Monday, May 31, 2010

Art Show: L'Esclave Blanche

Human Torpedo Strike

By Mort Künstler. [Illustrateurs]


Photo by Kimli. From the ceiling of a bar she visited. She's also got some video where you can see the rest of the ceiling.

The Glory of Tiki

Artist Unknown [Discovered during the travels of Admiral Calvin]

After the break: a jungle girl, Hellboy vs. Silhouette, a voodoo warrior, Frankenstein vs Dracula, robots, their space girl, and mythological maidens.

Memorial Day

"Happy" Memorial Day never seems appropriate. My Dad served as a Marine in Viet Nam and fortunately made it home okay. My father-in-law served there in the Army and though he made it back alive, the war eventually killed him anyway. Agent Orange is just a lot slower than bullets and bombs.

So while my family will be eating bratwurst and brownies today and having a good time in the park with family and friends (and I'll hopefully be finding time later to do some light-hearted blogging about space girls and Frankenstein's monster), we'll also be remembering the sacrifices of fallen soldiers and their families. And imagining a world where that's no longer necessary.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Because it's my Birthday and I wants it, Precious

I'm taking the day off to eat cake and open presents. See you tomorrow (when I'll have lots of catching up to do)!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Comics News: The McDuffie Principle

Sufferin' Shad!

Snell totally blows my image of Namor as a cool, tough guy with multiple examples of the sea-king's hilariously ridiculous exclamations.

The Gamekeeper Omnibus

Back when Virgin Comics still existed, the only series of theirs that I was really interested in was Guy Ritchie's Gamekeeper. Partly because it was a Guy Ritchie concept, a lot because the story sounded cool (the gamekeeper of a huge, wooded estate turns the tables on the black ops team that have attacked his employer and destroyed his life), but mostly because it was written by two of my favorite writers: first Andy Diggle and then Jeff Parker.

Unfortunately, Virgin folded before the entire story could be collected, but Dynamite's now got that covered. The 256-page story is coming out in August as a $25 paperback.

Pass the Comics: The Mummy

I didn't find enough comics for a separate "Pass the Comics" post this week, so we'll just include this one here. [The Horrors of It All, Part One and Part Two]

"I can't do this--"

Talking about continuity and canon, Dwayne McDuffie once made a comment the wisdom of which has stuck with me ever since. "If I didn't see it, it didn't happen." That's why I'm not at all upset about the stupidity of the revelation that Rogue apparently had sex with the Sentry at some point.

It certainly is a ridiculous development (Topless Robot has exactly the right reasons about why), but even though I technically have seen it (in the panels above), I'm still claiming protection under the McDuffie Principle. In fact, I'm broadening that principle to, "If I don't like it, it didn't happen."

I'm tired of letting publishers dictate what is and isn't canon. They've proven over and over again that they'll let all manner of silliness go on, so why should they get to be the shepherds? Let them do what they do: throw tons of stories out there with various levels of quality. I'll pick the ones I like and build my own canon, thank you very much. Paul Jenkins' fan fiction doesn't have to be a part of it just because Marvel published it.

Writing is Hard: The Master Fiction Plot

Even though it's been around longer than I've been alive, I don't think I've read Lester Dent's (Doc Savage) essay on how to write successful Pulp fiction before now. I'm much less fond of writing-formulas and templates than I used to be, but Dent obviously had a lot of luck with it. So while I can't see myself using it a lot, I do think it would be a fun exercise to at least try it out on an appropriate story.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Happy Maltese Thin Man Day!

Dashiell Hammett would've been 116 today.

Elsewhere on the Internets: Hopped Up and Hotwired!

Here's what else I've been up to lately:

Five for Friday

Last weekend's assignment was to Name Five Memorable Islands From The Comics. Mine were:

1. Hydra Island
2. Paradise Island
3. Dinosaur Island
4. Madripoor
5. Oolong Island

But that post if full of great ones that I didn't think of.

David's Dinosaur Blog

My son let his dinosaur blog lapse, but he's promised me that he's recommitting himself to it. Up this week, a non-stegosaurus and an indricothere cake.

What Are You Reading?

Recently, I've been reading a monster-hunter comic called Ex Occultus and Jeff Smith's Shazam: The Monster Society of Evil.

After the break: July comics, SpringCon, and I get quoted.

Christa Faust's Choke Hold: The Sequel to Money Shot

Today's going to be kind of an odds-and-ends day, I can tell.

I haven't read Christa Faust's Money Shot yet, but I love the concept of a porn star's trying to solve the mystery around her own attempted murder. Now Hard Case Crime is announcing the sequel to that story (coming next February). In Choke Hold, Angel Dare is helping the Mixed Martial Arts-fighting son of a recently-murdered former co-star.

Graphic Novel and Comic Book Writing and Illustrating Conference

Here's a cool opportunity for any comics writers and illustrators - or those who'd like to be - living in the Twin Cities area. It's the Graphic Novel and Comic Book Writing and Illustrating Conference on Saturday, June 19, from 10a.m. – 7 p.m. It'll be held at Open Book/Loft Literary Center (1011 Washington Ave. S., Minneapolis), but is sponsored by both the Loft Literary Center and the Hennepin County Library.

Admission is FREE, but you do need to register to attend. Just go to the Hennepin County Library website and search for "graphic novel" where it says, "Search for events by word or phrase." Or you can just call 952-847-8529.

Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese, Prime Baby) will be the keynote speaker, but there are also breakout sessions that include:
  • "Writing for Comic Books and Graphic Novels
  • "Introduction to Caricature"
  • "Self-Publishing a Graphic Novel (in 8 Hard Steps)"
  • "Poem as Comic Strip"
  • "Web Comics for Beginners"
  • "Cartooning for Beginners."
I've registered and am signed up for the sessions on writing (taught by Zander Cannon) and web comics (by Barb Schultz). There's also a closing session on next steps for both writers and illustrators. Sounds like a really fun day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Grading Aquaman: Justice League of America #11-15

When people talk about how lame Aquaman is, they usually compare him to other superheroes and highlight his helplessness in the Justice League of America and the Super Friends. I thought it would be interesting to look at Aquaman’s membership in the JLA and document exactly how he contributed (or didn’t) to the cases they took in their early years. Is his perceived ineptness actually just perception? Or is it fact? (Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.)

Justice League of America #11: “One Hour to Doomsday”

The Case: The Justice League continues mopping up the Lord of Time’s armies from the previous issue. In the process, they find themselves 100 years into the future from their own time; right when Faust’s demons (also from last issue) have gained complete freedom and are taking over the world.

Aquaman, Attack!: The demons’ spells are able to make quick work of the League at first, but it’s Aquaman who comes up with the plan to defeat them. Since the demons’ power over the League is based on their knowing the heroes’ names, Aquaman figures out that the spells will have no effect if the demons use the wrong names in the invocations.

Green Lantern uses his ring to disguise the heroes as each other, so that Superman appears to be Aquaman, for example, and vice versa. The story’s gimmick then is that the heroes have to fight the demons, but use their own powers to mimic those of the person they're disguised as. That way the demons won’t know what’s going on until they're already defeated.

Superman pretends to be Aquaman by swimming to the bottom of the ocean and fashioning a fake sea monster out of the debris he finds there. Pretending to ride it, he manipulates it to make it look like it’s moving. This keeps his demon distracted enough to let Green Arrow and Batman (respectively disguised as Flash and Wonder Woman) capture him.

Meanwhile, Aquaman (disguised as Superman) and Martian Manhunter (pretending to be Green Lantern) fight another demon who’s conveniently operating on a floating platform at sea. Aquaman pretends to use Superman’s strength to rip the craft apart, but he really has whales and octopi do it from below the surface. Manhunter actually makes the capture, but only because Aquaman gets the demon off the platform.

Aquaman’s Participation Grade: B+

After the break: more aliens, the debut of Dr. Light, and the return of an old enemy.

TV News: Hawaii Five-OMG

The new Hawaii Five-O theme and trailer

I don't know whose job it was to tell me that Grace Park was also in this thing back when she was first cast, but man that person dropped the ball. This is now the best show in the history of the world. I don't like that they've shortened the theme, but that's almost made up for by using many of the same landmarks from the original theme sequence and even that same zoom-in shot of McGarrett on the balcony. And when I say "almost made up for," keep in mind that I'd be perfectly happy with the entire show being nothing but a video for an hour-long version of that theme. [Brother Cal]

Oh, and here's look at the show with quotes from some of the stars and some shots from the pilot. It does nothing to contradict my "best show in the history of the world" prediction. It'll be on Monday's at 10:00 (Eastern Time).

(Unless something's changed in Blogger's technology in the last day or so, I'm guessing that some of you can't see one or both of those videos above. Try reading the post without the page break and you should be okay.)

After the break: Katee Sackhoff, Nikita, Chuck sings, The Colorado Kid, Looney Tunes, and Keri Russell.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Movie News: Drew Barrymore and Flying Monkeys

Dawn Treader poster

Saw this poster at the movie theater last week. It's been so long since we've had any updates that I'd almost forgotten about the movie. Which is a shame because it's my favorite Narnia book and so by all rights should be the best film in the series. These things take so long to crank out though that I'm skeptical about the chances of the series' continuing far past this one. Hopefully it'll do really well as the holiday release that Prince Caspian should have been and the next ones will get fast-tracked. [/Film]

Another 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Because it's not tough enough keeping track of two Three Musketeers films, now there are two 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea movies in development as well. Disney's (captained by David Fincher) and now one by Ridley and Tony Scott; written by one of the guys who wrote the Clash of the Titans remake. The Scotts' version will be set in the future to connect it more closely with Jules Vernes' scifi intentions than with his actual nineteenth-century setting. I can't say that I'm excited about that. [The Hollywood Reporter]

After the break: a sea monster, Alpha Flight, Empires of the Deep, the Robin Hood post mortem, Three Musketeers, Hitman 2, Salt, and after Oz.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Stagecoach (1939)

I came at John Ford’s Stagecoach from kind of a weird angle. I was never a huge John Wayne fan growing up. He was my grandfather’s cowboy. Clint Eastwood was my guy. But in 1986 there was a TV remake of Stagecoach starring Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and – most importantly – Johnny Cash. I was a fan of most of those guys, so of course I wanted to see it. But I was also aware that it was a remake and my special brand of nerd-related OCD prevented me from watching them out of order. It’s taken twenty-four years, but I’ve finally seen them both, plus the one from 1966 that I just learned about as I started writing this. I'll focus on the original one today and write about the other two soon.

I can see why Stagecoach is a classic. It’s a great, tight story with powerful themes about outersiderhood and acceptance. It’s a tight story because it’s so simple: a stagecoach full of passengers has to make it through Indian country with Geronimo on the warpath in order to reach its destination.

What complicates it is that each of the passengers has his or her own reasons for being aboard, which brings out a lot of opportunity for building relationships and shifting allegiances. Buck (played by Andy Devine, who was also the voice of Friar Tuck in Disney’s animated Robin Hood) is the coach’s driver, a cowardly man who would just as soon not make the trip except that he’s forced into it by US Marshal Curly Wilcox. Curly’s found out that a wanted criminal named Luke Plummer is holed up in Lordsburg, the coach’s ultimate destination. Meanwhile, Dallas (Claire Trevor) is a prostitute who’s being run out of the town of Tonto by a league of women who’ve set themselves up as the community’s moral police.

After the break: the stagecoach becomes a clown car, trouble with WWII-era Indians, and John Wayne.

My Favorite Book: Casino Royale

I had to think about this one for a while. Unlike movies and musical albums, I don't re-read a lot of books anymore. When I was a kid, I wore out the Star Wars novelization because there was no other way to relive the adventure without another trip to the movie theater (which I made 30-something times - and that's not an exaggeration like my number of Lost Boys viewings from last week were - but that still wasn't enough). In high school, I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings many times, but owning Peter Jackson's version on DVD has eliminated the need to do that (I'll say it: I like the movies better than the books). These days, my book collection has swelled to the point where I'm not sure I'll ever read everything on it, and I'm still adding to it every week. There's not a lot of time for re-reading old favorites.

But there are a couple of books that I would enjoy re-reading when I've got the time. Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes is one. Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles is another. And I'm sure I'll make several more trips through Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. More than any of those though, I love Ian Fleming's Casino Royale.

I don't particularly like James Bond more than Tarzan or Holmes. In fact, pound for pound I tend to like the Tarzan series better than the Bond series. My affection for Casino Royale is for how well written it is. It's well known that Fleming was working through some pre-marital jitters when he wrote it and you can see that working in the novel in a stunning way. Though Bond is often labeled a misogynist, that's an over-simplification of his attitude about women and Casino Royale powerfully captures those conflicting emotions that I imagine Fleming was sharing as he approached his wedding day. I don't want to overstate my fondness for this aspect of the book, because I don't have those same conflicts, but it's a fascinating character study and - added to his mixed thoughts about patriotism and even good-vs-evil - makes Bond a character that you have to know more about.

Fleming was a brilliant writer who could make details like cocktail recipes and the rules of baccarat exciting. He was one of the first writers I read who knew how to end every chapter on a cliffhanger and was the first writer I ever read to use non-linear storytelling to plop me into the action and then later flashback to earlier events and fill in important details.

Most importantly though, Casino Royale has the best last sentence in the history of literature. But don't sneak a peek at it without reading the rest of the novel first. It won't make any sense and you'll spoil the whole book for yourself.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Confronting an old Ghost Story

When I was five-years-old, I was terrified of fire. I couldn't even be in the same room with birthday candles, much less a candlelit dinner (which burned longer) or - God forbid - around a campfire. I had horrible visions of our house (or campground or whatever) burning down.

I knew exactly where that fear came from too. It was an episode of a horror anthology show on NBC at the time called Ghost Story. I'm not sure what possessed my parents that they allowed me to watch it. They were usually very careful about what I watched and erred on the side of strictness, but we were faithful Ghost Story viewers.

I couldn't remember the name of the show until several years ago when I described the episode to a friend who had great Web Fu and figured it out for me. The episode was called "House of Evil." It was written by Robert Bloch and developed by Richard Matheson and IMDB describes it this way:
When Grandpa (Melvyn Douglas) arrives for a visit, he has two special gifts for his granddaughter, Judy (Jodie Foster), a deaf mute. One is a very special doll house that is an exact replica of the one Judy lives in with her family. The other is the ability to "hear" his thoughts without speaking. But Grandpa's intentions aren't as benign as they seem.
Outside of the creepy, mute granddaughter and her malevolent grandfather, the only things I remember about the episode are the dollhouse (I think I remember that they made voodoo dolls out of cookies or something, one for each member of the family) and what happens to it at the end. Whatever happens to the dolls and the dollhouse also happens to the corresponding family member (Richard Mulligan is also in the episode, perhaps as the father?). Somehow, the dollhouse catches fire, which of course spreads to the real house. The last thing I remember from the episode was the image of the burning house. That was the one that seared itself into my mind and made me pyrophobic for the next year or so.

I bring this all up now because I just found a place that sells old Ghost Story episodes on DVD. I'm sure they're bootlegs, but if they were available commercially I'd buy it that way instead. I've ordered the "House of Evil" one and I'm frankly a bit nervous about watching it. I can't imagine that it'll renew my phobia, but it made such a huge impression on me 38 years ago that I still recall certain images from it. Psychologically, watching it again - confronting it again - will be a pretty big deal. So, before I do that, I wanted to jot down these memories about it in the interest of comparing notes afterward.

They're shipping it to me tomorrow, so hopefully I'll have it by the end of the week.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Quotes of the Week: Kelly Supersonic

I think Marvel should open up the X-Men and encourage people to make stories like this and maybe even publish them concurrently while allowing the fans to do so with impunity; DC should do the same with the Legion of Super-Heroes. That would really open up a couple of moribund franchises with a lot of juice left to them, just not necessarily the kind of juice that gets squeezed into glasses solely at editorial meetings.
--Tom Spurgeon, talking about this Faith Erin Hicks comic.

Fraction, some of you may know, got his name as the result of a telemarketer mis-pronouncing “Fritchman.” Apparently, Phil Bond misheard “Kelly Sue DeConnick” as “Kelly Supersonic” while out at a pub with McKelvie last night. I’m now considering changing my name.
--Kelly Sue DeConnick, making it impossible for me to ever again call her by her real name.

Will people please stop buying the Chaos Comics library?
--Dirk Deppey, saying what we're all thinking in reference to this.

The Awesome List: You! The one who is moving now!

Deep Green

I almost have all the technology I need to complete my ocean lair. I've got the floating city, the personal subs, and even cool helmets for my henchmen. And now I've got something to power it all with. According to CNN:
The technology comprises of a turbine attached to a wing and rudder which is tethered to the ocean floor by 100 meters of cable.

Anchoring "Deep Green" and steering the tethered "kite" enables the turbine to capture energy from the tidal currents at ten times the speed of the actual stream velocity...

When operational, the turbine is expected to generate 500 kilowatts of power.
[Admiral Cal]

Tarzan GelaSkin

Dark Horse has been making these gel laptop protectors for a while now and I've just been waiting on one to scream my name. This one's not screaming, but it's whispering very persistently. (There's an iPhone skin too, but I don't need one of those yet.) [Comic Book Resources]

After the break: Pulp Month, Jade Van Helsing, and the goofiest Klingon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Art Show: Play it Again, Sallah.

This is Not a Pipe

By Kyle Baker.


By Gustave Dore. [As was I, Caleb Mozzocco was struck - though much more so - by George O'Connor's accurate depiction of the Ethiopian Andromeda in his graphic novel about Athena. She's much different from the actresses who played her in the two Clash of the Titans movies and the many classical interpretations that Caleb has handily collected in this gallery.]

Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar

By J Allen St John. [Illustrateurs]

After the break: a dinobot, giant insects, Indiana Bogart, Modesty, Zatanna, Conan, and Cleopatra.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Elsewhere on the Internets: Gunnerkrigg Court and Five Favorite Fights

Gunnerkrigg Court, Volume 1

This week's Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs is up and it's all about the first collection of Thomas Siddell's awesome webcomic Gunnerkrigg Court. I spend probably too much time comparing it to Harry Potter, because - while there are some superficial similarities - it's in no way a rip-off. I just found that what I like about the Potter series, there's lots more like it here.

Five for Fridays

Last week's assignment was to Name Pairs Of Characters You Like To See Fighting. Mine were:

1. Hercules/Thor
2. Batman/Catwoman
3. Fone Bone/Phoney Bone
4. Tarzan/Lion
5. Superman/Captain Marvel

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Comics News: New Namor series

Though I talk about Aquaman quite a bit, I don't fundamentally like him more than Marvel's Sub-Mariner. I think Aquaman's more interesting from a pop culture standpoint simply because he's got such an awful reputation, but Namor's generally been handled much better by Marvel and is the better-developed character.

The reason I haven't been keeping track of Namor a lot recently is that I lost interest in wading through Dark Reign and Dark X-Men and whatever other Darkness I was supposed to keep up with in order to understand Namor's current adventures.

I hoped that this new Namor series by Stuart Moore and Ariel Olivetti would correct that, but I see that it ties in with/is spinning off from another "event," the X-Men vs vampires "Curse of the Mutants" storyline. Marvel's calling it an ongoing series though, so hopefully it lasts long enough to settle down eventually and just tell some cool undersea adventure stories.

Pass the Comics: Jungle Folks and Carson of Venus

Thun'da, King of the Lost Lands

In honor of Frank Frazetta, The Comic Book Catacombs has posted all four stories from his and Gardner Fox's Thun'da, King of the Congo #1. This first one tells the origin of Thun'da.

Thun'da leaps to meet the Monsters from the Mist

In which Thun'da fights woolly mammoths and gorilla-men.

Thun'da stood alone... When the Earth Shook!

In which Thun'da gets a pet.

More Thun'da, Rulah, Kaänga, and a space monster after the break.


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