Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Alex Toth Animation Designs...

Steve Rude's Space Ghost drawing made me want to look on YouTube for some Alex Toth-designed cartoon shows, but Jack Kirby's birthday weekend had me doing searches for his stuff instead. John Kricfalusi hates Alex Toth's TV cartoon work, but I really dig it. I don't love the cartoons themselves. The animation is herky-jerky and rather unpleasant and the dialogue is heavy on the simple declaratives. It really does seem to be written by people who assumed children to be sugary-cereal-infused animals barely above cognitive level of chimps or orangutans.

But every so often, some pure Tothian line will show through. Quite possibly what H-B was trying here was actually impossible-- animating Toth's elegant drawings. But even the slapdash assembly-line production of cheap-ass 60s TV cartoons can't completely obscure the genius of Toth. Some shines through despite the overall futility.

Toth could flat-out draw and in his comics work is perfectly paced, the ideal the ebb-and-flow of a page, at least American-style. Kojima Goseki is the ultimate "cinematic" storyteller overall, but Toth-- while not as inventive as Will Eisner nor as powerful as Jack Kirby-- is also quite fine and rarely equaled. Toth understood not every panel could be some boffo explosion, that you were going to have to also draw quiet conversations or even things he deemed "pedestrian."

A lot of today's top comic book artists are the visual equivalent of Celine Dion, always hitting high notes and shrieking away despite the paltry, flimsy quality of the material. Toth would be more like a Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald, backing off, giving the song-- or story-- room to breath, letting the audience settle back before hitting a grace note. Soft LOUD soft works a whole helluva lot better when you want loud to have impact than LOUD LOUD LOUD.

Anyway, I like the look of this "Birdman" cartoon. Actually, I think my ideal comic book artist would be someone combining the humanistic creativity of Jack Kirby, the rendering of Alex Toth (and many of his panel designs), the storytelling of Kojima Goseki and the appeal of Takahashi Rumiko.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Better Jack "King" Kirby TV Animation Stuff: Thundarr the Barbarian

I can't leave off my day of Jack Kirby tributes with a slam job on Grantray-Lawrence and some of Marvel's shoddier 1960s offshoots. Let's look at something fun. Something cool. Something nice.

After leaving Marvel a second time in the late 1970s, Kirby did designs for Ruby Spears Productions, contributing secondary characters and villains to their 1980 post-apocalyptic epic Thundarr the Barbarian. Yeah, Thundarr's sword was nothing more than a re-purposed lightsaber and Ookla the Mok was essentially Chewbacca the Wookie, but I loved this show. Come to think of it, perhaps those were major reasons for my fondness for it.

Actually, there was another reason. Although Stever Gerber created the show, and Alex Toth designed the main characters (Princess Ariel is instantly recognizable as Toth's work), Thundarr has a definite Kirby feel to it. The concept is very reminiscent of Kamandi: The Last Boy on Earth. Kamandi issue #20 was one of my most-treasured comic books, and there's no way to overestimate its impact on my own storytelling sense and continuing taste for weird, ruined-earth settings; i.e., Planet of the Apes, Ark II, Mad Max and Mark Schultz's brilliant Xenozoic Tales-- the cartoon adaptation of which was reminiscent of both Kamandi and Thundarr, but with dinosaurs instead of Moks.

The stories were pretty exciting, with scripts by comics vets Gerber, Martin Pasko and Mark Evanier. The animation is pretty standard Saturday morning limited stuff, but light years better than The Marvel Superheroes. And Kirby more than likely got paid for his work this time around, so it also has that going for it.

The King on Saturday Morning Television: Marvel "Animation" of the 1960s!

I've really got Jack Kirby on the brain today. Here's a "classic" television cartoon from Grantray-Lawrence Animation. It's an adaptation of The Avengers #4 (March 1964), featuring the story "Capt. America Joins... The Avengers!"

Even by my rather low standards for post-modern ironic love of kitsch, there's little to recommend here beyond the drawings taken directly from Jack Kirby's artwork-- with George Roussos inks-- and the voice acting from none other than John Vernon, who would go on to play the conflicted former Confederate leader Fletcher in Clint Eastwood's action-packed The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) and Delta House's uptight nemesis Dean Wormer in the immortal comedy Animal House (1978).

Hmm. I guess I should mention he also played the mayor in Dirty Harry (1971), also starring Clint Eastwood, but directed by Don Siegel-- who has no connection whatsover to Grantray-Lawrence or Jack Kirby.

I hope Kirby got a royalty or percentage from his contributions to The Marvel Super Heroes-- the images here are exact reproductions of his comic illustrations. The image of Capt. America all covered in seaweed, lying on the bunk with the Wasp hovering overhead is a pretty memorable image from the book. But almost every scene in this cartoon is line-for-line Kirby and the overall effect is similar to what you'd get if you were lying on the floor listening to an audio dramatization from Power Records, holding the booklet inches from your face and tilting it while squinting.

Why do I have this feeling the King got squat, which makes this crap even more depressing?

Another Jack Kirby Interview Video...

This one has an introduction by Harlan Ellison. Remind me one of these days to tell you about the time Ellison got extremely pissed off at me. Not me specifically. I've never met him. But I'm reasonably confident he at one time or another fired a broadside aimed at some group or other of which I'm a member and I survived with just some shrapnel in my shin that aches on rainy days.

Jack Kirby on the Jack Kirby process:

I see that story first. I feel that story first. I know those people first. When I put them down, they've already lived.

It's Probably Best to Let Jack Kirby Speak for Himself...

Happy (Belated) Birthday, Jack Kirby!

It was yesterday. August 28, 1917 saw the birth of one Jacob Kurtzberg. He used a number of artistic pseudonyms early in his art career but soon settled on the name we know best: Jack Kirby. Or, as I like to call him, the King. If you ever hear me using that expression in a conversation, rest assured I'm discussing Jack Kirby and not Elvis Presley.

Unless I'm doing my horrible Presley impression. But you'll know the difference.

Jack Kirby is without a doubt my all-time favorite comic book creator. While there are others whose linework I strive to emulate in my one meagre efforts, Kirby remains my creative gold standard in all other respects. The concepts and characters that sprang from his fertile imagination! And his art is just so cool, with its idiosyncracies and wholly original stylistic elements; he, along with Will Eisner, created the visual vocabulary of the American comic book. Underpinning all of his stories is a love and understanding of humanity no doubt derived from his hardknock New York City upbringing and his formative World War II experiences. Even when Kirby depicted gods in his stories, they were still possessed of all the human frailties.

I believe Kirby, like some of the best American novelists of the 20th century, had this empathetic sense, and the skill to weave it into his stories. You might be rocketing into space with Reed Richards, Sue Storm, Johnny Storm and Ben Grimm to face the cosmic menace of Galactus in some ridiculous situation-- but the emotions were real. Visceral. Black Bolt walked with regal aloofness, but his enforced silence also meant deep loneliness and isolation. Darkseid contained all the things Kirby disapproved of in leaders, from Hitler to Nixon. Funky Flashman was his version of a the worst kind of glory-hogging, self-aggrandizing huckster boss, yet attractive in his optimism the way these guys usually are. Terrible Turpin and his death wish. Orion and his secret face and barely contained fury, Mr. Miracle and Big Barda the gender-role switched lovers.

Humans all. Kirby's legacy is one of humanism within the might and majesty of outrageous superheroics.

Happy birthday, Jack Kirby! Sorry I missed it!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Dude Draws Space Ghost...

Steve Rude really knows how to draw Space Ghost, doesn't he? Rude does a lot of commissions-- I believe-- but he also does pieces for reasons of his own. This one, I believe, he originally did in pencil to sell but no one bought it, so he inked it and then colored it with markers. The end result is so much visual fun.

Rude, of course, is an excellent renderer. Anatomy par excellence. But the thing I most admire about his work is his uncanny ability to capture the feel of a character. When he draws Peter Parker ogling Mary Jane Watson and Gwen Stacy, he doesn't swipe poses from John Romita or Gil Kane, but the end result looks as if someone found it while cleaning out an old filing cabinet of late 60s Marvel inventory pieces. When he draws Thor or a member of the Fantastic Four cast, it's as if Jack Kirby himself sat at his right side and offered advice. His Space Ghost drawing evokes Saturday morning in front of the TV, bowl of Cap'n Crunch or Cocoa Pebbles, Mego Star Trek action figure and Mrs. Beasley doll commercials every five to ten minutes.

He doesn't seem to have that same acumen for DC characters for some reason, unless they're ones Kirby created, like Darkseid or Orion. Don't get me wrong-- you get the ace drawings, just not the atmospherics. He does draw a wicked Black Canary and Zatanna, though. Perhaps their mostly black costumes seem to lend themselves to negative space design work and interesting silhouettes, and the Dude rises to the challenge.

Wow! Great! Wash Your Face and Try Again... in 3D Next Time!

bande annonce - Battle Royale 3D バトル・ロワイアル3D 予告編
Uploaded by hideto42. - Check out other Film & TV videos.

BR in 3D. That's right! Toei Company has converted the cult classic Battle Royale into current gimmick format 3D for a November 20th release. I suppose as a 3D skeptic and Battle Royale super-fan I should be outraged or something, but I'm not. I'm happy the movie is getting a re-release. As much as I love this movie, it's not exactly a work of art. We're not talking colorizing Citizen Kane here, and we've already seen special editions and a crappy sequel. Battle Royale is a pulp movie all the way, meant to be watched through partially-closed fingers or else clinging in fear to someone's letterman sweater-- that's how I first experienced it, and man, that guy was pretty angry and surprised-- in a rocking theater full of drunks and carnival rowdies. So I applaud anything that puts it back on the big screen.

My only concern is the visual quality. The movie's cinematography is already on the murky side, and from what I understand, 3D conversions sometimes further darken images. Apparently, that was one of the many, many, many, many, many failings of M. Night Shyamalan's much-derided Last Airbender fiasco. What's the point of a movie known for its groovy ultra-violence by the likes of Aki Maeda, Kou Shibasaki and Chiaki Kuriyama if we can't see all the gore?

By the way, the local Books-A-Million has volume one of Tokyo Pop's hardcover Battle Royale Ultimate Edition. Battle Royale is one of those rare cross-media events where I actually prefer the movie to either the prose novel or the manga. The novel and the comic lack Maeda, Shibasaki and Kuriyama for starters.

But more importantly, I find the novel's English translation flaccid. It doesn't help that the plot is pretty repetitive-- unless you like detailed descriptions of weaponry followed by flatly-written death scenes, forty or so of them. It's been a while since I read it, but it was a slog and I'm not sure what happened to my copy. Big disappointment.

The comic, with Keith Giffen's localization, more than makes up for the book's dullness by turning almost every character into an over-the-top deviant, pervert or baby whore. To call the results lurid is to understate them. I tried to hold out long enough to reach the Takako Chigusa sequence-- that's where Chiaki Kuriyama made her cinematic bones and earned the part of Gogo Yubari in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill-- but gave up in despair and disgust a chapter or so short of my goal.

The movie more wisely generates pure horror by depicting most of the kids-- with a few notable exceptions-- as pretty much your average, ordinary 9th graders. After all, its tagline is, "Could you kill your best friend?" Sure, if she's a psychotic extortionist and casual murderer who pimps me out to yakuza hoods. I'd kill her twice! But otherwise? No, definitely not.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Tana Nile Free-style!

Steve Rude posted a marker drawing he's doing of Tana Nile dancing for an appreciative Thor. The God of Thunder has always been a connoisseur of the performing arts, dance in particular. He was an early supporter of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and in The Mighty Thor issue #146 (November, 1967)-- after defeating the Circus of Crime-- Thor declares to both Odin and Balder:

Verily, dance is for everybody! I do heartily believe that the dance hath come from the people-- and that it should always be delivered back unto the people!

While I'm an expert on Thor, obviously, my knowledge of Tana Nile is regrettably limited. For example, I'm not sure how to pronounce her surname. Nile. Is it pronounced like the river in Egypt, or more like "Nigh-lay?" Or even "Nee-lay?" In Japan, it would probably sound a lot like "Nee-day."

Curious about our tiny dancer, I did some Google stalking. Tana Nile is a Rigellian and, as such, has an enormous head. You'd think such a massive cabeza would give her a high center of gravity and make dancing difficult. Apparently not; Tana must be pretty used to it by now, possessed of powerful neck muscles and an ability to compensate and maintain her balance. I also have an oversized head and I'm a pretty smooth dancer myself, so it's at least possible.

I learned Tana Nile originally came to earth to colonize our planet for her people, and she disguised herself as Jane Foster's roommate. Since Jane Foster and Dr. Donald Blake were such good buddies, this caused some sort of conflict with Thor. Tana took control of Jane's will, which created friction between the roomies. Also, Tana ate the last of Jane's Fruity Pebbles cereal and left the unwashed bowl in the sink all day. Goaded on by an enraged and hungry Jane Foster, Thor punched Tana Nile into last week, where she mended her ways by buying an extra box of Fruity Pebbles so when the time came around again, the roommates had plenty of their favorite comfort food, thus avoiding the conflict in the first place.

Marvel storytelling in the 1960s was pretty trippy, dude!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"The Walking Dead" TV Series Trailer

This is exactly why I don't go to hospitals. Last year, I accidentally decapitated myself while bowling with friends, put my head back in place and sealed it with with masking tape just to avoid an extended hospital stay where I'd wake up from a coma to discover Japan overrun with flesh-eating zombies.

You know, as opposed to vegan zombies.

Seriously, though, this is one of my main phobias: an extended hospital stay, followed by zombie apocalypse. And while you'd think this particular fear-- so intense I self-treated a catastrophic injury that should have resulted in my death-- would prevent me from enjoying Robert Kirkman's zombie-heavy comic series The Walking Dead, you'd be wrong. But don't feel bad. I assumed as much myself, until I started reading the series and fell in love.

Anyway, I thought I'd licked this fear. I moved back to the United States, began treatment with a boffo cognitive therapist. I was almost ready for the final stage of desensitization-- crashing my car into a tree and spending several months in an actual hospital. And dammit, now there's a TV show version and the first episode is-- like comic's premiere issue-- set largely in my home state of Georgia. My relapse has been so severe, I spend most of my time hiding under my bed with canned dog food for sustenance, plus bottled water. I'm heavily armed, too, so don't get any ideas if you're a zombie and you're reading this.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

This Story Makes No Sense!

I can't figure out what's going on here. Protagonist? Story? Action-to-action, aspect-to-aspect? What the-- ?! This guy sucks!

This is a one-page sample of some old pieces I did back when I had access to a state-of-the-art Mac graphic design workstation. Oh baby, I still get chills! I put this together the other day for a job application and thought I'd share it and make fun of it.

You can see a few of my obsessions-- Japanese pop culture, Batgirl, giant, destructive ants. The ant pic was a t-shirt design for a band I'm not sure is even still a band. I hope so, and wish them all the best. The redesign of Krypto is pretty amusing. Actually, I'm not sure what that's supposed to be. I think I just found a silly looking dog and a littler person who was a professional wrestler and combined the them with some kid's Superman costume for a vaguely disquieting image. That was during my "poor man's Charles Burns" phase.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vinyl No Doubt Owned by Enid Coleslaw...


I like to imagine this record came out just this year. If so, these are the coolest kids ever. Even if not, they're still inspirational. McDonald Sisters-- you rock!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Whose Superpowers Are Best?

Ah, the eternal question! For shadowy reasons of my own, I just did a Google search for the phrase "Why puny humans not leave Hulk alone?" and travelled backwards in time-- "Impossible!" scoffs Dr. Stephen Hawking-- to the World Wide Web circa 1997, where I found some long-dead comic geek's attempt at grading the powers of various Marvel characters. Some of which I'm pretty sure he made up, or hallucinated. Apocalypse? Mr. Sinister? SPIDER-Man?

What outrageous lengths these comic book fans will go to in order to prove their points! You, sir (or madam), are a scoundrel! Should we meet at the public house, I shall be forced to subject you to such a snubbing, perhaps even with upturned nose! Then you will perhaps see the error of your ways and correct them forthwith and posthaste. Indeed.

But I'm left wondering who has the ideal superpowers. I suppose for overall effectiveness, it would have to be the practically god-like Superman. While I think his initial portrayal was powerful enough-- able to lift a car, capable of mile-long leaps, largely impervious to small arms fire and perhaps cannon shells-- the guy is off the scale now. While I seem to remember John Byrne as having dialed him down a notch back in the 1980s, Superman continues to set the standards-- which are then all but impossible to equal, much less surpass. Making them useless as standards, I suppose. Fortunately, Superman balances this out with his very human decency. Kryptonite? Magic? Forget that crapola. Superman's vulnerability is his heart.

Wonder Woman has pretty sweet powers. I'm not really sure what they are, but she seems to be a bit like Superman Lite. In DC's universe, Superman would represent the pinnacle of superpowerly perfection. There can only be one, or else you have two or more with equal abilities who fulfill the same role and they become redundant. It could just as easily be Wonder Woman, but Superman was there first. So Wonder Woman takes a lesser position, at least in terms of power levels. She's incredibly strong, largely impervious to harm and can fly-- I think. She also has those bullet-deflecting bracelets and her Lasso of Truth. But what makes her truly formidable is she's mentally tougher than Superman.

Brief foray into unfair dichotomies: If I had to choose between them, I'd pick Big Barda over Wonder Woman. Barda is a more interesting character. She's a fierce warrior who finds she loves the delicate Scott Free. I've always admired the way Jack Kirby inverted or subverted the traditional gender roles in their relationship. More than that, I love the idea of someone as rough-hewn and edgy as Big Barda also having a tender side so slight you might miss it unless you're her Mother Box or Mr. Miracle himself; but it's there. She loves and appreciates things both beautiful and soft, but is self-aware enough to know this is partially because she herself is neither. Kirby was a great storyteller not because he threw in a lot of cosmic vistas into his art or had a lot of cool stylistic flourishes or even created or co-created entire modern mythologies-- but because the man knew and understood human character as thoroughly as any of our most lauded prose novelists. In that respect, he blew his erstwhile collaborator Stan "the Man" Lee away. Kirby's Big Barda is one of Kirby's finest, most fully fleshed creations. Just perfect from the get go, sprung from his imagination like a new Athena.

Meanwhile, it's been nearly 70 years and DC still can't figure out what Wonder Woman is about.

Green Lantern. He has a ring. It's a good ring, but it's not intrinsic to his person. And he's some sort of galactic cop. Well, I fought the law and the law won. I probably shouldn't have been robbing people with a six-gun, but there you have it, mistakes of the past. So I have mixed feelings about this guy.

The Flash. He can run extremely fast. This would seem to make him something of a specialist. But writers have given him the ability to vibrate and for some reason this allows him to do all sorts of crazy things, making him a bit more useful than he might otherwise be. "Vibrate between the molecules of that unlockable door," his friends tell him. "It's the only way into the room where the Legion of Doom have hidden their Doomsday device." "Why can't Superman just rip the door off its hinges?" the Flash wants to know. "Don't ask so many questions!" they shout back at him.

Aquaman. Not to be confused with Aqua Velvaman, who smells nice and gets lots of dates. Aquaman is the go-to guy hack, would-be comedians (like me) rely on for easy mockery. But I always liked Aquaman. Our planet's surface is mostly sea, so he commands the largest realm of any earthly ruler; he's also an absolute monarch. This is a guy you don't want to piss off.

The Hulk. I've always wondered how the Hulk feels about his name, the Hulk. Does he realize it carries the superlative "The Incredible?" Doubtful. Poor Hulk seems fine with being called the Hulk, and uses it to refer to himself in the third person, like a common egotist, or illeistic reality show participant; hmm... I just decried redundancy. Sorry. I think the Hulk simply too stupid to realize his appellation is actually an insult, no doubt foisted on him by the press. So it's poignant when he uses it. The Hulk is simply strong. Not as strong as Superman, no doubt, but all of the Hulk's abilities proceed from this simple thesis-- the stronger you are, the more shit you can do.

Spider-Man. Spidey's got a nice spread of powers. He's strong, fast, acrobatic, tough enough to survive beatings that would kill ten Mickey Rourkes and a battalion of Bruce Willises. Plus he's got that funky spider-sense. I'm referring to the pre-organic webshooters Spidey. I'm pretty sure the organic webs would come out of his nose, his mouth, his penis or his anus rather than from his wrists, Marvel.

Wolverine. I used to like Wolverine when he was mysterious. Now we know all about him and he's a ludicrous, walking self-parody. Wolverine has his healing power and when that wasn't good enough, the dastardly Canadian government-- when will the tyranny end?-- covered his bones with a crazy, made-up metal. At first it seemed they also equipped him with his claws, but they were eventually proven to be a natural part of his power and could slice through things nicely enough before they were covered with the imaginary metal. Which once again, seems to suggest redundancy, since obviously his bones were already pretty dense and strong, not particularly in need of embellishment. Bone claws, however, are disgusting-looking, so I'm in favor of this modification for aesthetic reasons. But Wolverine comes a bit too close to fanboy wet dream, the kind of ostentatious character some kid would invent for an online role play which ruins it for everyone else.

While we're on the subject of mutants-- don't you think Marvel has taken this power source to ridiculous extremes, even for a fictional universe where a giant purple and magenta guy shows up from time to time to eat the earth? I mean, Wolverine's healing powers as a mutation are somewhat plausible, as are some psionics or telepathy, as well as the Beast's super agility. I'm not so sure I buy Nightcrawler's teleportation, but his deformed appearance might result from some recessive genes or something. We can work with that. Then we have Cannonball who shoots fire and smoke out of either his ass or feet and can fly through the air. Now any made up bullshit power a writer is too lazy to think of an excuse for is attributed to the mutant gene or factor or whatever. Why not just call it "magic?" We've got these people with bone blades coming out of their bodies and faces of energy, kids that resemble specific animals, teens with magical armor that has a specific, mechanically-inspired shape as if it were real, practical armor, rather than a more likely free-form, organic appearance, people who turn to water or smoke or ghosts.

Where does it end? A guy who vomits solid gold Cadillacs and has a flat-screen high definition television instead of eyes? Oh, it's okay; he has the X-gene. I'd accuse myself of reductio ad absurdum here, but we're already discussing absurdities in an absurd way.

And on that note, what superpowers would you most like to have?

Just to show what kind of loser geek I am, I'll tell you the nitpicking way in which I used to answer this question, asked of myself by myself on an almost daily basis during my eighth and ninth grade years, the height of my Uncanny X-Men/New Mutants fandom. I may have been a freak, but I wasn't stupid enough to voice any of this junk. Or even write it down before now.

If I'd been bombarded by cosmic rays, Gamma radiation, born under a red sun and rocketed to earth, created from clay and infused with magic by Aphrodite or bitten by a radioactive spider, I would have had no choice in the matter. My powers would have been simply received. So how could an ordinary kid possibly achieve the dream of comic book-obsessed dumbasses everywhere?

Well, short of some kind of scientific intervention, I used to imagine having three wishes. One of them, I decided, I would use to wish for a set of superpowers in order to help the world and be cool for a change. The other two wishes: one, to speak and understand all the world's languages with native-speaker fluency and two, to be able to play any musical instrument perfectly so I could actually perform or record the songs I was always writing in my mind.

Because I'd read W.W. Jacobs's 1902 short story "The Monkey's Paw" (and once adapted it, in horror comic EC-style, for an English Lit assignment), I knew wishes could easily go awry and needed to be worded carefully.

I imagined I'd wish for Superman's powers-- why waste a wish on anything but the best? But I'd also try to explain the wish in such a way that I wouldn't end up causing more damage with them than good. For example, "But I'd be able to exact enough physical control over my super-strength that I could, for all intents and purposes, do all the things a normal human being could do without having to worry about squashing people accidentally."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Come the Fall, Come Cassandra Cain?

It may happen one gloomy November Wednesday, according to a news item at Comics Nexus. Cassandra Cain may emerge from the shadows as the last leaves of fall skitter across Gotham City rooftops, the cold, damp wind whipping her black hair as she glares purposefully at the urban nightmare below, the old familiar violent urges rising in her battered soul...

Good lord, could I possibly go more purple? Yes, once again some crazy, never-say-die fool has asked DC staffers about Cass Cain at a comic convention panel, and once again they've given the corporate maybe. during a Q-and-A at the 2010 San Diego Comic Con, Batman group editor Mike Marts allegedly said we might see Cass sometime in November. This is really getting to be something of a running joke. I wonder if the people at Subway ask him, "Would you like cheese on your turkey sandwich and will Cassandra Cain be coming back to continuity anytime soon?"

"Yes to your first question on the cheese, noncommital answer that isn't exactly a no but also isn't an outright lying promise yes so my personal sense of integrity remains intact and will hopefully prevent you insane Cass fans from stabbing me through the heart with a replica batarang to the second."

Comics Nexus asks, "But, where is the question. So many choices to choose from. So, where do you think Cassie’ll turn up and what will her nom de guerre be?"

I think she'll turn up in Birds of Prey and her new codename will be "Once Awesome Character Reduced to a Pathetic Shell by Editorial Fiat and Scripter Incompetence Girl." They'll bring in special Batgirl expert Adam Beechen to story-consult, and Ed Benes will draw her as a 30-year-old stripper with gigantic half-bowling balls serving as her breast implants; her skin will be colored brownish to indicate indeterminate, i.e., non-European ethnicity; her height will appear to alternate between 5'10" and 9'; every panel in which she appears will show her chest and her buttocks simultaneously; she will frequently seem to be floating, sometimes impossibly close-- unless she truly does exist in a two-dimensional reality-- to whatever oddly-designed piece of furniture or bizarre, non-functional looking high tech equipment she's near or on or over; and she'll trip and fall to her death under a runaway steamroller, forever settling the question of "What plans does DC have regarding Cassandra Cain in the future?"

All in the space of a single page. Thanking you in advance, DC.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The New Spider-Man Actor...

I don't know anything about this Andrew Garfield cat, but from some angles in this video, he looks pretty Peter Parkeresque. Hmm... Maybe I should have typed "Andrew Garfield guy.*" My apologies.

The big question is: How will the Internet respond? As I recall, people weren't too happy about Tobey Maguire's casting in the role. He wasn't my first choice (that would be me, and you have no idea how close this came to actually happening-- I detail the whole sordid saga in my forthcoming Hollywood tell-all memoir), but once Sam Raimi made his pick, I felt it was a brilliant piece of casting. Much better than Wizard Magazine's suggestion of Leonardo DiCaprio. As I'm completely ignorant of Garfield's work, I'm basing my initial opinion solely on his physical appearance, and I'm tentatively satisfied. Garfield could be a John Romita-era Parker/Spidey. Later, as more info about the film's direction comes out I'll wonder if he has the acting chops and if he'll even need them for this movie?

My hope is for a couple of resounding yesses. I like an action movie emphasizing character and acting over mammoth special effects-driven set pieces. Certainly we'll get those; this is a huge superhero flick, after all. But the character stuff isn't a given and I view it the way people used to view quality effects and music back in the day; we didn't go to see Jaws because we expected a realistic shark. If it had been, it would've merely been icing on the cake. Now the CGI shark is more important than having a coherent story and actors who can give line-readings that don't sound like cut scene voice overs from a 1993 computer game. A million work-hours will go into creating realistic sunlight-shadow play around the shark's lower precaudal pit-- this aspect will receive its own mini-featurette on the special edition 4-DVD release-- but they'll start filming without a finished script draft.

So if there's one good performance or a single memorable, quotable line in any of these damned things, I'm over the moon with joy.

Classic values like acting, directing, screenplays and dramatic unities used to count for something before movies became mere marketing points-- grotesquely overpriced and increasingly artificial ones to boot-- in mammoth multimedia extravaganzas. Lost in a flood of fast food ad campaigns, toys, video games, pirated DVD releases with Cantonese subtitles and American Chopper theme bikes, summer movies now are almost afterthoughts, if you can consider something that costs $300 million and has enough delirously nonsensical plot threads to serve any eight conventional melodramas-- Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, I'm looking at you-- an "afterthought."

Actually, I could just as easily look at the third Sam Raimi-helmed Spidey movie, a bloated mess that seems to have made this completely revamped version necessary to Sony's rapacious shareholders. But in the first two movies, Raimi managed to please just about everyone. Movie buffs like me who also happen to like superheroes received plenty of cine-substance, superhero fans who just wanted to see Spidey slinging webs all over the place got a lot of cool effects sequences and obsessive Tobey Maguire fans got Maguire spank-material by the bucketful. And those are the only kinds of people who go to movies: cinephiles, comic freaks and Tobey Maguire masturbators. Do you realize how difficult it is to please all three of those demographics with a single film?

*When the new movie comes out, some phantom editor should go to work on a version called Spider-Man Minus Andrew Garfield. It'll be just the supporting cast reacting to nothing.