Tag Archives: Marvel

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Graphic Story

The deadline for nominating works for the Hugo Awards is March 10, 2013. Members (as of January 31, 2013) of Chicon 7, LoneStarCon 3, or Loncon 3 are eligible to nominate.

One of the troubles with the Graphic Story category is that much of what’s published is in a highly serialized form, with storylines sometimes extending over more than a year. Publishers typically gather six to ten issues into trade editions, and these are what get nominated. But in reality, these volumes often don’t represent entire, self-contained stories.

In my opinion, the graphic story category remains the strongest overall category on the Hugo ballot. Choosing five nominees is an almost impossible task because there are so many good choices to pick from. Yet, the Hugo voters consistently nominate the same fanish works year after year. Come on, folks, there is more than Girl Genius and Schlock Mercenary. Much more.

The comics world is producing more top-notch work than in any other Hugo category, yet only seven works made the 5% cutoff last year (nine, if you count two works with 4.94% each). The number of graphic stories that are published is staggering, so I challenge the Hugo voters to think carefully about your choices and to not just fill in your ballots with last year’s nominees because you can’t think of anything else. Don’t be afraid to nominate superhero stories; these are some of the most exciting and relevant science fiction tales being published.

For your consideration:

  • The Abominable Charles Christopher, Karl Kerschl (http://karlkerschl.com)AdventureTime_v1
  • Adventure Time, Vol. 1, Ryan North, Shelli Paroline, Branden Lamb (BOOM! Studios)
  • American Vampire, Vol. 4, Scott Snyder, Rafael Albuquerque (Vertigo)
  • Aquaman, Vol. 1, Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, Joe Prado (DC)
  • Batman: Earth One, Geoff Johns, Gary Frank (DC)batman-court-of-owls
  • Batman: The Court of Owls, Scott Snyder, Greg Capullo (DC)
  • The Battle of Blood and Ink: A Fable of the Flying City, Jared Axelrod, Steve Walker (Tor)
  • Battlepug, Mike Norton (http://www.battlepug.com)
  • Batwoman, Vol. 1, J.H. Williams III, W. Haden Blackman (DC)
  • Chew, Vol. 6: Space Cakes, John Layman, Rob Guillory (Image)
  • Cinderella: Fables are Forever, Chris Roberson, Shawn McManus (Vertigo)
  • Daredevil, Vol. 1, Mark Waid, Chris Samnee (Marvel)dial-h
  • Dial H, Vol. 1: Into You, China Miéville, Mateus Santolouco (DC)
  • Earth 2, Vol. 1, James Robinson, Nicola Scott (DC)
  • Fables, Vol. 17: Inherit the Wind, Bill Willingham, et al (Vertigo)
  • Frankenstein Alive, Alive!, Steve Niles, Bernie Wrightson (IDW)
  • Grandville Bete Noir, Bryan Talbot (Dark Horse)
  • Hawkeye, Vol. 1, Matt Fraction, David Aja, Javier Pulido (Marvel)irredeemable
  • Irredeemable, Vol. 10, Mark Waid, Diego Barreto (BOOM! Studios)
  • iZombie, Vol. 4: Repossessed, Chris Roberson, Mike Allred (DC)
  • Justice League, Vol. 1, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee (DC)
  • Lobster Johnson Vol. 2: The Burning Hand, Mike Mignola, John Arcudi, Scott Allie, Tonci Zonjic (Dark Horse)
  • Locke & Key: Clockworks, Joe Hill, Gabriel Rodriguez (IDW)manhattan-projects
  • The Manhattan Projects, Vol. 1, Jonathan Hickman, Nick Pitavro (Image)
  • Mind MGMT, Matt Kindt (Dark Horse)20thCenturyBoys22
  • Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Vol. 22, Naoki Urasawa (VIZ Media)
  • The New Deadwardians, Dan Abnett, I.N.J. Culbard (Vertigo)
  • Peter Panzerfaust, Vol. 1: The Great Escape, Kurtis Wiebe, Tyler Jenkins (Image)
  • Prophet, Vol. 1: Remission, SImon Roy, Farel Dalrymple, Giannis Milogiannis, Brandon Graham (Image)
  • Punk Rock Jesus, Sean Murphy (Vertigo)saga
  • Saga, Vol. 1, Brian K. Vaughn, Fiona Staples (Image)
  • Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the Hudson, Mark Siegel (First Second)
  • Saucer Country, Vol. 1: Run, Paul Cornell, Ryan Kelly (Vertigo)
  • The Strange Talent of Luther Strode, Vol. 1, Tradd Moore, Justin Jordan (Image)
  • Superman: Earth One, Vol. 2, J. Michael Straczynski, Shane Davis (DC)
  • The Underwater Welder, Jeff Lemire (Top Shelf)the-unwritten-6
  • The Unwritten, Volume 6: Tommy Taylor and the War of Words, Mike Carey, Peter Gross (Vertigo)
  • The Walking Dead, Vol. 16: A Larger World, Robert Kirkman, Charlie Allard (Image)
  • Wonder Woman, Vol. 1, Brian Azzarello, Tony Akins (DC)wrinkle-in-time-graphic-novel
  • A Wrinkle in Time, adapted by Hope Larson (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Dramatic Presentation, Long Form

The deadline for nominating works for the Hugo Awards is March 10, 2013. Members (as of January 31, 2013) of Chicon 7, LoneStarCon 3, or Loncon 3 are eligible to nominate.

The dividing line between Dramatic Presentation, Short Form and Dramatic Presentation, Long Form is 90 minutes running time, but may be adjusted slightly one way or another if a majority of nominators place a borderline work in the other category. A multi-part production can be nominated in the Long Form category.

There is an overwhelming chance that Game of Thrones, Season 2 will be nominated, just as Season 1 was last year (my advice is to not waste your nomination votes for individual episodes of Game of Thrones in the Short Form category, as they will be disqualified). Beyond that, it seems to me that the field is pretty much wide open. I think The Avengers, Looper, The Hunger Games, The Cabin in the Woods, and The Hobbit are the most likely to be nominated. But there are a number of other worthy works.

For your consideration:

  • The Amazing Spider-Man, Sony Pictures
  • Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fox Searchlight Picturesbrave
  • Brave, Pixar Animation Studios
  • The Cabin in the Woods, Lionsgate
  • Chronicle, Twentieth Century Fox
  • Cloud Atlas, Warner Bros. Pictures
  • The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Bros. Picturesfrankenweenie-poster
  • Frankenweenie, Walt Disney Studios
  • Game of Thrones, Season 2, HBO
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, New Line Cinema
  • Hotel Transylvania, Sony Pictures Animation
  • The Hunger Games, Lionsgateiron_sky
  • Iron Sky, Entertainment One
  • John Carter, Walt Disney Pictures
  • Life of Pi, Twentieth Century Foxlooper
  • Looper, TriStar Pictures
  • Marvel’s The Avengers, Marvel Studios
  • Men in Black 3, Columbia Pictures
  • ParaNorman, LAIKA/Focus Features
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Aardman Animations and Sony Pictures Animation
  • Prometheus, Twentieth Century Fox
  • The Rabbi’s Cat, GKIDS
  • Rise of the Guardians, DreamWorks Animationrobotandfrank
  • Robot & Frank, Samuel Goldwyn Films
  • Ruby Sparks, Fox Searchlight Pictures
  • Safety Not Guaranteed, FilmDistrict
  • The Secret World of Arrietty, Studio Ghibli
  • Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Focus Features
  • Skyfall, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)
  • Snow White and the Huntsman, Universal Pictures
  • Ted, Universal Pictures
  • The Woman in Black, CBS Films
  • Wreck-It Ralph, Walt Disney Animation Studios

Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers

Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers (2011)
Written by Robert Rodi; art by Esad Ribic; directed by Mark Cowart and Joel Gibbs.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Thor & Loki: Blood Brothers is a four episode motion comic from Marvel Knights Animation that is based on the 2004 miniseries Loki. It is essentially a character study of Loki (David Blair); Thor (Daniel Thorn) spends the vast majority of the running time as a mute prisoner, with only a few brief flashbacks.

The story opens as Loki is celebrating his takeover of Asgard, with Thor, Odin (Joe Teiger), Sif (Elizabeth Diennet), and Baldar (James Hampshire) in chains. Loki soon learns that ruling an empire is not all it’s cracked up to be. He must mediate in what seems like every petty squabble in the land, and his allies in the rebellion begin to demand payment on his promises used to secure their cooperation.

All of this comes off as a cheap Shakespearian tragedy, with Loki brooding and plotting but not really doing anything. As such, it is aimed at adults more interested in political machinations than teenagers more interested in action.

The artwork is the best part of the production. There is a real sense of dimensionality, and the character designs are quite detailed. Loki is portrayed as an old man with missing teeth and lined face. The Asgard warriors are musclebound and the females are full-figured, to say the least. The superb backgrounds fill the screen with beauty. However, the limited animation detracts from the overall effect with its jerky movements and static compositions.

Each episode is about 20 minutes of story, so I’m not sure why the producers opted to break it into four parts. It would flow better as an uninterrupted movie.

The ending is unsatisfactory. Completely unsurprising spoiler–Thor escapes and wreaks retribution on Loki. We don’t see what happens to several principal characters or the fallout of Loki’s villainy.

Thor fans will undoubtedly want to see this production because it adds some interesting layers to Loki’s personality and his relationship with Thor, but I can’t recommend it for anyone else. The limited animation, lack of action, and lack of a satisfactory payoff makes this a dull morality play.

For Your Consideration: Hugo Award Graphic Story

The deadline for nominating works for the Hugo Awards is March 11, 2012. Members (as of January 31, 2012) of Renovation, Chicon 7, or LoneStarCon 3 are eligible to nominate. For the Graphic Story category, I have compiled a list of works that could be considered.

It is clear that Hugo readers are not avid comic book readers. There is little overlap of the Hugo nominees and any of the comics-related best-of lists and awards. The Hugo voters are going for fanish titles such as Girl Genius and Schlock Mercenary, along with obscure titles by fan-favorite writers such as Paul Cornell and Joss Whedon, and ignoring outstanding mainstream titles such as The Walking Dead, Locke & Key, Chew, 20th Century Boys, Return of the Dapper Men, and Irredeemable, to name a few. Yes, Y: The Last Man, Fables, and The Unwritten have been nominated, but there’s so much more good stuff not being recognized.

One of the troubles with this category is that much of what’s published is in a highly serialized form, with storylines sometimes extending over more than a year. Publishers typically gather six to ten issues into trade editions, and these are what get nominated. But in reality, these volumes don’t often represent entire, self-contained stories. How can one justify recognizing an incomplete story?

The comics world is producing more top-notch work than in any other Hugo category, yet only seven works made the 5% cutoff last year. Moreover, the Hugo voters have given the award to Girl Genius three years in a row. To his credit, Phil Foglio announced that he would not accept a nomination this year for Girl Genius. It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to convince this year’s Business Meeting to permanently ratify the Graphic Story category. As much of a comics fan as I am, if there is no greater diversity of nominees, I may have to support ending the category. Although the Hugo Award is a popularity contest, it should ideally represent a broad representation of the best of science fiction and fantasy.

The number of graphic stories that are published is staggering. I’ve tried to narrow down my list to titles that I’ve seen favorably reviewed. Nevertheless, I suspect I’ve missed worthy books. Most of the entries on the list are printed. I’m not a connoisseur of web comics, but I know there are some good ones being published. Even so, for a lot of web comics it’s hard to tell where stories start and stop and therefore what is eligible in a calendar year. Check with a site like Top Web Comics for a list of possibilities.

I’ve highlighted a few titles that have appeared on multiple best-of lists or that I have personal knowledge of being excellent. I challenge the Hugo nominators to think carefully about their choices and to not just fill in their ballots with last year’s nominees because you can’t think of anything else.

For your consideration:

Abominable Charles Christopher, Book One by Karl Kerschl

Amulet #4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi

Angel: After the Fall, Vol. 4 by Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch

Anita Blake: Circus of the Damned: The Ingenue by Laurell K. Hamilton, Jessica Booth, and Ron Lim

Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

B.P.R.D.: Being Human by Mike Mignola, et al.

Batman & Robin, Vol. 2: Batman vs. Robin by Grant Morrison, et al.

Batman: Eye of the Beholder by Tony Daniel

Batman: Noel by Lee Bermejo

Batman: The Black Mirror by Scott Snyder, Jock, and Francesco Francavilla

The Bean, Vol. 1: Riddles & Shrooms by Travis Hanson

The Boys, Vol. 9: The Big Ride by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson

Blood Work by Kim Harrison, Pedro Maia and Gemma Magno

Brightest Day by Geoff Johns, et al.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Vol. 8: Last Gleaming by Joss Whedon, Scott Allie, and Georges Jeanty

Captain America: Man Out of Time by Mark Waid and Jorge Molina

Captain Swing, Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis and Raulo Caceres

Casanova, Vol. 1: Luxuria by Matt Fraction and Gabriel Bá

Chew, Vol. 4: Flambe by John Layman and Rob Guillory

The Clockwork Girl by Sean O’Reilly

Cowboys and Aliens by Scott Mitchell Rosenberg

The Dark-Hunters, Vol. 4 by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Daybreak by Brian Ralph

Daytripper by Gabriel Bá and Fábio Moon

Deadpool MAX : Involuntary Armageddon by David Lapham, Kyle Baker, and Shawn Crystal

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Vol. 6 by Philip K. Dick and Tony Parker

Echo, Vol. 6: The Last Day by Terry Moore

Fables, Vol. 16: Super Team by Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham

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Fantastic Four, Vol. 4 by Jonathan Hickman, Steve Epting, Nick Dragotta, and Mark Brooks

5 Ronin by Peter Milligan, et al.

Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert

Flight of Angels by Rebecca Guay

Freeway by Mark Kalesniko

Fullmetal Alchemist, Vol. 27 by Hiromu Arakawa

George R. R. Martin’s Doorways by Stefano Martino and George R. R. Martin

Green Lantern: War of the Green Lanterns by Geoff Johns, et al.

Green Woman by Peter Straub, Michael Easton, and John Bolton

The Griff: A Graphic Novel by Christopher Moore and Ian Corson

The Gunslinger – The Battle of Tull by Stephen King, Peter David, and Michael Lark

The Gunslinger – The Little Sisters of Eluria by Stephen King, Peter David, Robin Furth, Luke Ross, and Richard Isanove

Habibi by Craig Thompson

Harbor Moon by Ryan Colucci, Dikran Ornekian, and Pawel Sambor

Hellboy: House of the Living Dead by Mike Mignola and Richard Corben

I Will Bite You! by Joseph Lambert

Irredeemable, Vol. 7 by Mark Waid and Peter Krause

iZombie, Vol. 2: uVampire by Chris Roberson and Michael Allred

Jericho Season 3 by Alejandro F. Giraldo

Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files: Fool Moon by Chase Conley, Jim Butcher, and Mark Powers

Joe the Barbarian, by Grant Morrison and Sean Murphy

Kill Shakespeare, Vol. 2 by Conor McCreery, Anthony Del Col, and Andy Belanger

The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Guay

Locke & Key: Keys to the Kingdom by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez

Mangaman by Barry Lyga and Colleen Doran

Marineman: A Matter of Life & Depth by Ian Churchill

Naoki Urasawa’s 20th Century Boys, Vol. 18 by Naoki Urasawa

Philip K. Dick’s Electric Ant by Philip K. Dick, David Mack, and Pascal Alixe

Phoenix Without Ashes by Harlan Ellison and Alan Robinson

Pinocchio by Winshluss

RASL: Romance at the Speed of Light by Jeff Smith

Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes adapted by Ron Wimberly

7 Billion Needles, Vol. 4 by Nobuaki Tadano

Super Dinosaur, Vol. 1 by Robert Kirkman

Superboy, Vol. 1: Smallville Attacks by Jeff Lemire, Pier Gallo, and Marco Rudy

Superman: Secret Origin by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank

True Blood, Vol. 2: Tainted Love by Joe Corroney

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 2 by Stephenie Meyer and Young Kim

Uncanny X-Force: The Dark Angel Saga, Book 1 by Rick Remender, Jerome Opena, Billy Tan, and Mark Brooks

The Unwritten, Vol. 4: Leviathan by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

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Vampire Academy by Leigh Dragoon and Emma Vieceli

The Walking Dead, Vol. 14, No Way Out by Robert Kirkman

The Walking Dead, Vol. 15, We Find Ourselves by Robert Kirkman

Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris, Vol. 1: The Colossus of Mars by Arvid Nelson and Carlos Rafael

Wonder Struck by Brian Selznick

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Eric Shanower and Skottie Young

Xombi by John Rozum and Fraser Irving

The Upcoming Year in Movies

2012 looks to be an amazing year for science fiction and animated movies. What will be the hits? Here are some of my predictions, but I’m sure there will be plenty of surprises in store.

January

Fullmetal Alchemist : The Sacred Star of Milos – This feature-length sequel to the hit anime series looks like it will take place somewhere in the middle of the Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood storyline. The release is limited, but hopefully it will come to a theater near you. Click here for U.S. theater/Canadian theater listings in your area.

February

Chronicle – The movie dead zone of February starts with this story of high school students who gain superpowers. Go watch reruns of Heroes instead.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island – The February movie wasteland continues with an inane adaptation that would make Jules Verne weep.

Star Wars Episode I — The Phantom Menace 3-D – will George Lucas ever stop tinkering with his movies? And nothing could add dimension to the flat characters of Episode I.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – a sequel nobody but Nicolas Cage demanded.

The Secret World of Arrietty – from Studio Ghibli, an adaptation co-written by Hayao Miyazaki (but, alas, not directed by him) of The Borrowers by Mary Norton. The trailer looks great; let’s hope the movie is, too.

Dr. Suess’ The Lorax – finally, an animated adaptation of a Dr. Seuss book that looks like it will be true to its source and actually be funny.

March

John Carter – a live action adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars series by writer/director Andrew Stanton (WALL·E, Finding Nemo) starring a bunch of unknowns. With a screenplay co-written by Michael Chabon, I have high hopes that Stanton will bring his animation magic to this project, just as Brad Bird did with 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.

Mirror Mirror – the first of two retellings of the Snow White fairy tale, this one staring Julia Roberts and Sean Bean.

The Hunger Games – will this be a juggernaut franchise like Harry Potter or a flop like The Golden Compass? A lot is riding on this film, and all signs point to it coming through.

The Pirates! Band of Misfits – Peter Lord (Chicken Run) of Aardman Animations seemingly can do no wrong, and the trailer is hilarious. I have high expectations for this animated film.

Wrath of the Titans – Another underwhelming special-effects laden quest of Perseus doing the gods’ bidding.

April

Iron Sky – You had me at “Nazi lunar base.” This indie will premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival in April. Let’s hope it makes it to the U.S. soon thereafter.

Extracted – Sasha Roiz (Caprica, Warehouse 13, Grimm) stars as a brilliant engineer who invents a device that enables him to enter another’s mind. While testing it on a convict, he gets trapped and must race the clock to find a way out. Debuting at the Austin South by Southwest Festival, this indie could be one to watch for.

May

The Avengers – Joss Whedon’s take on the iconic Marvel team is the dream movie for comic book fans. I’m not a big fan of Whedon, and my concern is that he won’t be able to corral the egos of his large cast of stars, and the film will veer off into incomprehensibility. Nevertheless, this movie should deliver blockbuster numbers, no matter how good or bad it is.

Dark Shadows – Tim Burton and Johnny Depp team up once again to revive the 1960’s soap opera about Barnabas Collins and his wacky household of vampires and ghouls. I expect campy fun.

Men in Black 3 – another sequel nobody clamored for, but Will Smith will put butts in seats.

Dorothy of OZ – I saw a preview of this animated musical at San Diego Comic-Con last year, and it looked HORR! I! BLE! Why or why can’t someone just make a successful, straight adaptation of the marvelous source material?

Battleship – very loosely based on the popular board game (coming soon: Candy Land, I kid you not), the trailer is just a mess and a half—lots of explosions and women in bikinis. And it will make a ton of money.

June

Snow White and the Huntsman – the second Snow White adaptation; this one a bit edgier than the first.

Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted – I have to admit that the first two in the series were lighthearted fun, and I don’t expect them to deviate from the formula.

Prometheus – Ridley Scott’s triumphant return to science fiction as co-written by Lost’s Damon Lindelof, this will either be astounding or a big, fat mess. No one seems to know whether this is a prequel to Alien or whether it morphed into something else during filming, but the trailer definitely makes me want to see it.

Jack the Giant Killer – another fairy tale retold, this time “Jack and the Beanstalk” as directed by Bryan Singer.

Brave – Pixar’s big release of 2012, their first starring a female protagonist. The trailer looks amazing, and I expect this will be the animated feature to beat at next year’s Oscars.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – cheesy fun from producer Tim Burton.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation – stars Bruce Willis and Dwayne Johnson should ensure this will be better than the first G.I. Joe movie, but director Jon M. Chu’s background is from the music and dance world (most notably, the Step Up franchise), so it’s hard to imagine it will be much better.

July

The Amazing Spider-Man – July will be the battle of the titans: Spider-Man vs. Batman. This reboot of Spider-Man will hopefully reinvigorate the franchise, but I think it will be overshadowed by…

The Dark Knight Rises – Christopher Nolan’s final entry into the dark world of Batman. Will Nolan be able to pull off a tour de force without a force of nature like Heath Ledger? Most likely it will be an emphatic “yes.” Here is a clever mash-up trailer for the film using footage from Batman: The Animated Series:

Ice Age: Continental Drift – at least we get to laugh at Scrat try to rescue his acorn, regardless of the other dreck that may be in the movie.

August

Total Recall – this new Total Recall will supposedly stick close to the original Philip K. Dick short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” it’s based on.

ParaNorman – this animated fantasy/horror/comedy from the makers of Coraline could be a sleeper hit.

September

Hotel Transylvania – Director Genndy Tartakovsky (The Powerpuff Girls, Samurai Jack) animates Adam Sandler as Dracula in this Sony Pictures Animation presentation.

Dredd – Karl Urban stars in a new take on the ultra-violent British comic book. Without Sylvester Stallone to muck it up, it might actually turn out ok. Lena Headey co-stars.

October

Frankenweenie – Tim Burton’s feature-length stop-motion remake of his infamous 1984 short. Will audiences flock to see a black-and-white animated film in 2012? The hip ones will.

November

Wreck-It Ralph – Disney Animation’s big film for 2012 features the voices of John C. Reilly, Jane Lynch, and Jack McBrayer in something to do with video game characters coming to life.

Rise of the Guardians – Dreamworks Animation brings together the voice talents of Hugh Jackman, Jude Law, Chris Pine, and Alec Baldwin in a story that has Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, and Jack Frost banding together to fight the Bogeyman.

December

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – the one every fanboy has been waiting for—Peter Jackson’s long delayed adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved children’s book. My only question is whether it will remain true to its source material or whether it will be Lord of the Rings, Part 4. Either way, it should be awesome.

World War Z – based on Max Brooks’ tongue-in-cheek zombie book, this adaptation co-written by J. Michael Straczynski and staring Brad Pitt could be a surprise hit.

Unscheduled

Robot and Frank – A well-reviewed entry at the Sundance Film Festival starring Frank Langella as a burglar who teams up with a robot to commit his crimes. Co-starring James Marsden, Liv Tyler, and Susan Sarandon.

Upside Down – A man searches an alternate universe for a long-lost love from his youth. Stars Kirsten Dunst.

The Prodigies – Warner Bros. Pictures is planning to distribute this French animated superhero movie from 2011 sometime this year; my guess in limited release.

Comikaze

Comikaze is a new comic-centric convention in Los Angeles. It appears to be making a bid to eventually replicate the multi-media San Diego Comic-Con experience, with something for fans of anime, movies, TV, and gaming. Comikaze was held at the Los Angeles Convention Center on November 5-6, 2011. I attended on Saturday only.

I went in not expecting much. A similarly publicized convention in Pasadena a couple of years ago was a dismal failure. I had purchased tickets through Goldstar, a popular discount ticket broker. The tickets were “free” for a $4.50 handling fee, so I didn’t have much to lose by going.

Fez-o-Rama Booth

The Comikaze web site indicated the dealers’ room would open at 10:00 a.m., but when I arrived shortly before 10 I discovered that the floor was not going to open until 10:30. So I had to wait a bit, which was ok. I had to redeem my Goldstar receipt for a wristband, and that took a few minutes. To give Comikaze credit, they had workers in the crowd giving out wristbands to full-paying preregistrants, enabling people like me to get to the registration table relatively quickly.

Girls and Corpses Magazine Booth

At 10:30 the door opened. Yes, door, singular. The long line slowly snaked in, single file. The cavernous hall was already bustling when I managed to get in. There were a lot of vendors selling a wide variety of products. There were also many tables for artists and celebrities. A large area at the back of the hall

Gaming Area

was reserved for gaming tournaments, so there seemed to be something for everyone. In an unusual setup, there were five panel rooms created by curtaining off sections of the hall.

Having looked at the online schedule ahead of time I knew there was to be a screening of the trailer for Daniel Radcliffe’s new horror movie, The Woman in Black, at 11:00, but none of the panel rooms had it listed on the cards in front of the room entrances. Because there was no overall printed schedule or facilities map, or signs of any sort, I ended up having to ask about four or five people where the screening was

Even the Muppets were there!

before I eventually found it in a meeting room on the third floor of the convention center. I was late, but it didn’t matter since they were still struggling to get the audio-visual equipment working. I waiting until about 11:35 when they announced it would be another 20 minutes to get ready. This was not an auspicious start to the convention!

Performance art?

I spent the next hour and a half walking the dealers’ room, by the end of which I had pretty much seen everything. There were a number of interesting vendors, including a lot of comics, toy, video, and clothing and jewelry dealers.

There were quite a few celebrities in attendance, most charging for their photos and autographs. Stan Lee and his entourage strolled through at one point. Wax figure Morgan Fairchild held court while her handler shielded her from any unauthorized (unpaid) photographs.

Not Ernest Borgnine

Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine apparently didn’t have anything better to do, but looked in amazing shape for a man of 94, certainly better than 85-year-old Richard Anderson (The Six Million Dollar Man), who sat looking wrinkled, sad, and lonely. Other famous and not-so-famous stars that I recognized included Butch Patrick (The Munsters), Richard Hatch (Battlestar Galactica), Alaina Huffman (Stargate Universe), Robert Picardo (Star Trek: Voyager),

A melange of costumes

Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: The Next Generation), and Carel Struycken (The Addams Family). There were many more that I didn’t recognize.

There were lots of costumed attendees. Just like at SDCC, they regularly blocked the aisles posing for photos. It’s just something a congoer gets used to.

Batman Panel

I attended four panels in the afternoon. At 1:00 it was “The World of Batman” with writers Gregg Hurwitz (Penguin: Pain and Prejudice) and Kyle Higgins (Batman: Gates of Gotham). They had a good discussion of what makes Batman Batman. Unfortunately, there was a very noisy cast reunion of Nickelodeon’s All That in the next room which tended to drown out what Hurwitz and Higgins said, not to mention that the acoustics to begin with were poor due to the room being a curtained off area in the giant, echoing cement hall.

Titmouse Animation Panel

At 3:00 I trekked back up to the third-floor meeting room for the Titmouse Animation Showcase. Titmouse produces Metalocalypse and other Adult Swim programs. They have taken over production of The Venture Bros., and series creator Jackson Publick was part of the panel. They also previewed Black Dynamite, a new series set to début next summer.

Back down to the hall for a panel at 4:00 called “From Robots to Monsters: Japan is the Original King.”  Moderator Jessica Tseang (ComiCast) did an excellent job of interviewing Tom Franck (North America’s largest Japanese robot collector) and Mike Costa (Transformers).

DC Panel

The final panel I attended, at 5:00, was “DC Comics New 52 Q&A” with a full table of DC writers and artists, including J. T. Krul (Captain Atom), Eric Wallace (Mr. Terrific), Phillip Tan (The Savage Hawkman), Scott Lobdell (Red Hood and the Outlaws), Brian Buccetello (The Flash), Kyle Higgins (Nightwing), Gregg Hurwitz (Penguin: Pain and Prejudice), Mike Costa (Blackhawks), and two or three others I don’t remember offhand. They all seemed genuinely excited about DC’s recent reboot and promised great things to come.

Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised by the size and quality of Comikaze. Considering that Comikaze was just one week after the Long Beach Comic-Con, the attendance was remarkably high. The organizers have shown that a successful large media convention can be held in Los Angeles. There were some things that need to be improved for next time. Not everyone has a smart phone, so they need to have better schedules and maps available for attendees (and the schedule needs to be cross-referenced by participants). Crowd control was generally pretty good, but flow into and out of the hall and the rooms were sometimes a problem. They definitely need to hold panels in the upstairs meeting rooms and not the makeshift curtained rooms. The L.A. Convention Center is not as well situated as the San Diego Convention Center, i.e., there are not nearly as many nearby hotels and restaurants. For Comikaze to grow to SDCC size, they will have to overcome those limitations, but it should be eventually possible.

For another look at Comikaze, check out this long and detailed report from The Fangirl Files.

Flashpoint

In 1984 Marvel unleashed the first major comic book crossover series, Secret Wars. This 12-issue series was supplemented by nearly every Marvel title, creating a story that spanned well over 500 pages. The following year Marvel published Secret Wars II and DC published its epic Crisis on Infinite Earths. Despite very favorable reactions from the fans, these kinds of mega-events did not return until 2004 when DC published Identity Crisis, followed in 2005 with Infinite Crisis. Since then, both Marvel and DC have had at least one big crossover event every year.

From the publishers’ viewpoints, these giant tent-pole events make a lot of sense. It gets fans excited about seeing their favorite characters working and fighting with each other. It’s not the same old humdrum villain of the month. It also encourages fans to read titles they might not otherwise, thus boosting sales. The drawback is that it takes a big investment in time and money to read all the ancillary titles. Fortunately, most of these crossovers are written so that you don’t miss too much if you miss some of the companion titles.

DC’s big crossover event of 2011 was called Flashpoint. The core 5-part miniseries series was written by Geoff Johns and penciled by Andy Kubert. Released in June, it began with the revelation that the DC universe had radically changed and only Barry Allen, AKA the Flash, was aware of the new alternate reality. Over twenty tie-in titles rounded out the saga, for a combined count of over 1500 pages.

Flashpoint was an ambitious way to explore new character origins in an alternate universe. Some characters and situations
were similar to their familiar, established lore, but many were completely revamped, and a number of brand new characters were introduced.

I read Flashpoint #1-5 and three of the tie-ins (The Outsider #1-3, Deadman and the Flying Graysons #1-3, and Frankenstein & the Creatures of the Unknown #1-3). I enjoyed the exploration of the skewed DC universe. Re-imaginings like Dick Grayson obtaining the Dr. Fate helmet looked like they could turn into some fascinating story lines.

I got the sense, however, that this had originally been intended to be a longer story. The tie-ins, especially, felt rushed and without clear resolutions. In Flashpoint itself, Barry Allen seemed to figure out what was going on very quickly and it seemed more than a little contrived that his archenemy would suddenly appear to taunt him, which then led to his quick defeat.

I really would have liked to see more of this alternate reality. It gave a lot of freedom to the writers to change or even kill favorite characters, and to investigate new relationships without compromising established continuity.

But such was not to be. Shortly before Flashpoint started, DC announced it would be restarting all of its titles with #1. The “New 52” were scheduled to begin in September, so Flashpoint had to be finished by then. In fact, Justice League #1 appeared on the same day as Flashpoint #5. With one look at Flashpoint, though, it was clear that whatever it had originally been intended to be, it had become a way to push the reset button on the DC universe. Much as Star Trek (2009) invented a way to split the timeline of the Star Trek universe so that previous continuity was preserved, Flashpoint was a way to create a new hybrid DC universe that did not conflict with previous continuity, and allowed DC to create any new “reality” that they wanted.

Fortunately, the new DC universe is not a radical departure from the old one, but there are significant changes. I’ll look at them in future articles.

The Most Ridiculous Superheroes

Who is the lamest comic book superhero? This question will keep comic book fans arguing for hours. There have been many horrible superheroes over the years. There are different categories of ridiculous characters. There are laughable powers, weird origins, and dumb names.

Not to mention the stupid pets and mascots that were prevalent in the Superman family in the 1950s and 1960s. Krypto the Super-Dog is the most famous, but there was also Beppo the Super-Monkey, Comet the Super-Horse, and Streaky the Supercat, all of which wore capes. Of course, not to be outdone, Batman had Ace the Bat-Hound, complete with bat-mask.

Superhero teams are filled with crazy characters. The Legion of Super Heroes probably has the most. Bouncing Boy (the power of super bouncing!) and Matter-Eater Lad (the power to eat anything [let’s not think about his digestive process]) are the two lamest Legionnaires. Then there’s the Legion of Substitute Heroes, which I think was created more as a joke than anything, but has some truly worthless members. The founding members of this group of Legionnaire rejects were Polar Boy (Iceman-lite), Night Girl (whose super strength only worked at night), Fire Lad (who could breathe fire, but sneezed uncontrollably), Chlorophyll Kid (who can make plants grow super fast), and the lamest of all, Stone Boy (who turns into inanimate stone).

Mogo, the Living Planet

The Green Lantern Corps is another superhero group with plenty of bizarre members. For example, Brik is composed entirely of organic rock; Leezle Pon is a sentient smallpox virus; Rot Lop Fan is from a species that evolved in darkness, has no concept of light and color, and thus cannot comprehend how the power ring works (it projects solid rays of light manifested by the bearer’s will power); and Mogo is a sentient or “living” planet.

Sometimes a seemingly ridiculous character will turn out to actually be pretty good. Animal Man, with the ability to temporarily “borrow” the abilities of animals, has had incarnations written by Grant Morrison and is part of DC’s “New 52.” Ragman, with enhanced agility and strength, while not a brilliant creation, was better than he had any right to be thanks to the guidance of two comics masters, Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert.

Conversely, there are some long-lived characters who continue to be popular for inexplicable reasons. Aquaman, with the power to talk to any kind of sea animal, is the subject of much derision by fans, yet continues to be one of the top DC characters. The Atom, with the power to shrink to microscopic size, is another top-tier DC character who defies reasonable examination. There have been a number of shrinking or growing characters over the years. Ant-Man can shrink and grow, and he can telepathically control ants. So, evildoers, watch out for those swarming ants!

There are the crappy characters who are created just to secure copyright protection. Marvel is notorious for this, with She-Hulk, Spider-Woman, and Spider Girl coming to mind. That any of them eventually found good story lines is something of a miracle.

Certain characters are created to cash in on societal trends. Black Lightning was one of the first black characters at DC, but in his first appearance he was an Afro-haired stereotype. Dazzler was a mutant who could transform sound into light. This might have been a good fit during the disco era, but Dazzler #1 came out in 1981, well after the disco era had faded. Subsequently, Dazzler has been revamped and has found some success in recent times. Another character in this mold was Ulysses Solomon Archer, AKA U.S. 1, who fought evil on the highways of America in his pimped-out truck. U.S. 1 was apparently designed to appeal to the redneck crowd; unfortunately, issue #1 came out five years after Smokey and the Bandit (1977), which it emulated.

Man-Thing from Marvel first appeared in 1971, with DC’s Swamp Thing not coincidentally arriving about a year later. Both of these could have been highly problematic, walking muck being not necessarily very interesting. But somehow despite their names, both of these titles went on to very successful runs.

Comics have always had a fascination with intelligent gorillas. Two of the more infamous are Congorilla and Gorilla Grodd, one of The Flash’s archenemies, both of whom debuted in the late 1950s, a heyday of “anything goes.”

Human/animal hybrids are a source of endless awful characters. Two of the most famous are Man-Bat (instead of a man dressing as a bat, it was a man transformed into a bat) and Squirrel Girl, not one of Steve Ditko’s brighter moments.

Some of the most popular superheroes have less than stellar origin stories. If someone were caught in the middle of a gamma bomb, they would be turned into radioactive ashes, not a green Hulk. The same goes for the Fantastic Four who obtained their powers by flying their spaceship through a gamma radiation storm. Gamma radiation was quite the solution to Stan Lee’s plotting problems in the 1960s!

As beloved as Spider-Man is, if a radioactive spider bit someone, they would probably just have a welt for a few days and then die of cancer twenty years later. Moreover, what I never understood was how high school student Peter Parker could overnight invent a miracle fluid that had the strength of steel, the adhesion of the strongest epoxy, and dissolved with no residue in an hour. Turning into a human spider pales in comparison! He could have built a company to make the revolutionary material and become richer than Tony Stark. Frankly, Sam Raimi’s version with biological web shooters makes much more sense, although to be strictly true to nature, the webbing would have to shoot out of Spider-Man’s butt.

Some superheroes definitely have powers that defy all logic. How does The Flash maintain the energy to keep running? Batman’s utility belt and suit would weigh a hundred pounds if he really had all those gadgets. Plus, he wouldn’t last more than a couple of years sustaining that kind of physical pounding night after night.

One of the most illogical super hero powers is The Human Torch. Why doesn’t he set everything around him on fire every time he lights up?

Plastic Man, Mr. Fantastic, and Elongated Man (really?—that’s the best name you could think of?) have perhaps the silliest power, to stretch the human body into any shape. At least Plastic Man was played for laughs.

I’m sure I’ve missed quite a few other lame super heroes. Who are your favorite ridiculous characters?

Disney’s Four Color Adventures Volume 1

Disney's Four-Color Adventures Volume 1Disney’s Four Color Adventures Volume 1 by Al Taliaferro

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This volume reprints, in their entireties, issues #4 (1940) and #13 (1941) of the Four Color comic series published by Dell. Four Color issues were one-shots of a diverse variety of titles. These particular issues were the first two of the Four Color comics to contain Disney characters. In fact, Four Color #4 was the first all-color Disney comic book in English.

Four-Color #4 reprinted Donald Duck daily newspaper gag strips drawn by Al Taliaferro. Taliaferro began working at the Disney Studio in 1931 as an inker for Floyd Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse Sunday page. He started penciling and inking the Silly Symphonies Sunday strip in 1933. In 1936, he originated the first Donald Duck newspaper strip, which he drew until his death in 1969. Within that strip, he created many fan-favorite duck characters including Donald’s nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. The strips were primarily written by Bob Karp, with an assist by future duck legend Carl Barks.

Taliaferro’s version of Donald formed the basis of his character as a quick-tempered, immature prankster. The four-panel strips relied heavily on sight gags, often going without word balloons. The addition of Donald’s nephews created more opportunities for laughs, as now Donald became the victim of his nephew’s shenanigans. Some of the jokes don’t hold up well after seventy-odd years, but a surprising number of the strips are funnier than ever. For that reason alone, this facsimile edition is well worth reading. And, as a historical record of the early days of Taliaferro’s craftsmanship, it is a treasure for Disney duck enthusiasts like me.

Four-Color #13 was a comic adaptation of The Reluctant Dragon (1941) and related stories from the movie of the same name, complete with photos of Robert Benchley’s in-movie tour of the Disney lot. It also included a text adaptation of “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment from Fantasia. The art, largely copied from the movie’s animation cels, was by Irving Tripp and Jack Hannah. As a historical record of the first original Disney comic, this is interesting. However, the stories themselves don’t hold up well for modern readers. In addition, the layouts are stiff, with an odd combination of text narration and word balloons that does not flow well. Unless you are a Disney completist, I recommend skipping Four-Color #13.

BOOM! Studios has done a great job with their Disney reprints, with quality reproduction at an affordable price. Reportedly, they are discontinuing their reprint license with Disney, so there may not be any more volumes in this series. Perhaps Marvel, which is now owned by Disney, will take up where BOOM! leaves off. Taliaferro and other lesser known classic Disney artists deserve more recognition. In the meantime, Fantagraphics is continuing their wonderful hardcover collections of Gottfredson’s Mickey Mouse dailies, and they are scheduled to soon begin publishing Barks’ Uncle Scrooge comics.

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