two Resurrections

Saw two movies yesterday. I finally caught The Corpse Bride at the second-run theater. I'd heard unenthusiastic reviews of it, but I'm a Judge for Myself kind of guy. The songs weren't inspiring, but I loved the puppetry and the scenario in which the hero was forced to choose between two likable women. The end though? Completely lost me. It's like they got to the end and thought, "Now what do we do?" Then they came up with something that they thought would be emotionally satisfying, but makes no sense within the rules the movie's established for itself.

I also saw a midnight showing of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last night. (I have a hard time calling it The Chronicles of Narnia, since I assume that any sequels will also carry that name.) If you haven't read the book that it's based on and want to see the movie, you should stop reading here because I'm going to talk about some spoilers. If you know the story, you should be just fine reading what I've written below, but still... spoiler warning.

I remember faking an illness when I was a lad, so that I could stay home from church and watch the cartoon version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I'd just read the book and it was probably one of the first times I'd seen a book I'd read adapted into another medium. But in spite of that early episode of fandom, I don't dig Narnia all that much. I blame Tolkien, to whom I was exposed a few years later.

Lewis's allegories in Narnia are so obvious that I remember picking up on them as a kid and being unsure what I thought of them. On the one hand, it was the same story I'd been hearing in Sunday school for years and once I made the connections of who represented whom, I could predict the outcome of the story; on the other hand, it was being told in a way that fired my imagination with ice queens, faeries, talking animals, and a cool portal to another world. Once I read The Hobbit though, I realized I could get the magical elements without the repetition of a plot I already knew. So I left Narnia behind, having only read the one book.

With that in mind, my expectations for the movie last night were pretty low. There are parts of the story that I'm very fond of, all of them in the first half, so I expected to be thrilled by the discovery of the portal in the back of the wardrobe, the image of the solitary lampost in the snow (which has always given me strong feelings of comfort), and the funny beavers. And I expected to be a little let down with the events around Aslan's death and resurrection.

The movie does an excellent job at reinforcing the stuff I like from the story. It also makes more palatable the stuff that I usually don't. The little girl who plays Lucy is excellent and the emotion she displays throughout the film connected me to what was going on. Her excitement and giddiness over discovering Narnia and her grief over some of the things that happened there led me through the story and had me feeling the same things. So, when Aslan died in the film, I was more affected by it than I was when I read the book. (I had the same reaction to the death of Boromir: was left cold by the book, but touched by seeing it played out on screen.) Father Christmas (who's never named in the film, but is obviously who he is) is a lot more convincing in the movie too.

So, considering what it was and my feelings about the source material, I was very happy with the movie. It was impressive to look at too. Not Lord of the Rings impressive, mind you. The CGI is good, but it's ILM good. It's Star Wars good. Good enough to keep you in the story; but (unlike, say, Gollum) you never forget that you're watching a character that was created on a computer. Also unlike Lord of the Rings, the costumes and props all looked very new and unused. Frodo and his friends wore clothing that looked like they'd owned it for a while; Peter and company looked like they'd just stepped out of the Wardrobe Department.

Disney would like The Chronicles of Narnia to be the next Lord of the Rings. It can't. It isn't. The source material isn't as sophisticated and the film isn't as well produced. It's going to suffer in comparison. But, left on it's own, like when I first read the book before I'd read The Hobbit, it's a fine story with a strong emotional center and a fantastic, wonderful setting.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

New King

Stephen King's latest book The Cell comes out January 24th.

Civilization doesn't end with a bang or a whimper. It ends with a call on your cell phone.

What happens on the afternoon of October 1 came to be known as the Pulse, a signal sent though every operating cell phone that turns its user into something . . . well, something less than human. Savage, murderous, unthinking-and on a wanton rampage. Terrorist act? Cyber prank gone haywire? It really doesn't matter, not to the people who avoided the technological attack. What matters to them is surviving the aftermath. Before long a band of them-"normies" is how they think of themselves-have gathered on the grounds of Gaiten Academy, where the headmaster and one remaining student have something awesome and terrifying to show them on the school's moonlit soccer field. Clearly there can be no escape. The only option is to take them on.

Cell is classic Stephen King, a story of gory horror and white-knuckling suspense that makes the unimaginable entirely plausible and totally fascinating.

According to Cemetery Dance, King's saying it's "like cheap whisky... very nasty and extremely satisfying.''And apparently, the main character is a comic book artist who's just sold his first project, so that's kinda cool.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Speaking of Which...

Good genre comics coming out today. I'm going to try to do this every week (probably on Monday or Tuesday after this), but I won't usually be including super-hero comics. I read super-hero comics, but as a genre they don't particularly influence my writing.

Necromancer #3
Sea of Red #7
Night Mary #4

Science Fiction
Y: The Last Man #40

The third issue of Conan and the Demons of Khitai also comes out today. I'm buying this series based on a love for Conan stories and the impressive Asian art, but I'll be waiting to read it until it's completed.

A couple of new genre titles that come out this week that I'm curious about are Looking Glass Wars: Hatter M and Robotika. I'm a fan of Ben Templesmith, who illustrated Hatter M and online buddy Jaco Hanley lettered it, so that's my interest in that. I'm not especially a fan of Alice in Wonderland, which I've always found to be a little too weird for the sake of being weird.

Robitika is one of the first non-Artesia titles (if not the first one) to come out of Archaia Studios Press. ASP was started by Mark Smylie as a self-publishing house for his fantasy series of graphic novels and I'm so in love with the Artesia books that I feel the need to at least try other stuff that Mark feels is worth trying, even if it's as high-concept as "steampunk sushi samurai western." Sometimes, the concept is so high you have to wonder if there are any characters or plot worth investing in, but I'm trusting Mark here.

Course Correction

I've been trying to keep this blog focused on writing. Whether that's announcements about stuff I've written or thoughts about stuff I'm about to write or just interesting quotes from other writers about the craft, I've been restrictive concerning what I let myself talk about.

Part of that comes from also having a LiveJournal that gets read by people I like and want to continue interacting with. I've felt like I needed to somehow separate the content of the two blogs, so I figured I'd use this one for work-related stuff and LiveJournal for more personal stuff like what I'm watching on TV, quizzes that reveal which Lord of the Rings character I am, and posting pictures of my family.

The thing is, most of that other stuff is a huge influence on me and my writing. With a small change in the way I approach it, I think it would be helpful for me to talk about stuff like the latest episode of Lost on this blog. Just, instead of talking about, "Oh, man! Kate kissed Jack!" I should try to figure out where I connect with the show and what makes the show successful in achieving that connection. That can only help my own writing.

So, expect to see more stuff about what I'm watching or reading, or want to watch and read. This is about to become a blog about the genres that influence my work (mystery, horror, adventure, fantasy, and science fiction) as much as it is about my work itself.

That's My Boy!

I couldn't be more proud...

Monday, December 05, 2005

Goal for the Week

This week is all about the Cownt script. I'm confident that I've got the right format and the right story and the right characters; now I just have to get them out of my head and onto paper. I've given myself until Friday.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Art vs Craft

Comics writer and columnist Steven Grant has some interesting things to say about the perceived conflict between art and craft. He talks about it in the specific context of comics (and uses music as an analogy), but his argument applies to any creative endeavor and he makes a great point:
...the 'issue' of art vs. craft isn't an issue at all. It's not even a dichotomy. Should people who want to create... try it regardless of their level of craft? Sure, why not? But to argue that newcomers shouldn't be concerned with their level of craft, that there's something intrinsically noble and pure in working strictly from the gut and not actively trying to develop your talents, that's virtually criminal. It doesn't do them any favors, it doesn't do the medium any favors. Because bad work is bad work regardless of noble aspirations, and self-satisfaction won't make it any better. The fact is: their (work) will never be 'good enough' because none of us do work that's 'good enough.' All of us can get better, and we need to. There's always some way to do it better, and finding it is our job.


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