Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kickstart a Nikola Tesla docudrama

Nicola Tesla has some pretty cool connections with comics, from a starring role in Matt Fraction's Five Fists of Science to creating Atomic Robo. He also had a pretty great appearance in Dark Horse's Tarzan: Le Monstre. The world's greatest, real-life, mad scientist was an awesome, inspiring person and probably my favorite bits of The Prestige were the parts with him as played by David Bowie.

Though geeks everywhere know and appreciate Tesla and his many accomplishments, documentary TV producer Wil Cashen points out that the inventor has still never gotten his just, historical acclaim. To help correct that, Cashen has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the third phase of a docu-drama, Electricity: The Story and Life of Nikola Tesla.

A $30 pledge gets you a digital download of the movie when it's done, but there are a lot of other rewards at other levels, so check out the site and see what appeals to you. There's just a little over a week left though, so if you think you want to help out, don't dilly dally. It sounds like a cool project and I wish Cashen and his team success with getting it finished.

A nerdy complaint about Wizard of Oz continuity

Let me preface this by saying that even though I'm using panels from Eric Shanower and Skottie Young's adaptation to illustrate this, my gripe is in no way about them. Their adaptations are extraordinarily faithful to the source material, so the problem is all L. Frank Baum.

Here's the deal:

In the first book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Wizard explains that when he arrived in Oz, he took advantage of the locals and made them build the Emerald City for him. That made an impression on me, because it's pretty huge evidence that - contrary to his own assertions - he's no more a "good man" than a "good wizard." This history of the Emerald City is repeated early in the second book, The Marvelous Land of Oz.

But then later in Marvelous Land, the Scarecrow - current ruler of the Emerald City - offers a completely different history.

It's that version that Baum sticks with for the rest of the book. In fact, he hinges the entire plot on it since the whole story is about who actually has the right to rule the Emerald City. If you haven't read it, all I'll say is that there's a revolt that calls the legitimate rulership into question and Pastoria is an important part of the discussion.

Sure that I'm not the first to notice this, I went to Wikipedia and found that the problem's made more complicated in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, where it's revealed that it was the Wizard who ordered the city built, but that he didn't usurp it directly from Pastoria. The witches took it from Pastoria and the Wizard took it from them.

What all this means is that Baum was serious when he wrote in the preface to Wonderful Wizard that it was "written solely to please children" of his day. In other words, "You nerds need to lighten up and leave it alone." And I will try.

I do like how the Marvel adaptation of Marvelous Land fixes another possible continuity error that Wikipedia mentions though. In Wonderful Wizard, it's explained that the Emerald City isn't actually green-colored, but only appears to be because of the green-lensed goggles the tyrannical Wizard forced his subjects to wear from birth to death. I thought it pretty cool that halfway through Marvelous Land, the new leadership of the city drops the goggles and the city is colored normally for the rest of the book. Wikipedia points out that "the city is still described as green" in Baum's novels, but Marvel's colorist, Jean-Francois Beaulieu gives it plenty of natural greenery without the pervasive tint that everything has in Wonderful Wizard and the early parts of Marvelous Land.

With the goggles:

Without the goggles:

There's even a change in the city's attitude about its former leader, revealing that they're now more aware of the Wizard's deception. I won't post the spoilery panel, but there's a scene late in the book where a resident of the city declares that the Wizard "claimed to do things he couldn't." Though it happens off the page, apparently the citizens have realized that the Wizard was a sham and that's a nice bit of continuity development. I hope there's more stuff like that than like the shaky history of the place.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What do e-book fans do at signings?

Urban fantasy author Dianna Love brings up an interesting problem concerning readers of digital books. What do they do at author signings?

In a press release for her new Keeper Kase product, Love mentions that e-book fans can feel alienated at appearances because they have nothing for her to sign. Sometimes they'll offer her a piece of paper or let her sign their e-readers, but she imagines that many want a better solution.

Her answer is Keeper Kase, a line of 4x6, signable book covers that fit easily into a photo album, but I'm really not posting this as an advertisement. I mean, if you're a fan of Dianna Love and prefer digital books to print, then obviously this is good information for you, but the reason I'm bringing it up is because I'd never thought about it before. As a reader, I haven't converted to digital books yet, but I imagine that I will before too long and Love made me stop to wonder how I'll handle book signings.

My first guess is that if I like an author enough to attend a signing, I'll want to buy a physical copy of her book and have her sign it. Even if I've already got a digital copy, I'll want the memento of the meeting and won't mind finding some shelf space for it in my overcrowded library. Others will feel differently and Love's solution may be exactly what they're looking for. As a fan of great cover art, I can see the appeal in having an album full of attractive, signed covers of my favorite books.

That's why I'm posting this. If you're a fan of digital comics or books, how do you (or do you imagine you will) handle signings?

Song of the Week | "Do You Remember" by Ane Brun

Got busy and ran out of time to do this over the weekend, but it's a great song. Love the drums.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Kill All Monsters! and digital formats

Four Colors and the Truth wrote a nice Digital Comics 101 article called "The World of Digital Comics" that breaks down the various ways that digital comics creators make money. Kill All Monsters! is mentioned in the first group, the “Why Buy The Cow, When You Can Get The Milk For Free” model. That's been the standard model for most webcomics for a while now with the idea being that you give away the comic and then charge for the print collection and merchandise. It's a good model, but as FCatT points out, it's not the only one.

In fact, since we've joined Artist Alley Comics, KAM is really no longer under that model. Like drug dealers, we've offered the first issue for free on AAC, but subsequent issues will be a buck each, putting us into FCatT's second category, the “I Am Buying Milk. You Can Keep The Cow” model. With more and more people reading comics on mobile devices as well as computers, there's less resistance to paying a small charge per issue. Not that's there no resistance, but that's one of the risks.

FCatT does an excellent job of laying out the pros and cons of each model - including the third, “You Can’t Actually Buy This Cow, But Its Milk Is Gamma-Irradiated And Will Give You Superpowers” model - and it's an article worth reading.

KAM was also mentioned is in a brief post about AAC on Bleeding Cool. The really interesting part of the post to me is the discussion in the comments about AAC's model of offering DRM-free PDFs instead of going through comiXology. Though it's not a polite discussion, two of Bleeding Cool's commenters do an accurate job of outlining the advantages and disadvantages of buying direct from the creators and buying through comiXology. I understand both points of view, so I'll simply say that while I'd love for lots and lots of people to buy our DRM-free PDFs, I don't want people to purchase things in a format that's not for them. If this isn't your thing, Jason and I are already working out details to get together the first volume of a print collection.

My point in bringing all this up is that people are still working very hard to figure this out. Maybe the solution is to offer comics in ALL formats: free webcomics, DRM-free PDFs, comiXology, and fancy enhanced versions that move. There are probably disadvantages to that idea as well. It's a fascinating time to be a comics reader and/or a creator and I'm looking forward to seeing how it all shakes out.

In the meantime, if you'd like a free PDF of the first issue of Kill All Monsters!, you can download it at Artist Alley Comics.

Friday, August 24, 2012

LXB | Saturday Morning Cartoons

This week's League of Extraordinary Bloggers assignment is extremely tough:

You’ve been hired to program the ultimate Saturday morning experience for kids across the nation. Create your own ideal Saturday morning cartoon schedule.

I have mixed feelings about the concept of Saturday morning cartoons. On the one hand, they were an enormous, fun part of my childhood. I'm not a morning person and had to be dragged out of bed every weekday to get to school, but come Saturday morning I was up by 6:00 am - without an alarm clock - to get my cereal with my brothers and sit in front of the TV to watch the test pattern until the first show came on. Then we'd camp out there until noon, which is about the time our folks started shooing us out of the house to play or help with chores.

Every fall we'd start looking in comics and newspapers for ads like the one above, figuring out our schedule for the coming season. Since there were three of us, that sometimes took some negotiation. Those are excellent memories and nostalgia for them makes me want to share that experience with my son. For a long time, I complained loudly about the death of the Saturday morning line-up and lamented the loss of the Good Old Days.

But like with most things, the Good Old Days of Saturday morning cartoons weren't as objectively Good as we remember. David and I are still able to share the fun of watching awesome cartoons, but we don't have to wait for a particular time slot on one day of the week to do it. What's more, we don't have to worry about scheduling conflicts if Super Friends is on at the same time as Scooby Doo. Or sit through lesser-of-evil shows because The Smurfs and Rubik's Cube are all that's on in that time slot. We have entire networks devoted to nothing but cartoons, and thanks to Netflix and TiVo, we can customize our experience. We can watch only the series and episodes that we want and we can marathon our favorites. My ten-year-old self would have shook with giddiness just imagining that something like that was possible. Frankly, as dear as I hold them in my memory, I don't want to go back to Saturday morning cartoons.

That said, if Cartoon Network gave me the job of coming up with a block of programming for Saturday mornings, I definitely have thoughts on how I'd fill that time. Based on my own memories of how those mornings went, I'd start my block around 6:00 am and finish up at noon. That's six hours of great cartoon watching.

There are a couple of ways to do this. I could fill that block with twelve of my favorite, half-hour shows, but there are some big disadvantages to that. First of all, I can only pick twelve shows, which is about impossible. Even worse, twelve shows don't fill 52 weeks of programming for the year unless I show a lot of reruns. I know that's what they used to do on Saturday mornings and - dang it - if it was good enough for us back then... but I think there's a better option.

I like the idea of six, hour-long, themed blocks of programming. That way you could work your way through a series (or a couple of half-hour shows in each block) and when you reached the last episode, start another series with a similar theme. Many of the shows I grew up with had shockingly short runs, but they felt like they were on longer because the networks re-ran them so many times. If you don't repeat them, you can get through a lot of great stuff over the course of a year. So here's how I'd split up the time and some of the shows I'd include in each block.

6:00 am: Comedy Hour

  • Looney Tunes
  • Tom and Jerry
  • Pretty much all the Hanna Barbera comedy stuff (Flintstones, Yogi Bear, etc.)
  • Early Popeye and Woody Woodpecker
  • Tiny Toons Adventures
  • Spongebob Squarepants

7:00 am: Teen Mystery Hour

  • Scooby Doo, Where Are You?
  • The New Scooby Doo Movies
  • Mystery, Inc.
  • Archie
  • Josie and the Pussycats
  • The Pebbles and Bam-Bam Show
  • Goober and the Ghost Chasers
  • Speed Buggy
  • Funky Phantom
  • Jabberjaw

8:00 am: Adventure Hour

  • Jonny Quest
  • Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle
  • Filmation's Lone Ranger and Zorro series
  • Hong Kong Phooey
  • Valley of the Dinosaurs
  • The Powerpuff Girls
  • Samurai Jack
  • Tutenstein
  • Codename: Kids Next Door
  • The Secret Saturdays

9:00 am: DC Superheroes Hour

  • Fleischer Superman
  • Adam West Batman
  • Super Friends
  • Live action Shazam!
  • The Secrets of Isis
  • Batman: The Animated Series
  • Superman: The Animated Series
  • Justice League Unlimited
  • Static Shock
  • Batman Beyond
  • The Batman
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold
  • Beware the Batman

10:00 am: Marvel Superheroes Hour

  • '60s Spider-Man
  • Spidey Super Stories (those shorts that used to run on The Electric Company)
  • Live action Spider-Man show
  • Bill Bixby's Incredible Hulk
  • Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
  • '90s X-Men cartoon
  • X-Men: Evolution
  • The Spectacular Spider-Man
  • Wolverine and the X-Men
  • Marvel Super Hero Squad
  • The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
  • Ultimate Spider-Man

11:00 am: SciFi Hour

  • Space Ghost
  • The Herculoids
  • Star Trek: The Animated Series
  • The New Adventures of Flash Gordon
  • Ark II
  • Planet of the Apes TV show
  • Land of the Lost
  • Classic Battlestar Galactica
  • Buck Rogers in the 25th Century 
  • Ben 10
  • The Future is Wild
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars
  • Sym-Bionic Titan

And we're done at noon in time for lunch. I'm sure I missed some great ones in each category - especially more recent stuff - so please tell me what I should've included in the comments.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Recasting Beast from Haunted Cave

Beast from Haunted Cave is a 1959 crime drama disguised as a horror movie. It's really good as a crime drama, but only mildly interesting as a horror film. The monster is pretty cool and original - it's a cobweb-covered, humanoid creature with long, spider-like legs - but the budget was so low that we barely see it. And when we do see it, we sort of wish we hadn't. With modern effects, that monster could look really cool, but the challenge would be to keep the focus on the crime story. That's what makes the movie unique.

Alex Ward (Ryan Gosling)

Alex is the antagonist, not the main character, but he kicks the story off. He's a bank robber planning an elaborate heist in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

You don't get a good sense of the Black Hills in the original, black-and-white movie, but it's beautiful country and would make a fantastic location for a crime thriller like this. It's also wild enough to believe that there could be strange, undiscovered creatures living there.

Back to Alex, he's a ruthless man with a nasty sense of humor who rules his gang - and his girlfriend - with an iron fist. He's charming on the surface, which is how he gains trust and avoids suspicion, but he's pure evil underneath. Ryan Gosling can play both of those qualities equally well.

Gypsy Boulet (Mila Kunis)

Alex's girlfriend - though she's posing as his assistant in the gang's cover story - and our protagonist. She's all in for the heist until she meets Gil, the ski instructor Alex has hired to take the gang across country once they've committed the heist. Gil doesn't know what Alex and his gang are up to, so his innocent lifestyle is attractive to Gypsy, who discovers a peace with him that she didn't even know she craved. Whether or not she's willing to give up her life with Alex though is another story altogether.

Mila Kunis has super expressive eyes, all the better to communicate a woman who's worn out from the hard life she's been leading. She's also extremely easy to root for.

Gil Jackson (Chris Hemsworth)

Gil may not be the main character of the film, but he's certainly the hero. He's a good man living a quiet life as a ski instructor and nature enthusiast. He lives in a cabin away from town and that's one of the reasons Alex hired him to lead the gang on a cross-country skiing expedition. Once the group reaches Gil's cabin, Ward plans to have his airplane land and carry off his crew and their loot into Canada. After disposing of Gil, of course.

It doesn't help Gil's chances of survival that he hits it off with Gypsy and - not realizing she's already romantically involved - constantly flirts with her in front of Alex. The question is: is she flirting back because she likes him or because she's doing her part to distract him from Alex's plan? That's not just a question the audience is wondering, it's also one Gypsy herself may not know the answer to.

Can't think of a better hero these days than Hemsworth. Ryan Gosling's going to have his work cut out for him to play a threat to Hemsworth, but I have faith in him. Just watch Drive and you'll see what I mean.

Byron (Michelle Rodriguez)

Byron is a man in the original, but I enjoy gender-swapping when possible and there's no reason he can't be a woman in the remake. Let's just say that Byron's her last name and not even worry about giving her a first one. That makes her tougher and more mysterious, anyway.

Byron is Alex's right hand. She's as tough and ruthless as he is, if not as smart. For example, it's Byron who discovers the cobweb monster when she takes a date up to the mine where she's supposed to be planting explosives.

Alex's plan is to blow up the mine the following day and rob the local bank while everyone's dealing with the cave-in. Alex doesn't count on Byron's taking a local bar employee (a waitress in the original, and there's no reason she can't also be a woman in our version) with him to set the charges. Byron finishes the job, but the creature attacks and drags the waitress into the darkness.

The waitress' disappearance causes some problems in town (and Alex doesn't believe Byron's story about the monster), but the plan still works. The bomb goes off, everyone rushes out of town to help, and the gang robs the bank.

Marty Jones (Anthony Mackie)

Marty is Alex's other henchman, but not as tough as Byron. In fact, he kind of has a tender side, as demonstrated when he meets Imelda. I like Mackie and it's easy to believe him as a tough guy hiding a gentle heart.

Imelda (Moon Bloodgood)

Imelda is Gil's housekeeper in the original version, but let's make her his sister or childhood friend for this one. She lives with him, but their relationship is platonic.

When the gang arrives at the cabin, they're successfully hiding the money they stole (gold bars in the original) and Gil suspects nothing. Imelda and Marty hit it off, complicating a situation that's already tense because Alex is about done with Gypsy and Gil's flirting.

Into all this tension comes the monster. I won't reveal what happens, but the threat of the cobweb monster makes everyone decide very quickly where their priorities and loyalties lie. Played well, the beast is less about creating horror and more about pushing the drama forward, though it should certainly also be scary in order to do that.

Beast of Haunted Cave is a B-movie that doesn't handle it's material as well as it deserves, but the material is excellent and ready to be done right.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

FallCon's coming!

I'll be at FallCon this year with copies of the color Artist Alley Preview Book, so I'm looking forward to sharing that. David will be back with his last few copies of Hulkasaurus and I'm hoping he'll create something new for the show. He did really well with Hulkasaurus at SpringCon.

Also, Diane will be making her debut appearance at an MCBA show. I'm not sure what all she has planned to show and sell, but I do know she's been practicing Pokemon characters and wants to do some face painting.

Mark your calendars! We're back in the Education building for this show, so there'll be a lot of room for a ton of new creators. Cannot wait.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Why Dickens' Bleak House resonates today

I stuck both BBC versions of Bleak House in my Netflix queue for a couple of reasons. First, it's a Dickens story that I wasn't familiar with, but I also loved that there were two versions - twenty years apart - with the same number of episodes. (Point of fact: the 1985 version has eight; the 2005 version has an hour-long episode and 14 half-hour episodes, but Netflix streaming combined the shorter ones to make eight, hour-long ones.) I thought it would be interesting to watch both versions simultaneously - an hour from 1985 followed by an hour from 2005, then back again and so on. From a storytelling standpoint, that sounded like a cool way to study different ways of adapting the same material. Sort of like I started doing with A Christmas Carol last year.

I like both versions a lot, for different reasons. The 1985 version does an excellent job of hammering home the major theme of Dickens' novel, while the 2005 version is better at telling a compelling story with interesting characters. I liked them so much that I bought them and shared them with Diane, who also dug them, but wondered what drew me to the story. That made me stop and think.

Like I said, my initial attraction was a geeky desire to compare adaptations, and I told her that. But that didn't explain why I wanted to watch them both again and share them with her. In order to answer her question, I had to figure out why that was. Once I did that, I wanted to share it here, because the story of Bleak House feels especially timely in 2012.

In Dickensian fashion, there are several plots going on in Bleak House that keep bumping up into each other, but the TV versions reduce them to a couple that are connected by an important, but convoluted and eternal court case called Jarndyce and Jarndyce. An immensely wealthy man named Jarndyce left competing wills when he died and no one's ever been able to figure out who inherits the money. The case has gone on for decades and the only people seeing any money from it are the lawyers. Most of the story focuses on two groups of people connected to the case.

The first is a couple of young people named Richard Carstone and Ada Clare. They're both orphans, so they've been invited to live at Bleak House, the estate of John Jarndyce, who also has a theoretical stake in the case. Mr. Jarndyce has plenty of his own money though and is resolved not to pursue his interests in the inheritance. He's seen what doing so has done to other people (including his own great-uncle, who killed himself) because they invest everything they have in legal fees to get at money they'll likely never see. Since Ada is a minor and Jarndyce is unmarried, he provides a companion for her, another orphaned ward of his named Esther Summerson.

Meanwhile, another potential heir is Lady Honoria Dedlock. She's the wife of an immensely rich baronet and doesn't particularly care about her inheritance either, but when she expresses unusual interest in the handwriting on some legal documents and then swoons, she arouses the suspicions of her husband's lawyer, Mr. Tulkinghorn. As Tulkinghorn investigates the handwriting, he begins to uncover deep secrets from Lady Dedlock's life that also impact the group over at Bleak House. Everything comes crashing together in an emotional storm that eventually leads to murder and an excellent mystery. It's a very cool story with a lot of great characters and I recommend both versions to fans of Dickens or just great period dramas.

The 2005 version is the most accessible. It stars Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) as Lady Dedlock, Carey Mulligan (Never Let Me GoDrive) as Ada Clare, Denis Lawson (Wedge from Star Wars, among many other things I'm embarrassed not to have known about) as Jarndyce, and Charles Dance (The Golden Child, Alien 3, Gosford ParkGame of Thrones) as Tulkinghorn. It's fast-paced and - like I said earlier - does an outstanding job bringing these characters to life in a relatable way. If you're only going to watch one, this is the one.

Don't ignore the 1985 version though. It stars Diana Rigg (The Avengers TV show, On Her Majesty's Secret Service) as Lady Dedlock and Denholm Elliott (Raiders of the Lost Ark, A Room with a View) as Jarndyce. What it does better than the '05 version is showing how insidious not only the court case is, but the entire legal system of Victorian England. It's unsubtle about doing so, but then, Dickens isn't known for his restraint in pointing out social problems of his day. When Denholm Elliott rages against lawyers and compares them to vampires - sucking not only money from their clients, but hopes and dreams as well - there's no question about how we're supposed to feel. Practically every character in the '85 version is presented in relation to their feelings about the legal system, even when - for some of them - those feelings change. The '85 version fully embraces Dickens' sense of melodrama, with all the advantages and disadvantages that entails.

By highlighting that theme in a really obvious way, the '85 version helped me to see why I love not just these two adaptations, but Dickens' story so much (I've just started reading the novel now). At its heart, Bleak House is about people trying to persevere against a powerful system that exerts a great deal of control over them. In the U.S. right now, it may not be the legal system as much as the banking or health care systems, but I envy the attitude of Jarndyce and the other Bleak House characters who are able to reject the oppressive in favor of living lives of revolutionary kindness and charity. Of course, they're all crazy rich, so they can afford to buck the system, but it's still an inspirational reminder that things need not be the way they are.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Song of the Week | "Dancing on TV" by Bad Veins

I always pick Songs of the Week based on the songs themselves, but the video for this one is especially cool for kids of the '70s and '80s.

Friday, August 17, 2012

LXB | '80s high school mixtape

This week's League of Extraordinary Blogger's assignment is music-related:

What songs were forever being looped on your car’s stereo back in high school. A cassette could only hold a dozen or so songs, so that’s the magic number of songs to list.

I bought a lot of music in high school. I didn't have the technology to make a decent mixtape, but I worked in a grocery store next to a K-Mart and every payday I'd go next door and buy at least one cassette. I had a huge collection, but it's pretty easy to remember the albums that got the most play in my car. I drove a Chevy Suburban for most of high school, but my folks also had a Mitsubishi Dodge Colt Vista (the car was as odd as the name) that I ended up driving quite a bit as well. Fortunately, both had cassette decks.

I was all about New Wave, though seeing Purple Rain caused me to buy and wear out a couple of copies of that tape as well as Morris Day's album. That was the thing about cassettes. If you played them enough, you could literally wear them out by stretching the tape to the point that it was unlistenable.

Here are twelve of my most-played songs from those days.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Recasting The Cyclops

The Cyclops is a giant monster movie with the crappiest special effects you've ever seen. By 1957, backscreen projection was solid technology (King Kong used it in 1933, for crying out loud), but that's too fancy for The Cyclops. Instead, they simply superimposed images of creatures onto footage of the actors, making the monsters transparent.

Still, the story told in The Cyclops is sound. I love the characters and the group dynamics and it would make a great ensemble piece for a small cast of actors.

Susan Winter (Keira Knightley)

Susan Winter is a woman searching for her fiancé, Bruce Barton. Barton's plane went down in Mexico a while ago. I forget how long, exactly. It was months, at least, and maybe a couple of years. Certainly long enough for everyone but Winter to have given up hope that he'd be found. Winter's been trying to organize a search ever since, but unfortunately, the Mexican government refuses to allow her access to the region where Barton disappeared. Unrelenting, Winter has funded her own expedition to the forbidden jungle, but the small team still has to get around Mexican authorities to fly into the area.

The original film is clunky in the way it handles the early exposition, but there's potential for some great drama and action right off the bat as Winter and her team force their plane through opposing forces.

I picked Knightley partly because I just like her; partly because she's a fantastic, tough actress who can give Winter the determination she needs.

Martin Melville (Woody Harrelson)

Winter finances the expedition by convincing wealthy speculator Melville that there's uranium in the area where Barton's plane went down. Melville puts up part of the money in exchange for claim rights to whatever uranium they find.

In the original, Melville's played by Lon Chaney, Jr. He's a greedy, selfish man who causes all kinds of problems once he learns that there really is uranium in the area. He wants to get back to file his claim as quickly as possible, Barton be damned. It's that conflict with Winter that drives a lot of the drama throughout the film. Woody Harrelson would make a powerful, slightly unhinged opponent for Knightley to overcome. Fortunately for her, she has an ally.

Russ Bradford (Benicio Del Toro)

Bradford is a scientist, but his reason for being on the mission is that he's a friend of Winter and Barton's. He's also obviously in love with Winter and wants to help her put to rest her hopes about finding Barton so that she can move on with her life.

I picked Del Toro because I'm tired of seeing him play creepy villains. He's a great actor and I'd love to see him in a complicated, but positive role like this one.

Lee Brand (Kate Beckinsale)

The pilot and owner of the plane. Brand is a guy in the original, but there's no reason the character has to be male; especially with a name like Lee. Melville knows that he only has to convince Brand to leave the mission early in order to make it happen. He tries to convince Brand by suggesting that the pilot could fly Melville home early and then come back for the other two.

Melville's rich enough to make that worth Brand's while, but Brand understands that that's completely outside the original arrangement with Winter. The question is whether or not Brand's the type of person to stick to the letter of the contract or take a lucrative deal when it's offered. Beckinsale plays heroes and villains with equal ease, so she could do awesome things with a conflicted entrepreneur like Brand.

With all the human drama in place, all that's left is to include some modern effects when the team discovers that the radioactive area is crawling with giant lizards, spiders, birds, and other animals. There's also the cyclops of course. His origin is all too easy to guess, but it's the human drama that keeps the movie going. The mystery of the giants is just icing for the cake.

The Outsiders hate cephalopods

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The LXB recasts awesome movies

The League of Extraordinary Bloggers has finished recasting their favorite movies and there are some great ones in the bunch. A few of my favorites:
Brian has the whole round-up at Cool and Collected and there are lots to look at: from Three Amigos and Anne of Green Gables to Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Shoot to Kill. Check 'em out!

Ninja Princess Zombie Rockstar, Part 1

Kelly Sue DeConnick and I are creating a comic together.

That's an exaggeration. Kelly Sue DeConnick and the INTERNET are creating a comic together and I'm participating. Check out her Winter's Tales Tumblr to get the full story, but the short version is that she's writing - a panel at a time - a comic for an awesome little girl named Winter to draw. She's also invited the rest of us to play along whether we have any talent or not. Cannot resist.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Vampire Free Style feeds my inner goth

I often feel a little nervous about reviewing self-published and small press books. Those projects have a difficult enough time getting any kind of attention that I don’t want to crush anyone’s butterfly with a negative review. When I don’t like a small press book, I usually just don’t write about it. Fortunately, Jenika Ioffreda’s Vampire Free Style is simple to review, because it’s lovely and charming. It’s not without flaws – mostly grammatical errors and some unnatural dialogue – but I found those increasingly easy to ignore because I liked the story and the characters so much.

Vampire Free Style is a gothic mystery/romance with heavy manga influences. Something that's not immediately apparent by looking at me is that I have a strong inner goth. It probably traces back to Universal monster movies, but I grew up on Sisters of Mercy and The Mission UK and love stories with dark, crumbling mansions, beautiful innocents, and sinister forces that conspire against them.

My manga experience on the other hand is extremely limited, but it's obvious even to me that Vampire Free Style’s sense of humor and pacing owes a lot to Japanese comics. Ioffreda’s art even reminds me a little of Bizenghast, the manga-inspired gothic series by M. Alice LeGrow (though I like Vampire Free Style a lot better than that one).

Vampire Free Style is about a young witch-boy named Padroncino who’s just lost the love of his life. His girlfriend Elea has gone missing and he’s distraught. If you made it past “gothic mystery/romance with heavy manga influences” above, I’m hoping that the characters’ names aren’t off-putting to you. It’s a trope of the genre and Ioffreda uses it well sometimes (I quite like Elea’s name, for instance) and not as well at others (Baron E. Van Darth).

As the story opens, a stray cat wanders into Padroncino's life and it quickly becomes apparent to the reader that the cat is in fact Elea. We know this because the cat keeps having flashbacks that are obviously from Elea’s point of view, but Padroncino knows nothing. As he investigates Elea’s disappearance, the real mystery for the reader isn’t what happened to her, but how did it happen and why?

Complicating the situation is a young man named Edward who’s hanging out with a group of goth kids. When he accidentally comes into contact with the cat on the street, he begins to have strange flashbacks to the eighteenth century where he also met and fell in love with a girl named Elea.

I don’t know how long Ioffreda intends the series to run, but there are six issues so far. It feels like she’s close to revealing everything, so I don’t want to go into any more detail about the plot and risk spoiling something. I’ll just say that the description above goes through around the third issue and that revelations abound in subsequent issues.

As much as I like the mystery aspect to the series though, I’m equally invested in the romance. At times, it feels like it's building toward a Casablanca-like dilemma for Elea. If she’s the same girl with whom Edward fell in love with in the past (the title of the series might be a clue to how that’s possible, but doesn’t explain all the details), she’s going to have a decision to make at some point. I’m not saying whether she is or isn’t the same girl; I’m just noting that Ioffreda plants the idea and that made me want to keep reading.

Like a lot of manga characters, Elea comes off a bit perfect, but it’s impossible to dislike her. She’s so sweet, so ideal – and Ioffreda draws her so beautifully – that I can’t help but root for her. The same goes for Padroncino. I want these lovely, crazy kids to end up together, even as I’m hoping that nothing bad happens to Edward in the process. That’s the story that drives Vampire Free Style and makes we want the seventh issue.

Though it’s primarily available in comics shops in the UK, I imagine that if you contact Ioffreda through her website, she’ll be glad to arrange something with you.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Top 10 Moments from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (that aren't in the movie)

After I finished listening to Anne Hathaway read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, I wanted to continue the series, but in a different format. I don't want to commit the next year or two to reading all 14 books in their original form, but if Hathaway had kept reading the rest of the series, I'd gladly listen to it that way. Unfortunately, she hasn't.

Another option is Eric Shanower and Skottie Young's comics adaptation, but before I bought any of the sequels I wanted to revisit the first book while it was still fresh in my mind. That way I could see for myself how faithful it is and how accurately I can expect their other adaptations to translate the rest of L. Frank Baum's saga. Turns out: very faithfully.

I knew it was going to be okay when Shanower wrote in his introduction, "That this comics adaptation goes back to that book as its source is one of the aspects that drew me to this project. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been told again and again in so many different versions and permutations that many of the original's details have been obscured or forgotten. But they haven't been lost. Here they are again, those wonderful Baum touches..." And so they are. I feel like I'm in very good hands by continuing the series in this form.

To celebrate, I've picked my Top 10 favorite moments from Baum's book that didn't make it into the Judy Garland version. I mentioned some of them as I was reading the book, but here they are - in order of occurrence - as depicted by Shanower and Young.  Spoilers, of course.

RIP, Joe Kubert

His Tarzan will always be the definitive one for me, though of course he leaves a much larger - and equally excellent - body of work than just that.

My thoughts are with his family and friends today. The Comics Reporter has a great obituary.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Kill All Monsters reviews at The Lottery Party

Comics blogger Richard Caldwell wrote a couple of super nice reviews of Kill All Monsters this week at his site, The Lottery Party. The first was part of a review of the entire Artist Alley Comics Sampler, in which Caldwell called KAM, "Kirby by way of manga commonalities, with a fun cast of characters to boot."

He dove deeper into Kill All Monsters later with a review dedicated just to our comic. About the writing, he says, "May nails an action-packed slugfesting of megaliths well, while inserting enough character points to really put all of this in perspective with some human level." In reference to Jason, "the artwork well portrays the intensity of both action and drama, and is as fine a statement as any that Copland is one of the most under-utilized talents working today." Caldwell also acknowledges the talent and hard work that Ed Brisson puts into the lettering, which was really cool to read.

Thanks so much, Richard!

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Here I am at the Monkeybrain Comics panel in San Diego

This is a recording of the Monkeybrain Comics panel from San Diego. It's a great presentation and worth watching, but you can also see me on the front row taking notes for the CBR article I wrote on it. Very cool of Laid Back Comics to record it and of my pal and fellow Robot 6 contributor Tim O'Shea to point it out.

If you watch it, you'll know why I'm about to say:


Wonder Woman hates cephalopods (No. 84)

Artist unknown [Calvin's Canadian Cave of Cool]

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Recasting Night of the Demon

I haven't participated in The League of Extraordinary Bloggers much lately, not because I've lost interest, but just from lack of time. I really appreciate the ready-made topics, but they still require planning and thought that I haven't been able to give them lately. It's my loss. I'm glad I'm able to squeeze this week's assignment in though, because I'm probably going to make a regular feature out of it.

Remake one of your favorite movies with a cast of current Hollywood stars.

The reason I dig this is because I already do it all the time in my head. I watch a lot of old genre movies and some of them have really great stories. I'd love to share these movies with people, but I know that for some of my friends (and a large percentage of the general public) the dated - if not outright crappy - special effects are an obstacle. Heck, for a lot of people, just their being in black-and-white is off-putting. So I re-imagine the movies in my head with modern effects and a current cast of Hollywood's best. After this one, I'm already thinking about how to recast The Cyclops and Beast from Haunted Cave.

I've talked at length before about my love for Jacques Tourneur's 1957 classic, Night of the Demon. It's a thrilling, ambiguously supernatural mystery that deserves to be enjoyed by modern audiences. I'll describe some of the plot below, but not the ending, so minor spoiler alert. Here's how I'd recast it.

Professor Henry Harrington (John Hurt)

The first character to appear in the film is Professor Harrington, a former skeptic about the supernatural who's now afraid for his life. John Hurt has the perfect demeanor to play an English academic who's scared out of his wits.

Dr. Julian Karswell (Alan Rickman)

Harrington goes to the estate of Dr. Karswell, a self-professed warlock who presides over a cult of followers. Unfortunately, Karswell tells Harrington that his repentance is too late to stop the forces that Karswell has put into motion.

In the original film, Karswell is a portly fellow whose tissue-thin jolliness masks a deep menace. He's the key to whether or not the movie works, so we need a top-notch actor like Rickman who can alternate between charm and threat in varying degrees. We need to be afraid of him, but also like and empathize with him.

Mrs. Karswell (Judi Dench)

Karswell lives with his mother, a kindly, seemingly clueless woman who doesn't ask too many questions about where her son's wealth comes from. There's some ambiguity about how much she understands and whether she supports her son out of love or fear. Dench could do a lot with that.

Joanna Harrington (Kelly Macdonald)

After the death of Harrington, his niece returns from the United States to take care of his affairs. She knows about her uncle's investigation of Karswell's cult and suspects foul play.

I cast Macdonald mostly because I just really like her. Joanna isn't much of a character - she's mostly there to build tension by worrying out loud about the protagonist - but Macdonald has a ton of personality that could flesh Joanna out nicely.

Dr. John Holden (Don Cheadle)

Joanna shares the plane ride from the U.S. with Holden, an occult debunker on his way to London for a conference on the supernatural. There, he intends to pick up Harrington's crusade against Karswell. He and Joanna have a meet-cute where they don't get along at first, but when they re-meet in London, they join forces to bring down Karswell. Holden doesn't believe there's anything supernatural going on, but Joanna's not so sure.

Cheadle's easy to like, which is important in a leading man, but he's also great at looking irritated. That would serve him well playing Holden, who can't believe so many people are buying into Karswell's schtick.

Professor Mark O'Brien (Denis Lawson)

O'Brien is Holden's closest colleague at the conference that's investigating Karswell. He's also a skeptic, but isn't as serious or as irritated by believers as Holden. The character's mostly there as a sounding board.

Denis Lawson is best known to geeks as Wedge Antilles from the original Star Wars trilogy, but I picked him based on his performance in the BBC's 2005 production of Bleak House. He was able to play the troubled, but caring John Jarndyce with a lot of warmth and gentle humor. He'd make a great companion for the very serious Holden.

Professor K.T. Kumar (Irrfan Khan)

Another of Holden's colleagues at the conference. Kumar is also a skeptic, but not a complete unbeliever. One of the things that I really appreciate about his character is that he's not just there to predict supernatural doom; that's more Joanna's job. Kumar is extremely intelligent; he just admits that there may be things going on that none of these scientists can explain. He's agnostic about the supernatural; not prejudiced against it.

Mr. Meeks (Rowan Atkinson)

Meeks is only in one scene, but it's an important one. He's a medium that the well-meaning Mrs. Karswell hires to communicate with Professor Harrington to learn how he died. She invites Holden and Joanna to the seance, but the results can be interpreted multiple ways depending on the prejudices of the witnesses.

Meeks seems to fully believe in his gifts, but he's a comical fellow who adopts the voices of the spirits he's channelling. Rowan Atkinson knows a thing or two about silly voices as well as earnest acting. He'd be a great choice to introduce a tiny bit of levity to the otherwise serious case.

Rand Hobart (Jamie Bell)

Hobart is a farmer and a former member of Karswell's cult. He's also the only enemy of the group who's ever managed to survive. He's been driven mad - almost catatonic - from the experience though, and that makes questioning him a challenge.

Jamie Bell has a great, rustic look to him and is a talented enough actor to pull off Hobart's craziness without going over the top. Hobart's only in one scene of the original movie, so the thing about casting Bell would be that I'd want to fill out his story a little more. Maybe through flashbacks or a prologue or something. Even in the original, the character feels a little under-used. He's the key to unlocking the mystery, so some more time building that up might be good.


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