Monday, March 31, 2008

Adventureblog Gallery: Godzilla art by my six-year-old

Yes, I'm turning the blog into my refrigerator door today. But what can I say? These are awesome.

King Ghidorah



Rodan



Mothra

Adventureblog Theater: Captain America

I probably should've saved this for the Fourth of July or something, but oh well. Just thought it would be fun to see how Captain America has been interpreted on screen through the years.

1944



1966



1979



1990

...sort of. This is actually way better than the movie it was pieced together from, though the vocals aren't quite safe for work.

Countdown to Haiti: D-7

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Saturdays with Jane: Emma (1997)

I'm going to have to keep this short today. The Countdown to Haiti is starting to take on a whole new meaning because I've got preparations to make and about a week to make them in. Yikes.

The Gwyneth Paltrow version of Emma was the first time I saw a Jane Austen movie and wasn't able to get into it. I thought it might have something to do with Gwyneth because I'm pretty lukewarm about her to begin with, but now that I've had a chance to see the version starring Kate Beckinsale, someone I really, really like a lot, I think it wasn't all Gwyneth's fault.

Over at the Masterpiece site, Andrew Davies reveals that Austen predicted my reaction a couple of hundred years ago. In the intro to the Masterpiece presentation, Gillian Anderson claims that the character of Emma Woodhouse is ironic because the more obnoxious she is, the more we like her. That's not my reaction at all. Davies quotes Austen as saying, "She is a heroine who no one but myself will much like." I think I'm going to have to side with Jane on this one.

Davies goes on to sum up my problem with the story:
...Emma is so arrogant and snobbish. She treats other people like toys, or pieces on a chessboard. She moves them around saying, "You've got to go with that one, and you've got to go with that one," as if they've got no will or taste or imagination of their own.
I feel like I need to see Gwyneth's version again, because I think I owe her an apology. I remember liking the end of her version, or at least feeling some satisfaction that she's really truly learned her lesson. As I was watching Kate's version, I only remembered two scenes from Gwyneth's. One was the picnic scene and Mr. Knightley's (the only character from the story I really like) laying into Emma for being so mean. The other memorable scene was towards the end when Emma realizes that she loves Knightley and we witness her extreme, repentant gratitude that she may not have lost him forever.

Like I said, I need to see that version again to be sure, but that's the impression I remember. I didn't get any of that from Kate's version though. With Kate, we see that Emma has learned her lesson, but I guess I wanted more penance. She still looks a bit haughty and pleased with herself at the end, even though she's sworn off meddling with the love lives of others.

Two of five Mr. Knightleys.

Countdown to Haiti: D-9

Friday, March 28, 2008

Thursday Night Think-- No, Wait!: Marvel Girl, Scarlet Witch, and Black Widow vs. Hydra

I've been thinking I should get into Thursday Night Thinking for a while. Now I can kill two birds with one post.

Think, Marvel Girl! Think, Scarlet Witch! Kick Hydra in the face, Black Widow!



Also can create enough trouble for everyone.

Writing is Hard: Putting the audience last, part 342

I've got some reviews coming (Doomsday and The Bank Job, at least), but I haven't been able to get to them yet. I've got a set of interviews coming for Newsarama that's been taking all the time I usually spend for reviewing.

So instead, I'm gonna talk about writing some more. I've added a Writing is Hard link to the sidebar under Writing Craft and Life. It's basically a collection of my posts on the craft of writing, but I don't mind recommending them because hardly any of them contain original ideas by me. Most of them are other people's ideas and me just sort of learning aloud as I share them. Anyway, good stuff in there.

One of the recurring themes in Writing is Hard has to do with the obligation (or more accurately, the lack thereof) that writers owe to their audiences. This seems like a hard idea for readers and fans to swallow, but the more I listen to writers talk about it, the more I believe that you have to write (or draw or paint or whatever) first for yourself and then hope that people dig what you're doing.

This comes up again because of a recent(ish) post by Cheryl Lynn on the whitewashing of non-white characters. I mention this with some fear and trembing partly because I absolutely love Cheryl Lynn and I think she's right pretty much all of the time. And as far as her main point goes, she's absolutely right this time too.

But I'm mostly nervous about saying what I'm going to say because I'm not going to address her main point other than to agree with it. Instead, I'm going to nitpick her suggested solution to the problem:
[There] are those artists who have wonderful artistic skills but simply think that white women are the most beautiful women on earth. Scratch that. The only beautiful women on earth. And because they believe that all heroines should be beautiful, the result is that they depict non-white heroines with stereotypically white features. They give a character like Storm the features they think a beautiful woman should have instead of the features a beautiful woman from Kenya would likely have.

And that's a problem. How do you resolve it? Well I certainly wouldn't want anyone to change what he or she finds to be beautiful. Hell, that's impossible to do anyway. But those artists will have to work against their brains a bit. Those artists may think that giving a character a wider nose or eyes without lid creases will make that character unattractive. What needs to be realized is that the audience has a much broader definition of what is attractive. Have you ever given someone a gift that you didn't like but you knew the other person would love? You put the other person first. Those artists need to put the audience first.
The bold text is my emphasis, because that's where I disagree with her. I would much rather see Vixen (and Jubilee and any number of other whitewashed characters) drawn accurately, but I don't think my wishes on the matter should affect how any particular artist chooses to draw. There's a lot I don't like about Ed Benes' art, but I don't think he needs to change it to suit me. Not if that's the way he really, truly wants to express himself artistically. He should absolutely be able to draw however the hell he wants. I don't have to like it though and I don't have to buy his stuff.

Now please don't get me wrong and think I'm saying that Cheryl Lynn or anyone else doesn't have the right to complain about this. They so do. But the complaint needs to be married with a strong, economic message that those who are concerned about this aren't going to keep spending money on it. The solution isn't for Benes to suddenly change his art style because someone wants him to. The solution is for DC to hire another artist because no one's buying Ed Benes anymore. Then, if Benes isn't getting work and decides to rethink how he's expressing himself, that's something he's going to have to wrestle with. But it's not going to happen - nor should it happen - just because we're crying out, "Think of the fans!" while continuing to buy whatever he's putting out.

Thinking of the fans, after all, is what got us Venom in Spider-Man 3. It's what got us Nikki and Paulo in Lost. It's why most fantasy novels suck and why there are three billion new vampire-romance novels published every week. Thinking of the fans makes creators less creative. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that Benes draws the way he does precisely because he is thinking of the fans. Just not ones like me.

Adventureblog Gallery: Vampires, cowboys, the Dread Pirate Roberts, and Perils on Planet X

Vampire girl



By Robert McGinnis. (There's naked people in that link.)

Stagecoach shootout



Also by Robert McGinnis. (Everybody's got clothes on in this one. And this one. And this one.)

The Princess Bride



By Doug Sirois.

Perils on Planet X



By Eduardo Barreto.

Adventureblog Theater: Metal Thor, Wonder Woman ad, Horror Noir, and Toddler Star Wars

Star Wars. By a toddler.

You've all seen this already, right? Well, just in case...



Steve Niles and Bernie Wrightson's Dead, She Said



Wonder Woman doll

I love how the announcer's voice in this sounds like he's a serial killer giving clues to the police.



Thor: God of Metal

As long as we're doing weird things to superheroes. (Via.)

Countdown to Haiti: D-10

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Writing is Hard: Mediocre doesn't cut it anymore

This article by Steven Grant is a couple of weeks old, but it makes a point that I want to reinforce. Grant says:
It's not uncommon to hear some, even among top talents in the industry, talking about how comics are just comics, will always just be comics, should always just be comics, and anyone in comics thinking otherwise is a pompous self-loather trying to rise above their station. And they're wrong.

The American comics industry has lived for a long time on its own relatively isolated little island, where things have developed under fairly unique circumstances. But the medium's no longer an island; only the business is. And now only if we choose to be. Because comics are mainstream now, as mainstream as anything. They're acceptable. They're accepted.
Comics have been in the literary ghetto for a long time. I remember a quote that I think was by Warren Ellis maybe? I can't find it now, but whoever it was who said it was actually quoting a Japanese director and talking about how when no one's paying attention to your stuff, you have a lot of room to be bold and take big risks.

Unfortunately, for a lot of creators, having no one around to read your books just meant that you could be lazy and put out crap. I know because as a comics reviewer, I've read a lot of it. I've even bought some of it because I was wanting something new to read and there just weren't a lot of choices available. But there are choices now and that means that everyone's got to bring their best to the marketplace.

As Grant says:
Just "making comics" isn't good enough anymore. Used to be – and a lot of creators and would-be creators still operate like this – that to "make comics" all you'd need is some rough idea and somebody to draw pictures about it, and because it was in comics format and the market was predisposed to be sympathetic, it was easy to pass that off as a story. The comics industry was considered to be working under special circumstances, and special dispensation was handed out like Halloween candy.

If you haven't noticed, even on our little island sympathy is a scarce commodity these days. There are still plenty of books flooded out there that are incoherently written, or have art that doesn't mesh with the subject matter, or are seemingly plotted via dart board, or lack noticeable structure or hooks, or are predicated on ideas that are utterly unoriginal or uninteresting. There are also a lot of comics that don't sell to save their souls, though the two things never quite hit a one-to-one correlation. It's pretty obvious that at a lot of companies the title "editor" is sort of an honorific handed out and a lot of people claiming the title have no editorial training and an infirm grasp of what exactly an editor is supposed to do.

There was a time when all of that was good enough, when the industry and the market may not have considered any of that good, exactly, but it was considered good enough.

Now it's just not good enough. It's time to reimagine what constitutes a "good" comics story, and how this applies to the growing graphic novel market.
I'm finding that's true in my own comics buying. I'm less and less willing to shell out three bucks for a crap - or even mediocre - comic. I want Awesome. And I finally have enough choices that I think I can get Awesome.

But the real message for me here is that if I'm going to write comics, I've also got to deliver Awesome.

Adventureblog Gallery: Trolls, Carson of Venus, and Devil Dinosaur

Trolls



I had a hard time picking one image from the Hollywood Animation Archive's huge collection of paintings from Swedish Christmas annual, Bland Tomtar Och Troll. This one's by John Bauer and I found it here, but really you need to browse at least here, here, and here as well.

Carson of Venus



By John Coleman Burroughs.

Moon-Boy and Devil Dinosaur



By Dan Boyd.

Adventureblog Theater: Occasional Superheroine Edition

I don't always agree with Valerie D'Orazio's opinions and conclusions about the comics industry or anything else, but dang does she know how to find cool YouTube videos.

Dance, Logan, Dance!



Tom Cruise is Crazy

I'm sort of in love with sweetafton23. Ah, the Internet.



Pepsiwoman

See? Superheroes could be a lot weirder.



Asian Walken

Personally, I thought Balls of Fury was hilarious and I don't think Christopher Walken was playing an Asian guy. That doesn't make this rebuttal any less funny. But then, people imitating Walken are always funny.

Countdown to Haiti: D-11


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Happy Keira Day!

Guess who turns 23 today?



Happy Birthday, Miss Swan! Hope you get to take the day off to just pamper yourself and do your toes.

Marvel Comics in June

Here's what's new and exciting from Marvel this June.

Skaar: Son of Hulk #1



Greg Pak is some kind of genius. He takes these unbelievably improbable concepts like "Hulk in Space" and "Hercules ongoing series" and turns them into fascinating comics that I love.

Actually, now that I read that again, those aren't improbable concepts at all. They're concepts that by all rights should be Awesome, but I wouldn't have believed anyone could realize their potential. "Hulk's Son in Space" is just like those and I've learned to trust Pak now.

And that cover really helps too.

Secret Invasion: Runaways/Young Avengers #1 (of 3)



Okay, Marvel's Secret Invasion event? Really don't care. But the Runaways and Young Avengers are two of my favorite superteams and I'll always check out a new adventure.

Secret Invasion: Who Do You Trust?



And that goes triple for Agents of Atlas and anything with Jeff Parker's name on it.

Young Avengers Presents #6



Speaking of Young Avengers, my favorite member of that team is Kate Bishop, the new Hawkeye. Give her a solo issue and it's all mine. Have Matt Fraction write it and you get a hug. C'mere, Marvel.

Art du Jour: Killer apes and Western werewolves

Murders in the Rue Morgue



By Berni Wrightson, who has more awesome Poe illustrations here, here, and here.

Western Werewolves



Guy Davis has made a killer bookplate in promotion of Matt Maxwell's Werewolf Western Strangeways.

Adventureblog Theater: The Transformers movie that might have been

Wonder what the live action Transformers would've looked like if they'd kept the original designs? Pretty cool, actually.

Countdown to Haiti: D-12

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Awesome List: The Last One (but not really)

I've been cross-posting items from the Awesome List to the Newsarama blog for a little while now and it's getting hard to remember what I've posted where. So, to help me stay organized, starting tomorrow I'll be moving this whole feature over to Newsarama. I've been wanting to get more involved over there anyway.

I'll probably keep linking to it from here though.

Alternative Rocketeers



Not that Dave Stevens' character needed re-designing, but Project: Rooftop realizes that. These are simply fun, nice homages.

Jezebel James RIP

Back when I was actively searching out Jesse James-related links because of Jesse James vs. Machine Gun Kelly, I started following news about the Gilmore Girls creator's new show, The Return of Jezebel James. I liked The Gilmore Girls a lot, so I figured I'd check it out, but I missed that it was coming on this month.

And now I'm too late.

Oh, well. At least I didn't get hooked on it first.

Women of Star Trek



In honor of Shatner's birthday over the weekend, EE Knight put together a retrospective of the many women of the original Star Trek series. There's kind of a creepy poll that goes along with it, but it's still a cool pictorial.

Art of the Day: Sea Devils, a giant robot, and the new Wonder Woman

Sea Devils



By Russ Heath. More here and here.

Spear and giant robot



By Dub.

The new Wonder Woman artist



Aaron Lopresti's first Wonder Woman page.

Adventureblog Theater: Thundarr the Barbarian

Enough with the Transformers and G.I. Joe movies. When are we getting a live-action Thundarr?



Countdown to Haiti: D-13

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Awesome List: Fantastic Four and Jericho RIP; my collaborators have lives outside of me

Johnny Storm says, "No more Fantastic Four... probably."



Chris Evans was my favorite part of the Fantastic Four movies. He continues to impress with this interview in which he talks frankly about the failings of the movies and how he's pretty much giving up on the idea that they'll have a chance to get better.

Here's hoping he'll get his wish for a Johnny Storm appearance in some of the other Marvel movies though. (Via.)

Jericho RIP

Speaking of giving up, that's what CBS has done with Jericho.

It's too bad. I've been frustrated with the accelerated pace of this abridged season, but I've put up with it in hopes for a normal, third one. Hopefully Skeet Ulrich will find something else soon. First Miracles; now this.

Jess Hickman on Oddly Normal



Jess Hickman is a friend and sometime collaborator of mine. Her current project is illustrating the most recent volume of Otis Frampton's Oddly Normal comic for Viper, the first two chapters of which you can read here.

Speaking of friends and co-workers

My Jesses James vs. Machine Gun Kelly co-writer Alex Ness has started a new comics blog.

DC Comics in June

Here's some new stuff that looks good from DC in June.

Trinity #1



I'm not completely sold on this yet. One the one hand, I'm not a big fan of the art there and I didn't enjoy Countdown as much as I wanted to. On the other, it's effectively a new, weekly Wonder Woman series co-starring Superman and Batman and written by Kurt Busiek. Gotta at least try it out.

Birds of Prey #119



Even if it's just for one issue, Black Canary's returning to Birds of Prey makes me want to read it. And look! Manhunter!

Speaking of which...

Manhunter #31



FINALLY!

Chuck #1



Are you kidding me? The only thing that would make me more excited is a Burn Notice comic.

Art of the Day: TV Super Heroes, Tarzan vs. a pterodactyl, and TMNT

TV Super Heroes



By Alex Ross.

Tarzan vs. a pterodactyl



By Frank Frazetta.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle



By Dub.

Adventureblog Theater: Message from Space

It's unheard of now, but when Star Wars was originally in theaters, it stayed there for about a year. We didn't have no DVDs or video tapes to watch over and over again. If you wanted to see it again, you went back to the theater.

But eventually it had to leave, and that left me and a lot of other kids looking for something to fill the hole in our little, nerdy lives. I hoped beyond hope that Message from Space might be it.

It wasn't.









Countdown to Haiti: D-14

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Saturdays with Jane: Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor



What do you know? I can finish a novel when I put my mind to it. I'd just about given up hope. And with a week to spare in the month too. Now the question is: do I tempt Luck and try to squeeze something else in before starting Jane and the Man of the Cloth for April? Or do I play it safe and get an early start on Man of the Cloth?

Best to play it safe, knowing me. Besides, after finishing Scargrave I'm excited to get cracking on the next one. I've read it a couple of times before too and know what to expect. There are pirates.

Scargrave also has a cool, un-Austen-like element to it, but I can't tell you what it is without ruining the whole thing. It's unfortunate though, because it's my favorite part of the book and I want to go on and on about it. Still, there are other things to recommend this first novel in Stephanie Barron's Jane Austen Mysteries.

The action picks up right after Jane's accepted Harris Bigg-Wither's marriage proposal and then turned him down less than 24 hours later. Still reeling from the event and wanting to get away from the local scandal it's caused, she gladly accepts an invitation to join a newly-married acquaintance of hers named Isobel Payne at her husband's country estate, Scargrave Manor. On the very night of Jane's arrival though, Lord Scargrave becomes violently ill and passes away during the night. The following day, Isobel's maid has gone missing and a note from her is delivered implicating Isobel and her step-son in Scargrave's death.

That's as far as I'll go in the plot description, except to say another death occurs and the law becomes involved to the point that Jane feels obligated to find the murderer or murderers in order to clear Isobel's name. Barron asserts in her introduction that "a woman of (Jane's) intellectual powers and perception of human nature would enjoy grappling with the puzzle presented by a criminal mind whenever it appeared in her way. Her genius for understanding the motives of others, her eye for detail, and her ear for self-expression - most of all her imaginative ability to see what might have been as well as what was - were her essential tools in exposing crime." I can't argue with that. Don't want to either, since that proposition is the basis for Barron's whole series that I enjoy so much.

I think I mentioned before that I have a hard time reading Austen. That's because she - at least in Pride and Prejudice - takes such a leisurely approach to unfolding her story. There's not much action to pull you forward and it's hard for me to invest that much time in a story when the only motivation to keep reading is to see if Mr. So-and-So can ever fall in love with Miss Whatsername. I need some thrills to keep me interested.

The first time I read Scargrave, I read it as a straight mystery fan and I have to confess that read that way, it reads like an Austen book. Barron unfolds the story slowly and frequently interrupts it with details about English life in the early 1800s. There are all the balls and flirtations and silly girls and noble gentlemen and sincere friendships and backstabbing hypocrites and lovely walks through the countryside that you expect to find in an Austen story.

Barron also has an ear for Austen's banter though. Jane throws around quips and insults that frequently had me smiling if not chuckling out loud to myself. It's one of the reasons I've adopted Barron's version of Jane as the official one in my mind. I'm not ashamed to say that if I had to make a choice between the real Jane Austen and Barron's creation, I wouldn't hesitate to stick with Barron's. She's too charming and delightful a character.

Barron also fills Scargrave Manor with all sorts of other Austenian characters. There's Isobel, the true friend and damsel in distress. There's her step-son Fitzroy, an obvious (because Barron comes right out and says it) counterpart to Mr. Darcy. There are the late Scargrave's nephews George and Thomas Hearst: George being a serious man with ambitions to join the clergy; Thomas being a dashing military officer with a rascally side and the atmosphere of scandal hanging over him. There are Isobel's aunt and cousin, Madame and Fanny Delahoussaye respectively. Madame is just the kind of controlling mother so often depicted in Austen's novels and Fanny is a silly, flighty girl in love with the handsome, but equally flighty Tom Hearst.

Scargrave may not be a thrilling, fast-paced mystery, but it is a damn interesting Austen pastiche. What I love about it is that it gives me the flavor of an Austen book, but adds all these secrets and murders to keep things moving. Lord Harold Trowbridge, for instance, is another visitor to Scargrave Manor, but he's not especially Austenian. He has nefarious designs on Isobel's property in the West Indes and he's one of the most deliciously sinister characters I've ever had the pleasure of reading about. If they were to make a movie out of Scargrave today, he'd be played by Jason Isaacs. I remember when I first read the book that it was Trowbridge who kept me reading when it seemed like Jane wasn't uncovering clues quickly enough for me.

Five out of five dead bodies in the hay shed.

In related news, I had some time this afternoon, so I went by Once Upon a Crime and picked up the three Austen Mysteries that I don't have yet. Its been a while since I was there and I didn't realize that their annual Write of Spring event is going on. The place was packed with readers and local authors. Made me realize how much I miss shopping and going to readings and signings there. I'm not going to wait so long until my next visit.

Countdown to Haiti: D-16


Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday Night Fights: Simon Dark vs. Masked Goons

So, Simon's sneaking into this building where a bunch of masked goons are waiting to jump him.



Uh oh, Simon. They got the drop on you.



Heh. Hey, dude. Look out above.




Who you guys shootin' at? Hey, man. Simon's right next to--



You're toast now, buddy. He got Rico and it's just you left.




Gotcha for the KNOCK OUT!

Bahlactus ain't afraid of the Dark.

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