Friday, March 26, 2010

Spring Break



We're headed out of town tomorrow for Spring Break. Though I've been faithfully going to Wizard World Chicago for the last several years, it's been a long time since we've taken a family vacation there to visit friends and see the museums and stuff. We're especially looking forward to meeting Sue for the first time.

Anyway, the point of telling you that is to let you know that posting here will likely be light next week if I even get the chance to post at all. If I don't, I hope everyone has a great week and I'll see you on the other side.

Art Show: Every Girl Wants a Pony

Namora



Cosplayer Unknown; PhotoShopping by theblackhauke.

Bentlys Trading Post



By Robert McGinnis. [Golden Age Comic Book Stories]

Faeries, aliens, and more superheroes (some of them in fishnets) after the break.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Grading Aquaman: Justice League of America #7-10

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

Along the way we'll also poke some fun and/or express some frustration at the convoluted goofiness that infected DC's Silver Age comics.

It's been a while since we've done one of these, so if you need to catch up, here are Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.

Justice League of America #7: “The Cosmic Funhouse”

The Case: Aliens take over a carnival funhouse and use it to transport visitors back to the aliens’ world so that the aliens can take the visitors’ place and conquer Earth. There’s more to it than that, but the aliens’ scheme is way over-complicated, so that’s the short version.

Aquaman, Attack!: The JLA decides to go undercover to investigate the carnival in their secret identities. Since Aquaman doesn’t have one, he’s left behind to “report on any developments that may arise.” Oddly enough though, that’s not the end of his involvement.

At the carnival, Green Arrow, Wonder Woman, Flash, and Green Lantern are trapped. Flash and Green Lantern are replaced by aliens who return to JLA headquarters to send Superman, Martian Manhunter, and Batman on a wild goose chase. They also send Aquaman back to the carnival, thinking that he’ll be easily trapped as well. He’s not though and he ends up helping his four teammates who’ve been transformed into real-life funhouse mirror distortions of themselves so that they can’t use their powers. He doesn’t use his own powers and his role is completely supportive of the other heroes, but he does save the day.

Aquaman’s Participation Grade: C



Sea serpents, alien conquerors, and Felix Faust after the break.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Comics News: Grizzly Shark, Dino Boy, Mystery Society, and More

Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark



Sometimes, an idea comes along that's so obvious that you don't know why no one's thought of it before. Other times, you know exactly why no one has. Sea Bear & Grizzly Shark: They Got Mixed Up falls into the latter category, but that doesn't make it any less awesome. [Robot 6]

The Return of Reptil



I've been generally uninterested in the announcements about the new Avengers team members, much less all the various spin-offs like Avengers Academy. Most of the Academy members are new characters or people I've never heard of, but I was delighted to see this promo piece featuring Reptil (the boy with dinosaur powers). I was hoping Marvel would find a place for him.

Nick Mulder and Nora Scully, Firefly comics, and Pedal-Copters after the break.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pass the Comics: Sinbad, Conan, Deep Sea Spies, and More

I think I've finally stumbled onto a title for this feature. When my siblings and I were growing up, there was only ever one section of the newspaper we were interested in. "Pass the comics" was a common request in our house and I'm happy to pass these along to you.

The Captain's Quest



I don't know much about the characters of Zip and Li'l Bit, but their latest adventure takes place on a whaling ship. The webcomic just started and updates every Sunday. [By Trade Loeffler.]

K-51: Spies at War



I've shared this one before, but it popped back up on Golden Age Comic Book Stories again [you have to scroll down aways to get to this story] and it's one of my favorites. As the title suggests, it's not just tentacles that our hero has to deal with. It's also filthy Nazi deep sea divers.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad



By John Buscema. [Hairy Green Eyeball 2]

The Castle of Otranto



I love a good Gothic Romance story. Unfortunately, a lot of them tend to be tortuously long and rambling novels, but Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto isn't one of those. It's short, sweet, and chock full of vengeful ghosts, floating skulls, secret passages, swooning damsels, heroic young men, and of course a dark, evil, mustache-twirling villain. The adaptation for Adventures into the Unknown isn't nearly as fun and atmospheric as the book, but it's wonderfully illustrated by Al Ulmer. [Pappy's Golden Age Comics Blogzine]

Hour of the Dragon



The first part of Robert E Howard's Conan novel as adapted by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane. [Diversions of the Groovy Kind]

Escape from Planet Nowhere



Otis Frampton's giant robot webcomic has kicked off with a bang (and a couple of thooms).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Finding Aquaman



Colin from Too Busy Thinking About My Comics has a great series of posts about finding the "real" Aquaman amongst the various interpretations that DC has presented over the years [Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four]. Since I've spent some time here thinking about this myself, I was very interested in learning what he came up with.

While he does an excellent job of exploring various aspects of the character and suggesting how traditional "weaknesses" could actually be storytelling strengths in the right hands, I'm most indebted to his realization that there is no one, true Aquaman.
If I'm being honest with myself, I don't suppose that I can even say that I prefer the Aquaman of one era to that of another. The early stories are charming but often bland, the later ones become progressively more coloured by angst and re-vamps, until Aquaman isn't even Aquaman anymore. I really am partial to Aquaman, but there's never been an "Aquaman" for me.

It could rightly be said, therefore, that I don't actually like Aquaman at all. After all, I couldn't be a fan of Sherlock Holmes if I was lukewarm about the overwhelming majority of his appearances, if I had never believed that his character was consistently well-defined or involving enough. But I don't believe that's how we all grow to love certain comic books and certain comic book characters. I think there's a more natural and creative way that we engage with them. We take the images and the words that appeal to us and we - consciously and unconsciously - join up the dots to create, for example, an "Aquaman" that never existed, and never will, outside of our heads, the Aquaman against which the "real" Aquaman will always be measured, a personal Platonic ideal Aquaman.
Why Colin's right and why it has to be that way, after the break.

100-Page Check-In: Barnaby Rudge




After reading too many mediocre novels, I took a break from fiction for a few months to check out some other stuff (I highly recommend Craig Ferguson’s American on Purpose, by the way. Wow.), but I’m finally jumping back into it again. Starting with Charles Dickens was a risky move, but though essays like American Notes failed to grab me, I generally like his fiction. He rambles, but his wandering is always funny, descriptive, and entertaining, so I have a lot of patience with him. Rather than begin with something that I’ve read before – or even seen adapted for the screen – I picked Barnaby Rudge, which I knew nothing about.

My edition is from The Oxford Illustrated Dickens and I think I’ve now learned my lesson about reading the introductions to these volumes. Rather than tease you about what’s coming up, the Oxford intros tend to be full critiques with lots of spoilers. They’d make a lot better afterwords, so from now on I’ll put off reading them until I’ve finished the rest of the book. But in spite of my sort of knowing where the story is headed, I’m still very interested in getting there after reading the hundredth page.

There are a lot of characters to keep straight, but Dickens makes it pretty easy and he’s built a nice mystery to get us through the introductions. There’s a fabulous old mansion that’s been converted into a roadside inn and the book opens there with a couple of mysterious strangers who hurry away into the night. One is a handsome, well-dressed, young man; the other is a rough, dangerous scoundrel who prefers to keep his face hidden. As the young man rushes off to some romantic rendezvous, the inn’s patrons tell the other stranger a tale about another mansion nearby and the horrible murders that occurred there long ago. For some reason, this spurs the second stranger to action and he rushes off.

Love, violence, and mystery after the break.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Meet Michael May: SpringCon 2010



Jess Hickman, Paul Taylor, and I will all be appearing at SpringCon in Saint Paul on May 15-16. We'll be signing books, passing out free stickers, and chatting about comics or whatever else you want to chat about, so please make plans to come by if you're in the Twin Cities area. Look forward to seeing you.

Cownt Tales Review at Bookgasm



Rod Lott from Bookgasm wrote a very cool review of Cownt Tales #1. Bookgasm's a great site anyway (its recommendations are responsible for about 90% of my novel purchases) and in addition to running the blog, Rod's also one of the most entertaining critics around anywhere.
...this black-and-white book is rife with cattle puns. If that was all May could do, the project would equate to a mushy cow pattie, but he has a sharp wit about him, so COWNT TALES flies with a smile-ready spirit. Although it’s styled like a EC-hosted horror affair, humor is the name of the game, and May’s stable of artists — Gavin Spence, Paul Taylor and Jessica Hickman — pull it off with pizazz. Usually, indie comics projects of this kind lack in the art department; no such trouble here.

The best praise you can give a homegrown book like COWNT TALES is that you’d like to see more. And I sure as hell would.
Thanks, Rod!

"Stable" of artists... That's awesome.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief



Percy Jackson has a really cool concept. The Olympians - who've always fooled around with mortals - haven't grown any more chaste or careful in modern times, so they have lots of demigod offspring running around. Percy discovers he's the son of Poseidon - and what cooler god is there than that? - and has to be indoctrinated into this new world.

Beyond the concept though? It makes no damn sense. See the SPOILER-filled reasons after the break.

Elsewhere on the Internets: How Do Dinosaurs Comment on Reviews?

Here's what else I've been up to online lately.

Gorillas Riding Dinosaurs



I've posted a couple of columns since the last of these Elsewhere... updates. One was on cool, new adventure comics coming in May. Highlights include Cavemen in Space, a new Mouse Guard series, jungle men, Hellboy vs a vampire luchador and an evil turkey, the returns of some really great superheroes, the third season of Jericho, a couple of secret societies, Dracula, Frankenstein, Frenemy of the State, and that rarest of creatures: a truly original take on zombies.



The other GRD column - from a couple of days ago - was on Jane Yolen's Foiled. I approached it the only way I could - as someone relatively unfamiliar with Yolen's work - and enjoyed it, but not as much as I could have. Be sure to check out the comments on this one. Not only do Yolen fans very politely check in, but Yolen herself makes an appearance to respond.

Plump Sister



We finally start the section on Scrooge's nephew and I change my approach to talking about Dickens' original text.

Love for the Time of Chasmosaurs



I link to Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs a lot for a couple of reasons: 1) Dinosaurs are cool and 2) it's my favorite dinosaur blog. That's why I was so pleased to find out that Davor enjoys this blog too. Thanks, Davor!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Review: Alice in Wonderland (2010)



I was really, really skeptical about Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. I love Johnny Depp, but my least favorite roles of his have been the ones where he's covered up in a ton of make-up while directed by Tim Burton. Then there's Burton himself, whom I tend not to enjoy except on rare occasions. Alice in Wonderland however is one of those rare occasions.

Oh yeah. I also tend not to like Alice in Wonderland adaptations. Lewis Carroll's stories are fantastic odes to the joy and frivolity of childhood, but when you separate the "plot" from Carroll's narrative style, all you're left with is a bizarre series of unrelated scenes. Even Disney's version, previously the only one I've seen that I'd call even partially successful, has no real ending or even a particular point it's trying to make. It gets by purely on design and charm.

By making his version a sequel, Burton gets around that challenge. He's able to find the best parts of the various characters, come up with his own story about them, and make a point that - while different from Carroll's - is at least related to it. Carroll emphasizes the wonder of childhood in all its dreams and potential. Burton points out the necessity of not giving up those dreams as we enter adulthood. As Alice's father tells her early in the movie (and Alice later repeats to someone else), "You're mad. Entirely bonkers. But I'll tell you a secret. All the best people are."

The film's plot goes that Alice is being bullied into an engagement that she'd rather not be a part of. As the pressure to marry an offensive, but wealthy aristocrat builds, she sees a white rabbit and follows him down a hole where many of the initial events from Carroll's stories are repeated. She doesn't seem to remember any of it though and when she finally enters Wonderland there's some discussion by its inhabitants about whether the White Rabbit found the right Alice at all.

After the break: we discuss The Right Alice in a way that requires a SPOILER WARNING. Proceed with caution.

TV News: Rockford Files; Felicity Returns

The new Rockford Files just got even cooler



First Dirty Steve was announced to play Jim Rockford, now Pirate Steve is signed up to play Detective Becker. Next I'm kind of hoping they can get Monkey Steve for Angel. [The Ausiello Files]

Wilde Kingdom



You can probably file this under Stuff Nobody Cares About But Me, but Keri Russell's coming back to TV in a sitcom starring Will Arnett and created by the guys behind Arrested Development. I'm always happy to see Felicity alumni in new stuff, but especially Keri Russell. [The Ausiello Files]

Friday, March 12, 2010

How to Make a Tim Burton Movie

I absolutely loved Alice in Wonderland (I'll write a review as soon as I've had a chance to see it again; there's something I've gotta check out), so I carry no hard feelings about Tim Burton's movies in general. That said though, this is hilariously accurate:


Movie News: Da Vinci, The Shadow, Dan Dare, and Others

Leonardo da Vinci and the Soldiers of Forever



Not willing to let Marvel have all the fun, Warner Brothers is also turning Leonardo da Vinci into an adventure hero. Good idea, says I.  I'm a bit concerned though about their wanting to include secret societies, codes, angels, and demons in the script. Seems a bit unoriginal, doesn't it? [/Film]

DVD Late Show



Pulp-writer Christopher Mills has a blog called DVD Late Show on which he reviews "the best (and worst) of cult films, B-movies, and genre TV" available on DVD. Chris is a great, knowledgeable writer with a wide range of interests; his thoughts on this stuff are always worth reading. 

The Shadow, Batman 3, John Carter, and Dan Dare after the break.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Quote of the Week: The Most Important Thing in the World



Illustration by Charles Holbert Jr.

As I often tell people when they refer to a specific crisis and ask whether I think pop culture is, at the moment, the most important thing going on in the world: I don't think it's ever the most pressing thing going on in the world, whether there is a specific headline on a given day or not. It just happens to be what we do here, so on we go.
--Linda Holmes, being the person who finally articulates for me the relationship between important, real-world concerns and the stuff I talk about on this blog.

The Awesome List: World's Best Islands; Join the BPRD

Best Islands



Shaenon Garrity's composed a list of the best islands ever and divided them into categories like Islands with Dinosaurs, Islands that Are Secret Mad Scientist/Supervillain Headquarters, etc. I sense a world tour coming on.

Join the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense



I have. Have you?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

AdventureBlog Theater: Winter Sports with Lara, Leia, and Bond

Lara Croft vs Slave Leia: Snowball Fight!

Because, to paraphrase Rob Bricken, if you see a video of Lara Croft and Slave Leia, in costume, pelting each other with snowballs, you have to post it. That's the rules.



Bond Girl on Ice

Kim Yu-Na's James Bond-themed ice-skating routine. [Double O Section]

Art Show: Strange Adventures on Other Worlds

Mina Harker



By Josh H Black. Mina's one of my favorite heroes. She's the only character in Dracula - including Van Helsing - who really knows what's going on, but the men all try to sideline and ignore her in the name of trying to protect her. And they pay for it.

Diane and I were fortunate to have a son, because if we'd had a daughter I was pushing to name her Mina. Diane - not a vampire fan at all - was opposed and we were headed for a stand-off (that she totally would have won, but that's not important to the story). [Avalanche Software Art Blog]

Batgirl



I can't make out that signature, so someone tell me if you know who did this. [This Isn't Happiness]

Northstar and Aurora



By Josh Rogan. [Brother Cal]

The Greatest Super Hero of All Time



I'd buy a lifetime subscription to a comic about this kid. [Brother Cal again]

Zatanna



By Sam.

Black Amazon of Mars



By Allen Anderson. [Golden Age Comic Book Stories, who totally makes me want to read some Leigh Brackett]

New York After Disaster



By Gael Bertrand.

Atomic Robo





By Devin Harrigan. [Atomic Robo]

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Art Show: Illustrateurs

If you like the Art Show feature here, you need to add Illustrateurs to your blogroll or RSS feed right away. Chris Mautner linked to it from Robot 6 and I'm hooked. So hooked, in fact, that I'm dedicating an entire Art Show post to sharing just a tiny taste of what's going on over there. Every post of theirs is stuffed full of more amazing art just like the images below.

The Deadly Lady of Madagascar



By Robert Maguire.

Fire Fight for the Village



By Mort Künstler.

Jungle people, giant reptiles, derring-do, and more after the break.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Art Show: I'd forgotten how cute Death is

The Suicide Squad



By Mike Maihack.

The Wolfman



By Daniel Danger.

I never did get a review written of The Wolfman. There are very few werewolf movies that I actually dig. The Lon Chaney Jr's Wolf Man and Jack Nicholson's Wolf are pretty much it. With that in mind, The Wolfman was a good werewolf movie. Not a good movie movie necessarily, but I liked the atmosphere enough that I'd put it in the few werewolf films I'd watch again.

It doesn't compare favorably to Chaney's version though. Del Toro is good at the tragedy of Larry Talbot, but captures none of the humor that made Chaney's tragedy so much more potent. The less said about what they did to Talbot Sr, the better. What an awful waste of Anthony Hopkins. [/Film]

More monsters, Death, and a couple of robots after the break.

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